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St. Maximus the Confessor
21 January/3 February

A mighty spiritual giant, who was broken by nothing and by no one, whose image does not fade with the ages, Venerable Maximus the Confessor is a faithful indicator, even till now, of how one may follow after Christ by that path by which Saint Maximus so faithfully followed the Lord.

Saint Maximus was born at the end of the sixth century in Constantinople of noble parents and received an excellent philosophical and theological education. Under the Emperor Heraclius (610≠641), he was among the imperial counsellors. Seeing the spread of the heresy of the Monothelites, with which even the Emperor himself was infected, (the Monothelites rejected a human will in Jesus Christ, whereby they diminished the significance of His sufferings on the Cross; the Monothelites incorrectly thought that the human nature of Jesus Christ was swallowed up and annihilated by His Divine nature), he left the imperial palace and joined the monks in the Chrysopolis Monastery. Subsequently, Venerable Maximus became the superior of this monastery.

A profound theologian of his time and a strict defender of Orthodoxy, Maximus very ably and successfully demonstrated the incorrectness of the Monothelite heresy, for which he was subjected to persecutions many times by the enemies of the Church.

Venerable Maximus’ arguments in behalf of Orthodoxy were so powerful that after a public debate on the faith with Pyrrhus, the Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople, the latter renounced the heresy in 645.

Venerable Maximus was sent into exile several times and each time would again be called back to Constantinople. The heretics often passed from admonitions and promises to threats, abuse and the beating of Venerable Maximus.

On one occasion, Saint Maximus was called back to Constantinople, where the imperial grandees, Troilus and Sergius, again subjected him to interrogation. They began to accuse Saint Maximus of pride for esteeming himself as the only Orthodox who is being saved and for considering all others to be heretics who are perishing.

To this, the Saint replied: “When all the people in Babylon were worshipping the golden idol, the Three Holy Youths did not condemn anyone to perdition. They did not concern themselves with what others were doing, but took care only for themselves, so as not to fall away from true piety. In precisely the same way, Daniel also, when cast into the den, did not condemn any of those who, in fulfilling the law of Darius, did not want to pray to God; but he bore in mind his duty, and desired rather to die than to sin and be tormented by his conscience for transgressing God’s Law. God forbid that I, too, should condemn anyone, or say that I alone am being saved. However, I would sooner agree to die than, having apostatized in any way from the right faith, endure the torments of my conscience.”

Then Troilus and Sergius began to point out to Saint Maximus that already the whole Christian world recognized the Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople as legitimate, that all the Eastern Patriarchs and their locum tenentes were in communion with him, and that the plenipotentiary representatives of the Roman Pope will serve with the Patriarch and commune with him. Thus, he is the only one remaining in the whole world who does not recognize the Patriarch.

The Saint answered: “If even the whole universe should begin to commune with the Patriarch, I will not commune with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul that the Holy Spirit will give over to anathema even the angels, if they should begin to preach any other gospel, introducing anything new.”

Venerable Maximus remained unshaken in his religious convictions. Finally, they cut off his right hand and tongue, so that he could not proclaim or defend the truth either by word or by pen. Then they dispatched him to confinement in Lazov (a region of Mingrelia) in the Caucasus. Here, Venerable Maximus died on the 13th of August 662, knowing in advance of his end.

Venerable Maximus wrote many theological works in defense of Orthodoxy. Especially valuable are his instructions on the spiritual and contemplative life, some of which were included in the “Philocalia” (a collection of patristic instructions on prayer and the ascetic life). In these ascetical instructions, the spiritual profundity and perceptiveness of Saint Maximus’ thought is revealed. Also, an explanation of the Liturgy that has a great theological significance has come down to us from him.

The example of Venerable Maximus’ courageous stand shows how an Orthodox Christian must behave in the face of apostasy ≠ general deviation from Christ’s Truth.

Source…

The tomb of St. Maximus the Confessor

 According to an old Georgian tradition, it is said that the tomb of St. Maximus the Confessor has been preserved until today under the altar of a small church in Tsageri, Georgia. The monastery of St. Maximus was built on the site of the ancient place of worship dedicated to St. Arsenius. During the communist regime the tomb of St. Maximus was abandoned and the monastery destroyed. However, the saint’s memory remained vivid in Georgia.

