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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the first time in over a year Fr. John and I left the island and took a vacation. Vacation for us consists in two things: spending time with loved ones and visiting churches and monasteries (and for me, personally, it also means drinking as many Tim Horton’s coffees as I want:).

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Saint Gregory of Nyssa OCA Church

We went to Kingston, Ontario to stay with my brother and sister-in-law. We had a wonderful time chatting and going for walks. We got to attend services at both of the Orthodox churches there: Vespers at St. Gregory of Nyssa OCA Church and Matins and Divine Liturgy at The Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church.

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The Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church

Then we took a trip down to New York to visit the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Monastery and Seminary. Although Fr. Matthew was ordained there, both as a deacon and a priest, I was the only member of our family that wasn’t able to go.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThus, it was my first time visiting the beautiful, grace-filled monastery. We toured the monastery and seminary, venerated the icons and relics, and spent time with our good friend who is a monk there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our return to Canada we headed for the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Panagia Parigoritissa. Getting to visit the monastery and see all the nuns feels like a family reunion. During our stay we helped sweep the courtyard, fold pamphlets and got to work in the vineyard – which was an especial blessing.

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Sweeping the courtyard

The summer Fr. John was ordained a deacon we spent significant time there. We cherish our memories of all the years we’ve been visiting the monastery; we would often stop by the monastery when flying home from Greece as there is a direct flight from Montreal to Athens.

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In the vineyard

There’s nothing like the physical and spiritual respite that comes from making holy pilgrimages; the ideal vacation in my opinion. Thank God for such oases! You come back home more peaceful, more centered, and ready to re-enter the daily battle of acquiring grace in the midst of work and worldly obligations.

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Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY

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Our friend, Fr. Gregorie, doing the service of Lesser Agiasmos at my brother and sister-in-law’s apartment in Greece.

The nuns always stressed how important it is to have our home blessed regularly with agiasmos (holy water). I remember when we first moved to Greece I was speaking with the Abbess of a nearby monastery about the trouble we were having with our neighbours and to my surprise she asked, “Have you had your house blessed?” And I said we hadn’t. She told me to get it done as soon as possible, especially since the owner’s son had left furniture behind in our apartment when he moved out.

When it comes to anything second-hand Greeks always suggest sprinkling a little agiasmos on it. “You never know who previously owned this or that thing, or what they did while wearing it,” etc., my Nona (godmother) would always tell us.

We save some holy water from the feast of the Theophany and keep it year round in order to use it. The agiasmos which we receive on the feast of the Theophany can only be drunk after fasting (ie. this Friday morning we can drink it because we’ll fast on Thursday), and before eating antidoron. However, the holy water that is blessed on the first day of every month, for example, can be drunk when we wake up in the morning (ie. after fasting six hours while we sleep).

Something else about agiasmos that I found helpful to learn is that it’s a good idea to sprinkle some in one’s home after a couple has gotten into an argument, or if one feels particularly tempted in the home. The Church offers us so many blessings and so many ways to sanctify our life, we should take advantage of them as much as we can.

In the photo on the right you can see a Romanian custom: The priest melts some of the beeswax from the candles used in the service of agiasmos and puts a cross with the initials IC XC NI KA (Jesus Christ Conquers) in each room of the home after the service is over. So as not to tick our landlord off too much [when we lived in Greece], we only had our friend do it in our living room.

To read more about these services of blessing the water, and when and how we partake of agiasmos see here.

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Elder Leonid

(1768 – October 11, 1841)

Commemorated on October 11

 

Southwest of Moscow, in the city of Karachev, was born Leo Danilevich Nagolkin, the future Elder Leonid. Little is known of his early life except for an incident during which he was carting flax to a neighboring city and was attacked by a wolf. He managed to fight off the wolf with his bare hands but was left lame for the rest of his life after the wolf tore a large portion of flesh from his leg.

Leo began his monastic life in Optina but then moved to the White Bluff Hermitage where he was tonsured and given the name Leonid. He then went on to stay at the Chelnsky monastery where he met Fr. Theodore of Svir who had learned the monastic life under St. Paisius Velichkovsky. From Fr. Theodore, Fr. Leonid learned the “science of science and art of arts,” the labour of unceasing prayer. These holy men were together for nearly twenty years. After Fr. Theodore’s repose, Fr. Leonid went to the St. Alexander of Svir Monastery and the Ploschansk monastery, where the future Elder Macarius also lived. In 1829, after thirty years of ascetic experience, he came to Optina at the invitation of Bishop Philaret of Kaluga and Abbot Moses. Here, he began the line of the great Elders of Optina.

At sixty-one years old he is described as a “tall, majestic man, who had in his youth acquired strength of mythic proportions and had, even in his old age, graceful movements despite his portliness” (which was due to hypothyroidism). He is noted as being full of pity and love for mankind but at other times he would act abruptly.

Wherever he was placed, he was flocked with visitors looking for healing or comfort for their ailing souls. From morning to late at night his cell was filled with people looking for spiritual care. His life contains many examples of how this rigorous ascetic would, with gentleness and profound spiritual jokes help people who came to him from outside the monastery. He was clairvoyant and healed people. He had a “different” kind of simplicity and so was able to attract people from all walks of life. The people appreciated his jokes and proverbs which made more sense to them than most academic instructions.

During Elder Leonid’s time at Optina, suspicions arose accusing him of holding views that were unorthodox and bordered on heresy. (To place this persecution in perspective, we should recall that during this time the monasteries were just beginning to be repopulated after the general monastic persecutions of Peter I through Catherine II. As a result most knew very little about eldership and the “source material” on this until it was disseminated by St. Paisius and his disciples). Because of this, Elder Leonid was forbidden to receive any further visitors. Soon his spiritual children began to be also persecuted as were the nuns who were under his care. Much grief was caused to the Elder in his God-pleasing work. Despite the persecution, the care of the brethren of the Optina Monastery was given into the hands of Elder Leonid by its Abbot, Fr. Moses. Fr. Moses only took care of the administrative aspect of the monastery and placed the spiritual responsibility totally on the shoulders of Elder Leonid. Due to increased persecutions of the Elder, he was relocated from the Skete to a cell in the main monastery and was frequently moved to different cells. He took all of this in good humor, carrying the icon of the Vladimir Mother of God given to him by St. Paisius around to each new cell.

In early September 1841, after being at Optina for twelve years the Elder fell ill. He reposed after much suffering, with his cell attendant at his side.

Sayings of Elder Leonid of Optina

On Prayer

Whoever the Lord visits with a difficult ordeal, sorrow, the bereavement of a dearly beloved one, such a person involuntarily prays with all his heart, all his understanding, all of his mind. Consequently, there is a wellspring of prayer in everyone, but it is revealed either by gradually going deeper and deeper into yourself, according to the teaching of the fathers or by a sudden Divine drilling into one’s soul.

Humility

For us who seek salvation, what is most needed in fulfilling the Divine commandments is humility, which attracts to us Divine Grace and illumines all our actions. But without it, no ascetical struggles and labors can bring us much-desired peace.

Hope in God

Be brave and firm in spirit in your faith and hope in the mercies of the gracious Lord that in the situations that seem to be opposing us He is working out our salvation. Acknowledge your weakness and your failure to submit to the will of God and to fulfill His commandments. From this acknowledgment you will obtain humility for yourself and you will see the help of God.

– Subdeacon Matthew Long

 

Bibliography

Kontzevitch, I.M. “The Great Elder Leonid of Optina (Leo in Schema)” in The Orthodox Word (March-April, 1985): 56-70.

Kontzevitch, I.M. “Optina Monastery and Its Elders” in The Orthodox Word (July-August, 1984): 156-162.

Makarios, Hieromonk of Simonos Petra, The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, trans. Christopher Hookway, vol. 1 (Chalkidike: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady Ormylia, 1998).

Optina’s Elders: “Instructor of Monks and Conversers with Angels” athttp://www.roca.org/OA/97/97k.htm accessed on Dec. 17, 2013.

Schaefer, Archimandrite George (trans.) Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina (Jordanville: Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, 2009).

Sederholm, Fr. Clement. Elder Leonid of Optina (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2002).

Smolych, I.K., The Era of the Optina Elders on the official site of Optina Monastery athttp://www.optina.ru/041113/, accessed on Dec. 17, 2013 (in Russian).

