Sunday, October 28, 2012

St. John of Kronstadt on Love

Christ voluntarily approaching the Cross, in His love for humanity (source)
Excerpts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt on Love
Be zealous after love: all things shall pass away, but love shall eternally remain, as God Himself, who is Love.

Love calms and agreeably expands the heart and vivifies it, whilst hatred painfully contracts and disturbs it. Those who hate others torture and tyrannise themselves

What is sweeter than love? And yet there is not much love in us! Wherefore? We love our flesh exceedingly, and with it everything carnal, material and earthly! Let us, therefore, despise the flesh and walk by the spirit, mortifying the works of the flesh by the spirit.

Lord! Thou, Whose love to us infinitely surpasses the love of every father, of every mother, of the tenderest wife, have mercy upon us!

Looking upon the Saviour's cross, contemplate Love, crucified upon it for our salvation; and think, for what blessedness He has saved us, and from what torments He has redeemed us! He has snatched us from the jaws of the beast and has brought us to the Father! O love! O redemption! O terrors of everlasting torments! O indescribable, endless blessedness!

The most abominable enemy [the devil] endeavours to destroy love by love itself: love for God and our neighbour — by love for the world, for its fleeting blessings and its corrupt, impious habits, by carnal love, by the love of riches, of honours, of pleasure, of various amusements. Therefore let us extinguish every love for this world in ourselves, and let us kindle in ourselves, by self-denial, love for God and our neighbour. Every beauty in this world (personal beauty) is only a faint, insignificant shadow of the uncreated beauty, of the unspeakable goodness of God's face; every earthly enjoyment is nothing in comparison to future delights. I pray, Lord, that the faith of Christ may penetrate into the depths of my heart, that Christ's Gospel may penetrate all my thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds, into all my bones and my brains, and not me only, but all men, as the universal truth, the highest wisdom, and the life eternal. " And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent."[806]

The heart that loves carnal delights is unfaithful to the Lord. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."[509]

What is mercy? Mercy is to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, who do us harm, who drive us away, to defend those who are persecuted, and so on.

What is the name of our God? Love, Mercy, Compassion, Bountifulness. When you pray, contemplate with the eyes of your heart Love and Mercy standing before you — the Lover of men listening to you.

God is love, and I am an image of God; therefore I ought to be all love. God is the most perfect good, free from the least shadow of evil; I am an image of God; therefore I ought also to be perfectly good, without even a shadow of evil.

Love does not suffer self-justification, does not exalt itself, is not puffed up.

In order to test yourself, whether you love your neighbour in accordance with the Gospel, pay attention to yourself at the time when others offend you, abuse you, mock at you, or do not render you the respect due to you, and which is customary in social intercourse, or when your subordinates err against the rules of the service, and are negligent. If you remain calm on such occasions, are not filled with the spirit of enmity, hatred, impatience — if you continue to love these persons as much as previously, before their offences or negligence, then you do love your neighbour in accordance with the Gospel; but if you become irritable, angry, agitated, then you do not do so. "If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?"[792]

The purer the heart is, the larger it is, and the more able it is to find room within it for a greater number of beloved ones; whilst the more sinful it is, the more contracted it becomes, and the less number of beloved can it find room for, because it is limited by self-love, and that love is a false one; we love ourselves in objects unworthy of the immortal soul — in silver and gold, in adultery, in drunkenness, and such like.

We stand before the altar of love in the presence of Incarnate Love Itself, but we have no love to each other. How strange it is! And we do not even care about this. But love will not come of itself without our zeal, efforts and activity.

Up till now you have not learned to love your neighbour. You answer men's dislike towards you by dislike on your part. But do the contrary; answer others' dislike by heartfelt goodwill and love; the more dislike you see towards you, the more you should love. Dislike is a malady, and a sick person should be more pitied, should be shown greater care and greater love, exactly because he is ill. Do you not know that the bodiless enemy uses his craftiness against all, infects all with the poison of his hatred? And you, too, are not exempt from his craftiness. Do not serve him, then, the spirit of enmity, but serve the God of love with the utmost zeal. Remember that God the Word died for your brethren.

The Lord is my life, my breath, my strength, my light, peace and joy, my food and drink; what shall I bring to such a Benefactor, or what shall I render unto Him? I will render unto Him, with His help, obedience to His Will, the fulfilment of His commandments. "If ye love Me," says He Himself, "keep My commandments."[1227] I will endeavour to please Him by seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and by counting earthly blessings as naught in comparison to heavenly ones; I will not let my heart cleave to anything earthly. O, Lord! grant me strength to accomplish this. Strengthen me Thyself by Thy right hand. My Strength, do not forsake me! Grant that I may put my trust in Thee alone, my Nourisher — in Thee, Who hast never forsaken me!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Excerpts from two encomiums to St. Demetrios the Great Martyr

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrhstreamer (source)
Excerpts from two encomiums on St. Demetrios the Great Martyr (amateur translations)
"Hail, O fellow-struggling soldier of Christ, O thrice-blessed Demetrios, because you, together with Paul, fought the good fight, you have run the race to its end, you have kept the faith, and you have been crowned worthily by God with the crown of righteousness.
Hail, O martyr Demetrios, for though you received wounds on your body which Christ received, you ascended to Him with joy and rejoicing.
Hail, O martyr Demetrios, for you became a true imitator of Christ. For us all He accepted the spear from the impious soldier in His spotless side, while you, His pious solider, for His love, accepted the spear in prison from impious soldiers.
Sts. George and Demetrios the Great Martyrs and Wonderworkers of Christ, painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery (source)
Hail, O martyr Demetrios, for you have been enriched with angelic grace, and are shown forth as an angel on earth, and a heavenly man, full of glory.
Hail, O martyr Demetrios, for you are an initiate of grace and a deliverer of prisoners, and a very speedy physician of various infirmities.
Hail, O martyr Demetrios, together with George and Theodore, your fellow strugglers and partakers, the thrice-blessed weapon of our pious rulers, the three-bladed sword against the godless barbarians, the tripartite wall of the royal garden, the three-pronged spear in the heart of the harsh enemies, the thrice-adorned crown of our rulers, the triple light of their path by day and night, the triple weapon of their intimidation and the greatly-beloved, and equal-in-number to the Trinity.

