Orthodox Church Patriarch visits the Netherlands

At the end of April the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople Bartholomew will make an official visit to the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands .
The visit from 23 to 27 April 2014 is a gesture of goodwill between the two churches.
An important theme during this visit of the environmentally conscious “Green Patriarch” is the connection between the Christian faith and taking care of God’s creation. A theme to which Patriarch Bartholomew is very committed.

His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople,
New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch

will be  by the King of the Netherlands ‘Willem – Alexander’ of the House of Orange.
Building on the tradition of his predecessors, the King of the Netherlands wants to be first and foremost a traditional king, who represents the continuity and stability of his country. In the 21st century he wishes to unite, represent and encourage his people as much as he can. The Old Catholic Church says that an interview is also planned with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mr. Rutte.

On April 24 the Patriarch will be the speaker at the annual Quasimodo Lecture, held at Saint Gertrude’s Cathedral in Utrecht.
On April 26 there will be a so called ‘round table’, with discussion on sustainability and food.
Patriarch Bartholomew I is the presiding Bishop of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which includes some 250 million church members.
In recent years the patriarch has made a point of maintaining good relationships with the Pope of Rome, leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

During his visit the Patriarch of Constantinople will also visit the Orthodox parish of
◄ Saint Nicholas at Rotterdam and the Monastery of the Birth of the Theotokos in Asten, near Eindhoven.►

The Orthodox Church in the Netherlands is a small but growing community and hopes to be an example and encouragement in the midst of the weakening Christianity of our days.
Troparion of Saint Willibrord of Utrecht     4th Tn
Your works of Righteousness did reveal you
to your community as a canon of faith,
the likeness of humility
and the teacher of abstinence,
O father and great Bishop Willibrord.
Wherefore by humility
You did achieve exaltation
and by your meekness wealth;
intercede therefore with Christ
that He will save our souls“.

6th week of Lent ending with Saturday of Lazaros & Palm Sunday

Great Lent ends at Vespers on
the evening of the Sixth Friday,
and the Lenten cycle of Old Testament readings is brought to an end
[Genesis ends with the account of the burial of Joseph, who is a type of Christ].
At that same service, the celebration of Lazarus Saturday begins.


The resurrection of Lazarus is understood as
a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Jesus,
and many of the Resurrection hymns
normally chanted on Sunday
[and which will be replaced the next day with hymns for Palm Sunday] are chanted at Matins
on the morning of Lazarus Saturday.

Palm Sunday differs from the previous Sundays
in that it is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church.
None of the normal Lenten material is chanted on Palm Sunday, and fish, wine and oil are permitted in the Trapeza.
The blessing of Palms [or pussywillow] takes place at Matins on Sunday morning,
and everyone stands holding palms
and lit candles during the important moments of the service.

This is especially significant at the Great Entrance
during the Divine Liturgy on Palm Sunday morning,
since liturgically that entrance recreates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The themes of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday are tied together,
and some of the same hymns [including one of the Apolytikia] are chanted on both days.

When we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ’s death.
How often have you heard that idea? It is such a strange idea to modern mind.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the adults who come for baptism.
Let us, rather, call to mind all those young couples who come so gladly to the font,
bringing with them their new born and for what?
To have their children baptized into someone’s death!
The mind recoils in horror.
Surely, our modern sensibilities suspect something very strange in this idea,
something primitive, even something morbid.
Yet that is what happened to us when were went down into the waters.
Apostle Paul tells us so himself:
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Therefore we were buried with Him in baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the Glory of the Father,
even so we should walk in newness of life
“.
Rom.6: 3-4

What a paradox we find here:
the modern mind, the worldly, secular mind; the very mind
which demands ready abortion for the unwanted;
easy death for those no longer valued;
perfect embryos, disposing of the surplus,
that very mind, terrified of and wanting to deny that we die,
hides behind its own artificial forms of life
until our very humanity is abolished.
Devilish work indeed!
Such a mind, fixed upon hedonism, comfort and the pursuit of self-gratification
wants nothing to do, indeed,
wants to know nothing about sacrifice
and dying and self-mortification.

But if we who are in Christ know anything at all,
it is this:
that we have entered intoHhis Death.
As the expression goes:
‘been there; done that; bought the tee-shirt!’
Yes, we shall all die, if we are talking of that
biological event,
that breakdown of our physical form but of death itself?
What of the real death beyond the separation of the soul from the body?
Where is our fear? For we have died already.
Mystically, spiritually, that is to say, in reality, we have already died.
Our bodies went down into the water but our souls went down with Christ into Hades.
That Mystery, that Pearl of great Price is now buried within our hearts
– no wonder we want that for our children as well as ourselves.
But what is the point of the blessed Apostle’s assertion
that we were baptized into a death?
So we should walk in newness of life“.
► That is the point; ► that is our struggle.
► That has been the very point of the Great and Holy Week,
that we become now and forever
what we became at our baptism: New People!

Without this day, the Great Sabbath,
the day Christ both rested in the tomb in His Body whilst His Soul was in Hades,
proclaiming the Gospel to the dead – without this day there is no such thing as baptism.
The whole point of this day is
that Christ has fulfilled the old Mosaic Passover.
He has gone through not the Red Sea as the children of Israel but the Great Sea of Death.
And He has done this as our Pioneer,
blazing the trail for us who follow Him.
For those who deny this, for the rest of the world, those without this faith, all they can do is walk to their inevitable end, like people with their eyes tight shut, walking towards the precipice.
They are already dying
but we have been reborn into Life.
We are a New People:
that is why we cannot live like the rest and
join them on their stumbling over the edge.

If you have been at the services during Holy Week,
if you have listened attentively to the readings,
you might have noticed two general themes:
Yes, indeed, the Resurrection, of course
but also the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ,
this time in Glory.
The Parousia is the final intent and purpose in the mind of God
whereby all things in this life will be brought to their End.
This end is not the final running out of steam,
a mere conclusion in the sense of being no more.
Rather, ‘End’ here means the very purpose
and goal of the whole Divine Dispensation.
Like the end of a race,
the aim is not just to stop running
but to win.

