“Help Lord, I am sinking!”

 

footprints in the sand

Homily on  MATTHEW 14:22-34 — 9th Sunday of St Matthew

A Homily and a favourite Poem

 

“At that time, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they entered the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.”

The Gospel writer presents us with a vivid scene on the Lake of Gennesaret. Peter sinking beneath the waves is a picture that resonates with our own condition when we are overcome with anxiety, guilt, sin, overwork, doubt and grief. We become immersed in the conditions that surround us, unable to focus on anything else. The waves seem to be too high and we begin to sink under the waves of pressure.

Peter may have had in mind the Psalm when in his panic and despair he cries out to Christ:

Psalm 69:1-2

Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me. 

We see that our Lord, after he had dismissed the crowds goes up into the hills to commune with His Father. After prayer he goes to the Lake of Galilee but His disciples had already gone fishing and it was dark, the fourth watch of the night,3.00 am.-6.00a.m.  It is in the middle of the night when fear may overcome us. There was a strong wind that caused a storm on the waters. He walks on the water towards the disciples boat. His disciples thinks it is a ghost and they are terrified. We notice here how the storm outside, had entered into them and they cry out with fear. It is then when they were at their most vulnerable that Christ speaks His words of reassurance:

“Take heart, it is I, have no fear.”

When we find ourselves battered without and within by the storms of life then Christ will come to us bidding us to take courage and trust in Him.

 Peter immediately responds:

 “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” The “if” signals a doubt in the mind of the apostle.

One word from our Lord,“Come!” So Peter jumps out of the boat, but he takes his eyes of faith from the Lord Jesus Christ and is more concerned about the surrounding turmoil and prevailing storm and begins to sink beneath the waves. This is precisely what often happens to us. We lose focus, we are distracted, we take our eyes from Him Who is the Lord over all Creation and we are embroiled, consumed, overwhelmed by the condition(s) in which we find ourselves.

Peter cries out: “Lord, save me!” and the Saviour does just that, despite his lack of faith, extending his arm for Peter to grasp. How speedily this vision takes us to the Icon of the Resurrection in which our extends His arms and  brings Adam and Eve out from Hades. This is what Christ does for us, but we also can extend that saving “hand” of friendship, that word of comfort to others whose faith is weak, who feel lost; those that are sinking under the waves of anxiety. We see how Christ immediately comes to the rescue.

The miracle here is not that Our Lord Jesus walked upon water, but that His word and action is immediate towards His disciples! The One who made the Heavens and the Earth, the Sea and all that is therein, is Lord over all nature. He who multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 can walk upon the waters, can turn water into wine, can calm the storm, can cause a multitude of fish to be caught. The real miracle is that Christ knows our needs and responds to them immediately. He is with us always even unto the end of the age and His hand supports us and saves us now and unto eternal life.

 Lord save us!

  And when they entered the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Christ is indeed our Saviour and the Son of God 

The poem “Footsteps in the Sand “so eloquently illustrates the nature of our loving and saving Lord Jesus Christ:

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

 

Following Christ

FOLLOW CHRIST ICON

MATTHEW 4:18-23

At that time, as Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left their boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

*

 In the days before Satnav and Google, on the way to a Church wedding, I was driving my car. The friend in the car in front said: “Follow me, I know the way!”

Well it transpired that he did not know the way and did not know even the correct church where the wedding was taking place. Trying to keep up with him was so difficult, he was overtaking, driving fast, the traffic lights changed and he didn’t wait, and if that was not enough, there were road diversions complicating the journey further. In the end, knowing the priest who was taking the wedding I called him and he gave clear and concise directions to the correct Church. Knowing the way is important, following the right person is critical! 

In the Gospel for the second Sunday of St Matthew we read how Christ calls the first disciples. We see how these simple fishermen responded immediately to the call. Such a call was irresistable, courageous on their part and ultimately life changing for them. Christ does not choose the learned scholars and philosophers of His day who are wise in their own eyes but countrymen who knew what hard work involved. They possessed an appetite for common sense, a shrewd judgment, a forthright spirit and sound application to the task. These fishermen, “am ha-aretz”( people of the land) become all wise not because of their intellect but because of their will to follow and accompany Christ in His mission.  