Hail, for you have been made worthy of endless joy, and are a fellow-traveler of pious rulers..."
-St. Neophytos the Priest and Monk and Enclosed
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr, and St. Nestor (source)
"Therefore in accordance with poetry, even if I had ten tongues, and ten mouths, and if I further had ten hands, I would not even in this manner be able to properly record the wonderworking deeds of the wonderworker Demetrios.
It is better, however, to give this word, for the Lord will bring to reality the desire of those who honor Him. And to His Saints that are on the earth, He made them wondrous through all His will in them. How good was he in life and deed, what struggle and what prudence! With a little blood, in return he receives the heavenly kingdom. With temporary pains, he receives endless joy. And with his short life, he receives the blessed and endless life.
Let us imitate the fervor of Demetrios, therefore, in the same manner, all of us who have gathered to honor his struggles, and let us celebrate for them in a radiant manner. Let us hasten to theoria and praxis, even if we will not achieve the same glory as he has. It is certainly an exaggeration to say this, but at least it is less. And if we do not even achieve this, because of our great sluggishness, at least, because we sense that we celebrate unworthily for all that God has granted us together with the martyr, and that we celebrate in a godly way, let us not desire further pleasures without understanding that, through them, we will give much more joy to the demons, and we will suffer the same thing as those who are in danger in the port, or who incur incurable illnesses in the hospital.
We have God as our fellow-worker in good deeds, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, the heavenly powers, the apostles, and the prophets, and the martyrs, and the ages of saints, along with him whose memory we entreat continuously for our benefit. The world of the Saints rejoices in every manner and in every era and in every age and rank, for they see their multitude is made stronger and continues to increase, as if they understand that the greatly-enlarged portion to the left of God is further dismal.

But, O Demetrios, the adornment and beauty of athletes, I return again to you, and turn my word towards the things above, because I buckle more from my love for you than the others, and I desire much more to breath of you than fragrant ointments, O pious and good-sprung vine from a pious and good-sprung root, which is heavy-laden with the fruits of virtues and struggles, radiant from both, and most-glorious in all, and all-bright lamp of Christians, destruction of the impiety of Maximian, teacher and fellow-soldier of Nestor, and harbinger of struggle and most-strong conqueror of Lyaios, you who depicted the passion of the Master, and were wounded with spears in the side as He was, and for the blood that you shed then pour forth now as a river the most-fragrant and healing myrrh, you who dwell with your spirit in the heavens together with the angels, and are found together with them before the immovable throne of God, and grant to us and to your city your most-martyrical body as an unemptying treasure, the uncountable abyss of uncomparable deeds, and much moreso of wonders, you who rightly broke apart your body on earth, and in heaven are not absent at all, but from above look down and care for your city below, O lover of the city, and lover of man, who speedily brings about the compassion of God, when we are burdened sometimes by the multitude of our sins, may you receive these words and praises that we offer to the radiant memory of your struggles, as Christ, Who sets the contests, received the praises of the children, and though they do not reach your proper honor, however, they are not hindered by our good intentions. Therefore, cast a gaze from heaven, descend for a short time here with us, and behold the love of your city for you. Follow the melodies of those gathered, of your most-holy flock, to partake of the spiritual gathering, together with the hierarch, in your memory. Enlighten all those gathered throughout your church by your unsoiled light-source, and fill the air with the fragrance of your incense, and let every age and rank clap their hands in great joy for your struggles. Earth today imitates heaven, and the radiance laid out in the temple of your all-victorious body reveals fully the radiance of light which was granted to you by God..."
-Symeon the Monk and Philosopher
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen! 

St. Demetrios twice saving Elder Philotheos Zervakos (+1980)

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrhstreamer (source)
St. Demetrios Protects Elder Philotheos From Harm The First Time
When I fulfilled my military service and was released, I decided to become a soldier for our Heavenly King in accordance with the counsel that Father Eusebios had given me. I disclosed all my intentions to the holy Nektarios, the Bishop of Pentapolis, who then was also the director of the Rizareion Seminary in Athens (now in blessed repose), and he told me, "Your goal is good, but I advise you to go to no other monastery than the one at Paros (Lagouvardos), where the brethren are virtuous and plentiful." However, I insisted, telling him that my desire was to go to the Holy Mountain. He then said, "If you stay in Greece, go to the Lagouvardos Monastery, but if you insist on going to the Holy Mountain, then go with my blessing...."

After attending a vigil on May 8, friend Nickolas Mitropoulos and I boarded the steamship "Pinios", and we departed for the Holy Mountain from Piraeus....

Two days later, we arrived in Thessaloniki, which was then occupied by the Turks (I had great reverence for St. Demetrios, the patron saint of Thessaloniki since I was a child). I invited my friend Nickolas to join me to go venerate the tomb of the Great Martyr, St. Demetrios the Myrrh-gusher. We then got off the ship and went to venerate his tomb with compunction. On our way back to the ship, we checked in at the Greek hotel and rested all day and night. The next day, we prepared to depart for the Holy Mountain and went to the Customs Office; however, they did not permit us to depart: "You will not leave", they told us, "because you are spies!" We, of course, denied this and pointed out that since our passports had been cleared by the Turkish Consulate and the Embassy, they should allow us to leave. However, they would not pay any attention to our words.

