The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 37

mount athos

Touching Heaven! 

Christ is Risen!

I’m back!

I have all my data and files retrieved and installed on my new laptop. So once more I am able to inflict my poems on you. My “tech savvy” trusted helper patiently guided me through the installation, asking nothing in return. Such love and kindness inculcates a bond of respect.

However, I am going to miss my old keyboard, my new laptop is so sensitive to the touch! Things are different and yet the same- the same files but a new approach, a new style, a new image.

Quite recently, I met a former pupil in the city centre whom I had taught at school. He said:

“Hello sir!”  I haven’t been referred to as sir for some time! I searched my memory for a name, I hardly recognised him, not simply because of his physical maturity but because he had grown in confidence from the rather shy student I began to remember. He had changed and yet he was the same- his voice deeper but with the same inflection, accent and tone. When he began to speak, I knew who he was. What a joy it was to see him and to hear his news.

In the appearances of our Lord after his resurrection, his disciples do not always recognise him. The nature of His glorious resurrected body was so different and yet the same. His resurrected body contain the wounds of the crucifixion and yet it was transformed. His voice, His words, His actions reveal his identity.

2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.


Touching Heaven

John 21:4 “Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”


The young monk stood upright head bowed in prayer.

Barefoot, he perched on rocks breathing the fresh spring air

The blue, tranquil lake lapped at his feet.

His eyes closed in mystery towards the setting sun,

Hands held aloft in reverence for the Holy One

Harmony of God and nature’s seat.

His leather holy belt hung at his waist

A sign of his ascetic labour and a taste

Of blessed Communion, Oh so sweet.

The stillness mirrored in his soul

Deep thoughts of Christ to make him whole

His heart in tandem with creation’s beat.

Here where sea and sky converge

This figure and Christ’s image merge

Earth touches heaven and for an instant meet!

To the Glory of God


“That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.”

St. Isaac the Syrian

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 32

the way we were


Christ is Risen!

Our identity is significant, knowing who we are and to whom we belong is important. A royal visitor came to the school where I taught some years ago. One of the retinue seeing a decorative Pectoral Cross I was wearing asked:

 “Are these jewels real?” 

“No” I replied “I believe they are paste, but the faith is real!”

When I passed through an airport security check more recently wearing my cross I was just about to remove it when the security officer said “you can leave it on, that is your identity!”

The Cross worn around the neck is not an ornament or jewelry for Christians but is the Sign of their identity and signifies to Whom they belong.


John 17:22-24 

22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

The sighs of present, future, past

On holy limbs were laid

What price redeemed the groaning earth

In flowing crimson paid?

We greet our smaller Golgothas

Christ’s scenes become our own

Sprinkled by dry orient dust

From Zion’s fortress blown.

Each insult that Our Lord received

The Suffering He endured

Transfers to us in Union;

By His pure Body cured.

We live His life, we share His death

By Perfection we’re appraised

By mercy saved, by grace forgiven

By Holy power we’re raised.

“I in them, and You in me”

From Jordan to the Tree

We travel, grow in faith and find

Our true Identity.


Suffering is an indication of another Kingdom which we look to. If being Christian meant being “happy” in this life, we wouldn’t need the Kingdom of Heaven.

—Blessed Seraphim Rose
My prayers
Eν Χριστώ
*Photographs by Pedro Quintela‎ and Bahram Pourshahbazi

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 31


The ruins and rock-hewn graves of St. Patrick’s Chapel, Heysham 2

The ruins and rock-hewn graves of St. Patrick’s Chapel, Heysham

There is an ancient Chapel dedicated to St Patrick which I often visit. I like to take friends and visitors there( when possible) and each time it is a blessing for us. The place is holy, graced by God and visited by His saints. There is a tangible feeling of the eternal energies breaking through time and space. It is a place which attracts people like metal to a magnet. Some are drawn by the sheer beauty of the place, some come for daily exercise or recreation and others come to pray and experience harmony with God.

saint-patrick-s-chapel Heysham

Saint Patrick’s Chapel, Heysham

At Tara today in this fateful hour

I place all Heaven with its power,

And the sun with its brightness,

And the snow with its whiteness,

And fire with all the strength it hath,

And lightning with its rapid wrath,

And the winds with their swiftness along their path,

And the sea with its deepness,

And the rocks with their steepness,

And the earth with its starkness

All these I place,

By God’s almighty help and grace,

Between myself and the powers of darkness.


The Rune of St Patrick


Inside st Peter's church heysham

Inside st Peter’s church Heysham


Here and now.


Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”


Here, St. Patrick’s monks made toil of prayers

And shared the task to foil the demons snares,

Here on this headland of Bannavem Taburniæ,

The work of saints confer a blessing still today.


Near is that realm on high where heavenly host

 Disperse the thoughts that charm us most.

 Here, upon this ancient Celtic Christian place

 A light shines upon the weary pilgrim’s face;


So that we may too reflect in holiness of life

 Struggling human flesh in ascetic pious strife.

 Here, where holy bread was broken

 Lies a shadow of that most holy token


A simple meal in fellowship

 A contract signed in partnership.

 Here, on Britain’s western edge of land and sea

 An eastern promise is fulfilled, made once in Galilee:


“Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

 He is with us now, to bestow upon the simple sage

 A truth perceived, perhaps a joy or word of inspiration,

 To those who gather here from every nation.


 Here where sea and human efforts ebb and flow

 The eternal veil is lifted high on those below.

 Here, where gold-red beams of sunset sink beneath the waves

 Christ, the Rising Son of times past, future and of present, saves. 


“What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.”

St. Isaac the Syrian

My prayers
Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 30



Christ is Risen!


Being of a certain age, I often have to call upon one of my trusted “computer savvy techies” as they are known, to help me when my computer fails. I am hopeless when it comes to technology having been brought up with “chalk and talk”. So I would like to put a good word in for modern and ancient technology; for those who enable and help today and for the default reliability of books and pencils of ” yesterday”.

I see the great benefit of modern technology, particularly in these days of lockdown, but the internet is a Pandora’s Box. Information requires distillation and discernment if we are to sift the good from the bad. We have to know the boundaries and limits.  The fear of big brother and artificial intelligence is far removed from the fear of God and Divine illumination. Where are we, if and when this technology crashes? Back to pencils and books!

Although today most records in space are electronic, in the original space race, faced with the fact that ballpoint pens do not operate in zero gravity, a vast amount was spent on developing an alternative that would write in conditions experienced during space flight. Russia took the simple option of using pencils for recording data.

Some years ago I was able to help a rather concerned student in revision mode whose computer had a problem- the solution, a book on the precise academic subject he was studying. Glory to God, he passed his exam!




Ecclesiastes 1 

16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”


High flyers soar upwards to enthral 

Little knowing the sun’s own ire

“As wax melts before the fire”

So too “Pride comes before a fall.”

In Paradise we make our wings

And think escape so great, so smart

To ply our course in scientific art,

As in the tree a mocking bird sings.

Satan still whispers “bow to me”

“Be free!” and “all these kingdoms own.”

Whilst angels standing round the throne

Weep at feathers floating on the sea.

“Poor human reason, when it trusts in itself, substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts”  St John Chrysostom

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 29


Middle English:  Crist is arisen! Arisen He sothe!


As a pupil at school, I was obliged to study Shakespeare for English Literature; it was part of the curriculum and therefore I had no choice. I have to say that I found it rather dry, boring and difficult to understand. Many years later, however, a colleague asked me if I would like to go to Stratford on Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company in a Shakespeare play. I was rather disinclined based on my childhood antagonism but reluctantly agreed to go. What a revelation the play proved to be, causing a 180-degree reversal in my disposition! It was transformative, like for the first time seeing something in the light which had formerly only been in shadows. Within a short time of the play commencing I was wrapped, enthralled and fully engaged in the plot, transfixed by the sheer depth and cadence of language and in total empathy with the characters.

 The words took form in action and came to life!

The Word became flesh and lived amongst us!

The Celtic saints were very active, they did not just preach the word of God, they acted upon it and lived the Gospel out in their lives.


Sonnet I:

Nature and Nurture

Matthew 19:14

14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”


What is this treasure which I hold so near?

Closer than my breath which her name repeats;

Reserve her character till time stands clear

To shape her mind as her own voice entreats.

I do not cradle now by spoken will,

But by parental care as love dictates;

Her fragile frame from birth is caused to fill

Gentle arms, whose enfolding indicates.

Echoes aforesaid when grown, she will be

A woman, wife and mother to her child;

Transferring grace and form for all to see

The pattern’s gift, though by encounters styled.

Sweet Nature, thy bounds are kindly, free and fair

If Nurture’s bonds from beauty seeks to share.


As a parent, every action you take is important when you raise children.  It is not necessarily what you say but how you act that teaches them the Orthodox way of life.

St Paisios of the Holy Mountain

My prayers

Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 28


Christ is Risen!


I had a lovely surprise this morning. One of my Parishioners brought me a beautiful bunch of wildflowers; amongst them lots of Ox-eye Daisies, together with a number of “Lockdown goodies” as she describes them, one of which was another kind of flower-flour! Indeed, the English word flour is originally a variant of the word flower both words deriving from the French word fleur. At last, I can bake some bread! The wildflowers now supplement the cultivated ones the sisters brought me some weeks ago.

It reminded me of when I was in a village in Romania and a kind gentleman presented me with a huge bunch of wildflowers which he had picked. The amount, the richness and variety were amazing. I remember too visiting a hermitage where the monk was turning over the soil to bring to life the seeds which had lain dormant for so many years.

 My spiritual father when he lived near Cambridge had a large garden. He gave a large portion of it over to a meadow for sowing seeds of wildflowers. The result was a heartwarming profusion of colour: Meadow Buttercups, Cowslips, Dandelion Ragged Robin, Red Campion, Yarrow, Poppy, Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Evening Primrose, Vipers Bugloss, and of course, Forget-me-not.

As if I could?


These Island nations each have a flower which is often found as an emblem appearing on crests, coins, and flags. The national flower of Ireland is the shamrock (which is technically a plant), while Scotland’s national flower is the Thistle. Wales’ national flower is the bright yellow Daffodil. England has the Red Rose( as does Lancashire!)


A Garden in Harston*


John 12:24:  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”


Autumn’s gentle dying and sighing into aspiring worth

Witnesses the gold leaves fall to carpet, as a covering for sin, the soft green earth.

What rich abundance there is in God’s economy!

Mellow fruits and flowers are wrapped in finest robes for God’s glory.

No harsh light to pierce the eyes of the tiredness of our soul,

Only the fresh glow of holy breath to make broken bodies whole:

Until God’s flora rests in winter’s death.


Here in the seasoned wisdom of third age flowers

The seeds of resurrection are stored for many hours,

Until that explosion of the third-day tomb;

God’s radiance warms the ground of that stone-cold womb.

In dappled light, in a garden in Harston, at hand is Son blessed soil.

We share the joy of those who labour there and wait on God with love and toil:

For new growth in God’s garden.


In weeding and turning of man’s substance is revealed new seeds

Which grow into new plants of scent and colour through holy deeds.

Sweet Mill View where, often unseen by human eye, the wheel of Life is turned,

Where through careful stewardship, the labourer’s pay is earned.

A dialogue with heaven is found and a covenant made long ago

In another garden secretly comes in time to grow:

Into that spring beauty of New Life.


“The more resolutely, the more constantly, your heart is turned towards God and His saints the more it will be enlightened, purified, and vivified.” St. John of Kronstadt.

* Harston is a village near Cambridge, England.

* Photography by Amit Das

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 27

under the stars

Under the Stars

Χριστός Ανέστη!
Some years ago I visited a monastery in a remote part of Greece and was taken aback somewhat being greeted by a nun with a most refined English accent: “ Your blessing! Oh, it’s so lovely to see you dear Father, welcome!” The nun was indeed from England, but in that Monastery there were nuns from all over the world; from Germany, Sweden, Finland, Philippines, Greece, Cyprus and one from the USA who knew the priest who had Chrismated me. It was like a little microcosm of Pentecost.

St Brigid and her Monastery

St Brigid became a hermit and built herself a cell near a large oak tree. But soon men and women came to join her, to live as monks and nuns; so she built a double monastery which became larger than any town in the country.

 Each evening the monks and nuns would go to the surrounding countryside to see if anyone required any food or accommodation. If someone was homeless, they brought them back to the monastery for food, rest and shelter. In addition, St Brigid built a hospital for those who were sick and who were cared for by the monks and nuns.

Near to the Monastery lived a rich merchant who had a disdain for religion and expressed his contempt for the monastery. Nevertheless, Brigid visited the man regularly despite his insults and the man came to have admiration for her convictions and persistence

The rich man fell sick with a fatal illness and called for St Brigid. He could not speak and she knew that no words would comfort him, so she made a cross of some new rushes and placed it in his hands. He lifted the Cross to his lips, kissed it and then departed this life.


John 15:18,19: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. if you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Based on the Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus 180 A.D.


These Christians who look down on death

With loving grace for one another,

Praise Christ with every living breath

Place Him above son, wife and mother.


As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

No country, language, custom, race

No philosophy of human health,

They live as aliens and trace

 Love to a heavenly commonwealth.


As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

They share everything and endure

Torture, death and hardship as gain,

Obeying laws they help the poor

Loving all, by all they suffer pain.


As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.

