The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 1

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The Diary of a Pustinnyk of my heart, “Remember the Little things“, #1

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ is in our midst.

In these difficult times, the Church is closed but the Church continues as the people of God “the living stones” and by the grace of God, the faithful continue to be connected in that Communion of Saints on earth and in heaven through prayer, calls, emails and texts.

As we use this quiet and stillness not only to deepen our prayer but to reflect more deeply on the calling of our faith as the people of God, it is good to “remember [and record] the little things” as St David of Wales said.

Allow me then to introduce to you, the diary of a Pustinnyk [Hermit] of my heart, “Remember the Little things“, and follow it day by day.

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Remember the Little things #Day 1

Dear  Friends in  Christ,

May God bless you all 

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As we are all too aware- we can have no visitors but God has a way of teaching us His ways. A huge bumblebee flew in through my “Office” window upstairs at the back of my house, as if to remind me that Christ’s work must go on. The weather yesterday (Friday) was warm and sunny 21 c.! I quickly closed my curtains and the bee found his way out. Lo and behold a few hours later the same bee (I am sure )found it’s way into my front bedroom window. Again I closed the curtains, I told him ” No visitors allowed!” and he flew out. To see a bumblebee in March in England is in itself is quite remarkable but to see the same visitor twice, once in the morning when the sun is in the east and once in the afternoon when the sun is in the west is even more remarkable. This little visitor reminded me of St Paisios words:

http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com/2009/12/flies-and-bees-advice-from-elder.html

Let us strive dear brothers and sisters for the sweet things and make every effort to climb step by step nearer to God in the holiness of life.

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*It is good to” remember the little things” as St David of Wales said. 

The Causes of the Pandemic – photo journal from the Sunday of the Cross (Audio)

The Causes of the Pandemic - (C) Vatopedi monastery, Mount Athos

Many ask us what the causes of the pandemic COVID-19 are, if it is a natural phenomenon, or if there are state-level actors who generated this epidemic.

We need to understand that this way of thinking is distorted.

Don’t blame others

We must first think why perfect God has allowed this to happen to us. Nothing is accidental.

So, the cause is us, our sins. Since it is a general pain, it is clearly shown that this sin is a general one—and this due to indifference to spiritual matters, indifference to God.

Thus, we deserve separation from services and Holy Communion, due to the general indifference of those who know almost nothing about faith, and those who know about faith but do not mourn and pray for their state and society in general.

We must cry and pray intensely, patiently and hopefully, waiting for the solution. That is how the problems are solved. …

For the rest of the blogpost, the Photogallery of Vatopedi monastery litany around the main church (katholikon) and a live recording from the feast with the troparion of the Holy Cross, go to Ascetic Experience

Conscripted Saints in Coronavirus time

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Nikephoros the Leper and the Pandemic

Dearest brothers and sisters,Christ in our midst.Here in Greece and in Cyprus, the faithful are especially praying to Saint Nikephoros the Leper these days. Metropolitan of Morfou Neophytos has revealed in a recent homily that this Saint has appeared to a charismatic elder and informed him that he has received special Grace from God to help in these times of need: the Grace to protect and heal from coronavirus those who ask for his prayers.

 

 

Next to God who honoured you, * O Nikiforos, * you do stand with boldness now, * like the tenth leper who returned * in great thanksgiving and gratefulness; * so, as is fitting, we honour your memory. May St. Nikephoros help all mankind. His life and hymn follow below. Your prayers
 

St Nikephoros

Father Nikephoros (Nicholas Tzanakakis in the world) was born in 1890 in a mountainous village in Khania, in Sikari, Kastanohori to the west of the prefecture with a healthy climate, with beautiful forests, rich waters, gorges and caves. This village has a peculiarity that we do not often encounter: it is divided into eleven neighbourhoods, which have also been named after the families who first settled there. So Saint Nikephoros was born in the neighbourhood of Kostoyianides.

His parents were simple and pious villagers, who died when he was still a young child, leaving him as an orphan. So, at the age of thirteen, he left his home. His grandfather, who had undertaken to raise him, went to Khania to work there in a barbershop in order to learn the job. Then he showed the first signs of Hansen’s disease, i.e. leprosy. The lepers were isolated on the island of Spinalonga because leprosy was a contagious disease and it was treated with fear and dismay.

Nicholas was sixteen years old when signs of the disease began to become more conspicuous, so he left on a boat to Egypt in order to avoid being confined to Spinalonga. He remained in Alexandria, working in a barbershop again, but the signs of the disease became more and more apparent, especially on his hands and face. That is why, through the intervention of a cleric, he went to Chios, where there was a church for lepers at that time, and the priest was Father Anthimos Vagianos, later Saint Anthimos (+ February 15).

