February 19th – Saint Philothei [Άγια Φιλοθέη] 1522 – 1589

Saint Philothei (also known as Philotheia or Philothea)
was a Greek martyr and saint.
She was born in Athens to an illustrious and wealthy family.
Against her will, she was married to a cruel man.
When he died three years later,
the Saint gave away her worldly belongings,
took up the monastic life and established a convent, in
which she became a mother to her disciples.

Many women enslaved and abused by
the Muslim Ottoman Turks in harems also ran to her for refuge.
Because of this, in 1589, the Turkish rulers of Ottoman Greece became enraged and came to her convent and
dragged her by force out of the church.
They beat her cruelly and after a few days, she died.

Saint Philothei is considered a martyr
by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Along with Saints Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite,
Saint Philothei is considered a patron of the city of Athens.
Her relics are interred in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens.
The Philothei district of Athens is named after her.

Apolytikion       Tn 5
The faithful of Athens and all the world
honor Philothei the martyred nun
and rejoice in her holy relics.
For she has exchanged this passing life
for the life that knows no end
through her struggle and martyrdom;
and she begs the Saviour
to have mercy on us all
“.

Kontakion          Tn 3
We all honour Philothei with jubilation of spirit,
as this day we rev’rently worship her ven’rable relics.
For she lived her whole life working kindness and mercy;
and the righteous one, receiving a martyr’s ending,
is deemed worthy to entreat God
that all be granted eternal life with the Saints.

Philanthropy
Certainly philanthropy was one of Saint Philothei’s main motives.
At a time when there were no hospitals, no shelters for the poor,
no homes for the elderly, no asylums, and
no shelters for the protection of women,
their place was taken by monastic institutions.

In addition to her dedication to a virtuous life,
practicing philanthropy by offering protection,
giving alms and ministering to the poor and sick,
providing Christian education by teaching everyone
ecclesiastical letters and liturgical knowledge,
the holy woman contributed the following:
-1.] she founded schools for the children of the Athenians,
to open their eyes to Christianity and renown of their ancestors.
‘Lay hold of instruction, lest at any time the Lord be angry’ (Ps. 2:12).
Philothei brought this scriptural quotation to reality.
Within her flickered the hope of the rebirth of the Byzantine Empire and…
the early deliverance from the bestial yoke of the conquerors.
-2.] Philothei aimed at protecting the daughters of Athens
from the disgrace of conversion to Islam….
The danger of being subjected to conversion existed not only for
the noble daughters who were forcibly abducted by the Turks
because of their beauty and grace, but also for the simple ones,
the peasant girls, who were forced to work in Turkish homes and
farms in order to sustain themselves.
Pressure, necessity and ignorance [the great deceiver]
were causes in forcing the maidens into submission.

What to learn from history
However, Philothei, with her convent of virgins (Παρθενώνα), her schools,
her convent’s metochia, and family ties,
was capable of either strengthening those
under duress or sending them away and hiding them.
This was done until their consciences recovered or the danger subsided; and
until fear was replaced by a spirit of faith and sacrifice for the sake of Christian Faith.

Nowadays we think that everything is organised by the Government,
which cost us a lot of tax-money.
But what is the result:
In schools children only are educated in what they need for Society,
to be a good worker and concumer.
Religious education is left to their parents
– the parents have to make the choice
whether their children any sense of religiosity is imparted.
It is not enough to take to the church, where they just join them,
because especially in ‘nationalistic’ churches
– only incomprehensible rites are dished for them.
When they don’t understand what God is offering man and why
they are just lost for Royal Kingdom;
more worse, they build in time that they are bored rigid in church
a dis-pleasure which they carry with them throughout their lives.
So especially in the western countries
the formal need for children-education
– in a language they understand –
[mostly the language of the region in which they live]
is highly required,
next to:
shelters for the poor,
homes for the elderly, asylums, and
even shelters for women-protection.

February 15th – Saint Anthimos of Chios [† 1960]

Saint Anthimos, who in the world was
known as Argyrios K. Vagianos, was born on July 1, 1869
to devout peasants, Konstantinos and Argyra, in
Chios in the region of Saint Lucas Leivadion.
He left elementary school early to become a shoe mender.
At the age of nineteen he visited the Skete of the Holy Fathers founded by the monk Pachomios, who
had been the spiritual counselor of Saint Nektarios.
With the blessing of the elder, Anthimos returned home and
built himself a small hut and dwelt in it.
His only help in his spiritual contests was  an icon of
the Mother of God given to him by his mother later
known as Panagia Voithia [the Helper], which soon
began to work miracles, drawing many to his hermitage.

He had returned home to relieve the suffering of
his parents and help the poor of his village as well.
After a time he retired to the Skete, and
it was here that he became a monk and
took the name Anthimos given by Elder Pachomios.
He fell ill there and his abbot sent him home to
his parents for the sake of his health.
At home, despite the fact that he was caring for his aged parents and practicing his shoe mender’s trade,
he continued to live as a monk, spending nights on end in prayer and sometimes living only on bread and water for extended periods.
He took his inspiration reading about the lives of the great ascetics, and in this way he was able to conquer every assault of the devil.

