You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.

On the 14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children.The murdered infants thus became the first martyrs for Christ. “

 

Christ is Born, Glorify Him!

 

  In the festive atmosphere that embraced heaven and earth, just few days from the Nativity feast of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Church coats herself in much sorrow for the innocent babies slain by king Herod’s cruelty. Back than Jesus was saved from the wrath of Herod. Still today, He suffers the torment of death with each of the babies slain by modern tools of medicine, by the will of a society that had lost its balance and sense of life and raised to the rank of the law, the grivial sin of murdering babies.

  Truly the commandment of the Gospel “Thy shall not kill!” no longer holds true in a world that calls the good evil and the evil good.  

Life starts at conception

  Most people do not know what happens during an abortion. Perhaps many women who committed abortion did not know that actually they killed a child. Why? Because they  are told that by the third month in the womb they bear only “a ball of cells” and not a true man.

  British Professor Stuart Campbell, a researcher at “Create Health Clinic” in London, managed to obtain, through a new type of ultrasound scan, three-dimensional images that allow viewing of fetal movements in real time. The study demonstrates for the first time that life begins with fertilization and not at birth. At the moment of conception, 46 chromosomes with 30,000 genes combine and determine all our physical characteristics: gender, facial and bodily features, eye color, hair and skin. Then, in just a few weeks, from one cell a tiny man is formed, having all the organs already present and able to work.

  What happens following the 3 months – in which some argue that the fetus is merely “a ball of cells”? 

The heart starts beating 18 days post conception, fetal blood passes through the umbilical cord, the placenta where the metabolic exchanges take place between the mother and the child: the child passes to the mother the remnants of carbon dioxide and the mother provides oxygen and nutrients. In about 3 weeks the hands start to  form and at 8 weeks, the fingers. The fetus can move the fingers and open his/her mouth.

At 40 days, the brain function is measured by EEG waves. This wonderful control center – the brain – sends messages to both mother and child.

At 2 months, the baby fingerprints are already imprinted in the skin.

At about 7 weeks, the first spontaneous movements are noticed, although the mother usually doesn’t feel the baby moving until about 16 weeks.

At 18 weeks, the fetus is active and energetic and makes numerous muscle flexes and can give sufficiently strong punches and kicks :)

At 26 weeks, the fetus can do a wide range of child specific gestures – to scratch, to smile, to hiccup and suck his/her fingers …

Hristos binecuvantand copiii 2 

“Let children come to me …”

(the choice is made by God not by the pregnant women)

by Fr. Alexander Stanciu

 Before enjoying the light of this life, God had ordained that the child will dwell and develop for 9 months in the safest shelter of the world: his mother’s womb. Today, however, man has transformed this possible safest shelter in the most dangerous place for that, although the child can do nothing to defend himself, his life can be taken even by the dearest person, his MOTHER .

 The conceived fetus becomes a human being at the time of fecundation, when God created immortal soul of man. The sin of abortion is a form of murdering baby Christ, Who in a certain way, is born with every baby. From the moment of conception, the child bears the image of God, and through Baptism will carry the image of Christ within. If this image is destroyed, in the women womb Christ is been crucified once more. Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain goes so far as saying that a mother who commits abortion, does not kill one human being, but in  so much she is killing as many survivors as would have resulted if  her child had lived.

15-weeks.jpg 

Can abortion ever be recommended?

Lets follow these three examples:

1. The father is an alcoholic, the mother has tuberculosis. They have four children. The first one is blind. The second one died. The third child is deaf, and the fourth has tuberculosis. She becomes pregnant again. Given this extreme situation, would you take into account the recommendation of abortion?

2. A little black girl, aged 13, was raped by a white man, the little girl became pregnant. If you were her parents, would you recommend abortion?

3. A teenager girl is pregnant. She is not married. Her fiancé is not the father of the child. He is very upset and plans to leave her. In this case, would you consider abortion appropriate?

If you said “yes” to the 1st question: You have killed Beethoven.

If you said “yes” to the 2nd question: You have killed a great black singer of religious music, Ethel Wathers.

If you said “yes” to the 3rd  question: You just decided to kill Jesus Christ.

  

The Silent Scream of a Fetus – Child faced with Extinction

(The following educational material is not recommended for children!)

Part 1.

 

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

 

The Magi precious gifts for our Lord and Savior are now found in the Monastery of St. Paul Xeropotamenos from Holy Mt Athos

 

  The monastery of Saint Paul, now dedicated to the Presentation of Christ, earlier honoured the Saviour, the Virgin and Saint Georgios.

Among the monastery treasury and relics are:

–  the precious gifts that the Magi brought to the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ;

–  pieces of cloth our Lord was clothed at birth;

–  a big piece of wood of the cross the Lord was crucified on, dressed in silver,

–  a large piece of blood from the  40 Holy Martyrs;

– a finger of St. Basil, and many other Relics of the Saints.

