Reflections on the Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women

Freedom concept

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 6:1-7

… “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 

MARK 15:43-47; 16:1-8

“… and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. …  “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. “

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” This is the question that the holy women myrrh bearers were considering as they made their way to anoint the body of Our Lord in accordance with the funerary rites. The tomb of our Lord was sealed. Who will roll away the stone….is a question which we should consider today? For today there are tombs of indifference towards Our Lord- for the unbeliever, He remains buried in history. We must not leave Christ in the sepulchre but bring His Light out to the people and share the message of the Resurrection.

It is this very point that the first disciples were considering as we read in the Acts of the Apostles.

“it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The Apostles considering the needs of the widows, orphans appointed seven deacons to administer the diaconal ministry to the poor so that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. The Church in her wisdom provides for both aspects of service; the spiritual and bodily needs.

We do not bury Christ in the Church but we take His message and His compassion out into the world. We see how the Church in the first century was not inward-looking at all but took the message with great zeal to the nations. The Church was missionary in outlook from the very beginning. The word Apostolic Church is self-defining and denotes those who are sent out!

We can bury Christ in the Bible unless we open it, read it, mark the words, learn the message and inwardly digest the truth for our salvation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is not an ornament on our bookshelves, neither is the Bible just some historical document; it is the place where we encounter the inspired word of God and where we meet the Word of God in Christ.

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?”

Christ can remain buried in our minds. There are those who say: “ Oh I worship God in my own way, there is no need to go to Church!”  Such people shut Our Lord up in the tomb of their own imagination, worship Him at their own convenience and apply misguided reasoning to what constitutes faith.

There are those who are embarrassed to talk about Christ when the opportunity arises or to profess their Christian faith lest others, conforming to a more liberal, secular disposition, would see them as odd or be worse, be offended.  At such time we leave the stone sealed at the tomb!

We are in a sense to be myrrh bearers but we must ask the question “Who will roll away the stone of the tomb for us?”

“And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large.”

As the women go into the tomb they see an angel in the form of a young man who gives them the message- for that is what angels do – they give messages:

And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”

We often find ourselves vulnerable and afraid like the myrrh bearers, but we are compelled by the love of God to become human messengers of this Gospel!

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

We must not leave Christ buried under the concerns of worldly cares, we must roll away the stone from the tomb of our heart and soul, and open our mouth to proclaim the message of salvation: Christ is Risen!

By a Joyous Pustinnyk

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 25

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Christ is Risen!

Animals have a sensitivity that is quite remarkable. I know someone who is blind who has a guide dog. The dog is not only obedient to its master and disciplined to knowing what it should do but is sensitive and even anticipating the needs of its master. It is known that a dog’s acute sense of smell is sensitive to human emotion, anxiety and depression and has the ability to detect ailments and disease. Horses too can read human facial expressions. They possess a gift that can distinguish human mood.

St. Columba his blessings and the white horse. ( part 2 of2)

The white horse which had pulled the wagon for the saint to bless the Island of Iona came to Columba and laid its head on the saint’s chest. It began to whinny and cry. It seemed to know that the saint was ill. One of the monks wanted to take the horse away but St Columba refused: “Let him alone, for he loves me. Let him pour out his tears of grief. You are a man with a rational soul….but this dumb creature, possessing no reason* has been told by the Creator Himself that I am about to leave him.”

 His World

 

Matthew 6:28: “So why do you worry about clothing?

 Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow they neither toil nor spin.”

 

 

God’s creation is too beautiful for the worldly-wise,

            It takes the simple, humble mind to stand in awe with open eyes.

The abundance of God’s goodness needs an inner sight and trained,

To wonder at His Universe requires that we have gained;

A sense of veneration for his order and his splendour.

We require a loss of pride and a willingness to surrender,

To gain discernment in our search for beauty and exercise of choice.

We need to listen carefully at that inner, still, small voice

That prompts us to select the best,

And with the angels and the saints attest,

The omnipotence of God in His creation,

The crowning of a Holy Nation,

Dedicated to participation

                    In His world.

We are indeed the stewards of this earth

Called to cherish and conserve that which is of worth.

Illuminate our sight, dear Lord, so that we may grow in grace

Mirrored for a season until we see You face to face.

Working in our clay-bound bodies, a consequence of sin

Resting rarely to consider lilies that neither toil nor spin.

