Saint Eanswythe was born around 614, the only daughter of King Eadbald of Kent and his wife Emma, who was a Frankish princess. At the time of Eanswythe's birth, her father was probably a pagan, while her mother was almost certainly a Christian. Therefore, it is highly likely that Eanswythe was baptized and raised as a Christian.
When she was two years old, her paternal grandfather King Ethelbert of Kent (February 25) died. St Ethelbert had been baptized at St Martin's church in Canterbury by St Augustine of Canterbury (May 28). It was St Augustine who came to England in 597 with several monks in order to re-establish Christianity, which had almost been wiped out by the pagan Anglo-Saxons. These monks carried out their missionary work under the protection of King Ethelbert.
Eanswythe's father King Eadbald offered no opposition to Christianity while his father was alive. When St Ethelbert died, however, Eadbald's attitude changed. Not only did he embrace idolatry, he also married his father's second wife (Bede, ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE Book 2, ch. 1). While this practice was prohibited by Church law, it was quite common among the pagan royalty.
About this time, King Sabert of the East Saxons (and a convert to Christianity) passed away. His three sons were pagans, and so idolatry returned to that territory as well.
St Laurence of Canterbury (February 3), St Mellitus of London (April 24), and St Justus of Rochester (November 10) held a council to determine what they should do. They decided that they should not waste their time among the pagans, and to go where people would be more receptive to their preaching. Appalled by the King's behavior and by the rise of paganism, Sts Mellitus and Justus went to Gaul.
The night before he was to leave Canterbury, St Laurence decided to sleep in the church of Sts Peter and Paul. St Peter appeared to him and rebuked him for even thinking of leaving his flock. He also beat St Laurence, who remained with his flock and even converted King Eadbald.
The king ended his unlawful marriage and was baptized. Within a year, St Justus returned to Rochester. The people of London, who lived in the realm of the East Saxons, refused to accept St Mellitus back to his See. Following the death of St Laurence in 619, St Mellitus succeeded him as Archbishop of Canterbury.
From her childhood, St Eanswythe showed little interest in worldly pursuits, for she desired to dedicate her virginity to God and to serve Him as a nun. Her father, on the other hand, wanted her to marry. St Eanswythe told him that she would not have any earthly suitor whose love for her might also be mixed with dislike. There was a high rate of mortality for children in those days, so she knew it was likely that at least some of hers would also die. All of these sorrows awaited her if she obeyed her father. The young princess told her father that she had chosen an immortal Bridegroom Who would give her unceasing love and joy, and to Whom she had dedicated herself. She went on to say that she had chosen the good portion (Luke 10:42), and she asked her father to build her a cell where she might pray.
The king ultimately gave in to his daughter, and built her a monastery in Folkestone in Kent. While the monastery was under construction, a pagan prince came to Kent seeking to marry Eanswythe. King Eadbald, whose sister St Ethelburga (April 5) married the pagan King Edwin (October 12) two or three years before, recalled that this wedding resulted in Edwin's conversion. Perhaps he hoped that something similar would happen if Eanswythe married the Northumbrian prince. Eanswythe, however, insisted that she would not exchange heavenly blessings for the things of this world, nor would she accept the fleeting joys of this life in place of eternal bliss.
Around the year 630, the building of the monastery was completed. This was the first women's monastery to be founded in England. St Eanswythe lived there with her companions in the monastic life, and they may have been guided by some of the Roman monks who had come to England with St Augustine in 597.
St Eanswythe was not made abbess at this time, for she was only sixteen years old. We do not know of any other abbess before St Eanswythe, but a few experienced nuns may have been sent from Europe to teach the others the monastic way of life. A temporary Superior could have been appointed until the nuns were able to elect their own abbess.
There are many stories of St Eanswythe's miracles before and after her death. Among other things, she gave sight to a blind man, and cast out a demon from one who had been possessed.
We know few details about the rest of St Eanswythe's life. Following the monastic Rule, she prayed to God day and night. When she was not in church, she spent her waking hours reading spiritual books and in manual labor. This may have consisted of copying and binding manuscripts. The nuns probably wove cloth for their clothing, and also for church vestments. They cared for the sick and aged nuns of their own community, as well as for the poor and infirm from outside. Then there was the daily routine of cooking and cleaning.
According to Tradition, St Eanswythe fell asleep in the Lord on the last day of August 640 when she was only in her mid-twenties. Her father King Eadbald also died in the same year.
The monastery at Folkestone did not last very long after the saint's death. Some say it was destroyed by the sea, while others say it was sacked by the Danes in 867. St Eanswythe's holy relics were moved to the nearby church of Sts Peter and Paul, which was farther away from the sea. In 927 King Athelstan granted the land where the monastery had stood to the monks of Christchurch, Canterbury.
As time passed, the sea continued to encroach on the land. In 1138 a new monastery and church, dedicated to St Mary and St Eanswythe, were built farther inland. The relics of St Eanswythe were transferred once again, this time from the church of Sts Peter and Paul to the new priory church. During the Middle Ages, this second transfer of her relics was celebrated on September 12, which is the present Feast Day of the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe.
On November 15, 1535 the priory was seized by the officers of the King, who plundered the church of its valuables. The shrine of St Eanswythe was destroyed, but her relics had been hidden to protect them.
