Archive for the ‘Sketching Holiness’ Category


St. John the Dwarf (also known as Abba John), painted in 2014 with acrylic on canvas. A friend named in honour of the saint commissioned this icon. I was unable to find a prototype icon to base my painting on. However, I did find a black and white sketch by Photios Kontoglou (a renowned Byzantine iconographer) – you can find it below. For this reason I found it a challenge to paint the saint since the prototype  I was working from was not in colour. I did my best. I also tried using a new gold leaf product. It was awful and I never used it again after this. Despite those challenges it was special to paint a saint many have been influenced by but few have seen depicted in icons.

Abba John the Dwarf: small of stature, spiritual giant. You can read all about him in a volume of the Desert Fathers posted online HERE

ο κολόβος

From The Desert Fathers:

V.xi. 15. There was an old man in Scete who had great physical stamina, but was not very good at remembering anything. He went to abba John the Dwarf and asked him about forgetfulness, listened to what he had to say, went back to his cell and couldn’t remember a thing of what abba John had said. He went back and asked again, listened and likewise returned, and still couldn’t remember a thing once he had got back to his cell. He did this several times, but still could not master his forgetfulness. At last he came again and said, “Do you know, father, I have forgotten again what it was you said to me. I don’t want to be a nuisance to you. I won’t come again.” Abba John replied, “Come, light this lantern (or ‘candle’) for me.”  And he did so. “Bring another lantern,” he said, “and light it from this one.”  And he did so. “Is the light of the first lantern any the less,” he asked, “because you have lit another lantern from it?”  “No”, was the reply.  “Nor is John any the less,” said John, “even if all of Scete came to me. Nor could that separate me from the love of God. So come whenever you like, don’t hesitate.” And so by their mutual forbearance, God did take away the old man’s forgetfulness. But this was the way they carried on in Scete, encouraging those who were beset by any kind of passion whatsoever and making demands on each other to their mutual advantage.

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This icon was commissioned by a very dear Romanian friend from New Brunswick. (This is why the description on the icon is written in Romanian) The icon is based on the 12th Century prototype in Sinai. This is the first (and to-date, only) angel I have painted. I love the way the wings turned out. It was painted in 2013 with acrylic on canvas.

The Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae (the feast day for this holy event is September 6):

(Source) In Phrygia, not far from the city of Hieropolis, in a place called Cheretopos, there was a church named for the Archangel Michael, built over a miraculous spring.

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

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

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

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

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St. Anne the Ancestor of God, painted for my auntie in 2013 with acrylic on canvas. 

(Source) Saint Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, who was of the tribe of Levi. Saint Anna’s family came from Bethlehem.

The couple lived at Nazareth in Galilee. They were childless into their old age and all their life they grieved over this. They had to endure derision and scorn, since at that time childlessness was considered a disgrace. They never grumbled, but fervently prayed to God, humbly trusting in Him.

When Saint Anna learned what humiliation her husband had endured, she sorrowfully entreated God with prayer and fasting to grant her a child. In his desolate solitude the righteous Joachim also asked God for this. The prayer of the saintly couple was heard. An angel told them that a daughter would be born to them, Who would be blessed above all other women. He also told them that She would remain a virgin, would be dedicated to the Lord and live in the Temple, and would give birth to the Savior. Obeying the instructions of the heavenly messenger, Saints Joachim and Anna met at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Then, as God promised, a daughter was born to them and they named her Mary.Once, during a great feast, the gifts which Joachim took to Jerusalem as an offering to God were not accepted by the priest Reuben, who considered that a childless man was not worthy to offer sacrifice to God. This pained the old man very much, and he, regarding himself the most sinful of people, decided not to return home, but to settle in solitude in a desolate place.

Saint Joachim died a few years later at the age of 80, after his daughter went to live in the Temple. Saint Anna died at the age of 70, two years after her husband.

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This was the last icon I painted under the tutelage of my iconography teacher in Greece. It was painted in 2013 on a gessoed board with acrylic. I painted it very quickly, in like two months, because it was intended for our domestic chapel and I wanted to be able to get my teacher’s help if needed. As it was he (yet again) did Christ’s hair and he may have done his eyes. I painted Christ’s sleeves in green and red; they are usually painted in white or whitish-grey. I really like a lot of colour. Sometimes I go overboard but I’m happy with the way his garments turned out and since the icon was for our own chapel I was okay with my little ‘innovation’. 