The earth is far too beautiful for the worldly-wise

It takes a simple, humble heart for the soul to rise

Upwards to the heavens, inspired by love

                    For His world.

 

 

 

Amma Theodora

Amma Theodora said, ‘Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.’

The same Amma said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls

 

*The word for horse in Greek is άλογο which means non-speaking or without logic or reason.

 
 
Eν Χριστώ

A Photo Diary of Little things — 4

Bougainvillea

 Bougainvillaea: most popular especially in Chalkidiki and the islands

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Tendrils! A photo-stroll to the most popular climbers in my suburbs and a few tearful reflections at the end as to why I lately ,often feel like a forlorn tendril …

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Cathedral Bells

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Lately, in my balcony (as sadly I currently live in a big city and have access to only a narrow balcony), and in my long strolls in our suburbs, I have become fascinated with climbers. Especially with tendrils.

hop climber2

All tendrils reach out, climb over other plants to reach sunlight and twine their stems in particular directions, coiling clockwise and anti-clockwise (no one knows why). Sometimes, tendrils even use tiny grappling hooks on their stems, rather like a mountaineer’s crampons, to get a better grip on their support. 

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Hops

Some tendrils (eg. cathedral bells) have even claws at the end of them that fasten on to objects at the slightest touch; they’ll even hold on to your skin. Such is their need for support, to anchor on to supports. 

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Ivy

Other tendrils climb up steep slopes with ‘instant’ roots, sprouting out of its stems.  Yet others, I read, develop into springs, like a car suspension unit (!), to withstand the elements.

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Jasmin

Some tendrils are slow, but some are fast, like the passionflowers, coiling within about 20-23 seconds after touching. Grapevine tendrils, I am told,  are lined with special, thin-walled cells so they can sense a solid support more easily.

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Beans 🙂

Such Beauty all around me! And yet, sometimes, in so many ways, I feel like a hopeless, forlorn tendril these days, reaching out but unable to be in this tight community mode I have so enjoyed in the past. I am not sure what I miss most.

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Sweet Peas

Is it the Holy Services in the church, the Holy sacraments of which we have been deprived since our Coronavirus lockdown, especially Holy Communion? (How is it possible to celebrate Pascha without receiving Holy Communion? I am no Saint to mystically receive Our Lord in my heart as we read in the synaxaria.) Or is it the immediate fellowship of a spiritual father and brothers, as I have experienced time and again, in monastic and tightly woven parish environments, that I so terribly miss? 

hop climber2

More Hop climbers

I desperately need to cling to an Elder and senior spiritual brothers. To be sure, the ultimate cling is to God. “My soul hath cleaved unto Thee” (Psalms 63:8) But I do miss obedience for all its struggles. No amount of telephone, mails and emails or digital media can offer the miracle and joy of spiritual osmosis.

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Winegrape; most common in monastery yards in Greece

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

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I have never felt more piercing in my heart these words of Our Lord in John 15, uprooted, separated, cut off, locked down, dejected, as I often, lately feel. Well, this is the closest of a Hell experience I have ever experienced in my life. A most sobering one. If after two months, I feel I can have no more, how scary such an Eternity must be. How many prayers are we to pour out for those departed ones trapped, locked down in ‘this’ Hell… How many tears are we to offer for them and our poor souls, so we do not share their destiny. May we all be saved. Your prayers

 

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 20

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Christ is Risen!

The Light shines in the darkness

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Some of the Epitaphios flowers are still fresh. Holy Water revives them.

 

Our enforced lock-down gives one the opportunity to call others, to send texts and forward emails. It is always lovely to hear from people, especially the ones you haven’t heard from in a long while. Amidst the sad statistics, it is good to hear pieces of good news which bring hope and encouragement as well as to share one another’s burdens. Perhaps God has given us this time to teach us patience and attentiveness; to listen more to His Word and to the words of others, to hear what the other is saying without the busyness of distraction. We should always take care of course what we hear and discern that which is good from that which is evil. The Welsh have a saying, “Gossip, is the devil’s mailbag!”

Messages lie at the very heart of the “good news” of the Gospel. We repeat in this season of Paschal Joy “Christ is Risen!” It has become a greeting as well as a proclamation.

Nettle soup (part 2)

On hearing the message that the Saint (Columba) was to eat only nettle soup, the cook was rather concerned about such a poor diet for his master. He thought to himself; “I will add some milk!” So he hollowed out the stick used for stirring soup and through it he secretly poured the milk. St Columba ate the soup and ordered that all the monks should follow his example and have this tasty soup. (Part three next time!!)

myrrh-bearing women

The Message

 

Luke 24:9 “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven

and to all the rest.”

