Saturday, May 21, 2005
Lighting Candles - Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship. We light them as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church - and that is usually the best time to light them, but there are times when candles should not be lit. It is not proper to light candles during the Epistle or Gospel readings, during the Little or Great Entrances, the sermon, and most of the times when the faithful are standing. If you find yourself arriving to church after the Liturgy has begun, a good rule of thumb to remember is - if everyone is standing, wait until they are sitting to light a candle (unless they are sitting for the sermon, of course). Other than that it is probably all right to light a candle.
Entering the Church (Late) - The time to arrive at church is before the service starts, but for some unknown reason, it has become the custom — or rather the bad habit — for some to come to church late. If you arrive after the Divine Liturgy begins, try to enter the church quietly — and observe what is happening. If the Epistle or Gospel is being read or the Little or Great Entrance is taking place, wait until it is finished to quickly find a seat. If Father is giving the sermon, stay in the back until he has concluded. If in doubt, check with one of the ushers to see if it is a good time to seat yourself. Try not to interrupt the Liturgy with you entrance. By the way, the best way to avoid this problem is to arrive on time — then you don’t have to wonder if it’s okay to come in or not. People who come late to the Liturgy should not partake of the Eucharist!
Crossing Those Legs? - In some Orthodox cultures, crossing one’s legs is taboo and considered to be very disrespectful. In our North American culture, while there are no real taboos concerning crossing one’s legs, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable while sitting. Should we cross our legs in church? No. Not because it is “wrong” to ever cross legs, but rather because it is too casual — and too relaxed — for being in church. Just think about it, when you get settled in your favorite chair at home, you lean back, cross your legs, and then your mind can wander anywhere it wants to. Remember that sitting in church is a concession, not the normative way of prayer. You surely don’t want to get too relaxed and let your mind wander off too much. In fact, when you do sit in church, you should sit attentively - and not too comfortably. When sitting in church, keep those feet on the floor, ready to stand at attention (which is what “Let us attend” means). Cross yourself with your fingers and hand — but don’t cross your legs!
In and Out - On some Sundays, it almost seems like we have a revolving door in the back of the church — and it is used by both children and adults. Use the restroom before coming to church. You shouldn’t need to get a drink of water during the service (especially if you are taking Communion!). Don’t come to church to go to the fellowship hall — come to pray. Taking restless little ones out is a different matter. If a child is disruptive, take him/her quickly and quietly out of church, just long enough to settle him/her down, then return to Liturgy. Follow the rules for entering late: not during readings, sermons, or Entrances.
Leaving Before Dismissal - Leaving church before the Dismissal - besides being rude - deprives us of a blessing. Worship has a beginning (“Blessed is the Kingdom…”) and an end (“Let us depart in peace…”). To leave immediately after Communion is to treat church like a fast food restaurant where we come and go as we please. We live in a fast-paced world where we seem to be hurrying from place to place. But in God’s presence, we need to make every attempt to fight this pressure to move on to the next thing on the day’s agenda. We deprive ourselves of blessings by not being still and participating in God’s holiness. Eat and run at McDonald’s — but stay in church and thank God for his precious gifts.
Blot that Lipstick! - Have you ever looked at an icon in just the right light and seen the lip prints all over it? It’s disgusting, isn’t it? In fact, it’s downright gross. Lipstick may look fine on lips, but it looks horrible on icons, crosses, the Communion spoon and the priest’s or bishop’s hand. Icons have been ruined by lipstick; and even though the cross can usually be cleaned after everyone venerates it, it just isn’t considerate to others to impose your lipstick on them. What is the answer? If you insist on wearing lipstick to church, blot your lips well before venerating an icon, taking Communion, or kissing the cross or the priest’s or bishop’s hand. Even better, wait until after church to put it on. After all, God is not impressed with how attractive you look externally — your makeup or clothing — but how attractive you are internally, your adornment with good works and piety.
Venerating Icons - When you enter the church, it is traditional to venerate the icons. Usually there are icons at the entrance to the church and many churches have icon stands in the front as well. When venerating (kissing) and icon, pay attention to where you kiss. It is not proper to kiss an icon in the face. You wouldn’t go up and kiss the Lord or His mother on the lips, would you? You would kiss their hand, and only of they invited you would you even dare to kiss them on the cheek. Pay attention to what you are doing. When you approach and icon to venerate it, kiss the gospel, scroll, or hand cross in the hand of the person in the icon, or kiss the hand or foot of the person depicted. As you venerate and icon, show proper respect to the person depicted in the icon — the same respect you would show the person by venerating him or her in an appropriate place. And remember, blot off your lipstick before kissing.
Talking During Church - Isn’t it great to come to church and see friends and family members? But wait until coffee hour to say “Hi” to them. It just isn’t appropriate to greet people and have a conversation with them during the services. Besides being disrespectful towards God, it is rude towards the other people in the church who are trying to worship. Talk to God while in church through your prayers, hymns, and thanksgiving, and to your friends in the hall afterwards.
Kiss (Don’t Shake) the Priest’s or Bishop’s Hand - Did you know that the proper way to ggreet a priest or bishop is to ask his blessing and kiss his right hand? How do you do this? Approach the priest or bishop with your right hand over your left hand and say “Father (or “Master” in the case of the bishop), bless.” [He will make the sign of the cross, and place his right hand over yours.] This is much more appropriate (and traditional) than shaking their hands. After all, the priest and bishop are not just “one of the boys.” When you kiss their hands, you show respect for their office — they are the ones who “bless and sanctify” you and who offer the holy gifts on your behalf. So next time you greet your priest or bishop, don’t shake his hand, ask for his blessing.
Sunday Dress - Remember the time when people put on their “Sunday best” to go to church? In fact, dress clothes were often referred to as Sunday clothes. In some parts of the country, this is not common today. In fact, all too often, dress in church has become too casual. In all areas of our lives, we should offer Christ our best. And the same is true of our dress. We should offer Christ our “Sunday best”, not our everyday or common wear. And we should dress modestly, not in a flashy way that would bring attention to ourselves. Our dress should always be becoming of a Christian - especially at church. Here are some specific guidelines we use in our parishes:
Children: Only young children (under 10) should wear shorts to church — and then only dress shorts. Athletic shorts, cut-offs, and spandex shorts are never appropriate church wear (for children or adults!). Shoes or sandals should be clean and tied. No one should wear T-shirts with any kind of writing on them (“This Bud’s for You!” is definitely out).
Women: Dresses should be modest. No tank tops or dresses with only straps at the shoulders, no short skirts (mini-skirts), and no skin-tight dresses. Dresses should have backs and not be cut low in the front. Nor should they have "slits" up the sides, back or front. A dress is only as long as the slits in it! Shorts of any type are not appropriate for church.
Men: Men should also dress modestly. While coat and tie are not mandatory, shirts should have collars and be buttoned to the collar (the actual collar button may be left undone, but two or three buttons undone is inappropriate). Slacks should be cleaned and pressed. Jeans (of any color) are usually too casual for church, especially ones with patches or holes. Again, shorts are not appropriate church wear. If you’re going somewhere after church where you need to dress casually, bring a change of clothing with you and change after coffee hour. Remember, use your best judgment and good taste when dressing for church. After all, you don’t go to be seen by everyone else — you go to meet and worship God. on a Sunday morning will notice that different people cross themselves at different times (and sometimes in different ways). To a certain extent, when to cross oneself is according to personal piety and not an issue of dogma. But there are times when it is specifically proper to cross yourself, and times when you should not. Here is a brief list of when to cross and when not to cross:
To Cross: When you hear one of the variations of the phrase, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”; at the beginning and end of the liturgical service or your private prayers; entering or exiting the church, or when passing in front of the Holy Altar; before venerating in icon, the cross, or Gospel book.
