Bearing our Three Crosses


Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) What does it mean to take up our cross daily? This is a question that St. Theophan the Recluse addressed in a series of homilies in 1885.

First, let’s examine what is meant by the Cross. St. Theophan says the following:

The Lord accomplished our salvation by His death on the Cross; on the Cross He tore up the handwriting of our sins; through the Cross He brought upon us grace-filled gifts and all heavenly blessings.”

But there is more, as the above is Christ’s Cross, and we must take up our personal cross. St. Theophan says:

When the personal cross of each of us is united with Christ’s Cross, the power and effect of the latter is transferred to us and becomes, as it were, a conduit through which “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17)  is poured forth upon us from the Cross of Christ.

The message is clear that there is more to our salvation than just believing in Christ, His Incarnation, His Crucifixion and Resurrection. In addition to His Cross, our personal cross is equally essential for our salvation.  

But, what is our personal cross? Saint Theophan outlines three kinds.  One is outward, another is inward and a third is spiritual.

1. The outward cross involves the trials and tribulations of our life. St. Theophan describes them as follows:

These are sorrows, misfortunes, the loss of loved ones, failures at work, every sort of deprivation and loss, family troubles, adversities related to outward circumstances, insults, offenses, wrongful accusations, and, in general, our earthly lot… Neither eminence, nor riches, nor glory, not any kind of earthly greatness will deliver one from them.

He makes the important point that we must make use of these difficulties in life in accordance with God’s intention for our salvation. So, why does God allow us these difficulties in life? Saint Theophan says he gave them to us “so that we would live on earth, not as someone in his own land, but as a stranger and a foreigner in a foreign land.” As foreigners, we are to seek our return to His kingdom. To understand this we must refresh our understanding of the story of Adam and Eve told in Genesis, and how they were originally living in Paradise in union with God. But they disobeyed Him and suffered the consequences of death and sorrow and sickness, and were ousted and banned from Paradise. This is our outward cross to bear, the difficulties of a mortal life outside of Paradise. And how are we to bear them?  St. Theophan tells us to “endure them and don’t be annoyed…bear your lot with equanimity.”

Remember, these difficulties encountered in life are similar for all of us. We are all subject to misfortune and sorrow. God allows them for our benefit.  St. Theophan tells us,

The Lord wants to wash away some sin, or to lead us away from a sinful deed, or to cover up a greater sorrow with a smaller one, or to give us an occasion for patience and for demonstrating faithfulness to the Lord, so as to show forth the glory of His mercy on us later… If you don’t clearly see precisely what God wanted to give you through sorrow that has overwhelmed you, raise up in your heart  the general, non-speculative belief that everything that comes from the Lord is for our good, and give a shove to your disturbed soul: this is what is pleasing to God. Endure! He whom punishes is like a son to Him!

Enduring your sorrows with faith are what it means to bear your personal cross. Enduring with the love of God, giving thanks for all He gives us, you are bearing your cross in a way that will bring salvation.  Saint Theophan says,

“Arouse gratitude within yourself, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, repent, and correct your life.” 

2. The second kind of cross is inward. This is the struggle against the passions. Saint Paul says, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:14). Saint Theophan says,

There is a cross upon which these passions and lusts are crucified. To crucify the passions means to weaken them, suppress them, and uproot them… When someone is fighting against the passions, sometimes it seems as if his hands were nailed, as if he is wearing a crown of thorns on his head, as if his living heart is pierced.

The culprit is self love, advises Saint Theophan. He writes,

Anger burns, envy dries one up, lust enfeebles one, miserliness does not let one eat or sleep, and offended pride murderously eats away at one’s heart… Everyone has them. As soon as there is self love, there are all the passions, for this is the mother of the passions…

So what is one to do?  Saint Theophan says,

One has only to turn the knife around and, instead of satisfying the passions, to strike oneself with it, to strike the passions with it, beginning the fight against them and contradicting them in everything… One must say to every passionate person: “You’re perishing on the cross of passions. Destroy that cross and set up another: the cross of the fight against it. And you’ll be crucified on it unto salvation!”…. go courageously to the cross of self-crucifixion, through the crucifixion and uprooting of the passions and lusts. Let us turn away from self-pity and become inflamed with zeal for self-accusation… the Cross is the tree of life.