  Ranking fourteenth in the hierarchy, it owes its foundation, to the 8th/9th centuries A.D., according to tradition. The monastery is probably, however, a foundation of Pavlos Xeropotamenos in the second half of the l0th century A.D. The monastery of Saint Paul only acquired a permanent place amongst the other Athonite monasteries after A.D. 1370, thanks to the intervention of the Serb monks Gerasimos Radonia and Antonios Pegases. Early in the l4th century the Palaiologoi and the kings of Serbia extended the complex, and after the Fall of the Byzantine Empire, the Christian sultana Mara, Greek and Romanian princes of the Danubian principalities made funds available for renovation and additional building. It was deserted at the time of the War of Independence but finally recovered, thanks to donations by the Russian tzars.  

From the Prologue from Ochrid

by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

‘And when the fullness of time was come, God sent His only-begotten Son’ (Gal. 4:4), to save the human race. And when the ninth month had come after the archangel Gabriel appeared to the most holy Virgin in Nazareth, saying: ‘Hail) thou that art highly favoured… thou shalt conceive and bear a son’ – at that time a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that all the inhabitants of the Roman Empire be taxed. In accordance with this decree, everyone had to go to his own town and there be inscribed. Therefore righteous Joseph came with the most holy Virgin to Bethlehem, the city of David, for they were both of the royal House of David. But, there being a great many people in that small city for the census, Joseph and Mary could not find a lodging in any house, and found shelter in a cave which the shepherds used as a sheepfold. In this cave the most holy Virgin gave birth to the Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. Bearing Him without pain, as He was conceived without sin of the Holy Spirit and not of man, she herself wrapped Him in swaddling bands, worshipped Him as God and laid Him in a manger. Then righteous Joseph drew near and worshipped Him as the divine Fruit of a virgin womb. Then the shepherds came in from the fields, directed by an angel of God, and worshipped Him as Messiah and Saviour. The shepherds had heard a multitude of angels singing: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men’ (Luke 2:14). At that time there also came wise men from the East, led by a wonderful star, bearing their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh, and worshipped Him as King of kings, offering Him their gifts (Matt. 2:11). Thus He came into the world Whose coming had been foretold by the prophets and Who was born in the way that they had prophesied: of the most holy Virgin, in the city of Bethlehem, of the lineage of David according to the flesh, at the time when there was no longer in Jerusalem a king of the tribe of Judah, but Herod the stranger was on the throne. After many types and prefigurings, messengers and heralds, prophets and righteous men, wise men and kings, finally He appeared, the Lord of the world and King of kings, to perform the work of the salvation of mankind that could not be performed by His servants. May His be eternal glory and praise! Amen.

From the “Manual for Orthodox Priests” (Nastolnaya Kniga), Kharkov, 1900

S.V. Bulgakov

THE ESTABLISHMENT of this feast belongs to the very earliest period of the Church. The very content of the feast already indicates the reason for its establishment, namely: the remembrance and glorification of the Nativity in the flesh by the Most Holy Virgin Mary of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To this original and fundamental reason another was added very early: in order, through a precise establishment of the feast by revealing the true teaching of the Incarnation and Birth of the Saviour, to counteract the errors of certain heretics: Ebionites, Docetists, and Basilidians.

Because of these false teachings the ancient Church chiefly emphasized remembrance of the event of Christ’s Birth as the revelation of God Himself in the flesh. In the 4th century, with the appearance and spread of Arianism, there appeared a new and more powerful stimulus for the Orthodox Church to glorify the event of Christ’s Birth. The Feast was not celebrated on a uniform date until the Church connected the Feast with its opposition to Arianism and Paganism. By removing the feast to December 25, the Church had in view to counteract the insidious errors of Arius concerning the Nature of Christ, and also to counteract the pagan cult on that day and preserve the faithful from participating in it.

It is known that the Romans had on December 25 a feast, the so-called dies natalis Solis invicti, which served to express the idea of the sun’s constant return to summer, as if it were renewing itself, and which was a day of unbridled merrymaking among the people, a day of diversion for slaves, children, and the like. Thus in itself this day was better suited than any other for the commemoration of the Birth of Jesus Christ, Who is often called in the New Testament the Sun of justice, the Light of the world, the Salvation of men, the Vanquisher of life and death; and the reprehensible pagan celebration of it was sufficient motive for the Church to ennoble it in the sense of an elevated Christian commemoration.

The Troparion hymn of the Feast emphasizes the point of replacing the Pagan feast of the Sun with the celebration of the Birth of God in the flesh, witnessed to by pagan astrologers, the magi:

“Thy Nativity, O Christ, our God, Has shown to the world the light of wisdom. For by it those who worshipped the stars, Were taught by a star to adore Thee, The Sun of Righteousness; And to know Thee, the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee.”

The ancient Church, denying the identity of the two analogous feasts — the pagan and the Christian – – had already appropriated to the feast of the Nativity of Christ a character of energetic renunciation of pagan superstitions and customs. Affirming our faith in the great mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and accusing all heretics who disfigured this dogma by their sophistry, the Holy Church, in celebrating the Nativity of Christ, represents this feast in its hymns as a day of universal joy, “for unto us is born this day a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord” (Lt. Luke 2:10-11). Let Heaven and earth” exclaims the Holy Church, “this day prophetically rejoice; every creature delights for the sake of the Lord our Saviour born in Bethlehem: for every idolatrous delusion has passed, and Christ reigns forever.”

