All these three are part of my life! Let me explain …
“Innumerable business transactions, consideration of many requests and petitions from every corner of … , and other cares, filled her day, sometimes bringing her to a state of complete exhaustion.”
This excerpt is from St Elizabeth the Grand Duchess and New Martyr‘s life but it could easily have written about me in the last couple of weeks, since my days have lately been so filled with numerous administrative, academic duties and ‘interruptions’ – constant– phone calls, texts, mail, e-mail — all at the same time! — to the point of complete exhaustion. In particular, my duties for the founding of a new monastery have proven so far a most demanding (and rewarding) experience. But my similarities to the Saint and major role model for me of course stop short here …
I do apologise for not being able to write as much as I would like in this blog, for failing to always keep ‘on schedule’. I am sorry. It is just that I hardly have a spare moment any more. It also has to do with English not being my mother tongue. Sometimes I have to rewrite a paragraph so many times! I write something as best as I can and yet I am never sure whether what I really wanted to communicate to you, not so much semantically, as emotionally, is what is really communicated. Most likely I shall never know. I sincerely hope I have never offended anybody here or sounded — God forbid! — sarcastic, harsh, cruel, or indifferent.
On a different note, tomorrow, God Willing, I am leaving on a Pilgrimage to Italy, Bari, for St. Nicholas!!
Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy where most of the relics of St. Nicholas are kept today.
San Nicola, Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy, the crypt, the grotto
I am so excited and so much looking forward to going on this pilgrimage and ‘meeting’ St. Nikolaos! My feelings can only be expressed with the ‘dancing’ of the chandeliers (polyeleoi in Greek) which follows in Psalm 135 (Arabic)!
The Apolytikion or Troparion (Hymn) of Saint Nicholas
An example of the Faith and a life of humility,
as a teacher of abstinence
you did inspire and lead your flock
and through your truthfulness of your deeds
were exalted by greatness through your humility
uplifting all and by poverty gaining wealth.
Father and hierarch Nicholas intercede
with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
or, in literal translation:
As a canon of faith and an icon (image) of meekness,
(and) of self-control (abstinence) a teacher,
the truth of your deeds has shown you to your flock;
wherefore you acquired through humility the high things (greatness),
through poverty riches
Father hierarch Nicholas,
intercede with Christ the God
that our souls may be saved.
I have always wanted to ‘meet’ this Spiritual Giant, the Defender of Orthodoxy, Wonderworker, Holy Hierarch, and Bishop of Myra, especially ever since I found out that this icon (image) of meekness and teacher of self-control, ‘abstinence’ literally got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face at the Council of Nicea! 😃
“In AD 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the very first ecumenical council. More than 300 bishops came from all over the Christian world to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity. It was one of the early church’s most intense theological questions. Arius, from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. Arius forcefully argued his position at length. The bishops listened respectfully.
As Arius vigorously continued, Nicholas became more and more agitated. Finally, he could no longer bear what he believed was essential being attacked. The outraged Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face! The bishops were shocked. It was unbelievable that a bishop would lose control and be so hotheaded in such a solemn assembly. They brought Nicholas to Constantine. Constantine said even though it was illegal for anyone to strike another in his presence, in this case, the bishops themselves must determine the punishment.
The bishops stripped Nicholas of his bishop’s garments, chained him, and threw him into jail. That would keep Nicholas away from the meeting. When the Council ended a final decision would be made about his future.
Nicholas was ashamed and prayed for forgiveness, though he did not waver in his belief. During the night, Jesus and Mary his Mother, appeared,* asking, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” Nicholas replied. Jesus then gave the Book of the Gospels to Nicholas. Mary gave him an omophorion, so Nicholas would again be dressed as a bishop. Now at peace, Nicholas studied the Scriptures for the rest of the night.
When the jailer came in the morning, he found the chains loose on the floor and Nicholas dressed in bishop’s robes, quietly reading the Scriptures. When Constantine was told of this, the emperor asked that Nicholas be freed. Nicholas was then fully reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.
The Council of Nicaea agreed with Nicholas’ views, deciding the question against Arius. The work of the Council produced the Nicene Creed which to this day many Christians repeat weekly when they stand to say what they believe.
* Other versions of the story have Jesus and Mary with Nicholas appearing in a dream to Constantine or, even, to all the bishops. In the dream, they give the Book of the Gospels and an omophorion to Nicholas, convincing Constantine and the bishops that Nicholas should be reinstated as Bishop of Myra.” [Bishop Nicholas Loses His Cool (At The Council of Nicaea)]