An Irish Welcome

Céad Míle Fáilte friend and rover ...
Wherever you come from and whosoever you may be.
That's an Irish greeting and it means

you are welcome
a thousand times over.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


I highly recommend that people subscribe to this Podcast:

Who is Photios Kontoglou?

My previus story was a short story written by Photios Kontoglou.

Photis Kontoglou (Greek: Φώτης Κόντογλου, occasionally signed also as Kontoglous-b. Aivali or Ayvalik c.1895-d. Athens 1965) was a Greek writer, painter and iconographer.


He was raised by his mother, Despoina Kontoglou, and his uncle Stefanos Kontoglou, who was abbot in the nearby monastery of Aghia Paraskevi. He spent his childhood among the monastery, the sea and the fishermen. In 1913, he enrolled at the Athens School of Fine Arts. From 1915 onwards, he spent a lot of time travelling to places such as Spain, France,Portugal, Angola. He afterwards moved to Paris.

However, he soon returned to Asia Minor to visit his family. There he eye-witnessed the events of 1922 and he returned to Greece as a refugee. In 1923, he stayed for some time at the monasteries of Mount Athos, where he discovered the technique of Byzantine iconography.Two years later, he got married with Maria Hatzikambouri, who was also from Aivali.

In 1933, he was invited from the Egyptian government to work for the Copt Museum. However, he decided to stay in Athens and he delivered classes of painting at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens. Among his students were some of the most important modern Greek painters.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John the Blessed by Photios Kontoglou (in honour of St Basil the Great)

(Translated from the Greek original.*)

The Nativity Feast having passed, St. Basil took his staff and traversed all of the towns, in order to see who would celebrate his Feast Day with purity of heart.

He passed through regions of every sort and through villages of prominence, yet regardless of where he knocked, no door opened to him, since they took him for a beggar. And he would depart embittered, for, though he needed nothing from men, he felt how much pain the heart of every impecunious person must have endured at the insensitivity that these people showed him. One day, as he was leaving such a merciless village, he went by the graveyard, where he saw that the tombs were in ruins, the headstones broken and turned topsy-turvy, and how the newly dug graves had been turned up by jackals. Saint that he was, he heard the dead speaking and saying: “During the time that we were on the earth, we labored, we were heavy-burdened, leaving behind us children and grandchildren to light just a candle, to burn a little incense on our behalf; but we behold nothing, neither a Priest to read over our heads a memorial service nor kóllyva, as though we had left behind no one.”

Thus, St. Basil was once again disquieted, and he said to himself, “These villagers give aid neither to the living nor to the deceased,” departing from the cemetery and setting out alone in the midst of the freezing snow.

On the eve of the New Year, he came upon a certain hamlet, which was the poorest of the poor villages in all of Greece. The freezing wind howled through the scrub bush and the rocky cliffs, and not a living soul was to be found in the pitch-dark night! Then, he beheld in front of him a small knoll, below which there was secreted away a sheepfold. St. Basil went into the pen and, knocking on the door of the hut with his staff, called out: “Have mercy on me, a poor man, for the sake of your deceased relatives, for even Christ lived as a beggar on this earth.” Awakening, the dogs lunged at him.

But as they drew near him and sniffed him, they became gentle, wagged their tails, and lay down at his feet, whimpering imploringly and with joy. Thereupon, a shepherd, a young man of twenty-five or so, with a curly black beard, opened the door and stepped out: John Barbákos—a demure and rugged man, a sheepman. Before taking a good look at who was knocking, he had already said, “Enter, come inside. Good day, Happy New Year!”

Inside the hut, a lamp was suspended overhead from a cradle that was attached to two beams. Next to the hearth was their bedding, and John’s wife was sleeping.

As soon as St. Basil went inside, John, seeing that the old man was a clergyman, took his hand and kissed it, saying, “Your blessing, Elder,” as though he had known him previously and as though he were his father. And the Saint said to him: “May you and all of your household be blessed, together with your sheep, and may the peace of God be upon you.”

The wife then arose, and she, too, reverenced the Elder and kissed his hand, and he blessed her. St. Basil looked like a mendicant monk, with an old skoúphia, his rása worn and patched, and his tsaroúchia [a traditional leather slipper, usually adorned with a pompom at the end of the shoe] full of holes; as well, he had an old empty-looking satchel.

John the blessed put wood on the fire. Straightway the hut began to glisten, as though seemingly a palace. The rafters seemed to be gilded with gold, while the hanging cheesecloth bags [filled with curing cheese] looked like vigil lamps, and the wooden containers, cheese presses, and all of the accessories used by John in making cheese became like silver, as though decorated by diamonds, as did all of the other humble things that John the blessed had in his hut. The wood burningin the hearth crackled and sang like the birds that sing in Paradise, giving off a fragrance wholly delightful. The couple placed St. Basil near the fire, where he sat, and the wife put down pillows on which he could rest. Then the Elder took the satchel from around his neck, placing it next to him, and removed his old ráson (outside cassock), remaining in his zostikó [inner cassock].

