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From Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac, p. 424

Regarding injustice, he said, “There’s a charity or foundation for everyone – the orphans, the ill, the elderly. But there’s no foundation for poor injustice. Everyone puts it on someone else’s back, because people think it’s harsh and unpleasant. But there’s nothing as sweet as being treated unjustly. The most beautiful moments in my life have been times I suffered injustice. Anyone who accepts injustice accepts into his heart Christ, Who was treated unjustly. People start arguing because everyone thinks of himself as more justified than he really is. But someone with a lot of love takes injustice for himself and leaves justice for other people.”

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Started in 2011; completed in 2020

Nine years ago I started painting this icon of the Greatmartyr and Healer St. Panteleimon. Circumstances were such that Fr. John and I were given hospitality at a women’s monastery for a number of weeks one summer. Although I had been painting icons for years (having initially started with egg tempra) I mostly painted with acrylic. Gerontissa suggested I practice with egg tempra while I was with the nuns who could help instruct me. And so, I chose St. Panteleimon because I thought it was be nice to give my mother, who is a nurse, an icon of an unmercenary saint. However, we had to return home before I finished the icon. As a result, St. Panteleimon spent a number of years unfinished. With the onset of Covid-19 and the interruption in my work, I decided to finally finish what I started.

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In the meantime, as I was painting away, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She has been battling it for the past few months like a champion and we are placing our trust in God that her ongoing treatment will be successful.

I finished the icon and mailed it to her. The Canadian provincial borders had been closed from March until this past Friday, July 3. There was no possibility for me to even visit her during all of this. Thank God my brother, sister and aunt take such good care of her so she has been getting lots of TLC.

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Please spare a prayer for my mum, Chris

I was on the phone with her when the gift arrived. My brother happened to call her on the home phone at the same time so we both got to hear her shouts of joy when she opened the package. I think she was equally as pleased with herself for recognizing the saint through the bubble wrap as she was with the gift itself! She kept saying, “It’s St. PanteleiMON! I knew immediately it was St. PanteleiMON” with her own unique pronunciation of Greek names.

After only nine years his icon is finally complete and he is now the “attending physician” for my recovering mother.

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O Champion and healer saint Panteleimon,

Beseech our merciful God,

That He may grant unto our souls,

The remission of sins.

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I painted this icon in 2015.

From The Sweetness of Grace: Stories of Christian Trial and Victoryby Constantina R. Palmer (SOON TO BE RELEASED AS AN AUDIO BOOK), Ancient Faith Publishing, 2017

OUR FAMILY SAINT: ST. JOHN MAXIMOVITCH (pp. 60-64)

“PRAY TO ST. JOHN of San Francisco for your husband. St. John was a very holy man,” the priestmonk told me as I turned the door handle to leave the room, having finished our private conversation.

“Okay,” I said, shrugging, not fully realizing just how holy St. John was.

I had wanted to become Orthodox for a couple of months at that point but was wary of converting while my husband was a candidate for ordination in the Anglican church. Thankfully, he had agreed to accompany me to a monastery in America for Pascha, but my struggles with remaining Anglican were the source of much tension in our sixth-month-long marriage.

I vividly remember explaining to my husband why I thought it was best for him to wait to be ordained: I felt I was not mature enough to be a priest’s wife. And although I truly didn’t feel mature enough at that stage in my life (I was only twenty-two years old), the real reason I wanted him to wait was that I secretly wanted us to convert to Orthodoxy together. John humbly put aside his four-year-long desire to be ordained and agreed to wait for me to be “ready.” I too waited. I waited for him to become Orthodox. I prayed and kept my mouth closed to the best of my ability.

On our way from the monastery to our home in the Province of New Brunswick, we were asked if we would be willing to take a later flight in exchange for a flight voucher. We had a long layover at our next stop, so we didn’t mind sticking around the airport a bit longer. I thought nothing of the voucher, since we would be moving to South Korea to teach English in a few months, and I didn’t expect to fly anywhere in North America in the meantime.

