The fire in Mati and St. Paisios

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It was the moment when the fire of 23rd July had completed its life-damaging work in Neo Vujza and Mati (about 7pm in the evening), and started spreading northeast to Agios Andreas where the children’s camps of the Municipality of Athens is located and southwest to Rafina.

Those present at the port of Rafina (where they had moved to escape the flames, including my brother) heard the bell in the chapel of Agios Nikolaos, located on a hill just above the harbour. The flames were already threatening the chapel. Some went to the chapel courtyard to see if there was a need for help.

Among them was a lady, and on the bench of the courtyard, she saw what looked like the form of a rallying priest who sat on the bench in the fumes and turned his body toward the flames. Impressed, she took a picture on her cell phone from a distance. Approaching, she took another one. But once she reached the bench, the figure disappeared unexpectedly and mysteriously into the smoke.

At that moment, the wailing stormy wind suddenly stopped blowing completely, so that the flames were not extended to the settlement of Rafina. A corresponding phenomenon, a sudden interruption of the wind that pushed the northeast flames, happened at the same time on the opposite side, at the boundary between Matio and St. Andrew. The result was to save the main settlement of Rafina and most importantly, save the area of ​​Agios Andreas where the camps were located.

It should be noted that 600 young children temporarily resorted to the beach of Agios Andreas whilst waiting for the buses to take them to Athens. The area of ​​Agios Andreas is overgrown with pine trees and with lush vegetation, just like Mattia. If the flames had reached this area, an incredible tragedy would unfold, much worse than what happened in Mati.

Note that the fire was expanding at an inconvenient speed, causing people to be trapped in the pass, unable to escape, not even by car. So, the dozens of unfortunate victims of the fire found in the beach at Mati were locked.

The lady, a few days later, visited Father Dorotheos, the Parish Priest of the Temple of the Assumption, the parish Church at Mati. She told him the incident with the priest who sat on the bench next to the chapel of St. Nicholas and showed him the pictures.

He first told her that this chapel does not have a priest and that he does not recognise any clergy in the face of the photos from those who serve in the wider region. In fact, he wondered what a priest can sit there among the wild fire and the smoke. But when he noticed the photographs better, he exclaimed with awe: “This is the face of Saint Paisios!”

The above story of this lady was narrated by Father Dorotheos to my brother, who lives next to the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

If you carefully look at the two photographs the lady took, it will distinguish a priest-monk who only wears a robe, holds a prayer rope in his hand and has his body turned towards the flames. The resemblance to Saint Paisios is astonishing. In the closest picture, the cap of Saint Paisios is distinguished in the head of the figure, while on the feet of this figure can be seen flip-flops with socks. Another characteristic of the Saint.

Nikos Koulouris
Professor of Law
2/9/2018

Source: from Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Parish and Community of Newcastle

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Christ’s Naked Word

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St. Cuthbert, an early Celtic Saint, used to pray standing in the sea. When he stepped out, the sea otters would dry his feet with their fur.

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“The more I examine myself, the more I see that a life devoted to constructing and organizing, a life which produces positive results and which succeeds, is not my vocation, even though, out of obedience, I could work in this direction and even obtain certain results. What attracts me is a vocation of loss–a life which would give itself freely without any apparent positive result, for the result would be known to God alone; in brief, to lose oneself in order to find oneself.” (Father Lev Gillet, Letter of 9 March 1928, in Contacts, 49, no. 180, 1997, p. 309.)
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“The one thing that sets the Saints apart from the rest of us is their struggle to remain entirely obedient to Christ. There is no bargaining in their mind, no negotiating Christ’s teaching, no diluting His words to the point where they lose the strength to open for us the path of salvation.

Most of us receive the word of God with caution, and we immediately start turning it on all sides until we reach a compromise that works for us. Most of us fear the word of God. All we truly want is something that looks like His word enough to make us feel good about ourselves, enough to make us have the appearance of Christians, but not to the extent that we could lose control over our lives.

One can go through life either in obedience to Christ or in obedience to one’s own will. The challenges and choices of this world are simple and clear if we obey Christ’s word – we need to love, we need to forgive, we need to help. Ultimately, we need to allow the world to crucify us for His name and become true followers of the Crucified One. These are His words, and this is the way of the Saints.

Things only seem complicated when our brain gets in the way. Things only seen unclear when we begin negotiating Christ’s word, looking for a human version of it which does not lead to the Cross. Unfortunately, we always succeed. Unfortunately, we have the frightening ability to reduce Christ’s teaching to something that excludes the Cross. The danger, though, is that without the Cross there can be no Resurrection either.

The Saints are not like that. The Saints do not build an idol of their earthly lives. They have no vision of a perfect life here, no vision of a perfect self in this world. They remain faithful to Christ and His word, and allow nothing of this world to come between them and their God.

Look at St Cuthbert. Look at his faith, the faith of a young man who spent his nights into the cold waters of the North Sea, so he may control his mind and his body in prayer. Look at his obedience to his true calling – a hermit at heart, he left everything behind to be obedient to Christ. A man alone on his island, but carrying the world and its Creator in his heart.

Through his prayers, may we also be given the faith to obey Christ’s naked word, not our own tamed version of it.” (Fr. Seraphim Aldea, Mull Monastery Blog)

 

 

In the hollow of His Hand

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The time has come again for the little city hermit to ‘disappear’. Holy Week church services demand all our being, preparations for a long pilgrimage to Greece are well under way and spring is beckoning! Should you wish to contact me, while ‘away’,  please send me a message here. Christ is Risen! May the Lord hold us in the hollow of His Hand until we ‘meet’ again! 

 

 

*traditional gaelic blessing

Awed by the Beauty of thy Virginity

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Iconography Trivia: The fact that Panagia is shown sitting in the presence of an angel illustrates that she is “higher than the Seraphim and beyond compare more glorious than the Cherubim”. I don’t think many would remain seated in the presence of an angel of God, but this icon testifies to the spiritual height of the Mother of God. (Not that she necessarily sat during this encounter – it depicts a spiritual reality more than a historical one)

The miracle depicted and described in this video is so awe-inspiring. The hymn, sung first in Greek and then in English, is so beautiful. It is the same hymn chanted at the end of the Akathist services held on Friday nights during Great Lent.

May we have her blessing!

Awed by the beauty of thy virginity, and the exceeding radiance of thy purity;

Gabriel called out unto thee, O Theotokos,

What worthy hymn of praise can I offer unto thee?

And what shall I name thee?

I am in doubt and stand in awe! Wherefore as commanded, I cry to thee:

Rejoice, O full of grace.

 Source: LESSONS FROM A MONASTERY here and here

 

 

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Rotunda, Thessaloniki, during restoration work

St Gregory the Theologian in Spiritual Warfare

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Gregory the Theologian, 1408 – Andrei Rublev

Flee swiftly from my heart, all-crafty one.
Flee from my members and from my life.
Deceiver, serpent, and fire, Belial, sin,
death, abyss, dragon, night, snare, and frenzy,
chaos, manslayer, and ferocious beast!
Thou didst entice into perdition those
first-formed folk, my foreparents, offering them
at the same time the taste of sin and death.
Christ, the Ruler of all commandeth thee to
flee into the billows, to fall upon the rocks,
or to enter the herd of swine, O baleful one,
as once He bade that presumptuous Legion.
Nay, yield forthwith, lest I smite thee with the Cross,
whereat all things tremble;
Oh, flee!
I bear the Cross upon me, in all my members.
I bear the Cross whene’er I journey, whene’er I sleep.
I hold the Cross in my heart. The Cross is my glory.
O mischievous one, wilt thou never cease from
dogging me with traps and laying snares for me?
Wilt thou not dash thyself upon the precipices?
Seest thou not Sodom? Oh, wilt thou not speedily
assail the shameless herds of ungodly heretics,
who, having so recklessly sundered the Almighty
Godhead, have witlessly destroyed and abolished It?
But comest thou against my hoariness? Comest thou
against my lowly heart? Thou ever blackenest me,
O foe, with darksome thoughts, pernicious thoughts.
Thou hast no fear of God, nor of His Priests.
This mind of mine, most evil one, was verily
a mighty and loud-voiced herald of the Trinity.
And now it beholdeth its end, whither it goeth in haste.
Confuse me not, O slimy one, that I might, as pristine,
meet the pure lights of Heaven, that they might
shine like lightning flashes upon my life.
Lo, receive me; lo, I stretch forth my hands.
Farewell, O world! Farewell, thou who bringest woes upon me!
Pity be shown to all that shall live after me.

 

 

Eis Tin Polin

 

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Pilgrimage to Constantinople 

Mosaïques de l'entrée sud-ouest de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)

The Hidden and the Forbidden City

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Constantinople, the glittering jewel of Asia Minor and the gateway between two continents! It sits astride on the most historic water channel in the world, the Dardanelles. Constantinople has been host to three empires: The Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. Invaded, besieged and conquered by countless armies, Constantinople today, remains a city of sparkling domes and minarets and beautiful palaces. Our pilgrimage brought us directly to the heart of Orthodoxy and the cradle of the Byzantine civilization. More importantly, thanks to our tour guide, we bore witness to its solemn existence, spiritual strength and religious devotion by visiting the hidden and forbidden City.

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With the grace of God, a total of fifty Orthodox Christians, along with a hieromonk from the Monastery of Saint Arsenios (Vatopedi, Chalkidiki) and the little city hermit 🙂 went on a Pilgrimage to Constantinople during the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was truly a moving and inspirational trip. Below you will find a sample of pictures capturing the trip.

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Photographs courtesy of Anastasia Avramidou, the artist of our group

The Hidden and Forbidden City to be continued …

You Are Not Alone

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… Even in that place of darkness and suffering, you still retain the control over whether you “throw away” your confidence or you keep it! Even when you feel powerless, you always have the power, the choice, the freedom, to hold onto you confidence and your faith.

And when you hold on, you build spiritual endurance. …

… But even if you stumble and “throw away” your confidence, there is still hope, because you are never alone. You never suffer by yourself. Being a part of the Body of Christ means you don’t stand by yourself, you don’t “believe” by yourself, but in the companionship of all the faithful through the centuries. That’s a mighty big family! And a huge source of encouragement and strength.

I never will forget sitting with one who was in such pain over a certain challenge in his life. This person confided in me that he had lost his faith. His face filled with amazement and wonder when I replied “Don’t worry about your faith, we will hold it for you until you get back!” That’s the power of the Church, the Body of Christ. You don’t have to endure suffering by yourself. We believe, we love, we stand with each other as the Body of Christ.

So, today, when (not if) you come across one suffering, be present to them and assure them they are not by themselves. They do not suffer alone. You are with them. The Church, the Body of Christ adds endurance to their weakness, and hope to their despair.

 

For the complete post “Develop Endurance” by Fr. Barnabas Powell, go to Faith Encouraged

*With gratitude to St. Nektarios and St. John of Krostandt  and all my Church family

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When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you
are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as
always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter
than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and
all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God,
and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither
also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means.

St. John of Kronstadt