Together with his farmhand, John the blessed went out to milk the sheep and to place the newborn lambs in the lambing pen, and afterwards he separated the ewes that were ready to birth and confined them within the enclosure, while his helper put the other sheep out to graze. His flock was sparse and John was poor; yet, he was blessed. And he was possessed of great joy at all times, day and night, for he was a good man and he had a good wife. Anyone who happened to pass by their hut they cared for as though he were a brother. And it is thus that St. Basil found lodging in their home and settled in, as if it were his own, blessing it from top to bottom. On that night, he was awaited, in all of the cities and villages of the known world, by rulers, Hierarchs, and officials; but he went to none of these. Instead, he went to lodge in the hut of John the blessed.

So, John, after pasturing the sheep, came back in and said to the Saint, “Elder, I am greatly joyful. I wish to have you read to us the writings about St. Basil [i.e., the appointed hymns to the Saint]. I am an illiterate man, but I like all of the writings of our religion [once again, the hymns and services of the Church]. In fact, I have a small book from an Hagiorite Abbot [i.e., from Mt. Athos], and whenever someone who can read and write happens to pass by, I get him to read out of the booklet, since we have no Church near us.”

In the East, it was dimly dawning. St Basil rose and stood, facing eastward, making his Cross. He then bent down, took a booklet from his satchel, and said, “Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.” John the blessed went and stood behind him, and his wife, having nursed their baby, also went to stand near him, with her arms crossed [over her chest]. St. Basil then said the hymn, “God is the Lord...” and the Apolytikion of the Feast of the Circumcision, “Without change, Thou hast assumed human form,” omitting his own Apolytikion, which states, “Thy sound is gone forth unto all the earth.” His voice was sweet and humble, and John and his wife felt great contrition, even though they did not understand all of the words.

St. Basil now said the whole of Matins and the Canon of the Feast, “Come, O ye peoples, and let us chant a song unto Christ God,” without reciting his own canon, which goes, “O Basil, we would that thy voice were present....”

Thereafter, he said aloud the entire Liturgy, pronounced the dismissal, and blessed the household. As they sat at the table, having eaten and finished their food, the wife brought the Vasilopeta [a sweet bread or cake baked in honor of St. Basil on the New Year] and placed it on the serving table. Then St. Basil took a knife and with it traced the sign of the Cross on the Vasilopeta, saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He cut a first piece, saying, “for Christ,” a second, afterwards, saying, “for the Panagia,” and then “for the master of the house, John the blessed.”

John exclaimed, “Elder, you forgot St. Basil!”

The Saint replied, “Yes, indeed,” and thus said, “And for the servant of God, Basil.”

After this, he resumed: “...and for the master of the house,” “for the mistress of the house,” “for the child,” “for the farmhand,” “for the animals,” and “for the poor.” Thereupon, John the blessed said, “Elder, why did you not cut a piece for your reverendship?”

And the Saint said, “But I did, O blessed one!” But John, this blissful man, did not understand.

Afterwards, St. Basil stood up and said the prayer, “O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under the roof of the house of my soul.”

John the Blessed then said: “I wonder if you can tell me, Elder, since you know many things, to what palaces St. Basil went this evening? And the rulers and monarchs—what sins do they have? We poor people are sinners, since our poverty leads us into sin.”

St. Basil said the same prayer, again—with tears—though changing it: “O Lord my God, I have seen that Thy servant John the simple is worthy and that it is meet that Thou shouldest enter into his shelter. He is a babe, and it is to babes that Thy Mysteries are revealed.”

And again John the blissful, John the blessed, understood nothing ...

* This well-known and charming short story by Phótios Kóntoglou has appeared in several versions, both in Greek and in what are, unfortunately, largely poor English translations. Kontoglou’s Greek is quite difficult to translate, since he uses many words common to the dialect of Greeks in Asia Minor. Though some of these words are actually derived from ancient Greek, in general they are part of a language spoken today by less literate Greeks. Thus, there is a tendency to render them in English slang, which detracts from the power of Kontoglou’s Greek and his writing and imagery. At other times, translators fail at finding the middle ground between stilted literal translations and translations which add so much to the original Greek texts that Kontoglou’s characteristic literary style is lost. I have used, here, the Greek text published by Harmos Publications (Athens, Greece, 1994) in its collection Diegémata ton Christougénnon, and have tried to capture in my rendering the style, simple eloquence, and sensitivity of the author’s story as it reads in Greek—Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna

Kalanta - Byzantine Carols

(translated in English as carols but without exactly having the same meaning)
are songs with a religious character, and not only ...

They are told mainly by children on specific days of the year, from door to door and are always accompanied with offerings given by the head of a household to those that sing them.

The kalanta were kept alive and functioning in the Greek countryside and the peripheries of Hellenism until the 50s. In Cyprus, they followed almost a parallel line. However, it seems that the historical differentiation that Cyprus had followed, as opposed to other parts of the Greek World, had a negative impact on the survival of the island's Kalanta. We come to this conclusion by comparing the volume of material gathered about traditional Kalanta in other areas of Hellenism and in Cyprus.

