Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"O the wonders of the Ever-virgin..."

The Dormition of the Most-holy Theotokos (source)
 
O the wonders of the Ever-virgin and Mother of God, surpassing mind! For she dwelt in a tomb, and showed it to be Paradise, which we stand beside today, rejoicing as we chant: praise the Lord, O you works of the Lord, and exalt Him supremely unto all the ages.
-Excerpt from the Canon for the Dormition of the Theotokos

(source)
 
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Leave the past to the mercy of God..."

The Deisis: Christ Pantocrator, with the Most-holy Theotokos and the Precious Forerunner (source)
 
"Leave the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His Providence."
-St. Hesychios the Priest
 
(source)
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos: “Signs of the Times”

Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos: “Signs of the Times”
Note: This is a wonderful talk by a great spiritual guide of our days, and spiritual son of Elder Joseph of Vatopedi, Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos (Cyprus). In this talk in Greek (with English subtitles provided by the wonderful Pemptousia website), the Metropolitan discusses the end times and the Last Judgment of Christ, but does it in such a loving and gentle and moving way, to convince us to prepare ourselves to face Christ, and not have unnecessary anxieties and agitations about the evils that are to come. May we continue to turn to our Merciful Lord in repentance and day by day purify our hearts so that we might behold our Beloved when our day comes!


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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The "Beatitudes" of St. Paisios the Athonite

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior (source)
  
Note: Truly beautiful and astonishing are these "Beatitudes" of St. Paisios the Athonite, modeled after the Beatitudes of Christ and the lives and writings of the Saints. May we be humbled by his love, sacrifice and self-denial, on behalf of God and his fellow man. May we not despair of our weakness and sinfulness, but make a small effort, through the discretion and guidance of our spiritual fathers to make a change for the better, through the intercessions of such a great saint of our century!
   
The "Beatitudes" of St. Paisios the Athonite
1. Blessed are those who love Christ more than all the worldly things and live far from the world and near God, with heavenly joys upon the earth.
  2. Blessed are those who manage to live in obscu­rity and acquired great virtues but did not acquire even a small name for themselves.
  3. Blessed are those who manage to act the fool and, in this way, protected their spiritual wealth 
4. Blessed are those who do not preach the Gospel with words, but live it and preach it with their silence, with the Grace of God, which betrays them.
  5. Blessed are those who rejoice when unjustly ac­cused, rather than when they are justly praised for their virtuous life. Here are the signs of holiness, not in the dry exertion of bodily asceticism and the great number of struggles, which, when not carried out with humility and the aim to take off the old man, create only illusions.
  6. Blessed are those who prefer to be wronged rather than to wrong others and accept serenely and silently injustices. In this way, they reveal in practice that they believe in “one God, the Father Almighty” and expect to be vindicated by Him and not by human beings who repay in this life with vanity.
7. Blessed are those who have been born crippled or became so due to their own carelessness, yet do not grumble but glorify God. They will hold the best place in Paradise along with the Confessors and Martyrs, who gave their hands and feet for the love of Christ and now constantly kiss with devoutness the hands and feet of Christ in Paradise.
  8. Blessed are those who were born ugly and are de­spised here on earth, because they are entitled to the most beautiful place in Paradise, provided they glorify God and do not grumble.
  9. Blessed are those widows who wear black in this life, even unwillingly, but live a white spiritual life and glorify God without complaining, rather than the mis­erable ones who wear assorted clothes and live a spot­ted life.
10. Blessed and thrice blessed are the orphans who have been deprived of their parents’ great affection, for they managed to have God as their Father already from this life. At the same time, they have the affection they were deprived of from their parents in God’s savings bank “with interest”.
  11. Blessed are those parents who avoid the use of the word “don’t” with their children, instead restraining them from evil through their holy life – a life which chil­dren imitate, joyfully following Christ with spiritual bravery.
  12. Blessed are those children who have been born “from their mother’s womb”(Mt. 19:12) holy, but even more blessed are those who were born with all the inherited passions of the world, struggled with sweat and up­rooted them and inherited the Kingdom of God in the sweat of their face (Cf. Gen. 3:19).
13. Blessed are those children who lived from in­fancy in a spiritual environment and, thus, tirelessly ad­vanced in the spiritual life.
Thrice blessed, however, are the mistreated ones who were not helped at all (on the contrary, they were pushed towards evil), but as soon as they heard of Christ, their eyes glistened, and with a one hundred and eighty degree turn they suddenly made their soul to shine as well. They departed from the attraction of earth and moved into the spiritual sphere.
  14. Fortunate, worldly people say, are the astronauts who are able to spin in the air, orbit the moon or even walk on the moon.
Blessed, however, are the immaterial “Paradise-nauts”, who ascend often to God and travel about Paradise, their place of permanent abode, with the quickest of means and without much fuel, besides one crust of bread.
15. Blessed are those who glorify God for the moon that glimmers that they might walk at night.
More blessed, however, are those who have come to understand that neither the light of the moon is of the moon, nor the spiritual light of their soul of them­selves, but both are of God. Whether they can shine like a mirror, a pane of glass or the lid of a tin can, if the rays of the sun do not fall on them, it is impossible for them to shine.
16. Fortunate, worldly people tell us, are those who live in crystal palaces and have all kinds of conven­iences.
Blessed, however, are those who have managed to sim­plify their life and become liberated from the web of this world’s development of numerous conveniences (i.e. many inconveniences), and were released from the frightening stress of our present age.
 17. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who can enjoy the goods of the world.
Blessed, however, are those who give away every­thing for Christ and are deprived even of every hu­man consolation for Christ. Thus it is that they man­age to be found night and day near Christ and His di­vine consolation, which many times is so much that they say to God: “My God, Thy love cannot be en­dured, for it is great and cannot be fit within my small heart”.
  18. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who have the greatest jobs and the largest mansions, since they possess all means and live comfortably.
Blessed, however, according to the divine Paul, are those who have but a nest to perch in, a little food and some coverings99• For, in this way, they’ve managed to become estranged from the vain world, using the earth as a footstool, as children of God, and their mind is con­stantly found close to God, their Good Father.
  19. Fortunate are those who become generals and government ministers in their head by way of heavy drinking (even if just for a few hours), with the world­ly rejoicing over it.
Blessed, however, are those who have put off the old man and have become incorporeal, managing to be earthly angels with the Holy Spirit. They have found Paradise’s divine faucet and drink from it and are con­tinually inebriated from the heavenly wine.
  20. Blessed are those who were born crazy and will be judged as crazy, and, in this way, will enter Paradise without a passport.
Blessed and thrice blessed, however, are the very wise who feign foolishness for the love of Christ and mock all the vanity of the world. This foolishness for Christ’s sake is worth more than all the knowledge and wisdom of the wise of this world.
I beg all the Sisters to pray for God to give me, or rather take from me my little mind, and, in this way, se­cure Paradise for me by considering me a fool. Or, make me crazy with His love so I go out my self, outside of the earth and its pull, for, otherwise my life as a monk has no meaning. I became externally white as a monk. As I go I become internally black by being a negligent monk, but I justify myself as one unhealthy, when I hap­pen to be so; other times, I excuse myself again for be­ing ill, even though I am well, and so I deserve to be thoroughly thrashed. Pray for me. 
May Christ and Panagia be with you,
With love of Christ, Your Brother, Monk Paisios
(“Timiou Stavrou”, December 2, 1972). (source)
  
