The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 5

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Dear Friends in Christ,

In these hard times, I have very little to offer you except my love and prayers and to inflict my poetry on you, a captive audience!!

Remember the Little things – diary of a Pustinnyk 

A little miracle happened this morning when my printer decided to fail and “go on strike.”I pushed various buttons at random but to no avail. The question mark on the printer display reflected my own state of perplexity! I was wondering how I was going to print the Akathist for Friday evening and thinking of possible alternatives? Well, the All-Holy Mother of God must have seen my anguish and came to my aid. On returning after prayers, I tried again and the printer worked perfectly. I am sure some with more technological skills will have a perfectly good explanation for how it came to work, but for me who is incompetent, my first recourse is to prayer. 

It set me thinking that the faith of little children is very simple even though they are computer literate; their questions are most perceptive and their observations often revelatory.

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The shadow of the wind

Matthew 21:16 And Jesus said to them,

’Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants,

You have perfected praise’?”

  

The little boy held his Grandad’s hand tightly in the driving rain.

He suddenly stopped and looked down and stared at the puddle before him.

His Grandfather anticipated some mischievous action from his little grandson.

Was he going to jump into the puddle and make a splash?

But no, the infant just stood there, looking intently into the puddle.

Then he looked up at his beloved elder, and with enquiring eyes asked:

“Grandad, are those ripples the shadow of the wind?”

His Grandfather was reduced to silence before such an observation and search for truth.

  

Lord, you breathed the breath of life into my body,

Let my heartstrings be tuned to your Holy Spirit

 my song of praise be the shadow of my soul,

and may I learn silence before your Word of Wisdom. Amen

  

A loving word never annoys. An arrogant word shall yield no fruit. You must pray all day and all night for the Lord to let your children avoid dangers. God is merciful!

Saint Theophan the Recluse

To the Glory of God

Please Share Coronavirus Pandemic Vigilant Prayer

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Meanwhile, in Syria

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ is in our midst.

Here is the link to a time table to pray the Jesus Prayer in the time of the Pandemic crisis. Please choose your time slot to pray the Jesus prayer for 15 minutes for the world. 
 

You can have more than one slot if you like and apparently, there is an option for people to have the same time slot if they use a comma or semicolon but it would seem best to use the available spaces first. The time zone can be altered depending upon where you are in the world.

*  Please share with your Orthodox friends. 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1QagBKLCyxZJVtG8FX106QkrGMAXhf8u_GWVPiQEJXpk/edit#gid=2002126163

 

Coronavirus Pandemic Prophecy

street blessing with Holy Water in Orthodox Georgia

Street blessing with Holy Water in Georgia

Dearest brothers and sisters,

Christ is in our midst!

 

As all monasteries have closed to the public in Greece and the faithful attend the church services on-line, our spiritual fathers communicate with the faithful primarily via email. Here are Elder Theoklitos’ from Saint Arsenios Monastery in Vatopedi, one of St. Paisios’ closest disciples, last words:

“These days I am reminded of +Elder Gabriel’s [Mount Athos Dionysiou Monastery] prophecy of biological warfare and Revelation in the 1970’s. We visited the monastery then together with another pilgrim, a very well known spiritual father in Greece I do not want to disclose his identity now. While Elder Gabriel was explaining the frescoes in their Trapeza to us, he paused in front of that of the Second Coming, pointed a detail to us and told us: ‘This stands for biological warfare. I will not live to see this, but you will’. These were his exact words. And indeed with the Coronavirus pandemic, this biological warfare has started. 

Now, it is high time to start seriously repenting, stop judging anybody at any cost –a grave sin which separates us from God– forgive and ask for forgiveness from our ‘enemies’, properly confess our sins and be ready to meet Our Lord at any time because no matter what protection we take for ourselves and our loved ones, we cannot really be protected from this, and nobody knows when our time will come, and when the Lord will call us for our trip to eternity. …”

These two points Elder Theoklitos repeated them twice: in both the brief church homily after the Holy Liturgy –which he never does but Fr Synesios always instead– and in the separate homily he offered in the guests’hall at the end of the church services. Probably because not everybody stays for this longer homily, as they are travelling from afar, he made this exception so that everybody would hear this.

