Orthodoxy & the period of Great Lent

The period of Great Lent is a period
to prepare for the Feast of feast – Pascha,
in which we re-clothe ourselves like
at the moment of our Baptism in Christ.
That’s why the Church calls us
to prepare ourselves by prayer and fasting.

The teaching of fasting and prayer seems
strangely out of place in our time.
Fasting is connected to sports, to get a restored body good-looking to others, instead of a method
to come near to our [inner Christian] principles.
Even most Christians have lost the habit of prayer and fasting
and most of our young believers are never well-educated to fast.
This is a catastrophe that saddens our Lord, Who is always waiting
for our coming-home.

For when we were in the flesh,
the motions of sins, which were by the law,
did work in our members
to bring forth fruit unto death
“.
Rom.7: 5

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself ?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 1-5

Fasting helps us reduce and conquer
the longings and requests of the flesh.
The body makes a wonderful servant, but a very poor master.
Fasting brings the carnal nature into
subjection so that the body becomes the servant
and the Spirit becomes the master.
We have to fast to control the flesh.

For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh]
dwells no good thing:
for to will is present with me;
but how to perform that
which is good I find not
“.
Rom.7: 18

God is disappointed because He knows that prayer and fasting
make us powerful in the spirit; the adversary delights
because without the Power of the Holy Spirit [Grace]
we are unable to offer him resistance.
Why have the mainstream of believers have abandoned
the practice of prayer and fasting?
Some of the believers have abandoned prayer and fasting
because they didn’t seem to be getting
the domino effects they were looking for.
They expected cash on the nail [dutch: butter with the fish] as real commercials;
They positioned the problem to God.
It’s not our attitude that we first look to ourselves,
it’s more easy to empty the blame on the other side.
When we pray and fast and do not experience a breakthrough, we are not used to blame ourselves.
We don’t ask ourselves:
Is there something in your life that needs to be dealt with?
Maybe our motives for fasting are wrong!

As children of God, we have to know the will of God for our lives.
Many countries in East & West are founded upon Godly principles.
Despite the infiltration of immorality and debauchery into the very heart of modern culture, a majority of people is still very religious.
We want to see positive changes in our society,
but we seem to do it in the wrong way.

“They ask me for just decisions
and seem ready for God to come near them
“.
Isaiah 58: 2
The people in the time of Isaiah also asked
– why God was not hearing their prayers;
– why God was producing no visible results
after their prayers and fasting.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

Isaiah 58: 3

These people thought they were serving God.
They thought they were believing His Word.
They were continuing their religious traditions
and working for social justice in their days.
Yet, when they quoted the promises and exercises their Faith, nothing happened.

The answer God gave them may surprise even our Russian or Greek Christians:
Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers“.
Isaiah 58: 3

If the people of Isaiah’s days were getting nowhere spiritually
because they were pleasure seekers, we are really in trouble in our times.
A great percentage of our time, our effort and our money
are now spent for things that bring us pleasure.
To most of us nothing is more important than our jobs
– nothing else than related to our jobs and the gathering of
over-luxury-income, more, more, and more only to consume.
We have more important things to do than prayer and fasting;
fasting is simply not in the schedule.
There is no time for it.

If God is not answering our prayers, something is wrong.
Our approach is wrong; our perception of God is wrong.
If we really put God first, He will never fail to put us first.
But if we put Him third, He is not owing a favour to us first;
he is not obligated to answer our very impulse and fancy.
If having fun is more important to us than having God’s favour on our lives,
there is not much hope for our spiritual future.
If our jobs and the results of it are more important to us than doing the will of God,
we are serious in trouble.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
“.
Isaiah 58: 4
Those who fasted actually had an evil purpose in doing so;
[collecting money or an admired dignified look of the bystanders].
God declared that this was not the fast He had chosen.
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 5

Prayer and fasting is not for the purpose of showing off.
It’s very a very personal act performed unto God, not to men.
The fast which God has chosen is very different.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter . . . . .
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Isaiah 58: 6-7

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don’t get it.
You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.
You quarrel and fight.
You do not have, because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get
on your pleasures.
James 4: 1-3