The western liturgical tradition fixes this eschatology,
this Mystery of the end times, during Advent, just before the Nativity.
But we, Orthodox, place it here and now.
Particularly if you came to the Bridegroom Services,
the Orthros of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during this Great Week,
you will have been with Christ Who comes as a Bridegroom in the ancient world,
coming in the night to the wedding feast and the consummation of the marriage.
This intriguing mixture of Pascha with the Parousia, the Resurrection and the End,
suggests that the Raising of Christ from the dead is God’s final and very clear statement to mankind,
His Creature; His final Revelation before the End.
All that is left is for time to run its course in God’s good time, whilst to know the Resurrection is actually to arrive at the end,
that is, the very purpose of all things.
We were reborn for this; we joined Christ in his death for this.
This is our Destiny.

Today the Church has become the cave where they laid Him.
Here He rests and in resting the Mosaic laws comes to its end and goal.
Where of old God gave the last day of the week, the Saturday as a day of rest,
Christ has now kept the perfect Sabbath rest and fulfilled the Commandment.
Where before, Images were forbidden, now God has set before us an Image,
His very Self in a human Face; where once they were told of old,
do not steal, God has come like a thief in the night and robbed Satan of his kingdom,
despoiling him of souls held in bondage, harrowing hell
and Raising up those who had fallen.
For where the Law came through Moses,
Grace and Truth have come through Jesus Christ.

Every time we serve this Communion Sacrifice,
we, the New Israel, His Church,
manifest liturgically on earth
an Image of the Heavenly Realities.
Each service holds within it, Mystically,
the very Purpose and End of our human existence:
Resurrection in Christ.
Isaac was the Prototype,
redeemed from death by a ram.
Christ is the first fruits of the reality,
Who offered up his life-blood,
just as the lambs of the First [Old] Covenant were being slaughtered
in the Temple on the Day of Preparation.
Then He rose again when the Sabbath was over;
Rising on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the New Creation.
We are that New Creation of His, Created at our Baptism.
So that, where the world sees only death,
we see Newness of Life; where the outsiders pass by a tomb,
we behold the Marriage Chamber.
So it is that the Priest, preparing to offer the Anaphora
and laying the Sacred Vessels on the Holy Table,
says each time,:
As life-bearing, as more splendid than Paradise
and more radiant than any Royal Chamber,
O Christ, is shown forth Your Tomb,
the fountain of our Resurrection“.

We have indeed ‘been there
– we were baptized into Christ’s death; we have “done that
– we have died already;
we have even “bought the tee-shirt
– for as St. Paul says,
As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ“.

April 7th – Saint George, Confessor, bishop of Mytilene

The righteous George was born into a faithful family.
From a young age, he was distinguished
by his begotten Grace of Piety, Humility, and Charity.
These Virtues were recognised by the faithful
and he was ordained and eventually elected to the episcopacy
and appointed as Bishop of Mitylene [Lesbos].

As a bishop he was well regarded by the faithful for his virtuous life,
his charity and his enlightening teaching.
He dedicated himself to supporting his flock
and winning back those who had been led astray by the iconoclasts.
His efforts were crowned with success, he governed his spiritual flock prudently and zealously to a ripe old age.
When a persecution began under Leo V,
the Armenian, who, in destroying holy icons, summoned this saintly elder to Constantinople to an assembly of bishops convened by him
and whose intention it was to discontinue the veneration of icons,
George not only refused to carry out the wish of the wicked emperor
but with other courageous bishops stood up in defence of holy icons.
Not only was he ridiculed for that
but he was also banished into exile by the emperor to the region of Cherson.
Here he endured all sorts of physical afflictions
and deprivations for the remaining years of his life.
When he gave up his spirit in 821,
his flock mourned him deeply.
Because of his great Sanctity and love for the Lord Jesus,
George was a great Miracle-worker,
both during his life and after his death.

During the reign of Patriarch Methodius,
the translation of many relics of Saints who died in exile was undertaken.
These Saints included Theophylactus of Nicomedia,
Theodore the Studite and Nicephorus I of Constantinople.

The place of Saint George’s burial was
at “Tria Kyparissia” [Three Cypresses] near the chapel of Saint John the Forerunner.
Between 846 and 847,
the holy relics of the saint were translated in Mitylene
with honours befitting the Humble and Saintly hierarch.

Apolytikion        Tn 3
Like a meadow planted by God
You were fruitful with the Grace of the Spirit,
O holy Archpastor of the Mysteries.
You cultivated the souls of the faithful
Refreshing them with living water.
O righteous Father George,
Pray Christ our God
to grant us great mercy!
“.

Kontakion           Tn 4
“You shone on the world like the sun,
O holy and righteous George,
Inspired initiate of the holy Faith,
Enlightening your disciples!”.

Psalms created on Truth – PSALM 70 – How to grow old

O God, in You I hope;
may I never be put to shame.
Deliver me in your righteousness,
and set me free;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a God for Protection
and a strong place for Salvation,
for You are my Foundation and my refuge.
O my God,
deliver me from the hand of the sinner,
from the hand of those who transgress the Law and act un-justly;
for You are my patience, O Lord;
the Lord from my youth.
by You I have been supported from birth;
from my mother’s womb You have been my Protector;
My song shall be always of You.
I am become as a wonder to many,
and You are my strong Helper.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise,
that I may sing of Your Glory
and of Your Magnificence all the day long.
Do not abandon me in the time of old age;
when my strength fails do not forsake me.
For my enemies speak against me,
and those who watch for my soul plot together,
saying, “God forsook him; pursue and lay hold of him,
for there is no deliverer”.
o God, do not stand far off from me;
O my God, give heed to help me.
Let those who falsely accuse my soul
be shamed and forsaken;
let those who seek evils for me
be covered with shame and reproach.
But I will hope continually,
and I will add to all Your praise.
My mouth shall proclaim Your Righteousness,
Your Salvation all the day,
for I am not acquainted with learning.
I shall enter into the Power of the Lord;
O Lord, I shall remember Your Righteousness,
Yours alone.
You taught me, O God, from my youth,
and from then until now I will
proclaim Your Wonders.
And even to old age and to my last breath,
O God, do not abandon me,
until I proclaim Your Arm to every
coming generation,
your mighty Deeds and Your
Righteousness.
O God, I proclaim the magnificent
Things You did,
even to the highest Heaven;
O God, Who is like You?
How great end evil are the afflictions
You showed me,
and You returned, and made me live;
and You raised me up again from the
depths of the earth.
You multiplied Your Greatness,
and You returned and comforted me;|You brought me up again from the
depth of the earth.
Truly, I will give thanks to You with the
instrument of a Psalm, o God;
I will sing to You with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will greatly rejoice
when I sing to You:
So will my soul,
which You redeemed.
My tongue shall meditate on
Your Righteousness all the day long,
when those who seek evils for me
are dishonoured and shamed“.
Psalm 70
Mp3: Psalmul 70 [Romanian] 

