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The celebration of the Synaxis of the Rostov and Yaroslav Saints on May 23 was established by resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis I (+ 1970) and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, on March 10, 1964.

Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov, in the world John, was the son of Stephen (brother of St Sergius of Radonezh), who occupied an important post under Prince Andrew of Radonezh. Left a widower, Stephen became a monk, and together with his twelve-year-old son, he went to the monastery to St Sergius, who foreseeing the ascetic life of the child John, tonsured him with the name Theodore on the Feast of St Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer (April 20).

After Theodore attained an appropriate age, he was given a blessing to be ordined to the priesthood. With the blessing of St Sergius, St Theodore built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and founded a monastery on the banks of the River Moskva, at the place called Simonovo. Soon the monastery began to attract a throng of people. St Theodore built a cell five versts from the Moscow Kremlin, and pursued new ascetical labors, and here disciples gathered around him. St Sergius, visiting this place, blessed the founding of a monastery, and Metropolitan Alexis blessed the construction of a church in the name of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos at Novoe Simonovo, which also had its foundations laid in 1379. The old Simonov monastery remained the burial place of monks.

Because of his virtuous life and strict asceticism, St Theodore became known in Moscow. The Metropolitan St Alexis elevated him to the rank of igumen, and Great Prince Demetrius of the Don chose him as his father confessor. St Theodore journeyed to Constantinople several times on church matters for the Russian Metropolitan. On his first journey in 1384, Patriarch Nilus made him an archimandrite. The Simonov monastery was put directly under the Patriarch, thus became stavropegial. In 1387, he was consecrated archbishop and occupied the See of Rostov.

Being the igumen, and then the archimandrite of the Simonov monastery, and despite being occupied with churchly matters, St Theodore stalwartly guided those in the monastic life and counted many great and famous ascetics among his disciples. Saints Cyril (June 9) and Therapon (May 27), the future founders of two famous White Lake monasteries, were tonsured at the Simonov monastery. St Theodore occupied himself with iconography, and he adorned with icons of his own painting both the Simonov monastery, and many Moscow churches.

At Rostov, Archbishop Theodore founded the Nativity of the Virgin monastery.

The blessed death of the saint occurred on November 28, 1394. His relics are in the Rostov Dormition cathedral.

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What comes to mind when you think of the year1922?

The rise of jazz and the flapper generation?
Silent film and a relatively peaceful time between the two world wars?

In the year 1922 the subject of our documentary is a small child, two years old, held tight by her mother who is held tight by her husband. They are fleeing from their home in Asia Minor. Fleeing from their bloodstained, battered home that has been destroyed by the hatred of genocide.

“Throw her into the sea! You can’t survive with a child to slow the way.” The other refugee women advise her mother, who does no such thing.

She choose to risk her own life for the sake of her little daughter, and for that we are eternally grateful.

The story of Gerontissa Makrina is a story fraught with turmoil, tragedy and loss. She lost her parents at the age of twelve and had to support herself and younger brother by the labour of her own hands.

She became, through these trials, strong and prayerful. She, the orphan child, became a mother to thousands. Three of her daughters in Christ she sent to the little Eastern Washington town of Goldendale, to found a Monastery that has been a light to so many of us here in the northwest.

The sisters of St. John the Forerunner Monastery have a love for Gerontissa Makrina that has given life to this project. We owe everything to their enthusiasm.

We are overcome by people’s generosity thus far, and we are so grateful to everyone who has worked to make this project possible. In less than two weeks, our film crew will be traveling to Greece- the homeland of this holy woman. We have an itinerary set for us by the sisters of the monastery in Goldendale. It is a journey that will take us to film places she walked and interview people she knew.

This project can’t happen without your support. Please consider a donation to cover some of the expense of our trip.

May the prayers of Gerontissa Makrina be with us all!

-Innocent Lewis

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st. john beloved and theologian(Source) The Church commemorates St John on this day because of the annual pilgrimage to his grave.

When St John was more than one hundred years old, he took seven of his disciples and went to a spot outside the city of Ephesus. There he told them to dig a grave in the form of a cross. Then he climbed into the grave and told his disciples to cover him with earth. Later, the grave was opened and the saint’s body was not there.

Each year on May 8 a red dust would arise from the grave which the faithful collected in order to be healed of their illnesses.

St John’s main Feast is on September 26.

