12/02/2015

ABBA SISOES AT THE TOMB OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT

St. Sisoes was renowned for his wisdom, repentance, his faith in God and particularly for his humility. Through his labours, St Sisoes humbled himself immensely and God gifted him with a wealth of grace so that he was able to heal the sick, drive out unclean spirits and even resurrect the dead while being a source of living wisdom for monastics and laymen who came to him for counsel and advice. He is commemorated by the Church on July 6, passing from this life in 429 AD at very old age. He was a solitary monk, pursuing asceticism on the mountain of St. Anthony the Great and prior to that for a long time in the Scete of Nitria.
Abba Sisoes although extremely strict with himself was very merciful and compassionate to others and received everyone with love. If necessary would break his personal fast with guests, especially if they had travelled a distance to see him. To those who visited him, the saint first of all always taught humility. When a monk told him that he has a constant remembrance of God, St Sisoes remarked, "That is no great thing, my son, but it is a great thing to regard yourself as inferior to everyone else. This leads to the acquisition of humility." To another brother he said: “He who knowingly possess humility fulfils the whole of Scripture”
Abba Sisoes also stressed the importance of repentance and trusting in God’s mercy and willingness to forgive. When a brother asked, "I have fallen, Abba; what shall I do?" The elder said to him, "Get up again." The brother said, "I have gotten up again, but again have I fallen." The elder said, "Get up again and again." So the brother asked, "How many times?" The elder replied, "Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin."
His humility and Abba Sisoes longing for repentance was epitomised by the manner of his departure from this life. When he lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoes replied that he saw St Anthony, the prophets, and the apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone. The monks asked, "With whom are you speaking, Father?" He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them to give him a little more time for repentance. The monks said, "You have no need for repentance, Father" St Sisoes said with great humility, "I do not think that I have even begun to repent." After these words the face of the holy Abba shone so brightly that the brethren were not able to look upon him. St Sisoes told them that he saw the Lord Himself. Then there was a flash like lightning, and a fragrant odour, and Abba Sisoes departed to the Heavenly Kingdom.
St. Sisoes is today well known for his depiction in an icon which became popular upon its appearance in Greek monasteries following the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 15th Century. This icon, the "Astonishment of Sisoes", is a contemplation on death, but not only the death of a man, but of an earthly empire.
The icon shows St. Sisoes over the dead bones in Alexander the Great ’s open tomb and with the following inscription:
"SISOES, THE GREAT ASCETIC, BEFORE THE TOMB, OF ALEXANDER, KING OF THE GREEKS, WHO WAS ONCE COVERED IN GLORY. ASTONISHED, HE MOURNS FOR THE VICISSITUDES OF TIME AND THE TRANSCIENCE OF GLORY, AND TEARFULLY DECLAIMS THUS:

'THE MERE SIGHT OF YOU TOMB, DISMAYS ME AND CAUSES MY HEART TO SHED TEARS, AS I CONTEMPLATE THE DEBT WE, ALL MEN, OWE. HOW CAN I POSSIBLY STAND IT? OH, DEATH! WHO CAN EVADE YOU?"

11/02/2015

St. Meletios of Rhodes

St. Meletios of Rhodes was a man of prayer. He discovered the deserted places about Lardos, while shepherding his father’s sheep, and calming his soul with prayer and zeal for the monastic life. On one of his excursions he had a vision which showed the icon of the Theotokos Ypseni at the root of a certain tree. Following this vision, and led by the grace of the Mother of God, he decided to follow the monastic life and dedicate himself to God. So, he built a Church in the place where he found the icon, dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. The Metropolitan ordained him a Priest-Monk and made him Abbot of the Monastery. He lived a strict ascetic life… In the evenings he escaped to a cave near the monastery and prayed and during the daytime he heard confessions of the Christian faithful, giving them strength to keep their faith throughout those difficult times. God also gave him the gift of healing and he cured sick and spiritually troubled souls.
He was slandered by the Turks and a price put on his head because of his work amongst the Greek Orthodox faithful. In the end, the Saint proved his innocence before the Metropolitan and then gave his last breath. He was honoured as a saint by the Christians of the island and his relics, which continually gave off a sweet smelling fragrance, were shared out to various places. A piece of the Holy Relics is kept in the Holy Monastery of Ypseni as a priceless treasure and source of healing and blessing for all those who venerate them with devotion. Since St. Meletios' day of actual repose is not known his feast is celebrated together with that of his namesake St. Meletios, Bishop of Great Antioch on the 12th February.

