Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Venerable Hypatius the Healer of the Kiev Caves

Commemorated on March 31

Saint Hypatius the Healer of the Caves, attained glory through his severe fasting and prayerful vigilance. By night he stood at prayer, slept very little, and ate only bread and water.

St Hypatius devoted himself entirely to the service of the sick, and received from God the gift of healing. Those sick with various illnesses often hastened to his prayerful intercession.

The memory of St Hypatius is celebrated also on August 28, on the Synaxis of the Saints of the Far Caves.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

St Sophronius the Bishop of Irkutsk

Commemorated on March 30

Saint Sophronius, Bishop of Irkutsk and Wonderworker of all Siberia, whose family name was Kristalevsky, was born in Malorussia in the Chernigov region in 1704. His father, Nazarius, was "a common man in his affairs, and the saint was named Stephen, in honor of the protomartyr St Stephen. He had two brothers and a sister, Pelagia. The name of one brother was Paul. The name of the other older brother is unknown, but it is said that he was head of the Krasnogorsk Zolotonosh monastery.

Stephen's childhood years were spent in the settlement of Berezan in the Pereyaslavl district of the Poltava governance, where the family settled after the father was discharged from service. When he came of age, Stephen entered the Kiev Theological Academy, where two other future hierarchs were studying: Joasaph, future Bishop of Belgorod (September 4 and December 10), and Paul, future Metropolitan of Tobolsk (June 10 and November 4).

After completing his religious education, Stephen entered the Krasnogorsk Transfiguration monastery (later renamed the Protection monastery. In 1789, it was transformed into a women's monastery), where his elder brother already labored in asceticism. On April 23, 1730 he received monastic tonsure with the name of Sophronius, in honor of St Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11).

On the night after his monastic tonsure, St Sophronius heard a Voice in the Protection church predicting his future service: "When you become bishop, build a church dedicated to All Saints."

In 1732, he was summoned to Kiev. There he was ordained hierodeacon, and then hieromonk in the cathedral of Holy Wisdom. After St Sophronius had been a monk for two years, he became treasurer of the Zolotonosh monastery for two years, and then His Grace Bishop Arsenius (Berlov) of the Pereyaslavl diocese sent him into the house of his archbishop, where he was steward for eight years.

These facts testify to the connections of the saint with his original Protection monastery. During his obedience under the presiding hierarch at Pereyaslavl, he often visited his monastery, spending the day in quiet contemplation and work, serving as an example to the brethren.

When Hieromonk Sophronius traveled to the Holy Synod on behalf of his bishop, they paid close attention to him. In January 1742, the future saint was transferred to the St Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St Peterburg, the foremost monastery of the capital. A year later he was appointed treasurer of the monastery, and in 1746 he was appointed as Superior of the monastery.

He summoned his fellow countryman, the hieromonk Sinesios (Ivanoff), a native of the city of Priluki, and made him igumen of the St Sergius Hermitage, a dependancy of St Alexander Nevsky Lavra. From this time the friendship of the two ascetics, hieromonk Sophronius and hieromonk Sinesios, was strengthened by their joint pastoral effort, and they were inseparable until they died in Siberia.

During these years St Sophronius worked hard at managing the monastery and improvement of teaching at the seminary located nearby. He and Archbishop Theodosius made it their task to acquire more books for the monastic library.

St Sophronius built a two storey church: the upper church was dedicated to St Theodore, the older brother of St Alexander Nevsky; and the lower to St John Chrysostom.

Bishop Innocent II (Nerunovich) of Irkutsk died in 1747. For six years afterwards, the Irkutsk diocese remained without a spiritual head.

Finally, on February 23, 1753, the empress Elizabeth (1741-1761) recommended the pious Igumen Sophronius of the Alexander Nevsky monastery to the Holy Synod as "a person, not only worthy of episcopal rank, but also someone completely able to fulfill the wishes and the hopes of the state and the Synod, and take up the burden of episcopal service on the far frontier and satisfy the needs of his flock in that harsh land, among wild primitives and lawless people."

On April 18, 1753, Thomas Sunday, Hieromonk Sophronius was consecrated Bishop of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk in the Dormition cathedral.

Foreseeing difficult service on the distant Siberian frontier, the new bishop did not immediately travel to the Irkutsk eparchy, but rather began to gather educated and spiritually experienced co-workers. During this period St Sophronius visited at his original Krasnogorsk monastery. At the holy places of Kiev, he also sought the blessings of the Kiev Caves Saints for his service. The constant companion of the saint, as had been before, was the hieromonk Sinesios, sharing in his friend's work.

At Moscow, Archbishop Platon of Moscow and Sevsk provided him with further assistance. He gave him fatherly advice for his task, since he was quite familiar with the peculiarities of the Siberian religious life. He forewarned him about the self-willed local authorities, and advised him to surround himself with trustworthy helpers.

On March 20, 1754 the saint arrived at Irkutsk. He went first to the Ascension monastery, his predecessor's residence, and prayed at the grave of Bishop Innocent (Kulchitz), asking his blessing as he took up his assignment.

Familiarizing himself with the state of affairs in the diocese, the saint began the reorganization of the Spiritual consistory, monasteries and parishes, and appealed to the Holy Synod to send worthy men to the Irkutsk eparchy for priestly service.

Before the arrival of St Sophronius, the Irkutsk monasteries had already a century-old history. The founders of these monasteries were motivated by a fervent desire for monastic life. The wise hierarch appointed people of piety, wisdom, virtue, and with great experience both of life and spiritual matters as heads of the monastic communities. In 1754, Bishop Sophronius elevated his friend and companion Hieromonk Sinesios to be Archimandrite of Ascension monastery. He served the monastery for thirty-three years until his blessed repose.

In September 1754, the bishop issued a decree in which he expressed concern for the education and upbringing of the children of the clergy. He wanted them to learn the HOROLOGION, the PSALTER, singing and letters, and this instruction "ought to be conducted with all industriousness and the utmost diligence, so that the children might be able to fulfill the responsibilities of sacristan and deacon."

Studying both people and circumstances, the bishop in his sermons and conversations exhorted all to a higher moral ideal. He devoted particular attention to the reverent and correct performance of the divine services and the Holy Mysteries, and he also looked after the moral purity of laymen. He was concerned about the position of women in the family, and defended them against their unjust inequality. The bishop attempted to set straight the Rule of divine services, and so he summoned priests, deacons, subdeacons and sacristans, and those who sang in the choir during services.

Traveling about the diocese, the saint noticed that censing and the ringing of bells were not being done properly in all places, and therefore he issued a decree restoring the proper way of censing and bell-ringing.

Called to apostolic service in this frontier region, St Sophronius realized that his duty was to enlighten the Christians of the area, and also to convert the idol-worshippers, who were very numerous in Siberia.

It was difficult to bring pagans to the Church of Christ, especially because sometimes there was no one to serve in the churches, and to borrow priests for missionary activity only made matters worse. Knowing that the Church services would have a salutary effect on non-Russians, the saint not only served with reverence himself, but also required it of all his clergy.

St Sophronius also contributed to the development of a stable culture among the local people. He offered them monastic lands for settlements and in every way he endeavored to isolate them from the influence of paganism. A constant throng of visitors came from faraway places for his blessing.

Even with his many cares, he did not forget his own spiritual life and eternity. He also led an ascetical life. His cell-attendant said that the saint "used simple food in small quantities. He served often, spent the greater part of the night at prayer, sleeping on the floor under a sheepskin or a fur, a deerskin or bear hide, and a small simple pillow.

The spirit of his ascetic life fit in with the general uplifting of the Christian spirit in Russia after the glorification of St Demetrius of Rostov (September 21), Theodosius of Chernigov (September 9), and the uncovering of the incorrupt relics of his predecessor, St Innocent of Irkutsk (February 9). This event inspired St Sophronius to greater efforts and encouraged him to ask for the help of St Innocent in his task of building up the diocese.