Follow me! I recall at University having to learn the Greek verbs for the New Testament. The Greek verb akoloutheo ( to follow) occurs over 80 times in the New Testament. It is one thing to believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ, it is another to follow Him. Someone on interview, was asked what leadership skills they had? The person answered “Well I’m not sure about leading people, but I am a quick learner and a good observer.” Christ invited and called many others to follow Him, some obeyed the call, others like the rich young man could not. He has called us. It is relatively safe to believe in Christ but following Him intrudes on our time, our lifestyle and our will. 

 The problem today is that not many people know where they are going, so they follow their own inclinations, whims, passions and amusements. Our Lord knew where He was going, to the bosom of the Father and He wanted to take others with Him. He came to lead us to heaven. The world has many would be leaders but their way is confused and compromised by their ideology by materialistic values and by a wong destination. “The road to hell” is is said, “is paved with good intentions”. Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.”Only Christ knows the Way to the Father because He is the Way the Truth and the Life.

 Before Peter and Andrew, James and John could become leaders and apostles they first had to be followers and disciples.  Christ says to them “I no longer call you servants but friends.” God has called us to follow Him but like the lost sheep we offer wander off and go our own way. Without the will to follow we can become self satisfied, calling ourselves Christians in name only, doing our own thing. We become nouns rather than verbs.

“Not he who says Lord, Lord (noun) will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does ( verb) the will of my Father in heaven.”

We may not consider ourselves worthy of this calling and we may fall into despair when we fall into sin, both of which are tricks of the evil one. Was Saul the persecutor of the Christians worthy when he was called? Was Simon Peter worthy when he denied knowing Christ? It is through God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace and our repentance, that we are made worthy. God’s love is so all-searching that He chooses the weak, the misfits, the eccentrics, the poor, the outcast to do His will. At an ordination of a priest, the Bishop will cry out “axios” (worthy) and the people are invited to reply “axios”! The priest is not worthy in and of himself, no one is worthy before a Holy God but Christ releases the potential in us and equips us for the ministry He has chosen for us:

  1. Ephesians 4:11-13

11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

We do not follow Christ by our own power but with the power of the Holy Spirit. The young man I was following in my car to the wedding did not know the way but thanks be to the Father, Christ the Bridegroom is in the driving seat to bring us to the great Wedding Feast.

We are called to be members of the Body of Christ. Whether we are “casting our nets in other directions” or “mending our broken ones”, Christ wants us to follow Him. He will not abandon us because He is the good shepherd Who looks after the lost.

 

The Invitation

 

Luke 14:15-18; The Parable of the Great Supper: Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses.

 

I rang your door bell but there was no answer.

I rang the Church bell but you decided to stay in bed.

I e-mailed you but there was no response.

I texted you but you were busy.

I put it on Facebook(!) but it just provoked an argument.

I put posters up but you did not like the design.

I advertised in the local press but you only looked at the headlines.

I called you but it went to recorded message.

 

When you were a baby your God parents brought you to Church to be baptised.

When you were in love your partner brings you to Church to be married

When you die your friends and family will bring you to Church for your funeral.

When are you going to accept the invitation for yourself?

So what is missing from CH_ _CH?

 

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” — C.S. Lewis “God In The Dock” 

 

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

 

Memorial Service for the Fall of Constantinople

Constantine_XI_Palaiologos

Constantine XI Palaiologos (Gr: Κωνσταντίνος ΙΑ’ Δραγάσης Παλαιολόγος, also Dragases ), was the last reigning emperor of the Palaiologos Dynasty as well as the last of the Roman Emperors. Born in 1404 AD in Mystras, he ruled from 1449 until his death on May 29, 1453, at the Fall of Constantinople.