Fasting is not a tool to twist the arm of God
so that He will give you exactly what you want.
Fasting has a spiritual resolve, and that resolution is
to get your flesh out of the way
so that the Spirit of God [Grace] can enter into your life.
Fasting removes the barriers to communication with God
and allows the spirit man to commune directly
with the Heavenly Father – without any disruption.
When a person makes a determination to fast,
he is making a determination to remove obstacles in his life
to total submission to the Will of God.
No wonder that the adversary [the Satan]
is strong-minded to destroy this practice!
The adversary [the Satan] wants you to be poor,
to give free rein to your appetites . . . . .
until he consumes you.
The food-industry, the illegal drug industry
and the entertainment industry have much in common. They are all connected to the run-away appetites of our society.
Much of the poverty of our backlog neighbourhoods [ghettos] and their social projects are a direct result of this almost total loss of control.
Most of us who live comfortable in the prosperous nations have problems
with prayer and fasting because everything around us is designed
to charm to our flesh and its carnal desires.

But when we seek the Face of God through prayer and fasting, we push the flesh aside, denying the appetites the control they seek over us,
and allow our spirit man, who desires God,
to develop a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Man is a triune being made up of body, soul and spirit.
It’s the spirit that came from God and longs to be
re-united with Him, as our Father.
When we give our spirit the opportunity he will reach out to God.
God will say: “reach out, I will be there” [a popular hit in my youth from the Bee Gees];
and we will communicate with Him.
These three parts of a person, however, strive [play progress] for influence.
Your spirit can influence your soul and your soul can influence your flesh.
If you are accustomed spiritually with God, your soul has no choice but to delight in the decisions of
your spiritual life.
Your flesh submits to the authority of your soul.
When the angel Gabriël appeared to the Theotokos, she reoonded immediately:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
Luc.1: 46-47
               If your soul is magnifying the Lord, your flesh will bow in submission.
If your flesh has risen to authority in your life, however,
it will struggle with your spirit for dominance,
and the soul will obey the lusts of the flesh.
Fasting sets your spirit free to worship and serve God.
Fasting enables you to break the hold of the flesh
and brings your appetites into control.
It places you in submission to the Holy Spirit of God.
When this happens, you get answers to your prayers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“.

Saturday of cheese-fare – commemorations of all monks & nuns

To the souls of the Righteous,
whose memory abided
forever, do I offer these my words
as abiding oblations
“.
Having led us gently through the preceding Feasts, the God-bearing Fathers have prepared us for the arena of Lent and  led us away from luxury and satiety.

They have instructed us with fear of the future Judgment and have skill-fully cleansed us by anticipation during Cheese-fare week,
having placed two fast days in the middle of the preceding week,
in order gradually to rouse us to fasting.
Behold, they now set in our midst
those who lived lives of sanctity,
through their many labours and toils, both men and women, so that,
by reminding us of their struggles,
they might make us more vigorous for the contest, and so that,
having their lives as an example and guide, and
eliciting their alliance and aid,
we might disrobe for spiritual exertions,
taking it into account that they shared in
the same nature as ourselves.
For, just as generals, when their armies are arrayed and
are already standing in line, stir up their own troops by
recounting examples and memories of men of old who
fought with distinction and valour, and the troops,
stimulated thereby with the hope of Victory,
set out wholeheartedly for combat, so
also do the God-bearing Fathers wisely act in our case.

Encouraging both men and women to spiritual contests through the example of those who have lived in holiness,
in this way they bring them to the arena of great Lent, in order that,
looking to their lives as an excellent prototype,
we might attain to the many different kinds of virtue, as each of us is able:
first, love, and then conscious abstinence from unseemly works and deeds, and
fasting itself, that is, not just from food, but also
from the sins of the tongue, anger, sins of the eyes, and,
to put it simply, refraining from all that is evil.
For this reason, the Holy Fathers appointed the present commemoration of
all the Ascetic Saints, adducing those who were well-pleasing to God
for fasting and other good works,
urging us to proceed, in their image, to the arena of the virtues, and
exhorting us to arm ourselves valiantly against the passions and
the demons,
reckoning that if we show zeal equal to theirs, there is no impediment
to our achieving all that they achieved and
being vouchsafed the same rewards;
for, they shared in the same nature as ourselves.

