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Thursday, April 7, 2011

From Elder Ephraim of Katounakia


"I was making some prostrations once, when the following thought occurred to me: “Where you kneel and make prostrations, there the feet of Christ are”. I instantly fell to the floor and started kissing the ground where Christ had stepped. I literally kissed it. These things come by themselves, you cannot provoke them. This is grace, my brother."

"Everyone has a cross to carry. Why? Since the leader of our faith endured the cross, we will also endure it. On one hand, the cross is sweet and light, but, on the other, it can also be bitter and heavy. It depends on our will. If you bear Christ’s cross with love then it will be very light; like a sponge or a cork. But if you have a negative attitude, it becomes heavy; too heavy to lift."

"I do not blame you for committing various sins, even serious ones. No, I don’t. You are human. But I do blame you for not confessing them. Did you fall? Run to your spiritual father. Did you fall? Confess everything to your spiritual father. Remember St. Mary of Egypt? The very first thing she did was to confess her sins."

"There was a young girl who went to St. Nektarios’ monastery in order to become a nun. While she was still a novice St. Nektarios said to her: “My child, we have about ten sheep. Take them to the field to pasture.” “Let it be blessed”, she said. After a couple of days, she went to confess her thought: “Elder”, she said, “a thought is disturbing me. I am here to become a nun, not a shepherd.” “My dear child”, he replied, “whenever I cense in the church I see you standing there in service.’ Although the young nun may have been a shepherd (she spent many hours out of the monastery), her mind was on the Jesus prayer; her thought was in the church and therefore St. Nektarios could see her there."

"Once at a monastery, the priest was censing during the service, and bypassed a father without censing him. Afterwards, the father asked the priest: “Father, why didn’t you cense me?” “Forgive me, elder, I did not see you at the service.” “But, father, I was standing right there in the service”, he said. “No, I did not see you.” When the others listened to their dispute, they said to the elder, “Elder, the priest is insightful; he knows what he is saying.” The father thought for a moment… “Well, the priest is right,’ he admitted, “my mind was wandering all over the place.” The cause behind this was his distracted mind.

“Having a peaceful and serene mind depends entirely on you. It does not depend on temptations or your fellow struggler’s behavior. You yourself will be responsible for your salvation. When you long for your salvation and struggle hard, then the outcome will be according to your wish.
“I myself do not make sure that I pray; I only make sure than I am obedient.”
Man should struggle as long as he lives. His first fight is against his own self upon which he must prevail. Man’s main enemy is not the devil. It is man himself who is a threat to his own self, for he does
not listen to others; he only listens to his own thoughts… our ego rules us."


Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38

The Holy Annunciation to the Most-Holy Theotokos (14th Century Mosaic from the Katholikon of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos )

The Birth of Jesus Foretold
 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called [a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. 

a. Luke 1:35 Or So the child to be born will be called holy

Sermon on the Annunciation - Saint Proklos, Patriarch of Constantinople

The Annunciation - Icon in the Monastery of St. Catherine
The Annunciation - The Icons of the Monastery of St. Catherin, Sinai 

Our present gathering in honor of the Most Holy Virgin inspires me, brethren, to offer Her a word of praise, of benefit also for those who have come to this holy celebration. It is a praise of women, a glorification of their gender, which (glory) She brings to it, She Who is both Mother and Virgin at the same time.

O desired and wondrous gathering! O nature, celebrate that whereby honor is rendered to Woman; rejoice, O human race, that in which the Virgin is glorified. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom 5:20). The Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary has gathered us here. She is the pure treasure of virginity, the intended paradise of Second Adam, the place where the union of natures (divine and human) was accomplished, and the Counsel of salvific reconciliation was affirmed.
Who has ever seen, who has ever heard, that the Limitless God would dwell within a womb? He Whom the Heavens cannot circumscribe is not limited by the womb of a Virgin!

He Who is born of woman is not just God and He is not just Man. He Who is born has made woman, the ancient gateway of sin, the gateway of salvation. Where evil poured forth its poison, bringing on disobedience, there the Word made a living temple for Himself, bringing obedience there. From the place where the archsinner Cain sprang forth, there Christ the Redeemer of the human race was born without seed. The Lover of Mankind did not disdain to be born of woman, since She gave Him life (in His human nature). He was not subject to impurity by being in the womb which He Himself arrayed free from all harm. If this Mother had not remained a Virgin, then the Child born of Her might be a mere man, and the birth would not be miraculous in any way. Since She remained a Virgin after giving birth, then how is He Who is born not God? It is an inexplicable mystery, for He Who passed through locked doors without hindrance was born in an inexplicable manner. Thomas cried out, "My Lord, and my God!" (Jn 20:28), thus confessing the union of two natures in Him.

