Start discovering the real life!

I so envy the… (trouts?). They do not matter the crash of the water and swim against the current. I wonder, have we ever done anything similar in our lives? How many times did we decide to escape the comfort zone of this prosaism? Of this barren daily routine? How many times did we try to honestly talk to God? That’s what I envy; the real life. That’s what I desire; the real experience. To be real no matter how hard it is. No matter when the circumstances do not tolerate something different. And all of this, secretly… Difficult, but it is worth doing. To do whatever I can so that I could hold up on a raft in the sea of temptations. To love genuinely, unpretentiously, honestly. Unconditionally. Words with so much depth. It was about time to move from theory to practice. It was about time to show that with God as a guide, we can start discovering the real life. 

God's doors

- Where is God in a serious or even a fatal accident?
- It's a question, neither good nor right, but I would say that it is a real question. That question exists in the soul of every healthily thinking and normal person. I will tell you how I understand it. God's space has walls and doors. A great door is God's love. Another great door is God's wisdom. On the other hand, pain is a wall. Anyone who wants to enter God's mystery through pain, will get serious injuries depending on the momentum with which he enters. You have to enter through love to see clearly the God's mystery about pain...

from a television interview with f. Nikolaos Chatzinikolaou, metropolitan of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki, to Antenna Cyprus TV


Greek island

Sifnos island,Seven Martyrs Chapel

40 Holy Martyrs

Bitter is the winter, but sweet is Paradise. The hymnographer puts these words into the mouths of the 40 Holy Martyrs put into the freezing lake in Sebastia. We celebrate them on the 9th of March. One of the few feasts that is actually celebrated during Great Lent. How important is it for us to remember in bitterness the sweetness of Paradise!


When I worry

When I worry, He provides me with peace,
And a love that will never cease.
When I fear, He shows me there is hope,
And blesses me with a way to cope.

-poem by Ally, age 8. I love being a child of God. How about you?

Karoulia, Mount Athos

Impressive, aerial photography from the Karoulia hermitages. Watch the hermit ... in the backyard, to observe the uninvited guest.

12 Questions and Answers on Orthodox Confession and Worship.

12 Questions and Answers on Orthodox Confession and Worship.
Transcribed by A.D Kondogianakopoulou
On Monday 5 September, following an invitation from a Protestant theological school (postgraduate level) located outside Seoul, the Most Reverent Metropolitan of Korea, Fr. Ambrose, gave two lectures to 35 postgraduate students, all pastors. The lessons, within which the lectures were given, were on missions and the Liturgy. We have recorded the discussions for the most part that followed after each lecture and provide it below since we believe that the topics raised as well as the manner of their delivery of the Orthodox confession in Korea is of particular interest.  
1st Question: What is your understanding of missionary activities in the Orthodox Church? 
Answer: To start with, the term “mission” does not express the spirit of the Orthodox Church. We use it compromisingly because it has universal prevalence. Instead we prefer the term “witness.” The term mission, which derives from Western theology, does not exist in Holy Scripture, while the corresponding term, witness, is found many times. The teaching of the Gospel does not mean to say beautiful words about Christ but to give a daily witness of Christ with one’s words and with one’s silence, with works and by example. And if need be, if necessary, to martyr for Christ, namely, to spill one’s blood for Christ, as was done by millions of martyrs and confessors of the faith.

2nd Question: What is your opinion on proselytism?
Answer: In the Orthodox Church we consider proselytism a great sin because it does not honour man. It tramples upon the precious divine gift of freedom and debases man’s personality. Proselytism means to impose on someone else your beliefs by lawful and unlawful means, while confessing Christ means to struggle, to live according to Christ and to repeat by one’s words and life, the perennial “come and see” of the Apostle Philip to any well-intentioned “Nathanael” – your neighbour. The disastrous results of proselytism of the so-called missionary countries by Western Christianity, which we face to this day, I believe, does not leave any margin for the indefinite condemnation of the proselytising process.

3rd Question: What process is followed in the Orthodox Church for someone to work as a missionary?