08/02/2015

Prayer Before Bed

To the Holy Spirit:
O Lord, the Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth: have compassion and mercy on me, Thy sinful servant! Absolve me, who am unworthy. Forgive all the sins I have committed this day both in my humanity and my inhumanity, behaving worse than beasts in sins voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, from my youth, from evil suggestions, haste and despondency. If I have sworn by Thy name or blasphemed it in thought; if I have reproached anyone or become angered by something; or slandered or saddened anyone in my anger; or have lied, or slept unnecessarily; or a beggar has come to me and I have despised him; or have saddened my brother or quarreled with him; or have judged someone; or have allowed myself to become haughty, proud or angry; or, when standing in prayer, my mind has been shaken by the wickedness of this world; or have entertained depraved thoughts; or have over-eaten, over-drunk or laughed mindlessly; or have had evil thoughts or seen the beauty of someone and been wounded by it in my heart; or have spoken inappropriately; or have laughed at my brother’s sins when my own transgressions are countless; or have been indifferent to prayer; or have done any other evil that I can not remember – for I have done all this and more: have mercy, O Master, my Creator, on me, Thy despondent and unworthy servant! Absolve, remit and forgive me, in Thy goodness and love for mankind that I, who am prodigal, sinful and wretched, may lie down in peace and find sleep and rest. May I worship, hymn and praise Thy most honorable name, with the Father and His only-begotten Son, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

-Saint Ephrem the Syrian

06/02/2015

True love

- Love with humbleness, simplicity and distinction are the attributes of the Saints.
- Those who have cosmic love, fight to grab more love for themselves. But those who have the spiritual love, the accurate love, argue for who would give more love to the other. They Love without thinking whether they are loved nor ask others to love them. They always want to give more, without expecting anything in return.
-''To increase love, we have to give love...''

-Saint Paisios

05/02/2015

Saint Paisios said:

A man came to my cottage once, telling me how depressed he was, because of the disputes he had with his wife. However, I didn’t find any serious problem. He frowned because of something, and his wife frowned about something else, so they couldn’t join together. In this case a little “furnishing” was necessary. As an example, we can take unfurnished planks. One has a knot in one place, the other one has a knot on another place, and if you try to put them together, an empty space will appear between. But, if you equalize and furnish one of the planks on one side, and the same is done with the other plank with the same furnishing tool, they quickly fit with each other, and there is no empty space between. (Elder Paisios considered that the married couple should have one common spiritual father, who will help them in the reconciliation of their disputes.)
Some men say: “I am not compatible to my wife, we are totally different characters! Why does God make such strange things? Couldn’t God harmonize the married partners, so their characters be the same or similar, and so that they could live in spiritual togetherness?”
I tell them: “Don’t you understand that God’s harmony lies in the different characters? Different characters harmonize each other. God save you from being the same characters! Imagine that both of you have the same character, what would happen if both of you grew angry: you would destroy your house. Or, if both of you would be gentle and inactive, both would start sleeping on each others feet! If both of you would be stingy, you would be similar and you would agree among each other, but both of you would go to hell. If both of you would be squanderers, would you be able to save your house? No. You would demolish your house, and your children would end up on the street.
If one has a bad temper, and marries one with a bad temper, they will be the same or similar, won’t they? But, they would kill each other in only one day!
God created so that the gentle and nice partner is to marry someone different, give him help, because it might be he always has had good will, but there was no one to help him, since he was born.”
Even little differences in our characters may help the partners to form a harmonic family, because they supplement each other. You need an accelerator pedal to move your car forward, but still you need the brake pedal to stop when needed. If there would be a car with only a brake pedal, it would stay in one place for good. If there would be a gear-box but no brakes, the car wouldn’t stop.
Do you know what I once told a couple? “You do not fit with each other, because you fit too much with each other!” Both were oversensitive. Something would happen in the house. He was a bit confused saying: “Oh, what will happen to poor us?” Then she would say the same: “Oh, what will happen to poor us?” They were helping each other to fall more quickly in desperation. Couldn’t she, in opposition, calm down her husband saying: “Wait, it’s not so terrible what happened to us.” I have noticed this in many marriages.
And, in the education of their children, when different characters, the partners are always helping each other to give the right education to their children. The one says: “Let’s give the kids a bit more freedom”, and the other one brakes a bit. If both are strict, they will lose the children. But also, if both are too liberal, they will again lose them. When different, they are able to keep their children in balance.
What I want to say is that everything in marriage is necessary. Of course, we must take care not to over cross the borders, but we must have in mind that every person may help the other; people are here to help each other.

