If

ymail-tmp-6687016199370021984

Not the famous one by Kipling, but the Bible’s 

but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” [THE GOSPEL The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (9:17-31)–4th Sunday of Lent]

If, αν, если, dacă is a very small word but it has a large range of interpretations from the negative desperation of hopeless regret “If only”- to positive intention, intervention and the releasing potential. “If” – “If we do this her life will be saved.” If “ is a word upon which faith can be strengthened or weakened.

The Athenians send a message to the Spartans: “If we come to your city, we will burn it to the ground” to which the stoic Spartans replied just one word “If”! Such can be the tenacious force of the word. If is one of the saddest words too- “If only I had acted sooner“: “ if only I had not said those unkind words.”

Martha and Mary on the falling asleep of their brother Lazarus said to Jesus “If only you had been here, our brother would not have died!”

“If” is one of satan’s favourite words. When the devil tempted Our Lord in the wilderness he prefixed each temptation with the word” if”:

If you are the Son of God prove it!!

If you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread

If you are the Son of God throw yourself down …. “and the angels will bear you up lest you hit your foot against the stone.” Yes even Satan can quote scripture Psalm 90

If you fall down and worship me I will give you all these kingdoms.

“If only” are words which are full of regret but it is not necessarily full of repentance. Repentance means moving and trying again and moving forward not looking back.

We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This can not all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervour will they be conquered. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope. 
(St. Nectarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 3)

This is the If that we find in the Bible, in the Psalms and the Prophets and in the Gospels.  “If God is for us, who is against us?” Rom 8:30

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will love him…” John 14:23

The man in today’s Gospel brought his child and said to Jesus “If you can do anything….” This cry was an “if” born from despair and voiced against the power of the One who works miracles. Our Lord turns this round and God addresses the man’s lack of faith; not if I can, but if you can believe. If only we can believe all things are possible. The positive if lies not with God, of course, He can do anything but it lies with us. God’s everlasting love and power are boundless. Like the man whose tears showed his repentance, we may find ourselves saying likewise:” Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

Do we see a mother with her child in her arms and bending to give the child a kiss, her heart overflowing with emotion? Do we notice how her face lights up as she holds her little angel? These things do not escape a person with the love of God. He sees them and is impressed by them and he says, ‘If only I had those emotions towards my God, towards my Holy Lady and our saints!’ Look, that’s how we must love Christ our God. You desire it, you want it, and with the grace of God you acquire it.”

― Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love

In these difficult and testing times we must and again become people of prayer, people of perseverance, people of hope, people of zeal, people of faith, people of God; we must again become Christians.

4th Sunday of Lent Homily — Fr. Jonathan Hemmings

Holy and Life ­Giving Cross at Lancaster (United Kingdom)

 

Return of the Catacomb Church

catacombs

Christian Gatherings in the Early Church

“Doesn’t it impress you that the faithful met in the catacombs and secret places, using secret methods so as not to be detected by their oppressors? Yet they insisted on meeting every night. They endangered their very existence and risked confiscation of their property. Did you ever ask yourself why they did it when any one of them could have asked, ‘Why must I leave my house and expose myself to danger by going out to a secret Church gathering?’ Couldn’t each person have stayed home and worshipped God by himself? In fact, the faithful acted this way because it was in this manner that the presence of the Church was established in history. They gathered because they needed to reinforce the presence of the Church among them, regardless if the pagans or non-believers were persecuting them. Rather, they gathered as the faithful who have the presence of the Church and consequently, the Body of Christ. The Church was and is proof of Pentecost. For us, who are gathered here and for everyone gathered in every Church, we gather, not only for the sermon but also for the worship… Take courage brothers and sisters, Christ is in our midst!”

catacomb2

lessons from a monastery

early-chruchBelow is an excerpt from Revelation: The Seven Trumpets & The Antichrist (Vol III), a commentary on the book of the Revelation by Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios of Larisa (pp.79-80). The passage the elder is commenting on is Revelation 10:1-4

I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do…

View original post 439 more words

Montenegro Serbian Orthodox Church in Coronavirus Times

mavrovounio1

My brothers and sisters, Christ is in our midst. This Sunday 22/4/2020, in Montenegro, Holy Liturgies were offered open to the faithful, not in defiance of a ban on public gatherings as part of measures to protect people from infection, but cooperating with the authorities. At the special request of Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović (Serbian Cyrillic: Амфилохије Радовић), the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, and the faithful, with the cooperation of Prime Minister Markovitz, Minister of Justice Zoran Pažin and Police chief  Veliovitz.  Sign of the times? Your thoughts? A Photoblog.

mavrovounio2mavrovounio3mavrovounio4mavrovounio6mavrovounio7mavrovounio8mavrovounio10mavrovounio11mavrovounio12mavrovounio13mavrovounio15mavrovounio16mavrovounio17mavrovounio18

 

Source: enromiosini. gr

 

When No Priest is Available

Theotokos2

Dear Fathers and Friends in Christ,

 

God bless you all on this Feast of the Annunciation.  Here is a useful “survival” guide for all those who love Christ and His Holy Church so that the Divine Services may be carried on regardless of one’s ability to attend church. You may have  your own rule of prayer. A timely article due to current world events that could easily result in many Orthodox Christians being cut off from their parish churches, if not openly persecuted. 