St. Paisios the Athonite (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Twenty Practical Suggestions for Humility, by Fr. Stephanos Anagnostopoulos

Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior (source)
   
Note: These succinct, practical examples of the Beatitudes or the Lives of the Saints, are wonderful reminders of the love, humility and repentance that Christ calls us to. However, please always make sure that you are under the guidance of your spiritual father to prevent any delusion or damage to yourself or your family.
   
Twenty Practical Suggestions for Humility, by Fr. Stephanos Anagnostopoulos (amateur translation)
   
Did they forget you? They don’t even pick up the phone? It doesn’t matter.

Were they unjust to you? Forget about it.

Do they despise you? Rejoice.

Do they condemn you? Don’t fight back.

Do they ridicule you? Don’t respond.

Do they curse you? Be silent and pray.

Do they not let you speak? Do they cut you off? Don’t be sad.

Do they speak evil of you? Don’t fight back.

Do your children, your relatives and your own people take away your rights? Don’t complain.

Do they get angry with you? Remain peaceful.

Do they rob you openly? Be blind to it.

Do they mock you? Forbear it.

Do they not listen to your advice, especially your children? Fall to your knees and pray.

Are you upset with your spouse? You are to blame, not the other.

Were you to blame? Ask forgiveness.

You weren’t to blame? Again ask forgiveness.

Do you have health? Glorify God.

Do you have sickness? Do you have cancer, depression? Are you suffering, tortured, in pain? Glorify God.

Complaining, unemployment, poverty in the house? Fasting. Vigil. Prayer.

For everyone and for everything, prayer. Much prayer. Much prayer. Fasting and prayer, for “these kinds of passions and demons do not come out but with fasting and prayer.”

May we all, my brethren, and first of all myself, follow these humble suggestions, that we may be sure that we will be saved.
    
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior (source)
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Homily of Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on the Holy Unmercenaries: Young scientists performing acts of love

The Holy Unmercenaries Sts. Kosmas and Damian (source)
 
Homily of Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on the Holy Unmercenaries: Young scientists performing acts of love
The sinful man, my beloved, (in other words, he who does not sense his sins and does not repent, because we are all sinners), who does not repent according the Holy Scriptures resembles an old an unworked field, which is full of wild weeds, thorns and serpents. He is a land "in danger of being cursed", as the Apostle Paul says (Hebrews 6:8). As opposed to this, the saint is like a worked field, like the "good earth" from the Parable of the Sower, where the Sower reaps a harvest from some 30-fold, some 60-fold, some 100-fold (Matthew 13:8, Mark 4:8). The saint is a chosen garden of God. And just as it is pleasant to walk in a garden, so pleasant it is to read the lives of the saints, they are spiritual gardens.

