The Feeding of the Five Thousand and a Story

 

Feeding the 5000

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only one of the great nature miracles that is recorded in all four Gospels. The Lord had spent the whole day teaching the crowds and with compassion, healing the sick.  The disciples, as evening approached, were tired and hungry after a long day; they display a rather different pragmatic solution. They say to our Lord, ”….send them away!” The large assembly had become an inconvenience and an intrusion into their cosy circle of fellowship and did not want to share Christ or their food with all these people. We may show the same resentment to those who impinge on our cosy arrangements. We too may ask ourselves why bother with these outsiders, what can we do for them ? We are not equipped to provide for their needs!

 

This combination of self interest and self justification is met with a strong response from our Lord:

”They need not go away-you give them something to eat!”

They,(the crowds) do not have to go- they need sustenance. You do something about it!

The poor, the hungry, the lonely, the oppressed, the sad, the sick, the bereaved need someone to care for them, to love them, to listen to them, to forgive them, to heal them and to understand their needs and to feed them. He who had ministered to their spiritual needs and fed their spiritual hunger was not going to send them away empty. 

Luke 1:53

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

Their physical needs were just as important. Christ cares for the whole person -body and soul. 

The command to feed the crowd,” You feed them!” is met with incredulity. How are we going to feed all these people, “we have only five loaves and two fish” ( we might add-and they are for us!)  We simply cannot interpret this miracle as a demand to give people spiritual food- it is not possible to preach to an empty stomach.

Christ asks the disciples to bring what little food that they had for Him to bless and multiply. It is not that the disciples alone have to do everything but to offer up what they have to Christ and then He does the rest. It is the same for us, even if we have only a grain of mustard seed and plant it, it will become great. God always multiplies what we offer. When we offer nothing we will receive nothing.

*

 There is the story of the four beggars gathering one evening who were bemoaning the meagre amounts of food they had received that day.

The first said, “I begged until sunset and all I received was a scrap of meat.”

The second said, “ I didn’t get anything but I managed to pick up a few discarded vegetables from the market place.”

The third said,” A merchant threw me a handful of herbs”

The fourth said,” I have a handful of beans, that’s all.”

 One of them suggested that they put all the contents into a boiling pot and make a savoury stew.

They all agreed that this was a splendid idea. The first thought to himself “I’ll just pretend to put the meat into the pot. The others wont know the difference and I’ll eat it later.” The same idea occurred to the second, third and fourth beggars.  In turn they all pretended to put their portions into the pot- it was dark so that the others didn’t notice. After a time one of them said “ It must be ready now”. So each took a bowlful of hot water from the pot in absolute silence learning the stark truth that selfishness is tasteless and barren.

Psalm 33

I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
In the Lord shall my soul be praised; let the meek hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my tribulations.
Come unto Him, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his tribulations.
The angel of the Lord will encamp round about them that fear Him, and will deliver them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that hopeth in Him.
O fear the Lord, all ye His saints; for there is no want to them that fear Him.
Rich men have turned poor and gone hungry; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good thing. 

 The early Church practised great charity and we should do no less

 Acts 4

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. 

 

 Divine equations have a simple synergy and formidable formula: Us plus God equals Miracles

God’s arithmatic is very generous: 5+2 = 5000 +12

 

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 46

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The Birds’ Symphony by George Tsintsifas

Symphonia

Yesterday, I heard two familiar pieces of music on the radio. It took me back to when I studied music at school. There, as part of preparations for our examinations we followed the music scores of Bach’s Brandenburg Concert #3 and Schubert’s Fifth Symphony whilst listening to vinyl L. P. recordings of these works. It was both a duty and joy to follow and listen under the observations and instructions of a good teacher. Over and over again, our small group of pupils would listen to the recordings until we became so familiar that we knew them off by heart for the exam to follow. Some years later, I was pleased to hear these works played in concert by a live Orchestra. That initial schoolboy learning process was transposed into wonder as I witnessed each member of the Philharmonic playing their part under the conductor for the audience’s delight. 

In an Orchestra, breath and hands on musical instruments bring sound to notes, as breath gives voice to words in praise of God and hands bring mercy and kindness to others. Just as music is the fuel to stir emotions, Christian love is the engine to move faith and hope into action. Our Christian life too, often starts with listening and following the scores (the Bible/the Liturgy/the Church Fathers), paying attention to the Teacher and Conductor of our life (Christ), and then working together (in fellowship)for the benefit and joy of others(evangelism). 

