The Cross and Joy of Motherhood

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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

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Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista (+2019) A Hierarch of Fire

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St. Iakovos of Evia and Metropolitan Pavlos

Suddenly on Sunday 13/1, Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista, reposed in the Lord. He was a very beloved and respected hierarch of the Church of Greece and a spiritual child of St. Iakovos of Evia. His words, example and advice carry great weight and his talks are filled with true love and wisdom. Below are a brief biography and a wonderful recent talk of his with English subtitles. May he have a blessed Paradise, and may we have his blessing!’

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His last night he spent in the Monastery of St. David of Evia and St. Iakovos  [my recent pilgrimage] which he loved so much, and until noon of his last day he was near there in Rovies, serving his final Divine Liturgy on Sunday January 13th next to the Precious Skull of St. David.
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I had the blessing to attend Vigils with this hierarch at Mikrokastro Monastery and I remember his fiery eyes and voice. Even now, three days after his repose, his holy presence is still palpably felt to all. We feel he is alive in our Resurrected Lord. We experience a gladdening sorrow burning our hearts. *”His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14) May he pray for all of us. +Memory Eternal!

 

The video which follows is very important as it reveals Metropolitan Pavlos’ intimate spiritual relationship with Elder Iakovos and relates lots of miracles which he experienced first-hand.
For Metropolitan Pavlos’ life, go here.

St. Seraphim Sarov and a child’s love for his spiritual father

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This is a story about St Seraphim which Fr. Seraphim from Mull Monastery first heard from one of the sisters at his Monastery in Diveyevo:

“When St Seraphim was living as a hermit in the forest, two young men who were novices at the monastery in Sarov had him as their spiritual father (can you imagine that?). One was called Sasha; I don’t remember the name of the second one.

At one point, St Seraphim gave them an obedience to go and pray to the Saints of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He had been there as a young man himself, just before entering the monastery in Sarov, and he probably wanted his two spiritual sons to receive the same blessings he had.

Anyway, having received this obedience and a blessing from the Monastery, they left for Kiev. On the way to Kiev though (which would have taken weeks), Sasha grew increasingly sad and weak. He was missing his spiritual father so much that he felt he could not go on without St Seraphim.

 

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As they were travelling further from Sarov, things got increasingly worse, his heart ached so much, his pain cut so deep that he fell physically ill. He suffered for a few days, tormented by the love he felt for the great Saint and the separation from him, until he eventually died.

He died missing his spiritual father. This is a story I’ve struggled with for a long time, until last year, I asked my own spiritual father about it. What happened to the soul of poor Sasha? Was that not spiritual death, to get so attached to a human being that you could not live without that person?

My spiritual father only said: ‘that young man was not missing St Seraphim, but Christ’s image in the great elder’. He may not have had the spiritual maturity to understand this, but the love he felt, that beyond-human need to be united with St Seraphim, was actually the craving, the longing, the love his heart felt for Christ.

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St Seraphim had revealed to him Christ Himself. Sasha had felt Christ’s love in the saint’s love. His soul understood that there is no life apart from his spiritual father, because – unknown to his simplicity – he had learnt that there is no love apart from Christ. So when the young man died, he did not become separated from his spiritual father, but he finally became One with the Lord of his heart.”

 

* Dedicated to my dearly loved spiritual Father

I know how the monk  Sasha ( Alexander) felt. When away on pilgrimages, the break in my heart gets wider and tears begin to fall. I miss him so much, though,  it seems, it has not been to death so far! 

 

 

Ten Orthodox New Years Resolutions

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Making New Years resolutions? Consider the following Ten Points for a better Orthodox way of life. These will nourish your soul and bring you closer to God and an eternal heir to His kingdom.
1. Praying Daily: Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.
2. Worshiping and Participating in the Sacraments: Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.
3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle: Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
4. Using the Jesus Prayer: Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.
5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life: Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.
6. Being Watchful: Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.
7. Taming the Passions: Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.
8. Putting Others First: Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.
9. Spiritual Fellowship: Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.
10. Reading Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers.
Link to guidance on these ten points: Ten Points for an Orthodox way of life

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Happy New Year 2019 to all dearly loved in the countries of my heart, and to all the world! This New Year is yet one more plain covered with snow, unspoiled, pure … Let us tread responsibly on this expanse of whiteness still unspoiled. So much depends on the way in which we tread it. Will there be a road cutting through the plain following Light and Love? Or wandering steps that will only soil the whiteness of the snow?