A spiritual garden are the saints which we celebrate today, the Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian. And just as we gather flowers when we go to a garden in order to make a beautiful bouquet, thus today, reading through the life of these saints, we will cut a few spiritual flowers in order to weave a crown.

The first flower--the first lesson which we take from the life of Sts. Kosmas and Damian, is love, as the Apostle Paul relates in today's Epistle reading (I Corinthians 12:27-13:8). They had love between them. They were brothers, from one mother and one father. But is this enough?

Love of blood relatives is not steadfast. We have many examples: brothers, who were born from the same mother and nursed on the same milk and raised in the same house, who later each go their separate ways. The Holy Scriptures tell us that Cain and Abel were brothers, but Cain murdered Abel and killed him. Since then, there is enmity between brethren. Yesterday in Florina, one brother threw out of their father's house his brother with five children. The day before yesterday, again, there came to the Metropolis someone else who was saying beautiful words, and I started to believe that he was a good man. But later someone else told me: "Didn't you ask him, how long has it been since you spoke to your brother? They lived in the same village, their homes were close by, but Christmas would come, Holy Friday would come, Pascha would come, great days, and he wouldn't even say a 'Good morning' to him." I said, "Is that true? Do you appear to be a Christian but don't speak with your brother?" He replied, "I talk to everyone, but to my brother, no." "But why?" "I won't speak with him, no matter what anyone says." I tried to reconcile them, but it remained impossible.

The Holy Unmercenaries were brothers, but that which united them was not blood, nor money, nor anything else physical. It was Christ Who united them. Satan divides, Christ unites. And Christ took these two brothers and made them one soul and one heart. They were beloved in life, and beloved in death, in martyrdom, and beyond the grave into eternity. They had love, not so much love from between family members and blood, but more so love from spiritual family and a common faith.

The one flower in this beautiful garden of the saints is love. What is the other? What age were these saints? Where they gray-haired elders 80 or 90 years old? No, they were young, in the flowering of their age. There is the idea that religion is for old men and women and for those who are preparing for death. This is wrong. Religion is for everyone. It is for children, for women, and men, and for elders. But it is first and foremost for the youth. If you excuse the phrase, Christ is useful for everyone. Just like the sun is useful for everyone, both for the little child and the old man, thus it is with Christ. There is no one who can tell the sun that he doesn't need it. The sun is needed by king and poor man, woman and man, black and white, by everyone. Thus it is the with religion, it is useful for everyone, but especially for the youth. The old man resembles a boat which, hour by hour is getting ready to lower its anchor into the harbor, into eternity, while the young man is leaving the harbor and faces great waves, storms and winds, and the boat must be armed with hope, faith and the love of God. The Holy Unmercenaries are an example of this. These two brothers believed in Christ from a young age, and lived in purity. Their example shows us that even young people need faith in Christ.

Love and faith, and the third flower from the beautiful garden of the saints? What were the Holy Unmercenaries, learned or unlearned? They were not unlearned, though there are many unlearned saints. But these two were scientists. They were physicians. And they were the best physicians of their era. Sick people, who could not be healed by any other physicians, hastened to Kosmas and Damian and they made them well. How? With medicines? Yes, with medicines that they made from healing herbs that they gathered from the mountains and vales. But above all of the other medicines, however, was their wonderworking prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, they healed every illness. What does this show? That religion is not just for unlearned people, like many think. This is wrong. They make fun of science and say that scientists don't believe in God. This is a lie. Why? Who are the scientists that they are thinking of? Those who get a diploma and later close their books and go play games and go out and say that there is no God, they are not scientists. They are scientists who sit day and night and read. They are the true scientists, therefore, who believe in God, And we have such scientists, astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and others, who believe in God just like a villager or a shepherd.

Do you want an example? In our days there is great achievement that man went to the moon. How did he go? With a rocket that propelled a spaceship. The rocket, who made it? A scientist. Let's not say his name, let us not say the names of foreign people in church, but those of the apostles and the saints. Let's just say that he is a German man. But he believes! Last year he came to Greece. He went to Mykonos where thousands of tourists were gathered for the summer. On Sunday, when the church bell ran, no one went to church, they went to the beach. He went like a little child and listened to the Divine Liturgy. Later they asked him, "Do you believe?" "Of course, after discoveries like that I believe in God even more..." And it is not just him, but many other scientists believe. And in our homeland there are many scientists and students who believe in Christ (mathematicians, physicians, philologists, etc.). They work and study in great cities, which are a great abyss, Sodom and Gomorrah, but they believe deeply in God.

Three things therefore, my beloved, the Holy Unmercenaries teach us today. The first, to have love, because we are all brethren. The second, to have, first and foremost the young people, purity and cleanliness. And the third, that all learning cannot separate man from God, but can bring him closer to Him.

Faith and holiness were not only "at that time". And today and tomorrow and until the close of the world they will not abandon us. They stars may fall, and the rivers may dry up, and the mountains melt, and everything may flee away, but there will not come a day that there are no Christians. There will always be men who believe in Christ, and who will be ready to trade their life for a crown, like Sts. Kosmas and Damian, whose intercessions may ever be with you, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

+Bishop Avgoustinos
(Recorded homily which occurred in the church of the Holy Unmercenaries, Perasmatos, Florina, 7/1/74, source)
   
The Holy Unmercenaries Sts. Kosmas and Damian (source)
   
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"The citizens of the Jerusalem on high..."

Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles (source)
  
The citizens of the Jerusalem on high, the rock of faith, the orators of the Church of Christ, the dyad of the Trinity, those who netted the world, today depart the things on earth, and proceed to God through their struggle, and they intercede to Him with boldness that our souls be saved.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the Third Tone, by St. John of Damascus

(source)

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

St. Silouan the Athonite on loving enemies

St. Silouan the Athonite (source)
 
"Whoever will not love his enemies cannot know the Lord and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies in such a way that we pity their souls as if they were our own children."
-St. Silouan the Athonite
 
(source)
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Elder Ephraim of Arizona: "God kindles the energy of noetic prayer..."

The Holy Prophet Elias in the Fiery Chariot (source)
 
"In those last days, when the breath of the Antichrist corrupts earth and sea and every breath of life, as a refreshing breath of grace, like the fiery Prophet Elijah, God kindles the energy of noetic prayer in the chest and the heart of the Church, as an antidote of spiritual and bodily health and salvation for the days which will come."
-Elder Ephraim of Arizona
 
(amateur translation of text from source)
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

St. Porphyrios: "If you love and you don't seek the love of others, all will come close to you..."

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
  
"The phrase, 'I love you', is a humble thing to say. It is not simply said though. It is gained silently with the personality that you fashion. You fashion it, and the other may be mad at you. You are working and look as to ultimately hide it. But the other senses it and is attracted by it. If you love and you don't seek the love of others, all will come close to you. It is a mystery. Mystically you will love and they will understand it, and even while far away, they will send you their good feelings. Do you understand this? ... It is natural what I am telling you: to love selflessly!"
-St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, June 9, 2017

St. Luke of Simferopol: "Great is the embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ..."

St. Luke Archbishop of Simferopol of Crimea (source)
  
Great is the embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is so great that we cannot comprehend it. The Lord has in His embrace all those who suffer in their life from trials and worries. What depth does His heart have, and how great is His love, such that He grants rest to all those who labor and are heavy-laden, and grants them consolation, and the strength to endure trials and to not loose hope when they are wronged in their life!
-St. Luke of Simferopol
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Prayers for Physicians and Healthcare Workers, and St. Luke of Simferopol as their protector

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol of Crimea, depicted in his doctor's robes with surgical tools (source)
   
Among the many examples and protectors for Christian physicians and other healthcare workers, is St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol of Crimea (celebrated June 11th). St. Luke's life is a radiant example for Christians of our modern age, as he was a dedicated scientist, hard-working surgeon, loving husband, caring father, pious and reverent pastor of Christ's flock, and fiery confessor of His name amidst persecutions and tortures at the hands of the atheists. And the Saint's many astonishing miracles after his repose bear witness to the grace that the Lord gave to him, and the love that he still shares, especially for those who are suffering, and also for those caring for the suffering.
 
   
Metropolitans Lazar and Nektarios serving Akathist to St. Luke in Simferopol, and blessing the medical robes of the faithful (source)
   
The eve of St. Luke's feast in Crimea, for years, the local Metropolitan has gathered the physicians and healthcare workers to a special akathist to St. Luke, in which they serve an "agismos" service (blessing of the water) to bless their white medical robes, scrubs and coats. This is a beautiful opportunity to reaffirm the dedication of these healers to the True Healer of our souls and bodies, praying that they be strengthened, granted wisdom, discernment and compassion.

Below are two Orthodox prayers for physicians and healthcare workers. May the Lord strengthen them to always to His will!
 
Metropolitan Nektarios blessing medical robes in Argolidos (source)
 

Orthodox Prayer For Doctors and Nurses

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Lover of Mankind, Physician of our souls and bodies, who didst bear the pain of our infirmities, and by whose wounds we are healed; Who gave sight to the man born blind; Who straightened the woman who was bent over for 18 years; Who gave speech and sight to the mute demoniac; Who not only forgave the paralytic his sins, but healed him to walk; Who restored the withered hand of a troubled man; Who stopped the flow of blood of her who bled for 12 years; Who raised Jairus’ daughter to life; And brought the four-day-dead Lazarus to life; And who heals every infirmity under the sun: Do now, O Lord, grant Thy grace to all those here gathered who have labored and studied hour upon hour, to go into all the world, and also to heal by the talent Thou hast given to each of them. Strengthen them, by Thy strength, to fear no evil or disease. Enlighten them to do no evil by the works of their hands, and preserve them and those they serve in peace, for Thou art our God, and we know no other, and to Thee we ascribe glory together with Thy Father who is from everlasting, and Thy most Holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
(source)
   
Another Orthodox Prayer for Physicians and Healthcare Workers
O Master, Lord our God, the Hope of all the ends of the earth, the Physician of our souls and bodies, hearken unto our entreaties on this auspicious day and hour, and to the pious love and godly fear of Your servants, as a witness to the truth of our faith, for help to all those who entreat Your mercy, and for therapy and complete healing of those who are suffering. Be the fellow worker of the physicians and surgeons, of the nurses and of all those who serve and work in service to the sick, and direct their minds and their hands towards the healing and consolation of our ailing and suffering brethren. Enlighten the physicians with perfect diagnosis, grant successful surgery and the nursing treatment of their diseases and illnesses, that, having been fully healed, Your suffering servants might in health, glorify You, together with their families and relatives, glorifying Your all-honored and magnificent Name, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, through the intercessions of our all-spotless Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, our Father among the Saints Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol, the Physician, of the Holy wonderworking Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian, Panteleimon the Great-martyr, and all of Your Saints. Amen.
   