Home Church

 

 

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

The Monastery of Hosiοs Loukas

monastery of hosios loukas.jpeg

IMG_1554

From Steiri, through the prayers of Saint Luke, whose presence is tangibly felt in his monastery.With all best wishes for the forthcoming New Year, and Theophany, and to those still awaiting the celebration of the Nativity. 

*

On the western slope of mount Elikonas, opposite mount Parnassus, after the village of Steiri, at a distance of approximately 30km from Livadeia, is the famous Monastery of Osios Loukas (St Luke), the largest and best-preserved monastery complex of the Middle Byzantine Period, with exceptional architecture and excellent decoration of mosaics, wall paintings and sculptures. With the Nea Moni of Chios and the Monastery of Daphni, the monastery of Osios Loukas is included in the list of world heritage monuments of UNESCO since 1990. Hosios Loukas is a breath-taking Byzantine monastery in a picturesque green and golden valley full of flowering almond and olive trees, near the town of Distomo. The landscape surrounding the Monastery of Hosios Loukas may not be as breath-taking as Meteora, but is still spectacularly blessed in beauty, even in wintertime when we visited it. As to the exquisite, stunning Beauty inside the monastery complex, and especially the katholikon, the main church, I hope these photos and videos can capture some of it.

 

IMG_2713IMG_3363IMG_9700IMG_9813

IMG_0324

IMG_1109

Saint Luke

Hosios Loukas Monastery meaning “Blessed Saint Luke” was not built in honour of Luke the Evangelist, but was established by the Greek monk Loukas. He was buried in the crypt of the monastery when he died in AD 953. I am still puzzled at the spelling of the word “Hosios”, as I have never encountered it before, but that is the official English ‘translation’ and the spelling adopted by UNESCO.

Saint Luke, born in AD 896, abandoned his home when he was an adolescent in search of spirituality. In the following years, he became a healer and was renowned for healing ailments that were practically impossible to cure.

Lukas developed a great talent as a prophet and predicted that Romano II would liberate Crete from the Arabs after his death. When the emperor defeated the Saracen Arabs, he commissioned a church to be built in his honour. [For  a more detailed Life, go to the bottom of the page]

IMG_1320

IMG_9353IMG_7695IMG_1397IMG_6542

Exploring the monastery

One of the most striking aspects of the monastery is found at the entrance. If you look up, you will see a spectacular gold mosaic of the saint. Attached to the abbey is a large church, Katholikon, which in its turn is attached to a smaller temple, or Theotokos, erected between 997 and 1011 to honour the Virgin Mary.

The temples are beautifully decorated with numerous frescoes and mosaics, all perfectly preserved.  Underneath the Katholikon is the crypt where the remains of the saint lie.

 

IMG_1399IMG_8754IMG_8752IMG_8075IMG_2910IMG_2378IMG_1167IMG_3117IMG_9637IMG_9093IMG_0640IMG_5636IMG_1396IMG_6355IMG_1197IMG_1398

Although Hosios Loukas is smaller, the building reminded us of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

 

 

This monk is the one who did the guided tour for our group (St. Arsenios monastery, Chalkidiki). There are only three monks, all hieromonks, in this monastery complex, and they are all so full of His Grace!

Luke of Steiris, Luke Thaumaturgus, Luke the Younger, Luke of Hellas, or Luke the Wonder-worker (896 — 953 AD) was a Byzantine saint of the tenth century AD who lived in the themes (provinces) of Hellas and Peloponnese in Greece, and who founded the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (Venerable Luke) on the slopes of Mount Helicon, between Delphi and Levadia, near the coast of the Gulf of Corinth in Boeotia, Greece. 

The principal source for Luke’s life is an anonymous Life written by a monk of Hosios Loukas who had been one of Luke’s followers. His feast day is commemorated on February 7,and the translation of his relics on May 3. His relics are preserved in his monastery of Hosios Loukas.

Early Life

Saint Luke was born in 896 to pious parents who came from Aegina but were forced to settle on the Greek mainland due to Saracen raids. Luke was the third of the seven children of Stephen and Euphrosyne. From his earliest years, he showed a desire for a life of ascesis and contemplation usually only found in seasoned elders. He abstained from all flesh, cheese, eggs, and delicacies, drank only water, and kept a total fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. While herding cattle or tilling the family fields, he would often give away his food and even his clothing to the poor, returning home naked. He once gave away almost all the seed which was needed for planting in the fields. The Lord rewarded him for his charity, and the harvest gathered was greater than ever before.

When his father died, he abandoned farm work to devote himself entirely to prayer, making such progress that he was often witnessed by his mother lifted above the ground while praying.[3]

Monasticism

As a child Luke tried twice to leave home to seek a solitary life of prayer. The first time, he attempted to withdraw to Thessaly, but was captured by soldiers lying in wait for escaped slaves and was returned home.[4] The second time he had more success, meeting two monks journeying from Rome to Jerusalem[5] who took him to a monastery in Athens where he received the small habit.[6][note 3] At this point he was only fourteen years old (910 AD), and Luke’s mother who was very concerned for him, prayed for her son’s return. After seeing his mother in a dream, tearfully calling for her son, the abbot sent him home.

He returned home for four months, and then with his mother’s blessing he set out again upon the monastic life, going to a solitary place on a mountain called Ioannou (or Ioannitsa). Here there was a church dedicated to the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, where he lived an ascetical life in constant prayer and fasting for seven years.[7] The Life records with suspicious symmetry that during this time Luke received the great habit[note 4] from two monks[note 5] travelling from Jerusalem to Rome (presumably the same two from whom he had received the small habit on their outward journey).[8] After this, St Luke redoubled his ascetic efforts, for which the Lord granted him the gift of foresight.

Luke’s fame spread and a number of miracles are ascribed to him during this period, such as revealing to two brothers the location of their dead father’s buried treasure.[9]Numerous proofs of Luke’s holiness are also given, such as sleeping in a trench to remind himself of death,[10] or being visited in a dream by an angel who let a hook down Luke’s mouth and “drew out a certain fleshly member therefrom”, freeing him from the temptations of the flesh.[11]

After a seven years on Ioannou, the saint moved to Corinth because of an invasion of the Bulgarian emperor Symeon (which Luke had predicted).[12] Hearing about a certain Stylite at Zemena (Gimenes) near Corinth, he went to see him, and remained for ten years to serve the ascetic with humility and obedience.

Afterwards, ca. 927 AD, the saint returned again to Mount Ioannou to build his own community and again pursue asceticism. Often he would be forced to move by the number of visitors who learned of his holiness, and came to him for prayer or a word of counsel or prophecy, no matter how secretly he tried to live. Luke drew so many followers that he found the distractions unbearable and decided to retreat further into the wilderness, with the blessing of his Elder Theophylactus.[13] Three years later, however, Luke was displaced again, this time by a Magyar invasion.

Luke retreated with the local villagers to the nearby island of Ampelon.[14] Once there, Luke found the desert island to be a suitable place to pursue his solitary ascetic life, and stayed for three years, enduring terrible thirsts.[15] His sister would occasionally bring him some bread, but he gave much of it away to the needy or to passing sailors.

Eventually Luke’s disciples persuaded him to leave, and he returned to the mainland and settled for the remainder of his life in the far more amenable environment of the present Hosios Loukas, where he founded his hermitage ca. 946 AD in the area of Stiris (which may be a corruption of Soterion, or place of healing).[16][note 6]

Here brethren gathered to the elder, and a small monastery grew up, the church of which was dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara. Dwelling in the monastery, the saint performed many miracles, healing sicknesses of soul and of body.

Death

Saint Luke fell ill in his seventh year at Stirion. Foreseeing his end, the saint confined himself in a cell and for three months prepared for his departure. When asked where he was to be buried, the monk replied, “Throw my body into a ravine to be eaten by wild beasts.” When the brethren begged him to change these instructions, he commanded them to bury his body on the spot where he lay. Embracing his disciples, he asked them to pray for him, prophesying that the place where he died would someday be the site of a great church and monastery. Then raising his eyes to heaven, he said, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!” and reposed in peace and joy. St Luke fell asleep in the Lord on February 7, 953.