At the same time the Holy Church, by her celebration of the Nativity of Christ, instructs us morally in a holy life worthy of the Lord Who is born. “Today a Saviour has been born to us, Who is Christ the Lord, for us men and for our salvation”, and we, celebrating now this Birth of Christ the Lord, naturally must kindle in ourselves a determination to be reborn from a life of sin to a life holy and God-pleasing. Our Lord Jesus Christ has come down to earth and entered into a relationship of grace with us whom He “is not ashamed to call brethren” (Romans 2:11). But in order for us to be worthy of this exalted communion and tie, in order not to reject the Lord come down from heaven, it is necessary for us to withdraw from the darkness of sin and draw near to the light of faith, piety, and good works.

Not in glory and magnificence, but in poverty, wretchedness, and humiliation does the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth appear in the world; not a luxurious palace, but a humble cave, receives the King of those who reign and the Lord of those who rule. By this we are shown the greatness of humility, poverty, meekness, and simplicity, and the ruinousness of pride, riches, vainglory, and luxury. The first deemed worthy to hear the Good News of the angels concerning the Birth of the Saviour of the world, and the first to bow before Him, were the simple shepherds of Bethlehem, and after them the wise Persian magi; and thus at the manger of the Saviour we see two kinds of people: pastors and magi, i.e., the simplest people and the most cultivated.

By this it is suggested to us that the Lord receives all and everyone: He is pleased by unlettered simplicity, when it is united to faithful fulfillment of one’s calling, to purity of conscience and life; and He does not reject human wisdom, when it knows how to submit itself to illumination from above and make use of its learning for the glory of God and the benefit of one’s fellow men. This instructs each to be satisfied with his lot in life, and at the same time it shows that there is no calling or condition that prevents one from drawing near to God; that honest and industrious labor, conscientious fulfillment of obligations, inspired by faith and hope in God, are always pleasing to God and draw His blessing; that in the eyes of God it is not outward pre-eminence in the world that is precious, but simplicity of heart and conscience, meekness and humility of spirit, submissiveness and obedience to God’s law, patience and good-heartedness, hope and devotion to the will of God, kindness and benevolence toward one’s neighbor, a walking before God irreproachable in all His commandments and statutes; that these precious qualities do not belong exclusively to any particular class of men; that in every calling and condition a man can be pleasing to God, if he will please Him in word and deed, in wish and thought. In general the manifestation of God in the flesh, so graphically depicted in the Church services of the Feast, with all the accompanying circumstances, is an inexhaustible source for our edification.

On the same day is celebrated the memory of the three magi from the East, who learned of the Birth of the Saviour by a miraculous star and brought gifts and worshipped Him, and later received baptism from the Apostle Thomas in Parthia and themselves preached Christ. They, as Archbishop Innocent of Kherson has written, “represent the whole of mankind; and their gifts — gold, frankincense, and myrrh — symbolically represent all that we can offer to our Saviour. Gold represents material gifts and is offered by those who sacrifice something from their labor or acquisitions for the glory of God…Frankincense is offered by those who use, for the glory of God and the benefit of their neighbor, their talents, knowledge, and skill, which are something that cannot be bought with gold. These are God’s gift to man, but they can and should also be man’s gift to God…Myrrh, like frankincense, gives a fragrance, but its distinguishing characteristic lies in its extreme bitterness; therefore it represents our misfortunes, sorrows, tears, and suffering. They offer myrrh as a gift to the Lord who bear misfortunes in life and suffer innocently, without falling into despondency or complaining…This is the most precious of all the gifts that we can offer the Lord…”

Commemoration is made also on this day of the simple shepherds who were the first of the Chosen People to hear of the Birth of the awaited Messiah. The second day of the Feast is dedicated to the glorification of her through whom the Feast was made possible: the Most Holy Mother of God.

The Kontakion hymn of the Feast:

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify Him, And wise men journey with a star. For a young Child is born for us, Who is the eternal God.

The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). St Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September 7).

Tradition suggests that when St Ignatius was a little boy, the Savior hugged him and said: “Unless you turn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros), because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

St Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John the Theologian, together with St Polycarp of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, St Ignatius was zealous and spared no effort to build up the church of Christ. To him is attributed the practice of antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to follow this example. In the time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was eager to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity. St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch. St Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. St Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied St Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where St Ignatius met with his friend Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to see St Ignatius. He exhorted everyone not to fear death and not to grieve for him. In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, and to pray that God would strengthen him in his impending martyrdom for Christ: “I seek Him Who died for us; I desire Him Who rose for our salvation… In me, desire has been nailed to the cross, and no flame of material longing is left. Only the living water speaks within me, saying, ‘Hasten to the Father.'”

From Smyrna, St Ignatius went to Troas. Here he heard the happy news of the end of the persecution against Christians in Antioch. From Troas, St Ignatius sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.
On the way to Rome St Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the Christians there. He also wrote seven epistles: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna. He also addressed a letter to St Polycarp, who mentions a collection of the letters of St Ignatius in his letter to the Philippians (Ch. 13). St Irenaeus of Lyons quotes from St Ignatius’s letter to the Romans (AGAINST HERESIES 5:28:4). All these letters have survived to the present day.

