The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 40

Beggar

Dobri Dobrev

Amos 8: Swallowing the needy

I remember a holy priest from many years ago when I was a student at University in
the North of England. His Parish was in a very poor part of the city. He had a warm
heart, a generous spirit, a cheerful disposition and showed great concern and pastoral
care for his parishioners. He would light the fires of the elderly on winter mornings.
He would do shopping for the housebound and if needed buy food for the poor. Often,
in place of buying oil for heating the Church, he would give the money to the
homeless and to charities. Not many attended the Church.

Dobri Dobrev3
I recall one winter morning we were freezing in Church at the morning service: the
boiler had broken, as usual, and our feet were like blocks of ice. Father B. always
advised the small congregation to put on two or three extra layers of clothing. We
were hoping the sermon would not be long- it wasn’t!
As he was starting the homily, suddenly from under his vestments clouds of steam
like incense started to arise! Somehow the hot water bottle that he had secreted around
him, had burst.
After rescuing the good cleric from his sudden and untimely sauna, we dried him with
a towel and he continued to serve at the altar. His rather appropriate sermon text was
from the Prophet Amos5:24:

Dobri Dobrev4
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like and ever flowing stream.”
Rich men are rarely remembered but those who show compassion, joy, mercy,
righteousness, justice and love, their memory is unto eternity.
4 Hear this, you who swallow up the needy,
And make the poor of the land fail,
5 Saying:
“When will the New Moon be past,
That we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
That we may trade wheat?
Making the ephah small and the shekel large,
Falsifying the scales by deceit,
6 That we may buy the poor for silver,
And the needy for a pair of sandals—
Even sell the bad wheat?”
7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their works.

Woe to you who make mammon great and mercy small
Who today eat the apple of financial Fall
Who use the Sabbath to plan and cheat the more
Whose deeds white heat the flaming sword at Eden’s door!

Ah the flaming sword! You see there is no way back;
Not until you renounce excess and recognise the lack
In your brother’s life.
When will the market open so to satisfy our greed?
When again gratify desire and passion feed?
Poor men have no names, the heedless suffer fools to dream
Whilst God places at the East a bar – the Cherubim!
Oh the Cherubim! Whose faces guard four ways,
Affording plutocrats no bliss in all the days
of their little, mortal life.
They will rue the moments when they made mammon great.
When they closed their hearts to love and welcomed hate
They chose the serpent’s wiles over heaven’s gifts, too late
Espy eternal treasures through the guarded gate.
Alas the gates to Paradise! Are to some locked tight
Who choose outer darkness, the world’s whirlwind, an endless appetite
for their future life.

And God still looks at the rich through the needle’s eye
And walks in the garden and calls with a sigh
He sews with this needle those garments of need
And God still loves Adam and all of his seed.

Oh the love of God a garment of light, a consuming fire
Depending upon Whom, what and where lies our consuming desire
In this life.

Dobri Dobrev5

“Wealth … is like a snake; it will twist around the hand and bite unless one knows
how to use it properly.”
Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” 3.6.34

For more about Dobri Dobrev, go here , here, here  and here

A Holy Warning

Elder Parthenios

Elder Parthenios of the Monastery of Saint Pavlos: Αn orthodox message from the Holy Mountain

“Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

The abbot of the Holy Monastery of Saint Pavlos, father Parthenios, speaks to you. I am in the monastery of Saint Pavlos since 1954 till now, with the help of our God, Virgin Mary and all of saints. Till now, we are blessed of God and we all celebrated the Holy Easter, with all of our happiness and love, the Risen of our Lord. This year it was the only year, since I came in the Mount Athos (Holy Mount), that we celebrated alone. Because all of the previous years we had with us more that 100-150-200 visitors, only in our Monastery. Together all the Monasteries of the Holy Mount had approximately 5,000 visitors, who have come every year, to honor the Holy Easter, the Risen of our Lord!

It was hard for me, that this was the year that we glory alone the God. Because of the measures they took, they left us alone with only few workers who are regular here. I am telling you that, with a lot of father’s love, I am in pain, in grief. Because all the faithful men who used to come here with us, were our consolation, to praise all together to the most important event, the Easter. All together we were chanting the pray of “Christ is Risen”, full of joy. Perhaps, God allowed this temptation to be penetrated, for our sins. Maybe He wants to activate us, cause the people got away from the Lord’s path and doing nonsense.

Our Churchs, all over the country, in Athens, in Thessaloniki and other where were like a cemetery. All the people were isolated in their houses; even the churches have closed their gates. What happened? What happened?

Unfortunately, our politicians trying to do their best. These are human measures, we cannot blame them. On the other hand, I am sending them a message. These measures are not enough. I am begging our politicians and our ecclesiastical authority, to shout at people to open the churches for the public, to go out on the roads, to take with them the holy icons and go for a litany, in order to beg our almighty God to obviate that temptation. The governors of this time cannot save us. Only the powerful God, He is the one who can save us. Open the doors of the churches, take the people outdoors, get the icons out, and get down on your knees, like the Ninevites did, to beg the God, His omnipotence, to quash this temptation. Otherwise, I don’t know where we will end up.

