Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

sweetnessIn honour of the Sunday of St. Gregory of Palamas, here is an excerpt from my second book, The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victory published by Ancient Faith Publishing. It is from Chapter 7, “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God”, pp. 214-216. 

To read more stories, you can purchase an e-book or paperback copy from the publisher here or on amazon here.

st-gregory-palamas-st-cyril-and-methodius-church In Praise of Thessaloniki

I would do a great disservice to the great saint and co-protector (together with St. Demetrios) of Thessaloniki if I were to write this whole book and not mention our father among the saints, Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki.

You can hardly go two paces in that Byzantine city without being reminded of the various local saints and historical faith of the Thessalonians. But two places in particular always occupied a special place in my heart: the church of Hagia Sophia, where St. Gregory preached against the Barlaamite heresy, and the Cathedral of St. Gregory Palamas, in which his relics reside in a side chapel covered in icons depicting his life. Any time I was downtown, I made a point to venerate his holy, fragrant relics.

In a city like Thessaloniki, the cloud of witnesses feel more like companions, such is the intimacy of their presence. In many respects, life there is a living continuation of the Scriptures, and the many churches, sites of martyrdom or imprisonment of saints, and holy relics are enough to make you forget the modern world and enter into the spiritual world.

Practically every night you can attend a vigil in the city. The vigil service according to the Greek Typicon begins with Small Vespers, followed by Compline, Great Vespers, Matins, Hours, Liturgy and finally the Ninth Hour. These vigils can last up to five, six, or more hours. They usually end well after midnight.

I remember one we went to in the heart of town for the feast of St. Gregory Palamas (November 14). During the Matins service, when the life of the saint is read from the Great Horologion, one of the chanters proceeded to the middle of the church to read a long version of St. Gregory’s life. Looking at this young man in his long, black chanter’s robe, standing before the royal doors with only vigil lamps and a lone candle stand illuminating the passage he read aloud, it was easy to be confused as to whether it was the first or twenty-first century, whether we were on earth or in heaven. Coming out of a vigil like that, you felt as though the whole city was more sanctified, as if the stones and stars themselves had participated in our celebration of the Bloodless Sacrifice.

O Thessaloniki, the city Apostle Paul wrote to, preached in, wept over; the city St. Demetrios fought for and continues to protect even after his martyric death; the city St. Gregory Palamas guided, instructed, reprimanded, and loved! Through the prayers of the great hesychast and of all saints of Thessaloniki, may you always remain blessed.



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Today is the feast of Sts. Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions.

Their story is one close to my heart. St. Perpetua wrote the account of her and her companions’ baptism and subsequent imprisonment. She was one of  the earliest female writers whose writings have survived until today.

Below is a historical fiction novella I wrote, using Perpetua’s own account as the foundation. In modern language it opens the door to St. Perpetua’s experiences; it invites the reader to feel the saint’s anxiety, her anticipation, her zeal and her commitment to die for Christ rather than live by denying Him.

by Constantina R. Palmer

Print$6.95 + sh&h (USD) / $7.95 + sh&h (CAD)
E-book$2.99 (USD)

Target Audience: Ages 12+


      In the African provinces of the Roman Empire conversion to the Christian faith is punishable by death. But this does not stop Perpetua and her companions from seeking entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven–even if living for Christ means having to die for Him.

      Out of the African Lands is a historical fiction novelette and chronicles the arrest, imprisonment, and death of Perpetua and her five companions Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Revocatus, and Secundulus. Receiving freedom from their sins through baptism while imprisoned, the martyrs shine with the light of Christ, instructing us in word and deed how a person not only lives as a Christian but dies as one.
Purchase your copy HERE. Read an excerpt HERE.

Also, here is n excerpt from their Akathist hymn:

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:



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Once, while he was praying, Saint Macarius heard a voice: “Macarius, you have not yet attained such perfection in virtue as two women who live in the city.” The humble ascetic went to the city, found the house where the women lived, and knocked. The women received him with joy, and he said, “I have come from the desert seeking you in order to learn of your good deeds. Tell me about them, and conceal nothing.”

The women answered with surprise, “We live with our husbands, and we have not such virtues.” But the saint continued to insist, and the women then told him, “We married two brothers. After living together in one house for fifteen years, we have not uttered a single malicious nor shameful word, and we never quarrel among ourselves. We asked our husbands to allow us to enter a women’s monastery, but they would not agree. We vowed not to utter a single worldly word until our death.”