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st. argyri1Tomorrow (April 30) is the feast of St. Agryri. Above you can see a beautiful icon of her at a monastery near Giannitsa in Greece.
(Source)The holy New Martyr Argyri (or Argyra) lived in Proussa, Bithynia, and came from a pious family. She was a beautiful and virtuous woman. When she was eighteen, she married a pious Christian, and they moved into a neighborhood inhabited by many Moslems.
After only a few days, she was approached by a Turkish neighbor, the son of the Cadi (magistrate). He boldly declared his love for her, and tried to convert her to his religion. She rejected his advances, saying that she would rather die than be married to a Moslem. She did not tell her husband, fearing that he would go after the Turk and then be punished for it.

The Moslem brought her to trial and testified that she had assented to his advances, but then had laughed and said she was only joking. His lies were corroborated by false witnesses, and Argyri was sent to prison.

The saint’s husband, hoping to get her a fair trial, appealed to Constantinople. There the accuser repeated his lies before the judge. St Argyri said that she was a Christian, and that she would never deny Christ. The judge ordered her to be flogged, then sentenced her to life in prison.

She was often taken from her cell, interrogated, beaten, then returned to prison. This continued for seventeen years. The saint was also insulted and tormented by the Moslem women who were incarcerated for their evil deeds. The Evil One incited them to annoy St Argyri with these torments and afflictions, but she endured all these things with great courage and patience.

According to the testimony of many Christian women who were in prison with her, she humbled her body through fasting. Her heart was filled with such love for Christ that she regarded her hardships as comforts.

A pious Christian named Manolis Kiourtzibasis sent her word that he would try to have her released, but St Argyri would not consent to this. She completed her earthly pilgrimage in the prison, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 5, 1721.

After a few years her body was exhumed, and was found to be whole and incorrupt, emitting an ineffable fragrance. Pious priests and laymen took her body to the church of St Paraskeve on April 30, 1735 with the permission of Patriarch Paisius II.

Her relics remain there to this day, where they are venerated by Orthodox Christians from all walks of life, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*St Argyra’s name comes from the Greek word for silver (argyre). The New Martyr Argyra (1688-1721) by P. Philippidou (which also contains a Service to the saint) was published in Constantinople in 1912.

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The ever-memorable Abbess Makrina

The ever-memorable Abbess Makrina

I am overjoyed to introduce you to The Blessed Makrina Project. Fiery Furnace Productions is currently in the writing/development stages of a documentary on the life of Blessed Gerontissa Makrina. (Gerontissa was an abbess of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria – the All-holy Directress – in Portaria, Greece and reposed in 1995). Traveling to Greece in May 2015, Fiery Furnace Productions will interview the many people touched by the life, wisdom and sanctity of Gerontissa Makrina. According to the website this documentary will:

  • Help promote the English translation of the book Λόγια Καρδίας (Words from the Heart): 500 pages of the life and wisdom of Gerontissa Makrina
  • Reveal previously unknown stories of how Gerontissa Makrina touched the lives of the faithful
  • Capture the beauty of Orthodox Monasticism in America and Greece
  • Tell the story of Gerontissa Makrina’s work in revitalizing Orthodox Monasticism
  • Create opportunity to establish an Orthodox voice in the digital video revolution

As many of you may know I have a deep love and devotion for the ever-memorable Abbess Makrina. I have posted numerous posts about her, a number of amateur translations of excerpts from her book Λόγια Καρδίας, and even had the blessing of giving a 40-minute talk in London, Ontario about her holy life that you can watch here.

When Innocent first wrote me to ask if I would help with this very worthy project I jumped at the chance. Although I regret that I will not be able to accompany them to Greece I want to help spread the word about this documentary and beg you to consider donating to help with expenses that will not only help the production of this documentary, but with the English translation of her God-inspired book Λόγια Καρδίας (Words from the Heart).

You have all heard of the newly-canonized Saint Paisios. Well, let me tell you a story about St. Paisios’ love and respect for the holy Abbess, Gerontissa Makrina: Once, Gerontissa Makrina traveled to a monastery in Halikidi where St. Paisios was staying. When they met he and she both prostrated to each other (just like St. Mary of Egypt and St. Zosimas).