3. The third cross is the devotion to the will of God. It is not enough to crucify the passions. This is only preparatory for this step which involves our obedience to God’s will. We are now ready to offer ourselves up as a sacrifice to God. We follow Christ’s example in the Garden of Gethsemane before His Crucifixion. Christ prayed that He be spared, but was resolute in saying, “Nonetheless not as I will, but as Thou will” (Mark 26:39). CHrist as fully man bound his will with that of God. It is as Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lies in me” (Gal 2:20). Saint Theophan says this is the “height of Christian perfection… It is the beginning of he future state after the resurrection, when God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). Those who are perfect live and act through God alone.”

Saint Theophan further says,

Many have the idea that Christianity is the same as other kinds of life, but this is not so. It begins with repentance, ripens through the fight against passions, and is perfected when  the pure, inner man, immersed in God, is crucified with Christ… If Christians do have pleasures they are purely incidental. The most distinguishing characteristics of their existence are sufferings and sickness––inward and outward, voluntary and involuntary. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom, and into that which is within it.….If you want good for yourself, get rid of pleasures and enter on the path of the cross of repentance, burn up in the fire of self-crucifixion, be tempered in tears of heartfelt contrition––and you’ll become gold, or sliver, or a precious stone, and in due time you’ll be taken by the Heavenly Householder as an adornment for His most bright and most peaceful mansions.

Reference: Three Homilies of the Bearing of the Cross by Saint Theophan the Recluse in The Orthodox Word, No. 285, 2012, pp 187-202.


Two Contemporary Miracles of the Holy Cross


holy cross2

Two True Stories of Witchcraft, Demons and the Power of the Holy Cross in Congo, Africa 

1. A Miracle of the Holy Cross in Congo 
Amazing things are happening in Congo, said Father Basil Muamba to a large audience in the lecture hall of Kananga Mission. They are authentic and leave one speechless!
Fr. Basil recounted:
“In 1996 I made a missionary trip to Dimbelenge, accompanied by a boy who was a chanter in the Center of the Mission of Kananga, and another boy who came with us on the road.
When we arrived we met the old faithful who I had baptized last year and some were waiting to be baptized now. They gave us a house to spend our days while we were living near them.
Among those awaiting baptism, there was a man who in a magical way was able to bring down lightning, and he had already killed many people.
The traditional chief of the village had punished him by forbidding him to drink from the local river Mukamba.
I baptized all of those who waited for baptism and among them was the magician.
In the evening I kneaded and left the prosphoron (offering bread) for the Divine Liturgy the next day. All three of us then went to sleep.
At around 4 o’clock in the morning a strong wind began to blow, which made the entire house shake. I jumped from the bed and heard the two children who escorted me crying and shouting:
‘Father, we are dying, come and rescue us!’
I heard the kids, but I could not move to get to the children’s room. I realized I was alive because I could feel my head. But my entire body was paralyzed.
I had with me a Cross that the late Fr. Chariton gave me once in Tsikamva. In the evening I had placed it on the table. I thought of getting it and praying. But I could not reach out my hand.
The children continued to cry louder. With difficulty I brought my hand on my leg, I did the sign of the cross, and realized that I could now move.
I sat on the bed with my legs hanging, but the wind was throwing me from one wall to another room. With difficulty, knocking back and forth, I got out of the room and went to the porch where I saw my bike thrown upside down on the edge of the porch, and immediately went to the children’s room.
I went inside, grabbed them by the hand, their clothes were torn leaving them almost naked, and they vomited and had diarrhea. It was about 6 o’clock in the morning.
In the courtyard of the house was a night guardian who resides with his entire family in a house on the same plot. He had heard what was happening in our house, but could not approach us to help. I took the kids outside and told them to stay on the porch and I reentered the house.
I started to call the name of the security guard. At one point, he arrived. ‘You do not understand anything that was happening?’ I asked. ‘Do you perhaps understand what happened all morning?’
‘I heard everything’, he told me, ‘but I did not have the strength to come near to you.’
I begged him to go and call some of my relatives, who lived in the area, as well as the faithful. In the morning I had to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Many of the faithful came and told me:
‘All that happened in the night happened because you baptized yesterday the leader of the thunderers magicians who was able to throw lightning. His friends (other magicians) thought: We will agitate and put through a trial now the one who baptized our leader.’
I stepped out for a moment from the space in which I was about to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Some of the faithful and a few unbaptized villagers said to me:
‘Father, they wanted to kill you (like they did the others), but they were unable to. We also believe that your God is mighty, true. We ask you, therefore, to baptize all of us.’
I baptized them and the leader of the ‘thunderers’ was strengthened even more, that our God is the true God.
I finished the trip and returned to Kananga.
When I was to make my next trip, the Bishop gave me a Cross, saying: ‘When you arrive, throw this Cross in the river of the area, and you will tell the faithful to swim, find and return to you the Cross.’
I threw the Cross. Many of the faithful fell into the river to find it. The one who found it and returned it to me was the leader of the ‘thunderers’ who had come to celebrate at the Center of the Mission.
I presented to the Bishop the faithful one who retrieved the Cross and the Bishop gave him a gift.

