When you are in a good mood...

When you are in a good mood, don't let the moments pass unexploited. In those moments, pray to God not let you alone when you will be fought in the difficult times of the temptation...

Prayer saves. The prayer that is true, genuine. The prayer that comes out from the bottom of your heart.


Kyra Sarakosti Recipe

Today we cut the second foot off of our Kyra Sarakosti. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Sunday of St. Gregory of Palamas. May you all have a blessed third week of Lent!

For those of you not familiar with the Kyra Sarakosti tradition, here is a little more about it.

In olden days, in order to keep track of the Lenten period, Kyra Sarakosti was created. She was drawn in the image of a nun. She does not have a mouth to remind us that we are fasting and her hands are crossed in prayer. She has seven feet for the seven weeks of Great Lent. Every Saturday one of her feet are cut off. After the last foot is cut off, it is placed in a bowl of fruits and nuts and whoever finds it receives a special blessing. The winner will write their name and year on the back of it and will keep it as a keepsake.

If you want to make one of these for your children, here is the recipe. It can also be found in the Festive Fast cookbook.

2-2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2-2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
water (as much as needed)

Combine flour, salt and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl and gradually add enough water to form a stiff, but flexible dough. Roll dough out to 1/2" thickness. With a sharp knife cut out the figure as shown above. Cut out two long narrow strips for arms and join at shoulders (wet surface to which arms will be applied). Make slits in dough for fingers. Mark closed eyelids and noise with pointed object. Wipe entire figure down with a lightly dampened cloth to make shiny. Bake in moderate oven until golden. *This is not edible!


A demonic ploy

Before our fall, the demons say that God is a friend of man; but after the fall, that He is inexorable. 
- Ladder of Divine Ascent, 5.31

When we are thinking about committing a sin, the demons tell us, "Oh, don't worry, God is a loving, merciful God, you can go ahead and commit the sin, He'll forgive you!"  But no sooner is the sin committed, than they change their tune and tell us, "Oh, now you're in trouble! God saw that, and He is a just God, who punishes every sin! There's no way He'll forgive you for that."
Let us remember this trick of the demons. God is indeed merciful, loving and forgiving; He is also absolutely just, and will require an account from us at the judgment even of every idle word, not to mention our sinful words and deeds. But how much better for our spiritual lives if we remember the opposite of what the demons tell us, namely, when we are tempted to sin, let us remember that God sees everything, even the secret thoughts of the heart, and He will require us to give account for it; but if we fall into sin, then let us remember that God is merciful, and so be moved to repent for our sin. As one father said, the question is not, "Why did you fall?" but rather, "Why did you not get up again?"


How old is the orthodox faith?

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.
 If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry.
If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.
 If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.
If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century.
 If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606.
 If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.
 If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774.
If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829.
 If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.
 If you are Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.
 If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as "Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal Gospel," "Holiness Church," or "Jehovah's Witnesses," your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past hundred years.
 If you are Roman Catholic, your church shared the same rich apostolic and doctrinal heritage as the Orthodox Church for the first thousand years of its history, since during the first millennium they were one and the same Church. Lamentably, in 1054, the Pope of Rome broke away from the other four Apostolic Patriarchates (which include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), by tampering with the Original Creed of the Church, and considering himself to be infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old.
 If you are Orthodox Christian, your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has not changed since that time. Our church is now almost 2,000 years old. And it is for this reason, that Orthodoxy, the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers is considered the true "one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." This is the greatest legacy that we can pass on to the young people of the new millennium.

by Rev. Dr. Miltiades Efthimiou


Greek Orthodox Mission in Fiji Part

Τhe Archbishop of New Zealand, his Eminence Amfilochios, talks about the missionary work in Fiji Islands.