perivolaki1perivolaki2perivolaki3perivolaki6

The Feast by the Sunday School at Perivolaki

perivolaki11perivolaki14perivolaki17perivolaki18

Constantine was the son of Emperor Manuel II. He was trained as a soldier and in 1441 conquered the Morea Peninsula of Greece. It had long been under the Frankish principality of ‘Achaia’ Constantine was crowned Emperor January 6, 1449 AD succeeding his brother. A little less than five years later in 1453 AD he was killed during the final assaults by the Turkish Sultan, Mehmed II on Constantinople. Constantine, with some 8,000 Greeks, Venetians, and Genoese, had faced 150,000 Turkish besiegers under the Sultan, and after almost two months of heroic defense, directed by the emperor, the city and the empire fell. Constantine died fighting with the last of his men. Going back to Augustus and the ancient Roman Empire, he was the 138th and last Roman Emperor.

Orthodox in general do not consider Constantine XI a saint, though there are some who incorrectly, personally consider him so because of their love of the Byzantine (Roman) Empire. However, the last Emperor has never been recognized as a Saint due to his heretical beliefs and his compromising of the Faith in order to gain material aid from Latin lands. When the Empire was in need, he sought Latin military aid by reaffirming the heretical statements of the Council of Florence. And it is said that he defiled the Church of Agia Sophia the day/night before the Fall with a blended Divine Liturgy and Latin mass. In attempting to preserve an earthly Empire, he lost a Heavenly Kingdom. In contrast, there is Tzar Lazar of Serbia, who gave up an earthly Kingdom for the Heavenly. The Faith is always more important than earthly possessions. May our Compassionate Lord forgive him and all his transgresions. (Orthodoxwiki)

St. Ipomoni, Born as Helena Dragaš. Before becoming a nun and assuming the name Ipomoni, Helena was the mother of Constantine XI Palaiologos. She lived a monastic life for over 25 years, after entering into the habit after the death of her husband. She died 1450AD and is commemorated by the church May 29. The relics of her skull and her icon are found at the Monastery of St. Patapios, Loutraki of Korinthos, Greece.

agia ypomoniupomoni2

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

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

ascension

Sunday of the Fathers Homily 

JOHN 17:9-13

“I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are mine; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

 

If ever there was a prayer that lasted 2020 years it is this prayer. In the Gospel today we hear how in this Great Priestly Prayer to His Father our Lord reveals the goals that He set out in His life on earth and the completion of these goals.  On this Sunday after the Ascension our Lord reminds us that He is bringing before the Father all those who believe in Him, from the Holy Apostles and through them, all those who will believe in their testimonies to the end of the world. Having achieved His mission then, Christ returns to the Father. How important for us also to have goals in life which is a remedy against confusion, sloth, depression and adversity. In these days of the pandemic we need to be energised and discerning about the things of the world, what our Christian goal is, knowing the direction of our life and how to get there.

 

Ephesians 5

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

 

Throughout the Gospel passage, our Lord is concerned for His disciples. The major theme of the discourse is about relationship with the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. The key ingredients to this relationship are love, obedience and unity. Our Lord provides us with the wherewithal to withstand the ravages of the world since we are grafted into His Life. Love for one another will bind us together and will be the sign to others that we are Christ’s disciples. John 13: 35.This love is grounded in faith and in obedience: 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

The result of loving obedience will be the experience of being in a relationship with God and enjoying His peace. Discipleship is all about following and when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, He will guide us into all Truth. 

 We are in a waiting period with lock down and we must not lose heart. Times of waiting are never easy so we must persevere in faith with hope.

Romans 5:3

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.

 We have been chosen out of the corrupting power of the world ; the word Ekklesia, usually translated as Church, means those “called out.” We have been taught by Christ and are sanctified by His life giving death upon the Cross. We (disciples) are to remain in the world in order, like the Apostles, to witness and to have the opportunity to become part of that unbreakable unity with the Father and the Son John 17:11. Christ’s return to glory with the Father which He enjoyed before His incarnation heralds our return to Paradise.

In the meantime we must set our goals and know the direction we are going.

 

A young woman told her father that she wanted to marry a certain seminarian who was to be a priest in the Church. The father, a wealthy man objected:

“He may be a good man but you will be poor and he is a stranger to us, we do not know even where he comes from!”