Once we arrived home, I started reading the biography of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Lying in bed one night, I read a story about a nurse who started to go blind and began faithfully visiting St. John’s tomb and praying to him. One evening, filled with despair, she prayed fervently and opened her Bible at random to the Gospel passage about Christ healing the blind man, instructing him to wash his eyes with water from the pool of Siloam. The nurse felt that if only she could put some water from the pool of Siloam on her eyes, she’d be healed. The next day, while she was visiting St. John’s tomb, an unknown woman approached her and said she had  just returned from Jerusalem and brought with her a small bottle of water from the pool of Siloam. The nurse put the water in her eyes while standing over St. John’s tomb and was healed. The water was brought to her through St. John’s intercession.

Having finished reading the story, I suddenly had this strong feeling that if only I could visit St. John in San Francisco, my John would become Orthodox. Then I remembered the flight voucher we had received a few months before. I was doubtful there would be any available flights to California, since the voucher seemed quite limited despite its claim of available flights “anywhere in America.” I wanted to get out of bed and check online for a ticket right then, but I made myself practice a little self-control and wait until morning.

To my surprise, the next morning I found an available flight to San Francisco that the voucher covered. We were about three weeks away from moving to South Korea, so I knew I needed to act fast. I checked the dates for that coming weekend, and found I would arrive on July 2. I was flabbergasted—this was the saint’s own feast day. I felt, without a doubt, that was the work of the saint. I couldn’t believe it: truly I was being shown just what a wonderworker this holy man was!

I arrived in San Francisco and spent as much time as possible—whenever the doors were open—at the new cathedral of Our Lady, Joy of All Who Sorrow, where the saint’s incorrupt relics are housed. I prayed and lit candles, I lovingly kissed the saint’s relics, and I simply stood and looked on him with a great deal of awe and admiration. I felt reassured that through the prayers of this great saint, my husband’s heart would be softened, and his mind would be enlightened to embrace Holy Orthodoxy.

On my last visit to the cathedral, I met a wonderful priestmonk, Fr. James, and even greater blessings unfolded. He was hosting a Greek family from Montreal, and he invited me to accompany them to the

old cathedral (the church St. John served in). In the old cathedral he served a moleben with the Greek family and me in attendance, after which he prayed over us individually with St. John’s hierarchical mantle. Even though my trip thus far had been more than enough to convince me of how holy and great a wonderworker St. John is, yet more blessings were to come.

I was taken to St. Tikhon’s orphanage, where I was able to see St. John’s cell, sit in the chair he slept in each night, and venerate the holy icons in his chapel. I was overwhelmed with all the blessings St. John sent me. How could I doubt for a second that my husband would be completely transformed through this saint’s prayers?

Of course, as it is with those of us of little faith, in the weeks and months that followed I was impatient and discouraged that my husband didn’t seem changed. I didn’t understand that when we have timelines and expectations of others, we become blind to the spiritual transformation of the person taking place right before our eyes.

I prayed frequently to St. John—the paper on which I had printed his akathist hymn quickly became worn around the edges, and I’m sure showed faint traces of despairing teardrops. To this day I have kept that copy of his akathist, and when I look at it I remember all the times I begged St. John to help my husband. Truly he was a holy man, for although it took John longer to come around than I wanted, the day I saw him using a prayer rope as we walked home from work in Seoul was the day I realized St. John’s prayers had fully penetrated his heart. I was ashamed I had ever doubted the saint, that great wonderworker and superb servant of Christ.

I wish I could say my “unbelieving” husband was sanctified by his “believing” wife, but in truth my husband was sanctified by the prayers of one who became sanctified even in our latter times, even while living in contemporary America. And that is how St. John Maximovitch became, or rather offered himself as, our family saint. May we have his blessing!

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The light of oil lamps reflects so beautifully on holy icons.

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From Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller, pp. 38-39

[Elder Arsenios’] like-minded sister, Parthena. was also tonsured a rassofore nun at the yong age of 16, at the Holy Monastery of the Protection of God at Pontos, and renamed Efpraxia…

[She] was not lacking in zeal or virtue. From many amazing incidents, I will mention only one from her first steps in monasticism.

