Seraphima’s Extraordinary Adventures

 


The year is 1943, with communists oppressing Russia and persecuting Christians. The main character, a girl named Seraphima, dreams about a Palm Sunday celebration in a church where her father serves as a priest. The dream ends with the Soviet police taking her father away, and the church being blown up. 

Seraphima lives in a Soviet orphanage and secretly keeps a single reminder of her family — a cross. She finds it difficult to form friendships with the other girls, and the main teacher at the orphanage mocks and persecutes her.

Her friend tells her the house is full of secrets, including some resident ghosts. Seraphima visits a mysterious secret chamber under the stairs, to see one of them. From this moment, Seraphima falls into a whirlpool of incredible events, allowing her to shed light on the mystery of the orphanage, and the fate of her parents.

When the teacher discovers that Seraphima is a Christian, and that she secretly wears a cross, she has Seraphima banished from the orphanage. The girl refuses to renounce her faith, and she waits in suspense to find out who will arrive to take her away . . .

 

 

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The Mind of the Chalice

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Holy Communion and Uncreated Light

Fr. Christos, Leros island, Greece, around 1990 — a real story told to a friend by the priest himself, now of + Blessed Memory

 

“It was Saturday morning. We had just finished Holy Liturgy and I was about to consume the Holy Gifts from the Chalice. Suddenly, a young neighbour entered the Altar, worried, sweating and panting, and told me:

‘Fr. Christos save us. My father thinks he is dying and wants to make a Confession and receive the Holy Communion.’

I got in a sweat. This young man’s father was the most difficult and mean man in the village. He was quarrelling with everybody. He had never set a foot to church, not even in funerals, weddings or baptisms. I made my Cross and felt that God was calling me to go to him with the Holy Gifts. When we entered the house of the dying, his name was Giannis, I put the Holy Chalice with the Holy Communion, an inch at least, on the nightstand, next to Giannis’ bed. I told him: ‘Giannis, in order to offer you Holy Communion, I must at first hear your Confession and read the prayer of forgiveness. Do you want this?’ ‘Yes’, he replied, so I put on my stole, he told me what was in his heart, I read to him the prayer of forgiveness, and then I got ready to offer him Holy Communion. I turn to pick the Chalice, and what do I see? The Holy Chalice was completely empty, not even a drop of Holy Communion. I nearly fainted. I say to Giannis: ‘I will hurry back to church to get Holy Communion, because I honestly do not know what happened and the Chalice is now empty.’ Then, Giannis started sobbing and told me: ‘Christ is doing this for me, Father. What I told you during my Confession were all lies because I was ashamed to tell you my real sins, which are a lot heavier.’ So, it happened. Then, I read him for a second time the forgiveness prayer and asked him to wait for me, so that I can go back to Church and fetch him Holy Communion. ‘Go’, Giannis told me, ‘and I will wait for you.’ I pick up the Holy Chalice, and what do I see? Pay attention to this miracle. An inch of Holy Communion was now inside the Holy Chalice. I made my Cross and offered Communion to the dying man. His face shone in peace, and he died that very minute in front of me, in repentance. Glory be to our Lord for all things! With what compassion, wisdom and discretion did Christ forgive and save Giannis!Memory Eternal! W should never despair of our salvation, even if we are the worst sinners of the world. May we all enter Paradise with repentance and an honest, humble Confession”

Monastery of St. Savas the New of Kalymnos

I discovered Saint Savas and his monastery during my recent pilgrimage to Kalymnos. It is an awe-inspiring place , a place one step below heaven. Iconography beyond aesthetic, historical and religious value and the Saint is so alive! The patron saint of the island, Agios Savvas, has performed miracles and has blessed homes all over the world.

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Inside his cell

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For two episodes from his life and his special relationship with Saint Nektarios, go to my previous blog post, Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos 

 

 

Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos

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During my recent pilgrimage to Patmos, on my way back through Kalymnos, I venerated the incorrupt relics of an amazing ascetic and Saint of the “latter days”, our Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos. I even spoke to people whose parents confessed to him and remember with tears his love, compassion and angelic purity. 