Please, do not be delusional, only God can save us, only our Lady Virgin, only the Saint Apostles and all the Saints together. Also can save us our pray and faith to God. “What did save the world?” “Our faith”!

Let all these thoughts of lukewarm and oligopolies, behind. We are Christians and I refer to the politicians who prepare to seal up/chip the people, but this will be their biggest scandal, because they not do justice to Christians. We, the Christians, strongly believe in His Almighty, we are baptized; we are anointed by the Holy Oil in the sealing of God. “Seal donation of the Holy Spirit, amen.”

Anyone who is not baptized, has the freedom to be sealed by the government, it is their decision. But do not force us, the Christians. Whatever you want to do against us, the God will be the Victor!

The God says: “Just as someone will confess in front of other people that he believes me, so I will do for him too, in front of my Father who live in the sky.” “Just as someone denies that he loves me, in front of the people, so I will do for him too.” Do not believe what the Zionists and Masons, the devils say; they do not believe in anything. On the other hand, we strongly believe in the real God. Whatever it takes, we confess Jesus Christ the Crucified we lean on Him our hopes, in his All-powers, nowhere else.

Many happy returns! Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Our Lord has beaten the world. He says: “Don’t be afraid! I have been beaten the world for you!” That is our confession and our faith! Thank you so much!

Source: Enomeni Romiosini

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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For more information about Saturday of Souls, here

A Cardiologist in love with Christ

The Prodigal

A true story in a crowded and very busy hospital

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ is in our midst!

Yesterday, I had an arthroscopic surgery. My right knee had been bothering me for a little while. I hoped it would go away but after an examination, and discussion with the orthopaedic surgeon who did the same thing on the same knee 10 years ago, we decided to have it done, again! Now the only reason why I mention this fact to you is because yesterday, while undergoing pre-operation checks, in just 5 minutes in a crowded and very busy hospital, I had a special blessing, an amazing “chance” encounter in His Providence of a cardiologist and a neighbour (!) in love with Christ.

In just a few minutes, while doing routine checks on my heart, we got to know each other quite well for such an unexpected encounter. Of course, any cardiologist must be intelligent enough, but how on earth did he guess my love for Christ and my life? It all happened so fast and it took just a few questions. When I left his office, on my way for the surgery, I had in my hands a slip of paper signed by a mysterious Youtube pen name: “KIXEM Euharistimenos”. ‘

Euharistimenos’ means ‘pleased’ in Greek; as to ‘KIXEM’, I am clueless, maybe a wanderer in Arabic? This cardiologist told me that he had started composing poetry and music while doing his specialisation as a medical student, and started his own studio to release his stress from exams. A few hours later, after the arthroscopic surgery and safely back home, while lying flat in my sofa and resting my leg, I searched the links in Youtube and came upon this, Wow! I was not prepared for this! 

This is the doctor, this must be his flat together with his amateur studio in our neighbourhood, and he uses another pen name: Seraphim Rose!

_Passito __ Kixem Euharistimenos

This is the kind of music he composes:

Mostly instrumental, but sometimes accompanied with simple lyrics, stunning images of saints and landscapes, and beautiful prayers and poems for Him. Like this one: “Glory to God”

 

Or this one: 1 Glory to God equals 1000 Kyrie Eleison (St. Paisios’ saying)

 

A few others of these Youtube compositions have the titles “A Beggar of Joy”, “A Dreamer”, “In Search of an Honest Man”, “A Breath of Life”, The Prodigal”, “Dance of Paradise”, “Thirst for God” etc. The lyrics are all in Greek but you can certainly enjoy his melodies and his beautiful photographs of Saints, churches and monasteries. Well, this cardiologist may not be Bach, but he is certainly very kind and full of His Love. Is not the Creator blessing the robin’s Doxology like the nightingale’s?  Fleetingly, I noticed how he treated his patients in the hospital: with an otherworldly purity of heart, respect, kindness and compassion. I have the feeling that we might meet again somewhere, in God’s Kairos. Has such an encounter ever happened to you recently? 

Your prayers

 

 

Make Good Use of Pain

Suffering
“God will centrifuge each one of us” (!)  Those words by Gerondissa Philothei were repeated rather ‘ominously’ 3 to 4 times at the first (*) homily I attended at the Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery in Panorama. Doesn’t the centrifugal force cause an object to move out and away from the centre of its path? Is God through various afflictions centrifuging me away from the centre of my old self?

“How good it would have been if we did not let the pain go to waste! One way or another we will suffer. But our whole torture and struggle will go down the drain unless we make good use of pain unless we exploit it. …When we suffer, when a pain insists, let us think like that: “God wants something good to come out of this in me, and I act as if I do not get it. And all I do is moan and groan.” …. 

