New Year’s Resolutions

Battistero_di_San_Giovanni_mosaics.jpg

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

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

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

Blessed New Year 2020 to all!

Your prayers

 

 

Elder Gregorios 40 day Memorial Service

80782350_2416154011827872_861637634340945920_n

Elder Gregorios

+19-11-2019

“Love in Christ is a sacrificial Love, a self-sacrificing, self-denying Love, Agape. You sacrifice everything for the person you love, “your neighbour”. By “our neighbour”, we mean every person as God’s Image, even our enemy. By “love” we do not mean that we should do whatever the other person wants us to do, but to love him with Christ’s burning and flaming Heart, for his salvation” (+ Elder Gregorios Papasotiriou)

*

This is how we have always felt and feel his love. Blessed Paradise, Elder. “Kai sta dika mas.” “And to our own!”  May we be reunited with you in Heaven in God’s Kairos!

80395516_2564822247082250_924611471332081664_n79876452_1235423190002125_19557734877757440_n

All the faithful present experienced an urge to pray to Elder, and not for him. 

80421158_767691993747125_6627701451936235520_n79686065_1048267265513180_241326172183461888_n80315340_977067915998194_2080091569561534464_n80640184_447932872543924_1165895110454411264_n80494444_1191848591021578_2010228089631539200_n80059071_1052973311710959_8126907860173979648_n80350077_589087115198686_6912717203980681216_n

How to Deal with Someone You Can’t Stand Dealing with

The blessed eldress [our holy mother among the saints, Abbess Makrina of Portaria] always taught her sisters and those who came to her for spiritual advice to give glory to God for all things: for the so-called good and the so-called bad. Here is a story she related regarding this:

In one of the villages near her monastery there lived a pious couple who had a ten-year-old son. Their next-door neighbour was an old woman with an intolerable personality. She was constantly berating everyone, angrily and unfairly scolding her neighbours, and when their son would return from school she would throw sticks and stones at him.

One day the father turned to God with fervent prayer and decided to ask Him how to deal with that old woman’s bad temper. The Lord answered him, “She will live another thirty years!” And what was the man’s response to this news? He unmurmuringly said, “Glory to God!” He shared God’s answer with his wife and she likewise said, “Glory to God!” When the son came home from school and heard the news about God’s answer to his father’s prayer he also said, “Glory to God!”

The next day, total silence reigned in the old woman’s house. She did not go outside to pour out her wrath upon her neighbours. The father went to see how she was doing and discovered that she had apparently died in her sleep. He began to pray to God in order to understand how this could happen, and the Lord said to him, “When you answered, ‘Glory to God!’ I shortened her life by ten years. When your wife gave the same reply I took away another ten years. And when your son said the same thing and also glorified Me, I took away the final ten years of her life.”

 

Source: Lessons from a Monastery

Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

elder efraim arizona

elder-efraim 3.jpg

+ 8/12/2019

Father Efraim of Arizona (1928-2019) has left this world to join his fellowship (Saint Efraim Katounakiotis, Saint Joseph the Caveman, Father Joseph from Vatopedi, Father Haralampos, Father Arsenios). He is at home now in eternal rest with his spiritual father and his Heavenly Father in Heaven. Imagine the joyous welcome he received in Paradise from Christ, Panagia, his mother, Saint Joseph and from all of the Saints!!!  

elder efraim synodeia

 

Glory to the God who gave us Geronda Ephraim! May we always have his heavenly prayers and intercessions! Paradise rejoices in welcoming you!!! Thank you for sacrificing your entire life and bringing countless souls to Christ!!! Kalo Paradiso!!! 

Like Elder Gregorios Papasotiriou

IMG_30C7A706873B-1

γεροντασ γρηγοριοσ παπασωτηριου

Like Elder Aimilianos Simonopetra

υστατο χαιρε γεροντα αιμιλιανου

Aimilianos-igoumenos-Simonopetras3

So many “losses” in just a few months! May we, their orphans, meet them through their prayers in Heavens! Memory Eternal!

