Baldness and the Comb

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— What is ‘experience’ in spiritual life, dearest Father?

— A comb that you acquire when you go bald.

— So, isn’t it useless?

— No, because you can then use it to comb the hair of others!

Saint Porphyrios’ words; Testimony of Metropolitan Neophytos Morfou

 

*Photograph above: Saint Porphyrios venerated by bees ☦️🐝

In the region of Kapandriti near Athens, a wonderful thing happens. Ten years ago, a devout beekeeper named Isidoros Ţiminis, thought to place in one of his hives an icon of the Crucifixion of the Lord. Soon thereafter, when he opened the hive, he was amazed that the bees showed respect and devotion to the icon, having “embroidered” it in wax, yet leaving uncovered the face and body of the Lord. Since then, every spring, he puts into the hives icons of the Savior, the Virgin Mary and the Saints, and the result is always the same. He placed a photograph of Elder Porphyrios (before he was canonized) in the hive, and the bees showed the same respect and veneration as towards other saints. (Mystagogy Resource Center)

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 34

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St Dymphna

Dear friends in Christ

 Christ is Risen!

I hope you are all well.

 Since I have not written a diary for a few days, some people are asking if I am well!  Glory to God, by your prayers. I am well. I thought that I would write a little note to you all on the Feast of  St Dymphna!

I wish you every blessing on this Feast of St Dymphna the Virgin Martyr or Ireland (650). I was introduced to her by the priest who Chrismated me. I recall that we were visiting St Patrick’s Chapel. I think he had an affinity with saint being himself of Irish descent but his spiritual father, Blessed Seraphim Rose held her in veneration and had a garden in the Monastery in California dedicated to the Celtic saints. He said, as he spread himself upon the chapel walls, how powerful were her prayers and that since ” not many people know her, she is not so busy, so she has time to intercede for us.” If you don’t know her then please read about her extraordinary life.

A short time later, I had cause to call upon her intercessions on behalf of someone. St Dymphna put it into my mind to go and to search for the article that the person had lost and to go three times to this certain place and on the third occasion, I would find the missing article. It was a test of faith, but sure enough on the third visit there was the missing article, and I can tell you that there was much joy when it was found. I have had occasion to call upon the saint subsequently and each time her intercessions have proved most powerful and fruitful. I share this story, so more people may come to know her and call upon her prayers before Christ.

 

Through the prayers of St Dymphna

Eν Χριστώ

 

Judgment in Three Acts

spring storm

 I was busy, stressed and prayer-less shopping at a supermarket when one of the employees called me out persistently, at least 3-4 times, ‘insisting’ I stop right there and turn around. Why? … She wanted to greet me with “Christ is Risen!” 

*

I finally met that person I had spent the whole day judging and quarrelling about with my family. How dare he try to solve that problem, my problem –my pain and my suffering–  in a different way than I would? … He was right! Not only did he also help me but he did so gently, with a great sense of humour and compassion.

*

I was walking back home when a wretched, ragged beggar stopped me and asked for a little money.  “Excuse me, ma’am. Please help me. I have not had anything to eat for the last two days!” He followed me pleading for quite some time. My heart was cold and I gave him nothing. I only turned back and looked at him perplexed at the softness of his voice. Then, he looked me in the eyes and gently blessed me: “May the Theotokos intercede for you and keep you under Her Protecting Veil!”  Ashamed, I changed my mind and decided to give him a little money, but  … too late! He vanished before my eyes!

*  Text by C. Photo by Jason Tiilikainen

 

 

 

Homily on the Sunday of the Paralytic

Christ healing the Paralytic by the Pool

JOHN 5:1-15

… When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  … Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

 

“I have no one to put me into the Pool” Let us concentrate on the first four words of this reply the man made to Our Lord’s enquiry:” Do you want to be healed?”

I have no one…” The Paralytic in today’s Gospel was not only paralyzed but he was lonely, isolated from society, an outcast because of his condition and unloved. No one cared enough to put him into the water but perhaps a few on the way into the temple offered a few coins. He was surrounded by people but he was alone:

” In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed,”

For thirty-eight years he had been on his own by the pool of Bethesda waiting for someone, anyone, to put him into the healing waters when they stirred.” I have no man to put me into the pool.” Loneliness is a terrible disease every much as disabling as being paralysed.

In these days of the pandemic coronavirus, loneliness has become even more apparent. There are many who are elderly or sick who are locked down, living on their own, not being able to see their families. Others are isolated in high rise flats with small children with no garden who also feel paralysed- frightened, unable to move.