“Know this: When pain will have completed the work it is supposed to do, God takes away. It is not difficult at all for God to remove whichever pain. … A Christian is capable of making such good use of every pain so that he can constantly be in paradise. …. Let there be no complaint, no rebellion, no kicking about.

If possible, whichever pain you have, deal with it by saying these words: “Let it be blessed, my God. Whatever You Want.” This way our pain won’t get wasted but will be exploited to the full. We will take advantage of it, and the great good which saves will come to our hearts. When God visits you with sorrows, say: “Thank you, my God. As I had absolutely no intention to embrace a few ugly things, a few pains, and truly follow your path, you caught up with me and gave me a few. How can I thank you enough?” (!) [+S.K]

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(*) The first homily, that is after 35 or so years to be precise. Because Elder Symeon Kragiopoulos monastery was my starting point to the Church.  The moment I stepped my foot into the narthex, it all came back to me. Literally that “taste” and “fragrance” of life and teachings which I understood so little back then, yet never forgot since.  What an encouragement for my ‘new’ obediences!   The second ‘word’ which I received soon after was a mission to make pilgrimages and establish contacts with all nearby Thessaloniki monasteries. All nearby monasteries?! Quite bold a list of obediences for such a timid little city hermit. But may it be blessed. Your prayers

[Monastery Diaries 7]

 

 

End of an era

gerondas Gregorios down the grave

Christ is Risen! May Angels accompany you dear Father to your reward.

Gerondas Gregorios Tomb

The Monastery Diaries 5

A special commemoration diary and photo/video blog

GERONTAS-GRIGORIOS (1)

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is in our midst.

This is going to be the most difficult post I have ever attempted as it is about the repose of my spiritual father, + Elder Gregorios Papasotiriou, a spiritual child of Saint Paisios, Elder and Founder of the women’s monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Metamorphosis, Chalkidiki.

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Gerondissa Euphemia of St John the Forerunner Monastery, St Paisios in the middle, Elder Gregorios on the right. She was absent at the funeral, other than very briefly to pay her last respects to the Elder, as she is about 90 years old and very frail in her health

+Wednesday 20/11. The funeral service took place in the morning of the following day, after the vigil of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, such an appropriate day for our spiritual father’s departure from this life and entrance into the Heavenly sanctuary.

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St. Porphyrios, when Elder Gregorios once told him that he is well, told him “no, you are not”. “Indeed, I am”, Gerondas Gregorios insisted, but it was St Porphyrios who was right. Later, when St. Porphyrios visited him at his cell in Metamorphosis, his cell exuded a sweet fragrance for six days!

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In God’s kairos, I may write more about my memories with him. His orphans and why it feels this is an end of an era for us. I really ought to start from my University years, when I would take the bus through Polygyros [ie. etymology: lots of curves] notorious curves to the  Metamorfosi village, then walk all the way uphill through olive groves to the monastery of Saint John the Forerunner, meet Gerondas Gregorios for Confession and make absolutely no plans about my stay or who we were going to spend the day and the night together. Quite an adventure back in those days …

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On Thursday morning, the village and the hill were packed with more people than I have ever seen in my life. People from all over the world, clergy, monastics and lay people who had come to pay their last respects to a father they owned more than their lives. And yet all this crowd were my spiritual brothers and sisters, with whom we had travelled in the past a mile or two in our pilgrimage, and we all had so many memories to share. Many of his spiritual children, when he became gravely ill, were “sent” to Gerondas Theoklitos, the Elder and founder of the monastery of St Arsenios, another spiritual child of Saint Paisios. God’s Love unites us all.

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Such a crowd! The police were regulating the parking and the traffic, as only the priests’ and monastics’ cars were allowed all the way up to the monastery. All nearby hotels opened their rooms for free, and local people with minibuses helped people drive up and down the monastery.

The warmth of faith full of the Holy Spirit. Gerondas Gregorios was remembered in the following days at the proskomede and at the great entrance in churches and monasteries all over the world. Memory eternal.

“Christ is Risen!” What bright sorrow, χαρμολύπη! At the end of the Memorial, the nuns and monks present chanted the whole Paschal, Resurrectional Canon of St. Saint John of Damascus. 

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11)

For a video of the funeral, go here

For more video footage and photos, go here and  here  

For some photos, see below

The Vigil and the Four Gospels

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The Procession Around the Monastery Main Church (Katholikon)

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Second on the left is Gerondas Theoklitos, who prayed the traditional 100-knot rope for the departed: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant Hieromonk Gregorios”

The Grave and the Burial

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Elder Euphemius, the spiritual son of Blessed Gerondas Isaac Atallah. He is now the current Abbot of the Skete that Blessed Atallah founded on Mount Athos and the spiritual father of the nuns at St John the Forerunner Monastery.  As a dear Father pointed out to me, “I see him contemplating this holy mystery of Gerondas repose in his eyes and “being with ” Gerondas spirit and not separated from him.”

