Living Waters

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“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)”

What beautiful imagery! Indeed, the teachings of Our Lord came to the thirsting human race like living water, like a river of grace cooling the face of the earth. Christ is the fount of grace ‘of the water that will gush up to eternal life’, which slakes and waters people’s souls which are parched with raging thirst. Which transforms those who drink into springs: ‘Rivers of living water shall flow from their bellies’. And He said to the Samaritan woman’. The water that I shall give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life’. Which transformed the desert of the world into a paradise of evergreen trees planted by God, planted as the edge of the waters by the Holy Spirit.

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THE FEAST OF MID-PENTECOST AND THE PENTECOSTARION

The fifty days following Pascha until the Feast of Pentecost are known as the period of the Pentecostarion in the Orthodox Church. At the mid-point between these great feasts of Pascha and Pentecost, on the twenty-fifth day which is always a Wedneday, is one of the most beloved feasts for the most devout Orthodox Christians known quit simply as Mid-Pentecost. Mid-Pentecost is to the Pentecostarion what the Third Sunday of Great Lent which honors the Holy Cross is to the period of Great Lent. It is a day which helps us focus on the central theme of the entire period. Whereas the mid-point of Great Lent reminds us to bear up the Cross of Christ bravely so that we may daily die with Christ in order to experience the Resurrection of our Lord, so also the mid-point of the Pentecostarion enlightens us regarding the theme of the fifty days following Pascha – which is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit poured out as a gift upon all the faithful who partake of the living water which is Christ Himself.

The central theme woven throughout the period of the Pentecostarion therefore is water. This becomes the central theme of the period because it is the central theme of the Gospel of John which we read in its entirety during the Pentecostarion and which naturally flows into the Acts of the Apostles which is also read during this period in its entirety. This theme appears for the first time on Pascha itself in the joyous Canon of the Feast of Feasts written by Saint John the Damascene when he invites us to “drink a new drink,” not “brought forth from a barren rock,” as in the Old Testament under Moses, but which rather “springeth forth from the grave of Christ.” Then during the Paschal Divine Liturgy the priest processes with the Gospel and chants loudly from Psalm 67:27 saying: “In the congregations bless ye God, the Lord from the well-springs of Israel.”

When Renewal or Bright Week is over the Church wisely sets up two Sundays in which to abolish all doubts concerning the Resurrection of Christ, that of the Sunday of Saint Thomas and the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women. This is done in order to ensure that we all partake of the living water that only the risen Lord can give. The following three Sundays, as we approach Pentecost, the theme of water becomes more and more central in the hymns of the Church. Thus we are found one Sunday at the Sheep’s Pool with the Paralytic, then at the Well of Jacob with the Samaritan Woman, and finally at the Pool of Siloam with the Blind Man. During this festive period we hear concerning the “living water” which if one partakes of “he will never thirst”. We are taught that it is our Savior Himself who is this living water, and we partake of Him through the baptismal waters and the Cup of Life which issued forth from His side at His crucifixion unto remission of sins and life everlasting. Then on Pentecost we have grace rained upon our parched souls and bodies so that we may be fruitful and have a great harvest as we hear from the holy Gospel on that day: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”. Finally the Pentecostarion concludes with the Feast of All Saints, that is those who partook of the “waters of piety”, which is the harvest of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The Fathers teach us that the feast of Mid-Pentecost stands in the middle of the fifty-day period from Pascha to Pentecost as a mighty flowing river of divine grace which have these two great feasts as its source. Pascha and Pentecost are united in Mid-Pentecost. Without Pascha there is no Pentecost and without Pentecost there is no purpose to Pascha.

