Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category

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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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.

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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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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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sts. pertpetua and felicity2Having recently received a blessing from His Grace Bishop Irenee of Ottawa and all of Canada, I am pleased to offer – on the feast of the African martyrs – the akathist I wrote for St. Perpetua and her companions quite a few years back. I wrote the akathist in acrostic (in alphabetical order) as the akathists of old were written in Ancient Greek so the faithful could more readily memorize them. (It wasn’t easy finding a word that started with “X”). In any case, I am happy to share it with you all. And so, although you can read a portion of it below, I have created a page for the akathist called “Akathist to the African Martyrs”. The tab is located at the top of the blog; here is a direct link.

If you would be so kind as to remember me in your prayers if or when you read it I would be very grateful.


african martyrsWhen the Lord deemed it fitting He called His saints out of the African lands: holy Perpetua, Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Revocatus and Secundulus, to witness to their faith through suffering death. Thus, we have as an inheritance the flourishing tree of Orthodoxy, for they shed their blood, watering the seedling. Wherefore we cry aloud:

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity, and your companions

As a catechumen, O holy Perpetua, thou wast taken captive and while in prison thy father besought thee to denounce Christ. But boldly thou didst proclaim that thou couldst be called by no other name but Christian. Wherefore we marvel at thy conviction and cry out to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who art a shining example for all catechumens

Rejoice, thou who chose the heavenly over thine earthly father

Rejoice, thou who refused to be called anything other than a Christian

Rejoice, being freed from the bondage of sin through baptism while yet in prison

Rejoice, for being informed by the Spirit thou prayed only for endurance of the flesh

Rejoice, Married Matron mother of a son

Rejoice, thou who wast tempted by womanly anxiety for thy suckling child

Rejoice, thou who wast ministered to by the holy deacons Tertius and Pomponius

Rejoice, thou who didst commend thy son to the care of thy mother

Rejoice, thou who didst comfort thy brother, a catechumen in the faith

Rejoice, thou who didst look upon the dungeon as a palace

Rejoice, Bold One asking the Lord whether thou wouldst die a martyr’s death

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Beholding a heavenly vision, holy Perpetua wast informed of her martyrdom. She was found worthy to see with spiritual eyes the contest of salvation. And looking upon the bronze ladder she didst see holy Saturus going up ahead of her, calling after her to follow. Wherefore we call to her:


Contemplating the narrow ladder holy Perpetua didst understand the struggle to enter Paradise, for as a vile serpent the devil lies waiting to strike. Yet encouraged by her teacher she didst trod on its head and ascended the ladder, her gaze fixed upward. Wherefore we cry to her:

Rejoice, thou who didst declare the serpent powerless in the name of the Lord

Rejoice, thou who didst proclaim the way to Life impossible for the negligent

Rejoice, thou who didst follow holy Saturus’ example in death as in life

Rejoice, thou who didst ascend and enter a vast garden

Rejoice, thou who didst stand in the company of many clothed in white

Rejoice, thou who wast greeted by the venerable Shepherd

Rejoice, thou who wast given to eat food sweeter than honey

Rejoice, thou who didst awake from thy vision at the word ‘amen’

Rejoice, Holy Saturus who wast found worthy to ascend the ladder first

Rejoice, O father who gave thyself up for the sake of the catechumens

Rejoice, Encourager of Perpetua to follow after thee in thine ascent

Rejoice, you who confidently forsook all hope in this world

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

During their meal the martyrs were all called to the tribunal, and once there they all proclaimed themselves Christians. Refusing to offer sacrifice to the idols for the Emperor’s prosperity, they left the procurator Hilarian baffled, who knew not how to chant:


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