During British Rule many traditional Kalanta of Cyprus were lost because of the low cultural self-esteem of the Cypriot people. During this time the Cypriots accepted the carols and other Western habits as a sign of progress and refinement. Unfortunately the people who were directly related to education and intellectual life (with some exceptions) did not show proper vigilance and the necessary resistance and adopted them. They passed them even in schools and that's how they were transferred on to the whole population. Thus a tradition of so many centuries, for a long time, had stopped functioning and was threatened with extinction.

On the other hand, Kalanta and religious songs for Easter were maintained until today, because the British did not have to offer something similar to the Cypriots. Fortunately Theodoulos Kallinikos, the Center for Scientific Research and other researchers of the folk music of Cyprus, just made it on time and recorded some traditional Kalanta of Cyprus told by older people who still remembered them.

With the technological revolution and the end of Second World War, and particularly due to the Mass Media, the gradual disregard for the Kalanta and their replacement with European carols started slowly, slowly, in the rest of Hellenism , resulting to their almost complete non existence by the '70s, something that had happened in Cyprus since the beginning of the last century. Along with these changes, the Christmas Spirit had also changed. The Greek People began to focus on superficiality and materialism and not on the internal preparations for the reception of the Holy Infant.

The celebrations start from November, so now when the time comes to actually be celebrating, we feel saturated and exhausted instead, serving essentially only consumerism and the merchants. Saint Basil has turned into Santa Claus and has ended up becoming the trademark of consumerism, sometimes verging on being ridiculous. Do we perceive that our children are happier, meeting daily for two months on many occasions the stupidly happy Santa Claus, sometimes in a supermarket, and other times in the streets, the squares and all the celebrations of the occasion of these days? No, it seems that they are not happier. Maybe they show that they are happy because of the rich gifts that they routinely receive. After all they are children. Basically however, they curse us because we have killed their imagination. We have taken way their joy to create with their rich imagination, each their own Saint Basil who comes and goes without being seen, since he is a Saint, but now everyone is sure of his presence, and that he leaves behind him all the goodies .

Fortunately, in recent years the baton has been received by younger researchers who were able to rekindle public interest in the traditional Kalanta, and make their reintegration into society possible through discography and concerts. With the involvement and awareness among teachers and others, the traditional Kalanta have began to slowly take their place among children and young people.

These are the Kalanta of Hellenism. Carols that are not limited to the surface of events, but contain messages for the cares and aspirations of the Greek People for centuries, containing theological messages and highlighting the traditional hospitality of the Greek People. Our carols have nothing to do with the sad phenomenon that we see today: the commercial symbol of Santa Claus and groups of children parroting western outlandish Christmas songs to earn some pocket money .

The Kalanta of Hellenism have roots going back many centuries. They survived and evolved naturally through very difficult circumstances. It is a chain where each generation puts its own link. And our generation has no right to break the chain. We are obligated to all those who passed and have put their own link, but we are more obligated to those who will come after us to allow them to continue. Let us be the generation that will not break the consistency of this chain. The Kalanta are for children and we must do everything to give them back to them. They are entitled to them.

Quoted from the article "The Twelve Days of Christmas Kalanta" by Maria Constanti. Sourced from NOCTOC

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas hymn, 8th century

Come, Sun and Saviour,
   to embrace Our gloomy world,
   its weiry race,
As groom to bride, as bride to groom:
The wedding chamber, Mary's womb.

At your great Name, O Jesus, now
All knees must be bent,
   all hearts must bow;
All things on earth with one accord,
Like those in heaven,
   shall call you Lord.

Come in your holy might,
   we pray,
Redeem us for eternal day;
Defend us while we dwell below,
From all assults of our dreaded foe.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

We honour your birth, O Christ!

I have a friend from my youth who has developed into a rare theological talent; one not just of the intellect but from his heart. Today, he posted the following note on his Facebook page. The thoughts are entirely his own and inspired by the Holy Spirit ... too perfect not to share on this Eve of the Nativity. Forgive me for those of you who are not aware of the Greek language.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

The following is an hymn from the Ninth Hour for the Feast of the Nativity:

Σήμερον γεννᾶται ἐκ Παρθένου, ὁ δρακὶ τὴν πᾶσαν ἔχων κτίσιν.
Ῥάκει καθάπερ βροτὸς σπαργανοῦται, ὁ τῇ οὐσίᾳ ἀναφής.
Θεὸς ἐν φάτνῃ ἀνακλίνεται, ὁ στερεώσας τοὺς οὐρανούς πάλαι κατ' ἀρχάς.
Ἐκ μαζῶν γάλα τρέφεται, ὁ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ Μάννα ὀμβρίσας τῷ Λαῷ.
Μάγους προσκαλεῖται, ὁ Νυμφίος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.
Δῶρα τούτων αἴρει, ὁ Υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου.
Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὴν Γένναν Χριστέ.
Δεῖξον ἡμῖν καὶ τὰ θεῖά σου Θεοφάνεια.
It is linked closely to the 15th Antiphon of Holy Friday Matins (sung on Holy Thursday evening) and again during the Ninth Hour of Holy Friday.