We have today the social media which provides us with pathways to build bridges of encouragement, faith and hope. We must try to avoid becoming victims of self-pity which is an inverted form of pride. Instead, we must reach out to those who need our support, to see their need and ask if they require our help. The Holy Apostle Paul expressed the nature of the Church as members of the Body of Christ- 1 Corinthians 12:27.

As the Body, we live individually but inter-dependently of one another sharing joys and hardships, pains and sorrows and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

St Paisios wrote in his book “Epistles”: “ The trials that God allows are in proportion  to our tolerance level, but unfortunately many times the mockery and thoughtlessness of merciless people are added on and then we break down. Strong wind usually splits sensitive trees and uproots those with shallow roots, while it helps trees with deep roots to extend deeper into the ground.”

Indeed, putting down deep roots or laying firm foundations can give us a strong base to withstand the storms of life. However, we see in the giant Californian Redwoods which are 30 feet in width, often 3000 years old often soaring over 300 feet into the air another survival technique. One would think that being so tall they would have extra deep roots but instead, they have proportionately shallow roots, choosing rather lateral strength by interweaving and interlocking with their neighbouring trees. The root system is hidden from sight but effective- we may wish to compare this to networking!

Solitude, especially when it is combined with silence, can be a good teacher in order for us to learn by observing and listening more carefully. People are often lonely because they think they are self-sufficient but discover that within the defensive walls with which they surround themselves, they are empty, unfulfilled and in need of God.

As Christians we are not alone, we have spiritual resources to draw upon. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is as the Comforter, the one who stands at our side. We have been given a guardian angel at our Baptism, we have the Most Holy Theotokos and all the saints who continually support and intercede for us- we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.  Hebrews 12:1-3

But alienation from God brings separation and separation brings loneliness.

So Christ comes to the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years and He asks:

“What do you want me to do for you?” One may think that the question is unnecessary and the answer obvious. But perhaps the man earned his living by begging and was content with his situation. We are often set in our ways, preferring our small, dark self, safe, secure comfort zone rather than breaking out into the light. God takes the initiative. Christ asks us “What do you want Me to do for You? Do you want to be left alone, do you want to be independent, do you want your own will, do you want to go your own way? He had a choice and we have a choice.

We must remember that Christ Himself knew what it was to be alone- He went to a lonely place to pray, His disciples deserted Him, He said “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  Christ shows understanding and compassion but He will not force Himself on others- He asks us what we want!

The Evangelist John gives particular attention to the place where this took place. For the Evangelist wants us to understand that The Good Shepherd and the One who is  Grace and Truth comes to the Sheep Gate near the pool of “Beth hesda- translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic as the House of Grace (because of the healing that took place there) or Disgrace (since the unclean and outcast were gathered there).

The man is healed and Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”

Christ finds the man is in the Temple precincts- no longer alone, no longer paralysed, no longer an outcast but healed, restored, forgiven. But Christ tells him to sin no more because sin separates us from God and makes us once more lonely.

When Christ comes to us He asks us “What do you want me to do for you?”

We should have an answer.

By the Joyous Pustinnyk

Dried Flowers and Tender Buds

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Christ is Risen! A miracle at St. George church in New Moudania, Chalkidiki. 18 days after the Epitaphios, all lillies “looking”towards Him are sprouting anew! Glory to God for all things!

 

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Christ is Risen! A miracle at St. George church in New Moudania, Chalkidiki. 18 days after the Epitaphios, all lillies “looking”towards Him are sprouting anew! Glory to God for all things!

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 13

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Holy Week Highlights — a photoblog. Christ is Risen!

Nymfiosholy unction

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

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

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

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

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

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustynnik — 8

feeding birds

Remember the little things  #8

I have been reflecting greatly upon the first miracle of Our Lord which took place in Cana of Galilee, when, as a guest at a wedding, He changed water into wine. (John 2:1-11) The sheer grace and magnitude of this sign left me reflecting on how we work miracles and show hospitality in lockdown mode?

 Yesterday I had a knock on the door and there outside were two parishioners kindly and most generously bringing me some household items. As they stepped back two metres, it gave me the opportunity to offer them some incense, charcoal, floats, wicks and candles for their worship at home. We exchanged some kind and encouraging words through the “Chapel “window and they left.

 I know others from our God blessed Community who also go to the help of the poor, shop for the housebound and enrich the lives of others by their invitation to join them with online fellowship. 

However, I must tell you I show hospitality to some winged secret” guests .” Angels maybe in the Divine services, but I am talking about feeding the birds. Each day I leave some morsels of bread or nuts on my garden wall but whilst my back is turned they swoop down and take that which is given! So no photos!