He had the habit of walking barefoot, but now began to wear shoes. He also began drinking water from the river that was forbidden to him.”


2. A Miracle of the Holy Cross in Congo  
At the Monastery of Saint Nektarios (Kolwezi, Congo), among the girls in the boarding school, there were added two more a few months ago – Despoina who is 11 years old and by exception a boy named Angelo who is 6. These children have a history.
The Sisters of the Monastery found these children abandoned in the streets. They brought them to the Monastery and alerted the police to find their parents. Eventually they learned their mother was a witch. She had killed their siblings and initiated them in magic and abandoned them. In this way they would be able to make their “bread” in life.
With the blessing of Fr. Meletios Mandelides, the head of the mission, they were baptized. Since then they have had the strength and enlightenment from God to tell Abbess Thekla what magic they did and how many people they had killed.
They told her that with magic they killed people, took their blood, and placed it on a sewing needle. They would hang this on themselves and at night they would fly kilometers away to do their magic and kill other people.
When the Abbess asked if the demons still bother them, they said:
“They come to get us. They pull at us to cut off the Cross we wear around our neck. When we do the sign of the cross, they disappear. One time magicians came and pleaded with us to follow them, but they were unable to take us with them.”
As to why this is so is easy to understand, since the demons fear Baptism, the Cross and Holy Water which the children drink every morning.
These children, Abbess Thekla told me, have a strong character which is why they have them eat once a day. Every morning they drink Holy Water, and when there is a Divine Liturgy they Commune of the Holy Mysteries.
Source: Αληθινές Ιστορίες μαγείας (True Stories of Witchcraft), Εκδόσεις “Ορθόδοξος Κυψέλη”, Θεσσαλονίκη. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Orthodox mission in Rwanda

The Cross-Baptism

abbess thaisia

Excerpt from the Autobiography by Abbess Thaisia:

“… I fell asleep.

I saw myself entering a church or chapel (I do not know which) of modest size, from the south side. In the middle, as if facing the altar, there were standing three figures, all of the same size, clothed the sake, and alike in everything. I was at a loss to name them. They looked like human beings, but their heads were surrounded by something like a mist. I could not see them clearly. Besides me and them, nobody else was there. The church was empty. I became curious about these beings. Rather boldly, I began to approach them, first from one side, then from the other, trying to find out who they were. When I drew near to their right, the one standing there asked me, “What convent is this?” I replied, “The Convent of the Entrance into the Temple”. He asked me again, “How long have you lived here?” I answered, “Three years.” Then he said, “You have lived three years in this convent already, and still you do not know its name.” I began to argue, saying that I well knew the name of my convent. “It is the Convent of the Entrance into the Temple.” Then he beckoned me to come nearer, and went on, “If you do not know the name of your convent, I will tell you. It is the Convent of the Cross-Baptism.” At this moment I saw his head. It was like the head of our Saviour, as it is seen in the icons. With His left hand He was holding an enormous wooden Cross, as if He was leaning against it, and with His right Hand He lightly touched my shoulder. Tapping it gently, He said, “I tell you, it is the Convent of the Cross-Baptism. Do you not understand? Then I will explain it to you. Just as a Christian child is baptised through the water and the Spirit, and is not able to become a Christian otherwise, so a child-monk must be baptised through the Cross. Otherwise he cannot become a monk. Do you understand me now?” While He was speaking, I recognised Him as Christ, and full of joy and tender feeling, I exclaimed, “Truly, O my Lord, I do understand that I have to endure everything for the sake of Thy Cross.” I awoke with the same feeling of joy and tender feeling. My shoulder seemed to still feel the gentle tapping of His Hand. I was quite renewed  spiritually, and all my dark mood vanished as though it had never been there at all”

The Sign of the Son of Man


Hubble Telescope image in deepest space

“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens” (St. Matthew 24:30). 

