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Christ is Risen!

Today on Bright Friday we commemorate the Life-Giving Spring which is Panagia herself, but more specifically it is a spring in Constantinople. This spring was our first stop when a friend, Fr. John  and I went to Istanbul in the summer of 2008 with a tour group. The photos in this post are from that trip.

(From Wikipedia on The Life-giving Spring)

The tradition surrounding the feast concerns a soldier named Leo Marcellus, who would later become the Byzantine Emperor Leo I. On April 4, 480, as Leo was passing by the grove, he came across a blind man who had become lost. Leo took pity on him, led him to the pathway, seated him in the shade and began to search for water to give the thirsty man. Leo heard a voice say to him, “Do not trouble yourself, Leo, to look for water elsewhere, it is right here!” Looking about, he could see no one, and neither could he see any water. Then he heard the voice again, “Leo, Emperor, go into the grove, take the water which you will find and give it to the thirsty man. Then take the mud [from the stream] and put it on the blind man’s eyes…. And build a temple [church] here … that all who come here will find answers to their petitions.” Leo did as he was told, and when the blind man’s eyes were anointed he regained his sight.

After he became emperor, Leo built a church dedicated to the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring over the site where the spring was located. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the church was torn down by the Turks, and the stones used to build a mosque of Sultan Bayezid. Only a small chapel remained at the site of the church. Twenty-five steps led down to the site of the spring surrounded by railing. As a result of the Greek Revolution of 1821, even this little chapel was destroyed and the spring was left buried under the rubble.

In 1833 the reforming Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II gave permission for the Christians to rebuild the church. When the foundations of the original church were discovered during the course of construction, the Sultan issued a second firman permitting not only the reconstruction of the small chapel, but of a large church according to the original dimensions. Construction was completed on December 30, 1834, and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Constantius II consecrated the church on February 2, 1835.

Another small chapel has been rebuilt on the site, but the church has not yet been restored to its former size. The spring still flows to this day and is considered by the faithful to have wonderworking properties.

The feast day is observed on Bright Friday; i.e., the Friday following Pascha. The propers of the feast are combined with the Paschal hymns, and there is often a Lesser Blessing of Waters performed after the Divine Liturgy on Bright Friday. In old Russia, continuing Greek traditions, there was a custom to sanctify springs that were located near churches, dedicate them to the Holy Mother, and paint icons of her under the title The Life Giving Spring.

There is also a commemoration of the Icon of the Theotokos, the Life-giving Spring, observed on April 4.

While there at the spring our tour guide told us that some people were able to see multicoloured fish in the spring along with the regular goldfish, but that it was a miracle unnoticed by most. She said that of all the times she had visited the spring she never saw the “invisible fish” as they were known. One time though, a woman on one of her tours pointed the multicoloured fish out thinking everyone could see them, but she was the only one. I don’t know what the significance is of seeing the “invisible fish”, but it’s interesting nonetheless. 

Apolytikion for the Life-giving Spring:

As a life-giving fount, thou didst conceive the Dew that is transcendent in essence,O Virgin Maid, and thou hast welled forth for our sakes the nectar of joy eternal,which doth pour forth from thy fount with the water that springeth upunto everlasting life in unending and mighty streams;wherein, taking delight, we all cry out:Rejoice, O thou Spring of life for all men.

Come receive the light from the unwaning Light;

and glorify Christ Who is risen from the dead!

The video is of the Holy Fire at Christ’s tomb, April 11, 2015. Who is as great as our God?

(To learn more about the Holy Fire – the world’s best kept secret – see here.)

As the Lord went to His voluntary Passion, He said to His apostles on the way:“Behold we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of man shall give Himself up as it is written of Him.”Come then and let us journey with Him with pure minds, let us be crucified with Him and die for His sake to the pleasures of this life,that we may also live with Him and hear Him say, “No longer do I ascend to the earthly Jerusalem to suffer, but I ascend to My Father and your Father and to My God and your God and I shall raise you up to the Jerusalem on high in the Kingdom of heaven”.

I wish you all ‘Good Strength’ for Holy Week and a ‘Good Resurrection’! I hope and pray we all experience being risen to “the Jerusalem on high” through our efforts to “ponder in our hearts” (Lk. 2:19) the great mysteries of our God during these holy days.

From the video description on Youtube:

Filmed and edited by the monks themselves, From the Little Mountain takes you through a year at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross in West Virginia. Herein is portrayed some of the beauty and struggle of monastic life using quotes from the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church. Insights about monastic life from one of the senior monks at the monastery are given as you are visually taken through the Church liturgical year and the changing seasons in the mountains. This is a unique documentary of an Orthodox monastery in the 21st century, but the imagery and principles set forth are as ancient (and relevant) as those written by the 6th century instructor of monks, Abba Dorotheos. For more info, please visit: http://www.holycross-hermitage.com

visions

christ the high priest

Christ the High Priest, for our home chapel.

From my Master’s thesis:

The basis of iconography is the divine Incarnation of God the Word.  When God the Word became Man He gave a visible image to the invisible God and thus facilitated the existence of icons of the God-Man: “in the icon of Christ the person of Christ is made visible according to His human nature, just as He became visible and historical in His incarnation of the flesh.”[1]

God the Word became circumscribed in His historical incarnation and thus the iconographer can now circumscribe Him in icons: “But if He assumed humanity in truth, as we confess, then the hypostasis of Christ is circumscribable: not according to its divinity, which no one has ever beheld, but according to the humanity which is contemplated in an individual manner in it (10)”.[2]  However, this does not mean that the iconographer merely depicts the human nature of Christ, rather he depicts Christ’s person (hypostasis). That is, he depicts His full humanity and His full divinity as they are contained in His divine person: “neither the divine nor the human nature alone is depicted, but the hypostasis of Christ with the particular characteristics which define His human nature, that which the icons of Christ present is the person of the God-Man, the person of the whole God and of the whole man and it is understood and exists with His two natures.”[3] Wherefore, the iconographer ought to take care when painting icons, for he is clothing – in line and colour – the invisible God according to His visible image, the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Iconography Trivia: The first part of painting an icon is to place gold on the board or paint it ochra (yellow). However, here I’m setting a bad example. St. Nektarios doesn’t have gold yet because my teacher doesn’t let us apply the gold until the end. He thinks the gold will be ruined while we paint. Obedience before custom, I guess.

This is the foundation not only of icons of the God-Man, but of His saints as well: “The embodiment of God in Christ, the true humanity of Christ which can be seen and touched, is precisely the basis and fount of the icon. If there had been no Incarnation, no descent of God to earth, there could be no icons of God. Similarly, if there had been no Ascension of man into heaven in Christ, and if there had been no Pentecost, which is the descent of God into man, there could be no saints and therefore no icons of humans.”[4]

Since saints are dwelling places of the Holy Spirit, when they are painted in icons it is not merely their human nature that is depicted but their whole person which participates in the uncreated grace of God and thus once again, the iconographer puts into colour and line what is invisible, “I cherish… everything connected to God’s name, not on their own account but because they show forth the divine power…  I venerate and worship angels and men, and all matter participating in divine power and ministering to our salvation through it”.[5]


[1] Tselengidis, Iconological Works, 124.

[2] St. Theodore Studite, On the Holy Icons, 87, 24, Refutation 3.

[3]Tselengidis, Iconological Works, 124.

[4] Hart, “Transfiguring Matter”, 5.

[5] St. John Damascus, Apologia to those who decry Images, [109].

The ever-memorable Abbess Makrina

The ever-memorable Abbess Makrina

I am overjoyed to introduce you to The Blessed Makrina Project. Fiery Furnace Productions is currently in the writing/development stages of a documentary on the life of Blessed Gerontissa Makrina. (Gerontissa was an abbess of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria – the All-holy Directress – in Portaria, Greece and reposed in 1995). Traveling to Greece in May 2015, Fiery Furnace Productions will interview the many people touched by the life, wisdom and sanctity of Gerontissa Makrina. According to the website this documentary will:

  • Help promote the English translation of the book Λόγια Καρδίας (Words from the Heart): 500 pages of the life and wisdom of Gerontissa Makrina
  • Reveal previously unknown stories of how Gerontissa Makrina touched the lives of the faithful
  • Capture the beauty of Orthodox Monasticism in America and Greece
  • Tell the story of Gerontissa Makrina’s work in revitalizing Orthodox Monasticism
  • Create opportunity to establish an Orthodox voice in the digital video revolution

As many of you may know I have a deep love and devotion for the ever-memorable Abbess Makrina. I have posted numerous posts about her, a number of amateur translations of excerpts from her book Λόγια Καρδίας, and even had the blessing of giving a 40-minute talk in London, Ontario about her holy life that you can watch here.

When Innocent first wrote me to ask if I would help with this very worthy project I jumped at the chance. Although I regret that I will not be able to accompany them to Greece I want to help spread the word about this documentary and beg you to consider donating to help with expenses that will not only help the production of this documentary, but with the English translation of her God-inspired book Λόγια Καρδίας (Words from the Heart).

You have all heard of the newly-canonized Saint Paisios. Well, let me tell you a story about St. Paisios’ love and respect for the holy Abbess, Gerontissa Makrina: Once, Gerontissa Makrina traveled to a monastery in Halikidi where St. Paisios was staying. When they met he and she both prostrated to each other (just like St. Mary of Egypt and St. Zosimas).

Furthermore, he was not the only contemporary holy elder who recognized the height of her sanctity: Elder Iakovos Tsalikis – who lived in a monastery in Evia – used to say, “If I lived in Volos I would go on foot to kiss Gerontissa’s hand and get her blessing before going to work each day.” Elder Ephraim of Katounakia also loved and respected her very much. When she went to visit him at a hospital he was staying in his disciple asked him if he would receive her and he proclaimed, “Open wide the doors!” In fact, Elder Ephraim of Katounakia prayed and received confirmation (πληροφορία) from God that Gerontissa occupied a very high spiritual state like that of Blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

Now, can you possibly doubt her holiness and the worthiness of this project? Please consider making a monetary donation, spreading the word through social media, and offering your prayers for the successful completion of this project so that the English-speaking world can learn more about this dynamic and holy woman who lived in our dark times and yet became a Mother of the Church, a saint like the saints of old: wise in spiritual matters, reverent in every regard and virtuous beyond compare!

Once again the website for The Blessed Makrina Project can be found here.

May we have her blessing!

At Gerontissa's grave, May 2012.

At Gerontissa’s grave, May 2012.

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