On the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God

The foundation for the iconographic type, or composition, of the Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” are the words of Prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
In the 13th century, the Kursk region, as well as the rest of Russia at the time, was subjected to terrible decimation by the Tatar invasion. The city of Kursk was completely destroyed and grew into a wild, overgrown forest, populated by wild animals. The residents of the city of Ryl’sk, 90 versts (60 miles), who had somehow been spared from a Tatar invasion, would go there to hunt. And it happened that in 1295, on the feast day of the Nativity of the Mother of God, a small troupe of hunters from Ryl’sk arrived at the Tuskor River, 27 versts (18 miles) from Kursk, to hunt. One of them, a pious and honorable man, seeking prey in the woods, found a small icon lying face down at the root of a tree. He had barely lifted the icon from the ground to inspect it, when a strong wellspring of pure water burst forth from the very spot where the icon lay. The icon turned out to be of the Mother of God “of the Sign” type. The hunter realized that this was no ordinary icon. He summoned his fellow hunters, and together they cut down timber and erected a small chapel where they placed the newly-found icon. The people of Ryl’sk, learning of the icon, began to visit it for veneration, and many miracles occurred as a result.
Prince Vasily Shemyak of Ryl’sk, having heard about this Icon, ordered that it be brought to his city, which was done with great ceremony: the entire city emerged to greet the miraculous Icon as it approached amidst a procession of the cross. Prince Vasily himself, however, declined to participate in the ceremony—and was struck blind. But after his earnest repentance and prayer before the Icon, he was granted sight again. In gratitude for this miracle, he built a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God in Ryl’sk, where the icon was then place, and where every year, on that feast day, the Icon is celebrated.
But the icon did not stay in Ryl’sk for long. Three times it miraculously disappeared from Ryl’sk, and it would be found again and again at the site where the hunter found it. The people of Ryl’sk then understood that it was the will of the Mother of God that Her icon should remain at the site of its discovery, and they left it there permanently.
In 1383, the Kursk region was once again subjected to looting by the Tatars. A band of them, coming across the chapel, took the attending priest prisoner and decided to burn the chapel down. But no matter what they tried, the chapel would not ignite. The superstitious Tatars then seized the priest and accused him of sorcery. The priest refuted their charge and pointed to the Icon inside the chapel. The livid Tatars seized the holy image, hacked it into two and threw the pieces away, then burned down the chapel. Fr Bogoliub was then taken away as a slave.
But the priest stood fast to his Orthodox Christian faith even as a slave: despite the pressure the applied on him to adopt their religion, he remained unbowed, and lay all his hopes on God and His Most-Pure Mother. This hope was not futile: once, as he was tending to a flock of sheep, he sang a prayer to the Mother of God. A group of emissaries of the Muscovite prince, passing by on their way to see the khan, heard the singing and, learneing that this slave was a Russian priest, they ransomed him out of slavery. Fr Bogoliub then returned to his homeland and settled once more where the chapel had once stood. Soon thereafter he found the two pieces of the miracle-working Icon, and as he placed them together, they immediately, miraculously grew together.
In 1597, by order of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the Icon was brought to Moscow and surrounded by depictions of the Lord Sabaoth and the Old Testament prophets who had foretold the selection, labors and service of the Most-Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1603, Pseudo-Dimitry I took the Icon from Kursk to his camp at Putivl’, then to Moscow, where it was kept in the royal palace.
In 1615, by a special request by the people of Kursk, Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich commanded that the miracle-working Icon be returned from Moscow to Kursk and placed in the Kursk Cathedral. Tsarina Irina Feodorovna adorned the Icon with a bejeweled riza, after which it was returned to its chapel. That same year, with the help of the Tsar, a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Most-Holy Mother of God was erected on the site of the chapel, and a monastery founded there, while a second church was built over the original spring dedicated to the Life-Bearing Wellspring. The new monastery became known as the Root Hermitage in honor of the appearance of the Icon at the root of a tree. Since 1618, the Icon spent most of each year in Kursk, and would be brought to the Root Hermitage for a brief time.
In 1676, the Icon was taken to the Don River to bless the Don Cossacks. In 1684, Tsars John and Peter Alexeevich sent a copy of the holy Icon to Kursk with the order that this copy accompany Orthodox warriors into battle. In 1687, the Icon was sent to the Great Army. In 1689, copies of the Icon were given to the armies heading for the Crimean Campaign. In 1812, a copy of the holy Icon was sent to General Kutuzov’s army. There have been many copies of the Kursk-Root Icon, some of which have also been glorified for working miracles.
Since 1806, by Royal decree, the miracle-working Icon was to be kept at Kursk-Root Hermitage from the Friday of the 9th week after Pascha until September 12. During that period every year, the Icon would be brought from Kursk to the Kursk-Root Hermitage and then back with a solemn procession of the cross which traveled the entire way, totaling 27 versts (18 miles).