Not to Cross: At the chalice before or after taking Communion (you might hit the chalice with your hand); when the priest or bishop blesses saying, “Peace be to all” — bow slightly and receive the blessing; when receiving a blessing from a bishop or a priest (kissing the right hand of the bishop or priest is appropriate, but not making the sign of the cross).
Snacks for Children - Parents often bring snacks and a cup of fruit juice along for children during church. And for young children (0 - 3 years old), this is fine. But by the time children are 4 - 5 years old, they should be able to make it through Liturgy without eating anything, and by the time they reach seven (the age of their first confession), they should begin fasting on Sunday morning for Communion. For those infants/toddlers who get snacks, please don’t feed them just before coming to Holy Communion or while in the line for Holy Communion (this applies to holy bread as well). They need to come to Communion without food in their mouths. And one last note: try to keep the snack mess down to a minimum. The floor shouldn’t be covered with Cheerios! Chewing gum during Liturgy is a No-No for everyone!
Handling the Holy Bread - After taking Holy Communion and at the end of the liturgy, it is traditional to eat a piece of holy bread or antidoron — the bread that was left over after Holy Communion was prepared. While antidoron is not Holy Communion, it is blessed bread and as such, should be eaten carefully so that crumbs don’t fall all over the place. After taking Communion or kissing the cross at the end of the Divine Liturgy, take one piece of antidoron (you don’t need four or five pieces) and when you return to your seat or get to a place where you can stop for a moment, eat the bread trying not to drop crumbs. If you want to give a piece to someone else, go ahead and take an extra piece — don’t break yours in half (it produces too many crumbs). And monitor your children as they take the antidoron and teach them to eat it respectfully.
A Final Thought - North American society in the late 20th century is rather casual in its approach to life. Don’t allow this prevailing attitude to enter into your Orthodox Christian piety. There are surely a lot of other areas that could be covered here. Much of church etiquette is based on common sense and showing respect for God and others. Always remember that you are in church to worship God, the Holy Trinity. The priest says, “With the fear of God and faith and love, draw near.” Let this be the way you approach all of worship. If you do, you will probably have good church etiquette.
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Once there was a disciple of a Greek philosopher who was commanded by his Master for three years to give money to everyone who insulted him. When this period of trial was over, the Master said to him: "Now you can go to Athens and learn wisdom."
When the disciple was entering Athens, he met a certain wise man who sat at the gate and insulted everybody who came and went. He also insulted the disciple, who immediately burst out laughing.
"Why do you laugh when I insult you?" said the wise man.
"Because," said the disciple, "for three years I have been paying for this kind of thing -- and now you give it to me for nothing!"
"Enter the city," said the wise man, "it is all yours."
Abba John used to tell this story, saying: "This is the door of God by which our fathers, rejoicing in many tribulations, enter into the City of Heaven.
From a prayer by Bishop Nicholas of Zitsa:
Bless my enemies, Lord...
Whenever I have hesitated to punish myself, they have punished me.
Whenever I have flattered myself, they have scolded me.
Whenever I have filled myself with arrogance, they have spat upon me.
Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me a fool.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
Bless them... so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins:
arrogance and anger... so that I may for once be freed from self-deception,
which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.
(Matushka) Ann Lardas
From the Cell of Saint Nicholas, Kapsala, Karyes, Mount Athos
The respected Elder, Father Sabbas, had followed the policy of the nineteen ruling monasteries of Mount Athos, which believed, as do many people, that we must make certain concessions and accommodations in matters of Faith for a period of time.
Since he was virtuous, with a sincere and good intention, the fathers who have only recently come to Mount Athos—the so-called New Holy Mountain Fathers—who hold communion with Ecumenists and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarchate, would visit the Elder frequently. They would hold him up as an example to their disciples and would say that if the zealot dissent and protest were good, would not the virtuous Father Sabbas belong to it?
However, when the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios concelebrated with the Pope of Rome in December of 1987, the Elder roused himself; his soul could not bear to be found in such a blatantly Ecumenistic Church. Along with other ascetics, he protested and separated himself from all the other fathers of Mount Athos who followed the nineteen monasteries. He would not go to church in any of those nineteen or in any of the cells or dependencies which followed them.
All the commemorators were in an uproar; from monastery and cell, many ran to persuade the Elder. But the frequent visits, which became burdensome, were to no avail.
Finally, the Elder was obliged to answer in writing one monk who troubled him frequently, thereby answering all the others troubling him, for they were well-organized and committed to using every means to draw the Elder out of Orthodoxy into the embrace of hellish Ecumenism.
Below is the text of the Elder's letter.
The Cell of Saint Nicholas August 13,1991
Dear Father Nicodemos,
During your visit to our cell a few days ago, you repeated your un-Orthodox dogmatic pronouncements that we are outside the Church because we do not commemorate Patriarch Demetrios. You also made some other statements as well, for which cause we feel constrained to write the following for your fuller instruction, since the evidence and refutations we tendered during our conversation destroyed your peace and made you angry.
In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers it is written that when Abba Agatho was asked if he were proud, a fornicator, and a heretic, he answered that he confirmed the first two accusations, for it was profitable for his soul to do so, but not that he was a heretic, for that signifies separation from God. 
According to you (and according to all the monasteries of Mount Athos as well, except for the Monastery of Esphigmenou, the Skete of Prophet Elias, and many zealot Fathers), we are deceived and are schismatics. You find it difficult to admit that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is preaching heresy, because you would be required to admit that your holding communion with these wolves and not shepherds is worthy of condemnation, or you would have to cease following them, according to the command of all the Holy Fathers and Councils.
You attempt to justify the Phanar, but their words and actions show you to be in error. In vain do you invoke the opinion of Father Paisios and of others who are indulgent with present conditions and make concessions, that is, they deal with it by "economy," but when the time comes (supposedly when Demetrios shall enter into communion with the Pope, as you said), you will separate yourselves from whatever is not in concord with the teachings of the Holy Fathers and Councils. You greatly deceive yourselves.
As for the admonitions to which you refer—whether of Elder Paisios, or of your neighbor papa-Isaac, or of anyone else—which maintain that Demetrios rightly divides the word of truth, how can you expect us to accept them as being pleasing to God when they are clean contrary to Orthodox teaching? Since the Truth is betrayed, should it not be called iniquity rather than economy, concession, accommodation, or indulgence? You maintain your stand because Elder Paisios said, "Demetrios is misled by the hierarchs around him to do that which he does not want," and "If we stop commemorating [the Patriarch] we will be outside the Church!" and much more, to which can be applied the words of Saint John Chrysostom, "All their words are foolishness, and the tales of foolish children." These words of theirs are the fruit of a new theology, which the Phanar used in the notorious Encyclical of 1920 by calling heretics "fellow heirs of the grace of God."
You bring forward the words of Saint John Chrysostom, "Not even the blood of martyrdom blots out schism," and of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, "Let nothing be enacted without the bishop." You conclude that when we separate ourselves from our bishop, we are outside the Church.
The Saints made these true pronouncements, however, in a time of Orthodoxy and Church serenity. Today, when the hurricane of the Ecumenist pan-heresy sweeps away even the elect, the words of the same Saints have force. "If your bishop be heretical, flee, flee, flee as from fire and a serpent" (Saint John Chrysostom). "If thy bishop should teach any thing outside of the appointed order, even if he lives in chastity, or if he work signs, or if he prophecy, let him be unto thee as a wolf in sheep's clothing, for he works the destruction of souls" (Saint Ignatius). If Demetrios rightly divided the word of truth, you would have been justified in your use of those quotations you took from the two Saints; but now you edit the Fathers' writings to your taste, in order to justify your guilt for being a fellow-traveler of Demetrios, Parthenios of Alexandria, Iakovos of America, Stylianos Harkianakis of Australia. Are all the many quotations from the holy Councils and Saints not enough for you? Or do you fear, perhaps, being cast out of the synagogue of the heretics? The fact that the other patriarchates hold communion with the Phanar is not really important. What is important is, who follows in the footsteps of the Saints and is with the Truth? Parthenios, Patriarch of Alexandria, said that he recognizes Mohammed as an Apostle who worked for the Kingdom of God, and other such blasphemies which you know. There is no need for us to write again the heresies of Iakovos Koukonzis of America, and Stylianos Harkianakis of Australia. You are in communion with these men as though they supposedly rightly divided the word of truth! Who is going to condemn Iakovos Koukouzis? Parthenios? or the committee of Phanariotes under Bartholomew which has been "investigating" for two years now whether Harkianakis is a heretic?  Do you not understand that they do not want to pronounce a verdict?