εις σαλωμων ο θεος το κριμα σου τω βασιλει δος
και την δικαιοσυνην σου τω υιω του βασιλεως
κρινειν τον λαον σου εν δικαιοσυνη
και τους πτωχους σου εν κρισει
αναλαβετω τα ορη ειρηνην τω λαω σου
και οι βουνοι εν δικαιοσυνη
κρινει τους πτωχους του λαου
και σωσει τους υιους των πενητων
και ταπεινωσει συκοφαντην
και συμπαραμενει τω ηλιω
και προ της σεληνης γενεας γενεων
και καταβησεται ως υετος επι ποκον
και ωσει σταγονες σταζουσαι επι την γην
ανατελει εν ταις ημεραις αυτου δικαιοσυνη
και πληθος ειρηνης εως ου ανταναιρεθη η σεληνη
και κατακυριευσει απο θαλασσης εως θαλασσης
και απο ποταμου εως περατων της οικουμενης
ενωπιον αυτου προπεσουνται αιθιοπες
και οι εχθροι αυτου χουν λειξουσιν
βασιλεις θαρσις και αι νησοι δωρα προσοισουσιν βασιλεις αραβων
και σαβα δωρα προσαξουσιν
και προσκυνησουσιν αυτω παντες οι βασιλεις παντα τα εθνη δουλευσουσιν αυτω
οτι ερρυσατο πτωχον εκ χειρος δυναστου
και πενητα ω ουχ υπηρχεν βοηθος
φεισεται πτωχου και πενητος
και ψυχας πενητων σωσει
εκ τοκου και εξ αδικιας λυτρωσεται τας ψυχας αυτων
και εντιμον το ονομα αυτων ενωπιον αυτου
και ζησεται και δοθησεται αυτω εκ του χρυσιου της αραβιας κ
αι προσευξονται περι αυτου δια παντος ολην την ημεραν ευλογησουσιν αυτον
εσται στηριγμα εν τη γη επ’ ακρων των ορεων υπεραρθησεται υπερ τον λιβανον
ο καρπος αυτου και εξανθησουσιν εκ πολεως ωσει χορτος της γης
εστω το ονομα αυτου ευλογημενον εις τους αιωνας προ του ηλιου διαμενει το ονομα αυτου
και ευλογηθησονται εν αυτω πασαι αι φυλαι της γης παντα τα εθνη μακαριουσιν αυτον
ευλογητος κυριος ο θεος ο θεος ισραηλ ο ποιων θαυμασια μονος
και ευλογητον το ονομα της δοξης αυτου εις τον αιωνα
και εις τον αιωνα του αιωνος
και πληρωθησεται της δοξης αυτου πασα η γη γενοιτο γενοιτο
εξελιπον οι υμνοι δαυιδ του υιου ιεσσαι

I am the first one taken captive
In Psalm 70 teaches the [Orthodox] Church
about deliverance  from  taken captive to the devil and his angels [my enemies vs 10; Eph 6: 12].
For these enemies ensnared mankind in the fear of death and the lifetime of bondage it begotten“.
Hebr.2: 15
But from birth to death, we are delivered
by the Lord Jesus Christ from fear.
For we are delivered and set free in His Righteousness,
on which we meditate . . . . .
all the day long . . . . .

Everyone born into this world becomes a captive of Satan by birth.
We are called children of Hell,
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte
and when he is made, you make him twofold more
the child of hell than yourselves
Matth.23: 15
Every individual born into this world is a captive of Satan,
as his parents are captives
– all are born under the power of the devil and his angels.
Salvation then is a deliverance from the power of the devil
and a Translation into the Kingdom of God [Col. l: 13].
The law of the slave:
If a slave married while he was yet a slave,
even though he obtained his freedom at the end of seven years,
his wife and children born while in slavery still belonged to the slave master
until they were able to obtain their freedom individually.
Though you and I may be redeemed by the Grace of God,
delivered from Satan by God’s power, yet our children born to us are captives of Satan.
They are captives by birth. Now you let that soak into your heart, Mother!
Let that soak into your heart, Father
“.
Ex.21: 2-4
Christ said: “You are of your father the devil,
and the lusts of your father you will do“.
John 8: 44
So every individual out of Christ is a captive of Satan,
held prisoner by Satan, a child of Satan, and a child of Hell,
until he is redeemed by the Blood of Christ
and delivered by power from Satan.

With these thoughts in mind,
let’s notice now the conditions of Satan’s captives.
Every individual held captive by Satan is in the kingdom of Satan,
which is the kingdom of darkness [Acts 26: 18].
Paul was commanded to preach to turn sinners
– “from darkness to Light
and from the power of Satan unto God“.
This great truth is also stated in,
Who [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness
and has translated us into the Kingdom of His Dear Son“.
Col.1: 13
Sinners of today are not in the place that God put them
when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden;
they have been transported into another kingdom, into a far country [Luc.15: 13].
They are far away from God, from the New Covenant and from His Son.
How long will I take counsel in my soul,
having grief in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
“.
Psalm 12: 3

The “freeing from sin”,
and also the “making them servants to righteousness
Rom. 6: 18, which is better than any freedom.
For God has done the same
as if a person were to take an orphan,
who had been carried away by savages into their own country
and were not only to free him from captivity,
but were to set a kind father ever him
and bring him to very great dignity.
And this has been done in our case;
for it was not our old evils alone that He freed us from,
since He even led us to the life of angels
and paved the way for us to the best conversation;
handing us over to the safe keeping of Righteousness
and killing our former evils and deadening the old man
and leading us to an immortal life.

