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Front of the cross: Christ crucified.

“Hey! That was my idea!”

Posted on Lumination Press Website (under News)

      So we couldn’t help but mention an amazing “coincidence”! Who would have thought a few months after we published Voyage to the Rock we’d be reading this headline:  Crucifix unearthed in Ferryland after 400 years underground. For those of you who don’t know – and I would assume that is most of you out there – Ferryland is in Newfoundland and is one of the earliest British settlements in North America, established in 1621. 

     It wasn’t Martin who made the discovery this time, but it was a young student archaeologist only TWO WEEKS into her dig! Unlike Martin’s bronze cross, this crucifix was made of copper (and much smaller!). 

     What’s even more amazing is that we, the founders of Lumination Press, in  April of this year stood at the very spot where this student made her discovery 2 months later! I (Fr Matthew) even made my own discovery! It wasn’t a bronze or copper cross, but on Bright Tuesday I found amid a reconstructed early forge at the site a shiny, foil-wrapped chocolate Easter egg! 

    And we thought that was a funny coincidence. What if we’d kicked around some of the loose dirt and soil at our own feet? You might be reading about us instead of this happy student archaeologist!

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(Excerpt from The Forgotten Desert Mothers, pp. 35-36)

Amma Sarah was a native of Upper Egypt. Born into a wealthy Christian family, Sarah was well educated and a voracious reader. Moving to the vicinity of a women’s monastery in the desert of Pelusium (near Antinoe), Sarah lived alone for many years near the river in a cell with a terraced roof. She attended to the needs of the nearby community.

Eventually Amma Sarah received the monastic garb and lived in a closer relationship with the community, serving as spiritual elder. Sarah continued to follow the ascetic life by living along in a cave by the river for seven years. She died around her eightieth year…

Amma Sarah models for us the gift of tenacity and focus on the final goal of life: oneness with God. Sarah sought to eliminate distractions that she experienced as stumbling blocks to total union. This is never an easy journey, and Sarah’s response was to pray for strength to endure and move into freedom. She avoided neither the challenges nor the pain; she stayed with her struggles until there was resolution.

IMG_3105Amma Sarah said, “If I pray to God that everybody would have confidence in me, I will be found at the door of each one, apologizing. But I am more inclined to pray that my heart be pure with all.”


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Christ is Risen!

“The man of God Cuthbert came to live on the Island of Farne alone. All alone with God he meant to stay- just Cuthbert, God, and the birds of Farne.” So begins this charming tale of the great Celtic saint, Cuthbert and his early days on the Island of Farne.

The Ravens of Farne: A Tale of Saint Cuthbert is written by Donna Farley and illustrated by Heather Hayward. Although slated as a picturebook for preschool and up, I have to say it captivated my imagination and won my heart.

The Ravens of Farne is full of colourful images, wonderful, charming depictions of the saint building walls around his new hermitage, growing his grain and offering hospitality to the monks of Lindisfarne. The style and colour choice of the illustrations make this story instantly attractive, but thankfully do not overshadow the prose.

I have often found children’s books to be more rich in illustrations than in storylines. This is not the case with The Ravens of Farne. Donna Farley’s writing makes this sweet story of St. Cuthbert’s trouble with the ravens come alive. In soft, rhythmic prose Farley describes the temptations St. Cuthbert encounters when attempting to build his hermitage and guesthouse on the Island of Farne.

The Ravens of Farne is not only a pleasure to read but also offers us a peek into the life and style of Celtic saints and teaches us a good lesson about humility and asking forgiveness. I highly recommend this book for children and the young at heart and look forward to reading more books written by Donna Farley.

Here is a description of the book on the back cover:

The seven-century Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne is one of England’s most beloved saints, honored also by the Eastern Church. Saint Cuthbert’s adventurous, yet humble spirit is demonstrated in this delightful tale of his encounter with an unruly raven. The lyrical, humorous text and simple, charming illustrations of Ravens of Farne will appeal to readers of all ages.   

The Ravens of Farne: A Tale of Saint Cuthbert is published by Ancient Faith Publishing (formerly Conciliar Press). You can purchase it on their website here and on Amazon here.

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Fr. Josiah Trenham of Saint Andrew Orthodox Church condenses the homilies of St. John Chrysostom on Christian Marriage for us. You can listen here.

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(Originally posted here)

St. Nektarios, Bishop of Pentopolis the Wonderworker, is a great saint. He has helped my husband and me countless times, and continues to help us. On one of our trips to his monastery a sister laid out sweets and coffee for us pilgrims (we were a bus load) and told us something that has remained with me, “The saint appeared to one of the sisters after his death and said: ‘No one can come to my monastery unless I first invite them.’ And so, since you are all here today that means the saint is here welcoming you himself.” Unworthy as we are, he invited us to visit him four times since living here in Greece. The first three times happened within one year. We didn’t plan it, it just worked out that way.

Icon of the monastery

In October of this year Fr. John and I once again went down to Athens with friends, and through the prayers of St. Nektarios, managed to visit his monastery for the fourth time. Canadian friends, now living in America, had come to visit us here for a few weeks, but that month had loads of protests and strikes in Greece. So, we put off our trip because the boats were all striking. When we finally did go down, we found out the strike had continued. We all begged the saint to help us get to his island.

On our last day we drove to Pireaus again (the port city below Athens) and thanked God when we saw the boats running. We parked our rental and bought our tickets. Once on the island we ran to purchase bus tickets to the monastery. And what did we find out? The buses were striking.

We walked over to a car rental place and asked how much a rental would be for a few hours – far more than we were willing to pay. So the six of us got into two cabs and off we went to venerate our dear, revered saint.

We arrived and went immediately into the Holy Trinity chapel, the chapel where St. Nektarios served his last Divine Liturgy. That particular day there were lots of pilgrims, some Russians, us Canadians, and a bus full of Romanians. The church was full of pilgrims waiting to venterate his skull, encased in a silver reliquary.

The ceiling in the particular chapel is covered in hanging oil lamps (candilia). They were all offered in honour of the saint’s miracles and answered prayers. They are votive offerings. (I write about tamas in my book The Scent of Holiness, actually I refer to these very oil lamps.) They make the chapel look even more endearing.

The saint’s holy relics, Holy Trinity chapel

Once we venerated we sort of went our own ways, exploring the monastery on our own. The actual complex that pilgrims are permitted entry is small. There is a courtyard, a book store, three chapels – this one, another directly beside it, and a third that held the saint’s tomb. The saint’s cell is the only other part of the monastery (besides the huge church dedicated to him, just outside of the moanstery) that is shared with the general public.

My personal favorite place at his monastery (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this) is in the teeny tiny chapel that mostly consists of his marble tomb. His presence, though strong all over the whole island – not just the monastery – seems especially strong there. They say that many times pilgrims put their ears to his tomb and can hear the sound of his feet shuffling. Like many saints, St. Gerasimos, St. Nektarios is busy helping people.

After I was finished prayering, on my way to his cell, just outside the door, I saw a very small jasmine flower hanging from a vine above and it had the most beautiful aroma. I thought of how amazing it is that such a small flower could be so fragrant. As I was thinking this I looked down and there was another jasmine flower that had fallen from the tree. I picked it up and smelt it, it too, though ‘dead’ was fragrant. And I immediately thought of St. Nektarios. “Though thou hast reposed, Yet thou livest to eternity, and lo thy body is a source of grace, Thus clearly showing forth our Saviour’s victory over death” (Ode 5, Paraklesis to St. Nektarios). I asked one of the sisters for a blessing to keep that ‘dead’ jasmine flower, and she told me, “The saint planted that jasmine tree with his own hands.” I felt very blessed.

His cell is really two rooms, one that was clearly for entertaining – lots of books and photographs – and the other his rather small bedroom, with simple furniture and walls covered in icons. I spoke for some time with the nun who was attending his cell, she was Russian and interested in the fact that we are from Canada and studying in Greece.

After this we all walked down to the very large, very beautiful church dedicated in St. Nektarios’ honour. This is the largest church I have ever seen, with the sole exception of the Agia Sophia in Constantinople (living in Greece requires me to call it by this name). This photo is taken from above, on the pathway down to the church, it does not convey the church’s magnitude. I love how big and beautiful it is, so fitting for one so humble in life. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).

Inside, the church is still being finished. The icons are magnificant (though the walls, still bare), the floor in front of the iconostasis is a mosiac of Aegina and the surrounding Aegean Sea with all the holy sites on the island marked. It’s very impressive.

Off to the right is another small chapel where another reliquary is held. The walls in this chapel are covered in exquiste icons: saints that clearly influenced St. Nektarios, and contemporary elders, clearly influenced by the saint. The silver reliquary has small images embossed all over it, they tell the saint’s life story.

MIA: the two Matthews

After we all took turns praying privately to the saint, we took out an old, taddered copy of his hymn “Agne Parthene” (O Pure Virgin). We hadn’t practiced, perhaps we should have, but we were really enthused to sing one of the saint’s own hymns in his honour – and of course in honour of the Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos. We did a fairly good job, until of course a group of Romanian women, overhearing us from inside the main nave, came in to watch and video tape us. That’s how life is I suppose, we’re more prone to mistakes when an audience is watching. It didn’t matter though, we sung as best as we could and we were all pleased to be able to do so in the presence of the saint, after such an unsure journey, not knowing whether or not he would receive us.

And so, this is how we finished our wonderful pilgrimage to the monastery in Aegina, to visit that great saint of our century, the Bishop of Pentopolis and Wonderworker.

To them that seek healing of thee with faith ,
Come hasten O Father,
And deliver them from all pain;
For thou art a merciful physician,
O most revered wonderworker, Nectarios.

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matushka constantina:

On account of recent news that the US is “ready” to strike Syria, I am re-posting this translation. Prayer is what is needed most!