The Phanar promised the delegation of three abbots from Mount Athos that they would retract and correct Patriarch Demetrios' statement to the United Press about receiving communion from the Latins, that they would replace Stylianos Harkianakis as president of the commission for theological dialogue, etc. Has anything been corrected to this day? Or do you believe that we have no responsibility, or guilt, and may remain in communion because Elder Paisios shamelessly says that the declarations and actions of Demetrios are not contrary to our doctrines and do not violate the truth?
History repeats itself. Saint Theodore the Studite, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and many of the other Christians who did not follow the hierarchy which at sundry times preached heresy, were all called schismatics by that hierarchy. Although Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan was served by a lion and was a wonderworker, he was in error because he would not accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council, drawing along with him thousands of monks in Palestine, until he was corrected by Saint Euthymius the Great and repented.
You ask "Could Elder Paisios and the seventy bishops of the State Church of Greece be in error?"
Do you want God to force them to confess Him? At the Iconoclast Council of 754 in the reign of Copronymos, we read in the minutes that fearsome acclamation of the 338 bishops present at the council, "Long live the King! The icons are idols and should either be destroyed or hung high so that they might not be venerated." Do you find it hard to believe that seventy bishops can be deceived today, when, as you see, so many were deceived then? Nowadays, monks desire to gain mitres, abbatial staves, while observing only a nominal confession of Faith—that is, protesting somewhat, but not stopping the commemoration of the Patriarch, and tolerating all the innovations to the Gospel introduced by Demetrios, Iakovos, Parthenios, and those like them. Saint Theodore the Studite, however, writes that the work of the monk is not to tolerate even the least innovation in the Gospel of Christ.
At the concelebration in Rome, Demetrios did not receive the host from the Pope in order to avoid hostile reactions from "conservatives." However, there in Rome, he did subscribe to the doctrine that the Latins possess the Mysteries of the Church, and he continues to do so. Is that not enough? When did the Saints and Christians of any century in which a heresy was widely preached ever react as do you, who continue to commemorate Demetrios? What precedent have you found in the history of the Church so you can say you are following it? If you are sons of the Saints (that is, imitators and followers of the Saints), "ye would have done the works of Abraham" as the Gospel says. In the time of Patriarch Beccos, the fathers of Mount Athos stopped commemorating him even though he had not been deposed by a Council; and because they remained steadfast in their adherence to the precepts of the Fathers (that is, had no communion with those who departed from the Orthodox Faith), Christ granted them the martyr's crown. As for those who concelebrated with the commemorators of the Latin-minded "official" patriarch, Beccos, their corpses are found to this day, as is well known, swollen, stinking, and undecomposed, to be an example to all.
You told us that if Demetrios does not go to confession for the things he has done, he will be damned. You are now admitting that you are following a man who is damning himself by what he is doing. For him to be damning himself [and indeed, for matters pertaining to the Faith and not personal and private sins] means that he is doing the work of the Devil. Consequently, you yourself admit that you have the Devil as a fellow-traveler.
Are you serious, Father Nicodemos, or are you jesting? If Athenagoras had "repented" and confessed his sin shortly before he died, then would he be saved?  Show me even one patristic witness which justifies remaining in a Church that preaches heresy, as does that of the "meek and quiet Leader of Orthodoxy, Demetrios." Would such an obedience to a hierarchy that does not rightly divide the word of truth sanctify us? If you do not wish to admit that the Monastery of Esphigmenou and so many zealot Fathers are worthy of honor—according to the Fifteenth Canon of the First-and-Second-Council— at least be silent and do not blaspheme by saying that they are schismatics and outside the Church. You ignore the existence of the Testament of Saint Mark Evgenicos of Ephesus, who did not want the Latin-minded even to come to his funeral.
First study and then make pronouncements. According to your way of thinking, both Saint Mark of Ephesus, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and hosts of others who did not hold communion with heretics are outside the Church!
Do you see where your "new theology" leads? Who would ever have thought that fathers of the Holy Mountain would have as their bible the book The Two Extremes by Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos? You recommend making protests like those recommended on pages 19 and 22 of that book, protests over—according to the Ecumenists—"sacred canons which are not applicable in our times because they are lacking in love." He also describes Athenagoras as "having a demonic love." Nevertheless, he remained in communion with those who have "a demonic love." Marvelous consistency!
We saw similar protests on the occasion when the representative of the Monastery of Grigoriou asked that it be recorded in the decisions of the Sacred Community that if the chief secretary were sent to Australia, he would not concelebrate there. The chief secretary finally did not go; but Father Basil, Abbot of Stavronikita, ignoring the decision of all the other monasteries, sent Father Tychon to "help" Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis. When Father Tychon resumed, he was sent to the festival of the Cell of Bourazeri. There the representative of the Monastery of Grigoriou (Father Athanasios) concelebrated with Father Tychon and the rest. No commentary is needed.
Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos was silenced when they refuted his errors some twenty years ago. But you, with the same untheological arguments, want to justify your communion with patriarchs who preach heresies "with bared head," having a demonic love for heretics while persecuting the genuinely Orthodox, and so emulating Patriarch Beccos, the Emperor Copronymos, and all those like them. When you chant them many years and commemorate them, it is the same as if you said, "You are sound in the Faith, and obedience, honor, and commemoration are due to you." You do not help them understand that they are walking upon an evil path; whereas if you had broken communion with them, mayhap they would have had pangs of conscience and would search for the truth. Your guilt for your reprehensible silence—which Saint Gregory Palamas calls a third kind of atheism—grows day by day, in spite of your so-called protests.
When the Latin-minded were coming here during the patriarchate of Beccos to enforce the union with the Latins, our Lady, the Virgin Mother, the Guardian of the Holy Mountain Athos, spoke herself, saying, '`The enemies of My Son and of me are coming."
Last year, when the successor of Beccos — Demetrios (the "Leader of Orthodoxy"!)—arrived, he found the Holy Mountain swathed in black from two weeks of continuous fires.  He that hath ears to hear, heareth the voice of the All-holy Mother of God.
May you find the path of good disagreement, as Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain teaches in his Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Saint Paul, saying, "If he [the abbot or bishop] is evil in Faith, that is, he believes heretical and blasphemous doctrines, flee from him, though he be an angel from Heaven."
an un-monastic, but Orthodox monk
The ever-memorable Elder remained staunch in his good confession until his repose in October of 1991, despite the many efforts of the "new Holy Mountain Fathers" to persuade him to come over to their views. His worthy disciple and heir, Father Alypios, remembering the Will and Testament of Saint Mark of Ephesus, and following his example, would not permit the commemorators to hold memorial services at the grave of the Elder.
Sin and heresy, as the holy Fathers teach us, differ essentially: Sin is a transgression of God's law, but heresy is an alteration of God's law.
Editors' Note: Harkianakis was accused of preaching heresy by Metropolitan Augustine of Florina and the Orthodox faithful from Australia
Private confession suffices for the forgiveness of personal and private sins, but for public sins against the Faith, a public repentance and correction must also be made according to our Saviour's words: "Whosoever, therefore, shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in Heaven."
Editors' Note: The fire lasted from the first of August to the fifteenth, that is, the whole of the fast of the Theotokos.
