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Archive for the ‘Contemporary Monasteries’ Category

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The Athonite Monasteries of Koutloumousiou, Xeropotamou, Zographou, Kapakallou, Philtheou, and Gregoriou have all written letters to the Holy Community of Mt. Athos in reaction to the Pan-Orthodox draft documents prepared for the upcoming Council in Crete. In these letters the Holy Athonite Monasteries have responded to the draft documents and methodology of the Pan-Orthodox Council with sharp and pointed reactions. These letters have now been released to the public.

On account of the seriousness of the matter, it was unanimously decided that the texts prepared for approval by the Council be examined in a specially called Meeting of the Representatives and Abbots of the Holy Monasteries, scheduled to take place after the Bright Week of Pascha.

The Athonite Fathers call attention to the danger presented by the Pan-Orthodox Council, as it is being carried out. Namely, among other things, they see:

* The concilarity of the Church being undermined and a theology supportive of primacy being promoted (due to the limited participation of bishops and an excessive authority given to the primates of each Local Church);

*An unacceptable ambiguity in the pre-synodical texts, allowing for interpretations which divert from Orthodox dogma;

*A placing, as the basis of the dialogues, of “the faith and tradition of the ancient Church and the Seven Ecumenical Councils,” such that the subsequent history of the Orthodox Church appears to be somehow lacking or impaired;

*An attempt by some to gain pan-Orthodox confirmation of the scandalous and totally unacceptable texts approved within the World Council of Churches;

*And the unacceptable application of the term “church” to schisms and heresies.

To read the texts in the original Greek see here.

Excerpts and full translations of the letters into English will be forthcoming.

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blessed makrinaAbout a month ago I received an email stating I would be sent a copy of The Blessed Makrina Project: Echoes from the Heart, a short documentary film about Abbess Makrina of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria (Directress) in Portaria, Greece. As it was sent from Washington state I knew it would be a while before it arrived in Newfoundland. Three days of very high winds on this island meant that the two ferries that cross the Atlantic to get here, and a number of airplanes, couldn’t reach us, and thus mail was delayed. I was so excited when I finally got the little envelope with the DVD inside two days ago. I couldn’t wait to watch it.

It was worth the wait. The documentary begins with a recording of Gerontissa Makrina offering spiritual counsel. Having never heard her voice before this alone was enough to move me. “We must be attentive to how we live,” you hear her say as a photograph of her with a gentle smile and downcast eyes comes into view, “…To how we behave towards our brother… Do you see your brother? You see the Lord. This is why the Holy Fathers had so much love and compassion.”

This 27 minute documentary, while short in comparison to Gerontissa’s spiritual greatness, offers a number of inspiring testimonies concerning the holy abbess. Through a modern medium the documentary communicates the eternal Christian virtue acquired by a contemporary Mother of the Church. It accomplishes this by offering an intimate look into the lives of those impacted by the fruits of her ascetic struggle. The beautiful cinematography compliments the God-inspired words spoken about Gerontissa and you come away with an overall feeling of inspiration and zeal to imitate the Christ-centered life of the abbess.

My favourite parts are when Gerontissa Makrina’s monastic disciples describe her in their own words. “Everything I have I owe to her. Everything I have, everything I am, and the fact that we are here, is because of her,” Abbess Thekla of Quebec says. You witness this devotion to the holy abbess throughout the documentary; you see that she truly is a saint of the Church, a pillar of light guiding those in darkness.

The bonus feature of extended interviews is much appreciated since I found myself wanting to hear so much more, not because the documentary was in any way insufficient, but because Gerontissa Makrina is the kind of person you are indescribably attracted to and you feel as though you can’t hear enough about her.

I wish I could give every person in the world this documentary, I wish I could say, ‘Come and hear about a second St. Irene Chrysovalantou, a  mother like St. Mary of Egypt, who changed the world and those around her by acquiring the grace of God!’

Copies of this praise-worthy documentary are sold through St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery in Goldendale, WA.

While waiting for your copy to arrive you can hear about more about Gerontissa Makrina here.

 

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volos-monasteries-2012-110(Originally posted in 2013)

Below is a translation I have done – through Gerontissa Macrina’s prayers – concerning the great rewards God has prepared for those who practice patience when confronted with great trials and temptations, and the spiritual exhalation the soul experiences (in this life or in the next) when we abstain from passing judgement, even on those who openly hate and harm us.