The Apostle Paul says that Christ is "to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor 1:23): they did not perceive the power of the mystery, since it was incomprehensible to their minds: "for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor 2:8). If the Word had not settled within the womb, then the flesh would not have ascended onto the Divine Throne with Him. If it were disdainful for God to enter the womb which He created, then the angels also would have disdained service to mankind.

He, Who in His (divine) nature was not subject to sufferings, through His love for us subjected Himself to many sufferings. We believe that Christ was not made God by some gradual ascent toward the divine nature, but being God, He was made Man through His mercy. We do not say, "a man was made God," but we confess that God was incarnate and made Man.

He Who, in His essence did not have a mother chose His servant as Mother; and He Who appeared on earth in the image of man, does not have an earthly father. How is He both without a father, and without a mother, according to the words of the Apostle (Heb 7:3)? If He is only a man, then He cannot be without a mother, but actually He had a Mother. If He is only God, then He cannot be without a Father, but He has the Father. Yet as God the Creator, He has no mother, and as Man, He has no father.

We can be persuaded of this by the very name of the Archangel who spoke to Mary: his name is Gabriel. What does this name mean? It means "man of God." Since He Whom Gabriel announced is God and Man, then his very name points to this miracle beforehand, so that this act of Divine dispensation is accepted with faith.

It would be impossible for a mere man to save people, for every man has need of the Savior: "for all have sinned," says St. Paul, "and come short of the Glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Since sin subjects the sinner to the power of the devil, and the devil subjects him to death, then our condition became extremely desparate: there was no way to be delivered from death. Physicians were sent, i.e. the prophets, but they could only point out the malady more clearly. What did they do? When they saw that the illness was beyond human skill, they summoned the Physician from Heaven. One of them said, "Lord, bow Thy heavens, and come down" (Ps 143/144:5); others cried out, "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed" (Jer 17:14); "Turn us, O God, and cause Thy face to shine; and we shall be delivered" (Ps 79/80:3).

Still others said, "But will God truly dwell with man upon the earth?" (3/1 Kgs 8:27); "let Thy tender mercies go before us, O Lord, for we are greatly impoverished" (Ps 78/79:8). Others said, "Alas, my soul! For the godly have perished from the earth; and there is none among men who orders his way aright" (Mich 7:2). "Draw near, O God, to my help" (Ps 69/70:1). "Though He should tarry, wait for Him; for He will surely come, and will not tarry" (Hab 2:3). "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant; for I have not forgotten Thy commandments" (Ps 118/119:176). "God our God will come manifestly, and shall not keep silence" (Ps. 49/50:3).

He, Who by nature is Lord, did not disdain human nature enslaved by the sinister power of the devil. The merciful God would not allow it to be under the power of the devil forever, the Ever-Existing One came and gave His Blood in ransom. To redeem the race of man from death He gave up His Body, which He had accepted from the Virgin. He delivered the world from the curse of the law, annihilating death by His death. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law," says St. Paul (Gal 3:13).

Know then that our Redeemer is not simply a mere man, since the whole human race was enslaved to sin. But neither is He just God, Who does not partake of human nature. He had a body, for if He had not clothed Himself in me, then neither would He have saved me. But, having settled in the womb of the Virgin, He clothed Himself in my fate, and within this womb He effected a miraculous change: He bestowed the Spirit and received a body.

And so, Who is made manifest to us? The Prophet David shows you by these words: "Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord" (Ps 117/118:26). But tell us even more clearly, O prophet, Who is He? The Lord is the God of Hosts, says the prophet: "God is the Lord, and has revealed Himself unto us" (Ps 117/118:27). "The Word was made flesh" (Jn 1:14): there the two natures were united, and the union remained without mingling.

He came to save, but had also to suffer. What has the one in common with the other? A mere man cannot save; and God cannot suffer in His nature. By what means was the one and the other done? He, Emmanuel, being God, was made also Man. He saved by that which He was (God), and He suffered as that which He became (Man).

Therefore, when the Church saw that the Jewish throng had crowned Him with thorns, bewailing the violence of the throng, it said: "Go forth, ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, and the crown with which he is crowned by His mother" (Song 3:11). He wore the crown of thorns and destroyed the judgement of suffering from the thorns.

