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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishful to be a saint, by Saint Silouan, the Athonite

Saints were just people like all of us.
Many of them started with grievous sins
but through repentance they attained to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And everyone who reaches the Kingdom of Heaven does so through repentance,
which the Merciful Lord granted us by His sufferings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven where dwell the Lord
and His most pure Mother, abide all the Saints.
There live our Forefathers and Patriarchs
who valiantly carried their faith before them.
There dwell the Prophets who received the Holy Spirit,
and by their exhortations called the people to God.
There dwell the Apostles who died
that the Gospel might be preached.
There dwell the Martyrs
who gladly gave their lives for love of Christ.
There dwell the holy Prelates
who followed the Lord’s example
and took upon themselves the burden of their spiritual flock.
There dwell the holy Fathers
who lived lives of prayer and fasting,
and those who assumed folly for Christ’s sake,
all of whom fought the good fight
and thereby overcame the world.
There dwell all the Righteous
who kept God’s commandments
and vanquished their passions.

That place aspires my soul
– to that wondrous holy assembly
which the Holy Spirit has gathered together.
But woe is me!
Inasmuch as I lack humility,
the Lord does not grant me the strength to fight,
and my feeble spirit flickers out like a tiny candle,
whereas the spirit of the Saints burned with a bright flame,
which the wind of temptation not only failed to extinguish
but set burning more fiercely than ever.
They trod the earth and worked with their hands
but their spirits continued with God,
of Whom they were ever mindful.
For the love of Christ they endured
every affliction on earth and feared no suffering,
and thus glorified the Lord.
Wherefore the Lord loved them and glorified them,
and granted them the eternal Kingdom with Him.
Saint Silouan, the Athonite‘,
published by Archimandrite Sofronios

Guidelines to grasp Salvation – Elder Paisios

– Seek for a lifeline near to God.
Contain your material needs,
because they create huge burdens and anxieties.

– Do not envy people that have money,
comforts, fame and power,
but rather those who live with virtue,
reason and piety.

– Do not ask God for things
that only support your body,
but especially what is good
and beneficial for your soul.

– Change your life,
discover the meaning of life,
gain the time lost in this process
so far on earth.

– Do not trust the mind-sets of secular people.

– Be healed of the illnesses
that dominate the lives of people
that did not learn to fast,
to be chaste,
to pray,
to hope.

– Do not despair.
God is omnipresent
and loves humanity.

– Cut off every relationship with evil,
live freely,
according to the will of the Lord.

– Prove your faith with works of love
toward your neighbour.

– Decide what you want most:
the sympathy of the world
or a return near to God?

– Almost all problems start from the mouth [what you say]
and, likewise, by the amount
you depend on your passions.

– Love your wife more than yourself.
With works, not with words.
And do not ever talk to her badly,
because sometimes the tongue kills
and destroys love.
Also, be careful,
because some parents spoil their children very much
and always do them favours.
And when a child is too spoiled,
they will become selfish
and take a crooked path.
Many parents care more about
providing material things for their children.
This is wrong.
The body has many material desires,
but a short life.
The soul continues
along another course.
The soul does not end up in the dirt,
but with God.
Today everyone deals with their body,
not with the needs of their soul.

– The needs of the soul are different.
The joys of the soul are different
from the joys of the body.
The body is easily managed,
not the soul.
If you have money and enter a big store,
the body is all set.
But what can you find in a,
what do you call those big stores,
yes, a supermarket,
for your soul?
The soul needs other things.
The soul has need of peace,
quiet, communion with God.
To sustain the body,
you need silver and daily bread.
To sustain the soul,
divine talents
and heavenly Bread
are needed.

Father Paisios – cf. ‘Four Hours with Father Paisios,
[Τέσσερις ώρες με τον π. Παίσιο]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2nd Sunday Of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday of cheese- fare, the expulsion of Adam from Paradise & Forgiveness Sunday

“Blessed are the Merciful,
for they shall obtain Mercy”.
Matth.5: 7

Lord, we were estranged before from Paradise, because of eating from the Tree.
Therefore, lead us into it again by Your Cross and by Your Passion,
my Saviour and my God.
Fortify us therein that we may fulfil our fast
with becoming purity, and
worship Your Divine Resurrection and Passover of Salvation,
by the intercessions of Your Mother
“.
from Orthros       Tn 2

For those observing the Lenten Fast,
Cheese-Fare Sunday is the last day on which eggs and dairy are eaten before Pascha.