From Orthodox Christian Witness, Vol. XXX, No. 6, 1991. It was translated from the periodical of Saint Agathangelos of Esphigmenou, Nov.-Dec., 1991 (in Greek).
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From Mother Pelagia of Lesna Convent
- Prayers are said morning and evening, either together as a family or individually.
- A blessing (grace, we called it) is said by the head of the family before a meal, and a prayer of thanks afterwards.
- On entering a room where there is an icon, cross yourself before it and say a brief prayer.
- When leaving one's dwelling, make the sign of the cross over the door and pray for its protection.
On seeing an Orthodox bishop, priest, abbot or abbess, or even when phoning them or writing to them, always ask their blessing.
- Before going to bed, make the sign of the cross over it and pray for protection during sleep.
- When you hear of anyone's death, immediately say a prayer for their eternal memory.
- If discussing or planning the future say: "As God wills."
- If you offend or hurt anyone, say as soon as possible, "Forgive me," always trying to take the blame yourself.
- If something turns out well, say "Praise be (to God)."
- If something turns out badly, if there is pain, sickness or any kind of trouble, say "Praise be to God for all things," since God is all good and, though we might not understand the purpose of these things, undoubtedly they have been permitted by God
- If you begin some task, say, "God help me," or if someone else' working: "May God help you," (How sad that this expression is so perverted in the modern exclamation "God help you!")
- Cross yourself and say a brief prayer before even the shortest journey by car.
- For a longer and more difficult journey, ask a priest to sing a Moleben, failing that, at home say the troparion and kontakion for a journey.
- If there is a possibility of future trouble of any kind, either for yourself or for someone you care for, pray an Akathist to the Mother of God.
- When you receive a blessing after prayer, always remember to thank God; if it is a small thing, you may add a prayer of thanksgiving to your daily prayers or make an offering. For matters of greater import, ask the priest to serve the Thanksgiving Moleben. But NEVER neglect to give thanks.
Thirst for Christ, that He may make you drunk with His love. Close your eyes to the delights of this life, that God may deem you worthy to have His peace reigning in your heart. Abstain from what your eyes behold, that you may be accounted worthy of spiritual joy.
The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.
"Prayer is called a virtue, but in reality it is the mother of thevirtues: for it gives birth to them through union with Christ."
Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779
+ + +
"You ask, "Must one do something?" Of course one must! And do whatever comes along - in your circle of friends and in your surroundings -and believe that this is and will be your real work. More will not be demanded of you. It is a great misconception to think, whether for the sake of heaven or, as the modernists put it, to "make one's mark on humanity," that one must undertake great, reverberating tasks. Not at all.
It is necessary only to do everything according to the commandments of God. Just what exactly? Nothing in particular - only those things which present themselves to everyone in the circumstances of life, those things which are required by the every day happenings we all encounter.
This is how God is. God arranges the fate of each man, and the whole course of one's life is also the work of His most gracious foreknowledge, as is, therefore, every minute and every encounter.
Let's take an example: a beggar comes up to you; it is God who has brought him. What should you do? You must help him. God has brought the beggar, of course, desiring you to act toward this beggar in a manner pleasing to Him, and He watches to see what you will actually do ...If you do what is pleasing to God, you will be taking a step toward the ultimate goal, the inheritance of heaven.
Generalize this occurrence, and you find that in every situation and at every encounter one must do what God wants him to do. And we know truly what He wants from the commandments He has given us. If someone seeks help, then help him. If someone has offended you, forgive him. If you yourself have offended someone, then hasten to ask forgiveness and to make peace."
St. Theophan the Recluse
[Letter to a Young Girl. B#18]
Friday, May 20, 2005
Friday May 7/20
Third Week of Pascha
Illumine my heart, O Master who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open Thou the eyes of my mind to the understanding of Thy Gospel teachings. Implant also in me a love for Thy blessed commandments. Grant me the grace to overcome all my carnal desires, so that I may enter more completely into a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well pleasing to Thee. For Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, together with Thine all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit; now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, open Thou the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Thy word and understand and do Thy will, for I am a sojourner upon the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me, but open mine eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Thy law. Speak unto me the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom. On Thee do I set my hope, O my God, that Thou shalt enlighten my mind and understanding with the light of Thy knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them; that in reading the lives and sayings of the Saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance of life everlasting. For Thou art the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from Thee cometh every good deed and every gift. Amen.
By the intercessions of Thine All-immaculate Mother and of all Thy Saints, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen
But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
"I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Then Jesus said unto them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
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COMMEMORATION OF THE SIGN OF THE CROSS THAT APPEARED IN THE SKY IN JERUSALEM DURING THE THIRD HOUR OF THE DAY DURING THE REIGN OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE
HOLY MARTYR ACACIOS THE CENTURION OF CAPPADOCIA
ST NIL OF SORA
THE RIGHTEOUS MARTYR PACHOMIOS OF THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, ATHOS
Troparion of the Appearance of the Cross Tone l
The image of Thy Cross shone forth brighter than the sun,/ reaching from the Mount of Olives to the Place of the Skull;/ in this way Thou didst reveal Thy might, O Saviour/ thereby strengthening the faithful./ Ever keep us in Thy peace through the prayers of Thy holy Mother,/ O Christ our God and save us.
Troparion of St Acacios Tone 5
O Martyr Acacios,/ by thy steadfast contest thou didst trample on the ancient serpent/ and receive the victor's crown from God./ By thine aid deliver us from the malice of the evil one,/ O prize-winner,/ and entreat Christ our God to have mercy on our souls.
Troparion of St Nil of Sora Tone 4
Thou didst renounce the world and flee the tumult of life,/ O righteous and Godbearing Father Nil. /Thou didst not neglect to gather paradisal flowers from the writings of the Fathers,/ and didst pass from the wilderness to heavenly mansions,/ having blossomed as a lily of the field./ Teach us who venerate thee to tread the royal highway;/ and pray for our souls.
Troparion of St Pachomios the New Martyr Tone 3
Thy godly life was made radiant by the trials of holy martyrdom,/ O glorious, righteous Martyr Pachomios./ Thou didst shine forth on Athos by thine ascetical deeds/ and shed thy blood as an Athlete./ Intercede with the Lord Who has glorified thee/ that He may grant us His great mercy.
Kontakion of the Appearance of the Cross Tone 4
The holy Cross which opened the closed heavens has appeared from thence and shone upon the earth. / As we receive the glory of its power we are led to the unfading Light. / We have it in wars as an unfading trophy, Thy weapon of peace.
Another Kontakion of the Precious Cross Tone 8
O thrice-blessed and worshipful Cross of Christ,/ all we faithful venerate and magnify thee, and we rejoice at thy manifestation./ As the trophy and unconquered weapon that thou art,/ protect, cover and shelter by thy grace those who cry to thee:/ Rejoice, O Wood most blessed.
Kontakion of St Acacios Tone 2
Let us fittingly acclaim the godly witness and victor over the devil./ Let us call him blessed as we pray:/ Cease not to entreat the Saviour, O Acacios,/ that thy servants may be saved;/ for thou hast great boldness before the Lord.
Kontakion of St Nil of Sora Tone 1
Beholding the blessings of Paradise and delighting in her beauties,/ thou didst bring forth fragrant fruits of God-enlightened understanding./ O chalice of divine compunction, Father Nil, pray to Christ that we thy disciples/ may rejoice eternally with thee.
Kontakion of St Pachomios the New Martyr Tone 4
Thou didst become illustrious on Athos by thine ascetic life and didst later excel in martyrdom./ For thou wast given wings by thy love for God,/ O divinely-wise Martyr, glorious Pachomios.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
"Never by our sole diligence or zeal nor by our most tireless efforts can we reach perfection. Human zeal is not enough to win the sublime rewards of blessedness. The Lord must be there to help and to guide our hearts toward what is good. Every moment we must join in the prayer of David: 'Direct my footsteps along Your paths so that my feet do not move astray' (Ps. 16:5) and 'He has settled my feet on a rock and guided my footsteps' (Ps. 39:3) - all this so that the invisible guide of the human spirit may direct back toward love of virtue our free will, which in its ignorance of the good and its obsession with passion is carried headlong into sin."
