The icon of the Mother of God “Milk-Giver”

Type: Galaktotrophousa
One of the earliest extant of this subject matter is found in the church of the Karyes hermitage, belonging to the Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos. According to oral tradition, this icon eas originally in the Lavra of Saint Savvas, 18 versts from Jerusalem. On his deathbed Saint Savvas the Sanctified (d. 513) foretold that a royal son of the same name would come to the monastery and that at the moment of his praying tribute to the tomb the tied up episcopal staff of Saint Savvas would fall to the ground. He bequeathed the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God Galaktotrophousa
And the staff to the future monk with the name Savvas, as his blessing. Five centuries later the prophecy of Saint Savvas the Sanctified came true. The Serbian monk Sava Nemanja (d. 1236) came to the Lavra in Palestine. While he was paying tribute to the saint’s tomb, the episcopal staff fell down. When the miracle repeated the next day all doubts of the monks were gone. They knew for sure then that the Serb Sava was the one they had waited for. Returning to Serbia, Sava transferred possession of the icon to the Hilandar Monastery.
It is interesting, that, contrary to common practice in the Eastern Church, this sacred icon was placed, and remains till now, in the local row of the iconostasis, not on the left side of the Beautiful Gate, but on the right side where ordinarily the icon of Holy Trinity or the Savior is installed. The image of the Lord Almighty occupies the place on the left side where ordinarily there should be the icon of the Mother of God.
The icon’s miraculous power has been known in Russia since 19th century. In 1860, in the Kursk Gubernia a sick man who had been bedridden and unable to move for at least a year suddenly recovered when he kissed a copy of the holy image sent over from Athos. In 1862 the house of a certain believer was twice delivered from a fire due to his prayers before the icon.




        The Elder Ephraim, the Abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery relates to us the following stories told to him by Saint Paisius.  "I believe that some of you have read the life and works of St. Paisius.  What is so unusual about this holy man?  That which sets him apart from other human beings is his total sacrifice for his fellow man.  He would offer himself as a whole burnt offering for the welfare of his fellow man.  I remember him telling me once when I was visiting him: He said, “My child, something happens to me that if I tell you what it is you would think I am crazy.  But what can I say, it just happens to me.  Up until 1974 I had such great love for God that when this love for God overwhelmed me I would suddenly fall down and become unconscious. I would remain in that condition for a long time praying and then the feeling would leave me.

        “After 1974 this same intense love I had for God was also expressed toward my fellow man.  I feel such love for my fellow man that I would pray for them with such intensity that people would ask me, what is wrong with you?  For example, I would pray in my cell for people who had communicated with me about their problems. Some of these people were having marital problems and others were having problems with their health. After getting these messages I would then travel in the Spirit to Sidney, to Melbourne, to Monaco, to Cyprus and to Athens.  I would invisibly visit these troubled people in the Spirit, I would bless them with the sign of the Cross and they would be filled with a sense of peace.  I would also pray for the sick in the hospitals and for those in the intensive care units.  I would visit them invisibly in the Spirit and see them personally.  I would bless them and they would become healed.  Nobody was aware of these visitations for I would visit them invisibly in the Spirit.   And this happens many times. 

        In fact, I would like to tell you something else that has not been recorded anywhere.  Neither has what I have already told you been recorded anywhere.     A theologian visited Mt. Athos who had some theological concerns about one of the hymns of the Church.  In fact he visited during the first fifteen day period of August when we honor the Holy Mother of Jesus.  There were five pilgrims in this group visiting the Holy Mountain.  He was telling his fellow pilgrims the following: “We chant the following; 'Oh you Apostles from far away are called together to come to the village of Gethsemane to bury my body’.  This theologian said to his friends: 'is it possible for the Apostles from the far reaches of the world to be brought together to be present at the funeral of the Holy Mother? I cannot believe that.  I respect the Holy Mother but that I cannot believe that happened.  Maybe the Apostles were present at the burial in thought or with their hearts but not physically present.” 



His Eminence
Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes
Retired Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa

Many might ask the questions:

Why did Christ, the most and only Innocent, have to face the worst form of death, the death on the cross, in order to reconcile man to God the Father?

Did Christ truly rise from the dead?
What would our lives have been if Christ had not died for us?

In order to understand the importance of Christ’s Sacrifice, one must know the reason for His coming into the world. In accordance to Holy Scriptures, man was formed by God out “of the dust of the earth” (Gen.2:7) and was made in the “image and likeness” of God (Gen.l:26). Man was placed as the King of all Creation in the Garden of Eden (Gen.2:8). Man was made in the “image” right from the beginning and had the ability to achieve the “likeness” of   God   through virtues and perfect obedience to God’s Will.

Man was made by God to live a godly life on earth. The first man had no obstacle to God’s knowledge and could see through his purity the Word of God with his logic. Being made by such and Holy God man lived in a sinless condition and received the voice of conscience. Man was able NOT to sin, but at the same time had the freedom to sin. Sin was not in man’s nature, but in his free decision. In other words, in how he would use his free will.

Man before the fall, was in full harmony with God’s Holiness and was proceeding towards the destiny of being in the “likeness” of   God through obedience and holiness. In Adam all virtues were not complete, nor was holiness permanent and fulfilled. Adam’s original state, before the Fall, was a condition of Grace living in God’s presence. Man was called not only to remain in such a state, but to progress in virtues cultivating his free will with God’s assistance.