(Note: This prayer was translated and altered from the Greek source here)
 
Please also note that there is a lovely new publication of the brief life of St. Luke, his akathist, and the prayer to him for the sick, by St. Paisios Monastery.
 
Painting depicting St. Luke of Simferopol making rounds with both his medical robe, and his Panagia (source)
 
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Uncovering of the Relics of St. Mardarije of Libertyville

The Uncovering of the Relics of St. Mardarije of Libertyville (source)
  
On Thursday, May 4, 2017, His Grace Bishop Longin served Divine Liturgy at St. Sava Monastery with Sindjel Serafim (Milojkovic), Priest Nikolaj Kostur and Hierodeacon Nektarije (Tesanovic), in preparation for uncovering the relics. Following the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Longin and the other clergy served a Moleban with the Akathist written to St. Mardarije. Upon completion, the crew organized to remove the tombstone and flooring in order to exhume the relics arrived, under the guidance of Mr. Dusan Djordjevic of Sveta Gora Funeral Home in Chicago. After removal of the stone, it was revealed that the casket of St. Mardarije was in a cement vault. This caused the opening to be delayed one additional day in order to organize a team to open the vault.
  
On Friday morning, May 5, 2017, the workers broke the seal of the vault, while Priest Nikolaj Kostur and Heirodeacon Nektarije (Tesanovic) served a Moleban to St. Mardarije at the tomb in the presence of Bishop Longin and Hieromonk Serafim (Milojkovic). Throughout the entire process of exhumation, “Christ is Risen” and other Paschal hymns were sung, both in Serbian and Russian tones, knowing St. Mardarije’s deep love and dedication to both Slavic traditions.
  
Once the seal of the vault was broken, every effort was taken to lift the cover. During this process, the cover of the vault shifted and fell on the casket, breaking its cover. At this moment, a sweet smelling fragrance arose from the tomb, quickly dissipating. However, it became evident that the Saint was buried facing the west instead of east. This in and of itself is miraculous. It manifested the Providence of God. Had St. Mardarije been buried in the proper direction, the vault cover would have fallen on the side of the casket where his holy head rested. It was visible that his feet had decayed and were bones.
  
Frs. Serafim and Nikolaj lifted the relics out of the tomb during the singing of “Christ is Risen.” The relics were light in weight and easily placed in a temporary metal coffin. Hereupon the feet were examined, which at this point were the only visible part of the remains. The bones of the feet were goldish-yellow in color. Then, Fr. Nikolaj Kostur proceeded to examine the mid-section of the body. St. Mardarije's Holy hands were holding the cross which was firmly in place and immovable. As Fr. Nikolaj pulled back the sleeve of the saccos, it was revealed that the hands of St. Mardarije were completely intact. Clearly visible were his skin, fingernails and hair. At this point, it was evident that the relics were more than just bones.
  
The incorrupt relics of St. Mardarije of Libertyville (source)
  
The holy relics of St. Mardarije were lifted out of the metal coffin and placed on two tables which were prepared for the examination and washing of the holy relics.  All of the vestments and clothing were carefully removed, cutting that which could not easily be taken off in order to not disturb the holy relics.   Most reverent and diligent care and utmost attention were given to the work that was being done; the clergy continuously sang the troparion to St. Mardarije and other Paschal hymns.
After all the vestments were removed, it was revealed that the holy relics, from the knee upward, were intact, although very fragile.  The Saint’s anatomy was intact with his skin and hair visible.  When the mitre was removed, his long, dark hair flowed out, confirming his continued monastic struggle until the end of his days.  The hair on his head and beard looked as though he had just reposed; it was very soft.  The eyebrows and eyelashes of his closed eyes were visible.  Also, his ears were still intact.  The body was easily lifted and moved.  There was a great deal of dust which had accumulated in the grave from the nearly eighty-two years since the burial. Upon the removal of the dust from the entire body, the holy relics were washed with warm water and white wine. Hereupon spikenard oil was was used to anoint the body, according to the instructions received from the Holy Monastery of Hilandar. After the anoninting, the color of the skin changed from tan to a dark brown.
After the washing and anointing, the legs, hands and torso were all wrapped in cotton and linen, making the holy relics more easily movable.  Following this process, the holy relics were temporarily vested in a stiharion until his vesting takes place before his Glorification in July 2017.  His face was covered with linen, and he was returned to the temporary metal coffin and covered. 
  
