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vladimirOur mission here in Newfoundland is named in honour of the Holy Lady of Vladimir: an icon of the Mother of God, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Evangelist Luke on a board from the table at which the Savior ate together with His All-Pure Mother and the Righteous Joseph. The Mother of God, upon seeing this image, exclaimed, “Henceforth, all generations shall call Me blessed. The grace of both My Son and Me shall be with this icon.”

In the year 1131, the icon was sent from Constantinople to the Rus and installed in the Devichi Monastery in the city of Vyshgorod. In 1155 St Andrew Bogoliubsky brought the icon to the city of Vladimir and installed it in the renowned Dormition cathedral which he built. At this time the icon received the name “Vladimir icon”. The icon was first brought to Moscow in the year 1395 where it remains today. Thus, the blessing of the Mother of God established the spiritual bonds between Byzantium and Rus via Kiev, Vladimir and Moscow.

The festal celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos occurs several times during the year (May 21, June 23 and August 26). The most solemn celebration occurs on August 26, the feast established in honour of the meeting of the Vladimir icon upon its transfer from Vladimir to Moscow.*

Below you will find the hymn to the Holy Lady of Vladimir.

*Much of this information is taken from the OCA’s website.

troparion4 out patron page

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indexModern Saints is a new series wherein I post a small biography and a few inspiring words from contemporary holy men and women who have not yet been included in the Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church (ie. have been formerly been glorified).

A Glimpse of Her Holy Life:

Abbess Thaisia was born in 1840 to a noble family in Novgorod. She was named Maria in honour of the Most Holy Theotokos who had granted Maria’s parents the safe arrival of their baby after two previous children reposed at birth. Little Maria was enrolled in the Pavolovsky Institute for young women in St. Petersburg where she received the (prophetic) nicknames ‘nun’ and ‘abbess’. Even at this young age Maria’s spiritual nobility began to emerge as she received multiple visitations of divine grace. To her mother’s dismay Maria disclosed that she wished to pursue monasticism. After her mother received a vision of the Mother of God reprimanding her for prohibiting Maria from following in the footsteps of countless holy fathers and mothers, Maria became a novice in Tikhvin at the Holy Monastery of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (the feast day is November 21). In 1870, at the age of 30, Maria was tonsured a nun with the name Arcadia. She was tonsured again, into a higher degree of monasticism, with the name Thaisia in 1872. Over the next 10 to 13 years or so Mother Thaisia lived in three or four different monasteries, suffering on account of poor living conditions and cruel treatment by the sisters. In 1885 Mother Thaisia was made Abbess of a convent in Leushino. Here she laboured to establish a firm foundation for the holy monastery, as well as set up a school for orphans of clergymen which later became a centre for spiritual education as an ecclesiastical college for girls. In 1891 she met her beloved spiritual father, St. John of Kronstadt, to whom she “poured out her soul”* even after his repose. In 1915, after serving as abbess for some 30 years, Mother Thaisia reposed on January 2. May we have her blessing!

Wise Counsel from the Abbess:

“It is through sorrows that the great designs of God’s Providence are manifested to us. ‘God is known in His burdens.’ But how heavy and hopeless our sorrows appear to our short-sighted and faint-hearted minds! We do not understand, we do not even want to see in the sorrows that befall us the great purposes of Providence; we are unable to obey God without murmuring” (Abbess Thaisia: An Autobiography, p.131)

“Commit yourself, I repeat, without defence to the will of your [spiritual] guides – give way to them, like clay to the potter, like iron to a smith; let them mold and hammer on the forge of obedience (as was expressed by St. John, author of the Ladder) your unruly and proud will, until it will be ground into the soft wax of humility, so that with understanding and discernment you may repeat the words of the Psalmist: “In our humiliation the Lord remembered us” (Ps. 135:23), or, “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I might learn Thy statutes (Ps. 118:71).” (Letters to a Beginner, p. 47)

*This is a line from a poem the abbess wrote about her spiritual father after his repose

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(Source) O discerning listeners, come and listen to the dispute between Marina and Satan, and sing praise to the Lord of all.

SATAN: The Evil One said to Marina, the dearly beloved virgin, ‘Desert and Sown, in their envy, have spoken falsehood against you’.

MARINA: ‘Every word Desert and Sown have spoken against me is in falsehood: in the name of the Lord do I put my hope to escape victorious from them’.

SATAN: ‘In the name of the Lord you shall escape if you pay attention and listen to me, my daughter: reveal your identity, that you are a woman, and you will escape from all guile’.

MARINA: ‘Those men and women who have emerged victorious first entered into trials and were rescued by the hope they held in the name of the Lord – and like them I too have hope’.

SATAN: ‘ I have revealed and shown you the right path by which you shall be victorious, but you won’t listen; I am greatly upset in my concern for you, and my pain won’t go away since you won’t listen to me’.

MARINA: ‘My skin cleaves to my bones [Lam.4:8]: I have greatly toiled in my labours so as to be numbered among males in order to steal righteousness from them’.

SATAN: ‘If you wish to be numbered among males, listen to what I have to say to you: go and reveal your identity, how you are a woman, and then go and live in the world along with men’.

MARINA: ‘What you have to say is miles away from what I have in mind: my desire is to die in the wild and I shall not do what you have said’.

SATAN: ‘This wild place shall be your tomb and you will not get away from trials, for if you don’t listen to my words, you will die and perish, with your hope cut off’.

MARINA: ‘Great woe is reserved for you and for whoever listens to any of your words. There is hope in God, and those who hope in him are not ashamed’. [Ps 25:3]

SATAN: ‘It is a double woe that you will have if you fail to listen to any of my words: you will die in the wilderness and wild beasts and birds of prey will devour you’.

MARINA: ‘I will sing praise while I live, [Ps 146:2] while I have a place where to sing; and whether I live or whether I die, it is to the Lord I belong all the time’.

SATAN: ‘Sing on then, and don’t stop for in a little while your song will come to an end; you will go down to Sheol without hope and your lot will be a double woe’. [cp Ps 31:18, 55:16]

MARINA: ‘The Lord is living and holy is his name, and whoever hopes in him will not be ashamed: [Ps 25:3] from this monastery I will not depart. and will not go away from its gate’.

 SATAN: ‘Savage animals are roaring, eager to rip you apart, and vultures too; if you don’t carry out my advice they will tear you apart and drink up your blood’.

MARINA: ‘A great blessing will be mine if they tear my body apart and drink up my blood, for my Lord is the Lord of all: he will not do what you have said’.

SATAN: ‘So torture you consider a blessing? What then do you think of eternal woe? Flee from the error in your mind; follow my advice and live’.

MARINA: ‘Let the sea and land testify concerning me, the heavens too, and all that is in them, [cp Deut 4:26, 31:28] that I renounce you and your words: cursed is your counsel, and accursed your name’.

SATAN: ‘I know that women don’t have much intelligence or brain, for they don’t know what they are saying, and they do what is harmful to themselves’.

MARINA: ‘All the advice that you give is bad; your words are bad too because you are bad: as our Lord said in his Gospel, “a tree that is bad bears bad fruit”’. [Matt7:17]

SATAN: ‘Check your words, stupid woman, and shut up: you don’t realize it is your duty to save yourself, as far as you are able, and live a normal life, and not perish’.

MARINA: ‘Accursed are your words, Satan, and accursed is the instruction which you teach. for your mouth is full of cursing and wickedness, and on your tongue are fraud and deceit’.

SATAN: ‘You haven’t read or learnt the Scripture; you are ignorant and you don’t listen. My words and utterance are full of truth, and deceit is far from my heart’.

MARINA: ‘If I listen to you I will indeed perish, for you have set a trap that leads to perdition, and I won’t be able to save myself if I listen to you and your counsel’.

SATAN: ‘My advice is crystal clear, its light is illumined by the sun, but because the light of your mind is darkened you don’t see the light even when it shines out’.

MARINA: ‘Take a rest from laying your traps, for I shall break them all up: I place my hope in Jesus’ name and no harm will come to me’.

SATAN: ‘You should give a rest to your words: that I should rest is not my wish. It is a great sin that you commit if you remain in this wild place.

SATAN: ‘You will do yourself harm at the hands of marauding robbers: if they realize you are a woman I don’t know what they will do to you!’.

MARINA: ‘The hope that I’ve placed in God will rescue me and I will not be harmed; he is the hope of the poor and the orphans, and to all who hope on him’.

SATAN: ‘Escape from all sorts of harm while you still have a chance to escape: don’t put the Lord, your Lord, to the test, hoping he will perform a miracle with you’.

MARINA: ‘It is from you that I will make my escape and I won’t touch your words of advice; if I escape from you and your words, then will I be accounted blessed!’.

SATAN: Satan replied and said ‘If you reveal that you are a woman all the abuse you are getting will go away and then you can sing praise and rejoice’.

MARINA: ‘I will not give you any answer for all your talk is importunate: all that you say is false. You give a lot of advice, but you are the one who needs it’.

SATAN: ‘Cruel crosses are set up in readiness for you on every side: summer is preparing burning heat for you, and winter, snow and ice’.

MARINA: ‘Our Saviour endured the Cross because of our human race, and if he holds me worthy to endure it, then this will be a great blessing for me’.

SATAN: ‘Get up and prepare yourself to receive crosses, sufferings and torments which evil people, and the monks, will bring upon you – just as you are wanting!’.

MARINA: ‘I have already received these from you, and I will do so in future for I am ready for suffering: whether from you, O Evil One, or from human beings, from wild animals, or from reptiles’.

SATAN: ‘It is pride that women love, and boasting is in their heart, but in a little while they grow weak and are defeated: then tears start coming, flowing from their eyes!’.

MARINA: ‘Yes, women love pride – as you have said in your pride; but they are humble before their Lord, while it is you and your pride they will trample down’.