 We too can change bitter waters into sweet wine if we show compassion, kindness and meekness.

The poem which follows is dedicated to my dearly departed spiritual father who showed me great kindness and hospitality and whose meekness was beyond compare.

 

The Wedding Banquet

John2:2 “Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.”

 

In South Cambridge Newnham terraces*, a place of late Victorian Mews

Where once the Deans of Cambridge held romantic rendezvous;

There is greater love in West View, which is from the east and old

That issues forth from Cana where living streams bear gold.

Where once the Saviour graced a marriage and turned water into wine

His disciples now shelter others in the branches of His Vine.

Here dwells a confluence of Christian souls of hearts and constant minds

Since “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

Such living streams of wisdom meander to a calm Bethesda pool

“Love never ends,” it is eternal for “Love is not time’s fool.”

“Love bears all things, believes all things hopes and endures all things”

Transcending any human love and in hands of angels brings

The indwelling of the Holy Guest with an invitation to the poor

To glimpse the wedding feast of the Father’s House through a simple terraced door.

 

“Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to

address oneself to the Eternal Father. Always, without fail, value

this joy which has been accorded to you by God’s infinite grace

and do not forget it during your prayers; God, the angels and

God’s holy men listen to you.”

 

St. John of Kronstadt

*This poem refers to the home of my spiritual father and his Khouriya in Cambridge, England, and their enduring love.

My love and prayers,

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

Saint Nikephoros the Leper appears in Bulgaria and gives the cure for Coronavirus

Saint Nikephoros the Leper appears in Bulgaria and protects from Coronavirus

“…… I learned from the internet that the journalist Angel Bonchev was preparing a book about the unknown for us Saint Nikephoros the Leper, at a critical moment when the world was covered by the coronavirus pandemic and thousands died, killed by this new plague.

I called him on the phone and he briefly told me about his suffering life and the heavy cross that had been given to him. I was very anxious and disturbed in the weeks before by all that was heard on the media, but at that moment I felt comforted, especially when I learned that St. Nikephoros had appeared to a man in Greece to inspire courage and a willingness to help people against this evil.

Since up to this point I did not have much information about his life, akathist, prayers, I was comforted by the little I already knew and told myself that the saint would help, I had faith that he would be with us, I felt close to him. I cried all night, praying to him, thinking about what was happening in the world and the cases of infected people that were growing every day in Bulgaria.

Saint Nikephoros the Leper: The first night

At 4 o’clock that night I fell asleep. In my dream, he visited me – Saint Nikephoros the Leper. I recognized him immediately. I saw him in his black dew, standing up, holding a golden cross in his right hand. He addressed me with the words: “Warn all Christians to pray to me, but repeatedly. Let them also read the services. There is a cure and this is the Holy Communion. There’s also a herb to drink, it’s thyme, it kills viruses. And in any case, be sure to visit the house of God at this difficult time, because there is no contagion there and no one can be infected. ” It was the first night.

Second night

The next night, he came again and said this time that many Christians, and not only, had prayed to him because he had also spread through social networks about his appearance in Greece. He also told me to tell my son to pray to him, but not only once, as he had once said to him, – that is not enough. “Many times,” the saint repeated. The next day I asked my child, “How many times have you prayed to St. Nikephoros?” And he replied that only once in the morning. I explained to him that it was not enough.

The third night

The third night I saw him again. But this time, the most important thing I understood was that Bulgaria would be protected from the virus. I turned to him with the question: “Will all of Bulgaria be preserved?” He said to me, “Yes!” At that moment I saw our country as a map, and he stood over it, over Southern Bulgaria, and more precisely somewhere over Plovdiv. And he said, “Ring the bells, ring the bells, ring the bells!” I asked, “Are there bells in the Diocese of Plovdiv?” “Yes!” He said very briefly and affirmatively. Then he ascended to heaven, and with his golden cross in his hand, he blessed from above. From the very cross, a light came down and illuminated the whole country. The last thing he said was, “It will pass!”

After all this, a tremendous change occurred in me – the reassurance and strength that Saint Nikephoros the Leper Coronavirus Miracle Worker breathed into me, in the face of the panic that has engulfed everyone in the world and in our country … “

Based on a testimony from Bulgaria

In the photo a monk with the icon of the saint of his name: Saint Nikephoros the Leper. Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos.