Several horrifying events are connected with the miracle-working Icon in pre-Revolutionary Russia, for instance, the explosion of a hellish bomb inside Kursk Cathedral, the aim of which was destroy the holy image. The church was destroyed, yet the Icon remained whole. This terrible episode was explained years later in Frankfurt, Germany, where the Icon was brought. The priest accompanying the Icon, we learn from the book by Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov, +1987) of Chicago and Detroit, Odigitrija russkogo zarubezhija [The Hodigitria of the Russian Diaspora], was taken aside by an old man, who said to him: “I was a cohort of [the terrorist] Ufimtsev in the attempt to blow up the Icon. I was a young man, and didn’t believe in God. I wanted to test whether God exists: if He does, He wouldn’t allow such a great holy icon to be destroyed. Afterwards, I began to fervently believe in God, and to this day I bitterly repent in my terrible act.” The old man prostrated himself before the Icon and left the church.
Now a few words about Archbishop Feofan of Kursk and Oboyansk, who brought the Icon abroad, and thanks to whom this holy image was saved from desecration by the Bolsheviks.
Vladyka Feofan (Gavrilov) was born on December 26, 1872, in the Orlov Diocese to a clerical family. In 1893, he graduated from Orel Seminary, and in 1897, ordained to the priesthood. In 1902, he enrolled in Kiev Theological Academy, where he was tonsured a monk. Finishing the Academy in 1906 with a Master’s degree, Fr Feofan was appointed Deputy Inspector of Bezhetsk Theology School. In 1908, he was appointed Inspector of Volhyn’ Seminary, and in 1910, became the Rector of Vitebsk Seminary. In December 1913, he was consecrated to the episcopacy in the Cathedral of the Mother of God of the Sign in Kursk as Bishop of Ryl’sk, Vicar Bishop of Kursk and Oboyan’. The new bishop loved to serve in Kazan Cathedral in Kursk, the cornerstone of which had been blessed by St Ioasaf of Belgorod in 1752. Servant of God Isidor, the father of St Seraphim of Sarov, helped build this church. On the 9th Friday after Pascha of 1767, in the Mashnin courtyard (the family of the future saint), which was located near the church, the young Prokhor was miraculously cured by the Kursk Icon. It is interesting to note that in the lower church of the Kazan Cathedral, dedicated to St Sergius of Radonezh, there is a lifetime portrait of St Seraphim sent by Hegumen Nifont of Sarov Hermitage to his brother Alexei, with news of the repose of the miracle-worker.
When the Archbishop of Kursk retired in 1917, Bishop Feofan was unanimously chosen by the clergy and flock to be their ruling bishop. As Bishop of Kursk, Vladyka Feofan and his spiritual children endured the theft of the Kursk Icon from the Cathedral in 1918. It happened as follows:
On Wednesday of the 6th week of Great Lent, pre-sanctified Liturgy was celebrated by Hieromonk Germogen (Zolenko, who died as an archimandrite in the Holy Land in 1958). Returning to the church for great compline, he saw Hieromonk Pitirim at the Cathedral entrance along with the monastery’s ogarochnik, a novice responsible for the collection of candle stubs, who had discovered the theft of the miracle-working Icon, the Holy Lamb (the Gifts prepared for pre-sanctified Liturgy) and the gold tabernacle. The alarmed monastic brethren immediately reported this to Vladyka Feofan, who sent a telegram to the head of the Moscow criminal investigation department. The local atheists were not questioned, and the blame was laid at the feet of the monks themselves, including Vladyka Feofan, who were all placed under house arrest. So the monks of Znamensky Monastery, having lost their most prized holy icon, were faced to greet Pascha with some sorrow. But the Resurrected Christ brought consolation to the brethren, for on the Thursday after St Thomas Sunday, a homeless man found the Icon, but without the valuable riza, near Theodosius’ well. This well, tradition had it, was dug out by the Hegumen of the Kievo-Pechersky Lavra himself, St Theodosius, on whose very feast day the Icon was found. It is therefore noteworthy that the miracle-worker of the Kiev monastery seems to have participated in interceding for his fellow countrymen. Learning of the finding of the Icon, Bishop Feofan ordered that all the bells be rung, and set out on a procession of the cross with all the monks to the site where the miraculous Icon was found.
Soon after Kursk was seized by the Volunteer (White) Army in September 1919, they found two gold icon-holders from the Kursk Icon in the offices of the Cheka (Bolshevik secret police). The rejoicing, grateful people of Kursk began a constant stream of prayers before the Icon, knowing that it would soon leave their city. Vladyka Feofan, fearing the desecration of the Icon by the advancing godless forces, left Kursk on November 18, 1919, carrying in his hands the miracle-working Icon. In 1920, the Icon was finally brought out of its homeland by Vladyka Feofan.
In 1925, by decision of the Synod of Bishops Abroad, and with the consent of the keeper of the Icon, Archbishop Feofan, the Hodigitria of the Diaspora was taken to the Russian Holy Trinity Church in Belgrade. After the Germans occupied Yugoslavia, Archbishop Feofan took the Icon to Hopovo Monastery. Soon afterwards, Archbishop Feofan was left Croatia for Belgrade, where he lived in great need until the end of his life, in 1943.
It is noteworthy that it was before this very icon that the great St John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker, died in 1966.
Let us thank the Lord, Who has given us this great holy Icon of the Mother of God, Who illuminates all the church events and celebrations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and shows us the path in today’s world.