He alone is both in the bosom of the Father and in the womb of the Virgin; He alone is in the arms of His Mother and rides on the wings of the winds (Ps. 103/104:3). He, before Whom the angels bow down in worship, also reclined at table with publicans. The Seraphim dared not gaze upon Him, yet Pilate pronounced sentence upon Him. He Who the servant smote is also the one before Whom all creation trembles. He was nailed to the Cross, and ascended to the Throne of Glory. He was placed in the tomb, and He stretched out the heavens like a curtain (Ps. 103/104:2). He was numbered among the dead, and He emptied Hell. Here on earth, they cursed Him as a transgressor; there in Heaven, they glorified Him as the All-Holy.

What an incomprehensible mystery! I see the miracles, and I confess that He is God. I see the sufferings, and I cannot deny that He is Man. Emmanuel opened the doors of nature as man, and as God He preserved the seal of virginity intact. He emerged from the womb at birth the same way He entered through the Annunciation. Wondrously was He both conceived and born: He entered without passion, and He emerged without impairment.

As the Prophet Ezekiel says concerning this: "He brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary that looks eastward: and it was shut. And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no one shall pass through it; for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it, and it shall be shut" (Ez 44:1-2). Here the Holy Virgin and Mother of God is clearly indicated. Let all contention cease, and let the Holy Scripture enlighten our reason, so that we too may receive the Heavenly Kingdom unto all eternity. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Letters of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi - 1


My dearest child, I send you my fatherly embrace.

I am pleased because you seem to sense my spiritual affection and love, so that you feel some comfort. I remain with you in spirit and I follow all your movements. I was so moved by the manifestation of your own affection that, if I could, I would come to see you in person, if even for a short while. But this affection is not the result of my own doing, since I am unworthy and insignificant, but of both your own faith and purity and that of my beloved son, who quietly fulfills all the conditions and rules of respect and obedience.

My daughter, my delight, do not be shaken by the events which happen around us, the so-called peirasmoi (trials, temptations), since there is no practical Christianity without them. You must learn that our lives are like a sphere which continuously turns round. In its path we find all the obstacles, and we, like students during exams, are called to the struggle. The sphere turns round and, therefore, we are waiting to see what the first manifestation will be, and then the next. 

If we are prepared for this game, just this discipline will open the way for the triumph, or at least it will minimize the impact of the clash. This is the chapter of the Sayings of the Fathers which they have entitled “If you wish to take your brother’s fault upon yourself, be ready to face temptation until your last breath”.

Nothing more and nothing less is going to happen except for that which our Christ orders for each one of us for our training and our benefit; the burden becomes greater only if we grumble. The person who believes in God must continuously struggle when various temptations strike, in order to convince all people, both the righteous and the unrighteous, that “he truly loves God and rightly detests the devil”. The only difference is that one day he will finally succeed.

The struggle, however, will last for the rest of our lives. The fact that the struggle continues is not a defeat, my dearest child, but an indication of one’s willingness to struggle. God’s Grace does not take away the struggle and the battle, so that the contestant may be glorified and exalted. Don’t you see how harshly our fathers have been tempted and struggled, beyond causes and reasons, even though they had been most pure in their intentions and their minds?

Every member of the Church is obliged to live for others as well, whether they are present or yet to come. Therefore, his conduct serves as a motive and example to future generations and he becomes a clear witness to them about our Church: that it is possible to practice Christianity, and that our Jesus is not just someone ”in those days”, but He is the same today and always.

As for us, our “adventures” have increased but unfortunately our commitments are never ending. In about a month we have the ordination of Fr Thomas to the diaconate in the main church of our Skete, and we must also complete the restoration of our buildings etc., etc., without end. However, we are used to being patient. Besides, we are now also realizing a palpable economic stability, thanks be to God.

So, even though you may accept me as foolish, being yourselves wise in all things, allow me to express my affection and love to my true children, whom , though Christ, I love so much.
Humbly, Elder Joseph

Elder Joseph on Temptation

Like a stammering infant, man seeks from God His holy will. And God, as an extremely good Father, gives him grace, but He also gives him temptations. If man endures the temptations without grumbling, he receives additional grace. The more grace he receives, the more temptations he will have. When demons approach to begin a battle, they do not attack in a place where you will defeat them effortlessly, but rather they test to see where your weakness is. The place where you least expect them is where they dig through the wall of the fortress….

Do you seek grace from God? Instead of grace, He allows a temptation. Are you unable to withstand the battle and do you fall? Then you are not given any additional grace. Do you seek it again? Again temptation. Again defeat? Again deprivation. This happens jyour whole life. Therefore, you must emerge victorious. Endure the temptation till death. Fall down like a casualty in battle; cry out like a paralytic on the ground, “I will never leave Thee, sweetest Jesus, nor forsake Thee! I will remain inseparable from Thee until the end of time, and I will die in the arena for Thy love.” Then suddenly, He appears in the arena and calls out from the whirlwind like He did to Job, “I am here! Gird up thy loins like a man and follow Me “(Job 38: 1-3.) And you reply full of joy and light, “Woe, to me the wretch….I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and reckon myself dust and ashes”(Job 42:6.) (Monastic Wisdom, pg. 82.)