On June 17, 1885 workmen in the church discovered a niche in the walls which had been plastered up. Removing the plaster, they found a reliquary made of lead, about fourteen inches long, nine inches wide, and eight inches high. Judging by the ornamentation on the reliquary, it dated from the twelfth century. A number of bones were found inside, which experts said were those of a young woman. Today the niche is lined with alabaster, and is covered by a brass door and a grille.
At first, the holy relics were brought out for veneration every year on the parish Feast Day. This practice ended when several parishioners accused the Vicar of "worshiping" the relics. Although St Eanswythe's relics are no longer offered for public veneration, candles and flowers are sometimes placed before the brass door where they are immured.
An Orthodox iconographer has presented the parish of St Mary and St Eanswythe with an icon of the saint.
Historic decision: Erdogan returns seized property to religious minorities
by NAT da Polis
A decree published last night for the return of thousands of properties seized in '36, just hours before an Iftar of the Prime Minister with representatives of religious minorities. The beneficiaries are Greek-orthodox Christians, Armenians, Jews. Roman Catholics do not fall within the recognized minorities. The Prime Minister’s hopes: end to era of discrimination.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - In a sudden twist, the Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan has decided to return thousands of properties, confiscated by the government after 1936, to non-Muslim religious foundations.
This is Erdogan’s second surprise reserved for the old establishment of the Turkish Republic after the recent decapitation of the heads of the armed forces and the return of the primacy of politics over the military.
The publication of the draft-law on the restitution of property took place yesterday, just hours earlier than the traditional Iftar [the dinner-party that celebrates the end of the Ramadan fast] which the representative of the non-Muslim religious foundations, Lakis Vingas, held last night with the Prime Minister guest of honour.
The publication of the draft-law is a real "coup de theater": it will return all property to religious foundations that the Turkish administration with various subterfuges has seized in the past, after the census of 1936. Non-Muslim religious foundations means those recognized by various international treaties signed by Turkish Republic after 1923.
The decree has been published within a few days of Bartholomew I’s request for the return of unjustly usurped properties to minorities. In his campaign to see the return of certain properties of the Greek-orthodox communities, Bartholomew I had approached various European forums.
The decree provides:
1) the restitution of property as they were surveyed and registered in 1936 and subsequently confiscated from the religious foundations by the various administrations of the Republic of Turkey;
2) the return of the management of cemeteries belonging to non-Muslim foundations, which have been improperly sold to various towns and municipalities;
3) the restitution of undefined deeded property (such as monasteries and parishes), which were never recognized as legal entities by the Turkish Republic.
4) In the event that these properties have been sold or disposed of in various ways by the Turkish state parties, the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Turkey will establish with the owners a just compensation.
Interested parties are invited to submit the relevant documentation to the Directorate General of Foundations within 12 months.
It should be noted that the last law of the Turkish parliament voted on February 20, 2008, challenged and never accepted by opposition did not provide any of these regulations. What remains to be determined is the fate of mazbut properties (the so-called "occupied" properties) in which management, administration and property passed to the Turkish state.
According to an initial calculation, the decree provides for the restitution of 1000 properties to the Greek-orthodox Christians, 100 to the Armenians, numerous properties to the Chaldean Catholics and also to the Jews.
Nothing is expected for the Roman Catholics as they do not fall under the Treaty of Lausanne. But according to observers, the passage of the decree gives hope.
The decree has provoked positive reactions from all minority representatives. The director of the non-Muslim foundations described it as "a step of great importance and great historical content", the lawyer for minorities, Dr. Kezmpan, described it as a great revolution, after the liberation from the military dominance” . Another lawyer, Dr Hatem said that finally "the wrong done to the Church is restored."
In recent years the EU has always asked Turkey to take steps to remove discriminatory laws against religious minorities. And in some cases the European Court for Human Rights has condemned the Turkish state to return property or compensate the former owners.
At the Iftar yesterday, Erdogan said: "Like everyone else, we also do know about the injustices that different religious groups have been subjected to because of their differences…Times that a citizen of ours would be oppressed due to his religion, ethnic origin or different way of life are over".
Saint Alexander was sent to the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea as the delegate of Saint Metrophanes, Bishop of Constantinople (see June 4), to whose throne he succeeded in the year 325. When Arius had deceitfully professed allegiance to the Council of Nicaea, Saint Alexander, knowing his guile, refused to receive him into communion; Arius' powerful partisans threatened that they would use force to bring Arius into the communion of the Church the following day. Saint Alexander prayed fervently that God might spare the Church; and as Arius was in a privy place relieving nature, his bowels gushed forth with an effusion of blood, and the arch-heresiarch died the death of Judas. Saint Alexander was Bishop from 325 until 337, when he was succeeded by Saint Paul the Confessor, who died a martyr's death at the hands of the Arians (see Nov. 6). The Saint John commemorated here appears to be the one who was Patriarch during the years 562-577, surnamed Scholasticus, who is also commemorated on February 21. He was from Antioch, where he had been a lawyer (scholasticus); he was made presbyter, then was sent to Constantinople as representative (apocrisiarius) of the Patriarch of Antioch, and was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian. Saint Paul was Bishop of Constantinople during the years 687 - 693, in the reign of Emperor Justinian II, and presided over the Quinisext Council in 692.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Aflame with love for Christ, ye took His yoke upon yourselves; and since ye emulated well His life upon the earth, ye were also made partakers of His great glory. Now, O Fathers Alexander the divinely-wise, wondrous John, and glorious Paul, ye stand before His throne; wherefore, fervently intercede with Him to save our souls.