The Roman Christians met St Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but St Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced. I long to be with Him, and offer myself to him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart and a few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, St Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within. When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: “Jesus Christ.” After his execution St Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of St Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

From a post of John Tsapos to the Yahoo groups “Catechism” mailing list.

 

Selected Quotations from St Ignatius’ letters

I do not issue orders to you, as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for the name [of Christ], I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as fellow-disciples with me. For it was needful for me to have been stirred up by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and long-suffering. But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that ye would all run together in accordance with the will of God.

Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter III.—Exhortations to unity.

For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom ye must flee as ye would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter VII.—Beware of false teachers.

But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, Or, “before the ages.” but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.” Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter VII.—Beware of false teachers.

Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye come frequently together in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and his “fiery darts” urging to sin fall back ineffectual

Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter XIII.—Exhortation to meet together frequently for the worship of God.

I write to all the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep [in death], I may not be found troublesome to any one. Then shall I be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Entreat the Lord for me, that by these instruments [848] I may be found a sacrifice to God. I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles of Jesus Christ, but I am the very least [of believers]: they were free, [849] as the servants of God; while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in Him. And now, being in bonds for Him, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter IV.–Allow me to fall a prey to the wild beasts.

All the ends of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, [864] shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. “For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?” I long after the Lord, the Son of the true God and Father, even Jesus Christ. Him I seek, who died for us and rose again. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me in attaining to life; for Jesus is the life of believers. Do not wish to keep me in a state of death, [865] for life without Christ is death. While I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of Christ, my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans,Chapter VI.–By death I shall attain true life.

His Grace Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Orthodox Church on the Importance of the Nativity Season and Advent

A Retreat given December 2007 by fr Evans Armato, from St Spyridon Church, CO

2007 AdventRetreat Part I – Fr Evan

2007 AdventRetreat Part II – Fr Evan

Spruce Island is known as the home of St. Herman (1730 – 1837), the first Saint to be canonized on American soil by the Orthodox Church.

1.jpg

  There are two monasteries on Spruce Island; St. Michael’s Skete and St. Nilus Skete are home to Russian Orthodox monks and nuns, respectively.

  Saint Herman of Alaska was born in 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov in the Moscow Diocese of Russia. He took the name Herman when tonsured a monk in the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage, near the Gulf of Finland, about 10 miles from St. Petersburg. He then transferred to the Valaam Monastery on the islands of Lake Ladoga. He was allowed later to live in the wilderness, a hermit alone in prayer, returning to the monastery only for the services of holy days.

  In 1793, Father Herman, with Father (later, St.) Juvenaly and others, were chosen to do missionary work in Alaska. By zeal and the grace of God, they brought to the Faith several thousands of Native Alaskans. However, as time went by, the missionary party was slowly cut down. Some drowned in a ship at sea. Father Juvenaly was martyred at the hands of fearful Alaskans. Eventually, only Father Herman alone, of the original party, remained.

  Father Herman settled on Spruce Island, and named it, “New Valaam,” in honor of his beloved Valaam Monastery. He dug a cave out of the ground with nothing but his hands, and lived there until a cell could be built, in which he then lived until his death. He grew his own food, not only for himself but for all he cared for, digging the earth, planting, carrying heavy loads of seaweed to fertilize the earth. He was a great ascetic; he was always barefoot even in these lands of the far North, and wore only a deerskin smock, a podrasnik and a patched rassa (inner and outer cassock), and his klobuk (monastic hat). He slept very little, and only on a wooden bench with no cushion, used bricks for a pillow, and covered himself with no blankets, but only a board.

  He advocated for and defended the Aleuts against sometimes oppressive authorities. He cared lovingly and sacrificially for all who came to him, counseling and teaching them, and tirelessly nursing the sick. He especially loved children, for whom he often baked biscuits and cookies.

  He was a great and compelling teacher, not only to Aleuts but also to highly educated and “free-thinking” Russians and Europeans who happened to travel there, and this humble monk humbled these “great ones” by his knowledge and wisdom, converting many to the true Faith. Often Aleuts were so captivated that they stayed up with him all night, not leaving until dawn.

  The elder was given great spiritual gifts by God. He often foreknew the future, telling people of events that would happen many years later, and which were shown to have come true. By his prayers, God averted forest fires from crossing a line Father Herman made, and stopped a flood from rising past the position where Father Herman had placed an icon of the Mother of God and prayed.

  Father Herman reposed in the Lord in his sleep on the 25th day of December (December 12th on the ancient Calendar of the Church), in 1837. He continued to work miracles after his death, answering the prayers of the faithful in intercession for them before God.

Holy St. Herman, pray to God for us.

Troparion in Tone IV:

O venerable Herman, ascetic of the northern wilderness and gracious advocate for all the world, teacher of the Orthodox Faith and good instructor of piety, adornment of Alaska and joy of all America: entreat Christ God, that He save our souls.

