Counting the cost

Still in a discernment process. Again in lock down. Only now inside a monastery. Glory to God for all things. Counting the cost… whether I have enough to finish it … (Luke 14:28) It is this all that makes all the difference. “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33)

Your prayers

PS1. Today, one of my obediences was gardening, and guess what it was: climbers!

Quick, While There’s Still Time!

 

I too meant to share with you but I am having problems with my laptop 😦 I tried to yesterday but was not able to … It is such a beautiful documentary! Even if someone is not so interested in the life of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, the scenery is breathtaking, the monastery “sightseeing tours”amazing,  and Jonathan Jackson’s acting is so good!

Update Saturday, 23 May: Actucally, there is time. You can watch the whole documentary on the great 20th-century Athonite spiritual father “Saint Joseph the Hesychast: ELDER JOSEPH THE HESYCHAST FILM (Άγιος Ιωσήφ ο Ησυχαστής)” , starring the Emmy-award winning Jonathan Jackson.

here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCZT8KvCsjU&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR2HqjqLGcpfIL4jlPzhEQsngfJT19nN8z7pPPS-ekcGDB1YPAxgP7RC9rc

 

or, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep9H5fM7d8c

lessons from a monastery

Christ is risen!

For a few more hours you can watch the full documentary of the life of Elder (Saint) Joseph the Hesychast for free!

I meant to include this link in my earlier post as a “treat” to share with you on my name’s day and completely forgot. Forgive me!

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 27

under the stars

Under the Stars

Χριστός Ανέστη!
Some years ago I visited a monastery in a remote part of Greece and was taken aback somewhat being greeted by a nun with a most refined English accent: “ Your blessing! Oh, it’s so lovely to see you dear Father, welcome!” The nun was indeed from England, but in that Monastery there were nuns from all over the world; from Germany, Sweden, Finland, Philippines, Greece, Cyprus and one from the USA who knew the priest who had Chrismated me. It was like a little microcosm of Pentecost.

St Brigid and her Monastery

St Brigid became a hermit and built herself a cell near a large oak tree. But soon men and women came to join her, to live as monks and nuns; so she built a double monastery which became larger than any town in the country.

 Each evening the monks and nuns would go to the surrounding countryside to see if anyone required any food or accommodation. If someone was homeless, they brought them back to the monastery for food, rest and shelter. In addition, St Brigid built a hospital for those who were sick and who were cared for by the monks and nuns.

Near to the Monastery lived a rich merchant who had a disdain for religion and expressed his contempt for the monastery. Nevertheless, Brigid visited the man regularly despite his insults and the man came to have admiration for her convictions and persistence

The rich man fell sick with a fatal illness and called for St Brigid. He could not speak and she knew that no words would comfort him, so she made a cross of some new rushes and placed it in his hands. He lifted the Cross to his lips, kissed it and then departed this life.

Ekklesia-

John 15:18,19: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. if you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Based on the Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus 180 A.D.

 

These Christians who look down on death

With loving grace for one another,

Praise Christ with every living breath

Place Him above son, wife and mother.

 

As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

No country, language, custom, race

No philosophy of human health,

They live as aliens and trace

 Love to a heavenly commonwealth.

 

As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

They share everything and endure

Torture, death and hardship as gain,

Obeying laws they help the poor

Loving all, by all they suffer pain.

 

As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

We are unknown and yet still condemned

Defamed but are vindicated,

Destitute, broken hearts we mend

Reviled we bless, dying, to life translated.

 

As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

 

 

“O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again, but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us, that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship of His pain He vouchsafed salvation.“

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Christian Sacraments. 

 

Eν Χριστώ
* Photograph by Evgeni Tcherkasski

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 22

orthodox pilgrims climbing

Hristos a înviat!

 

From my little chapel in my front room, I never serve the Divine services in slippers! Somehow, although this would be more appropriate and comfortable, it seems rather casual and disrespectful; so I always put on my clean shoes as I would as in Church! I’m sure no one would notice my feet under my cassock, but I know, and I know that all things should be done in order as the Apostle Paul reminds us.( 1 Corinthians 14:40) To dress correctly befitting the task is something that we should not easily dismiss. It was good to see some of the gentlemen wearing ties at Pascha!!

I remember mountain walking in Transylvania with my spiritual brother and some students some years ago- a variety of inappropriate footwear seemed the fashion- trainers, sandals and even grandfather’s old brown brogues, but no walking boots! Needless to say there were some very sore feet at the end of each day.

 

  St Columba and the shoes of Turf. ( part I of 2)

In the early Church in these islands with few writing materials, the Gospel was often conveyed by singing bards. A message came to St. Columba (who was also a singing bard) that the leading Bishop in Ireland had outlawed this practice and that” he was not to set foot on the Island of Ireland!” St Columba remembering how many had been converted on earlier missions by singing the Gospel stories decided to go back to Ireland but in order not to contravene the Bishop’s instructions he cut and took two turfs of soil from Iona with him on the boat. On reaching Ireland he tied these two turfs to his feet!