Truly, God is wondrous in His Saints, showing us all His Divine power and that nature is subject to God’s grace.  All of those that partook in this experience, from the clergy to the workers, were moved with the joy and spiritual peace that filled the church during the uncovering of the holy relics.  St. Mardarije lives on, not only in his legacy, but now through his incorrupt relics which will be a renewed rudder for the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, guiding us to move into the future, being directed by the past.  May we follow St. Mardarije on the path of St. Sava, which lead him to sanctity.
  
Our Holy Hierarch, Father Mardarije, pray unto God for us!  Christ is risen!
Priest Nikolaj Kostur
Chairman of the Liturgical Sub-Committee for the Glorification of St. Mardarije
  
Please note that a Pan-Orthodox celebration St. Mardarije of Libertyville is being planned for July 14-16th, 2017 at St. Savas Monastery. (source)
  
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

St. Sophia of Kleisoura (+1974): "Don't say many words..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Sophia of Kleisoura (+1974) (source)
   
"Don't say many words, may they be few and blessed. Love God, and your heart will shine like the sun."
-St. Sophia of Kleisoura

(source)

Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

St. Nikolai Velimirovic: "What does it mean: to take up your cross?"

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Icons of Christ's Passion and Resurrection (source)
   
...What does it mean: to take up your cross? It means the willing acceptance, at the hand of Providence, of every means of healing, bitter though it may be, that is offered.

Do great catastrophes fall on you? Be obedient to God's will, as Noah was.

Is sacrifice demanded of you? Give yourself into God's hands with the same faith as Abram had when he went to sacrifice his son.

Is your property ruined? Do your children die suddenly? Suffer it all with patience, cleaving to God in your heart, as Job did.

Do your friends forsake you, and you find yourself surrounded by enemies? Bear it all without grumbling, and with faith that God's help is at hand, as the apostles did.

Are you condemned to death for Christ? Be thankful to God for such an honor, like thousands of Christian martyrs. Nothing will be sought of you that has not been done before, but you will rather follow the example of many - apostles, saints, confessors and martyrs - who have done Christ's will. We must know, furthermore, that in seeking our crucifixion, The Lord is seeking the crucifixion of the old man, the man made up of evil habits and the service of sin. For, by this crucifixion, the old, animal-like man in us is put to death, and the new man, made in God's image and immortal, is raised to life.
-St. Nikolai Velimirovic: "The Holy Cross",
 
(source)
 
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Invisibly you shine upon those who call upon you..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Ephraim of Nea Makri (source)
  
Invisibly you shine upon those who call upon you, and you appear to them while awake and by sleep, granting your grace. Therefore [the world] has been filled with your wonders, O wise one, and it magnifies the Lord.
-from the Orthros Canon to St. Ephraim

(source)
  
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

St. Matrona of Moscow healing family troubles

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Matrona of Moscow the Wonderworker (source)
 
Evgenia’s parents were communists, sincerely believing in the “bright Communist future,” and her family had a rule: never to be satisfied with what has been achieved, but to always push forward. Evgenia studied for many years, first at the Moscow Aviation Institute, and then at the Institute of Radiotechnology and Electronics. After graduating, she worked as an engineer on secret state projects. She ended her career with forty years of work experience, and was honored as a veteran of labour. She had always been an atheist and was completely self-reliant. Her own strength and abilities seemed boundless. When she was still young, she had done all she wanted, except having children. But that too, she accomplished. Her son Oleg was born when she was 36. She raised him alone, without a husband, but with her blind love she turned her dear boy into a heartless, selfish man.

Now she was retired, but her son was like a stranger to her. He married suddenly and brought his wife, Tatiana, home and things went from bad to worse. About to graduate from college, Oleg unexpectedly stopped his studies, and neither of the young people worked. They just lived in the flat eating and drinking whatever the mother gave them, with barely a word to her. She seemed to live in a silent sepulcher, but no, not even that: how could one call it silent with music thundering from their room from morning until night. Once, when her son was away, she argued with his wife, “I won’t have you here, I’ll drive you out! You are idle yourself and you allow him to sponge on his mother who is a pensioner. He doesn’t even study.” Tatiana replied rudely: “I’m not living with you, but with my husband. It was you who brought him up like this.” They hurled abuse and curses at each other, and that night her son said, “If you scold Tanya again, know that you no longer have a son.” Evgenia was bitter.

A friend suggested that she visit Blessed Matrona’s grave. For a very long time she didn’t go, but  finally, in desperation, she set out. It took half a day to get there: at first she was on the wrong tram, and when she found the right one, it broke down. At the cemetery, people showed her the path to Matrona, but she followed it to the end without finding the grave. A second path led to another dead end, and she wondered if Blessed Matrona wasn’t allowing her to come to her grave: she knew she wasn’t properly dressed – she was wearing pants, lipstick, her fingernails were brightly painted, and she wasn’t wearing a cross. But when she finally approached the grave, she felt enfolded in an otherworldly warmth. She was drawn to the grave as if by a magnet. There was a lump in her throat; tears stood in her eyes… And then, as if she knew all about her, the woman who cared for the grave gave her a little cross saying: “Wear it. Never take it off.” Evgenia went home as if on wings.