 

 Theme: Working together in Harmony

Luke 15:25
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

 

When one desert father told another of his plans to “ shut himself into his cell and refuse the face of men, that he might perfect himself,” the second monk replied, “ Unless thou first amend thy life going to and fro amongst men, thou shall not avail to amend it dwelling alone.”

 

Many arrived and adjusted themselves to a listening mode in the auditorium.

The orchestra entered, settled themselves, tuned up and looked intently for the Conductor’s command.

Sound and silence became a dialogue.

Both the ones who played and those who listened melded into a dynamic organism;

 a heartbeat giving life to a body.

The union of loving strings buzzed as bees in a hive,

To shrive the withered minds and weary limbs,

 And having worked the nectar and shared the pollen from the hours of practice and rehearsal,

Produced the honey for those seated to taste.

 The audience feasted on the abundant sweet notes

 And were swept along and above to a higher form;

 from their mundane routine to another dimension.

They were moved, transported to the land

Of awe filled tears,

Where harmony is the currency,

Where sunshine sparkles

and dances on the ears.

 Beads of infinity permeate the throng in this communion song;

Inspiring first emotion, then empathy, followed by wonder and finally joy.

Such joy as can never be captured but glimpsed-only glimpsed,

In a gilded moment, felt in the heart,

digested in that part 

of the mind which is forever a child’s laugh or first remembered summer.

As food is energy to the body so is music nourishment for the soul.

Such provision was encouraged by a ministering angel’s smile, sent

In order for us to repent from worldly guile.

 

We are drawn into that scented circle, inexorably and imperiously drawn

By that mysterious sound that claims and wraps our tender frame.

“But why so little music in the Gospels?”

“Hosannas” with palms endorse a King 

And older Psalms, of course, to sing!

But where is the chorus for our dreams? 

Only for the Prodigal it seems!

Was music not given by God to grace the mind of all,

 make glad the heart, to heed the call?

Is there not harmony at the centre of the Universe?

Or is it that our lives in Christ should rehearse

 for heaven;

 reverse the ego’s trend and blend to be

 a sounding board with others in that greater symphony.

Epilogue

A Harmony with Thee

Glory be,

 Viva Vivaldi,

 Not I but we, 

Was blind now see, 

Oh Mystery,

Oi Agioi kai Angeloi,

 In unity 

with The Holy Trinity. 

 

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

 

Saint Basil the Great

Adam and Eve my little apple trees

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Grown from pips!

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Kimberly, Tom and Kristian

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Dear Friends in Christ,
I hope that you are all well and safe. I apologise for my disappearance but I have recently started “offcially” chanting at two (!) parishes in the suburbs of Thessaloniki. In fact, I am so busy chanting all the time (or preparing for the services) and I spend so much time in church that I sometimes have to politely decline a chanting obedience since I cannot be in both parishes at the same time 🙂
Church services in Greece have dramatically multiplied since the release of the lockdown, for as long as it lasts, so chanters are in great demand as there is no end to our vigils, processions and forty days liturgies!

How are the churches doing in your countries?

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PS. Not my hand 🙂 This is from a spiritual brother in Lesvos who is the closest I have known of a “bird whisperer” 🙂
Christ is in our midst!