Until the end of his days St Sophronius kept his love for the Krasnogor Zolotonosh monastery, which had nurtured him in the days of his youth. He constantly contributed support for its upkeep, sending the necessary means for this.

Noticing a deterioration in his health, St Sophronius petitioned the Holy Synod to let him retire. The answer from Peterburg did not come right away, since it was difficult to choose a worthy successor.

The final days of St Sophronius' s life were spent in asceticism and prayer.

The light, which shone on the good deeds of St Sophronius, continues to the present time to testify to the glory of the Heavenly Father, "Who mercifully strengthens His saints." Now the holy memory of St Sophronius is reverently preserved not only in Siberia at the place of his final deeds, but also at the place of his first deeds.

St Sophronius is also commemorated on June 30 (his glorification in 1918).

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Monday, March 29, 2010

Venerable John the Anchorite of Egypt

Commemorated on March 29

Saint John the Anchorite: During a persecution against Christians, the devout widow Juliania of Armenia hid from pursuers together with her two young children John and Themistea. She taught her children to pray and to read the Holy Scriptures.

From time to time John secretly visited a nearby monastery, thereby placing himself in danger. Once, a pious old man advised him to find a more secluded place for prayer. Returning home, the saint told his mother that he was going to visit the Elder. Thinking that her son would soon return, she let him go.

John went to the desert-dweller Pharmutios and received his blessing to live alone in the wilderness. The young ascetic found an abandoned well, which was filled with snakes, scorpions and other vile creatures. He lowered himself into the well and lived there for ten years in fasting, vigil, and prayer.

The angel who brought food to the hermit Pharmutios also brought bread for St John. The angel did not bring the bread directly to John, however, lest the young ascetic become filled with pride. Food was sent to him through his spiritual Father, Pharmutios.

St John had many temptations from the devil to test him. Demons assumed the appearance of his mother, his sister, his relatives and acquaintances in order to sadden the ascetic and compel him to give up his ascetic struggles. With tears they approached the well one after the other, begging St John to leave with them. All this time the saint did not cease to pray. Finally he said, "Be gone from me," and the demons vanished.

St John lived in the well until the time of his blessed repose. Through God's providence St Chrysikhios, who had struggled in the desert for thirty years, came to bury him. On the eve of his repose, St John told Chrysikhios of his life and struggles for salvation. After his death, numerous miracles occurred at the place of his ascetic deeds.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Monkmartyr Eustratius of the Kiev Near Caves

Commemorated on March 28

Martyr Eustratius of the Caves was born in the eleventh century at Kiev into a wealthy family. As an adult, he received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves monastery, after giving away all his possesions to the poor. St Eustratius humbly underwent obediences at the monastery, strictly fulfilling the rule of prayer and passing his days in fasting and vigilance.

In 1096 the Polovetsians captured Kiev and ravaged the monastery of the Caves, doing away with many of the monks. St Eustratius was taken into captivity, and was sold into slavery with thirty monastic laborers and twenty inhabitants of Kiev to a certain Jew living in Korsun.

The impious Jew tried to make the captives to deny Christ, threatening to kill those who refused by starving them. St Eustratius encouraged and exhorted his brother Christians, "Brothers! Let none of us who are baptized and believe in Christ betray the vows made at Baptism. Christ has regenerated us through water and the Spirit. He has freed us from the curse of the Law by His Blood, and He has made us heirs of His Kingdom. If we live, we shall live for the Lord. If we die, we shall die in the Lord and inherit eternal life."

Inspired by the saint's words, the captives resolved to die of starvation, rather than renounce Christ, Who is the food and drink of Eternal Life. Exhausted by hunger and thirst, some captives perished after three days, some after four days, and some after seven days. St Eustratius remained alive for fourteen days, since he was accustomed to fasting from his youth. Suffering from hunger, he still did not touch food nor water. The impious Jew, seeing that he had lost the money he had paid for the captives, decided to take revenge on the holy monk.

The radiant Feast of the Resurrection of Christ drew near, and the Jewish slave owner was celebrating the Jewish Passover with his companions. He decided to crucify St Eustratius. The cruel tormentors mocked the saint, offering to let him share their Passover meal. The Martyr replied, "The Lord has now bestown a great grace upon me. He has permitted me to suffer on a cross for His Name just as He suffered." The saint also predicted a horrible death for the Jew.

Hearing this, the enraged Jew grabbed a spear and stabbed St Eustratius on the cross. The martyr's body was taken down from the cross and thrown into the sea. Christian believers long searched for the holy relics of the martyr, but were not able to find them. But through the Providence of God the incorrupt relics were found in a cave and worked many miracles. Later, they were transferred to the Near Caves of the Kiev Caves monastery.

The prediction of the holy Martyr Eustratius that his blood would be avenged was fulfilled soon after his death. The Byzantine Emperor issued a decree expelling all Jews from Korsun, depriving them of their property, and putting their elders to death for torturing Christians. The Jew who crucified St Eustratius was hanged on a tree, receiving just punishment for his wickedness.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Raising of Lazarus (Lazarus Saturday)

Commemorated on March 27

Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday

Visible triumphs are few in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ. He preached a kingdom "not of this world." At His nativity in the flesh there was "no room at the inn." For nearly thirty years, while He grew "in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52), He lived in obscurity as "the son of Mary." When He appeared from Nazareth to begin His public ministry, one of the first to hear of Him asked: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John I :46). In the end He was crucified between two thieves and laid to rest in the tomb of another man.

Two brief days stand out as sharp exceptions to the above - days of clearly observable triumph. These days are known in the Church today as Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. Together they form a unified liturgical cycle which serves as the passage from the forty days of Great Lent to Holy Week. They are the unique and paradoxical days before the Lord's Passion. They are days of visible, earthly triumph, of resurrectional and messianic joy in which Christ Himself is a deliberate and active participant. At the same time they are days which point beyond themselves to an ultimate victory and final kingship which Christ will attain not by raising one dead man or entering a particular city, but by His own imminent suffering, death and resurrection.

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, 0 Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to Thee, 0 Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord! (Troparion of the Feast, sung on both Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday)

Lazarus Saturday

In a carefully detailed narrative the Gospel relates how Christ, six days before His own death, and with particular mindfulness of the people "standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me" (John I I :42), went to His dead friend Lazarus at Bethany outside of Jerusalem. He was aware of the approaching death of Lazarus but deliberately delayed His coming, saying to His disciples at the news of His friend's death: "For your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe" (John 11:14).

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus was already dead four days. This fact is repeatedly emphasized by the Gospel narrative and the liturgical hymns of the feast. The four-day burial underscores the horrible reality of death. Man, created by God in His own image and likeness, is a spiritual-material being, a unity of soul and body. Death is destruction; it is the separation of soul and body. The soul without the body is a ghost, as one Orthodox theologian puts it, and the body without the soul is a decaying corpse. "I weep and I wail, when I think upon death, and behold our beauty, fashioned after the image of God, lying in the tomb dishonored, disfigured, bereft of form." This is a hymn of St John of Damascus sung at the Church's burial services. This "mystery" of death is the inevitable fate of man fallen from God and blinded by his own prideful pursuits.

With epic simplicity the Gospel records that, on coming to the scene of the horrible end of His friend, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). At this moment Lazarus, the friend of Christ, stands for all men, and Bethany is the mystical center of the world. Jesus wept as He saw the "very good" creation and its king, man, "made through Him" (John 1:3) to be filled with joy, life and light, now a burial ground in which man is sealed up in a tomb outside the city, removed from the fullness of life for which he was created, and decomposing in darkness, despair and death. Again as the Gospel says, the people were hesitant to open the tomb, for "by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days" (John 11:39).