Furthermore, he was not the only contemporary holy elder who recognized the height of her sanctity: Elder Iakovos Tsalikis – who lived in a monastery in Evia – used to say, “If I lived in Volos I would go on foot to kiss Gerontissa’s hand and get her blessing before going to work each day.” Elder Ephraim of Katounakia also loved and respected her very much. When she went to visit him at a hospital he was staying in his disciple asked him if he would receive her and he proclaimed, “Open wide the doors!” In fact, Elder Ephraim of Katounakia prayed and received confirmation (πληροφορία) from God that Gerontissa occupied a very high spiritual state like that of Blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

Now, can you possibly doubt her holiness and the worthiness of this project? Please consider making a monetary donation, spreading the word through social media, and offering your prayers for the successful completion of this project so that the English-speaking world can learn more about this dynamic and holy woman who lived in our dark times and yet became a Mother of the Church, a saint like the saints of old: wise in spiritual matters, reverent in every regard and virtuous beyond compare!

Once again the website for The Blessed Makrina Project can be found here.

May we have her blessing!

At Gerontissa's grave, May 2012.

At Gerontissa’s grave, May 2012.

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stgregorypopeofrome Below is a very beautiful story from St. Gregory the Pope of Rome’s Dialogues (written in the 5th century). Interestingly, there is a very similar story found in Protopresbyter Stephanos Anagnostopolou’s twenty-first century book, Experiences During the Divine Liturgy on pp. 203-204. Truly, our faith is an unchanged one! Chapter Twenty-three: Of certain nuns absolved after their death GREGORY: His common talk, Peter, was usually full of virtue: for his heart conversed to above in heaven, that no words could in vain proceed from his mouth. And if at any time he spoke aught, yet not as one that determined what was best to be done, but only in a threatening manner, his speech in that case was so effectual and forcible, as though he had not doubtfully or uncertainly, but assuredly pronounced and given sentence. For not far from his Abbey, there lived two Nuns in a place by themselves, born of worshipful parentage: whom a religious good man served for the dispatch of their outward business. But as nobility of family does in some breed ignobility of mind, and makes them in conversation to show less humility, because they remember still what superiority they had above others: even so was it with these Nuns: for they had not yet learned to temper their tongues, and keep them under with the bridle of their habit: for often by their indiscreet speech they provoked the aforesaid religious man to anger; who having borne with them a long time, at length he complained to the man of God, and told him with what reproachful words they entreated him: whereupon he sent them by and by this message, saying: “Amend your tongues, otherwise I do excommunicate you”; which sentence of excommunication notwithstanding, he did not then presently pronounce against them, but only threatened if they amended not themselves. But they, for all this, changed their conditions nothing at all: both which not long after departed this life, and were buried in the church: and when solemn mass was celebrated in the same church, and the Deacon, according to custom, said with loud voice: “If any there be that do not communicate, let them depart”: the nurse, which used to give to our Lord an offering for them, beheld them at that time to rise out of their graves, and to depart the church. Having often times, at those words of the Deacon, seen them leave the church, and that they could not tarry within, she remembered what message the man of God sent them whiles they were yet alive. For he told them that he deprived them of the communion, unless they amended their tongues and conditions. Then with great sorrow, the whole matter was signified to the man of God, who immediately with his own hands gave an oblation, saying: “Go your ways, and cause this to be offered to our Lord for them, and they shall not remain any longer excommunicate”: which oblation being offered for them, and the Deacon, as he used, crying out, that such as did not communicate should depart, they were not seen any more to go out of the church: whereby it was certain that, seeing they did not depart with them who did not communicate, that they had received the communion of our Lord by the hands of his servant. PETER: It is very strange that you report: for how could he, though a venerable and most holy man, yet living in mortal body, loose those souls which stood now before the invisible judgment of God? GREGORY: Was he not yet, Peter, mortal, that heard from our Saviour: “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, it shall be bound also in the heavens: and whatsoever you shall loose in earth, shall be loosed also in the heavens?” [Matt. 16:19] whose place of binding and loosing those have at this time, which by faith and virtuous life possess the place of holy government: and to bestow such power on earthly men, the Creator of heaven and earth descended from heaven to earth: and that flesh might judge of spiritual things, God, who for man’s sake was made flesh, vouchsafed to bestow on him: for from there our weakness rose up above itself, from where the strength of God was weakened under itself. PETER: For the virtue of his miracles, your words do yield a very good reason.

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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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