From the life of St. Martin of Tours:

(Source) From early childhood [Martin] had loved the Church with all his heart. One winter, while traveling with his companions to the town of Amiens, he saw a beggar before the town gates, almost naked and shivering from the cold. Martin felt sorry for him, and fell behind his companions. He then removed his military cloak and cut it in two with his sword. He gave one half to the beggar and wrapped the other around himself, and left. That night, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a dream, wrapped in the other half of his cloak, and said to His angels: “Martin is only a catechumen, yet behold: he has clothed Me with his garment!’”

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agios dimitrios cropped

Painted with acrylic in 2012. He was a present for my godson, Dimitri. My teacher, Dragan, helped me with the saint’s hair and face.

(Source) When Maximian learned that the newly-appointed proconsul [Demetrius] was a Christian, and that he had converted many Roman subjects to Christianity, the rage of the emperor know no bounds. Returning from a campaign in the Black Sea region, the emperor decided to lead his army through Thessalonica, determined to massacre the Christians.

Learning of this, St Demetrius ordered his faithful servant Lupus to distribute his wealth to the poor saying, “Distribute my earthly riches among them, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.” He began to pray and fast, preparing himself for martyrdom.

When the emperor came into the city, he summoned Demetrius, who boldly confessed himself a Christian and denounced the falsehood and futility of Roman polytheism. Maximian gave orders to lock up the confessor in prison. An angel appeared to him, comforting and encouraging him.

At dawn on October 26, 306 soldiers appeared in the saint’s underground prison and ran him through with lances. His faithful servant, St Lupus, gathered up the blood-soaked garment of St Demetrius, and he took the imperial ring from his finger, a symbol of his high status, and dipped it in the blood. With the ring and other holy things sanctified by the blood of St Demetrius, St Lupus began to heal the infirm. The emperor issued orders to arrest and kill him.

The body of the holy Great Martyr Demetrius was cast out for wild animals to devour, but the Christians took it and secretly buried it in the earth.

During the reign of St Constantine (306-337), a church was built over the grave of St Demetrius. A hundred years later, during the construction of a majestic new church on the old spot, the incorrupt relics of the holy martyr were uncovered. Since the seventh century a miraculous flow of fragrant myrrh has been found beneath the crypt of the Great Martyr Demetrius, so he is called “the Myrrh-gusher.”

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St. Nektarios of Pentapolis

I painted this icon of St. Nektarios. It is the second in a set of three icons – including Panagia who I posted about last week and Christ the High Priest who I’ll post about next week. Again, this icon was painted under the tutelage of my iconography teacher, Dragan while I lived in Thessaloniki.

I had the above image of my hand-painted icon printed and laminated so we could give them out to parishioners on his feast day in 2015 after we held a Vespers and Paraclesis service to him in a joint celebration of his feast and our moving into a new home wherein we established a domestic chapel in his honour. The above image has a digital border because my original photograph was a little crooked and I didn’t want that to show in the copies we made.

Akathist to Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker of Pentapolis (source)

Kontakion 1
In joy of heart let us hymn with songs the newly revealed star of Orthodoxy, the newly erected bulwark of the Church; for, glorified by the activity of the Spirit, he pours forth the abundant grace of healings upon those who cry:
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Ikos 1
In the world you were shown to be a man of heavenly mind, O Nektarios, heirarch of Christ; for having passed through life in holiness, you were shown to be blameless, venerable and God-pleasing in all things. Wherefore, you hear from us such praises as these:
Rejoice, you by whom the faithful are edified;
Rejoice, you of whom the enemy is afraid!
Rejoice, emulator of the venerable fathers;
Rejoice, divine teacher of the Orthodox!
Rejoice, you for whom the Church joins chorus;
Rejoice, you in whom Aegina rejoices!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 2
Having adorned yourself with meekness of soul from your youth, O holy father, one fervent desire consumed your heart: to become a preacher of the Holy Gospel. From childhood you knew the Scriptures which are able to make man wise for salvation, teaching them to cry:

Ikos 2
When you left your home and traveled to Constantinople, you labored in the midst of worldly distractions. Yet you did not forsake the Faith which dwelt first in your grandmother and mother and also dwelt in thee, steadfastly dedicating yourself to prayer and to the sayings of the Fathers, which you wrote on packages and wrappings so that others might read them and receive spiritual profit. Wherefore, to one who was in the world but not of it, we the faithful cry aloud in thanksgiving:
Rejoice, most holy temple of the activity of God;
Rejoice, divinely inscribed book of new morals!
Rejoice, for you made yourself like unto the saints in perfection;
Rejoice, for you wisely spurned material things!
Rejoice, splendid victory of the Faith;
Rejoice, honored clarion of grace!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 3
As a fervent lover of the monastic life, you often visited the Monastery of the Holy Fathers, conversing there about the spiritual struggle with its holy founder, Elder Pachomios. As you aspired to the angelic habit, you were tonsured and dedicated yourself to prayer on behalf of the people as you sang:

Ikos 3
Wholly consumed with the love of heavenly knowledge, you received a blessing to continue your theological education to which you devoted yourself with zeal and self-denial. While living in Athens, you studied day and night, knowing no other roads but that to the school and to the Church. Wherefore, as to our instructor in heavenly theology, we your children joyfully cry:
Rejoice, great pillar of piety;
Rejoice, city of refuge for the faithful!
Rejoice, firm stronghold of Orthodoxy;
Rejoice, venerable vessel and praise of the Holy Trinity!
Rejoice, you who shone forth in these latter times like a never-setting sun;
Rejoice, you who pour forth the nectar of grace upon all believers.
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 4
Arrayed in true holiness and pure morals, Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria saw in you great potential for service to Christ’s Holy Church. You were ordained to the sacred priesthood and elevated to the office of Bishop. O wise one, you offered your life to Christ as a pure sacrifice, ever chanting:

Ikos 4
In your position as Metropolitan of Pentapolis, you were deeply loved by the faithful, for clothed in the vesture of the hierarchy, you adorned your life with humility. Ever disdainful of material possessions, you opened your hand freely and distributed your alms to the poor. Like your Master, you willingly came not to be served but to serve and to give your life as a ransom for many. Conquered by your love, we who honor your holy memory cry unto you thus:
Rejoice, model of lambs and shepherds;
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness!
Rejoice, worthy converser with angels;
Rejoice, good guide of men!
Rejoice, for through you we are delivered from bodily passions;
Rejoice, for through you we are filled with spiritual delights!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 5
When the enemy of our souls saw you laboring in humility, he could not abide your holy presence among the people. Raising up slanders, inciting rumors, he sought to destroy your good name and to lead you to bitterness and anger. But you overcame all of his devices, for in all things you didst meekly chant unto God:

Ikos 5
Lacking even your daily bread, slandered on all sides, you prayed for your accusers, begging the Father to forgive them. Refusing to speak one word in your defense, you joyfully suffered according to the will of God, committing yourself to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. Wherefore, amazed by your long-suffering and steadfast endurance, we your children exclaim:
Rejoice, treasury of great mercy;
Rejoice, inexhaustible bread for the hungry!
Rejoice, container of great virtues;
Rejoice, model of spiritual meekness!
Rejoice, you who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they have done;”
Rejoice, you who repaid evil with good!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 6
Having within you a strong desire for the life of stillness on the Holy Mountain, you could not abandon the people but heeded their call to remain in the world and to proclaim the words of salvation. Freely you received and freely you gave, calling all men to exclaim:

Ikos 6
With the words of your mouth you dropped heavenly sweetness into the hearts of those who accepted your words with faith, directing the minds of the faithful to seek those things which are above. The sacred writings of your teachings continually gladden the souls of the pious; for moved by the Holy Spirit, O Father, you wisely recorded words of grace and instruction for those who cry to you:
Rejoice, faithful servant of the Most Holy Trinity;
Rejoice, habitation adorned of the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice, light that illumines all the ends of the earth;
Rejoice, you who delivers people from the abyss of sin!
Rejoice, you who exalts truth;
Rejoice, you who dispells falsehood!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 7
Invited to assume the direction of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School, you brought peace where there once existed confusion, for you treated all as a loving father. Wherefore your students in gratitude sang to God:

Ikos 7
Strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, having received the words of Life, you committed these to faithful men who, because of your good instruction and spiritual example, were enabled to teach them to others. Enduring hardships as a good soldier of Christ, you did not entangle yourself in the affairs of this life but thought only how to please the Master. Therefore, as to a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, we cry out to you in words such as these:
Rejoice, teacher of the divine commandments;
Rejoice, you who makes wise the unwise by your teachings!
Rejoice, new Paul, who has bequeathed to us the pattern of sound words;
Rejoice, new Jude, who has given us the exhortation to contend earnestly for the faith!
Rejoice, new Chrysostom, who has poured forth upon the Church the heavenly nectar of piety;
Rejoice, new Damascene, who has defended the faithful from impious doctrines!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 8
Wisely adorned with understanding and meekness, you brought together venerable virgins in godliness, leading them to Christ by your words and the works of your blameless life, teaching them to sing:

Ikos 8
Listening to your prayers and earnest supplications, the Lord Who does the will of those who fear him, led you to the island of Aegina where you rebuilt the monastery which had been abandoned. Who can describe your labors and toils? Exercising vigilance in all things, you showed forth a model of divine virtue. Your spiritual daughters in thanksgiving cry to you thus:
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness;
Rejoice, all-luminous lamp, beloved by all!
Rejoice, worthy converser with angels;
Rejoice, good guide of men!
Rejoice, pious rule of faith;
Rejoice, holy purification of mortals!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 9
Worldly-minded men cannot understand your patience, for despite the many cares of the monastery, you did not cease writing edifying books for Christians living in the world. Wherefore, amazed at the great wisdom which you were given, we cry to God:

Ikos 9
Having settled at the Monastery in Aegina, you became all spirit and led an altogether spiritual life. Venerable, meek, kindly, humble, extremely compassionate and charitable, you carried on the good fight in order to lay hold of that which for which Christ Jesus laid hold of you. In your pious ways you blamelessly followed Dionysios, the godly pastor of Aegina. Now as you partake of heavenly glory with him, receive from us these praises:
Rejoice, you who despised the world and its delusive pleasures;
Rejoice, you who received in exchange heavenly blessings!
Rejoice, you who completely subdued your flesh to your spirit;
Rejoice, you who subjected your spirit to your sweetest Lord Jesus!
Rejoice, lover of the holy Fathers;
Rejoice, instructor in the prayer of the heart!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 10
Never neglecting mental prayer but always crying from the depths of your heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” all bore witness that you had become completely spiritualized. Noticing in you an exceptional sweetness which radiated from your serene countenance, the faithful joyfully exclaimed:

Ikos 10
Knowing that the Most Holy Virgin is a bulwark for all saints and a joy to monastics, you often offered your intercessions to her with tears and commited yourself to her motherly protection. Writing beautiful hymns, you gave to the faithful the gift of your love teaching them to sing, “
Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!” Therefore, we cry to you:
Rejoice, precious chosen one of Christ;
Rejoice, unblemished fragrance of God!
Rejoice, you who showed flaming love for the Lord;
Rejoice, you who always honored His Holy Mother!
Rejoice, boast of the Orthodox Church;
Rejoice, you who work many miracles through the power of God!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 11
When the time came for you to depart to Christ to receive the Crown of righteousness laid up for thee in heaven, you endured severe pain and suffering with exemplary patience. Always thanking the Heavenly Father and blessing His all-holy name, you continually cried:

Ikos 11
The Lord, Who always glorifies those who glorify Him, did not allow your virtue to be hidden but desiring that those on earth know the glory He has given you in the heavens has revealed your relics as a well-spring of healings and miracles. For immediately after your repose, as your body was being prepared for burial, the Lord worked wonders through your sweater, raising up a man who had been paralyzed for many years. Therefore, together with him we also gratefully cry to you:
Rejoice, speedy helper of those in need;
Rejoice, constant stream of mercy by which we are cleansed!
Rejoice, physician of soul and body;
Rejoice, new pool of Siloam, healing the infirm!
Rejoice, sweet myrhh of compassion;
Rejoice, miracle worker of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 12
Multitudes of the faithful from all lands continually flee to your shrine, O holy one, and from your precious relics faithfully obtain divine grace and answers for their every petition. O Father, as you know how, fulfill you also the petitions of those who now cry:

Ikos 12
Singing praises we glorify you, O all-praised Nektarios; for in you God Who is glorified in the Trinity is wonderfully glorified. But even if we were to offer you a multitude of psalms and hymns composed from the soul, O holy wonderworker, we should do nothing to equal the gift of your miracles, and amazed by them we cry unto you:
Rejoice, you who conquered all the snares of the Evil One;
Rejoice, you who were sanctified both in soul and body!
Rejoice, speedy helper of those in need;
Rejoice, restoration of health to the sick!
Rejoice, healer of diseases by the Grace of God;
Rejoice, helper of those that suffer cruelly!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 13 [3 times]
As a partaker in the life of heaven and a dweller with the angels, O Father Nektarios, in that you labored to please God, accept our present offering, and unceasingly intercede for your flock and for all the Orthodox who honor you, that we may be healed of all diseases of both body and soul, that together with you in the eternal Kingdom we may unceasingly cry:

Ikos 1 Repeated
In the world you were shown to be a man of heavenly mind, O Nektarios, heirarch of Christ; for having passed through life in holiness, you were shown to be blameless, venerable and God-pleasing in all things. Wherefore, you hear from us such praises as these:
Rejoice, you by whom the faithful are edified;
Rejoice, you of whom the enemy is afraid!
Rejoice, emulator of the venerable fathers;
Rejoice, divine teacher of the Orthodox!
Rejoice, you for whom the Church joins chorus;
Rejoice, you in whom Aegina rejoices!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

Kontakion 1 Repeated
In joy of heart let us hymn with songs the newly revealed star of Orthodoxy, the newly erected bulwark of the Church; for, glorified by the activity of the Spirit, he pours forth the abundant grace of healings upon those who cry:
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.

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I painted this in 2011 with acrylic on a gessoed board. This was my second icon under the tutelage of my iconography teacher, Dragan. He re-did Christ’s hair for me because he didn’t like the way I had painted it :).

I try to remember everything he ever showed or taught me and I recall his instructions every time I paint an icon. One of the funniest things he used to say was, “We’ve said it before! The Lord cleaned his fingernails!” He said this if we used a dark colour to outline Christ’s fingernails; he thought the dark colour made it look as if there was dirt under His nails.

This icon is one of three I painted for our domestic chapel of St. Nektarios.        

From the Service of Supplications of the Theotokos:

Ode 4
I have hearkened and heard, O Lord of Thy dispensation’s most awesome mystery,
and I came to knowledge of Thy works, and I sang the praise of Thy divinity.
Most holy Theotokos, save us!
Lull the tempests of all my sins and be still the raging of passions with thy calm, for
progenitress art thou of Him Who is Lord and helmsman, O thou Bride of God.
Most holy Theotokos, save us!
O bestow out of the abyss of thy great compassion on me, thy supplicant, for thou
brought forth One compassionate, Who is the Savior of all who sing hymns to thee.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
While delighting O spotless one in thy many favors, a hymn of thankfulness do we all
raise up our song to thee, knowing thee to be the Mother of God.
Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Having thee as our staff and hope and as our salvation’s unshaken battlement from all
manner of adversity, are we then redeemed, O thou All-lauded one.

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I painted this icon of St. Macrina the Abbess (or the Yonger) in 2010. It was a present for my friend’s one year old baby who has St. Macrina as her name’s sake. It was painted on hartoni (sort of like a stiff, thick cardboard – also readily available in Greece) with acrylic. I like the way her blue headscarf turned out and the orange parts of her garments. I find the brown cloak to be too one-dimensional, too flat but I like her headscarf and the orange parts of her garment.

From The Life of St. Macrina written by her brother St. Gregory of Nyssa:

I, Gregory, felt a desire to visit Macrina. For a long time had elapsed during which visits were prevented by the distraction of the troubles which I underwent, being constantly driven out from my own country by the leaders of heresy. And when I came to reckon the intervening time during which the troubles had prevented us meeting face to face, no less than eight years, or very nearly that period, seemed to have elapsed.

Now when I had accomplished most of the journey and was one day’s journey distant, a vision appeared to me in a dream and filled me with anxious anticipations of the future. I seemed to be carrying martyrs’ relics in my hands; a light came from them, such as comes from a clear mirror when it is put facing the sun, so that my eyes were blinded by the brilliance of the rays. The same vision recurred three times that night. I could not clearly understand the riddle of the dream, but I saw trouble for my soul, and I watched carefully so as to judge the vision by events.

When I approached the retreat in which Macrina led her angelic and heavenly life, first of all I asked one of the servants about my brother, whether he were at home. He told us that he had gone out four days ago now, and I understood, which indeed was the case, that he had gone to meet us by another way. Then I asked after the great lady. He said she was very ill, and I was the more eager to hurry on and complete the remainder of the journey, for a certain anxiety and premonitory fear of what was coining stole in and disquieted me.

But when I came to the actual place, rumour had already announced my arrival to the brotherhood. Then the whole company of the men came streaming out to meet us from their apartments. For it was their custom to honour friends by meeting them. But the band of virgins on the women’s side modestly waited in the church for us to arrive. But when the prayers and the blessing were over, and the women, after reverently inclining their head for the blessing, retired to their own apartments, none of them were left with us. I guessed the explanation, that the abbess was not with them. A man led me to the house in which was my great sister, and opened the door. Then I entered that holy dwelling. I found her already terribly afflicted with weakness. She was lying not on a bed |44 or couch, but on the floor; a sack had been spread on a board, and another board propped up her head, so contrived as to act as a pillow, supporting the sinews of the neck in slanting fashion, and holding up the neck comfortably. Now when she saw me near the door she raised herself on her elbow but could not come to meet me, her strength being already drained by fever. But by putting her hands on the floor and leaning over from the pallet as far as she could, she showed the respect due to my rank. I ran to her and embraced her prostrate form, and raising her, again restored her to her usual position. Then she lifted her hand to God and said—-

“This favour also Thou hast granted me, O God, and hast not deprived me of my desire, because Thou hast stirred up Thy servant to visit Thy handmaid.”

Lest she should vex my soul she stilled her groans and made great efforts to hide, if possible, the difficulty of her breathing. And in every way she tried to be cheerful, both taking the lead herself in friendly talk, and giving us an opportunity by asking questions. When in the course of conversation mention was made of the great Basil [the Great, their brother who had reposed], my soul was saddened and my face fell dejectedly. But so far was she from sharing in my affliction that, treating the mention of the saint as an occasion for yet loftier philosophy, she discussed various subjects, inquiring into human affairs and revealing in her conversation the divine purpose concealed in disasters. Besides this, she discussed the future life, as if inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that it almost seemed as if my soul were lifted by the help of her words away from mortal nature and placed within the heavenly sanctuary. And just as we learn in the story of Job that the saint was tormented in every part of his body with discharges owing to the corruption of his wounds, yet did not allow the pain to affect his reasoning power, but in spite of the pains in the body did not relax his activities nor interrupt the lofty sentiments of his discourse—-similarly did I see in the case of this great woman. Fever was drying up her strength and driving her on to death, yet she refreshed her body as it were with dew, and thus kept her mind unimpeded in the contemplation of heavenly things, in no way injured by her terrible weakness. And if my narrative were not extending to an unconscionable length I would tell everything in order, how she was uplifted as she discoursed to us on the nature of the soul and explained the reason of life in the flesh, and why man was made, and how he was mortal, and the origin of death and the nature of the journey from death to life again. In all of which she told her tale clearly and consecutively as if inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the even flow of her language was like a fountain whose water streams down uninterruptedly.

If you wish to read the rest of St. Gregory’s description of his God-pleasing sister, St. Macrina, you can continue here.

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This icon, painted in 2010, was the first icon I painted under the tutelage of my Byzantine iconography teacher, Dragan Pantelic. It was painted with acrylic on hartoni (like a thick, stiff cardboard).  

Dragan offered two classes in two different churches in Thessaloniki once a week. He would get all his students to paint this icon of Christ first. It is based on a prototype painted by Theophanes the Cretan. Dragan especially assisted me with Christ’s face, beard and hair.

Take a look at Dragan’s incredible icons and consider placing an order: agiografies dragan pantelic

Since Christ gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil’s tyranny. -St. Gregory Palamas


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I believe I painted this icon of St. Gennadios in 2010. I was still trying to learn how to paint icons on my own. It was done with egg tempra on paper and was a little Christmas gift for Fr. John that year as he has a great love and devotion for the saint. (Fun fact: Fr. John is currently working on a compilation St. Gennadios’ texts on the Christian life).

The small icon I painted was based on the saint’s likeness as depicted in this 20th century mosaic:

Gennadios_II_and_Mehmed_II This is a homily Fr. John gave on the saint’s feast last year (August 25).

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