A Sermon by St John of Kronstadt on the Nativity of Christ

The Word became flesh; that is, the Son of God, co-eternal with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit, became human – having become incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. O, wondrous, awesome and salvific mystery! The One Who had nobeginning took on a beginning according to humanity; the One without flesh assumed flesh. God became man – without ceasing to be God. The Unapproachable One became approachable to all, in the aspect of an humble servant. Why, and for whatreason, was there such condescension [shown] on the part of the Creator toward Histransgressing creatures – toward humanity which, through an act of its own will hadfallen away from God, its Creator?
It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined foreternal suffering and torment.
And the Word became flesh!...in order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption intoincorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children. O, boundless compassion of God! O, inexpressible wisdom of God! O, great wonder, astounding not only the human mind, but the angelic [mind] as well!


The Fourteen Thousand Holy Children of Bethlehem of Bethlehem

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

When the Magi from the east did not return to Jerusalem from Bethlehem to inform Herod about the newborn King but rather, at the angel's command, returned to their homeland another way, Herod became as enraged as a wild beast and ordered all the children two years old and under in Bethlehem and its surroundings to be killed.

This frightening command of the king was carried out to the letter. His soldiers beheaded some of the children with swords, smashed others against stones, trampled others underfoot, and strangled others with their hands. And the cries and wails of the mothers rose to heaven, lamentation, and bitter weeping; "Rachel weeping for her children" (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:18), as had been prophesied.

This crime against the multitude of innocent children was carried out a year after the birth of Christ, at the time when Herod was seeking to find the Divine Child. He asked Zacharias about his son John, so that he might kill him, since he naturally thought that John was the new king. As Zacharias did not turn John over, he was slain in the Temple by order of Herod. St. Symeon the God-Receiver would also have been murdered soon after the Presentation in the Temple, had he not already reposed in God.

After murdering the children of Bethlehem, Herod turned against the Jewish elders who had revealed to him where the Messiah would be born. He then killed Hyrcanes, the high priest, and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin. Thus, they who had agreed with Herod that the new Child-king must be killed came to an evil end. After that, Herod murdered his brother, sister, wife and three sons.

Finally, God's punishment came to him: he began to tremble, his legs became swollen, the lower part of his body became putrid, and worms came out of the sores; his nose became blocked and an unbearable stench emanated from him. Before his last breath, he remembered that there were many captive Jews in prison, and he ordered that they all be killed so that they would not rejoice in his death. Thus, this terrible ruler gave up his inhuman soul and handed it over to the devil for eternal possession.

HYMN OF PRAISE: The Fourteen Thousand Holy Children of Bethlehem


Merry Christmas

 May the blessings and joy of Christ our Saviour's birth fill your hearts, souls and lives with His Love this Christmas and throughout the coming year.  