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Elder Euphemios was the only hieromonk with a purely white epitrahelion and he was leading all the services.

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For more photos, go here and here

 

The Monastery Diaries 3

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3/11

This Sunday at St Arsenios monastery, after the church services, Homily, Trapeza with Gerondas Theoklitos and a few obediences together with other pilgrims, Fr Synesios gave us a guest room to rest. At 4:00 we had Vespers, Supplication and …  and eventually, we left together with Gerondas Theoklitos: we drove him to the airport. That was a most interesting drive as we spent all the time taking turns in the Jesus Prayer and its variations. We started with “Glory to God” a hundred times, then “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us”, “Most Holy Theotokos save us”, and some variations like “Holy, Life-Giving Cross protect us”, “Baptist of Christ help us” (for repentance), “St. John the Evangelist help us” (for love), the Saints of the day, our Saints, all a 100 times repetitions each, first for the living, then for the departed . Very soon though we started praying using the following St. Paisios’ variation (*) to the Jesus prayer:

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ:

Do not abandon your servants who live far away from the Church. May your love convict them and bring them back to you.

Lord have mercy on your servants who are suffering from cancer.

On your servants who suffer either from small or serious ailments.

On your servants who suffer from physical infirmities.

On your servants who suffer from spiritual infirmities.

Lord have mercy on our leaders and inspire them to govern with Christian love.

Lord have mercy on children who come from troubled homes.

On troubled families and those who have been divorced.

Lord have mercy on all the orphans of the world, on all those who are suffering pain and injustices since losing their spouses.

Lord have mercy on all those in jail, on all anarchists, on all drug abusers, on all murderers, on all abusers of people, and on all thieves. Enlighten these people and help them to straighten out their lives.

Lord have mercy on all those who have been forced to emigrate.

On all those who travel on the seas, on land, in the air, and protect them.

Lord have mercy on our Church, the bishops, the priests and the faithful of the Church.

Lord have mercy on all the monastic communities, male and female, the elders and eldresses and all the brotherhoods of Mt. Athos.

Lord have mercy on your servants who find themselves in the midst of war.

On your servants who are being pursued in the mountains and on the plains.

On your servants who are being hunted like birds of prey.

Lord have mercy on your servants who were forced to abandon their homes and their jobs and feel afflicted.

Lord have mercy on the poor, the homeless and the exiled.

Lord have mercy on the nations of the world. Keep them in your embrace and envelope them with your holy protection. Keep them safe from every evil and war. Keep our beloved Greece (the Elder’s home country; we could substitute the USA) in your protective embrace day and night. Embrace her with your holy protection defending her from all evil and war.

Lord have mercy on those who have been abandoned and have suffered injustice. Have mercy on families that are going through trying times. Pour your abundant love upon them.

Lord have mercy on your servants who suffer from spiritual and bodily problems of all kinds.

Lord have mercy on those who are despairing. Help them and grant them peace.

Lord have mercy on those that have requested that we pray for them.

Lord grant eternal rest to all those who have passed on to eternal life throughout the ages.

Then, back to Thessaloniki centre and straight to St Demetrios for the Myron Service. Gerondas Theoklitos was the catalyst for a most bountiful “harvest” of 15 cotton balls and an extra Myron cotton roll equivalent to 50 more! Everybody present is normally given only one piece of cotton, but we were collecting for the faithful in the UK and other countries.

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Amazing gushing myrrh leaking everywhere from his reliquary!!! God is glorified in His Saints!

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Lots of love and poor prayers

 

* The following prayer of his was given to Souroti convent which had asked the Elder for a prayer rule that could be used by the nuns in their evening vigils. This directive was given to the nuns during the final years of his life. The main emphasis of this prayer is his profound love for all of humanity.

This prayer can be used by every Christian believer since it takes in all the issues of life that need our prayers. Even the children can understand it easily since it is expressed in simple words. It can be used by families during their evening prayers.

 

Elder Nektarios Marmarinos

Elder Nektarios Marmarinos

On the occasion of the demise of the late Elder Nektarios Marmarinos, Pemptousia is publishing an extract from the book by Fr. Dimitrios Kavvadias ‘Elders and Women’s Monasticism’, in which, among much else, he refers to the late Elder Nektarios, the founder of the Holy Monastery of Saint Patapios in Loutraki:

The sole exception in this book is the mention of the person of Elder Nektarios Marmarinos, who became the founder of the Monastery of Saint Patapios. We are not writing a eulogy of the man, but would address a few words related to his life and activities, with the aim of revealing how the Monastery of the wonder-working Saint came to be built. He is now in the twilight of his life and has tasted cups of many sorrows in his efforts to establish the Monastery and bring his work to a successful completion. He was never interested at all in personal promotion, and so we can do no spiritual harm to the Elder and his work, which is, indeed, a labour for God.

