How Angels Serve Priests in the Holy Altar

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



St. John of Kronstadt brings homeless children to the shelter.
A child’s soul is divine beauty
St. John of Kronstadt considered love for children to be the foundation of a teacher’s work—a foundation that is very often denied by modern-day so-called technicians of secular educational sciences and activities. He said to the students of the gymnasium where he taught, “You are my children, for I gave birth to you and continue to give birth in you to the good tidings of Jesus Christ. My spiritual blood—my instructions—flow in your veins. You are my children, because I have you always in my heart and I pray for you. You are my children, because you are my spiritual offspring. You are my children, because truly, as a priest I am a father, and you call me “batiushka” (“little father”, an affectionate term for a priest).
In Fr. John lived a kind of unearthly, angelic love for children, which inspired him and motivated the entire educational process. It was a special gift of God’s grace, which burned in him so strongly that in later years, when he was no longer teaching, he often healed sick children with the power of love and prayer, continually blessing and instructing them in the faith. How often did he weep over sick children, especially if they were spiritually sick! Once he stroked the head of an emotionally ill boy, and another time he kissed a seriously ill girl in the hospital, kneeling before her bed. “My dear, are you in pain? My little sufferer!” Fr. John lamented.”
Father John’s strictness
Nevertheless, Fr. John could be abrupt. One day a sixteen-year-old boy who was extremely lazy and morally spoiled, expressed his disbelief before the entire class in the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Fr. John called him godless and a miscreant, but he did answer his question. Later he summoned him for a separate conversation, after which the boy felt renewed and strengthened in spirit.
Some recall how a noblewoman complained to Fr. John about the degradation of religious and moral education of her children. “Their teachers,” she said, “taught them everything they need to pass the exams and be clever.” “You should say that they pounded them and not taught them,” Fr. John corrected her. “When being pounded with spiritual knowledge, they have the same feeling as when they are learning arithmetic and so on. But how about you? Do you take care of their souls? Have you directed them so that besides human approval they would strive for God’s approval?” “I suggest it to them according to my strength,” the lady answered him. “After all, one can’t find the door to one’s own child’s heart.” “You didn’t find the door to the heart, so you’ll get beasts instead of humans,” Fr. John replied. “You have forgotten that the Lord has shown mankind an example in the bird species. A bird first gives birth to an egg, and until this egg has been kept for the proper time in maternal warmth, it remains an inanimate object. It is the same with people. The born child is that egg—with the beginnings of earthly life, but inanimate with respect to his blossoming in Christ. The child who has not been warmed by his parents and family to the root of his soul, to the root of all his feelings, will remain dead in spirit for God and good works. And it is precisely from these children not warmed by love and spiritual care that those generations come into the world, from which the prince of this world will recruit his armies against God and His holy Church.”


Preface Psalm 103

Following “Blessed is our God…” which the Priest who is to conduct the Vespers Service says majestically, the Hierarch, Priest, Psalte (chanter) of the Church recites articulately, slowly and steadily, the majestic Psalm 103, which in liturgical terms is called the Psalm of Preface because it is the psalm which is the prelude to Vespers.
This Psalm expresses all the majesty and grandeur of the Creator who in His Omnipotence and Omniscience created the world. It is a wonderful poem, through which the Poet in just a few verses, shows us the wondrous works of creation and calls on the most perfect of Creations, mankind, to sing praises to the Creator. It comprises 35 verses and we can distinguish them as follows: In the first part, verses 1-4 refer to the things created on the first and second day, beginning at the creation of light and the heavens. The second part, verses 5-18 the created things of the third day are praised, referring to the separation of the waters from the earth, the waters which water the dry earth and bring forth food to the animals and to man. The third part, verses 19-23 speaks of the creations of the fourth day, the sun and moon. The fourth part, verses 24-30 speaks again of the sea and of the creations of the fifth and sixth days, expressing his wonder for all the fish of the sea. We then come to the fifth and final part, verses 31-35 which are verses in praise of the Creator.
It is these verses that are sung in a celebratory manner by the Psaltes during festal Vespers Services and are usually known by the name Anixantaria.
This Psalm promotes the majesty of the Creator through His creations and calls on mankind, the crowning glory of creation, to stand between the Creator and creation and to hymn and praise the Most High God. Psalm 103 follows in the simplest language, so that it can be understood by all.

1. Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, You are very great. You are clothed with praise and splendour.
2. You wrap Yourself with light as with a garment, stretching our the sky like a skin.
3. It is You who covers the upper regions of the heavens with water, who makes the clouds His chariot, who walks on the wings of the winds.
4. Who makes spirits His angels, and His servants flames of fire.
5. Who poises the earth on its axis so that it will never wander throughout the ages.
6. The deep, like a garment, is its clothing, and waters stand on the mountains.
7. At Your rebuke they run away, and at the peal of Your thunder they quail.
8. They spring from mountains and flow down valleys, to the place which You have appointed for them.
9. You have set a bound which they cannot pass, so they can never return to cover the earth.
10. He sends torrents down ravines; and the waters pass between the mountains.
11. They give drink to all the beasts of the field; and wild asses quench their thirst there.
12. The birds of heaven settle on them; among the rocks they pipe their calls.
13. You water the mountains from above, the earth is filled with the fruit of Your works.
14. He makes grass spring up for the cattle and plants, through the labour of men, to produce bread from the earth.
15. That wine may cheer the heart of man, that his face may shine with oil, and bread sustain man’s heart.
16. The trees of the plains are drenched, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted.
17. There the birds make their nests, and the herons higher up.
18. The high mountains are for the deer, the rocks are a refuge for badgers.
19. He has made the moon for the seasons and the sun knows its time for setting.
20. You order darkness and night falls, during which all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21. Young lions roar for their prey, and they seek their food from God.
22. The sun rises and they gather together and then lie down in their dens.
23. Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening.
24. How magnificent are Your works, O Lord! You have made all things in wisdom. The earth is full of Your many creations.
25. There is the sea, great and wide; there live reptiles without number, creatures small and great.
26. There ships sail to and fro; there to is the serpent which You made to play there.
27. All of these look to You to give them their food in due season.
28. When You give it to them they gather it, when You open Your hand all things are filled with goodness.
29. When You turn Your ace away they are troubled. You take away their spirit and they vanish and return to dust.
30. You send out Your Spirit and they are created; and You renew the face of the earth.
31. May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; the Lord delights in His works.
32. He looks upon the earth and makes it tremble; He touches the mountains and they smoke.
33. I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34. May my meditation please Him and I will delight in the Lord.
35. May sinner vanish from the earth, and the lawless too, so that they may no longer exist. Bless the Lord, O my soul.