The real need

They say that one morning, when Diogenes was still drowsy in front of a door where he had spent the night, a wealthy landowner passed over there.
- Good morning, said the lord.
- Good morning, said Diogenes.
- This was a profitable week and I came here to give you this purse with money. Diogenes looked at him in silence and remained seated.
-Take them, it isn’t a trap. They are mine and I am giving them to you. I know that you need them more than me.
- Do you have more? asked Diogenes.
- Of course I have, answered the rich man. I have much more.
- And won’t you like to have more than you have?
- Yes, of course I would.
- Then take the money. For you need them more than me.

An excerpt from the book of Jorje Bukay "Déjame que te cuente" ("Let me tell you”)


Once I Knew A Saint

Once Knew a Saint...His name is Father Vladimir Borichevsky.
The Arena is a brilliant book on the spiritual life, written by a Russian bishop named Ignatius Brianchaninov, at the end of the Nineteenth Century. What I remember most from that book is a comment that, if we are really lucky, we will meet one person in this life who we could really call 'holy.' What makes someone holy?
Is it the ability to go sixty days without eating? Is it the ability to have us shaking in our boots with the prospect of going to hell? Is it the ability to chant like an angel? I don't think so. I have met my holy person, and I would like to tell you a little about him.
His name is Father Vladimir Borichevsky. He was a priest in the Orthodox Church in America, and the Dean of Faculty at St. Tikhon's Seminary, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was married, and had nine children. He lived in an old farmhouse, with an outdoor pump that didn't pump, and a rickety barn that was a breath of a wind away from giving up the ghost. The walls of his house were a lifetime collecting second-hand books. 'It's what he spends all our money on,' was his wife's invariable complaint, always delivered with a little feigned irritation and a lot of pride. 'And he knows exactly where every one of them is!' 'But I never buy new books,' was his invariable defense. He probably never made more than seventy-five hundred dollars a year and he was terminally content with his lot.
In the middle of the 1980's, I spent a year at St. Tikhon's. I first met Father Vladimir early in the year, before the leaves began to turn color and give us a foliage that almost makes up for the brutal winters in that northeast corner of Pennsylvania. I was coming out of church on a Sunday, and he made some remark to me about baseball. I was stunned. This was a seminary! I hadn't come to talk about baseball. I had come here with the intention of learning how to be an ordained servant of God. In fact, the first three times I met him, baseball is what he wanted to talk about. I couldn't believe it. Who was this bozo? That was my exact thought. He didn't introduce himself as a dean, he didn't introduce himself at all, and, while I had heard his name before, no one ever seemed to talk about him.
Three months later, I asked Father Vladimir to become my spiritual father. For the rest of the year, whether it was freezing or the air was thick with flies, every Sunday, I would walk four miles to his house and four miles back, just to sit on his porch and speculate with him about when his leaning barn would finally fall down. Whatever Father Vladimir did, whatever he said, was holy. Even when he talked about baseball. Or the weather. Or animals. God knows we students tried to distract him from our lessons, and we almost always succeeded, but we usually left his class with a sense of wonderment, feeling that, even if it wasn't from a book, we had learned all we had come to learn.
Time seemed to be particularly gracious to this man. It stretched to allow him to have time for everyone - and not just time, but to make you feel like if you wanted to talk for a week, he would listen and his other appointments could wait. I don't know how many times during Great Lent, his wife would come out of the church, feigning anger, to interrupt the two of us in our walk and tell us to 'Get inside, Father! He's terrible, isn't he, John?' This 'terrible' man was interested in everyone and everything. He was like a magnet. If anything in you - or in the community - was out of alignment, he set it right. His simple presence gave order to chaos, and dispelled any lingering bitterness with the gentle touch of his ever-present love. If people were arguing, and Father Vladimir walked past, the rough places were made straight, and the disputants forgot why they were arguing in the first place. If you had a problem, or if you came to him for confession, his calm voice and what he told you would make you feel healed before you said even a word. Father Vladimir almost made confession irrelevant.
Father Vladimir wasn't a Pollyanna. He was a refuge of constant caring in the midst of confusing and sometimes-violent change - what the Church should be, but too often isn't. Like was Kipling's hero, he kept his head while those about him were losing theirs. He was exactly what Seraphim of Sarov had in mind when he said, 'Acquire the Spirit of Peace, and a thousand souls will be saved around you.' My favorite picture of the priest is a photo he posed for with the bishop and the rest of the seminary staff. The bishop is standing front row center, in full regalia, holding his rod of office, and staring straight at the camera. The faculty, all clearly aware of the bishop, have arranged themselves on either side and behind him. Father Vladimir is next to the bishop. His head is on his chest, and he appears to be asleep!
On Palm Sunday that year, I made about a hundred palm crosses to pass out after church. Palm crosses are Greek. Russians use sprigs of pussy willow, since in Russia there are no palms. As I entered the church with my crosses, a priest stopped me, and forbade me from bringing them inside. We cocked our guns in our holsters. At that moment, Father Vladimir appeared at the entrance the church. He strode inside and said 'Good morning' to both of us in an everyday baritone that flowed as 'softly as the waters of Siloam.' On the breast of his black robe was not one, but two, palm crosses!
The man was just too good. I had to find his weakness, to make him more like me, so that I would not have to try to be more like him. I found one. When he talked about abortion, he got angry. Aha! I had him! Imagine if that were your only weakness.
The year after I left the seminary, I drove up to St. Tikhon's from New York to visit Father Vladimir. With me was my Jewish girlfriend. Father Vladimir and his wife greeted me as if it was Sunday, and I had just walked over from the seminary. The four of us sat in his living room for about an hour, eating lunch among all the objects that had once aroused Father Vladimir's curiosity, and which he had just never thrown away - just like he never threw out any person who came to see him. Finally, he asked me if I wanted to make my confession. I nodded and we went upstairs. He put his epitrakhelion over my head, and spoke whatever he felt in his heart. He finished and, as usual, I had almost nothing to say. I just felt grateful and humble and forgiven. On the way downstairs, I stopped. I turned and asked him if he would hear my friend's confession. (I had raised the possibility with her on the drive up.)
'She's Jewish,' he said. I nodded. 'I've been a priest for fifty years,' he laughed, ' and I've never heard a Jew's confession. But why not? I can't give her absolution, but I can say a general prayer over her.' They went upstairs. It was an hour and a quarter later before they came down. It was clear that in that brief time together they had become great friends.