Elder Nektarios was born on 3 November 1921, on the island of Aegina, the place where so many saint have been born and bred. He was the son of poor, devout islanders, Fotios and Evangelia Marmarinos and the brother of Anastasios, Mihaïl, and Marina, who later died of tuberculosis as a twenty-year-old during the German Occupation. With this much-loved sister of his, he would visit the Monasteries on Aegina, where they would sip at the honey of the monastic state and imagine a life of dedication.

In those years, his spiritual father was Elder Ieronymos Apostolidis of blessed memory, the Hesychast of Aegina (†3/ 16 October 1966), from whom he learned the Jesus prayer, piety and love of the services. His monastic inclination and calling were strengthened. When he was still a child, in his home town, Kyriakos, as he then was, would go to the remote Monastery of Our Lady Chrysoleontissa in the hills on Aegina. Looking down on the Monastery of Saint Nektarios, he would beg the great saint of the 20th century: ‘Saint Nektarios, you built your little monastery here. Help me to build a monastery as well, where I can see the brides of Christ fighting the good fight of virtue’.

When he’d completed primary school and a year of middle school, he went to study at the Ecclesiastical School in Hania, where he surprised one and all with his integrity. After a short time, God’s providence had him studying at the Ecclesiastical School of Corinth, where he was fortunate to enjoy the attention and protection of Metropolitan Mihaïl (Konstantinidis) of Corinth. While he was at the School, he served as ecclesiarch in the church of Saint Foteini.

During the course of his studies, when he was chatting to his fellow-students, he would often speak of the personality and miracles of Nektarios, the saint of his place of birth. His fellow-students, however, spoke with equal enthusiasm about their own Saint Patapios, whose relics were discovered in his cave in Loutraki in 1904. From the courtyard of the School, they pointed out the cave, which looked like a little white speck on the Yeraneia Mountains.

When he later went up the mountain to venerate Saint Patapios, together with a fellow-student, he was overcome with religious awe and his soul felt a ‘divine attraction’ for the location. As he made his prostration, he actually prayed: ‘Saint Patapios, help me to build a monastery here, so I can see a monastic community ceaselessly giving glory to the Lord, with the incense rising as an acceptable sacrifice to the majesty of His throne’.

Thereafter, it was his custom to go up to the cave with a blanket under his arm and, after praying, to lie down to rest in the shade of a large pine tree.

The years passed and he kept alive his desire to build a monastery to the saint. But how? He prayed intensely to find a way to bring this about. Then Saint Patapios himself revealed his wishes in a vision. Kyriakos saw the saint, bathed in light, sitting on the coffin holding his relics. The saint looked at him with celestial serenity and, shining in the divine radiance which enveloped him, he repeated three times: ‘The monastery will be built. Yes, it will’.

So young Kyriakos was confirmed in his decision and began to work to bring to fruition his holy purpose. Somewhere, he found a pamphlet containing the Life of Saint Patapios and he had it published in book form, both for the spiritual benefit of pilgrims and to get work on the monastery started. At the same time, he performed spiritual tasks in Corinth, in a church dedicated to Our Lady, in a neighbourhood of refugees from Asia Minor. He attended church here and offered his services as catechist and preacher. He organized many pilgrimages to the saint’s cave, which demanded a great deal of effort, because the participants ascended on foot. This work, as well as his godly desire to make the monastery a reality, were the reasons why he didn’t attend university, even though he loved learning, was diligent and had a good brain.

Metropolitan Mihaïl ordained him to the diaconate on 21 February, 1941, giving him the name Nektarios. This pleased him greatly, because it had been the subject of a secret prayer which he hadn’t revealed to anyone. Then, on 8 November, he ordained him to the priesthood and thereafter made him an archimandrite and confessor. Between 1941-1945, he worked hard in the neighbourhood of his church, providing valuable services as priest, preacher, catechist, and charity worker. He organized a Sunday school for 80 girls, quite a number of whom became nuns under his guidance. He taught them the Jesus prayer, love for church attendance and the spiritual life. Young Evyenia, who is now the nun Patapia, remembers fondly the sermons the Elder preached over the course of a year and had as their subject: ‘Why are we Christians; why do we go to church; what should we do to be saved?’ She also remembers, with equal fondness, walking along to the cave with other girls, laden with clothes, water and food. She recalls: ‘We didn’t get tired because we felt we were borne upwards on the wings and love of Saint Patapios’…

On 15 October 1945, Metropolitan Mihaïl went up to the cave with the young Deacon Nektarios and venerated the relics of the saint. He was deeply moved at the sight of the relics and composed a dismissal hymn, ‘The glory of Yeraneia…’, and a magnificat, ‘The crown and honour of Loutraki…’. He also promised to contribute to the task of Elder Nektarios, who through privations and considerable personal effort, had managed to build small guest quarters in 1947, three small cells in 1948 and a refectory in 1949. These were built on different levels of the side of the hill, with material brought by mules hired in Loutraki. A great deal of work and heavy expenditure. And the whole of the effort took place while the Elder was being attacked verbally and slandered. This was a co-ordinated attack by the devil, who saw souls being won for God and work on the foundation of the monastery progressing. In this task, he used the people of Loutraki, who were jealous of the project and hounded the Elder. The new Metropolitan, Prokopios (Tzavaras) from Tripoli, was influenced by these tactics, but over time was enlightened by the saint and promised to recognize the monastery. In 1952, approval was given for the first novice to move in – Eirini Steryiou from the Holy Monastery of Our Lady Faneromeni, Hiliomodio, Corinthia, and she was soon followed by the nun Styliani Goussopoulou, from the same monastery, as Abbess. On 19 September, 1953, a royal decree signed by King Pavlos II was published, acknowledging the foundation of the monastery.