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPARROWS

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“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” How much Love is hidden in this laconic, “modest” statement in Genesis 1:2! “And suddenly a sound came like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And all began to speak in other tongues, other doctrines, other teachings, of the Holy Spirit.” (Great Vespers of Pentecost). How lofty is the Holy Spirit’s descent in fiery tongues at the foundation of the Church! How different Pentecost is to Creation, and yet, it is the same vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the Giver of Life.
“Beside them will the birds of the heaven lodge, from the midst of the rocks will they give voice.” (Psalm 103:12) Oh, and what a voice! Our balcony is perched on the 5th floor of a neighbourhood full of plane trees. I am lulled to sleep to the trill of nightingales when all other birds shush; I wake up to the chirping of swallows, warblers, swifts, sobre tits, collared doves, chickadees, tit-mice and crows … even if in a city. Branches reach out to our balcony handrail and literally hug our oleanders, jasmine and honeysuckle. I have always loved birds, any bird really, but I have always had a special fondness for sparrows.
“There will the sparrows make their nests; the house of the heron is chief among them. ” (Psalm 103:17) Recently, while in lockdown, I made up my mind to seek “company” in our neighbourhood. I placed a feeding dish on the floor of our balcony and put seed, grains and rice on its ledge. I also put another dish by its side, full of water, as Greek spring tends to get too hot and dry. A large pot of fully-grown oleander was strategically placed by their side. And I waited …
“All things wait on Thee, to give them their food in due season; when Thou givest it them, they will gather it.” (Psalm 103:27). To my disappointment, the first week or so nothing happened. Absolutely nothing, as if my plates were invisible even to branches that outreached towards them, touched them. But then, soon enough, a first visitor arrived, only to bring another one and another … To my excitement, my visitors were mostly sparrows, as this corner is a bit narrow for any bigger bird really to squeeze in. How moving was it to see the response of the sparrows to my care and how fast did they bring others to the feast! Just like the All-Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to bring others to the Feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, was it not “the Holy Spirit [himself which] descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him”? (Luke 3:22).
“When Thou openest Thy hand, all things shall be filled with goodness”(Psalm 103: 28) Soon, I would work on my laptop but could not resist, now and then, to peep out, across our living room french doors: my tiny feathered friends outside were joyfully eating, jumping from one oleander branch to another, playing and bathing. How much did they enjoy the sunshine, how carefree were they and what a musical noise did they always make! In no less than another week, those tiny creatures, which were too tiny even for the palm of my hand, began to depend on me for their food, and I felt responsible for them. I noticed that whenever absorbed in my papers, I forgot to replenish their food, they would still arrive and sit in the middle of their empty plate and stare at me in disappointment.
“Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 103:30) My heart melts with joy just to watch them no doubt sing praises to our Lord. If I, sinful as I am, have such love and com-passion for those tiny creatures, how much more does our Lord care for them? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Amazing! And what a joy and comfort to hear from our Lord’s infallible lips that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
“Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26). I have always felt the Holy Spirit a bit elusive and enigmatic as the third person of the Holy Trinity. So essential, so powerful, and yet so mysterious! St. Seraphim of Sarov revealed to Motovilov that the true aim of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done because of Christ, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit.
“Did ye receive the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 19:2) What a question that of Paul to the Ephesian
disciples to answer! Isn’t it really asked of every one of us? Is it enough to answer: I have received the mystery or sacrament of the Spirit after my Baptism, when I was anointed with the Holy Chrism? Or does all this go deeper? Lev Gillet thinks that the real question we have to answer is whether and how this seed of the Spirit has been afterwards developed within the soul.
“Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, … O treasury of every good thing and Bestower of life” Such a vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the Giver of Life, even for … sparrows. The Holy Spirit is a breath a wind, may this breath direct us where He wills. “Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One. Αmen”

“Emerald Lake” – Skra Waterfalls

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A Photo/ Video Blog

 

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Memories of Greek historical moments are mixed with the rare beauty of nature and the turquoise waters of an ancient lake.

These are the emotions one feels and the images that one sees as a visitor of Skra, the waterfalls and the famous “emerald lake”.

Skra is only 4 km away from the borders with FYROM and it spreads on the Northeast slopes of Paiko at an altitude of 520m. Its previous name was Lioumnitsa, while the current one is due to the proximal top Skra di Legken that during the First World War was the place of the homonymous battle field (Skra – Ravine). The battle was a decisive one for the course of the Greek State and the First World War.

With its characteristic proud old plane tree in the center of the village, Skra is considered to be a place of celebration in honor of the homonym battle, while every year on 17th of May a memorial ceremony for the officers and the soldiers of that battles belonging to the so called Greek Division of Crete and Archipelago is held at the Monument to those who died in 1918.

Since May 2002, the Museum of the First World War- Skra Battle has been operating in Skra, housed in a specially constructed area. The Museum exhibition presents relics, photos and historic documents from the Macedonian battles of the First World War, as well as from the victorious Skra battle. The well known victorious battle took place on May 17, 1918.

Near this settlement, the visitor faces a small miracle of nature. Through a wonderful path one can reach an area with rich vegetation, where one meets the first waterfall of Skra, at the root of which there is a small cave with stalactites. A little further on the path, the visitor is stunned by the beauty of the small “Blue Lake” or “Emerald Lake”, which owes its aquamarine emerald color of the water to the calcified and fossilized organisms of its bottom. Continuing on the path, the vegetation thickens and the ground is steeper. Here, one can see the second waterfall of Skra that falls with thunder over the rocks creating a stunning natural landscape.

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 38

cave

AGIA SOFIA’S CAVE, CRETE

Christ is Risen!