Source: The Ascetic Experience

Mt. Athos To Hold Vigils and Processions Against Coronavirus

    Simonopetra

Live streaming here

This coming night of Friday to Saturday in the fourth week of Great Lent, on 27/03/2020 at 21:00 (+2 GMT), all Mount Athos monasteries and their dependencies are to serve an All-Night Vigil to the Most Holy Theotokos, the guardian of the Holy Mountain, and to the Martyr Charalambos, known as the healer of infectious diseases. They will thus entreat God’s mercy and grace, and especially the Most Holy Virgin’s intercessions and protective veil, and St. Charalambos’ prayers. The monasteries are also to hold cross processions with relics and wonderworking icons according to our Holy Tradition. The Sacred Community expresses the need to join them especially on that night in their prayers, expresses the need to strengthen prayers and the celebration of the Sacraments during Great Lent and calls on all to repent “with all the power of the spirit of the Lord, the Lifegiving Source overcoming  death.” 

* Please share so that this message reaches as many Orthodox Christians as possible all over the world before this coming Friday night.

* FAQ: Is there a service online we can follow as they pray on Mt. Athos?

No, because it will be simultaneously happening to all monasteries and their dependencies. But we can pray together with the Theotokos Akathist, the Psalter, the day’s Vespers and Matins, St Charalambos Supplication, Typika, the Jesus prayer…. These are just suggestions not meant to be exhaustive…

*** UPDATE 27/3/2020 8pm

Here is the text. In Greek…

Live streaming here

Mount Athos Vigil now

Blessed Elder Amvrosios Lazaris the Athonite and the Dread Judgment Day

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“The Dread Judgment “Day” will last as long as the Six Psalms last, a few minutes.  At this time, while we will be judged, the Angels will chant the Six psalms. …

All the people who will be alive at this moment, they will instantly experience death and then be immediately resurrected. Our bodies will be immaterial, space-less. We will be able to see each other’s body and we will all be 33 years old.

Christ Icon on Iconostasis

Our Lord will hold the Book of Life, the Gospel, open, and immediately, each one of us will go on our own either to the right or to the left, because we will know in our hearts whether we are for Paradise or not.

Christ icon on Bishop's throne

This is exactly why in the Bishop’s throne, the Book in the icon of Christ is open and there is no candle over this icon–this indicates that there will be no Mercy in the Second Coming. While in the Iconostasis, the Book which Christ is holding is closed and there is a candle lit over the icon because there is still Mercy. “

✝️ Blessed Elder Amvrosios Lazaris the Athonite (21/12/1912 – 02/12/2006)  ☦️

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The Hieromonk Amvrosios (born Spyridon Lazaridis) departed this life on 2 December 2006 (New Calendar), at the age of 92. He was the spiritual father of the Holy Monastery of Our Most Holy Lady Gavriotissa, Dadi, and of thousands of Christians from all over Greece.

During a chat, I [Archimandrite Ephraim, Abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery] once had with the late Elder, he told me that after his military service, he wanted to go to the Holy Mountain, but he didn’t know how or where to go. Then a young man of about 25 appeared and told him: “I know the place, come with me”. And so he went.

They set off together, went down to the harbour and embarked on a boat. “He gave me bread, as well”, he said, “and we ate together all the days I was with him. He didn’t tell me his name, though, and I didn’t ask. So we arrived at Dafni and from there walked on, further up the Holy Mountain.

When I was with him, I felt very safe. As we went along, he showed me the Monastery of Xiropotamou, where they honour the Forty Martyrs. He asked if I would like to pay my respects and I agreed to do so. We went into the katholiko, the main church of the Monastery, and when I kissed the icon, forty men appeared and surrounded us. The young man turned to me and said: “They’re the Forty Martyrs and they’re happy that you’re going to be a monk”.

From there we continued on our way and reached Karyes, and from there went to the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi. The young man stopped, pointed out the monastery to me and said: “You’ll stay here, Spyro. You’ll become a monk. You’ll be patient and obedient to the Elder”. And he disappeared.

It would seem that this was an angel of the Lord, Spyridon’s guardian angel. Spyridon remained at this monastery as a novice, and, at the age of 25, became a monk with the name of Hariton.

… Elder Amvrosios was always in communion with the Saints. Once,  “When I was in bed, in pain, I [Elder Amvrosios himself says] could see the chapel of the Holy Unmercenary Doctors opposite, and I asked them to help me. Two doctors appeared in white smocks and they tried to set my leg. ‘Pull, Kosmas’ said one. ‘Hold it here, Damianos’, said the other. In five minutes, the pain had gone and I was well again”. When the brethren in the monastery saw him completely well, they praised God and the Holy Unmercenary Doctors.

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The blessed Elders Porfyrios Kavsokalyvitis († 02/12/1991) and Amvrosios the Athonite (†02/12/2006) together with some lay pilgrims on a visit.

 

Read more about Elder Amvrosios’ life, here