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Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

St. Simeon the King of Serbia

stkraljA monastery I was fond of visiting in Northern Greece had a frescoed icon of this saint in the catholicon that dated to the 13th century (if I remember correctly). I always thought that was really neat!

(Source) Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Gusher, King of Serbia Stephen Nemanya was the Great Zhupan of Serbia, and lived during the twelfth century. The saint toiled much for his fatherland: he united a large portion of the Serbian lands, and strove for the political independence of his country from the Byzantine Empire. In his zeal for the Orthodox Church, he defended his nation against heresy and false teaching.

At the age of eighty, Stephen went to Mt. Athos, where his son St Sava (January 12), was glorified by the holiness of his life. Together they restored the desolate Hilandar monastery, to which monks from various lands began to gather.

St Simeon was a great ascetic and wise guide for the monks. He died on February 13, 1200, and his relics began to exude myrrh. St Sava transported his father’s relics back to Serbia, and placed them in a church of the Most Holy Theotokos at the River Studenitsa. St Simeon had richly adorned this church while he was still ruler of Serbia.

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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.

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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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Two St. Xenias

https://lessonsfromamonastery.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/img_2953.jpg?w=451&h=602

(Originally posted in 2012) Today is the feast day of St. Xenia (Xeni, in Greek) of Rome, and St. Xenia the fool-for-Christ of St. Petersburg. I went to Osia Xeni of Rome’s church here in Thessaloniki last night because there was a vigil. (In Greek St. Xenia of Rome is called Osia – which literally means holy – because that is the most common title given to ascetics, and Xeni because it is the female form of the Greek word foreigner). The vigil began at 8:00PM, and was to end at 1:30AM. Vigil in the Greek typicon consists of Vespers, (in this case also the service for Artoclasia), Hours, Matins, and Divine Liturgy.

I didn’t stay for the full five and a half hour vigil, but I really enjoyed the service for the time I was there. They had a piece of St. Xenia’s holy relics which I was blessed to venerate. And I always love hearing the wonderful sound of Byzantine chant. The church was very dark, only illuminated by the candles at the back and the oil lamps hung in front of the holy icons on the iconostas. I love when services are done in the dark. It makes the whole atmosphere more silent, more focused.

An icon of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg in Osia Xeni’s church.

The two Sts. Xenias are both very wonderful for their own reasons, but the following poem is written about St. Xenia of Rome. It’s taken from St. Nikolai’s Prologue:

The virgin Xenia, as well as Agnes

Or the all-glorious Thecla or Anastasia,

Did not want to be tied to a physical man

But found a Bridegroom in the Immortal Christ.

With all her soul, she loved His beauty

And mercy and tenderness and radiant purity.

And even the senator’s house and wealth, she left

When the Sun of Righteousness shown in her soul.

Soul! Soul ! Soul! is the true bride;

And the body is miserable like the transient grass.

And the bride [her soul] Xenia began to adorn

And by many prayers to wash and nourish it

That the bride [her soul], to be a heavenly apparition,

Pleasant and worthy of the Heavenly Bridegroom.

The labors of Holy Xenia were pleasing to the Bridegroom,

And many wondrous gifts, upon her, He bestowed.

When her pure soul, the flesh, overcame,

Peaceful as a king over a vanquished city,

With the wreath of immortality, the Lord crowned her,

Into the mansion of eternal joy, led her.

There, where the angels hymn the Creator in song,

There, the Lord receives His bride.

Osia Xeni’s holy relics.

 

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0107johnbaptist11(Source) In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior.

St John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, whom the Lord called the greatest of the prophets, concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens the era of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John bore witness to the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh. St John was accounted worthy to baptize Him in the waters of the Jordan, and he was a witness of the Theophany of the Most Holy Trinity on the day of the Savior’s Baptism.

The holy Prophet John was related to the Lord on His mother’s side, the son of the Priest Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth. The holy Forerunner, John, was born six months before Christ. The Archangel Gabriel announced his birth in the Temple at Jerusalem, revealing to Zachariah that a son was to be born to him.

Through the prayers offered beforehand, the child was filled with the Holy Spirit. St John prepared himself in the wilds of the desert for his great service by a strict life, by fasting, prayer and sympathy for the fate of God’s people.

At the age of thirty, he came forth preaching repentance. He appeared on the banks of the Jordan, to prepare the people by his preaching to accept the Savior of the world. In church hymnology, St John is called a “bright morning star,” whose gleaming outshone the brilliance of all the other stars, announcing the coming dawn of the day of grace, illumined with the light of the spiritual Sun, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Having baptized the sinless Lamb of God, St John soon died a martyr’s death, beheaded by the sword on orders of King Herod at the request of his daughter Salome. (On St John the Baptist, see Mt.3:1-16, 11:1-19, 14:1-12; Mark 1:2-8, 6:14-29; Luke 1:5-25, 39-80, 3:1-20, 7:18-35, 9:7-9; John 1:19-34, 3:22-26).

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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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In the face of many trials and tribulations – especially in the modern era – it can be difficult for us to keep our zeal for the Christian faith. Sometimes we hear the voice of others, see their actions – even those we love, respect, admire and look up to – and like the Holy Martyrs Marcellinus and Mark we begin to feel ourselves being persuaded to turn away from the faith handed down to us (1 Corinthians 11: 2), to rear to the left, onto the easy path that leads to the wide gate (Mt. 7:13).

But then we read the lives of the saints and all of a sudden the clouds that had formed over our hearts dissipate and we remember “whereof we were made” (Ps. 103:14), for what purpose and goal, and we become convicted once again to hold firm to the traditions of our Fathers. We hearken to the words spoken by those who had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, whose words are written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15), and we say: Ah, yes. It is for this reason I struggle to live for Christ; it is for this reason I fast when the Church prescribes fasting; it is for this reason I confess my sins, do my prayers, attend the divine services; it is for this reason I strive to live in the world and not be of it: for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Lk. 18: 29).

I know there is much going on in the world that confuses us, but like Sts. Marcellinus and Mark we must listen to the voice of the saints, observe their actions and follow their example. We must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation. So, we can keep informed about current events if we so choose but we must never become despondent. We place our trust in Christ, Who governs the Church, and Who reassures us that “the gates of hell will not prevail against her” (Mt. 16:18). We read the lives of the saints and we pray to them for guidance, endurance, and enlightenment. Just reading the speech of St. Sebastian to the faltering martyrs (offered below) is enough to remember: It is for this that I cling to Christ and strive to “lay aside all earthly care” (Cherubic Hymn) in hopes of experiencing the unending joys of the heavenly kingdom. 

(Source) The noble Christian brothers Marcellinus and Mark had been locked up in prison, and at first they firmly confessed the true Faith. But under the influence of the tearful entreaties of their pagan parents (Tranquillinus and Marcia), and also their own wives and children, they began to waver in their intent to suffer for Christ. St Sebastian went to the imperial treasurer, at whose house Marcellinus and Mark were held in confinement, and addressed the brothers who were on the verge of yielding to the entreaties of their family.

“O valiant warriors of Christ! Do not cast away your everlasting crowns of victory because of the tears of your relatives. Do not remove your feet from the necks of your enemies who lie prostrate before you, lest they regain their strength and attack you more fiercely than before. Raise your banner high over every earthly attachment. If those whom you see weeping knew that there is another life where there is neither sickness nor death, where there is unceasing gladness and everything is beautiful, then assuredly they would wish to enter it with you. Anyone who fears to exchange this brief earthly life for the unending joys of the heavenly Kingdom is foolish indeed. For he who rejects eternity wastes the brief time of his existence, and will be delivered to everlasting torment in Hades.”

Then St Sebastian said that if necessary, he would be willing to endure torment and death in order to show them how to give their lives for Christ.

May we follow the saint’s example and also be inspired to give our lives for Christ. Amen.

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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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