So when you could see your own situation,
you would be the most unhappy subject
that Satan ever had in his kingdom.
I know I am writing to some Orthodox believers
who are very unhappy to say to be a sinner.
Ah, you are stirred, you are deeply moved. You are miserable.
The only reason a sinner is content in his present state
is because he is asleep in Satan’s lap,
We know that we are children of God
and that the whole world is
under the control of the evil one
“.
1John 5: 19
I am a sinner, this is my shameful case.
I am a captive of Satan. Once I was there.
When God opened my eyes and showed me my awful, ruined condition,
when He showed me that I was held captive by Satan,
that I could not flee his territory – I could not break his bands!
Knowing that He had proclaimed liberty unto the captives,
I cried unto the Lord and He heard my cry,
He broke the bands of Satan, and set me free
– gave me liberty in Christ Jesus, the Lord!

Then, I, sinner-friend,
I have not only been transported to the kingdom of darkness,
been plundered and robbed and stripped,
but I was conquered by the power of Satan.
I was no longer master of myself.
Who are taken captive by him at his will” [2Tim.2: 26].
My liberty is gone, and gone forever,
unless Christ delivers me;
I am a slave to the master of tyrants
and I am serving him to my own ruin.
I am not only his captive, a sinner-friend,
but, alas! I have no liberty.
I have to come and go at his stream and call;
I have to obey his every command, according to
I see another law at work in me,
waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law of sin
at work within me
” [Rom. 7: 23].
I am a sinner-friend, if I get anything of any value, I can’t keep it;
the devil tears it from you.
If I receive a conviction of sin
and make a resolution to amend my life,
I can’t carry it out
– Satan will not rest until I have thrown it away.
I may be seemingly deeply moved under this message
and I may be made to cry out and say,
“Indeed that’s my condition;
this is describing me,
but I can’t retain the impressions.
All my resolutions pass away”.
It is because Satan will not let you keep them.
You are bent on pleasing Satan.
That’s right, but:
Christ has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son God loves
in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Son of God is the image of the invisible God,
the Firstborn over all Creation
“.
Col.1: 13-15
You may ask, “Why doesn’t God come and deliver me now?“.
My friend, it may be that He wants
you to realize fully what your condition is in Satan’s territory
so that you will never forget from whence He delivered you.

I want to tell you,
I’ll never forget from whence the Lord delivered this poor old sinner!
Never do I cease to thank my Deliverer, the Lord Jesus,
for hearing my cry, coming to my rescue,
taking me by force out of Satan’s net as his prisoner
and setting my feet upon the rock of freedom in Christ
and putting a new song in my mouth
a song of deliverance,
whereby I am praising Him daily
for Salvation and Deliverance.
O God, I proclaim
the Magnificent things You did,
even to the highest Heaven;
O God, Who is like You?
“.
Psalm 70: 19

God’s Holy Personality is  Sublime,
unsearchable, exalted, and Glorious
is His Way of making men righteous.
His plan of righteousness uplifts men
from the gates of hell
to the country seat of Heaven.

Man is a great mystery,
a sacred mystery of God.
So great and so sacred,
that God Himself became man,
in order to give us understanding
of all the depth of the mystery of Man“.
Justinus Popovitch [1894 – 1979]

April 4th – Saint Joseph, the Hymnographer

Saint Joseph was born in Sicily of pious and virtuous parents,
Plotinus and Agatha.    After the death of his parents, Joseph moved to Thessalonica where he was tonsured a monk.
As a monk, he was a model to all in fasting, extreme restraint, ceaseless prayer, chanting of the Psalms, vigils and labor.
The bishop of Thessalonica ordained him as priest [Hieromonk].
While visiting Thessalonica the distinguished Gregory Decapolis was so impressed with Joseph, because of his rare character,
that he invited him to his monastery in Constantinople.
When the flame of the Iconoclastic heresy erupted again under Leo V, the Armenian, Joseph was sent to Rome to call upon the Pope and the Roman Church to battle for Orthodoxy.

While en route, Joseph was captured by pirates and taken to Crete
where the heretics detained him in prison for six years.
Joseph rejoiced that he was made worthy to suffer for Christ and,
for that, he continually praised God, considering the iron chains on him
as an adornment of gold.
Early in the morning on Christmas day in the sixth year of Joseph’s imprisonment,
the wicked Emperor Leo was slain in church while attending Matins.
At that same moment, Saint Nicholas appeared to Joseph in prison and said to him:
Arise and follow me!
Joseph felt himself being elevated in the air and, all at once,
found himself before the gates of Constantinople.
All true believers rejoiced at his coming.
He composed canons and hymns for many Saints.
He possessed the “gift of discernment” for which Patriarch Photius appointed him
the spiritual father and confessor for priests recommending him as,
A man of God, an angel in the flesh and father of fathers”.
In extreme old age, Joseph gave up his soul to the Lord
Whom he faithfully served both in words and in hymns.
He died peacefully on the eve of Holy and Great Thursday in the year 883 A.D.