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I would like to share here two episodes from his life which made a big impression on me (recorded in the monastery’s edition of his life):

 

In Athens he met the acolyte of Saint Nektarios, who informed him that Saint Nektarios was looking for him. Based on this fact, it is assumed that the two saints had met before; in fact, most biographers agree that St Savvas was St. Nektarios’ spiritual child. Therefore, he went from Athens to Aegina in 1919, where he was with Saint Nektarios until he reposed. There he served as a priest in the Convent of the Holy Trinity. He taught the nuns iconography and ecclesiastical music. Upon the repose of Saint Nektarios in 1920, Savas witnessed the first miracle of the Saint when, after his repose, St. Nektarios leaned over so that St. Savas could attire him with his epitrahelion [ie. stole], and then the Saint returned back to his previous rigour mortis (ie. postmortem rigidity). St. Savas performed the funeral and for the first three nights he continued his communication with St. Nektarios over his grave, asking him a number of questions and listening to his answers! St. Savvas’ biographers have recorded those facts from first-hand witnesses and the stunned nuns’ testimonies.
Then, St. Savas enclosed himself in a cell for forty days where he lived in strict prayer and fasting, and emerged holding an icon of Saint Nektarios he had painted, which was the first icon of the Saint to exist. He gave the icon to the abbess ordering her to offer to the faithful for veneration. The abbess told him that this was not possible, as St Nektarios had not been yet officially canonised despite his numerous miracles from the very first moment of his repose and that such an action was not prudent and might get them in trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities and even cause the shutting down of the monastery. But St. Savas insisted that “You must obey. Take this icon and offer it for veneration and do not scrutinise God’s Ways”.
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The second episode too happened again in Aegina. A young nun, Nektaria, wanted to see for one last time the face of St. Nektarios after his repose and started digging stealthily his tomb. The other nuns caught her in the act and reported her to the Abbess. She rebuked her and then sent her to St. Savas. He too rebuked her sternly and told her that her action was called grave-robbing and she should not receive Holy Communion until Holy Thursday. The young nun started to cry and beg for forgiveness, telling St. Savas that she did not know that what she had been doing was wrong and sinful. As soon as she left St. Savas’ cell, St. Nektarios appeared to St. Savas, smiling,  and told him: “Elder, forgive her. She is very young. She didn’t know, she didn’t know that this was a sin. Offer her Holy Communion on Holy Thursday. Actually, offer her Holy Communion before Holy Thursday. Did you hear, Elder? Have mercy on her. She did not know. Did you hear? Thank you.”

 

 

Apolytikion
Let us faithful praise Holy Savvas, the glory and protector of Kalymnos, and peer of the Holy Ascetics of old; for he has been glorified resplendently as a servant of Christ, with the gift of working miracles, and he bestows upon all God’s grace and mercy.
Kontakion
Today the island of the Kalymnians celebrates your holy memory with a rejoicing heart; for it possesses as truly God-given wealth, your sacred body that has been glorified by God, O Father Savvas, approaching which they receive health of both soul and body.
Megalynarion
Rejoice, thou new star of the Church, the offspring of Thrace and the beauty of Kalymnos, O God-inspired Savvas, fellow citizen of angels and equal of all the saints.

 

 

You contended with the saints of old Savas,
And are glorified with them by your numerous miracles.

This angel on earth and a human in heaven was born in 1862 Herakleitsa, Eastern Thrace, Ottoman Empire and reposed in our Lord on 7 April 1947 (aged 85). He lived as a monastic and practiced the arts of Iconography and Ecclesiastical Music in the Saint Anna’s Skete (Mount Athos), the historic Monastery of Saint George Chozeba, the Convent of the Holy Trinity (Aegina), the monastery of St John the theologian and Evangelist (Patmos) and the Convent of All Saints (Kalymnos) and a number of caves and hermitages all over the world.  His feast day is 7 April (25 March), The Fifth Sunday in Lent and was canonised in 1992.

For those who have never heard of him, a synopsis of his life can be found at the Mystagogy Resource Page.

The fire in Mati and St. Paisios

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It was the moment when the fire of 23rd July had completed its life-damaging work in Neo Vujza and Mati (about 7pm in the evening), and started spreading northeast to Agios Andreas where the children’s camps of the Municipality of Athens is located and southwest to Rafina.

Those present at the port of Rafina (where they had moved to escape the flames, including my brother) heard the bell in the chapel of Agios Nikolaos, located on a hill just above the harbour. The flames were already threatening the chapel. Some went to the chapel courtyard to see if there was a need for help.

Among them was a lady, and on the bench of the courtyard, she saw what looked like the form of a rallying priest who sat on the bench in the fumes and turned his body toward the flames. Impressed, she took a picture on her cell phone from a distance. Approaching, she took another one. But once she reached the bench, the figure disappeared unexpectedly and mysteriously into the smoke.

