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Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

This beautiful article and accompanying photos are from St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery website.

(Source)

Maria (the future Abbess Makrina) was born in 1921 and grew up in Volos. When she was only ten, both of her parents died, and she began working to support herself and her younger brother. These two orphans managed to survive like this until she was twenty. But when the German Occupation began and famine struck Greece in 1941, they nearly died of starvation, and her brother left Volos. She continued working in Volos wherever she could for her daily bread. Despite her own poverty, she shared whatever food she had with others. Not only was she a hard worker and generous, but she was especially a person of prayer and frequently perceived God’s help tangibly.

In those days, she became acquainted with the mother of Geronda Ephraim, Victoria Moraitis. Those two holy women would pray together all night long on their knees with many tears and prostrations. Because of Maria’s virtues, other pious young women gathered around her during the years of the German Occupation.

Gerontissa Makrina
Panagia Hodigitria Monastery

They lived like an informal sisterhood and yearned to become nuns. They were under the guidance of Father Ephraim of Volos, who had previously been part of Saint Joseph the Hesychast’s brotherhood. Even though he was doing great work with his large flock, he was slandered in 1952 and was forced to leave Volos. Thus, his spiritual children there became “orphans.”

Several spiritual fathers offered to assume the spiritual responsibility for this virtuous sisterhood, but those women, having already acquired the spiritual mind-set of Saint Joseph, could not be satisfied spiritually with any of them. They considered asking him to become their spiritual father, but they hesitated because they had heard how strict he was.

Finally, they did write to him, since they refused to settle for less. The Saint prayed about their request and then wrote back to them: “If you are obedient to me, I will assume responsibility for you. If you aren’t, I will leave you.” They replied: “Geronda, we will be obedient to whatever you tell us to do.” When he received their reply, he prayed again about them. After this, he wrote back and told them that they should treat Maria as their abbess, even though he had never seen her.

He explained to them: “While I was praying, I saw Maria in a vision. She was in the middle, and around her were many little sheep. I realized that this was God’s way of informing me that she should be your abbess. So be obedient to her, and none of you should object to what she says.” Those women said, “May it be blessed,” and the Saint was very happy with their obedience.

He loved them very much because with the eyes of his soul he could see the love they had for Christ, their Bridegroom. This is why he wrote many letters to them. He strengthened them with advice that was simple yet powerful. For example, in one letter to them, he wrote: “Seek nothing but unity and love. Be obedient in order to acquire humility, for our Lord Jesus Christ became an example for all of us and taught humility by being obedient till death. So submit yourselves to Maria, who is trying to benefit you, and all of us here are praying that the Lord will help you and make you worthy of eternal life. I am praying for you with all my soul, humble little Geronda Joseph.”

These women would send their confessions to the Saint, and they saved his many replies as a priceless treasure. He had written to them about theoria and about many spiritual states of his.

Gerontissa Makrina
Panagia Hodigitria Monastery, 1970’s

Unfortunately, all those letters were lost because of the following incident: There was a monk who was not mentally well who wanted to become the spiritual father of those women. They didn’t want him because they didn’t trust him. Besides, they had already found great benefit by being under Saint Joseph. Since that monk was very jealous, he threatened to slander them to the newspapers if he found Saint Joseph’s letters to them. Maria was very afraid of what might happen if he got his hands on those letters because in them Saint Joseph addressed all their confessions. So she decided to burn all of his letters.

Thus, all were destroyed except for eight letters that one of the sisters had kept hidden separately. That is how all those priceless letters of Saint Joseph were lost. What a shame! They would have benefited so many people if they had been preserved and published along with his other letters.

These women eventually became nuns and established a monastery in Portaria, just outside Volos.

One of those nuns told the following story about their life under Saint Joseph:

He foretold everything to us. He wrote about everything happening in our monastery without having been told. Once when I was a novice, my sister (who was also a novice) got very sick. I was very upset and said in my prayers: “Panagia, why? We came here to serve you. Why should she get sick and not be able to offer her help to the monastery?” Then I went down to the courtyard and wept beneath an olive tree all night. A few days later, a letter came for me from Geronda Joseph. He wrote: “My little child, I hear your voice and I can’t bear it. The pain breaks my heart and interrupts my prayer. Don’t weep. Your sister will get well.”

He wrote this without anyone telling him!

Gerontissa Makrina with Gerontissa Theophano

The other sisters said to me, “What did you do?” “I just went and wept beneath an olive tree. But how did he know that, since he was so far away on the Holy Mountain?”