The passage is from Λόγια Καρδίας (pp. 246-250), a collection of homilies by Abbess Macrina of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria in Volos, Greece. At this time the book is only available in the Greek language; I hope it will be available in multiple languages in the near future. I read it and my soul soars, such is the power of this holy abbess’ divinely-inspired words. She is a saint like the saints of old: wise in spiritual matters, reverent in every regard and virtuous beyond compare! Words cannot express the effect she has on me, a stranger. And yet reading her words makes me feel as though I am sitting at her feet, learning from her firsthand the art of Christian spiritual struggle. Although I am just an unworthy, self-proclaimed “disciple” of this holy abbess, I laboured to share with you one of the most spiritually potent passages I have yet come across in her book.

May we have her prayers and her blessing!

Let’s be watchful concerning the matter of passing judgment. Let’s be very watchful concerning passing judgement! It is indescribable how fearful this matter is! “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Do we safeguard this saying? Even if we don’t have virtues, Christ will save us, He will take us into Paradise if we abstain from judging.

I will tell you something else, again from experience. Once a sister* in the world wanted to say something about me that didn’t happen to me; it was slander. For the glory of Christ I tell you this. Was it a temptation that put her up to it? Was it from hatred? Was it from jealousy that she did it? In any case, I said many, many prayers for her, I mean many prayers. I cried neither for my father, nor for my mother as much as I cried for this sister. With much pain I cried and I said: “My God, save me, help me, give me strength.” The prophet David said: “Deliver me from the slander of men and I will keep thy commandments” (Ps. 119: 134). I felt a great deal of pain inside.

I saw her coming to me in a vision. Her face had two indentations on account of her tears. It was so real! In the indentations she had clots of perspiration. Her whole face was covered in perspiration and black from suffering and fatigue. She had a sack on her back, too heavy to be lifted. And as soon as I saw her, I wanted to go and help her, to lift the weight from below, but it was like a stone wall and the weight lay there immovable. I said to her: “You are tired!”

“Yes, I am tired of lifting this weight!” she said. It was a stone like the porters used to carry on their backs a long time ago.

She said to me, “This evening is the Queen’s reception and she wants you to go.”

“The Queen wants me?” I asked.

And suddenly a vehicle arrived, not like any carriage or car, it was very different, and Gerontissa Theophano was sitting inside. She looked like a young child, like a young lady of fifteen years. She said: “Come, the Queen will have us at the reception this evening.”

I made the sign of the cross and I got into the vehicle. We proceeded to a beautiful turnpike. I saw a church in front of us – it was like looking at the church of Panagia in Tinos – such a nice church, it was bright, resplendent! I made the sign of the cross as I passed by. Across the way, toward the east, was what seemed to be a palace. The door to the palace was huge, just as doors are in large buildings. There in the middle of the doorway was the Queen, who, from her neck up I couldn’t see on account of the light of her face, because she was shining so brightly. I saw her resplendent sandals; she wore a feloni** and vest, each had two inches of piping embroidered around them.

Two lines were configured in front of her: one line with children who were wearing lace and ribbon in their hair, dressed just as the angels are, while the other line seemed to be composed of widows***, as though they were nuns, wearing monastic clothing, just like we wear.

I started toward the nuns and they told me it wasn’t my turn yet, I would go when it was my turn. Suddenly I heard chanting, “This is the day of the Resurrection, let us be radiant…” And the Queen began to say, “Come martyrs to the platform, come great-martyrs!” They were taking her blessing and going to the platform. From within the palace was heard, “This is the day of the Resurrection…”

When I approached, I took the hand of the Queen: her slender hand, those nails, that gentle hand has been imprinted on my soul. Padding me on the back she said, “Patience, patience, patience.” Then she addressed one of her maids of honour: “Escort Maria**** to the royal garden.”

I paused for a moment to see where they were chanting “This is the day of the Resurrection”. And I saw that inside the palace a banquet was laid out with very beautiful white tablecloths. What could you desire that the banquet didn’t have!

I lingered to listen and the maid took me by the hand and said, “That is for the martyrs, those who endured great temptations” and she gave me to understand that patience is needed. Afterward she took me to the royal garden, and I saw a vast place which had something like lilies, the brown lily had a cross. Just as the wind blew, so the lilies swayed. A vast place: green, beautiful, enchanted! Within this beautiful exhalation which I found myself, the sorrow in my soul fled, and pleasantness and joy came!

In the morning I went and found this sister who had slandered me, and hugged and kissed her. I didn’t know what to do for her; I didn’t know how to thank her for the false words she had said, I really didn’t know.

This experience stayed in my soul and from that time I have kept the commandment of God: judge not, so as not to be judged – even if I see the act committed in front of me, whatever I happen to see in front of me.

