Archive for the ‘Orthodox Customs and Tradition’ Category

I saw this documentary posted on Byzantine Texas and watched it a few weeks ago. The monastic wisdom captured in the documentary’s dialogue with seasoned monastics is spiritually rich while being simple and applicable.

One of the sisters says, “If I were born again a thousand times I would do the same thing [choose the monastic life]”. When I heard this I thought, “How incredible it would be to live my life in such a way that I could honestly say that if I were born one thousand times, one thousand times I would choose this life.” May God enlighten and guide us all to walk on the straight and narrow path of pleasing Him and gaining Paradise in this life and the next! And may we look to our “big brothers and sisters” in Christ who shine before us as great examples of life in Christ.


meteora 073

One of the monasteries in Meteora, Greece.

(Source) The monastery is the sacred home of God, but also home to the nuns and monks who have dedicated their lives to God. Romania’s monasteries are known worldwide for their magnificent beauty, but what do we know about the people that live there? How different is the life they lead? How different is the way they see the world?

Behind the Monastery Walls presents a selection of intimate and inspiring interviews in which nuns and monks in Romanian monasteries lay bare their thoughts and real beliefs.

Behind the Monastery Walls is one Orthodox Christian’s graduation film from the BA in Media Production program at Coventry University. Having received a scholarship from the Peter Kirk Memorial Fund supported by the European Parliament he produced 2 short documentaries which talks about monastic life in Romania (Behind the Monastery Walls) and in England (Sisters in Love).

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September 1 is the beginning of the Orthodox ecclesiastical year. According to Tradition, it was on September 1 that our Lord and Saviour entered the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and was given to read a scroll from the prophet Isiah. It was customary at that time for the Jewish male to read in the synagogue once he had reached his thirtieth year. It was not a coincidence that Christ read prophetic words which referred to Him personally. It was the will of God for Him to be revealed in this manner. When He stood to read these were the words He uttered:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isiah 61:1-2).

St. Luke’s gospel tells us Christ then “closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:20-22).

The Church, in her wisdom, decided the appropriate day to begin the Church year was the very day on which Christ began His ministry, the day He began to “preach the acceptable year of the Lord”.

Interestingly, the ecclesiastical year begins and ends with the Theotokos. On September 8 we celebrate her nativity, just one week into the new Church year. We celebrate her dormition, or falling asleep, on August 15, two weeks before the end of the Church year.

I don’t think we can view this as a coincidence. Our salvation begins with her as she was the long-awaited one; without her Christ would not have been born. So her own nativity is a kind of “beginning of our salvation” (Troparion of the Nativity of Christ). Her falling asleep and being escorted by her Son to Paradise is the appropriate ending. Taking our cue from the Lady Theotokos an appropriate “new year’s resolution” should be to die with Christ so that we can live with Him, to endure so that we too will reign.

“For if we have died with him, we will also live with him; and if we endure we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:11).

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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.

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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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