Friday, July 31, 2009

Forefeast of the Procession of the Honorable and Lifegiving Cross of the Lord

Commemorated on July 31

(Source for The Apolytikon and Kontakion from here)

Apolytikion in the First Tone

Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting our rulers to prevail over adversaries, and protecting Your commonwealth by Your Cross.

Kontakion in the Second Tone

With far-shining beams, the Cross of Christ doth go about throughout all the earth, bestowing life and grace on all. Let us draw nigh as to a saving beacon in the night of this world; for the Lord, Who was nailed thereto, through it doth bestow forgiveness on all men.



Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apostle Silas of the Seventy

Commemorated on July 30

The Holy Apostles of the Seventy Silas, Silvanus, Crescens, Epenetus and Andronicus were disciples of the Savior.

St Silas was a respected figure in the original Church at Jerusalem, one of the "chief men among the brethren" (Acts 15:22). The Council of the Apostles was convened at Jerusalem in the year 51 to deal with the question of whether Gentile Christian converts should be required to observe the Mosaic Law. The Apostles sent a message with Paul and Barnabas to the Christians of Antioch, giving the decision of the Council that Christians of Gentile origin did not have to observe the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. Nonetheless, they were told that they must refrain from partaking of foods offered to idols, from things strangled and from blood, to refrain from fornication (Acts 15:20-29). Together with Sts Paul and Barnabas, the Council of the Apostles sent Sts Silas and Jude to explain the message in greater detail, since they both were filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. St Jude was later sent back to Jerusalem, but St Silas remained at Antioch and zealously assisted St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, on his missionary journeys preaching the Gospel. They visited Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia.

In the city of Philippi they were accused of inciting unrest among the people, and for this they were arrested, beaten with rods, and then thrown into prison. At midnight, when the saints were at prayer, suddenly there was a strong earthquake, their chains fell off from them and the doors of the prison opened. The prison guard, supposing that the prisoners had fled, wanted to kill himself, but was stopped by the Apostle Paul. Then, he fell down trembling at the feet of the saints, and with faith accepted their preaching about Christ. He then led them out of the prison and took them to his own home, where he washed their wounds, and was baptized together with all his household.

From Philippi Sts Paul and Silas proceeded on to the cities of Amphipolis, Apollonia and Thessalonica. In each city they made new converts to Christ and built up the Church.

At Corinth the holy Apostle Silas was consecrated as bishop, and worked many miracles and signs, and there he finished his life.

Troparion - Tone 3

Holy Apostles Silas and Silvanus,
entreat the merciful God
to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.

Kontakion - Tone 4

You were revealed to be branches of the vine of Christ, O wise ones,
bearing clusters of virtues that pour out on us the wine of salvation.
Receiving it, we are filled with gladness,
and we celebrate your most honored memory, apostles of the Lord, Silas and Silvanus.
Therefore, intercede that great mercy and remission of sins may be granted to us.



Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Virginmartyr Seraphima (Serapia) of Antioch

Commemorated on July 29

The Holy martyr Seraphima the Virgin, a native of Antioch, lived at Rome during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-138) with the illustrious Roman Sabina, whom the saint converted to Christianity. During the persecution against Christians begun by order of the emperor, the governor Virilus gave orders to bring St Seraphima to trial. Desiring a crown of martyrdom from the Lord, she fearlessly went to the executioner at the first summons. The devoted Sabina accompanied her. Seeing that illustrious lady, Virilus at first set the maiden free, but after several days he again summoned St Seraphima and began the trial.



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

St Irene Chrysovolantou

Commemorated on July 28

Saint Irene was the daughter of a wealthy family from Cappadocia, and was born in the ninth century.

After the death of her husband Theophilus, the empress Theodora ruled the Byzantine Empire as regent for her young son Michael. St Theodora (February 11) helped to defeat the iconoclast heresy, and to restore the holy icons. We commemorate this Triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent.

When Michael was twelve years of age, St Theodora sent messengers throughout the Empire to find a suitably virtuous and refined girl to be his wife. St Irene was chosen, and she agreed to the marriage. While passing Mt. Olympus in Asia Minor, Irene asked to stop so she could receive the blessing of St Joannicius (November 4), who lived on the mountain. The saint, who showed himself only to the most worthy pilgrims, foresaw the arrival of St Irene, and also her future life.

The holy ascetic welcomed her and told her to proceed to Constantinople, where the women's monastery of Chrysovalantou had need of her. Amazed at his clairvoyance, Irene fell to the ground and asked St Joannicius for his blessing. After blessing her and giving her spiritual counsel, he sent her on her way.

When the party arrived in Constantinople, Irene's relatives met her with great ceremony. Since "the steps of a man are rightly ordered by the Lord" (Ps. 36/37:23), God arranged for Michael to marry another girl a few days before, so that Irene might be free to become a bride of Christ. Far from being disappointed, Irene rejoiced at this turn of events.

Remembering the words of St Joannicius, Irene visited the Monastery of Chrysovalantou. She was so impressed by the nuns and their way of life that she freed her slaves and distributed her wealth to the poor. She exchanged her fine clothing for the simple garb of a nun, and served the sisters with great humility and obedience. The abbess was impressed with the way that Irene performed the most menial and disagreeable tasks without complaint.

St Irene often read the Lives of the Saints in her cell, imitating their virtues to the best of her ability. She often stood in prayer all night with her hands raised like Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 17:11-13). St Irene spent the next few years in spiritual struggles defeating the assaults of the demons, and bringing forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

When the abbess sensed the approach of death, she told the other nuns that they should not accept anyone but Irene as the new abbess. Irene was not told of the abbess's instructions, and when she died the community sent representatives to go and seek the advice of the patriarch, St Methodius (June 14). He asked them whom they wanted as their superior. They replied that they believed he would be guided by the Holy Spirit. Without knowing of the late abbess's instructions to the nuns, he asked if there was a humble nun by the name of Irene in their monastery. If so, he said, they should choose her. The nuns rejoiced and gave thanks to God. St Methodius elevated Irene to the rank of abbess and advised her how to guide those in her charge.

Returning to the monastery, Irene prayed that God would help her to care for those under her, and redoubled her own spiritual efforts. She displayed great wisdom in leading the nuns, and received many revelations from God to assist her in carrying out her duties. She also asked for the gift of clairvoyance so that she would know what trials awaited her nuns. Thus, she was in a better position to give them the proper advice. She never used this knowledge to embarrass others, but only to correct their confessions in a way which let them know that she possessed certain spiritual gifts.

Although St Irene performed many miracles during her life, let us mention only one. On great Feasts it was her habit to keep vigil in the monastery courtyard under the starry skies. Once, a nun who was unable to sleep left her cell and went into the courtyard. There she saw Abbess Irene levitating a few feet above the ground, completely absorbed in prayer. The astonished nun also noticed that two cypress trees had bowed their heads to the ground, as if in homage. When she finished praying, Irene blessed the trees and they returned to their upright position.

Afraid that this might be a temptation from the demons, the nun returned the next night to see if she had been mistaken. Again she saw Irene levitating as she prayed, and the cypress trees bowing down. The nun tied handkerchiefs to the tops of the two trees before they went back to their places. When the other sisters saw the handkerchiefs atop the trees, they began to wonder who had put them there. Then the nun who had witnessed these strange events revealed to the others what she had seen. When St Irene learned that the nun had witnessed the miracle and told the others, she was very upset. She warned them not to speak of it to anyone until after her death.