Something similar happened when Gerontissa Makrina became gravely ill and was coughing up blood. We didn’t have a telephone to inform him about it. But in our next letter to him, we concealed her illness from him because we didn’t want to upset him and interrupt his prayer. But then he sent us a letter and said: “My little children, why didn’t you write to me that Gerontissa is ill and is suffering, so that we could pray for her? You made a big mistake thinking that this would interrupt my prayer. When Father Arsenios and I were praying last night, we noetically saw that she was seriously ill, and we prayed hard for her. My children, I want you to inform me about whatever is happening with the monastery and especially with Gerontissa. Write me about it.”

Abbess Makrina likewise saw Saint Joseph and Father Arsenios beside her pillow at night making the sign of the Cross and praying with their prayer-ropes, “Lord, heal Your servant.”

Abbess Makrina later said: “Many times when Geronda was praying, he would see what we were doing and where we were. We wondered how he could write to us on his own and tell us about what we were thinking. After this, our souls were filled with awe and fear!”

After the repose of Saint Joseph, Saint Ephraim of Katounakia in his vigil frequently saw with the eyes of his soul two pillars of fire in Volos ascending from earth to heaven. It was the prayers of Abbess Makrina and one of her nuns full of grace.

Saint Ephraim said full of delight: “Lord, have mercy! My, my! Just take a look at them! We’re out here on the cliffs working so hard just to find a few crumbs of grace, while they are in the world with so much grace! What are they doing over there?”

In her later years their monastery became known for its spirituality, and thousands of pilgrims from all over Greece would find refuge and great benefit from the unforgettable Abbess Makrina.

Her face radiated kindness, love, sincerity, and faith. Her tranquility and her sweet words were a support and a fountain of strength for all who had the blessing of knowing her before her holy repose in 1995.

From her blessed sisterhood, nuns were sent to populate the monasteries of the Holy Forerunner in Serres and of the Archangel Michael in Thasos. In turn, these monasteries sent nuns to North America who established new monasteries with the ideals of traditional Orthodox monasticism.

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Fr John and I at the 2022 St. Kosmas Conference

Today I came across the above homily Fr John gave in our parish in Newfoundland. It is Homily 10 in a series of homilies on Blessed Makrina’s teachings. There are twenty-seven homilies in the series and (my personal bias aside) they’re awesome.

Happy (almost) Sunday of St John Climacus!

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Using the words of St. Perpetua herself (which you can read here) I wrote this akathist to the Saint Perpetua and Her Companions over ten years ago. I was very impacted by St. Perpetua’s story. She is one of the earliest women writers whose work has been preserved throughout history. And so, I based the akathist on the events she herself relates. I received a blessing from Archbishop Irenee of Ottawa and all of Canada to distribute it.

I also wrote a novella called Out of the African Lands: The Story of Saints Perpetua and her Companions (Lumination Press) and painted her icon (shown above). As you can tell, she means a great deal . I give glory to God that He is glorified in His saints and we benefit from their life and sacrifice.

May you have the prayers and blessings of Saints Perpetua, Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Secundulus and Revocatus!

When 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

Ever faithful to the Lord the martyrs professed their faith before the procurator, and the crowd which had gathered. The sentence was read out against them, they were to be sent to the beasts. Cheerfully they returned to the dungeon, and thus we cry out:

Rejoice, Holy Contesters in the stadium of Carthage

Rejoice, Firm Pillars of the faith, convicted for the sake of Christ

Rejoice, Blessed Martyrs whose blood watered Orthodoxy

Rejoice, Holy Perpetua whose father once again tempted thee

Rejoice, thou who didst refuse to sacrifice even for the sake of thy child

Rejoice, thou who didst sorrow for thy father in his ignorance of the Faith

Rejoice, thou who didst proclaim nothing happens outside of God’s providence

Rejoice, thou who stood firm though confronted by the familial bonds of nature

Rejoice, thou who didst trust God would provide for thy son

Rejoice, thou whose child wast miraculously weaned though still a small infant

Rejoice, Band of Martyrs bound together by common love for Christ

Rejoice, you who were led to the dungeon as though to a bridal-chamber

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Pertetua, Felicity and your companions

Fervently praying, Perpetua didst hear the name “Dinocrates”, who wast her departed brother in the flesh. As she didst behold in a dream, the little one was in a dark place and thirsty. But he was unable to drink of the fountain for the height was very great. Wherefore, she didst supplicate for him and we cry to her:

Alleluia

Great was her joy when Perpetua saw yet another vision wherein Dinocrates was healed of his infirmities. He drank his fill from the fountain – for he had been benefited by her ardent prayers, wherefore we praise her thus:

Rejoice, thou who didst help thy brother though a gulf was fixed between you

Rejoice, Deliverer from the suffering torments of Hades

Rejoice, thou who didst deem it laudable to pray with tears for thy brother

Rejoice, thou who didst spend thy days and nights supplicating God

Rejoice, Holy Martyr who supplicates for us on earth as thou didst for thy brother

Rejoice, little Dinocrates for thou wast delivered by thy sister’s prayers

Rejoice, thou whose face was healed once diseased by ulcers

Rejoice, thou who is now clothed in fine apparel

Rejoice, all ye in Hades, comforted by the prayers of the righteous

Rejoice, O fountain for thy ledge was lowered

Rejoice, O ever-flowing water who dost satisfy those who drink of thee

Rejoice, Golden Cup who dost provide nourishment for the thirsty

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Having seen the joy of her brother, Perpetua didst rejoice that he no longer was tormented – for where once was an ulcer there remained only a scar. And in drinking the water from the golden cup his thirst was quenched. Whenceforth, he ran off to play as children do, and we cry to her:

Alleluia

Influenced by the grace of the martyrs, Pudens, the prison-guard’s heart was softened and he began to magnify them. Thus being filled with mercy he permitted many to enter the dungeon so that all might be comforted. Wherefore they extolled the martyrs thusly:

Rejoice, Bold Intercessors before the throne of God

Rejoice, Bright Lamps burning in Northern Africa

Rejoice, for you patiently abided in dark dungeons

Rejoice, for you are now delivered into the light of Paradise

Rejoice, Perfect Examples of Christian friendship

Rejoice, Salt of the earth and light of the world

Rejoice, for you were condemned to death by the earthly Emperor

Rejoice, for you are now crowned with life by the Heavenly King

Rejoice, Contesters with unconquerable courage

Rejoice, Brave Warriors setting out to do battle for Christ

Rejoice, Peaceful souls eagerly awaiting His embrace

Rejoice, for from your bloodshed an abundance of life sprung forth

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perptua, Felicity and your companions

Just before the games, holy Perpetua beheld a vision of the upcoming day’s spiritual contest: hearing a loud knock she opened to the deacon Pomponios, clad all in white. He besought her to follow him and with much effort they arrived at the arena, wherefore we cry:

Alleluia

Knowing she was to contend with beasts, Perpetua marveled that none were sent out against her, but soon saw an Egyptian of ill-repute approach as her opponent. Thus she was striped and clothed with oil, while the Egyptian wallowed in dust. Wherefore encouraged by her vision we cry out:

Rejoice, thou who didst not shrink back in fear of the Egyptian

Rejoice, Brave Contender against the forces of evil

Rejoice, thou who wast found worthy to have angels as thine helpers

Rejoice, thou who wast offered a branch of golden fruit if victorious

Rejoice, Solider of Christ combating in the front lines

Rejoice, Fierce Fighter who didst smote thine enemy while trotting on air

Rejoice, Champion who didst dash thine enemy to the ground

Rejoice, thou who didst step on his head as though on a serpent

Rejoice, Victor over the enemy who hinders our ascent to heaven

Rejoice, thou who didst receive thy prize from the master of the gladiators

Rejoice, Conqueror of him who leads us to the gate of death

Rejoice, thou who didst understand that thine was the victory

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Lifted into the air by angels, O holy Saturus, in thy vision thou and holy Perpetua wert carried into the heavens. For contending well you were granted the promise the Lord had given you. Wherefore with the angels we cry out to you:

Alleluia

Marvelous trees with flowers of all kinds didst you pass by while being upborne by angels to venerate the Heavenly King. Trembling, they laid you down and you entered clothed in white raiment, and thus we cry out:

Rejoice, you who were carried by angels toward the East

Rejoice, you who didst pass over the Earth’s edge

Rejoice, Blessed Ones who didst overlook wondrous gardens

Rejoice, Marveled at by angels more glorious than the rest

Rejoice, Witnesses to the beauty of the heavenly kingdom

Rejoice, you who looked upon trees unknown to this earth

Rejoice, Spectators of leaves that sang without ceasing

Rejoice, you who met thy fellow-martyred companions

Rejoice, called upon by angels to go in and salute the Lord

Rejoice, Worthy Ones clothed in white raiment

Rejoice, Observers of a palace with walls made of light

Rejoice, Hearers of the thrice holy hymn chanted unto the Trinity

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Noticing in that place a man sitting, having hair like white as snow – yet youthful of countenance – you were borne up by angels to reverently kiss him. Whereupon he passed his hand over your faces and you offered the kiss of peace to the surrounding elders. And thus, together with them we cry to you:

Alleluia

Optatus the bishop, and Aspasius the priest and teacher stood on either side of the door from which you exited. Falling at your feet they supplicated the two of you to make peace between them. Wherefore you rose them up and embraced them with love. Marveling at your humility we cry to you:

Rejoice, Holy Ones worthy to see divine visions

Rejoice, Encounterers of spiritual parents in the heavenly garden

Rejoice, you who didst keep company in heaven with those on earth

Rejoice, you who didst receive humble bows done in your honour

Rejoice, you who didst humbly reciprocate the simple gesture

Rejoice, Peacemakers among thy fellow Christians

Rejoice, Poor in Spirit who didst win the kingdom of heaven

Rejoice, Mourners who art comforted eternally

Rejoice, Thirsters for Righteousness who have been satiated

Rejoice, Meek Ones who shall inherit the earth

Rejoice, Merciful Ones who have obtained much mercy

Rejoice, Pure of heart for you see God perpetually

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Putting aside the dissensions between them, Optatus and Aspasius followed the instructions of the angels and took heed of the advice given them. Thus did the angels warn Optatus to correct his people so that they might not continue in their crooked ways; wherefore we cry:

Alleluia

Quivering at the thought that thou might be prohibited to contend – for thou wast with child – O holy Felicity, thou and those with thee didst pour out your supplication to the Lord, that He might grant thee His favour. Immediately He didst hearken unto thy prayer and thou didst bring forth a daughter, wherefore we cry to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst join in prayer with thy fellow martyrs

Rejoice, Slave in this life but servant of God eternally

Rejoice, Contester for the grace of martyrdom

Rejoice, Fervent Supplicator to God for His favour

Rejoice, Worthy One granted the grace of a safe and early labour

Rejoice, thou who wast not hindered by the ties of thine kindred

Rejoice, thou who didst entrust thy babe to a fellow Christian

Rejoice, thou who didst answer wisely in the face of insult

Rejoice, Wise Councilor proclaiming the strength of Christ in weakness

Rejoice, Sanctified One through the act of childbearing

Rejoice, Brave Martyr who dost remember those in want of children

Rejoice, thou who tasted of the felicity of dying for our Lord

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Readily prepared to die a martyr’s death, holy Secundulus wast called from this life while still in prison. For though his body knew not the sword his soul had suffered a martyrdom. Wherefore, in His ineffable mercy God preserved him from the beasts, and thus we cry to Him:

Alleluia

Spectators having gathered to gawk at the martyrs, the holy Saturus didst prophetically rebuke them: “Remember our faces for us you will see on the fearful Day of Judgement”. Wherefore, many departed astonished and of those that heard many were converted, and thus we proclaim:

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs whose martyrdom was recorded by the faithful

Rejoice, you who were treated harshly by the fearful tribune

Rejoice, Persecuted Ones out of fear of your escape

Rejoice, Bold Perpetua who didst scold the cruel adjutant

Rejoice, Faithful Ones who didst convert many while in prison

Rejoice, Workers of the vineyard who converted more by your common passion

Rejoice, Partakers of an Agape meal instead of common food

Rejoice, Communioners of the feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord

Rejoice, you who longed to be nourished by Christ instead of meat

Rejoice, you who forewarned the spectators of the coming Judgment

Rejoice, Brave Contesters prepared to fight on the birthday of Caesar

Rejoice, Saints of the Lord eagerly awaiting your death in His name

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

The day of the games having dawned, the holy martyrs prepared for battle. Bravely entering the stadium, they were filled with joy as though in heaven. At the sight of Perpetua many cast down their eyes. Felicity came to her second baptism – from blood to blood, from midwife to gladiator. Wherefore we cry out:

Alleluia

Unable to convince the martyrs to put on the robes of idolaters, the tribune suffered that they should be brought forth as they were. Perpetua began to chant psalms, Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus mocked the senseless Hilarian, saying, “Thou judgest us and God thee,” and in this way displayed their bravery. Wherefore we cry to them:

Rejoice, Holy men refusing to wear the robe of the priests of Saturn

Rejoice, Holy women refusing to wear the dress of the priestesses of Ceres

Rejoice, you who refused to have anything to do with lifeless idols

Rejoice, for by your boldness injustice didst yield to justice

Rejoice, for you were scourged before the line of the gladiators

Rejoice, Rejoicers in your sufferings for the sake of Christ

Rejoice, Brave Soldiers fighting in the trenches of a spiritual battle

Rejoice, Holy Perpetua, singing as though trampling on the head of the Egyptian

Rejoice, Holy Felicity, rejoicing that thou wast not left behind in prison

Rejoice, Holy Revocatus, who didst boldly glare at the gawking crowd

Rejoice, Holy Saturninus, who didst taunt the darkened Hilarian

Rejoice, Holy Saturus, who didst yearn only for the heavenly kingdom

Rejoice, Holy martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Virtue being her first concern the holy Perpetua bound up her disheveled hair, lest any should think she mourned her glory. Being brought out against the mad cow – placed there to mock their sex – the crowd shuddered at the sight of milk running from the breasts of holy Felicity. Wherefore, we cry to them:

Alleluia

Wishing to wear the more glorious crown, holy Saturninus asked to go against all the beasts, while Revocatus faced the leopard and the bear. In one bite by the leopard holy Saturus was bathed in much blood, wherefore the crowd mockingly called out, “saved and washed,” but we cry out thus:

Rejoice, Holy Revocatus who wast torn by a bear on a raised bridge

Rejoice, Holy Saturninus who wast granted thy desire to fight all beasts

Rejoice, Holy Saturus who would die first as thou didst prophesy

Rejoice, for the wild boar didst instead turn on its huntsman

Rejoice, for the bear knew better than to attack a martyr

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs for you were covered in the blood of a second baptism

Rejoice, Holy Perpetua, being caught up in theoria while in the arena

Rejoice, for thou wast more concerned for modesty than thy pain

Rejoice, Counselor of catechumens to keep the faith and love among them

Rejoice, Holy Felicity who wast smote for Christ’s sake by the fierce cow

Rejoice, for thy fellow martyr, Perpetua, didst raise thee up

Rejoice, Fair Maidens who didst forsake the beauty of your youth for eternal life

Rejoice, Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and your companions

Xenial friendship did the holy Saturus extend to Pudens when he did leave him a token of his love – a ring soaked in the blood of his wound. Joining the rest, assembled to be slain by the sword, each did die a martyr’s death. Perpetua directed the hand of the gladiator to her throat, by this showing that the evil spirits feared her most of all. Wherefore, moved by their sacrifice, we cry:

Alleluia

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

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Merry Christmas to all our Old Calendar friends and family!

THE KING, THE PAGE, AND THE HERMIT:

A CHRISTMAS STORY

by Matushka Constantina R. Palmer

Chapters 1 & 2 are HERE

Chapters 3 & 4 HERE

Chapters 5 & 6 HERE

Chapters 7 & 8 HERE

Chapter 9 HERE

Chapter 10 HERE

Chapter 11 HERE

Chapter 12 HERE

Chapter 13 HERE

Chapter 14 HERE

Chapter 15 HERE

Chapter 16 HERE

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Although originally written for a clergy wives newsletter, I thought I’d share this article with you all here on Lessons from a Monastery. I know you will enjoy hearing about the simple, pious life of a woman in Christ, the wife of St. John of Kronstadt, Matushka Elizabeth, and how we might imitate her holy example.

Every woman who is married to a priest has been given the great blessing to understand, through her first-hand experience, that a priest stands between Heaven and Earth. She understands that it is through the holy priesthood of her husband that common bread and wine become the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Her own piety and desire for salvation is strengthened by the great and awesome role her husband has been ordained to fulfill. How much more will she perceive the glory of God when her husband is not only a priest, but a saint? I imagine this was the case for Matushka Elizabeth Constantinov Sergiev, the wife of St. John of Kronstadt. 

The daughter of an archpriest, Elizabeth moved with her family from the Gdovak district to Kronstadt where her father served at St. Andrew’s Cathedral for some time. There she met her future husband, John Ilyitch Sergiev (later St. John of Kronstadt) who took up her father’s post at the Cathedral in 1855 when illness forced him to retire. 

At the outset of their marriage Fr. John suggested they live as brother and sister, companions and co-strugglers, abstaining from marital relations, saying Liza, there are enough happy families in the world without us. Let us together devote our lives to serving God.” Matushka Elizabeth agreed. This manner of life afforded St. John and Matushka the opportunity to deepen their commitment to fulfill the commandments to love God and love neighbour. Fr. John would tirelessly pray for and serve their parishioners, and keeping pace with his good works, Matushka Elizabeth would tirelessly care for her husband and offer hospitality.  

