Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

March 31

Tone of the week: Tone Two

Tenth Eothinon

This divine Father, who was from Asia Minor, was from childhood reared in the royal court of Constantinople, where he was instructed in both religious and secular wisdom. Later, while still a youth, he left the imperial court and struggled in asceticism on Mount Athos, and in the Skete at Beroea. He spent some time in Thessalonica being treated for an illness that came from his harsh manner of life. He was present in Constantinople at the Council that was convened in 1341 against Barlaam of Calabria, and at the Council of 1347 against Acindynus, who was of like mind with Barlaam; Barlaam and Acindynus claimed that the grace of God is created. At both these Councils, the Saint contended courageously for the true dogmas of the Church of Christ, teaching in particular that divine grace is not created, but is the uncreated energies of God which are poured forth throughout creation: otherwise it would be impossible, if grace were created, for man to have genuine communion with the uncreated God. In 1347 he was appointed Metropolitan of Thessalonica. He tended his flock in an apostolic manner for some twelve years, and wrote many books and treatises on the most exalted doctrines of our Faith; and having lived for a total of sixty-three years, he reposed in the Lord in 1359.

His holy relics are kept in the Cathedral of Thessalonica. A full service was composed for his feast day by the Patriarch Philotheus in 1368, when it was established that his feast be celebrated on this day. Since works without right faith avail nothing, we set Orthodoxy of faith as the foundation of all that we accomplish during the Fast, by celebrating the Triumph of Orthodoxy the Sunday before, and the great defender of the teachings of the holy Fathers today.

Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Second Tone
When You descended unto death, O Lord who yourself are immortal Life, then did You mortify Hades by the lightning flash of Your Divinity. Also when You raised the dead from the netherworld, all the Powers of the heavens were crying out: O Giver of life, Christ our God, glory be to You.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O Gregory the Miracle Worker, light of Orthodoxy, support and teacher of the Church, comeliness of Monastics, invincible defender of theologians, the pride of Thessalonica, and preacher of grace, intercede forever that our souls may be saved.

Seasonal Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spiritual Counsels From Elder Cleopas Ilie of Sihastria Monastery.

From here.

—What kind of words are the most potent to benefit others?

The most powerful word for edifying others is practical—the example of our lives. St. Isaac the Syrian says the same: “The speech of works is one thing; beautiful words without deeds, another.” Afterwards he adds: “Many words without works are like an artist who paints pictures of water on the wall but is not able to quench his thirst.’’

 —Another man asked Fr. Cleopas: “Father Cleopas, can a virtuous Christian save his family and his village by the holiness of his life?”

How can he not? The more virtuous Christians there are in the world, in a country, in a community, the more that country or community will be preserved from dangers, wars, disturbances, famines, and all kinds of evil. On the other hand, the fewer elect of God there are, the more severe will be God’s chastising blow. Someone asked a certain Saint: ‘’Can one man save a city?’’ ‘’He can,’’ the Saint answered. ‘’The Prophet King David is an example. Listen to what God said: For the sake of David My servant, I will not abandon the city of Jerusalem.’’

A visiting layman asked him: “Father Cleopas, I quarreled with someone and have asked his forgiveness many times, but he doesn’t want to forgive me. What can I do to be reconciled with him?”

Do not say anything more to him, nor speak evil of him to others, but pray to God for him and forgive him from your heart. In time the anger will be extinguished, like a fire that is starved of wood.

—How should Christians stand in church during services, how should they pray, and what duties do they have when they go to church?

Christians should stand in church with faith, fear of God, and attention. They should force themselves as much as possible to pray without distraction and with feeling of heart. Also, Christians have the following duties: to go regularly to church, for whoever often misses the services, except for the sick, are barred from the Holy Mysteries; to be reconciled with all men and to ask forgiveness of anyone they have hurt; to preserve their purity at least two days before going to church and at least one day after; to come early to the divine services in order to have time to venerate in peace and hear Matins. Every Christian should offer some gift to the Lord according to his ability, even if it is very small, as a sacrifice from the work of his hands. They should give names for commemoration, and ask the priest to take out parts [from the prosphora] for the living and dead members of their families. Christians should stand in church modestly and in good order, the men on the right and the women on the left. They should wear clean and modest clothes, and women should have scarves on their heads. It is forbidden to talk during services without great need. After Divine Liturgy starts, everyone should remain in his place and not move about to venerate the icons. They should follow the Liturgy with pious attention, and listen to the prayers and singing of the choir, the Epistle and Gospel readings, and the sermon. No one should leave the church before the end of the Liturgy without great need. Those who have confessed and prepared for Holy Communion should read the appropriate prayers before Communion in advance, and before they approach the Holy Gifts they should ask forgiveness of all the faithful. After the Liturgy, those who received Communion should read the prayers of thanksgiving, spending that day in spiritual joy and guarding themselves from all temptations. Parents should bring their children to church regularly, taking care that they receive communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. After the end of the divine services, Christians should reverently return to their homes, spending the rest of the day thinking of holy things, reading spiritual books, and visiting the sick. They are also obligated to tell those at home who didn’t come to church about what they heard and learned in church from the troparia, readings, and the sermon. These are the most important duties of Christians when they go to church on Sundays and feast days.

—What is prayer, and what kinds of prayer exist, according to the Holy Fathers?

Evagrius of Pontus says: ‘’Prayer is the converse of the mind with God. Prayer is an offshoot of meekness and angerlessness.” “Prayer is a fruit of joy and gratitude. It is the banishing of sadness and despair,’’ according to Evagrius of Pontus. And the Fathers say it is the union and joining of man with God, the strength of the world, reconciliation with God, the mother and daughter of tears. Prayer is the key of the kingdom of heaven, and according to Theophan the Recluse, it is the ascent of the mind and thoughts to God. Prayer has three degrees: first, spoken or read prayer, performed by the body; second, prayer of the thoughts, or mental prayer; and third, prayer of the feelings, or of the heart.

Generally our people pray little, but with much humility. Can they hope for salvation through their small quantity of prayer? And how should the sick or those who can’t read pray?

Our Savior Jesus Christ said: When you pray, do not use vain repetition like the gentiles, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking. Do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (Matt. 6:7-8). Then He taught us the ‘’Our Father.’’ Therefore, our Savior Himself taught us brief prayer. Anyone who says short prayers, but with humility and tender feeling, will be saved. Let us remember the holy elder who prayed for forty years with the same prayer: “Lord, I as a man have sinned; do Thou as God forgive me.”

—How can people fulfill the Apostle Paul’s command, “Pray without ceasing?”

Anyone can pray without ceasing if he always walks before God with his mind and heart. He can work with his hands while his mind and heart are raised to God. The only thing I have to add is that the most important thing in spiritual prayer is that our mind and heart are inseparable from God, regardless of what time and place we are in. We must always be aware of the presence of God. “This work applies to all kinds of prayer, and is considered an uninterrupted prayer,” says St. Theophan the Recluse. This is the feeling and spiritual contemplation of God that the blessed Prophet David had when he said: “I beheld the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken...” (Ps. 15:8). So we must understand that a faithful man’s life is a ceaseless prayer if his mind is always with God.
—When we do good works, is that also a kind of prayer to God?