This has motivated the local Bishop, Stephen (Kalaijshvili) to initiate a series of archaeological research in this ancient church. The excavations have revealed at a first and lower level the human remains of four men.

 One of the skeletons has attracted special attention because it misses the right hand and the skull seemed to be mutilated; this could’ve occurred after tongue pulling – a practice quite common in Byzantium. Furthermore, the anthropologists have determined that the skeleton belongs to a man who died at the age of 83.

 The anthropological research conducted in Georgia, France, Russia, and Greece strengthen the hypothesis that the relics discovered at the upper level can belong to St. Maximus the Confessor and his disciples (monks Anastasius and Anastasius Apocrisiarh) and those discovered at lower level of Saint Arsenius (the founder of the monastery).

The translation of St. Maximus’ relics to Constantinople found in liturgical sources (Synaxarium for august), is not mentioned by angiographic sources; the date of August 13th remains with certainty as the day of Saint Maximus’ repose. Thus this recent discoveries do not contradict but rather complete the picture we have today on the last days of St. Maximus the Confessor.

 The only piece of relic known to date, consists in the saint’ right hand cut during his second trial (622) and later recovered by his disciples. St Maximus hand has been  preserved for centuries in the Monastery to St. Paul from Mount Athos.

  With the blessing of the local bishop, the Monastery of Saint Maximus the Confessor from Tsageri,  is currently under restoration.

FIFTY SPIRITUAL HOMILIES OF St. MACARIUS THE EGYPTIAN, Excerpt from HOMILY V

Those who have the spirit of the world are in heart and mind bound in earthly bonds, but the others long after the love of the heavenly Father, having Him only before their eyes with much desire.

  THE world of Christians is one thing their way of living, their mind and speech and action sone and the way of living, and mind and speech and action of the men of this world is another.  Those are one thing, and these another, and the difference between them is great. The inhabitants of the earth, the children of this age, are like corn put in the sieve of this earth, sifted by restless thoughts of this world, and by the ceaseless tossing of earthly businesses and desires and of tangled material notions, while Satan waves their souls about, as he sifts in this sieve of earthly businesses the whole sinful race of man, ever since Adam fell by transgressing the commandment and came under the power of the prince of wickedness.  […]

  As the corn in the sieve is knocked by the man who sifts, and constantly shaken and turned in it, so the prince of wickedness holds all men by means of earthly affairs, and through these he shakes them, and agitates them, and tosses them, and knocks them on vain lines of thought,  and base desires, and earthly ties of the world, constantly taking captive and agitating and alluring all the sinful race of Adam ; as the Lord forewarned the apostles how the wicked one would rise up against them :Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat ; but I have prayed My Father that your faith fail not. […]

  Not in a form or in outward figures lies the distinguishing mark of Christians. Most men think that the difference which distinguishes themselves from the world consists in a form and in figures; and lo ! in mind and frame they are like the world, undergoing the same shaking, and inconstancy of thoughts, and unbelief, and confusion, and helter-skelter as all other men. In out-ward form and appearance they differ from the world, and in a few points of religious ordinance; but in heart and mind they are bound with earthly bonds, never having acquired rest from God and the peace of the heavenly Spirit in their heart, because they never sought it from God, nor believed that He would vouchsafe these things to them.

  For it is in the renewing of the mind, and the peace of the thoughts, and the love and heavenly passion for the Lord, that the new creation of Christians distinguishes them from all the men of the world. This was the purpose of the Lord’s coming, to vouchsafe these spiritual blessings to those who truly believe in Him. Christians have a glory and a beauty and a heavenly wealth which is beyond words, and it is won with pains, and sweat, and trials, and many conflicts, and all by the grace of God.

  Therefore their longing is towards that love of the heavenly King, and having Him only before their eyes with great desire, they detach them- selves for His sake from all worldly affection, and withdraw  from every earthly tie, that they may be free always to cherish in their hearts that one longing, and to mix nothing else with it.

  Very few, however, are they who supply a good beginning with a good end, and come through to the end without falling, with no love but one, for God only, and detached from all else.  […]

  Many are pricked at heart, and many become partakers of heavenly grace, and are smitten with divine passion ; but because of the conflicts and struggles and labours and divers temptations of the devil to be borne on the way, they do not hold out, but are occupied with divers and sundry worldly desires,

  Great and unspeakable and inestimable are the promises made by God; and in proportion to them great faith and hope and labours and conflicts are required, and much trial. The blessings for which a seeker of the kingdom of heaven hopes are no trifle. Thou desirest to reign with Christ through ages without end; wilt thou not readily welcome the conflicts and labours and temptations of this short span of life, even unto death? The Lord cries, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily rejoicing and follow Me” and again, “If any man hate not father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple”.  But most men wish to attain the kingdom, and would like to inherit eternal life, but do not refuse to live to their own wills and to follow them out. Not denying themselves, they wish to inherit eternal life; and this is impossible.

Reading from the Synaxarion:

  Saint Macarius the Great was from the Thebaid of Egypt, a disciple, as some say, of Saint Anthony the Great. He was born about 331 and struggled in asceticism in the desert at Scete. Although young, he was called “the child elder” because of his great wisdom and austere manner of life. He was ordained presbyter and reposed in 391, at the age of sixty. There are fifty homilies ascribed to him.

  It is said of Saint Macarius that he became as a God upon earth, for even as God protects the whole world, so did he cover the faults he saw as if he did not see them. Once he came back to his cell to find a thief taking his things and loading them on a camel. Macarius’ non-possessiveness was so great that he helped the thief load the camel. When the camel refused to rise, Macarius returned to his cell and brought a small hoe, said that the camel wanted the hoe also, loaded it on, and kicked the camel telling it to get up. The camel obeyed Macarius’ command, but soon lay down again, and would not move until everything had been returned to Macarius.

  Apolytikion in the First Tone

Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Macarius, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.

  Kontakion in the Fourth Tone

The Lord God established thee, O great ascetic, in the house of abstinence, like an unerring star that lit the farthest regions with guiding light, Father of Fathers, O righteous Macarius

By Father Valentine Istrate

  Another school, another shooting: a 16-year-old had walked into a high school in CA last Thursday shooting one pupil and fired at others. A 20 years young man enters a school in Connecticut killing 27 people, mostly children. In 1996, a man kills 17 children in Dublin, Scotland. In 1999, two young men enter Columbine High School and kills 12 children. In 2007, a man killed 32 people at Virginia Tech University, US. July 2011, a young man kills 69 people in Utoya Island, Norway. And we can go on…

  There are several common coordinates of these tragedies.

 First they are committed by young people mostly students or former students of those schools.

 Another common aspect of these horrors is that the attacker committed suicide. What follows: lamentations, thousands of candles, tears, and incendiary statements… After a week or two everything is erased with a sponge, only to be reminded perhaps a year later, then forgotten…

  Some things are to be said about these tragedies from Western schools. One is that today our young people find themselves in an enormous moral drift, having lost their sense and believes in the traditional values in favor of a civilization based on rapidly infused pleasures/fan, visually and not only. Adrenaline surge in youth can manifests in bodily or mental excitements: car competitions, etc.

 It is no news that our children have become so “educated” in magic, occultism, extremism, firearms and other sinister “games” by modern television and Internet, that from this to the attacks that kill dozens of victims it’s only one step.

  And the fact that the attacker committed suicide means that he can never be held accountable for murder, which is even more absurd.

  Why not ban all firearms in the West? Why not immediately arrest those who own weapons to prevent such disasters? Some will say: crimes can also be committed using knifes. Perhaps, not at this scale. A gun can become a weapon of total destruction, without any possibility of defense.

  Behind these horrors, lies a profitable industry and the billions obtained from this market are more powerful than the cry of a mother longing for her child.

  Meanwhile, world governments indulge in silence, in this “conspiracy” of death, with weapons been only one part of the equation. Thousands of factories working tirelessly to produce death…

  On the other hand, in the United States, the “conservative” mentality focusing on traditional values advocates for the right to possess firearms, allegedly for defense.