On Hesychia and the Cleansing of the Mind and Heart

A proven lover of the desert was the blessed Russian hieromonk Father Serapios, who visited the great hesychast and recluse Kallinikos in 1912-13, to ask his blessing that he might depart and join those athletes who contended in the field of the desert.
Elder Kallinikos, an experienced teacher of the Jesus Prayer, described to the Russian monk the dangers, traps and delusions which the enemy of our salvation uses to attack those who live in seclusion, especially those without a spiritual guide. But when he saw Father Serapion's wounded heart, burning with divine desire, he gave in, on condition that he could be his guide. Father Serapios celebrated the liturgy in St. Gerasimos' chapel and then, with the prayers tid blessing of his coach and elder Kallinikos, left to go toward Athos' peak.
Twelve years passed since that meeting. Then one night, around midnight, the great hesychast's disciple came to his teacher's remote hut and knocked on the door. Elder Kallinikos, thinking that the knock might be a delusion from the devil, asked, before he opened the door, for the Symbol of Faith to be recited. Father Serapios obeyed, even adding the "Our Father" and the "One is Holy, One is the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father." At this, Elder Kallinikos opened the door, threw his arms around him and asked, "Where have you been all these years, my brother? Believe me, I thought you were lost, although I never stopped praying for you. Where did you stay? What was your food?"
"Holy Father," replied Father Serapios in a weak voice, "after you blessed me, I went to the peak of Athos. I stayed three days and nights, but not being able to endure the cold, I went to Panagia.1 I tried to stay there, but I could not find my beloved hesychia, because many pilgrims visited there.
"A bit farther down, I discovered a cave. Not even the shepherds of Lavra when herding their sheep could see me there, because I hung an old cassock over the cave's opening. I ate the things I found in the forest: chestnuts, shoots, acorns, roots and bulbs. I drew water from the well near Panagia's hut. Day and night my soul was filled with ineffable bliss coming from the Jesus Prayer and visions.
"I lived constantly contemplating our God's mysteries. Forgive me, my elder, you know better than I what it is like, that light which warms up and illuminates all within me. I desired nothing else. Paradise was there. I lacked only one thing. The Holy Communion. And that is why I have finally come here: to receive your blessing; for the time of my repose is near, and I do not want to depart without the Holy Mysteries."
That very day the Divine Liturgy was served, and they communicated. Afterwards the disciple had a bit of dry bread and greens together with his teacher and guide. Thus full of bliss, Father Serapios departed for his beloved desert.
The great hesychastic father Daniel the Hosiopetritan, after the daily liturgy would withdraw into his cell for an hour of silence. It was an hour dedicated to tears and compunction. He would always say that "The lantern illuminates the world around it, but buries its mouth . . . ."
There have been many ascetic fathers on the Holy Mountain who were dedicated totally to prayer, vision, and practising all the virtues. That is why they received divine consolations from heaven, illuminations from above. Such was the Romanian hermit Theophylaktos, who came from Vatopedi to St. Basil's desert with three monks under obedience to him. Frequently he stayed in caves, in which it was possible to attain greater hesychia, clearer watchfulness of mind, and higher exaltation of soul. He used to say that in one of the caves of this desert, the idolaters who had inhabited the Athonite peninsula prior to the monks' arrival had hidden a statue which had once stood on the peak of Mount Athos and served as a lighthouse. There was a large diamond on the statue's head which was used as a sort of lamp to guide travelers by sea.
At one time Theophylaktos, who prayed unceasingly, did not go to the cave as was his usual habit. He stayed in his hut by himself instead. During his prayer an angel of the Lord appeared and conversed with him. Coming back from accomplishing a task which had been assigned to him, one of the elder's monks in obedience passed by the hut and heard a discussion. He wondered who the visitor was to whom his elder was talking. With curiosity he entered, calling "Elder! are you here?" At that very moment the angel disappeared.
"O, my son," the elder sadly replied, he who was such a great runner in the heavenly race. "I wish you had not come .... I have lost a great blessing." And he explained the visitation.
He is the same father who took care of the wounded roader, and his face shone with light shortly before his falling asleep.
I once had the blessing of meeting the elder Christodoulos, who had been a monk under obedience to the great neptic2 father of Katounakia, Kallinikos the Recluse. In the course of one day's polite hospitality to me, the unworthy, in his remote hermitage, Father Christodoulos told me much about his ever memorable elder, some of which is included in the third edition of Contemporary Agioritan Profiles.
Elder Kallinikos was a teacher of the Jesus Prayer and visions who for fifty-five years had confined himself within the limits of his hut, which measured twenty metres in all.
That is why he was called a recluse. He was born in 1853 and reposed in 1930.
A friend and lover of hesychia, of vigilance and of noetic3 prayer was Dionysios from Cyprus, who as an ascetic remained in Kafsokalyvia's skete and then returned to Stavrovouniou in Cyprus in 1875, where he became the father of many spiritual children.
There is a prayerful, eremitic breeze which often blows over the blessed Katounakia. There many years ago I met the hesychastic elder Anthimos. He struggled in ascesis in a hut above where the Danielites were located. He was a man of silence. Whenever he did talk, he almost always spoke about the ceaseless prayer of the heart, noetic prayer. "The Jesus Prayer deifies man, while praying to the Theotokos prepares one for deification," he used to say.
"All Holy Mother of God, help me. My blessed Panagia . . ." a monk would say, and his voice echoed sweetly from the depths of his heart as he walked on the paths of St. Anne's skete. "We place all our hope in her, and we are consoled by her," he continued. "She is our mother, our heart's salvation. Otherwise we are following a route which we do not know where it is leading."