What kind of sign will the sign of the Son of Man be, which once had been shown briefly? That is the cross, more brighter than the sun, which manifested itself over Jerusalem before the coming of an earlier personification of the Antichrist by the name of Julian the Apostate. And in lieu of every homily concerning this miraculous sign, it is worthwhile to quote here the letter of St. Cyril of Jerusalem written to Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great and predecessor of Julian the Apostate. A portion of his letter reads, “For in these very days of the holy feast of Pentecost on the Nones of May, about the third hour, a gigantic cross formed of light appeared in the sky above holy Golgotha stretching out as far as the holy Mount of Olives. It was not seen by just one or two but was most clearly displayed before the whole population of the city. Nor did it, as one might have supposed, pass away quickly like something imagined but was visible to sight above the earth for some hours, while it sparkled with a light above the sun’s rays. Of a surety, it would have been overcome and hidden by them, had it not exhibited to those who saw it a brilliance more powerful than the sun, so that the whole population of the city made a sudden concerted rush into the Martyry, [the church] seized by a fear that mingled with joy at the heavenly vision. They poured in, young and old, men and women of every age, not only Christians but pagans from elsewhere sojourning in Jerusalem, all of them as with one mouth raised a hymn of praise to the worker of wonders, Christ Jesus our Lord, the Only-begotten Son of God and indeed attested to through experience, came to discern that the honorable [pious] Christian teaching is to be found not only in “persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power” (I Corinthians 2:4), and not only preached by man but, witnessed by God from Heaven. “Announced originally through the Lord, it was confirmed for us by those who had heard. God added His testimony by signs, wonders, and various acts of power” (Hebrews 2:3-4). We consider it our obligation not to remain silent about this Heavenly vision, but through this letter, hasten to inform Your God-glorified and Pious One.” 

O my brethren, everything is possible with God: both, to reveal the created to man and to create the uncreated. But most importantly for us is that He wants to redeem our souls from sin and death and to give us life eternal. Let us pray to Him for this day and night.

O Lord Almighty, To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič , March 19


Three Contemporary Miracles of the Holy Cross

holy cross1
1. The Cross of a Prosecutor

In a termination hearing, one of the last big trials, the Prosecutor Liberis Papandreou told me the following, when he noticed a cross around my neck. He also showed me a cross that he wore around his neck and told me the following:

“This cross saved my life. Without this I would have been dead in the Winter of 1943. It was the period when anyone who fell into the hands of the Germans and brought to the torturers, on the road Merlin, did not leave except to go to the cemetery.

During this time I also was arrested. I was accused by a senior official of the Municipality of Piraeus – a German organization – and a Mayor of a Settlement of Piraeus as a General Prosecutor of the Communists, because these two men I had arrested for the abuse of food, which was intended for the hungry. My refusal, in which I denied any “blame”, infuriated my investigators.

For this reason I was brought to be tortured. On the third day of my martyrdom I was lead into a spacious room. This was hell on earth. Inside paraded five giant torturers, each of which exhausted all his powers upon me. Slowly I started to feel that soon I would be dead there.

After the huge torturers, I was taken by the investigator himself. In a furious moment he took me with both hands by the throat and began to squeeze. I felt that I would die of asphyxiation. He used all his power and I was freed from his hands. Immediately I tore my shirt for my chest to breathe. I had not even thought about what I did. At the same time I noticed my torturer become pale. He turned white, more white than the wall of the room. He tried to lift his hands but could not succeed.

He then began to cry… Yes, crying like a frightened baby! He then came near me, leaned on my chest and kissed this here cross! I confess that I could not believe what I saw with my eyes.

After a little while he called out to be brought a glass of water. With this he washed, with his own hands, which now could move, my wounds, and after he sat me on a chair to recover. He then left to return to several colleagues, to whom he recounted the following:

‘Once this man opened his chest, lightning flashed before my eyes from this tiny cross. This flash formed a fiery “nein” [German for “no”]. Now that I’ve recovered, gentlemen, I can say that God is close to the faithful.’

Then he returned to me and said:

‘I would ask you to offer this cross to me to protect me from this unjust crisis. Not from death, because I do not fear it. But I’m not worthy, I do not believe in God like you. Because if I believed…’ and he stopped short the sentence.

So, my beloved one, it saved me from certain death thanks to my faith,” said the Prosecutor Liberis Papandreou.

From Ν. Καπιτσόγλου, “Θαύματα που γίνονται σήμερα”, περιοδ. Κιβωτός, αριθ. 21/ Σεπτέμβριος 1953, σελ. 347.

2. The Cross of Preveli Monastery

This miraculous relic constitutes the “Palladium” of the Monastery and is associated with many miracles especially related with eye diseases. It’s a big silver cross (Dim. 0.56 x 0.25) with wider points at the ends and protruded decorative buttons and tokens in a wire working process. The Baptism of Jesus Christ is shown from one side. The Father on the upper part and the Angels beside the points of the cross. On the other side the crucifixion are the symbols of four Evangelists. A big crystal is attached to the handle of the cross and in the perimeter of the cyclical base the donation inscription appears: “The Fatigue And Hard Work Of Abbot Ephraim, Whom The Lord Saved From Hell Fire”. The cross demonstrates the level of folklore silversmiths in Crete had during the second half of 18th century, when the active and energetic Abbot Ephraim Prevelis lived. The cross is kept in a shrine in the main church of the Monastery.