St Irene observed the Feast of St Basil (January 1) with great devotion, since he also came from Cappadocia. One year, after celebrating the feast, St Irene heard a voice during the night telling her to welcome the sailor who would come to the door the next day. She was told to rejoice and eat the fruit which the sailor would bring her. During Matins, a sailor did come to the door and remained in church until after Liturgy. He told her that he had come from Patmos, where he boarded a ship. As the ship set sail, he noticed an old man on the shore calling for them to stop. In spite of a good wind, the ship came to a sudden halt. Then the old man walked across the water and entered the ship. He gave the sailor three apples which God was sending to the patriarch "from His beloved disciple John." Then the old man gave the sailor three more apples for the abbess of Chrysovalantou. He told the sailor that if Irene ate the apples, all that her soul desired would be granted, "for this gift comes from John in Paradise."

St Irene fasted for a week, giving thanks to God for this wonderful gift. For forty days, she ate small pieces of the first apple every day. During this time she had nothing else to eat or drink. On Holy Thursday, she told the nuns to receive the Holy Mysteries, then gave each one a piece of the second apple. They noticed an unusual sweetness, and felt as if their very souls were being nourished.

An angel informed St Irene that she would be called to the Lord on the day after St Panteleimon's feast. The monastery's feast day fell on July 26, so St Irene prepared by fasting for a week beforehand. She took only a little water and small pieces of the third apple sent to her by St John. The whole monastery was filled with a heavenly fragrance, and all discord disappeared.

On July 28, St Irene called the nuns together in order to bid them farewell. She also told them to select Sister Mary as her successor, for she would keep them on the narrow way which leads to life (Matthew 7:14). After entreating God to protect her flock from the power of the devil, she smiled when she saw the angels who had been sent to receive her soul. Then she closed her eyes and surrendered her soul to God.

St Irene was more than 101 years old when she died, yet her face appeared young and beautiful. A great crowd of people came for her funeral, and many miracles took place at her tomb.

In some parishes it is customary to bless apples on the feast of St Irene Chrysovalantou.




Monday, July 27, 2009

Equal of the Apostles Clement of Ochrid the Bishop of Greater Macedonia

Commemorated on July 27

Saints Clement, Bishop of Ochrid, Equal of the Apostles, Naum, Sava, Gorazd and Angelar were Slavs, disciples of Sts Cyril and Methodius (May 11). At first they lived as ascetics in Moravia, where St Gorazd succeded St Methodius as bishop. He was fluent in Slavonic, Greek and Latin. Sts Clement, Naum, Angelar and Sava were priests.

The Enlighteners of the Slavs were opposed by German missionaries, who had the support of the Pope and the patronage of the Moravian prince Svyatopolk. The struggle centered around the questions of the need for divine services in Slavonic, the Filioque and Saturday fasting. Pope Stephen VI prohibited the use of Slavonic in church.

The proponents of the three-tongued heresy (who wanted to use only Hebrew, Greek, or Latin for Church purposes), after setting aside the ancestral language of the Slavic peoples, brought the disciples of St Methodius to trial, including St Clement. They subjected them to fierce torture: dragging them through thorns, and holding them in prison for a long time, just as they had done with their spiritual Father, St Methodius.

In 886, some of the prisoners were sold to slave-traders, and ended up in the Venice marketplace. The ambassador of the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Macedonian went to Venice, ransomed the saints and brought them to Constantinople. The older confessors were banished. It is not known where St Gorazd went, nor where St Sava found shelter. Naum and Angelar went to Bulgaria.

In 907 Moravia collapsed under the onslaught of the Magyars, and Moravian refugees escaped along those same paths followed earlier by the saints they had exiled.

The Bulgarians received the Slavonic confessors with respect and requested them to conduct divine services in the Slavonic language. The Bulgarian prince Boris sought out such people as the disciples of St Methodius, who labored for the enlightenment of his nation. The saints immediately began to study Slavonic books collected by the Bulgarian nobles.

St Angelar soon died, and St Clement received the appointment to teach at Kutmichivitsa, a region in southwest Macedonia. In the Eastern Church a worthy man was chosen to be a teacher, someone known for his devout life, and possessed with a gift of words. St Clement was a teacher while he was still in Moravia. In Bulgaria, St Clement worked as an instructor until 893. He organized a school at the princely court, which attained high esteem during the reign of Simeon. In southwest Macedonia he created separate schools for adults and for children.

St Clement instructed the children in reading and in writing. The total number of his students was enormous. Those chosen and accepted for the clergy amounted to 3500 men. In the year 893, St Clement became Bishop of Dremvitsa, or Velitsa, and St Naum took his place.

St Clement was the first Bulgarian hierarch to serve, preach and write in the Slavonic language. To this end he systematically prepared clergy from among the Slavic people. The holy bishop labored for the glory of God into his old age. When his strength failed, and he was unable to fulfill his responsibilities in the cathedral, he asked Tsar Simeon to let him retire.

The Tsar urged the saint not to forsake the cathedral, and St Clement agreed to continue his episcopal service. After this he went to Ochrid, to a monastery he founded. There the saint continued with his translation activities and translated important parts of the PENTEKOSTARION.

Soon the saint became seriously ill and departed to the Lord in the year 916. The saint's body was placed in a coffin he made with his own hands, and was buried in Ochrid's St Panteleimon monastery.

St Clement is considered the first Slavonic author. He not only continued the translation work begun by Sts Cyril and Methodius, but also left behind works of his own composition, the first samples of Slavonic spiritual literature.

Many of the lessons and sermons of St Clement were brought to Russia, where they were read and lovingly copied by pious Russian Christians.

The relics of Sts Gorazd and Angelar rest near Berat in Albania, and St Naum's relics are in the monastery bearing his name, near Lake Ochrid. St Clement is also commemorated on November 25.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

Repose of St Jacob Netsvetov the Enlightener of the Peoples of Alaska

Commemorated on July 26

Father Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska was born of pious parents in 1802 on Atka Island, Alaska. His father, Yegor Vasil'evich Netsvetov was a Russian from Tobolsk. His mother, Maria Alekseevna, was an Aleut from Atka island. Yegor and Maria had four children who survived infancy; Jacob was the first born, followed by Osip (Joseph), Elena, and Antony. Yegor and Maria were devoted to their children and, though of meager means, did all they could to provide them with the education which would help them in this life as well as in the life to come. Osip and Antony were eventually able to study at the St Petersburg Naval Academy in Russia, becoming a naval officer and a shipbuilder, respectively. Their sister, Elena, married a successful and respected clerk for the Russian-American Company. But Jacob yearned for a different kind of success, a success that the world might consider failure for "the righteous live forever, their reward is with the Lord" (Wis. Sol. 5:15). And so, when the family moved to Irkutsk in 1823, Jacob enrolled in the Irkutsk Theological Seminary and placed all his hope in Christ by seeking first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33).