The drama of a nun

A true story from the era of Ottoman rule in Greece.


Behold I approach Divine Communion

A foremost problem within the parishes of the Orthodox Church  is the correct understanding of the requirements for reception of the Immaculate Mysteries. Our churches are open to all. Whoever considers themselves Orthodox Christians may approach unhindered to pray to God, to hear the teaching and to receive antidoron/blessed bread. However, it is not possible for all to receive the Immaculate Mysteries. It is just like with a pharmacy, entrance into the pharmacy is not forbidden, but one will not receive strong medication without first presenting a doctor’s prescription, so we too within the Orthodox Church. There are certain requirements for the reception of Holy Communion.
The spiritual father’s permission to receive Holy Communion is identical to a doctor’s prescription for strong medication. Just as with our health, we select a doctor for our physical ailments and we do not go to quack or ignorant physicians who do not have a medical license or to those who have had their medical license taken away because of their ineptitude. Similarly in the spiritual realm, the spiritual doctor to whom we go for the healing of our souls must be canonical. In other words, he must have a canonical ordination within the Orthodox Church.  It is understood that the spiritual father must exercise his priesthood unhindered, he himself must not be weighed down by the penalty of suspension or deposition.
We must go to a canonical spiritual father within the Church at regular intervals to confess our sins. We will receive guidance from him as to how we must prepare in order to receive the Immaculate Mysteries. Preparation is through the practice of the virtues; alms giving, prayer, study and proper fasting.
The permission of the spiritual father is a necessary requirement for the reception of Holy Communion. It should be noted that it is sufficient for the spiritual father to be a canonical clergyman of the Orthodox Church . It is not necessary that it be the priest of the parish one goes to in order to receive.
One who wishes to receive Holy Communion must have read the service of preparation for Holy Communion from the night before, but also on the day which he will receive he must come to church on time and follow the Matins and the Divine Liturgy and not come at the last minute to receive except if there exists a pressing reason. If he is the parent of underage children and for this reason finds it difficult to come early he is obliged to read his morning prayers – at least until the six-psalms- at home.
Certainly the greatest requirement for the reception of the Immaculate Mysteries is that one be a member of the Orthodox Church.