Σήμερον κρεμᾶται ἐπὶ ξύλου, ὁ ἐν ὕδασι τὴν γῆν κρεμάσας.
Στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν περιτίθεται, ὁ τῶν Ἀγγέλων Βασιλεύς.
Ψευδῆ πορφύραν περιβάλλεται, ὁ περιβάλλων τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐν νεφέλαις.
Ῥάπισμα κατεδέξατο, ὁ ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ ἐλευθερώσας τὸν Ἀδάμ.
Ἥλοις προσηλώθη, ὁ Νυμφίος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.
Λόγχῃ ἐκεντήθη, ὁ Υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου.
Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὰ Πάθη Χριστέ.
Δεῖξον ἡμῖν, καὶ τὴν ἔνδοξόν σου Ἀνάστασιν.
These similarities are not coincidental. The icon of the Feast of the Nativity is linked to, and combined with the icons of the Passion. Christ is depicted in a cave - just as He was placed in the cave for His burial. (Here one can also add the Virgin womb and birth and the corresponding newly hewn tomb into which no-one was ever buried.) Christ is wrapped in swaddling clothes - as a corpse and His Halo has the sign of the Cross.

As He gave His Body as food "for the life of the world" (John 6:51), He is laid in a manger as food. The whole mystery of the Incarnation therefore can only be grasped through the Cross, burial, and resurrection.

We honour your birth O Christ!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reflection - Dec 23 - Hebrews 6:1-3

"Therefore leaving the principles of the Doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands; and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement. And this we will do, if God permit."

[1] You have heard how much Paul found fault with the Hebrews for wishing to be always learning about the same things. And with good reason: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the elements of the first principles of the oracles of God" (c. v. 12)

I am afraid that this might fitly be said to you also, that “when for the time ye ought to be teachers,” ye do not maintain the rank of learners, but ever hearing the same things, and on the same subjects, you are in the same condition as if you heard no one. And if any man should question you, no one will be able to answer, except a very few who may soon be counted.
But this is no trifling loss. For oftentimes when the teacher wishes to go on further, and to touch on higher and more mysterious themes, the want of attention in those who are to be taught prevents.

For just as in the case of a grammar-master, if a boy though hearing continually the first elements does not master them, it will be necessary for him to be continually dinning the same things into the boy, and he will not leave off teaching, until the boy has been able to learn them accurately; for it is great folly to lead him on to other things, without having put the first well into him; so too in the Church, if while we constantly say the same things you learn nothing more, we shall never cease saying the same things.

For if our preaching were a matter of display and ambition, it would have been right to jump from one subject to another and change about continually, taking no thought for you, but only for your applauses. But since we have not devoted our zeal to this, but our labors are all for your profit, we shall not cease discoursing to you on the same subjects, till you succeed in learning them. For I might have said much about Gentile superstition, and about the Manichæans, and about the Marcionists, and by the grace of God have given them heavy blows, but this sort of discourse is out of season. For to those who do not yet know accurately their own affairs, to those who have not yet learned that to be covetous is evil, who would utter such discourses as those, and lead them on to other subjects before the time?

We then shall not cease to say the same things, whether ye be persuaded or not. We fear however, that by continually saying the same things, if ye hearken not, we may make the condemnation heavier for the disobedient. I must not however say this in regard to you all; for I know many who are benefited by their coming here, who might with justice cry out against those others, as insidiously injuring them by their ignorance and inattention. But not even so will they be injured. For hearing the same things continually is useful even to those who know them, since by often hearing what we know we are more deeply affected. We know, for instance, that Humility is an excellent thing, and that Christ often discoursed about it; but when we listen to the words themselves and the reflections made upon them, we are yet more affected, even if we hear them ten thousand times.

[2.] It is then a fitting time for us also to say now to you, “Wherefore leaving the beginning of the doctrine of Christ, let us go unto perfection.” ...

... [3.] But what is, “let us go on unto perfection”? Let us henceforth proceed (he means) even to the very roof, that is, let us have the best life. ... For as in the case of the letters the Alpha involves the whole, and as the foundation, the whole building, so also does full assurance concerning the Faith involve purity of life. And without this it is not possible to be a Christian, as without foundations there can be no building; nor skill in literature without the letters.

Still if one should be always going round about the letters, or if about the foundation, not about the building, he will never gain anything.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweet Mariam, remember ...

My heart only has entrances. It doesn’t have exits. Whoever enters remains there. Whatever he may do, I love him the same as I loved him when he first entered into my heart. I pray for him and seek his salvation.My worst hell is to realize that I have saddened a beloved person.