Kontakion in Tone VIII:

O beloved of the Mother of God, who received the tonsure at Valaam, new zealot of the struggles of the desert-dwellers of old: wielding prayer as a spear and shield, thou didst show thyself to be terrible to demons and pagan darkness. Wherefore, we cry out to the: O venerable Herman, entreat Christ God that our souls be saved!

wpe1F.jpg (69919 bytes)

For more reading about St. Herman:

THE LIFE OF ST HERMAN OF ALASKA

St. Herman of Alaska Wonderworker of All America

  (A beautifully carved wooden reliquary in the Resurrection Church contains the coffin with Father Herman’s relics.  On top of the reliquary are: a large icon of the saint (center); as well as the “paramon” cross and metal chains (on the left) that he wore (shown in the icon at the top); and his klobuk (monk’s hat) (in the glass box on the right).  Also to be found at this church is Father Herman’s hand cross, which he is shown holding in the icon at the top}.

St Spyridon Church (video link)

Feast Day, December 12.

  Saint Spiridon lived during the time of king Constantine the Great and his son Constantius.

  This God-bearing Father of the Church, the great defender of Corfu and the boast of all the Orthodox, had Cyprus as his homeland. He was simple in manner and humble of heart, and was a shepherd of sheep. When he was joined to a wife, he begat of her a daughter whom they named Irene. After his wife’s departure from this life, he was appointed Bishop of Trimythus, and thus he became also a shepherd of rational sheep. When the First Ecumenical Council was assembled in Nicaea, he also was present, and by means of his most simple words stopped the mouths of the Arians who were wise in their own conceit. By the divine grace which dwelt in him, he wrought such great wonders that he received the surname ‘Wonderworker.” So it is that, having tended his flock piously and in a manner pleasing to God, he reposed in the Lord about the year 350, leaving to his country his sacred relics as a consolation and source of healing for the faithful.

  About the middle of the seventh century, because of the incursions made by the barbarians at that time, his sacred relics were taken to Constantinople, where they remained, being honoured by the emperors themselves. But before the fall of Constantinople, which took place on May 29, 1453, a certain priest named George Kalokhairetes, the parish priest of the church where the Saint’s sacred relics, as well as those of Saint Theodora the Empress, were kept, took them away on account of the impending peril. Travelling by way of Serbia, he came as far as Arta in Epirus, a region in Western Greece opposite to the isle of Corfu. From there, while the misfortunes of the Christian people were increasing with every day, he passed over to Corfu about the year 1460. The relics of Saint Theodora were given to the people of Corfu; but those of Saint Spyridon remain to this day, according to the rights of inheritance, the most precious treasure of the priest’s own descendants, and they continue to be a staff for the faithful in Orthodoxy, and a supernatural wonder for those that behold him; for even after the passage of 1,500 years, they have remained incorrupt, and even the flexibility of his flesh has been preserved. Truly wondrous is God in His Saints! (Ps. 67:3 5)

                                         Apolytikion in the First Tone

 O Father, God-bearer, Spyridon, you were proven a champion and Wonder Worker of the First Ecumenical Council. You spoke to the girl in the grave and turned the serpent to gold. And, when chanting your prayers, most sacred One, angels ministered with you. Glory to Him who glorified you; glory to Him who crowned you; glory to Him who, through you, works healing for all.

                                         Kontakion in the Second Tone

Wounded by your love for Christ, O holy One, your mind given wings by the radiance of the Spirit, you put the practice of theory into deeds, becoming a sacred altar, O Chosen by God, and praying for the divine illumination of all.                                      

 (St Spyridin basilica from Corfu)

                                      MIRACLEs In CORFU Island 

 For over a 100 years after his death, sweet-scented exhalations were perceived emanating from his tomb, until the local churchmen dug it up and found his body intact. The holy remains were kept in Cyprus for over 300 years. In the second half of the 17th century the Saint’s body was carried to Constantinople, until the fall of the City to the Turks in 1453. Shortly after the Turkish conquest, the priest George Kalochairetis carried off the body of the Saint, together with that of Saint Theodora and he brought them to Corfu in 1456. Since that year St. Spyridon has never ceased to be the object of devout veneration by the faithful.

 Old Fortress in Corfu

                              
                

  Historical sources that certify the authenticity of the following event on the expulsion of the papal forces from the island, include the historical notes given by a great saint of our Church, St. Athanasius of Paros. We should all reflect upon the message of the following event.

                                               THE GREAT MIRACLE

 In 1716 the Turks had the island of Corfu under a tight siege. They had 50,000 troops and a good number of ships surrounding the island, cutting its lifeline from land and sea.

 The barbarian armies had been concentrated at the far walls of the city. Pizani, a general of the forces of the Venetian Republic, was anxiously anticipating the oncoming enemy attack (since Corfu and the nearby islands were occupied by Italy at the time).

 At daybreak on August 11, 1716, St. Spyridon, the patron Saint of the island, appeared in front of the enemy lines holding a glistening sword in his right hand. His austere and grandiose appearance horrified the aggressors who began to recede. The Agarenes, panic-stricken by the most awesome presence and fearless attack of the Saint, abandoned weapons, machinery and animals, running for their lives.

 This great miracle became known throughout the island. The Turks had left behind 120 cannons, a large number of weapons, ammunition, animals and food.