The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the seal of all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the forerunner of Christ's coming into the world (Esaias 40: 3; Mal. 3: 1); who by many miracles was both conceived and born; who was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb; who came forth like another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal for God's Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached the baptism of repentance according to God's command; had taught men of low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished those whom he baptized and had filled them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he do not works worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the people the very Savior, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (Luke 3:2-18; John 1: 29-36), after all this, John sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a sacred victim for the divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.
This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in II Cor. 11:32). Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, censured him and told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (Mark 6: 18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great reverence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please him and those who were supping with him, he promised her -- with an oath more foolish than any foolishness -- that he would give her anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (Mark 6: 21 - 29). Concerning the finding of his holy head, see February 24 and May 25.
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou was granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.
On this day the Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Holy Fathers of the Kiev Caves, whose relics repose in the Far Caves of St Theodosius. They have their own individual days of commemoration, but today we honor the whole assembly of these monastic saints who were a light upon the earth, guiding us on the path of salvation.
Igumen Theodosius, the Founder (May 3, August 14, September 2) Monk Agathon the Wonderworker (February 20) Archimandrite Acindynus (+1235) Monk Ammon (October 4) Bishop Amphilochius of Vladimir, Volhynia (October 10) Monk Anatolius the Recluse (July 3) Monk Aquila the Deacon (January 4) Monk Arsenius, Lover of Labor (May 8) Monk Athanasius the Recluse (December 2) Monk Benjamin the Recluse (October 13) Monk Cassian the Recluse (February 29, May 8) Elder Daniel (14th Century) Hieromonk Dionysius the Recluse (October 3) Archimandrite Dositheus (+ 1218) Elder Eulogius (14th Century) Hieroschemamonk Euthymius (January 20) Monk Gerontius the Canonarch (April 1) Monk Gregory the Recluse (January 8, August 8) Schemamonk Hilarion (October 21) Monk Hypatius the Healer (March 31) Archimandrite Ignatius (December 20) Monk Isidore the Recluse (12th-13th Centuries) Monk Joseph the Much-Ailing (April 4) Monk Laurence the Recluse (January 20) Monk Leontius the Canonarch (April 1, June 18) Monk Longinus the Gate-Keeper (October 16) Hieromartyr Lucian the Priest (October 15) Monk Macarius the Deacon (January 19) Monk Mardarius the Recluse (December 13) Monk Martyrius the Recluse (October 25) Monk Martyrius the Deacon (October 25) Monk Mercurius the Faster (November 4, 24) Monk Moses the Wonderworker (July 26, 28) Monk Nestor the Unlearned (October 29) Monk Paisius (July 19) Hieromonk Pambo the Recluse (July 18) Hieromonk Pancratius the Recluse (February 9) Monk Paphnutius the Recluse (February 15) Monk Paul the Obedient (September 10) Igumen Pimen the Faster (May 8, August 7) Monk Pior the Recluse (October 4) Monk Rufus the Obedient (April 8) Schemamonk Silvanus (June 10, July 10) Schemamonk Sisoes (July 6) Monk Sophronius the Recluse (March 11, May 11) Monk Theodore the Silent (February 17) Monk Theodosius (Prince Theodore) (August 11) Archbishop Theophilus of Novgorod (October 26) Igumen Timothy (+ 1132) Monk Titus the Soldier (January 27, February 27) Monk Zachariah the Faster (March 24) Monk Zeno the Faster (January 30)
Little is known of the holy Martyr Phanourios, except that which is depicted concerning his martyrdom on his holy icon, which was discovered in the year 1500 among the ruins of an ancient church on Rhodes, when the Moslems ruled there. Thus he is called "the Newly Revealed." The faithful pray to Saint Phanourius especially to help them recover things that have been lost, and because he has answered their prayers so often, the custom has arisen of baking a Phaneropita ("Phanourios-Cake") as a thanks-offering.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
From a vile captivity, thou didst deliver the Lord's priests, and, O godly-minded one, didst break their bonds by divine might; thou didst bravely shame the tyrants' audacious madness, giving joy unto the Angels, O thou Great Martyr. O Phanourios most glorious, we all revere thee as a true warrior of God.
O Holy Apostles, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offenses.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The marvelous return of thine all-holy relics is now for us the cause of a feast bright and joyous, O all-famed Bartholomew, thou Apostle of God the Lord. Paying homage to thy feast, we piously honor thee, the lamp whose light doth never dim; and we worship and magnify Christ our God.
Saint Kosmas the Aitolian, or Patrokosmas, as he is called, is a figure in both church and national history who in the 18th century cast his light upon the path which the Greeks would follow a little before the outbreak of the Struggle for Liberation. He was the son of devout parents who brought him up accordingly, and he came from the village of Mega Dendron in Aitolia.
His aptitude for learning took him to the school run by the Vatopedi Monastery on the Holy Mountain, where he studied under teachers famed for their learning. When the Athonite Academy fell into decay, the young Kostas (his name in the world) went to the Philotheou Monastery. There he was tonsured a monk and given the name of Kosmas and zealously engaged in many ascetic practices. At the request of the fathers of the Monastery, he was ordained a priest.
St. Kosmas had a burning desire to be of service to his brothers in Christ who were suffering so many hardships. The enslavement of many years with the subsequent degradation of life, ignorance, and the decline into barbarity in behaviour were the scourges of the mass of Christians. The reflections of St. Kosmas on this situation led him to go out to the people and begin a series of preaching tours. As his thoughts matured, with the permission of the fathers of the Monastery, around 1760 he left for Constantinople, where he received the blessing of the Patriarch Seraphim II.