They did not put us in jail but under close surveillance and soldiers stood guard outside our hotel, and they followed us whenever we went out. This went on for quite a few days and we began to worry because our money was running low. One day, I told Nickolas, "I am going to the 'konaki' (governor's house), to appear before the 'pasha' (governor): he will probably allow us to leave." I arose very early the next morning and went to venerate the tomb of St. Demetrios again before going to the konaki. With tears and compunction, I asked the Saint to intercede to the Lord that we be permitted to freely go to the Holy Mountain. After praying for quite a while and sitting down to rest, the martyrdom of St. Demetrios came to my mind: I thought about how he was pierced with a lance and died for the love of Christ and for our holy faith, and how he was glorified by God both on earth and in heaven, and will be glorified unto all ages.

As I considered all this, a longing came to me to give my life for the love of Christ and the Orthodox faith too, supposing there was a way. I then asked St. Demetrios to intercede to the Lord again, however, not for my freedom, but that I be rendered worthy to die a martyr's death. I then thought of a way to accomplish this goal. I told myself, "I will go to the konaki and courageously appear before the Turks. I will give them a reason to question me about my faith and then I will bear witness to their heresy. They will probably tell me to deny my faith, but I will stand firm and prefer death. Thus I will have a Martyr's end."

I went to the konaki immediately and entered inside. While I was going up a hallway, a Turkish officer noticed me and asked me what I wanted:

"I want to see the pasha."

"And why do you want to see him?"

"I have something to tell him."

"I am the pasha's representative. Tell me what you want openly."

"Since you are the pasha's representative, then tell me, why will you not allow us to go to the Holy Mountain?"

"I will not give you a reason."

"You are not good people", I told him courageously, "you are unjust. Why are you detaining and distressing us like this? We are not at fault, we are not bad people and our papers are in order. I do not understand. Now we have run out money. How shall we live in this foreign and unknown place? How would you like it if you went to Greece and we did to you what you are doing to us?"

These words irritated him and moved him to anger. He began ringing a bell loudly and 30-35 soldiers and officers gathered around us immediately. They grabbed me and dragged me off to the White Tower, for what purpose I did not know; I thought perhaps to imprison me ... As we walked to the White Tower, I asked St. Demetrios to intercede to the Lord to grant me a martyr's death, provided it is His will; and if it was not, to be delivered from the hands of these atheistic, bloodthirsty, wild and barbaric Saracens.

After we had gone a little ways, their superior appeared and spoke to them in Turkish. I did not understand what he had told them but I did perceive that he was angry. He then lifted up his rod and struck the officer responsible for my arrest on the shoulder and sent them all away. When they left, he approached me with a cheerful grin on his face, and kindly patted me on the shoulder. He then handed me over to the prudent soldier from Ioannina and ordered him to take me to the Greek steamship "Mikali", which was in the port of Thessaloniki, so that I could return to Greece.

I asked the soldier who the man was that had given the orders, not having the faintest idea. He told me that he was the pasha. I then asked him why the pasha had struck his own personal secretary, and what he had said to him. The soldier explained, "The pasha scolded his secretary because he had condemned you to death without asking permission." I then asked him where they had been taking me. "They were taking you to the White Tower to execute you there", he said, "all those who are condemned to death are taken there - as for the others, they put them in chains and abandon them to die from hunger, from thirst and from the stench." I then rejoiced that I had been delivered from the hands of those wild Saracens - for I was not sure whether it would have been for the question of my faith that they had killed me. However, I was sad because I missed the opportunity to give my life for the faith. Martyrdom, however, must take place according to the rules as the divine preacher, the Apostle Paul, tells us, "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Tim. 2:5)....

The soldier and I then stopped by the hotel, where I bid my beloved friend Nickolas farewell....

Apparently, it was not the will of God for me to go to the Holy Mountain, and this is the reason I encountered all these obstacles. I feel a great debt of gratitude to my protector, the Great Martyr, St. Demetrios, through whose intercessions and prayers, I was delivered from death.

I had no idea why the pasha had shown so much interest in me, so I sought to find out. It was not until about two years later, when I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain, that I finally learned why from my friend Nickolas, who had gone and had remained on the Holy Mountain. He told me why the pasha had set me free and sent me back to Greece:

"Two or three days after you departed Thessalonika for Greece, the adjutant officer of the pasha came up and greeted me...He was an acquaintance of mine...He took me to his home where he offered me hospitality, and the following day we went to go see the pasha together...The Pasha said to him:

'Your friend there, he was accompanied by another young man. One morning, as I was sleeping peacefully, St. Demetrios entered my room wearing a generals uniform and bearing weapons. With an austere look he commanded me: "Immediately, stand up, get dressed, put your shoes on, and go to such and such a road in the city to free a young man who has been unjustly condemned to death by your own private secretary. After freeing him, send him to the steamship 'Mikali', which is in the port of Thessaloniki and preparing to sail off for Greece."

I hastened at once to save the young man from danger, and sent him off to Greece.'"

It was then that I realized that my helper and my deliverer from death had been the Great Martyr, St. Demetrios the Myrrh-gusher.

The prophecy of St. Nektarios had been fulfilled; no matter where I would go, I would end up at Logouvardos. I had learned a valuable lesson from this: I ought to always be completely obedient to my spiritual father, without being defiant, and I ought to not seek my will, but the will of my spiritual father - in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Who came into the world not to do His own will but the will of His Father, Who sent Him."
The Myrrhstreaming and Wonderworking Relics of St. Demetrios, treasured in his church in Thessaloniki (source)
St. Demetrios Protects Elder Philotheos From Harm The Second Time
Two years later, the Balkan war took place and on the Feast of St. Demetrios (October 26, 1912), Thessaloniki was liberated through the mediation and aid of her Patron Saint.