When the stone was removed from the tomb, Jesus prayed to His Father and then cried with a loud voice: "Lazarus, come out." The icon of the feast shows the particular moment when Lazarus appears at the entrance to the tomb. He is still wrapped in his grave clothes and his friends, who are holding their noses because of the stench of his decaying body, must unwrap him. In everything stress is laid on the audible, the visible and the tangible. Christ presents the world with this observable fact: on the eve of His own suffering and death He raises a man dead four days! The people were astonished. Many immediately believed on Jesus and a great crowd began to assemble around Him as the news of the raising of Lazarus spread. The regal entry into Jerusalem followed.

Lazarus Saturday is a unique day: on a Saturday a Matins and Divine Liturgy bearing the basic marks of festal, resurrectional services, normally proper to Sundays, are celebrated. Even the baptismal hymn is sung at the Liturgy instead of Holy God: "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."

Very Rev. Paul Lazor

Troparion - Tone 1

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion,
You did confirm the universal Resurrection, O Christ God!
Like the children with the palms of victory,
We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death;
Hosanna in the Highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Christ the Joy, the Truth and the Light of all,
The Life of the World and the Resurrection
Has appeared in His goodness, to those on earth.
He has become the Image of our Resurrection,
Granting divine forgiveness to all!



SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Friday, March 26, 2010

Martyr Larissa the laywoman in the Crimea

Commemorated on March 26

Saint Larissa (Beride) was one of twenty-six martyrs who were killed by the Goths around the year 375 under Jungerich, a persecutor of Christians. Ancient synaxaria of the Gothic Church recount the martyrdom of twenty-six Christians in the time of the emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian. The historian Sozomen says that King Athanaric was enraged to see his subjects embracing Christianity because of the preaching of the Arian bishop Ulfilas. So, he ordered many of them to be tortured and executed, often without a trial.

King Athanaric's ministers placed a statue in a chariot and paraded it before the tents which Christians used for church services. Those who worshiped the idol and offered sacrifice were spared, the rest were burned alive in the tent. Jungerich gave orders to burn down a church during divine services. In the fiery inferno 308 people perished, of whom only twenty-one are known by name. There was also an anonymous man who came to the tent and confessed Christ. He was martyred with the others. Different manuscripts give variants of their names.

In the reign of Valentinian and Theodosius (383-392), the Gothic king's widow Gaatha (who was an Orthodox Christian) and her daughter Duclida gathered up the relics of the holy martyrs and brought them to Syria with the help of some priests and a layman named Thyellas. Gaatha later returned to her native land, where she was stoned and died as a martyr, along with her son Agathon.

The relics of the holy martyrs were left to Duclida, who went to Cyzicus in Asia Minor and gave some of the relics for the founding of a church. St Duclida died in peace.

The holy martyrs were commemorated on October 23 on the Gothic calendars.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Martyred 199 Disciples of the Martyr Nikon in Sicily

Commemorated on March 23

Quintilian, the governor of Sicily, was informed that St Nikon was living nearby with many monks. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded during a persecution against Christians in 251. St Nikon was killed later.

The bishop of the city of Messina and his clergy buried the bodies of St Nikon and his disciples.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008' link here also):

Monday, March 22, 2010

Martyr Drosis the Daughter of the Emperor Trajan

Commemorated on March 22

The Holy Martyr Drosis, together with Five Virgin-Martyrs Agalida, Apollinaria, Daria, Mamthusa and Thais: St Drosis was daughter of the emperor Trajan (98-117), a fierce persecutor of Christians. In the year 99 he revived an earlier law which forbade secret gatherings and was indirectly aimed against Christians. In the year 104 he issued a special law against Christians.

Beginning in that year, the persecutions continued until the end of his reign. During this time the bodies of martyred Christians often remained unburied in order to intimidate others. Five Christian virgins: Aglaida, Apolliniaria, Daria, Mamthusa and Thais, took upon themselves the task of burying such Christians. They secretly gathered up the bodies of martyrs, anointed them with spices, wrapped them in shrouds and buried them. When she learned of this, Drosis, a secret Christian but not yet baptized, asked the holy virgins to take her with them when they went to bury Christians.

On the advice of the court dignitary Adrian, a guard was set over those who had been killed, to arrest anyone who tried to bury them. On the very first night, St Drosis and the five virgins were caught. Learning that one of the captives was his own daughter, Trajan gave orders to hold her separately, in the hope that she would change her mind.

The remaining holy virgins were sentenced to burning in a furnace for melting copper. They bravely accepted execution and were granted crowns of martyrdom. The copper, mingled with the ashes of the martyrs, was used to make tripods for a new bath of Trajan. But as long as these tripods stood in the bath-house, no man was able to enter it. Anyone crossing the threshold fell down dead. When the pagan priests realized why this happened, they advised that the tripods be removed.

Adrian told the emperor to melt the tripods and to make five statues of naked virgins, in the likeness of the Martyrs. Then he said that these statues should be placed before the entrance to the imperial bath. Trajan agreed. When the statues were set up, the emperor saw in a dream five pure lambs pastured in Paradise, and the Shepherd who said to him, "O most wanton and wicked Caesar! Those whose images you placed there to be mocked have been taken away from you and brought here by the Good and Merciful Pastor. In time your daughter, the pure lamb Drosis, shall also be here."

When he awoke, Trajan flew into a rage and ordered two huge furnaces to be heated. At the ovens an imperial edict was posted: "You who worship the Crucified, save yourselves many agonies, and spare us also from these labors. Offer sacrifice to the gods. If you do not wish to do this, however, then let each of you voluntarily cast himself into this furnace." Many Christians willingly went to martyrdom.

When she heard of this, St Drosis also decided to endure martyrdom for Christ. In her prison she offered prayers asking the Lord to release her. God heard her prayer, amd the guards fell asleep. St Drosis went off to the ovens, but began to wonder: "How can I go to God without a wedding garment (i.e., without being baptized), for I am impure. But, O King of Kings, Lord Jesus Christ, for Your sake I give up my imperial position, so that I may be the lowliest handmaiden in Your Kingdom. Baptize me Yourself with your Holy Spirit."

After praying in this manner, St Drosis anointed herself with myrrh [chrism], which she had taken along with her, and immersing herself in water three times, she said: "the servant of God Drosis is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." For seven days the saint hid, spending her time in fasting and prayer. Christians found her and learned from her everything that occurred. On the eighth day, the holy Martyr Drosis went to the red-hot ovens and cast herself into the fire.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Sunday, March 21, 2010

St Thomas the Patriarch of Constantinople

Commemorated on March 21

Saint Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople, was at first a deacon, and later under the holy Patriarch John IV the Faster (582-595) he was made "sakellarios" [sacristan] in the Great Church (Hagia Sophia). After the death of holy Patriarch Cyriacus (595-606), St Thomas was elevated to the Patriarchal throne in 607. The saint concerned himself in every possible way about the spiritual needs of his flock.

During the patriarchate of St Thomas, an ominous portent appeared in the land of Galatia (Asia Minor). The heavy crosses which were carried during church processions began to shake and to strike against each other. The clairvoyant Elder, St Theodore Sykeotes (April 22), explained the meaning of this portent. He said that discords and disasters awaited the Church, and the state was in danger of barbarian invasion. Hearing this, the saint became terrified and asked St Theodore to pray that God would take his soul before these predictions were fulfilled.

After the death of the holy Patriarch Thomas in 610, disorders started in the Church. St Thomas's successor, Patriarch Sergius (610-638), fell into the Monothelite heresy. Through God's dispensation, war broke out with Persia, which proved grievous for Byzantium. The Greek regions of Asia Minor were completely devastated, Jerusalem fell, and the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord was captured and taken to Persia. Thus, all the misfortunes portended by the miracle during the church procession came to pass.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Martyr Photina (Svetlana), the Samaritan Woman, and Her Sons

Commemorated on March 20
The Holy Martyr Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor (named Photinus) and Joses; and her sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva, Kyriake; Nero's daughter Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian: The holy Martyr Photina was the Samaritan Woman, with whom the Savior conversed at Jacob's Well (John. 4:5-42).