St. Anthimos and Fr. Nikephoros

Nicholas arrived in Chios in 1914 at the age of twenty-four. In the leper hospital of Chios, which was a complex with many homesteads, there was a chapel of Saint Lazarus, where the wonderworking icon of Panagia Ypakoe1 (Feb. 2) was kept. In this space, the course of virtues was opened for Nicholas. Within two years Saint Anthimos considered him ready for the angelic Schema and tonsured him with the name Nikephoros. The disease progressed and evolved in the absence of suitable drugs, causing many large lesions (a drug was found in 1947).

Father Nikephoros lived with unquestioning, genuine obedience to his Spiritual Father, and with austere fasting, working in the gardens. He also recorded the miracles of Saint Anthimos, which he had witnessed with his own eyes (many of these were related to the deliverance of those possessed by demons).

There was a special spiritual relationship between Saint Anthimos and the monk Nikephoros, who always remained close to him, as Father Theoklitos Dionysiatis writes in his book Saint Anthimos of Chios. Father Nikephoros prayed at night for hours on end making countless metanias, he did not quarrel with anyone, nor injure anyone’s heart, and he was the master chanter of the temple. Because of his illness, however, he slowly lost his sight, and so he chanted the troparia and the Epistles from memory.

The Chios leprosarium was closed in 1957 and the remaining patients, together with Father Nikephoros, were sent to Saint Barbara’s home for lepers in Athens, in Aigaleo. At that time, Father Nikephoros was about 67 years old. His members and his eyes were completely altered and distorted by the disease.

There, Father Eumenios also lived there at the home for lepers. He also suffered from Hansen’s disease, but with the medication he received, he was completely cured. However, he decided to remain in the home for lepers for the rest of his life near his fellow sufferers, caring for them with much love. Thus he submitted to Father Nikephoros, to whom the Lord had given many gifts as a reward for his patience. A crowd of people gathered in the humble cell of the leper Nikephoros, in Saint Barbara in Aigaleo to obtain his prayers. Here are some testimonies of those who met him:

“While he was prostrate with wounds and pains, he did not complain, but he showed great patience.”

“He had the charisma of consoling those who were sad. His eyes were permanently irritated, and he had limited sight. He also had stiffness in his hands and paralysis in his lower limbs. Nonetheless, he endured all of this in the sweetest, meek, smiling, delightful way, and he was also pleasant and lovable.”

“His face, which was eaten away by the marks of his illness, and his wounds, shone. It was a joy for those who saw this destitute and seemingly feeble man saying, May His holy name be glorified.”

Father Nikephoros reposed on January 4, 1964, at the age of 74. After three years, his holy relics were exhumed and found to be fragrant. Father Eumenios and other believers reported many cases where miracles occurred by calling on Saint Nikephoros to intercede with God.

The life of Saint Nikephoros was a brilliant example and model for everyone. He was pleasing to God because he had endured so much. For this reason, we have many testimonies that our saint received from the Holy Spirit the gift of discernment as and a host of other charisms. We should note that most of the miracles are recorded, and today the saint gives generous help to anyone in need. Surely there will be many more miracles which not have not yet been made manifest.

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1 The name of the icon honours the obedience of the Theotokos to God’s will for her to give birth to His Son, so by her obedience people would also obey His will. The Greek word Υπακοή means “obedience.“

 

To Be Continued

 

Saint Iakovos Tsalikis – 11 Months After His Death

Newfoundland Winter & Festivities

Amazing! What a blessing to have a chapel (and a priest 🙂 ) at home! May the Lord richly bless you!

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IMG_0323 Christmas Eve at Holy Lady of Vladimir Mission

While I sit in my living room seeing nothing but white outside, snow piling up against my windows, I thought I might as well share some recent photos of life in Newfoundland. We’re in the middle of a blizzard. In fact a state of emergency has been declared to keep people off the roads. They say we may get up to 75cm of snow in this single snowfall – that’s more than ever before. By God’s grace we still have power. Right now shoveling snow is tomorrow’s problem.

Here are pictures of our Christmas. My mum visited from New Brunswick which made it extra special.

(In case you’re wondering what book Fr. John is holding with a smile on his face, it is Cicero’s “How to Win an Argument” – he picked it out himself. The inscription, however, was all me. It…

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Elder Gregorios 40 day Memorial Service

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Elder Gregorios

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“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)

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This is how we have always felt and feel his love. Blessed Paradise, Elder. At long last, you will be reunited with your beloved spiritual father, Saint Paisios. “Kai sta dika mas.” “And to our own!”  May we be reunited with you in Heaven in God’s Kairos!

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

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Building an Orthodox Parish – 5 points

 

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A large part of the problem with some Orthodox parishes (at least of my acquaintance) is not lack of money or lack of a nice building (nice as money and good buildings are), but the fact that they have not been built upon a proper foundation. The Scriptures have lots to say about the value of a good foundation, and the Lord teaches us that if the foundation has not been properly laid, the whole edifice built upon it is in danger of being swept away (Matthew 7:24-27), if not literally, then certainly spiritually.