Yes, it is. The Apostle Paul tells us this when he says: Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him (Col. 3:17). Whenever one does a good deed for the glory of God, or speaks for the benefit of others for the glory of God, he has the prayer of works. Therefore St. Theodore the Studite, counselling his disciples, said to them: “He who does good deeds and obeys with humility and without protest, performs liturgy and priesthood”

  Taken from Spiritual Conversations with Romanian Elders by Fr. Ioanichie Balan.

Second Saturday of Lent

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
O Apostles, martyrs, prophets, hierarchs, righteous, and just ones, who have finished your course well and have kept the Faith: seeing ye have boldness with the Saviour, beseech Him for us, since He is good, that our souls be saved, we pray.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Give rest, O Christ, among the Saints to the souls of Your servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no grieving, but life everlasting.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Friday, March 29, 2013

Venerable Mark of the Pskov Caves

Saints Mark, Jonah and Bassa are venerated as the founders of the Pskov Caves monastery.
It is not known exactly when the first hermit monks settled by the Kamenets stream in the natural caves of the hill, which the local inhabitants called “the holy hill.” The monastery Chronicle presents an account of eyewitnesses, hunter-trappers from Izborsk nicknamed Selishi: “We came with our father to the outlying hill where the church of the Mother of God is now, and heard what seemed to be church singing. They sang harmoniously and reverently, but the singers could not be seen, and the air was filled with the fragrance of incense.”

Of the first Elders of the Pskov Caves monastery only Mark is known by name. The Chronicle says of him: “In the beginning, a certain Elder was living at the Kamenets near the cave. Some fishermen saw him by the three rocks above the cave of the Most Holy Theotokos church, but they were unable to discover who he was, his lineage, how and from whence he came to this place, how long he dwelt there, or how he died.”
The second igumen of the Caves monastery is identified as Elder Mark in the monastery Synodikon. St Cornelius (February 20) doubted the veracity of this inscription and ordered that the name be removed from the Synodikon. Suddenly he became grievously ill and it was revealed to him that this was his punishment for ordering the name of St Mark to be stricken from the monastery diptychs.

After begging forgiveness at the grave of the Elder Mark, Igumen Cornelius restored his name. When the cave church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos was dug out and the burial caves expanded, the igumen Dorotheus found the grave of St Mark in a state of neglect, but his relics and clothing were preserved.

In the year 1472, the peasant Ivan Dementiev cut down the forest on the hill. One of the felled trees rolled down the hill, uprooting another tree from the ground. The slide opened up the entrance to a cave, over which was the inscription: “The cave built by God” (There is a tradition that St Barlaam, a fool-for-Christ, frequently came to the cave and wiped out this inscription, but it miraculously reappeared every time).

The priest John (nicknamed “Shestnik”) came to this holy spot, where the first ascetics prayed. He was a native of “the Moscow lands” and served as priest at Iuriev (now Tartu) in “a right-believing church, established by people from Pskov” and dedicated to St Nicholas and the Great Martyr George. He and the priest Isidore spiritually nourished the Russians living there.

In 1470, Father John was compelled to flee to Pskov with his family because of persecution by the German Catholics. When he learned of the martyric death of St Isidore (January 8), Father John decided to settle in the newly-appeared “cave built by God,” so that there, on the very boundary with the Livonians, he might found a monastery as an outpost of Orthodoxy.

Soon his wife fell ill and died after receiving monastic tonsure with the name Bassa. Her righteousness was evidenced immediately after her death. Her husband and her spiritual Father buried St Bassa (March 19) in the wall of “the cave built by God,” but at night her coffin was “taken from the ground by an invisible power of God.”

Father John and St Bassa’s Father Confessor were upset, thinking that this had occurred because they had not done the complete Service for the Departed. So they sang the funeral service a second time, and they buried the body again. In the morning, however, it was found above ground. Then it was clear that this was a sign from God, so they dug St Bassa’s grave on the left side of the cave. Shaken by the miracle, John became a monk with the name Jonah and devoted himself even more fervently to spiritual struggles.

He dug out the cave church and built two cells on pillars, then petitioned the clergy of the Pskov Trinity cathedral to consecrate it, but they decided not to do so at the time “because of its unusual location.” Then St Jonah sought the blessing of Archbishop Theophilus of Novgorod.

On August 15, 1473 the cave church was consecrated in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. During the consecration there was a miracle from an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos: a blind woman “sent by the merciful God, beginning His great gifts to His All-Pure Mother” received her sight (This icon, which they call the “old” to distinguish it from another wonderworking icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos with scenes of Her life around the borders, was painted around 1421 by the Pskov iconographer Alexis Maly, and is now kept in the altar of the Dormition church. The icon with scenes around the border is the Cave church’s patronal icon).

The date of the consecration of the cave church is regarded as the official date of the founding of the Pskov Caves monastery. St Jonah labored at the Cave monastery until 1480, then peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. Upon his death they discovered a chain mail coat on his body. This was hung over his grave as a sign of his secret asceticism, but it was stolen during a German invasion.

The relics of St Jonah rest in the Caves beside the relics of the Elder Mark and St Bassa. Once, when the monastery was besieged, the Livonian knights wanted to open the lid of St Bassa’s coffin with a sword, but fire spurted forth from the coffin. Traces of this punishing fire may still be seen on the coffin of St Bassa.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Meeting of Holy Elders Paisios and Cleopa

From here.

Elder Ioanichie Balan of Sihastria 1930-2007

On the way toward Karyes we made a short stop at the cell of the renowned hesychast, Paisios the Athonite, a great holy man, honored and sought out in the whole of Greece, who amazed us with his holiness and humility.

The cell of Fr. Paisios in Capsala is surrounded by grape vineyards. We knocked at the gate and waited. A monk small of stature, thin, modestly clothed, about seventy-five years of age, but luminous of face and full of humility, came and opened the gate for us. It was the Elder!

“Bless us, Fr. Paisios! We are pilgrims from Romania.”

“The Lord bless us all!”

He invited us into a small chapel next to the cell, where we venerated and sang the Axion to the Mother of God. Then he invited us into his cell for guests, about eight by twelve feet. We sat down. There were about ten of us in all. Fr. Paisios served us, according to the custom of Athonite monks, with sweets and cold water. Then he sat on a small chair on the threshold of the door.

“Fr. Paisios, we come from far away. Please – give us a profitable word.”

“Forgive me, please. I am not hieromonk and I do not dare to give a profitable word to priests,” answered the Elder.

“Nevertheless, find for us a profitable word.”

“Fathers, I have not yet finished the school of monasticism and I don’t know many words.”

Seeing his humility, Archimandrite Cleopa asked him, “Fr. Paisios, which prayer is more beneficial for a monk: to read the Psalter or to say the Jesus Prayer?”

“Both are good,” he answered, “only say them from the heart, with faith and with tears.”

“Which monastic ascetical labor is better? Common life or that of the wilderness [desert-dwelling]?”

“If you have humility,” the Elder said, “in either you can be saved. He who wants to be sure of salvation enters into a community under obedience; and he who loves stillness and prayer withdraws in solitude.”

“How can we help in the salvation of others?”