 

Early in the morning with the sorrow that they shared

The women set out with the spices that they had prepared.

 

They came to the place where he was laid, the stone was rolled away

Expecting only death, they found an empty tomb at the break of day.

 

Perplexed and troubled at this scene, two angels then appeared

The women bowed their faces to the ground as they were afeared.

 

The angels in bright garments addressed the myrrh bearers and said:

“Why is it so that you seek the living among the dead?”

 

Remember how he spoke to you of how the Son of Man would die

There is no reason for your presence here, nor need for you to cry.

 

Did he not say that this would come to be at the hands of sinful men,

How he would be crucified and on the third day rise again.

 

Go proclaim the good news to the eleven and to others who will listen,

That Jesus Christ who died upon the Cross has today arisen.

 

 Glory be to the Risen Lord!

 

Faith and love which are gifts of the Holy Spirit are such great and powerful means that a person who has them can easily, and with joy and consolation, go the way Jesus Christ went. Besides this,  the Holy Spirit gives man the power to resist the delusions of the world so that although he makes use of earthly good, yet he uses them as a temporary visitor, without attaching his heart to them. But a man who has not got the Holy Spirit, despite all his learning and prudence, is always more or less a slave and worshipper of the world. 

St. Innocent of Irkutsk, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of  Heaven. 

 

My love and poor prayers

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 14

Monastery Vigilromanian orthodox nuns

Christ is Risen!

Remember the little things  — Day #13  

Dear friends in Christ, on this Day of Days, may the Light of the Risen Christ shine in your hearts.

Matthew 28:6 

6 He is not here: for He is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

 

Tismana

Tismana monastery

The New Birth

Reflection on a pilgrimage to Tismana monastery in Oltania, Romania

John 3:3 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

The dawning mist, warmed by the red glowing charcoal of the solar orb

Infused the morning’s breath with pine tree, herb and scented smells.

Creation’s glorious incense clouds ascended to the heavenly altar above

To greet and meet before the throne, the vigorous calling of the Temple bells.

 

Beginners in life’s marathon we too climbed to make our prayerful progress in the faith

Joining streams of gliding nuns to Church, those angelic shadows of their Master’s way.

A fresh, cold, sparkling spring gushed from a rock next to the monastery’s holy gates

Quickening our spirits within as living water to refresh this beautiful new born day.

 

Some standing ready for the fight, others prostrate stilling the struggles of the night

Curled, we knelt within the nave as pre-born babies within their mothers’ wombs.

In the dark stillness of that marbled sepulchre burst forth Christ in resplendent light

With resurrection hands outstretched to deliver us in new birth from our earthly tombs.

 

 In Heaven’s panoply of the bright, host-filled company the embers of our spirits glowed

From sparks to flames, we shone as satellite moons orbit and reflect the glory of the Sun.

Whilst shafts of gold and arks of rainbow-promises fulfilled, through windows blazed

Blessing the bescreened holy ones whose crowns after life’s hard labour had been won. 

 

To the glory of God

 

Souls that love truth and God, that long with much hope and faith to put on Christ completely, do not need so much to be put in remembrance by others, nor do they endure, even for a while, to be deprived of the heavenly desire and of passionate affection to the  Lord; but being wholly and entirely nailed to the cross of Christ, they perceive in themselves day by day a sense of spiritual advance towards the spiritual Bridegroom. 

St. Macarius the Great 

 

 

Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 13

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Holy Week Highlights — a photoblog. Christ is Risen!

Nymfiosholy unction

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The Saints are delighted with the flowers! I eventually found the card. Thank you dearest sisters. I am overwhelmed, and all the saints in my icon corner are smiling.

Bleeding Crucifix today, on Holy Thursday, now in Athens, in Holy Andreas Chapel, Nursing Home Care

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Greek style! A flying priest! Go to https://ellada.press/vinteo-o-iptamenos-iereas-tis-chiou-edose-pali-resital-telos-sunelifthi/

And Cypriot style 🙂 Holy Saturday Vespers — How to make holy noise — Cypriot style 🙂
Please watch from 1:14:28 up to 1:17, and later, and pay attention to all details His Eminence Metropolitan Morfou

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This is one of the first Icons I “made.” It is a simple print stuck on to a piece of wood. I found it in my attic at the bottom of a cardboard box. 