The Remarkable Christmas Homily of Kyros Panopolites

Probably the most laconic ever Christmas homily!

 

In the 440’s a remarkable and unusual sermon was delivered on Christmas Day before a hostile congregation.

 

Kyros, a poet of some repute, came to Constantinople from his native Egypt and used his literary ability and the patronage of the empress Eudokia to become praefectus urbi about 435 and praefectus praetorio by 439. He held both offices simultaneously for about four years, but his career was ruined when Emperor Theodosius II accused him of being a pagan, removed him from power, and confiscated his property. Whether paganism was really the issue is difficult to say, as several sources claimed that the emperor’s real motive was envy of Kyros’ popularity among the people of Constantinople.

 

Stripped of his office, Kyros sought sanctuary in the Church and became a priest. Then, on the emperor’s orders, he was sent as bishop to Kotyaion in Phrygia. The rather unusual choice of an accused pagan as an episcopal appointee was explained by the reputation of the people of Kotyaion. They had killed four of their previous bishops, and Theodosius supposedly hoped that they would do the same to Kyros, thus ridding him once and for all of a dangerous rival.

 

Kyros arrived in Kotyaion at Christmas-time and was officiating in the church when the people, who had learned that he might be a pagan, suddenly called out for him to preach, presumably to test the validity of the report. It was under these circumstances that Kyros delivered his only recorded sermon. He ascended the ambo, gave the greeting of peace, and spoke:

 

“Brethren, let the birth of God our Savior Jesus Christ be honored with silence, because the Word of God was conceived in the holy Virgin through hearing alone. To him be glory for ever. Amen.”

 

The sermon had taken perhaps half a minute, and the reaction of the people was instant and unanimous. Instead of killing Kyros on the spot, they rejoiced and praised him, and he lived on to administer his see piously for many years. Kyros was a figure around whom Christian lore collected (cf. the story of the miraculous icon), and an element of hagiography may be operating in our accounts of this event. But we should remember that the evidence for Kyros’ sermon seems to come originally from Priskos of Panion, a contemporary observer and one not always favorable to Christian luminaries.

 

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Read more here.

A Christmas letter

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My dear sister K.,

I have been thinking of you and wishing you patience and joy in your time away from us. After a difficult time, in as much as it was manic and full of varied temptations, I feel peace is about to descend. On a worldly front, I am sitting in my house alone, having finished my last day of work. Just finished reading the Gospels and will now listen to Christmas Carols. Bliss! So peaceful and such a contrast to my daily noise. The rest of the family have gone to L. on a family visit and are staying overnight. I feel sleep would be a waste. I want to enjoy the peace awake and alert. It was such a blessed idea to read the Gospels. I feel my whole being has never been so awake to the Word. There is still a very long way to go for me, but I feel with every reading it’s like another thin veil is lifted from my brain and my heart so I can be a little step closer to the Word of the Lord. 
I hope you and the family are well and I wish you a very blessed Feast of the Nativity, filled with love and joy! Looking forward to our reunion in flesh and prayer and to our next endeavour in Christ.
Lots of love,
A.

Flowers for Kyra Vassiliki

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There was a woman in a small village in Aitoloakarnania and had three children.
Kyra Vasiliki managed to raise up her family with incredible deprivations and difficulties, but with a unique dignity! She died on Dormition eve in 1998.
The next day, on August 15, the cheap coffin with her corpse, which was on the chassis of the priest’s small van, was headed toward the cemetery.
In the course of the funeral, some of her fellow villagers followed and talked about the sufferings that she had endured when she lived, when suddenly a beautiful fragrance exuded and spread all over the place:
If thousands of flowers were there, no such aroma would be possible !!!

All of them were surprised and could not explain that mystery. Among those who accompanied her was also a spiritual child of the late Elder Ambrosius Lazaris (1912-2006), the charismatic Spiritual Father of the Holy Monastery of Dadi. After a few days of this miraculous, yet incomprehensible event, he went to Elder Ambrosius, reporting to him the whole incident. Very laconically, he told him only that: “A woman died, and the place was full of fragrance.”
Elder Ambrosius, at first, remained silent.
Then, he walked into his room, stayed for a while there, and then returned.
These were his words:
– She has been sanctified! And, do you know why? Because, never in her life, did she ever complain! Such are the people which God ‘wants’! To fill Paradise and make the Second Coming. Do you understand? …