OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA very astute observation by Fr. John Romanides in Partistic Theology (pp. 34-35):

In the early Church, there was no special or official healer, because every Christian was a healer. Healing was the mission of the early Church. The missionary effort of the early Church was not like that of today’s Orthodox Church, which sometimes consists of advertising our beautiful beliefs and traditional form of worship as though they were nothing but products for sale. For example, we talk like this: “Take a look, folks! We have the most beautiful doctrines, the most beautiful worship, the most beautiful chanting, and the most beautiful vestments. See what a beautiful robe the bishop is wearing today!” And that sort of thing. We try to dazzle the with our staffs, our robes, and our head coverings so that we can carry out our missionary work. Of course, there is some sense and some success in doing missionary work this way, but it is not genuine missionary work like that of the early Church.

Today’s missionary work consists mainly of this: we enlighten superstitious people and make them Orthodox Christians, without trying to heal them. By doing this, however, we are just replacing one superstition with another. And I say this because when Orthodoxy is presented in this way and is offered in this way, how is it different from superstition? After all, when Orthodoxy is presented and offered as a Christianity that does not heal – despite the fact that healing is its primary task – how is it different than superstition?



How can we help our children regain their faith if they stray away from church in high school or when they go to college?

Mother Raphaela:

We cannot do anything to help our children regain their faith if they stray away from Church as they grow up. Once our children have grown, we have to let go of them and let them lead their own lives and make their own choices and decisions. Whether we have raised them well (and the biggest part of that is giving them an example by the way we have lived our lives and spoken our words), whether we have made huge mistakes that we must learn to repent of before God and His people, or whether we have raised them well along with some mistakes, what is left to us is prayer. Prayer is not trying to manipulate our children from a distance—perhaps even thinking that God and His saints are more powerful manipulators than we are if we can get them on our side. Prayer is taking the time and making the space regularly in our lives to put our children (and all of our loved ones) in God’s hands; asking the saints for their help in doing this; asking their guardian angels and their saints to be there with them. Prayer is letting go and trusting God. Such prayer is also a powerful statement to our children that we trust them. As long as we are taking the time and making the space to rescue them, we are giving them an equally powerful message that we think they are still children, incapable of handling whatever it may be.

Will our children always “turn out right”? No. Especially not on our schedule. But if we truly pray, if we truly love God, then we give them the best possible atmosphere to choose what is good and true, even when it does not seem right to us. And they will know that we love them, no matter what. This is the way God loves. For some of us, part of the Cross we may be asked to carry is to share in the suffering He endures each time one of us turns away from Him in order to pursue our own self-willed agenda.

Overall, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our children (and for all of our loved ones) is really to learn and understand that we are always, wholly, totally in the presence of God no matter what we do or say, no matter what we endure or perpetrate. Whether we recognize His presence or not, we cannot get away from Him. If we accept this presence and the great love that He has offered us and will always offer us, even now we have a foretaste of heaven. This is a simple understanding, but it is the basis on which all theology and prayer rest. Any words of theology and prayer apart from this realization are simply “noisy gongs and clanging cymbals” (1 Corinthians 13:1). When we make the time and the space, with God we acquire the love of the Holy Spirit, and as St. Seraphim teaches us, then God can save thousands around us.

St. Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia was not merely a saint in martyrdom but was considered by many to have lived a saintly life. St. Seraphim of Sarov even wrote him a letter decades before he became Tsar and had it delivered to him while the Tsar was attending ceremonies in Sarov in honour of St. Seraphim.

Hear all about St. Nicholas on this wonderful episode of Christian Message from Moscow here. It begins:

Beloved brothers and sisters! This time we will tell you the story of the Holy Martyr, last Russian Emperor Nicholas II.

It is quite significant that long before Nicholas II’s ascension to the throne a monk at the Glinsk monastery in Russia, Iliador, chanced to have an enigmatic vision at end of the 19th century.

Iliador was attending a prayer when he felt some change in his senses. Then he saw a dark horizon. There came bright light. A sun rose in the East and started to move slowly to the West… All of a sudden the sun grew red, stopped moving and a voice from above said: “This is the road of the royal martyr Nicholas II.”

Nicholas II was not understood by the Russian people and he has remained so to this day.

Read the transcript of the episode here.

The Creator of All [1]

Metropolitan Avgoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina

             All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:3)

             Who is Christ? We hear one, two thousand different opinions. One person says he is a philosopher, another that he is a sociologist, and yet another that he is a poet. Others say still other things. Today’s Gospel reading gives us the correct answer: it says that Christ is God. You believe this? Then you are a Christian. You don’t believe this? Then you are not. You may well belong to one school of philosophy or another, but you are not a Christian!

Christ is God, then. He is not just a man; he is the God-man Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and who is God. In this passage, we hear that there was never a time when the Son and Word of God did not exist. There was indeed a time when man did not exist – science even concedes this – but there was never a time when Christ, the second person of the Triune God, did not exist. The Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three suns in one sun; three-sunned Divinity. All Holy Trinity, have mercy on your world!

Further on, the Gospel says that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, is he through whom all things were made – all things both seen and unseen. “All things,” it says, “were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3). This requires analysis.