Increasing numbers of visitors came to his hermitage and wonder-working icon of the Theotokos, and
in 1909, at the age of forty, he received the Great Schema by the successor of Pachomios,
Hieromonk Andronikos.
The people of Chios wanted him to be ordained to the priesthood, but his bishop refused due to
the Saint’s lack of education.
At the prompting of Anthimos’ godfather,
the Bishop of Smyrna ordained him instead in 1910.
After a pilgrimage to Mount Athos in 1911, he returned to Chios, where he became chaplain to a leper hospital.
Soon the hospital, which had fallen into corruption,
became a spiritual center, as much like a monastery as                                                                a hospital.
Saint Anthimos tended many of the sickest with his own hands,
working many miracles of healing;
some of his recovered patients became monks or nuns
– such as Venerable Nikephoros the Blind.

With the notorious ‘Exchange of Populations’ of 1922-1924, refugees poured into Chios, many of them destitute nuns and girls.
In response to a vision of the Mother of God,
Saint Anthimos built a monastery in 1930, which opened with thirty nuns and grew rapidly, despite the opposition of many who
said that setting up such a community was out of date.
The Monastery of Panagia Voithia, as it came to be known, soon
housed eighty nuns and was known throughout Greece as
a model of monastic life.
Father Anthimos served as priest to the nuns, and
continued to receive the many faithful — often sixty or seventy per day — who
came to him for prayer or counsel.
He carried on this ministry for more than thirty years,
working many miracles of healing.
When he was too old to work with his hands,
he retired to his cell and prayed that
he be enabled to serve his neighbour until his last breath.

On January 27, 1960 Saint Anthimos celebrated his final Divine Liturgy.
He reposed in peace at the age of ninety-one on February 15th,
mourned and revered by the whole island of Chios.
The remains of Saint Anthimos are in the church inside of
the monastery he founded and still work miracles along with
the holy icon of Panagia Voithia.
He was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on August 13, 1992.

Februari 14th – Saint Abraham of Carrhae in Mesopotamia [†422]

Saint Abraham, Bishop of Charres
[Arabic: Ibrahim al-Qureshi] lived during
the mid-fourth and early fifth centuries
was born in the city of Cyrrhus,
but grew up in Carrhae.
In his youth he entered a monastery.
Later he became a hermit in Lebanon and
preached the Evangels in the mountains of Lebanon,
a place where many pagans lived.
Saint Abraham suffered much vexation from the pagans,
who wanted to expel him from their area.
He once saw tax-collectors beating those who were unable to pay.
Moved to pity, he paid the taxes for them and
those people later accepted Christ.

The Christian inhabitants of this village built a church and
they fervently besought Saint Abraham to
accept the priesthood and become their pastor.
The monk fulfilled their wish.
Having encouraged his flock in the faith,
he left them in place of himself another priest and
he again retired to a monastery.

For his deep piety he was made bishop of Charres;
his pastors the saint constantly taught by his God-pleasing life.
From the time of his accepting of the priesthood,
he never used cooked food.
The emperor Theodosius the Younger wanted to
meet the bishop and made him an invitation.
After he arrived in Constantinople Saint Abraham soon died.
His remains were solemnly transferred to the city of Charres and
there given over to burial.

 

February 14th – Saint Maron of Syria, the God-bearer

Saint Maron of Syria, the God-bearer [also Maro and Maroun] was a 5th century hermit, who lived near the Orontes River at Cyrrhus.
He lived generally in the open with no shelter.
When he found a pagan temple, he dedicated it to God and made it his oratory.
He spent his nights standing in prayer.
He was known to have the gift of healing, both physical and of vices.
He founded monasteries and trained monks in Syria and Lebanon.
He was a friend of and greatly revered by Saint John Chrysostom.
He reposed peacefully in 435 and
was buried between Apamea and Emesa,
where a monastery was founded at his tomb in 452,
called Bet Maroun, which came to be
the chief monastery in northern Syria.
Some of Saint Maron’s disciples were
James the Hermit [November 26th],
Limnius [February 23th] and
Domnina [March 1st].

Break up
Two centuries after Maron’s death,
this community which grew up around the monastery,
embracing Monothelitism, rejected
the teaching of the 5th Ecumenical Council,
separating from the Orthodox Church.
The resultant body,
eventually entering into union with Rome in the 12th century,
became what is known today as
the Maronite Catholic Church.

The Maronites
The Maronites take their name from
this Saint via that of their founder,
John Maron,
[†707 at Kefer-Hay, Lebanon of natural causes, Son of Agathon, the governor of Sarum and Anohamia, grandson of prince Alidipas, and a member of the Frankish royal family, which governed Antioch]
who named himself for the Syrian hermit.
He is the patron Saint of all Maronite Catholics
[mainly centered in Lebanon today]
and the city of Volperino, Italy.

February 12th – Saint Meletios, Archbishop of Antioch

This holy Father, who was from Meletine of Armenia,
was a blameless man,
just, reverent, sincere, and most gentle.
Consecrated Bishop of Sebaste in 357,
he was later banished from his throne
and departed for Beroea of Syria [this is the present-day Aleppo].

After the Arian bishop of Antioch had been deposed,
the Orthodox and the Arians each strove to have a man of like mind
with themselves become the next Bishop of Antioch.
Meletius was highly esteemed by all, and since the Arians believed him
to share their own opinion, they had him raised to the throne of Antioch.
As soon as he had taken the helm of the Church of Antioch, however,
he began preaching the Son’s consubstantiality with the Father.
At this, the archdeacon, an Arian, put his hand over the bishop’s mouth;
Meletius then extended three fingers towards the people,
closed them, and extended one only, showing by signs the equality and unity of the Trinity.
The embarrassed archdeacon then seized his hand, but released his mouth, and
Meletius spoke out even more forcibly in defense of the Council of Nicea.
Shortly after, he was banished by the Arian Emperor Constantius,
son of Saint Constantine the Great.
After the passage of time, he was recalled to his throne,
but was banished again the third time by Valens.
It was Saint Meletius who ordained Saint John Chrysostom reader and deacon
in Antioch.

He lived until the Second Ecumenical Council in 381
[which was convoked against Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople, the enemy of the Holy Spirit], over which he presided,
being held in great honor as a zealot of the Faith and a venerable elder hierarch.

Some time before, when the Emperor Gratian had made the Spanish General Theodosius commander-in-chief of his armies in the war against the barbarians,
Theodosius had a dream in which he saw Meletius, whom he had never met,
putting upon him the imperial robe and crown.
Because of Theodosius’s victories, Gratian made him Emperor of the East in Valens’s stead in 379.
When, as Emperor, Saint Theodosius the Great convoked the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople two years later, he forbade that anyone should tell him who Meletius was; and as soon as he saw him, he recognized him,
ran to him with joy, embraced him before all the other bishops and
told him of his dream.

While at the Council, Saint Meletius fell ill and reposed a short while after.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, among others, gave a moving oration at his funeral;
bewailing the loss of him whom all loved as a father, he said,
“Where is that sweet serenity of his eyes?
Where that bright smile upon his lips?
Where that kind right hand, with fingers outstretched
to accompany the benediction of the mouth?”.
And he lamented,
Our Elias has been caught up and
no Elisseus is left behind in his place
“.
The holy relics of Saint Meletius were returned to Antioch and were buried beside Saint Babylas the Martyr, in
the Church dedicated to the Martyr which
Meletius in his zeal for the Martyr’s Glory,
had helped build with his own hands.

Saint Meletios of Antioch pray
with us  to Christ our Lord
for the victims of your native country“.

February 11th – Saint Cædmon of Whitby

Saint of Cædmon of Whitby is the earliest English poet whose name is known.
An Anglo-Saxon herdsman attached to the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy of Saint Hilda [657–680].
He was originally ignorant of “the art of song”
but according to Bede learned to compose
one night in the course of a dream.

His life
Saint Cædmon’s lifestory is related by the Venerable Bede,
who lived in the nearby monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow
in the following generation:
There was in this abbess’s monastery a certain brother,
particularly remarkable for the Grace of God,
who was wont to make pious and religious verses,
so that whatever was interpreted to him out of Scripture,
he soon after put the same into poetical expressions of
much sweetness and humility, in English, which was his native language.
By his verses the minds of many were often excited to despise the world
and to aspire to heaven.
Others after him attempted, in the English nation, to compose religious poems,
but none could ever compare with him, for he did not learn the art of poetry from men
He learned it from God; for which reason he never could compose any trivial or vain poem,
but only those which relate to religion suited his religious tongue;
for having lived in a secular habit till he was well advanced in years,
he had never learned anything of versifying;
for which reason being sometimes at entertainments,
when it was agreed for the sake of mirth that all present should sing in their turns,
when he saw the instrument come towards him,
he rose up from table and returned home.

Having done so at a certain time and
gone out of the house where the entertainment was, to the stable,
where he had to take care of the horses that night,
he there composed himself to rest at the proper time;
a person appeared to him in his sleep
and saluting him by his name, said: “Caedmon, sing some song to me”.
He answered,
“I cannot sing; for that was the reason why I left the entertainment and
retired to this place because I could not sing”.
The other who talked to him, replied: “However, you shall sing”.
­ “What shall I sing?” rejoined he.
“Sing the beginning of created beings”, said the other.
Hereupon he presently began to sing verses to the praise of God,
which he had never heard, the purport whereof was thus:

“Now [we] must honour the guardian of heaven,
the might of the architect, and his purpose,
the work of the father of glory
— as he, the eternal lord, established the beginning of wonders.

He, the holy creator, first created heaven as a roof for the children of men.
Then the guardian of mankind the eternal lord,
the lord almighty afterwards appointed the middle earth, the lands, for men”.

This is the sense, but not the words in order as he sang them in his sleep;
for verses, though never so well composed,
cannot be literally translated out of one language into another,
without losing much of their beauty and loftiness.
Awaking from his sleep, he remembered all that he had sung in his dream and
soon added much more to the same effect in verse worthy of the Deity.

The morning he came to the steward, his superior and
having acquainted him with the gift he had received,
was conducted to the abbess, by whom he was ordered
in the presence of many learned men, to tell his dream and repeat the verses,
that they might all give their judgment what it was and
whence his verse proceeded.
They all concluded, that heavenly Grace had been conferred on him by our Lord.
They expounded to him a passage in holy writ, either historical, or doctrinal, ordering him
if he could, to put the same into verse.
Having undertaken it, he went away and returning the next morning,
gave it to them composed in most excellent verse;
whereupon the abbess, embracing the Grace of God in the man,
instructed him to quit the secular habit and take upon him the monastic life;
which being accordingly done,
she associated him to the rest of the brethren in her monastery and
ordered that he should be taught the whole series of sacred history.
Thus Caedmon – keeping in mind all he heard and
as it were chewing the cud, converted the same into most harmonious verse;
and sweetly repeating the same,
made his masters in their turn his hearers.
He sang the creation of the world, the origin of man and all the history of Genesis :
and made many verses on the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt,
and their entering into the land of promise, with many other histories from holy writ;
the incarnation, passion, resurrection of our Lord,
and his ascension into heaven; the coming of the Holy Spirit,
and the preaching of the apostles ;
also the terror of future judgment,
the horror of the pains of hell and the delights of heaven;
besides many more about the Divine benefits and judgments,
by which he endeavoured to turn away all men from the love of vice,
and to excite in them the love of, and application to, good actions;
for he was a very religious man, humbly submissive to regular discipline,
but full of zeal against those who behaved themselves otherwise;
for which reason he ended his life happily.