I had written this prayer many months ago (in August) as a cry to our Mother for help in my own heart to be able to deal with the unjust accusations and slander of people around me ... I wish to repost it today it has great relevance to my life almost daily and it reminds me of the cross I must carry ...

Today, also, the love of two of my closest friends (who I affectionately refer to as "my hearts" since I literaly breathe and feel them all day long) are constantly in my thoughts/heart. I love them both and am thinking of them since it is a year ago that during the Nativity season I made these friends and I have much to be grateful for - they have both been a blessing in my life and have helped me grow as an Orthodox Christian and for this they will always be in my heart and I pray for their salvation and continued love and friendship, may our Holy Mother's prayers keep us linked together for an eternity:

Sweet Mother of us all, In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.

Mother, deliver us from the temptations and unjust accusations of the cunning and evil serpent; he who has brought games and confusion into our lives and through his jealousy has manipulated our actions and altered the will of God in our lives. Help us to love each other and, Mariam, be 'patient with us' - we are only little children who need you to guide us daily with your motherly care and perfect example.

Mother of our Lord, Theotokos, Mariam, love of my life, my heart cries out to you in great affliction and grief; wipe away my tears and set me on the straight path - guard and protect those whom I love and those who do not love me ... through the mercy of your Son and our Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mon 21 Dec - Gospel of Mark 9:42-50

In accordance with the GOArch site, the Gospel reading for Monday, 21 December 2009 is:

Three quotes reflecting on today's Gospel:

"No one who has experienced the conflicts of the inner man, can doubt that our foes are continually lying in wait for us, inciting us to evil ... In us there is a supply of power of rejection, and of liberty of acquiescing. We may also claim the protection and assistance of God against them. 'For greater is He who is in us than He who is in this world' (I John 4:4)" ~St. John Cassian.

"You should know that in the world to come also you will be judged in the lot of those with whom in this life you have been affected by sharing in their gain or loss, or joy or sorrow. ~ St. John Cassian.

"Do not lend your ear to the tongue of the slanderer, nor your tongue to the ear of him who likes malicious talk, speaking or listening with enjoyment to words against one's neighbour. Cut yourself off from them, lest you fall away from love of God and find yourself exiled from eternal life." ~ St. Maximos the Confessor.

Ancestry of Christ - Gospel Matthew 1

The tribes of Juda and Levi were united by a fusion of their lines of descent and that is why Matthew assigns Christ's family to the tribe of Juda. And the Apostle says, 'for our Lord has sprung out of Juda' (Heb. 7:14). Thus, from the tribe of Levi may be counted a heritage that is priestly and filled with holiness, while from the tribe of Juda - to which David and Solomon and the rest of the kings belonged - there shines forth the splendor of a royal decent. And so, by the testimony of the Scriptures, Christ is shown to be at once both king and priest.

St Ambrose of Milan. Seven Exegetical Works.

By faith Abraham obeyes - Sunday before the Nativity

Discussion on Hebrews 11:9-10

Great indeed was the faith of Abraham ... it was necessary to go beyond human reasoning ... to manifest also something more. For what was of God seemed to be opposed to what was of God; and faith opposed to faith, and command promise. I mean this:

He had said, 'Get out of your country and from your kinred, and I will give you this land' (Gen 12:1-7) Do you see how what was done was opposed to the promise? Again He said, 'In Isaac shall your seed be called' (Gen 21:12) and he believed: and again He says, Sacrifice to Me this one, who was to fill all the world from his seed. You see the opposition between the commands the and promise? He enjoined things that were in contradiction to the promises, and yet not even so did the righteous man stagger, nor say he had been deceived. For you indeed ... he promised rest and gave tribulation ... And he shows another thing too by saying 'God tempted Abraham' (Gen 22:1).

What then? Did not God know that the man was noble and approved? Why then did he tempt him? Not that He might Himself learn, but that He might show others, and make his fortitude manifest to all. And here also He shows the cause of trials, that they may not suppose they suffer these things as being forsaken of God.

St John Chrysostom. Homily XXV on Hebrews XI.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

in My Name, Jn 16:23

From Ignatius Brianchaninov (On the Jesus Prayer; New Seeds pgs. 3-4):

'Truly, truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you. Till now you have asked nothing in My Name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full'

What a wonderful gift!

It is a guarantee of unending, infinite blessings! It came from the lips of the unlimited God, clothed in limited humanity and called by the human name of Savior. The name by its exterior form is limited, but it represents an unlimited object, God, from Whom it borrows infinite, divine value or worth, the power and properties of God.'"
(Jn. 16:23).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Remember, O my soul.

Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off, my beloved soul, holy repentence, contrition of heart and penance for your sins.’ - St Paisius Velichkovsky

Rejoice Mary - most-beautiful lily ...

There once was a very pious and wealthy man named John, who had such difficulty memorising that he could not even learn to say a single prayer. Determined to learn, he went to a monastery, where he donated all his belongings and was tonsured a monk, asking the fathers to help him. The fathers, in turn, gladly received him and hastened to show their gratitude, but despite their efforts to teach him psalms and prayers, he was still unable to learn anything. Finally, one wise and virtuous brother read to him many short prayers and asked him which one he preferred ...