Elder Emilianos on Love for Christ

I remember once when I had gone to the Holy Mountain, in a spot thickly planted with trees, I saw in the distance an ascetic who was chanting as he walked along a path. And from time to time, while he chanted, he would stop, bow down, make a prostration, and continue on his way. Who, I wondered, was he worshiping? I hurried through the trees, went up to him, and stopped him.

“Elder, who is that you are worshiping on the road?”
“But, my child, don’t you see him?”
“Christ. At least, if you don’t see him, surely you feel that He is
standing right in front of you?”

My dear friends, there was a time when people’s eyes filled with tears, and their hearts burst into flame, whenever they uttered or heard the Name of Christ. They fell to their knees. And why do we, my God, why do we think so little of you, [O Lord;] why are we so little moved by you? Why do we so rarely feel any desire for you [O Lord]? Because “where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”

Do you want to know how much your life costs, how much its worth? Its value is equal to your thirst for Christ; as much as your heart belongs to Christ, that’s how much its worth.

Elder Emilianos on the Heart

geron-aimilianos 05
1973, Simonopetra. Geronda Emilianos with Efrem Filotheitul
The arena is in the heart. It is here that God must come, so that He and I can draw closer to each other, become acquainted, love each other, talk about things, and finally be united… the arena is here precisely because this is where the obstacles are: my ignorance and my heedlessness – the fact that I don’t even remember God in my daily life. And even when I cried out and said, “My God, my God,” I really wasn’t calling upon God, but was interested only in myself. Interested in wanting to pray, because that’s what the Gospel says, or because that’s what my Elder told me, or because its something that I’m supposed to do, or because I had this need, or that desire. That was ignorance and heedlessness, and we still don’t know what those two things mean. My ignorance and heedlessness cast a shadow over God. I don’t remember Him, I don’t know Him. Why? Because He is hidden behind my passions. We’ve been separated! I’ve been locked out of Paradise, and can no longer eat from the Tree of Life, and unite myself to it, in order to regain life. “In that day that you eat of the Tree,” He says, “you will die” (Gen 2:17.) And He shuts mankind out of Paradise. Why? For on the day we eat again of the Tree of Life, we shall be restored to Life. Paradise is still closed to us, because “the Kingdom of heaven is within us”(Luke 17:21.) That which is closed off is inside us. It’s, closed off by the cherubim. What cherubim? The passions which keep my heart closed off from God. That’s what it means. (Counsels…. pg. 28, 12.)


Monday, April 4, 2011

St. John Climacus on Fasting

"To fast is to do violence to nature.  It is to do away with whatever pleases the palate.  Fasting ends lust, roots out bad thoughts, frees one from evil dreams.  Fasting makes for purity of prayer, an enlightened soul, a watchful mind, a deliverance from blindness.  Fasting is the door of compunction, humble sighing, joyful contrition, an end to chatter, an occasion for silence, a custodian of obedience, a lightening of sleep, health of the body, an agent of dispassion, a remission of sins, the gate, indeed, the delight of Paradise."

"A silly person feels hurt when accused or shouted at. He tries to answer back or else at once apologizes to his accuser, not for reasons of humility but to put a stop to his reproaches. In fact you should be silent when ridiculted. Accept patiently these spiritual cauterizations, or rather, purifying flames. And when the doctor has done his work, ask him to forgive you, for he may not accept your apology when he is angry.
Those of us who live in community must fight by the hour against all the passions and especially against these two: a mania for gluttony and bad temper. There is plenty of food for these passions in a community."