Much inspiration flows from their devout and pious example. In particular it is noteworthy to observe that despite the simplicity of Matushka Elizabeth’s care and concern for her husband, the depth of love shown in her service toward him is encouraging. She would bake his favorite apple pie, rush to take his boots off when he returned home, and zealously guard his periods of rest. 

In a world where we are endlessly encouraged to take the first seat, put ourselves forward, promote our skills and abilities, we can learn so much from Matushka Elizabeth’s simple and humble example. She was content to love God and love neighbour through serving in the shadow cast by her husband’s holy rasso (cassock). We can do likewise. We can look for opportunities to support our husband’s ministry in a manner he finds most supportive.

Here are just three simple things we can consider weaving into own lives in order to help support our husbands in the holy work they do:

  1. Pray for him;
  2. Listen to him when he needs to talk through something;
  3. Once in a while make him (or buy him) the equivalent of his “favourite apple pie”. Sometimes it’s the most simple treats that provide the most needed comfort.

Focusing on the service we can provide in small ways need not make us think our contribution is insignificant. Tending to these small things in fact cultivates in us a regard and respect for greater things, as St. Paisios the Athonite says, “When there’s respect for small things, there’ll be even greater respect towards the bigger ones. When there’s no respect for small things, then neither will there be for the bigger ones. This is how the Fathers maintained Tradition.” In fact, the value of service in the small things is highlighted for us in the book of Exodus. 

When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites in the battle of Refidim Moses watched from above. When he stretched out his arms the Israelites would make advances in the battle. When, however, Moses became tired, putting his arms down, the Amalekites would gain the advantage and the Israelites would begin to lose the battle. In order to ensure the victory of the Israelites over their enemies, it was necessary for Moses to keep his arms outstretched. His fatigue, however, prevented him from empowering the Israelites in their fight against the Amalekites. How was he to keep his arms outstretched for such a long time with no support? Recognizing this his close relatives, Aaron and Hur, came to him and supported his arms to remain outstretched, “and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:12). Thus, the Israelites conquered their enemies and found victory in battle. 

This is what Matushka Elizabeth did for St. John of Kronstadt. She stood alongside him and supported his arm so that hundreds of souls found victory in their battle against the noetic Amalekites. We too, as clergy wives, can provide the support that is necessary in small ways to embolden men of God to do what is necessary to ensure the victory of faithful Christians in various spiritual battles against numerous spiritual enemies of God. 

Much holy work can be done in the shadow cast by our husband’s holy rasso. 

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This beautiful hand-painted icon (by the hand of my teacher, Dragan Pantelic) of St. Joseph the Hesychast is kept on my bedside table

May we have his blessing!

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Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

(Source) The Holy Myrrh-Bearer Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene. On the banks of Lake Genesareth (Galilee), between the cities of Capharnum and Tiberias, was the small city of Magdala, the remains of which have survived to our day. Now only the small village of Mejhdel stands on the site.

A woman whose name has entered forever into the Gospel account was born and grew up in Magdala. The Gospel tells us nothing of Mary’s younger years, but Tradition informs us that Mary of Magdala was young and pretty, and led a sinful life. It says in the Gospels that the Lord expelled seven devils from Mary (Luke. 8:2). From the moment of her healing Mary led a new life, and became a true disciple of the Savior.

The Gospel relates that Mary followed after the Lord, when He went with the Apostles through the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee preaching about the Kingdom of God. Together with the pious women Joanna, wife of Choza (steward of Herod), Susanna and others, she served Him from her own possessions (Luke 8:1-3) and undoubtedly shared with the Apostles the evangelic tasks in common with the other women. The Evangelist Luke, evidently, has her in view together with the other women, stating that at the moment of the Procession of Christ onto Golgotha, when after the Scourging He took on Himself the heavy Cross, collapsing under its weight, the women followed after Him weeping and wailing, but He consoled them. The Gospel relates that Mary Magdalene was present on Golgotha at the moment of the Lord’s Crucifixion. While all the disciples of the Savior ran away, she remained fearlessly at the Cross together with the Mother of God and the Apostle John.

The Evangelists also list among those standing at the Cross the mother of the Apostle James, and Salome, and other women followers of the Lord from Galilee, but all mention Mary Magdalene first. Saint John, in addition to the Mother of God, names only her and Mary Cleopas. This indicates how much she stood out from all the women who gathered around the Lord.