When we sailed into the port of Thessaloniki, I decided that it would be a good idea to disembark and go venerate the tomb of St. Demetrios, my guardian, and my protector and savior after God. I do not know why, but when I disembarked, the Turks once again took me to be a spy, and put me under surveillance for quite a few days. When I decided to leave Thessaloniki, and began passing through customs, they arrested me, and took me through three rows of barbed wire and locked me in. I found a youth locked in there also, and asked him why they had locked us up. He answered, "In order to murder us." "But what evil have we done?" I asked. "Forget it," he answered "do not bother to ask why."

A moment later, a steamship from Romania sailed into the port of Thessaloniki carrying many passengers and a cargo of fuel oil. For some unknown reason, an oil container caught fire as the ship pulled in, and the flames spread rapidly through the entire ship. Loud blasts were heard a few minutes later, and flames were thrown sky high. Thessaloniki was all astir. Thousands of people came down to the shoreline - some to watch and others to rescue the endangered passengers with their boats. All the guards then left their posts to go see all the commotion. Seizing the opportunity, the young man pulled a small pair of clips from his pocket and cut through the barbed wire. Then he took me by the hand and lead me out. And paying a boatman, he told him to take us out to a Greek steamship which was anchored just outside the port. As we were climbing in the boat, the soldier who arrested me and locked me up came running over to seize me. However, the young man slapped him right across the face when he got to us, and he pulled back and walked away!

The boatman took us out to the Greek ship and we went aboard. I then went to put my things in order, and once I organized them, I went back to find the youth, my rescuer, to thank him and ask who he was and where he was from. However, I could not find him anywhere. I asked almost all the ship's passengers and crew but soon realized that nobody had seen him either boarding or disembarking the ship. Who was he and what happened to him God only knows. (The only thing that I know is that many years later - after Thessaloniki had been liberated - I was celebrating the Divine Liturgy and preaching the word of God at the Church of St. Demetrios when I saw the icon of the Saint. I noticed that the young man who had freed me and lead me to the steamship bore a striking resemblance to St. Demetrios.)
7th Century mosaic depicting St. Demetrios protecting the youth, from the Saint's church in Thessaloniki (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, October 22, 2012

St. Silouan the Athonite: On the Saints and Their Intercessions

Detail from the icon of the Last Judgment: The Theotokos depicted in Paradise with other Saints entering (source)
St. Silouan the Athonite: On the Saints and Their Intercessions
To many people the Saints seem far removed from us. But the Saints are far only from people who have distanced themselves – they are very close to them that keep Christ’s commandments and possess the grace of the Holy Spirit. In heaven all things live and move in the Holy Spirit. But this same Holy Spirit is on earth too. The Holy Spirit dwells in our Church; in the sacraments; in the Holy Scriptures; in the souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit unites all men, and so the Saints are close to us; and when we pray to them they hear our prayers in the Holy Spirit, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.
The Saints live in another world, and there through the Holy Spirit they behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord’s countenance. But in the same Holy Spirit they see our lives, too, and our deeds. They know our sorrows and hear our ardent prayers. In their lives they learned of the love of God from the Holy Spirit; and he who knows love on earth takes it with him into eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, where love grows and becomes perfect. And if love makes one unable to forget a brother here, how much more do the Saints remember and pray for us!
The holy Saints have attained the Kingdom of Heaven, and there they look upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; but by the Holy Spirit they see, too, the sufferings of men on earth. The Lord gave them such great grace that they embrace the whole world with their love. They see and know how we languish in affliction, how are hearts have withered within us, how despondency has fettered our souls; and they never cease to intercede for us with God.
The Saints rejoice when we repent, and grieve when men forsake God and become like brute beasts. They grieve to see people living on earth and not realizing that if they were to love one another, the world would know freedom from sin; and where sin is absent there is joy and gladness from the Holy Spirit, in such wise that on all sides everything looks pleasing, and the soul marvels that all is so well with her, and praises God.
Call with faith upon the Mother of God and the Saints, and pray to them. They hear our prayers and know even our inmost thoughts. And marvel not at this. Heaven and all the saints live by the Holy Spirit and in all the world there is naught hidden by the Holy Spirit. Once upon a time I did not understand how it was that the holy inhabitants of heaven could see our lives. But when the Mother of God brought my sins home to me I realized that they see us in the Holy Spirit, and know our entire lives.
The Saints hear our prayers and are possessed from God of the strength to help us. The whole Christian race knows this. Father Roman told me that when he was a boy he had to cross the river Don in the winter, and his horse fell through the ice and was just about to go under, dragging the sledge with it. He was a little boy at the time, and he cried at the top of his voice: ‘St.Nicholas, help me pull the horse out!’ And he tugged at the bridle and pulled the horse and sledge out from under the ice. And when Father Matthew, who came from my village, was a little boy he used to graze his father’s sheep, like the prophet David. He was no bigger than a sheep himself. His elder brother was working on the other side of a large field, and suddenly he saw a pack of wolves rushing at Misha – Father Matthew’s name in the world – and little Misha cried out, ‘St. Nicholas, help!’ and no sooner had the words left his lips than the wolves turned back and did no harm either to him or his flock. And for a long time after that the people of the village would smile and say, ‘Our Misha was terribly frightened by a pack of wolves but St. Nicholas rescued him!’
And we know of many an instance where the Saints come to our help the moment we call upon them. Thus it is evident that all heaven hears our prayers.
(St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony Chap. XII On the Saints pp. 395-397 (
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

St. Matrona of Chios, the Righteous Wonderworker

St. Matrona of Chios, the Righteous Wonderworker - Commemorated October 20 and July 15 (source)
by Christina Dedoussis
St Matrona lived in the 15 th century. She was born on the island of Chios, Greece, in the village called Volissos. It was from this same village that a later Saint, Saint Marcella, martyred.
Saint Matrona's parents were highly respected and well-to-do Christians, compared to the other villagers. Mary, as she was called before she became a nun, was the youngest of seven children.
When the time came for her parents to arrange her marriage, she refused because she wanted to remain a virgin. She wanted to become a bride of Christ...To avoid this marriage, Mary left Volissos and her family and went to an area overlooking the village, called Katavasis. Here she began her spiritual struggle. She fasted, prayed and meditated.
Meanwhile, her parents searched the area to find her. After locating her they convinced her to return home. Mary complied with her parents' wishes, except for one - she refused to wed. Her parents, seeing that she still desired to lead a monastic life, gave her their consent to pursue her ambition.
St. Matrona of Chios (source)
When Mary's parents died, she distributed the farmland she inherited among her sisters and the orphans of the community. She left Volissos, never to see her village again and returned to Katavasis, where she stayed for three years as she re-examined her spiritual beliefs. Her food was basic and was brought to her by one of her sisters.
God, however, wanted her to guide others in the way of righteousness and show them how to obtain their salvation, therefore she left Katavasis and went to the capital of the island. Here there were many women's monasteries which followed the rules of monastic society. It was in one of these monasteries that Mary was to spend the remainder of her life, undergoing spiritual struggles, leading others towards salvation and performing miracles.
Upon visiting the different monasteries, Mary found a secluded one which she preferred. It consisted of three nuns, a mother and her two daughters. The nuns, realising her sincerity, immediately welcomed her into their home. At this point Mary's name was changed to Matrona. (When a nun reaches a high point in her monastic life and becomes a Stavrophore, a new name is bestowed upon her, symbolising a second baptism and a new way of life).
St. Matrona of Chios (source)
Matrona surpassed the other nuns in her devotion, spirituality and understanding. Her sincerity convinced other girls to come to this monastery and lead the same type of life. The church itself was small and the Abbess agreed with Matrona to enlarge it and to build cells for the nuns. Any remaining farmland and personal belongings Matrona sold and with the money received, the monastery built a public bath so that the poor and wayfarers could bathe. These baths were very common during this time. After this, the renovation of the church began.
When the church was completed (with the help of Saint Artemios to whom it was dedicated) the Abbess of the monastery died. The nuns then elected Matrona as the new Abbess.
After the Genoese conquered the island of Chios, many barbarians inhabited the island. They plundered the island, including the monasteries. Among these was the monastery of Saint Matrona. One of these barbarians attempted to attack the nuns of the monastery. The Saint prayed for Divine help. From the heavens bolts of lightning fell to the ground, killing the assailant. The barbarians, seeing the destruction fled from the island in fear.
St. Matrona of Chios (source)
After these events, Matrona dreamt of her own death. Subsequent to this, she suffered from an illness for seven days. In the seven days she advised the other nuns as a mother would advise her children. She received Holy Communion and died on 20 October 1462. She was buried in the monastery's church in which she spent the greater part of her life. To honour this great Saint, God allowed her holy body to perform miracles after death. Many people with all types of afflictions came to the church and were cured.
In the village of Katavasis, there was a church built to honour the place where Saint Matrona had first started her spiritual struggles. Later, a larger church was built and the smaller one was used as a cemetery chapel.
The story of Saint Matrona of Chios is one of the most beautiful in our church history. She is an excellent example of a devoted Christian who tried in every sense of the word to be closer to her Lord, and guide and help her fellow man. She continues to perform many miracles for the worthy faithful.
St. Matrona of Chios (source)

Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)

O Lord Jesus, to You Your lamb cries with a great voice, "O my Bridegroom, You I love; and seeking You, I now contest, and with Your baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Your sake, that I may reign with You; for Your sake I die, that I may live in You: accept me offered out of longing to You as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since You are great in mercy".

Kontakion (Second Tone)

Filled with the Light of the Spirit, O Matrona, you regarded your prison cell as a bridal chamber; and from it hastened to your radiant dwelling in the heavens, crying out, "In divine love for You, O Word, I gladly endured scourgings".
from Voice in the wilderness, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Greek Orthodox Community of St George, Brisbane

St. Matrona of Chios (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, October 19, 2012