He who glorifies God, God also glorifies him.
This was clearly and abundantly shown in the lives of the Saints.
Saint Joseph the Hymnographer, indeed, glorified God in works,
in sufferings and in hymns.
God glorified him both in this life and after death.
During his life, the Holy Father Nicholas appeared to him in prison and freed him.
When Saint Joseph wondered whether he should compose
a Canon to the Apostle Bartholomew, this apostle appeared to him in radiant vestments
and said to Joseph that it is well-pleasing to God that he compose this Canon.
When Saint Joseph died, a citizen of Constantinople learned of
the Glory by which God glorified His chosen one.
This man had come into the church of Saint Theodore Phanariot
to beseech the saint to reveal to him where one of his escaped servants had hidden.
Because Saint Theodore was known among the people as a saint
who reveals where something is that had been lost or stolen,
he was called Phanariot, which means “The Revealer“.
For three days and three nights, this man prayed
and when he received no response from the saint,
he wanted to leave.
At that moment, Saint Theodore appeared to him in a vision saying:
Why do you become angry O man?.
Joseph the Hymnographer’s soul
was being separated from his body and we were with him.
When he died this night, all of us whom he glorified in hymns,
translated his soul to the Heavens
and placed it before the Face of God.
That is why I was tardy in not appearing to you”.

the Church as the Body of the Lord
Destroy this Temple
and in three days
I will raise it up
”.
John 2: 19

Thus spoke the Lord to the wicked Jews about
the Temple of His body” [John 2: 21].
But since it was not given to the wicked to understand anything,
so also the Jews did not understand
and mocked Him.
The Lord did not rebuke them
for that but that which He spoke, occurred.
The Jews destroyed His Body
but He restored it again and raised it in Glory and Power.
The wicked punished God with destruction but God reprimanded the wicked by restoration. It is satisfying to the wicked ones to be able to show their power by killing
but, to God, there was Joy to show His Power by giving Life.
There is nothing as short-lived as the triumph of evil nor nothing
as lasting as the Triumph of Truth.

Destroy this temple”.
The Lord referred to His body as the Church.
Destroyed, that Church was crowded into a dark tomb
and by means of a heavy stone
prevented light from having access to it.
But, that Church was not in need of the light of the sun.
It had its own Light, its own Sun of Righteousness,
Who shone from within.
The tender Heavenly Hand removed the stone from the tomb
and the Lord resurrected in Glory and in Power.
That which once occurred to the All-Pure Body of Christ,
occurred many times later to the Church of the holy ones on earth.
The enemies of the Church cruelly persecuted and tormented it,
demolished it and buried it in darkness.
But, the Church after such bruises and confinement,
resurrected again with greater glory and power.
Just as the Church of His Body resurrected,
so it will at the end of time,
the Church of His holy ones
will Resurrect in Fullness and Perfection.

Resurrected Lord,
do not give us over to decay and eternal death,
but resurrect us to life eternal
“.

Hymn   Tn 8
Who would not lament for you, my child,
as your end journey begins
from this world to another home?
For while still a little child,
all too soon from your mother’s arms,
as might a birdling on speeding wing upborne,
are you departed to Him that made all things.
O child, who from lament could refrain
when he beholds your lovely face,
which was like a gladsome rose,
now fading fast away?.
O Lord Who watches over children in the present life
and in the world to come because of their simplicity and innocence of mind,
abundantly satisfying them with a place in Abraham’s bosom,
bringing them to live in radiantly shining places
where the spirits of the righteous dwell;
receive in peace the soul of Your little servant [Name],
for You Yourself have said:
“Let the little children come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”.
For only Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven
and to You we ascribe Glory,
together with Your Eternal Father
and Your All; Holy, Good, and Life-creating Spirit,
both now and ever,
and to the ages of ages. Amen
“.
cf. Orthodox Funeral Service for Infants

March 31th – Saint Hypatius the Wonderworker, bishop of Gangra [†326]

Saint Hypatius the Wonderworker,
Hypatius of Gangra [Υπάτιος Γαγγρών]
was Hieromartyr; titular Bishop of Gangra, Asia Minor.
He was present at the First Ecumenical Council
where he supported Saint Athanasius the Great
against the Arian heresy.
There is not much information about his life.
On the road from Constantinople to Gangra in year 326,
followers of Novatus and Felicissimus attacked him
in a desolate place
and threw him into a muddy swamp.
A woman who was amongst the attackers,
struck him on the head with a rock,
delivering a killing blow.
Immediately after, she went mad and started hitting herself with the same stone.
She was healed only
after they brought her back to the Saint’s burial place.
The saint’s body was found by some Christians
who ran to the city of Gangra
and the inhabitants of the city came and buried the Saint,
their beloved Metropolite.
After his death, the relics of the Saint became famous for numerous miracles.
For that reason, he is called a Wonderworker.
The servant of the Almighty God, stands always
with the angels before the great High Priest,
Christ our Lord to pray for us all.

from a Georgian Site:
——————–
You’re asking me, brother, Almaskhan,
feeling the fire, fire, fire,
What are the drawbacks?        fires what!
The Black Sea is to the top of the damaskhan, you can not put it out,
I get to the heart of the fire I am:
( ______________________

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 27th – Saint Matrona of Thessalonika [3rd-4th cnt.]

According to the early-Christian Martyrology,
Matrona was the Christian servant-maid of a Jewish mistress,
named Pantilla, the wife of the governor of Thessalonica.
Pantilla constantly mocked Matrona for her faith in Christ
and tried to convert her to Judaism.

Saint Matrona, who believed in Christ from her youth,
still prayed to the Saviour Christ
and secretly went to church
unbeknownst to her vengeful mistress.

Pantilla, learning that Saint Matrona had been to church, asked,
Why won’t you come to our synagogue,
instead of attending the Christian church?
“.
Saint Matrona boldly answered,
Because God is present in the Christian church,
but He has departed from the Jewish synagogue
“.
Pantilla went into a rage and beat Saint Matrona, tied her up
and shut her in a dark closet.
In the morning, Pantilla discovered
that Saint Matrona had been freed of her bonds
by an unknown Power.

In a rage, Pantilla beat the Martyr almost to death,
then bound her even more tightly and locked her in the closet.
The door was sealed so that no one could help her.
The holy martyr remained there for four days without food or water
and when Pantilla opened the door,
she again found Saint Matrona free of her bonds
and standing at prayer.

Pantilla flogged the Holy Martyr
and left the skin hanging in strips from her body.
She locked her in the closet again
where Saint Matrona gave up her spirit to God
and thus received the Crown of her confession.

Pantilla had the Holy Martyr’s body thrown from the roof of her house.
Christians took up the much-suffered body of Saint Matrona and buried it.
Later, Bishop Alexander of Thessalonica
built a church dedicated to the holy Martyr.
Her holy relics, glorified by many Miracles,
were placed in this church.

The judgment of God soon overtook the evil Pantilla.
Standing on the roof at the very place
where the body of Saint Matrona had been thrown,
she stumbled and fell to the pavement.
Her body was smashed
and so she received her just reward for her sin.