During the time of the emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed excessive cruelty against Christians, St Photina lived in Carthage with her younger son Joses and fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Her eldest son Victor fought bravely in the Roman army against barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.

Sebastian, an official in Italy, said to St Victor, "I know that you, your mother and your brother, are followers of Christ. As a friend I advise you to submit to the will of the emperor. If you inform on any Christians, you will receive their wealth. I shall write to your mother and brother, asking them not to preach Christ in public. Let them practice their faith in secret."

St Victor replied, "I want to be a preacher of Christianity like my mother and brother." Sebastian said, "O Victor, we all know what woes await you, your mother and brother." Then Sebastian suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eyes. He was dumbfounded, and his face was somber.

For three days he lay there blind, without uttering a word. On the fourth day he declared, "The God of the Christians is the only true God." St Victor asked why Sebastian had suddenly changed his mind. Sebastian replied, "Because Christ is calling me." Soon he was baptized, and immediately regained his sight. St Sebastian's servants, after witnessing the miracle, were also baptized.

Reports of this reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him at Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said, "Fear not, for I am with you. Nero, and all who serve him, will be vanquished." The Lord said to St Victor, "From this day forward, your name will be Photinus, because through you, many will be enlightened and will believe in Me." The Lord then told the Christians to strengthen and encourage St Sebastian to peresevere until the end.

All these things, and even future events, were revealed to St Photina. She left Carthage in the company of several Christians and joined the confessors in Rome.

At Rome the emperor ordered the saints to be brought before him and he asked them whether they truly believed in Christ. All the confessors refused to renounce the Savior. Then the emperor gave orders to smash the martyrs' finger joints. During the torments, the confessors felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.

Nero ordered that Sts Sebastian, Photinus and Joses be blinded and locked up in prison, and St Photina and her five sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva and Kyriake were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero's daughter Domnina. St Photina converted both Domnina and all her servants to Christ. She also converted a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food to kill her.

Three years passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Sts Sebastian, Photinus and Joses, who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were visiting them to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.

Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints, and to beat their naked bodies with straps. On the fourth day the emperor sent servants to see whether the martyrs were still alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants fell blind. An angel of the Lord freed the martyrs from their crosses and healed them. The saints took pity on the blinded servants, and restored their sight by their prayers to the Lord. Those who were healed came to believe in Christ and were soon baptized.

In an impotent rage Nero gave orders to flay the skin from St Photina and to throw the martyr down a well. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses had their legs cut off, and they were thrown to dogs, and then had their skin flayed off. The sisters of St Photina also suffered terrible torments. Nero gave orders to cut off their breasts and then to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the emperor readied the fiercest execution for St Photis: they tied her by the feet to the tops of two bent-over trees. When the ropes were cut the trees sprang upright and tore the martyr apart. The emperor ordered the others beheaded. St Photina was removed from the well and locked up in prison for twenty days.

After this Nero had her brought to him and asked if she would now relent and offer sacrifice to the idols. St Photina spit in the face of the emperor, and laughing at him, said, "O most impious of the blind, you profligate and stupid man! Do you think me so deluded that I would consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols as blind as you?"

Hearing such words, Nero gave orders to again throw the martyr down the well, where she surrendered her soul to God (+ ca. 66).

On the Greek Calendar, St Photina is commemorated on February 26.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Friday, March 19, 2010

Icon of the Mother of God of Smolensk the "Sweet-Kissing"

Commemorated on March 19

The Smolensk "Tenderness" Icon of the Mother of God manifested itself in the year 1103 at Smolensk. There is another Smolensk "Tenderness" Icon from the vicinity of Okopa (down from Smolensk). This icon was in the encampment of the Russian armies of the military commander Shein, restraining the Polish besiegers from destroying Smolensk for twenty months (1611-1613).

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Martyr Marinus

Commemorated on March 17

Saint Marinus, inspired by ardent love for Christ the Savior, destroyed a temple of the idolaters during one of the pagan festivals, trampling the sacrifices underfoot and confessed himself a Christian. After cruel tortures, the saint was beheaded.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St Vitus

Commemorated on March 16


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

My Unposted but Not Forgotten Response to Father Gregory Jensen

 By Sophocles Frangakis

Last week Father Gregory, on Koinonia, posted a piece, "A Review of Realism of Glory, by James L. Kelly". 

I am posting this because the comments were closed by Father Gregory.  During his closing them, I was busy working on a response to him which he provided in the comment section to me. I spent about three hours working on it and was handicapped by the fact that the first 50 comments(of 61) were not vieweable(except for Aaron of Logismoi who somehow managed to do this). 

So I'm working on the thing and finally I'm satisfied that I'm done.  I go and press "SUBMIT" and am told that the comments are closed.  UGH!! 

Well anyway, I e-mailed Father Gregory asking if I could somehow deposit that comment there but he had decided for good that he would not accept anymore comments.  I understand that and respect that but I was left with what to do with my comment.  I forgot about it until today. I am currently writing a review of "Orthodox Apologetic Theology" by I.M. Andreyev and writing it I was reminded of my comment as some of what I had intended on Father Gregory's site was related to my thoughts on this book.

As well, since that post of Father Gregory's, he posted a few more things related to that post and why he closed it.  Those pieces of his are "Please Forgive Me" and "Some Thoughts About Polemics".  I disagree with Father Gregory still in regard to our differing stance on the Church but I would like to add that I understand where he's coming from.  As well, he wrote a very gracious reply to me so I would like to make it clear here that I am not posting this polemically contra Father but rather as a sort of stand alone post relating to some of the themes brought up on his site.  If I thought this post made any sense apart from its context on Father's site, I would not even mention him as he has made it clear that this subject for him is closed right now.

"So Father Gregory, forgive me but I think you'll understand why I'm posting this.  If it in any way offends you, please let me know and I will remove it or edit it and make it a true stand alone piece."

So anyway, I'm just going to re-post my comment as I had written it that night without any further editing as now I have the option to view all 61 comments.  As well, the careful reader may discern that I appropriated many of the others' comments' material in my below comment.  I don't want to spend anymore time on it so I will post it and let it stand.


I'm still not able to access the previous bulk of comments so what follows will rely mainly on impressions I gained from reading (mostly) Father Gregory's and the Ochlophobist.  I was intending to return here and more deeply absorb everything written thus far but oh well.


Simply a brilliant and well thought out reply as always.

Father Gregory,

Thank you for your response.  I mention again that it is frustrating to me right now to respond because there are a few "cut and pastes" I would like to have done with your comments and utilizing the Ochlophobist's comment as well in my own. 

Be that as it may,  I will attempt some kind of reply.

At the outset I would like to say that my point here is not to win an argument.  In fact, I recognize that many reading here dwarf my own abilities and learning.

Having only flirted with Father John Romanides' works, I can not with authority comment on how academic he was but I am slightly inclined to believe he might be more so than he is being given credit for.  However, what you(Ochlophobist)  may have in mind is a certain definition of "academic" which he does not fit.  That being said, I would bring to our attention that neither was Saint Paul "academic" in his writings but this gives them no less weight. What I am not trying to say by using Saint Paul as an example is that I am equating Father John's writings on the same level but rather pointing to the fact that writings to be true, so far as they go, do not necessarily need to have footnotes, sources and other such conventions attached to them.  Using Saint Paul further, we may also remember that he was trained classically not only in Hellenism but in his Hebrew culture and tradition.  When he converted, he utilized his former learning, not being able to discard it, in a fashion commensurate with the Gospel and its spread and defense.  He did not unlearn what was his in his former life but rather what was his became not his but the Lord's.  He ceased identifying himself with the learned wisdom of his day even though he earned the title of "fool" for the speaking of a new language as a new man.   With this I am not disparaging learning or academia but I am saying that study and learning are like everything else meant to be taken to the Cross(following Father Stephen's post loosely) and given their meaning and telos.

