Sunday of Thomas and Conversion

thomas sunday

+ Sunday of Thomas

The Assurance of Thomas – Believing not Doubting and Three Conversion Narratives


John 20:19-31

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him,“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

We live in a labyrinthine catastrophe of coronavirus. We seek desperately to discover the way out, an exit strategy. In Greek myth Ariadne had a thread to follow, in our holy faith and in truth we have the Risen Christ to rescue us from the caves of Hades. He is the Resurrection and the Life. We see in the icon of the Resurrection how the Risen Lord reaches down into the labyrinth of Hades to raise Adam and all the rest of humanity from death to life. Because of Christ we are able to live, to sleep and to live again in Victory! Jesus Christ has abolished death and the fear of death.

In order to escape the insecurity of our mortality, the fear of death, some seek power and wealth, without success. Others seek to lose themselves in earthly pleasures without satisfaction. The T.V. tries to ameliorate the suffering with a proliferation of food programmes, it offers distractions of comedy, whilst at the same time delivering the grim statistics. The human “panaceas” are to no avail because human aspirations alone do not address the soul, the spirit.

We read in the gospel how Thomas was not there on the first appearance of Christ to His Apostles- he arrives eight days later and his sceptical/ doubting nature is replaced by belief when he sees the wounds of Christ. He sees the wounds!  Christ invites Thomas to place his fingers in the place where the nails were and to place his hand in the wound in His side. The Resurrected Christ bears the marks of the Crucifixion. Thomas is reduced to humble faith“ My Lord and my God!” Often we need to be stripped of our scepticism, arrogance and sophistication and this can only be done by revelation when we meet Christ and experience His power and love.

Beyond the Bible accounts and the Apostolic Era, we can find countless examples of people who have met the Living Lord, who like Thomas arrived at the point of faith in their life, stripping themselves of their pretensions and intellectual pride.


metropolitan anthony

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom whom I was privileged to met in the 1980’s was such a person. As a young man, frustrated with his life, he sat down more in anger and challenge towards God, than in hope, to read St Mark’s Gospel. Before reaching the end of the third chapter of the Gospel, he suddenly became aware that, on the other side of his desk there was a presence and the certainty that it was Christ was overwhelming which never left him. It was a turning point in his life, like the experience that St Paul had on the road to Damascus. Because he encountered the Living Christ he knew from that point onward that he would give his life to Christ. Like St Thomas, Anthony was able to confess there and then “My Lord and my God.”


The account of C.S. Lewis’ conversion is equally amazing:

“You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalene( College, Oxford), night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England” (Surprised By Joy, ch.14, p.266).

C. S. Lewis felt embraced by the love of God and experienced an abiding joy:

“I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?… The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation”.


Christ appeared to Alexander Sozhenitsyn who was one of Russia’s finest authors and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Critical of the athesistic Godless state of the USSR in which he was brought up, he was sent to the Gulags but in 1971 he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. During his long eight years spent in the labour camp and during his struggle with cancer, Christ appeared to him. Christ gave him the power and perseverance to stand up to and expose the violence of state persecution.

All three 20th century Christians were able to say: “Christ is Risen!” because they had encountered the Living Lord Jesus. The risen Christ appeared in the upper room with His wounds and gave the Apostles His peace and He gives the same to us today who live behind locked doors. This is not all. Christ bestows upon us Life. We may not have seen the Lord Jesus but we are blessed and we experience His suffering, love and joy. The signs that Jesus did, the appearances that He has made down the centuries are records of witnesses that we may believe.

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

He is Risen Indeed!


The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 5


Dear Friends in Christ,

In these hard times, I have very little to offer you except my love and prayers and to inflict my poetry on you, a captive audience!!

Remember the Little things – diary of a Pustinnyk 

A little miracle happened this morning when my printer decided to fail and “go on strike.”I pushed various buttons at random but to no avail. The question mark on the printer display reflected my own state of perplexity! I was wondering how I was going to print the Akathist for Friday evening and thinking of possible alternatives? Well, the All-Holy Mother of God must have seen my anguish and came to my aid. On returning after prayers, I tried again and the printer worked perfectly. I am sure some with more technological skills will have a perfectly good explanation for how it came to work, but for me who is incompetent, my first recourse is to prayer. 

It set me thinking that the faith of little children is very simple even though they are computer literate; their questions are most perceptive and their observations often revelatory.


The shadow of the wind

Matthew 21:16 And Jesus said to them,

’Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants,

You have perfected praise’?”


The little boy held his Grandad’s hand tightly in the driving rain.

He suddenly stopped and looked down and stared at the puddle before him.

His Grandfather anticipated some mischievous action from his little grandson.

Was he going to jump into the puddle and make a splash?

But no, the infant just stood there, looking intently into the puddle.

Then he looked up at his beloved elder, and with enquiring eyes asked:

“Grandad, are those ripples the shadow of the wind?”

His Grandfather was reduced to silence before such an observation and search for truth.


Lord, you breathed the breath of life into my body,

Let my heartstrings be tuned to your Holy Spirit

 my song of praise be the shadow of my soul,

and may I learn silence before your Word of Wisdom. Amen


A loving word never annoys. An arrogant word shall yield no fruit. You must pray all day and all night for the Lord to let your children avoid dangers. God is merciful!

Saint Theophan the Recluse

To the Glory of God

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 4

Remember the Little things #Day 4

Dear friends in Christ

May God bless you and keep you safe.
I was doing my obedience cleaning the chapel after morning prayers when a ‘member’ of my community appeared. Platina decided to reverence the Icon corner where the relic of the True Cross is and then make a “metanoia”. She may have been sniffing but she certainly bowed her head!
My love and prayers
In Christ 
Later on, St Nicholas  agreed to join us in the chapel today but insisted on being in the corner guarding the  door 

My prayers ev Xp 
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The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 3

Broad Bean1broad bean2

Remember the Little things“, #3

Dear Friends in Christ,

 May God bless you!

Today as part of my “obedience ” I potted some broad beans. I found them in a packet at the back of my kitchen drawer when I was looking for a battery for the kitchen clock. In the end, I did not need the battery because the clock started going again after a few adjustments to its positioning (I had on Sunday changed the time to British Summer Time forwarding it by one hour).

 So, I planted some beans in a little compost I had left, hopeful of their growth to maturity and fruitfulness. I look forward to seeing them grow. I added some water and some ashes from the incense burner with which I bless my house each day and I leave the rest to God.


I offer this my poor poem to the Glory of God.

Three Acorns

Luke 2:51-52.”Then he went down with them to Nazareth and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.”


 Three little acorns adorn the desk

Latent and potent in their passive shells;

Wisdom, Stature and Favour are their names,

Passing time and patience tells

Of their strength and humbleness.

Only to be sown to be set free

To be buried

 Within the heart of me. 

Obedience is their nature

 And their story,

They are the very seeds

Of growth and glory.


“I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility”.

St. Anthony the Great

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 1


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, as he reflects and prays for all of us.


Remember the Little things #Day 1

Dear  Friends in  Christ,

May God bless you all 


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:

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.


*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


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.

St Nikephoros 2

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!

lessons from a monastery

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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