05/01/2017

EVERYDAY SAINTS



by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov


A review and excerpts from an amazing book that eloquently speaks about the soul of Russia that is so misunderstood in the world today.
        I discovered this book while surfacing the internet at the beginning of December and I ordered it from Amazon.   I finished reading it last night and I was simply blown away by the profound spirituality that it offers to a suffering world.  The book was first published in Russian in 2011.  It was translated into English in 2012.   More than a million copies and several million electronic versions of this book were published in less than a year after its release.   Every Day Saints is the English translation of the work that has soared to the top of the bestseller lists in Russia since its publication in late 2011.  Winner of several national awards including “Book of the Year,” its readership spans philosophical boundaries.  Surpassing all competition many times over, it was voted the most popular book in Russia for 2012.
        Open the book and you will discover a wondrous, enigmatic, remarkably beautiful yet absolutely real world. Peer into the mysterious Russian soul, where happiness reigns no matter what life may bring.  Page upon page of thanks, praise, and testimonies to the life-changing effect of these bright, good hearted, and poignant tales have flooded the Russian media.
        As a retired Greek Orthodox priest in America, I would recommend especially that every priest or young man who plans to become a priest in the Orthodox Christian Church should read this book.   Every lay person in the Orthodox Church in America should read this book to grasp the triumphant spirituality that pervades our Holy Orthodox Church.  It reveals to us how the Russian Orthodox Church survived seventy years of brutal atheistic communist brutality.   This is especially important for Orthodox Christians in America who, facing rampant materialistic liberalism, need a firm spiritual foundation to defend themselves from this scourge of contemporary life.  This scourge is just as destructive as communist atheism.
Compiled by:
+Fr. Costas J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA, December 30

EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
          The translator of this book writes the following in the introduction of the book.  “It may surprise some of us who grew up during the Cold War, but Russia, feared for so many years as the land of godless Communists, is in fact one of the most intensely spiritual and devout nations in the world.  The profound faith of its people, Orthodox Christianity, rooted in a mystical understanding of  life as a covenant and of worship as a sacrament, has always been the secret underpinning of the mysterious Russian soul, whose elusive immanence makes Russian literature, art, and music so special.  In the twentieth century, under brutal totalitarianism of the Soviet system, Russia endured some of the very darkest days in human history.  Yet where there is darkness, as this book shows, light shines forth ever brighter to meet it.  Ultimately, though it may take a while, love and light and compassion conquer hatred and darkness and indifference.

09/12/2016

How Angels Serve Priests in the Holy Altar

by Fr. Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos
This incident was narrated to the author by the blessed departed Gerondas Gabriel, who for a great period of time was the abbott at the Holy Monastery of Dionysios on Mount Athos.
“There once lived a most devout Priest. Even though he barely knew how to read and write, he was a Priest, a clergyman of strong faith, great virtue and of many spiritual struggles. He used to stand up-right for hours during the Proskomedia, despite the fact that the veins of his feet had been affected and were hemorrhaging. There were times when one could see the blood running down since he was standing up-right commemorating the names of numerous people. He was a man of sacrifice to his last breath, in fact, his soul departed just after the Divine Liturgy.
As he barely knew how to read and write, by some misunderstanding, he did not place the portions on the Holy Diskos properly. When we place the portion of the All-Holy Theotokos on top of the Holy Diskos,we say; The Queen stood at thy right hand…” The Gerondas (Elder) Priest was under the impression that,since he said”at thy right hand”, the portion of the All-Holy Mother of God must be placed on the right side of the Lamb (as he was looking at the Holy Diskos). In other words, he was placing the portions backwards.
Once a Hierarch [Bishop] visited the Holy Monastery for the Ordination of a Deacon. During the Psalms of Praise, when the Bishop enters the Holy Altar, he vests, then later goes to the Proskomedia, which has already been prepared up to a certain point. From then on he alone is the one to continue commemorating.
Thus, the Bishop noticed that the portions had been placed backwards by the priest:
“You did not place the pieces properly, father,” he told him.
“Father, come here for a minute. The All Holy Theotokos is placed over here and the Orders are placed over there. Hasn’t anyone told you; hasn’t anyone seen how you do the Proskomedia?”
“Certainly,Your Eminence,” replied the Geronda Priest. “Everyday, when I celebrate (for a day did not go by unless he celebrated the Divine Liturgy), the Angel who serves me sees what I am doing but does not tell me anything at all. I apologize, illiterate as I am, for making such a mistake; I will be careful from now on.”
“Who did you say? Who did you say serves you here?” asked the Bishop, “Isn’t he a monk who serves you?”
“No”, answered the Priest, “an Angel of the Lord.”
The Bishop fell silent,what could he have said, anyway? He was astonished and had certainly realized that a holy priest was standing before him.
At noon, following the meal in the trapeza, the Bishop said goodbye to the Abbot as well as the rest of the monks, and departed. The following day, as it was still night, when the Geronda Priest went to the Holy Altar in order to hold the Proskomedia.
The Angel of the Lord came down. During the act of breaking the Lamb, the Angel noticed that the Priest had placed the portions properly.
“Fine father!” he told the Priest. “Now you have placed them properly!”
“Yes, you knew the mistake I have been making for so many years!”
“And why didn’t you tell me anything; why didn’t you correct me?”, he asked.
“I could see it, but I do not have the right to tell you anything. I am not worthy to correct a Priest.
“God,” the Angel continued, commands me to serve the Priest. “Only a Bishop has the right to correct you!”

26/09/2016

The Greek Christian Orthodox Chapel of St. Theodora in Vasta, Megalopoli, Arkadia, Greece!

                       
  "The Greek Christian Orthodox Chapel of St. Theodora in Vasta, Megalopoli, Arkadia, Greece! A continuous and inexplicable miracle! 17 trees are on the roof of this church for over than half a thousand years. Some are huge other smaller! No way how to find where their roots are coming! Rapid wings are not able to take them from that small roof! The young saint Theodora has been condemned and beheaded for a false accusation! She didn't declare her innocence to save the life of the woman who falsely accused her (because then the other woman had to be condemned) !!!!!! Her last worlds were: "Oh Christ let my hair to be trees, my body a church and my blood refreshing water". The executors understood their mistake immediately when they discovered that she was not a man (she has been accused for being a monk that raped and left pregnant another woman who bore "his" illegitimate child). In fact she pretended to be a man so to live an ascetic and monastic life not to scandalize everybody in the wilderness. So with tears of repent they built a small chapel over her grave! Then one day a whole stream (or rather a small river) of fresh water passed underneath without destroying the fragile foundations of the small, plain, made by stones church! And by the years small trees were growing on the roof which became huge without having their roots to destroy the chapel!
                            It still stands there, in the Greek wilderness just to prove that any logical explanation stands not reasonable too!"

23/08/2016

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.

11/07/2016

THE ELDER EPHRAIM OF THE VATOPEDI MONASTERY MT. ATHOS RELATES TO US CONTEMPORARY MIRACLES PERFORMED BY SAINT PAISIUS


SAINT PAISIUS AND THE HOLY MOTHER

        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.”