Now understandably, what I think is being argued about Father John's academia is that he is not fitting into a mold typically associated with what is commonly understood to be "academia".  I am not in a position to determine this nor in regards to many of the other authors cited as I think many on here are far more read in certain areas than I am.

But following the Ochlophobist, it should be noted that Orthodox across the spectrum have identified error with Augustinian-ism is evident.  Now, how each writer/thinker/academic/lay person has dealt with said error is not uniform nor should it be if we take the uniqueness of each of our own hypostases into the equation.  That is, we each do not necessarily handle any one given mundane problem in our own personal lives the same way, even though the *same* problems find each of us out and require action on our part.  The action is an act of our personal use of our will and this is unique and given anew to circumstances as they occur and not always according to systematic, "one size fits all" approaches. 

This is to say that, for instance, if Igumen Alexander Golitzin is a boxer and he encounters Augustinian-ism, he may be the polished prizefighter that adeptly jabs at his opponent and elegantly uses refined methods according to his person and training.  But another fighter, say Father John Romanides, is the slugger who just gets up close, really personal, and "all in". Each fighter, as in real prize fighters, may have entirely different motives for fighting.  But they have in common that there is an opponent over against themselves that must be contended with.  As well, each fighter is free to determine to what level he will defeat his opponent.  One may simply wish the cessation of hostility with as little damage done to the other as possible.  The other may wish to utterly annihilate the opponent.  What I am not saying with this line of reasoning is that I necessarily condone any scenario or that I am implying that Golitzin, Romanides, Louth et. al are any one of the categories I have set forth.

One of the points I am trying to make, following John Sanidopoulos, is that you yourself, Father, are utilizing polemics to stave off the perceived attack against what you believe is unfair against Roman Catholicism.  One of the first comments on this post was from Ben in which you agreed with his comment with a certain glee because he agreed with you.  You said something to the effect of "OUCH! But true!"  I in fact do not fault you for this but actually commend you. But I fault you, and I think not unfairly, that you find it "polemic" to question Roman Catholicism.  Your contention, if I am reading you correctly, is that Roman Catholicism does not constitute "a foe".  What I mean by "foe" I think will be better explained with the following.

To simply make a statement, any statement about anything, is to be "polemic".  Meaning, a statement represents a spoken SOMETHING which in order for the spoken SOMETHING to have any kind of meaning, it is differentiated from that which is not of it, the statement.  The differentiation, when spoken about and in its essence, necessarily implies that it is not something other than it is which sets it in "opposition" to that which is not.

My original foray into this discussion was not to defend Father John Romanides as again, I have not read him. My present response is evolved from what has previously been said on here and I am attempting to remember the impressions of your comments as well as the others'.

I do recognize today two very distinct camps in Orthodoxy.  I do not with this imply that each of the camps is monolithic and homogeneous.  Where I am going with is that unlike before in my life in the Church, I have staked out my own ground  and choose to associate with those "like me" and to oppose(not "violently" of course) those that I believe, when speaking on the Orthodox Church and Faith that do not follow the Holy Fathers and the bounds they have laid down.  They, the Fathers having purified themselves to a degree which is well attested to by not only their writings but in the testimony others spoke of them, are worthy of our respect and our heeding in not exceeding the bounds of our Church into the bounds of others.  I think where you and I disagree in this is that you ascribe "Church" to the Roman Catholic Church where I and others do not and therein lies the contention and where you yourself must necessarily utilize polemics to contend that the Roman Catholic Church is indeed "Church" and that I and those like minded like me are in error.  My point in this is not to go down the all too familiar route of debate on these matters in which I do not expect you to budge one bit in your position nor I in mine.  That may well be another discussion. 

Addressing another of your points now, I can vaguely remember in your comment to me that you decried the lack of purification experienced by many(all?) converts to Orthodoxy and the ensuing loss of those people.  The Holy Fathers in their writings spoke of this;  that as the days continued and Orthodoxy became less "known" in its sublime power, there would be a general decrease in Holy Eldership.  They, and many contemporary holy elders recognize this deficiency in True Orthodoxy and point those that wish to attain to salvation and to the path laid out by the Church to the Fathers as a sure guide.  

Now, I know that you do not necessarily believe that Orthodoxy is established and "fixed" in place( I do not mean this in the dead, "museum" meaning of the word) but Orthodoxy is "created" or "defined" by the Bishops.  Is this a fair understanding of your position, albeit a simplified version of it?

Now I think that your using "purification" is interesting because I think that apart from reading people like Father John Romanides, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, and those sympathetic to them and those like them(Russians, Greeks, Serbians, Americans, etc.) who have taken their writings to heart and have sought deification as the Holy Fathers have laid out the path on how to accomplish this, we are not able to attain to the purification qua purification you are speaking of.  How will we convey purification if we are not being purified in the Orthodox manner the Holy Fathers have laid out the path for?

And in one sense, this need to "keep the converts" is again somewhat problematic for me. I of course am employing the foregoing in a very strict and narrow fashion in that often I think what people mean about teaching the Orthodox Faith is utilizing conventions easily at hand and familiar to the use of our recognized methods which "give the goods".  I do want "to keep them".  But I think we may have two very different understandings on how that is to be accomplished. 

My belief, as I have received the Orthodox Faith, is that my only duty is to repent.  I don't have a narrow understanding of "repentance" in mind here but a rather broad one.  With "repentance" is entailed an all encompassing stance that takes in the whole of my life and makes manifest Christ in me and I in Him.  This is the Evangel.  This is preaching.  And we never graduate from repentance.  This does not necessarily exclude the conventions we are accustomed to but rather, it is the taking of all our conventions for use to this end and having them transfigured.  It is voiding them of their former content and giving them, by God's Grace a new content, recreated by the recreation of ourselves.   I say all this to make it clear that if ONE of us, and this ONE of us is each and everyone of us, does just this simple act to the very utmost of our ability and strength, into our immediate sphere is made known Christ.  Repentance necessarily must be in the footsteps already established and laid out for us by those who repented most fully that we know of, the Holy Fathers.  The Holy Fathers' experience of this repentance can most fully be found in the writings of those most faithful to the medicinal dimension of their teaching which I believe is arguably central to Salvation.  And now, speaking from my own experience, I have kicked against the goads so long that it has finally begun to dawn on me what humility means.  Just a smidgen of what it means is to cease to critique the Church and the Holy Fathers and to obey. 

Early on, when I re-entered the Orthodox Church, I adopted the understanding that in order for me to be healed, to become god, which is what the Church is all about, I need to change to fit the Church and not attempt to change the Church to fit me.

If I begin to repent, this is EVANGELISM.  This is what makes us a "spectacle to the world" and "breathes forth the fragrance of the Holy Spirit".  If I experience God as the Fathers of our Church say I can, how can this fail to not be appealing and "evangelistic"?

In order for this to occur, we need teaching.  But this teaching is of a nature, that though it does not exclude intellectual knowledge, utilizes it and is of the nature of paradosis, a living Tradition of the one who embodies Tradition.  But if our priests have set aside this understanding in favor or other methods and then decry that those in their flock are not experiencing purification, what are we to do?  The short answer is to seek out the pure doctrine of the Holy Fathers, for those that desire salvation will always be found out by God.  And the starting point must be the already dogmatically defined boundaries of the Church in which one may surely be deified, the goal of our Faith. 

Now,  do I dislike Roman Catholicism as I understand her?  Yes.  Does that mean I walk around with blood lust in my eyes ready to pounce at each opportunity?  Hardly.  Do I in the fullest sense of the word need "understanding experientially" the Roman Catholic Church to find objection with her?  I don't think this is a valid train of thought either. 

If my father(read Fathers) told me as a father to be careful of "such and such" and "so and so" and also taught me how to recognize what is true and false, would I fully need to understand that which he warns me about to know that he is right? 