“True father, the daughter said, but I know him and I know where he is going and I would like to go with him.”

The journey begins now with knowledge, the relationship starts today with obedience, eternal life is already present in that love which never ends.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

We have to use that knowledge in the journey that is before us like a divine road map. Putting our hand into the Hand of God, our journey will be filled with love and joy which is the antidote to fatigue and boredom. Obedience to the commands of Christ, His salvific life, his teachings, example and instructions as found in right doctrine and scripture provide us with the means of travel for this most exalted mission. We have then an aim and a mission, a purpose and a goal to be an instrument of love and a witness in His world. St Dimitri of Rostov said;” the goal of a man’s life is to strive always and in every way to be united with God…. For it is God from Whom the soul has received it’s life and it’s nature, and for Whom it must eternally live.”

On this Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical council we see expressed that affirmation of unity in true doctrine amongst the God bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council through the Nicene Creed which is the Symbol of faith.

We who believe in Christ are kept by His prayer for us unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

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

A Photo Diary of Little things — 4

Bougainvillea

 Bougainvillaea: most popular especially in Chalkidiki and the islands

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Tendrils! A photo-stroll to the most popular climbers in my suburbs and a few tearful reflections at the end as to why I lately ,often feel like a forlorn tendril …

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Cathedral Bells

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Lately, in my balcony (as sadly I currently live in a big city and have access to only a narrow balcony), and in my long strolls in our suburbs, I have become fascinated with climbers. Especially with tendrils.

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All tendrils reach out, climb over other plants to reach sunlight and twine their stems in particular directions, coiling clockwise and anti-clockwise (no one knows why). Sometimes, tendrils even use tiny grappling hooks on their stems, rather like a mountaineer’s crampons, to get a better grip on their support. 

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Hops

Some tendrils (eg. cathedral bells) have even claws at the end of them that fasten on to objects at the slightest touch; they’ll even hold on to your skin. Such is their need for support, to anchor on to supports. 

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Ivy

Other tendrils climb up steep slopes with ‘instant’ roots, sprouting out of its stems.  Yet others, I read, develop into springs, like a car suspension unit (!), to withstand the elements.

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Jasmin

Some tendrils are slow, but some are fast, like the passionflowers, coiling within about 20-23 seconds after touching. Grapevine tendrils, I am told,  are lined with special, thin-walled cells so they can sense a solid support more easily.

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Beans 🙂

Such Beauty all around me! And yet, sometimes, in so many ways, I feel like a hopeless, forlorn tendril these days, reaching out but unable to be in this tight community mode I have so enjoyed in the past. I am not sure what I miss most.

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Sweet Peas

Is it the Holy Services in the church, the Holy sacraments of which we have been deprived since our Coronavirus lockdown, especially Holy Communion? (How is it possible to celebrate Pascha without receiving Holy Communion? I am no Saint to mystically receive Our Lord in my heart as we read in the synaxaria.) Or is it the immediate fellowship of a spiritual father and brothers, as I have experienced time and again, in monastic and tightly woven parish environments, that I so terribly miss? 

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More Hop climbers

I desperately need to cling to an Elder and senior spiritual brothers. To be sure, the ultimate cling is to God. “My soul hath cleaved unto Thee” (Psalms 63:8) But I do miss obedience for all its struggles. No amount of telephone, mails and emails or digital media can offer the miracle and joy of spiritual osmosis.

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Winegrape; most common in monastery yards in Greece

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

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I have never felt more piercing in my heart these words of Our Lord in John 15, uprooted, separated, cut off, locked down, dejected, as I often, lately feel. Well, this is the closest of a Hell experience I have ever experienced in my life. A most sobering one. If after two months, I feel I can have no more, how scary such an Eternity must be. How many prayers are we to pour out for those departed ones trapped, locked down in ‘this’ Hell… How many tears are we to offer for them and our poor souls, so we do not share their destiny. May we all be saved. Your prayers

 

 

 

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!