Jacob was tonsured as a Subdeacon on October 1, 1825. He married a Russian woman (perhaps also a Creole) named Anna Simeonovna, and in 1826 graduated from the Seminary with certificates in history and theology. On October 31, 1826, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate and assigned to serve the altar of the Holy Trinity-St Peter Church in Irkutsk. Two years later, on March 4, 1828, Archbishop Michael, who had earlier ordained Father John Veniaminov (St Innocent), elevated the godly deacon Jacob to the Holy Priesthood. This, however, was no ordinary ordination. As if he were a new Patrick, hearing the mystical call of his distant flock, Father Jacob yearned to return to his native Alaska. And the all-good God, who (satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps.107:9) heard the prayer of his servant.

Archbishop Michael provided Father Jacob with two antimensia: one for the new Church which would be dedicated to the glory of God in honor of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in Atka, and one to be used for missionary activity. On May 1, 1828 a molieben for travelers was served, and Father Jacob, his father, Yegor, (now tonsured as reader for the Atka Church), and his matushka, Anna, set out for Alaska.

Who can tell of the perils and trials associated with such a journey? Travel in those days was never easy, either overland or over the waves of the sea. Nevertheless, aided by prayer and confidence in God's providence, the Netsvetov family arrived safely in Atka over a year later, on June 15, 1829. The new assignment for the newly-ordained Father Jacob would also prove to be quite a challenge. The Atka "parish" comprised a territory stretching for nearly 2,000 miles and included Amchitka, Attu, Copper, Bering and Kurile Islands. But this did not deter the godly young priest, for when he was clothed in the garments of the Priesthood, he was found to be "clad with zeal as a cloak' (Is. 59:17), and so he threw himself wholly into his sacred ministry. His deep love for God and for his flock was evident in everything that he did. Both in Atka and in the distant villages and settlements which he visited, Father Jacob offered himself as a "living sacrifice" (Rom 12:1). Having "no worry about his life" (Mt. 6:25 ff), the holy one endured manifold tortures of cold, wet, wind, illness, hunger and exhaustion, for to him life was Christ (Phil 1:21). Showing himself as a "rule of faith," his example brought his people to a deep commitment to their own salvation. Being fully bilingual and bicultural, Father Jacob was uniquely blessed by God to care for the souls of his fellow Alaskans.

When he arrived in Atka, the Church of St Nicholas had not yet been built. So, with his own hands Father Jacob constructed a large tent (Acts 18:3) in which he conducted the services. For Father Jacob the services of the Church were life: life for his people and life for himself. It was in the worship of God that he found both strength and joy. Later he would transport this tent with him on his missionary journeys, and like Moses in the wilderness, the grace of God was found wherever this tent was taken (Num 4:1 ff; 10:17 ff).

When his first six months had ended (end of 1829), Father Jacob recorded that he had baptized 16, chrismated 442, married 53 couples, and buried 8.

Once the church was constructed, Father Jacob turned his attention to the building of a school in which the children would learn to read and write both Russian and Unangan Aleut. The Russian American Company provided some of the support initially, with the students providing the remainder. This continued until 1841, when it was reorganized as a parish school and ties with the company ceased. Father Jacob proved to be a talented educator and translator whose students became distinguished Aleut leaders in the next generation.

Father Netsvetov led an active physical and intellectual life, hunting and gathering for his own subsistence needs, preparing specimens of fish and marine animals for the natural history museums of Moscow and St Petersburg, corresponding with St Innocent (Veniaminov) on matters of linguistics and translations. He labored over the creation of an adequate alphabet for the Unangan-Aleut language, and the translation of the Holy Scriptures and other appropriate literature into that language. St Innocent praised the young pastor for his holiness of life, his teaching, and for continuing this work of translating which he, himself, had begun earlier among the native peoples. After fifteen years of service, Father Jacob was awarded the Nabedrennik, Kamilavka, and Gold Cross. Later, he would be made Archpriest and receive the Order of St Anna.

These ecclesiastical awards do not tell of the personal sufferings of this warrior for Christ. In March of 1836, his precious wife, Anna, died of cancer; his home burned to the ground in July of 1836; and his dear father, Yegor, died of an undetermined illness in 1837. Who can utter the depth of sorrow felt by this God-pleaser? Yet he lifted up his voice with that ancient sufferer and cried, "shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity? In all this he did not sin with his lips" (Job 2:10). In his journal Father Jacob attributed all to "the Will of Him whose Providence and Will are inscrutable and whose actions toward men are incomprehensible." He patiently endured hardships and sufferings like the Holy Apostle Paul. He saw in these misfortunes not a Victory by the hater of men's souls (i.e. the devil) but a call from God to even greater spiritual struggles. With this in mind, Father Jacob petitioned his ruling bishop to return to Irkutsk in order to enter the monastic life. A year later, word reached him that permission was granted contingent upon the arrival of a replacement. None ever came.

Instead, Bishop Innocent soon came to Atka and asked Father Jacob to accompany him on a voyage by ship to Kamchatka. Who can know the heavenly discourse enjoyed by these two lovers of Christ as they traveled over the waves? This, however, is clear, the holy archpastor was able to accomplish three things in Father Netsvetov. Firstly, he applied the healing salve of the Spirit with words of comfort; secondly, he dissuaded Father Jacob from entering the monastery; and thirdly, he revealed to the godly priest the true plan of the Savior for his life, that he 'might preach (Christ) among the Gentiles" (Gal. 1: 16) deep in the Alaskan interior. Father Jacob continued to serve his far-flung flock of the Atka parish until December 30, 1844. A new zeal had taken hold of him, and it was then that St Innocent appointed him to head the new Kvikhpak Mission in order to bring the light of Christ to the people of the Yukon. Here, aided by two young Creole assistants, Innokentii Shayashnikov and Konstantin Lukin, together with his young nephew, Vasilii Netsvetov, Father Jacob "settled' in the wilderness of Alaska.

He learned new languages, embraced new peoples and cultures, devised another alphabet, built another church and Orthodox community, and for the next twenty years, until his health and eyesight failed, continued to be an evangelical beacon of the grace of God in southwestern Alaska.

Establishing his headquarters in the Yup'ik Eskimo village of Ikogmiute (today's 'Russian Mission') he traveled to native settlements hundreds of miles up and down Alaska's longest river (the Yukon) as well as the Kuskokwim River region. At the insistence of Indian leaders, he traveled as far as the middle of the Innoko River baptizing hundreds of Indians from various, and often formerly hostile, tribes. "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps 133:1). He built the first Christian temple in this region, and dedicated it to the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. Here Father Jacob, in spite of failing health, joyfully celebrated the Church's cycle of services, including all of the services prescribed for Holy Week and Pascha.

Finally, in 1863, the evil One, who "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet 5:8), sought one last time to get the better of the righteous one. So the devil, the father of lies, (John 8:44), inspired an assistant of Father Jacob to level spurious and slanderous charges against his master. This resulted in a summons to Sitka, issued by Bishop Peter. The godly pastor was quickly cleared of all charges, but due to his ever-worsening health, he remained in Sitka for his final year serving a Tlingit chapel. He died on July 26, 1864 at the age of 60 and was buried on the third day at the entry of the chapel. During his final missionary travels in the Kuskokwim/Yukon delta region, he had baptized 1,320 people - distinguishing himself as the evangelizer of the Yup'ik Eskimo and Athabascan Indian peoples.