The Holy Martyr Boniface (Commemorated on December 19)

The Holy Martyr Boniface was the slave of a rich young Roman woman named Aglaida and he dwelt with her in an iniquitous cohabitation. But they both felt the sting of conscience and they wanted somehow to be cleansed of their sin. And the Lord granted them the possibility to wash away their sin with their blood and to finish their life in repentance.
Aglaida learned that whoever keeps relics of the holy martyrs in the home and venerates them receives great help in gaining salvation. Under their influence, sin is diminished and virtue prevails. She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr, who would become a guide and protector for them.
As he was leaving, Boniface laughed and asked, "My lady, if I do not find any relics, and if I myself suffer for Christ, will you accept my body with reverence?" Aglaida scolded him, saying that he was setting off on a sacred mission, but he was not taking it seriously. Boniface pondered her words, and during the whole journey he thought that he was unworthy of touching the bodies of the martyrs.
Arriving at Tarsus in Cilicia, Boniface left his companions at the inn and proceeded to the city square, where they were torturing Christians. Struck by the beastly horrible torments, and seeing the faces of the holy martyrs radiant with the grace of the Lord, Boniface marveled at their courage. He embraced them and kissed their feet, asking them to pray that he might be found worthy to suffer with them.
The judge asked Boniface who he was. He replied, "I am a Christian," and then refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They stripped him and hung him upside down, beating him so hard that the flesh fell from his body, exposing the bone. They stuck needles under his nails, and finally they poured molten tin down his throat, but by the power of the Lord he remained unharmed. The people who witnessed this miracle shouted, "Great is the God of the Christians!" Then they began to throw stones at the judge, and then they headed for the pagan temple, in order to cast down the idols.
On the following morning, when things had quieted down somewhat, the judge directed that the holy martyr be thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar, but this also caused the sufferer no harm. An angel come down from Heaven and bedewed him as he stepped into the cauldron. The tar overflowed the cauldron, splattering and burning the torturers themselves. St Boniface was then sentenced to beheading by the sword. Blood and a milky fluid flowed from his wounds. Beholding such a miracle, about 550 men believed in Christ.
St Boniface's companions, waiting for two days at the inn for him in vain, began searching for him, thinking that he had gotten drunk somewhere. At first their search was without success, but finally they came across a man who had been an eyewitness to the martyr's death. The man also led them to the place where the decapitated body lay. St Boniface's companions tearfully begged his forgiveness for their unseemly thoughts about him. After they ransomed the martyr's remains, they brought them back to Rome.
On the eve of their arrival an angel appeared to Aglaida in her sleep and told her to prepare herself to receive her former slave, now the brother and fellow-servant of the angels. Aglaida summoned the clergy, and she received the holy relics with great reverence. Then she built a church on the site of his grave and dedicated it to the holy martyr. There she enshrined his relics, glorified by numerous miracles. After distributing all her wealth to the poor, she withdrew to a monastery, where she spent fifteen years in repentance, then fell asleep in the Lord. She was buried beside St Boniface. The sins of the one were washed away by his blood, the other was purified by her tears and asceticism. Both were found worthy to appear unsullied before our Lord Jesus Christ, Who desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11).
We pray to St Boniface for deliverance from drunkenness.


Why Are Vigil Lamps Lit Before Icons

by St. Nikolai of Ohrid and Zica
Living Water
First - because our faith is light. Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8,12). The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.
Second - in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called sons of light (John 12,36; Luke 16,8).
Third - in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5,16).
Fourth - so that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.
Fifth - so that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.
Sixth - so that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God's will.
Seventh - in order to teach us that just as a vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward vigil lamp, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God's grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues. All these virtues of ours, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.
Eighth - in order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: And God said, let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1,3). And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ's truth would shine within us. From this light of Christ's truth subsequently every good deed is created, springs up and grows in us.
May the Light of Christ illumine you as well!

PRAYER TO THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS – St Nikolai of Ohrid and Zhicha

Waves of passion disturb my spirit, great sadness and anguish have overwhelmed my soul. Embalm my soul with Thy Son's peace, O Most Holy One, and by His Grace drive away every doubt and despair. Calm the storm of my sins that, like a fiery worm, burn me, and quench its flame. Fill my heart with joy, O Most Pure One, and disperse the fog of my iniquities before me, for it confuses me. Illumine me with the light of Thy Son. Helpless is my soul, and everything is cumbersome, even prayer. Here I am, cold as a stone, my lips whispering prayers, while my heart remains immovable, for it is smothered in anguish. Melt the ice which envelops my soul and warm my heart with Thy love.

I rely not on human protection, but fall down before Thee, O Most Pure Sovereign Mother of God; reject me not, but hearken unto the prayer of Thy servant. Sadness has overcome me; I can endure the demonic attack no more. I
have no protection; there is no shelter for this poor man, and in this battle I am ever being wounded. I have no consolation, but in Thee, O Holy Sovereign. O Hope and Protection of all who believe, reject not my prayer. Amen.

