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Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category

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

phanouropita

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”).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcandles

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:

Alleluia

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:

Alleluia

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Fr. John venerating the holy saint's grave, 2012.

Fr. John venerating the holy saint’s grave, 2012.

According to the website of Romfea, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has made the decision today, January 13, 2015, to enlist the monk Paisios the Athonite among the ranks of the saints.

Glory to God! God is with us and is wonderful in His saints!

Although the website does not state what date St. Paisios’ feast day will be celebrated, he repose on July 12 and is buried at the Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti (outside Thessaloniki) where thousands of pilgrims visit his holy grave every July 12 (as well as throughout the year). So, my guess (but it is only a guess) is that his feast day will be July 12. But, I will update this post if I learn differently.

May we have the much-needed prayers and blessing of the holy father among the saints, Paisios the Athonite!

My family, waiting in line to venerate the saint's grave on a typical Sunday evening after Vespers.

My family, waiting in line to venerate the saint’s grave on a typical Sunday evening after Vespers.

The bells at the monastery in Souroti ringing out in celebration the day St. Paisios was canonized! (Thanks to a friend for sending me the link).

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Father Cosmas

Below is a homily given by Bishop Avgoustinos of Florina a few months after Fr. Cosmas, Apostle to Zaire, reposed. This excerpt is from the book Apostle to Zaire: The Life and Legacy of Blessed Father Cosmas of Gregoriou pp. 113-115.

Some, when they hear in the Gospel, “at that time” they say, “This is written for those of old.” Christ, however, is “the same yesterday, today and unto the ages”. Our Church does not reserve the showing forth of missionaries for the days of old, but continues its mission today, in this harsh, materialistic, new idol-worshipping and Masonic age. In this age of the antichrist we have examples of missionaries both within the borders of our country [Greece] and abroad.

One such excellent example is Fr. Cosmas, priestmonk and missionary, for whom we serve the holy memorial today. He lived close to me. He was a child of a poor but honourable family from Thessaloniki. He loved God from his youth. He was a regular at the catechetical schools. He heard the sermons of the pre-eminent preachers of the city. He studied much, attending the school for foreman, and could have been an important architect who built houses that would have brought him millions of dollars. Our age is an age of architects, lawyers and engineers – an age of “how-much-you-mak’n”. However, he didn’t become such a one as these. Nor did he wish to continue his studies and become a university professor, just because he had an extremely clever mind, a mathematical mind. Rather, he preferred the work of fishermen. He became a “fisherman.” He was with us in the early days of great productivity when, together with Father Hierotheos and a few co-workers, we had “hustle it up” as our watchword, and he worked extremely hard.

***

He couldn’t care less about “how-much-you-mak’n”. When he came to Florina and went to dealers in order to buy supplies, their first question was always, “How much do you make?” They would say, “Being so close to the Bishop you probably make a lot. You work on a twenty-four hour basis. You don’t have a break, neither on Saturday nor Sunday…” He would reply, “I don’t make anything except for room and board.” They didn’t believe him. They said he was lying. The truth is that boy abhorred the world of “how much you make,” and soon left.

***

The grave of Fr. Cosmas.

The beloved Cosmas was a trailblazer of a beautiful journey for our race. We want to believe that others will follow his example: the feast of a martyr, the imitation of a martyr. Both here in the holy altar and elsewhere there are certain young people who shouldn’t become “how-much-you-makers” but idealists. Once upon a time, Greece had such idealists. Who brought Orthodoxy to Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, and Russia? It was Greek Christians. Nowadays, households don’t produce idealists. A child’s mother wants him to become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a professor, an engineer, a businessman – anything but a priest. She doesn’t even want to hear of it. So it is that today I especially honour the elect disciple, monk and missionary Cosmas. He is a prototype. He is a combination of internal and external mission work.

The servant of God, Cosmas of Gregoriou Monastery, apostle martyred* in Africa to the glory of God and Orthodoxy – may his memory be eternal! And may there be many followers of his heroic example.