We read the following entry in The Great Horologion that further explains the details of the feast:

“After the Saviour had miraculously healed the paralytic, the Jews, especially the Pharisees and Scribes, were moved to envy and persecuted Him, and sought to slay Him, using the excuse that He did not keep the Sabbath, since He worked miracles on that day. Jesus then departed to Galilee. About the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles, He went up again to the Temple and taught. The Jews, marveling at the wisdom of His words, said, ‘how knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’ But Christ first reproached their unbelief and lawlessness, then proved to them by the Law that they sought to slay Him unjustly, supposedly as a despiser of the Law, since He had healed the paralytic on the Sabbath.

“Therefore, since the things spoken of by Christ in the middle of the Feast of the Tabernacles are related to the Sunday of the Paralytic that is just passed, and since we have already reached the midpoint of the fifty days between Pascha and Pentecost, the Church has appointed this present feast as a bond between the two great Feasts, thereby uniting, as it were, the two into one, and partaking of the grace of them both. Therefore today’s feast is called Mid‐Pentecost, and the Gospel Reading, ‘At Mid‐feast’—though it refers to the Feast of the Tabernacles—is used.

“It should be noted that there were three great Jewish feasts: the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Passover was celebrated on the 15th of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, which roughly coincides with our March. This feast commemorated that day on which the Hebrews were commanded to eat the lamb in the evening and anoint the doors of its houses with its blood. Then, having escaped bondage and death at the hands of the Egyptians, they passed through the Red Sea to come to the Promised Land. It is called ‘the feast of Unleavened Bread,’ because they ate unleavened bread for seven days. Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Passover, first of all, because the Hebrew tribes had reached Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt, and there received the Law from God; secondly, it was celebrated to commemorate their entry into the Promised Land, where also they ate bread, after having been fed with manna forty years in the desert. Therefore, on this day they offered to God a sacrifice of bread prepared with new wheat. Finally, they also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles from the 15th to the 22nd of ‘the seventh month,’ which corresponds roughly to our September. During this time, they lived in booths made of branches in commemoration of the forty years they spent in the desert, living in tabernacles, that is, in tents (Ex. 12:10‐20; Lev. 23 LXX). “

The Feast of Mid-Pentecost is celebrated for an entire week until the following Wednesday, making it an eight day feast. During this entire time the hymns of Mid-Pentecost are joined with that of Pascha. Because of the theme of water, traditionally the Church celebrates the Lesser Blessing of the Waters on this day, preferably with a procession with the Holy Cross to a water spring.

The theme of the feast not only invokes water, but even more central to the Gospel chronology it honors Christ as Teacher and Wisdom as He reveals Himself between the stories of the Paralytic and that of the Blind Man. During this time we are told: “Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught…Jesus answered them, and said, ‘My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself'” (John 7:14-30). The icon for this feast depicts the young Jesus teaching the elders in the Temple (Luke 2:46, 47) at which time Jesus first revealed Himself as a teacher or rabbi. Traditional Orthodox icons will depict Jesus as larger than the elders, showing his superior spiritual status.

Since the hymns of the Church invoke and praise our Lord as the Wisdom of God spoken of in the Book of Proverbs, it is traditional that all churches named after Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia celebrate their feast on this day. In fact, Greek scholar Constantine Kalokyre has written a study titled “The Churches of the Wisdom of God and the Date of their Celebration”, which appeared in the periodical Saint Gregory Palamas, no. 71 (723) (1988), pp. 538-617. In this study he comes to the conclusion that the Great Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople celebrated its feast day on Mid-Pentecost.

From Mystagogy

Also cf Pemptousia

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Troparion, tone 8: Having come to the middle of the Feast, refresh my thirsty soul with the streams of piety; for Thou, O Saviour, didst cry to all: Let him who thirsts come to Me and drink. O Christ our God, Source of Life, glory to Thee.

Kontakion, tone 4: When the Feast of the law was half over, O Lord and Creator of all, Thou didst say to the bystanders, O Christ our God: Come and draw the water of immortality. Therefore we fall down before Thee and cry with faith: Grant us Thy bounties, for Thou art the Source of our Life.

 

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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

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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.

 

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)

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*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