O Most Holy Mother of Christ, Most Pure, Most Blessed Theotokos, Satan is pounding at me like the waves of the sea against a ship, pursuing me by day and tormenting me at night. I have no peace; turbulent is my soul, my spirit
trembles. Hearken, O Most Holy One and help me. Intercede before the dear Lord that He may have mercy on me and forgive the sins I have committed. O Most Holy Mother of Jesus, Thy grace is great, and the mightiest opponent to the powers of hades. Thou art able to save even the greatest of sinners who, having been cast into the depths of hell by unclean powers, should call upon Thee. So too, save me, for lo, Satan will have me stumble and will destroy my faith, but I trust in the Lord. I magnify Thee, Who art more holy than the Cherubim and the Seraphim.


Love and Comfort

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.

"Your son is here," she said to the old man.

She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack,
he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent..
He reached out his hand.
The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed.
All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile.

He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward,
the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital -
the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients..

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words.
The dying man said nothing,
only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died.
The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding
and went to tell the nurse.
While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy,
but the Marine interrupted her.

"Who was that man?" he asked.
The nurse was startled,
"He was your father," she answered.

"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied.
"I never saw him before in my life.."

"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"

"I knew right away there had been a mistake,
But I also knew he needed his son,
and his Son just wasn't here.

When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son,
Knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."
I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey.
His Son was killed in Iraq today,
and I was sent to inform him.
What was this gentleman's name?

The nurse with tears in
her eyes answered,
"Mr. William Grey" ........

The next time someone needs you ........
Just be there.




St. John Chrysostom: The Greatest Interpreter of the Apostle Paul

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

No mortal has interpreted the Epistles of the Apostle Paul with greater love and depth than St. John Chrysostom. Had St. Paul himself interpreted them, he could not have interpreted them better. Behold, history tells us that it was Paul himself who interpreted them through the mind and the pen of Chrysostom.

When St. Proclus was a novice under Chrysostom, during the time that he was patriarch, it was his duty to announce visitors. A certain nobleman was slandered before Emperor Arcadius and the emperor had expelled him from the court. This nobleman came to implore Chrysostom to intercede with the emperor on his behalf.

Proclus went to announce him to the patriarch but, looking through the partly opened door, saw a man bent over the patriarch, whispering something in his ear while the patriarch wrote. This continued until dawn. Meanwhile, Proclus told the nobleman to come back the next evening, while he himself remained in amazement, wondering who the man with the patriarch was, and how he managed to enter the patriarch's chamber unannounced. The second night the same thing happened again, and Proclus was in still greater amazement. The third night the same thing happened again, and Proclus was in the greatest amazement.

When Chrysostom asked him if the nobleman had come by, he replied that he had already been waiting for three nights, but that he couldn't announce him because of the elderly, balding stranger who had been whispering in the patriarch's ear for three nights. The astonished Chrysostom said that he did not remember anyone entering to see him during the previous three nights. He asked his novice what the stranger looked like, and Proclus pointed to the icon of the Holy Apostle Paul, saying that the man was like him.

Therefore, it was the Apostle Paul himself who was directing the mind and pen of his greatest interpreter.

Church of Protection of The Holy Virgin in Le Bons Bay

In 2007, with the blessings of Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, foundations were consecrated for a church, to be dedicated to the Protection of the Holy Virgin. A Church, built in 1599 and now housed in the Outdoor Museum of Wooden Architecture in Novgorod, Russia, was used as a prototype.


Saint Peter the Aleut Books

Travel to far away frozen Alaska, and to it's beautiful Aleutian Islands. Look back two hundred years ago. Here you will meet a boy. Cungacknaq is his name. He is an Aleut.
Witness the Aleuts struggling for survival in the harsh Arctic Circle. See the hand of God in Cungacknaq's life, and the mighty plan, the Lord has to call Saint Peter the Aleut, as the First and Neo Martyr of Orthodoxy on the American Continent.
The book is fully illustrated, glossy soft cover and is 63 pages, in brilliant color. It is printed in A4 size which makes it slightly larger than 8.5 x 11.
For a limited time each book will be autographed by the authors, Avra Economakos Hopkins and Al Hopkins.
To order using a check or money order, address your payment to:
Athena Art Studios
P.O. BOX 96
Elwood, IN 46036
Cost: $20 which will include free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.
For over seas shipment please contact us at : contact@saintpeterthealeut.com