The Cross was carried in the front line of every battle thus greatly encouraging the fighters. In 1823, in the unequal battle against the Turks at Amourgeles, in Monofatsiou province, the Holy Symbol was lost. The Cross was found at the end of 1823 in the hands of Genoese sailors, who had purchased it in Heraklion. According to the legend, they returned the Cross to the Monastery when their ship simply stopped in the water, in a a quite mysterious way, while sailing in the Libyan Sea near the Monastery of Preveli, and was able to proceed only after the precious relic was given back. In 1941, German officers removed the Cross from the Monastery and attempted to send it to Germany. The airplane though which would transfer the Holy Symbol away could not take off. They put the Cross in another airplane without result, the second airplane could not start. They attributed this event to the Holy Symbol, so a few days after the looting, the Cross was back in its position. It was also September 13th, the eve of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the feast day of the Monastery.


3. The Hodja Who Became A Christian

According to reliable sources, a well-known Hodja of Egypt with his family abandoned Islam and were baptized Christians. As he says, it was because of a miracle.

The former Hodja, now a Christian convert, said that his daughter was suffering from an incurable disease. They went to every hospital and saw many doctors where they lived in Egypt, and even travelled abroad. They would recommend treatment, but did not have much hope. Indeed they would inform the desperate father to take his daughter home since there really was no treatment. The Hodja prayed daily to Allah for help.

A close friend saw the father’s grief, and offered to put a cross on the pillow of his daughter. On hearing this proposal, the father responded: “It is not possible for me to do something like that…, I will not sell my faith.” The idea however began to occupy his thoughts. Without telling anyone, he bought a cross and placed it on the pillow of his daughter. The days passed and his daughter entered a comatose state, losing all consciousness. The whole family and the people of the area served by the former Hodja waited for her death. The desperate father day and night sat next to her, crying. Inside, as he confesses now, there was a hope that something would happen.

One evening as the depressed father held the hand of his daughter, he saw the cross that was on the pillow to emit a bright light which spread all over the bed. Initially he thought that it was a dream or something wrong with his mind because of his sadness. However, the light he saw was obvious. Suddenly he saw his daughter getting up from bed and saying: ‘Dad, I am hungry, bring me something to eat.” The Hodja could not understand what had happened. He went to the kitchen overjoyed. The voices roused his wife and the neighborhood. Soon the house was crowded. He told and re-told what happened. He spoke about the miracle of the cross. He even phoned his friend who had proposed to put the cross on the pillow of the daughter and thanked him.

Neighbors and friends tried to ascribe the miracle to Saint George, who is accepted by Muslims. But he knew the power of the cross. He experienced the miracle. The daughter no longer had anything and physicians aware of the situation did not believe their eyes when they saw that the new tests did not show anything. A few days after the miracle the former Hodja had made a decision. He told his wife he would become a Christian. She initially was against this and thought of the persecution that will follow the entire family by Muslims. “They will kill us” she said. But he was already on his way. He notified her that they leave permanently from Egypt. “We will be baptized and live in another country.” So it happened.

However, the news of his entering the Church of Christ, was widely circulated in the city he served, and to Muslim clergy. Today, the former Hodja and now Christian convert studies theology. For Muslims today, he and his family are outlaws. This is why we cannot publish more data.


Source: mystagogy Translations by John Sanidopoulos

Self Examination at the Heart of Lent


Reflections on the sin of pride by St John Cassian


By the following indications, then, that carnal pride of which we have spoken is made manifest.

First of all, a person’s talking will be loud and his silence bitter;

his joy will be marked by noisy and excessive laughter, his seriousness by irrational sadness;

his replies by rancor, his speech by glibness,

and his words will burst out helter- skelter for a heed-less heart.

He will be devoid of patience, without love,

quick to inflict abuse, slow to accept it,

reluctant to obey except when his desire and will anticipate the matter,

implacable in receiving exhortations, weak in restraining his own will,

very unyielding when submitting to others,

 constantly fighting on behalf of his own opinions

but never acquiescing or giving in to those of others.

And so, having become unreceptive to salutary advice,

he relies on his own judgement in every respect

rather than on that of the elders.” (The Institutes, pp. 271-272)