 -  St. John Climacus

Stamatis Spanoudakis Byzantine

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent: Feast of our Righteous Father John (Climacus) of Sinai


Saint John Climacus was probably born in the second half of the sixth century; but his country and origins are alike unknown because, from the beginning of his renunciation of the world, he took great care to live as a stranger upon earth. “Exile,” he wrote, “is a separation from everything, in order that one may hold on totally to God.” We only know that, from the age of sixteen, after having received a solid intellectual formation, he renounced all the pleasures of this vain life for love of God and went to Mount Sinai, to the foot of the holy mountain on which God had in former times revealed His glory to Moses, and consecrated himself to the Lord with a burning heart as a sweet-smelling sacrifice.
Setting aside, from the moment of his entry into the stadium, all self-trust and self-satisfaction through unfeigned humility, he submitted body and soul to an elder called Martyrios and set himself, free from all care, to climb that spiritual ladder (klimax) at the top of which God stands, and to “add fire each day to fire, fervour to fervour, zeal to zeal.” He saw his shepherd as “the image of Christ” and, convinced that his elder was responsible for him before God, he had only one care: to reject his own will and “with all deliberateness to put aside the capacity to make [his] own judgement,” so that no interval passed between Martyrios’ commands, even those that appeared unjustified, and the obedience of his disciple. In spite of this perfect submission, Martyrios kept him as a novice for four years and only tonsured him when he was twenty, after having tested his humility. Strategios, one of the monks present at the tonsure predicted that the new monk would one day become one of the great lights of the world. When, later, Martyrios and his disciple paid a visit to John the Savaite, one of the most famous ascetics of the time, the latter, ignoring the elder, poured water over John’s feet. After they had left, John the Savaite declared that he did not know the young monk but, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he had washed the feet of the Abbot of Sinai. The same prophecy was confirmed by the great Anastasios the Sinaite (April 21), whom they also went to visit.
In spite of his youth, John showed the maturity of an elder and great discernment. Thus one day, when he had been sent into the world on a mission, and finding himself with lay-people, he had preferred to give in somewhat to vainglory by eating very little, rather than to gluttony; for, of these two evils, it was better to choose that which is less dangerous for beginners in monastic life.
He thus passed nineteen years in the blessed freedom from the care that obedience gives, freed from all conflict by the prayer of his spiritual father and on “a safe voyage, a sleeper’s journey,” moved towards the harbor of impassibility. On the death of Martyrios, he resolved to continue his ascension in solitude, a type of life suitable for only a small number, who, made strong on the rock of humility, flee from others so as not to be even for a moment deprived of the “sweetness of God.” He did not commit himself to this path, one so full of snares, on his own judgment, but on the recommendation of the holy elder George Arsilaites, who instructed him in the way of life proper to hesychasts. As his exercise ground, he chose a solitary place called Tholas, situated five miles from the main monastery, where other hermits lived, each not far from the others. He stayed there for forty years, consumed by an ever-increasing love of God, without thought for his own flesh, free of all contact with men, having unceasing prayer and vigilance as his only occupation, in order to “keep his incorporeal self shut up in the house of the body,” as an angel clothed in a body.
He use to eat all that was compatible with his monastic profession, but in very small quantities, thus subduing the tyranny of the flesh while not providing a pretext for vainglory. By living in solitude and retreat, he put to death the mighty flame of greed, which, under the pretext of charity and hospitality, leads negligent monks to gluttony, the door to all passions, and to the love of money, “a worship of idols and the offspring of unbelief.” He triumphed over sloth (acedia)—that death of the soul which attacks hesychasts in particular—and laxity, by the remembrance of death. By meditating on eternal rewards, he undid the chain of sadness; he knew only a single sadness: that “affliction which leads to joy” and makes us run with ardor along the path of repentance, purifying the soul from all its impurities.
What still prevented him from arriving at impassibility (apatheia)? He had long since conquered anger by the sword of obedience. He had suffocated vainglory, that three-pointed thorn which forever harasses those who battle for holiness, and which entwines itself with every virtue like a leech, by solitude and even more by silence. As a reward for his labors, which he took care to season constantly with self-accusation, the Lord gave him the queen of virtues, holy and precious humility: “a grace in the soul, and with a name known only to those who have had experience of it, a gift from God.”
As his cell was too near the others, he would often withdraw to a distant cave at the foot of the mountain, which he made an antechamber of heaven by his groans and the tears which fell effortlessly from his eyes like an abundant spring, transfiguring his body as with a “wedding garment.” By this blessed affliction and these continual tears, he “did not cease to celebrate daily” and kept perpetual prayer in his heart, which had become like an inviolable fortress against the assaults of evil thoughts (logismoi). Sometimes he was ravished in spirit in the midst of the angelic choirs, not knowing if he was in the body or out of it, and then with great simplicity he asked God to teach him about the mysteries of theology. When he came out of the furnace of prayer, he sometimes felt purified as if by fire, and sometimes totally radiant with light.
As for sleep, he allowed himself just the measure necessary to keep his spirit vigilant in prayer and, before sleeping, he prayed at length, or wrote down on tablets the fruit of his meditations on the inspired Scriptures.
He took great care over many years to keep his virtues hidden from human eyes, but, when God judged that the time had come for him to transmit to others the light he had acquired for the edification of the Church, He led a young monk named Moses to John, who, thanks to the intervention of the other ascetics, succeeded in overcoming the resistance of the man of God, and was accepted as his disciple. One afternoon, when Moses had gone a long way away to find earth for their little garden, and had lain down under a large rock to rest, Abba John, in his cell, received the revelation that Moses was in danger, and he immediately seized the weapon of prayer. In the evening, when Moses returned, he told John that in his sleep he had, all of a sudden, heard the voice of his elder calling him, at the very moment when the rock began to break away from its moorings and threatened to crush him.