But at home things did not improve; they became even worse. Finally, she went to Blessed Matrona’s grave again, simply because she had nowhere else to go and begged with tears: “Matronushka, pray for me, ask God to change something, it cannot stay as it is!” When she returned home, she found a lab report on her son’s desk, confirming that her daughter-in-law was pregnant. She thought bitterly, “There have been two parasites living off me and now there will be a third, their child!”

A few days passed, and one afternoon, to her great surprise, the young people cooked dinner and, for the first time, invited her to eat with them. They said: “We have lived for such a long time at your expense, please forgive us and be patient for just a little longer.” They told her about the baby, and that her son had re-entered his college, passed the graduation exams, and only needed to write his final paper. After this he would find a job. “Forgive us, we do love you and we are grateful for your endurance and patience with us.”

Oleg found a job and Tanya gave birth to a healthy boy. The young family went to live with Tanya’s relatives, but Oleg called his mother each evening after work to ask how she was and if she needed anything. Every Sunday they gathered at Evgenia’s flat for dinner.

And so life went on. Only one thing was lacking: Oleg wanted to enter the university for post-graduate training, but after three years of being out of school, he was no longer able to pass the highly competitive entrance exams. Again Evgenia went to Blessed Matrona begging her to pray that God would help. Oleg passed the exams and entered the university, as Evgenia believes, through the prayers of Blessed Matrona.
   
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

St. Gregory the Theologian: "Let us become like Christ..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Resurrection of Christ (source)
  
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; (2 Corinthians 8:9) He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.
-St. Gregory the Theologian, Paschal Homily

Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!

Truly the Lord is risen!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

St. Gregory of Sinai on Christ's Passion

Jesus Christ, showing "Extreme Humility" in His Passion (source)
  
Christ's Passion is a life-quickening death to those who have experienced all its phases, for by experiencing what He experienced we are glorified as He is. (Rom. 8:17)
-St. Gregory of Sinai
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Elder Symeon Kragiopoulos: "But, what is God’s will?"

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior (source)
  
Every now and then, some people ask:
“But, what is God’s will? I don’t know the will of God.”
  
What don’t you know? You don’t know, for example, that you should be praying a bit more than you are now? Does somebody really need to tell you this? You don’t know that the little prayer you do should be done with your whole heart? You don’t know that you shouldn’t talk back to someone, shouldn’t talk to him in a way that makes him distressed? You don’t know that you should help him? You don’t know that you should forgive him? That you should tolerate him? Should love him? And should pray for him? You don’t know that you must be patient? And that you shouldn’t get angry?
Do what you know. And God, seeing your sincere disposition to continually know his will, will find a way to make clear to you that which you don’t know, every time.
  
Continually making a new start, doesn’t mean that we will be doing unexpected things. Rather, we will do the things we know, do the familiar things, but with another spirit, another disposition. As we study the whole issue we’ll understand it and we’ll make a new start –today, tomorrow, and the day after; and it is never ending. Neither will anyone ever get tired and say: “I’m tired of making a start”. On the contrary, each day you will feel it within yourself as a necessity to do so. And this will be a witness, a sign, a proof, I would say, that one more piece of your subconscious, one more piece of your unconscious, has come out of the dark basement and is now under your control. At this point you place it under the grace of God and even this is made holy. Whatever is evil, whatever is tarnished, is dissipated and purified by grace, and only your soul remains pure.
  
And so, every particular moment, in every particular instance, remembering that you made a start and that again you delivered yourself to God –as an uncontrolled piece came out from your subconscious, which however now is able to be in your control –you will try to not let this piece conquer you, and to not do that which it urges you to do. But what then? You do that which a saint would do, that which that very hour Christ tells you to do.
  
In this way, in every moment you are inside the will of God and not inside your own will.
-by Archimandrite Symeon (Kragiopoulos), (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

St. Nikolai Velimirovic: Christ, our Consolation

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior (source)
  
  Here is consolation above all consolations! Here is consolation for those broken by tempest. Let them only remember that Christ is among them, and let them not be afraid. He is the Helmsman.

     Here is the consolation for those in pain. Let them know that Christ is there by their bed, and let them not despair. He is the Healer.

     Here is consolation for the old. Let them not lose sight of the fact that Christ goes with them through the years right to eternity and eternal youth, and let them be at peace.

     Here is consolation for those who are tormented by men. Let them not think that they are left alone, for Christ is with them in all their pain, and at their judgment, and in prison; and let them rejoice. He is the Judge.

     Here is consolation for those tormented by evil spirits. Let them remember that Christ, the Conqueror of evil spirits, is on their side, and let them be strengthened. He is the Victor.

     Here is consolation for those who seek the light of righteousness and truth. Let them believe that Christ is closer to their souls than to their eyes, and let them follow His leading. He is the Light.

     Oh, my brethren, Christ is truly always with us, as a light that is ever present to the eyes of those who look, But, to our loss, if the eyes of our soul are closed, then the light seeks in vain to encounter the pupil of our eye! Oh, what sorrow and grief is ours when we are not with Christ!

