The Prince of Peace

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A Christmas Story

The Golden Gate shut behind them. At the same time a terrible roaring shattered the silence of the green valley. A majestic figure sat on the towering rock at the plateau in the middle of the forest. The silhouette of the Lion stood out against the starlit sky.

The Lion made a huge leap and stood at their midst. For the first time no animal dared to approach. The young couple and all the other animals stumblingly stepped back. They turned back to escape. But the Gate was shut. A many-eyed guard with a fiery sharp sword was blocking their way.

Then the Lion attacked the antelope. Immediately the panther charged at the goat. Then the big bear tore apart the tender calf. And the wolf the meek lamb. It had started. A war had begun. A cruel, relentless, and above all, prolonged, infinitely prolonged, war. The whole Creation would henceforth “groan as in the pains of childbirth”. (Romans 8:22) This night was the darkest of all.

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… The Lion sat on the towering rock. His eyes gazed intently at the abysses of the night skyline. Something unusual was taking place up there, this darkest night of the year. A new star seemed to dawn and eclipse all the rest. The whole forest was in commotion. This night was hiding a mystery.

Further in the horizon a small company appeared. A humble little donkey was slowly climbing up towards the clearing. Sat on his back, a young woman, a tender daughter still, was gently clutching on her bosom a newborn baby. A white-haired old man was walking by their side. And this unusual, new Star was guiding their footsteps in the darkness. The tree tops were bowing humbly to the ground at their passage, venerating those unknown travelers.

Suddenly, before the night travelers made it to the clearing, a loud thundering shattered the silence of the dark forest. A horseback column was galloping towards them.

–  “We found them!” shouted the captain.

But as the column thrust menacingly forward, a terrible roaring shattered the silence of the dark forest. The Lion made a huge leap and stood between the night travelers and the soldiers on horseback showing his terrible teeth to the soldiers. Stunned, the animals of the forest followed immediately their king. The scared horses would tear from their reins and got up on their hind legs. The captain went wild.

–  “Archers!” He screamed out of his mind.

In vain. All bows fell immediately to the ground when they touched the animals’ bodies. Like hitting steel. The horses grew uncontrollable. Any minute and they would flee back to the high land in a wild stampede.

The leader dismounted in a frenzy. Blind in his fury he hurled himself down in a bold leap and thrust himself to the baby. Menacingly he raised his sword to slaughter it, but the sword froze in mid air. To his horror and shock he saw before him the sweet face of his own wife, holding his own baby in her bosom!

His knees bent, his body collapsed to the ground. Sitting on the humble donkey the Daughter was looking in his eyes with infinite compassion. A bright, otherworldly halo was opalescing in rays around Her face! The soldier felt small, powerless before this Godly Babe, who seemed so vulnerable and helpless in the arms of his fragile mother, yet everything seemed to bow before Him.

Quietly all the animals surrounded in worship the human synodeia. The nod of the little child, invisible, yet omnipotent, was gently leading the lion and the calf together, the bull and the bear, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the goat. Under the spell of this otherworldly Mystery, the soldiers dismounted in awe and knelt side by the side with the wild animals.

 

Time had stopped. The Golden Gate was open again. No longer does the fiery sharp sword guard the gate of Eden. The Babe mystically summoned all back to Paradise. A prophecy of old took flesh:

“The wolf will live with the lamb,

    the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;

    and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

    their young will lie down together,

    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,

    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

    on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

    as the waters cover the sea.

… (Isaiah 11:6-9)

 

The Babe raised His Hand, a tiny, soft hand, yet capable to govern the whole Universe. The Babe blessed them with the Sign of the Cross. The Prince of Peace had been born on earth. The ancient, cosmic warfare would soon come to an end. Maran Atha!

 

Ad. & Transl. Kleio Kechagia

Χριστούγεννα 2016

π. Δημητρίου Μπόκου

https://antexoume.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/ο-αρχοντασ-τησ-ειρηνησ-χριστουγεννιά/

 

 

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A Refuge in the Storm

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“I wanted to find a new place to collect my thoughts, like a hunted bird that wants to fly into God’s embrace through prayer of the heart. I was alone and desolate …”

 

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I went to Vatheia in Evia, to the Monastery of Saint Nicholas, and I stayed there for ten days. It had some tumble-down cells full of large mice. But what happened? For two days there was a great storm and heavy seas. It rained unceasingly and the rain hammered on the walls and rattled against the windows as if it were hail. The wind howled furiously up in the huge plane tree. I heard its branches hitting against one another. The storm raged relentlessly there in the utter wilderness. All the elements of nature were roaring. And I was inside the poor, tiny, fresco-covered church of Saint Nicholas – a church sanctified many times over years before by the souls which I saw and sensed were bending down before the saints and unlocking their hearts.

 

There, in the wilderness, in the cold north wind, I was like a hunted little bird of the air. Imagine, what would a little bird caught in such a storm have done? Wouldn’t it have sought to find a little nest, some cave to hide in? I did the same amidst the uproar and the storm, terrified by the elements of nature. I ran to find refuge; I ran to hide myself in the embrace of my heavenly Father. I sensed the pleasant warmth of Christ, my union with God. I felt great joy and exaltation and relief hiding myself away in God. I was unconcerned about the storm and the tempest, which are things of the world. My soul sought something higher, more perfect. I felt safe, comforted and at rest. I spent golden days there. I took advantage of a spell of dreadful weather.

 
That’s how we should think always. And that’s how we should live through difficulties and tragedies. We should see them all as opportunities for prayer, for approaching God. That’s the secret: how the man of God will transform everything into prayer. That’s what Saint Paul the Apostle means when he says, ‘I rejoice in my sufferings’,  in all the tribulations he encountered. This is how sanctification takes place. May God grant this to us. I ask for this fervently in my prayer.”
 
-Wounded by Love, pp. 47-48, Elder Porphyrios
 

The Noonday Demon

 

Audio Homily by St. Porphyrios (with English Subtitles)

+St. Porphyrios, 2 December

May God bless the person who took the prayerful effort to translate this into English. What a wealth of wisdom and divine illumination! May we have his blessing!

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A Martyr’s Spirit in Daily Family Life

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A true story by Elder Aimilianos 

“Once, when I was in a hurry to come here to the monastery to speak to you, I took a taxi, so I wouldn’t be late. On the way, I asked the driver:
“Tell me, do you ever get to eat lunch or dinner with your Wife?”
You know what sort of work these drivers have, and how they almost never know when they are going home.
“Every day” he told me, “both lunch and dinner.”
“How do you manage it? What time do you eat?”
“Lunch starts from 10:00 in the morning, and goes till 4:00 in the afternoon, and dinner is from 6:00, often till 2:00 in the morning.”
Do you understand? At 10:00 in the morning, his wife had the meal ready and waited for him, whatever time he arrived so that they could eat together. And in the evening, she waited for him from 6:00, often till 2:00 in the morning. Doesn’t this impress you? This is what martyrdom in life means: a life of love.
Martyrdom in daily life is action done out of love for the other person, making a sacrifice, setting aside one’s own selfish needs for the benefit of another.”

The Church at Prayer, Archimandrite Aimilianos, p 160

A Year Between Heaven and Earth

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This year marks the eighth anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionary Moscow priest Daniel Sysoev, who was shot in the church he built by a Muslim who was angered by Fr. Daniel’s ability to convert followers of Islam, on the evening of November 19, 2009. He died in the hospital early the following morning.

Matushka Julia, Fr. Daniel’s wife, has agreed to share her memories of her husband. Her words here are a frank monologue, a canvas woven from her personal diary.

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Julia Sysoeva at the funeral of Fr. Daniel. Photo patriarchia.ru

 

“I will no longer accept condolences. I accept only congratulations.”

Memories of the events a year ago are very hard. The wounds remain, and my heart feels the pain. I remember that evening almost minute by minute—even what I bought in the store, what I was thinking about, when I got home, my last call to him, and his last words: “About forty minutes.” And forty minutes later, the cold dial tone on the line—he didn’t answer anymore. I called him a few minutes after he was shot. Then that first horrible night: the church, the police perimeter, the interrogation, the scarlet puddle of blood on the floor. His unfinished tea in his office, the open laptop. The sleepless night, sunrise, and further—the real horror. Here are excerpts from my journal—memorials of those sorrowful days.

“A year has passed and I have realized one thing that I was unable to accept and understand—in the ancient Church they congratulated you with martyrdom. I have felt with all my heart how good it is for Fr. Daniel there!—how he has enormous possibilities for work incommensurate with our earthly standards. Then I understood and realized that I will no longer accept condolences. I accept only congratulations. …”

“A priest once wrote these words in his last book: “The best end, which only a Christian can imagine, is a martyric death.” These words were written by the murdered priest Daniel Sysoev.”

“November 22, 2009

We stopped by the deserted apartment for a couple of hours. The whole night I was at his grave and at the early Liturgy.

I found the leftovers from our last dinner in the fridge. I had made sushi, and for some reason it hadn’t gone bad. Wednesday was the last time we had dinner together. Late, almost 12:00.

He didn’t come to dinner on Thursday. If someone had called me from the church immediately after it happened, I would have reached him alive! He lived—and it’s a miracle—almost an hour after being shot in the neck and right through his head. But no one called me!!! Why? I have more questions than answers. These days are lost time—it is continuous pain and sorrow.

It was a joy, almost like Pascha, when after vesting him in the morgue, they let me see his face. It was a miracle that, despite the perforating wound, the Lord preserved his face unharmed, without any bruising, as if alive.”

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Fr. Daniel’s pectoral cross, washed in his blood

For the rest of the diary, go here

For more articles and interviews about Daniel Sysoev of Blessed Memory, go here 

Also, “WHEN THEY KILL ME, DON’T CRY FOR ME, BUT PRAY FOR ME”

Remembrances of Fr. Daniel Sysoev by Archimandrite Melchisedek (Artiukhin)

By Matushka Julia Sysoeva

Unfading Bloom

 

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Flowers sheltered like cenobitic monks in a crevice at the summit of Mt. Athos.

“How can I plead empty-handed?”

St. Paisos would always cut a few wild flowers outside his hut and take them to the Theotokos icon, whenever he wanted to pray to Her.

Indeed, he urged everybody to always make an offering to Panagia, even a little one, anything within our power

 

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At the hut of St. Paisios

 

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Like a Green Olive Tree

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“They went to a place called Gethsemane…”

— Mark 14:32

Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane on the night of his arrest. This garden was an olive grove and it still exists today. Gethsemane means “oil press” in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.

 

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Psalm 52:8  “But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.”

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“Do you know that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment “love the trees.“  When you plant a tree, you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.” – Elder Amphilochius of Patmos

According to Met. Kallistos, the Elder frequently assigned the penance of planting a tree on the island (Patmos) for those who came to him for confession. His ministry raised up forests as well as demolished the sins of many.