This brief history has recounted the basic chronology of the saint's life and labors, but we must not neglect to relate his other deeds, that the light be not "hidden under a bushel" (Mt.5:15). In 184 1, Father Jacob encountered a group of women from his flock in Amlia who had fallen victim to certain demonic influences and teachings. Blaming himself for the seduction and fall of his spiritual children by the evil one, he informed the leader among them that he was going to pay them a visit.

Upon arriving, he found one of the women paralyzed, semi-conscious and unable to speak. He ordered that she be removed to another house apart, and on the next day when this was accomplished, he lit the lampada before the icons of the beautiful corner, vested himself in his priestly epitrachilion (stole), sprinkled holy water throughout the room, and began the first prayers of exorcism. He then left.

During the night he was notified that the woman had begun to speak but incoherently. He came immediately to her and performed a second exorcism. This time, she sprang out of her bed and stood next to the saint, joined her prayer to his, and accompanied them with prostrations. When the prayers were finished, Father Jacob again sprinkled her with holy water and gave her the precious cross to kiss. She regained full consciousness, a state of health and true reason - that is, even the false teachings of the evil spirits had no more part in her.

Once in November of 1845, Father Jacob was preaching in the village of Kalskag, where the local chief was also the head shaman. He spoke for all of the villagers and resisted the Word of God forcefully. But the saint, calm and full of the Holy Spirit, continued to sow the seeds of right belief and piety. After many hours, the chief fell silent and finally came to believe. The villagers, in solidarity with their leader, also joyously expressed their belief in the Triune God and sought Holy Baptism.

Father Jacob was a physician of bodies as well as souls. He often cared for the sick among his flock even to his own detriment. During the winter of 1850-1851 the saint was himself ravaged with illness. Yet he cared for the sick and dispensed medicine to them every day. Father Jacob's preaching often brought together in the Holy Faith tribes who were traditional enemies. One example from his journal reads:

"Beginning in the morning, upon my invitation, all the Kol'chane and Ingalit from the Yukon and the local ones gathered at my place and I preached the word of God, concluding at noon. Everyone listened to the preaching with attention and without discussion or dissent, and in the end they all expressed faith and their wish to accept Holy Baptism, both the Kol'chane and the Ingatit (formerly traditional enemies). I made a count by families and in groups, and then in the afternoon began the baptismal service. First I baptized 50 Kol'chane and Ingalit men, the latter from the Yukon and Innoko. It was already evening when I completed the service. March 21, 1853."

So it was that this apostolic man, this new Job, conducted himself during his earthly course. There are many other deeds and wonders which he performed, many known and many more known only to God. Few missionaries in history have had to endure the hardships which Father Jacob faced, yet he did so with patience and humility. His life of faith and piety are the legacy which he leaves to us, his spiritual children in America, and indeed to all Christians throughout the world.

Troparion - Tone 4

Righteous Father Jacob,
adornment of Atka and the Yukon delta,
offspring of Russian America,
flower of brotherly unity,
healer of sickness,
and terror of demons,
you offered yourself as a living sacrifice
to bring light to a searching people.
Pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved!

Kontakion - Tone 3

Holy Father Jacob,
teacher of the knowledge of God,
you revealed your love for your people,
taking up your cross and following Christ,
enduring hardships like the apostle Paul.
Pray on our behalf to Christ our God
to grant us great mercy!



Saturday, July 25, 2009

Holy Woman Olympias (Olympiada) the Deaconess of Constantinople

Commemorated on July 25

Saint Olympias the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the granddaughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the life of St Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympias's mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed. When St Olympias was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleman. The marriage was supposed to take place when St Olympias reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon died, however, and St Olympias did not wish to enter into another marriage, preferring a life of virginity.

After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began to distribute to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed. She also gave generously to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.

Holy Patriarch Nectarius (381-397) appointed St Olympias as a deaconess. The saint fulfilled her service honorably and without reproach.

St Olympias provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople: Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, Onesimus of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, St Basil the Great's brother Peter of Sebaste, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and she attended to them all with great love. She did not regard her wealth as her own but rather God's, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.

St John Chrysostom (November 13) had high regard for St Olympias, and he showed her good will and spiritual love. When this holy hierarch was unjustly banished, St Olympias and the other deaconesses were deeply upset. Leaving the church for the last time, St John Chrysostom called out to St Olympias and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina. He said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the Church, but to continue serving it under his successor. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.

Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412), had repeatedly benefited from the generosity of St Olympias, but turned against her for her devotion to St John Chrysostom.She had also taken in and fed monks, arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilus had banished from the Egyptian desert. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her and attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.

After the banishment of St John Chrysostom, someone set fire to a large church, and after this a large part of the city burned down.

All the supporters of St John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. They summoned St Olympias to trial, rigorously interrogating her. They fined her a large sum of money for the crime of arson, despite her innocence and a lack of evidence against her. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara). But her enemies did not cease their persecution. In the year 405 they sentenced her to prison at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. St John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 St Olympias entered into eternal rest.

St Olympias appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia and commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. "Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried," said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of St Olympias and placed them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas.

Afterwards, during an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved. Under the Patriarch Sergius (610-638), they were transferred to Constantinople and put in the women's monastery founded by St Olympias. Miracles and healings occurred from her relics.



Friday, July 24, 2009

Martyrs and Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb

Commemorated on July 24

Saint Boris was one of the sons of St Vladimir (July 15), and was named Romanus at his Baptism. After their father's death the eldest son Sviatopolk planned to kill his brothers Boris, Gleb, and Yaroslav in order to seize power. He sent a message to Boris, pretending that he wished to live in peace with him, and to increase Boris's land holdings inherited from their father.

Some of Vladimir's advisers told Boris that he should take the army and establish himelf as ruler of Kiev. St Boris, however, said that he could never lift his hand against his own brother. Unfortunately, Sviatopolk was not so scrupulous. He came to the town of Vyshegorod to ask its leaders if they were loyal to him. They assured him that they were ready to die for him.

Sviatopolk sent assassins to the Alta to kill Boris, who already knew that his brother wanted him dead. When they arrived they heard him chanting psalms and praying before an icon of Christ. He asked the Lord to strengthen him for the suffering he was about to endure. He also prayed for Sviatopolk, asking God not to count this against him as sin.

Then he lay down upon his couch, and the assassins stabbed him with their lances, and also killed some of Boris's servants. Wrapping Boris in a cloth, they threw him onto a wagon and drove off with him. When Sviatopolk saw that he was still breathing, he sent some men to finish him off with swords.

St Boris received the crown of martyrdom in 1015. He and his brother Gleb became known as Passion-Bearers, since they did not resist evil with violence.

Saint Gleb was the son of St Vladimir (July 15) and the brother of Sviatopolk, Yaroslav, and St Boris. He was named David at his Baptism.

After Sviatopolk had killed Boris, he wondered, "Now how can I kill Gleb?" He sent him a message saying that their father was ill and wished to see him. As he was on his way, he received word from Yaroslav that their father had died and that Sviatopolk had murdered Boris.

St Gleb wept for his father and brother, and was lamenting them when the assassins arrived. They seized his boat and drew their weapons, but it was Gleb's cook Torchin who stabbed him with a knife.

The martyr's body was thrown onto the shore between two trees. Later, he was buried beside St Boris in the church of St Basil.

The holy martyrs Princes Boris and Gleb are also commemorated on May 2.

Troparion - Tone 2

Righteous passion-bearers and true fulfillers of the Gospel of Christ,
chaste Boris and guileless Gleb,
you did not resist the attacks of your brother, the enemy,
when he killed your bodies but could not touch your souls.
Therefore, let the evil lover of power mourn
while you rejoice with the angels standing before the Holy Trinity.
Pray that those who honor your memory may be pleasing to God,
and that all Orthodox Christians may be saved.

Kontakion - Tone 3

Today your most glorious memory shines forth,
noble participants in the passion of Christ, holy Boris and Gleb,
for you call us together to sing praises to Christ our God!
Praying to Him before your sacred images,
we receive the gift of healing by your prayers,
for you are indeed divine healers.



Why is that the smile of Elder Joseph is from eternity?

Thanks to Constantine for sending me this.

Honorable Mr. Papanicolaou,

A few hours after the burial of Elder Joseph, you published in your website an article with the title "the funeral of blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopedi" - "Smile from Eternity" describing with few words the event with the help of a few photographs. The photograph of the reposed, smiling not only with his lips but with the full expression of his face, has greatly impressed the world as we see it from the articles and comments in many websites. In fact one could meet people who just reposed with a bright face, or peaceful expression, or with deep restful repose but where is the smile? On one side the spiritual fathers say that the hour of death is frightful for man, on the other side we read in "Gerontika" (Elder Literature) that even the most advanced in the spiritual life through humility they would not lose their courage before they passed on to the other life where there is no more danger. Moreover the elder Joseph suffered from his heart and was greatly tormented by the sickness, so how then did he pose smiling?

The answer is: NO, he did not repose smiling, but SMILED AFTER HIS REPOSE.

From discussions with some fathers of the monastery we bring you the facts of the event.

The two monks who were with him till the last moment, ran to inform Elder Ephraim and the rest of the fathers and did not pay attention to the reposed, who was indeed with his mouth partly open.

They therefore came to prepare him according to the monastic formality. Elder Ephraim ordered not to cover his face. The fathers tried to close his mouth, but it was too late, the mouth would stay open, in fact they tied gauze around to hold his mouth closed, but after they would remove it the mouth would reopen. Some forty five minutes had passed since his repose.

Elder, it will look ugly this way with his mouth open, what should we do?

As he is, do not cover his face!

They stitched the monastic mandya (cloak) as is the custom.

The whole process to put the mandya and stitch it, took some forty five minutes more. They then cut the material around his face, by order, and they found the elder like at last all see him, smiling. Did he hear them and granted them this small favour, so that he may not sadden them? Or did he want to give us an idea of what he saw and the condition in which he is after his departure from the present life?
The smile of elder Joseph is the first supernatural event after his repose, and has become a great consolation to all of us.

Panagiotis Koutsou

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev

Commemorated on July 23

The Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God is among the most venerable sacred items of the Orthodox Church. Located at the Dormition Cathedral, Pochaev, Ukraine, the icon is renowned throughout the Slavic world and is venerated by Orthodox Christians throughout the world. Christians of other confessions also come to venerate the wonderworking image of the Most Holy Theotokos, together with the Orthodox. The wonderworking icon has been kept at the Pochaev Lavra, an ancient bastion of Orthodoxy, for about 400 years. (The account of the transfer of the icon to the Pochaev monastery is found under September 8). The miracles which issued forth from the holy icon are numerous and are testified to in the monastery books with the signatures of the faithful who have been delivered from unclean spirits, liberated from captivity, and sinners brought to their senses.

In the year 1721, Pochaev was occupied by Uniates. Even in this difficult time for the Lavra, the monastery chronicle notes 539 miracles from the glorified Orthodox icon. During the time of the Uniate rule in the second half of the eighteenth century, for example, the Uniate nobleman Count Nicholas Pototski became a benefactor of the Pochaev Lavra through the following miraculous circumstance. Having accused his coachman of overturning the carriage with frenzied horses, the count took out a pistol to shoot him. The coachman, turning towards Pochaev Hill, reached his hands upwards and cried out: "Mother of God, manifest in the Pochaev Icon, save me!" Pototski several times tried to shoot the pistol, which had never let him down, but the weapon misfired. The coachman remained alive. Pototski then immediately went to the wonderworking icon and decided to devote himself and all his property to the building-up of the monastery. From his wealth the Dormition cathedral was built, as well as buildings for the brethren.

The return of Pochaev into the bosom of Orthodoxy in 1832 was marked by the miraculous healing of the blind maiden Anna Akimchukova, who had come on pilgrimage to the holy things together with her seventy-year-old grandmother from Kremenets-Podolsk, 200 versts away. In memory of this event, the Volhynia archbishop and Lavra archimandrite Innocent (1832-1840) established the reading of the Akathist on Saturdays before the wonderworking icon. During the time of Archimandrite Agathangelus, Archbishop of Volhynia (1866-1876), a separate chapel was constructed in the galleries of the Holy Trinity church in memory of the victory over the Tatars, which was dedicated on July 23, 1875.

The Pochaev Icon is also commemorated on Friday of Bright Week and on September 8.

Troparion - Tone 5

Those who pray before your holy icon, O Lady,
Are vouchsafed healing and receive the knowledge of the true faith,
And they repel the attacks of the Hagarenes.
Therefore entreat remission of sins
For us who fall down before you.
Enlighten our hearts to thoughts of piety,
And raise a prayer to your Son to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 1

Your icon of Pochaev, O Theotokos,
Is become a source of healing and the confirmation of the Orthodox Faith.
Therefore deliver us who have recourse to you
From calamity and temptation.
Preserve your monastery unharmed.
Confirm Orthodoxy in the surrounding lands,
And forgive the sins of those who pray to you;
For you can do as you will.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Myrrhbearer and Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene

Commemorated on July 22

The Holy Myrrh-Bearer Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene. On the banks of Lake Genesareth (Galilee), between the cities of Capharnum and Tiberias, was the small city of Magdala, the remains of which have survived to our day. Now only the small village of Mejhdel stands on the site.

A woman whose name has entered forever into the Gospel account was born and grew up in Magdala. The Gospel tells us nothing of Mary's younger years, but Tradition informs us that Mary of Magdala was young and pretty, and led a sinful life. It says in the Gospels that the Lord expelled seven devils from Mary (Luke. 8:2). From the moment of her healing Mary led a new life, and became a true disciple of the Savior.

The Gospel relates that Mary followed after the Lord, when He went with the Apostles through the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee preaching about the Kingdom of God. Together with the pious women Joanna, wife of Choza (steward of Herod), Susanna and others, she served Him from her own possessions (Luke 8:1-3) and undoubtedly shared with the Apostles the evangelic tasks in common with the other women. The Evangelist Luke, evidently, has her in view together with the other women, stating that at the moment of the Procession of Christ onto Golgotha, when after the Scourging He took on Himself the heavy Cross, collapsing under its weight, the women followed after Him weeping and wailing, but He consoled them. The Gospel relates that Mary Magdalene was present on Golgotha at the moment of the Lord's Crucifixion. While all the disciples of the Savior ran away, she remained fearlessly at the Cross together with the Mother of God and the Apostle John.