The Chapel of Saint John Climacus

Saint John’s prayer also had the power to heal visible and invisible wounds. It was thus that he delivered a monk from the demon of lust, which had pushed him to the point of despair. On another occasion, he made rain fall. Yet it was above all in the gift of spiritual teaching that God manifested His grace in him. Basing his teaching on his personal experience, he generously instructed all those who came to him on the snares which lay in wait for monks in their battle passions and against the prince of this world. This spiritual teaching, however, attracted the jealousy of some who then spread around calumnies about him, accusing him of being a conceited chatterer. Although his conscience was clear, Abba John did not attempt to justify himself but, seeking rather to take away any pretext from those who sought one, he stopped teaching for a whole year, convinced that it was better to do some slight harm to his friends rather than to exacerbate the resentment of the wicked. All the inhabitants of the desert were edified at his silence and by this proof of humility, and it was only at the insistence of his repentant calumniators that he agreed to receive visitors again.
Filled with all the virtues of action and contemplation, and having arrived at the summit of the holy ladder through victory over all the passions of the old man, Saint John shone like a star on the Sinai peninsula and was held in awe by all the monks. He thought himself no less of a beginner for all that and, avid to find examples of evangelical conduct, undertook journeys to various Egyptian monasteries. He visited in particular a great coenobitic monastery in the region of Alexandria, a veritable earthly paradise which was governed by a shepherd gifted with infallible discernment. This brotherhood was united by such charity in the Lord, exempt from all familiarity and useless talk, that the monks had scarcely need of the warnings of the superior, for they mutually encouraged each other to a most divine vigilance. Of all their virtues, the most admirable, according to John, was the way they were especially careful never to “injure a brother’s conscience” in the slightest. He was also very edified by a visit to a dependency of this monastery, called “The Prison,” where monks who had gravely sinned lived in extreme ascesis and gave extraordinary proofs of repentance, straining by their labors to receive God’s forgiveness. Far from appearing as hard and intolerable, this prison seemed rather to the Saint to be the model of monastic life: “A soul that has lost its one-time confidence and abandoned its hope of dispassion, that has broken the seal of chastity, that has squandered the treasury of divine graces, that has become a stranger to divine consolation, that has rejected the Lord’s command…and that is wounded and pierced by sorrow as it remembers all this, will not only take on the labors mentioned above with all eagerness, but will even decide devoutly to kill itself with penitential works. It will do so if there is in it only the tiniest spark of love or of fear of the Lord.”
When the Saint had sojourned these forty years in the desert, he was charged by God, like a second Moses, to be at the head of this new Israel by becoming abbot of the monastery at the foot of the holy mountain (c. 650). It is recounted that, on the day of his enthronement, six hundred pilgrims were present, and when they were all seated for the meal, the great prophet Moses himself, dressed in a white tunic, could be seen coming and going, giving orders with authority to the cooks, the cellarers, the stewards and the other helpers.
Having penetrated into the mystical darkness of contemplation, this new Moses, having been initiated into the secrets of the spiritual Law, and coming back down the mountain impassible, his face transfigured by divine grace, was able to become for all the shepherd, the physician and the spiritual master. Carrying within him the Book written by God, he did not have need of other books to teach his monks the science of the sciences and the art of arts.
The Abbot of Raitho, who was also named John, having been informed of the wonderful manner of life of the monks of Sinai, wrote to Saint John, asking him to explain briefly but in an methodical way what those who had embraced the angelic life should do in order to be saved. He who did not know how to go against the wishes of another, thus engraved with the stylus of his own experience the Tablets of the Spiritual Law. He presented this treatise as a Ladder of thirty steps, that Jacob, “he who supplanted the passions” contemplated while he was lying on the bed of ascesis (Genesis 28:12). In his Orthodox Summa of the spiritual life, which has remained for centuries the outstanding guide to evangelical living, both for monks and for lay people, Saint John does not institute rules but, by practical recommendations, judiciously-chosen details and short pithy maxims and riddles often full of humor, he initiates the soul into spiritual combat and the discernment of thoughts. His “word” is brief, dense and tapered, and it penetrates like a sword to the depths of the soul, uncompromisingly cutting out all self-satisfaction, and tracing hypocritical ascesis and egoism to their roots. Like that of Saint Gregory (January 25) in the theological domain, this “word” is the Gospel put into practice, and it will lead most surely those who let themselves be impregnated by it through an assiduous reading to the gates of heaven, where Christ awaits us.
At the end of his life, the blessed John designated his brother George, who had embraced the hesychast life from the beginning of his renunciation, as his successor at the head of the monastery. When he was about to die, George said to him: “So, you are abandoning me and leaving! I prayed, however, that you would send me to the Lord first, for without you I cannot shepherd this brotherhood.” But Saint John reassured him, and said: “Do not grieve and do not be afraid. If I find grace before God, I shall not let you complete even a year after me.” And it was so: ten months after John’s falling asleep, George departed in his turn to the Lord.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Mother of God never abandons her garden I guess!