We are unknown and yet still condemned

Defamed but are vindicated,

Destitute, broken hearts we mend

Reviled we bless, dying, to life translated.


As the soul is to the body

So are Christians to the world.



“O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again, but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us, that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship of His pain He vouchsafed salvation.“

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Christian Sacraments. 


Eν Χριστώ
* Photograph by Evgeni Tcherkasski

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 26


Believe …

Hristos a înviat


I recall on my first visit to Romania attending the funeral of an old lady in a small village. The Parishioners had kept vigil all night before the funeral, waiting patiently outside her home, saying fervent prayers for their departed friend. There were weeping and sorrow mixed with resurrection hope and humble faith together with profuse expressions of sympathy and compassion for the bereaved family.

St Columba ordains a priest.

In central Scotland, there was a priest called Molluch who wanted to be a priest although he could not read or write. He approached St Columba on one of the saint’s missionary journeys to that region.  St Columba wanting to test Molluch’s faith told him to go and fish in the nearby lake and when he had caught a fish to come back. Puzzled by this instruction but obedient Molluch took a small coracle to the lake and started fishing. For two days and two nights, he caught nothing but on the third day he caught a fish. However, on catching the fish he took pity on it; carefully removing it from the hook, he returned it to the water. Rowing back to shore Molluch confessed to the saint and told him what had happened. St Columba commended him for his patience, compassion, and humility; qualities which he saw as necessary for the priesthood. St Columba ordained Molluch who duly proved to be an excellent priest.

O What Faith

Luke 7:9; “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.”

Gentle gentile strong and brave

Built a synagogue and gave

A chance of life to his dear slave:

By his faith.

He showed his care and great compassion

In more than any normal ration

When humility was not the fashion:

He showed faith.

A Centurion ruled with iron glove

But this one knew of Him above

Whose hands could heal with powerful love:

Given faith.

Considerate in his way and kind

A virtue one would rarely find

In one so masterful a mind:

Blessed by faith.

His faith was simply of the best

Surpassing Israel and the rest

Such trust which passes every test:

This is faith.

To the glory of God

Sayings from the Desert Fathers

The old men used to say, “If someone has faith in another and hands himself over to him in complete submission, he does not need to pay attention to God’s commandments but he can entrust his whole will to his father. He will suffer no reproach from God, for God looks for nothing from beginners so much as renunciation through obedience.”

Εν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 25

Christ is Risen!

Animals have a sensitivity that is quite remarkable. I know someone who is blind who has a guide dog. The dog is not only obedient to its master and disciplined to knowing what it should do but is sensitive and even anticipating the needs of its master. It is known that a dog’s acute sense of smell is sensitive to human emotion, anxiety and depression and has the ability to detect ailments and disease. Horses too can read human facial expressions. They possess a gift that can distinguish human mood.

St. Columba his blessings and the white horse. ( part 2 of2)

The white horse which had pulled the wagon for the saint to bless the Island of Iona came to Columba and laid its head on the saint’s chest. It began to whinny and cry. It seemed to know that the saint was ill. One of the monks wanted to take the horse away but St Columba refused: “Let him alone, for he loves me. Let him pour out his tears of grief. You are a man with a rational soul….but this dumb creature, possessing no reason* has been told by the Creator Himself that I am about to leave him.”

 His World


Matthew 6:28: “So why do you worry about clothing?

 Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow they neither toil nor spin.”



God’s creation is too beautiful for the worldly-wise,

            It takes the simple, humble mind to stand in awe with open eyes.

The abundance of God’s goodness needs an inner sight and trained,

To wonder at His Universe requires that we have gained;

A sense of veneration for his order and his splendour.

We require a loss of pride and a willingness to surrender,

To gain discernment in our search for beauty and exercise of choice.

We need to listen carefully at that inner, still, small voice

That prompts us to select the best,

And with the angels and the saints attest,

The omnipotence of God in His creation,

The crowning of a Holy Nation,

Dedicated to participation

                    In His world.

We are indeed the stewards of this earth

Called to cherish and conserve that which is of worth.

Illuminate our sight, dear Lord, so that we may grow in grace

Mirrored for a season until we see You face to face.

Working in our clay-bound bodies, a consequence of sin

Resting rarely to consider lilies that neither toil nor spin.

The earth is far too beautiful for the worldly-wise

It takes a simple, humble heart for the soul to rise

Upwards to the heavens, inspired by love

                    For His world.




Amma Theodora

Amma Theodora said, ‘Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.’

The same Amma said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls


*The word for horse in Greek is άλογο which means non-speaking or without logic or reason.

Eν Χριστώ