 After this powerful, surprising and most obvious miracle, the Venetian ruler Andrew Pizani, who was a Papist, wanted to erect a Papist altar inside the Orthodox Church of St. Spyridon (forever pushing for this was also the Papist Cardinal of the island). However, St. Spyridon appeared to Pizani in a dream saying: “Why are you bothering me? The altar of your faith is unacceptable in my Temple!” Naturally, Pizani reported this to the Papist Cardinal who answered that it was nothing but an evil fantasy of the devil who wanted to nullify the noble deed. After this, Pizani was much encouraged, so he ordered the necessary materials to commence construction of the altar. The materials were piled up outside of the temple of St. Spyridon. When the Orthodox priests of the temple and the Greek leaders of the island realised what was going on, they were greatly grieved. They asked to meet with Pizani to ask him to put a stop to this. Pizani’s response was quite disheartening. He said quite bluntly, “As a ruler I will do whatever I please!” At that moment, the Orthodox community of the island turned their eyes to their Saint, beseeching him to put a stop to this abomination.

sf_spiridon_2.jpgsf_spiridon_1.jpg sf_spiridon_4.jpg  

(Holy Relics of St Spyridon in the Church of St Spyridon from Corfu)

That same night, St. Spyridon appeared to Pizani as a monk and told him, “I told you not to bother me. If you dare to go through with your decision, you will surely regret it, but by then it will be too late.”

 The next morning, Pizani reported all this to the Papist Cardinal who now accused him of being not only faithless but also of being “yellow”. Again, after this, the ruler mustered up enough courage to order the construction of the altar.

 The Papists of the island were celebrating their triumph while the Orthodox were deeply grieved. Their grief could not be comforted and with tears they begged for the Saint’s intervention to save them from the Papist abomination.

 The Saint heard their prayers and intervened dynamically.

 That evening, a terrible storm broke out, unleashing a barrage of thunderbolts on Fort Castelli, Pizani’s base and his ammunition barracks. The entire fort ended up in a holocaust. 900 Papist soldiers and civilians were instantly killed from the explosion, but not a single Orthodox was harmed (as they were not allowed inside the fort after dark). Pizani was found dead with his neck wedged between two wooden beams. The body of the Papist Cardinal was found thrown a great distance from the fort.

 But the most incredible fact was that the same night and at the same hour, another thunderbolt struck in Venice, targeting the compound of Pizani, burning his portrait that hung on the wall. Strangely enough, nothing else was damaged. Also, the guard of the ammunition barracks saw the Saint draw near him with a lit torch. He was carried by the Saint near the church of the Crucified without a single scratch.

                                                     PRESENT TIMES

 Many are the miracles of St. Spyridon to our dearest Orthodoxy. It seems that the Saint does not share the enthusiasm of certain Ecumenist clerics. Because we do not wish to draw attention to specific names at this point, we would simply like to mention that very recently, an important Orthodox hierarch in Corfu had decided to go and meet with Latin Papists outside the island, himself being a philo-Papist. However, he never made it back to the island as he suddenly dropped dead.

 It seems that the Saint does not want those clerics who make openings to the Latins back in his island …

 

Troparion of Saint Nicholas  

 “The verity of your actions revealed you to your flock as a rule of faith, an icon of mildness, and a teacher of continence, O Father Bishop Nicholas; wherefore by humility you have achieved exaltation, and by poverty richness. Intercede with Christ to save our souls.” 

This Saint lived during the reign of Saint Constantine the Great, and reposed in 330, As a young man, he desired to espouse the solitary life. He made a pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem, where he found a place to withdraw to devote himself to prayer. It was made known to him, however, that this was not the will of God for him, but that he should return to his homeland to be a cause of salvation for many. He returned to Myra, and was ordained bishop. He became known for his abundant mercy, providing for the poor and needy, and delivering those who had been unjustly accused. No less was he known for his zeal for the truth. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of the 318 Fathers at Nicaea in 325; upon hearing the blasphemies that Arius brazenly uttered against the Son of God, Saint Nicholas struck him on the face. Since the canons of the Church forbid the clergy to strike any man at all, his fellow bishops were in perplexity what disciplinary action was to be taken against this hierarch whom all revered. In the night our Lord Jesus Christ and our Lady Theotokos appeared to certain of the bishops, informing them that no action was to be taken against him, since he had acted not out of passion, but extreme love and piety. The Dismissal Hymn for holy hierarchs, The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock … was written originally for Saint Nicholas. He is the patron of all travellers, and of sea-farers in particular; he is one of the best known and best loved Saints of all time.

 

Coming to the city of Myra when the clergy and people of the province were in session to elect a new bishop, St. Nicholas was indicated by God as the man they should choose. This was at the time of the persecutions at the beginning of the fourth century. “As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of the faith with a holy liberty, the divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates. He was tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians. But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra.”     

St. Nicholas was zealous in his duties as bishop and took strong measures against paganism: and one of the temples that he destroyed was that of Artemis, and the evil spirits fled howling before him. He was the guardian of his people in temporal affairs as well. The governor Eustathius had taken a bribe to condemn to death three innocent men. At the time fixed for their execution Nicholas came to the place, stayed the hand of the executioner, and released the prisoners. Then he turned to Eustathius and did not cease to reproach him until he admitted his crime and expressed his penitence. 

