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]

*

(*) 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]

 

 

The Monastery Diaries 4

88681
A photo journal 
*
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!
What a beautiful vigil at St Arsenios’ annual Feast (+St Arsenios of Cappadocia, Nov. 10)! I do not think any of my photos can convey the holiness conveyed through the monks’ exquisite, prayerful chanting,  the Fathers’ prayers, the censing, the tears of the faithful, the dancing chandeliers at Polyelaios…
IMG_FDFF402D104E-1
IMG_6E304B4371E5-1

Fr Synesios was throwing bay leaves inside the church before Vespers started

IMG_0653IMG_2871IMG_2101

IMG_1558IMG_8919IMG_5297IMG_5587

There were lots of hieromonks, laymen and chanters invited to help with the chanting and the hospitality, and several priests and bishops all over the world since Saint Arsenios monastery is a very missionary-minded monastery and Gerondas Theoklitos has quietly and very discreetly founded together with several of his monks lots of monasteries all over the world.

IMG_2751

IMG_BC1C2BD18149-1

The Bishop Innokentios of Burundi and Rwanda

The Vigil was in two parts because the Feast was this year on a Sunday: on Saturday evening we had the Vespers and Matins, and on Sunday morning the Hours and the Holy Liturgy. Nonetheless, it was still too long, so long that the faithful were often seen collapsing in their stasidia and seats, and yet at the end, nobody wanted to leave. The monks though were so vigilant, like candles lit, not sitting down even for a minute during all these long hours.

IMG_68115BCA7559-1IMG_8A659EA92CA5-1IMG_300F0861531C-1IMG_173F043CC851-1IMG_1C1DF79131B7-1IMG_8C4C4A9EA4C8-1
IMG_5991

IMG_2784

Some of the kollyva prepared by the faithful and the monks.
IMG_B6DB764D2AE5-1
IMG_A4CF0C7796F4-1
At the end of the Holy Liturgy, the kollyva of the Saint were prayed in front of his icon. These kollyva were such perfect icons “written” on the boiled wheat that we did not want to eat them! Then, all the faithful were given in the monastery yard a bit of this kollyva, artoklasia and special treats for the Feast, the Fathers briefly disappeared in the arhondarikion, and when we thought that we were done with eating and feasting, we were all invited into the monastery’s trapeza for yet for food.
IMG_5306C6226D50-1
IMG_41EAF004D336-1

During the agape meal, lots of chanters and two monks censing with a a katzion (special censer for feasts) and carrying a piece of holy bread,  a part of the proskomide’s holy bread, moved around all of us and we each picked up a very small piece. In that sense, the agape meal felt like yet one more Holy Liturgy after the Holy Liturgy in the church. Prayer seems to be seamlessly woven in all monastic activities, even in the washing-up that followed.

IMG_DBF8F7F2B930-1IMG_BB01370CCF4D-1IMG_AC8456CD3FFA-1

IMG_17CA7D9CC49B-1

Gerondas Theoklitos is on the left, Bishop Nikodemus of Kassandreia in the middle and the monk on the right , deeply bowing his head on the right is Father Arsenios. He was shining at his Saint’s Feast throughout the Vigil and the festivities that followed. He was honoured to read the Akathist before the Saint’s icon and the Synaxarion in the church and in the agape meal that followed at the end of the Holy Liturgy where all the faithful were invited to participate in a fellowship of Love and Holiness. Father Arsenios was the first to receive Holy Communion and the last to eat anything in the agape meal. In fact, I am not sure if he ate anything at all this day as he was so full of Joy and his Saint was feeding him with Heavenly food.

IMG_CFB336D2FD6E-1

IMG_B1369987B28D-1

IMG_BDD7A63DBDCD-1

This is Father Nikodemus who greeted me the first dawn here, on his way to a village parish, and we both admired the starlit sky, the “ison” for the worship unfolding in the monastery katholikon.

IMG_194C4CDD62A4-1IMG_D0BF64E15485-1IMG_15DC9D04966E-1

Love and poor prayers,
LCH

Memory Eternal to a Pioneer

eastern-orthodox-funeral-traditions-main

“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

 

 

The Crossing of My Red Sea

shoe nest

About four months have passed since my Elder’s last ‘words’ about my future and my life circumstances have completely changed. Indeed, problems do not merely call forth our courage and our wisdom; they create our courage and wisdom. (I have a long way to go …) How can my Elder (and God) swipe away, with just one move, all my past and present, my job, my possessions, my ‘family’, my ‘home’, my … (you name it!)?

But they can, as I was about to find out the hard way. “No buts — just do as I tell you! God has revealed all that to me (!)” The past four months I learnt first hand the blessings of an Elder’s prayers as he ‘photographed’ and ‘micromanaged’ my single step thousands of miles away.