Saint Macarius glorified God and said, “In truth, the Lord seeks neither virgins nor married women, and neither monks nor laymen, but values a person’s free intent, accepting it as the deed itself. He grants to everyone’s free will the grace of the Holy Spirit, which operates in an individual and directs the life of all who yearn to be saved.”


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Below is an amateur translation I did. It’s an excerpt from Λόγια Καρδίας (pp. 246-250), a collection of homilies by Abbess Makrina of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria in Volos, Greece. It is a beautiful story that tells of the great rewards God has prepared for those who practice patience when confronted with great trials and temptations, and the spiritual exhalation the soul experiences when we abstain from passing judgement, even on those who openly hate and harm us. 

Let’s be watchful concerning the matter of passing judgment. Let’s be very watchful concerning passing judgement! It is indescribable how fearful this matter is! “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Do we safeguard this saying? Even if we don’t have virtues, Christ will save us, He will take us into Paradise if we abstain from judging.

I will tell you something else, again from experience. Once a sister[1] in the world wanted to say something about me that didn’t happen to me; it was slander. For the glory of Christ I tell you this. Was it a temptation that put her up to it? Was it from hatred? Was it from jealousy that she did it? In any case, I said many, many prayers for her, I mean many prayers. I cried neither for my father, nor for my mother as much as I cried for this sister. With much pain I cried and I said: “My God, save me, help me, give me strength.” The prophet David said: “Deliver me from the slander of men and I will keep thy commandments” (Ps. 119: 134). I felt a great deal of pain inside.

I saw her coming to me in a vision. Her face had two indentations on account of her tears. It was so real! In the indentations she had clots of perspiration. Her whole face was covered in perspiration and black from suffering and fatigue. She had a sack on her back, too heavy to be lifted. And as soon as I saw her, I wanted to go and help her, to lift the weight from below, but it was like a stone wall and the weight lay there immovable. I said to her: “You are tired!”

“Yes, I am tired of lifting this weight!” she said. It was a stone like the porters used to carry on their backs a long time ago.

She said to me, “This evening is the Queen’s reception and she wants you to go.”

“The Queen wants me?” I asked.

And suddenly a vehicle arrived, not like any carriage or car, it was very different, and Gerontissa Theophano was sitting inside. She looked like a young child, like a young lady of fifteen years. She said: “Come, the Queen will have us at the reception this evening.”

I made the sign of the cross and I got into the vehicle. We proceeded to a beautiful turnpike. I saw a church in front of us – it was like looking at the church of Panagia in Tinos – such a nice church, it was bright, resplendent! I made the sign of the cross as I passed by. Across the way, toward the east, was what seemed to be a palace. The door to the palace was huge, just as doors are in large buildings. There in the middle of the doorway was the Queen, who, from her neck up I couldn’t see on account of the light of her face, because she was shining so brightly. I saw her resplendent sandals; she wore a feloni[2] and vest, each had two inches of piping embroidered around them.

Two lines were configured in front of her: one line with children who were wearing lace and ribbon in their hair, dressed just as the angels are, while the other line seemed to be composed of widows[3], as though they were nuns, wearing monastic clothing, just like we wear.

I started toward the nuns and they told me it wasn’t my turn yet, I would go when it was my turn. Suddenly I heard chanting, “This is the day of the Resurrection, let us be radiant…” And the Queen began to say, “Come martyrs to the platform, come great-martyrs!” They were taking her blessing and going to the platform. From within the palace was heard, “This is the day of the Resurrection…”

When I approached, I took the hand of the Queen: her slender hand, those nails, that gentle hand has been imprinted on my soul. Padding me on the back she said, “Patience, patience, patience.” Then she addressed one of her maids of honour: “Escort Maria[4] to the royal garden.”

I paused for a moment to see where they were chanting “This is the day of the Resurrection”. And I saw that inside the palace a banquet was laid out with very beautiful white tablecloths. What could you desire that the banquet didn’t have!

I lingered to listen and the maid took me by the hand and said, “That is for the martyrs, those who endured great temptations” and she gave me to understand that patience is needed. Afterward she took me to the royal garden, and I saw a vast place which had something like lilies, the brown lily had a cross. Just as the wind blew, so the lilies swayed. A vast place: green, beautiful, enchanted! Within this beautiful exhalation which I found myself, the sorrow in my soul fled, and pleasantness and joy came!

In the morning I went and found this sister who had slandered me, and hugged and kissed her. I didn’t know what to do for her; I didn’t know how to thank her for the false words she had said, I really didn’t know.