She was faithful to Him not only in the days of His Glory, but also at the moment of His extreme humiliation and insult. As the Evangelist Matthew relates, she was present at the Burial of the Lord. Before her eyes Joseph and Νikόdēmos went out to the tomb with His lifeless Body. She watched as they covered over the entrance to the cave with a large stone, entombing the Source of Life.

Faithful to the Law in which she was raised, Mary together with the other women spent the following day at rest, because it was the great day of the Sabbath, coinciding with the Feast of Passover. But all the rest of the peaceful day the women gathered spices to go to the Grave of the Lord at dawn on Sunday and anoint His Body according to the custom of the Jews.

It is necessary to mention that, having agreed to go on the first day of the week to the Tomb early in the morning, the holy women had no possibility of meeting with one another on Saturday. They went separately on Friday evening to their own homes. They went out only at dawn the following day to go to the Sepulchre, not all together, but each from her own house.

The Evangelist Matthew writes that the women came to the grave at dawn, or as the Evangelist Mark expresses, extremely early before the rising of the sun. The Evangelist John, elaborating upon these, says that Mary came to the grave so early that it was still dark. Obviously, she waited impatiently for the end of night, but it was not yet daybreak. She ran to the place where the Lord’s Body lay.

Mary went to the tomb alone. Seeing the stone pushed away from the cave, she ran away in fear to tell the close Apostles of Christ, Peter and John. Hearing the strange message that the Lord was gone from the tomb, both Apostles ran to the tomb and, seeing the shroud and winding cloths, they were amazed. They went and said nothing to anyone, but Mary returned to the tomb and stood about the entrance to the tomb and wept. Here in this dark tomb so recently lay her lifeless Lord.

Wanting proof that the tomb really was empty, she went down to it and saw a strange sight. She saw two angels in white garments, one sitting at the head, the other at the foot, where the Body of Jesus had been placed. They asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered them with the words which she had said to the Apostles, “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” At that moment, she turned around and saw the Risen Jesus standing near the grave, but she did not recognize Him.

He asked Mary, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom dost thou seek?” She answered thinking that she was seeing the gardener, “Sir, if thou hast taken him, tell where thou hast put Him, and I will take Him away.”

Then she recognized the Lord’s voice. This was the voice she heard in those days and years, when she followed the Lord through all the cities and places where He preached. He spoke her name, and she gave a joyful shout, “Rabbi” (Teacher).

Respect and love, fondness and deep veneration, a feeling of thankfulness and recognition at His Splendor as great Teacher, all came together in this single outcry. She was able to say nothing more and she threw herself down at the feet of her Teacher to wash them with tears of joy. But the Lord said to her: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and tell them: ‘I ascend to My Father, and your Father; to My God and to your God.’”

She came to herself and again ran to the Apostles, to do the will of Him sending her to preach. Again she ran into the house, where the Apostles still remained in dismay, and proclaimed to them the joyous message, “I have seen the Lord!” This was the first preaching in the world about the Resurrection.

The Apostles proclaimed the Glad Tidings to the world, but she proclaimed it to the Apostles themselves.

Holy Scripture does not tell us about the life of Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Christ, but it is impossible to doubt, that if in the terrifying minutes of Christ’s Crucifixion she was at the foot of His Cross with His All-Pure Mother and Saint John, she must have stayed with them during the happier time after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Thus in the Acts of the Apostles Saint Luke writes that all the Apostles with one mind stayed in prayer and supplication, with certain women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and His brethren.

Holy Tradition testifies that when the Apostles departed from Jerusalem to preach to all the ends of the earth, then Mary Magdalene also went with them. A daring woman, whose heart was full of reminiscence of the Resurrection, she went beyond her native borders and went to preach in pagan Rome. Everywhere she proclaimed to people about Christ and His teaching. When many did not believe that Christ is risen, she repeated to them what she had said to the Apostles on the radiant morning of the Resurrection: “I have seen the Lord!” With this message she went all over Italy.

Tradition relates that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias (14-37 A.D.) and proclaimed to him Christ’s Resurrection. According to Tradition, she brought him a red egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: “Christ is Risen!” Then she told the emperor that in his Province of Judea the unjustly condemned Jesus the Galilean, a holy man, a miracleworker, powerful before God and all mankind, had been executed at the instigation of the Jewish High Priests, and the sentence confirmed by the procurator appointed by Tiberias, Pontius Pilate.

Mary repeated the words of the Apostles, that we are redeemed from the vanity of life not with perishable silver or gold, but rather by the precious Blood of Christ.