Mountain Walking in Transylvania

Summer 2003

Matthew 7:14: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way

which leads to life ,and there are few who find it.

The climb was hard following the track

It tired the legs and wrenched the back;

Clearer and lighter was the air

Greater and slower was the care.

In which we made our way.

The thin line of friends began to spread,

Like a spider’s hoary thread

On the mountain climb together

Stretched in love for one another.

As we walked the way

Stopping often to refresh and rest,

To view the scene, to pray, to jest,

To share a thought, to catch a sigh

To marvel at the birds on high.

As we walked His Way.

Our destination now in sight,

We summon up our little might,

To reach the summit and the goal

With all our heart, mind, strength and soul.

With Him who is the Way.

 

What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to
climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend
to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is
less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting
life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom.

St. Cyprian 

 
 Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 11

angel oak tree

1500-year-old Angel Oak tree in South Carolina

Remember the Little Things — Day #11

I love trees. Trees are magnificent in their audacious grandeur; sown in the dark soil they seek the light.

The trees which were bare a month ago are now in full bloom. Spring has come with all its glorious plenary pulchritude. We thank God for such beauty. Trees offer shade and colour; they even take our carbon dioxide and exchange it for oxygen. Trees are the lungs of the world.

The newly glorified Saint Amphilochios of Patmos (1888-1970) said: ” Whoever does not love trees, does not love God.”

 In these hard times, it is a temptation to become despondent; but this spirit comes from the evil one. Our lives are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3) like the roots in the soil. Our faith can defy the weight of oppression like the sap which defies gravity through capillary action. Our lives can extend to all like the branches. If we have the will, with that awesome synergy which is Christ’s gracious dialogue with us, through His mercy and our hard work, we may bloom in holiness and bear fruit that will last.

Hearts of Oak

Theme: Despondency

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Luke 6:44: “For every tree is known by its own fruit.

“When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: “What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head.”

St. Seraphim of Sarov

 

“It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that one day he said to his elder brother, ”I should like to be free of all care, like the angels who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God. ”So he took leave of his brother and went away in the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door he heard his brother say,” Who are you?” before he opened it. He said,” I am John, your brother.” But he replied,” John has become an angel and henceforth is no longer among men.” Then John besought him, saying,” It is I.” However, his brother did not let him in but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, “You are a man and you must once again work in order to eat.” Then John made a prostration before him, saying,” Forgive me.” 

 

I hear Lord, there was once a Tree planted here in this place

 A Tree so fine and so splendid, a Tree full of beauty and grace.

  “Who planted this Tree of Life Lord here in this garden?

 It’s said that its fruit was so sweet and had the gift of peace and pardon

 Who tended this Tree in its youth Lord when it was growing into the light?

 When the gales blew and the storms raged in the middle of the night.

 Who first saw this Tree bud and blossom into flower

 As the sap of its spirit gave joy to each hour?

 Who watered this Tree Lord when it was parched and dry

 When some men ate of its labour and others wagged heads and passed by?

 Who cut down its branches where the birds of the air made a nest?

 Didn’t they taste of its fruit Lord, did not they know it was best?

 Who cut the Tree down to the ground Lord whilst it was rich in finest full bloom?

 There must have been more than one axe Lord, to bring about such a doom.

 But look Lord I see a young sapling springing from out of its roots

 And what wondrous a sight to behold Lord, there are thousands and thousands of shoots!

 What is this Garden called Father, is it Eden, what mystical name please impart?

 “The Tree is my Son, my young gardener and the garden my child is your heart.”

 

My love

Eν Χριστώ

Fear of Death

st joseph hesychast

“Listen to another story. Once a nun wrote to me to say that she was ill and would die if she didn’t have an operation. I wrote to her saying exactly the opposite. She wrote back saying that the doctor told her that she would die in so many days if she didn’t have an operation. I repeated my request, “Have faith; leave it all to God; prefer death .”
Later she sent me her response saying that the illness went away.

Do you see? I have experienced this thousand of times. When you put death before you and await it at every moment, it flees far away from you. When you fear death, it constantly pursues you.

I buried three people with tuberculosis, nourishing the hope that I would catch it. After I undressed the corpse, I wore his clothes, but death fled away from me to those who fear it. I have been ill my whole life. I have never had any treatment. I absolutely eat the wrong foods. But death is nowhere in sight.

What I am trying to say is that without the will of the Lord, we neither get sick nor die. Therefore, far away from us. O lack of faith!”

-Saint Joseph the Hesychast
Monastic Wisdom
Thirtieth Letter

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

A Window to Heaven

coliva_in_biserica

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. 

kollyva

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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sister aggeliki tsaousi

For more information about Saturday of Souls, here

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]

 

 

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