This experience stayed in my soul and from that time I have kept the commandment of God: judge not, so as not to be judged – even if I see the act committed in front of me, whatever I happen to see in front of me.

That which I saw in the vision stirred me and left me such comfort. I forgot everything. A purity entered into my nous, a passionlessness, a peacefulness, a heavenly thing entered my soul and I didn’t know how to thank that sister who was the cause of such good.

And I say what a good thing it is for someone to be patient! For this reason the Queen said, “Come martyrs of Christ, come great-martyrs of Christ, enter into the platform…” How can I have the boldness to touch such a banquet? It was the banquet for the martyrs who had struggled, who had endured martyrdom and for whom God had prepared greatness!

[1]Although Gerontissa calls this woman “sister” it seems that she was a laywoman.

[2]A feloni (φελόνι) is a chasuble, which in its origin was a traveling garment in the late Roman Empire. It is like a poncho, a circular garment with a hole in the middle for the head.

[3]It is a tradition in Greece for widows to wear black head-scarfs and dress.

[4]Gerontissa Macrina’s name before monastic tonsure was Maria.


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Following the Holy Fathers: Timeless Guides of Authentic Christianity


Zisis_Fathers_Front_Cover_Final_2048x2048Author: Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis
Translator: Fr. John Palmer
Pages: 344  Binding: Sewn softcover

From the Introduction:

It must be clearly established in our minds that the Fathers of the Church, those wise and holy teachers of the Orthodox faith, are not the product of some by-gone age; they are not a thing of the past. This is greatly important since many contemporary Orthodox theologians, having fallen under the influence of non-Orthodox scholars, believe and teach that the mark of antiquity renders an ecclesiastical writer a Father of the Church; in other words, in order to be a Father one must have lived in some ancient era. Consequently, this view divides the Church’s indivisible history according to quality and spiritual depth; it treats the Church as if it were not Christ Himself extended unto the ages of ages, as if during particular eras – such as our own – it had ceased to be guided by the Holy Spirit and to produce saints, teachers and theologians. On the contrary, the Church continues on its course through history ever undiminished in quality, sanctifying through Christ its holy head and through the All-Holy Spirit, who remains eternally and continually within it…
—Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis 

From the Translator’s Introduction:
This book, then, represents a collection of valuable scholarship covering both a broad range of Patristic figures dating from apostolic times to the present day, as well as a wide variety of themes. Moreover, it paints a roughly representative picture of one of Greece’s most important modern Patristic scholars and effectively introduces him to the English-speaking world. Most importantly, though, this volume offers to show readers how an authentic Orthodox Patrologist relates to the lives, text, and teachings of the Holy Fathers.
—Rev. Dr. John Palmer

Rich enough in content to hold the interest of one who is theologically inclined but practical and approachable enough to be enjoyed by any reader.


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Below is an interview Olga Rozhneva (frequent contributor on pravloslavie.ru) conducted with a Russian monk at the Holy Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Arizona, Hierodeacon Seraphim. Originally in Russian, it was translated into English by Jesse Dominick and posted on Orthodox Christianity. A large portion is re-posted below; to read the full article click here

(Source—Fr. Seraphim, the providence of God is at work in the life of every man, but sometimes it is hidden and sometimes it clearly reveals itself in some kind of sign, remarkable encounters, or words. Did you have such signs—a clear manifestation of God’s providence for you in your life?

—You know, the Lord leads every man to Himself when the most opportune moment for him comes. I was born in Moscow. In childhood, like my peers, I was an Octobrist, Pioneer, and Young Communist. I graduated from the Moscow Aviation-Technological Institute with a diploma in mechanical engineering for aircraft engines. I started to get involved in various religious currents, but didn’t arrive at Orthodoxy.

In 1995 a professor of physics from Chicago, David Chesek, came to Moscow. He was a very good Catholic and wonderful family man with eight kids. He died two years ago. We got acquainted, having similar interests in physics, and he invited me to America to study and work. He helped me with my visa.

I was twenty-three and had the opportunity to travel to another country, live and study there, and receive some life experience. The Lord allowed me to do all of it.

Several American universities cooperate with various companies where the companies pay the universities for research. The university in Alabama, where I began to study, collaborated with automotive companies. They looked for students who would do research along with their studies, so they paid for my education and gave me a salary for work in the metal casting department. This was the most ideal option for me. I rented a small house from a family, studied for seven years and received my masters and doctorate. I was offered work at General Motors.