Concerning Cheese-fare week,
when it was previously permitted to eat meat, some say that
Emperor Heraklios decreed its present form.
After campaigning against Chosroës and the Persians for six years,
he vowed to God that, if he prevailed against them,
he would alter this week and make it intermediate between fasting and feasting,
which he did.
In my opinion, although this may have been the case,
the Holy Fathers devised this week as kind of preparatory cleansing,
lest we should become disgruntled at being led straight from consuming meat and overeating to
extreme abstinence from food and damage our physical health,
and so that, by abstaining gently and gradually from rich and delectable foods, we might, like recalcitrant horses, through
a reduced intake of food, accept the bridle of fasting.
That which they devised for the soul through Parables,
they also did for the body, little by little
removing impediments to fasting.

Kontakion          Plagal 4rth Tn
As preachers of true piety who silenced all impiety, Lord,
You have made the whole host of God-bearing Saints
shine forth with splendour on the world.
By their prayers and entreaties,
keep all them that extol and sincerely
magnify You in perfect peace,
to chant and to sing to You:
Alleluia
“.

Never, never, never let anyone
tell you that, in order to be Orthodox,
you also have to be a-look-alike to those believers
from other [
eastern] countries.
The West was Orthodox for thousand years and
her venerable Divine Liturgy is far older
than any of her heresies
“.
Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and
San Francisco

“. . . . . By the intercessions of all Your Ascetic Saints,
O Christ our God, have mercy on us, sinners . . . . .

Preparing to receive Holy Communion

The most important element
in the spiritual renewal of
the Orthodox Christian is the Mystery [lat.Sacrament] of Holy Communion.
It is the one Mystery that transcends all other Mysteries.
When we receive Holy Communion we receive Jesus Himself into us.
So great is this Mystery that we are left without any possible response which would express what God has done.
Therefore, we offer the only answer we can give,
Thank you‘.

The Greek word for Thanksgiving is “Ευχαριστω” [“Eucharisto”].
We refer to Holy Communion as “the Unity with God” and
offer thanksgiving to God for this great Mystery
whereby God not only sanctifies the bread and wine,
but also changes them into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The bread and wine do not change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ
until the blessing and thanksgiving has been completed.
This happens at every Divine Liturgy.
We praise Thee,
we bless Thee,
we give thanks to Thee, O Lord,
and we pray to Thee, O our God
“.
While the choir sings the above hymn,
the priest prays for the descent of the Holy Sprit,
Who transforms the elements on the altar
into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood,
you have no life in you…
For My flesh is food indeed,
and My blood is drink indeed
“.
John 6:53, 55

Therefore, if receiving the Eucharist is receiving Jesus Christ, our Lord
we must take care to approach the Eucharist in a proper manner.
The way we approach this awesome mystery determines
whether our participation will be a blessing in our lives,
or whether we are condemning ourselves.

Fasting
– Fasting is a spiritual discipline which was and is
intended to enhance our participation in the Eucharist
– it is not to be seen as an excuse
to keep away from the Chalice.
– Fasting is a discipline which is not restricted only to food.
It is more than simply not eating.
It is also not lying, stealing, cheating, committing adultery,
gossiping, quarrelling etc.
We must abstain from all forms of evil.
To think that by only setting a few days aside
to omit certain foods from our diet
makes us worthy to receive the Eucharist
is to be spiritually naive.

It is not uncommon to hear Orthodox Christians say
they are fasting on Wednesday and Friday
because they plan to take Communion at Sunday Liturgy.
In reality, the practice of Wednesday and Friday fasting
has never been purposefully linked to participation in the Eucharist.
Orthodox Christians are required to fast on those two days of the week
regardless if they are going to take Holy Communion or not.
The Holy Apostles Sixty-Ninth Canon of the Church
This same Canon requires that fasting be maintained throughout Great Lent also.
No mention is made of the Eucharist.
In other words, regular fasting must be a way of life.

Many Orthodox Christians extend the Wednesday and Friday fast to Saturday.
They reason that if they fast on Wednesday and Friday in preparation for the Eucharist on Sunday,
it does not seem right not to fast on Saturday, the day prior to receiving Communion.
However, in so doing, they violate
the sixty fourth Canon of the Holy Apostles
which specifically forbids ever fasting on Saturday,
the day God rested after creation.
Exceptions to this Canon
– Holy Saturday and a few other major feast days
should they fall on a Saturday.

The Eucharistic Fast involves total abstinence from any food or drink
in the morning prior to receiving the Eucharist.
If therefore, you keep the Eucharistic Fast, and
there exists no moral reason for you to stay away from Chalice,
you become obligated to come forward
and receive Christ as He is offered at the liturgy.