“Through prayer. The monk is first of all a man of prayer and a candle on the candlestand for everyone. Only in this way can we help and spiritually build up people. First is prayer, then the example of our life, then the word of instruction.”

“How can we obtain the gift of tears?”

“If we have the humility of the saints, we will obtain both the Prayer of the Heart and the gift of tears. I haven’t been able to obtain this gift, which is received from God by great labor.”

“What opinion do you have of Athonite monasticism today?”

“I don’t have any opinion. But I know that all came to the Holy Mountain to glorify God and to be saved. Thus all force themselves, according to their zeal and their strength, in prayer, in obedience, in fasting, in nightly vigils, and in all good works. All humble themselves, have hope, and labor and follow Christ. Who, however, will lay hold of the crown of salvation, no one knows except God alone.”

“What books must monastics read?”

“First of all the Holy Scriptures. Then the Lives of the Saints and the Patristic writings. We do not have to read or speak a lot, but we must do a lot!”

“Fr. Paisios, how many times must we partake of Holy Communion per year?”

“The promptings of the heart and our spiritual father indicate to us how many times. Some more often, others less often. But if monastics can commune once a week, it is very good. Lay people – less frequently and in accordance with what their spiritual fathers decide.”

“What other counsel can you give us?”

“Let us always be ready for death because we know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh (Mat. 25:13)”

“Fr Paisios, how many hours must a monk sleep at night?”

“If I added up how many hours I sleep lying down on a bed and how many I sleep on my feet, you would see that I sleep all day long, because I don’t keep watch with my mind in prayer!”

And we benefiting greatly from the humility and wisdom of Fr. Paisios, thanked him for receiving us and for the counsel given, asked for his blessing, and continued on our way.

(Shepherd of Souls: The Life of Elder Cleopa, Chap. 56 The Pilgrimage to Mount Athos pp. 146-149).

Venerable Hilarion of Pskov, Lake Gdov

St Hilarion of Gdov and Pskov Lake, was a disciple of St Euphrosynus of Pskov (May 15). In 1460 on the banks of the River Zhelcha, not far from Gdov, he founded the Ozersk [Lake] Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God. The monastery bordered the territory of the Livonian Knights, and the monks constantly suffered the incursions of that military order. Despite harsh conditions and insufficient means, St Hilarion maintained a high level of pious and ascetic life at the monastery, and made great efforts to adorn and build up the monastery.

St Hilarion reposed on March 28, 1476 and was buried in the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in the monastery he founded. Afterwards, a church was built at the monastery in honor of the Nativity of Christ. The left chapel was dedicated to the founder of the Gdov monastery. St Hilarion of Gdov is also commemorated on October 21, on the Feast of his heavenly patron and namesake.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

“Good War” and “Bad Peace”: Love According to the Church

From here.

(A translated excerpt from the second chapter of Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis’ book Inter-religious Gatherings: A Denial of the Gospel and an Insult to the Holy Martyrs)

Ecumenistic and Syncretistic attempts to define the love which we ought to have for others demonstrate a lack of discernment and confuse that which is clear – that is to say, the unanimous view of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers.  It is certainly true that God is Love and that He shows this love to all, both the righteous and the sinful, and it is also certainly true that this universal, all-embracing love ought to be manifested in our lives since this is the chief mark of a Christian.  This love, however, must not contradict truth and piety – it must be united to the truth – for any other love is false and hypocritical.  It must embrace its neighbour not solely as a bodily, biological being, but as a spiritual entity; it must embrace him with a view to eternity, and must be concerned above all for eternal things and not for worldly and transient things.  This love must, then, concern itself with the salvation of the other.

Since salvation cannot be achieved when one is found in delusion and heresy (and particularly if one remains there egotistically), the Church, following the example of Christ and the Apostles and acting out of love, not hatred, prohibits communion with those in heresy, thereby pedagogically leading them to a consciousness of their delusion while at the same time protecting others.  It is, then, out of love for those who have fallen into heresy that we deride heresy and delusion, which are impersonal, while we manifest this derision with pain of soul.   The sweet and gentle Jesus Himself – the friend of harlots and tax collectors, the Prince of Peace and love – took a whip and drove from the temple those who had changed it into a profiteering venture, just as the Pope has twisted the spiritual character of the Church, changing it into a worldly, economic power…

Let us stop hiding other agendas behind the word ‘love’ – agendas which cannot be reconciled with the word itself.  A wide variety of ways exist for us to exercise our love. We can feed those who hunger, clothe the naked, give hospitality to foreigners, and visit those in prison and the sick.[1]  We will not change the Gospel and the Holy Canons which teach us not to associate with heretics.  Are we the ones who are to teach Christ and the saints what love is?  The saints are the ones who know how to define these things: we are the ones who confuse them.  And this, the highest of all virtues!  On the basis of this virtue, then, the Church teaches that a “good war” exists, when it is waged against the impious, heretics and blasphemers.

Similarly, “bad peace” exists when it comes from an indifference and contempt of faith and piety.  This “good war” for virtue and piety was taught by Christ Himself when he declared that the Gospel will divide and distinguish men.  Those who follow Him must be ready to confront hostility even within one’s own family.  We must not deny Christ, the Truth, simply to avoid conflict which in this case is feigned and false since it does not include the agreement on the most important issues, that is, of spiritual things.  In what other way are we to interpret Christ’s saying:  “Never think that I came to cast peace on earth; I came not to cast peace, but a sword.  For I came to divide in two a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies shall be those of his own household”?[2]

Saint John Chrysostom says that peace and harmony are not always good when these are directed against God, fostering vice and sin.  For true peace to prevail the diseased portion must be cut off, that which rebels must be set apart.  God wants the harmony of all with piety as the foundation.  When men are irreverent, they provoke war:  “Since the physician too in this way preserves the rest of the body, when he amputates the incurable part; and the General, when he has brought to a separation them that were agreed in mischief. Thus it came to pass also in the case of that famous tower [Babel]; for their evil peace was ended by their good discord, and peace made thereby.”[3]  Saint Gregory the Theologian praises the clear and brazen “good war” even against clergy when it comes to matters of the faith.  He numbers himself among the combatants and he summarizes this with his well-known saying concerning “good war” and “bad peace”:  “Yea! Would that I were one of those who contend and incur hatred for the truth’s sake: or rather, I can boast of being one of them. For better is a laudable war than a peace which severs a man from God.”[4]  Therefore, love without piety and truth is false, pseudo-love.

[1] Matthew 25:34-36.

[2] Matthew 10:34-36.

[3] [T.N.]  Chrysostom. Homilies on Matthew. 35.[1].

[4] Gregory the Theologian.  Oration 2. [2].

The Holy Matrona of Thessalonica

March 27

This martyr was the servant of a certain Jewish woman named Pantilla, the wife of the Governor of Thessalonica. When Matrona refused to follow her mistress into the synagogue Pantilla beat her so severly that she died in a few days, and thus received the crown of her confession.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel

Commemorated on March 26

Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel: The Archangel Gabriel was chosen by the Lord to announce to the Virgin Mary about the Incarnation of the Son of God from Her, to the great rejoicing of all mankind. Therefore, on the day after the Feast of the Annunciation, the day on which the All-Pure Virgin is glorified, we give thanks to the Lord and we venerate His messenger Gabriel, who contributed to the mystery of our salvation.

