The Suicidal Church, in Body or in Spirit

Archimandrite Gregorios Estephan

Archimandrite Gregorios Estephan, Abbot of Holy Dormition of the Theotokos Monastery, Bkeftine, Lebanon

A most poignant, sobering and timely warning. Your prayers and your thoughts.

A few excerpts:

We ask with honesty, was there no other way or a dispensational solution, taking into account all the health measures, to face this pandemic, without closing the Churches and surrendering to a collective spiritual suicide?

Going to Church during pandemics, temptations, hardships and persecutions does not mean that we are tempting God as if we are inviting something to befall us, but rather, by this, we are saying to Him that we walk with Him in Faith, revealing that what we need the most is to be with Him during these very afflictions, united with Him in His Body and Blood, in order to confront this pandemic and the dangers of disease, as well as all of the other catastrophes awaiting us. When Christians, during major persecutions and communism, risked their lives to go into the catacombs and gather around the Lord’s table, it was an expression of their loving Christ more than themselves, an expression of their knowledge that true life exists within this Eucharistic table, and not in their bodies.

Today also, if we do not stand up to this current pandemic by prayer, supplication and repentance, and more importantly, by holding Divine Liturgies, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ which frees us from eternal death, what should we confront it with? By running away and isolating oneself?

The Church faced the consequences of sin through such firm Faith and by strengthening piety in the souls of her members. … Christians, in prisons and mines during exile, perceived in depth their great need to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, so their priests used to celebrate the Divine offering on the breasts of the faithful; the breast of the faithful became an altar for God.

We are in a time when we need the Body and Blood of Christ, more than at any other time, in order to be nourished and to receive the strength to resist every evil and disease. Although we know that, by God’s permission, we can fall sick due to this pandemic, but the faithful who becomes ill and continues his struggle in the Church and his participation in its Mysteries, is like a soldier in the battle arena resisting all evil, not by his own strength, but by the power of the salvific gift of Redemption. Does the one who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ, knowing that it is the true food for eternal life, think of bodily death anymore? The death of such person therefore resembles the death of Martyrs.

Why is everyone silent in front of all these evils and perversions that are afflicting the Church of Christ and disorienting its mission of the salvation of mankind? Do those speaking with such an unlawful enthusiasm in support of the Church closures have such a zeal for the purity of the Orthodox Faith? Would they be as zealous in applying the Church Canons as they are to submit to the laws of the nations?

The end of the world will come, not when the antichrist becomes strong, but when the Church becomes weak (Archbishop Sergei Baranov).

If the strength of the Church exists in her Mysteries, and especially in the Mystery of the Eucharist, then her weakness, rather her death, is found in the interruption of these Liturgies.

We must also consider that since the Church has surrendered so easily because of this pandemic, even unto the closing of her doors, what is she going to do when the Antichrist comes? Do any of us ask this question?

The interruption of these Liturgies, although temporary, is nothing but a sign among the signs of the end of times. Concerning the latter days, Saint Ephraim the Syrian (of the fourth century) reveals that: “the Churches will pathetically weep for the holy services will cease to take place in them and there will no more be Eucharistic oblations”[9]. The Church of Christ which is ever strong and victorious over Satan, sin and death, and concerning which the Lord promised that the gates of Hades shall not prevail over her, is submitting that simply? Does not this reveal its weakness and the fragility of its earthly journey?

For the complete article by Archimandrite Gregorios Estephan, Abbot of Holy Dormition of the Theotokos Monastery, Bkeftine, Lebanon, go to Orthodox Ethos, a website by Father Peter Heers I wholeheartedly recommend for all its podcasts, interviews and articles

 

A Holy Warning

Elder Parthenios

Elder Parthenios of the Monastery of Saint Pavlos: Αn orthodox message from the Holy Mountain

“Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

The abbot of the Holy Monastery of Saint Pavlos, father Parthenios, speaks to you. I am in the monastery of Saint Pavlos since 1954 till now, with the help of our God, Virgin Mary and all of saints. Till now, we are blessed of God and we all celebrated the Holy Easter, with all of our happiness and love, the Risen of our Lord. This year it was the only year, since I came in the Mount Athos (Holy Mount), that we celebrated alone. Because all of the previous years we had with us more that 100-150-200 visitors, only in our Monastery. Together all the Monasteries of the Holy Mount had approximately 5,000 visitors, who have come every year, to honor the Holy Easter, the Risen of our Lord!