 This residue of the past based on fear and “predator ideology” has nothing to do with Christianity as its adherents claim.

  A man carrying a weapon can any time go mad and kill; or it can fall in the hands of an ignorant child, someone educated in violence, or a malevolent. A world ill by nothingness and aberrant in its smallest details should not have access to guns.

  Any argument against a total ban to civilian’ weapons is in fact a play on the scaffold of death, a prolegomena to the kingdom of the one who is a murderer from the beginning of the world – Satan.

  Once I was called to confess a woman in the terminal stage of her illness. Poor woman had only few days to live. While she barely whispered her confession, her two boys “played” outside with two pistols with compressed air, pulling fervently into a trigger, while laughing hysterically and I passed by them with my heart trembling.

 During confession, it was hard for me to ignore the silly shots. The woman in tears tried to excuse her goofy boys. I said only: “God forbid not to shoot at each other.” After only few minutes following her confession, we heard a terrible scream. One of the bullets bounced off the leg of one of the boys. I smiled bitterly and realized that every weapon is actually a toy of the wicked, which eventually triggers his will when you least expect it. The man with a gun in his hand is a device or a prophecy of hades.

“Without the light of God, man alone does not know what is good for him. He believes in his pride, and all that he wants – subject to this temptation – is good.”

“Man alone cannot make sense of his human needs, because without the help of the Lord, he cannot be freed from the power of the enemy. Without the light of God, he does not know what is needed for him. The human will in itself does not know what to do for his profit. Therefore man needs to pray that the Lord may reveal His will so he may know what to do for his interest. Man alone cannot know what’s bad and that malice comes from the devil. He believes in his pride, and all that he wants, subject to this temptation – is good. “

(Father Dumitri Stăniloae, note 282, to Isaiah the Hermit , Twenty-nine words , Philokalia XII)

A Word from the Holy Fathers

“In the midst of clash of mutually destructive errors, the church stands revealed not only by her own teaching but by that of her rivals.  The church ordained by the Lord and established by His apostles, is One for all but the frantic falling of discordant sects has severed from her; and it is obvious that these dissentions concerning the faith resulted from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of the Holy Scripture”.  (St. Hilary of Poitiers)

Focusing on this text by St. Hilary of Poitiers, Fr. Irenei explores the Saint’s conviction that the multitude of heresies and errors surrounding us in the world are not to be feared or to become a cause for despair, for through their very error the Truth of Christ is revealed all the more in the Church. For the audio please see: Ancient Faith Radio podcast

  Traditional Christian leaders have often shown the multiple wounds of Western societies, where the family was dethroned and humiliated by irresponsible legislation. Traditional family has been the foundation of healthy societies, without which the whole civilization will collapse. Despite this, family as the primary institution of human society is constantly under attack by governments and now  “churches” that have anti-human ideology.

  In the West, the traditional family is attacked by fornication – cohabitation outside marriages, divorce, hedonistic massive secularization and permissive legislation, while in the East, the family is attacked in her monogamous nature, equal dignity of the spouses, and promoting a family based on consumerism.

  The homosexual “marriage” that threatens the social foundation of the United States and other Western countries is another scourge to the future of humanity.

  Since 2005, eight governments have legalized same-sex partnerships, raising this sinful anomaly to the dignity of marriage. Changes in the law have made divorce a very convenient alternative but with disastrous consequences for children and parents alike. For Christian morality, divorce is a lost cause, most countries allowing it with the exception of Vatican and the Philippines.

  Abortion, contraception, fornication, pornography industry and so on… constitute a true threat to the traditional Christian family.

  The effect of this reality is frightening: in 20 years the sociologists estimate that natality will be reduced to zero, the immorality will cause a rapid aging of the population – especially children, while homosexual partners will be entitled to adoption.

  Several Christian leaders have warned that society will face extinction sooner than expected due to the massive pandemic of “disrupted erotic behavior” coupled by a culture of death.

  We remember Christ’s words referring to the End of the world “abomination and desolation will stand in the holy place”.

  A well renowned Greek theologian several years ago said that “all these outline the transformation of our world in a huge city of Sodom /Gomorrah”. Does anyone anticipate its end?

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