St. John Cassian
Conferences, Conf. Three sect. 12; Paulist Press pg.93
The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.
On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: "Haste thee, O God, to deliver me! Makes haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth (Psalm 88:8)," and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head; now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you the strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself, and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks.
"Way of the Ascetics," by Tito Colliander, San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1982, pp. 84-85
Imagination is a faculty of the unreasoning part of the soul. It is through the organs of sense that it is brought into action, and it is spoken of as sensation. And further, what is imagined and perceived is that which comes within the scope of the faculty of imagination and sensation. For example, the sense of sight is the visual faculty itself, but the object of sight is that which comes within the scope of the sense of sight, such as a stone or any other such object. Further, an imagination is an affection of the unreasoning part of the soul which is occasioned by some object acting upon the sensation. But an appearance is an empty affection of the unreasoning part of the soul, not occasioned by any object acting upon the sensation. Moreover the organ of imagination is the anterior ventricle of the brain.
St John Damascene
An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, BOOK II CHAPTER XVII,Concerning Imagination.
THE CALENDAR QUESTION AND THE PROPOSED COMMON CELEBRATION OF PASCHA BY THE ORTHODOX AND ROMAN CATHOLICS
*The question of the change in the Church’s Festal Calendar is not of general interest. Even among those concerned with religious matters, only a few are familiar with the reasons why the State (or “official ”) Church of Greece changed the calendar and accepted that of Pope Gregory XIII, under the deceptive appellation of the “Corrected Julian Calendar.”
Among those who have even the vaguest idea about this question, if one asks them why the change came about, they will answer that the Julian (Old) Calendar is faulty and loses days, and that, had the change not been implemented, why, in a short time we would have been celebrating the Feast of our Savior’s Nativity in the summer!
(It seems that such individuals have been influenced by Christmas cards, in which snow is presented as an indispensable element in the celebration of the Nativity, forgetting that our Orthodox brothers in Australia observe the Feast in the midst of the December heat, without this spoiling the celebration.) [We might also note, here, that the divergence between the Julian and Gregorian Calendars will increase by only three days through the twenty-fourth century and that, in fact, 24,000 years will have to elapse before the Nativity Feast will actually fall in the summer according to the Old Calendar—Editor’s note.] A few, more “learned” persons, when a discussion of the calendar change arises, come up with obscure notions about astrological theories. But do not persist in your questions, for you will ﬁnd that these same opinionated astronomers (who feign knowledge) do not even know the names of the planets in our solar system! Others, again, think that the calendar change is something that occurred in the past; an old dispute which is no longer of interest, except to the hardheaded “Old Calendarists”; and that this issue is irrelevant to the “canonical” life of the Church. All of these individuals are greatly deluded. The calendar question has Father Anthony Gavalas not been resolved. Not even those who implemented it in 1924, and brought about such confusion—even they have not yet accomplished their ultimate goal of reform. First, in order to understand how important this issue is, we should re-member that the so-called “Old” (in reality, “CHURCH”) Calendar and the Paschalion, or the formula for calculating the date of Pascha, were established by a decision and decree of the First Œcumenical Synod in 325 A.D. Present at this Synod were St. Constantine the Great, St. Nicholas, St. Spyridon, St. Athanasios—three hundred eighteen Holy Fathers in total. They were aware, even then, that there were deﬁciencies in the Julian Calendar, but they considered harmony among the Orthodox as a whole, and the expression of their unity in the Festal Calendar (the immovable Feasts) and the Paschalion, as well as the avoidance of concelebration with the heterodox, more important than astronomical exactitude. This unity came to be broken, after thirteen hundred years, by the heretical Pope Gregory and his own calendar, the Gregorian Calendar, which he tried to impose on the Orthodox Church also. However, the Orthodox Patriarchs of that time reacted against this innovation in Pan-Orthodox Councils convened in 1583, 1587, and 1593. These Councils found it insufﬁcient simply to condemn the Papal Calendar; rather, they also imposed an anathema on any who accepted it. These pronouncements have never been rescinded and continue to remain in force. The Papist Calendar and the Papal Paschalion, including all those who accept them, remain under the anathema of these Holy Councils, as well as under the anathema of the Seventh Œcumenical Synod, which condemned anyone who violates Holy Tradition, whether in written or unwritten form.
Everyone should be aware of the true reasons for the change in the Festal Calendar in 1924. It was based neither on fears of a summertime Nativity Feast nor on astrological misgivings—no! The reason for this change, which has occasioned such misfortune and division among the Orthodox people, which brought about a schism between traditionalist and modernist Orthodox, is to be found in the history of the greatest betrayal of the Orthodox people in the twentieth century: in the betrayal of ecumenism. Let us learn of this in the very writings of these traitors: in the infamous Encyclical of 1920, which was issued by the Œcumenical Patriarchate “To the Churches of Christ Everywhere.” This Encyclical is noteworthy, since for the ﬁrst time the various kinds of heresy and their offshoots are addressed as “Churches of Christ.” And by whom? By the Hierarchs of our venerable Œcumenical Patriarchate! This Encyclical lays the groundwork for the union of all of the “churches,” irrespective of what each one believes, and is the founding charter for the betrayal that is ecumenism. This Encyclical enumerates the measures that must be taken to accomplish the much-desired (for them) union of the "churches.” And what is the ﬁrst measure to which the Encyclical makes reference? Behold: “The adoption of a uniform calendar for the celebration of the great Feasts by all of the churches at the same time” (John Karmiris, Dogmatic and Creedal Monuments [in Greek], Vol. II, pp. 958-959). Did you read that carefully? Read it again. There is no reference to a loss of days. Nothing about a summertime Nativity Feast. Nothing about astronomical or chronological defects. The ENTIRE matter of the calendar change was, and is, that of the perﬁdious betrayal of the Orthodox people into the jaws of the beast of ecumenism! All of the other excuses put forth are for the naïve, for the simple-minded, who are thought incapable of grasping the “splendor” of the Masonically-inspired ecumenical movement. This step, that is, the calendar change, was delayed until the right time for its implementation. When? In 1924. In the midst of the confusion and uproar of the widespread devastation of Asia Minor, in the chaotic course of population exchanges, and during the dictatorship of Plastiras-Gonatas!
Truly, these wolf-shepherds, mercenaries of ecumenism, gave life to the old Greek proverb, “The wolf rejoices in tumult” [or, as the English aphorism expresses this same idea, “Make your move when times are troubled”—Editor’s note]. But their plan remains half-accomplished. Their charter dictates that all of the great Feasts should be celebrated by all Christians at the same time.
They succeeded only in the imposition of the Festal Calendar of the Pope. And though they wanted then to impose the Papal Paschalion, they did not accomplish this, except in Romania, for two years, which years, however, were stained by blood—the blood of the Orthodox who protested against this innovation. It was adopted by the Church of Finland for “pastoral reasons”; but most modernists are compelled to follow the CHURCH (Old) Calendar for the entire cycle of the Triodion (Great Lent) and the Pentecostarion. In other words, they follow two calendars! This is why we wrote in the beginning of this article that the calendar question has not been resolved. There remains the thorn in the side of the executors of the provisions of the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1920: the imposition of a new Paschalion, to complete their work!