At that moment, the wailing stormy wind suddenly stopped blowing completely, so that the flames were not extended to the settlement of Rafina. A corresponding phenomenon, a sudden interruption of the wind that pushed the northeast flames, happened at the same time on the opposite side, at the boundary between Matio and St. Andrew. The result was to save the main settlement of Rafina and most importantly, save the area of ​​Agios Andreas where the camps were located.

It should be noted that 600 young children temporarily resorted to the beach of Agios Andreas whilst waiting for the buses to take them to Athens. The area of ​​Agios Andreas is overgrown with pine trees and with lush vegetation, just like Mattia. If the flames had reached this area, an incredible tragedy would unfold, much worse than what happened in Mati.

Note that the fire was expanding at an inconvenient speed, causing people to be trapped in the pass, unable to escape, not even by car. So, the dozens of unfortunate victims of the fire found in the beach at Mati were locked.

The lady, a few days later, visited Father Dorotheos, the Parish Priest of the Temple of the Assumption, the parish Church at Mati. She told him the incident with the priest who sat on the bench next to the chapel of St. Nicholas and showed him the pictures.

He first told her that this chapel does not have a priest and that he does not recognise any clergy in the face of the photos from those who serve in the wider region. In fact, he wondered what a priest can sit there among the wild fire and the smoke. But when he noticed the photographs better, he exclaimed with awe: “This is the face of Saint Paisios!”

The above story of this lady was narrated by Father Dorotheos to my brother, who lives next to the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

If you carefully look at the two photographs the lady took, it will distinguish a priest-monk who only wears a robe, holds a prayer rope in his hand and has his body turned towards the flames. The resemblance to Saint Paisios is astonishing. In the closest picture, the cap of Saint Paisios is distinguished in the head of the figure, while on the feet of this figure can be seen flip-flops with socks. Another characteristic of the Saint.

Nikos Koulouris
Professor of Law
2/9/2018

Source: from Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Parish and Community of Newcastle

A few Saints Await

The little city hermit has started to take heart! So many prayers for him from all four corners of the world could not possibly go unheard! They have not been answered  in the way that he would have hoped — yet!– but this is a matter of least importance. Still in the dark, then, about a number of serious professional and family matters, the little city hermit is about to embark on a long pilgrimage across Greece and Romania, where a few Saints and spiritual elders await him for an “emergency treatment”:

St John the Forerunner in the Chalkidiki monastery of his spiritual father;

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St John the Evangelist and St Amphilochios in Patmos!

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And an elusive Romanian father Ioann, literally hiding in a North Romania hamlet, who has been praying about him for a long time, and a spiritual sister has made all necessary arrangements for them to meet at long last!

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Glory to God for all things! Even if no answers are to be disclosed in all these meetings, still so many blessings are under way!

Mother Stavritsa the Missionary and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael the Taxiarch

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The wondrous icon of the Holy Archangel Michael, Mantamados, Mytilene (Lesvos). “Where your grace casts its shade, Archangel, there the devil’s power is chased away; for the fallen Morning Star cannot endure in your light.”  May he intercede for us all and protect us! The Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers is one of the major feasts of the Holy Archangel Michael the Taxiarch, Mantamados, Mytilene (Lesvos). This is because that church was consecrated on this day. Thousands of pilgrims flock to celebrate this feast, seek the intercessions of the great Taxiarch, and thank him for his prayer and his protection. 

Days of travelling, days of mourning (+ my father-in-law, Pericles), days of new beginnings, new home and new job, arduous, exhausting days, yet such hope and inspiration in Mama Stavritsa’s faith and courage!

