Archive for the ‘Orthodox Customs and Tradition’ Category

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.

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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.)

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thy cross1The History of the Cross[1]

by Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina

Help us, O Cross of Christ!

Today, beloved brothers and sisters, we mark a great feast, a great celebration: it is the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. This feast carries us off to Golgotha on the day that the Son of Man and the Son of the Virgin was crucified. Today we will speak of the Cross, then. But who is able to sing the praises of the Lord’s Cross as is meet? We, who are but worms, let us dare to sputter out a few words.

The Cross is the flag of Christendom, it is an invincible weapon, it is, “…the beauty of the Church,”[2] it is the ethereal pulpit from which the greatest of words were heard. The Cross is the daystar, it is Noah’s ark, it is the rainbow, it is the sun which shines upon and warms the world. “Help us, O Cross of Christ!”

Much to the chagrin of the demons and the powers of darkness, the Cross has preformed, performs, and will perform miracles; miracles not only in the New Testament era, but even in the days of the Old Testament. The history of the Cross is divided into three periods: before the Crucifixion, the time of the Crucifixion itself, and after the Crucifixion – this is when the great miracle occurred.

When Christ was crucified at Golgotha amongst thieves the earth shook, the tombs opened and the dead were resurrected, the Sun was darkened from the sixth unto the ninth hour, and the curtain of the Temple of Solomon was torn in two. These are all small things. The great miracle is that at that precise hour the devil was defeated, for the blood of Christ became another Jordan in which every sinner is washed clean. Just a drop of the God-Man’s blood washes away the sins of the world: “…with his stripes we are healed,”[3] Isaiah tells us, and, “…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,”[4] according to John. This is the great miracle.

The enemies of the Cross – how can we not say this? – are those who blaspheme, those who open their filthy mouths and blaspheme the precious Cross. In Greece, where the Cross is our national symbol, there ought not to be even a single person who utters blasphemies.

But we too are enemies of the Cross, my beloved brothers and sisters. How can this be? It might be that we venerate the Cross; that we weep in front of it; that we fast on account of it today. Our works, however, are unworthy of the Cross. What does the Cross mean? Take some chalk and write this on the blackboard. The Cross is truth, justice, humility, forgiveness, respecting the other: it is whatever is beautiful and exalted. Above all the Cross is sacrifice and love; love even for enemies. We have been taught to, “…love one another,”[5] and to, “…love [our] enemies.”[6] We have these virtues? Then let us venerate the Cross. We don’t have them? Then we too are enemies of the Cross – not directly, but indirectly.

The Cross ought to be everywhere, then: in churches, in our homes, in schools, in the marketplace, in courthouses, on military bases, in prisons, on the chests of our children and young people. The Cross in the morning when we wake up; the Cross when we eat; the Cross in the evening – even in the middle of the night! “I fall down and make my cross, and an angel is at my side,” our unlettered ancestors used to say. The Cross ought to be everywhere. Above all, however, the Cross ought to be in our hearts. And when the end of our life comes (which is like a small version of the end of the world) and like the thief we say, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,”[7] then on our grave a wooden cross will stand declaring that we are true children of he who was crucified. O ye Christians praise the Lord and supremely exalt him unto the ages!

[1]               From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 260-262. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

[2]               From the exapostolarion for Wednesday and Friday.

[3]               Isaiah 53:5

[4]               1 John 1:7

[5]               John 13:34

[6]               Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-35.

[7]               Luke 23:42


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Implanted RFID chip controls office access for Stockholm workers


(You can view the entire video clip at the above link. Just click on “Source”).

At the newly opened Epicenter office complex in central Stockholm, workers no longer need a badge or pass code to open doors: a microchip implanted in their hand does the trick.

The radio-frequency identification or RFID chip is made of pyrex glass and contains an antenna and microchip, with no need for batteries.

It allows carriers to open doors, operate a photocopier or swap contact details via a smartphone.

Co-founder and CEO of the high-tech office complex, which is home to innovative companies large and small, Patrick Mesterton says it is the ideal location to test such technology.

“The chip is the size of the larger rice grain – it’s about twelve millimetres in size. It’s put in with a syringe and it sends an RFID code, so it’s an identification tool that can communicate with objects around you. So here, you can open doors using your chip, you can do secure printing from our printers with your chip but you can also communicate with your mobile phone by sending your business card to individuals that you meet,” he explains.

While the current range of benefits the chip offers is rather limited, its makers say the aim is to explore possible uses and see how products and services can be developed around the technology. It’s hoped in the future, workers equipped with the chip will be able to purchase food in the canteen and even get health checks.

“Some of the future areas of use – I think, like anything today where you would use a pin code or a key or a card, payments is one area. I think, also, for health care reasons, that you can sort of communicate with your doctor and you can get data on what you eat and what your physical status is,” says Patrick Mesterton.

The chipping is entirely voluntary and, according to its manufacturers, completely safe. But it raises concern among civil liberty groups, worried that such technology is not hacker-safe and could be used without the wearers’ consent to track their whereabouts of gain access to private information.