For when the time of his departure drew near,
he laboured for the space of fourteen days under a bodily infirmity
which seemed to prepare the way,
yet so moderate that he could talk and walk the whole time.
In his neighbourhood was the house to which those that were sick and
like shortly to die, were carried.
He desired the person that attended him, in the evening,
as the night came on in which he was to depart this life,
to make ready a place there for him to take his rest.
This person, wondering why he should desire it,
because there was as yet no sign of his dying soon,
did what he had ordered.
He accordingly went there and
conversing pleasantly in a joyful manner with
the rest that were in the house before,
when it was past midnight, he asked them,
whether they had the Eucharist there?
They answered, “What need of the Eucharist?
for you are not likely to die, since you talk so merrily with us,
as if you were in perfect health”.
­ ” However”, said he, “bring me the Eucharist”.
Having received the same into his hand, he asked,
whether they were all in charity with him, and
without any enmity or rancour?
They answered, that they were all in perfect charity and
free from anger; and in their turn asked him,
whether he was in the same mind towards them?
He answered,
“I am in charity, my children, with all the servants of God”.
Then strengthening himself with the Heavenly viaticum,
he prepared for the entrance into another life and
asked how near the time was when the brothers were to be awakened
to sing the nocturnal praises of our Lord?
They answered, “It is not far off”.
Then he said, “Well, let us wait that hour”; and
signing himself with the sign of the cross,
he laid his head on the pillow and
falling into a slumber, ended his life so in silence.

Thus it came to pass, that
as he had served God with a simple and pure mind and
undisturbed devotion, so he now departed to his presence,
leaving the world by a quiet death; and that tongue,
which had composed so many holy words in praise of the Creator,
uttered its last words whilst he was in the act of signing himself with the cross and
recommending himself into his hands and
by what has been here said he seems to have had foreknowledge of his death.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son – Glorify God in body and spirit

All things are lawful for me,
but all things are not helpful.
All things are lawful for me,

but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods
but God will destroy both it and them.
Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord
and the Lord for the body.
And God both raised up the Lord
and will also raise us up by His Power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
Shall I then take the members of Christ
and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
Or do you not know that he who is joined
to a harlot is one body with her?
For “the two,” He says,
“shall become one flesh”.
But he who is joined to the Lord
is one spirit with Him.

Flee sexual immorality.
Every sin that a man does is outside the body,
but he who commits sexual immorality
sins against his own body.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
For you were bought at a price;
therefore glorify God in your body
and in your spirit, which are God’s
“.
1Cor.6: 12-20

This wise teaching of the holy Apostle Paul
is an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on certain issues
and find answers to contemporary questions
that the Holy Church has not had the time to answer yet.
All things are lawful for me,
but I will not be brought under the power of any”, says the Apostle.
I will not be brought under the power of any
is the right answer to many of these questions.

The apostle Paul said not,
abstain from fornication, but Flee:
that is, with all zeal make to yourselves
deliverance from that evil.
Every sin that a man does is without the body;
but he that commits fornication
sins against his own body.
This is less than what went before;
but since he had to speak of fornicators,
he amplifies that guilt by topics
drawn from all quarters,
from greater things and smaller alike,
making the charge heinous.
And, in fact,
that former topic was addressed to the more religious,
but this to the weaker sort.
For this also is characteristic of the wisdom of Paul,
not only to allege the great things wherewith to a bash men,
but the lesser also, and the consideration of what is disgraceful and unseemly.

What then, say you,
does not the murderer stain his hand?
What, of the covetous person and the extortioner?
I suppose it is plain to everyone.
But since it was not possible to
mention anything worse than the fornicator,
he amplifies the crime in another way, by saying that in the fornicator
the entire body becomes defiled.
For it is as polluted as if it had fallen into a vessel of filth
and been immersed in defilement. And this too is our way.
For from covetousness and extortion no one would make haste to go into a bath,
but as if nothing had happened returns to his house.
Whereas from intercourse with a harlot,
as having become altogether unclean, he goes to a bath.
To such a degree does the conscience retain
from this sin a kind of sense of unusual shame.
Both however are bad, both covetousness and fornication;
and both cast into hell.
But as Paul does everything with good management,
so by whatever topics he had
he magnified the sin of fornication.

Do you not know that your body is a
Temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?
He did not merely say, of the Spirit,
but, which is in you;
which was the part of one
who also was soothing.
And again, explaining himself still further,
he added, which you have from God.
He mentioned Him that gave also,
both exalting the hearer and
putting him in fear,
both by the magnitude of the deposit
and by the munificence of Him
that made it.

And you are not your own.
This is not only to a bash, but even to force men towards virtue.
For why, says he; does you what you will? You are not your own master.
But these things he said, not to take away free-will.
For so in saying, All things are lawful for me,
but not all things are expedient,
he does not take away our liberty.
And here again, writing, You are not your own;
he makes no infringement upon freedom of choice,
but he leads away from vice and indicates the guardian care of the Lord.
And therefore he added,
For you were bought with a price.