These God-inspired words speak of the world’s ontology, of the creation of things in other words. One of humanity’s ten greatest spiritual men, Blessed Augustine (whose name I unworthily bear), says that all the created things around us, from those we see through a telescope to those which may only be seen through a microscope, belong to the following four categories.

To the first category belong those things which are endowed with ‘being’ and being alone. In other words, they simply exist. What are these? They are the dust of the earth, the water, stones, the hills, priceless and useless metals, minerals, but also the heavenly bodies – the stars and even the galaxies.

To the second category belong those things which have something beyond being: they grow. What are these? They are the plants and the trees. Beyond existence, these things grow. Where does a tree begin? As a small seed. This seed then falls to the earth and grows. It is watered and it grows. It sprouts; it grows and develops, becoming a great tree.

On to the third category. According to Blessed Augustine, those things which belong to this category have something beyond existence and growth: they feel. Which things are these? These are the animals. A cute little lamb, for example, exists, grows and feels. It feels pain. O how it suffers these very days at the hands of men who slaughter it for their Paschal feast! Animals feel. Some of them even have senses which are stronger than those of other beings. The eagle, for example, has a sharp eye, he has crystal-clear vision, or what we call an ‘eagle-eye’, which allows him to soar as high as the sun and yet from this height he is able to discern the most miniscule thing on the earth below. The dog has both a very keen sense of smell and excellent hearing. I have read somewhere that in London the police have special dogs, as well as officers equipped with whistles which, when blown, cannot be heard by man. Only the dogs can hear these whistles. When the dogs hear these whistles they run immediately to find the officer calling them. The dog is also the first animal to sense an earthquake; he senses it even before the seismograph.

Creation of Eve

In summary; rocks have ‘being’, they just ‘are'; the trees both ‘are’ and ‘grow'; the animals ‘are’, ‘grow’ and ‘feel’. And now we have arrived at the peak of the ladder of beings; we have arrived at man. Man is matter, he is earth – we do not deny it! – and thus he has ‘being’. He grows, since from an embryo, from a little child, he grows into a full-grown man. He also feels, for he too experiences pain. He does not have these things alone, however; he also has something beyond these. What does he have beyond these? It is that he thinks; he has a mind. O, the human mind! Let them say, let them shout, that man comes from the ape, from the orangutan! This is a grave error. What separates us from the animals is the ability to think. The mind is a great thing. Next to it, the computer is nothing. The computer is nothing – a toy – next to that incomprehensible piece of equipment which we call the human intellect. It is this which separates us from all other beings. It is by means of the intellect that man understands, that he plans, that he invents, that he creates. Take an ape. Put him in school for ten years. He will not learn the alphabet; he will only grunt! From the time he is a young student, man grows in knowledge, eventually becoming a wise researcher or inventor. He is capable of progress on account of his intellect.

There are, then, four categories of beings. First, those things that ‘are'; second those things that ‘are’ and ‘grow'; third, those things that ‘are’, ‘grow’ and ‘feel'; and fourth, those things that ‘think’. Have we finished with the ladder of beings, I wonder? No! Because there exist not only those being that we see, but also those we cannot see. Those things that we see are few in comparison with those we cannot see. Beyond the world we see is found the invisible world which is infinite and wondrous. It is in this world that the bodiless hosts, the heavenly powers, the angels and archangels, are found, as well as the souls of men which have passed from the earth, and the demons who of their own will fell away from the aim for which they were created.

My brothers, this is the pyramid of beings, “of all things visible and invisible,” and at the peak of this pyramid is the Creator, the Triune God. As the Fathers and teachers of our Church teach, all things are made by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This dogma, this truth of our faith, is affirmed in today’s Gospel which says concerning the Son and Word of the Father: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” The Son and Word of God, who humbled himself and came down to the earth, was incarnate, was crucified, and who arose from the dead and whose resurrection we celebrate today, is he, “by whom all things were made”.

All things, everything, from the smallest to the greatest, from the grass which we walk on to the huge trees, from the mite to the elephant, and from the atom to the planets and galaxies which swirl in outer space, all things were made by Christ. Do you believe this? Then you are a Christian. You don’t believe this? That is your right. Christ and the Church do not need followers. I am in favour of a Church of quality, not a Church of quantity. Thousands of faithless people are not worth one faithful Christian. He who believes does not say, “I have my opinion”. What is your opinion, sir? What God says here in the Gospel: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”

To Christ himself, the eternal God – in spite of the atheists and unbelievers of all ages – to him be glory, honour and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.

[1] From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 22-26. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

orthodoxpathAs quite a few readers of Lessons from a Monastery are from various countries and know various languages, I wanted to introduce you to a new website called The Orthodox Path, a multilingual Orthodox website. It is a great resource and has made spiritual articles available in many languages, including Greek, English, German, Albanian, Romanian, Turkish, as well as others. Below is just one of the website’s many jewels. It is a translation of a talk given by the renowned Elder Symeon of Panorama. Enjoy!