Give peace to your Church and her children with that peace that pacifies all; rebuke the Evil One and his band: let them be scattered like smoke! [cp Ps 37:20]

Let peace reign in the midst of your Church; let fights and schisms be brought to an end:may they be brought under your yoke and do service before you.

May your handmaid enter her monastery and in the Holy of Holies offer up to you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – and may both Desert and Sown be joined in peace.

May my supplication enter and be accepted in the presence of your divine tribunal;  may the Evil One and his band feel shame, and may the Church be radiant in giving praise!

*Translated by Sebastian P. Brock

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And the winners are…

christmas voyageJustine Anna has won the e-book and Maria Melniciuc has won the paperback! Justine, the e-book will be e-mailed to you, and Maria if you could send me your mailing address we’ll have the book out to you as soon as possible. Congratulations!

For all the non-winners I’m sure it will come as a great consolation to hear the book is still 20% off the regular price, so head on over to the website and snatch a copy up for Christmas!

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Front of the cross: Christ crucified.

“Hey! That was my idea!”

Posted on Lumination Press Website (under News)

      So we couldn’t help but mention an amazing “coincidence”! Who would have thought a few months after we published Voyage to the Rock we’d be reading this headline:  Crucifix unearthed in Ferryland after 400 years underground. For those of you who don’t know – and I would assume that is most of you out there – Ferryland is in Newfoundland and is one of the earliest British settlements in North America, established in 1621. 

     It wasn’t Martin who made the discovery this time, but it was a young student archaeologist only TWO WEEKS into her dig! Unlike Martin’s bronze cross, this crucifix was made of copper (and much smaller!). 

     What’s even more amazing is that we, the founders of Lumination Press, in  April of this year stood at the very spot where this student made her discovery 2 months later! I (Fr Matthew) even made my own discovery! It wasn’t a bronze or copper cross, but on Bright Tuesday I found amid a reconstructed early forge at the site a shiny, foil-wrapped chocolate Easter egg! 

    And we thought that was a funny coincidence. What if we’d kicked around some of the loose dirt and soil at our own feet? You might be reading about us instead of this happy student archaeologist!

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(Excerpt from The Forgotten Desert Mothers, pp. 35-36)

Amma Sarah was a native of Upper Egypt. Born into a wealthy Christian family, Sarah was well educated and a voracious reader. Moving to the vicinity of a women’s monastery in the desert of Pelusium (near Antinoe), Sarah lived alone for many years near the river in a cell with a terraced roof. She attended to the needs of the nearby community.

Eventually Amma Sarah received the monastic garb and lived in a closer relationship with the community, serving as spiritual elder. Sarah continued to follow the ascetic life by living along in a cave by the river for seven years. She died around her eightieth year…

Amma Sarah models for us the gift of tenacity and focus on the final goal of life: oneness with God. Sarah sought to eliminate distractions that she experienced as stumbling blocks to total union. This is never an easy journey, and Sarah’s response was to pray for strength to endure and move into freedom. She avoided neither the challenges nor the pain; she stayed with her struggles until there was resolution.

IMG_3105Amma Sarah said, “If I pray to God that everybody would have confidence in me, I will be found at the door of each one, apologizing. But I am more inclined to pray that my heart be pure with all.”

 

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Christ is Risen!

“The man of God Cuthbert came to live on the Island of Farne alone. All alone with God he meant to stay- just Cuthbert, God, and the birds of Farne.” So begins this charming tale of the great Celtic saint, Cuthbert and his early days on the Island of Farne.

The Ravens of Farne: A Tale of Saint Cuthbert is written by Donna Farley and illustrated by Heather Hayward. Although slated as a picturebook for preschool and up, I have to say it captivated my imagination and won my heart.

The Ravens of Farne is full of colourful images, wonderful, charming depictions of the saint building walls around his new hermitage, growing his grain and offering hospitality to the monks of Lindisfarne. The style and colour choice of the illustrations make this story instantly attractive, but thankfully do not overshadow the prose.

I have often found children’s books to be more rich in illustrations than in storylines. This is not the case with The Ravens of Farne. Donna Farley’s writing makes this sweet story of St. Cuthbert’s trouble with the ravens come alive. In soft, rhythmic prose Farley describes the temptations St. Cuthbert encounters when attempting to build his hermitage and guesthouse on the Island of Farne.

The Ravens of Farne is not only a pleasure to read but also offers us a peek into the life and style of Celtic saints and teaches us a good lesson about humility and asking forgiveness. I highly recommend this book for children and the young at heart and look forward to reading more books written by Donna Farley.

Here is a description of the book on the back cover:

The seven-century Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne is one of England’s most beloved saints, honored also by the Eastern Church. Saint Cuthbert’s adventurous, yet humble spirit is demonstrated in this delightful tale of his encounter with an unruly raven. The lyrical, humorous text and simple, charming illustrations of Ravens of Farne will appeal to readers of all ages.   

The Ravens of Farne: A Tale of Saint Cuthbert is published by Ancient Faith Publishing (formerly Conciliar Press). You can purchase it on their website here and on Amazon here.

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