But if I am not my own, upon what ground
do you demand of me duties to be done?
And why do you go on to say again,
Glorify God therefore in your body
and in your spirit, which are God’s?
What then is the meaning of, you are not your own?
And what does he wish to prove thereby?
To settle them in a state of security against sin
and against following the improper desires of
your own mind.
For indeed we have many improper wishes:
but we must repress them, whenever we can.
And if we could not, exhortation would be in vain.
Mark, accordingly, how he secures his ground.
For having said, You are not your own, he adds not,
– but are under compulsion;
– but, You were bought with a price.

Why do you say this?
Surely on another ground, one might say perhaps,
you should have persuaded men,
pointing out that we have only one Lord, the Master.
But this is common to the Greeks also together with us:
whereas the expression, You were bought with a price belongs to us peculiarly.
For he reminds us of the greatness of the benefit
and of the mode of our Salvation,
signifying that when we were alienated, we were bought:
and not simply bought, but, with a Price.

Glorify then, take up and bear,
God in your body, and in your spirit.
Now these things he says,
that we may not only flee fornication in the body,
but also in the spirit of our mind abstain
from every wicked thought,
and from driving away Grace.

Which are God’s.
For as he had said your, he added therefore,
which are God’s:
continually reminding us
that all things belong to the Lord,
both body and soul and spirit:
For some say, that the words in the spirit mean the gracious gift;
for if that be in us, God is glorified.
And this will be, if we have a clean heart.

But He has spoken of these things as God’s,
not only because He brought them into being,
but also because, when they were alienated,
He won them again a second time, paying as the price, the blood of the Son.
Mark how He brought the whole to completion in Christ,
how He raised us up into Heaven.
You are members of Christ, says he,
you are a temple of the Spirit.
Become not then members of a harlot:
for it is not your body which is insulted;
since it is not your body at all, but Christ’s.
And these things he spoke,
both to make manifest His loving-kindness in that our body is His
and to withdraw us from all evil license.
For if the body be another’s, you have no authority, says he,
to insult another’s body; and especially when it is the Lord’s;
nor yet to pollute a temple of the Spirit.
For if any one who invades a private house and
makes his way revelling into it,
must answer for it most severely;
think what dreadful things he shall endure
who makes a temple of the King a robber’s lurking place.

Considering these things therefore,
reverence your Him that dwells within.
For the Paraclete is He.
Thrill before Him that is enfolded
and cleaves unto you; for Christ is He.
Have you indeed made
yourself members of Christ?
Think thus, and continue chaste;
whose members you were
and Whose you have to become.
Erewhile they were members of an harlot
and Christ has made them members of His own Body.
You have therefore henceforth no authority over them.
Serve Him that has set you free.

For supposing you had a daughter
– and in extreme madness had let her out to a procurer for hire
– and made her live a harlot’s life
– and then a king’s son were to pass by
– and free her from that slavery
– and join her in marriage to himself;
you could have no power thenceforth to bring her into the brothel.
For you gave her up once for all, and sold her.
Such as this is our case also.
We let out our own flesh for hire unto the Devil, that grievous procurer:
Christ saw and set it free, and withdrew it from that evil tyranny;
it is not then ours any more but His Who delivered it.
If you be willing to use it as a King’s bride, there is none to hinder;
but if you bring it where it was before,
you will suffer just what they ought who are guilty of such outrages.
Wherefore you should rather adorn instead of disgracing it.
For you have no authority over the flesh in the wicked lusts,
but in those things alone which God may enjoin.
Let the thought enter your mind at least
from what great outrage God has delivered it.
For in truth never did any harlot expose herself so shamefully
as our nature before this.
For robberies, murders, and every wicked thought entered in
– and lay with the soul,
– and for a small and vulgar hire,
– the [short] present pleasure.
For the soul, being mixed up with all wicked devices and deeds,
reaped this reward and no other.

God is glorious in His Saints

Yes, truly
“Glorious is God in His Saints”
Psalm 67: 35

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation;
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 26:1

The strength of the Lord in us
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.
2Cor. 10:3,4,5

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight
“.
Hebr. 11:33,34

And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God,
and the power of His Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night
“.
Rev 12: 10

Let us call to mind the Martyrs’ superhuman struggles,
how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength,
disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword,
all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut,
their joints dislocated and their bones crushed,
and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity,
complete, unharmed and unshaken.
As a result there were bestowed on them
the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit
and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women,
how they willingly endured long periods of fasting,
vigil and various other physical hardships
as though they were not in the body,
battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin,
in the invincible inner warfare against principalities,
powers and spiritual wickedness.
Eph. 6: 12

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless,
but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him
from whom they
also received gifts of healing and mighty works.
When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such Grace and Power.
For even if their intentions were good and noble,
without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature
and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.
That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared,
God is glorious in His Saints”, he went on to say,
He gives strength and power unto His people”.
Ps. 67: 35

Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words.
Whereas God, according to the psalmist,
gives all his people strength and power
– for He shows no partiality [cf. Acts 10: 34]
– He is glorified only in His saints.
The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes.
Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun,
not those whose vision is dimmed because illness,
mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes.
In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all,
for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and
saving fount of mercy and goodness.
But not everyone takes advantage of His Grace and Power
to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles,
only those with a good intent,
who demonstrate their love and faith towards God
by good works (cf. Jas. 2: 20– 26),
who turn away completely from everything base,
hold fast to God’s commandments and
lift up the eyes of their understanding to
Christ the Sun of righteousness [Mal. 4: 2].
He not only invisibly holds out a helping hand from above
to those who struggle, but we also hear Him speaking to us
and urging us on in His Gospel.
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men”,
He says, “him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 32

Notice that we cannot boldly
proclaim our faith in Christ
and confess Him without
His strength and assistance.
Nor will our Lord Jesus Christ speak out on our behalf in the age to come,
recommend us to the heavenly Father and make us His kin,
unless we give Him reason to do so.
To make this clear, He does not say,
Whosoever shall confess Me before men”,
but

Whosoever shall make His confession in Me”, Matth.10: 32
that is to say, whoever is able, in Christ and with His help,
to declare his faith with boldness.
Likewise, again, He does not say,
I will confess Him”, but “I will acknowledge what is in Him”,
meaning that His confession will be in respect of the good fight
and patient endurance which such a person has shown
in the cause of godliness.
Take note, however, of what He goes on to say
about those who are cowardly and betray the faith:
But whosoever shall deny me before men,
him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 33

Here He does not say, “Whosoever shall deny in Me”,
since the person who denies God does so because
he is bereft of God’s help.
Why has he been abandoned and forsaken by God?
Because he first abandoned God by loving what is transitory and worldly
more than the Heavenly and everlasting good things promised by Him.
In His turn, Christ will not just disown what is in Him, but deny him Himself,
finding in him nothing at all that could be used in his defence.
Whoever loves according to God,
dwelleth in God, and God in him”,
as Christ’s beloved theologian tells us [1John 4: 16].
So he who truly loves God has God dwelling in him,
and naturally confesses his faith in God.
On the other hand, as he dwells in God,
God too will acknowledge him.

The words, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me, him will I confess also” [cf. Matth. 10: 32],demonstrate the unbroken union between God and
those who acknowledge Him,
from which he who denies Him has distanced himself.
These mutual exchanges between God and man are divinely just,
and fairly reward like with like.
Although the prizes God gives us resemble our offerings to Him,
consider the overwhelming superiority of God’s recompense to those
who, in Him, confessed Him.
Each Saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him
in this fleeting life before mortal men,
though actually just for a brief period of this present age
and in front of only a few.
By contrast, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who is God and Lord of heaven and earth,
will speak openly on their behalf in that eternal,
never-ending world before God the Father,
surrounded by angels, archangels and all the heavenly host,
and in the presence of all mankind from Adam onwards.
For all will rise and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Then, before everyone and in the sight of all, He will proclaim,
glorify and crown those who demonstrated their faith in Him to the end.
How can we attempt to tell of those extraordinary crowns and
the excellence of those future rewards,
which eyes like ours cannot see, nor ears hear,
nor hearts understand?
cf. 1 Cor. 2: 9, Isa. 64: 4

Orthodoxy & Ambition

The time is now, on everything.
Took my heart away from money.
I ain’t interested in fame.
And I pray that never change.
Ambition is priceless.
It’s something that’s in your veins.
And I put that on my name“.
Wale – Ambition Lyric

Western society has undergone changes within the last 40 years with respect to morality.
Many things that were once viewed as being inherently immoral, such as gambling,
fornication (sex outside of marriage), homosexuality, are now viewed as being acceptable, and in some cases, outright laudable.
Many Christian denominations have followed suit by adopting the attitude
that modern Christians should adopt this “New morality” of secularism
lest we be judged by the world as being culturally backward and irrelevant.
I know you do not save man with advice and exhortations from outside.
Nor do you offer him freedom by telling them, “Do whatever you want“.
Wordlessly, like a sun of tender Love and fresh breeze of Courage,
your Love needs to be able to give them health and arouse
within them their personal appetite for Life.

Ambition
Especially the attitude of modern ambition gives me the impression of playing with fire.
It is not inherently negative, in fact it is good to have goals and
to work for those goals with perseverance.
But ambition uses people, destroys relationships, and muddy the waters of communities.
Ambition is intimately coupled with “envy, pride, and perhaps gluttony“.

In our times we are fully embodied creatures
and ambition feeds on our chemistry and biology
and it shapes our natural responses, it  is addictive.
Ambition, although not always clearly recognized and acknowledged as such, creates ‘Chaos’
[Tohuwabohu hebr. תהו־ובהו, tohu-wa-vohu]
in Communities.
Sexual sin, despite the attention rewarded to it, is of less significance if we consider impact on community and pain caused.
The difference in impact is primarily because we recognize sexual sin as sin
– there are consequences.

In contrast we often value and reward the result of ambition.
We brush under the rug or rationalize away its impetus in envy and pride.
This is a spiritual problem and a physical problem.
Scientific developments have impact
on our understanding of human behavior and human response.

Biochemical background
I have been reading in an article about Seven Deadly Sins, “Why does being bad feel so good?” and it described research being done these days to explore the science of sin.
Scientists are using techniques such as  functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] and PET [Positron-Emission Tomography] to map the active areas of the brain as a subject responds to certain stimuli.
Lust is a big one
– Research into brain response connected with lust indicates that (in males at least)
the response is all-encompassing.
All said, the most notable thing about lust is that it sets nearly the whole brain buzzing“.
The signals are unique, distinctive, unmistakable and uncontrollable.
This isn’t surprising.
We know that lust is a problem, we know that behaviour can shape response, that
there is a biological and chemical aspect that shapes not only the present, but the future.
The biochemical response can be addicting and destructive.
The lure of pornography is an excellent case in point.
We could go on here, but this isn’t really the point of today’s question.