Copyright © 2015 euronews

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stgregorypopeofrome Below is a very beautiful story from St. Gregory the Pope of Rome’s Dialogues (written in the 5th century). Interestingly, there is a very similar story found in Protopresbyter Stephanos Anagnostopolou’s twenty-first century book, Experiences During the Divine Liturgy on pp. 203-204. Truly, our faith is an unchanged one! Chapter Twenty-three: Of certain nuns absolved after their death GREGORY: His common talk, Peter, was usually full of virtue: for his heart conversed to above in heaven, that no words could in vain proceed from his mouth. And if at any time he spoke aught, yet not as one that determined what was best to be done, but only in a threatening manner, his speech in that case was so effectual and forcible, as though he had not doubtfully or uncertainly, but assuredly pronounced and given sentence. For not far from his Abbey, there lived two Nuns in a place by themselves, born of worshipful parentage: whom a religious good man served for the dispatch of their outward business. But as nobility of family does in some breed ignobility of mind, and makes them in conversation to show less humility, because they remember still what superiority they had above others: even so was it with these Nuns: for they had not yet learned to temper their tongues, and keep them under with the bridle of their habit: for often by their indiscreet speech they provoked the aforesaid religious man to anger; who having borne with them a long time, at length he complained to the man of God, and told him with what reproachful words they entreated him: whereupon he sent them by and by this message, saying: “Amend your tongues, otherwise I do excommunicate you”; which sentence of excommunication notwithstanding, he did not then presently pronounce against them, but only threatened if they amended not themselves. But they, for all this, changed their conditions nothing at all: both which not long after departed this life, and were buried in the church: and when solemn mass was celebrated in the same church, and the Deacon, according to custom, said with loud voice: “If any there be that do not communicate, let them depart”: the nurse, which used to give to our Lord an offering for them, beheld them at that time to rise out of their graves, and to depart the church. Having often times, at those words of the Deacon, seen them leave the church, and that they could not tarry within, she remembered what message the man of God sent them whiles they were yet alive. For he told them that he deprived them of the communion, unless they amended their tongues and conditions. Then with great sorrow, the whole matter was signified to the man of God, who immediately with his own hands gave an oblation, saying: “Go your ways, and cause this to be offered to our Lord for them, and they shall not remain any longer excommunicate”: which oblation being offered for them, and the Deacon, as he used, crying out, that such as did not communicate should depart, they were not seen any more to go out of the church: whereby it was certain that, seeing they did not depart with them who did not communicate, that they had received the communion of our Lord by the hands of his servant. PETER: It is very strange that you report: for how could he, though a venerable and most holy man, yet living in mortal body, loose those souls which stood now before the invisible judgment of God? GREGORY: Was he not yet, Peter, mortal, that heard from our Saviour: “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, it shall be bound also in the heavens: and whatsoever you shall loose in earth, shall be loosed also in the heavens?” [Matt. 16:19] whose place of binding and loosing those have at this time, which by faith and virtuous life possess the place of holy government: and to bestow such power on earthly men, the Creator of heaven and earth descended from heaven to earth: and that flesh might judge of spiritual things, God, who for man’s sake was made flesh, vouchsafed to bestow on him: for from there our weakness rose up above itself, from where the strength of God was weakened under itself. PETER: For the virtue of his miracles, your words do yield a very good reason.

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Today is Clean Monday, the beginning of our Lenten journey to the Feast of the Holy Resurrection. I am usually quite excited about Great Lent. I get excited about the Sundays in Great Lent and the special customs that go with them, excited about simplifying our lives and abstaining from certain foods and activities that draw our attention away from God. This year I’m excited but also a little apprehensive. I’ve been feeling a little dismayed lately by all the wars and rumours of wars (Mark 13:7) and a question keeps forming in the back of my mind: What if this was the last Great Lent you ever got to participate in? That small but probing question seems to cause many to follow after it and I begin an internal inquisition: What if this was your last chance to really make an effort, to keep the Fast with zeal and love for the Lord? What if it was the last time you were able to attend Holy Week services, to give alms, deny yourself, repent? Would it make a difference? Would you try harder? Complain less? Be more conscientious, more rigours, less selfish?

We look at Great Lent as a test, a race even, that we run in order to successfully cross the finish line, to reach the celebration of the Lord’s Saving Passion and His life-giving Resurrection. Great Lent is a microcosm of our Christian life. We are only given a short period of time in life to push ourselves to keep the commandments of Christ in order to successfully cross the finish line on the Day of Judgment. We do not know how long or how short the race will be, so we must “arise and be going” (Mt. 26:46) now. We must pray now; we must fast, repent, and confess our sins now because we don’t know if we’ll be granted a then. Great Lent reminds us of the now, of the race we are a part of but perhaps haven’t taken the time to truly run.

If this were my last Lent, my last days, I hope and pray that I would reach the end and hear the blessed words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mt. 25:23).

I wish you all a Good Lent, beg your forgiveness and ask for your continued prayers!