It has been said here that Roman Catholicism and Western Christianity are not singular but are rather complex.  This is true and easily understood.  However, though not monolithic in their composition, they do have a distinct "voice" which may be recognized.  As when one listens to a complex musical composition, a masterpiece let's say,  one hears an overall "meaning", quality,  theme or something singular.  Many elements go into the single overall piece which may be studied and picked apart separately according to the whole.  But, they do make a whole which *in general* make manifest an entity with which to form a stance of some kind towards.

I apologize for my "style" as I am beginning to realize that it may not be conventional.  I recognize that in my comments I also include experiential testimony with the Orthodox Faith and this may not be "academic".  I have endeavored to simply be as sincere and straightforward as possible.

Thank you again for the kind words you have offered.

In Christ,


Post Twenty Nine: "The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way" by unknown author(s)

(click on images to enlarge)

I don't wish to detract too much from my post's intent but I thought I should make brief mention of this.

This particular printing of this book was my favorite.  The reason was because of the "Forward" in which the author talks about his journey to Orthodoxy after having discovered The Prayer which is the focus of the book, "The Way of the Pilgrim and "The Pilgrim Continues His Way". In fact I remember a friend I wished to buy this version for several months ago.  I spent no little time searching online for "New Sarav Press", the publisher of this version, and not being able to find anything.

I thought that a bit strange at the time but other things occupied my time and I let go of my search.

Well, long story short, when I got around to doing a review of the book with this post,  I just happened to notice that "New Sarov Press" was part of a monastery called, "Christ of the Hills Monastery".  "Aha!", I thought, I will just Google the monastery and will in this manner find this version's publisher.

And then I realized what was the matter, why I hadn't been able to find "New Sarov Press" several months ago.  That big scandal that broke about the monastery that had allegations of sexual impropriety and a fake weeping icon was in fact the one that had published this version of "The Pilgrim".

The forward I had so liked(which is in this version I am posting on), was written by "Father Benedict".  There is a photo in the book of him which identifies him as the same man on the link I provide and as well another man is in the photo(in my book) who also had allegations brought against him.

This was a bit disconcerting for me.  But enough of that and on to the book.


Put simply, this whole book is about that most famous and beneficial prayer called "The Jesus Prayer", which in it's fullest form reads:  "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." It is often abbreviated to "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."

It is a very ancient prayer and its scriptural roots may be found in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 18: verses 9-14 in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.  In verse 13, the tax collector beats his breast and acknowledges his sinfulness before God begging Him that He would have mercy on him a sinner.

I have now read this book, I believe,  four times.  And of course, upon rereading it, I have drawn out more than in previous readings.  This could reasonably be inferred from my own understanding of the Life in Christ to be growing(I pray) and maturing to some extent.

For those unfamiliar with this book, read the back cover which you can click to enlarge.  The first paragraph explains well the entire book.

The book is actually two books.  The first part is The Way of a Pilgrim and the second part is The Pilgrim Continues His Way.

The first part of the book, The Way of a Pilgrim,  centers most around the actual mechanics of performing the Prayer.
 Elder Joseph the Hesychast, advising one of his spiritual children, referring to this book, tells him:
to acquire copies of it and distribute them to Christians, that they might benefit spiritually(Letter 78).  It is worth noting that in my meeting with him which I describe in Anchored in God, Father Joseph said to me:  'I suggest strongly that you read The Way of a Pilgrim.  This book shows the importance of mental prayer, or prayer of the heart, and the manner in which it is to be practiced.  The first part of this work is more valuable than the sequel, which seems to have been added by another author.'[1]
It should be made clear, however, that Elder Joseph was not stating that the sequel had no value but rather that he found more value in the first part.  In fact, the sections I provide further in the article are to found in the sequel, "The Pilgrim Continues His Way".

What became more clear to me this reading the book was that prayer was not merely to be for the Christian a thing we do but rather prayer is to be a way of life.  Or rather, prayer is to be life.  It was said of St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai that his was a world whose atmosphere was prayer.

The Orthodox Catholic Church believes that salvation is found with one's union to the Risen Christ.  Prayer is our means to have union with the Person of Christ.  And we must not envisage an impersonal relationship here but rather that the relationship is with Someone Who is intimate with us and with Whom we are striving to be intimate with on our part.

I do not here wish to go into any great detail on the Orthodox understanding on salvation but would like to bring to the reader's attention that our salvation depends on our union with Jesus Christ.  Prayer as a means to this union is indispensable.  Prayer to Him presupposes that He is God, that He is alive and that it is of interest to Him that we pray to effect our union with Him.  The effecting of this union must not be thought of again, as something of the abstract and impersonal, but as a union of love.

In the following section titled, The Secret of Salvation, Revealed by Unceasing Prayer, found on pages 176 through 186, one of the characters in the narrative, The Skhimnik, bidden by all the company he is present with, discloses a spiritual writer's instruction on how to attain salvation.  This is the opening section of that discourse:

The Skhimnik. How one is saved? This godly question naturally arises in the mind of every Christian who realizes the injured and enfeebled nature of man, and what is left of its original urge toward truth and righteousness. Everyone who has even some degree of faith in immortality and recompense in the life to come is involuntarily faced by the thought, "How am I to be saved?" when he turns his eyes toward heaven. When he tries to find a solution to this problem, he inquires of the wise and learned. Then under their guidance he reads edifying books by spiritual writers on this subject, and sets himself unswervingly to follow out the truths and the rules he has heard and read. In all these instructions he finds constantly put before him as necessary conditions of salvation a devout life and heroic struggles with himself which are to issue in decisive denial of self. This is to lead him on to the performance of good works, to the constant fulfillment of God's laws, and thus witness to the unshakableness and firmness of his faith. Further, they preach to him that all these conditions of salvation must necessarily be fulfilled with the deepest humility and in combination with one another. For as all good works depend on one another, so they should support one another, complete and encourage one another, just as the rays of the sun only reveal their strength and kindle a flame when they are focused through a glass on to one point. Otherwise, "He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."

In addition to this, to implant in him the strongest conviction of the necessity of this complex and unified virtue, he hears the highest praise bestowed upon the beauty of virtue, he listens to censure of the baseness and misery of vice. All this is imprinted upon his mind by truthful promises either of majestic rewards and happiness or of tormenting punishment and misery in the life to come. Such is the special character of preaching in modern times. Guided in this way, one who ardently wishes for salvation sets off in all joy to carry out what he has learned and to apply to experience all he has heard and read. But alas! even at the first step he finds it impossible to achieve his purpose. He foresees and even finds out by trial that his damaged and enfeebled nature will have the upper hand of the convictions of his mind, that his free will is bound, that his propensities are perverted, that his spiritual strength is but weakness. He naturally goes on to the thought: Is there not to be found some kind of means which will enable him to fulfill that which the law of God requires of him, which Christian devotion demands, and which all those who have found salvation and holiness have carried out? As the result of this and in order to reconcile in himself the demands of reason and conscience with the inadequacy of his strength to fulfill them, he applies once more to the preachers of salvation with the question: How am I to be saved? How is this inability to carry out the conditions of salvation to be justified; and are those who have preached all this that he has learned themselves strong enough to carry it out unswervingly?

Ask God. Pray to God. Pray for His help.

It seems that this question, "How am I to be saved?"  seems to be a trivial one until we confront the fact that often, in the midst of all our religious devotions, we have forgotten "the one needful thing"(Luke 10:42).  We have lost sight of why we are religious in the first place.  Or, we have been religious perhaps only because we are aesthetically drawn to the outward form of Religion.  The section I have provided is for those who have in some way honestly struggled with the question, "How am I to be saved?"