Clergy Etiquette

The following is a guide for properly addressing Orthodox clergy. Most of the titles do not exactly correspond to the terms used in Greek, Russian, or the other native languages of the national Orthodox Churches, but they have been widely accepted as standard English usages.
Greeting Clergy in Person. When we address Deacons or Priests, we should use the title "Father."( Greek: Pater, Serbian: Oche) Bishops we should address as "Your Grace." Though all Bishops (including Patriarchs) are equal in the Orthodox Church, they do have different administrative duties and honors that accrue to their rank in this sense. Thus, "Your Eminence"(Greek: Se-vas-mee-ótate) is the proper title for Bishops with suffragans or assistant Bishops, Metropolitans, and most Archbishops (among the exceptions to this rule is the Archbishop of Athens, who is addressed as "Your Beatitude"). "Your Beatitude" is the proper title for Patriarchs (except for the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, who is addressed as "Your All—Holiness"). When we approach an Orthodox Presbyter or Bishop (but not a Deacon), we make a bow by reaching down and touching the floor with our right hand, place our right hand over the left (palms upward), and say: "Bless, Father" (or "Bless, Your Grace," or "Bless, Your Eminence," etc.). The Priest or Bishop then answers, "May the Lord bless you," blesses us with the Sign of the Cross, and places his right hand in our hands. We kiss then his hand.
We should understand that when the Priest or Bishop blesses us, he forms his fingers to represent the Christogram "ICXC" a traditional abbreviation of the Greek words for "Jesus Christ" (i.e., the first and last letters of each of the words "IHCOYC XRICTOC"). Thus, the Priest's blessing is in the Name of Christ, as he emphasizes in his response to the believer's request for a blessing. Other responses to this request are used by many clergy, but the antiquity and symbolism of the tradition which we have presented are compelling arguments for its use. We should also note that the reason that a lay person kisses the hand of a Priest or Bishop is to show respect to his Apostolic office. More importantly, however, since both hold the Holy Mysteries in their hands during the Divine Liturgy, we show respect to the Holy Eucharist when we kiss their hands. In fact, Saint John Chrysostomos once said that if one were to meet an Orthodox Priest walking along with an Angel, that he should greet the Priest first and kiss his hand, since that hand has touched the Body and Blood of our Lord. For this latter reason, we do not normally kiss the hand of a Deacon. [98] While a Deacon in the Orthodox Church holds the first level of the Priesthood (Deacon, Presbyter, Bishop), his service does not entail blessing the Mysteries. When we take leave of a Priest or Bishop, we should again ask for a blessing, just as we did when we first greeted him.
In the case of married clergy, the wife of a Priest or Deacon is also informally addressed with a title. Since the Mystery of Marriage binds a Priest and his wife together as "one flesh," [99] the wife shares in a sense her husband's Priesthood. This does not, of course, mean that she has the very Grace of the Priesthood or its office, but the dignity of her husband's service certainly accrues to her. [100] The various titles used by the national Churches are listed below. The Greek titles, since they have English correspondents, are perhaps the easiest to use in the West:
Greek: Presbytera (Pres—vee——ra)
Russian: Matushka (—toosh—ka)
Serbian: Papadiya (Pa——dee—ya)
Ukrainian: Panimatushka (Pa—nee——toosh—ka), or Panimatka (Pa—nee—mát—ka)
The wife of a Deacon is called "Diakonissa [Thee—a——nees—sa]" in Greek. The Slavic Churches commonly use the same title for the wife of a Deacon as they do for the wife of a Priest. In any case, the wife of a Priest should normally be addressed with both her title and her name in informal situations (e.g., "Presbytera Mary," "Diakonissa Sophia," etc.).
Greeting Clergy on the Telephone. Whenever you speak to Orthodox clergy of Priestly rank on the telephone, you should always begin your conversation by asking for a blessing: "Father, bless." When speaking with a Bishop, you should say "Bless, Despota [Thés—po—ta]" (or "Vladika [Vlá—dee—ka]" in Slavonic, "Master" in English). It is also appropriate to say, "Bless, Your Grace" (or "Your Eminence," etc.). You should end your conversation by asking for a blessing again.
Addressing Clergy in a Letter. When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, "Bless, Father." At the end of the letter, it is customary to close with the following line: "Kissing your right hand...." It is not appropriate to invoke a blessing on a clergyman, as many do: "May God bless you." Not only does this show a certain spiritual arrogance before the image of the cleric, but laymen do not have the Grace of the Priesthood and the prerogative to bless in their stead. Even a Priest properly introduces his letters with the words, "The blessing of the Lord" or "May God bless you," rather than offering his own blessing. Though he can do the latter, humility prevails in his behavior, too. Needless to say, when a clergyman writes to his ecclesiastical superior, he should ask for a blessing and not bestow one.
Formal Address. Deacons in the Orthodox Church are addressed as "The Reverend Deacon," if they are married Deacons. If they are Deacons who are also monks, they are addressed as "The Reverend Hierodeacon." If a Deacon holds the honor of Archdeacon or Protodeacon, he is addressed as "The Reverend Archdeacon" or "The Reverend Protodeacon." Deacons hold a rank in the Priesthood and are, therefore, not laymen. This is an important point to remember, since so many Orthodox here in America have come to think of the Deacon as a kind of "quasi—Priest." This is the result of Latin influence and poor teaching. As members of the Priesthood, Deacons must be addressed, as we noted above, as "Father" (or "Deacon Father").