That which I saw in the vision stirred me and left me such comfort. I forgot everything. A purity entered into my nous, a passionlessness, a peacefulness, a heavenly thing entered my soul and I didn’t know how to thank that sister who was the cause of such good.

And I say what a good thing it is for someone to be patient! For this reason the Queen said, “Come martyrs of Christ, come great-martyrs of Christ, enter into the platform…” How can I have the boldness to touch such a banquet? It was the banquet for the martyrs who had struggled, who had endured martyrdom and for whom God had prepared greatness!

*Although Gerontissa calls this woman “sister” it seems that she was a laywoman.

**A feloni (φελόνι) is a chasuble, which in its origin was a traveling garment in the late Roman Empire. It is like a poncho, a circular garment with a hole in the middle for the head.

***It is a tradition in Greece for widows to wear black headscarfs and dress.

****Gerontissa Macrina’s name before monastic tonsure was Maria.

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Gerontissa Fevronia of the Holy Dormition Monastery in Panorama, Greece reposed in 2008 at a young age. However, in her time here among us she acquired the wisdom of a great elderess. Below is a translation from this holy mother speaking about the three holy youths whose memory we celebrate today, Decemeber 17.

God was able to interfere so that the three youths would not enter the furnace, and would not that have been a miracle? But there! He let them fall into the forty-some foot furnace. This makes an impression on me. Not that God didn’t act in time to keep them from falling in, but we fall so that we become of God. To face our struggle, to convince God that we are His even while in the furnace, even while in the lion’s den. See, it doesn’t say, “in the fountain of flames they were not burnt”. It could have, but it doesn’t say, “in the fountain of flames they were not burnt,” but rather, “[they] rejoiced in the fountain of flames as though in the waters of rest”.

The great miracle is that [even in the midst of] trials we offer a fountain of rejoicing, of joy, of elation. It is not a great miracle to be thrown to the lions and for them not to eat you. It is, of course, a miracle, but a great miracle is for the lions to become like sheep!

Therefore, for you to be of God is wonderful, even if it is a martyrdom!

-The Ever-Memorable Gerontissa Fevronia Panoramatos

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Below is a link to a podcast by Fr. Seraphim Aldea of the Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints.

In this particular episode, entitled “Imitating Monastics”, Fr. Seraphim shares some of the ways in which laypeople can imitate the life and prayer of monastics.

You can hear the episode here.

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(Source) THE BRETHREN is a documentary about the monks of the world’s northernmost monastery — the Trifonov Pechengsky Monastery located in Kolsky Peninsula, Russia. It was Russia’s Northern outpost a few centuries ago. Later it was destroyed and abolished, and now it is being restored. The brethren of this monastery is small: 4 hieromonks and 2 monks. They are young, and every one of them has had his personal way to monastic ordination. All their life stories are nontrivial and even paradoxical. They are attempting not only to restore the buildings of the monastery but to build a temple in their hearts. The film features unique footage of inner life of the monastery.

Written and directed by Olesia Buryachenko
Camera: Sergei Amirdjanov
Music by Pavel Karmanov
© RISK Film Studio, Moscow, Russia 2011
English subtitles
Running time: 44 min.

whole_mosaic

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This is the Holy Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Panorama). Elder Symeon was their spiritual father.

This is the Holy Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Panorama). Elder Symeon was their spiritual father.

Elder Simeon Kragiopoulos passed away at 6:00 a.m. on September 30, 2015. He was the Abbot of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Panorama, Thessaloniki and known throughout as a true elder and teacher. I had the opportunity to hear him speak once, after years of keeping silent on account of his failing health, he gave a homily in the summer of 2012. I was blessed to be in attendance. (Actually the above photo was taken that very day).

Here is just one of the many spiritual gems he has offered us through his wise teachings:

(Source) Spiritual work happens secretly in the heart. Externally, let everything else threaten us. Like the sea: The wind blows, waves rise. But deep down it’s all quiet, peaceful, serene.

This is how a man who trusts in God lives. There might be a wild rage out there, but deep down nothing hinders the soul from having a mystical communion with God, a mystical love for God. Quietly and mystically, in a special way that the heart perceives, the Lord is whispering: “Don’t be afraid.  I am here. Keep walking this path. Keep loving me, keep believing in me, keep following me”.

It’s not enough to suffer myriad things in life. When, though, you believe in God and accept all these –whatever it is that happens to you- gladly, for the love of God, God will make a saint out of you.

To read more of Elder Symeon’s God-inspired words check out this link.

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