The man who lived in a cave

Some years ago, one hot summer day whilst on holiday in Crete, I visited with friends a small Church, high up on the top of a mountain. Near to the Church was a man who lived in a cave. On visiting him he showed us around his “house.” His bed was a smoothed rock shelf and another flat rock for a table. Above the “table” was an oil lamp and Holy Icons of the Saviour and the Mother of God.

Outside, he had two or three goats, a few chickens, a small plot of land with a clear stream of water running through it. I recall that the bees at the time were drinking from the stream.

“Don’t you miss out on things? one of our company enquired of the man.

“No, I have everything I need, I have milk and honey, I have eggs and freshwater to wash and drink and I can always exchange a few eggs for bread in the village.”

“What about the scorpions, aren’t you afraid of the scorpions?” one of our party asked.

“ There are scorpions,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders, “but I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me!”

Example 2

A shabbily dressed man walked into a publisher’s office in Moscow. He took from his greatcoat a rather tattered manuscript and enquired whether it could be published? The publisher glanced dismissively at the manuscript and seeing the man’s dishevelled appearance said that he had no time to read it.

“Really? “said the man “I must have been misinformed, I am told that people like to read what I write.”

“ Indeed” said the publisher, his curiosity being aroused by this response “….and so who are you? What is your name?”

“My name?” as he collected his papers and stuffed them back into his overcoat, “my name is Leo Tolstoy.”

The publisher felt rather foolish and started begging for the privilege to publish. The eccentric genius quietly withdrew making his exit from the publishing office.

 

The wisdom of God

1 Corinthians 1:23

But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,”

1 Corinthians 4:10-11

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonoured! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.

Who can contain the wisdom of the Wise?

Count loss as gain in faith-filled eyes.

Where is the key to unlock uncreated Light?

In constant prayer of day and night!

What target Heaven’s arrows and guided darts?

The simple minds, the humble hearts!

 

Who brought life to the Virgin womb?

He who emptied a stone-cold tomb!

Wisdom dwells in fools for Christ.

Power of God the Great High Priest

Who came in flesh to save the least.

Brightness of the Father, Pre-existent Word

The natal earth her ears first heard.

Who conceived creation? Wisdom from above!

Holy fools reflect His image… Love.

Who can contain the wisdom of the Wise?

In repentant sighs the one who dies… to self.

When Abba Macarius was into Egypt, he found a man who had brought a beast to his cell and he was stealing his possessions. He went up to the thief as though he were a traveller who did not live there and helped him to load the beast and led him on his way in peace, saying to himself, “We brought nothing into this world; but the Lord gave; as he willed, so is it done; blessed be the Lord in all things.”

My love and prayers

 

Eν Χριστώ

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 37

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Touching Heaven! 

Christ is Risen!

I’m back!

I have all my data and files retrieved and installed on my new laptop. So once more I am able to inflict my poems on you. My “tech savvy” trusted helper patiently guided me through the installation, asking nothing in return. Such love and kindness inculcates a bond of respect.

However, I am going to miss my old keyboard, my new laptop is so sensitive to the touch! Things are different and yet the same- the same files but a new approach, a new style, a new image.

Quite recently, I met a former pupil in the city centre whom I had taught at school. He said:

“Hello sir!”  I haven’t been referred to as sir for some time! I searched my memory for a name, I hardly recognised him, not simply because of his physical maturity but because he had grown in confidence from the rather shy student I began to remember. He had changed and yet he was the same- his voice deeper but with the same inflection, accent and tone. When he began to speak, I knew who he was. What a joy it was to see him and to hear his news.

In the appearances of our Lord after his resurrection, his disciples do not always recognise him. The nature of His glorious resurrected body was so different and yet the same. His resurrected body contain the wounds of the crucifixion and yet it was transformed. His voice, His words, His actions reveal his identity.

2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

Touching Heaven

John 21:4 “Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

 

The young monk stood upright head bowed in prayer.

Barefoot, he perched on rocks breathing the fresh spring air

The blue, tranquil lake lapped at his feet.

His eyes closed in mystery towards the setting sun,

Hands held aloft in reverence for the Holy One

Harmony of God and nature’s seat.

His leather holy belt hung at his waist

A sign of his ascetic labour and a taste

Of blessed Communion, Oh so sweet.

The stillness mirrored in his soul

Deep thoughts of Christ to make him whole

His heart in tandem with creation’s beat.

Here where sea and sky converge

This figure and Christ’s image merge

Earth touches heaven and for an instant meet!

To the Glory of God

 

“That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.”

St. Isaac the Syrian