 

Nobody here sleeps in a bed

obedience4

“Elder Aimilianos never told anyone what to do. Never gave orders. He told us many times when the community was all together: “I can’t really tell you what to do, all I can do is strive to be an example.” He used to say, “In the Christian life, there is no ‘must’. If you tell people they ‘must do this and must do that’, something in their spirit rebels. It’s unnatural for us to be enslaved in that way, to have orders and commands imposed upon us. …
… When a certain novice arrived at Simonopetra, the cells were under construction so he was put in a guest room. It all looked normal: shelf, books, bed. He was working in the library, and one of the monks got up and said, “Ooh my back, my back: it’s killing me. I have back troubles.” “Is your bed too soft?” the novice asked. “You sleep in a bed?” “Yeah: don’t you?” “No, nobody here sleeps in a bed,” and laughed with the other monks saying, “Hey, come here. He sleeps in a bed!” When the novice was with the Abbot a couple days later, the Abbot asked, “You have a bed in your room? At some point, we’ll have to get that out of there.” The novice was terrified: he had a long history of chronic lower back problems. He had the idea: “If they take my bed away, I’ll be a cripple the rest of my life!” Every time he heard a knock on the door, he feared they were coming for it. Yet no one ever came for the bed. One day the Novice saw the cell of the Abbot. The Abbot didn’t have a bed! “This man carries the weight of the whole monastery on his shoulders, works so hard for everybody here, deals with all our nonsense, our infantile behaviour prays for us, and he doesn’t sleep in a bed. And I’m going to have a bed? I can’t do that.” He went back to his room and got rid of the bed. Had they taken it, and he had back problems, he would have cursed them forever! The Abbot taught by example.”

*

Exactly like Fr Synesios at the monastery of St Arsenios. He is always most eager to help everybody in everything, is tireless in his ministry and never judges anybody. Indeed, even when things go really wrong, he always protects the “culprit”  and prefers solutions to problems. Just a few hours together with him are life-changing. He teaches everybody by example. 

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.

IMG_2180

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.

ΓΕΡΟΝΤΑΣ ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΣ 3

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!

DF741702-4367-4408-A9BC-07929B918430-5475-00000B61A79B0D9F

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 …

geronta-Grigorios-Gerondas Agathaggelos.jpg

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.

IMG_30C7A706873B-1

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

IMG_2437680ACE52-1IMG_106369FE0194-1IMG_6D0756F8413E-1

The Procession Around the Monastery Main Church (Katholikon)

IMG_940D7A666A46-1

 

IMG_BCB2BB624A4D-1IMG_AFCF8058DE8E-1IMG_065F475397F3-1IMG_2D86A567F1F7-1

IMG_89B298C90490-1

IMG_E01B0243AA39-1

IMG_6E3288CF30C3-1

IMG_B1B1B4B74444-1

IMG_ABCCCDF37D05-1
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

IMG_8FBDC657BE47-1

IMG_AA555C435EC7-1

IMG_FAAB74AAFC8B-1IMG_64291251FF1B-1

IMG_7AD797517667-1IMG_E6C744FF2EB2-1

IMG_710B90A340F2-1IMG_4EBEE2B6EE06-1

IMG_BCB251772948-1

IMG_E43EDE22CD3A-1

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.”

Elder Euphemios5

Elder Euthemios 3

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

IMG_D85E93213643-1IMG_68BE57F7F00C-1

IMG_47B40FC3BF79-1IMG_C706CE7CBA1C-1IMG_DF70E303F694-1

IMG_4775B5F50692-1IMG_7EBE0ECD0116-1IMG_080DCC6201B7-1IMG_74016289089C-1IMG_F08778564231-1IMG_DD716F9AA2D4-1IMG_5272688FBE75-1IMG_68929EEDCE4F-1

IMG_F072D95470D5-1IMG_0F1E549C0ED7-1IMG_237072286ED5-1

For more photos, go here and here

 

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