Envy
Envy is interesting
– in a study of envy a number of volunteers were observed using fMRI while they read one of three scenarios
– the key one described a student similar to the volunteer, but better in every respect.
The conflict detecting regions of the brain fired and the response was similar to that for pain.
This leads to the suggestion that envy is a kind of social pain.
Later, when reading about this student’s downfall, the reward and pleasure regions of
the volunteer’s brain fired.
Not only this but the greater the pain in reading about the student’s success,
the greater the reward in reading of the student’s downfall.
The reward response is along the same line as that experienced from food – or sex.
It feels good.

Pride
And now the queen of vices – Pride.
Gregory the Great in commenting on Job noted:
For when pride, the queen of sins, has fully possessed a conquered heart, she surrenders is immediately to seven principal sins, as if to some of her generals, to lay it waste. …
For pride is the root of all evil, of which it is said, as Scripture bears witness;
Pride is the beginning of all sin
“.

Does pride show response in brain scans?
The science here is rather interesting.
For most of us, it takes less mental energy to puff ourselves up than to think critically about our own abilities.
… volunteers who imagined themselves winning a prize
or trouncing an opponent showed less activation in brain regions
associated with introspection and self-conscious thought
than people induced to feel negative emotions such as embarrassment.

We accept positive feelings about
ourselves readily,
Joseph S. Takahashi, a Japanese American neurobiologist and geneticist says:
Compared with guilt and embarrassment,
pride might be processed more automatically
”.
In another experiment a part of the brain
could be stimulated to turn off the protective influence of pride.
When this happened
They saw themselves as they really were, without glossing over negative characteristics“.
Even more interesting, the experiments demonstrate that righteous humility,
deliberate self-downgrading, is but arrogance and pride in cover.
The brain activation is the same.
Both are forms of one-ups-man-ship.
‘They are in the same location and seem to serve the same purpose:
putting oneself ahead in society’
“.

What does this mean?
Self-confidence, ambition, pride, envy – this is a slippery slope.
It is insidious – affecting our very make-up inside out.
We are wrong when we cast it “simply” as a battle of wills.
And our capacity for denial, blame-shifting,
and self-deception is also rooted in our make-up.
It is interesting though, because studies also show
that we can train our brains and influence response
– especially true of sins of envy, wrath, and pride.
Feeding ambition, with its corollaries of envy and pride, is like feeding lust.
It changes our very being, our function, our chemistry, our brain paths.
On the other hand intentional pursuit of virtue is also self-re-in-forcing.

So why is it playing with fire?
This reflection leads me though, to an idea that I would like to pose for consideration.
Within the Church we view ambition as a virtue.
We make allowances for ambition, we reward ambition,
we cultivate ambition, we admire ambition, we feed ambition.
The whole community, especially in the west, is puffing up the value of the ‘blacks’,
the priests, the bishop, the Patriarch [Pope].
And this is a serious problem.
In fact, I think it is one of the biggest
and most destructive temptations active in our Church today.
Ambition, accompanied by, and inseparably knotted with, pride and envy,
is the death of the Church.
The communal People of the Western Church are disordered by it,
because they only see the system instead of the original aim [object].

The original Christian ambition
Orthodox Christians must respond
to the moral confusion of our age
by examining the rich spiritual Tradition bequeathed to us in the Church.
Contrary to what many people might think, the answer to this problem is
not an answer that lies in the uniquely Western irreconcilable difference of conservatism verses liberalism;
rather, it has to do with the Church’s understanding and experience of ‘Theosis’ and Beauty.

Theosis
Theosis is the teaching that as human beings we have been created for a life of perfect and unending communion with God, and that this Divine Life
– revealed to us in Christ – is the very dynamic and substance of Salvation itself.
By uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh, we receive the gift [Grace] of the Holy Spirit,
Who in turn, reconciles us to the Father.
Christ was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification
“.
Rom.4: 25

I am crucified with Christ:
nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lived in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness come by the Law,
then Christ is dead in vain
“.
Gal.2: 20,21

Here, in his own person, the apostle Paul describes the spiritual or hidden life of a believer.
The old man is crucified” [Rom.6: 6],
but the new man is living;
sin is mortified, and Grace is quickened.
He has the comforts and the triumphs of Grace;
yet that Grace is not from himself, but from another“.
Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence on Christ.
Hence it is, that though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh.
Those who have true faith, live by that faith;
and faith fastens upon Christ’s giving Himself for us.
He loved me, and gave Himself for me.
As if the apostle said, The Lord saw me fleeing from Him more and more.
Such wickedness, error, and ignorance were in my will and understanding,
that it was not possible for me to be ransomed by any other means
than by such a Price.
Consider well this Price.
Here notice the false faith of many.
And their profession is accordingly;
they have the form of godliness without the power of it.
They think they believe the articles of faith aright, but they are deceived.
For to believe in Christ crucified, is not only to believe that He was crucified,
but also to believe that I am crucified with Him.
And this is to know Christ crucified.
Hence we learn what is the nature of Grace.
God’s Grace cannot stand with man’s merit.
Grace is no Grace unless it is freely given every way.
The more simply the believer relies on Christ for everything,
the more devotedly does he walk before Him in all his ordinances and commandments.
Christ lives and reigns in him, and he lives here on earth by faith in the Son of God,
which works by Love, causes obedience, and changes into His Holy Image.
Thus he neither abuses the Grace of God, nor makes it in vain.