-Saint Paisios

04/02/2015

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos on the “Old Calendarists”

Elder Paisios dealt with the Calendar issue too. He was really worried for the division the issue has caused and he was praying about it. He was really worried for the groups formed by old calendarists behaving independently having no communion with the Orthodox Patriarchates and the local Orthodox Churches. Some groups of those kinds that were in Athens and Thessalonica, united under his instruction with the Church of Greece, keeping at the same time the old calendar.
The elder said: “It would have been good if this calendar difference did not exist, but it is not a matter of faith”. In the objections that the New Calendar was done by a Pope he would reply: “The new calendar was made by a Pope and the old one by an idolater,” meaning of course Julius Caesar. In order to understand the position of the Elder more clearly on the matter, the following incident is mentioned.
An Orthodox Christian who was Greek in origin had lived with his family in the USA for many years. He had a serious problem, though. He was himself a “zealot” (old calendarist) whereas his wife and children followed the New Calendar. “We could not celebrate a feast together like a family”, he used to say. ??They would celebrate Christmas when for me was St. Spyridon’s Feast. When I had Christmas, they had St. John’s. And that was the least of our problems. The worst thing was to know, as they had been teaching us, that the NCs are heretics and will be damned.
It is no little thing to keep hearing that your wife and your children betrayed their faith, went with the Pope’s side; their mysteries have no grace etc. We would talk for hours on, but without coming to a conclusion. To say the truth, there was something I did not like with the OCs too, especially when some of our bishops would come to talk to us. They were not talking with love and pain in their heart for the deceived New Calendarists (as they considered them to be). But it was as if they had hatred and were happy when they would proclaim that the NCs would go to hell. They were very fanatical. And when their speech would end, I would feel inside me an internal agitation. I was losing my peace. But I would not even think of leaving our tradition. I was greatly distressed with the whole issue. Surely something would happen to me from the constant worry.
In one of my travels to Greece I mentioned my problem to my cousin Yianni (John). He told me about some elder Paisios. We decided to go to the Holy Mountain, in order for me to meet with him. We arrived at “Panagouda” (where the Elder was living). The Elder offered us something and with a smiling face made me sit next to him. I felt at a loss with his behavior. I felt that, as he was acting as if he had known me forever, he also knew all about me.
– How are things going there with the cars, in America? were his first words.
I was taken aback. I had forgotten to mention that my job was at parking lots, and of course I was dealing with cars all day long.
– I’m doing well, was the only thing I could falter, looking at the Elder with surprise in my eyes.
– How many churches do you have there where you live?
– Four, I replied and a new wave of surprise came over me.
– With the old or with the new (calendar)? , came the third “thunderbolt” which, however, instead of increasing my surprise, somehow made me feel more at ease with the Elder’s charisma.
– Two with the old and two with the new, I replied.
– Which one do you follow?