The Skhimnik goes on in the rest of this discourse to expound on the necessity of prayer working into unceasing prayer being of the utmost importance.  Building one layer upon the next, he goes on to show that this unceasing prayer is not impossible at all but lies in the will of each and everyone.  Prayer, as he says, as do the Holy Fathers who expound on it, may be approached scientifically.  That is the results,  if the instructions are followed with a sincere prolonged effort, are verifiable.

So our goal in prayer, to put it another way, is to seek to gain Christ Himself.  A wrong approach to undertaking prayer is for the sake of the gifts bestowed on the sincere practitioner of  prayer.

I mention this because in this book are many instances described of a mystical nature.  And the one reading who is not grounded in humility will see what is available to the one who practices the Prayer and perhaps unwittingly seek after the gifts or byproducts of the Prayer as an end in themselves when the goal of the Prayer is union with Christ Himself.  The gaining of Jesus Christ is the goal, not gifts to be used selfishly.

In other words, as we attain humility, He may add gifts to us as He sees fit.  But always we must check our motives to see if we are attaining "humility" for the sake of the gifts.  If so, we are accomplishing nothing.

Another one of this wonderful book's themes is that prayer practiced lends itself to giving direction to us.  Meaning, we just have learn to pray(this is not as easy as it sounds), and through the carrying out, or the attempt of carrying out, unceasing prayer, the path itself we are on becomes illumined.  We begin to see with a new set of eyes, or rather, the "spiritual eyes" we already have exercise their vision as they are meant to, as each human being, created in the image and likeness of God has been given a good nature and that good is natural to each of us.

Invariably we are unaware of these "eyes" as well as all the good things in our possession given to us by God.  It is necessary to uncover these things "hidden" or "covered" so long from our awareness through their lack of use because of our desiring of sin rather than exercises in holiness.

The section titled On the Power of Prayer found on pages 197 through 200 lays this out very well:

The Skhimnik. Prayer is so powerful, so mighty, that "pray, and do what you like." Prayer will guide you to right and just action. In order to please God nothing more is needed than love. "Love, and do what you will," says the Blessed Augustine, "for he who truly loves cannot wish to do anything which is not pleasing to the one he loves." Since prayer is the outpouring and the activity of love, then one can truly say of it similarly, "Nothing more is needed for salvation than continuous prayer." "Pray, and do what you will," and you will reach the goal of prayer. You will gain enlightenment by it.

To draw out our understanding of this matter in more detail, let us take some examples:

1. "Pray, and think what you will." Your thoughts will be purified by prayer. Prayer will give you enlightenment of mind; it will remove and drive away all ill-judged thoughts. This is asserted by St. Gregory the Sinaite. If you wish to drive away thoughts and purify the mind, his counsel is "drive them away by prayer." For nothing can control thoughts as prayer can. St. John of the Ladder also says about this, "Overcome the foes in your mind by the Name of Jesus. You will find no other weapon than this."

2. "Pray, and do what you will." Your acts will be pleasing to God and useful and salutary to yourself. Frequent prayer, whatever it may be about, does not remain fruitless, because in it is the power of grace, "for whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). For example a man who had prayed without success and without devotion was granted through this prayer clearness of understanding and a call to repentance. A pleasure-loving girl prayed on her return home, and the prayer showed her the way to the virgin life and obedience to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

3. "Pray, and do not labor much to conquer your passions by your own strength." Prayer will destroy them in you. "For greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4), says Holy Scripture. And St. John Karpathisky teaches that if you have not the gift of self-control, do not be cast down, but know that God requires of you diligence in prayer and the prayer will save you. The Starets about whom we are told in the Otechnik27 that, when he fell into sin, did not give way to depression, but betook himself to prayer and by it recovered his balance, is a case in point.

4. "Pray, and fear nothing." Fear no misfortunes, fear no disasters. Prayer will protect you and ward them off. Remember St. Peter, who had little faith and was sinking; St. Paul, who prayed in prison; the Monk who was delivered by prayer from the onset of temptation; the girl who was saved from the evil purpose of a soldier as the result of prayer; and similar cases, which illustrate the power, the might, the universality of prayer in the Name of Jesus Christ.

5. Pray somehow or other, only pray always and be disturbed by nothing. Be light in spirit and peaceful. Prayer will arrange everything and teach you. Remember what the Saints-John Chrysostom and Mark the Ascetic-say about the power of prayer. The first declares that prayer, even though it be offered by us who are full of sin, yet cleanses us at once. The latter says, "To pray somehow is within our power, but to pray purely is the gift of grace." So offer to God what it is within your power to offer. Bring to Him at first just quantity (which is within your power), and God will pour upon you strength in your weakness. "Prayer, dry and distracted maybe, but continuous, will establish a habit and become second nature and turn itself into prayer that is pure, luminous, flaming, and worthy."

6. It is to be noted, finally, that if the time of your vigilance in prayer is prolonged, then naturally no time will be left not only for doing sinful actions but even for thinking of them.

Now, do you see what profound thoughts are focused in that wise saying, "Love, and do what you will"; "Pray, and do what you will"? How comforting and consoling is all this for the sinner overwhelmed by his weakness, groaning under the burden of his warring passions.

Prayer-there you have the whole of what is given to us as the universal means of salvation and of the growth of the soul into perfection. Just that. But when prayer is named, a condition is added. Pray without ceasing is the command of God's Word. Consequently, prayer shows its most effective power and fruit when it is offered often, ceaselessly; for frequency of prayer undoubtedly belongs to our will, just as purity, zeal and perfection in prayer are the gifts of grace.

And so we will pray as often as we can; we will consecrate our whole life to prayer, even if it be subject to distractions to begin with. Frequent practice of it will teach us attentiveness. Quantity will certainly lead on to quality. "If you want to learn to do anything whatever well you must do it as often as possible," said an experienced spiritual writer.

27Otechnik. Lives of the Fathers with extracts from their writings.

There is so much wealth to be found in this book that I would recommend returning to it often in the course of our lives.  I cannot with this post fully expound on it but I would like to close with the following meditation.

According to the Church's understanding of the Fall and how the world held captive by Satan wars against the Church and all who would live godly, we must remember to keep before us Orthodox Anthropology as understood by the Holy Fathers.  Orthodox Anthropology has a very well established and empirically verifiable understanding of humanity and all the passions humanity since the Fall has "attached" to itself as well the passions' cure.  And I mean for the sake of what I'm saying that when we imbibe and feast on what our unchecked senses take in, these things all find their way into our hearts.  They reign there.

The practice of the Prayer, as well as "sacred space" in the Church(Icons, chanting, incense, etc.) and expanded even more in larger settings such as monasteries, counteracts this sensuality and begins to loosen the grip we have to the world's lusts and conversely the world's grip on us is loosened as well.

All the Church has given us as medicine to counteract the Fall, but especially the Prayer, is like an earth mover, digging in the heart and little by little counteracting the momentum the world has gained within us.  Especially important is the Prayer because with physical spaces we are limited perhaps to how we may find ourselves in such settings.  The Prayer we can make a part of ourselves.  Even should we lose our tongues, inwardly we can, by the act of our will with God's Grace,  always recite the Prayer.


[1]Constantine Cavarnos in the Prolegomena of Monastic Wisdom The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast(1998 St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery) pp. 30-31


There is a difference between sin and heresy

 by Sophocles Frangakis

Ecumenism as a heresy is today known by many as the "Pan Heresy" of our day.

There is a difference between sin and heresy.

Sin is the missing of an established bar whether willfully or through negligence, sloth, ignorance and for any other reason.  Yet, in the missing of this mark, or not measuring to the bar, the sinner yet acknowledges that the bar exists in place as a way to measure oneself accurately.  In other words, the sinner recognizes the bar as "fixed" in place by God.  When he falls, the sinner strives to hit the bar.  He says to himself, "I was not able to attain to the measure of the bar established by God.  God is not at fault for this, I am.  I must struggle more diligently to not miss the mark."