Lord have mercy!

 

To Be Continued …

How Can the Coronavirus Pandemic Birth God Within Us?

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In so many ways… Let us explore here just one, with the help of +Elder Aimilianos of blessed memory, should we eventually catch coronavirus despite our best efforts to protect ourselves and our beloved ones:

“We get sick and we suffer for different reasons, but often it’s because we have sinned, voluntary or involuntary, or because we have wandered away from God. But, if you are sick, don’t be afraid and don’t worry because sickness is a great gift from God. The sick are God’s special children.

The sick are under God’s special protection. They have God’s special blessing. They have God’s love. They are in His embrace, whereas someone who has health might not be.

The sick person, the suffering person, the person with illness is in a privileged place, or a potentially privileged place, with respect to God. Those who have never known sickness, and those who have never known suffering, often have a lack of empathy; and often their heart is narrow and small and restricted, and not able to open up and embrace the suffering of others because they just don’t know it.

The sick, on the other hand, are often the most loving and understanding and compassionate people that you will ever meet, and they are the ones who will have boldness before God in their prayers for others.

So don’t be afraid of your illness. Leave it to God. Do what the doctors tell you. When you take your medication, you receive Christ. It’s not bad, or a sign of a lack of faith, to take your medication. When you take your medication, you are receiving a blessing, you are receiving Christ Himself.

Do what the doctors say, take your medications, go for your tests, but have no anxiety. Sometimes what’s worse than being sick is being afraid of getting sick. Leave it to God. Whatever God gives you is best for you. God never gives you a Cross without first weighing and measuring it very carefully to make sure that the Cross will result in your spiritual growth.

So don’t think it’s random, don’t think it’s chance, don’t think it’s too much. It’s been very carefully weighed and very carefully measured, so that it will result in spiritual growth and spiritual benefit.

As much as the body wastes away, that much is our life in God renewed. God cannot be born within us without birth pangs. And the suffering that we experience, whether it’s emotional suffering or physical suffering, these are the birth pangs, the travail, the suffering in our life that will enable God to be born and to grow within us.

So we should feel pity for the person who has not tasted involuntary pain because that person is not likely to impose upon himself a sufficient amount of voluntary pain. So feel pity for the person who does not know involuntary pain because they’re not going to inflict it on themselves. They’re going to want to stay in their comfortable place, their comfort-zone, and they’re going to resist all kinds of change.

Sickness is a visitation from God, a divine visitation. Sickness humbles us, it teaches us, it reshapes us, it awakens us to reality, it enables us to see what is truly important and of value. It is not a punishment, but a divine visitation for our correction and education.

—Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery

From: A lecture entitled, “Blessed are the Pure in Heart: Reflections on the Spiritual Nature of Suffering,” by Father Maximos Constas, Patristic Nectar Publications (2017).

 

A Window to Heaven

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Today,  another blessing and surprise encounter awaited me!  But let me start from the very beginning. Early at dawn, I went Elder Symeon’s monastery for Matins, Holy Liturgy and the Memorial service on Saturday of Meatfare.  The service was one of the longest ones I have ever attended; the priests were reading for hours (!) long lists of names of our departed brothers and sisters. What a consolation and a hope to literally be a member of His Body, which our Mother Church will never forget or give up!

Such Mercy and Love outpoured on us all! We also prayed for all our brothers who,  throughout the ages, because of untimely death in a faraway place, or other adverse circumstances, have died without being deemed worthy of the appointed memorial services. The divine Fathers, being so moved in their love for man, have decreed that a common memorial be made this day for all pious Orthodox Christians who have reposed from all ages past, so that those who did not have particular memorial services may be included in this common one for all. 