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Entry into Jerusalem | The Palm Sunday Icon

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“Who are you?”

The Icon of the Entry into Jerusalem is most striking. We see our Lord seated upon a colt of a donkey. The donkey’s head is bowed low and a child is feeding the donkey. To the right is pictured the walled city of Jerusalem and at the gate are the assembled elders, one is holding a palm branch hailing him as the son of David, the Messiah but another is whispering, one is looking away, yet another is looking towards the palm tree and the remainder are looking at each other. They seem sceptical observers to the event. Their faces portray the overarching question which is voiced in the Gospel of Matthew “Who is this?” Is this the Messiah riding on a donkey?

Had they forgotten the prophet’s words:

Zechariah 9:9 

The Coming of Zion’s King

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Our Lord Himself in the middle of the scene has his head inclined towards his disciples who are following Him to the left of the Icon. He is looking to see if they are still there? In a few days time, of course, they would not be! Only the beloved disciple remained faithful- the others hid and fled, one denied Him and another betrayed Him. Behind our Lord’s Head is the Mount of Olives, outside the city, where he would be handed over to the authorities.

Our Lord rides upon the humble beast of burden that bears the cross on its back. He holds in His left hand a scroll which the Church Fathers suggest refers to the scroll in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 5:3-5 

But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The only ones who are active in this scene are the small children. One is cutting the branches from the tree and two others are strewing branches and garments before Christ’s path.  They are often pictured in white garments for purity. In their child-like innocence and enthusiasm only they are truly engaged in this historic ride into Jerusalem.

So who is this One who comes riding into Jerusalem? This is a question that Christ Himself asked His disciples-“Who do men say that I am?”  Who are you?  Was the question the High Priest asked of Jesus at His first-night trial. The same question Pilate asked of Jesus when He stood before Him at the Judgement seat. It is the question that Saul asked on the road to Damascus Who are you, Lord? It is the question the Holy Fathers considered at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they gave the definitive answer in the Creed: He is God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God being of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made.

But this question “Who are you?”  is for us to answer and confess for ourselves. We are told in the scriptures that many admired the work of Jesus but they went their own way. They witnessed the miracles and were amazed by his teaching yet they refused to accept Him. The same voices that cried out Hosanna to the Son of David after a few days cried out Crucify Him!

If Christ is King then we must follow Him to the Cross and beyond to the Resurrection. We must make our heart a throne for Him to come and reign as Sovereign Lord. Our Lord comes to us today and we have to make up our minds, to open our hearts and to commit our souls to Him as our Lord and God. Our Christian Faith is of ultimate importance.

C. S. Lewis once wrote:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

This is no time for fair-weather Christians. We know what Christ will do to those who have a lukewarm faith. (Revelation 3:16)

    The One who comes into Jerusalem today is the One Who is the Prince of Peace the Son of God, the servant and King. We cry out to Him Hosanna in the Highest. Save us O Master!

Palm Sunday 2020

Entrance to Jerusalem - 4- 2020

From Pascha to Good Friday

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That Easter (Paschal) Vigil Father Dionysios chanted “Christ is Risen!” only once. His next words were “My child, my child!” (1) The explosion of light which followed after at midnight the church went dark and the bells rang out to proclaim the resurrection was literally an explosion. When people started cheering and letting off firework crackers, one flare rebounded on a tree and exploded on his 6 years old son’s eye. K. his neighbour, 25 years old, had shot a flare with a sailor’s gun. It was Christos’ first time to hold the Paschal banner on the platform. They took the boy immediately to the nearest hospital, to the intensive care unit. For 5 days, Father Dionysios was holding his little boy’s hand praying for a miracle to save his life. His friends were screaming “Kill the murderer! He killed your son!” Father Dionysios told them to stop. “Do not lay charges on this man! Let us punish him with our love. What would Christ have done in our place? This is what you need to ask yourselves.”  For 4 days and nights, Father Dionysios pleaded on his knees. We did not know what happened on that 4th night but we saw him the following day in church exhausted but serene. Then, at 11 am, the news from the hospital came.  “We did all we could …” Father Dionysios looked up to the sky, and a tear trickled down his cheek to the ground.