The Evangelists also list among those standing at the Cross the mother of the Apostle James, and Salome, and other women followers of the Lord from Galilee, but all mention Mary Magdalene first. St John, in addition to the Mother of God, names only her and Mary Cleopas. This indicates how much she stood out from all the women who gathered around the Lord.

She was faithful to Him not only in the days of His Glory, but also at the moment of His extreme humiliation and insult. As the Evangelist Matthew relates, she was present at the Burial of the Lord. Before her eyes Joseph and Nicodemus went out to the tomb with His lifeless Body. She watched as they covered over the entrance to the cave with a large stone, entombing the Source of Life.

Faithful to the Law in which she was raised, Mary together with the other women spent following day at rest, because it was the great day of the Sabbath, coinciding with the Feast of Passover. But all the rest of the peaceful day the women gathered spices to go to the Grave of the Lord at dawn on Sunday and anoint His Body according to the custom of the Jews.

It is necessary to mention that, having agreed to go on the first day of the week to the Tomb early in the morning, the holy women had no possibility of meeting with one another on Saturday. They went separately on Friday evening to their own homes. They went out only at dawn the following day to go to the Sepulchre, not all together, but each from her own house.

The Evangelist Matthew writes that the women came to the grave at dawn, or as the Evangelist Mark expresses, extremely early before the rising of the sun. The Evangelist John, elaborating upon these, says that Mary came to the grave so early that it was still dark. Obviously, she waited impatiently for the end of night, but it was not yet daybreak. She ran to the place where the Lord's Body lay.

Mary went to the tomb alone. Seeing the stone pushed away from the cave, she ran away in fear to tell the close Apostles of Christ, Peter and John. Hearing the strange message that the Lord was gone from the tomb, both Apostles ran to the tomb and, seeing the shroud and winding cloths, they were amazed. The Apostles went and said nothing to anyone, but Mary stood about the entrance to the tomb and wept. Here in this dark tomb so recently lay her lifeless Lord.

Wanting proof that the tomb really was empty, she went down to it and saw a strange sight. She saw two angels in white garments, one sitting at the head, the other at the foot, where the Body of Jesus had been placed. They asked her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" She answered them with the words which she had said to the Apostles, "They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." At that moment, she turned around and saw the Risen Jesus standing near the grave, but she did not recognize Him.

He asked Mary, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom dost thou seek?" She answered thinking that she was seeing the gardener, "Sir, if thou hast taken him, tell where thou hast put Him, and I will take Him away."

Then she recognized the Lord's voice. This was the voice she heard in those days and years, when she followed the Lord through all the cities and places where He preached. He spoke her name, and she gave a joyful shout, "Rabbi" (Teacher).

Respect and love, fondness and deep veneration, a feeling of thankfulness and recognition at His Splendor as great Teacher, all came together in this single outcry. She was able to say nothing more and she threw herself down at the feet of her Teacher to wash them with tears of joy. But the Lord said to her: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and tell them: "I ascend to My Father, and your Father; to My God and to your God."

She came to herself and again ran to the Apostles, to do the will of Him sending her to preach. Again she ran into the house, where the Apostles still remained in dismay, and proclaimed to them the joyous message, "I have seen the Lord!" This was the first preaching in the world about the Resurrection.

The Apostles proclaimed the Glad Tidings to the world, but she proclaimed it to the Apostles themselves.

Holy Scripture does not tell us about the life of Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Christ, but it is impossible to doubt, that if in the terrifying minutes of Christ's Crucifixion she was the foot of His Cross with His All-Pure Mother and St John, she must have stayed with them during the happier time after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Thus in the Acts of the Apostles St Luke writes that all the Apostles with one mind stayed in prayer and supplication, with certain women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and His brethren.

Holy Tradition testifies that when the Apostles departed from Jerusalem to preach to all the ends of the earth, then Mary Magdalene also went with them. A daring woman, whose heart was full of reminiscence of the Resurrection, she went beyond her native borders and went to preach in pagan Rome. Everywhere she proclaimed to people about Christ and His teaching. When many did not believe that Christ is risen, she repeated to them what she had said to the Apostles on the radiant morning of the Resurrection: "I have seen the Lord!" With this message she went all over Italy.

Tradition relates that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias (14-37 A.D.) and proclaimed to him Christ's Resurrection. According to Tradition, she took him a red egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: "Christ is Risen!" Then she told the emperor that in his Province of Judea the unjustly condemned Jesus the Galilean, a holy man, a miracleworker, powerful before God and all mankind, had been executed at the instigation of the Jewish High Priests, and the sentence confirmed by the procurator appointed by Tiberias, Pontius Pilate.

Mary repeated the words of the Apostles, that we are redeemed from the vanity of life is not with perishable silver or gold, but rather by the precious Blood of Christ.

Thanks to Mary Magdalene the custom to give each other paschal eggs on the day of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over all the world. On one ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of St Athanasius near Thessalonica, is a prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha for the blessing of eggs and cheese. In it is indicated that the igumen in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: "Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering."

Mary Magdalene continued her preaching in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. Evidently, the Apostle Paul has her in mind in his Epistle to the Romans (16: 6), where together with other ascetics of evangelic preaching he mentions Mary (Mariam), who as he expresses "has bestowed much labor on us." Evidently, she extensively served the Church in its means of subsistence and its difficulties, being exposed to dangers, and sharing with the Apostles the labors of preaching.

According to Church Tradition, she remained in Rome until the arrival of the Apostle Paul, and for two more years following his departure from Rome after the first court judgment upon him. From Rome, St Mary Magdalene, already bent with age, moved to Ephesus where the holy Apostle John unceasingly labored. There the saint finished her earthly life and was buried.

Her holy relics were transferred in the ninth century to Constantinople, and placed in the monastery Church of St Lazarus. In the era of the Crusader campaigns they were transferred to Italy and placed at Rome under the altar of the Lateran Cathedral. Part of the relics of Mary Magdalene are said to be in Provage, France near Marseilles, where over them at the foot of a steep mountain a splendid church is built in her honor.

The Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of St Mary Magdalene, the woman called by the Lord Himself from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

Formerly immersed in sin and having received healing, she sincerely and irrevocably began a new life and never wavered from that path. Mary loved the Lord Who called her to a new life. She was faithful to Him not only when He was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds and winning recognition as a miracle-worker, but also when all the disciples deserted Him in fear and He, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the Cross. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first, and esteemed her worthy to be first to proclaim His Resurrection.

Troparion - Tone 1

By keeping His commandments and laws, holy Mary Magdalene,
you followed Christ, Who for our sake was born of the Virgin,
and in celebrating your most holy memory today,
we receive forgiveness of sins by your prayers.

Kontakion - Tone 4

Podoben: “Today the Virgin...”
Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
the most glorious Mary Magdalene
offered praise with tears.
She cried out: “What is this strange wonder?
He Who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer.
Glory to Your power, O Lord.”

Kontakion - Tone 3

Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
Suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
The most glorious Mary Magdalene offered praise with tears.
She cried out: What is this strange wonder?
He who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer:
Glory, O Lord to Your power!