As her parents were from Pontos, they mainly spoke Turkish and knew a little Pontian. When they migrated to Russia, Parthena [Abbess Efpraxia] could only speak Turkish well. As we said, it wasn’t long before she followed the example of her brother. So she went to the Holy Monastery of the Protection of God at Pontos.

There, however, she couldn’t speak Greek nor even understand anything from the church services. This made her very upset. One night, she saw someone in her dream who asked: “Why, my child, are you so upset?”

“You see, Elder, I don’t know how to speak, nor to read, nor to write, nor to chant.”

“Don’t worry, my child. I will give you medicine for it.”

He opened her mouth and put inside something like a lolly. She ate it and woke up. Well, from that moment, her mind was enlightened. She learned to speak, and to read, and to chant, and to understand, indeed very clearly, the meanings in the liturgical books.

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This sketch is based on a photograph that I saw in a book on St. Mary Magdalene. I gave that book away some years ago so, unfortunately, I don’t remember the details except that photograph said this was located in (if memory serves) Gera.

If someone knows where this is please share.

UPDATE: It is in Gera! A reader emailed me pictures of the book I had used to draw this image. The book is called Saint Magdalene written by Mother Suprerior Eugenia Kleidara (of the Holy Monastery of Saint Raphael).

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You can read about this elder in Everyday Saints

As I’ve been reading My Side of the Mountain these last few days I’m reminded of so many saints who lived and prayed in the wilderness. Today we celebrate St. Tikhon of Kaluga who, like the character Sam Gribley, lived in a tree.

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(Source) Saint Tikhon of Medin and Kaluga, in his youth received monastic tonsure at the Chudov monastery in Moscow, but through his love for solitude he settled at an isolated spot near Maloyaroslavl. He lived in asceticism in a deep dense forest, on the bank of the River Vepreika, in the hollow of an ancient giant oak. Once, during a hunt, Prince Basil Yaroslavich (grandson of Vladimir the Brave), came upon Saint Tikhon, angrily ordered him to leave his property immediately, and dared to raise his whip against the monk. At once, the hand of the prince grew numb. Taken aback by such punishment, the prince repented of his conduct and with humility asked forgiveness.

He received healing through the prayer of Saint Tikhon. The prince entreated the monk to remain always on his property and to build a monastery there for monks, promising to provide it with everything necessary. Saint Tikhon built a monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he headed. He guided the monastery until he reached a great old age, and he died in the year 1492, after receiving the great schema.

Saint Tikhon’s body was buried at the cathedral church of the monastery he founded. The celebration of Saint Tikhon was established at the Council of 1584.

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From Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters by St. Paisios of Mount Athos, pp.34-35

Fr. Tychon was born in Russia in Novaya Mikhalovka in 1884. His parents, Paul and Helen, were God-fearing people and it was only natural for the fruit of their union – Timothy [later Fr. Tychon], as he was called in the world – to inherit their piety and love of God and want to devote himself to God since his early childhood.

…Once somebody had sent him a cheque from America. As he was getting it from the post office, however, a layman saw him and was overcome by the temptation of avarice. So he went to the elder’s cell at night to rob that the elder had already given the money he had been sent to Mr. Theodoros, the grocer, to buy bread for the poor. After he had tormented the elder a good deal – he had him tied by the neck with a rope – he ascertained that there really was no money there and so he was ready to leave. Fr. Tychon said to him: “God forgive you, my child.”

The malefactor then went to another elder with the same intention, but the police caught up with him there and he confessed of his own accord that he had also been to Father Tychon’s. The policeman sent a colleague and asked the elder to answer questions, since there would be a trial for the thief. The elder was deeply upset and told the policeman: “But, my child, I forgave the thief with all my heart.”

The officer paid absolutely no attention to the words of the elder, since he was carrying out orders from above and he tugged at him and said: “Come along quickly, elder! There is no ‘I forgive’ and ‘Forgive me’ here.”