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Miracles of the Archangel Michael the Taxiarch to Mother Stavritsa the Missionary (+2000) (1)
My name is Stavritsa Zachariou, and I am a Greek American. In 1969 I went to Africa as a missionary. I am 75 years old, and 15 years I spent in Africa, near our suffering brothers, sowing the seed of the Gospel. I stay by myself in Nairobi, Kenya, and from there I go to Kampala, Cameroon, and other places, where the seed of the Gospel of Christ needs to be sowed.
I am a missionary of the Archdiocese of America. With the help of God and of benefactors, we built 12 holy Churches in [Africa]. We built the 10th holy church in honor of the Archangel Michael, and I wanted to paint his icon from the prototype from the north gate of the Patriarchate. As I was finishing the icon, when I went to the post office, I received a letter from Fr. Soterios Trampa. I know Archimandrite Fr. Soterios, who was a missionary for many years in Korea, and who also served as a preacher of your Metropolis, along with Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Athens from 1968-1973. In his letter was a small booklet on the Taxiarch of Mantamados. Then I learned about Mantamados, and the bas-relief icon of the Archangel Michael. Fr. Soterios wrote: “I am sending you the information on the Taxiarch of Mantamados, that you might come to know his wondrous icon. Within this you will see one of his many miracles, which occur daily to the glory of God. I served there in the past, and I especially honor him…”
I began to read the booklet on the Taxiarch, including the miracle of the sword. As I continued reading, I reached the place regarding the passing of the sword from some unknown person to Mr. Diamante, when there was as if some marked commotion in the icon [that she had painted]. I turned around to see what was happening then and, O my God!!!! The Archangel of the icon began to come to life, to take on flesh and bones! I was astonished! I knelt before it and began to pray with tears and to ask for his help and his protection. After a short while, slowly the icon began to return to its natural state.
I was supposed to go for a trip to Kampala. I always thought that when I would go on some trip, that I should take with me the icon of some Saint from my icon corner. That time, I took with me the little icon of the Taxiarch of Mantamados.
We reached the border of Kampala and Kenya, and Kampala at that time (1988) had a military regime. When we speak about a military regime in the center of Africa, it means that human life is cheaper than the life of a blackbird!
As we were passing through, my driver (a Kenyan and my Koumbaro) did not notice that at one place there was a stop sign and he kept going. Five wild motorcyclists surrounded us. They got off their motorcycles, drew their weapons, and knelt, preparing to fire at us and to take our car and our possessions as spoil. That is what usually occurred there…
Then, I don’t know what strength was within me, but I opened the door of the car..I exited with the icon of the Taxiarch in my hands, and approached them, crying out:
“For God’s sake, stop! I have with me the Taxiarch of God, who is dark-colored (2) like you, come see him!!!”
Automatically, it was as if someone grabbed them by the hands. They calmed down, left their weapons in the grass, and ran up to me, took the icon, like something holy and venerable, and began to examine it carefully and to shout. They bowed their faces to the ground and holding my hands, they asked for forgiveness. Then I saw that one of them was injured badly in the hand by a knife. I took my first aid kit from the car, nursed the wound and dressed it. We became friends! The most impressive thing is that, there was sown the word of God, and the five of them received Christ, and became Christians!
After all of this, I promised to the Archangel to come to Greece, to Mantamados, to thank him. And today, I feel very blessed that the Lord made me worthy to fulfill my promise. I thank Him from all my heart!”
(1) Ed.’s Note: Excerpt not included in the Amazon book; part of her own autobiography, yet available in a limited edition only in Greek.
(2) Ed.’s Note: Dark-colored, because of dirt, mud and dried blood: 

“There are two accounts surrounding the date of this icon, one having to do with the Ottoman Turkish occupation and destruction of 1462, and the other with Saracen pirates during the 9th and 10th centuries during which the entire island was invaded.In either case, the story of the creation of the icon shares the theme that the target of the raids was the monastery of the Taxiarchis. The pirates threatened the monks with death if they would not reveal the whereabouts of the hidden villagers. The monks refused and the invaders slaughtered all of the monks except for one novice-monk [1]

As the pirates where leaving, the novice climbed to the roof of the monastery to be sure that the pirates had left. However, the pirates noticed him from afar and returned to kill him as well. It is at this point in the story that the Archangel Michael makes his appearance in front of the Saracens with his own sword drawn forcing them to retreat in terror[2]. Thanks to this miracle from the Archangel the monk survived and descending to the courtyard buried the bodies of his fellow brotherhood.

The monk still in deep respect and reverence for having witnessed the Archangel Michael in all his fury, gathered up the earth that was red by the blood of the martyred monks and shaped it into the icon-sculpture of the Archangel as it is today; while it was still vivid in his memory. According to legend, the monk did not have enough of this dirt-blood mix and so the head of the Archangel has turned out disproportionately larger to the rest of his body.

This icon, is now kept within the interior of the church. Many islanders claim to have had personal experiences of miracles being granted for them by Mantamados. This is evident by the numerous cabinets full of tagmata (gifts) to the Archangel housed inside the church. To this day, pilgrims to this church have mixed emotions regarding this icon. At times, the expression on the icon can appear severe, sad, or happy, according to the message that the Archangel wants to convey to that pilgrim or the faithful. This is the tradition of the much-celebrated icon of Mantamados.”