Orthodox Priests are addressed as "The Reverend Father," if they are married Priests. If they are Hieromonks (monks who are also Priests), they are addressed as "The Reverend Hieromonk." Priests with special honors are addressed in this manner: an Archimandrite (the highest monastic rank below that of Bishop), "The Very Reverend Archimandrite" (or, in the Slavic jurisdictions, "The Right Reverend Archimandrite"); and Proto-presbyters, "The Very Reverend Protopresbyter." In personal address, as we noted above, all Priests are called "Father," usually followed by their first names (e.g., "Father John").
Bishops in the Orthodox Church are addressed as "The Right Reverend Bishop," followed by their first name (e.g., "The Right Reverend Bishop John"). Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Patriarchs are addressed as "The Most Reverend Archbishop" ("Metropolitan," or "Patriarch"). Because they are also monastics, all ranks of Archpastors (Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans, or Patriarchs) are addressed by their first names or first names and sees (e.g., "Bishop John of San Francisco"). It is not correct to use the family name of a Bishop—or any monastic for that matter. Though many monastics and Bishops use their family names, even in Orthodox countries like Russia and Greece, this is absolutely improper and a violation of an ancient Church custom.
All male monastics in the Orthodox Church are called "Father," whether they hold the Priesthood or not, and are formally addressed as "Monk (name)," if they do not have a Priestly rank. If they are of Priestly rank, they are formally addressed as "Hieromonk" or "Hierodeacon" (see above). Monastics are some-times addressed according to their monastic rank; for example, "Rasophore—monk (name)," "Stavrophore—monk (name)," or "Schemamonk (name)." The Abbot of a monastery is addressed as "The Very Reverend Abbot," whether he holds Priestly rank or not and whether or not he is an Archimandrite by rank. Under no circumstances whatsoever is an Orthodox monk addressed by laymen as "Brother." This is a Latin custom. The term "Brother" is used in Orthodox monasteries in two instances only: first, to designate beginners in the monastic life (novices or, in Greek, dokimoi ["those being tested"]), who are given a blessing, in the strictest tradition, to wear only the inner cassock and a monastic cap; and second, as an occasional, informal form of address between monastics themselves (including Bishops).
Again, as we noted above, a monk should never use his last name. This reflects the Orthodox understanding of monasticism, in which the monastic dies to his former self and abandons all that identified him in the world. Lay people are also called to respect a monk's death to his past. (In Greek practice, a monk sometimes forms a new last name from the name of his monastery. Thus a monk from the Saint Gregory Palamas Monastery [Mone Agiou Gregoriou Palama, in Greek] might take the name Agiogregorites.)
The titles which we have used for male monastics also apply to female monastics. In fact, a community of female monastics is often called a "monastery" rather than a convent (though there is nothing improper, as some wrongly claim, in calling a monastery for women a "convent"), just as the word "convent," in its strictest meaning, can apply to a monastic community of males, too. Women monastics are formally addressed as "Nun (name)" or "Rasophore—nun (name)," etc., and the Abbess of a convent is addressed as "The Very Reverend Abbess." Though traditions for informal address vary, in most places, Rasophore nuns are called "Sister," while any monastic above the rank of Rasophore is called "Mother." Novices are addressed as "Sister."
There are, as we have noted, some differences in the way that Orthodox religious are addressed. What we have given above corresponds to a reasonably standardized vocabulary as one would find it in more traditional English—language Orthodox writings and among English—speaking Orthodox monastics. The influx of Latin converts into Orthodox monasticism and the phenomenon of "monasticism by convenient rule, instant tradition, and fabrication," as Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna has called it, are things that have also led to great confusion in the use of English terminology that corresponds more correctly to the vocabulary of traditional Orthodox monastics.
From Father David Cownie and Presbytera Juliana Cownie, A Guide to Orthodox Life (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1996), pp. 90-96.
+ + +
Is there a proper way to address and sign letters to clergy/fellow Orthodox?
When one writes a clergyman, he should begin his letter in this way: "Bless!" or "Father Bless!" or "I ask for your blessing." The letter may be signed: "In Christ," "Asking for your prayers," etc. Lay people should refrain from blessing a Priest (i.e., "God bless you"), and Priests should greet each other with a simple request for a blessing. Lay people may greet each other with a simple request for prayers and close their letters in the same way. The flowery exhortations that were especially popular in the nineteenth-century Russian Church ("Christ is in our midst", "Glory be to God," inter alia), and usually taken from the Liturgy, are not traditional forms of greeting for clergy or for lay people. Nor are the greetings exchanged between great Church Fathers and the Saints. Though these high-sounding exhortations are very popular now, since they appeal to the Protestant evangelical piety which has invaded the Church, when used by the poor Christians that we are today, they are at odds with the humility which derives from a piety engendered by submission to Christ and to the traditions of His Church.