In 1977, Elder Nektarios founded Saint Paul’s men’s monastery in Yeraneia, and soon afterwards the men’s monasteries of Saint Nicholas the New of Vounena, in Perahora, Our Lady Myrtidiotissa, also in Perahora and Saint Nektarios in the Yeraneia Mountains.

After gathering a good number of nuns, and building and running workshops for church vestments, embroidery and icon-painting, he extended the social activities of the Monastery of Saint Patapios by founding ‘Saint Helen’s Old People’s Home’ which provides comfort to penniless elderly women.

He was awarded the keys to the Municipality of Corinth for missionary work. In 2006, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, chaired by Archbishop Christodoulos, awarded him a gold medal for his services to the Church. Despite his advanced age he continued to tour the whole of the province of Corinth, preaching the word of God and guiding his countless spiritual children- clergy, monastics and lay people. His important contribution as Dean for 60 years, from 3 October 1951, was characterized by his unshakeable faith, his continuous prayer, his love of services, his many and varied acts of charity, his construction activities and his sacrifices for the least of his fellow human beings.

We shall now quote one of the texts of Elder Nektarios to the nuns in his community, recorded by the late Sister Sofronia as ‘Admonishments to Nuns’.

‘In your everyday life, never forget the salvation of your soul. Since you live in a coenobium, you’re duty bound to behave in a manner pleasing to God, doing violence to yourself.

Joking is inappropriate for monastics. “Those who talk repent frequently; those who don’t, never [need to]”, says Saint Efraim. You’re fortunate in that you’re free of all temptation and from the tempest of society. Don’t imagine you’ll find peace away from God and the haven of the monastery. Violence against your passions is held to be martyrdom by God. If you weep and are wounded over the fall of your sister, you gain a martyr’s crown. If one suffers, everyone else suffers and feeds with love the one in pain. If one sister falls, all the others share her pain and give her their love. Just as you’re careful to make sure that the divine pearl doesn’t fall when you’re taking Holy Communion, take the same care that your sister doesn’t fall, either, because she, too, is a member of the Lord. If you save a soul, you cover a multitude of sins. Like a lightning-conductor, humility attracts God’s love’.

The following nuns served as Abbess in the Monastery of Saint Patapios:

Styliani (formerly Sophia) Goussopoulou, from Constantinople, from 1952-1963.

Patapia (formerly Evyenia) Tsetsoni, from Corinth, from 1963-1968.

Isidora (formerly Kyriaki) Mentzafou, from Athens, from 1968-Ocober 2014.

It’s worth noting that the monastery continues the traditional order, with an internal Rule drawn up by Elder Nektarios and an hourly timetable that starts at 03.30 a.m. As part of its prayer life, the community has special prayers for each day: on Sundays ‘for the dissemination of the truth of the Gospel’; on Mondays, ‘for the sick’; on Tuesdays, ‘for those in prison’; on Wednesdays, ‘for the illumination of the slothful’; on Thursdays, ‘for those in despair’; on Fridays ‘for those who labour for the Gospel’; and on Saturdays ‘for the departed’.

 

Transl. from Δημητρίου Καββαδία (ιερομονάχου), Γέροντες και Γυνακείος Μοναχισμός, published by the Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopaidi, the Holy Mountain 2015.

Source: Pemptousia

Memory Eternal to a Pioneer

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“On Friday July 12, Dr. Edward Hartley died in a nursing home after a week-long decline, ending a long a fruitful life in Christ. I lost a friend and parishioner, and many people lost someone who was a great gift to them from God.

Dr. Edward Hartley, with his wife Vivian, was the founder of St. Herman of Alaska mission in Surrey, B.C. He was an Anglican, born in Nova Scotia, Canada, who came out to British Columbia to begin a medical practice here. He met and eventually married Vivian Robertson, and together they had three children. More significantly, over the years they had many more spiritual children. I have lost count of their godchildren. Dr. Hartley and Vivian decided that they should join the Orthodox Church in a time when such a course of action was so difficult as to look a bit crazy. There were no English-speaking Orthodox missions in the Vancouver area in that time, and so they joined the local OCA church which worshipped in Slavonic and spoke Russian. A far-sighted bishop in the parish welcomed them, and they learned to cope with Slavonic, becoming members of the Russian OCA parish. Vivian learned to sing in Slavonic as part of the choir, and Dr. Ed (as he was known) read the Epistle in English after it had been read in Slavonic.

