Elder Aimilianos and Christ Pantokrator

christ sinai

Please have a look at the eyes of the Elder how much they resemble Christ’s ‘different’ eyes and left vs right features in that famous Sinai icon*. Isn’t this a striking similarity? I am completely mesmerised, if I may use such an expression, with this photograph of the Elder, and I have been spending really a lot of time simply looking at him, ever since his repose in Christ. Such Compassion, Peace, yet such Severity too. It feels like an icon to me, and not a photograph. Your thoughts?

Elder aimilianos

*

Many (1) agree that the icon represents the dual nature of Christ, illustrating traits of both man and god, perhaps influenced by the aftermath of the ecumenical councils of the previous century at Ephesus and Chalcedon. Christ’s features on his left side (the viewer’s right) are supposed to represent the qualities of his human nature, while his right side (the viewer’s left) represents his divinity.

(1) Cf. Manaphēs, Sinai: Treasures, 84; Robin Cormack, Oxford History of Art: Byzantine Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 66.

 

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The Causes of Sorrows and Trials

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There are many causes which generate trials and sorrows in our life. Besides that, their combinations can be quite complex, so we are in a labyrinth of factors.

However we can distinguish four big categories of influence which will help us to avoid and protect ourselves from unwanted happenings in our life.

Sorrows Because of our Sins. When we sin, because the sin is an existential distortion, spiritual law will try to re-establish the equilibrium. If we will try by ourselves, through repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness to fix our mistake, then sorrow will not come. Otherwise, it will happen after a certain time when it will be clear that we didn’t have an analogous repentance.

Blocking Trials. We make a plan and begin to follow it. However, we cannot see too much in advance. God, which knows everything, sees that in front of us is a deep tar pit, a trap which will harm us badly. That’s why He will allow a blocking trial to happen in order to close our path towards the trap. That’s why the Holy Fathers say, “When God closes a door, don’t break the doorknob”. You will repent of it after.

Advancing Sorrows. Someone can advance spiritually but (s)he cannot or (s)he doesn’t want and/or (s)he doesn’t know how to advance. In such cases, God gives us a trial, a sorrow, in which we will gain virtues like prayer, patience, humility, and other qualities upon which we will advance spiritually.

Trials for Example. Everyone is a sinner but there are times in which we don’t do such sins in order to trigger the spiritual law in a big degree. Even then, God might put us in a trial in order to be an example to follow, a light for others. We have here the classical example of Job in the Old Testament period. In the New Testament period, there is, firstly, the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and, after Him, a lot of saints.

Based on Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, Saint Paisios the Athonite

Source: Ascetic Experience

Elder Aimilianos Simonopetritis Has Departed This Life

Gerondas Aimilianos

Newly reposed Elder Aimilianos, 23 years of illness. Memory Eternal! Such a special spiritual father! I have known him through his books, homilies and my friends’ testimonies, how he intervened and changed their lives.

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You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy with your countenance (Ps. 15, 11)

*

*As for the little city hermit, he has disappeared because he has to undertake a Mission Impossible at his Spiritual Father’s word. Prayers are requested since it does feel like a Mission Impossible.

The Cross and Joy of Motherhood

Theotokos

As we journey along the hard yet joyous road of motherhood, the most holy Theo­tokos accompanies each of us, mothers, and inspires us. As mothers, we have been granted the very special gift of ex­periencing in a very small and imperfect measure the feelings that the Mother of God must have gone through and still do as the Mother of us all.

When we read and pray the words of Saint Luke’s Gospel “And behold you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus. He will  be great and will be called the Son of the Highest.” We cannot but share the feeling of wonder and awe of the Theotokos, as she replies “How can this be…?”

Every mother has experienced a shadow of this wonder when she dis­covered or was announced that she car­ries a child in her womb. The mystery of conception is so great that it is with awe we must receive the gift of life within us.  At times, the amazing joy is shadowed by practical considerations and anxieties, just as the Mother of God felt “troubled” since the time and circumstances did not seem propitious in human terms. Ulti­mately, any worries about material con­siderations are subdued by the unspeakable joy of motherhood.

The baby’s first cry, so dear and yet so painful upon the first breath of life marks in some way the pain of separa­tion. After the pangs of labour, the joy of a mother at seeing her baby for the first time also contains a grain of sadness, what was perfect oneness is now two per­sons, mother and child. From that mo­ment onwards, motherhood becomes an exercise of dying to oneself a little each day in order to give more. A mother gives up her own will and desires in order to minister to the needs of her child. Just as Mary follows her Son all the way to the Cross to “minister to him” and has her heart pierced, so does every Christian mother, called to bear the sufferings and to partake in the joys of their child.

Every step towards the independence of a child brings great joy to a mother’s heart. Can we ever forget our child’s baptism and first Holy Communion, their first word or first step, the emotion of the first day at school? And yet with each new step they take towards independence, they need us and want us a little less. The wisdom of love teaches us that letting go is a part of motherhood’s daily cross. We have to view our children as a gift and ourselves as the custodians of these spe­cial gifts, always remembering that all comes from God and belongs to Him. In this light, we can better understand the words of the Gospel: “he who loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me” Matthew10:37.

Through all our anxious moment when our children are ill, sad or appear lost, we must remember, that these feel­ings are only a drop in the ocean com­pared to what the Mother of God must have felt caring and protecting the Son of God Himself. Similarly, what must She have felt when she discovered her Son missing while journeying away from Jer­usalem! When she finds Him, just like any mother, she is both relieved and per­turbed saying “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have sought you anxiously?”

“She will be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self­control” Timothy 1:15. Mother­hood lived in Christ is indeed a way to holiness and sanctification. As our chil­dren grow, we must diminish in their life, to allow for their own ministry to flour­ish. All four Gospels depict the Mother of Christ standing and watching by Cross as the apostles and Jesus’ followers have run away in fright. We stand with Mary and the Galilean women at the foot of the Cross, bearing our own children’s small crosses and sharing in the suffering of The Most Holy Mother of all.

By Mary and Martha

The Blind Aspassia

blind girl reading

The story of an everyday Saint in my hometown!

In a small town in northern Greece, there lived a blind girl named Aspasia. She was orphaned, very poor and abandoned by all. That’s why she grew up without being able to learn letters.

She was about 18-20 years old when a preacher of the metropolitan area passed by and saw her, took her with him and put her in the School for the Blind in Thessaloniki, so she learned reading through the blind system. Then, after learning to read braille well, the New Testament, written in the same scripture, was given to her in braille.

So the girl started reading it by touching it with her fingers. And as she studied it, she both learned what Christ was and what He did for her personally as well as for the whole world. And as she learned, she was so peaceful and so moved. The pain of so much tormenting years passed, softened through the study of the New Testament. And not only this, but filled with joy and peace. Flooded by happiness. “I found the joy” she said. “Now the eyes of my soul opened! And if the eyes of the body are missing, I do not mind. With the eyes of the soul I can see the whole world. ” She saw the light of God in every Divine Liturgy. (We who are “open-minded” are seeing this Light?).

But once she suffered a terrible skin disease that even touched her hands, which were “burned”, so she lost the touch of her fingers. She could no longer read the Holy Bible nor any other sacred book.

Her sorrow and her pain was indescribable. She was crying day and night. She had lost the ability to take power and joy through the Holy Book. But she had a prayer left. Because when she was in Thessaloniki, at the Blind School, a monk from Mount Athos taught her how to say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. So she did a lot of prayer for Jesus Christ to give a good solution. And God answered.

One day she gladly took the Holy Book, the New Testament, and brought it to her mouth, to kiss the letters, which these letters convey to us the wisdom of God, redemption and salvation. And then she discovered something strange: She understood she could read the letters with her lips! And her life was replenished by joy, which was again given to her by the study of the word of God. And through this paradoxical study, praise came, thanksgiving came, the living prayer came.

She was studying and then praying with tears for those who had the same problems with physical disabilities and diseases, and especially prayer for those who were blind of the soul from sin. Through her prayer she saw the throne of God and begged Him and prayed to Him for the poor, the orphans, the unemployed, the homeless, for all the sick. For the good and bad, for the good and the wicked, for the righteous and the unjust, but also for those who continue to offend the world … for the lords and the beginners. All of them are enlightened and all of them can see the true Light, Christ, the Savior of the world!

One day she got sick. She confessed for the last time and communed the Holy Mysteries. And she asked for the New Testament, said to open it to her lips.

Aspasia stretched out her hands and held it firmly, but she died. Her relatives, according to divine providence, opened it to the first chapter of John the Evangelist. And constantly repeating the words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God”, she raised her little soul high in the sky, while at the same time flooded her room with an unspoken sweet fragrance.

She is a silent saint!

Source: PROTOPRESVYTEROS STEFANOU K. ANAGNOSTOPOULOU. Piraeus 2011.
PUBLICATION OF ISICHASTIRIO “TO GENETHLIO TIS THEOTOKOU”, SERGOULA DORIDOS 2011

Find Yourself and Find Your Own Way to Serve God

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Words By Convent Fathers

 

By Fr. Sergius Nezhbort

Sometimes we have to embrace the reality and accept the circumstances of our lives as they are. It doesn’t mean that we have done something wrong. Most likely, we simply have to go through that period in life. You’ve got to spend it with dignity. You must not step back, be scared and run away. You must remain with God. (Sermon after the Divine Liturgy on January 20, 2019)

By Fr. Sergius Faley

As soon as you’ve caught yourself doing something wrong, and you feel that your conscience rebukes you for it, you should repent immediately. You’ll be lucky if you repent before you get to the analogion with the crucifix and the Gospel on it. […]

By Fr.  Alexander Pashkovsky

As soon as a person feels offended, he or she is exposed to the power of pride and therefore is left without God’s shield. That is when it is great to bring your sins to memory and to rebuke yourself. (Sermon after the Divine Liturgy on January 9, 2019)

 

By Fr. George Glinsky

“We must witness with our life because when we face ordeals, then we shall be able to show ourselves as preachers of the truth of Christ more fully. All extreme situations, let alone persecutions for the faith of Christ, will purify us before God’s face and show who we are and to which extent we are ready to speak about Christ, about God who opens the Heavenly Kingdom for everybody, about God who is Love.” (Sermon after the Divine Liturgy on January 16, 2019)

“The trials that we go through are not only sent to us personally but also to all who are tied to us with invisible bounds of love. I’m talking about the Church of Christ. […]

 

By Fr. Valery Zakharov

 

God always treats us the same: with love. His love may be sorrowful or buoyant but it’s love nevertheless. (Sermon before a Confession in the Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs on January 11, 2019)

More words at The Catalog of Good Deeds