According to archaeological evidence and various written sources,
the monastery of Saint Matrona was
one of the first three monasteries of Thessaloniki.
The  historians have noted that until the beginning of iconoclasm [726],
there is reference to a “monastery of Saint Matrona,
located outside the walls of Thesssaloniki, with strong fortification.
It existed about the end of the sixth
and the beginning of the seventh century”.

The book of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius
mentions also a church dedicated to Saint Matrona.
This church, which was near the Via Egnatia in the old centre, is also mentioned by the Archbishop of Thessaloniki, Alexander.
In the account of the saint’s deeds we read:
Άθλησις της Αγίας Μάρτυρος Ματρώνης εκ πόλεως Θεσσαλονίκης. Αυτή θεράπαινα υπήρξε Παντίλλης τινός Ιουδαίας, γυναικός στρατοπεδάρχου εν τη Θεσσαλονικέων πόλει“; translated:
Miracle of the Holy Martyr Matrona of Thessaloniki.
She cured a Jewess named Pantilla,
the wife of a garrison commander
in the city of the Thessalonians
“.

Apolytikion       Tn 3
With undaunted spirit you preserved the Faith,
And your soul, Matrona, was not enslaved by the cruelty of your torturers.
You excelled in contest, slaying the crafty one
and were mystically wedded to the Lord of creation.
Fervently entreat him to deliver us from all harm!
“.

Kontakion          Tn 4
Filled with the light of the Spirit, O Matrona,
you regarded your prison cell as a bridal chamber;
and from it you hastened
to your radiant dwelling in the heavens, crying out:
‘In divine love for You, O Word,
I gladly endured scourging’s’“.

Orthodoxy & the visit at the home of the two sisters

“Trust in the Lord at all times;
people, pour out your heart before Him:
God is a refuge for us”.
Psalm 61: 8

In the Gospel of Lucas,
Jesus visits the home of two sisters
named Mary and Martha,
living in an unnamed village.
Mary is contrasted with her sister Martha,
who was “cumbered about many things
Luc.10: 40
while Jesus was their guest,
while Mary had chosen “the better part“,
that of listening to the master’s discourse.

Though they are not specifically named as such in the Gospels, the Orthodox Church counts Mary and Martha among the Myrrh-bearing Women.
These faithful followers of Jesus stood at Golgotha during the Crucifixion of Jesus
and later came to His tomb early on the morning following the Sabbath with myrrh,
according to the Jewish tradition, to anoint their Lord’s body.
The Myrrh-bearers became the first witnesses
to the Resurrection of Jesus, finding the empty tomb
and hearing the joyful News
from an angel.

Orthodox tradition also relates that Mary’s brother Lazaros was cast out of Jerusalem
in the persecution against the Jerusalem Church
following the Martyrdom of Saint Stephanos.
His sisters Mary and Martha fled Judea with him,
assisting him in the proclaiming of the Gospel in various lands.
The three later moved to Cyprus,
where Lazarus became the first Bishop of Kition [today Larnaca].
All three died in Cyprus.

You are the only one who makes the choice
Have you ever met an individual that just seemed to have God all over them?
It seemed that they possessed a walk with the Lord
that was head and shoulders above anything you have ever experienced yourself
and you wondered how they accomplished it.
Well, I have been there! I think the answer lies in what they have discovered.
It just seems to me that some people have learned
to abide at the feet of Jesus as they go through life
and this translates into peace of heart,
Power of life and Purpose before God.
I want that kind of life for myself! How about you?
I would like to be constantly and consistently filled
with the Holy Spirit of God
and I would like to be found at the feet of Jesus.

The Gospels mention a woman named Mary.
She was the sister of Lazarus and Martha
and she is mentioned 3 times in the Gospel account.
Every time Mary is mentioned, she is always found
at the feet of Jesus.
Her experiences there can teach us
all some valuable lessons about our own walk with the Lord.
Today, we want to take a few minutes
and join Mary at the feet of Jesus.

1.]. a place of stillness [Luc.10; 38-42]
Martha opened her home to Jesus and did her best to be a good hostess.
Mary, on the other had opened her heart to Jesus
and tried her best just to love the Lord.
She found a place where:
a.] She Could forget her Cares –
while Martha was “cumbered“,
Mary was sitting, calmly listening to the Words of Jesus.
When we come into His presence, [i.e., in prayer, Bible reading, worship, etc.],
the burdens of life tend to grow amazingly light.
It would do many Christians good to learn to sit in His presence and forget about the cares of the whole World.
Learn to love the Lord more than your worries
and you will be able to find that calm place
in His blessed Presence.
When we focus our attention on Him,
other things tend to become very shadowy [Phil.4: 6-9]

b.] She could feed her Soul
– Martha was worried over physical nourishment
while Mary was more concerned
with getting her soul fed.
In His presence, we will find food for our souls and strength for our journey.
It is no wonder that many Christians are weak and lacking in spiritual vitality.
They never take the time to just come into His Presence and feed on Him!
We need soul food, or we will dry up spiritually! [2Tim.2: 15; Job 23: 12; 1Petr.2: 2]

c.]. She could focus her priorities
– Looking in on this scene at Martha’s home,
we can tell what each sister’s priorities were.
Martha was concerned with preparing the meal and serving her guests.
Mary, however, was more concerned with being in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Often, the level of spirituality we are able to achieve in life is directly related to the time we are willing
to spend in His presence.
If everything in our lives takes
precedence over being with the Lord,
then we are in danger at the heart of our experience.
Even being overly busy in His work,
to the point where we have no time
to spend at His feet, is a bad thing.
[your first love – Rev. 2: 1-7]
The more time one spends at His feet,
the easier it is to make it a priority in life.
The larger He gets in our eyes, the smaller other things seem to become.
Ask yourself this question:
Is sitting at Jesus’ feet a priority in my life?
We need to seek this Place of stillness before the Lord!

d.] She could find herself
– In sitting at Jesus’ feet, Mary found fulfilment and contentment.
What she found at His feet was worth more than all the money in the world can buy.
In fact, in just sitting at the Lord’s feet,
Mary found something that millions live their entire lives and never discover.
She found acceptance and true contentment.
Those things alone are worth spending time in His presence.
If we as Christians could learn the value of spending time in at His feet,
a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists would have to go out of business.
God has promised us that we can find rest at His feet [2Tim.1: 17].