 

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Today we commemorate 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou of Mt Athos

(Source)

In July of 1274, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII accepted a union with the Roman Church at Lyons, France. Faced with dangers from Charles of Anjou, the Ottoman Turks, and other enemies, the emperor found such an alliance with Rome expedient. The Union of Lyons required the Orthodox to recognize the authority of the Pope, the use of the Filioque in the Creed, and the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the Liturgy. Patriarch Joseph was deposed because he would not agree to these conditions. The monastic clergy and many of the laity, both at home and in other Orthodox countries, vigorously opposed the Union, denouncing the emperor for his political schemes and for his betrayal of Orthodoxy.

On January 9, 1275 a Liturgy was celebrated in Constantinople in which the Pope was commemorated as “Gregory, the chief pontiff of the Apostolic Church, and Ecumenical Pope.” The emperor’s sister remarked, “It is better that my brother’s empire should perish, rather than the purity of the Orthodox Faith.” Recalling the infamous Crusade of 1204 when Latin crusaders sacked Constantinople, many of the people also preferred to submit to the infidels than to abandon the Orthodox Faith.

Twenty-six martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos were among those who were persecuted by Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos (1261-1282) and Patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) because they would not obey the imperial command to recognize the Union of Lyons. They steadfastly kept the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, and fearlessly censured those who accepted Catholic doctrines.

When the authorities came to Mt. Athos to enforce the imperial policy, the monks of Zographou shut themselves up in their monastery. From the tower they reproached those in favor of the Union, calling them lawless men and heretics. The attackers set the monastery on fire and burned the twenty-six martyrs alive.

The names of the martyrs are: Igumen Thomas, the monks Barsanuphius, Cyril, Micah, Simon, Hilarion, James, Job, Cyprian, Sava, James, Martinian, Cosmas, Sergius, Menas, Joasaph, Joannicius, Paul, Anthony, Euthymius, Dometian, Parthenius, and four laymen who died with them.

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The above martyrs’ confession of the Orthodox faith is perhaps not dissimilar to the below confessors of our own time.

(Source)

The final versions of the texts of the Cretan Council are now available online at theolcom.ru, where you can see which hierarchs signed which documents, reports Orthodox Ethos.

Of particular interest is the controversial “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World” text, which, as is now known, thirty-three of the 162, or twenty percent, hierarchs present declined to sign, including five from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Notably, seventeen of the twenty-four Serbian hierarchs attending the council withheld their signatures, only seven signing. Given that a primate’s signature was said to express the consensus or majority of his Church, it raises the questions of what Patriarch Irenej intended by signing the document, and how it represents the conciliarity which was to be a touchstone of this council.

As the text deals with ecclesiology, that is, the theology of Christ’s very Body, it is inseparable from Christology, as all Orthodox theology is a seamless whole. In this light it remains a question how a text could be passed with such a large dissenting minority, or, in other words, how such differences in profession of faith could be tolerated and pass without comment or action.

Readers can find the English version of the texthere, and the Greek version here.

For convenience, Orthodox Ethos has listed those who did not sign the text below, in order of their appearance in the text:

From the Ecumenical Patriarchate:

1. Isaiah of Denver

2. Nicholas of Detroit

3. Amphilochios of Adrianopolis

4. Antonios of Hierapolis, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox in the USA

5. Gregory of Nyssa, Head of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox in the USA

It is interesting to note that four of the five dissenting hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate serve in America.—O.C.

From the Patriarchate of Alexandria

6. Jonah of Kampala

7. Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola

From the Patriarchate of Jerusalem

8. Benedict of Philadelphia

9. Theophylaktos of Jordan

From the Patriarchate of Serbia

10. Amphilochios of Montenegro and the Littoral

11. Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana

12. Vasilije of Sirmium

13. Lucian of Budim

14. Longin of Nova Gracanica

15. Irinej of Backa

16. Hrizostom of Zvornik and Tuzla

17. Justin of Zicha

18. Pahomije of Vranje

19. Jovan of Sumadija

20. Fotije of Dalmatia

21. Hrizostom of Bihac and Petrovac

22. Joanikije of Niksic and Budimlje

23. Milutin of Valjevo

24. David of Krusevac

25. Jovan of Slavonija

26. Ilarion of Timok

From the Church of Cyprus

27. Athanasios of Limassol

28. Neophytos of Morphou

29. Nicholas of Amathus

30. Epiphanios of Ledra

From the Church of Greece

31. Chrysostomos of Peristerion

32. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Aghios Vlasios

33. Anthimos of Alexandroupolis

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