But the Lord already had other plans for me. In America I studied and worked, worked and studied, and was deprived of those human consolations I had in my homeland: interaction with my parents and relatives and friends. People who move to other countries lose these comforts they had at home.

Any Orthodox country is a country of collective communication. You know, you can just drop by a friend’s without calling, and you’ll drink some tea in the kitchen and have a heart-to-heart… But western countries are societies of individualists: “Hello,” “Goodbye.” There’s parties, but the conversation is very superficial. And no matter how well you speak English, you always feel that you’re from another culture.

Being without these human consolations, you begin to look for them in God. My mom, learning of my interest in faith, advised me to get baptized.

When the Lord wants to bring someone to Himself, He creates such circumstances, arranges meetings through which the man can begin to recognize Him. I made some Russian friends, and they turned out to be Baptists. I was always very curious, and here I wanted to immediately know: where is truth? After all, there can’t be several truths. I started to attend the catechumen courses at the Orthodox church and learned about Church history and doctrine. I compared and analyzed, and realized that the truth is in Orthodoxy. I received Holy Baptism.

My life changed dramatically. Prestigious work at General Motors didn’t entice me anymore. I didn’t want to stay with the university department—I had developed an interest in monasticism.

—And why did you choose the Monastery of St. Anthony the Great?

—Once my spiritual father, Archpriest Alexander Fekanin, the rector of the church of St. Symeon the New Theologian in Birmingham, advised me to go to St. Anthony’s Monastery. My first time there I was twenty-six. I met the founder of the monastery, Elder Ephraim—a spiritual child of Venerable Elder Joseph the Hesychast. I said to him in broken Greek: “Father, I want to become a monk,” and he blessed me.

I came here a few more times; I liked it, but I was confused: I wasn’t sure that I was supposed to stay in this monastery. I even wanted to return to Russia and enter seminary.

I had just graduated from my university in Alabama, and after my defense and all my work I felt tired, and my spiritual father blessed me to go on vacation to the west coast. California is a huge, beautiful state: mountains, the Grand Canyon, nature, monasteries… I went to St. Anthony’s and told the fathers that soon, after my vacation, I was going to Russia, and rented a car and drove to California.

I went to the convent of the Lifegiving Spring Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which Elder Ephraim had also founded, in 1993. There I met one mother, Schemanun Fevronia, who bore obedience in the guest house. We started talking, and I told her: “You know, I’m soon returning to Russia,” to which she replied: “You forget to add a phrase.” “What phrase, mother?” “If it’s God’s will”…

I spent three days there, and somehow Mother Fevronia, and she was a spiritually experienced person, began to talk with me about the monastic life. At the end of the conversation I felt like she wanted to tell me something, but she wasn’t saying it. It’s a sign of a spiritual person, to not enforce his point of view, but to wait until you ask. And if you ask, then he answers. That is, he speaks to those who are ready to listen.

I went to San Francisco and wrote a letter to St. John of Shanghai, requesting that he pray for me. Then I went to St. Anthony’s and immediately felt sure that it was “my” monastery. That’s how I wound up here.

You see, I prayed for several years, from the time I felt the pull of monastic life, that the Lord would teach me: to go to a monastery or not, and if so, which one. I prayed that the Lord would inform me about it in such a way that no doubts would remain about the correctness of my choice, and I received my answer at the most opportune moment—when I had graduated from college, when I was free to choose my path—that is, precisely when I needed it. There are many monastic testimonies that when they had chosen the monastic path in life, they couldn’t immediately leave for the monastery—some obstacles appeared for them. The Lord revealed it to me when it was most necessary, to secure my path.

It’s worth noting that when I would come to the monastery, being unprepared, I tried to meet with Elder Ephraim every time, but he didn’t want to receive me at all. And when I was finally ready to choose my path, the elder immediately received me. And moreover, he summoned me himself and instructed me.


—Could you tell us about the elder’s instructions?

—I told him I had been baptized as an adult, and he anxiously asked if I had been baptized by full immersion. It was obvious that it’s important to him. When I answered affirmatively he began to smile and joked about me being tall: “And where did they find some a large font?”

He gave me a few pieces of advice for beginning the monastic life. Perhaps they’ll be useful for your readers, because they can be applied to monks or to laypeople. The elder stressed the importance of preserving your conscience everywhere: at work, during our obediences. He advised me to keep that initial zeal with the help of obedience to a spiritual father and unceasing prayer. He said that ascetics have three enemies: the world, the evil one, and our own selves—our passionate nature.

He emphasized that, taking care for our salvation, we mustn’t waste time doing nothing. He gave the example of one nun (I suspect he was talking about his mother, Nun Theophano). When this nun would hear the chiming on the hour, she would say to herself: “Another hour has passed, and I’m another hour closer to death.” Thus she kept the memory of death, helping her to never forget the salvation of her soul.

In September 2002 I arrived at the monastery and became a worker, working in the kitchen. After four months the elder blessed me with the novice’s cassock and gave me an obedience in the bookstore: book orders, receive pilgrims. I speak in English and Greek, so I can also answer phone calls and take care of the mail. In 2012 I received the monastic tonsure and in January 2015 I was ordained a hierodeacon. Perhaps, that’s it… I can tell a few more stories about the providence of God.

—Allow me to thank you, Fr. Seraphim, for the interesting and soul-profiting conversation. What would you wish for the readers of Pravoslavie.ru?

—In Russia, especially amongst the laity, we lost the tradition of the Jesus Prayer. Even some priests look askance at laypeople who carry a prayer rope in their hands. They consider the Jesus Prayer with a prayer rope a monastic tradition, and are afraid of prelest.[1]

Our spiritual father, Elder Ephraim, blesses laity to engage in the Jesus Prayer, to the extent, of course, that their life in the world, work and family allow them. The elder explains that there’s no danger for those praying at the beginning stages of the Jesus Prayer, when a person says it orally, when he has a small prayer rule he does at home or on the road.

Usually our spiritual fathers bless laity new in the faith with a daily rule to do at home in the morning or in the evening. It’s about 50—150 Jesus Prayers with the Sign of the Cross at each knot, and 50—150 prayers to the Mother of God, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us,” also with the Sign of the Cross on each knot, and 20—50 prostrations with the Jesus Prayer and Sign of the Cross at every prostration. You should fulfill this rule given by the spiritual father, and not change it arbitrarily.

The rest of the day you walk around the streets, ride on the bus, in the subway, and pray to yourself, with a small prayer rope in your hand, or without one. When there’s no one else around, it’s useful to say the prayer out loud, quietly. It helps the mind to concentrate on the words of the prayer and not get lost in dreams. The main condition is a feeling of repentance. Don’t strive for spiritual achievements, but ask for mercy and forgiveness of sins.

Elder Ephraim also strongly recommends (and for us it’s part of the monastic rule) to read the Akathist to the Mother of God every day, that she might shield us from all evil, and also when we have to go somewhere.

We had a novice here in the monastery, a Greek (he’s a monk now). During obediences and at other times he often said the Akathist to the Mother of God aloud, which he knew by heart. One night he was walking around the monastery, praying his favorite Akathist aloud. He went a little beyond the bounds of the monastery, and not noticing it in the dark, stepped on a rattle snake. Usually if a snake touches you, it bites you. But a miracle occurred here: the Mother of God covered the novice and the snake didn’t bite him, but simply slithered away. That’s the benefit of reading the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos.

God bless!

Olga Rozhneva spoke with Hierodeacon Seraphim (Molibog)
Translated by Jesse Dominick Pravoslavie.ru 12/8/2016


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Modern Saints: Elder Iakovos Tsalikis

In honour of the recent official canonization of St. Iakovos I’m reblogging this post – originally posted last year.

Now all that’s left is for the Ecumenical Patriarch to canonize Elder Joseph the Hesyhast and then Gerontissa Makrina shortly after. Please God!

A story about St. Iakovos and Gerontissa Makrina taken from a talk I gave in 2013:

While she lived many great contemporary spiritual elders recognized her purity of heart and the grace of God which dwelt in her. Elder Iakovos Tsalikis – who lived in St. David’s 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.”

lessons from a monastery

iakovosA Glimpse of His Holy Life:

From a young age little Iakovos (which was his name even at baptism) loved the Lord and His Bride, the Church. Born in Livisi, in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), he and his family were forced to immigrate to Greece during the exchange of populations. Eventually settling on the island of Evia, he lived with his family in a storehouse with other refugees, blankets separated the individual living quarters. Little Iakovos would lift these blankets in order to “cense” his neighbours with the toy censor he made out of a roof tile. His holiness was noticed very early, though he wasn’t fully understood and suffered a great deal of derision; children would call him “geronda” and “father”. He would arise in the night for vigil, chant throughout the day, and was even entrusted with the keys to the village church since a priest came…

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