They had the sense and foresight to see that raising their children in a Russian church in the Vancouver area was not the path of wisdom, and so they received the blessing from their bishop to begin a mission in English, worshipping in a chapel they built in their backyard. Those were difficult years, with one step forward and one step back. I came to their little backyard mission in 1987 when there were about fifteen people there on a Sunday. They had no stipend available for a priest, and no other building. Their priest would have to find a secular job to support himself and his family while the mission grew. But they all had enthusiasm and commitment, and the parish slowly grew.

Dr. Ed was a man of humour, zeal, and effervescence. He was always ready with a joke and a smile. When I would phone his house he answered the phone often by saying, “Greetings and hallucinations—I mean greetings and salutations!” In all the years I was his parish priest I never recall him frowning or being in a bad mood. He wanted to convert absolutely everybody to Orthodoxy, and his home was an open house, a place of welcome and kindness. I may add that his wife Vivian and his children shared in his kind and zealous spirit. Vivian reposed in 2013, but his children are still faithfully serving the Lord, being wonderful chips off the old paternal block.

Dr. Hartley breathed his last at 2.28 p.m. this last Friday, and stepped into the Kingdom, doubtless escorted by a multitude of angels. The following Sunday at St. Herman’s was a busy one. We baptized an infant, a child of South Asian and East Indian-Caribbean descent. We baptized the Anglo-Canadian husband of one of our Russian ladies. We baptized another adult North European/Canadian convert. We also received by chrismation the Armenian mother-in-law of one of our Romanian immigrants.  Before the baptisms, a lady who was a longtime friend of the Hartleys was finally entered into the catechumenate, joining a young Ethiopian catechumen.  Dr. Hartley would have been pleased by all this, since he wanted everyone to become Orthodox, regardless of their upbringing or national identity. I would like to think that the Lord allowed him to peak down into the nave of his old parish, and rejoice in the work in which he and Vivian had been so instrumental in bringing to birth.

Dr. Ed will be missed by all who had been privileged to know him. He was one a pivotal generation who was prepared to work and sacrifice to join the Orthodox Church in a day when the cost for doing so was very high. If conversion to Orthodoxy is now somewhat easier, this owes much to Dr. Ed and those of his generation who were prepared to pay the price and hold the door open for us. Our debt of gratitude to him and those like him is very great.”

By Fr. Lawrence Farley

No Other Foundation

 

 

Archimandrite John Maitland Moir A documentary

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Here is a brief Vimeo documentary — An observational portrait exploring the bonds between an elderly Greek Orthodox priest and the woman who tirelessly takes care of him and offering rare video footage of a truly exceptional priest. Anybody who met him, especially in his last decade, experienced the otherworldliness, radiance and holiness he emanated. I had the blessing to meet him at a friend’s house. I believe this rare documentary allows us insights into his holiness, even at the frailty of his old age. +Memory Eternal

Born: 18 June, 1924, in Currie. Died: 17 April, 2013, in Edinburgh, aged 88

Father John Maitland Moir, priest of the Orthodox Church of St Andrew in Edinburgh, founder of many smaller Orthodox communities throughout Scotland and Orthodox chaplain to the University of Edinburgh, died peacefully in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 17 April, 2013.

A man of profound holiness and bedazzling eccentricity, of boundless compassion and canny wisdom, utterly selfless and stubbornly self-willed, serenely prayerful and fiercely self-disciplined, Father John will surely earn a place as a unique and outstanding figure in the ecclesiastical annals of Scotland.

He was born in 1924 in the village of Currie where his father was the local doctor; his fondness for his mother was always mingled with quiet pride in the fact that she was a member of the lesser aristocracy. The privileged but somewhat severe upbringing of an only child in this household together with a chronic weakness in his knees kept him apart from the hurly-burly of boyhood and directed him from an early age to more spiritual and intellectual pursuits.

After his schooling at Edinburgh Academy, he went on to study Classics at Edinburgh University during the war years, his never robust health precluding any active military service. After the war, and a short spell as Classics Master at Cargilfield School in Perthshire, he moved to Oxford to continue classical studies at Christ Church and theological studies at Cuddesdon Theological College.

His interest in Eastern Christendom was awakened in Oxford and he eagerly seized the opportunity to study at the famous Halki Theological Academy in Istanbul in 1950-51. During this year he also travelled in the Holy Land and Middle East and forged friendships in the Eastern churches which he maintained throughout his life.

On his return to Scotland he was ordained in the Scottish Episcopalian Church, which he was to serve faithfully for the next 30 years. His first charge was as curate at St Mary’s in Broughty Ferry, then for a period of six years he taught at St Chad’s College, Durham. He returned to Scotland in 1962 as curate in charge of the Edinburgh Parish of St Barnabas and as honorary chaplain at St Mary’s Cathedral, then in 1967 he moved north to the Diocese of Moray where he served as chaplain to the Bishop of Moray and latterly as Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Inverness.