For years, now, they have been debating how to realize this much-desired objective. They are aware of the consequences of the change in the Festal Calendar and do not want to create, in addition to Old Calendarists, “Old Paschalists”! Not that they pity the ﬂock! It is simply that they do not wish to appear politically inept to their arch-Masonic masters. And so it is that every so often we hear or read about the need to reform the Paschalion, especially when Orthodox Pascha is very late in comparison Volume XIV, Number 19 to Western Easter. The question has been a matter of “serious debate” on the agendas of the preconciliar gatherings held in preparation for the convocation of a so-called “Eighth Ecumenical Council.” And a number of solutions have been suggested. Indeed, some have suggested the adoption of the “corrected” Western calculation for Pascha, which does not take into consideration the date of the Jewish Passover. Others, more cunning, exploiting the weakness of the many Orthodox who, unfortunately, have “lost their Paschalia” [a Greek idiom; that is, have “lost their way” or “become befuddled”—Editor’s note] and live out the year without taking into account the natural rhythm of the ecclesiastical cycle, have proposed another solution: “A permanent, appointed Sunday, either in April or May, which will also be acceptable to the heterodox!” This solution, for many reasons, will appeal to worldly-minded “Christians,” but is equally a violation of Orthodox Tradition and the dictates of the First Œcumenical Synod. Brothers, conservative (pious) New Calendarists, I ask you: “What will you do in view of this new betrayal...?”
* Father Anthony Gavalas is Pastor of the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God , an Old Calendarist parish in Astoria, New York. The present article, translated from the Greek by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Father Anthony, originally appeared in the June, 1996, number of the Greek newspaper Homogeneia.10 Orthodox Tradition
BOILED WHEAT (KOLYVA)
The boiled wheat is offered because man is also a seed and like a fruit from the earth. Like a seed he is placed in the earth now, and he will be raised up and blossom forth again by God's power.
THIRD DAY SERVICE
The third day service is celebrated for the reason that the reposed one received his being through the Trinity, and having been translated, he hopes to be changed back to the ancient beauty in which man was first made before the fall, or one better [at the resurrection].
NINTH DAY SERVICE
The ninth day service is celebrated that his spirit may dwell together with the holy spirits, the angels, since it is immaterial as is their nature. They are ranked according to nine orders, and in three trinities they proclaim and praise God in Trinity.
40TH DAY SERVICE
The 40th day service is celebrated in the memory of the Savior's Ascension 40 days after His Resurrection and that the reposed one, when he is resurrected, may be taken up in the clouds to meet the Judge, our Savior and Master, and thus be with Him forever (1Thes. 4:17).
3RD, 6TH, 9TH, AND 12 MONTH SERVICES
The third, sixth, and ninth months are also celebrated--to proclaim the Trinity, the God of all and His glory, and on behalf of the deceased. For by the Trinity a man is fashioned, and when he is loosed from the body he returns to Him, and by the Trinity he hopes for the resurrection. And thus we also perform memorials at the end of the [first] year because we proclaim the Trinity, and the [12-month-] year is divided into four trinities. Additionally, the end of the year is celebrated because it is the consummation, and our God the Trinity is the Life of all and the cause of being, and He shall be the restoration of all and the renewal of human nature.
ANNUAL MEMORIAL SERVICES FOR THE DEAD
Each year [thereafter] the relatives observe the memorial of the departed to demonstrate that he lives and is immortal of soul and he shall be restored when the Creator raises up his body. And the offering of Boiled Wheat (Kolyva) bears witness that, as Christ died according to the flesh and was raised up and lives, thus, we too, as St. Paul says, "shall be raised up and
live in Him."
(Excerpts from On The End of Our Life, by St. Symeon of Thessaloniki)
St. Theophan the Recluse
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It is the children who bring their gift of praise so that the story may expose as unfounded any suspicion of insincerity, in the event that some deliberate evil-doer might say that the singers of praise offered their hymn to the Lord with some artifice and in order to curry favor. For the nature of babes knows not how to devise craftiness, or is it subject to the disease of flattery, but just as the grace of the Spirit sounds in them, so do they proclaim the miracle. Children offer their gift of praise so that they all may be taught in very deed that the grace of the Mystery is comprehended not by those who have a curious turn of mind and are shamelessly inquisitive, but that the knowledge of piety is revealed to those who approach it with an unaffected mind and thoughts unused to evil."
St. Photios the Great
[Homily on Palm Sunday]
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"If you see the fury and hear the howling of the tempest, or read of shipwrecks, think of the storm of human passions causing daily groans and disturbance in the hearts of men, wrecking the spiritual ship of the soul or the ship of human society; and pray fervently to the Lord that He may subdue the tempest of sins, as He once subdued the tempest at sea by His word, and that He may root our passions from our hearts, and re-establish in them unceasing tranquility."
St. John of Kronstadt
My Life in Christ: Part 2, Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 285
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
By the intercessions of Thine All-immaculate Mother and of all Thy Saints, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen
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Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
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HOLY MARTYR PELAGIA THE VIRGIN MARTYR OF ROME
ST SCANNEL, MONK
Thou didst abandon dark ignorance through knowledge of the Faith,/ O Pelagia, fair virgin of Christ./ Thou wast refreshed by His dew and didst finish thy contest by fire./ O glorious Martyr,/ entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.
Troparion of St Pelagia Tone 3
Troparion of St Scannel Tone 3
Sent by Colum Cille thou didst travel from Iona/ and spend thy life preaching Christ in pagan darkness./ As thou hast boldness before Christ in heavenly glory/, O Father Scannel,/ entreat Him that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion of St Pelagia Tone 2
Abandoning thy mortal betrothed/ to be wedded to the Immortal,/ thou didst offer thy dowry of chastity and contest./ Wherefore, O Pelagia, we acclaim thee.
Verses 17--22. "And He came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh, for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner-stone. In whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit."
He sent not, saith the Apostle, by the hand of another, nor did He announce these tidings to us by means of any other, but Himself did it in His own person. He sent not Angel nor Archangel on the mission, because to repair so many and vast mischiefs and to declare what had been wrought was in the power of none other, but required His own coming. The Lord then took upon Himself the rank of a servant, nay, almost of a minister, "and came, and preached peace to you," saith he, "that were far off, and to them that were nigh." To the Jews, he means, who as compared with ourselves were nigh. "For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father."
"Peace," saith he, that "peace" which is towards God. He hath reconciled us. For the Lord Himself also saith, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you." And again, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." And again, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do." And again, "For the Father loveth you." These are so many evidences of peace. But how towards the Gentiles? "Because through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father," not ye less, and they more, but all by one and the same grace. The wrath He appeased by His death, and hath made us meet for the Father's love through the Spirit. Mark again, the "in" means "by" or "through." By Himself and the Spirit that is, He hath brought us unto the Father. "So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow-citizens with the saints."
Perceive ye that it is not with the Jews simply, no, but with those saintly and great men, such as Abraham, and Moses, and Elias? It is for the self-same city with these we are enrolled, for that we declare ourselves. "For they that say such things," saith he, "make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own." No longer are we strangers from the saints, nor foreigners. For they who shall not attain to heavenly blessings, are foreigners. "For the Son," saith Christ, "abideth for ever."
"And of the household," he continues, "of God."
The very thing which they at the first had, by means of so many toils and troubles, hath been for you accomplished by the grace of God. Behold the hope of your calling.
"Being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets."
Observe how he blends all together, the Gentiles, the Jews, the Apostles, the Prophets, and Christ, and illustrates the union sometimes from the body, and sometimes from the building: "built," saith he, "upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets;" that is, the Apostles and Prophets are a foundation, and he places the Apostles first, though they are in order of time last, doubtless to represent and express this, that both the one and the other are alike a foundation, and that the whole is one building, and that there is one root. Consider, that the Gentiles have the Patriachs as a foundation. He here speaks more strongly of that point than he does when he speaks of a "grafting in." There he rather attaches them on. Then he adds, that He who binds the whole together in Christ. For the chief corner-stone binds together both the walls, and the foundations. "In whom each several building."
Mark, how he knits it all together, and represents Him at one time, as holding down the whole body from above, and welding it together; at another time, as supporting the building from below, and being, as it were, a root, or base. And whereas he had used the expression, "He created in Himself of the twain one new man;" by this he clearly shows us, that by Himself Christ knits together the two walls: and again, that in Him it was created. And "He is the first-born," saith he, "of all creation," that is, He Himself supports all things.