It was hard for me, that this was the year that we glory alone the God. Because of the measures they took, they left us alone with only few workers who are regular here. I am telling you that, with a lot of father’s love, I am in pain, in grief. Because all the faithful men who used to come here with us, were our consolation, to praise all together to the most important event, the Easter. All together we were chanting the pray of “Christ is Risen”, full of joy. Perhaps, God allowed this temptation to be penetrated, for our sins. Maybe He wants to activate us, cause the people got away from the Lord’s path and doing nonsense.

Our Churchs, all over the country, in Athens, in Thessaloniki and other where were like a cemetery. All the people were isolated in their houses; even the churches have closed their gates. What happened? What happened?

Unfortunately, our politicians trying to do their best. These are human measures, we cannot blame them. On the other hand, I am sending them a message. These measures are not enough. I am begging our politicians and our ecclesiastical authority, to shout at people to open the churches for the public, to go out on the roads, to take with them the holy icons and go for a litany, in order to beg our almighty God to obviate that temptation. The governors of this time cannot save us. Only the powerful God, He is the one who can save us. Open the doors of the churches, take the people outdoors, get the icons out, and get down on your knees, like the Ninevites did, to beg the God, His omnipotence, to quash this temptation. Otherwise, I don’t know where we will end up.

Please, do not be delusional, only God can save us, only our Lady Virgin, only the Saint Apostles and all the Saints together. Also can save us our pray and faith to God. “What did save the world?” “Our faith”!

Let all these thoughts of lukewarm and oligopolies, behind. We are Christians and I refer to the politicians who prepare to seal up/chip the people, but this will be their biggest scandal, because they not do justice to Christians. We, the Christians, strongly believe in His Almighty, we are baptized; we are anointed by the Holy Oil in the sealing of God. “Seal donation of the Holy Spirit, amen.”

Anyone who is not baptized, has the freedom to be sealed by the government, it is their decision. But do not force us, the Christians. Whatever you want to do against us, the God will be the Victor!

The God says: “Just as someone will confess in front of other people that he believes me, so I will do for him too, in front of my Father who live in the sky.” “Just as someone denies that he loves me, in front of the people, so I will do for him too.” Do not believe what the Zionists and Masons, the devils say; they do not believe in anything. On the other hand, we strongly believe in the real God. Whatever it takes, we confess Jesus Christ the Crucified we lean on Him our hopes, in his All-powers, nowhere else.

Many happy returns! Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Our Lord has beaten the world. He says: “Don’t be afraid! I have been beaten the world for you!” That is our confession and our faith! Thank you so much!

Source: Enomeni Romiosini

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 13

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Holy Week Highlights — a photoblog. Christ is Risen!

Nymfiosholy unction

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The Saints are delighted with the flowers! I eventually found the card. Thank you dearest sisters. I am overwhelmed, and all the saints in my icon corner are smiling.

Bleeding Crucifix today, on Holy Thursday, now in Athens, in Holy Andreas Chapel, Nursing Home Care

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Greek style! A flying priest! Go to https://ellada.press/vinteo-o-iptamenos-iereas-tis-chiou-edose-pali-resital-telos-sunelifthi/

And Cypriot style 🙂 Holy Saturday Vespers — How to make holy noise — Cypriot style 🙂
Please watch from 1:14:28 up to 1:17, and later, and pay attention to all details His Eminence Metropolitan Morfou

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This is one of the first Icons I “made.” It is a simple print stuck on to a piece of wood. I found it in my attic at the bottom of a cardboard box. 

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustynnik — 12

the prayer of silence

Remember the Little things- Day #12

 

Dear friends in Christ- Amidst the chaos of this pandemic and the disturbance to normal life, the most noticeable aspect of this most unusual period is the silence

You may recall those signs at school, ” SILENCE- EXAMINATION IN PROGRESS”; such a silence that we are experiencing at this present time is also a test of what we have learned as Christians.

The lockdown has changed even the way the earth moves and there is a reduction of seismic noise because of the lack of human activity. Silence for some is difficult and they look for distractions. However, silence is not simply an absence of noise, it is the opportunity and context for noetic prayer.

“Prayer,” as Metropolitan Antony Bloom said in his book Courage to Pray, “is an end to isolation- it is living our life with someone. “

“Compel yourselves in silence, the mother of all godly virtues. Keep silent in order to say the Prayer( of Jesus); for; when someone speaks, how is he able to escape idle talk, from which comes every evil word, which weighs the soul down by the responsibility for it:”

Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery, Mount Athos, “Counsels from the Holy Mountain”

 

The Yoke of Christ

 

Matthew 11:29:” Take my Yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 

There is no humility of wisdom in argument,

Let the soul be softened by sorrow,

For mysteries are revealed to the humble

And joy the portion of those who follow.

 

Let not anger consume the foolishness of pride

But let the grace of discernment be your diet.

Not every quiet man is humble,

But every humble man is quiet.

 

Meekness is not passive gentleness

It is the strength of contentment through new birth

The imitation of Christ is our Heavenly task

The Blessing, the inheritance of the earth!

 

Reflections on the Beatitudes and on the words of St. Isaac the Syrian

To the Glory of God!

 

“I give praise to your holy Nature, Lord, for you have made my nature a sanctuary for your hiddenness and a tabernacle for your holy mysteries, a place where you can dwell, and a holy temple for your Divinity.” St. Isaac the Syrian

*

“If you are praised, be silent. If you are scolded, be silent. If you incur losses, be silent. If you receive profit, be silent. If you are satiated, be silent. If you are hungry, also be silent. And do not be afraid that there will be no fruit when all dies down; there will be! Not everything will die down. Energy will appear; and what energy!” St. Symeon the New Theologian

Dear brothers and sisters, during this Great and Holy Week the Daily Punstynnik Diary to Remember the Little things will be suspended and hopefully resumed after Pascha in order to concentrate on silence and prayer. Let us thus now dive into this holy silence and let this week’s church services and events speak to us, as they can only do! I wish to all of you a blessed Holy Week! 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 11

angel oak tree

1500-year-old Angel Oak tree in South Carolina

Remember the Little Things — Day #11

I love trees. Trees are magnificent in their audacious grandeur; sown in the dark soil they seek the light.

The trees which were bare a month ago are now in full bloom. Spring has come with all its glorious plenary pulchritude. We thank God for such beauty. Trees offer shade and colour; they even take our carbon dioxide and exchange it for oxygen. Trees are the lungs of the world.

The newly glorified Saint Amphilochios of Patmos (1888-1970) said: ” Whoever does not love trees, does not love God.”

 In these hard times, it is a temptation to become despondent; but this spirit comes from the evil one. Our lives are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3) like the roots in the soil. Our faith can defy the weight of oppression like the sap which defies gravity through capillary action. Our lives can extend to all like the branches. If we have the will, with that awesome synergy which is Christ’s gracious dialogue with us, through His mercy and our hard work, we may bloom in holiness and bear fruit that will last.

Hearts of Oak

Theme: Despondency

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Luke 6:44: “For every tree is known by its own fruit.

“When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: “What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head.”

St. Seraphim of Sarov

 

“It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that one day he said to his elder brother, ”I should like to be free of all care, like the angels who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God. ”So he took leave of his brother and went away in the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door he heard his brother say,” Who are you?” before he opened it. He said,” I am John, your brother.” But he replied,” John has become an angel and henceforth is no longer among men.” Then John besought him, saying,” It is I.” However, his brother did not let him in but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, “You are a man and you must once again work in order to eat.” Then John made a prostration before him, saying,” Forgive me.” 

 

I hear Lord, there was once a Tree planted here in this place

 A Tree so fine and so splendid, a Tree full of beauty and grace.

  “Who planted this Tree of Life Lord here in this garden?

 It’s said that its fruit was so sweet and had the gift of peace and pardon

 Who tended this Tree in its youth Lord when it was growing into the light?

 When the gales blew and the storms raged in the middle of the night.