*lessonsfromamonastery’s note: While Fr. Cosmas was in fact killed in a car accident, I believe the Bishop is applying St. John Chrysostom’s definition of a martyr here. That is, one who lives ascetically, willingly “dying” to his sins and passions.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis Fall Fr. John and I had the great blessing of going on a little spiritual retreat to the wonderful monastery of the Mother of God the Consoler (Panagia Parigoritissa) in Brownsburg-Chatham, Quebec. While we were there my brother, Fr. Matthew, and his wife Presvytera Catherine, came over from Ontario so we could spend some quality family time in the peaceful and prayerful environment of the monastery. I wanted to share some photos of our pilgrimage with you, along with the history of the monastery and ask you to please consider donating to the monastery’s building fund.

The History of the Monastery (taken from the monastery’s website with minor edits):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Panagia Parigoritissa (the Most Holy Theotokos the Consoler) Greek Orthodox Monastery – the first Greek Orthodox monastery in Quebec – was founded in 1993, under the auspicious care of his Eminence, Metropolitan Sotirios, head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto  (Canada).

Under the direction of their spiritual father, Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, two monastic women, Abbess Thekla and Sister Ephraimia, migrated from the ancient and historical Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner of Serres in central Macedonia to Canada. Once in Quebec they found themselves in particularly trying conditions. They were obliged to forego the age-old organized monastic life which flourishes in the mild Mediterranean climate of Greece, and destined to engage in an effort to establish a new type of settlement.

skete2An old farm once belonging to an English-speaking family was bought with the purpose of being converted into a monastery.  It was an extensive landscape comprising of 235 acres of dense forest set on a hill in the breath-taking Laurentians, 16 km northwest of Lachute in Brownsburg-Chatham.  Grass and bramble had grown over the property and the house was in ruins and in need of repair.  A surfeit of love, sacrifice and arduous labour on the part of the increasing number of sisters and kind volunteers was required in order to transform the area into a garden of our Most Holy Mother the Consoler, to whom the monastery is dedicated.

For a more complete history see here.

P:5-267 MonastèrePérimés5-267-A105-Périmé 19 déc.dwg A105.1 (1)

A beautiful sketch of the proposed expansion.

The Monastery’s Construction Project (also taken from the website, with minor edits):

Fr. Matthew showcasing a fantastic book (Abba Dorotheos' Practical Teachings on the Christian Life) in the monastery's lovely boutique.

Fr. Matthew showcasing a fantastic book (Abba Dorotheos’ Practical Teachings on the Christian Life) in the monastery’s lovely boutique.

In the Spring of 2009, the building project of a pavilion for the sisters’ needs began.  The building will house the 22 sisters who are now sharing 16 rooms in two different buildings, far apart from each other.  There will be an infirmary, workspaces, a kitchen and a dining room, an office, a library and two chapels to solely serve the needs of the nuns.  By accommodating the sisters, facilities will be available once again to receive pilgrims. For, aside from monastics’ objectives of spiritual ascent, prayer and constant contact with God, their goal and ongoing endeavor is to provide a place of reprieve for the weary souls of pilgrims.  Thus, beyond serving the day to day needs of the sisters, the expansion of the monastery will also provide much needed guest houses and reception space for pilgrims and people in need.

The monastery's beautiful courtyard.

The monastery’s beautiful courtyard.

And so, financial aid is needed for the continuance and completion of the project.  One can offer money, expertise, material, equipment or anything that could be of help in the project.  According to the Church Fathers by offering alms to monasteries we relieve the monastics slightly from their material burden, allowing them more time for prayer and spiritual work.  In this way, the monastics pray for their benefactors and everyone benefits from their prayers.

You can offer a donation by credit card or by sending a check or money order to the address below. Donations can be made in whole amounts or monthly payments over a certain period of time.  If you wish to help in other ways please contact the sisters of the monastery.

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall find mercy.” (Mt 5:7) Give and you will receive God’s blessings.  You will be counted worthy of His grace and you will be eternally commemorated in the monastery’s Divine Liturgy: “For the builders of this holy monastery let us pray to the Lord…  Lord have mercy”, (from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

under construction

The current state of the building’s construction.