The limits of love

(The prodigal son) left and his father didn't get in his way. He respected him! It's unbelievable: God's respect, how God respects you. He didn't get in his son's way!
- Go, my son.
- You don't love me?
- I love you deeply.
- So, you want me to go?
- No.
- You don't feel pain?
- I do.
- Then, why don't you do something?
- I do.
- What?
- I respect you!

from radio broadcast (father Andreas Konanos)


Triumph of Orthodoxy Sunday

4 March 1990

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Week after week in the period of preparation for Lent, we have been confronted with parables in which our own condition is so clearly, so sharply, so accusingly depicted; and also with stern warnings that there is no middle way between the way of life and the way of death, that we can live on earth in a twilight of unconsciousness, but a moment will come when the full light will shine before us, and then it will become clear whether we, ourselves, have been children of light or prisoners of darkness. And the culminating point of this process is the reading of the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete in which both sin and repentance are so powerfully depicted.

But now we enter into a new phase of our preparation for Easter; we enter into Lent which is an old word that means 'spring', the beginning of life; a period when we will no longer be confronted with our twilight or the darkness which still has power over us, but with the light of God, the light that dispels darkness, the light that makes all things to shine and to be light itself according to the word of Christ.

And today we remember the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the day when the Church recognised in its last Ecumenical Council, in the 9th century, that all that was essential to the Christian faith had been proclaimed. And what had been proclaimed was our hope, our absolute, unshakeable hope, because what it proclaimed was that God had become Man; that God had chosen, in an act of love for us, of solidarity with us, however sinful, however fallen, however darkened we were, had chosen to become a man in our midst, taking responsibility yes, responsibility! for His act of creation performed without our ascent, and the freedom He gave us that is the absolute condition for our being able to love and to chose life rather than death, but at the same time which is the frightening condition of our fall.

And today we have read the Gospel, in which St. John proclaims, in the words of Nathaniel, that Christ is the Son of God, the King of Israel, that Salvation has come, that God is in our midst, that all things are possible if we only, if we only believe.