Two nuns for Greece visited the seminary today and sat in on the high school Sunday school class. I talked about this article and other works I've read where we can see that monks aren't just isolated, uneducated people who can't get along in the modern world. They told us the monastery of Simonopetra is one where this is seen especially. Here's the story they gave about it:

After World War II, the Holy Mountain had considerably shrunk. Because of constant war in Greece, monks were getting older and no new monks were being tonsured. One monk at Simonopetra was concerned, and so came to the Theotokos, the guardian of Mt. Athos, and asked her, "Why are you letting your mountain die? We don't have the monks to keep this place going! Don't you understand that all of this will end?" And she replied, "I will send you monks soon." The monk was satisfied and told the brothers at Simonopetra that more monks would come soon, and not to worry.

A few years later, however, there still were no new monks. The same monk went back to the Mother of God. "There are still no new monks here, and we continue to get older. Why have you been waiting so long, Mother of God?" She replied, "Because they were only just born a short time ago. Now I have to raise them, send them to university to get degrees, and then they will become monks." Again satisfied, the monk left.

In the 70s, this same monk was in charge of Simonopetra. At that time, the monks of Meteora in Greece were made up of university graduates, a position which in that time only 6% of applicants were able to achieve (and graduating was the equivalent of having a doctorate in the US). Some were former rocket scientists, scholars, physicists, worked for NASA even. Seeing the decay of Mt. Athos, a large group of the monks at Meteora moved to Simonopetra. The elder then saw that the Theotokos was true to her promise.

The Mother of God never abandons her garden I guess! 

Friday, April 1, 2011



Case Vatopedi, politicians in immune and non-political figures targeted in that they included the abbot and the monk Ephraim Arsenios.
Although so far, the judicial inquiry is underway, it has emerged bribing nor harm the public in the case, the Minister of Justice Mr. Harris Kastanidis a letter sent today to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court asked Mr. Tents explanation the impunity of non-political figures allegedly involved in cases Vatopedi, zimens, telephone tapping, bonds, Shield and Welfare 'and doctors DePuy. 


k.Kastanidi, the sense of impunity that has been acquired by the society does not treat the attacks on judges and interference in their work, not seeking punishment for non-political persons who, at least until now, there has emerged a vindication of incriminating stoicheio.I Policy .. does not come through communication interventions tarnishing historical places.
In Case Vatopedi, which began in 1991 between government and public entity that is the only one found not only injury to the public but no offense or court case had gone on record several times, including the 2005 and 2007. And your party restored in 2008 to reap political benefits, so you did and got back the power!