Elder Ephraim of Katounakia
Fr. Ephraim’s attestation to professor Demetrios Tseleggides
In what follows, I will say something that pertains to a personal deposition. I was associated for entire decades with Fr. Ephraim of Katounakia, of renowned ethos and conscience. Also renowned was the fact that he also possessed a “spiritual television”. As for me, I had gone to him on many occasions with the intention of posing certain very specific questions, in a specific sequence, and using my own vocabulary.  When I did visit him, and without having posed any of my intended questions, he gave me his replies, in my intended sequence, and with my vocabulary. I am mentioning this as a personal experience; it is not an unprecedented phenomenon - it has been experienced by many others also.
There was one time when – as a young professor at the School of Theology at the time, about thirty years ago – I had mentioned the following to him. Given that the clime of Ecumenism has also been flourishing in the School of Theology - especially that of Thessaloniki - I had certain nagging problems and questions, because I could see it being represented by otherwise respected professors. Naturally, both my conscience as well as my learning had reacted against it, however, I desired – beyond my scientific status – to also obtain a charismatic reply, which is something that I did for many other issues.
So I asked him on the matter in hand - if he could tell me what kind of thing Ecumenism is.
He replied outrightly and without any difficulty: 
«This question, my child, had also been posed by someone else, some time before you.  I myself have been up here on these rocks for forty years... I have even forgotten my Greek (note that he had completed Middle School) and as such, I haven’t preoccupied myself with that issue.  But, because I had to reply – seeing that I had been asked about it, and since I had no knowledge of the matter - I went to my cell and prayed, asking Christ to inform me what Ecumenism is.  I received His reply, which was that Ecumenism has a spirit of wickedness and is dominated by unclean spirits».
So I asked him exactly how that was verified.  He replied that «after praying, my cell became filled with an unbearable stench, which caused my soul to feel asphyxiated; I couldn’t breathe spiritually».
I asked him if that had been an extraordinary event for him, or if that was the way that Christ responds in analogous cases, and he assured me that «in all the cases that are involved with sorcery, with unclean spirits, that is the state in which He introduces me.  Sometimes there is a spoken response, but in the present case, that was His answer and I have the absolute certainty that Ecumenism does not have the Holy Spirit, but the unclean spirit». 
What I am saying at this moment one might say has the character of intentional impressions.  But I want to inform you that I was overjoyed, because what the Elder had told me in person, I had also seen recorded by his pious retinue, who had published an honorary Tomos (Volume) about his person, his spirituality and his words. So it has been certified in there as well, but it has also been verified with other, trustworthy theologians, who likewise happened to have heard it personally.
I had not publicly mentioned this until now; but things have taken such a turn, that I am obliged to bring it up.  Of course it had played a decisive role in my stance towards Ecumenism.  As a professor, a scientist, I am naturally obliged in every case to examine the matter with scientific criteria and to substantiate my viewpoint scientifically – and that is what I do in my classes also, step by step; however, I regard this deposition to be significant, because it was delivered in a charismatic manner by a man who knew nothing about the issue. He had never read, never heard of it, and yet, he deposited his direct spiritual experience.  I think that things speak for themselves here.
* From the book «Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church - A Synod lacking in synodicity and Orthodox self-awareness», 80 pages, size 17x24 cm., publication by «Synaxis of Orthodox Romaics “Fotis Kontoglou”», Trikala, March 2016.  This book is the transcript of the 3-hour program of the conversation between the manager of the Piraeus Church Radio Station, Mr. Lykourgos Markoudis and professor Demetrios Tseleggides 
Translation by A.N.


The meaning of love 1966


Anthony Bloom – Metropolitan of Sourozh (1914- 2003)
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The meaning of love is the meaning of life, because love, in spite of what we very often think or imagine, is not a simple feeling. When we speak of God, and we say that God is love, we do not mean that He is infinite feeling. We mean something deeper than this: that God is a plenitude of life and of being. And this applies also to our human love. Someone who is possessed by love is a man who has a plenitude of life in himself, in whom the sense of life, the power of life is so full, so great, that life is sure of itself. And this generates joy, courage, enthusiasm, and it goes so deep that it is beyond death itself. The Holy Scripture says that love is stronger than death. Indeed it is stronger than death because it has placed itself by its fullness, its power, its intensity in the realm of the resurrection, in the realm of eternal life. And this is why love is capable of final sacrifice, not only of giving and of receiving but of laying down one’s life, because this life, if it is given, is also possessed in its fullness. It is plenitude of life which finds expression in final sacrifice. You may remember the words of Christ: ‘No one is taking My life from Me, I give it freely Myself.’ In that respect love, the fullness of life which it expresses, is invulnerable. People may take our lives, people may put us to any test, and yet one remains invulnerable because no one in reality is taking; the person who loves is giving.
I would like to give an example of this. During the Russian Revolution a mother with two children was hiding in a small town. One evening a woman came, as young as she was, in her late twenties, and told her that she had been discovered, betrayed, and that she was to be arrested in the night in order to be shot. The mother looked at the children, and her new friend said, ‘Don’t worry, you go, and you hide.’ And the mother said, ‘How could I go with these two children. I would be found within a few hours.’- ‘No’, said her unknown friend, ‘I will stay behind, call myself with your name and be shot perhaps, but you will escape.’ And so she did.
This was an act of love, which proceeded from such fullness of life, from such certainty that life was not ending, and that it was only in the fulfilment that she would find in her death that she could do this.
No one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends. Who does it himself, freely, and who in doing so, attains to the fulfillment of life because life is worth only what one lives for, and life attains this fulfillment when all is done that can humanely be done beyond fear, in joy, in certainty.
This is the meaning of love to me. Such fullness of life, that will allow me to accept, to become totally vulnerable, never recoil, never resist, give myself to the last, without discrimination to anyone and for anyone with a certainty that love shall never be defeated, that love is stronger than death; because to love means that we already have renounced a limited self and grown into communion, that is community of life with God, who is love itself. Amen.