Myrrh flowed from his holy relics,[note 7] and many healings occurred. His tomb exuded a fragrant oil which was collected and burned in a lamp, and many miracles and healings were wrought at the tomb. The rumour that his relic worked miracles brought great numbers of believers to the monastery to be healed, and the original buildings gave way to more monumental structures.[16] As the Saint had predicted, two churches and a monastery were built there, and the monastery of Hosios Loukas became a great place of pilgrimage, as it remains to this day.[note 8]

Troparion, Kontakion

Troparion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 1[17]
Let us firmly honour Luke the Godbearer with hymns and chants,
the glory of the faithful,
the boast of the righteous,
bright light of Stirion and its true inhabitant;
he brings near to Christ those who cry out in faith:
Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee;
Glory to Him Who has crowned thee;
Glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 8[17]
God in ineffable judgment chose thee before thou wast fashioned according to His good pleasure;
He took thee from thy mother’s womb,
He sanctified thee as His servant.
As the Lover of mankind,
He guided thee to Himself,
before Whom thou dost now stand rejoicing,
O Luke.

(OrthodoxWiki)

 

IMG_1438

The Monastery Diaries 4

88681
A photo journal 
*
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!
What a beautiful vigil at St Arsenios’ annual Feast (+St Arsenios of Cappadocia, Nov. 10)! I do not think any of my photos can convey the holiness conveyed through the monks’ exquisite, prayerful chanting,  the Fathers’ prayers, the censing, the tears of the faithful, the dancing chandeliers at Polyelaios…
IMG_FDFF402D104E-1
IMG_6E304B4371E5-1

Fr Synesios was throwing bay leaves inside the church before Vespers started

IMG_0653IMG_2871IMG_2101

IMG_1558IMG_8919IMG_5297IMG_5587

There were lots of hieromonks, laymen and chanters invited to help with the chanting and the hospitality, and several priests and bishops all over the world since Saint Arsenios monastery is a very missionary-minded monastery and Gerondas Theoklitos has quietly and very discreetly founded together with several of his monks lots of monasteries all over the world.

IMG_2751

IMG_BC1C2BD18149-1

The Bishop Innokentios of Burundi and Rwanda

The Vigil was in two parts because the Feast was this year on a Sunday: on Saturday evening we had the Vespers and Matins, and on Sunday morning the Hours and the Holy Liturgy. Nonetheless, it was still too long, so long that the faithful were often seen collapsing in their stasidia and seats, and yet at the end, nobody wanted to leave. The monks though were so vigilant, like candles lit, not sitting down even for a minute during all these long hours.

IMG_68115BCA7559-1IMG_8A659EA92CA5-1IMG_300F0861531C-1IMG_173F043CC851-1IMG_1C1DF79131B7-1IMG_8C4C4A9EA4C8-1
IMG_5991

IMG_2784

Some of the kollyva prepared by the faithful and the monks.
IMG_B6DB764D2AE5-1
IMG_A4CF0C7796F4-1
At the end of the Holy Liturgy, the kollyva of the Saint were prayed in front of his icon. These kollyva were such perfect icons “written” on the boiled wheat that we did not want to eat them! Then, all the faithful were given in the monastery yard a bit of this kollyva, artoklasia and special treats for the Feast, the Fathers briefly disappeared in the arhondarikion, and when we thought that we were done with eating and feasting, we were all invited into the monastery’s trapeza for yet for food.
IMG_5306C6226D50-1
IMG_41EAF004D336-1

During the agape meal, lots of chanters and two monks censing with a a katzion (special censer for feasts) and carrying a piece of holy bread,  a part of the proskomide’s holy bread, moved around all of us and we each picked up a very small piece. In that sense, the agape meal felt like yet one more Holy Liturgy after the Holy Liturgy in the church. Prayer seems to be seamlessly woven in all monastic activities, even in the washing-up that followed.

IMG_DBF8F7F2B930-1IMG_BB01370CCF4D-1IMG_AC8456CD3FFA-1

IMG_17CA7D9CC49B-1

Gerondas Theoklitos is on the left, Bishop Nikodemus of Kassandreia in the middle and the monk on the right , deeply bowing his head on the right is Father Arsenios. He was shining at his Saint’s Feast throughout the Vigil and the festivities that followed. He was honoured to read the Akathist before the Saint’s icon and the Synaxarion in the church and in the agape meal that followed at the end of the Holy Liturgy where all the faithful were invited to participate in a fellowship of Love and Holiness. Father Arsenios was the first to receive Holy Communion and the last to eat anything in the agape meal. In fact, I am not sure if he ate anything at all this day as he was so full of Joy and his Saint was feeding him with Heavenly food.

IMG_CFB336D2FD6E-1

IMG_B1369987B28D-1

IMG_BDD7A63DBDCD-1

This is Father Nikodemus who greeted me the first dawn here, on his way to a village parish, and we both admired the starlit sky, the “ison” for the worship unfolding in the monastery katholikon.

IMG_194C4CDD62A4-1IMG_D0BF64E15485-1IMG_15DC9D04966E-1

Love and poor prayers,
LCH