Monastere Vierge Marie la Consolatrice
827 ch. de la Carriere
Brownsburg-Chatham, QC
J8G 1K7

Tel: 450-533-4313/ 450-533-1170
Fax: 450-533-1169/ 450-533-6234

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To the far right you can see the building under construction. Next to that is the icon of the Mother of God which is located just above the entrance to the monastery’s chapel.

If you wish to see photos of the building project go here.

Please share information about the monastery’s building project with as many people as you can!

May the Mother of God be with us all!

Here Fr. John is laughing about how one of the ponies just started eating Pres. Catherine's shirt.

Fr. John is laughing about how one of the monastery’s ponies just about chewed off the bottom of Pres. Catherine’s skirt.

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orthodoxpathAs quite a few readers of Lessons from a Monastery are from various countries and know various languages, I wanted to introduce you to a new website called The Orthodox Path, a multilingual Orthodox website. It is a great resource and has made spiritual articles available in many languages, including Greek, English, German, Albanian, Romanian, Turkish, as well as others. Below is just one of the website’s many jewels. It is a translation of a talk given by the renowned Elder Symeon of Panorama. Enjoy!

People today are complicated, multi-faceted, confused, and in one way or another, their souls are layered: layer upon layer of blindness, layer upon layer of callousness, layer upon layer of pride. For this reason they are never healed once and for all. As soon as you take a humble attitude, though, Grace intervenes and works a miracle: you are freed. But the work does not end here. This Grace, this light, this healing that comes proceeds also to the next layer further down. And here the sin is more unyielding, is more strongly rooted, the resistance is uncompromising. If you say, “May it be blessed, My God. I will look even deeper and I will acknowledge my stubbornness and my sin, and will humble myself”, then another miracle takes place. And in some incomprehensible way, the second and the third, the fourth and the fifth layers of the soul are put right. But some people will not accept this. They remain at the superficial layers, and spend their life like this and are never healed.” 

Transcribed talks by Arch. Symeon Kragiopoulos (trans. by Fr. Matthew Penney)

Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers, may we have the courage to continually look deep within ourselves and receive the grace of healing!

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I was commissioned to paint this icon by a dear Romanian friend of ours from New Brunswick. That is why the names Archangel Michael and St. Archippus are written in Romanian.

I was commissioned to paint this icon by a dear Romanian friend of ours from New Brunswick. That is why the names Archangel Michael and St. Archippus are written in Romanian.

(Source)

The Miracle of the Holy Chief Commander Archangel Michael at Colossae. In Phrygia, not far from the city of Hieropolis, in a place called Cheretopos, there was a church named for the Archangel Michael, built over a miraculous spring.

This church was built by a certain inhabitant of the city of Laodicia in gratitude to God for healing his mute daughter. The holy Chief Commander Michael appeared to this man in a dream and revealed to him that his daughter would receive the gift of speech after drinking from the water of the spring. The girl actually did receive healing and began to speak. After this miracle, the father and his daughter and all their family were baptized. In fervent gratitude, the father built the church in honor of the holy Chief Commander Michael. Not only did Christians begin to come to the spring for healing, but also pagans. In so doing, many of the pagans turned from their idols and were converted to the faith in Christ.

At this church of the holy Chief Commander Michael, a certain pious man by the name of Archippus served for sixty years as church custodian. By his preaching and by the example of his saintly life he brought many pagans to faith in Christ. With the general malice of that time towards Christians, and especially against Archippus, the pagans thought to destroy the church in order to prevent people from coming to that holy place of healing, and at the same time kill Archippus.

Toward this end they made a confluence of the Lykokaperos and Kufos Rivers and directed its combined flow against the church. St Archippus prayed fervently to the Chief Commander Michael to ward off the danger. Through his prayer the Archangel Michael appeared at the temple, and with a blow of his staff, opened a wide fissure in a rock and commanded the rushing torrents of water to flow into it. The temple remained unharmed. Seeing such an awesome miracle, the pagans fled in terror. Archippus and the Christians gathered in church glorified God and gave thanks to the holy Archangel Michael for the help. The place where the rivers plunged into the fissure received the name “Chonae”, which means “plunging.”

The Chudov (“of the Miracle”) monastery in Moscow is named for this Feast.

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