 Who first saw this Tree bud and blossom into flower

 As the sap of its spirit gave joy to each hour?

 Who watered this Tree Lord when it was parched and dry

 When some men ate of its labour and others wagged heads and passed by?

 Who cut down its branches where the birds of the air made a nest?

 Didn’t they taste of its fruit Lord, did not they know it was best?

 Who cut the Tree down to the ground Lord whilst it was rich in finest full bloom?

 There must have been more than one axe Lord, to bring about such a doom.

 But look Lord I see a young sapling springing from out of its roots

 And what wondrous a sight to behold Lord, there are thousands and thousands of shoots!

 What is this Garden called Father, is it Eden, what mystical name please impart?

 “The Tree is my Son, my young gardener and the garden my child is your heart.”

 

My love

Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 9

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Remember the Little things #9

 

Yesterday, I was delighted to receive feedback from some of our parents concerning their young children being taught our Christian Faith at home. Our Sunday School is called ” Martha’s House,” which seems not only appropriate but in some way prophetic since the lock down. Our Sunday school leader gave construction tasks for our children to make Crosses and to build model Churches- the results were truly amazing!

 A three-year-old from one of our families decided to invite spiderman and his friends into his model Church on the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt, whilst singing “Lord da da mercy”. How considerate and proper to invite spiderman now that Church is held on the world wide web. All are welcome! 

Glory to God! 

 

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

You have ordained strength,

Because of Your enemies,

That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

 

The Little Child

 

Matthew 2; 21 “Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother,

                     And came into the land of Israel.”

 

Did you sit at Joseph’s feet to see him work with wood?

Did you watch him smooth the plane to make the bad grain good?

Did you play out in the streets with friends and hit the ball?

Did they ask you for some food and then you gave it all?

O how I’d like to know the child in you but nothing much is told

All we hear are miracles about the sick, the young and old.

 

I want to know the little Christ that danced and sang and played.

I want to hear the stories of the little toys that Joseph made.

I want to see the joyful child that gave such love for free.

I want to find the little child that lives inside of me.

O how I’d like to rediscover some story of your fame

Before you calmed the waters and healed the sick and lame.

 

To the Glory of God

Abba Pambo said, “If you have a heart, you can be saved.”

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustynnik — 8

feeding birds

Remember the little things  #8

I have been reflecting greatly upon the first miracle of Our Lord which took place in Cana of Galilee, when, as a guest at a wedding, He changed water into wine. (John 2:1-11) The sheer grace and magnitude of this sign left me reflecting on how we work miracles and show hospitality in lockdown mode?

 Yesterday I had a knock on the door and there outside were two parishioners kindly and most generously bringing me some household items. As they stepped back two metres, it gave me the opportunity to offer them some incense, charcoal, floats, wicks and candles for their worship at home. We exchanged some kind and encouraging words through the “Chapel “window and they left.

 I know others from our God blessed Community who also go to the help of the poor, shop for the housebound and enrich the lives of others by their invitation to join them with online fellowship. 

However, I must tell you I show hospitality to some winged secret” guests .” Angels maybe in the Divine services, but I am talking about feeding the birds. Each day I leave some morsels of bread or nuts on my garden wall but whilst my back is turned they swoop down and take that which is given! So no photos!

 We too can change bitter waters into sweet wine if we show compassion, kindness and meekness.

The poem which follows is dedicated to my dearly departed spiritual father who showed me great kindness and hospitality and whose meekness was beyond compare.

 

The Wedding Banquet

John2:2 “Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.”

 

In South Cambridge Newnham terraces*, a place of late Victorian Mews

Where once the Deans of Cambridge held romantic rendezvous;

There is greater love in West View, which is from the east and old

That issues forth from Cana where living streams bear gold.

Where once the Saviour graced a marriage and turned water into wine

His disciples now shelter others in the branches of His Vine.

Here dwells a confluence of Christian souls of hearts and constant minds

Since “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

Such living streams of wisdom meander to a calm Bethesda pool

“Love never ends,” it is eternal for “Love is not time’s fool.”

“Love bears all things, believes all things hopes and endures all things”

Transcending any human love and in hands of angels brings

The indwelling of the Holy Guest with an invitation to the poor

To glimpse the wedding feast of the Father’s House through a simple terraced door.

 

“Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to

address oneself to the Eternal Father. Always, without fail, value

this joy which has been accorded to you by God’s infinite grace

and do not forget it during your prayers; God, the angels and

God’s holy men listen to you.”

 

St. John of Kronstadt

*This poem refers to the home of my spiritual father and his Khouriya in Cambridge, England, and their enduring love.

My love and prayers,

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustynnik — 7

lancaster night1

Remember the Little Things-  Day #7

After my midnight Jesus Prayer I looked out of my “Chapel” window at home and saw peeping through the clouds the moon and the stars. I was reminded of that beautiful Psalm:

Psalm 8:3-6 

3 When I consider your heavens,

    the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

    which you have set in place,

4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

5 You have made them a little lower than the angels

    and crowned them with glory and honour.

6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

    you put everything under their feet.

lancaster night 2

God has crowned us with glory and honour and yet we often fail to give Him glory and dishonour him with our selfish greed. We fail to connect the vast beauty of creation with our Creator and we abandoned our responsibilities as stewards of this world in which He has placed us. We too often seek the riches of this passing world rather than the Great Treasure of Heaven. Wanting to be like God was the first sin in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:5)

Counting the Cost

Matthew 19:24 “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The little boy asked the man,” Why are you counting stars?”

“Because no-one else has done it, I started long ago with Mars.” 

“But what’s the purpose of your exercise?” the little boy enquired.

“I own them all!” the man exclaimed, “I’ll stop when I’ve retired.

“I’ve counted over five million, the sum of twenty years;

I count them silently each night so no-one ever hears.”

“They are not yours the boy replied, they all belong to God!”

But the man continued counting stars, pointing at them with a nod.

There are many who like this astronomic man, reap what they have not sown

Who count that which is not theirs and claim it for their own.

 The exercise of counting cash has equal futility,

After all, you cannot take it with you into eternity.

Far better spend your money wisely than buy expensive cars 

What a cost for those who ignore heaven and keep on counting stars!

 

“ Pride is darkness, but humility is light.” St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven.

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustynnik — 6

Antidoron

Remember the Little things- Diary of a Pustynnik

Each day before I say my morning prayers I take a little antidoron (Blessed bread) from the last Holy Liturgy we served together in Church. I soften it in some hot water and sometimes in wine and consume for the day’s blessing for all. I take another piece of antidoron and cut it, dividing it so I find that with the grace of God it begins to multiply.

Holy oil

I light a small lamp in my Icon corner next to the Holy Icons and Holy relics of the saints. Even though this is the smallest lamp I possess and I do not fill it completely with oil( there is water in it too) -it lasts for over eight hours. What a little wonder!

Day and night God increases this bread and this oil. Christ’s blessings come to us when we look unto Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2

 

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The Main Mover

John 28:18: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

 

Grant my soul the wings to fly

Above the sun and starry sky

To move through infinity and climb

Through silent galaxies sublime

 

From earth to heaven

 

The Keeper of the kingdom praise

With virtuous hearts on high to raise

To seek the things which are above

Born of dust, infused with love.

 From earth to heaven

 

What work the Father made for glory

What hand that wrote Creation story

On the pages of history’s text

That moves from past to present and the next

 From earth to heaven

 

Then this middle earth will bow before

The Watcher over grace and law

When we strive to reach perfection

As the Way points out direction

 From earth to heaven

 

Our Eternal Master assigns vocations

Wrought in tasks and duties of complexions

Within the precincts of our earthly chains

Released from the cycled losses and the gains

 From earth to heaven

 

He who decides our earthly station

Determines too our destination

The wounded hands outreach to all

Extend the invitation call

From earth to heaven

 

JAH Based on the Hymn of Caedmon and the words of Father Porphyrios of Athos.

 

Christ is Everything. He is joy, He is life, He is light. He is the true light who makes man joyful, makes him soar with happiness; makes him see everything, everybody; makes him feel for everyone, to want everyone with him, everyone with Christ.

gallaxy

Love Christ and put nothing before His Love. Christ is Everything. He is the source of life, the ultimate desire, He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ.

Saint Porphyrios