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The oldest lighthouse in Newfoundland. Image retrieved here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/21096258@N05/3946472184/

I don’t often write about our life here in Newfoundland but at the behest of one of my readers in Romania I thought I’d offer an update and a little “behind the scenes” look at some of the elements that go into serving the Orthodox Church on the island of Newfoundland in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Mission communityOur community is growing, but it is small and may always be so because a lot of people come and go here. Although it has only been one year and a couple of months since we moved here a number of parishioners joined our community and some had to leave for work on the mainland. This constant flux can be disheartening at times because our community really clings to one another like family members, and so it hurts when family moves away. But, like a lighthouse safely guiding the ships to and from the port we remain, lighting candles and offering the divine services here in St. John’s. This image of our little Mission being like a lighthouse is pertinent since many come and go from Newfoundland on boats – why, sometimes we even get a sailor or two stop by our Mission while his ship is docked at the port.

Fr. John's prosphora.

Fr. John’s prosphora


My phanouropita

Making candles.

Making candles

In addition to serving the divine services, confessing and counseling the parishioners, doing translations, writing homilies and articles, giving lectures, studying the Scriptures and reading the Fathers, Fr. John also bakes the profora and recycles the candle stubs to make votive candles to burn before the icons in our make-shift iconostasis  (I like to call them “recycled prayers”).


We started offering Sunday school last January. We offer one class (for all ages) the first Sunday of the month. Last year our curriculum focused on the Great Feasts. This year we’ve been doing the lives of the saints. So, I choose a saint for each month, make up a slideshow of images (both icons and photos or paintings of historical characters – mostly emperors – and places related to the saint’s life). all saintsThen while I show the slides on my computer I tell the children a basic biography of the saint and some details about the setting in which he or she lived. At the end of class we have a pop-quiz. Despite the fact that the ages range from 4 to 14 I’m always impressed with how much all the children get out of our lesson. It’s a great deal of fun for me too, but I need to be very enthusiastic and expressive when I give them the lesson to hold their attention (which isn’t all that difficult for me as I’m a natural born wide-eyed hand-talker).

100_4289Bishop Irenee visited us in January for a few days and served Great Vespers on January 16 for the Feast of St. Anthony the Great, as well as Matins and Divine Liturgy the next day. It was so wonderful! Everyone was so joyful and came together to receive our Hierarch with the love and enthusiasm he deserves. The church was cleaned, flowers were bought, our “Trapeza” was decorated, delicious food was prepared and wonderful toasts were offered. 100_4345One of our parishioners who is a musician also shared some beautiful folk songs in his native Ukrainian that we all enjoyed. It was a very special and grace-filled event to have our beloved Vladyka with us, to receive his blessing and have him pray for our community in our community.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn preparation for the Bishop’s visit in November I started teaching the children a song to perform for him. They practiced so much I was (and am) so proud of them! Not only did they practice when we were together on Sunday but almost all of the parents told me the children were practicing the song around the house. The song was, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. Between this verse they sang “Lord have mercy”s in various languages since all the children speak two or more languages.

100_4338In between the English “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” they sang “Lord have mercy” in Arabic, Romanian, Slavonic and French (French because not only is our Bishop French-Canadian, but French is the language the children most frequently use to communicate with one another). So, following the Divine Liturgy, just before our shared meal the children performed their song for him. They did so wonderfully I’m so proud of them (did I say that already?)!

100_4332The only “thorn in our side” right now is that the college where we hold our services is functioning full-time this year. So, although we were free to do multiple services a week last year when it functioned part-time since September (2014) our ability to offer services has been severely limited. We also have to transform the college’s chapel from an Anglican chapel into an Orthodox chapel and vice-versa each time we hold services. Truly, necessity is the mother of invention as we create an iconostasis out of the furniture available in the chapel, but our limited access to the chapel and the fact that we have to take down and set up is very difficult for us because we wish to have a permanent place. This would give us the ability to put down deeper roots in the community as well as the freedom to offer services  whenever we wish, not to mention when the liturgical year requires. (As it is now we can’t even have services on some of the Great Feasts!). Please, please, please pray for our community, for Fr. John, and for a solution to this problem!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite little hiccups we continue our struggle to establish an enduring lighthouse here on the Eastern edge of North America, striving to make ourselves available to God and praying for Him to enlighten and guide us. I will leave you with a quotation from the ever-memorable Bishop Augoustinos of Florina whose missionary zeal and spirit never ceases to inspire our own feeble efforts to spread the Gospel here in the North Atlantic: “For real fishermen there are certain days and nights when, despite their toil and sweat, the catch is meager and worthless. This can also happen to spiritual fishermen. There are evil days  when people so sink into the flow of their materialistic lives, so distanced from God, that no hook, no net, and no catechesis, teaching or missionary activity could gather them. One might think there were no fish at all, that the sea was empty! But as true fishermen never despair, so spiritual fishers should never be discouraged. There will come days of abundant catch” (Follow Me, pp. 285-286).

100_4339Again, I supplicate you: please do us the favour of remembering us in your holy prayers!

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