Gabriel, the holy Archistrategos (Leader of the Heavenly Hosts), is a faithful servant of the Almighty God. He announced the future Incarnation of the Son of God to those of the Old Testament; he inspired the Prophet Moses to write the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament), he announced the coming tribulations of the Chosen People to the Prophet Daniel (Dan. 8:16, 9:21-24); he appeared to St Anna (July 25) with the news that she would give birth to the Virgin Mary.

The holy Archangel Gabriel remained with the Holy Virgin Mary when She was a child in the Temple of Jerusalem, and watched over Her throughout Her earthly life. He appeared to the Priest Zachariah, foretelling the birth of the Forerunner of the Lord, St John the Baptist.

The Lord sent him to St Joseph the Betrothed in a dream, to reveal to him the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and warned him of the wicked intentions of Herod, ordering him to flee into Egypt with the divine Infant and His Mother.

When the Lord prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His Passion, the Archangel Gabriel, whose very name signifies “Man of God” (Luke. 22:43), was sent from Heaven to strengthen Him.

The Myrrh-Bearing Women heard from the Archangel the joyous news of Christ’s Resurrection (Mt.28:1-7, Mark 16:1-8).

Mindful of the manifold appearances of the holy Archangel Gabriel and of his zealous fulfilling of God’s will, and confessing his intercession for Christians before the Lord, the Orthodox Church calls upon its children to pray to the great Archangel with faith and love.

The Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel is also celebrated on July 13. All the angels are commemorated on November 8.


 Gabriel, commander of the heavenly hosts, / we who are unworthy beseech you, / by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory, / and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you: / “Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commander of the powers on high!”


Supreme commander Gabriel, / you are the glorious intercessor and servant / before the all-radiant, worthy, all-powerful, infinite and awesome Trinity. / Ever pray now that we may be delivered from all tribulations and torments, / so that we may cry out to you: / “Rejoice, protection of your servants!”


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Commemorated on March 25


The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the earliest Christian feasts, and was already being celebrated in the fourth century. There is a painting of the Annunciation in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome dating from the second century. The Council of Toledo in 656 mentions the Feast, and the Council in Trullo in 692 says that the Annunciation was celebrated during Great Lent.

The Greek and Slavonic names for the Feast may be translated as “good tidings.” This, of course, refers to the Incarnation of the Son of God and the salvation He brings. The background of the Annunciation is found in the Gospel of St Luke (1:26-38). The troparion describes this as the “beginning of our salvation, and the revelation of the eternal mystery,” for on this day the Son of God became the Son of Man.

There are two main components to the Annunciation: the message itself, and the response of the Virgin. The message fulfills God’s promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.” The Fathers of the Church understand “her seed” to refer to Christ. The prophets hinted at His coming, which they saw dimly, but the Archangel Gabriel now proclaims that the promise is about to be fulfilled.
We see this echoed in the Liturgy of St Basil, as well: “When man disobeyed Thee, the only true God who had created him, and was deceived by the guile of the serpent, becoming subject to death by his own transgressions, Thou, O God, in Thy righteous judgment, didst send him forth from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Thy Christ Himself.”

The Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth in Galilee. There he spoke to the undefiled Virgin who was betrothed to St Joseph: “Hail, thou who art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

In contrast to Eve, who was readily deceived by the serpent, the Virgin did not immediately accept the Angel’s message. In her humility, she did not think she was deserving of such words, but was actually troubled by them. The fact that she asked for an explanation reveals her sobriety and prudence. She did not disbelieve the words of the angel, but could not understand how they would be fulfilled, for they spoke of something which was beyond nature.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34).
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: therefore also that which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1: 35-38).”

In his Sermon 23 on the day of the Annunciation, St Philaret of Moscow boldly stated that “the word of the creature brought the Creator down into the world.” He explains that salvation is not merely an act of God’s will, but also involves the Virgin’s free will. She could have refused, but she accepted God’s will and chose to cooperate without complaint or further questions.

The icon of the Feast shows the Archangel with a staff in his left hand, indicating his role as a messenger. Sometimes one wing is upraised, as if to show his swift descent from heaven. His right hand is stretched toward the holy Virgin as he delivers his message.

The Virgin is depicted either standing or sitting, usually holding yarn in her left hand. Sometimes she is shown holding a scroll. Her right hand may be raised to indicate her surprise at the message she is hearing. Her head is bowed, showing her consent and obedience. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon her is depicted by a ray of light issuing from a small sphere at the top of the icon, which symbolizes heaven. In a famous icon from Sinai, a white dove is shown in the ray of light.

There are several famous icons of the Annunciation. One is in the Moscow Kremlin in the church of the Annunciation. This icon appeared in connection with the rescue of a prisoner by the Mother of God during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Another is to be found in the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow (July 8). It was originally located in Ustiug, and was the icon before which St Procopius the fool (July 8) prayed to save the city from destruction in 1290. One of the most highly revered icons in Greece is the Tinos icon of the Annunciation (January 30).

The Annunciation falls during Lent, but it is always celebrated with great joy. The Liturgy of St Basil or St John Chrysostom is served, even on the weekdays of Lent. It is one of the two days of Great Lent on which the fast is relaxed and fish is permitted (Palm Sunday is the other).


Today is the beginning of our salvation, / The revelation of the eternal mystery! / The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin / As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace. / Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos: / Rejoice, O Full of Grace, / The Lord is with You!


O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts! / We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos! / As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity / So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Forefeast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos

March 24

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Today is the prelude of universal joy; let us keep the forefeast in gladness. For, behold, Gabriel cometh with fear and wonder unto the Virgin, bringing her the good tidings: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
At the great Archangel's voice, O Theotokos, the All-holy Spirit came upon thee and thou didst conceive Him that is one in essence and throne with God the Father, O Adam's recovery.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Saturday, March 23, 2013

First Saturday of Lent: The Commemoration of the Miracle of Kollyva wrought by Saint Theodore the Tyro

Julian the Apostate, knowing that the Christians purify themselves by fasting most of all during the first week of the Fast -- which is why we call it Clean Week -- planned to defile them especially at that time. Therefore he secretly commanded that during those days the markets be filled with foods that had been defiled with the blood of animals offered in sacrifice to idols. But by divine command the Martyr Theodore (see Feb. 17) appeared during sleep to Eudoxius, then Archbishop of Constantinople. The Saint revealed to him the tyrant's plan, then told him to call the faithful together immediately on Monday morning and prevent them from purchasing those foods, but rather to make kollyva to supply their needs. The bishop asked what kollyva might be, and the Saint answered, "Kollyva is what we call boiled wheat in Euchaita." Thus, the purpose of the Apostate was brought to nought, and the pious people who were preserved undefiled for the whole of Clean Week, rendered thanks to the Martyr on this Saturday, and celebrated his commemoration with kollyva. These things took place in 362. Wherefore, the Church keeps this commemoration each year to the glory of God and the honour of the Martyr.

