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The celebration of the Synaxis of the Rostov and Yaroslav Saints on May 23 was established by resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis I (+ 1970) and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, on March 10, 1964.

Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov, in the world John, was the son of Stephen (brother of St Sergius of Radonezh), who occupied an important post under Prince Andrew of Radonezh. Left a widower, Stephen became a monk, and together with his twelve-year-old son, he went to the monastery to St Sergius, who foreseeing the ascetic life of the child John, tonsured him with the name Theodore on the Feast of St Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer (April 20).

After Theodore attained an appropriate age, he was given a blessing to be ordined to the priesthood. With the blessing of St Sergius, St Theodore built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and founded a monastery on the banks of the River Moskva, at the place called Simonovo. Soon the monastery began to attract a throng of people. St Theodore built a cell five versts from the Moscow Kremlin, and pursued new ascetical labors, and here disciples gathered around him. St Sergius, visiting this place, blessed the founding of a monastery, and Metropolitan Alexis blessed the construction of a church in the name of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos at Novoe Simonovo, which also had its foundations laid in 1379. The old Simonov monastery remained the burial place of monks.

Because of his virtuous life and strict asceticism, St Theodore became known in Moscow. The Metropolitan St Alexis elevated him to the rank of igumen, and Great Prince Demetrius of the Don chose him as his father confessor. St Theodore journeyed to Constantinople several times on church matters for the Russian Metropolitan. On his first journey in 1384, Patriarch Nilus made him an archimandrite. The Simonov monastery was put directly under the Patriarch, thus became stavropegial. In 1387, he was consecrated archbishop and occupied the See of Rostov.

Being the igumen, and then the archimandrite of the Simonov monastery, and despite being occupied with churchly matters, St Theodore stalwartly guided those in the monastic life and counted many great and famous ascetics among his disciples. Saints Cyril (June 9) and Therapon (May 27), the future founders of two famous White Lake monasteries, were tonsured at the Simonov monastery. St Theodore occupied himself with iconography, and he adorned with icons of his own painting both the Simonov monastery, and many Moscow churches.

At Rostov, Archbishop Theodore founded the Nativity of the Virgin monastery.

The blessed death of the saint occurred on November 28, 1394. His relics are in the Rostov Dormition cathedral.

This video gives us a wonderful and informative look into Orthodox Christianity in Alaska’s Native American communities.

Christ is risen!

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What comes to mind when you think of the year1922?

The rise of jazz and the flapper generation?
Silent film and a relatively peaceful time between the two world wars?

In the year 1922 the subject of our documentary is a small child, two years old, held tight by her mother who is held tight by her husband. They are fleeing from their home in Asia Minor. Fleeing from their bloodstained, battered home that has been destroyed by the hatred of genocide.

“Throw her into the sea! You can’t survive with a child to slow the way.” The other refugee women advise her mother, who does no such thing.

She choose to risk her own life for the sake of her little daughter, and for that we are eternally grateful.

The story of Gerontissa Makrina is a story fraught with turmoil, tragedy and loss. She lost her parents at the age of twelve and had to support herself and younger brother by the labour of her own hands.

She became, through these trials, strong and prayerful. She, the orphan child, became a mother to thousands. Three of her daughters in Christ she sent to the little Eastern Washington town of Goldendale, to found a Monastery that has been a light to so many of us here in the northwest.

The sisters of St. John the Forerunner Monastery have a love for Gerontissa Makrina that has given life to this project. We owe everything to their enthusiasm.

We are overcome by people’s generosity thus far, and we are so grateful to everyone who has worked to make this project possible. In less than two weeks, our film crew will be traveling to Greece- the homeland of this holy woman. We have an itinerary set for us by the sisters of the monastery in Goldendale. It is a journey that will take us to film places she walked and interview people she knew.

This project can’t happen without your support. Please consider a donation to cover some of the expense of our trip.

May the prayers of Gerontissa Makrina be with us all!

-Innocent Lewis

st. john beloved and theologian(Source) The Church commemorates St John on this day because of the annual pilgrimage to his grave.

When St John was more than one hundred years old, he took seven of his disciples and went to a spot outside the city of Ephesus. There he told them to dig a grave in the form of a cross. Then he climbed into the grave and told his disciples to cover him with earth. Later, the grave was opened and the saint’s body was not there.

Each year on May 8 a red dust would arise from the grave which the faithful collected in order to be healed of their illnesses.

St John’s main Feast is on September 26.

A small but wonderful Russian documentary on the Holy Monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Arizona and the spiritual father of the brotherhood, Archimandrite Ephraim of Philotheou. English subtitles accompany the video.

st. argyri1Tomorrow (April 30) is the feast of St. Agryri. Above you can see a beautiful icon of her at a monastery near Giannitsa in Greece.
(Source)The holy New Martyr Argyri (or Argyra) lived in Proussa, Bithynia, and came from a pious family. She was a beautiful and virtuous woman. When she was eighteen, she married a pious Christian, and they moved into a neighborhood inhabited by many Moslems.
After only a few days, she was approached by a Turkish neighbor, the son of the Cadi (magistrate). He boldly declared his love for her, and tried to convert her to his religion. She rejected his advances, saying that she would rather die than be married to a Moslem. She did not tell her husband, fearing that he would go after the Turk and then be punished for it.

The Moslem brought her to trial and testified that she had assented to his advances, but then had laughed and said she was only joking. His lies were corroborated by false witnesses, and Argyri was sent to prison.

The saint’s husband, hoping to get her a fair trial, appealed to Constantinople. There the accuser repeated his lies before the judge. St Argyri said that she was a Christian, and that she would never deny Christ. The judge ordered her to be flogged, then sentenced her to life in prison.

She was often taken from her cell, interrogated, beaten, then returned to prison. This continued for seventeen years. The saint was also insulted and tormented by the Moslem women who were incarcerated for their evil deeds. The Evil One incited them to annoy St Argyri with these torments and afflictions, but she endured all these things with great courage and patience.

According to the testimony of many Christian women who were in prison with her, she humbled her body through fasting. Her heart was filled with such love for Christ that she regarded her hardships as comforts.

A pious Christian named Manolis Kiourtzibasis sent her word that he would try to have her released, but St Argyri would not consent to this. She completed her earthly pilgrimage in the prison, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 5, 1721.

After a few years her body was exhumed, and was found to be whole and incorrupt, emitting an ineffable fragrance. Pious priests and laymen took her body to the church of St Paraskeve on April 30, 1735 with the permission of Patriarch Paisius II.

Her relics remain there to this day, where they are venerated by Orthodox Christians from all walks of life, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*St Argyra’s name comes from the Greek word for silver (argyre). The New Martyr Argyra (1688-1721) by P. Philippidou (which also contains a Service to the saint) was published in Constantinople in 1912.

Below is a homily on the awesome theme of eternity by Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina. I have added a photo of Fr. John reading the Gospel in our Mission during Agape’s Vespers on Pascha, a day in which we rejoice that a joyful eternity awaits us on account of Christ’s glorious resurrection! Christ is risen!

pascha 2015 (2)Eternity[1]

             “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.”[2] In other words, the here-and-now offers Christians no permanent residence, but rather we are left to long for the day when we will enter into our future abode. Commenting on this very passage, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says, we must leave behind this passing, vain world, together with its mindset and passions, and run towards our heavenly, eternal homeland. This is a most beautiful line; a shining star. Here I will attempt to draw out its practical implications for you.

Eternity! My brothers and sisters, the first thing one requires if he wants to take hold of eternity is faith. Do you know what today’s people are like? Until the year 1500 AD, everyone believed that the whole earth was the area in and around the Middle East; that Gibraltar was the world’s end. For thousands of years they were completely ignorant of the existence of America. Thus, when Christopher Columbus appeared on the scene and began talking about the existence of another, new world, they were convinced that he had lost his mind. It was therefore no easy task to persuade the king to give him a ship to make his journey. Imagine how long it took to traverse the Atlantic in a tall ship! Seeing nothing before them but endless sky and water, even own crew began to murmur and complain. Columbus heard them and began to pray, and finally they spotted the coast of the new world! We find something similar going on in our own day: they didn’t believe Columbus and we don’t believe Christ, who assures us that there indeed exists a world beyond our own. If we don’t believe Christ, if we don’t take him at his word, we will lose eternity – God have mercy!