Orthodoxy and living the Christian life

For a perfect Bridegroom, He takes
the soul as a perfect bride
into the holy and mystical and immaculate communion of marriage“.
Saint Macarios of Egypt – Homily 47

By living with the Saints Who have gone before and enjoying their support,
you learn how to struggle.
You see how they wrestled;
how they confronted the enemy;
how they dealt with human weaknesses.
How hard they were on themselves:
they shadowed life and qualified success
not to their own labours,
but to the grace of God.

If you follow the life and counsels of the Saints . . . . .
If you are granted inner peace . . . . .
Bear with the others:
Be victimised and do not wrong others“.
Hand-no one-down, but forgive everyone,
find somehow a place for them in your heart.
Pray for them with all what is in your capacity,
unrelatedly of whether they upset you.
Be unable to lay on hurt,
not sufficiently expert of
any such thing.
Follow the Lord of Golgotha
– “A Man wounded, knowing how to bear weakness
Isaiah 53: 3
Be wounded and know how to bear the pain.
The Cross must be familiar and acceptable to you
as a place to be and a mode of existence.

Then the Lord will come
at some time, without fail,
as He knows best.
He will come and find you,
He will touch your head.
He touched the leper . . . . .”[Matth. 8: 3].
He will speak to you.
He will enter into you like Light, Repose, Paradise.
You will be aware of Him, you will feel Him,
you will actually live His Passion and Ressurection.
You will find yourself inside the Icon of Ressurection,
of the Descent into Hell.
This Icon will be an expression of your life.
Christ will constantly leading you by the hand,
bringing you to Light, to freedom,
to an unending journey which is Himself.

Then You will understand the words of the Lord:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things
and to enter into His Glory?

Luc. 24: 26
Christ had to suffer and to come forth as Bridegroom from the tomb.
A great Mystery!
You feel that you had to suffer, to endure pain,
to die in the earth like a seed,
so that there might shoot up from within you
something that does not pass away.

I am created for some specific purpose, a certain Christian used to say
– for something intangible, invisible to the naked eye, and yet incarnate.
I know it, I believe it, I experience it.
◙ When I move away from it, everything goes twisted, in my soul and my body.
◘ When I an within it,
I am firmly grounded and recover everything,
the health of my soul and body.
◘ When I am alone, I am in communion with the Saints.
◘ When I am in a crowd, I am nourished by the pure spring
welling up in the desert within.
Reverence for this least and greatest thing
takes the form of constantly going outdoors without protection;
of asking at every moment only that His will should be done.
Asking not with my mouth and my voice,
but with my whole manner of living all the time.

When you ask that His Will should be done,
when your whole Christian being is one bleeding petition, it happens.
But this “happening” is not something you can determine in advance.
It may happen by happening or by not happening.
It may be that before your petition is finished, the answer comes.
Or you may wait years and wear yourself out,
and be disappointed, and reach utter exhaustion and be destroyed.
And then, when you are no longer expecting anything
– neither you nor anyone else –
He Himself will come to raise you up,
to take you with Him on a new journey,
to the unknown.

Then you understand why
He was slow in coming for you:
He was with you “In another form
even when He had not come and you were waiting for Him.
                                                                                 Marc.16: 12

How everything functions as a whole!
Now nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted!
How blessings go deeper than hoped!
How the afflictions, the pains and perplexities till the field of our souls
like a deep-cutting ploughshare!
How totally and utterly the strange and heaven-sent rest
differs in nature from the rest and satisfaction
afforded by any earthly and temporary success!
How it teaches us humility, how it schools us in Love, How it reconciles us with others!
It strengthens us, it invigorates us,
and in the same time it makes us weaker, without any prickles or sharp corners
which could wound others.

The lives of the Saints have been sanctified,
their minds have been enlightened, the work of their hands and their minds bears the seal of Grace, the beauty of Heaven.
This Beauty is a gift from the Lord Himself,
the Glory of Whose Godhead became the glory of the body,
but remains obscured from those
who cannot see these things
only visible to the Angels
“.
Saint Gregory Palamas – Agioreitikos Tomos

Through sin man loses the comeliness which is from above and begs the Lord:
Make my humble soul bright with the beauty of repentance
Oktoïch tn2 Canon, Monday morning, 4th ode
When the Christian matures in repentance and attains purification and illumination,
he/she receives the most pure embrace of the Lord,
Which fills his whole being with Beauty, Glory and uncreated Light.

Embracing me totally, He caresses me in my entirety,
He gives Himself entirely to me in my unworthiness,
and I take my fill of His Love and His Beauty,
and am filled with Divine pleasure and sweetness.
I partake in the Light, participate in the Glory,
and my face shines like the of the One I long for
and all my members are luminous.
Then am I fairest of the fair
“.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian

When the intellect has been perfected,
it unites wholly with God and
is illumined by Divine Light,
and the most hidden Mysteries
are revealed to it.
Then it truly learns
where wisdom and power lie…
While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things…
But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts,
then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by Grace
and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities.
A person in whom this happens is not attached
to the things of this world but has passed from death to Life
“.
Philokalia