"In whom each several building, fitly framed together."
Whether you speak of the roof, or of the walls, or of any other part whatsoever, He it is supports the whole. Thus he elsewhere calls Him a foundation. "For other foundations," saith he, "can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." "In whom each several building," he saith, "fitly framed together." Here he displays the perfectness of it, and indicates that one cannot otherwise have place in it, unless by living with great exactness. "It groweth saith he into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also," he adds, "are builded together." He is speaking continuously: "Into a holy temple, for a habitation of God in the Spirit." What then is the object of this building? It is that God may dwell in this temple. For each of you severally is a temple, and all of you together are a temple. And He dwelleth in you as in the body of Christ, and as in a Spiritual temple. He does not use the word which means our coming to God, (
He joins them with the Saints and again returns to his former image, nowhere suffering them to be disunited from Christ. Doubtless then, this is a building that shall go on until His coming. Doubtlesss it was for this reason that Paul said, "As a wise master builder, I laid a foundation." And again that Christ is the foundation. What then means all this? You observe that the comparisons have all referred to the subject-matters, and that we must not expound them to the very letter. The Apostle speaks from analogy as Christ does, where He calls the Father an husbandman, and Himself a root.
Chap. iii. ver. 1. "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles."
He has mentioned Christ's great and affectionate care; he now passes on to his own, insignificant indeed as it is, and a very nothing in comparison with that, and yet this is enough to engage them to himself. For this cause, saith he, am I also bound. For if my Lord was crucified for your sakes, much more am I bound. He not only was bound Himself, but allows His servants to be bound also,--"for you Gentiles." It is full of emphasis; not only do we no longer loathe you, but we are even bound, saith he, for your sakes, and of this exceeding grace am I partaker.
Ver. 2. "If so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God, which was given me to you-ward."
He alludes to the prediction addressed to Ananias concerning him at Damascus, when the Lord said, "Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and Kings."
By "dispensation of grace," he means the revelation made to him. As much as to say, "I learned it not from man. He vouchsafed to reveal it even to me, though but an individual for your sakes. For Himself said unto me, saith he, "Depart, for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles." "If so be that ye have heard" for a dispensation it was, a mighty one; to call one, uninfluenced from any other quarter, immediately from above, and to say, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" and to strike him blind with that ineffable light! "if so be that ye have heard saith he, "of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward."
Ver. 3. "How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words."
Perhaps he had informed them of it by some persons, or had not long before been writing to them. Here he is pointing out that the whole is of God, that we have contributed nothing. For what? I ask, was not Paul himself, the wonderful, he that was so versed in the law, he that was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel according to the most perfect manner, was not he saved by grace? With good reason too does he call this a mystery, for a mystery it is, to raise the Gentiles in a moment to a higher rank than the Jews. "As I wrote afore," saith he, "in few words," i.e., briefly,
Ver. 4. "Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive."
Amazing! So then he wrote not the whole, nor so much as he should have written. But here the nature of the subject prevented it. Elsewhere, as in the case of the Hebrews and the Corinthians, the incapacity of the hearers. "Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive," saith he, "my understanding in the mystery of Christ," i.e., how I knew, how I understood either such things as God hath spoken, or else, that Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and then too the dignity, in that God "hath not dealt so with any nation." And then to explain what nation this is with whom God hath thus dealt, he adds,
Ver. 5. "Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit."
What then, tell me, did not the Prophets know it? How then doth Christ say, that Moses and the Prophets wrote "these things concerning Me?" And again, "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me." And again, "Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life, and these are they which bear witness of me." His meaning is this, either that it was not revealed unto all men, for he adds, "which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed;" or else, that it was not thus made known by the very facts and realities themselves, "as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit." For reflect. Peter, had he not been instructed by the Spirit, never would have gone to the Gentiles. For hear what he says, "Then hath God given unto them the Holy Ghost, as well as unto us." That it was by the Spirit that God chose that they should receive the grace. The Prophets then spoke, yet they knew it not thus perfectly; so far from it, that not even did the Apostles, after they had heard it. So far did it surpass all human calculation, and the common expectation.
Ver. 6. "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body and fellow partakers."
What is this; "fellow-heirs, and fellow-partakers of the promise, and fellow-members of the body?" This last is the great thing, that they should be one body; this exceeding closeness of relation to Him. For that they were to be called indeed, that they knew, but that it was so great, as yet they knew not. This therefore he calls the mystery. "Of the promise." The Israelites were partakers, and the Gentiles also were fellow-partakers of the promise of God.
"In Christ Jesus through the Gospel."
That is, by His being sent unto them also, and by their believing; for it is not said they are fellow-heirs simply, but "through the Gospel." However, this indeed, is nothing so great, it is in fact a small thing, and it discloses to us another and greater thing, that not only men knew not this, but that neither Angels nor Archangels, nor any other created power, knew it. For it was a mystery, and was not revealed. "That ye can perceive," he saith, "my understanding." This alludes, perhaps, to what he said to them in the Acts, that he had some knowledge that the Gentiles also were called. This, he says, is his own knowledge, "the knowledge of the mystery," which he had mentioned, viz., "that Christ will in Himself make of the twain one new man." For by revelation he was instructed, both he and Peter, that they must not spurn the Gentiles; and this he states in his defence.
Ver. 7. "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of His power."
He had said, "I am a prisoner;" but now again he says, that all is of God, as he says, "according to the gift of His grace;" for according to the power of the gift is the dignity of this privilege. But the gift would not have been enough, had it not also implanted in him power.
Moral. For a work indeed it was of power, of mighty power, and such as no human diligence was equal to. For he brought three qualifications to the preaching of the word, a zeal fervent and venturous, a soul ready to undergo any possible hardship, and knowledge and wisdom combined. For his love of enterprise, his blamelessness of life, had availed nothing, had he not also received the power of the Spirit. And look at it as seen first in himself, or rather hear his own words. "That our ministration be not blamed." And again, "For our exhortation, is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, nor a cloke of covetousness." Thus thou hast seen his blamelessness. And again, "For we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." Then again, besides these; "I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." And again; "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution?" And again; "In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in watchings." Then again, his prudence and management; "To the Jews I became as a Jew, to them that are without law as without law, to them that are under the law as under the law." He shaves his head also, and does numberless things of the sort. But the crown of all is in the power of the Holy Ghost. "For I will not dare to speak," saith he, "of any things save those which Christ wrought through me." And again, "For what is there wherein you were made inferior to the rest of the Churches?" And again, "For in nothing was I behind the very chiefest Apostles though I am nothing." Without these things, the work had been impossible.
It was not then by his miracles that men were made believers; no, it was not the miracles that did this, nor was it upon the ground of these that he claimed his high pretension, but upon those other grounds. For a man must be alike irreproachable in conduct, prudent and discreet in his dealings with others, regardless of danger, and apt to teach. It was by these qualifications that the greater part of his success was achieved. Where there were these, there was no need of miracles. At least we see he was successful in numberless such cases, quite antecedently to the use of miracles. But, now-a-days, we without any of these would fain command all things. Yet if one of them be separated from the other, it henceforth becomes useless. What is the advantage of a man's being ever so regardless of danger, if his life be open to censure. "For if the light that is in thee be darkness," saith Christ, "how great is that darkness?" Again, what the advantage of a man's being of an irreproachable life, if he is sluggish and indolent? "For, he that doth not take his cross, and follow after Me," saith He, "is not worthy of Me;" and so, "The good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep." Again, what is the advantage of being both these, unless a man is at the same time prudent and discreet in "knowing how he ought to answer each one?" Even if miracles be not in our power, yet both these qualities are in our power. Still however, notwithstanding Paul contributed so much from himself, yet did he attribute all to grace. This is the act of a grateful servant. And we should never so much as have heard of his good deeds, had he not been brought to a necessity of declaring them.