On Cheese-Fare Sunday, we also commemorate
the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise,
entering into the Lenten fast in
remembrance of mankind’s separation from God through disobeying his commandment to
fast from the fruit of the Tree.
Furthermore, many faithful attend Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday evening, asking forgiveness from each other in accordance with the Lord’s words:
If you forgive men their trespasses,
your Heavenly Father will forgive you;
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses,
neither will your Heavenly Father forgive
you your trespasses
“.
Matth.6: 14

What is the first step in forgiveness?
To pray as Christ did on while on His Cross.
Christ prayed for those who crucified Him:
Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do“.
Luc.23: 34
To the confession of the good thief next to Jesus on the Cross,
saying of himself and his fellow criminal of their crucifixion:
And we indeed justly;
for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds;
but this man has done nothing wrong
“.
And he said,
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom“.
And Jesus said to him,
Truly, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise
“.
Luc.23: 41-43
Throughout His public life Jesus also preached forgiveness:
“. . .bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you
. . .”
Luc.6: 28
He practiced his own preaching
while enduring the agony on the Cross
to conquer sin and death for Salvation.
Is it any wonder Saint Isaac of Syria comments:
As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold,
so in comparison God’s use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy
“.
In this context the words of Saint James are so compelling:
For judgment will be merciless to
one who has shown no mercy;
Mercy triumphs over Judgment
”.
Jac.2: 13
As Christ himself said:
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear”.
Marc.4: 23

Let us remind ourselves again of
the necessity to follow Our Lord’s injunction
to pray for those who offend us.
As the Evangelist records:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you. . . .
“.
Matth.5: 44
It just so happens that praying for someone
who has offended us may be both
the first act of forgiveness some may be capable of
in the beginning of the forgiveness process and
at the same time lead to a deeper level of forgiveness.

Any prayer for one who has offended us has to
conform to the love that God has for all of us.
All prayer for forgiveness must be done with
purity of heart and with the fullness of God’s love.
This is to say, we must pray that
– they reach out to God,
– Glorify His Holy Name and
– in turn God embrace them in His Bosom.
It is so easy to pray with conditional or impure prayer.
I will only forgive if the other person fulfils some condition.
This may be to ask or beg forgiveness.
It may be to say or pray:
“God send them to hell”.
To do this would be to forget
the spiritual insight of Saint Silouan the Athonite
[written by father Sophrony Sacharov, 1999].
– To someone who
declared with evident satisfaction
that ‘God will punish all
[sinners].
They will burn in everlasting fire“.
– Saint Silouan replied:
Tell me, supposing you went to Paradise and
there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire
– would you feel happy?
“.
It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault” [was the response].
– The Staretz answered him in a sorrowful countenance.
Love could not bear that“, he said.
We must pray for all“.

Prayer for others in general will increase
selfless concern for others and simultaneously enhance forgiveness.
For Orthodox Christian these results should not be surprising,
since Grace builds on nature
“.
Morelli

The shared common goal for all mankind is that they be enlivened by Christ and
that all be with Him in Paradise.
We share the knowledge that we are all made in God’s image, called to be like Him, have been re-born and put on the robe of salvation and light by our baptism, and
can receive Christ, indwelling in us by
receiving His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
“. . . the more you are in suffering and difficulties and
are ‘desperate’ for God, the more He is going to come to your aid,
reveal Who He is and show you the way out . . .

Seraphim Rose

We who are members of Christ’s Body,
the Church, have been offered
the fullness of His gifts.
Let us recall Our Lord’s own words:
Everyone to whom much is given,
of him will much be required
“.
So, when you are suffering in any way,
pray to the Lord and say:
Thanks to You, my Lord,
that I may bear Your Mercy“.