I know of a number of parishes which have been thus swept away—not that they no longer exist as parishes, but that they no longer exist as true temples of God. Some have become spiritually toxic, and are more accurately described as synagogues of Satan (compare Revelation 2:9). To be a truly Orthodox temple of God, the community must first have in place a solid foundation. And as St. Paul reminds us, “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). One can try to lay other foundations, setting in place the wood, hay, and straw foundations of ego and the cult of personality. But Jesus Christ is the only real and lasting foundation, either for a parish or an individual’s life. How can a one build on this foundation to become a truly Orthodox community? I suggest five ways.

First of all, the priest of the parish must dedicate himself to his people and to washing their feet, as the Lord Himself gave both example and command (John 13:1f). Too often young priests assume they are entitled to respect simply because they wear a cassock. It is true that all persons should be treated with respect and courtesy, but it is also true that respect must be earned. The priest’s ordination does not entitle him to respect so much as it gives him the opportunity among his people to earn it. And he earns it by selflessly serving them, counselling them, loving them, weeping with them, sharing their burdens, and being accessible to them at all times. By doing so he earns credibility so that he will be cut some slack when he errs or makes unpopular decisions. But it takes time to earn such credibility, as some young clergy have learned to their cost.

Secondly, the priest must preach Jesus Christ, and nothing else. What else, you may ask, would a priest preach? Alas, there is a long list of possible alternatives. He might preach simple moralism (“Let us be loving and nice”); he might preach the glories of his ethnic heritage. I remember a very nice Greek bishop enthusing at a church’s dedication about “our beautiful religion”, by which he almost certainly meant his beautiful Greek religion. Better to enthuse about our beautiful Saviour, for to enthuse about our religion is another way of enthusing about ourselves.

And one might preach Orthodoxy—the subtlest of all snares. That is, one might describe the glories of the Orthodox Faith, its sound doctrines, its wonderful sacraments, its glorious icons—and how Orthodoxy is a superior faith to all the other faiths on the market. In other words, one might preach about our beautiful religion, shorn of its ethnic components, which is still a way of preaching ourselves. The apostles preached Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Saviour, and how one could live in obedience to Him and become transformed. Orthodoxy is not the content of our Faith, but the mode of its reception. We serve the Christ preached by the Orthodox Church, not the Christ preached by (say) the Mormons. But Christ remains the content of our preaching.

Thirdly, the parish council must be united in standing behind and supporting their priest. Too often parish councils become the sites of a tug of war, a struggle for power, with the priest pulling in one direction and his council pulling in the other. In this struggle, no one wins, especially not the supposed winner. The council must have the same goal as the priest—i.e. not to collect and retain power, but to serve Christ and His flock, and they must support their priest because he is in the forefront of fulfilling this common goal. He is not their employee, but their papa, and should be treated as such.

Fourthly, the community must make love their aim—that is, the creation of genuine community. This is impossible to do without eating together and working together, and to this end, all Sunday Liturgies must have a time of eating appended to it so that the people can eat, talk, and share together. All the Pauline epistles presuppose the presence of a close community, and without it Christianity remains a mere cultic experience, lacking its crucial social component.

One church I knew of always had a meal afterwards, but they charged for the food so that the social time functioned as a fundraiser. Not surprisingly many skipped this meal and left right after the Liturgy, especially those with large families who could not afford to pay $10 a head for perogies and borscht. When I suggested that they have a free pot-luck meal instead, they were aghast at the possible loss to their budget. They valued income over the creation of community—and over church growth. They have their reward.

Finally, the community must be eschatologically oriented. That is, they must regard themselves not primarily as citizens of this world or as Americans or Canadians or as citizens of any other country, but as citizens of the Kingdom. Patriotism is wonderful, but the good must not be allowed to become the enemy of the best, and the Church stands under the Cross, not under any national flag. To make the flag paramount is idolatry. Through his preaching the priest must encourage his flock to see themselves as sojourners in this age, with their eyes fixed on the horizon to behold the blessed hope of the Second Coming with the cry of “Maranatha!” in their hearts.

Living this out consistently will mean that the society around them will increasingly regard them as aliens, as unwelcome intruders, and as disturbers of the secular status quo. We all know where the front line of this battle is being drawn, and we must not flinch or compromise. Our Lord’s words to the apostles, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19) have lost none of their relevance. The priest must preach and the people must accept that to become an Orthodox Christian is to leave one moral universe and to enter a different one. And they must read the fine print before making this decision—that of inevitable conflict with the world and of possible persecution.

These are the principles and the foundation upon which new missions should be built and already established churches should conform. Conforming to them does not require changes in the congregation’s constitution and bylaws, but only humility of heart and a desire to grow. In the end, it comes down to vision: does one have a vision of one’s church as a place of counter-cultural transforming truth and a laboratory of love, or simply as a place to go to in order to fulfil one’s spiritual needs? If the latter, then you should know that God cares less than nothing about your spiritual needs. He cares about you and your transformation. And that transformation is only possible if you catch the vision of your church as a place of uncomfortable truth, and of healing love.

By Fr. Lawrence Farley

Source: No Other Foundation