I was also very impressed by how some of the faithful ended their lists of fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, relatives names with “benefactors, friends, enemies”. Enemies?! Now that was something that I had never heard of before but which I will certainly start adding to my personal diptychs. 

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Somehow, in all this, Sister Aggeliki of Blessed Memory warmed my heart.

Fleetingly, another thought crossed my mind, about a good man I was told about the other day who consciously decided not to have an Orthodox burial, but cremation instead. And so it happened. When Elders were asked if we could at least give his name for Forty Day Liturgies or for a Trisagion, we were told “no” because “his wish has to be honoured”. This shadowed side, the darkness into which a stubborn sinner can choose to throw himself … Lord have mercy…

Today, we, the militant church, felt outnumbered by the triumphant and invisible Church. Oh, how soon, we too will cross to ‘the other side’. I am so looking forward to meeting my +Elder Gregorios, +Sister Aggeliki …

“But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare”. Oh! those cares of life!  May we have “an acceptable defence before His dread Judgment Seat.”

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And then, it happened! At the coffee and the kollyva that followed. There, out of the blue, I met Vassiliki, a frail but very bright woman, 91 years old, who immediately impressed me with her radiant smile, joy and generosity of spirit. In just a few minutes, we realised that we had both worked, side by side, together with Sister Aggeliki. That was it. Now nobody could stop Kyria Vassiliki from sharing case upon case, from court to hospitals, with the liveliest details, all her memories with Sister Aggeliki. She kept telling me how special Sister Aggeliki was! As if I did not know!

Blessed Sister Aggeliki, a legend in our town, I never had a doubt that all those orphans and ill children and families in need which you have tirelessly helped and supported will be offering their thanks to God for you on heaven and in earth. But what touches most my heart is how “easily” you “gave up” your novitiate at St. Nektarios’ monastery in Aegina, at your spiritual father’s word, to stand by and support your elderly, ill mother and your mentally-ill sister.

How patiently you bore your Cross, living an unmercenary doctor’s and nun’s life in a city and waiting until the last 6 months of your life to finally receive the great schema! How all these very harsh circumstances at home did not deter you from offering your love and medical services to everybody for free.  How could you, Sister Aggeliki, retain your sense of humour, enthusiasm and joy when such reality was awaiting you back home every day?

Every single day and night at the mercy of your mentally ill sister — such a martyrdom! I have spent lots of mornings and evenings at your home and your poor sister was giving you such a hard time! Anybody else but you would have “committed” her to a mental institution, but not you.  Because you told me that in the midst of such paranoia, your sister loved God and you wanted to take care of her, take her to church, to holy communion and … Sister Aggeliki was also appalled by the shock treatments psychiatrists applied to medical patients back in those decades.

And that martyrdom and Cross was only one of the many you courageously bore, dear Sister Aggeliki. How could you compose spiritual poetry and theatrical plays and oratoria attracting such wide audiences? And all that and so much more.

I have so many questions to ask you, dear Sister. Please help me understand your answers and prayers “across the other side”.

+ Memory Eternal, Sister Aggeliki, pray for us, “τούς ζῶντες τούς περιλειπόμενους”, “all us who are alive [and] remain unto the Coming of the Lord  (1 Thessalonians 4:15). 

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sister aggeliki tsaousi

For more information about Saturday of Souls, here

Panagia Laodigitria

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Church of Panagia Laodigitria or Panagia Lagoudiani in Thessaloniki

According to a byzantine legend, a miraculous incident occurred in the place where the church of Panagia Lagoudiani [Rabbit place] or Laodigitria [Virgin Mary the People Leader] is built. A hunter looking for rabbit’s hiding place, put his hands in a burrow trying to cage the small animal. However, he drew up from the hole the miraculous icon of Panagia Tricherousa [the “Virgin with Three Hands] or Oglaitissa. During the Ottoman rule, the monastery was called “Tavsan Manastir”, that is “the monastery of the rabbits”.

