Monastery of St. Savas the New of Kalymnos

I discovered Saint Savas and his monastery during my recent pilgrimage to Kalymnos. It is an awe-inspiring place , a place one step below heaven. Iconography beyond aesthetic, historical and religious value and the Saint is so alive! The patron saint of the island, Agios Savvas, has performed miracles and has blessed homes all over the world.

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Inside his cell

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For two episodes from his life and his special relationship with Saint Nektarios, go to my previous blog post, Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos 

 

 

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Twenty-four hours with St. Amphilochios (II)

1.Cultivate the Jesus Prayer and a time will come when your heart will leap with joy, just as it does when you are about to see a person who you love very much.

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2.Do not neglect evening prayer. Pray with eagerness like those who are going to a feast. They are awake and feel joy alone. Thus, since you are going to speak with your Bridegroom, do not listen when the Tempter tells you various things in order to hinder you, because you know there is someone who cares for you.

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3.-“Elder, how must we picture Christ?”

-“We must always bring to Christ to mind with love. We could be holding the photograph of someone in our hands, but since we do not know them, we do not love him, we are not moved. Whereas, when we pick up a photograph of our mother, our soul immediately leaps and cries out with love.

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4.A person can be raised up above the earth by two wings, one is simplicity and the other is purity of heart. You must be simple in your actions and pure in your thoughts and feelings. With a pure heart you’ll seek God and with simplicity you’ll find Him and be glad. A pure heart passes through Heavens gate with ease.

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5.Self-denial must be cultivated with discernment, otherwise we reach the point of suicide.

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6.We are on the high seas of life, sometimes there are storms and at other times calm. God’s grace does not leave us. Else, we would have sunk, if he had not held us up. 

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7.The saints always look to the other life. It is the grace of the remembrance of death.

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8.God guards us from temptation. He does not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. He allows everything for our good.

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9.When spirituality increases, even sleep will have been fought off.

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10.Prayer is grace. God gives it when zeal and humility exist.

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11.Fight the Hater of Good, who envies you, bravely suffer whatever befalls you with fortitude, patience and faith.

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12.Do not allow your soul’s enemy to wage war against you. He appears in sheep’s clothing, supposedly wanting your soul’s benefit.

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13.Trust in the Lord always and he will nourish you in time of hunger. … Spiritual bonds become unbreakable when they come across a child-like spirit, innocence and sanctity.

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14.With a good word for your neighbour, supporting him, you buy paradise.

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15.Repentance must occur, not from fear of punishment but because we have sinned before God. Sweeten your thoughts with words of consolation and hope. Warm your words with the warmth of your love towards your Bridegroom and remember His Passion, which he underwent for you, so that you would remain firm, devoted and humble. Give your whole self completely over to the protecting veil of the Panagia.

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16.Love giving hospitality, my child, for it opens the gates of Paradise. In this you also offer hospitality to angels. “Entertain strangers so that you won’t be a stranger to God.”

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17.The saints submitted to whatever God sent them, with childlike simplicity, “That’s the way You want it. Let Your will be done.”

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18.Hospitality… the greatest of virtues. It draws the grace of the Holy Spirit towards us. In every stranger’s face, my child, I see Christ himself.

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Chapel of Unknown martyrs by St. Amphilochios

19.Sorrow is pleasing to God, in as much as it doesn’t take away our courage to fight.

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20.It is necessary and beneficial for a general self-examination to take place from time to time, remembering all former sins. … Our deeds, dear sister, will not save us; God’s infinite mercy will.

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21.Leave all your concerns to the hands of God. Ask for whatever you want, like a child asking from its father. … Prayer is a gift from God. Always ask with hope.

 

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The nunnery of  Evangelismos “The Annunciation to the Mother of the Beloved One” was built in 1613 from a Cretan monk of the Monastery, named Nikiforos. It is southwest of Chora. It consists of the temple of the Evangelistria (Our Lady of the Annunciation) of the side chapel of St. Luke and from a three-floored fortified tower with the side chapel of St. Antonio. The foundation of the monastery is dated from 1936, from the monk Amphilochios Makris, a great spiritual figure. He worked hard for the foundation and the development of the nunnery. The icons in the church date back to the 15th, 16th and 17th century. The sisterhood is home to over 40 nuns who apart from praying, occupy themselves with social welfare, gardening, beekeeping and Byzantine embroidery called the”spitha” (spark). The same stitch was used to make embroidery for aristocratic Byzantine families from the time of Hosios Cristodoulos.

Spiritual Counsels and Sayings Translated by Marina Robb.

All material is copywrited to Evangelismos Monastery, Patmos.

Source: CyberDesert

Twenty-four hours with St. Amphilochios (I)

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At the nunnery of  Evangelismos “The Annunciation to the Mother of the Beloved One” in Patmos

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1.When you cultivate prayer the Tempter’s blusterings will not trouble you. Prayer diminishes his strength, he cannot do anything to us. (February 1965) .. The spiritual life has great pleasures. You fly, you leave the world , you don’t consider anything. You become children and God dwells in your heart. 

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St. Amhilochios Makris

2. The end of my life draws near I ask you to live a holy life, to walk along holy paths, so that you may help both our Church and Greece. … Your hearts are young and want to love. You must have our Christ alone in your heart. Your Bridegroom wants you to love only Him. 1/1/1968

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3.Remaining faithful to Monasticism is considered to be a martyrdom. … We must have our gaze fixed on heaven. Then nothing will shake us. …Take communion regularly, pray warmly, be patient and you will see a strong hand holding you.

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4.Christ often comes and knocks at your door and you invite him to sit in the living-room of your soul. Then, absorbed in your own business you forget the Great Visitor. He waits for you to appear and when you are too long in returning, he gets up and leaves. At other times, you are so busy that you answer him from the window. You don’t even have time to open the door.

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5.You are royalty, destined for the heavenly bridal chamber. …. Christ is near us even if we don’t see Him. Sometimes, from his great love, He gives us a slap too.

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6.We you see a person who is spiritually tired do not burden him any further, because his knees won’t be able to bear it. … A person who suffers from egotism attracts no-one. And if he does attract someone he will soon go away. When one comes across a childlike spirit, innocence and holiness the bond becomes unbreakable.

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7.Love the One, so that even wild beasts will love you. … Do you know there is an eleventh commandment not recorded in the Bible, and it says, ‘Love the trees.’ Those who do not love trees do not love Christ.

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8.True wealth, for me, is to see you in the Kingdom of Heaven. [to his spiritual children]

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9.When the flame of love exists, it consumes whatever evil approaches. … The person who shouts has no strength.

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10.The person who loves spiritually, feels prayerful, that he can be found within God and his brother. He is saddened when his brother is not advancing well and prays for his progress. Whoever has Christian love never changes.

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11.Hold the banner of Christ up high, so that you’ve always got your elder’s telephone number no matter where you are. … The Grace of the All-Holy Spirit makes a person send out rays. However, other people must have a good receiver in order to realise this. 1/1/1968

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12.Christ is the same, yesterday and today, but we have closed our eyes and look into the darkness. It is because we carry on like this that some fall in the mud and others are killed.

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13.I beseech the Lord to sanctify you, so that I may see you in Paradise. This is the dowry which I seek from the Lord for you.

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St Amphilochios’ tomb

14.For God’s grace to come during the Liturgy you must be concentrated and untroubled. 

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15.The more a person loves God, the more he loves other people. He loves them with holiness, respect and refinement, as images of God.

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16.When a person lacks inner warmth, he will be frozen and cold, even in summer.

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17.When your heart does not have Christ, it will contain either money, property or people instead. 

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18.Please put this commandment into practice. Cultivate love towards the Person of Christ to such an extent that, when you pronounce His name, tears fall from your eyes. Your heart must really burn. Then He will become your teacher. He will be your Guide, your Brother, your Father, and your Elder.

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19.Love your Bridegroom Christ with all your heart and then everyone will love you and take care of you.

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20.I desire the rebirth of Monasticism, because in my opinion, monasticism is the evzone [elite military unit] battalion of the Church.

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21.God’s protection diminishes temptation. … Innocence is greater than genius.

22.Because of widespread corruption, people cannot understand that spiritual love exists.

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St. Amphilochios cell

23.Let us look upon everyone as our superiors, however weak they may appear. Let us not be harsh, but always bear in mind that the other person also has the same destination as us. 

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24.We must have Love, even if they do us the greatest harm, we must love them. We will be able to enter Paradise only with love. 

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A Day to the Prince Islands (II)

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The Monastery of St. George Koudounas

This historic Monastery of Saint George Koudounas, on Prince’s Island outside of Constantinople, was according to tradition built by the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas in 963 AD. A miraculous icon of St. George was brought here from the Monastery of Peace, which was founded by Emperor Justin II, in Athens at that time.

The Monastery was later sacked in the Fourth Crusade. Then in 1302 the pirate Giustiniani plundered all the buildings and monasteries of the island. Not wanting their holy icon stolen by the Franks, the monks hid the icon under the earth and place the holy altar above it. The miraculous icon however was lost for many years.

Later, St. George appeared to a shepherd in a dream and told him where to find his icon. When he approached the area, he heard the ringing of bells, and having unearthed the icon, found it decorated with bells. This is the source behind the epithet “Koudouna” which means “bells”. The Monastery was later attached to Hagia Lavra in Kalavryta, and eventually to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The current church was built in 1905.

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The miracles of the Saint are many, not only towards Christians [Romans], who approached always with great reverence (in olden times there wasn’t a Christian family which had not visited Koudouna at least once a year), but towards everyone without exception, who approach his grace with faith. Thus there is a great mass of people who come from other faiths from throughout Turkey. The pilgrims number about 250,000 a year, the majority being Turks. The great iron gate of the Monastery, as we learn from its engraving in Greek and Turkish, was offered from the Muslim Rasoul Efenti, as a gift of gratitude towards the Saint for the healing of his wife.

On April 23rd, in other words the day when the Saint is honored and the Monastery celebrates, tens of thousands of pilgrims arrive, not only from Constantinople but from other cities, to venerate the Great Martyr and to seek help in their problems. Roughly all of these pilgrims are from other faiths. Many will return later to thank St. George, who heard their prayer and granted their desire, bringing the indispensable oil for his vigil lamp. You hear with passion how he healed this person’s son, how another became a mother after being barren for many years, how a third acquired a house, etc.

The Monastery also celebrates on the feast of Saint Thekla, and on this feast about 10,000 Muslims visit the Monastery seeking the prayer of Saint George.

(For the full history of this Monastery with many pictures, visit this site.)

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Muslim Vows
Some come barefoot up the hill which takes about 30 minutes to climb to the Monastery, others come with offerings of oil, candles, and sugar so that their lives may be sweet. Some do not speak as they climb up to the Monastery until they kiss the icon of St. George. They follow the services with hands lifted in the air holding lit candles. They ask priests for antidron to bring home with them for a blessing. They have great faith and respect for Orthodoxy.
On September 24 I witnessed at 6:00 AM four modern looking Turkish girls approaching the Monastery. I asked them for what purpose they came. They responded: “Faith in the Saint brought us here. It doesn’t matter that we are Muslims. We prayed that he would help us. We have heard so much about the Monastery.”
Oral came from Smyrna in order to venerate the Saint with her vow. She brought three bottles of oil. When I asked why she, as a Muslim woman among the thousands, visit the Orthodox Monastery, she responded: “It is not forbidden by anyone for us to believe in Saint George. Religions have one common agreement, the one and only God. We could be hiding within us a christian.”
Of the many interviews I conducted that day with Muslims, the responses were basically the same.
A different answer was given by Antil however. He said: “Life in Turkey is difficult. The people need something to give them strength. They have turned to religion. They have been bored by everything so they seek help elsewhere. Why not Saint George?”
And one Turkish newspaper reported: “Saint George has distributed hope to the suffering.”
Testimonies of Monks From the Monastery
Hieromonk Ephraim of Xenophontos, who has lived for three years at “Koudouna”, is astonished with the faith of the thousands of Muslims who visit the monastery. “These people live with their heart”, he affirms, “Because faith is the sight and the strength of the heart, for this reason they can and they do experience our Saints.”
Monk Kallinikos of Xenophontos, who serves as a priest, relates: “We are astonished with that which occurs here. Many times we see people who find the Lord with the faith of the Roman centurion.” To our question if the Saint responds to the supplications of the thousands of pilgrims, he replied: “During my three years here, we ourselves are witnesses of miracles, such as the healing of paralytics, mutes, and the giving birth to children.”
We asked the monks at St. George to comment about their stay in Turkey, and they told us: “All of their behavior is perfect. From the highest ruler, to the lowest, they treat us with such respect that many times we wonder which would be better, to live in Christian Greece or Muslim Turkey. We should tell you that we go everywhere with the monastic dress and our experiences have always been positive.
Thus, St. George has become a place of worship for thousands of atheists, Christians, Jews, and especially Muslims, who with every means come to the island and bring their tamata (vows), and place them before the Saint, as they place their hopes in him. And the Saint shows that he does not judge and ‘imparts healing’ to every faithful person.”

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For more:

Eis Tin Polin (1) 

A Day to the Prince Islands (I)

 

 

 

Eis Tin Polin

 

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Pilgrimage to Constantinople 

Mosaïques de l'entrée sud-ouest de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)

The Hidden and the Forbidden City

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Constantinople, the glittering jewel of Asia Minor and the gateway between two continents! It sits astride on the most historic water channel in the world, the Dardanelles. Constantinople has been host to three empires: The Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. Invaded, besieged and conquered by countless armies, Constantinople today, remains a city of sparkling domes and minarets and beautiful palaces. Our pilgrimage brought us directly to the heart of Orthodoxy and the cradle of the Byzantine civilization. More importantly, thanks to our tour guide, we bore witness to its solemn existence, spiritual strength and religious devotion by visiting the hidden and forbidden City.

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With the grace of God, a total of fifty Orthodox Christians, along with a hieromonk from the Monastery of Saint Arsenios (Vatopedi, Chalkidiki) and the little city hermit 🙂 went on a Pilgrimage to Constantinople during the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was truly a moving and inspirational trip. Below you will find a sample of pictures capturing the trip.

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Photographs courtesy of Anastasia Avramidou, the artist of our group

The Hidden and Forbidden City to be continued …