  

    There were present on this occasion three imperial officers who were on their way to duty in Phrygia. Later, when they were back again on Constantinople, the jealousy of the prefect Ablavius caused them to be imprisoned on false charges and an order for their death was procured from Emperor Constantine. That night St. Nicholas appeared in a dream to Constantine, and told him with threats to release the three innocent men, and Ablavius experienced the same thing. In the morning the emperor and the prefect compared notes, and the three condemned men were sent for and questioned. When he heard that they had called upon the name of the Nicholas of Myra who had appeared to him, Constantine set them free, and sent them to the bishop with a letter asking him not to threaten him anymore, but to pray for the peace of the world.  

  

    St. Nicholas died and was buried in his episcopal city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian there was a basilica built in his honor at Constantinople. 

Initial Tomb of St. Nichols from his church in Myra

    When Myra and its great shrine finally passed into the hands of the Saracens, there was a great competition for his relics between two cities of Italy, Bari and Venice. Bari won and the relics were carried off under the noses of the lawful Greek custodians and their Mohammedan masters, and on May 9, 1087, were safely landed at Bari.   At Myra, “the venerable body of the bishop, embalmed as it was in the good ointments of virtue, exuded a sweet-smelling ‘myrrh,’ which kept it from corruption and proved a health-giving remedy against sickness, to the glory of him who had glorified Jesus Christ, our true God.” 

The church of St Nicholas from Myra

 The transfer of the relics did not interrupt this phenomenon, and the “manna of St. Nicholas” is said to flow to this day.     He is venerated as the patron saint of several classes of people, especially, in the east, of sailors and, in the west, of children. The first of these patronages is due to the legend that, during his lifetime, he appeared to storm-tossed mariners who had invoked his aid off the coast of Lycia, and brought them safely to port. Sailors in the Aegean and Ionian seas, following a common eastern custom, had their “star of St. Nicholas” and wished one another a good voyage in the phrase “May St. Nicholas hold the tiller.” The legend of the “three children” gave rise to his patronage of children and various observance, secular and ecclesiastical, especially the giving of presents in his name at Christmas time. The deliverance of the three imperial officers naturally cause St. Nicholas to be invoked by and on behalf of prisoners and captives, and many miracles of his intervention are recorded in the middle ages.

 

Blessed Memory of Elder Cleopa of Sihastria Monastery

Fr. Cleopa has found his place in history as the most representative elder and spiritual father of contemporary Romanian Orthodox spirituality. The last twenty years of his life the Elder spent in increased and concentrated prayer: fourteen to fifteen hours a day. He had mystical moments when he did not want to speak to anyone, not even his cell attendant. From four until eight the Elder prayed his morning rule; afterward he confessed monks and lay people until about four in the afternoon, when he began his evening prayer rule, consisting of the canon of repentance, canons to the Theotokos, the Supplicatory Canon, Small Compline and other services.

Fr. Cleopa remembering his nostalgic beginnings: “In the years that I was shepherd of the skete’s sheep together with my brothers, I had great spiritual joy. The sheepfold, the sheep – I live in quiet and solitude on the mountain, in the midst of nature; it was my monastic and theological school”. In the last months of his life the Elder could be heard saying often: “Now I am going to my brothers!” and “Leave me to depart to my brothers!” and “I am going to Christ! Pray for me, the sinner.”

On the eve of the Elder’s departure for the next life he began to read his morning rule, when his disciple said to him: “Geronda, its evening now. These prayers should be read tomorrow morning.” The Elder answered him saying, “I am reading them now because tomorrow morning I am going to my brothers.” On the morning of December 2nd, 1998, at about 2:20 a.m. Elder Cleopa departed for eternity

  

The Four Laws by which Christ will Judge the World

By Elder Cleopa of Sihastria

I have said a few words about death. I will now say something about conscience. Whoever will guard his/her conscience clean, will undoubtedly be prepared and happy when death comes. One’s conscience is the just judge that God has placed within us.

One’s conscience cannot ever be a mere reflection of matter. It is God’s voice in man and it always reprimands him when he goes astray: “Man, why did you do this or that?”

This law of one’s nature is also common among the Chinese, among Christians, or among the Buddhists, Brahmans, and Mohammedans. It is the first law that God placed in man’s soul ever since He created him, based on which the world guided itself until the written Law. An non-believing lawyer asked me once:

–         Father, I just cannot come to terms with the idea of the Last Judgement!

–         Oh, why can’t you, brother? How come?

–         Father, how is Christ going to judge me if I were Chinese or other nationality and therefore I have never heard of Christ in my life? They have not heard about Christ out there. Does that mean that God punishes unjustly? He is just. How will He judge and punish me, if I haven’t even heard of Christ’s Gospel?

–         Hang on a minute! You, Sir, know how to shuffle those papers around, to write minutes or whatever it is that you’re doing in your job. You don’t know the Scripture, though. You are a rationalist, you split the hair in forty and waste yourself completely by following your own mind.

There are four laws based on which God will judge the whole earth. Not one, but four. And nobody can escape God’s terrible justice, whether they are Chinese, Brahman, Buddhist, Christian, Mohammedan, or Jewish, because God is just, as the Apostle says: God is just and all humans are liars. [*to find exact quote]

Precisely because He is just, God has established these laws, so that He will judge everyone justly. You hear? Four laws.