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Venerable Simeon of Emessa the Fool-For-Christ

Commemorated on July 21

The Monks Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fellow-Ascetic John were Syrians, and they lived in the sixth century at the city of Edessa. From childhood they were bound by close ties of friendship. The older of them, Simeon, was unmarried and lived with his aged mother. John, however, although he was married, lived with his father (his mother was dead) and with his young wife. Both friends belonged to wealthy families. When Simeon was thirty years old, and John twenty-four, they made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord. On the journey home the friends spoke of the soul's path to salvation. Dismounting their horses, they sent the servants on ahead with the horses, while they continued on foot.

Passing through Jordan, they saw monasteries on the edge of the desert. Both of them were filled with an irrepressible desire to leave the world and spend their remaining life in monastic struggles. They turned off from the road, which their servants followed to Syria, and they prayed zealously that God would guide them to the monasteries on the opposite side. They besought the Lord to indicate which monastery they should choose, and they decided to enter whichever monastery had its gates open. At this time the Lord informed Igumen Nikon in a dream to open the monastery gates, so that the sheep of Christ could enter in.

In great joy the comrades came through the open gates of the monastery, where they were warmly welcomed by the igumen, and they remained at the monastery. In a short while they received the monastic tonsure.

After remaining at the monastery for a certain time, Simeon desired to intensify his efforts, and to go into the desert to pursue asceticism in complete solitude. John did not wish to be left behind by his companion, and he decided to share with him the work of a desert-dweller. The Lord revealed the intentions of the companions to Igumen Nikon, and on that night when Sts Simeon and John intended to depart the monastery, he himself opened the gates for them. He prayed with them, gave them his blessing and sent them into the wilderness.

When they began their life in the desert, the spiritual brothers at first experienced the strong assaults of the devil. They were tempted by grief over abandoning their families, and the demons tried to discourage the ascetics, subjecting them to weakness, despondency and idleness. The brothers Simeon and John remembered their monastic calling, and trusting in the prayers of their Elder Nikon, they continued upon their chosen path. They spent their time in unceasing prayer and strict fasting, encouraging one another in their struggle against temptation.

After a while, with God's help, the temptations stopped. The monks were told by God that Simeon's mother and John's wife had died, and that the Lord had vouchsafed them the blessings of Paradise. After this Simeon and John lived in the desert for twenty-nine years, and they attained complete dispassion (apathia) and a high degree of spirituality. St Simeon, through the inspiration of God, considered that now it was proper for him to serve people. To do this, he must leave the desert solitude and go into the world. St John, however, believing that he had not attained such a degree of dispassion as his companion, decided not to leave the wilderness.

The brethren parted with tears. Simeon journeyed to Jerusalem, and there he venerated the Tomb of the Lord and all the holy places. By his great humility the holy ascetic entreated the Lord to permit him to serve his neighbor in such a way that they should not acknowledge him. St Simeon chose for himself the difficult task of foolishness for Christ. Having come to the city of Emesa, he stayed there and passed himself off as a simpleton, behaving strangely, for which he was subjected to insults, abuse and beatings. In spite of this, he accomplished many good deeds. He cast out demons, healed the sick, delivered people from immanent death, brought the unbelieving to faith, and sinners to repentance.

All these things he did under the guise of foolishness, and he never received praise or thanks from people. St John highly esteemed his spiritual brother, however. When one of the inhabitants of the city of Emesa visited him in the wilderness, asking for his advice and prayers, he would invariably direct them to "the fool Simeon", who was better able to offer them spiritual counsel. For three days before his death St Simeon ceased to appear on the streets, and he enclosed himself in his hut, where there was nothing except for bundles of firewood. Having remained in unceasing prayer for three days, St Simeon fell asleep in the Lord. Some of the city poor, his companions, had not seen the fool for some time. They went to his hut and found him dead.

Taking up the dead body, they carried him without church singing to a place where the homeless and strangers were buried. While they carried the body of St Simeon, several of the inhabitants heard a wondrous church singing, but could not understand from whence it came.

After St Simeon died, St John also fell asleep in the Lord. Shortly before his death, St Simeon saw a vision of his spiritual brother wearing a crown upon his head with the inscription: "For endurance in the desert."

Troparion - Tone 1

Having heard the voice of Your Apostle Paul:
We are fools for Christ's sake!
Your servant Simeon, O Christ God,
Lived the life of a fool here on earth for Your sake.
Therefore as we venerate his memory,
We entreat You, O Lord, to save our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Let us praise with fervent love,
This man who lived in the flesh as an angel,
Adorning his soul with the most radiant virtues!
Simeon, the equal to the Apostles and the Bearer of God.
Together with him, let us honor his companion John,
For they both ever stand before God, interceding for us all!



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Translation of the Holy Relics of Righteous Seraphim of Sarov

July 19

Tone of the week: Tone Two


The uncovering of the holy relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov on July 19, 1903 was attended by many thousands, among them the foremost of the clergy and royalty; the holy Tsar Nicholas II (see July 4) was one of the bearers of the relics in procession, and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth (see July 5) wrote an eyewitness account of the many miracles that took place. Not only had the Saint foretold the coming of the Tsar to his glorification, and that from joy they would chant "Christ is Risen" in summer, but he had also left a letter "for the fourth sovereign, who will come to Sarov." This was Nicholas II, who was given the letter when he came in 1903; the contents of the letter are not known, but when he had read it, the Tsar and future Martyr, though not a man to show his emotions, was visibly shaken. For the life of Saint Seraphim, see January 2.

Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

Thou didst love Christ from thy youth, O blessed one, and ardently desiring to work for Him alone, thou didst struggle in the wilderness with constant prayer and labour; and having acquired love for Christ with compunction of heart, thou didst prove to be the beloved favourite of the Mother of God. Wherefore, we cry to thee: Save us by thy prayers, O Seraphim, our holy Father.

Resurrectional Kontakion in the Second Tone

Having left the beauty of the world and what is corrupt therein, O Saint, thou didst settle in the Monastery of Sarov. And having lived there an angelic life, thou wast for many the way unto salvation. Wherefore, Christ hath glorified thee, O Father Seraphim, and hath enriched thee with the gift of healing and miracles. And so we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Seraphim, our holy Father.

Seasonal Kontakion in the Third Tone

Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Venerable Leonid of Ustnedumsk

Commemorated on July 17

Saint Leonid of Ustnedumsk lived in the Poshekhonsk district of Vologda, and he was a farmer by occupation. At age fifty, he saw the Mother of God in a dream, Who directed him to go to the River Dvina to the Morzhevsk Nikolaev hermitage. He was to take from there the Hodigitria Icon of the Mother of God, and build a church for it at the River Luz and Mount Turin.

St Leonid decided not to follow the advice of this vision, thinking it simply a dream, and considering himself unworthy. He went to the Kozhe Lake monastery, accepting monastic tonsure there and spending about three years at work and ascetical efforts. From there he transferred to the Solovki monastery and labored there in the bakery.

The miraculous vision was repeated, and St Leonid was advised not to oppose God's will. The venerable one then set off to the Morzhevsk hermitage, and after a year he told Igumen Cornelius (1599-1623) about the command of the Mother of God. Having received from the abbot both a blessing and the Hodigitria icon, the monk reached the River Luz near Mount Turin, 80 versts from the city of Ustiug, and he built himself a hut from brushwood. The local people, fearing that their land would be taken from them for the saint's monastery, compelled him to resettle up the river in a marshy wilderness spot.