Originally posted on lessons from a monastery:

Below is a translation of a recent prophecy concerning the difficulties that await us.

The ever-memorable Bishop of Sisanion and Siatisti (right) and Fr. John Kalaidis (left).


I just returned from my spiritual father, [himself] a spiritual child of the late [Bishop] Anthony of Sisanion and Siatisti [2005], who many venerate as a modern saint. [My spiritual] father is solely committed to the salvation of souls, he avoids statements about future events, but in speaking about the ever-memorable Bishop, he revealed some things which he himself was witness to and which demonstrate that the ever-memorable [Bishop], with all the gifts he had, received great revelations from God.

[In the words of the Bishop's spiritual child]:

“He often told us, and many times with sorrow, that  in a time of prosperity, ‘Great famine will come to Greece, my child, great famine…’ and we found it difficult to believe him.


View original 248 more words

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matushka constantina:

Since it’s customary to say the Paraclesis service every night during the two-week fast for the Dormition of the Theotokos, I thought reposting this post would be helpful to some. If you are unable to attend the Supplication service you can take advantage of these great youtube videos of a young man chanting the Small Supplicatory Canon to Panagia.
Kalo Dekapentavgousto!

Originally posted on lessons from a monastery:

I'm almost finished this icon of Panagia and Christ. (It's from St. Theophanes the Cretan's prototype)

I was so pleased to recently find three wonderful videos of a young man chanting the Small Paraklesis to the Most Holy Theotokos in English. Since August I’ve been trying to learn the Paraklesis in English by listening to a recording some sisters made for me of them chanting it in Greek. It was not easy. But I wanted to learn how to chant it the way it is chanted in Greek, and so I would listen to the Greek and follow along with an English translation that matches the flow of the Greek text. I managed to learn the first three canons or so, but after that I would get lost, then I could pick it back up at the “Higher than the Heavnes…” part (at the end).

I can read Byzantine notation, but I don’t have the Paraklesis in English with Byzantine notation – I don’t have…

View original 246 more words

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four photosObedience is a central virtue in Orthodox monasticism. The sisters practice what is called “cutting off of the will”. They do complete obedience to the abbess who is their spiritual mother. They also do obedience to one another, especially to older nuns. And this is all done in the context of learning how to live the words, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” (Lk. 22:42).

“One who climbs a mountain for the first time needs to follow a known route; and he needs to have with him, as companion and guide, someone who has been up before and is familiar with the way. To serve as such a companion and guide is precisely the role of the ‘Abba’ or spiritual father—whom the Greeks call ‘Geron’ and the Russians ‘Starets’.” - Bishop Kallistos Ware

If we are able to entrust ourselves to our spiritual mother or father, in a relationship that we can see, we learn how to do the same in our relationship with God, Whom we do not see. And in this way we learn to be obedient to God, and really abandon our will and do His will, and learn His will. By doing obedience to our spiritual parent, like the sisters do to their abbess, we cut off our own will. This allows us to do obedience to God, because it tames and calms our will for ourselves, freeing us to see what is good for us as opposed to blindly doing what we want. It quiets us and our strong feelings and opinions for ourselves and helps us to hear the voice of God.

I remember an abbess telling me, at the beginning of my Christian struggle, to “Ask your spiritual father about everything. Over time you will learn what to do, what is best, and what you should do. But until then ask him about everything!”

“[I]f you endure obedience without murmuring, God will send down upon you the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and the humble prayers which you also make are received by Divine Goodness.” - Elder Doonysius (Ignat) of the St. George Kellion, Kolitsou Skete, Mt. Athos, Greece

I’m sure it isn’t always easy for the sisters to do obedience, just like it isn’t easy for us in the world to do the little obediences we’ve been given by our spiritual parents. But those who are able to bow their head under the “light burden” of obedience, inherit a great reward, for the Lord tells us, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt. 24:13).

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Head on over to Jane’s blog to check out all the wonderful books Potamitis Publishing puts out. I read these books to my friend’s children all the time (here in Greece), and we use the colouring books too. They are awesome! Leave a comment on Jane’s post and enter to win!

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I strongly recommend viewing this incredible video.  I originally saw it on BBC. Alexander Tsiaras speaks of the marvel of the creation of the human being in the womb. He acknowledges that such an existence indicates divinity. Similarly, my mother, who is a nurse, was convicted of the existence of God and His creation of man when she studied biology.


“Even though I am a mathematician, I look at [fetal development] with marvel: How do these instruction sets not make mistakes as they build what is us?”

-Alexander Tsiaras

Using art and technology, Alexander Tsiaras visualizes the unseen human body. Alexander Tsiaras is an artist and technologist whose work explores the unseen human body, developing scientific visualization software to enable him to “paint” the human anatomy using volume data. He’s the author of Body Voyage and co-author of Information Architects. Most recently, he is the author of From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds and The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman: The Marvel of the Human Body, Revealed.

His latest project is The Visual MD, an online compendium of health visualizations.


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