The first law is the law of nature or the law of one’s conscience. It was by that law that God rebuked Cain when he killed his brother Abel. Because listen to what the Scripture says: that he was so much tormented by remorse that he fell into despair and cried: “My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon.

He fell into despair for having killed his brother Abel, the shepherd; as God had received Abel’s sacrifice and Cain had taken envy on him and as soon as Abel went out into the field, he killed him.

The law of the conscience was telling him: “What have you one? You have killed your brother!”

And he hears God:

–         Cain, where is your brother?

But instead of telling him “God, I have done wrong”, he answered:

–         I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?

And God told him:

–         Your brother’s blood calls to Me from the ground. Because you have done this, I shall punish you by all punishments and whoever will kill you, will be punished seventy times seven…

And Cain lived for over 1000 years, as Kedrin’s Chronograph reads – and nobody would kill him, because they were afraid of the punishment that God had placed on him.

What were Cain’s seven punishments for having killed his brother Abel? First, it was despair, then trembling, then crying – as he would cry and moan on earth –, then fear – as he would run from one place to another for fear that God would see him –; then the curse upon the land so that it would not give him its fruit, and all the other things, as it is written in the Holy Scripture, in Genesis, Chapter 4.

When he does wrong, any man on earth will be rebuked by his own conscience, which will tell him: “Why have you done wrong?” That is the first law that God gave to man – which is also called the law of one’s conscience or the law of one’s nature.

The second law which stands forever before us, as St. Gregory of Nyssa shows, and which resounds forever like a trumpet from the height of the sky and shows us God, is the law of the creation. Who made the sky, the earth, and everything else? The moon, the grass, the flowers, the fish, the seas, the rivers, the stones, the trees, the mountains, all the creatures on earth, in the water, and in the air. Who made them, brothers? Who made the clock of the universe that works with such amazing precision, that no one can imitate it? None other than our Good Lord! The centre of guidance for this world is its Creator – God, Who has put order in everything that exists.

The creation law is what prophet David refers to: Heavens tell of God’s glory and the making of His hand is heralded by the sky. How? By their spherical arrangement and by the immense distance among them; by the interstellar space, which takes billions of light-years to cross, by the movement of the celestial bodies, of the solar system, and of the planets, with such measure and precision that it boggles the minds of the greatest astronomers in the world.

What did Isaac Newton say – the great English astronomer, who for thirty years had been an atheist and when he discovered the “law of universal attraction” and saw that each planet will attract a smaller one and will not let it get away, or break or move irregularly in the celestial space. He put all his equipment on the table and exclaimed: Great are Thou, oh God, and wondrous are Thy things and no word is enough to praise Thy wonders!

See? While having found science outside faith, he came to the fear of God by discovering the wonders of the cosmos. What did Kepler, Isaac Newton and all the other ones, which I don’t have time to mention here, said when they converted, upon seeing God’s creation as not something that exists by itself, but that has a centre of guidance and a precision that amazes all minds?

Not one in a billion was uncovered from nature’s secrets. As God’s wisdom does not have any boundaries, neither will it have one onto the ages of ages, since limitless is the Creator’s wisdom, indeed.

So the second law that stands before us all is the Law of Creations or of creation. So that by the natural and spiritual contemplation, we can climb from the reasons of things, to their Creator. If you see a ship, you think that there must be a craftsman who made it; if you see a good coat on a man, you must know that the tailor was good, too. If you see a palace or a building with beautiful architecture, you should know that there was a smart architect behind it. If you see a good clock, it was undoubtedly made by a good clock-maker.

So all of this shows us that there is a Maker and if that is the case, then we should “fear” and obey Him, so that He does not punish us according to His justice.

The third law is the written law, which was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, that is, the ten commandments and the whole of the Old Testament, based on which the chosen people, that is, the Jews, will be judged. The fourth and most important law is the Law of the Gift, the Law of Perfection, the Law of Jesus Christ’s love, that is, the Holy Scripture. It is according to this divine law that all Christians who have been christened in the name of the Holy Trinity, will be judged.

The first one was the law of nature, which remains as a general rule for all peoples, until the end of the world. The second law is the law of creation, which is similar to the first one. All the nations of the world will be judged according to the first two laws, except for Christians and Jews. The Jews will be judged according to the written Law – that is, by the Old Testament. And we, the Christians, will be judged according to the Law of the Gift and the Gospel, since our law is more accomplished than all the other laws. And if we infringe it, we carry much sin and our punishment will be heavier than theirs, who have not known the Gospel.

So it is such a “lawyer” that God has established for us. Let us not fool ourselves, brothers, into thinking that God does not know what everyone does. You will not even hope to say that you have no sin because you did not know or because you were a Chinese, a Turk, or an atheist.

Even if you were downright pagan, you still had a conscience and based on it God will judge you. You have seen His Creation. Haven’t you ever asked yourself Who made the sky, the sun, the earth and everything else, so that you think of God and fear Him, who made it all? Amen.

 

A presentation from a retreat entitled: “The Orthodox Family in the Modern Age” 
  Speaker: V. Rev. Fr. George D. Konstantopoulos

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Archives

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 527,948 hits
December 2009
S M T W T F S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Pages