     He comes to meet us - do we go to meet Him? He desires to be with us - do we desire to be with Him? If we desire consolation, we must be with Him every day to the end of our lives.

     O Lord, our only Consoler, do not leave us! To Thee be glory and praise forever.
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Neither fire, nor the sword..."

St. Charalampos the Hieromartyr (source)
  
Neither fire, nor the sword, nor death, nor persecutions, nor trials, nor hunger, nor danger, nor any tortures that could be devised, could truly overtake your love, or separate you from your Beloved [Christ], O Champion worthy to be praised.
-from the Matins Canon to St. Charalampos the Hieromartyr

(source)

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

A miracle of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg: "You know where to go!"

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg (source)
  
About fifteen years ago, I heard this story about an event that took place in Northern California—an unusual story, about a miracle of St. Xenia of Petersburg. Nun Nina, now Abbess Nina of St. Nilus Skete in Alaska, had heard it from Fr. Weldon Hardenbrook, who at the time was the rector of a church in Santa Cruz County. I wrote it down immediately, but unfortunately the notebook I wrote it in is located somewhere far away from me now, and I am writing it again from memory—so that people might know that Blessed Xenia the fool-for-Christ of St. Petersburg helps people everywhere, even people who previously knew nothing about her. She helps not only those who have prayed to her, but even those who will pray to her.
  
This priest, Fr. Weldon, served in a parish that consisted of former Evangelical Christians who had embraced Orthodox Christianity. There was a time when their flourishing community was not Orthodox, and all kinds of people came to them to hear their Christian message. One day, a young man rode up to the church on his Harley Davidson. His appearance betrayed the life of a prodigal, but he was sincerely interested in hearing about Jesus. A relationship formed with the Fr Weldon, now an Orthodox priest (who told this story), and the young man began to gradually change his ways. He had given up one vice after another when the pastor told him that his “biking” would have to go if he wanted to truly follow Christ. This was too much for the newly-born Evangelical to bear, and he left the community and his pastor’s care, never intending to return.
  
Our biker rode off on his Harley Davidson, and soon had a terrible accident, which cost him his legs. Eventually he landed back in the company of his old “friends”, in a run-down apartment in a low-rent neighborhood in the bad part of a crime-ridden city. One evening, as he and his companions were abusing drugs and alcohol in a particularly vigorous way, he slipped over the edge and lost consciousness. The others were also far from sober and took him for dead. Not understanding clearly what they should do, and as usual avoiding all contact with the police, they simply dragged his limp, legless body to the street and threw him into the nearest garbage dumpster. In there, the next morning, he came to his senses. It was a rude awaking indeed to find himself in a dumpster, wallowing in refuse. Climbing dazedly out of that would-be coffin, he sat down on the curb, thinking the darkest thoughts. “So, this is what I have come to. Useless, human trash. Thrown away like garbage.”
  
Sunk in these pessimistic thoughts, he was suddenly stirred by the presence of an old lady in tattered clothes—what people call a “bag lady”. She was coming closer to him with a fierce, accusatory expression. “You know where to go,” she said, pointing at him. “So, go there!” At that moment the man remembered his former pastor, and the church where he had almost reformed. Determined to find it again, he made his way back to the town where it is located.
  
When he returned to that church it was different. There were gold domes with crosses on the roof, and the interior was completely changed. No pews; and there was a sort of screen at the front, with strange images of holy people. He looked around in wonder, when his gaze caught the image of a woman—the very “bag lady” who had told him where to go in that hour of dire depression. It was Holy Blessed Xenia, the fool-for-Christ of Petersburg.
  
He met his old friend, now an Orthodox priest in a cassock, wearing a cross. He received holy Baptism himself, and began to live the life of a dedicated parishioner, this time truly transformed.
I do not know what has come of this man since. I have no reason to believe that he is anywhere other than at that parish, but as I have said, this story was related to me fifteen years ago. However, the fact remains that this miracle of St. Xenia happened to person who knew nothing of her, who lived in a place very far from Russia, and when he needed it the most.
Nun Cornelia (Rees), 06 / 02 / 2014, (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

St. Maximos the Confessor: "He who believes fears..."

Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world (source)
  
"He who believes fears; he who fears is humble; he who is humble becomes gentle and renders inactive those impulses of incensiveness and desire which are contrary to nature. A person who is gentle keeps the commandments; he who keeps the commandments is purified; he who is purified is illumined; he who is illumined is made a consort of the divine Bridegroom and Logos in the shrine of the mysteries."
-St. Maximos the Confessor,
"Two-Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God", The Philokalia
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, January 6, 2017

"O Lord, wishing to fulfill all things..."

Icon of Holy Theophany: the Baptism of Christ and the Revelation of the Holy Trinity (source)
  
O Lord, wishing to fulfill all things that You ordained before the ages, You received the servants of Your mystery, from among the Angels, Gabriel, from among Men, the Virgin, from among the Heavens, the Star, and from among the Waters, the Jordan, in which You washed away the sin of the world, O our Savior, glory to You.
-Doxastikon of the Liti for the Great Feast of Theophany,
St. John of Damascus

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