The sea was parted; I walked on the dry ground and crossed it. And left all my past life behind. What will my future be on this ‘other’ side? I have absolutely no clue, other than I must learn to cling to God and surrender to His Will, as no one has now been left for me, other than Him and my Elder.

Abba Allois said: “Unless a man say in his heart, Only I and God are in the world, he shall not find rest.”

Asking for your prayers…

 

 

Twenty-four hours with St. Amphilochios (I)

patmos9

At the nunnery of  Evangelismos “The Annunciation to the Mother of the Beloved One” in Patmos

IMG_0048

 

1.When you cultivate prayer the Tempter’s blusterings will not trouble you. Prayer diminishes his strength, he cannot do anything to us. (February 1965) .. The spiritual life has great pleasures. You fly, you leave the world , you don’t consider anything. You become children and God dwells in your heart. 

IMG_0002

St. Amhilochios Makris

2. The end of my life draws near I ask you to live a holy life, to walk along holy paths, so that you may help both our Church and Greece. … Your hearts are young and want to love. You must have our Christ alone in your heart. Your Bridegroom wants you to love only Him. 1/1/1968

IMG_0003

3.Remaining faithful to Monasticism is considered to be a martyrdom. … We must have our gaze fixed on heaven. Then nothing will shake us. …Take communion regularly, pray warmly, be patient and you will see a strong hand holding you.

IMG_0004

4.Christ often comes and knocks at your door and you invite him to sit in the living-room of your soul. Then, absorbed in your own business you forget the Great Visitor. He waits for you to appear and when you are too long in returning, he gets up and leaves. At other times, you are so busy that you answer him from the window. You don’t even have time to open the door.

IMG_0005

5.You are royalty, destined for the heavenly bridal chamber. …. Christ is near us even if we don’t see Him. Sometimes, from his great love, He gives us a slap too.

IMG_0006

6.We you see a person who is spiritually tired do not burden him any further, because his knees won’t be able to bear it. … A person who suffers from egotism attracts no-one. And if he does attract someone he will soon go away. When one comes across a childlike spirit, innocence and holiness the bond becomes unbreakable.

IMG_0007

7.Love the One, so that even wild beasts will love you. … Do you know there is an eleventh commandment not recorded in the Bible, and it says, ‘Love the trees.’ Those who do not love trees do not love Christ.

IMG_0008

8.True wealth, for me, is to see you in the Kingdom of Heaven. [to his spiritual children]

IMG_0009

9.When the flame of love exists, it consumes whatever evil approaches. … The person who shouts has no strength.

IMG_0010

10.The person who loves spiritually, feels prayerful, that he can be found within God and his brother. He is saddened when his brother is not advancing well and prays for his progress. Whoever has Christian love never changes.

IMG_0011

11.Hold the banner of Christ up high, so that you’ve always got your elder’s telephone number no matter where you are. … The Grace of the All-Holy Spirit makes a person send out rays. However, other people must have a good receiver in order to realise this. 1/1/1968

IMG_0012

12.Christ is the same, yesterday and today, but we have closed our eyes and look into the darkness. It is because we carry on like this that some fall in the mud and others are killed.

IMG_0013

13.I beseech the Lord to sanctify you, so that I may see you in Paradise. This is the dowry which I seek from the Lord for you.

IMG_0014

St Amphilochios’ tomb

14.For God’s grace to come during the Liturgy you must be concentrated and untroubled. 

IMG_0015

15.The more a person loves God, the more he loves other people. He loves them with holiness, respect and refinement, as images of God.

IMG_0016

16.When a person lacks inner warmth, he will be frozen and cold, even in summer.

IMG_0017

17.When your heart does not have Christ, it will contain either money, property or people instead. 

IMG_0018

18.Please put this commandment into practice. Cultivate love towards the Person of Christ to such an extent that, when you pronounce His name, tears fall from your eyes. Your heart must really burn. Then He will become your teacher. He will be your Guide, your Brother, your Father, and your Elder.

IMG_0019

19.Love your Bridegroom Christ with all your heart and then everyone will love you and take care of you.

IMG_0020

20.I desire the rebirth of Monasticism, because in my opinion, monasticism is the evzone [elite military unit] battalion of the Church.

IMG_0021

21.God’s protection diminishes temptation. … Innocence is greater than genius.

22.Because of widespread corruption, people cannot understand that spiritual love exists.

IMG_0023

St. Amphilochios cell

23.Let us look upon everyone as our superiors, however weak they may appear. Let us not be harsh, but always bear in mind that the other person also has the same destination as us. 

IMG_0024

24.We must have Love, even if they do us the greatest harm, we must love them. We will be able to enter Paradise only with love. 

IMG_0025

 

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;

st john the forerunner

St John the Evangelist and St Amphilochios in Patmos!

st john the evangelistapokalipsi spilaio patmos ag

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!

outbuilding-at-horezu

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!