St. Kosmas began his preaching from the enslaved Capital itself. He then went to Nafpaktos, Mesolonghi, and other areas, returning to Constantinople in 1774. With the permission of the new Patriarch Sophronius II, the Saint resumed his apostolic task. He returned for a little while to Athos, but his love for the Church’s flock led his steps to Thessaloniki, Veria, and other parts of Macedonia. From there, he moved on to Acarnania and Aitolia, as far as Arta and Preveza.
Because of the large crowds which followed him, the Saint used to preach on open plains, always with the permission of the local bishop and aga (local Turkish official). His words were simple, but filled with the Holy Spirit. It was his custom wherever he was going to preach to tell the people to construct a wooden cross. He would then place a stool which he carried with him against the cross and preach standing upon it. The cross would remain as a reminder of his preaching. The Saint urged the Christians to build schools so that their children could learn about the Faith and be well-grounded in Christian piety. He would speak to them about the services of the Church, explain to them the value of repentance and confession, warning them against sin and urging them to lead lives of goodness.
As with the Apostles, St. Kosmas’ preaching was often confirmed by miraculous signs. The Saint was admired and even feared by many Turks, and hated by many Jews. They spread unfounded accusations against him and slandered him to Kurt Pasha, to whom they offered money if he would put St. Kosmas to death. Kurt Pasha conspired with the hodja of the village of Kolikontasi in Albania that a trap would be set for St. Kosmas. On the pretext that the Pasha wished to see him, they took the Saint to a remote spot and hung him on August 24th, 1779. His murderers stripped the sanctified body of the Saint, tied a stone to it, and threw it into the river. The local Christians looked for his corpse, but could not find it. In a miraculous manner it rose to the surface and was pulled out by Papa Markos, the priest of the All-Holy Theotokos of the Presentation Monastery, which is near Kolikontasi, and buried it at the back of the sanctuary. Many other miracles followed the martyr’s death of the Saint, and he was quickly established in the mind of the people not only as a martyr but as a true apostle.
Our holy Father Kosmas was from the town of Mega Dendron (Great Tree) of Aitolia. At the age of twenty, he went to study at the school of the Monastery of Vatopedi on the Holy Mountain. Later, he came to the Athonite Monastery of Philotheou where he was tonsured. With the blessing of his abbot, he departed for Constantinople where he learned the art of rhetoric, and thereafter, he began to preach throughout all the regions of northern Greece, the Ionian Islands, but especially in Albania, for the Christian people there were in great ignorance because of the oppression and cruelty of the Moslems. Finally, in 1776, after having greatly strengthened and enlightened the faithful, working many signs and wonders all the while, he was falsely accused by the leaders of the Jewish people and was executed by strangulation by the Moslem Turks in Albania.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Come from Aitolia, O God-bearing Father, thou didst become a righteous monk on Mount Athos; and as a true initiate of the glory of God, thou didst preach the word of truth to all men, O most blest one, and didst bring them all to Christ as a true emulator of the Apostles' choir, and thou didst prove a hieromartyr in shedding thy sacred blood.
Saint Callinicus, Patriarch of Constantinople (693-705), was at first a presbyter in the temple of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae, but in 693 with the death of Patriarch Paul (686-693), he was elevated to the episcopal throne of Constantinople. The cruel Justinian II (685-695) reigned at this time. He undertook the construction of a palace very near the church of the Most Holy Theotokos and decided to demolish it. The emperor ordered Patriarch Callinicus to give his blessing for tearing it down. The patriarch replied that he had prayers only for the building of churches, not their destruction. When the church was demolished, he cried out with tears, "Glory to Thee, O Lord, in enduring all things."
Soon the wrath of God befell Justinian. He was toppled from the throne and sent for imprisonment to Cherson, where they cut off his nose (from which he received the nickname "Short-nose"). Leontius (695-698) succeeded him on the throne.
The Martyr Eulalia lived in Spain, near the city of Barcionum (now Barcelona), and she was raised by her parents in piety and the Christian faith. Already at fourteen years of age, the maiden spent a solitary life in her parental home with others of her own age, occupied in prayer, the reading of Holy Scripture, and handicrafts.
During the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311), the governor Dacian arrived in the city of Barcionum to rid it of Christians. Hearing of this, the maiden secretly left her home at night, and by morning had made her way into the city. Pushing her way through the throng of people, the girl made a bold denunciation of the judge for forcing people to renounce the True God in order to offer sacrifice to devils instead.
Dacian gave orders to strip the girl and beat her with rods, but she steadfastly endured the torment and told the judge that the Lord would deliver her from the pain. They tied the martyr to a tree and tore her skin with iron claws, and they then burned her wounds with torches.
During her torment, Dacian asked the saint,"Where then is your God, Whom you have called upon?" She answered that the Lord was beside her, but that Dacian in his impurity could not see Him. During the saint's prayer: "Behold, God helps me, and the Lord is the defender of my soul" (Ps. 53/54:4), the flames of the torches turned back upon the torturers, who fell to the ground.
The Martyr Eulalia began to pray that the Lord would take her to Heaven to Himself, and with this prayer she died. People saw a white dove come from her mouth and fly up to Heaven. Then a sudden snowstorm covered the martyr's naked body like a white garment (the saint's commemoration is sometimes given as December 10, which may be more correct, in view of the snow).