At 30 versts from the city of Lalsk, the Elder constructed a cell and set about building a monastery. For draining the marshes, the ascetic dug three canals, about 2 kilometers in length, from the River Luz to Black Lake, and from Black Lake to Holy Lake, and from there to the Black Rivulet. During this time of heavy work he was bitten by a poisonous snake. Entrusting himself to the will of God, St Leonid decided not to seek medical treatment, nor did he think of the consequences. He went to sleep and woke up healthy. In gratitude to the Lord for His mercy, he called the canal the "Nedumaya Reka" ("Unplanned River"), and his monastery the "Ustnedumsk" ("the mouth of the Nedumaya") monastery.

With the blessing of the Metropolitan Philaret of Rostov (afterwards the Patriarch of All-Russia, 1619-1633), St Leonid was ordained hieromonk in 1608. In the newly-built church in honor of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, Hieromonk Leonid installed the Hodigitria icon, as the Mother of God commanded him. Because of his difficult labors on the frontier, called the "Luzsk Permtsa", which means "the pocket-land of the wild Permians", it is fitting that St Leonid is venerated as one of the first enlighteners of these remote lands.

The monk had many struggles with the severe and inhospitable forces of nature. Although his canal-system had drained the marsh, in times of floodings the River Luz engulfed the monastery. Towards the end of his life the tireless workler undertook construction on a point of land at Black Lake. At the new site a church was built and consecrated in 1652. St Leonid died at age 100, on July 17, 1654. He was buried at the monastery church, where for a long time his coarse and heavy hair-shirt was preserved, a reminder of the ascetic toils of the holy saint.

There is a Troparion to St Leonid, and his holy icons are in churches at the places of his struggles.



Synergy in Christ According to Saint Maximus the Confessor (III)

With questions for Photios and whomever else in the Comment Box.

Synergy in Christ According to Saint Maximus the Confessor

by Daniel Jones(Photios)
Page 6

III. The Three Dialectical Principles of Monenergism

In this essay concerning Monotheletism, we will not concern those historical or political developments or its relationship with Monophysitism but solely with the theology of Pyrrhus of Constantinople as its representative in Maximus’s disputation with the Patriarch. As I have pointed out two underlying principles in the previous section, it is important to show how these two motivate a third. This third principle is that the will is hypostatic:

If Christ be one person, then He willed as one person. And if He willed as one person, then

Page 7

doubtless He hath one will and not two.31
It is impossible to imply some “willer” along with the will itself.32

The first quote is an explicit confession of one will in Christ, but the second quote is more interesting. Not only does it signify one will, but it confuses properties of a nature with the hypostatic employment of that faculty, a real confusion between the will as the ‘faculty of nature’ and the will as the ‘mode of willing’ that is employed towards the ‘object of the will.’ This is the inherent problem that we saw in Origen that we pointed out earlier: confusion between person and nature. The key text that focused the debate was Christ’s agony and Passion in Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou will be done.”33 The idea here by all parties was to eliminate the seemingly apparent contradiction between the human and the divine. However because of the principle of “distinction is opposition,” this leads Pyrrhus to confess:
It is impossible for two wills to exist in one person without opposition.34

It was the motivating factor of non-contradiction to maintain the integrity of Christ’s hypostasis, and subsequently, to safeguard from any overture of opposing wills in him.35 This concept even appears in none greater a Father than St. Gregory [Nazianzus] the Theologian that was appealed to by the Monenergists:
Seventhly must be mentioned: the Son’s “coming down from heaven not to do his own will, but the will of him who sent him.” Certainly had these words not been spoken by the very one who “came down” we should have said the language bore the stamp of a mere man like us, not that of the Savior we know. His will is not in the least degree opposed to God, is totally dependent upon God. Our merely human will does not always follow the divine; it often resists and struggles

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against it. This is the way we interpret: “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me, but not what I will—let your will prevail.” The alternative suppositions—either he was ignorant of the thing’s possibility, or, he was opposing the Father’s will—are both implausible. No, given that the words come from what was assumed, we must meet this problem in the same way as the previous ones. The words there mean not that the Son has, but that he has not, a will over against the Father’s. This would give the sense: “’Not to do my own will,’ for what is mine is not distinct from what is yours but belongs to both you and me, who have one will as we have one Godhead.”36 37
This principle is the first that gives traction to root the will in the hypostasis, but there is also a second principle that is related to the will being hypostatic:
If thou sayest that the will is natural, and if what is natural is compelled, and if thou sayest that the wills in Christ are natural, thou dost in fact take away all his voluntary motion.38

It is important to emphasize at this point that rooting the will in the hypostasis is built on the back of these two principles: 1) distinction is opposition or the principle of non-contradiction and 2) what is natural is compelled. This leads Maximus back to confronting the problem that recollects the Origenist Problem that is not only “a monothelete problem, but a problem of theology as well.”39

There is still some force to affirm a human operation in Christ for Pyrrhus that isolates him from the rest of the proponents of monenergism. The contradiction at the Passion is a true human will; however, it is not one that is in Christ but in us:
There are still some in Byzantium who place the natural wills in opposition [to each other] and who thus maintain that the Fathers said the Lord had a human will by appropriation [only]…It is plain that the relative appropriation is meant…Why did not the Fathers say that Christ formed our will in Himself?...They [the Fathers] referred, not to that which appertaineth to Him by mere nature, but to that which He took upon Himself by appropriation.40

The predestinarian character of Pyrrhus doctrine should be obvious in this passage. If salvation is to be accomplished, it must be wholly moved by an irresistible movement of the divine will since the human operation is in opposition to it by the mere fact that it is a creature. Christ is moved solely in his humanity by the divine Logos. This is so significant because it raises the

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problem of predestination and free-will in a Christological context and not an anthropological one.41 With a sketch of Monotheletism, along with its Origenistic presuppositions, we will now turn to St. Maximus’s doctrine of free-choice in Christ and his refutation.

31 Maximus, Disputation with Pyrrhus 10, p. 4
32 Ibid. 14, p. 5
33 Mt 26:39
34 Disputation. 16, p. 7 This is the principle of non-contradiction, which meant for Pyrrhus, that real distinction in things meant opposition. Both the Monenergists and Saint Maximos were committed to eliminating contradiction in Christ, but the two groups have different approaches of solving this dilemma. For Pyrrhus, eliminating the distinction of wills was the only way to uphold the principle of non-contradiction. We shall see Maximus’ answer later in the paper, what I like to call a non-dialectical approach.
35 Farrell, p. 81
36 Gregory of Nazianzus, The Fourth Theological Oration (Oration 30, 12), pp. 102-103
37 Maximus is quite critical of Saint Gregory in this passage. In the Sixth Opusculum Maximus says that “if it is a matter of perfect harmony and concurrence, whom do you understand as the subject? The man who is just like us, or the man we consider in the role of Savior? If it is from the man who is just like us, then our teacher Gregory errs…” PG 91:65BC. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p. 174
38 Disputation 24, p. 11
39 Farrell, p. 82
40 Disputation 56, 66, 68, pp. 23-27
41 See Luther, De Servo Arbitrio WA 754: “Thus it is through us he preaches, shows mercy to the poor, [and] comforts the afflicted. But what is attributed to free choice in all this? Or rather, what is there left for it but nothing? And really nothing!”