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After this incident, a women’s monastery was built on this place and the central part of the monastery is today’s church. In the 15th century, it was the catholicon of a nunnery that was a dependency [Metochion] of Vlatadon Monastery (*)  According to another theory, the church took its name after the owner, Lagoudatos [Rabbit Man], who lived in the 14th century. In any case, this historical church is a rare archaeological gem and a monument of the post-Byzantine period  (1453-1800).

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The origins of the name “Laodigitria” is unknown but many researchers agree on byzantine sources of the 12th century when the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki mentioned the following: “…η Πάναγνος Θεομήτωρ η παρ ημιν του οδηγείν επώνυμος” [Virgin Mary, Mother of God, lead us…” Laodigitria Theotokos, the Leader of the people, became together with Saint Demetrius, the woman patron saint of Thessaloniki.

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During the Turkish occupation, the monastery was offering social work, by granting near Monastery’s properties against symbolic price for the sheltering of poor Christian families. This system was called in Turkish “Itzare”, ie. an once-off symbolic “lump” sum and with the payment of instalments of similarly symbolic sums throughout their lifetime, so that the monastery retained the legal [‘bare’] ownership of the monastery’s real property since they beneficiaries were not allowed to sell them. This measure proved valuable for homeless families in hard times since the number of lodgings/houses was more than 20.

In 1802, the church was restored and renovated (Oct 27, 1802) through the sponsorship of the merchant Ioannis Kaftangoglou and became a three-aisled basilica with wooden ceiling and matroneum [gynaeconite; an upstairs gallery on the interior of a church, originally intended to accommodate women (whence the derivation from “matron”)], following the Macedonian ecclesiastic architectural standards of that era. Its most recent ktitor [ie. the founder] was Christos Georgiou-Menexes, from the province of Agiou Phanariou (Agrafa Thessaly) and from the village Megala Vraniana, +Memory Eternal of his parents. 

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The church keeps a significant number of 18th and 19th-century icons, together with a miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary. In the chapel adjacent to the southern part of the church, is located the holy water fountain, hence another name for this church, that of the Life-Springing Fountain of the Theotokos (Life-Giving Font of the Theotokos) [Ζωοδόχος Πηγή]. The church celebrates on this Feast during Bright Week and also honours Holy NeoMartyr Alexander the Dervish from Thessaloniki, Laodigitria (+ 1794).

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As of today, the little city hermit will be chanting in this historic church, next to the Wonderworking Theotokos icon, an amazing blessing, honour and privilege. This was the first-ever church I visited as a young teenager, about 14 years old, for Confession, spiritual guidance and holy water, agiasma. + Father Panagiotis of blessed memory was my first priest confessor. So many memories! This church feels so much like home …. This blogpost is also beginning another blog series, that of Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, since lots of fellow pilgrims all over the world are asking me about Thessaloniki’s churches and monasteries.

*. The Monastery of Vlatadon is located on the northern side of Ano Poli of Thessaloniki, close to the castle walls with a magnificent view to the city. This small monastery is built on the site where St Paul is believed to have preached to the Thessalonians, was founded in the mid-14th century and has been in continuous use since then. But more about this byzantine monument at another blogpost.

New Year’s Resolutions

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“Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt” (Matthew 2:13)

“The angel commands us, as he did Joseph. ‘Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt’ (Matthew 2:13). That is to say: renounce your sin and your slackness; take into your soul the Jesus you saw at Bethlehem and Mary, whom you must never separate from her son; flee the evil and the temptations that surround you; set yourself a hidden, retired, silent life, a life of intimacy with the small child and his mother — and also with Joseph”. (Lev Gillet, The Year of Grace of the Lord, p73).

The life of the Holy Family, whether in Egypt or later on at Nazareth — what an inspiration and a model for us! This is a year I truly want to hide and disappear together with Him. God willing, the goal will be the first three rungs of Saint John Climacus Ladder of Divine Ascent: 1.On renunciation of the world–2.On detachment–3. On exile or pilgrimage.

Blessed New Year 2020 to all!

Your prayers