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
Great are the achievements of faith! In the fountain of flame, as by the water of rest, the holy Martyr Theodore rejoiced; for having been made a whole-burnt offering in the fire, he was offered as sweet bread unto the Trinity. By his prayers, O Christ God, save our souls.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Having received the Faith of Christ in thy heart as a breastplate, thou didst trample upon the enemy hosts, O much-suffering champion; and thou hast been crowned eternally with a heavenly crown, since thou art invincible.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Friday, March 22, 2013

3 New Confessors of the Romanian Orthodox Church

From here.

Father Hilarion the Confessor

He was born on March 21, 1903, in a village in Hunedoara county in Romania. His father was a priest. In 1926 he graduated from the Faculty of Theology of Sibiu. On July 29, 1927 he was ordained priest. On October 30, 1939 he submitted his doctoral thesis, titled Repentance: Theological and Psychological Approach. He had also written the book Towards Tabor, which is, according to Elder Justin Pirvou the best work to date about Romanian Orthodoxy and a perfect interpretation of the Philokalia. Speaking about the exalted spirituality of Father Hilarion, the greatest Romanian Orthodox theologian of the twentieth century, Father Dumitru Staniloae said: "Father Hilarion has surpassed me." He was professor of the Theological School of Arad from 1938 until 1948. On September 25, 1958 he was imprisoned and sentenced, along with six other priests from Arad, for a 20 year sentence. He was detained in Gerla and then Aiount, where he died on September 18, 1961. He was buried without a cross, in a grave that is unknown, along with other witnesses of the Romanian nation in Aiount.

Abbot Daniel Tudor

He was born on December 22, 1896 in Bucharest. After the First World War he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. In the year 1929 he traveled to Mount Athos, where he lived for eight months. God saved him often from a violent death. Once, flying his own plane, he was saved from death, saying the noetic prayer. While the airplane was destroyed, he did not suffer anything.

After the Second World War, returning to his house, he learned that his wife had left him. He then decided to become a monk. He sold all his belongings, renewed the Antim Monastery in Bucharest, and became a monk there. From the year 1945, the monastery gathered around it a group of scholars, which was trying to regain, based on the Bible and the Holy Fathers of Orthodox Christianity, true spirituality, having as a center of their efforts the noetic prayer. They were called The Burning Bush. Later he went to the Sychastria Monastery where Elder Cleopas made him a hermit and later abbot of the Skete Raraou. One day in June 1958, he greeted the brothers and went to Bucharest, having been informed by God that he will re-enter prison, where he will die, confessing Christ. The principal of guilt, as confessed by a court magistrate, was that he wanted to burn Communism with The Burning Bush.

One day in winter, they put him together with a friend in a storehouse - the White or the Refrigerator - where it was minus 30 degrees. The storehouse had no windows, but a very dirty floor. People who were put in there would die of cold after no more than three days. Father Daniel lay down immediately with his face in the dirt and with open arms, and told the friend: "Sit on my back to back with open arms and say only this, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!'" Immediately as they started to say this, the storehouse was filled by a very brilliant light, and thereafter they did not know what happened next. After eight days (without the two prisoners receiving any water or food, sleep or clothes), the guards came to take their carcasses, but they were alive and fine. When they touched Father Daniel he was hot, and what was around him had melted.

In prison he was one of the few who wore leg chains during his time of incarceration. He died after four years of suffering in Aiount on November 17, 1962. We do not know exactly where his holy body is to be found.

Valeriu Gafencu
Valeriu was born on January 24, 1921 in Vasaravia. In the autumn of 1941 he was imprisoned and sentenced to 25 years of prison. He was then a second year student of the Law and Philosophy School of Iasi. Becoming ill with TB, he was sent in December 1949 to Tirgou-Okna. There, with no medical care, he survived another two years. With many physical wounds, they would continuously discharge pus. Valeriu awaited his death with a serenity which softened the hearts of his guards and tormentors. He was a man of noetic prayer. He was made worthy by God to know the day of his death. He asked to be buried with one cross in his mouth, and another in the right hand so as to be recognized if perchance his bodied was found. He departed to heaven, this "saint of prisons" (as other inmates have called him) on 18 February 1952 and thrown in a common, as of yet unknown, tomb. Read more about him here.

 Apolytikion in Plagal of the First

Flowers of Romania, planted by God, children of the Church true and faithful, let us exalt, O faithful, as martyrs of Christ; for they competed brilliantly, confessing Christ before the atheists, and were worthily crowned, in His glorious kingdom.

A Prayer to the Lord to Find the Relics of the Holy New Confessors and Martyrs

Lord, our God, who guarded the three children and Daniel in the furnace of fire, who strengthened the Confessors of the last persecution to give a good witness before their persecutors, hear our little prayer. Plant, O Christ our God, their sacrifice as a seed in the land of our hearts. May this seed bring forth good fruits, to become for us a good start to our salvation and give us the courage of confession of the truth before those who blaspheme it.

Yes, Lord, may their example never be forgotten, but with it may the sons of the Orthodox Church be raised. May their virtues and sacrifice awake us out of indolence and carelessness. May we accept this admonition for our correction.

Once St. Mary Magdalene asked for your body saying to the Gardener: "Lord, tell me where you've put it and I'll get it." And so we kneel before You, praying in the hope that You will forgive us our boldness, and to listen to this prayer: "Lord, show us the location of the holy relics of Your Confessors, so that in finding them we will honor them with reverence."

And if, because of our sins, we are not worthy to venerate them, Lord, please, with a humble heart, do not leave the holy relics of Your servants to remain in limbo, but bring them to light, to confer upon them the proper honor and glory.

So that embracing them with reverence, we can enjoy to honor them in Your Church, as they deserve, along with all Your martyrs. And along with them to give You glory, honor and worship, God glorified in Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen.

John Ianolide, Dramatic Incidents of the Romanian Prisoners, Confessors and Martyrs of the 20th Century, Orthodox Kypseli Publications, Thessaloniki 2009 (Greek).

Text greek:

Translated by John Sanidopoulos


Monkmartyr Euthymius of Prodromou of Mt Athos

This holy New Martyr of Christ was born in Demitsana in the Peloponnesos. His parents were Panagiotes and Maria, and he was given the name Eleutherius in Baptism. Eleutherius was the youngest of five children (the others were George, Christos, John, and Katerina).

After attending school in Demetsana, Eleutherius and John traveled to Constantinople to enroll in the Patriarchal Academy. Later, they went to Jassy, Romania where their father and brothers were in business. Some time afterwards, Eleutherius decided to go to Mt. Athos to become a monk. Because of a war between Russia and Turkey, he was able to travel only as far as Bucharest. There he stayed with the French consul, then with an employee of the Russian consul.

Eleutherius began to pursue a life of pleasure, putting aside his thoughts of monasticism. When hostilities ceased, Eleutherius made his way to Constantinople in the company of some Moslems. On the way, he turned from Orthodoxy and embraced Islam. He was circumcised and given the name Reschid. Soon his conscience began to torment him for his denial of Christ. The other Moslems began to notice a change in his attitude, so they restricted his movements and kept a close watch on him.

One day Eleutherius was seen wearing a cross, so the others reported him to the master of the house, Rais Efendi. The master favored Eleutherius, which made the others jealous. He told them it was still too early for Eleutherius to give up all his Christian ways.

Rais Efendi and his household journeyed to Adrianople, arriving on a Saturday. Metropolitan Cyril, who later became Patriarch of Constantinople, was serving Vespers in one of the city’s churches. Eleutherius pretended to have letters for Metropolitan Cyril, but he sent someone else to receive them. When Eleutherius told this man that he wanted Christian clothes, he became suspicious and sent him away.

Back in Constantinople, Rais Efendi gave Eleutherius costly presents, hoping to influence him to remain a Moslem. Eleutherius, however, prayed that God would permit him to escape. He ran off at the first opportunity, seeking out a priest from the Peloponnesos who lived near the Patriarchate. After relating his story, Eleutherius asked the priest to help him get away. The priest refused to assist him, fearing reprisals if he should be caught. He gave Eleutherius some advice, then sent him away.

With some assistance from the Russian embassy, Eleutherius boarded a ship and sailed to Mt. Athos. At the Great Lavra Eleutherius was chrismated and received back into the Orthodox Church, and also became a monk with the name Euthymius.

Euthymius read the NEW MARTYROLOGION of St Nicodemus (July 14), and was inspired by the example of the New Martyrs. He then became consumed with a desire to wipe out his apostasy with the blood of martyrdom.

St Euthymius went to Constantinople with a monk named Gregory, arriving on March 19, 1814. A few days later, on Palm Sunday, he received Holy Communion. Removing his monastic garb, he dressed himself as a Moslem and went to the palace of the Grand Vizier, Rusud Pasha. St Euthymius, holding palms in his hand, confessed that he was an Orthodox Christian, and wished to die for Christ. He denounced Mohammed and the Moslem religion, then trampled upon the turban he had worn on his head, which led the Vizier to believe that he was either drunk or crazy.

The valiant warrior of Christ assured the Vizier that he was in his right mind, and was not drunk. Euthymius was thrown into a dark cell and bound with chains. After an hour or so, they brought him out again. With flattery and promises of wealth, the Vizier tried to convince Euthymius to return to the Moslem faith. The saint boldly declared that Islam was a religion based on fables and falsehood, and that he would not deny Christ again even if he were to be tortured and slain.

The Grand Vizier ordered the saint to be beaten and returned to prison. After three hours, St Euthymius was brought before Rusud Pasha, who said to him, “Have you reconsidered, or do you remain stubborn?”
Euthymius replied, “There is only one true Faith, that of the Orthodox Christians. How can I believe in your false prophet Mohammed?”

Now the Vizier realized that he would never convince Euthymius to return to Islam, so he ordered him to be put to death by the sword. When the executioner attempted to tie the saint’s hands he said, “I came here voluntarily, so there is no need to bind my hands.Allow me to meet my death untied.”

St Euthymius was allowed to walk to the place of execution unbound. He went joyfully and unafraid, holding a cross in his right hand, and palms in his left. When they arrived at the site, Euthymius faced east and began to pray. He thanked God for making him worthy of martyrdom for His sake. He also prayed for his family and friends, asking God to grant all their petitions which are unto salvation.

Then St Euthymius kissed the cross he was holding, then knelt and bent his neck. The executioner struck a fierce blow with the sword, but this did not behead him. He struck again, and failed to kill him. Finally, he took a knife and slit the martyr’s throat.

St Euthymius was killed about noon on March 22, 1814 in Constantinople, thereby earning a place in the heavenly Kingdom where he glorifies the holy, consubstantial, and life-creating Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, forevermore.

The head of St Euthymius is in the Russian monastery of St Panteleimon on Mt Athos.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Thursday, March 21, 2013

James the Confessor

March 21

This Saint took up the monastic life from his youth in the Monastery of Studium, where he became a disciple of Saint Theodore the Studite. Later he became bishop and suffered many afflictions and torments at the hands of the Iconoclasts. Saint Theodore composed a homily in honour of this Saint James (PG 99, 1353-1356).


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St Cuthbert, wonderworker of Britain

Commemorated on March 20

Saint Cuthbert, the wonderworker of Britain, was born in Northumbria around 634. Very little information has come down to us about Cuthbert’s early life, but there is a remarkable story of him when he was eight.

As a child, Cuthbert enjoyed games and playing with other children. He could beat anyone his own age, and even some who were older, at running, jumping, wrestling, and other exercises. One day he and some other boys were amusing themselves by standing on their heads with their feet up in the air. A little boy who was about three years old chided Cuthbert for his inappropriate behavior. “Be sensible,” he said, “and give up these foolish pranks.”

Cuthbert and the others ignored him, but the boy began to weep so piteously that it was impossible to quiet him. When they asked him what the matter was, he shouted, “O holy bishop and priest Cuthbert, these unseemly stunts in order to show off your athletic ability do not become you or the dignity of your office.” Cuthbert immediately stopped what he was doing and attempted to comfort the boy.

On the way home, he pondered the meaning of those strange words. From that time forward, Cuthbert became more thoughtful and serious.This incident reveals St Cuthbert as God’s chosen vessel (2 Tim. 2:20-21), just like Samuel, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and others who, from an early age, were destined to serve the Lord.

On another occasion, he was suffering from an injured knee. It was quite swollen and the muscles were so contracted that he limped and could scarcely place his foot on the ground. One day a handsome stranger of noble bearing, dressed in white, rode up on horseback to the place where Cuthbert was sitting in the sun beside the house. The stranger asked courteously if the boy would receive him as a guest. Cuthbert said that if only he were not hampered by his injuries, he would not be slow to offer hospitality to his guest.

The man got down from his horse and examined Cuthbert’s knee, advising him to cook up some wheat flour with milk, and to spread the warm paste on his sore knee. After the stranger had gone, it occurred to him that the man was really an angel who had been sent by God. A few days later, he was completely well. From that time forward, as St Cuthbert revealed in later years to a few trusted friends, he always received help from angels whenever he prayed to God in desperate situations.

In his prose Life of St Cuthbert, St Bede of Jarrow (May 27) reminds skeptics that it is not unknown for an angel to appear on horseback, citing 2 Maccabees 11:6-10 and 4 Maccabees 4:10.

While the saint was still young, he would tend his master’s sheep in the Lammermuir hills south of Edinburgh near the River Leader. One night while he was praying, he had a vision of angels taking the soul of St Aidan (August 31) to heaven in a fiery sphere. Cuthbert awakened the other shepherds and told them what he had seen. He said that this must have been the soul of a holy bishop or some other great person. A few days later they learned that Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne had reposed at the very hour that Cuthbert had seen his vision.
As an adult, St Cuthbert decided to give up his life in the world and advanced to better things. He entered the monastery at Melrose in the valley of the Tweed, where he was received by the abbot St Boisil (February 23). St Cuthbert was accepted into the community and devoted himself to serving God. His fasting and vigils were so extraordinary that the other monks marveled at him. He often spent entire nights in prayer, and would not eat anything for days at a time.

Who can describe his angelic life, his purity or his virtue? Much of this is known only to God, for St Cuthbert labored in secret in order to avoid the praise of men.