The following day, Bright, Resurrection Day, but for their village was Good Friday. The little coffin was white. Father Dionysios, pale, was holding his little son’s hand, just as he had done all his life and the last four days in intensive care. He was his only son.

After the funeral, they kept pressing him to lay charges against his neighbour. He refused again. The following day he went to visit him in jail. The man everybody called a murderer. When he saw him, he wept and held his hand. Both were weeping. “Don’t say anything”, he told him. “He Who gives life, He knows ..” And he forgave him.

The Tear in the Chalice

One Sunday in June was the Memorial Service. At “Thine Own of Thine Own”, Father Dionysios looked at the Cross in the altar, and saw Christakis, not Christ, on the Cross, looking at him. Tears welled up in his eyes. Then he looked up again at the Cross, and he saw his son’s “murderer” face on Christ’s. His neighbour was still in jail. More tears welled up in his eyes. When he raised his eyes again for a third time, he saw Christ’s face on the Cross, Christ weeping and a tear falling in the Chalice.

 

(1) This story is real, and the event took place in Drosia, Evia, in 2011. Christos Soutzios, 6 years old, the priest’s only son, got killed by a flare. That memorial service took place on June 5, 2011. 

Source: https://www.egnomi.gr/article/14902/to_megaleio_tis_psyxis_toy_papa_dionysi.html

https://www.newsit.gr/topikes-eidhseis/xalkida-sygklonizei-o-pateras-pou-eide-na-skotonetai-to-paidi-tou-apo-naytiki-fotovolida-video/2769945/

 

 

*Sent by Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery

 

 

Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (I)

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Gerondas Theoklitos, Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian

 

Paschal Holy Dances in Attica, Aegina and Euboia

Everybody in our mixed company on the bus was exhausted even before starting out! Doctors, reeling after long shifts, having barely slept for more than 3-4 hours in 3-4 days in a row; parents struggling with noisy, boisterous,excited young children; senior high-school and university students in distress, studying for their final exams … on the bus! … while all were desperately trying to get some sleep… But the most exhausted of us all was our accompanying priest, Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery, after a rigorous monastic Great Lent and Holy Week, on top of all his other duties. St Arsenios himself, as in all past pilgrimages, was at the front seat of the bus. His relics were reverently carried by all pilgrims at every stop of our pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was brief but packed and hectic, so let me simply offer a few Paschal, mostly ‘leaping/ dancing” vignettes which made the greatest impression to me.

 

But let me start with the beginning.This Bright [1]Week pilgrimage was appropriately the brightest I have ever participated in! It felt like the fulfilment of St. John’s of Damascus Mystical Pascha captured in his Paschal Canon! To be sure, any trip to Greece in springtime straight from a foggy, misty, rainy England is bound to feel full of light! Especially if to Athens and the islands!

 

Still, the Light which nearly blinded all of us during this Bright Week pilgrimage must have contained a tiny ray of Christ’s Light [2]! A palpable, tangible Transfiguration Light dancing in all pilgrims’ eyes, on the bus and in all the monasteries we visited. The atmosphere felt so light as if were all to collectively Ascend to Heavens. The sheer exuberance of “Christ is Risen” chanted 99 times every single day during Resurrection Day and All Bright Week made our hearts leap with joy! And our Lord’s greeting “Rejoice!” in all the 11 Resurrectional Matins (Eothina) Gospels reverberated in our hearts. And as we were soon to find out, we were about to meet lots of literally dancing and leaping holy men and women.

 

Morning Holy Liturgy at the Holy Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Mount Olympus (3) on Bright Tuesday

 

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That was another discovery of that week: how many Paschal verses indeed contain this image of “leaping”:

 

THE PASCHAL CANON

 

Ode 4.

David, the forefather of our divine Lord, leapt and dancedbefore the symbolical Ark of the Covenant.

 

ode 5

“When they who were held by the chains of hell beheld Thy boundless compassion, O Christ, they hastened to the Light with joyful feet, exalting the eternal Pascha.

 

ode 7

We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

 

THE PASCHAL STICHERA IN TONE FIVE

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and leap for joy, in that thou beholdest Christ the King like a bridegroom come forth from the grave.