Just few words for friendship...

What is a real friend actually? A person who accompanies us in our walks? Maybe the people with whom we hang out for many hours? Or maybe the person who supports us in our difficulties? Is it possible to have many friends?

The priceless value of friendship is beyond any dispute. It is taken for granted. The man is created to have friends! Therefore, it is indispensable to have friends... But, what is a friend? I am sure you've heard that your true friends are revealed when you go through the difficult times. But I think that they are also revealed at your happy moments... 
A friend is the person who

 is nearby you, without expecting for any kind of compensation, who doesn't have any intention to profit from you. He is the one who cares about you unconditionally and without having your need. The people you just hang out with, are they actually your friends? Time will show if they really are. A friend is someone who accepts you exactly as you are without judging you or laughing at you behind your back.
When your company at school, at your work is laughing at you because you are fasting or because you confess your sins to a Father or when you feel awkward when you are with them, then you may have to redefine some things. Friendship is something durable in time. Something that is tested. Something that passes through the fire of the difficulties. It's something rare and difficult. But it's also something so special! But there is a big BUT. What is that? Friends are not only the others for you BUT you are also a friend for them! So, don't expect everything from the others. The God gave us a big rule: "Love the Lord your God...(and) your neighbor as yourself". Do you know what this means? You have to love with no limits, no prejudices, honestly. So, the secret of friendship is that you, first, have to love purely and honestly! To make the first step!