A heresy is altogether different, even though it is also a sin, but of a different nature.  A heretic looks at the established bar and says within himself, "This is not the bar.  This is the bar",  establishing according to himself the criteria of what merits the bar.  It is arbitrary in nature and has no real existence but a shadowy one.  It is not of God, not of the truth.  Further, when the bar is moved from its proper place, sinners do not have the proper measure of a bar to repent to.  This is very dangerous, this obscuring or diverting the sinner from the proper repentance.  This is why heresy must be fought against vigorously.

The following story of Abba Agathon tells the story of the difference between sin and heresy very well.


It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper they said to him,

''Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?"

"'Yes, it is very true," he answered.

They resumed, "Aren't you that Agathon who is always talking nonsense?"

"'I am."

Again they said, "Aren't you Agathon the heretic?"

But at that he replied, "I am not a heretic."

So they asked him, "Tell us why you accepted everything we cast you, but repudiated this last insult."

He replied, "The first accusations I take to myself for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God."

At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Holy Martyrs Agapius, Publius, Timolaus, Romulus, Alexander, Alexander, Dionysius and Dionysius

Commemorated on March 15

The Holy Martyrs Agapius, Publius, Timolaus, Romulus, Alexander, Alexander, Dionysius and Dionysius suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) in the city of Palestinian Caesarea. During one of the pagan festivals they began to torture and execute Christians who refused to offer sacrifice to idols.

The Martyr Timolaus (August 19) was sentenced to burning, and the Martyrs Agapius and Thekla (August 19) were sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts. A group of young Christians: Publius, Timolaus, Alexander, another Alexander, Dionysius, and Romulus, the subdeacon of the Diospolis church decided to confess their faith and suffer for Christ.

As a sign of their voluntary deed they tied their own hands behind their backs and appeared before the governor Urbanus. Seeing their youth, the governor tried to persuade them to reconsider their decision, but in vain. He then threw them in prison, where there were already two Christians, Agapius and his servant Dionysius. All these saints were subjected to terrible tortures and beheaded.

Troparion - Tone 4

Your soul aflame with love for Christ,
You gathered a company of illustrious athletes, O glorious (Agapius/ Publius/ Timolaus/ Romulus/Alexander/ Alexander/ Dionysius/Dionysius).
With them you excelled in righteous contest,
And together you were beheaded by the sword.
Henceforth always pray for the forgiveness of our sins!

Kontakion - Tone 4

Out of love for Christ
The eight-fold choir of martyrs spurned all earthly things.
As they were beheaded
They cried out together:
O compassionate One, give joy to your servants!

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Icon of the Mother of God of St Theodore

Commemorated on March 14

The Theodore - Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Evangelist Luke and resembles the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

This icon received its name from Great Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (+ 1246), the father of St Alexander Nevsky, and who in holy Baptism was named Theodore in honor of St Theodore Stratelates (February 8).

According to Tradition, the icon was found by his elder brother, St George (February 4), in an old wooden chapel near the city of Gorodets. Later, the Gorodetsk Theodorov monastery was built on this spot. Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the Great Prince of Vladimir after his brother St George perished in battle with the Mongols at the Sita River. In the year 1239, he solemnly transferred the relics of his brother from Rostov to the Vladimir Dormition cathedral. He gave the icon which he inherited from his brother to his own son, St Alexander Nevsky.

Yaroslav-Theodore is renowned in Russian history. He continued with the glorious traditions of his uncle St Andrew Bogoliubsky (July 4), and of his father Vsevolod III Big-Nest, and he was connected to almost all of the significant events in the history of Rus in the first half of the thirteenth century.

Russia was burned and torn apart by the Mongols in 1237-1238. He raised it up from the ashes, rebuilt and embellished the cities, the holy monasteries and the churches. He restored cities along the Volga devastated by the enemy: Kashin, Uglich, Yaroslavl', Kostroma, Gorodets.

He founded he church of Theodore Stratelates at Kostroma and the Theodorov monastery near Gorodets in honor of his patron saint. For eight years he ruled as Great Prince, but he had to guide the land through a singularly difficult path, maintaining a military-political balance with the Golden Horde to the East, while mounting an active opposition to Catholic Europe in the West. His closest companion was his son, St Alexander Nevsky, who also continued his policies.

The wonderworking Theodore Icon of the Mother of God was constantly with St Alexander, and he prayed before it. After St Alexander Nevsky died on November 14, 1263 at the monastery founded by his father, the icon was taken by his younger brother Basil.

Basil Yaroslavich was the youngest (eighth) son of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. In 1246 after the death of his father (Prince Yaroslav was poisoned in the capital city of Mongolia, Karakorum when he was only five years old) Basil became prince of the Kostroma appanage-holding, the least important of his father's domains. In the year 1272, he became Great Prince of Vladimir.

His four years as Great Prince (1272-1276) were filled with fratricidal princely quarrels. For several years he waged war against Novgorod with an unruly nephew Demetrius. In becoming Great Prince, however, Basil did not journey to Vladimir, but remained under the protection of the wonderworking icon at Kostroma, regarding this place as safer in case of new outbreaks of strife.

He had occasion also to defend Rus against external enemies. In 1272, during a Tatar incursion, a Russian army came forth from Kostroma to engage them. Following the example of his grandfather, St Andrew Bogoliubsky (who took the wonderworking Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God with him on military campaigns), Prince Basil went into battle with the wonderworking Theodore Icon. A blinding light came forth from the holy image, and the Tatars dispersed and fled from the Russian land.

The Chronicles say that the Great Prince Basil had a special love for the Church and the clergy. After the martyric death of Bishop Metrophanes of Vladimir during the storming of Vladimir by Tatars on February 4, 1238, the Vladimir diocese had remained widowed for many years. This grieved Great Prince Basil. With his help, a large cathedral was constructed in Vladimir in 1274. This was apparently in connection with the consecration of St Serapion (July 12) as Bishop of Vladimir. He was an igumen from the Monastery of the Caves.

Metropolitan Cyril III (+ 1282) presided over a council of Russian hierarchs. This was the first council in the Russian Church since the time of the Mongol invasion. Many problems and disorders had arisen in Church life, but the Russian Church was just barely beginning to recover from the woe that had befallen it. One of its main tasks was to recover a Russian churchly literacy, and the restoration of the tradition of the ancient Russian "princely order."

Without books the Church's salvific activity would be almost impossible. Books were needed for church services, and for preaching, for the monastic cell rule, and for believers to read at home. Through the efforts of Metropolitan Cyril and the Russian bishops and monastic scholars, this important task was begun. The council approved new editions of essential books which formed the canonical basis of Orthodox church life.

In 1276, Prince Basil completed his life's journey. Most of the important events in his life occured with the blessing of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God. He died at Kostroma, and there he also found his final resting place. Since that time, the holy icon has been in the Kostroma cathedral of St Theodore Stratelates.

Renewed interest in the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God and the spread of its veneration throughout all Russia is connected with events of the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the end of the Time of Troubles. In the year 1613, the wonderworking Theodore Icon from the Kostroma cathedral was used at the proclamation of Michael Romanov as the new Tsar. In memory of this historic event, March 14 was designated for the commemoration of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God.

Numerous copies were made from the Kostroma Theodore Icon, and one of the first was commissioned and brought to Moscow by Tsar Michael's mother, the nun Martha. From the second half of the seventeenth century, various copies of the Theodore Icon were enlarged with scenes depicting events from the history of the wonderworking icon.

In the year 1670 the hierodeacon Longinus from the Kostroma Hypatiev monastery wrote the "Narrative concerning the Manifestations and Miracles of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God in Kostroma." Not all the things contained in it agree with things previously stated.

The Theodore Icon is two-sided. On the reverse side is the image of the holy Great Martyr Paraskeva, depicted in the splendid attire of a princess. It is believed that the image of Paraskeva on the reverse of the icon is connected with the wife of St Alexander Nevsky.

The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of St Theodore is also commemorated on August 16.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):