At the feet of Jesus we can see:
that next to a Place of stillness
and a Place of supplication [John 11: 32]
we can see:
That our Lord’s has interest in the need of His People
– When Jesus arrived in Bethany,
Martha ran out to meet Him.
In their conversation, Jesus demonstrated a great concern for and interest in their need.
After speaking with Martha, Jesus apparently calls for Mary.
He is concerned about the grief and pain that they are experiencing.

Every ‘child of God’ needs to understand
that Jesus cares about our need.
He is interested in what we are experiencing [Hebr.4: 15].
Never think for an instant that God does not care for you.
– That is the devil’s lie!
Jesus is extremely interested in everything
you are facing in life:
Though the Lord is high,
and He respect unto the lowly
“.
Psalm 137: 6
The word “respect” means “to see, discern, behold“.
This tells us that the Lord is looking down at our lives
and He misses nothing that affects His children:
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear you not therefore,
you are of more value
than many sparrows
“.
Matth.10: 19-31

Our Lord’s Invitation To His People
– Jesus called for Mary
to come unto Himself.
She responded and came.
There, she was able to place
her burdens upon the Lord.
The Lord has invited
all His children to come unto Him and experience what He can do in a time of crisis
Cast your burden upon the Lord
and He shall sustain you:
He will never suffer
the righteous to be moved
“.
Matth.11: 28; 1Petr.5: 7; Isaiah 55: 22

Isn’t it amazing that the Person
Who can do the most, the quickest
is often the last One we turn
in a time of need.
=> Resources are to be used persistently,
without question in time of need.
Doctors are to be sent for in sickness.
Lawyers are to be consulted when property
or character needs defence.
The help of all friends is to be sought.
But still after all,
the first thing to be done is to cry to the Lord Jesus for help.
Whether or not you come to Him in a time of trouble,
His invitation is stands.

Mary heard that Jesus was calling her,
she ran to meet Him. What a lesson for God’s children!
When the time of crisis comes, Jesus is always near.
Run quickly to Him and He will meet your need!

Apolyticion        Tn 4
Today is the beginning of our Salvation,
The revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
the Lord is with You!

Orthodoxy & the departed Saints pray for us

This done, in like manner
there appeared a man with gray hairs
and exceeding glorious,
who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty.
Then Onias answered, saying,
‘This is a lover of  the brethren, who prays much for the people
and for the holy city, 
to wit, Jeremiah, the Prophet of God’“.
2Mac.15: 13-14

This was the vision which was seen by the courageous Judas Maccabee.
The first to appear to him from the other world was Onias the high priest and after that the holy Prophet Jeremiah.
Just as Moses and Elijah were seen in Glory by the apostles on Mount Tabor,
thus, at one time Judas Maccabee saw the Prophet Jeremiah in Glory.
Not even before the Resurrected Christ did God the Merciful
leave men without proof of life after death.
In Christian times, however, those proofs are without number and without end.
Whoever, even after all of this, doubts in life after death,
that one stands under the curse of his sin as under his grave stone.
As inanimate things cannot see the light of day,
so neither can he see who doubts life which is and to which there is no end.

But, behold with what kind of Glory is
the Prophet Jeremiah wedded in the other life! “Gray hairs and exceeding glorious“;
– around him a certain indescribable dignity,
– a certain bright aureole,
– a certain inexpressible pleasure
– and beauty.
He who was dragged and beaten by men
to whom he communicated and imparted
the will of God
– and who was a captive in prison
– and a martyr in a fetid hole
– and who was ridiculed as folly
– and was tried as a traitor
– and finally, as a transgressor,
was stoned to death.
However, one is the judgment of sinners,
another is the judgment of God.
The most humiliated among men became wedded with angelic Glory before God.

And yet behold how Heaven calls one,
whom the earth called false,
a traitor and a transgressor!
– “Lover of the brethren“;
this is how Heaven called him.
– “Lover of the brethren“;
who prays much for the people.
Finally, see how the Saints in Heaven pray to God for us!
Not sleeping, they are praying for us
– while we are asleep;
not eating, they are praying for us
– while we are eating and have over-eaten;
not sinning, they are praying for us
– while we are sinning.
O brethren, let us be ashamed before so many of our sincere friends.
Let us be ashamed,
let us be ashamed of so many prayers for us
by the Saints and let us join with their prayers.
O Lord All-wonderful,
forgive us our sinful slothfulness and dullness.
To You be glory and thanks always.
Amen“.
Saint Nicholai Velimirovich

When particularly dedicated Christians
consistently demonstrate throughout their lives
a great love for Christ and their fellow-man
and when they live and die in unusually vibrant Hope and Joy in Him,
they are remembered with special fervour
by their fellow Christians left behind on earth.
Accounts of their good deeds, their wise words, and very often,
miraculous events associated with their lives, are spread by word of mouth.
Miracles often occur at the graves of such individuals.
An excellent biblical account of such an occurrence
can be found in 2 Kings 13:20, 21.
Here, a man was raised to life merely
by coming into contact with the bones of Elisha.
In addition, miracles often occur in respect
to the earthly possessions of the Saints.
We are told in the New Testament that even Saint Paul’s handkerchiefs became instruments of God’s healing [Acts 19:11,12].
An example of such an event in recent times occurred at the death of Saint Nectarios.
Just after bishop Nectarios died, the nurses changing his clothing
threw his woolen undershirt onto the bed of a paralyzed man in the same room;
the invalid was healed, immediately standing up
and walking for the first time in many years [Chondropoulos, p. 265].
Knowledge of such events is further spread
when accounts of them are recorded and circulated.
This encourages more people
to ask the person for his or her Heavenly intercessions

[even though it’s not tolerated by a local archpriest,
who is behaving to be a staretz himself].