A few years later, St Eata (October 26) chose some monks of Melrose to live at the new monastery at Ripon. Among them was St Cuthbert. Both Eata and Cuthbert were expelled from Ripon and sent back to Melrose in 661 because they (and some other monks) refused to follow the Roman calculation for the date of Pascha. The Celtic Church, which followed a different, older reckoning, resisted Roman practices for a long time. However, in 664 the Synod of Whitby determined that the Roman customs were superior to those of the Celtic Church, and should be adopted by all. St Bede discusses this question in his HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH AND PEOPLE (Book III, 25).

St Cuthbert was chosen to be abbot of Melrose after the death of St Boisil, guiding the brethren by his words and by his example. He made journeys throughout the surrounding area to encourage Christians and to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard it. Sometimes he would be away from the monastery for a month at a time, teaching and preaching. He also worked many miracles, healing the sick and freeing those who were possessed by demons.

In 664, Cuthbert went with St Eata to Lindisfarne, and extended his territory to include the inhabitants of Northumberland and Durham. Soon St Eata appointed Cuthbert as prior of Lindisfarne (Holy Island). At that time both monasteries were under the jurisdiction of St Eata. While at Lindisfarne, St Cuthbert continued his habit of visiting the common people in order to inspire them to seek the Kingdom of Heaven.

Though some of the monks prefered their negligent way of life to the monastic rule, St Cuthbert gradually brought them around to a better state of mind. At first he had to endure many arguments and insults, but eventually he brought them to obedience through his patience and gentle admonition. He had a great thirst for righteousness, and so he did not hesitate to correct those who did wrong. However, his gentleness made him quick to forgive those who repented. When people confessed to him, he often wept in sympathy with their weakness. He also showed them how to make up for their sins by doing their penances himself.

St Cuthbert was a true father to his monks, but his soul longed for complete solitude, so he went to live on a small island (St Cuthbert’s Isle), a short distance from Lindisfarne. After gaining victory over the demons through prayer and fasting, the saint decided to move even farther away from his fellow men. In 676, he retired to Inner Farne, an even more remote location. St Cuthbert built a small cell which could not be seen from the mainland. A few yards away, he built a guest house for visitors from Lindisfarne. Here he remained for nearly nine years.

A synod at Twyford, with the holy Archbishop Theodore (September 19) presiding, elected Cuthbert Bishop of Hexham in 684. Letters and messengers were sent to inform him of the synod’s decision, but he refused to leave his solitude. King Ecgfrith and Bishop Trumwine (February 10) went to him in person, entreating him in Christ’s name to accept. At last, St Cuthbert came forth and went with them to the synod. With great reluctance, he submitted to the will of the synod and accepted the office of bishop. Almost immediately, he exchanged Sees with St Eata, and became Bishop of Lindisfarne while St Eata went to Hexham.

Bishop Cuthbert remained as humble as he had been before his consecration, avoiding finery and dressing in simple clothing. He fulfilled his office with dignity and graciousness, while continuing to live as a monk. His virtue and holiness of life only served to enhance the authority of his position.

His life as Bishop of Lindisfarne was quite similar to what it had been when he was prior of that monastery. He devoted himself to his flock, preaching and visiting people throughout his diocese, casting out demons, and healing all manner of diseases. He served as a bishop for only two years, however.

Once, St Cuthbert was invited to Carlisle to ordain seven deacons to the holy priesthood. The holy priest Hereberht was living in solitude on an island in that vicinity. Hearing that his spiritual friend Cuthbert was staying at Carlisle, he went to see him in order to discuss spiritual matters with him. St Cuthbert told him that he should ask him whatever he needed to ask, for they would not see one another in this life again. When he heard that St Cuthbert would die soon, Hereberht fell at his feet and wept. By God’s dispensation, the two men would die on the very same day.

Though he was only in his early fifties, St Cuthbert felt the time of his death was approaching. He laid aside his archpastoral duties, retiring to the solitude of Inner Farne shortly after the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity in 686 to prepare himself. He was able to receive visitors from Lindisfarne at first, but gradually he weakened and was unable to walk down to the landing stage to greet them.

His last illness came upon him on February 27, 687. The pious priest Herefrith (later the abbot of Lindisfarne) came to visit him that morning. When he was ready to go back, he asked St Cuthbert for his blessing to return. The saint replied, “Do as you intend. Get into your boat and return safely home.”
St Cuthbert also gave Father Herefrith instructions for his burial. He asked to be laid to rest east of the cross that he himself had set up. He told him where to find a stone coffin hidden under the turf. “Put my body in it,” he said, “and wrap it in the cloth you will find there.” The cloth was a gift from Abbess Verca, but St Cuthbert thought it was too fine for him to wear. Out of affection for her, he kept it to be used as his winding sheet.

Father Herefrith wanted to send some of the brethren to look after the dying bishop, but St Cuthbert would not permit this. “Go now, and come back at the proper time.”

When Herefrith asked when that time might be, St Cuthbert replied, “When God wishes. He will show you.”
Herefrith returned to Lindisfarne and told the brethren to pray for the ailing Cuthbert. Storms prevented the brethren from returning to Inner Farne for five days. When they did land there, they found the saint sitting on the beach by the guest house. He told them he had come out so that when they arrived to take care of him they would not have to go to his cell to find him. He had been sitting there for five days and nights, eating nothing but onions. He also revealed that during those five days he had been more severely assailed by demons than ever before.

This time, St Cuthbert consented to have some of the brethren attend him. One of these was his personal servant, the priest Bede. He asked particularly for the monk Walhstod to remain with him to help Bede take care of him. Father Herefrith returned to Lindisfarne and informed the brethren of Cuthbert’s wish to be buried on his island.

Herefrith and the others, however, wanted to bury him in their church with proper honor. Therefore, Herefrith went back to Cuthbert and asked for permission to do this. St Cuthbert said that he wanted to be buried there at the site of his spiritual struggles, and he pointed out that the peace of the brethren would be disturbed by the number of pilgrims who would come to Lindisfarne to venerate his tomb.

Herefrith insisted that they would gladly endure the inconvenience out of love for Cuthbert. Finally, the bishop agreed to be buried in the church on Lindisfarne so the monks would always have him with them, and they would also be able to decide which outsiders would be allowed to visit his tomb.

St Cuthbert grew weaker and weaker, so the monks carried him back into his cell. No one had ever been inside, so they paused at the door and asked that at least one of them be permitted to see to his needs. Cuthbert asked for Wahlstod to come in with him. Now Wahlstod had suffered from dysentery for a long time. Even though he was sick, he agreed to care for Cuthbert. As soon as he touched the holy bishop, his illness left him. Although he was sick and dying, St Cuthbert healed his servant Wahlstod. Remarkably, the holy man’s spiritual power was not impaired by his bodily weakness. About three o’clock in the afternoon Wahlstod came out and announced that the bishop wanted them to come inside.

Father Herefrith asked Cuthbert if he had any final instructions for the monks. He spoke of peace and harmony, warning them to be on guard against those who fostered pride and discord. Although he encouraged them to welcome visitors and offer them hospitality, he also admonished them to have no dealings with heretics or with those who lived evil lives. He told them to learn the teachings of the Fathers and put them into practice, and to adhere to the monastic rule which he had taught them.

After passing the evening in prayer, St Cuthbert sat up and received Holy Communion from Father Herefrith. He surrendered his holy soul to God on March 20, 687 at the time appointed for the night office.

