As a fruitful vine

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St. Nektarios and his spiritual children. May he intercede for us!

From right to left: Blessed Xenia, the blind, first abbess of St. Nektarios’ monastery in Aegina; Saint Savvas the New of Kalymnos; St. Amphilochios Makris of Patmos; Konstandinos Sakkopoulos, a little city hermit and St. Nektarios’ ‘right hand’; Elder Daniel Katounakiotis; Elder Philotheos Zervakos; Elder Gervasios Paraskevopoulos.

 

The following depiction is in the Church of Saint Nektarios in Aegina:

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+ May they all intercede for us!
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Like a swift sparrow

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O much-suffering Stephanie, * with the crown of the gifts of grace * hath the Lord now crowned thee, who gavest up thyself * to willing torments and pains in the nobility of thy soul: * ’twixt two palm trees thou wast bound, * and thereby thou wast rent in twain, * spreading out thy wings, * flying up unto God like a swift sparrow and forsaking to the fowlers * thy mortal body, O wondrous one. [Ainos (Praise) from the Orthros November 11]

*It is said that + Martyr Stephanie in Damascus was 16 years old at the time of her martyrdom.
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Isn’t that an amazing transfiguration of a horrid death? What a stunning testimony to the transformative power of Christ’s Resurrection! This hymn reminded me today of St. Porphyrios and his precious advice on immersing ourselves in the Church’s hymns for their great healing power to overcome all the gloom, the sadness, the failure, and the death that seem to surround us.

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The Elder Porphyrios once asked a pilgrim visiting him:

— Do you know the troparion that begins, “We celebrate the slaying of death …”?

— Yes, elder, I know it.

— Then say it.

—“We celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell, the beginning of another way of life that is eternal. And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.”

—Do you understand it?

—Certainly I understand it.

I thought that he was asking me for a translation into modern Greek.

The Elder then waved his hand dismissively saying,

— Little George, you didn’t understand anything at all! You said it quickly like a chanter in a hurry. Listen to what awesome things are said in this hymn: Through Christ and His resurrection, we do not get across a river, a gorge, a canal, a lake, or even the Red Sea. We have moved across an abyss that no human being could cross on his own. Ages came and went with the world waiting for this Pascha, for this passage. Our Christ passed from death to life! That’s why today “we celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell.” Death is no more. We celebrate today “the beginning of another way of life that is eternal,” a life with Him.

Speaking with enthusiasm and conviction, the Elder was clearly moved. The elder paused and continued more energetically:

— Now there is no more chaos, no more death, no more slaying, no more Hell. Now everything is joy, thanks to the resurrection of our Christ. Human nature is resurrected with Him. Now we too can rise again that we might live with Him eternally … What bliss is contained in the Resurrection! “And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause.” Have you seen how young goats now in the spring frolic on the green grass? They drink some of their mother’s milk and then prance about leaping for joy, and so do we celebrating the ineffable joy of the resurrection of our Lord.

He then stopped speaking. Pure joy was now in the air. And the elder continued,

—Can I give you some advice? In every sorrow, with every failure, in anything that causes you pain, collect yourself for half a minute and slowly say this hymn. Then, you will see that the most important thing in your life and in the life of the entire universe has already been accomplished with the resurrection of Christ. It is our salvation. And then, you realize that all our setbacks are so insignificant, that you don’t need to allow them to spoil your mood.

— St. Porphyrios, Wounded by Love

That locked door

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St. Nectarios on his coffin, locked outside the church (!), waiting the boat to Aegina … a sad symbol of the persecution and slander he suffered all his life for Christ, of the bitter Cup he drank. That closed door … and the open gate to Paradise with angels and hierarchs welcoming the Saint!   + Asking for his holy prayers ….

God and the Geese

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There was once a man who didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t hesitate to let  oth­ers know how he felt about religion and religious holidays. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments. One  snowy eve, his wife was taking their children to service in the farm community in which they lived. They were to talk about Jesus’ birth. She asked him to come, but he re­ fused. “That story is nonsense!” he said. “Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That’s ridiculous!”

So she and the children left, and he stayed home. A while later, the  winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the win­ dow, all he saw was a  blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the win­ dow. He looked out, but  couldn’t see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside  to  see what could have been beating on his win­ dow. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn’t go on. They were lost and stran­ded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help  them. The  barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It’s warm and safe; surely they  could spend the night and wait out  the  storm. So he walked over to the  barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the  open barn and go inside.

But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn’t seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their atten­tion, but that just seemed to scare them, and they moved further away. He went into the house and came  with some  bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn’t catch on.

Now he was getting  frustrated.  He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe. “Why don’t they follow me?” he exclaimed. “Can’t they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?”

He thought for a moment and real­ised that they just wouldn’t follow a hu­man. “If only I were a goose, then I could save them”, he said out loud. Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as  he circled around behind the flock of wild geese.

He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn; and one­by ­one, the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes  earlier replayed in his mind: “If only I  were a goose, then I could save  them!”  Then he thought about what he had said  to his wife earlier.  “Why  would God want to be like us? That’s ridiculous!”

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us.

 

Story from the website of the Antio­chian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines

Monastery of St. Savas the New of Kalymnos

I discovered Saint Savas and his monastery during my recent pilgrimage to Kalymnos. It is an awe-inspiring place , a place one step below heaven. Iconography beyond aesthetic, historical and religious value and the Saint is so alive! The patron saint of the island, Agios Savvas, has performed miracles and has blessed homes all over the world.

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Inside his cell

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For two episodes from his life and his special relationship with Saint Nektarios, go to my previous blog post, Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos 

 

 

Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos

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During my recent pilgrimage to Patmos, on my way back through Kalymnos, I venerated the incorrupt relics of an amazing ascetic and Saint of the “latter days”, our Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos. I even spoke to people whose parents confessed to him and remember with tears his love, compassion and angelic purity. 

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I would like to share here two episodes from his life which made a big impression on me (recorded in the monastery’s edition of his life):

 

In Athens he met the acolyte of Saint Nektarios, who informed him that Saint Nektarios was looking for him. Based on this fact, it is assumed that the two saints had met before; in fact, most biographers agree that St Savvas was St. Nektarios’ spiritual child. Therefore, he went from Athens to Aegina in 1919, where he was with Saint Nektarios until he reposed. There he served as a priest in the Convent of the Holy Trinity. He taught the nuns iconography and ecclesiastical music. Upon the repose of Saint Nektarios in 1920, Savas witnessed the first miracle of the Saint when, after his repose, St. Nektarios leaned over so that St. Savas could attire him with his epitrahelion [ie. stole], and then the Saint returned back to his previous rigour mortis (ie. postmortem rigidity). St. Savas performed the funeral and for the first three nights he continued his communication with St. Nektarios over his grave, asking him a number of questions and listening to his answers! St. Savvas’ biographers have recorded those facts from first-hand witnesses and the stunned nuns’ testimonies.
Then, St. Savas enclosed himself in a cell for forty days where he lived in strict prayer and fasting, and emerged holding an icon of Saint Nektarios he had painted, which was the first icon of the Saint to exist. He gave the icon to the abbess ordering her to offer to the faithful for veneration. The abbess told him that this was not possible, as St Nektarios had not been yet officially canonised despite his numerous miracles from the very first moment of his repose and that such an action was not prudent and might get them in trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities and even cause the shutting down of the monastery. But St. Savas insisted that “You must obey. Take this icon and offer it for veneration and do not scrutinise God’s Ways”.
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The second episode too happened again in Aegina. A young nun, Nektaria, wanted to see for one last time the face of St. Nektarios after his repose and started digging stealthily his tomb. The other nuns caught her in the act and reported her to the Abbess. She rebuked her and then sent her to St. Savas. He too rebuked her sternly and told her that her action was called grave-robbing and she should not receive Holy Communion until Holy Thursday. The young nun started to cry and beg for forgiveness, telling St. Savas that she did not know that what she had been doing was wrong and sinful. As soon as she left St. Savas’ cell, St. Nektarios appeared to St. Savas, smiling,  and told him: “Elder, forgive her. She is very young. She didn’t know, she didn’t know that this was a sin. Offer her Holy Communion on Holy Thursday. Actually, offer her Holy Communion before Holy Thursday. Did you hear, Elder? Have mercy on her. She did not know. Did you hear? Thank you.”

 

 

Apolytikion
Let us faithful praise Holy Savvas, the glory and protector of Kalymnos, and peer of the Holy Ascetics of old; for he has been glorified resplendently as a servant of Christ, with the gift of working miracles, and he bestows upon all God’s grace and mercy.
Kontakion
Today the island of the Kalymnians celebrates your holy memory with a rejoicing heart; for it possesses as truly God-given wealth, your sacred body that has been glorified by God, O Father Savvas, approaching which they receive health of both soul and body.
Megalynarion
Rejoice, thou new star of the Church, the offspring of Thrace and the beauty of Kalymnos, O God-inspired Savvas, fellow citizen of angels and equal of all the saints.

 

 

You contended with the saints of old Savas,
And are glorified with them by your numerous miracles.

This angel on earth and a human in heaven was born in 1862 Herakleitsa, Eastern Thrace, Ottoman Empire and reposed in our Lord on 7 April 1947 (aged 85). He lived as a monastic and practiced the arts of Iconography and Ecclesiastical Music in the Saint Anna’s Skete (Mount Athos), the historic Monastery of Saint George Chozeba, the Convent of the Holy Trinity (Aegina), the monastery of St John the theologian and Evangelist (Patmos) and the Convent of All Saints (Kalymnos) and a number of caves and hermitages all over the world.  His feast day is 7 April (25 March), The Fifth Sunday in Lent and was canonised in 1992.

For those who have never heard of him, a synopsis of his life can be found at the Mystagogy Resource Page.

Twenty-four hours with St. Amphilochios (II)

1.Cultivate the Jesus Prayer and a time will come when your heart will leap with joy, just as it does when you are about to see a person who you love very much.

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2.Do not neglect evening prayer. Pray with eagerness like those who are going to a feast. They are awake and feel joy alone. Thus, since you are going to speak with your Bridegroom, do not listen when the Tempter tells you various things in order to hinder you, because you know there is someone who cares for you.

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3.-“Elder, how must we picture Christ?”

-“We must always bring to Christ to mind with love. We could be holding the photograph of someone in our hands, but since we do not know them, we do not love him, we are not moved. Whereas, when we pick up a photograph of our mother, our soul immediately leaps and cries out with love.

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4.A person can be raised up above the earth by two wings, one is simplicity and the other is purity of heart. You must be simple in your actions and pure in your thoughts and feelings. With a pure heart you’ll seek God and with simplicity you’ll find Him and be glad. A pure heart passes through Heavens gate with ease.

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5.Self-denial must be cultivated with discernment, otherwise we reach the point of suicide.

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6.We are on the high seas of life, sometimes there are storms and at other times calm. God’s grace does not leave us. Else, we would have sunk, if he had not held us up. 

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7.The saints always look to the other life. It is the grace of the remembrance of death.

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8.God guards us from temptation. He does not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. He allows everything for our good.

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9.When spirituality increases, even sleep will have been fought off.

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10.Prayer is grace. God gives it when zeal and humility exist.

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11.Fight the Hater of Good, who envies you, bravely suffer whatever befalls you with fortitude, patience and faith.

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12.Do not allow your soul’s enemy to wage war against you. He appears in sheep’s clothing, supposedly wanting your soul’s benefit.

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13.Trust in the Lord always and he will nourish you in time of hunger. … Spiritual bonds become unbreakable when they come across a child-like spirit, innocence and sanctity.

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14.With a good word for your neighbour, supporting him, you buy paradise.

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15.Repentance must occur, not from fear of punishment but because we have sinned before God. Sweeten your thoughts with words of consolation and hope. Warm your words with the warmth of your love towards your Bridegroom and remember His Passion, which he underwent for you, so that you would remain firm, devoted and humble. Give your whole self completely over to the protecting veil of the Panagia.

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16.Love giving hospitality, my child, for it opens the gates of Paradise. In this you also offer hospitality to angels. “Entertain strangers so that you won’t be a stranger to God.”

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17.The saints submitted to whatever God sent them, with childlike simplicity, “That’s the way You want it. Let Your will be done.”

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18.Hospitality… the greatest of virtues. It draws the grace of the Holy Spirit towards us. In every stranger’s face, my child, I see Christ himself.

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Chapel of Unknown martyrs by St. Amphilochios

19.Sorrow is pleasing to God, in as much as it doesn’t take away our courage to fight.

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20.It is necessary and beneficial for a general self-examination to take place from time to time, remembering all former sins. … Our deeds, dear sister, will not save us; God’s infinite mercy will.

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21.Leave all your concerns to the hands of God. Ask for whatever you want, like a child asking from its father. … Prayer is a gift from God. Always ask with hope.

 

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The nunnery of  Evangelismos “The Annunciation to the Mother of the Beloved One” was built in 1613 from a Cretan monk of the Monastery, named Nikiforos. It is southwest of Chora. It consists of the temple of the Evangelistria (Our Lady of the Annunciation) of the side chapel of St. Luke and from a three-floored fortified tower with the side chapel of St. Antonio. The foundation of the monastery is dated from 1936, from the monk Amphilochios Makris, a great spiritual figure. He worked hard for the foundation and the development of the nunnery. The icons in the church date back to the 15th, 16th and 17th century. The sisterhood is home to over 40 nuns who apart from praying, occupy themselves with social welfare, gardening, beekeeping and Byzantine embroidery called the”spitha” (spark). The same stitch was used to make embroidery for aristocratic Byzantine families from the time of Hosios Cristodoulos.

Spiritual Counsels and Sayings Translated by Marina Robb.

All material is copywrited to Evangelismos Monastery, Patmos.

Source: CyberDesert