John responded that he liked "Rejoice Mary" the best ...

With time he learned this hymn by heart and, as if having found a precious treasure, felt so much joy that at every moment he would say nothing other than "Rejoice Mary". Consequently, it earnt him the nickname of "Rejoice Mary".

This ever memorable man continued saying this prayer until the moment his blessed soul departed from his body. At the conclusion of the funeral service, the fathers proceeded to bury him in a special location because his holy body was fragrant. What was even more striking is that this fragrance did not diminish after they buried him, but on the contrary it increased as each day passed, bringing an ineffable joy to the monks. On the ninth day, as the fathers were commemorating him, they witnessed yet another wondroud miracle that left them awestruck.

A most-beautiful lily blossomed from his grace, which had the following words written on each petal with gold letters:

"Rejoice Mary"

Image: Photo taken October 2008 by Gentle Heart - Lily from within the main fountation of St Panteleimon at his monastery, Andros.

The lily's sweet smell was so intense that it did not resemble any earthly flower. The abbot then said to the brothers: "My dear fathers, from this marvelous event, we can gather how much holiness and how much love for our Panagia this blessed man possessed. But it is fitting for us to see where the root of this lily lies as well, so that you may realise how much grace a person who loves the Ever-Virgin with all his heart receives."

And so, having uncovered the grave they were amazed to see that the lily's stem was coming out of this righteous man's mouth. The abbot then further instructed them to cut his chest open; and when they did so, everyone was astonished, for they saw that the flower's stem was rooted in his heart, upon which the icon of the Most-Holy Theotokos was depicted.

They then took that most-sacred lily in a procession with incense to the reliquary, where they guarded it along with the other holy relics, while honoring and respecting John on account of the love he had for the Mother of God. Through her intercessions, may we also be deemed worthy of the heavenly bliss. Amen* Excerpt from "The Prayer Rope" published by Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, NY. Tel: (607)498-5285. ISBN 978-0-9725504-2-0.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The lonely sparrow

The sparrow is one of the most common birds on earth; a tiny little bird whose life is of little value. Wherever you go you will be sure to see and hear them - they are a cheerful little bird with a beautiful song and are really happy when they are in company. In the "Easter Poem" of Venantius Honorius Clemantianus Fortunatus, "... the thickets now resound with the whisper of birds; amidst these the sparrow sings with exuberant love. O Christ, Thou Saviour of the world, merciful Creator and Redeemer ..."

But in Psalm 102:7 we find a lonely sparrow:

"I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top" (Psalm 102:7)

The Psalmist, usually so joyful in the Lord, is feeling depressed, distressed and forsaken. He feels just like a lonely sparrow.

There are countless times when we feel like a sparrow alone on a rooftop. In these moments, we should remind ourselves that we are never far from His presence, care and concern. He knows "what things we have need of before we ask" (Matt 6:8). We should remind ourselves that the sparrow is not blessed with outstanding plumage and is not really worth much by our standards - "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?" (Matt 10:29). However, Christ comforts us and says, "you are of more value than the sparrows" (Matt 10:31). We should remind ourselves when we are alone on the rooftop; God cares for even the tiniest sparrow. Christ said, "One of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" (Matthew 10:29) ... God watches over Creation and over His own children and promises us that He, "will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5).

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). We are being prepared and then " ... God will wipe away all tears from our eyes" (Revelation 21:4).

We are never lonely if God is with us.

I sing because I'm happy,

I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My humble father St Spyridon


Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Tremithus

Star of Corfu and luminary of the Church,
Holy Spyridon, defender of the Faith,
Simple as a child, innocent as a child-
By his simplicity, he shines on the world.
What need is there for many words when speaking the truth?
Utterly simple is God's truth:
The Creator is One, in the Holy Trinity,
In the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit.
The Son descended to the sinful earth
And received flesh from the Pure Virgin
In order to save men, because He is the Lover of Mankind.
He performed many miracles
By divine power, for He is Almighty.
To mankind He gave a new rule,
The rule of love and the rule of faith.
Glorified, He now sits in heaven,
And gathers the fruit of His labor.
The sweet fruits of His labor
Are holy men and holy women.
He is the Rock of mankind's salvation;
Outside this Rock there is no salvation.
O Spyridon, O illuminator,
O soldier of Christ, pray for us.

Life's tapestry

 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”  (Romans 11:33)

"LAURELS AND MYRTLES" with the title "QUESTIONS" --Constantine Kallinikos

I told the seventy-year old ascetic elder,
whose beard waved like a lilac's branch;
Tell me, my father, why in this sphere here
do night and day walk inseparably?

Why as if they are twins do they sprout together
the thorn and the flower, laughter and crying?
Why in the most charming greenery of the forest
do nestle scorpions, asps, and cold venom..?

Why before the delicate shoot comes forth
and unfolds before the light its unsmelled beauties,
a black worm comes, gives it one stab
and leaves it a soulless rag in its swing?

Why does the wheat need plowing and sowing and workers
till it becomes a piece of bread and a loaf,
and everything beneficial and noble and divine
is paid for with tears and blood in life,
whereas parasitism automatically becomes strong
and meanness seeks to swallow the whole earth?

Finally, why in the vast harmony of everything
should confusion and disorder thrust itself?
The ascetic answered with his deep voice
lifting up his right hand to the heavens;

"Behind those golden clouds up there
the Great One sews a priceless embroidery
and since down below we walk
we see, my child, the reverse view.
And it is consequently natural for the mind to see mistakes
there where one must give thanks and glorify.

Wait as a Christian for that day to come
where your soul a-wing will rip through the air
and you shall see the embroidery of God from the good side
and then... everything will seem to you to be
a system and order!"

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  (1Corinthinians 1:25)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wounded ...

The wound is too deep! Wounded by love ... But the need to forgive extends beyond those who ask for forgiveness ... the Way is to forgive those who do not ask for our forgiveness but ask for our harm; our enemies. God forgive those who have wounded my soul.

Addendum: From Fr Stephen's blog, Glory to God for All things, comes the following poem, by William Blake (coincidently):

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he  knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

Better is one righteous man than one thousand sinners (Sirach 16:3)

O righteous God, Who never abandonest the righteous man, correct our unrighteousness and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. AMEN.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Rose and the Moonlight

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm.
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy. - William Blake
Yes, dear William, the rose does die. It was Created to bloom and give joy in the daylight. Why, though, does the rose first release its beautiful fragrance by night? Is the moonlight perhaps its secret love hiding his feelings from the day? Are you captivated by how beautiful she stands? It is the darkness surrounding her that makes her stand out ...

Rose you are seduced and captivated by the moon, always gravitating towards her seduction and her beauty giving only to her your best fragrance. It was not the moon that gave you life, dear Rose, it was the Sun! Never forget that your heart and truest beauty belong to the warmth of The Light - not the moon. You are created to give joy to all the senses and not just the nose; who can see you at night? Who can enjoy you other than the moon? Show your colours and your splendour to Creation - make your Creator joyful, bless His name! Hear the echoes of my heart for you:
A rose without sunlight can not survive,
A lonely heart without vision.
I can't see you!
It is a wonderful night, the moonlight is shimmering.
You were always deceived by the moon,
in a trance, captivated by her beauty.
Romancing you with her silver glow,
enchanting you and pulling you into her embrace.
It is an Ode to a lesser light!
So soft, so beautiful, so convincing,
her rays of light are so pure and clear.
A rose without sunlight can not survive.

- Vasiliki, Melbourne (10-12-2009)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Come my dove ...

'Come by yourself, my dove, in the shelter of the rock, near the wall' (2:14).

What is the ascent to perfection which these words indicate? No longer must we look to things that attract and excite us. We must take as our guide our own longing for what is better. He says, 'Come by yourself' -- not out of sadness or necessity, but by yourself, confirming your desire for the good by your own reason and not led by necessity. Virtue must be uncoerced, voluntary and free of all necessity. This was the case with David who realized that of all his deeds only what he did freely was pleasing to God, and he promised to offer sacrifice voluntarily. So it is with all the saints who offer themselves freely to God and who are not led by necessity." ~ St. Gregory of Nyssa

Thursday, December 3, 2009


This is the sign at the front of our house. Its simple and its nice.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

“Don’t let satan enter your home, throw him out. Much does satan love to dissolve marriages and families. And so when it occurs you are not responsible, because satan makes you believe that you are responsible and you are tormented unjustly”

~ Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, July 2, 2009. Picture of Elder Joseph

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm. ~ Elder Paisius of the Mountain.

Have mercy on Me, the Sinner.

Fundamental Life task

The fundamental task in life is to save one's soul for eternity. Keep this as the most essential task, the main concern of your life. Woe to those whose indifference and neglect bring their souls to eternal ruination.

On Ignorance and Hard Heartedness

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"The gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:17-18).

What is vanity, my brethren? All that is seen outside God, cut off from God and done without the fear of God. What is vanity of the mind, my brethren? To live and interpret life, not by God's law but rather by one's own passing thoughts and desires. Whence, my brethren, does this evil come to men? From hardness of heart and from inner ignorance.

What does hardness of heart mean, brethren? It means a heart empty of love for God and fear of God, and filled with lustfulness and fear of everything for the body's sake. Brethren, what is born of hardness of heart? Ignorance-complete ignorance of divine things, divine ways and divine laws; a heart completely dulled to spiritual life and spiritual thought.