And are we worthy then so much as even to mention the name of Paul? He, who had moreover grace to aid him, yet was not satisfied, but contributed to the work ten thousand perils; whilst we, who are destitute of that source of confidence, whence, tell me, do we expect either to preserve those who are committed to our charge, or to gain those who are not come to the fold;--men, as we are, who have been making a study of self-indulgence, who are searching the world over for ease, and who are unable, or rather who are unwilling, to endure even the very shadow of danger, and are as far distant from his wisdom as heaven is from earth? Hence it is too that they who are under us are at so great a distance behind the men of those days; because the disciples of those days were better than the teachers of these, isolated as they were in the midst of the populace, and of tyrants, and having all men on all sides their enemies, and yet not in the slightest degree dragged down or yielding. Hear at least what he saith to the Philippians, "Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in his behalf." And again to the Thessalonians, "For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judæa." And again in writing to the Hebrews he said, "And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions." And to the Colossians he testifies, saying, "For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." And indeed to these very Ephesians he bears witness of many perils and dangers. And again in writing to the Galatians, he says, "Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain." And you see them too, all employed in doing good. Hence it was that both grace wrought effectually in those days, hence also that they lived in good works. Hear, moreover, what he writes to the Corinthians, against whom he brings charges out of number; yet does he not bear even them record, where he says, "Yea, what zeal it wrought in you, yea, what longing!" And again, in how many points does he bear them record on this subject? These things one shall not see now-a-days, even in teachers. They are all gone and perished. And the cause is, that love hath waxed cold, that sinners go unpunished; (for hear what he says writing to Timothy, "Them that sin, reprove in the sight of all;") it is that the rulers are in a sickly state; for if the head be not sound, how can the rest of the body maintain its vigor? But mark how great is the present disorder. They, who were living virtuously, and who under any circumstance might have confidence, have taken possession of the tops of the mountains, and have escaped out of the world, separating themselves as from an enemy and an alien and not from a body to which they belonged.
Plagues too, teeming with untold mischiefs, have lighted upon the Churches. The chief offices have become saleable. Hence numberless evils are springing, and there is no one to redress, no one to reprove them. Nay, the disorder has assumed a sort of method and consistency. Has a man done wrong, and been arraigned for it? His effort is not to prove himself guiltless, but to find if possible accomplices in his crimes. What is to become of us? since hell is our threatened portion. Believe me, had not God stored up punishment for us there, ye would see every day tragedies deeper than the disasters of the Jews. What then? however let no one take offence, for I mention no names; suppose some one were to come into this church to present you that are here at this moment, those that are now with me, and to make inquisition of them; or rather not now, but suppose on Easter day any one, endued with such a spirit, as to have a thorough knowledge of the things they had been doing, should narrowly examine all that came to Communion, and were being washed [in Baptism] after they had attended the mysteries; many things would be discovered more shocking than the Jewish horrors. He would find persons who practise augury, who make use of charms, and omens and incantations, and who have committed fornication, adulterers, drunkards, and revilers,--covetous, I am unwilling to add, lest I should hurt the feelings of any of those who are standing here. What more? Suppose any one should make scrutiny into all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? and what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? making traffic of high places? envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous, and slaves to money?
Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity must we not expect? And to be assured how sore vengeance they incur who are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were smitten. Ye know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Acham the son of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil. The time too when the Prophet spoke, was a time when their country was full of soothsayers, like that of the Philistines. Whereas now there are evils out of number at the full, and not one fears. Oh, henceforth let us take the alarm. God is accustomed to punish the righteous also with the wicked; such was the case with Daniel, and with the three holy Children, such has been the case with ten thousand others, such is the case in the wars that are taking place even at the present day. For the one indeed, whatever burden of sins they have upon them, by this means lay aside even that; but not so the other.
On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do ye not see these wars? Do ye not hear of these disasters? Do ye learn no lesson from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed, and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.
If hell bring us not to our senses, yet let these things. What, are these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place? Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate. Is this discourse wearing? I am aware it is myself, but if we attend to it, it has its advantage; because this it has not, the quality of an address to please,--nay more, nor ever shall have, but ever those topics which may avail to humble and to chasten the soul. For these will be to us the ground-work of those blessings to come hereafter, to which God grant that we may all attain, in Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost be glory and might and honor, now and henceforth, and forever and ever. Amen.
CHAPTER III. VERSES 8--11.
Verses 8--11. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from all ages hath been hid in God, who created all things: to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose, which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
They who go to the physician's have not merely to go there and nothing further; they have to learn how to treat themselves, and to apply remedies. And so with us then who come here, we must not do this and nothing else, we must learn our lesson, the surpassing lowliness of Paul. What? when he was about to speak of the vastness of the grace of God, hear what he saith, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given." Lowliness indeed it was even to bewail his former sins, although blotted out, and to make mention of them, and to hold himself within his true measure as where he calls himself "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious;" yet nothing was equal to this: for "formerly," saith he, such was I; and again he calls himself, "one born out of due time."But that after so many great and good deeds and at that time he should thus humble himself, and call himself "less than the least of all," this is indeed great and surpassing moderation. "To one who am less than the least of all saints; "he saith not, "than the Apostles." So that that expression is less strong than this before us. There his words are, "I am not meet to be called an Apostle." Here he says that he is even "less than the least of all saints;" "to me," saith he, "who am less than the least of all saints was this grace given." What grace? "To preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from all ages hath been hid in God, who created all things, to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God." True, to man it was not revealed; and art thou enlightening Angels and Archangels and Principalities and Powers? I am, saith he. For it was "hid in God," even "in God who created all things." And dost thou venture to utter this? I do, saith he. But whence hath this been made manifest to the Angels? By the Church. Again he saith, not merely the manifold (
Paul himself was sent to the Gentiles, the other Apostles to the Circumsion. So that the more marvellous and astonishing commission was given, saith he, "to me, who am less than the least." And this too was of grace, that he that was least should have the greatest things entrusted to him; that he should be made the herald of these tidings. For he that is made a herald of the greater tidings, is in this way great.
"To preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
If His "riches are unsearchable," and that too after his appearing, much more is His essence. If it is still a mystery, much more was it before it was made known; for a mystery he calls it on this. account, because neither did the Angels know it, nor was it manifest to any one else.
"And to make all men see,." saith he, "what is the dispensation of the mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God, who created all things."
Angels knew only this, that "The Lord's portion was His people." And again it is said, "The Prince of Persia withstood me." So that it is nothing to be wondered at that they were ignorant of this; for if they were ignorant of the circumstances of the return from the Captivity, much more would they be of these things. For this is the gospel. "It is He that shall save," it saith, "His people." Not a word about the Gentiles. But what concerns the Gentiles the Spirit revealeth. That they were called indeed, the Angels knew, but that it was to the same privileges as Israel, yea, even to sit upon the throne of God, this, who would ever have expected? who would ever have believed?
"Which hath been hid," saith he, "in God. "
This "dispensation," however, he more clearly unfolds in the Epistle to the Romans. "In God," he continues, "who created all things by Jesus Christ." And he does well to say "by Jesus Christ;" forasmuch as He who created all things by Him, revealeth also this by Him; for He hath made nothing without Him; for "without Him," it is said, "was not any thing made."
In speaking of "principalities" and "powers," he speaks both of those above and those beneath.
"According to the eternal purpose." It hath been now, he means, brought to pass, but not now decreed, it had been planned beforehand from the very first. "According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." That is, according to the eternal foreknowledge; foreknowing the things to come, i. e., he means the ages to come; for He knew what was to be, and thus decreed it. According to the purpose of the ages, of those, perhaps, which He hath made by Christ Jesus, because it was by Christ that every thing was made.
EXCERPTS FROM THE HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE EPHESIANS, HOMILY VI & VII.