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Everybody in our mixed company on the bus was exhausted even before starting out! Doctors, reeling after long shifts, having barely slept for more than 3-4 hours in 3-4 days in a row; parents struggling with noisy, boisterous,excited young children; senior high-school and university students in distress, studying for their final exams … on the bus! … while all were desperately trying to get some sleep… But the most exhausted of us all was our accompanying priest, Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery, after a rigorous monastic Great Lent and Holy Week, on top of all his other duties. St Arsenios himself, as in all past pilgrimages, was at the front seat of the bus. His relics were reverently carried by all pilgrims at every stop of our pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was brief but packed and hectic, so let me simply offer a few Paschal, mostly “leaping/ dancing” vignettes which made the greatest impression to me:

 

To Be Continued …

 

Footnotes

 [1] Bright week begins with the Sunday of Pascha, and comes to a close on Bright Saturday, at Vespers. One may actually argue that Bright week comes to a close before the ninth hour (which precedes vespers), since the royal doors and deacons’ doors, which have been wide open all week, are closed. This is a sad and significant moment. Just like our forefathers Adam and Eve, we cannot remain in paradise in this life, because of our sins. Ours is a life of struggle against our passions, which hold us back from full realization of paradise in this life.
‘How many days are in Bright week?’ There are TWO correct answers! According to the sun’s rising and setting, Bright week is seven days, (Sunday through Saturday) but to the church, liturgically, it is one day – the “eighth day”.

[2]Cf. Lev Gillet’s notes on the theme of light in the Byzantine liturgical year: ‘Come, take light from the Light that has no evening, and glorify Christ, risen from the dead.’ On the Sunday Pascha, the celebrant stands at the royal doors of the iconostasion and holds a lighted candle in his hand. “Once more, the eastern Church represents the Christian mystery in terms of the mystery of light; this Light, whose birth was marked by the star of Bethlehem, has been shining among us with growing intensity; the darkness of Golgotha could not extinguish it. Now it reappears among us, and all the candles which the congregation hold in their hands, and that they now light, proclaim its triumph. In this way, the deeply spiritual meaning of Easter is indicated. The physical Resurrection of Jesus would be without value to us if the divine light did not shine at the same time among us, within us. We cannot worthily celebrate the Resurrection of Christ if, in our soul, the light brought by the Saviour has not completely overcome the darkness of our sins.”[The Uncreated Light] on Easter night triumphs over the darkness; at Pentecost it reaches its full zenith. Pentecost is the ‘midday flame’. (The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church, p177, p215 respectively)

[3]: For information and a documentary in Greek about our first stop, the beautiful Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympus, go herehere and here.

I am Back

 

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Pantokratoros Monastery in Ntaou Penteli

Virginia: “When will you start writing in Greek? English comes difficult to me. I struggle with your posts. Please consider …”

And Gianna. And Kalliopi. And …

Christ is Risen! 

It seems this blog may soon become bilingual… Maybe I should alternate one blogpost in Greek, one in English? … Once, twice a week? Do you think this is a good idea? On the bus, on our way to Attica, my Greek friends asked me to share on the microphone a few of my experiences here. They gasped at the stories I told them. They did not know. How could they even begin to imagine? 

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St. Nektarios’ the Wonderworker monastery, Agia Triada (The Holy Trinity) in Aegina

I feel I owe this to my Greek and Cypriot brethren who should not be left behind. They need to recover Orthodoxy, expand their horizons and learn about Orthodoxy’s struggles in foreign lands. In so many ways, I have discovered more about Orthodoxy during my brief ‘exile’ in an un-Orthodox country than in a lifetime in an Orthodox one.

Besides, any missionary endeavour and blog require by their very nature more than one tongue. At Pentecost “every man heard them speak in his own language”(Acts 2:6). I still find writing in English a lot harder than in Greek my mother tongue, and there are a lot of texts yet untranslated in English. 

What is your opinion? Do you have any suggestions? I would be so grateful for any help.

 

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Pantokratoros Monastery in Ntaou Penteli, 179 Martyrs Reliquary

Christ is Risen! 

I am back. I can’t believe a whole month flew by so fast! Thank you for staying in touch through my inbox. So many emails to reply, questions to answer, stories to be told … Please be patient with me, as I am still unpacking. My pilgrimage to Attica, Aegina and Euboia lasted only a few precious days, yet had quite an effect on me. It felt like a landmark and a watershed. More in the posts to follow…

 

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The Kato Xenia Monastery at Almyros, near Volos – The Wonder Working Belt of Virgin Mary

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Monastery of Transfiguration near Rovies, island of Evia, constructed by Saint David, and served by the recently canonised St. Iakovos Tsalikis. + His grave