St. Isaac the Syrian - On the proper way to face sorrows

Christ and the Theotokos "Extreme Humility" (
St. Isaac the Syrian - On the proper way to face sorrows
Just as the eyebrows approach each other, so are the temptations close to men. It was the economy of God to be so, with wisdom that we may receive benefit: namely, through knocking persistently, because of the sorrows, on the door of God's mercy and to enter into your mind, due to the fear of grievous events, the seed of memory of God, so that you may approach Him with supplications and your heart be sanctified through the continuous remembrance of Him. And while you ask Him, He will listen.
The person walking the road of God must thank Him for all the sorrows that he faces, and to accuse and dishonor his negligent self, and know that the Lord who loves and looks after him, would not have allowed the grievous things to happen to wake his mind up, if he had somehow not been negligent. God may have allowed some sorrow because man has become proud and consequently he should understand and let him not become disturbed but find the cause within himself, so that the affliction may not double up, namely suffer and not wish to be treated. "In God who is the source of justice there is no injustice".  May we not think otherwise.
Do not avoid the sorrows, because being helped by them you learn the truth and love of God well. And do not fear the temptations (negative experiences) for through them you discover treasures. Pray that you may not enter into spiritual temptations, while for the bodily ones, prepare to face them with all your strength, for without them you cannot approach God. Through them comes the divine rest. Whoever avoids the bodily temptations avoids virtue.
Without temptations the providence of God for man does not manifest itself, and it is impossible without them to receive the boldness in God and learn the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and moreover, it will not be possible to anchor the divine love in your soul. Before the arrival of temptations, man prays to God as a stranger. From the moment however he enters into temptations for the love of God and does not change opinion, let's say, he has God duty bound towards him and God considers him a genuine friend. For he fought and conquered the enemy, to fulfill the will of God.
God does not grant any big grace without a big temptation preceding it, for according to the severity of the temptations the graces were ordained by the wisdom of God, which however men normally do not understand. By the measure of the great sorrows that the providence of God sends you, you understand the great value that His magnanimity grants you. For according to the sorrow you experience is the consolation you will receive.
If you ask me what is the reason for all these, I will answer you: your negligence, for you did not bother to find the cure. The cure of all of them is one, and with it man's soul finds immediately the consolation it longs for. But what is the cure? "It is the humility of the heart". Without it, it is impossible to destroy the fence of temptations, in the contrary in fact you will discover that the temptations become stronger and weaken you...
According to the level of humility, God gives you the strength to endure calamities. And according to the measure of your patience, the weight of your sorrows becomes light and so you are consoled. And as you are consoled so does your love for God increases. And as much as you love God that much greater joy the Holy Spirit bestows on you. Our compassionate God wishing to bring the temptation of His true children to a good end, does not take but instead gives them the strength to endure. "All these gifts (consolation, love, joy) the strugglers acquire as fruit of their patience" for their souls to arrive at perfection. I wish our Christ and God to make us worthy through His grace to endure the bitterness of temptations for His love and with gratitude of our heart. Amen.
The saints show their love to God indeed, by their suffering in His name when for example He sends them sorrows without however distancing from them, for He loves them. Through this suffering love their heart obtains Boldness, so that they may approach Him freely and with conviction that their supplications will be heard and realized. The power of prayer that has boldness is great. That is why He allows His saints to experience every sorrow and acquire experience and be assured of His help and how much He provides and cares for them. This way they acquire wisdom and good sense from temptations, that they may not become negligent, that they may not lack spiritual asceticism on both good and bad, and thus receive through their trials, the knowledge of all things they would need. For otherwise they will be swept away by ignorance and will become the mockery of demons. For if they exercised only in the good things and had no experience of struggles with the evil, they would have gone to war totally unprepared...
Man cannot taste and value the good, if previously he did not experience the bitterness of the temptations...
Men come to the true knowledge, when God deprives them of His power and makes them to co-experience the human weakness and the difficulty that temptations cause, the cunningness of the enemy, and what adversary they have to fight and how much they have advanced and progressed in virtue and that without the power of God they are weak towards any passion. God does this, that they may receive from all these negative experiences, true humility and to approach close to Him and wait for His certain help and to pray with patience. So where could they learn all these but through the experience of many sorrows which He allows for them to experience? For this way one acquires stable faith through these sorrows while he is assured of the divine help that he many times receives during his struggles.
The strugglers therefore, are tempted that they may increase their spiritual wealth, the negligent though to protect themselves from whatever hurts them, the slumberous that they may be awakened, the distant ones that they may approach God and the friends of God that they may enter His Holy Abode with boldness. A son inexperienced in life cannot manage the wealth of his father and help him. For this, in the beginning God sends difficulties and hardships to His children and then He reveals His gifts. Like little children become frightened of scary sights and run, grabbing at their dress of their parents and ask for their help, so does the soul; the more upset and saddened by the fear of temptation the more it runs and clings on God and begs Him with unceasing supplications. And as temptations fall on it, one after the other, that much more it prays. However, when they stop and it recovers its comforts, normally it loses touch with reality and distances from God.
The sorrows and dangers kill sensuality, while good times and indifference feed it. For this both God and the holy Angels are joyful in our sorrows, while the devil and his accomplices are joyful when we are lazy and have a good time.
Leave your cares to God and in all your difficulties judge yourself, for you, yourself is the cause for all...
All the sad occasions and sorrows will torment us doubly if we have no patience. For with patience man turns away the bitterness of afflictions, while pusillanimity gives birth to the despair of hell. Patience is the mother of consolation; it is spiritual power that is born of a broad heart. It is difficult for man to find this power during sorrows, if he does not have the divine grace, which he acquires through persistent prayers and with tears.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Selected hymns to St. Luke the Evangelist

Selected hymns to St. Luke the Evangelist

Prosomoia of the Stichera in Tone 8. What may we call you.
What may I name you, Apostle? Heaven, for you declared the glory of God. Lightning, for you irradiate the world by your illumination. Cloud, that rains down divine streams. Mixing-bowl overflowing with the inspired wine of wisdom, wine that makes hearts glad. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

How may I now address you, O inspired by God? River, coming forth from Paradise for us. Ark of the covenant which Christ laid down. Beacon, blazing with spiritual light. Lamp, that irradiates the Church. Bread of life, divine table, cup of divine drink. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

What may we now call you, who saw God? Most active minister of the mysteries of Christ. Wise architect of the spiritual tabernacle, who carve out the tables of grace, having written down the new law which comes forth from Sion and is proclaimed through you. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

What may we now call you, glorious Saint? Safe treasury of the gifts of heaven’s grace. Skilled physician of both souls and bodies. Paul’s co-worker and companion of his journeys, who set down the Acts of the Apostles. Virtue, Luke, has made for you many names. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