Eleven years later, St Cuthbert’s tomb was opened and his relics were found to be incorrupt. In the ninth century, the relics were moved to Norham, then back to Lindisfarne. Because of the threat of Viking raids, St Cuthbert’s body was moved from place to place for seven years so that it would not be destroyed by the invaders.

St Cuthbert’s relics were moved to Chester-le-Street in 995. They were moved again because of another Viking invasion, and then brought to Durham for safekeeping. Around 1020 the relics of Sts Bede (May 27), Aidan (August 31), Boisil (February 23), Aebbe (August 25), Eadberht (May 6), Aethilwald (February 12), and other saints associated with St Cuthbert were also brought to Durham.

The tomb was opened again on August 24, 1104, and the incorrupt and fragrant relics were placed in the newly-completed cathedral. Relics of the other saints mentioned above were placed in various places around the church. The head of St Oswald of Northumbria (August 5), however, was left in St Cuthbert’s coffin.
In 1537 three commissioners of King Henry VIII came to plunder the tomb and desecrate the relics. St Cuthbert’s body was still incorrupt, and was later reburied. The tomb was opened again in 1827. A pile of bones was found in the outer casket, probably the relics of the various saints which had been collected seven centuries before, then replaced after the Protestant commissioners had completed their work.

In the inner casket was a skeleton wrapped in a linen shroud and five robes. In the vestments a gold and garnet cross was found, probably St Cuthbert’s pectoral cross. Also found were an ivory comb, a portable wood and silver altar, a stole (epitrachilion), pieces of a carved wooden coffin, and other items. These may be seen today in the Dean and Chapter library of Durham Cathedral. The tomb was opened again in 1899, and a scientific examination determined that the bones were those of a man in his fifties, Cuthbert’s age when he died.

Today St Cuthbert’s relics (and the head of St Oswald) lie beneath a simple stone slab on the site of the original medieval shrine in the Chapel of the Nine Altars, and St Bede’s relics rest at the other end of the cathedral. The relics and the treasures in the Library make Durham an appropriate place for pilgrims to visit.


While still in your youth, you laid aside all worldly cares, / and took up the sweet yoke of Christ, / and you were shown forth in truth to be nobly radiant in the grace of the Holy Spirit. / Therefore, God established you as a rule of faith and shepherd of His radiant flock, / Godly-minded Cuthbert, converser with angels and intercessor for men.


Having surpassed your brethren in prayers, fasting and vigils, / you were found worthy to entertain an angel in the form of a pilgrim; / and having shown forth with humility as a bright lamp set on high, / you received the gift of working wonders. / And now as you dwell in the Heavenly Kingdom, our righteous Father Cuthbert, / intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Martyr Pancharius at Nicomedia

The Holy Martyr Pancharius was a friend of the emperor Diocletian. He abandoned Christianity and became a pagan. His mother and sister sent him a letter in which they urged the apostate to fear God and the dread Last Judgment. Having repented, St Pancharius openly confessed his faith before the emperor, for which he suffered torture at Rome. Then he was sent to Nicomedia and beheaded in 303.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Monday, March 18, 2013

Venerable Aninas of the Euphrates

Commemorated on March 18

Saint Aninas was born at Chalcedon into a Christian family. After the death of his parents, he withdrew at age fifteen into a monastery, where he received monastic tonsure. In search of complete solitude, he went off into the heart of the desert where the River Euphrates separates Syria from Persia. There he came upon an Elder named Maium and settled there with him. Both ascetics led a very strict life. During the forty days of the Great Fast they ate nothing, taking delight and joy instead in spiritual nourishment.

Every day St Aninas carried drinking water from afar. Once, he returned with full water pitchers earlier than usual, since an angel had filled the vessels with water. The Elder Maium realized that his disciple had attained to a high level of spiritual accomplishment, and he in turn asked St Aninas to become his guide, but he refused out of humility. Later, the Elder went to a monastery, and St Aninas remained alone in the wilderness.
By constant struggles the saint conquered the passions within himself, and he was granted gifts of healing and clairvoyance. Even the wild beasts became docile and served him. Wherever the saint went, two lions followed after him, one of which he had healed of a wound on its paw.

Accounts of the saint spread throughout all the surrounding area, and the sick and those afflicted by evil spirits began to come to him, seeking healing. Several disciples also gathered around the saint. Once, in his seventeenth year as an ascetic, several men had come to the saint and asked for something to quench their thirst. Relying on the power of God, the saint sent one of his disciples to a dried-up well. The well miraculously filled up to its very top, and this water remained for many days. When the water ended, the saint did not dare to ask for a miracle for himself, and so he began to carry water from the Euphrates at night.

Bishop Patrick of Neocaesarea repeatedly visited the monk and ordained him presbyter, although the humble ascetic was resolved not to accept the priestly office. When he learned that the saint himself carried water from a distance, Bishop Patrick twice gave him donkeys, but each time St Aninas gave them away to the poor and continued to carry the water himself. Then the bishop ordered that a large well be dug, which they filled from time to time, bringing donkeys from the city.

St Aninas discerned the desire of a certain stylite monk, who struggled far from him, to come down off his pillar and make a complaint in court against a robber who had hurt him with a stone. St Aninas wrote a letter to the stylite, advising him not to carry out his intent. The letter was brought to the stylite by a trusty lion, and it brought him to his senses.

A certain pious woman, who had fallen ill, went to St Aninas to ask for his prayers. Along the way a robber chanced upon her. Since the woman had no money, he decided to assault her and force her into sin. The woman called on the saint’s help and cried out, “St Aninas, help me!” Terror suddenly overcame the robber, and he let go of the woman.

The woman went to St Aninas and told him everything, and she also received healing. The robber also came to the monk in repentance, was baptized, and was then tonsured as a monk. A spear which he had thrust into the ground when he attacked the woman, grew into a mighty oak.

At the age of 110 the saint predicted the time of his death, and he directed his successor as igumen to assemble the brethren.

Before his death, St Aninas conversed with the holy Prophets Moses, Aaron and Or [or Hur: Ex. 24:14]. He fell asleep in the Lord saying, “ O Lord, receive my soul.”


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday of Cheesefare: Explusion of Adam from Paradise

Commemorated on March 17

As we begin the Great Fast, the Church reminds us of Adam’s expulsion from Paradise. God commanded Adam to fast (Gen. 2:16), but he did not obey. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden and lost the life of blessedness, knowledge of God, and communion with Him, for which they were created. Both they and their descendents became heirs of death and corruption.
Let us consider the benefits of fasting, the consequences of disobedience, and recall our fallen state. Today we are invited to cleanse ourselves of evil through fasting and obedience to God. Our fasting should not be a negative thing, a mere abstention from certain foods. It is an opportunity to free ourselves from the sinful desires and urges of our fallen nature, and to nourish our souls with prayer, repentance, to participate in church services, and partake of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ.

At Forgiveness Vespers we sing: “Let us begin the time of fasting in light, preparing ourselves for spiritual efforts. Let us purify our soul, let us purify our body. As we abstain from food, let us abstain from all passion and enjoy the virtues of the spirit....”


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2012(with 2011's link here also and further, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):