We have read or heard today in the Epistle how before us millions of people have believed in the unbelievable: that God can love us in such a way, that God can love each of us and all of us with His life and His death, that God can love us however unlovable we feel within ourselves and seem to others. We are called to believe the unbelievable, to be sure that God has a heart deep and wide enough to contain us; or, if you prefer, that His love is sacrificial; that He not only became a man to share with us all our condition, including the horror of having lost God: My God, My God, why hath Thou forsaken Me? but He is prepared day in day out to seek us out, to take us upon His shoulders as the shepherd takes the lost sheep, or if necessary, to take us upon His shoulder the way He, in Holy Week, took up His cross to walk, to fall under it, to be crucified upon it, and because in His free gift of Himself He could obtain the power to forgive: Forgive them, Father: They don't know what they are doing.

And we are looking now towards the vision of Holy Week, step after step; but this Holy Week is not a Week of horror: we know that this Holy Week is suffused with the glory of the risen Christ, that the Holy Week is a week when we are confronted, each of us, all of us together and singly, with love Divine, with the extent, the depth of Divine Love, a personal love, a love addressed to each of us.

And we will see in the course of these weeks two things: today, that God has come in our midst, He, the Light is in the midst of the twilight of history, or in the darkness of the darkest soul and the most sinisterly dark situation!

If that is true, then all things are possible! Then indeed we can believe the unbelievable! And more than this: we will be shown week after week what God can do. Next week, on the day of St. Gregory of Palamas, we will hear proclaimed by him the fact that God does not only cherish us as it were, from the outside, not but He gives us His grace which like fire pervades us, making us gradually, if we only accept it, to be like the Burning Bush in the desert that burnt without been consumed, because God does not consume, does not destroy, unless we turn against Him. Yes, He is the consuming fire until and unless we accept Him. But accepted, He makes us partakers of His Divine nature, He fills us with His own life, He is life itself in us, and we in Him.

These are the two messages that come now; and then we will see that St. John of the Ladder teaches us how to move Godwards, how to overcome the twilight or the darkness which is in us. And we can see the result of this struggle, of this cry of the soul, of this hunger for life and for light in the person of St. Mary of Egypt and of other sinners who received Christ and were transformed, transfigured, saved.

This is the way that leads us step by step to meet Holy Week, a Weak so holy when the love of God has been expressed not in words, not in blessings, not in tenderness, but in the vision of the cost of love to God Himself, the cost of our falling away from Him to the Son of God become the Son of Man.

How can we respond to it? What is then the message of this period? In the first period which I have mentioned we were confronted with evil in us, been challenged by it: This is what you are! And this is what is bound to happen. But now we are confronted with this vision of unutterable beauty and hope: how can we respond to it?

By gratitude! Gratitude is the next stop; gratitude is what must carry us through all this week: gratitude, a sense of wonder: how can God be as He is? How can He love me as I know myself, and indeed, horror of horrors, as others know me!

And if that is understood by us, then the only answer we can give to God is gratitude. To express our gratitude, is to say, 'Lord, however weak I am, however imperfect, however sinful, however unworthy from the depth of my gratitude for Who You are and what You do, I will do all within my power, however frail my will, however weak my power, I will do all I can to show you that I have understood the message of love, the message of the cross, the message of mercy, that I have understood with all my being and that I want to prove it by living in such a way that would be a proof of my understanding, live in such a way that I should be a joy to You, a joy to God, a consolation to God!

O God! To think that we can do this! Aren’t we going to do it? Let us enter into these weeks of Lent really as one begins to live in spring! Enter into newness of life, and throughout, throughout these weeks, in gratitude, to give joy to God. And then we will be able to face Holy Week not as the ultimate horror that condemns the ungrateful, the murderer of Christ no: as a Week that is a full and perfect revelation of a love understood, received, and insofar as we can enacted by us.

O, let us gather all our strength, and when our strength will not suffieth, let us remember the promise of Christ: My strength deploys itself in weakness; all things are possible to me as Paul puts it in the power of Christ that sustains me And the words of Christ: What is impossible to men is possible to God. Let us surrender to God to give Him joy! And all will be of God, and all will be well. Amen.


Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd.Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord