against false union

2014-05-26 20.28.46

 

St. Mark of Ephesus

“These people admit with the Latins that the Holy Spirit proceeds and derives His existence from the Son. Yet, with us, they say the Spirit proceeds from the Father.

The Latins imagine that this addition to the Creed is lawful and just, but we will not so much as pronounce it. They state that unleavened bread is the body of Christ, but we dare not communicate it. Is this not sufficient to exhibit that they came to the Latin council not to investigate the truth, which they once possessed and then betrayed, but simply to earn some gold and attain a false union?

Behold, they read two Creeds as they did before. They perform two different liturgies – one on leavened and the other on unleavened bread. They perform two baptisms – one by triple immersion and the other by aspersion; one with Holy Chrism and the other without it. All our Orthodox customs are different from those of the Latins, including our fasts, Church rites, icons, and many other things.

What sort of union is this then, when it has no external sign? How could they come together, each retaining his own?”

 

+ St. Mark of Ephesus

Newly Canonized Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia {December 2}

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If you follow my facebook updates, you may have seen my post about the Ecumenical Patriarchate canonizing two new elders into sainthood last week.  One is Elder Meletios of Lardos, Rhodes, who will be celebrated on February 12 and also Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia whose feastday is celebrated today!

I cried when I heard this news!  Unfortunately, I do not know much about Elder Meletios (though I am now researching his life and writings), Elder Porphyrios has been one of my favorites for a long time.  His book, Wounded by Love, had such an impact on my life, especially in the area of child rearing.   This really is a historic moment in Church history.  In my lifetime, the only canonization I can recall was of St. Savvas of Kalymnos.  My mother’s side of the family is from Kalymnos, and I remember my great Yiayia, who had confessed to St. Savva while still living on the island of Kalymnos, showing me a photograph of him and telling me that “one day he will be a saint of our Church”.  In 1992, St. Savva of Kalymnos was canonized.  Of course, in hindsight I wish I paid much more attention to what was going on and to the many things my Yiayia tried teaching me in general about the Faith but I was (even more) concerned with worldly matters back then.   Many times, I think back and wish I would have been more in tune spiritually, perhaps I could have visited some of those holy elders and received their blessings.  In the future, I believe that is how many of us from our generation will feel about the Elder Ephraim in Arizona.  DH and I say all the time that we need to try and visit St. Anthony’s to receive his blessing and ask for his intercessions as often as possible now that we can because we will surely regret it in the future if we do not!

[Read more…]

through His strength, i am fearless.

through His strength, i am fearless.

it’s been a roller coaster couple of months for me. it all started about three months ago with a phone call from my doctor’s office saying they found something near my breastbone on a recent chest x-ray. the doctor ordered it because of a persistent cough i’ve had and the occasional feeling that something was stuck in my throat, causing difficulty in swallowing.

naturally, my thoughts turn toward the worst. every time you turn around someone else has some type of cancer or disease, it seems like that’s all you hear nowadays. i believe our diets and the harmful additives in the foods we eat are one of the main causes of this.

last year, a dear friend of mine from Chicago went to venerate the relics of the Precious Cross that were brought to the US from Greece. These particular relics are known for having countless miracles worked through them. the priest who brought them over suggested people bring tshirts or blankets to bless over them. my friend did this and was kind enough to bless us with a tiny receiving blanket that was placed on the relics. i had started to sleep with the blanket on my chest and took it with me and laid it on top of me during my ct scan.

a long, drawn out two days later, they called with the results. there was definitely a soft tissue mass but it was not near my breastbone. they now thought it was somehow related to my esophagus. this relieved me a little bit. i had been praying ceaselessly for the intercessions of the Theotokos and Sts. Panteleimon and Nektarios and felt at peace knowing they, along with so many other people were praying for me. i never, ever underestimate the power of prayer… deep down, i know that it will be ok. i do. but at the same time, i pray for God’s will, whatever that might be. i know and believe that all things are done for the salvation of our souls and though, i pray that this will be nothing, i want it to be of His will, not my own.

whenever doubt tries to poke it’s ugly head back into my thoughts, i fight back with the Jesus prayer. and you know what? because of His strength, i am fearless. only through His strength.

it’s common for greeks, and other orthodox cultures, to make tama’s when praying for something. so, i made a tama to recite the agni parthene every day. it’s something that i’ve wanted to memorize for a long time now but never made the effort. that hymn is beautiful beyond words. it also felt appropriate since it was written by St. Nektarios. i always find comfort in the promises of God and His saints, so when i read this quote (last paragraph below) by St. Nektarios in the back of a little book called, Unrivaled Protectress, i found comfort yet again.

“When you read my hymns to our Lady, the Theotokos, raise your mind and heart unto Her, the most-compassionate Mother of the Lord, and you will obtain Her swift help and aid.” -St. Nektarios

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the next step was to order an esophagram, which confirmed there was something there causing blockage when I swallow. only they weren’t sure if it was actually in my esophagus or on the outside somewhere and putting pressure on it. so then, they ordered an endoscopy. this is when i started getting nervous again. just the thought that there is really something there, is surreal. and of course, as much as i warn others never to read webmd, i caught myself googling symptoms. esophageal cancer was the most common thing that pulled up. this is why i warn people of this, everyone is dying according to webmd. :/

i was scheduled on new year’s eve, but due to a nasty flu had to reschedule. this time they pushed me all the way into february. february 11. i hung up feeling so down at having to wait over an entire month to even have the test done, let alone get the results. i wanted to cry but told myself i had to have faith. God probably just wanted to drag this on for as long as possible because i’ve been praying harder than i have in a long time… He probably figures now that He has my full attention, He’ll try and keep it that way for awhile.

after i hung up, i walked over to the calendar and flipped to february. i always like to see what saints are being celebrated, especially when we have important appointments, etc. i read that st. blaise (Vlasios in greek) of sebaste is celebrated on february 11. st. Blaise of sebaste? why did that name sound familiar?

now, a couple of weeks before all of this happened, my mother-in-law was telling me that someone had told her there was a saint who was known to help with allergies but she couldn’t remember his name. i told her i had a little booklet at home with the names of a bunch of different saints who interceded for all sorts of uncommon issues and that i would check to see if his name was listed there. i looked through it later that night, but there was nothing for allergies.

the name st. blaise kept running through my mind, so i grabbed the little booklet from off of the end table where i had left it that day and began to thumb through it. sure enough, there he was. st. blaise of sebaste commemorated february 11. known to be an intercessor for throat ailments. now i did start crying. i thanked God for showing me this little mercy. it’s mercies like this that keep me going.

i immediately did a paraklesis thanking Panagia for Her prayers, because i know it is Her whispering into Her Son’s ear for my healing. of this, i have no doubt. i can’t explain the peace that washed over me in that moment.

so now here i am, another month and a half later, finally going for my endoscopy. during my consultation the doctor also found a goiter when checking my thyroid and scheduled me for a thyroid unltrasound this week later this week. (i guess i am going to get to know st. vlasios very well :) )during the appointment, he basically told me to be prepared for anything. it is what it is, i guess. i trust in God and know that whatever He wills is for my salvation. + may He give me patience and strength, and if necessary, the gift of long-suffering. +

and you know what? regardless of the outcome, i’m honestly glad that this happened. it was a much needed reality check for me; an eye exam for my spirit. it’s sad that when you sit and think about how mortal we really are, every moment seems that much more amazing. listening to my children laugh, having my husband tug on my ponytail when he jokes with me, feeling the wind blow and the sun shine-it all takes on a brand new kind of feeling. this is what they mean when they say ‘live like you’re dying.’ life is so much more beautiful when you stop to appreciate it. and i hope i can hang on to this feeling forever.

but glory to God for His mercy and the intercessions of His saints. glory to God for these trials and struggles and for letting me know that He hasn’t forgotten about me. glory to God for ALL things. if you’re so inclined, please whisper a prayer for me today…through the intercessions of St. Vlasios.

Blaise

Hieromartyr and holy unmercenary Blaise (Vlasios Greek: Βλάσιος) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste (modern day Sivas, Armenia). By divine grace, he healed the diseases of men and beasts, especially infants, which made his name extremely famous. He contested for the faith under Licinius in the year 316 along with the two children and seven women martyred with him. St. Blaise is invoked for the healing of throat ailments. He is commemorated by the church February 11.

This brief excerpt of his life can be found here on the Antiochian Archdiocese’s website:

St. Blaise was born in the province of Armenia, and was a physician by profession. Such was his reputation for holiness that his fellow-citizens elected him Bishop of Sebaste in eastern Anatolia. Though there were few Christians in that pagan city, the bishop labored tirelessly for his flock, encouraging them to stand firm during the fierce persecutions then raging, and visiting the martyrs in prison.

When the city was stripped of Christians, all of whom had fled or been killed, the bishop, already an old man, withdrew to a cave on Mount Argea and devoted himself entirely to prayer. The wild beasts sensed his sanctity, and gathered around the cave, waiting quietly for him to give his blessing or heal their injuries and ailments.

The persecutors, who had not stopped hunting for the bishop, eventually found the cave, and were amazed to find it like a second Eden, with lions, tigers, bears and wolves grazing peacefully around it. The Saint greeted them cheerfully and told them that he knew from a vision that they were coming for him.

As Blaise was taken back to Sebaste, the peace and gentleness that seemed to radiate from him were enough in themselves to turn many pagan bystanders to faith in Christ. Diseases of men and animals were cured as he walked by. One mother brought him her child, who was choking on a fishbone. The Saint put his hand down the child’s throat, took out the fishbone, and prayed to the Lord to restore him to full health.

At his trial, the holy bishop fearlessly confessed Christ and scorned the idols, for which he was savagely beaten with rods and thrown into a dungeon. Seven women and two of their children were imprisoned with him. The women were slain first after many tortures. The Synaxarion reads, “Having failed in his efforts to break St. Blaise’s resolve, Agricolaus [the governor] condemned him to be drowned in the lake. The holy Martyr made the sign of the Cross at the water’s edge and began walking across the surface of the lake as the Savior had done on the Sea of Galilee. On reaching the middle, he invited the pagans to join him, if they believed they could trust themselves to their gods. Sixty-eight of them took up the challenge and drowned, while a bright angel appeared and invited the Saint to return to the shore in order to receive the crown of glory.” St. Blaise and the two young children were then beheaded together.

St. Blaise is one of the most-venerated holy healers in both the East and the West. He is called upon for protection from wild beasts, and for the healing of every kind of ailment. His head is kept at the Monastery of Konstamonitou on Mount Athos.

St. Thomais of Lesvos {healer of marriages}

Darling Hubby and I {Christmas 2012}

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Thomais of Lesvos.  Before we continue with her story, I want to insert a little disclaimer of sorts here.  I am in no way condoning domestically abusive relationships.  I simply wanted to post this incredible story of patience and long-suffering.

Those of us in today’s society have, well tarnished views on what a true loving relationship should consist of.  Movies, advertisements, song lyrics and more are constantly “telling us” how our men are supposed to behave.  They must buy us extravagant gifts on birthdays and holidays, constantly remind us of how absolutely wonderful we are, take us on exotic trips “just because”.  And perhaps, the most important rule of all, they must always, always give heartfelt apologies with handpicked flowers and/or Godiva chocolate regardless of who is at fault (because we all know it’s usually him).  I mean, by husband does none all of those things, doesn’t yours?

Sure, some of those things are nice gestures, but is that really what love is?  Personally, there’s not one thing listed there that means anything to me.  If I wanted expensive presents, flowers or chocolates, I could just as easily go get them myself.  After three children and over eleven years of marriage, my understanding of “love” has changed drastically.  Why is there very little value accredited to the husband who simply respects his wife, loves her unconditionally or allows her to worship freely!  Or on the husband who supports his family, makes time for his wife and children, and creates a safe, stable and happy atmosphere in the home?  Or the one who tenderly takes care of his wife when she’s sick?  I want a person to grow old with, someone who will never betray me or belittle me.  Someone who will try his best to support me in my pursuits, even if he really doesn’t understand them. These are the things that matter to me.  I don’t care if my husband publicly worships me while completely neglecting me and my family at home.  I don’t care if he showers me with gifts other girls would be envious of.  It’s simply not the life, let alone the type of husband, we should want.

Granted, my darling hubby can sit in a room full of ninety year old women and nag with the best of them, the feeling comparable to being pecked to death by chickens.   And sure, I’ve hit my head on the cupboards he leaves open in the middle of the night that I’ve asked him repeatedly to close, and I’ll admit he drives me crazy when he  tells me to get off of my phone or the computer.  But regardless of whatever pet peeves I may have with him, he is still such a blessing in my life.  Whenever he encourages me to “fight the good fight”, whenever he pushes me to do more spiritually, whenever we stand together in prayer with our family, I breathe a sigh of thanks to God for giving me someone that values the importance of a Christian-upbringing as much as I do.  I thank God every day for giving me a man who loves Him more than me.  I love my husband to death and wouldn’t change one thing about him.  He wouldn’t be him, if I did. [Read more…]

Saints Cosmas & Damian the Holy Unmercenaries {november 1}

My Life in Christ by St. John of Kronstadt

By now, most of you know we don’t celebrate Halloween in our family. What we do celebrate tonight are the Holy Unmercenaries Saints Cosmas and Damian, whose feastday is tomorrow, November 1. If you’re on the Old Calendar, you’re celebrating St. John of Kronstadt.

So, whether you’re out trick-or-treating or not, why not sit down at the end of the night and read this quick story of their lives? May they intercede for us always…

Sts Cosmas and Damian the Holy Unmercenaries (November 1-new calendar)

The Holy Martyrs, Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian were born at Rome, brothers by birth, and physicians by profession. They suffered at Rome in the reign of the emperor Carinus (283-284 AD). Brought up by their parents in the rules of piety, they led strict and chaste lives, and they were granted by God the gift of healing the sick. By their generosity and exceptional kindness to all, the brothers converted many to Christ. The brothers told the sick, “It is not by our own power that we treat you, but by the power of Christ, the true God. Believe in Him and be healed”. Since they accepted no payment for their treatment of the infirm, the holy brothers were called “unmercenary physicians”.

Their life of active service and their great spiritual influence on the people around them led many into the Church, attracting the attention of the Roman authorities. Soldiers were sent after the brothers. Hearing about this, local Christians convinced Sts. Cosmas and Damian to hide for a while until they could help them escape. Unable to find the brothers, the soldiers arrested instead other Christians of the area where the saints lived. Sts. Cosmas and Damian then came out of hiding and surrendered to the soldiers, asking them to release those who had been arrested because of them.

At Rome, the Saints were imprisoned and put on trial. Before the Roman emperor and the judge they openly professed their faith in Christ God, Who had come into the world to save mankind and redeem the world from sin, and they resolutely refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. They said, “We have done evil to no one, we are not involved with the magic or sorcery of which you accuse us. We treat the infirm by the power of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and we take no payment for rendering aid to the sick, because our Lord commanded His disciples, ‘Freely have you received, freely give’” (Matt 10: 8).

The emperor, however, continued with his demands. Through the prayer of the holy brothers, imbued with the power of grace, God suddenly struck Carinus blind, so that he too might experience the almighty power of the Lord, Who does not forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12: 31). The people, beholding the miracle, cried out, “Great is the Christian God! There is no other God but Him!” Many of those who believed besought the holy brothers to heal the emperor, and he himself implored the saints, promising to convert to the true God, Christ the Saviour, so the saints healed him. After this, Sts. Cosmas and Damian were honourably set free, and once again they set about treating the sick.

But what the hatred of the pagans and the ferocity of the Roman authorities could not do, was accomplished by black envy, one of the strongest passions of sinful human nature. An older physician, an instructor, under whom the holy brothers had studied the art of medicine, became envious of their fame. Driven to madness by malice, and overcome by passionate envy, he summoned the two brothers, formerly his most beloved students, proposing that they should all go together in order to gather various medicinal herbs. Going far into the mountains, he murdered them and threw their bodies into a river.

Thus these holy brothers, the Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian, ended their earthly journey as martyrs. Although they had devoted their lives to the Christian service of their neighbours, and had escaped the Roman sword and prison, their teacher treacherously murdered them.

The Lord glorifies those who are pleasing to God. Now, through the prayers of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian, God grants healing to all who with faith have recourse to their heavenly intercession.

Dismissal Hymn (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
Sainted Unmercenaries and Wonder Workers, regard our infirmities; freely you have received, freely share with us.

Kontakion (Second Tone)
Having received the grace of healing, you extend health to those in need, O glorious and wonder-working physicians. Hence, by your visitation, cast down the audacity of our enemies, and by your miracles, heal the world.

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St. John of Kronstadt (November 1-old calendar)

 

Born in 1829 from pious parents of very modest means, St. John was quick to learn the power of prayer. As a child he was a slow learner, but one night after fervently praying for God’s help in his studies, he suddenly felt as if he were violently shaken, as if “the mind opened up in his head.” From then on he became a good pupil, graduating at the head of his class. He went on to seminary in St. Petersburg where he began to prepare for missionary activity in Siberia and Alaska. But in a dream he saw himself as a priest in a large cathedral and soon thereafter he married and was ordained and appointed to serve in the St. Andrew Cathedral of Kronstadt–the very cathedral which had appeared in his dream. Kronstadt was a port city full of poverty, drunkenness and immorality. It was here that Father John poured out his compassionate love and began his extraordinary ministry founded on prayer. Literally thousands, including Jews and Moslems, flocked to him for spiritual and material aid and were witnesses to his God given powers of healing, spiritual discernment and prophecy. His genuine Christian love brought many to repentance and conversion and the cathedral which held up to 5,000 people was packed every day for Divine Liturgy. He died Dec. 20, 1908, and his funeral, attended by tens of thousands, conveyed that radiance of Paschal joy which constantly shone upon the face of Father John whom many affectionately called, the “Easter batiushka”.

Such a high level of spiritual life, particularly under the demanding circumstances of life in the world, required great skill and perseverence in spiritual warfare. On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of his ordination, he wrote in his “Conversation”:

“Once ordained a priest and pastor, I soon learned through experience with whom I had entered into combat in my spiritual arena, namely with the powerful, cunning, unsleeping prince of this world, who breathes evil and perdition and the fire of hell, and with the sub-celestial spirits of evil …. This battle with the strong and cunning invisible enemy plainly showed me how many infirmities, weaknesses, and sinful passions there were in me ,–how strong a hold the prince of this world had over me, and how I had to struggle hard with myself, with my sinful inclinations and habits, and conquer them, so as to be as far as possible invulnerable to the arrows of the enemy.

“The spiritual warfare began, and with it watchfulness over oneself, the sharpening of spiritual sight, teaching oneself uninterrupted secret prayer and the invocation of the All-saving Name of Christ;

“In this warfare I have come to know the immensity of God’s long-suffering to us; for He alone knows all the infirmity of our fallen nature, which He mercifully took upon Himself, except for sin (I Peter2:22; Isaiah 53:9; I John 3:5; 4:10; Hebrews 4:15), and therefore He commanded us ‘seventy times seven’ times to forgive the sins (St. Matt. 18:22) of those who have fallen into them; and He has surrounded and continued to surround me everyday with the joys of salvation from sin in peace and expansion of the heart. The Divine mercy which I have experienced and the perpetual nearness to me of the Lord confirm me in the hope of my eternal salvation and in that of those who follow and hear me to salvation, according to the word of the Scriptures, ‘Behold I and the children which God hath given me'” (Heb. 2:13).

St. John’s diary, My Life In Christ, has been called a manual of weapon training for this warfare which every Christian must fight in order to reach the heavenly homeland. In the following excerpts from this diary may be seen not only the emphasis which Saint John placed on true prayer as the greatest weapon of every Christian and his deep understanding of the human soul, but also the very practical aspect of his teaching which is of such value to Christians today.

Sometimes during a lengthy prayer only a few minutes are really pleasing to God, and constitute true prayer, true service to Him. The chief thing in prayer is the nearness of the heart to God.

Both public and private prayer are necessary in order that we may lead a truly Christian life, and that the life of the spirit should not become extinct in us. It is indispensable that we should attend divine service in church with faith, zeal and understanding, just as it is indispensable to provide a lamp with fuel or power if it is to burn and not to go out.

The sin of inattention is one to which we are greatly subject; we must not disregard it, but must repent of it. We give ourselves up to it not only at home, but in church as well. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. The causes of inattention are the Devil, and our manifold attachment to the things of this world; its reason is want of faith; the means to overcome it is fervent prayer.

When praying, we must believe in the power of the words of the prayer, in such a manner as not to separate the words from the deeds they express; we must believe that deeds follow the words, as the shadow follows the body, for the word and the deed of the Lord are indivisible, for He commanded; and they were created (Ps. 148:5). And you must likewise believe that that which you say in the prayer, for which you have asked, will be done. You have praised God, and God has received your praise. You have thanked God, and God has received your thanks as a spiritual fragrance. It is our misfortune that we have little faith, and separate the word from the deed, as the body from the soul, as the form from the contents, as the shadow from the body–that during prayer, as in life, we are sensual, having not the Spirit (Jude 1:19), and therefore our prayers are fruitless.

At the end of your morning and evening prayers in your home, call upon the saints: patriarchs, prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, confessors, Holy Fathers, the ascetics, the unmercenary, so that seeing in them the realization of every virtue, you may yourself become the imitator of every virtue. Learn from the patriarchs childlike faith and obedience to the Lord; from the prophets and apostles, the zeal for God’ s glory and for the salvation of the souls of men; from the hierarchs, zeal to preach God’s word, and in general to assist through the Scriptures, to the possible glorification of God’s name, to the strengthening ‘of faith, hope, and love amongst Christians; from the martyrs and confessors, firmness for the faith and piety before unbelieving and godless people; from the ascetics, to crucify your own flesh, with its passions and desires, to pray and think piously; and from the unmercenary, not to love gain, and to give gratuitous help to the needy.

How can you worthily, with faith and love, receive the Body of Christ when you despise His members or have not compassion upon them? All Christians are members of Christ, and especially the poor. Love His members, have compassion upon them, and the Master will plentifully bestow His rich mercy upon you. And can any mercy be greater than that which our S a v i o u r bestows upon us in the communion of His most pure body and of His most pure blood?

Those who attend the divine service of the Orthodox Church must bear in mind that its purpose is to prepare us for the joyful service of God in heaven; that in serving God with the body, it is still more necessary to serve God with the soul and a pure heart; that in hearing divine service they must learn to serve God as those saints served him, whose lives, and works of faith, hope and love, we hear of during the service; that God should, above all, be served in deed and truth, and not only by words and the tongue.

The Church is the sure way to the life eternal; walk in it undeviatingly, hold fast to it, and you Will gain the’ kingdom of heaven; but if you turn aside at the crossways of your own sophistry and unbelief, then you have only yourself to blame, you will go astray and be lost. I am the way, the truth, and the life (St. John 14:6).

Source: Orthodox America