In the end, the police chief took pity and let him go back to his cell from Hierissos [a port situated outside the Athonite peninsula] because he was crying like a little child at the thought that he would be to blame for the thief being punished.

Whenever he remembered this case, he could never get it out of his mind and would say to me: “My child, those lay people who are in the world have completely different habits! There is no such thing as ‘Bless’ or ‘God forgive you’!”

eldersFrom one of the most beautiful homilies I’ve heard by Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol. I encourage you to listen to the whole homily. It is less than 10 minutes long and has English subtitles. What follows are just my favourite parts.

On Charismatic Elders:

…these people, in my experience, were characterized by great balance, they were very well-adjusted people, not unbalanced. They were well-adjusted and charitable. They never presented you with a dilemma; they got you out of one. Nor did they present you with a God who’d be a problem, but one who’d be the answer to all problems. That’s why people flocked to them, because they found relief. People didn’t go to them to leave troubled and weary; they left relaxed and light-hearted.

They were people who know how to have their own views, but also how to exploit the potential of each person and to know how to arrange things for each soul, what each person was capable of, what they could do from where they were. And they’d each decide in accordance with their own situation. They didn’t say: ‘Look, I’m a hermit and to become the way I want you you’ll have to become like me.’ They came to where you were; you didn’t go to where they were.

In general, I think that as time went on I saw that everything they did brought them to a perfection in Christ, which is in no way extreme, but is a mean, an endless balance and peace. There was no sharpness about them; it was something absolutely clear, something like a calm sea that you sail over with great joy. They weren’t at all sharp, those people. It’s not the Gospel’s fault, it’s ours for the way we live out our misery and express it to others. As a continuation of what I was saying about these holy people, they showed us exactly the image of the person who is perfect in Christ. All those people were in harmony, balanced, not at all facetious. They didn’t make you feel: ‘But he’s a simpleton, he’s ingenuous, he’s somebody who walks on the clouds, he’s not properly grounded’. Because that’s no good either. It’s not a good thing to be fatuous, nor to be ingenuous, or facile or obtuse. Just as it’s not good to be pessimistic and all miserable. At the same time as they mourned human pain, the saints were joyful, very sweet people who embraced everyone. They wouldn’t put up with darkness in people’s souls.

You might say that’s easy for everybody. No, it isn’t. We’ve got a long way to go to get there; it’s not easy, nor can it be feigned. You can’t say: ‘What was Elder Aimilianos like? I’ll imitate him.’ It can’t be done. You have to tread the path that Aimilianos trod and you have to be Aimilianos to do so. Because if you’re not Aimilianos, you’ll be a caricature, you’ll be a poor imitation. You have to find yourself. You’re not Aimilianos. You’re Adrianos, you’re Athanasios, you’re Ignatios. You’ll become who you are, given the qualities you have. Let the grace of God work in your soul without preconditions. I don’t believe the Gospel is there to batter the human personality or tread it underfoot. The Gospel saves the human person, it doesn’t trample it down. It removes the toxins and the passions and the sin, but saves the person.

This is why these saints accepted others so easily. Even people who are acknowledged to be spiteful and sinful are justified by them to such a degree that you end up thinking they’re saints. …when we went and told [Elder Paisios] about different things that were happening on the Holy Mountain or about monks who were less than careful in their lives, he’d find ways to justify things and you’d say ‘Lord have mercy, this man’s a saint.’ He’d find an excuse for them and put good thoughts into your head and say good things about them. He’d say: ‘Look, don’t concentrate on that. The man’s got good points, so that’s the least thing compared to the many good things he’s done.’ Because he himself was such a man – the way God sees people, not the way we do. …The saints aren’t facile, nor insensitive to the pain of others. They experience the pain and they experience the whole of our apostasy from God, but because they’re now in full health, they deal with things as God does.

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“Our thoughts determine our whole life. If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same, and we will have peace within us. It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us.”

-Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica