Christ has Ascended!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

The Icon was painted on glass by Georgiana Necula, the flowers were given today by one of the sisters of the Parish and the icon stand drape was a curtain embroidered by my grandmother in the 1930s.

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“Leaving the things of earth upon the earth, and surrendering to the earth things of ashes, come, let us come to our senses and raise our eyes and thoughts on high; let us, O mortals, turn our gaze together with the senses up unto the heavenly gates. Let us consider ourselves present at the Mount of Olives, and gaze intently at the Redeemer Who is riding upon a cloud; for the Lord hath hastened up from there into the heavens. And there the bountiful Giver of gifts distributed gifts unto His Apostles, calling to them as a Father, and strengthening them; He guided them like sons and said unto them: I am not separated from you; I am with you, and no one shall be against you.” (OIKOS FOR THE ASCENSION)

Christ is in our midst

A Joyous Pustinnyk

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 38

cave

AGIA SOFIA’S CAVE, CRETE

Christ is Risen!

The man who lived in a cave

Some years ago, one hot summer day whilst on holiday in Crete, I visited with friends a small Church, high up on the top of a mountain. Near to the Church was a man who lived in a cave. On visiting him he showed us around his “house.” His bed was a smoothed rock shelf and another flat rock for a table. Above the “table” was an oil lamp and Holy Icons of the Saviour and the Mother of God.

Outside, he had two or three goats, a few chickens, a small plot of land with a clear stream of water running through it. I recall that the bees at the time were drinking from the stream.

“Don’t you miss out on things? one of our company enquired of the man.

“No, I have everything I need, I have milk and honey, I have eggs and freshwater to wash and drink and I can always exchange a few eggs for bread in the village.”

“What about the scorpions, aren’t you afraid of the scorpions?” one of our party asked.

“ There are scorpions,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders, “but I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me!”

Example 2

A shabbily dressed man walked into a publisher’s office in Moscow. He took from his greatcoat a rather tattered manuscript and enquired whether it could be published? The publisher glanced dismissively at the manuscript and seeing the man’s dishevelled appearance said that he had no time to read it.

“Really? “said the man “I must have been misinformed, I am told that people like to read what I write.”

“ Indeed” said the publisher, his curiosity being aroused by this response “….and so who are you? What is your name?”

“My name?” as he collected his papers and stuffed them back into his overcoat, “my name is Leo Tolstoy.”

The publisher felt rather foolish and started begging for the privilege to publish. The eccentric genius quietly withdrew making his exit from the publishing office.

 

The wisdom of God

1 Corinthians 1:23

But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,”

1 Corinthians 4:10-11

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonoured! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.

Who can contain the wisdom of the Wise?

Count loss as gain in faith-filled eyes.

Where is the key to unlock uncreated Light?

In constant prayer of day and night!

What target Heaven’s arrows and guided darts?

The simple minds, the humble hearts!

 

Who brought life to the Virgin womb?

He who emptied a stone-cold tomb!

Wisdom dwells in fools for Christ.

Power of God the Great High Priest

Who came in flesh to save the least.

Brightness of the Father, Pre-existent Word

The natal earth her ears first heard.

Who conceived creation? Wisdom from above!

Holy fools reflect His image… Love.

Who can contain the wisdom of the Wise?

In repentant sighs the one who dies… to self.

When Abba Macarius was into Egypt, he found a man who had brought a beast to his cell and he was stealing his possessions. He went up to the thief as though he were a traveller who did not live there and helped him to load the beast and led him on his way in peace, saying to himself, “We brought nothing into this world; but the Lord gave; as he willed, so is it done; blessed be the Lord in all things.”

My love and prayers

 

Eν Χριστώ

 

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 — 36

snowdon sunrise

Snowdon Sunrise

The Ascent of Snowdon!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Christ is Risen!

 I hope you are all well and keeping safe.

 Here is my poem-less thought for the day !

 

Love and prayers

Eν Χριστώ

Remember the little things- Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.

I have just completed climbing Mt. Snowdon- the highest mountain in Wales and the second highest in Great Britain (well virtually!) What would normally take five hours has taken me two weeks to complete. I can’t say that the scenery was that good except for my companion St George, who I acknowledged on the way up and on the way down. In these days of lock-down, my staircase has been the mountain. The climb has also involved mental stimulation in mathematical calculation and a certain spiritual exercise (ascesis)- saying “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me,” each syllable spoken of the prayer on each step of the staircase.

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The Ascent of my Snowdon!

When I was young, I went on a camping holiday to Switzerland with some friends where we climbed the Jungfraujoch near Thunersee. It demanded patience, courage, fortitude and perseverance. In the days before formal health and safety, we were simply told by the experienced guide to follow carefully in his footsteps and to look out for one another! The reward for our struggle was amazing. We took rest overnight in a goatherd’s cottage on the way down. In the morning, the view was stunning, we were above the clouds and we saw everything from a new perspective.
In Genesis 28 the patriarch Jacob has a dream in which he sees a ladder going from earth to heaven and on this he sees angels ascending and descending.
The theme of the ladder is found in the teachings of the Church Fathers. I suppose St John Climacus is the most famous with his “Ladder of Divine Ascent.” St Irenaeus in the second century describes the Church as the ladder of ascent to God and St Gregory Nazianzus also sees the of ascent as an ascetic path and each step striving towards excellence.
St John Chrysostom writes:
“And so mounting as it were by steps, let us get to heaven by a Jacob’s ladder. For the ladder seems to me to signify in a riddle by that vision the gradual ascent by means of virtue, by which it is possible for us to ascend from earth to heaven, not using material steps, but improvement and correction of manners.”
Indeed, it is important in the Christian life to cultivate the virtues of patience, fortitude, courage and perseverance; to follow in the steps of the Master who is the Way and to keep our eye open for others who may be struggling. May our holy guardian angels assist us in this ascent.

John 1:50-51
Jesus answered and said to him,“Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”And He said to him,“Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

The Monastery of Panagia Agrilia in Sami, Kephalonia

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Dear friends in Christ

Christ is Risen!

I forward some beautiful photos of the Monastery of Panagia Agrilia in Sami, Kephalonia with the permission of  A.S. I know the place well. The little chapel that you see is not the main monastery but next to the old tower. The little place to the right under the tree is where St Kosmas Aitolos preached. The Fresco inside shows St Ephraim and St Panagis -the local saint of Lixouri whose relics I have carried in procession and which emit great fragrance.

My prayers

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Two more photos. I think the path featured in the first photo is the one to the  fictional and purpose built village featured in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The second photo is of the old tower next to Agrilia Monastery with lovely spring wild flowers.

Sami 1Sami 2

Eν Χριστώ

A Joyous Pustinnyk

 

PS. One of the faithful was asking about the saint on the fresco in the Chapel at Agrilia in Sami Kefalonia from the photos. He is the “other saint” of Kefalonia, the most well known being St.Gerasimos. He is St Panagis Bassias of Lixouri. Feast day 7th June. you can read about his life on  “Mystagogy”at  johnsanidopoulos.com

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The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 33

computer crash

Dear Friends in Christ

Christ is Risen!

I hope you are all well. 

 In a previous Pustynnik Diary, I mentioned a return to pencil and books. Well, my old computer has crashed which contains all my files and data so until the computer can be fixed and the data recovered by my trusted “tech-savvy” helper, the diary will be on paper in my notebook.

I do have my laptop and smartphone and can still do a bit of the photo diary.  Please bear with me for as long as this takes. 

My love and prayers. May God bless you this day

Father Pustinnyk

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 32

the way we were

Identification 

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.

Identification

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.

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

Homily on the Sunday of the Paralytic

Christ healing the Paralytic by the Pool

JOHN 5:1-15

… When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  … Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

 

“I have no one to put me into the Pool” Let us concentrate on the first four words of this reply the man made to Our Lord’s enquiry:” Do you want to be healed?”