What titles may I address you by, Inspired of God? Disciple, for you to us you proclaimed the good tidings: Christ. Physician, for you heal the passions of our souls. Lamp, blazing with spiritual light. Base and foundation of the faith, for it was you who traced out for us the all-revered Gospel. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

How may I now address you, wondrous Saint? Unerring contemplator of wisdom’s teachings. Active writer of the teaching of the Apostles and unshakeable pillar of true religion, or indestructible tower of the Church. Many are you achievements and greater your graces. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

Doxastikon of the Stichera. Glory. Tone 6. By Anatolios.
Apostle of Christ, Writer of the doctrines of God and foundation of the Church. It was you who with divine words truly drew out and saved as from the rolling swell hearts in the gloom of ignorance sunk in the deep of destruction. You became the companion of Paul, the vessel of election, but also his imitator. Therefore we entreat you, most noble Luke, adornment of the people of Antioch. Intercede with the Saviour and God, for those who with faith celebrate your ever-revered memory.

Doxastikon of the Aposticha. Glory. Tone 6.

All-wise Fisherman, holy Disciple, workman of the Saviour and proclaimer of his sufferings, when you had sped through creation by faith, gathered all the nations from error and offered them as incense to God you took the fair way to heaven. And so as you stand before the Judge intercede that we may be delivered from our iniquities and rescued from eternal punishment on the day of judgement.
Apolytikion. Tone 3.
Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, intercede with the merciful God to grant our souls forgiveness of sins.

Kontakion. Tone 4. Today you have appeared.

You became a Disciple of God the Word, and with Paul you brought the whole earth to the light and dispelled the gloom by writing the divine Gospel of Christ.

The Ikos.
As physician and beloved disciple, Luke, heal by mystical surgery the passions of my soul and body, and grant me to be in good health in every way, and to honour your all-revered festival with gladness; to drench with showers of tears instead of sweet spices your revered and all-honoured body; for as a monument of life inscribed on the wondrous church of the Apostles it cries out to all, just as you did of old by writing the divine Gospel of Christ.

On the 18th day of the month (October), Commemoration of the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke.

Though at Emmaus I was held from sight
Of you says Luke now, Christ, I see you plain.
On the eighteenth of the month, the Evangelist Luke reached his life’s end.
Idiomel from the Praises. Tone 8. By Leo Magister.

Come all creation, let us praise in songs the true spiritual physician and Disciple of the Saviour, Luke the revered. For he healed the disease of godlessness with the ointment of the baptismal font of Christ; and from his mouth he has poured on living lands rivers of waters welling up from God, the Gospel. Therefore his sound has out prophetically into the inhabited world, and he intercedes that our souls may be saved.
Doxastikon of the Praises. Glory. Same Tone.
Like David let us the faithful, gathered together, cry out in songs to Luke the mystical orator of the Word: Your tongue has been revealed as a pen of Christ the swiftly writing scribe, making fair the eyes of the nations for the knowledge of divine understanding, by which you proclaimed the Gospel and composed the Acts of your fellow Apostles. And so, as you stand before God, the Trinity, intercede for our souls.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The wondrous icon of the Theotokos "Axion Estin"

The wondrous icon of the Theotokos "Axion Estin" - Commemorated on June 11 (
The "It is Truly Meet" Icon of the Mother of God is in [veneration stand] of the cathedral church of the Karyes monastery on Mount Athos.

One Saturday night [in the 10th century] an Elder went to Karyes for the all-night Vigil. He left, instructing his disciple to remain behind and read the service in their cell. As it grew dark, the disciple heard a knock on the door. When he opened the door, he saw an unknown monk who called himself Gabriel, and he invited him to come in. They stood before the icon of the Mother of God and read the service together with reverence and compunction.

During the Ninth Ode of the Canon, the disciple began to sing "My soul magnifies the Lord…" with the Irmos of St Cosmas the Hymnographer (October 14), "More honorable than the Cherubim…."

The stranger sang the next verse, "For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden…." Then he chanted something the disciple had never heard before, "It is truly meet to bless Thee, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God…" Then he continued with, "More honorable than the Cherubim.…" 

The "Axion Estin" icon of the Theotokos, photographed without its riza covering (source)
While the hymn was being sung, the icon of the Theotokos shone with a heavenly light. The disciple was moved by the new version of the familiar hymn, and asked his guest to write the words down for him. When the stranger asked for paper and ink, the disciple said that they did not have any.

The stranger took a roof tile and wrote the words of the hymn on its surface with his finger. The disciple knew then that this was no ordinary monk, but the Archangel Gabriel. The angel said, "Sing in this manner, and all the Orthodox as well." Then he disappeared, and the icon of the Mother of God continued to radiate light for some time afterward. 

The Holy Archangel Gabriel appearing to the monk and revealing the hymn: "Axion Estin" (source)
The Eleousa Icon of the Mother of God, before which the hymn "It Is Truly Meet" was first sung, was transferred to the katholikon at Karyes. The tile, with the hymn written on it by the Archangel Gabriel, was taken to Constantinople when St Nicholas Chrysoberges (December 16) was Patriarch.

Numerous copies of the "It Is Truly Meet" Icon are revered in Russian churches. At the Galerna Harbor of Peterburg a church with five cupolas was built in honor of the Merciful Mother of God, and into it they put a grace-bearing copy of the "It Is Truly Meet" icon sent from Athos.