Three days later, the martyr's parents came and wept before her hanging body, but they were also glad that their daughter would be numbered among the saints. When they took St Eulalia from the tree, one of the Christians, named Felix, said with tears of joy: "Lady Eulalia, you are the first of us to win the martyr's crown!"
St Felix himself soon accepted death for Christ, and is also commemorated on this day.
By: Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
All that we have mentioned define the faith of Orthodoxy and protect the Mystery of man's salvation. They also establish the position of every believer vis-a-vis God, the world and his fellow man and constitute the Orthodox mind (φρόνημα) or spirit. We do not have here the result of an attempt on man's part to develop a type of self-salvation, but the result of a cooperation between God and man.
Man, through his fall, was deprived of God's Grace and depending upon his own powers, followed his own path. He was not able to prevail over his passions and was subdued by the spirit or mind of the flesh. In the person of Jesus Christ, God reached out to man and brought him back to the communion of His Grace. In Christ Jesus, man becomes a partaker of the life of God, he overcomes his carnal-mindedness and embraces spiritual -mindedness which is "life and peace" (Rom. 8,6), the mind of Christ (Philip. 2, 5. I Cor. 2, 16). He no longer "minds" [sets his affection on] "things on the earth" but on "things in heaven" (Col. 3,2).
An essential change has come about in the man who is "in Christ": he has become a "new man", and new creation; he is completely Christified. This is the result of man's embodiment into the Body of Christ and of his partaking of the divine Eucharist. St. Symeon the New Theologian expresses this in the most moving way:
"We become members of Christ, and Christ our members, and Christ becomes the hand and Christ the foot of me the wretched one; I move my hand, and Christ is my entire hand. for you must understand the holy Divinity as being inseparable from me".
This Christification of all of man leads the faithful to respect his body. The words of the St. Symeon are most moving. When we understand ourselves, who we are and who we have become in Christ, we will discern the miracle. We will respect and be timid before our very selves and will respect ourselves as we respect Christ:
"And I marvel, understanding myself, from Whom I have become as such; Ο Miracle. And I respect myself and am timid And as You I honor and respect myself And I wonder being bashful all over, Where to sit, and whom to approach. And where- to rest Your members. For what works, and for what actions Should I employ Your fearful and divine members?"
All of man becomes Christified and feels infinite respect for his members which have become "members of Christ". This leads man to a completely new behavior towards his own body. His body no longer belongs to him but to Christ; it becomes a "temple of the Holy Spirit". Man cannot do whatever he wants with his body or with that of his neighbor. He must approach it with the same devotion and respect which he attributes to God's temple. Any other behavior is a desecration.
His entire position vis-a-vis God, the world, his fellow man and his entire self becomes analogous to the height of the glory of Christified man. His life henceforth responds once again to his nature, to creation "according to the image" of God. He forsakes his autonomy and freely chooses the communion of love.
Love is undoubtedly the gift of God, the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5, 22). But a necessary prerequisite for one to accept the Grace of the Holy Spirit is that it be his wholehearted choice, a reception on the part of the mind and the heart, which leads to obedience of God's commandments (Jn 14, 23). God loves man and gives him the possibility, if he himself so desires, to respond with his love to God's love and thus be changed into "an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2, 22).
But this for the believer implies a way of life. It presupposes his decision and firm desire to "crucify his flesh together with his passions and desires" and to struggle with all his being to acquire the virtues of God, making this his aim with absolute priority.
But again, that which man shall attain to with his own attempts will not be the saving virtues which are God's gifts, but only the fruits of man's labor. Yet in this manner he demonstrates in deed, with all its personal consequences, his personal choice and wholehearted turning towards God; his desire to acquire the gifts of God. Then can he ask God to give him His grace, and God "takes into consideration" man's struggles, accepts the fruits of these labors and He transforms them into the gifts of the Holy Spirit, into love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance" (Gal. 5, 22).
This new "mind", this new way of thinking, presupposes that the believer will forsake his autonomy and accept his insufficiency and inability to achieve the meaning of life, i.e. that he will repent "meta-noia": change his way of thinking. An autonomous man is also he who seeks to justify his life with good deeds or by any type of "technical" processes, outside the realm of God's Grace in Christ Jesus. The Orthodox "mind" or way of thinking is free from all concepts of self-justification (Rom. 3, 20. Gal. 5,4). The true believer looks at his sinfulness and insufficiency in the face and looks to Christ with complete trust. It is for this reason that "the publicans and harlots enter the Kingdom of God before those who are convinced of their righteousness and depend upon it" (Matth. 21,31).
The Fathers of the Church talk about the "convulsions of the heart" which at the same time constitute the "opening up" for the Grace of God to enter into man's soul. The hymns of the Great Canon express this reality in the life of the faithful.
Through true repentance the faithful has the feeling that he finds himself in an ocean bed: " for no child of Adam has sinned as I have sinned unto You". He is convinced that this great distance separating him from God springs only from his disposition, "by myself have I sinned unto You"; and further, he expresses his inability to weep in repentance: "neither tears, nor repentance, not even contrition do I have". However man's impasse is set at naught by his crying unto God the Savior:
"Do, Thou, Ο God my Savior grant them to me. Grant me thoughts of repentance, Give to my wretched soul the desire for contrition, Lift me from the sleep of fearful hard-heartedness, Dispel the darkness of sloth, Dissolve the blackness of despair; So that I, the most wretched one, may lift up my head, And attach myself to You, Ο Logos, And walk in accordance with Your will".