The other thing we need is concern and cultivation: Christ tells us that we must turn ourselves toward eternity and make it our concern. And we must cultivate faith in eternal life, asking God to ever increase this faith in us. We must fix our gaze upwards, toward Heaven: “Let us lift up our hearts!” This is what the line, “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come,” means practically. If each of us were to show just a fraction of the concern for eternal life that we show for material things, this world would look entirely different. Sadly, our only desires are material; we lack spiritual aspirations. Materialism and Epicureanism prevail: “…let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”[3] Let us cultivate faith in eternity, then. Its beauty is indescribable; there are no words to convey it.

But faith and concern alone are not enough; sacrifices are also required if we are to acquire eternity. If we have to make sacrifices for the sake our earthly homeland, how much more ought we to make sacrifices for our heavenly homeland?   Our life will eventually set on this earth, but just like the sun, we rise elsewhere – in eternal life. Thus, eternity is worth every sacrifice.

If we cast the desire for eternity out of Christianity, what is left? A colourless, scentless flower; it will lack the beautiful fragrance of eternity. Thus we find this desire established amongst the twelve fundamental tenets of the faith: the Creed ends with the words, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen,” does it not?

So as a German philosopher has said, man has many noteworthy characteristics, but chiefly he is a metaphysical being rooted in God, and as the ancient philosopher Plato has said, man is like a tree whose roots are not below him in the ground, but in the eternal realm, where he desires to be translated.

Also of great important is the hour of our departure for eternity, the hour of death. Then the devil fiercely wars against us, but God will send his grace to those faithful who are found worthy of it. Then brilliant, great things often happen. As the ever-memorable Androutsos has said,[4] “Do not lose faith concerning anyone. We do not know what occurs between the soul and God even in the last moment. This is known to God alone.”

In older times, when someone lay at home and the time for the departure of his soul drew nigh, everyone knelt down around him and prayed. We in our day have forgotten about this practice, even those of us who are in some sense ‘religious.’ We have erased the metaphysical world from our minds. “What agony has the soul when it is parted from the body!” sings the Church.[5] Moreover, Christ, when he came to the end of his earthly life, said, “Now is my soul troubled.”[6] The soul of every man is troubled. Saint Basil the Great, too, writing about all these things, says that some wrongly put off repentance until the final hours of their life. At that time, brothers and sisters, the soul will be troubled. Holy people, like the Blessed Augustine, often sent those who were close to them away as death approached for it was their desire to be alone with God: ‘Farewell world and those things associated with it! Farewell relatives and friends!’

Not one of us has experienced death. At that time the bodily senses give way and man sees and lives another reality. He passes through the toll-houses, he comes face-to-face with, “…dark visions of evil demons.”[7] While the minds of great thinkers, as well as the imagination of the laity, have given rise to works centered on the mystery of death and the next life, it must be remembered that whatever is useful for our salvation, God has shown us, God has revealed to us! These things we ought to hold on to, and not seek to penetrate the mysteries of God out of curiosity.

We should not be indifferent towards the world and its blessings, brothers and sisters; God created these things and they are indeed beautiful. However, it is wrong and un-Christian to think that the earth is our permanent residence and that here all the yearnings of the soul are fulfilled. “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.” This is the proper mindset!

This is why all of us – each one of us to ourselves, parents to their children, catechists to the catechetical schools, teachers to their students, spiritual fathers to their spiritual children – need to begin emphasizing the metaphysical world: remember the end times, remember the end of this life, prepare for the future life. Where were we a hundred years ago? In the mind of God. And where will we be in a hundred years? Close to God, in boundless eternity, “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”[8]

Thus we ought to live and chasten ourselves with the belief that, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Amen.

May we contemplate the great mystery of eternity during these holy days of festal celebration: Christ is risen and death is destroyed!

May we contemplate the great mystery of eternity during these holy days of festal celebration: Christ is risen and death is destroyed!

[1]               From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 418-422. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

[2]               Hebrews 13:14.

[3]               Isaiah 22:13, 1 Corinthians 15:32.

[4]               Christos Androutsos (1869-1937) was a well-known Greek theologian who taught dogmatics and Christian ethics.

[5]               Idiomelon (tone 2) from the Funeral Service.

[6]               John 12:27.

[7]               Prayer to the Theotokos at Small Compline.

[8]               Luke 20:38.

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