His devotion to his pastoral and liturgical duties as well as his personal holiness and prayerfulness inspired a sense of awe in his loyal parishioners. Only his habit of wearing the kilt beneath his cassock provoked a reprimand from his Bishop, who was more than somewhat bewildered by Father John’s fervent and unbending Scottish patriotism.

The Scottish Episcopalian Church which Father John loved and served was, he believed, a church with special affinities with the Eastern churches: his eyes would light up when explaining how the Liturgy of Scottish Episcopalian Church, like those of the East, contained an epiclesis.

With the passing of the years, however, he became convinced that the Scottish Episcopalian Church was moving ever further away in faith and in practice from that common ground with the Orthodox Church which he had also come to know and love and whose prayer he had made his own.

 In 1981, he resigned from his position in the Diocese of Moray and travelled to Mount Athos where he was received into the Orthodox Church at the Monastery of Simonopetra. He returned to Britain to serve now as an Orthodox priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain with utter devotion for a further full 30 years.

After three years in Coventry, Father John returned to Scotland where he united the two small Orthodox communities in Edinburgh, one Slavonic and one Greek, into the single Orthodox Community of St Andrew. At the same time, he travelled tirelessly around the country by bus, serving often tiny groups of Orthodox Christians in Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Dundee, St Andrews, Stirling and elsewhere.

For Father John, the Orthodox Church was what his beloved C S Lewis would call “mere Christianity” transcending the bounds of nationality and language and embracing all who seek to live a Christian life – the scandal of the cross and the glory of the resurrection. It also embraced for him the most precious elements in the Christian history of Scotland, especially that 
vision of Christianity expressed in figures such as St Columba and St Cuthbert.

An ascetic by nature, his interest was in a practical Christianity nourished by prayer and tradition, rather than in the aesthetic refinements and intellectual gymnastics that attract many Westerners to the Orthodox Church. Not without opposition from members of his flock, Father John introduced English as the common language of worship and succeeded in creating a truly international community reflecting the many nationalities of the Orthodox students studying at the Scottish Universities and of the Orthodox families living and working in Scotland.

As the Orthodox Church in Scotland grew in numbers through migration from traditionally Orthodox countries, so did the proportion of Scottish members who found themselves at home in the community. His role as chaplain to the University of Edinburgh was one he took very seriously.

The Chapel of St Andrew, set up at first in his house in George Square and then transferred to the former Buccleuch Parish School by the Meadows, lay at the heart of the university complex; the daily services held there with unfailing regularity and its ever open door provided and continues to provide a firm point of reference for countless students.

The Chapel of St Andrew, however, was also the base for his work at the other Edinburgh universities and throughout Scotland – work now being continued with equal zeal and selflessness by two gifted priests, Father Avraamy and Father Raphael. Father John subjected himself to an almost unbelievably austere ascetic regime of fasting and prayer, while at the same making himself available to everyone who sought his assistance, spiritual or material, at all times of day and night.

His care for down-and-out people in Edinburgh provoked admiration and no little concern in many parishioners who would come to the church, which was also his home, only to find him calmly serving coffee with aristocratic gentility to a bevy of homeless alcoholics or to find a tramp asleep on his sofa. He was tireless in his efforts to help the victims of torture and Christians throughout the world who were persecuted.

Few days would pass without him writing a letter of support for someone in prison or in mortal danger. He had inherited a comfortable fortune but he died penniless, having dispersed all his worldly assets to the deserving and undeserving in equal measure. His habits of life would have marked him as a caricature of Scottish parsimony had they not been joined to an extraordinary generosity of spirit.

All his voluminous correspondence was meticulously hand-written on scraps of recycled paper and dispatched by second-class mail in re-used envelopes, whether he was writing to dukes and prelates or to the indigent and distressed. For many years, he was a familiar sight on the streets of Edinburgh as he passed by on his vintage electric bicycle, his black cassock and long white beard furling in the wind.

As his physical strength ebbed away, he was comforted by the love and care of those who looked to him as their spiritual father and by the ministrations and devotion of his fellow clergy. He was also tended by the medical expertise of the Greek doctors of the community towards whom he never ceased to express his gratitude.

The last year of his remarkable life was perhaps the most remarkable of all. Completely bed-ridden, nearly blind and almost totally deaf, he devoted himself even more fully to prayer, especially to prayer for the continued unity, harmony, well-being and advancement of the Orthodox communities in Scotland.

On the day he died, an anonymous benefactor finally sealed the purchase of the former Buccleuch Parish Church for the Orthodox Community of St Andrew in Edinburgh thus securing a material basis for the realisation of the spiritual vision that had inspired Father John throughout his life.May his memory be eternal!

Read more insights into the delightful Father John Maitland-Moir, the beloved octogenarian founding priest of the Edinburgh at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-archimandrite-john-maitland-moir-priest-1-2911536