Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category

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By the grace of God, and through the prayers of many holy souls, our simple life in St. John’s, Newfoundland is progressing. Just after Fr. John and I returned from a pilgrimage to a monastery in September significant changes began to occur. First, we moved out of our one bedroom apartment and into a house (with a yard and a deck and a front porch!) and second, I got a permanent, full-time job. So, it looks as though God wills for us to continue our feeble attempts to firmly establish Orthodoxy on this island.

The best part about our new home is that the downstairs is a walk-out basement with an external exit/ entrance and so we are finally able to have a chapel in our home (I had already painted the icons for our future home-chapel while living in Greece). Thus, instead of bothering Queen’s College (where our Mission Station is) and trying to get them to change their schedule to suit us, we do all weekday services in the domestic chapel with weekend services taking place, as always, on campus at the College. The very first service we had in our domestic chapel was for the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God – very appropriate. She has been protecting and guiding our community and we hope and pray she continues to do so. While many icons adorn the walls – as you can see from the photos – an iconostasis has yet to be built/ installed.

iconsBecause the domestic is named in honour of St. Nektarios we held Great Vespers for his feast day and had a get-together upstairs in our home afterwards. The photos that are included in this post are mostly of that evening.

In addition to serving Matins and Vespers daily, Fr. John offers ‘Adult Sunday School’ the first Sunday of every month. This year’s theme is the Divine Liturgy. I love hearing Fr. John’s lesson as well as the great questions/ discussions that are generated as a result.

On the second and fourth Sunday of the month I teach Sunday School to the children. This year we are focusing on The Life and Person of Jesus Christ. The children (ages 4-10) are so brilliant and so attentive that if you were to ask them whether we believe in One God or three Gods they would tell you we believe in One God and Three Persons. They know that Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect Man, and that when we cross ourselves the three fingers we hold together represent the Holy Trinity and the two fingers we keep together represent the two natures of Christ.

In order to instill in the children the firm understanding that knowledge of God is not attained through study and reading but rather through lived experience of Him, drawing closer to Him in prayer, we begin and end each class with the Jesus Prayer. I made small, 12-knot (finger) prayer ropes for the children and each child takes a turn saying the Jesus Prayer on their little prayer ropes. It’s so beautiful and so moving to hear them pray aloud. They have no inhibitions, no embarrassment, from the moment they begin to say, “Lord Jesus Christ…” they pray with such attention and their voices sound so sincere that you are moved and you say to yourself: “This is why Christ said ‘Unless you become as this little child'” because they pray with a kind of innocent purity that is so far removed from the hardened hearts of most of us adults…

And as the parish’s Sunday School teacher I was very pleased to hear that when Fr. John went downstairs to check on the children who were playing in the sitting area around the corner from our domestic chapel he heard the 9 and 10 year old boys debating whether everything that happens in the world is the will of God, haha!

Although with everything there is temptation we try and take courage, fight despondency, and cling to the hope that someday there will be a beautiful Orthodox church, built in a traditional style, full of faithful… and by full I am not referring to quantity but quality: replete with struggling Orthodox Christians. Amen. So be it!

“The Lord God make steadfast the holy and blameless Faith of the pious and Orthodox Christians, with His holy Church and this island, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

Please continue to pray for us, the Holy Lady of Vladimir Orthodox Mission!

(And if you’re interested in Orthodox adventures in Newfoundland you won’t want to miss out on Martin’s adventures in the awesome novel Voyage to the Rock!)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAncient Faith Radio has uploaded recordings from the Orthodox Young Professionals Retreat held in Santa Fe, NM in October.

While only three of the four talks were recorded, they have also shared the recording of the panel discussion that featured all four speakers.

To the left is a photo of Archimandrite Gerasim; he was the Keynote speaker and I was delighted to meet him and hear him speak. You can hear his talk, entitled “Now You Are the Body of Christ and Members in Particular” here.

You can find Ashley-Veronika’s talk entitled “How Our Ancient Tradition Speaks to Modern Ecology” here.

I’m sorry to say that Joshua’s talk was not recorded. It was fabulous, but you’ll just have to take my word it.

Below is a photo of all the speakers during the panel discussion. You can hear this discussion here.


If you wish you can hear my talk “Work as Prayer: Uniting our Divided Selves” here. Hearing the recordings I am reminded of why people tell me to slow down when I speak. However, in defense of ‘speaking quickly’ I will share the following: :)

“I have heard criticism against Fr. Daniel [Sysoev] that he hurries, talks too fast, and people can’t keep up. But he was in a hurry to pour the source of living waters out upon people, to make all of us partakers of Divine truth, to lead us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. For me, Fr. Daniel’s trait of “speaking quickly” was a great plus, because I myself was in a hurry to know everything.” (Source)


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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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I’ve decided to create a new series – Modern Saints – wherein I post a very small biography and a few inspiring words from contemporary holy men and women who have not yet been included in the Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church.

A Glimpse of His Holy Life:

Holy Elder Amphilochios was born on December 13, 1889 on the island of Patmos, the holy island on which St. John the Theologian and Evangelist received divine revelation of the apocalypse, later recorded by his disciple St. Procopious and included in the canon of the New Testament. Elder Amphilochios was born into a large pious family and was baptized with the name Athanasios. Like many saints, even as an infant Athanasios piously kept the fasts of the Church and refused his mother’s milk on Wednesdays and Fridays. He preserved himself from the temptations of the world and at the age seventeen became a novice a the Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos. After his tonsure into the Great Schema he was later ordained a deacon and subsequently a priest. He was elected abbot in 1935. He went on to found a women’s monastery nearby which opened an orphanage and a house for pregnant women. Two years before his repose, on Pascha 1968, the elder was forewarned of his earthly departure, having prepared himself he reposed on April 16, 1970, just before Holy Week began.

Wise Counsel from the Elder:

“The words of the preachers today [ie. those designated by the Church of Greece to deliver homilies] have the effect of throwing turpentine on a fire. The poor and unlettered laity have been abandoned and now don’t listen. They need to see good works and lives of Christian love…they need to feel that their brother is co-suffering in their pain. Only through love for them and through philanthropic works will we manage to bring our brethren back close to Christ.” (Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, p. 54)

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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

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