I have no one…” The Paralytic in today’s Gospel was not only paralyzed but he was lonely, isolated from society, an outcast because of his condition and unloved. No one cared enough to put him into the water but perhaps a few on the way into the temple offered a few coins. He was surrounded by people but he was alone:

” In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed,”

For thirty-eight years he had been on his own by the pool of Bethesda waiting for someone, anyone, to put him into the healing waters when they stirred.” I have no man to put me into the pool.” Loneliness is a terrible disease every much as disabling as being paralysed.

In these days of the pandemic coronavirus, loneliness has become even more apparent. There are many who are elderly or sick who are locked down, living on their own, not being able to see their families. Others are isolated in high rise flats with small children with no garden who also feel paralysed- frightened, unable to move.

We have today the social media which provides us with pathways to build bridges of encouragement, faith and hope. We must try to avoid becoming victims of self-pity which is an inverted form of pride. Instead, we must reach out to those who need our support, to see their need and ask if they require our help. The Holy Apostle Paul expressed the nature of the Church as members of the Body of Christ- 1 Corinthians 12:27.

As the Body, we live individually but inter-dependently of one another sharing joys and hardships, pains and sorrows and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

St Paisios wrote in his book “Epistles”: “ The trials that God allows are in proportion  to our tolerance level, but unfortunately many times the mockery and thoughtlessness of merciless people are added on and then we break down. Strong wind usually splits sensitive trees and uproots those with shallow roots, while it helps trees with deep roots to extend deeper into the ground.”

Indeed, putting down deep roots or laying firm foundations can give us a strong base to withstand the storms of life. However, we see in the giant Californian Redwoods which are 30 feet in width, often 3000 years old often soaring over 300 feet into the air another survival technique. One would think that being so tall they would have extra deep roots but instead, they have proportionately shallow roots, choosing rather lateral strength by interweaving and interlocking with their neighbouring trees. The root system is hidden from sight but effective- we may wish to compare this to networking!

Solitude, especially when it is combined with silence, can be a good teacher in order for us to learn by observing and listening more carefully. People are often lonely because they think they are self-sufficient but discover that within the defensive walls with which they surround themselves, they are empty, unfulfilled and in need of God.

As Christians we are not alone, we have spiritual resources to draw upon. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is as the Comforter, the one who stands at our side. We have been given a guardian angel at our Baptism, we have the Most Holy Theotokos and all the saints who continually support and intercede for us- we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.  Hebrews 12:1-3

But alienation from God brings separation and separation brings loneliness.

So Christ comes to the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years and He asks:

“What do you want me to do for you?” One may think that the question is unnecessary and the answer obvious. But perhaps the man earned his living by begging and was content with his situation. We are often set in our ways, preferring our small, dark self, safe, secure comfort zone rather than breaking out into the light. God takes the initiative. Christ asks us “What do you want Me to do for You? Do you want to be left alone, do you want to be independent, do you want your own will, do you want to go your own way? He had a choice and we have a choice.

We must remember that Christ Himself knew what it was to be alone- He went to a lonely place to pray, His disciples deserted Him, He said “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  Christ shows understanding and compassion but He will not force Himself on others- He asks us what we want!

The Evangelist John gives particular attention to the place where this took place. For the Evangelist wants us to understand that The Good Shepherd and the One who is  Grace and Truth comes to the Sheep Gate near the pool of “Beth hesda- translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic as the House of Grace (because of the healing that took place there) or Disgrace (since the unclean and outcast were gathered there).

The man is healed and Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”

Christ finds the man is in the Temple precincts- no longer alone, no longer paralysed, no longer an outcast but healed, restored, forgiven. But Christ tells him to sin no more because sin separates us from God and makes us once more lonely.

When Christ comes to us He asks us “What do you want me to do for you?”

We should have an answer.

By the Joyous Pustinnyk

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 30

icarus1
#Icarus 

 

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!

icarus2

Icarus

 

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