            We know that in the life of the Saints of the Church, the Holy Spirit has imbued them with extrasensory perception that defies the powers of nature.  One of the books of the life and works of St. Porphyrios that I was blessed to translate from Greek to English, there is a dialogue between the Saint and one of his spiritual children George.  George is interested in learning about life that exists in other planetary systems.  The dialogue goes as follows:
            George says: “This is in relation to my continuous questions to him about life in other worlds, about life that co-exists with us and other relevant doubts of mine which would often elicit a reprimand from Papouli (St. Porphyrios).  He would always add the same refrain: “Oh, my dear George, you read too much, certainly it is wrong, and this harms you because you always ask and ask and you wait for answers to your questions and when you don’t receive them you feel disappointed.”
            George now relates to us what happened late one evening when he received a phone call from the Saint.  “So quite late on a very cold winter night, it was probably past 10 p.m. and I was preparing to go to bed.  Pappouli called me and asked me to pick him up from his house in Tourkovounia and take him to Kallisia (a retreat center in the mountains).  Without saying a word, I dressed, got in my car and went to pick him up.  During our trip there and especially after Penteli (a mountain), we took the dirt road toward Kallisia.  I started my usual conversation by saying:  ‘Look Pappouli at how many thousands of stars are above us. It was a clear night.  Is it possible for some of them not to be inhabited?  Statistically, at least, it seems impossible for there not to be life out there.  There must exist some forms of life even if they are drastically different then ours!’
            ‘In the meantime we had arrived at the open space there were we parked the car in order to take the footpath to St. Nicholas retreat center.  We got out of the car when, to my surprise, Pappouli asked me to accompany him all the way to the Monastery.  It already must have been after 11 o’clock and I felt hesitant about going but I did not say anything.  The Elder explained to me that he did not feel too well and it was likely that he might need my help.  Starting off on the footpath Pappouli said to me suddenly, “And why are you interested, George, my child, in life on other planets or other forms of life here or elsewhere?  Is it possible that this knowledge would make you a better person? You must pursue knowledge of things that will improve you.  The other things are useless for you. Therefore stop this type of inquiry.”
            ‘We proceeded silently for a short while and then Pappouli turned and said to me, “Look at how beautiful, peaceful and quiet the night is.  All of nature is sleeping and you have the impression that we are alone.  But yet, around us, in spite of the fact that you George cannot see it, there is pulsating life.  There are different beings that are encircling us, moving, living, existing but for you that should not be of any concern since you do not have any connection with them.  Neither do they have any connection with you and therefore even if you could see them, as I do, and you became convinced of their existence, this would not help you at all to improve yourself which should constitute the prime objective of each one of us.”
            ‘In this way the Elder answered me indirectly.  However, it was either the night or the wilderness or the forest or the things that he had described to me that made me feel somewhat fearful, although I do not usually fear such things. Pappouli realized this, he laughed and without me saying anything to him, he started to joke with me in order to change the subject.  When we reached the Monastery we parted company.  I would now be alone taking the return path back to the car.  I confessed to him that I had become frightened.  The Elder laughed and said to me that I should not fear anything because he would accompany me in spirit back to the car. He added that if at any moment my fear became overwhelming, I should look back at the Monastery and he would flash his light.  He had a small flashlight in order to show me how he was following me and was thinking of me.
            Troubled, I started my trip back to the car and I tried as much as I could to control my fear which initially was not very much.  But after a short while, when I had gone some distance and entered the forest, fear increased.  I had the feeling that I was not alone, that many eyes were watching me.  I began to hear strange sounds and generally I began to panic. Turning my head I saw Pappouli’s flashlight only a few meters behind me.  For a moment, I stopped and thought of turning back and telling him to return to the Monastery since I was certain, that in order for him to bolster my courage he was close behind me.  But after this, I decided to call to him to tell him to go back which I did and the flashlight went out.  I continued walking so that I would not repeat the same thing every time fear overcame me. I turned my head and saw the light was always there to encourage me.  I turned my head and saw the light was always there to encourage me and comfort me.  When I was finally approaching the car and all those that have travelled to Kallisia will remember that the Monastery becomes visible only a few hundred meters before one reaches the clearing where we left the cars.  I finally turned unconsciously in the direction of the Monastery and there was the light of the Elder going on and off at a distance from the Monastery.  The Elder had given me a good lesson in reference to our discussions with him about my doubts but on the other hand, in a miraculous way he showed me that he will always be with us.  He also taught us that such inquiries about the universe should not take place without the blessings of highly spiritual people.


Edited by:

+Fr. Costas J. Simones, June 9, 2017, Waterford, CT, USA