To assert that one has not fasted on the previous Wednesday and Friday
and therefore cannot come forward for Communion,
is, by itself, an insufficient cause to abstain from the Eucharist.

So strongly did the Church feel about this
that we find in the ninth Apostolic Canon of the Holy Apostle,
the following:
“All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scriptures,
but do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated,
on the grounds that they are causing the Church a breach of Order”.
The early Orthodox Church attended liturgy for one reason – the Eucharist.

Saint John Cassian, writes,
We must not avoid Communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful.
We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul
but with much humility and faith considering ourselves unworthy.
Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year,
as certain people do such people manifest
more pride than humility for when they receive,
they think of themselves as worthy
“.

Fasting was never intended to be a barrier to keep us from Christ,
but a bridge to lead us to fuller participation in the life of Christ.

Confession
In general, two views emerge concerning Confession and the Eucharist.
– The first sees Confession as necessary before each participation in the Eucharist.
– The second sees Confession as a periodic practice not required
before every participation in the Eucharist.

The result of viewing Confession as a pre-requisite to every participation in the Eucharist
is that it does not enhance one’s spiritual life but hinders it.
It hinders it because Confession becomes an excuse not to take Holy Communion,
much like fasting becomes
an excuse to stay away from the Chalice.

Confession itself, of course, is not a hindrance, but people [even priests] make it a hindrance.
It is not uncommon to hear from individuals
that they are not regular participants in the Eucharist
because they have not been to Confession.

The Church, does not require a Confession
from her people every time they wish to partake of the Eucharist.
However, if it is your practice to receive the Eucharist
only a few times per year at certain times,
your Priest may rightfully insist that you go to Confession !!!
If it is your practice to partake of the Eucharist rarely,
it is probable that your whole approach to the Eucharist could,
and should, be questioned.

If you resolve to be a regular participant in the Eucharist,
as every Orthodox should be, you should plan on periodic Confession.
This is defined by your Parish-priest [not the bishop!!!]
and usually it means anywhere from once a month
to once every six months.

It is not acceptable in the tradition of the Church
to keep away from the Eucharist using Confession as an excuse.
The Mystery [lat.Sacrament] of Confession exists
to enhance our approach to the Eucharist,
not to impede it.

Frequency of Participation
Did you know that the first Orthodox Christians
took Holy Communion every day?
That’s right, they could not think of going through a day
without taking the Eucharist.
So strongly did the early Orthodox Christians feel about this
that they introduced the 9th Apostolic Canon
that anyone who did not stay for prayer and Holy Communion
must be excommunicated.
This shows how seriously the Eucharist
should be taken when offered on Sundays.
Those who attend Sunday liturgy
and do not take Holy Communion regularly
should consider not going at all
unless their intention is to receive the Eucharist.

Christians sin constantly. Sin is part of our life. Everybody is a sinner, the clergy also.
Therefore forgiveness must also be a part of our life.
Constant sin requires constant forgiveness.
If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us
“.
John 1: 8

The Eucharist, approached in the correct manner,
takes away our sin and gives us the strength to draw closer to God.
What is the correct manner?
The answer is found in the liturgy itself
when the Priest presents the Chalice and intones,
With the fear of God, faith and love, draw near“.
Therefore, if you do not have a valid reason for not partaking,
you are obliged to receive the Eucharist.

If you have kept the Eucharistic Fast
[ie – not eaten or drunk anything after waking up in the morning],
and if you approach with “fear of God, faith and love“,
and there is no moral or canonical reason to impede you
– you must go forward when you hear the call.

To live a life of infrequent participation in the Eucharist
means spiritual sickness.
It may be you fail to be regular in your partaking of the Eucharist
because you feel unworthy.
In this case, the question must be asked;
when will you be worthy?
Of course, if you wait until you are worthy,
forget it, you will never be able to approach the Chalice.
One of the reasons we must constantly go forward
is precisely because we are unworthy.

Should you still not be able to accept the fact
that you should be a regular participant in the Eucharist,
you must question yourself.
Why do you feel this way?
Are you aware that there does exist someone
who stands to gain by your staying away from the Chalice?
That person is the devil.
The longer you stay away from the Eucharist,
the stronger the devil’s influence in your life.
Do you want to overcome the devil?
Than receive Jesus Christ.
– The Body of God both deifies and nourishes.
– It deifies the spirit and nourishes the mind.
– It heals, purifies, enlightens and sanctifies the body and soul.
– It helps us to turn away from every fantasy,
evil practice and diabolical activity which work subconsciously in our members.
– It increases virtue and perfection for Communion
with the Holy Spirit as a provision of salvation and eternal life.

If you know that you will receive the body and blood of Christ on Sunday
then during the week you will begin to discipline yourself
and make a determined effort to overcome your passions.
– You will make every effort not to sin.
– You will pray and fast with relative ease
for you are preparing your body and soul to receive Christ.
– You clean and tidy your house [your heart] to receive the King
to whom no other King can be compared.
And once you receive the Eucharist,
Christ gives you the spiritual gifts to ward off the temptations of the devil
which war continuously against you
and assist you to climb the ladder of Divine Ascent.
This especialy during the preparation of Pascha,
which we call Great Lent.
Prayers for preparation Holy Communion

Orthodoxy & the Mercy of God

For this cause
neither does God hinder
the temptations as they come on…
to teach you that you are
become much stronger
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

The Power of God’s Mercy
We continually oppress God’s Mercy.
Also man, created in the image of God,
has much in common with his Creator,
but predominantly property of alms and benefactions are those near him
to approach the Lord.
Christ voices his life by constantly benefaction to others:
And the whole multitude sought to touch Him
for there went virtue out of him;
and they were healed
“.
Luc.6: 19
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve and to give His Life
as a ransom for many

Marc.10: 45
as a Sample and fruits of His great Love for people.
As poor brethren,
we are either hungry either sick and needy.
As a brother of Christ,
after you have put on Christ.
When your inner self has the same Baptism as Christ, participate in the same cases in point,
obey the same Laws of God,
participate in the same Divine Eucharist
and have the same hope as all Christians“.
Saint Gregory the Theologian
The mystery of communion in the Church is that each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality
and accept the ‘companionship’ of others who “break bread” with us.
– We must think not in terms of ‘me’ but ‘we’.
– That’s why every day we pray ‘our’ Father, ‘our’ daily bread.
– Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first pre-requisite for entering the Divine Life
to which we are called.
– We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us:
fear and mistrust towards others,
greed and selfishness,
unwillingness to run the risk of defencelessness
to which we expose ourselves
when we are open to Love.
The merciful heart makes a human heir of God’s Kingdom
and not to both large gifts,
such as Miracles, pro-active Charisma,
the great Wisdom of the mind, etc.

A great ascetic of the desert named Saint Isaac the Syrian,
describes how it should be a merciful heart,
or how is the man philanthropist.
We must burn the heart out of love
– for the whole Creation
– to fight for people,
– in act of kindness of hunters
– in favour of animals,
– in favour of the demons, if possible.
A man who has such a heart his tears are unstoppable.
He can’t hear or see suffering some damage
and not disgusting, not to weep.
Praying with tears and in favour of the enemy, in favour of the kind.
All and all be the Mercy coming from God.
We see, then, how a tear can give us
the opportunity to do our own God’s Kingdom.

how we manifest our love for others
Simply facts of everyday’s life will judge us;
no wisdom, no [political] power and strength,
not material wealth and money,
not bodily celebrity [fame] and beauty.
Not those that have a value
that Judgment Day other is proceeding
just as we see in everyday’s life.
–  plate of food, a financial encouragement for the others,
– a sympathy goes to those who have hard times,
– a simple visit to the uncomfortable.
All this is done in a silent way,
without fanfare and publications.
A Christian who believes in actively faith,
avoid spectacular events and those pompous ways;
we have re-cycled our years.
The only thing that will get in next life is charity,
which is an advocate for our God.

Every day’s Gospel is addressed to all of us
who honour the Image of Jesus Christ,
but forget to mark the animated image of
a man who is the contrary.
We must always remember Faith stands entirely alone.
A justified man, no doubt, will always be a Holy man.
True believing will always be accompanied by Godly living.
But that which gives a man a saving interest in Christ,
is not his living, but his Faith.
If we would know whether our faith is genuine,
we do well to ask ourselves how we are living.
But if we would know whether we are justified by Christ,
there is but one question to be asked.
That question is: “Do we believe?
“We are not enriched by fortune ,
but by Divinity . . . . .”.
Saint Gregory the Theologian
So let us enrich not only by material possessions,
but in piety.
Let us be community in every poor as would occur,
what God is for us all to find
and we just ask for Mercy.
We are called to overcome our differences,
– to bring peace and
reconciliation where there is conflict,
– to offer the world a message of hope.
We are called to reach out
– to those in need,
generously sharing our earthly goods
with those less fortunate than ourselves.
And we are called
– to proclaim unceasingly
the death and Resurrection of our Lord until He comes.
Through Him, with Him and in Him,
in the unity [that is the Holy Spirit’s Grace to the Church],
let us give honour and glory to God our heavenly Father
in the company of all the Angels and Saints
Who sing His praises for ever.

Orthodoxy & conquering perfection

When a Christian attains
purity of heart…

When a Christian attains to purity of heart,
then he fulfills all the commands of the Lord,
and then
he sees God” [Matth.5: 7],
that is, he beholds clearly in his heart
the workings of the Holy Spirit,

from which he is enlightened to
become an unwavering guide of others,

and understands the hidden sayings
of the divine Scriptures,

and the nature not only of beings,
but also the nature of Truth;

and in consequence
he arrives at clear-sightedness, foresight, and dispassion,

from which comes the action of Divine Revelations and Miracles“.
Elder Daniël Katounakiotis [†1929]

It’s what God gives us that is important in attaining perfection – Not what we offer Him.
He gives us mercy. He gives us forgiveness. He gives us His love.
– At the moment of our Baptism we are pure.
– At the moment of absolution in our Confession we are pure.
– At the moment we receive Him into our body in Holy Communion we are pure.

Not as the result of our efforts but as His gift of Mercy and Love.
We then continue to struggle against the evil forces of the world
and can be tempted to forget and fall into error anytime.
God is still there with mercy, forgiveness and Love.
Out of our love for Him we are sorry for our forgetfulness and error
and seek His forgiveness and mercy which He freely gives back.
We struggle to improve so we will not be as forgetful.
We fast to help us remember Him and to
increase our control over the passions of the Body.
We pray and learn to have the Jesus Prayer on our lips
when we are tempted or face difficulty.
We work to improve ourselves to be a good servant of our Lord.
We do not do this for merit but out of our love of Him,
our desire to do what He wills recognizing our weaknesses
when facing the spiritual war we are engaged in.
This is an ongoing process of growth.
It is what we call the Orthodox way of life.
It is a life of repentance.

The nature of the difficulties we face
are highlighted in
next Letter from the Apostle Paul
Brethren, be strong in the Lord
and in the strength of His Might.
Put on the whole armour of God,
that you may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but
– against the principalities, against the powers,
– against the world rulers of this present darkness,
– against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore take the whole armour of God,
that you may be able to withstand in the evil day,
and having done all, to stand.
Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth,
and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and having shod your feet
with the equipment of the gospel of peace;
besides all these, taking the shield of faith,
with which you can quench all
the flaming darts of the evil one.
And take the helmet of Salvation,
and the Sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God”
Eph.6: 10-17

What many Protestants see as working for merits
are the things Orthodox Christians have done
since the time of he Apostles to be good sons,
to hallow His name,
to live a more virtuous Life
according to His Commandments.
We need His Grace to do so and
we also need to put all our own energies into
following what ‘God’ desires for us.
It is living this kind of humble life in eyes of God
that we become justified so that at the time of the final Judgement
when the actions of our life will be examined in detail
and Truth we will be accepted into His Kingdom.
Without these “works“, without our own efforts,
we will not improve our ability to serve our Lord
as His Son or to glorify Him as He intended.
It’s wrong to think of these efforts
as earning merits.
Orthodox Christians do not have
this idea of meritstied to
our ‘personal‘ efforts
because we have a Mysterial
[lat. Sacramental] Life
as the foundation of our Faith.
We have much more than a Holy Book to guide us.
– We know God will help us.
– We know that we are weak needing His help.
– We also know we have free will and a body full of passions,
that we live in a world controlled by evil forces
that we must struggle against.
– We continually pray “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner“.
– We continually seek His Grace and
participate in His Mysteries [lat. Sacraments]
where we are receiving the gifts of His Healing and Grace.
It is a complete way of “Life in Christ“.

Let those man
who also  love Your Name
be joyful in You“.
Psalm 5: 11

Orthodox discours on Divine Eros and on Creation

Christ is our love, our Grace”

Christ is the joy, the true Light,
our happiness; Christ is our hope.
The relationship with Christ is Love,
is Love, is excitement, longing sulphur.
Christ is everything.
This is our love and our Love is.
In-alienable Love is from Christ,
from Him comes the Joy of Life.

This Joy is Christ Himself. It is joy that makes us another man.
It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ.
It intoxicates like wine fair, this wine is the spiritual. Says David:
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows“.
Psalm 22: 5
And you shall take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him“.
Ex.29: 21
The spiritual wine is rampant, unadulterated, very strong and when I drink, get drunk on.
This divine drunkenness is a Grace, a gift of God,
given to “pure in heart“.

As you are able to fast,  you make many prostrations,
you want to join as many vigils as possible, but
do it in happiness; keep it having in the Joy of Christ.
This is the Joy that lasts forever, which is eternal delight.
It’s the Joy of our Lord, Who gives the safe serenity,
calm and pleasantness bliss.
The Joy of the coming Pascha is beyond all Joy.
Christ wants to be thanked and scatters joy,
to enrich their believers with this Joy.
I wish, “so this Joy is filled to You“.

This is our religion. There you go.
Christ is Heaven, my children.
What is Heaven? It is Christ.
From now entering the  Paradise is exactly the same,
those who live here on earth in Christ,
live in Paradise.
So are you saying it.
It is right, true, trust me!
Our job is to try to find a way to get into the Light of Christ.
It is to do absolutely typical.
The essence is to be with Christ.
To wake the soul and to love Christ, to become Holy.
Indulged in Divine Love. Thus you will love us and Him.
It is then the inalienable Joy.
It wants more Christ, it fills us with that Joy,
because it is the Source of Joy.
This Joy is the Gift [Grace] of Christ.
Within this Joy you will know Christ.
We cannot know Him, if He does not know us.
How David says:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it in vain;
Unless the Lord guard the city,
Those who guard it stay awake in vain
“.
Psalm 126: 1

These is what our soul wants to acquire.
If you prepare accordingly, Grace will be given to us.
It is not difficult.
If abstracting Grace, everything is easy and a joyful blessing to God.
The blessing ever sounded on the door of our soul and was waiting to be opened, to come to dispose our heart and fill it.
The crew is Christ, the Holy Trinity and
our Lady, the Theotokos.
What a nice things!

When you love, you live in Heaven on earth and you are not knowing that
you are in Heaven.
Neither cars you see, neither wars you see or see the world or anything else.
You’re inside you with the Person you love.
The breathing free-standing from Eucharist, to be encouraged.
It is truly about?
Consider this the person you love to be the Christ.
Christ in mind, Christ in your heart, Christ in your whole being,
Christ everywhere, Christ is in everyone.

Christ is life, the source of life, the source of joy,
the source of Light of the Truth, of everything.
Whoever loves Christ and others, he lives His life.
Life without Christ is death, hell, misery life.
This is hell, lacking love.
Life is Christ.
Love is the life of Christ.
It’s a basic choice to be in life or in death.
Up to you to choose.

One is our goal, love to Christ, the Church, our neighbour.
Love, worship to God, the longing, the union with Christ and
Church is the earthly Paradise.
Love is in Christ and love our neighbour, to all and to love even our enemies.
Christian life hurts everyone, but through being hurt everyone will be saved,
all who taste God’s Kingdom.
That is Christianity.
Through love and being hurt by your brother to be able to love God.
While we want, while we suffer, while we are worthy,
the blessing comes through our brother.
When you love your brother even when he hurts you,
you love the Church and in this way also Christ.
Inside the Church we are.
So when we love the Church, we love ourselves.

Christ is our friend“.
Christ is how you touch Him as
your friend; it is your friend.
This confirms Himself when He says:
You be there My friends …”
As a friend to look to Him and approaching Him.
We fall? We sin? With intimacy, love and in our trust
we run to Him, not with fear but punish us with courage that gives us the touch of a friend.
Say to Him:
Sir, I did, I fell down, please forgive me“.