Deep humility constitutes the beginning of spiritual life, the foundation of the Orthodox "mind" or way of thinking. Here we do not have a cry of hopelessness but a turning about by man that leads to hope, despite all impasses that he may have been led to by his own volition.
The believer is henceforth called to a life-long spiritual struggle in which he is never abandoned by God, except in such instances where he were to consider himself able on his own and self-sufficient. For then he becomes autonomous and distances himself from the Grace of God. The faithful realizes that not only God but the Devil also calls to his disposition and threatens his "mind in Christ" through deceptive means (Jn 8,44. I Peter 5,8).
The demonic element is a reality; this why our Lord urges us to "be sober, to be vigilant" (I Peter 5, 7), "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil" (Eph. 6, 10-12).
This means that the Devil does not have authority over the believer, unless the latter cooperates with him through his disposition. Spiritual warfare, especially "prayer and fasting" i.e. ascesis in Christ crushes every intrigue of the Devil (cf. Matth 17,21. Mark 9, 29). Through ascetism or ascesis the believer does not aim at degrading the body, but at neutralizing the passions. It is a preparation of the body to receive God's grace and sanctification; "If you want to be saved, become as if you were dead", say the Desert Fathers in reference to the deadening of the passions. When one reaches such sanctity, he acquires that real humility which attracts to itself all of God's Grace, and he becomes "full of Grace" (Matth. 5, 3. I Peter 5,5); the machinations of the Devil cannot harm him.
Yet, it is possible that he may fall since man remains changeable, i.e. he can turn towards virtue or towards sin, on the basis of his free will, depending on what he chooses.
We can understand the term "freedom" either relatively or in an absolute sense. Absolute freedom places man's "ego" in the center of the universe. The exercise of absolute freedom distances man from his very own nature, it alienates him, for man, according to the Christian faith, is not an egoistic being but a communion of persons. This idea means that our neighbor is a partaker and sharer of the very same nature in which we partake; he is relevant to us; he is not something separate from us, someone other; This means that he constitutes together with us and all our fellow men the one humanity, the one humankind, the one man with myriads of hypostases, i.e. persons.
The one nature is expressed in the daily life of the Christians through the existence of the one "mind" or accord, the mind or spirit of Christ, Who "emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant" and "humbled Himself" becoming obedient unto death..." (Philip. 2, 7-8). This is the most extreme limit of humility and sacrifice on behalf of communion and love with apostate man. When one acquires this mind of Christ, he returns once again to living according to his nature, he possesses that "mind" which corresponds to man's true nature.
On the contrary, the man who has as his supreme law the imposition of his will, regardless of what this could mean for others, for human communion or society in general, and for all of creation, follows a path which alienates him from his very own nature. This type of behavior constitutes communion only with himself, i.e. hell. This egocentric "mind" can constitute a real threat when man, in the name of freedom, considers it his right to impose his will in any way; in the name of freedom, he becomes destructive.
There is of course freedom "from something", e.g. freedom from oppression; there is also, however, freedom "for something", for a purpose. Absolute freedom from every kind of limitation, as we have said, goes against man's nature and alienates him; it transforms him into a tyrant or a monster. This is why true freedom is sought for in relation with the purpose, which of course is the edification, the building up, and not the destruction of man's personality.
In our times this question is especially contemporary, because many speak of freedom and liberation, negatively evaluating man's personality and aiming at its total abrogation. Others again speak about liberation, underlining that man has within him an unlimited power. Through their techniques they promise to liberate this power and to transform man into a superman, equal with God. And this concept presupposes absolute freedom and the right of autonomous man to impose his will upon the less powerful.
According to the Christian "mind" or way of thinking, true freedom, which is in harmony with man's nature, ministers unto human nature; it does not destroy it. It serves the unity, the harmony, the love of all of God's creation. It thus becomes apparent that the question of freedom is directly related to the concept that we have concerning man. Christian anthropology does not lead to impasses, nor to a concept of freedom catastrophic for man's personality. The Christian's concept of freedom is a blessing for man and for all of creation.
When, therefore, we speak of freedom "for something" we mean the realization of man's nature, i.e. the fulfillment of the meaning of his life. God created man to progress from creation "according to the image" to the achievement of "the likeness"; i.e. to that fullness of communion and love by grace which has as its model the love of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
It is indicative that Christ, speaking about the "limits" of love, which is the love for our enemies, characterizes them as "perfection" and puts forth as a model the love of the Heavenly Father: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5,44). The "mind" of love which includes one's enemies is the mind "according to the likeness" of the heavenly Father. It is not offered forcibly or out of necessity, but freely.
The idea that to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to do good to those who hate us, and indeed with all the strength of our souls, goes against human nature, is a warped and distorted idea. For that which goes against man's true nature is not loving one's enemies, but to hate them. Not to bless, but to curse.
God loves, blesses, does good. This is why the believer who loves God desires to be like Him; this moreover is the meaning of his life. In this way man overcomes his apostasy and returns to the mind of Adam before the fall. Adam was possessed by the conviction that Eve, the other person, was not something strange, but his very self; "this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh". In Christ Jesus we are no longer egoistical beings, "a thousand pieces"; we regain the feeling and awareness of the oneness of mankind, of the one man, and we understand the meaning of divine dispensation in Christ; Christ came to gather God's scattered children "into one" and He desires to incorporate all into this unity of "one in Christ". In this sense does the believer understand the words of Scripture:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matt. 22, 37-38).
Referring to this love, Christ emphasized that on this the fulfillment of the entire Law depends; this constitutes the Orthodox "mind". Do not differentiate the other; understand him to be your member, and consider yourself and all others as one body and members of one another.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Its Faith, Worship and Life Rev. Antonios Alevisopoulos, Th.D., Ph.D Translated by Rev. Stephen Avramides ATHENS 2001
The Martyr Bassa with her sons Theognis, Agapius and Pistus, lived in the city of Macedonian Edessa and she was married to a pagan priest. From childhood she had been raised in the Christian Faith, which she passed on to her sons.
During the reign of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), the husband denounced his wife and children to the governor. In spite of threats, the boys refused to offer sacrifice to idols, so they were tortured and put to death.
St Bassa was thrown into prison and was weakened by hunger, but an angel strengthened her with heavenly food. Under successive tortures she remained unharmed by fire, water and beasts. When they brought her to a pagan temple, she shattered the statue of Zeus. Then they threw the martyr into a whirlpool in the sea. But to everyone's surprise a ship sailed up, and three radiant men pulled her up (St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (July 14) suggests that these were her children, martyred earlier). After eight days St Bassa came by ship to the governor of the island of Alona, not far from Cyzicus, in the Propontis or Sea of Marmora. After beating her with rods, they beheaded her.
By the year 450 there was already a church in honor of the holy martyr Bassa at Chalcedon.
St Theophanes the New, a native of the city of Ioannina, lived during the sixteenth century. As a young man, he received monastic tonsure on Mount Athos at the Docheiariou monastery. He was later chosen igumen of this monastery because of his lofty virtue. In giving refuge to his own nephew (who had been forcibly converted to Islam) from the Turks who had captured Constantinople, St Theophanes, with the help of God, freed the youth, hid him in his own monastery and blessed him to enter the monastic life.
The brethren, fearing revenge on the part of the Turks, began to grumble against the saint. He, not wanting to be the cause of discord and dissension, humbly withdrew with his nephew from the Docheiariou monastery, quit the Holy Mountain and went to Beroea. There, in the skete monastery of St John the Forerunner, St Theophanes built a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. And as monks began to gather, he gave them a cenobitic monastic rule.
When the monastery flourished, the saint withdrew to a new place at Naousa, where he made a church in honor of the holy Archangels and founded there also a monastery. To the very end of his days St Theophanes did not forsake guiding the monks of both monasteries, both regarding him as their common father.
In a revelation foreseeing his own end and giving his flock a final farewell, the saint died in extreme old age at the Beroeia monastery. Even during life the Lord had glorified his humble saint: saving people from destruction, he calmed a storm by his prayer, and converted sea water into drinking water. Even after death, the saint has never forsaken people with his grace-filled help. SOURCE:
The great Church figure and philosopher St. Christodoulos was from the village of Sakara in the Imereti region. He possessed an exceptional knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and spoke several languages fluently. To support his prodigious understanding of the Christian Faith, Christodoulos became thoroughly acquainted with other creeds as well. To this purpose, he even memorized the Koran.
Once the Persian king Iamame arranged a debate on theological issues between the Muslims and the Christians, and he invited the elder Christodoulos to take part in this event. At first the king himself debated with the elder and suffered an upset. Then a certain pagan astrologer was brought to replace him, and when it became clear that he too was no match for the elder-philosopher, he summoned a renowned scholar to outwit him. In the debates with this scholar, Christodoulos freely cited both the Holy Scriptures and the Koran, and with his brilliant logic and rhetoric he triumphed over his rival. His challengers were disgraced.
In his work Pilgrimage, the famous 19th-century historian Archbishop Timote (Gabashvili) describes his journey to Mt. Athos and notes that St. Christodoulos had labored with the monks of the Iveron Monastery.
Church historians believe that St. Christodoulos labored first in Georgia, then moved to Mt. Athos, and finally to the island of Patmos.
The Kiev Caves Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is one of the most ancient icons in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother of God entrusted it to four Byzantine architects, who in 1073 brought the icon to Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. The architects arrived at the monks' cave and asked, "Where do you want to build the church?" The saints answered, "Go, the Lord will point out the place."
"How is it that you, who are about to die, have still not designated the place?" the architects wondered. "And they gave us much gold."
Then the monks summoned all the brethren and they began to question the Greeks, saying, "Tell us the truth. Who sent you, and how did you end up here?"
The architects answered, "One day, when each of us was asleep in his own home, handsome youths came to us at sunrise, and said, 'The Queen summons you to Blachernae.' We all arrived at the same time and, questioning one another we learned that each of us had heard this command of the Queen, and that the youths had come to each of us. Finally, we beheld the Queen of Heaven with a multitude of warriors. We bowed down to Her, and She said, 'I want to build Myself a Church in Rus, at Kiev, and so I ask you to do this. Take enough gold for three years.'"
"We bowed down and asked, 'Lady Queen! You are sending us to a foreign land. To whom are we sent?' She answered, 'I send you to the monks Anthony and Theodosius.'"
"We wondered, 'Why then, Lady, do You give us gold for three years? Tell us that which concerns us, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and tell us also what You know about it.'"
"The Queen replied, 'Anthony will merely give the blessing, then depart from this world to eternal repose. The other one, Theodosius, will follow him after two years. Therefore, take enough gold. Moreover, no one can do what I shall do to honor you. I shall give you what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man (1 Cor.2:9). I, Myself, shall come to look upon the church and I shall dwell within it.'"
"She also gave us relics of the holy martyrs Menignus, Polyeuctus, Leontius, Acacius, Arethas, James, and Theodore, saying, 'Place these within the foundation.' We took more than enough gold, and She said, 'Come out and see the resplendant church.' We went out and saw a church in the air. Coming inside again, we bowed down and said, 'Lady Queen, what will be the name of the church?'"
"She answered, 'I wish to call it by My own name.' We did not dare to ask what Her name was, but She said again, 'It will be the church of the Mother of God.' After giving us this icon, She said, 'This will be placed within.' We bowed down to Her and went to our own homes, taking with us the icon we received from the hands of the Queen."
Having heard this account, everyone glorified God, and St Anthony said, "My children, we never left this place. Those handsome youths summoning you were holy angels, and the Queen in Blachernae was the Most Holy Theotokos. As for those who appeared to be us, and the gold they gave you, the Lord only knows how He deigned to do this with His servants. Blessed be your arrival! You are in good company: the venerable icon of the Lady." For three days St Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the place for the church.
After the first night there was a dew throughout all the land, but it was dry on the holy spot. On the second morning throughout all the land it was dry, but on the holy spot it was wet with dew. On the third morning, they prayed and blessed the place, and measured the width and length of the church with a golden sash. (This sash had been brought long ago by the Varangian Shimon, who had a vision about the building of a church.) A bolt of lightning, falling from heaven by the prayer of St Anthony, indicated that this spot was pleasing to God. So the foundation of the church was laid.
The icon of the Mother of God was glorified by numerous miracles. Two friends, John and Sergius, sealed their friendship before it. After many years John fell mortally ill. He gave part of his wealth to the the Caves monastery, and he gave Sergius the portion for his five-year-old son for safekeeping. He also entrusted his son Zachariah to his guardianship. When Zachariah turned fifteen, he asked for his inheritance, but Sergius persisted in saying that John had distributed everything to the poor. He even went into the Dormition church and swore before the wonderworking icon that he had taken nothing.
When he attempted to kiss the icon, he was not able to come near it. He went to the doors and suddenly shouted, "Sts Anthony and Theodosius! Let me not be struck down for my dishonesty. Entreat the Most Holy Theotokos to drive away the multitude of demons which torment me. Let the gold and silver be taken away. It is sealed up in my granary." Zachariah gave away all his inheritance to the Caves monastery, where he also himself was tonsured a monk. From that time, no one would take oaths before the wonderworking icon (March 24).
More than once the icon defended the land from enemy invasion. In 1677, when the Turks laid siege to Chigirin and danger threatened Kiev, they carried the icon around the city for almost the entire day of August 27. The Mother of God blessed Russian armies going to the Battle of Poltava (1709). In 1812 they carried the icon around Kiev again. The icon is commemorated twice during the year: May 3 and August 15.
Saint Cherimon was an ascetic in Egypt in the Skete desert monastery, either at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning years of the fifth century. His name is remembered in the LAUSIAC HISTORYof Palladius and in the alphabetic Paterikon.
His cave stood at a distance of 40 stadia from church and 12 stadia from a spring of water. The saint died at handicraft at more than 100 years of age. St Cherimon is remembered by St Theodore the Studite (November 11) in the Lenten Triodion, in the Service for Cheesefare Saturday, in the 6th Ode of the Matins canon.
Concerning the Dormition of the Theotokos, this is what the Church has received from ancient times from the tradition of the Fathers. When the time drew nigh that our Savior was well-pleased to take His Mother to Himself, He declared unto her through an Angel that three days hence, He would translate her from this temporal life to eternity and bliss. On hearing this, she went up with haste to the Mount of Olives, where she prayed continuously. Giving thanks to God, she returned to her house and prepared whatever was necessary for her burial. While these things were taking place, clouds caught up the Apostles from the ends of the earth, where each one happened to be preaching, and brought them at once to the house of the Mother of God, who informed them of the cause of their sudden gathering. As a mother, she consoled them in their affliction as was meet, and then raised her hands to Heaven and prayed for the peace of the world. She blessed the Apostles, and, reclining upon her bed with seemliness, gave up her all-holy spirit into the hands of her Son and God.
With reverence and many lights, and chanting burial hymns, the Apostles took up that God-receiving body and brought it to the sepulcher, while the Angels from Heaven chanted with them, and sent forth her who is higher than the Cherubim. But one Jew, moved by malice, audaciously stretched forth his hand upon the bed and immediately received from divine judgment the wages of his audacity. Those daring hands were severed by an invisible blow. But when he repented and asked forgiveness, his hands were restored. When they had reached the place called Gethsemane, they buried there with honor the all-immaculate body of the Theotokos, which was the source of Life. But on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, and raised up the artos (bread) in Jesus' Name, as was their custom, the Theotokos appeared in the air, saying "Rejoice" to them. From this they learned concerning the bodily translation of the Theotokos into the Heavens.
These things has the Church received from the traditions of the Fathers, who have composed many hymns out of reverence, to the glory of the Mother of our God (see Oct. 3 and 4).
Apolytikion in the First Tone
In giving birth, thou didst preserve thy virginity; in thy dormition, thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated unto life, since thou art the Mother of Life; and by thine intercessions dost thou redeem our souls from death.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.