A story from Gerontikon

Two elder people living as monks for many years, had never quarreled about anything. One day, one says to another: "Let's argue, at least once, about something like people use to do". The other said: "I don't know how to do that". The first monk says: "Look, I'll put this brick right here in the middle. I'll say it's mine and you'll say that it's yours and that's how we'll start arguing". So, they put a brick in front of them. Then, the first monk says: "This brick is mine". The other monk says: "No, it's not yours. It's mine". Then, the first monk says: "Well, if it's yours, take it". And then they instantly stopped arguing without finding any reason to quarrel any more...


The Student that Met God through Elder Paisios

Several years ago a young student approached me. Very hesitantly but in the strength of a demanding seeker, he told me he was an atheist but would really like to believe, but he couldn't. He was trying and seeking for years with no result. He talked to professors and educated people, but his thirst for something serious was not satisfied. He heard about me and decided to share with me his existential need. He asked me for scientific proof of God's existence. “Are you familiar with integrals or differential equations?” I asked. “Unfortunately not”, he replied, “I study philosophy”. “That's unfortunate, because I knew one such a proof” I said, obviously joking.

He felt awkward and remained silent for a little while. “Look”, I said, “I'm sorry for teasing you a bit, but God is not an equation or a mathematical proof. If He were such, then all educated people would believe in Him. You should know that God is approached in a different way. Have you ever been to Mount Athos? Have you ever met an ascetic?” “No father, but I am thinking about going. I've heard so much! If you tell me, I can even go tomorrow! Do you know any educated person whom I can go meet?” “What do you prefer? An educated man who is able to dizzy you or a saint who is able to wake you up?” “I prefer the educated man. I am afraid of saints”. “Faith is a matter of the heart. Why don't you try a saint. What is your name?” I asked. “Gabriel” he answered. I sent him to an ascetic. I told him how to get onto Athos and gave him appropriate directions. We even made a map. “Go” I said, “and ask the same thing: I am an atheist, say to him, and I want to... believe. I want proof of God's existence”.

“I am afraid, I am shy”, he replied. “Why are you shy and afraid of a saint and are not shy and afraid of me?” I asked. “Simply go and ask the same thing”. A few days later, he went to meet the ascetic and found him talking with a young man in his yard. On the opposite side, another four people sat on some logs. Gabriel timidly found a seat among them. No more than ten minutes passed by when the elder's discussion with the young man ended.

“How are you lads?” he asked. “have you treated yourselves to any sweets? Have you had some water?” “Thank you elder”, they answered in an agreeable worldly politeness. “Come here”, he says addressing Gabriel and differentiating him from the others. “I'll bring water and you bring the box with the sweets. And come closer so that I can tell you a secret: It is alright for someone to be an atheist, but to have the name of an angel and be an atheist? This is the first time we've seen something like this”.

Our friend nearly had a heart attack from the sudden revelation. How did he know his name? Who told him his problem? What did the elder actually want to tell him? “Father, may I talk to you for a while?” being hardly able to murmur. “Look, now, it is almost dusk. Take a sweet, drink some water and go to the closest monastery to spend the night”.

“Father, I would like to talk, can't we?” “What'll we talk about, my chap? For the reason you're here?” “To this question I immediately felt my breath opening up”, the youth later narrated, “my heart overfilling with faith, my inner world warming up, my questions answered without any logical argument, without any discussion, without the existence of a clear answer.

“Automatically all 'ifs' were shattered inside of me, the 'whys', the 'maybes', and the only thing remaining from now on was 'how' and 'what'”. Whatever the thoughts of the educated did not give him, the kind hint of a saint gave him, one who's schooling reached only the fourth grade. Saints are most discerning. They operate on you without anesthesia and you don't feel pain. They give you a transplant without opening up your belly. They elevate you to inaccessible peaks without using ladders of worldly logic. They implant faith in you, without tiring your mind...   

Source: “Voice of Gentle Breeze” - Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia

Revival of Orthodoxy In Russia (Exhibition in Moscow) 2012

What happens when technology and big money work together for God's Glory? Just watch this great presentation of Moscow Exhibition The Revival, great New 2012 Year Gift for all of us. Glory to God for All Things!