But at the same time feel that He loves us,
that we are accepted tenderly,
with love and He forgives us.
Sin attempts to separate us from Christ.
When we think how He loves us and we love Him,
we don’t feel foreign and want to be separated from Him,
even when we fall down and sin.
We ensure the Love and the Like and the Sound,
we know He loves us.

If we love Christ truly, there is no fear of losing our respect to Him.
Here goes one of the Apostle Paul:
Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love
– What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
“.
Rom.8: 31-39
It is a relationship of grandeur, unique even in world’s theology
the relationship of the soul with God
doesn’t cleaves anything and
doesn’t scares or shakes anything.

The Gospel, of course, says it with symbolic words that the unjust will be found
where there is:
the grinding and gnashing of teeth“;
Luc.13: 28,
because so far away is God.

And by neptic many Fathers of the Church speak for fear of death and hell.
They say:
Keep death perpetually in memory“.
These words, if you look deeply, raises fear of hell.
Man trying to escape from sin, do these thoughts to
become dominated by the soul from the fear of
death, hell and the devil.

All have their importance, time and circumstances.
The concept of fear is good for the early stages. It is for beginners.
For those who live in them by the old man.
Man novice, not yet weakened up from evil with fear.
Fear is necessary if we are physical people and vile.
But this is a stage, a low degree of relationship with God.
They grow up to the transaction in order to gain Heaven or hell to escape.
What if good looking shows some selfishness, some interest.
I don’t like this way.
When man goes and come to be in the Love of God, what he needs fear?
Whatever you do, you do it intended for love and
it has a much greater value.
To turn out to be in a great fear for God and
not love does not really value.

Moving on, and the Gospel gives us to understand that Christ is the Joy,
the Truth, that Christ is the Paradise.
How the Evangelist John says?
There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear:
because fear has torment.
He that fears is not
made perfect in love
“.
1John 4: 18
Trying for fear and
entering slowly in God’s Love.
Then drives away hell, fear and death.
We care only about the Love of God.
We do everything for that mystical Love.
Whatever the Groom desires to the bride.

If you want to follow Him,
This Life with Christ will be Joy,
even in deep difficulties.
As the Apostle Paul says:
I fill up in my flesh
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
“.
Col.1: 24
This is our religion, we have to go there.
It is not typical, as it is to live with Christ.
When this succeeds, what else do you want?
Gained everything.
You live in Christ and Christ lives in you.
After all it is very easy,
Obedience, Humility, Peace.

The Beauty of creation
is to rejoice that what surrounds us.
All teach us and lead us to God.
All around us are drips of God’s Love.
And the animate and the in-animate and
the plants and animals.
The birds, the mountains,
the sea, the sunset and the starry skies. [Ps.103]
It are small affections, from inside
which arrive in great love, Christ.
Flowers, for example, have their own sake,
teach us with their perfume with their greatness.
We talk about God’s Love.
Scorpio scent, beauty in sinners and righteous.

To become a Christian must have a poëtic soul, you must be a poet.
‘Heavy’ souls to Him is what Christ wants.
The Christian, even when only love, a poet, is Mesa poetry.
Love poëms hearts to embrace, to put in their heart,
embrace it, feel it deeply.

Do you all take advantage for the nice moments.
The beautiful moments pre-dispose the soul in prayer,
make it subtle, gentle, poëtic.
Wake up in the morning to see the sun king all-embracing comes from the sea.
When excites a beautiful landscape, a church, something nice,
do not stay there, to go beyond, to proceed in thanksgiving for all the good,
to live the only nice.
Everything is Holy the sea, the bath in it and the food next.
All can rejoice.
All our rich, all lead us to great Love,
all lead us to Christ.

Be aware of what man made, houses, buildings, large or small,
towns, villages, people, culture.
Asking to complete your knowledge of everything, do not stand unconcerned.
This helps you to deeper study of God’s Excellence.
Made all opportunities to connect with everything and everyone.
Causing thanksgiving and supplication to the Lord of all.
Do you live in it totally, in nature, in everything.
Nature is the secret Gospel,
where, however,
no one has inner Grace,
not the Benefits of nature.
nature wakes us up,
but we can’t go to Heaven.
So the Evangelist John wrote about the Eternal Word:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was Life,
and the Life was the Light of men.
And this Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it
– And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as
of the only Begotten of the Father,
full of Grace and Truth
“.
John 1: 1-5, 14
cf. Elder Porphyrios Kafsokalyvitis [1906-1991]

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.