For info on the litany of the "Axion Estin" icon following Pascha, see:
The magnificent reception of the Holy and Wonderworking icon of the Theotokos "Axion Estin" in the city of Athens in 1963 to celebrate the millenial celebration of the Monasteries of Mount Athos. This was the first time that this holy icon had ever left the Holy Mountain (
The "Axion Estin" icon of the Theotokos in the city of Thessaloniki 2012
On October 13th begins the religious observances for the feast of the Patron Saint of our Thessaloniki, St. Demetrios the Myrrhstreamer, and also the completion of 100 years from the city's liberation.

At 4:30 on the evening of Saturday October 13th, at the area of the White Tower [Leukou Pyrgou], there will take place the reception of the holy "Axion Estin" icon of the Theotokos, which will be brought by the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain by a military boat. The wonderworking icon will be received by the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Ieronymos, the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Anthimos, the Clerics, the local government, and the pious people. The "Axion Estin" will be brought in procession to the Holy Church of the Patron St. Demetrios, where there will take place a doxology and Great Vespers with many hierarchs.

All are invited to partake in this meaningful event for our local Church.
The icon most likely will remain in the church of St. Demetrios throughout the feasts of St. Demetrios (,, and will daily be available for veneration by the faithful, together with the Holy and Myrrhstreaming Relics of St. Demetrios, the Great Martyr. I thought to share this info with the Orthodox world, especially as it is rare that this wonderworking icon of the Theotokos ever leaves Mount Athos, and as such, this is an great opportunity for women and children to receive such a blessing from Panagia. May all those who can, take advantage of such an incredible gift!
Modern rendition of the "Axion Estin" icon of the Theotokos (source)
Άξιον εστίν ως αληθώς μακαρίζειν σε την Θεοτόκον, την αειμακάριστον και παναμώμητον και μητέρα του Θεού ημών. Την τιμιωτέραν των Χερουβείμ και ενδοξοτέραν ασυγκρίτως των Σεραφείμ την αδιαφθόρως Θεόν Λόγον τεκούσαν, την όντως Θεοτόκον, Σε μεγαλύνομεν.

It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim. Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word. The true Theotokos, we magnify thee.

Apolytikion in the Fourth ToneYe hosts of the Fathers of Mount Athos, gather today, and shout with a voice of jubilation, leaping for joy, and faithfully keeping feast: For, behold, the praise of the most pure Theotokos wondrously and awesomely is sung by the Angel; and therefore, as the Mother of God, we glorify her name.

Kontakion in the Fourth ToneAll of Athos keepeth feast this day in gladness; for it wondrously received from an Archangel's holy hand the hymn whereby thou hast ever been praised as the Mother of God, as is truly meet.
Modern rendition of the "Axion Estin" icon of the Theotokos (source)
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Peter of Damascus: "We Should Not Despair Even If We Sin Many Times"


"We Should Not Despair Even If We Sin Many Times", by St. Peter of Damaskos
Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding Him in your ignorance as powerless? Is He, who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as His incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and He will receive your repentance, as He accepted that of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:20) and the prostitute (cf. Luke 7:37-50). But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican (cf. Luke 18:13): this is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God's compassion, and will be full of gratitude towards his Benefactor, and so receive many other blessings as well. Even if he is subject to the devil in that he sins, yet from fear of God he disobeys the enemy when the latter tries to make him despair. Because of this he has his portion with God; for he is grateful, gives thanks, is patient, fears God, does not judge so that he may not be judged. All these are crucial qualities. It is as St. John Chrysostom says about Gehenna: it is almost of greater benefit to us than the kingdom of heaven, since because of it many enter into the kingdom of heaven, while few enter for the sake of the kingdom itself; and if they do enter it, it is by virtue of God's compassion. Gehenna pursues us with fear, the kingdom embraces us with love, and through them both we are saved by God's grace (Homily On 1 Timothy 15:3).

If those attacked by many passions of soul and body endure patiently, do not out of negligence surrender their free will, and do not despair, they are saved. Similarly, he who has attained the state of dispassion, freedom from fear and lightness of heart, quickly falls if he does not confess God's grace continually by not judging anyone. Indeed, should he dare to judge someone, he makes it evident that in acquiring his wealth he has relied on his own strength, as St. Maximus states. St. John of Damascus says that if someone still subject to the passions, and still bereft of the light of spiritual knowledge, is put in charge of anyone, he is in great danger; and so is the person who has received dispassion and spiritual knowledge from God but does not help other people.

Nothing so benefits the weak as withdrawal into stillness, or the man subject to the passions and without spiritual knowledge as obedience combined with stillness. Nor is there anything better than to know one's own weakness and ignorance, nor anything worse than not to recognize them. No passion is so hateful as pride, or as ridiculous as avarice, "the root of all evils" (1 Tim. 6:10): for those who with great labour mine silver, and then hide it in the earth again, remain without any profit. That is why the Lord says, "Do not store up treasures on earth" (Matt. 6:19); and again: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). For the intellect of man is drawn by longing towards those things with which it habitually occupies itself, whether these be earthly things, or the passions, or heavenly and eternal blessings. As St. Basil the Great says, a persistent habit acquires all the strength of nature (Long Rules6).

A weak person especially ought to pay attention to the promptings of his conscience, so that he may free his soul from all condemnation. Otherwise at the end of his life he may repent in vain and mourn eternally. The person who cannot endure for Christ's sake a physical death as Christ did, should at least be willing to endure death spiritually. Then he will be a martyr with respect to his conscience, in that he does not submit to the demons that assail him, or to their purposes, but conquers them, as did the holy martyrs and the holy fathers. The first were bodily martyrs, the latter spiritual martyrs. By forcing oneself slightly, one defeats the enemy; through slight negligence one is filled with darkness and destroyed.
(A Treasure of Divine Knowledge in The Philokalia (vol. 3). (

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!