 k.Kastanidi, beating monks and the cradle of Orthodoxy, our Athos will not cover the bribes million identified by the findings for the purchase of four submarines and zimens.
k.Ypourge justice, society calls for exemplary punishment for those harmed by the Greek government eispratontas million as bribes to buy a submarine or a car of iletrikou .. And the ladies who put them in their pockets now circulating free and nice to watch .. Betting who will enter the prison scandals that they have carried out ..
Explaining to ask your fellow former ministers who sew to your laws .. and not to interfere in justice for the impunity of non-politicians. Because, as known, where no perpetrator NOT BE ANY Incitement!
Η δημοσιογραφική ομάδα του
The entire letter of the Minister of Justice to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court:
Mr Prosecutor,
With continued public statements some judges make the accusation of political blanket impunity that ministers and deputy ministers, allegedly involved in scandalous affairs of public life in recent years, due to the law on ministerial accountability, which voted for the politicians and not judges. It is true that judges are not responsible for the drafting and passage of the Act or Ministerial responsibility for its implementation in the part of parliamentary proceedings. Silenced, however, that in those cases investigated possible criminal liability not only members of previous governments and others.
Although, curiously that escapes the attention of legal representatives politikologounton compounds resulting therefrom that possible cancellations due to sudden interruption of the work session of the Greek Parliament in the month of May 2009 decision by this government, pass by the "failure" to make the following thoughts.
The same scandalous cases allegedly involved and non-political persons. Therefore, any good faith concludes that if the impunity of politicians ascribed to 'problematic' liability law ministers, then everyone else, not politicians, Justice apparently has done its duty, investigated and charged responsibilities not guilty are punished with sentences imposed in the case.
I'm sure it does not escape your attention that when express provision of law (Article 4 paragraph 3 of Law 3126/2003) the transfer documents to the House for political figures does not prevent the progress of the investigation or review as to other persons. Just do not stand a political symparapempontai the Special Court and any interest, otherwise no delay should be considered the last of the common criminal courts.
Arguably, therefore, creates a claim for citizens to learn, how judges perform their duty, punishable by appropriate means, those who had or have the status of deputy minister or forum or former ministers and deputy ministers for possible offenses not related to ministerial duties. That said, please tell me:
1. Who and how many were persecuted, and were referred before the hearing and tried by the competent court in criminal cases were indicative of telephone tapping of Vatopedi of SIEMENS, the bond's "shield and Welfare" and the doctors of De Puy.
2. If not issued decisions at first, even a degree from a competent criminal courts, please let me know at what time of trial or proceedings before the audience at each of these cases.
3. Even, how long dihedral from the start of a criminal investigation to date for each case separately. and
4. Finally, what former ministers or junior ministers were prosecuted and judged for crimes they committed, and probably not related to the performance of ministerial duties, which it will not apply the law on ministerial responsibility.
Mr Prosecutor,
Your responses will help inform citizens. The complete and accurate information to the Greek people for the administration of justice in cases of great public interest in enhancing transparency, enable every citizen to know and understand the performance of the judiciary, ultimately enhancing the prestige of the judiciary. I consider this my letter as a formal and accountable public information and therefore will be released.
Yours sincerely
Harris Kastanidis
Wednesday, the 30th March 2011 14:07 

Monks from Mount Athos resist paying taxes

THE STATE .. He dropped out of Mount Athos-LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER 


The alarm bells ringing in the Prime Athonites fathers for the degrading attitude of the State apentanti Mount Athos and the burning issues that have been abandoned .. while seeking the contributions of leaders of countries with Orthodox religious presence in Atho.Tha be the leaders of these countries to exert pressure on the Greek government for the strict observance of the self-governed and privileges in touypogrammizei Athos pigi.I appeal to European courts are very unlikely, says.
In a letter of Double Holy Assembly, which was discussed at yesterday's regular meeting of the Holy Community (party representatives and abbots of monasteries) to the Prime Minister, complained about "unprecedented apaxiosin by which continues to address the yperchilietis Mount Athos, in an entirely ADVERSE in their historic, spiritual and koinonikin incapable of Mount Athos world, "he says.
This movement of Athos leaves no doubt as to the novelty of breaking that characterizes the state of Mount Athos, which is treated with hostility that leaves us speechless .. that is presently undertaken by protin wearing in the Greek state once adopted Charter in 1926. "highlight the fathers to the letter sent to Papandreou.
Meanwhile, it remains inactive, the interministerial committee set up by the Prime Minister for greater collaboration between Mount Athos and state 'first and last time they met was created last October!
The restoration works of the monasteries and relics preservation have been stopped due to lack of funding as studies KEDAK (center management Athos heritage) are not recognized by the archaeological service. As a result, projects are underway to freeze and in danger of disappearing permanently kondylia.Apo representatives of state, ministers and ministry officials, not only is there will only apaxiosi.Niothoume isolated. Notes categorically monastic source.
Also, the tax rate of 20% established in the monasteries income, rent from land, apartments and karastimata provoked strong reactions in the monastic community as well as those revenues are kept by monasteries and covered the hospitality of thousands of pilgrims visit Mount Athos. Under reliable information, already arrived at Karyes, capitals of Mount Athos, the first notices of the tax authorities to pay taxes under threat of criminal penalties on managers of the monasteries.
1,200,000 acres of land devoted to Athos in the early '20s to the needs of landless refugees from Asia Minor. "The Charter provides for customs and tax privileges to Mount Athos, which the state seeks to afairesei.syplironei the same source.
By George Theoharis
Friday, 01 April 2011 14:00 


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