Thanks to Mary Magdalene the custom to give each other paschal eggs on the day of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over all the world. In one ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of Saint Athanasius near Thessalonica, is a prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha for the blessing of eggs and cheese. In it is indicated that the igumen in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: “Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering.”

Mary Magdalene continued her preaching in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. Evidently, the Apostle Paul has her in mind in his Epistle to the Romans (16: 6), where together with other ascetics of evangelic preaching he mentions Mary (Mariam), who as he expresses “has bestowed much labor on us.” Evidently, she extensively served the Church in its means of subsistence and its difficulties, being exposed to dangers, and sharing with the Apostles the labors of preaching.

According to Church Tradition, she remained in Rome until the arrival of the Apostle Paul, and for two more years following his departure from Rome after the first court judgment upon him. From Rome, Saint Mary Magdalene, already bent with age, moved to Ephesus where the holy Apostle John unceasingly labored. There the saint finished her earthly life and was buried.

Her holy relics were transferred in the ninth century to Constantinople, and placed in the monastery Church of Saint Lazarus. In the era of the Crusader campaigns they were transferred to Italy and placed at Rome under the altar of the Lateran Cathedral. Part of the relics of Mary Magdalene are said to be in Provage, France near Marseilles, where over them at the foot of a steep mountain a splendid church is built in her honor.

The Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of Saint Mary Magdalene, the woman called by the Lord Himself from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

Formerly immersed in sin and having received healing, she sincerely and irrevocably began a new life and never wavered from that path. Mary loved the Lord Who called her to a new life. She was faithful to Him not only when He was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds and winning recognition as a miracle-worker, but also when all the disciples deserted Him in fear and He, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the Cross. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first, and esteemed her worthy to be first to proclaim His Resurrection

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(Source)

On the great and saving day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, as Christ had promised (John 16:7-15). The unlearned fishermen were made wise by divine grace, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and teaching with authority. Most of them (except for Saint John the Theologian) sealed their labors with their own blood. This was the beginning of the Church’s mission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18), which continues even to the present day.

In 1685, the Russian Orthodox Church established an Orthodox mission in Peking (now Beijing). For more than two hundred years, some of the Chinese converted to Christianity, and married Russian spouses.

Because of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, against the foreign powers occupying China, these Chinese Christians were given the choice of renouncing Christianity, or being tortured and killed.

Two hundred and twenty-two members of the Peking Mission, led by their priest, Father Metrophanes Chang (Chang Tzi-tzung) refused to deny Christ, and received incorruptible crowns of glory.

Among these Holy New Martyrs are Saint Metrophanes, his wife Tatiana, his sons John and Isaiah, Isaiah’s fiancée Maria; the church school teachers Paul Wang and Ia Wen; and many others.

May we imitate their Christian bravery – preferring Christ and death (and eternal life) to temporal life in denial of Him!

And may we have their prayers and blessings!

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Christ is risen!

The stories in this video wonderfully capture what it is like to meet, sit with, and speak with a living saint. It’s a treasure to hear of people’s first-hand encounters with holy men and women; I wish there were more videos like this.

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CHRIST IS RISEN!

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Happy feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen, dear readers!

For the very first time I tried my hand at making Artoklasia, also known as Litya bread for the service of Great Vespers of Sts. Constantine and Helen last night at our new church rental in Portugal Cove, NL. (More to come on the new church space soon).

I used Matushka Anna‘s recipe HERE. I cut the recipe in half which was fine but next time I think I’ll make the larger batch.

I can’t say they are the prettiest things I’ve ever made but they tasted good and I loved offering them in honour of my saint.

In The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church we read, “Constantine secluded himself daily at a set hour in the innermost chambers of his palace in prayer. His living example was founded with all his heart on that edit that a true ruler leads the way, even as Christ opened the gates of Hades by His heavenly leadership and divine example. Such devotions were redoubled during Holy Week and Pasha. He changed the holy night vigil of that time into an event of wonder and splendor, by causing waxen tapers of great length to be lighted throughout the city, together with torches which diffused their light, so as to impart to this mystic vigil of the night a mystical splendor of brilliance and light. As soon as day returned, he further exemplified Christ’s own selfless example and commandment that ‘freely ye received, freely give,’ by lavishing abundant gifts to his subjects of every nation, province, and people.” (p. 1073).

I am honoured to bear the name of such a righteous, holy man!

Here is a lovely broadcast by a Greek parish of last night’s Vespers service for the saints.

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