People today are complicated, multi-faceted, confused, and in one way or another, their souls are layered: layer upon layer of blindness, layer upon layer of callousness, layer upon layer of pride. For this reason they are never healed once and for all. As soon as you take a humble attitude, though, Grace intervenes and works a miracle: you are freed. But the work does not end here. This Grace, this light, this healing that comes proceeds also to the next layer further down. And here the sin is more unyielding, is more strongly rooted, the resistance is uncompromising. If you say, “May it be blessed, My God. I will look even deeper and I will acknowledge my stubbornness and my sin, and will humble myself”, then another miracle takes place. And in some incomprehensible way, the second and the third, the fourth and the fifth layers of the soul are put right. But some people will not accept this. They remain at the superficial layers, and spend their life like this and are never healed.” 

Transcribed talks by Arch. Symeon Kragiopoulos (trans. by Fr. Matthew Penney)

Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers, may we have the courage to continually look deep within ourselves and receive the grace of healing!

font 2

(Source) This following story is recounted by Nun Cornelia (Rees).

About fifteen years ago, I heard this story about an event that took place in Northern California—an unusual story, about a miracle of St. Xenia of Petersburg. Nun Nina, now Abbess Nina of St. Nilus Skete in Alaska, had heard it from Fr. Weldon Hardenbrook, who at the time was the rector of a church in Santa Cruz County. I wrote it down immediately, but unfortunately the notebook I wrote it in is located somewhere far away from me now, and I am writing it again from memory—so that people might know that Blessed Xenia the fool-for-Christ of St. Petersburg helps people everywhere, even people who previously knew nothing about her. She helps not only those who have prayed to her, but even those who will pray to her.

This priest, Fr. Weldon, served in a parish that consisted of former Evangelical Christians who had embraced Orthodox Christianity. There was a time when their flourishing community was not Orthodox, and all kinds of people came to them to hear their Christian message. One day, a young man rode up to the church on his Harley Davidson. His appearance betrayed the life of a prodigal, but he was sincerely interested in hearing about Jesus. A relationship formed with the Fr Weldon, now an Orthodox priest (who told this story), and the young man began to gradually change his ways. He had given up one vice after another when the pastor told him that his “biking” would have to go if he wanted to truly follow Christ. This was too much for the newly-born Evangelical to bear, and he left the community and his pastor’s care, never intending to return.

Our biker rode off on his Harley Davidson, and soon had a terrible accident, which cost him his legs. Eventually he landed back in the company of his old “friends”, in a run-down apartment in a low-rent neighborhood in the bad part of a crime-ridden city. One evening, as he and his companions were abusing drugs and alcohol in a particularly vigorous way, he slipped over the edge and lost consciousness. The others were also far from sober and took him for dead. Not understanding clearly what they should do, and as usual avoiding all contact with the police, they simply dragged his limp, legless body to the street and threw him into the nearest garbage dumpster. In there, the next morning, he came to his senses. It was a rude awaking indeed to find himself in a dumpster, wallowing in refuse. Climbing dazedly out of that would-be coffin, he sat down on the curb, thinking the darkest thoughts. “So, this is what I have come to. Useless, human trash. Thrown away like garbage.”

Sunk in these pessimistic thoughts, he was suddenly stirred by the presence of an old lady in tattered clothes—what people call a “bag lady”. She was coming closer to him with a fierce, accusatory expression. “You know where to go,” she said, pointing at him. “So, go there!” At that moment the man remembered his former pastor, and the church where he had almost reformed. Determined to find it again, he made his way back to the town where it is located.

When he returned to that church it was different. There were gold domes with crosses on the roof, and the interior was completely changed. No pews; and there was a sort of screen at the front, with strange images of holy people. He looked around in wonder, when his gaze caught the image of a woman—the very “bag lady” who had told him where to go in that hour of dire depression. It was Holy Blessed Xenia, the fool-for-Christ of Petersburg.

He met his old friend, now an Orthodox priest in a cassock, wearing a cross. He received holy Baptism himself, and began to live the life of a dedicated parishioner, this time truly transformed.

I do not know what has come of this man since. I have no reason to believe that he is anywhere other than at that parish, but as I have said, this story was related to me fifteen years ago. However, the fact remains that this miracle of St. Xenia happened to person who knew nothing of her, who lived in a place very far from Russia, and when he needed it the most.

Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

One of [Elder Epiphanios’] spiritual children held a high-ranking administrative position, and when he confessed he would often confess the same sin involving his subordinates over and again.  One time during confession the Elder threatened him, saying that if he fell into the same sin again he would receive a very particular penance.  “If you fall into this sin again,” the Elder informed the man, “I will make you sit down and allow me to wash your feet.”  Unfortunately the spiritual child did fall into the same sin again and Elder Epiphanios made good on his threat.  Naturally, this event proved quite a spiritual trial for the spiritual child.  After the washing, the Elder said:  “Since I know that this makes you uneasy, I will wash your feet every time you fall into that particular sin.”  The man never fell into the sin again, though every time his subordinates pushed him to the brink he would shout:  “You owe a great deal to the man who washed my feet!”  They never knew what he was talking about.

Translated by Rev Dr John Palmer


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 417 other followers