Thus the devotion to the person spreads in a very organic, spontaneous way.
Such developments usually lead the Church
to formally honour such particularly holy persons
through the process of canonization

[often called “Glorification” by the Orthodox]
.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church,
which has a very detailed, step-by-step procedure for canonization, the Orthodox Church simply recognizes officially the popular devotion which has spontaneously surrounded the memory of the holy man, woman, or child.

[It is good to remember
that the canonized saints
are of all ages and from all walks of life,
from soldier to monk/nun,
from bishop to family father/housewife
]
.
Usually this is done at a regional or national level, where awareness of the saint’s life tends to be greatest, but the other Orthodox Churches may announce their recognition of the canonization as well.
All this is done so that the popular piety
surrounding the saint is channelled and safeguarded
under the protective mantle of the Church
and so that those living beyond the local area
where the saint lived can become aware of him or her.

We can say is that it is clear that the Jews of the diaspora;
1.]. believed the Saints were alive,
2.]. believed the Saints were able to hear their prayers, and
3.]. believed the Saints were able to respond.
Therefore, it is not much of a stretch to understand how the early Christian church, being comprised mainly of Jews,
did not have any problem with intercessory prayer to the Saints.

Historical Witness
A belief in prayer to the Theotokos appears to be a quite early development.
The John Rylands Papyrus 470 is a fragment dated to around 250 A.D.
and containing the following prayer to the Theotokos:
Under your Mercy we take refuge, Mother of God!
Our prayers, do not despise in necessities,
but from the danger deliver us, only pure, only blessed‘.
Tribe and Villiers 2011

Notice, if you will, the dating of this fragment
– well before the time of the edict of Milan in 313 A.D.;
this papyrus dates to the time of Emperor Decius,
under whose reign there was a persecution of Christian laity across the empire.
This prayer, dating from a time of great persecution,
is still contained in the Greek Orthodox “Book of Hours”,
where it is one of the concluding prayers of the evening services;
also, the Orthodox sing this Hymn as the last dismissal Hymn
of daily Vespers during Great Lent. [Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia 2011]
The prayer is also used in the Roman Catholic Church,
where it is known as the ‘Sub tuum praesidium‘.
Mathewes-Green 2007, 85-86

Shawn Tribe and Henri de Villiers provide us
with the following theological analysis of this prayer.
Three fundamental Theological Truths are admirably synthesized:
– The special election of the Theotokos by God [“only blessed”].
– The perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos [“only pure”].
– The Divine Motherhood [“Theotokos”; “Mother
may be considered as a poor translation of Genitrix.
Tribe and Villiers 2011

We should also add the idea that the Theotokos hears our prayers
and, in some sense, answers them.
Thus prayer to the Theotokos,
along with a belief in her remaining ‘ever-virgin’,
is an expression of ante-Nicene Christianity,
rather than [as some suggest] a syncretic grafting of paganism
onto Christianity by a post-Constantine, apostate church.

Witness of the fathers [& others]
Saint John of Kronstadt waxes lyrical on this topic.
Pray, my brethren, to the Mother of God
when the storm of enmity and malice bursts forth in your house.
She, Who is all-merciful and all-powerful,
can easily pacify the hearts of men.
Peace and love proceed from the one God, as from their Source, and Our Lady
– in God, as the Mother of Christ the Peace, is ardent,
and prays for the peace of the whole world,
and above all of all Christians.
She has the all-merciful power of driving away from us
at Her sign the sub-celestial spirits of evil
–  those ever-vigilant and ardent sowers of enmity and malice amongst men,
whilst to all who have recourse with faith
and love to Her powerful protection,
She soon speedily gives both peace and love.
Be zealous yourselves also in preserving faith and love in your hearts;
for if you do not care for this,
then you will be unworthy of the intercession for you
– of the Mother of God;
be also most fervent and most reverent worshippers
[excerpt from the diary of Saint John of Kronstadt].
of the Mother of the Almighty Lord;
for it is truly meet to bless Her–the ever-blessed;
the entirely spotless Mother of our God,
the highest of all creatures,
the Mediatrix for the whole race of mankind.
Strive to train yourself in the spirit of humility,
for She Herself was more humble than any mortal,
and only looks lovingly upon the humble”.
He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden” [said She to Elisabeth],
of “God, Her Saviour.”
Saint John of Kronstadt 2010, Kindle Locations 3050-3059

The Sub tuum praesidium [written between 250 and 280]
precedes by several centuries
the Ave Mariain Christian prayer.

On the papyrus, we can read:
.ΠΟ
ΕΥCΠΑ
ΚΑΤΑΦΕ
ΘΕΟΤΟΚΕΤ
ΙΚΕCΙΑCΜΗΠΑ
ΕΙΔΗCΕΜΠΕΡΙCTAC
AΛΛΕΚΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ
…ΡΥCΑΙΗΜΑC
MONH
…HEΥΛΟΓ
That is this greek text:
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν
εὐσπλαγχνίαν
καταφεύγομεν
Θεοτὸκε· τὰς ἡμῶν
ἱκεσίας μὴ παρ-
ίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνου
λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς
μόνη ἁγνὴ
μόνη εὐλογημένη.
A literal Latin version might be:
Sub tuam
misericordiam
confugimus,
Dei Genitrix ! nostras
deprecationes ne des-
picias in necessitatibus
sed a perditione
salva nos
sola pura,
sola benedicta.
And an English translation could be: 
Under your
mercy
we take refuge,
Mother of God! Our
prayers, do not despise
in necessities,
but from the danger
deliver us,
only pure,
only blessed.

the hymn is chanted in the context of a Vespers Service for Great Lent:
MP3: Χορός Ψαλτών Οι Κρήτες Μαΐστορες κατανυκτικός

The Saints are living,
– are aware of us
[as seen in the conversations between
Moses, Elijah, and the Transfigured Christ],
– fellowship with us,
– worship with us at the heavenly altar
[of which the earthly altar is but a shadow]
– and are able to speak with Jesus.
The author of Hebrews charges us
to keep in mind the Saints in Heaven,
the ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses’ [Hebr.12: 1]
– of whom constant mindfulness in some way helps us
avoid sin and keep us on the path towards Salvation.