What is the final consequence, brethren, of hardness of heart and ignorance of divine truth? A darkened understanding and alienation from the Living God. Darkened understanding occurs when the mind of man becomes as darkened as the body, and the light that is in man becomes darkness. Oh, such a darkness! A darkened understanding is a darkened mind. A darkened mind knows the meaning of nothing, or denies the meaning of everything. In such a condition, a man is alienated from the life of God, and he withers and dies like a body part cut off from the body. Such are the pagans, such are the godless, and such are those of little faith or false Christians. But even dry wood, when it is watered with the life-creating water of Christ, comes to life and bursts forth in greenery. Even the dried-up pagan world was raised up and brought to life by Christ the Lord. How much more so would it be for repentant Christian sinners!

Let us look at ourselves, my brethren. Let us do so every day. Let us ask ourselves every day whether we have become darkened and alienated from the life of God because of our vanity. Soon there will be death, the end and judgment. The dry wood will be cast into the unquenchable fire.

O Lord Jesus, our Mind and our Life, help us to think with Thee, and to live with Thee. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Genuine Love

Physical love, in comparison to spiritual love, is less than a shadow is to solid substance.

Brotherhood and sisterhood of the blood and body is nothing compared to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the spirit; Physical love replaced by spiritual love, a love as strong as death.  Physical love is like a colorful butterfly that quickly passes, but spiritual love is enduring.

Epitaph on St Basil PG 38.72

I had thought that a body could as well
live without a soul
as me without you,
Basil, beloved servant of Christ;
but you're gone and I remain.
What'll become of us?

Will you not set me, when I arise,
there with you in the choir of the blessed?
No, don''t leave me: I swear by my grave
I won't leave yours, not willingly.
You have Gregory's word.
~ St Gregory

Great Martyr St Katherine

Monday, November 30, 2009

004 - Finding God's Will in your life

It has been said that at the end of your life the only things that really matter are the people you loved, the people who loved you, and what you did for God. The importance of our other accomplishments, however great, does not have the same significance. They even tend to fade into oblivion and be forgotten. How then do we discern what is truly important in our lives? How do we make our major decisions (what career to pursue, whom to marry, etc.)? Obviously, the way to a meaningful life is to follow God’s will for our lives. But to know God’s will for ourselves implies that we are attuned to Him, that we have a spirituality that allows us to listen to Him. Here are several principles to help young adults develop and maintain such spirituality.

(1) Pray the prayer “Thy will be done.”
God’s will is always for our benefit and always out of love for us, even though we may not understand it at first and it may be difficult to accept. We see that things turned out best only later. God sees what we do not see in our own hearts and in the hearts of others. As we grow, we will see that He is watching us very closely and is always in control. We thereby learn to trust Him and always be at peace.

St. Chrysostom said, “I always pray, ‘Lord, not what I will, nor what any other creature wills, but may Thy will be done.’” Christ Himself prayed the same prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, in His most difficult hour. We also should always finish our personal requests to God with the same prayer, “not my will, but Thy will be done.” This prayer will give us clarity of vision, free us from disappointment, protect us from trying to bring the wrong people into our lives, and deliver us from man-pleasing and flattery. It does not mean that we won’t make mistakes, but even in our mistakes God will not abandon us, and we ourselves will seek to re-align ourselves with Him.

(2) Develop a world of interiority
Everyday we should strive to do something for God which is known only to Him and not to any other human being. In this way, no one on earth can take it away from us. This is what Christ meant when He said, “Let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing” (Mt 6:3). This was a source of strength to Christians of the past in times of persecution. It will also protect us when the conditions of our life change and we do not find ourselves near a church that is providing for our needs, or near a church at all.

(3) Stay inspired, or you’ll expire
The daily, patient reading of the Holy Scripture is the best means to keep our heart warm to God. At first it may seem difficult, but as we read more we realize how deeply it speaks to our lives. St. Chrysostom even speculated, “Without the daily sweetening of the soul with the words of Holy Scripture, it is impossible to be saved.”

Also important is to choose inspiring friends, and to associate ourselves with inspiring people. Our habits, speech, interests, etc., are influenced by those with whom we spend time. Choose your friends carefully. Spend time with those who lift you up, help you achieve your goals, and make you want to be a better person.

Finally, absorb and pursue the truly beautiful things in life. St. Paul said, “Whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are holy, whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things” (Phil 4:8). The modern media seeks to choke us with materialism and the baser things in life. Rebel against this by seeking a higher culture. Listen to Mozart, to Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, etc. You will not be disappointed.

(4) Be persistent and consistent
The spiritual life is not always easy. We will still make mistakes in life. But when we fall, we must get up. We must always move forward and never quit. Christ said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt 10:22). If we have down days or times of loneliness, we must fill them with stronger prayer to God. A Christian is not a person who never fails – a Christian is a person who has the courage to return to God, to get back up and strive to improve.

(5) Give your heart to God
“My son, give me thine heart” (Prov 23:26). This is what God requires of us, He wants our love freely given. He will not settle for second place. If there is a person or thing or ambition in our life that we may value above our relationship with God, it must be abandoned. This is what Christ meant when He said that whoever would come after Him must abandon all and follow Him. Yet He also added that whoever did this would receive a hundredfold in return. When we receive this hundredfold back, however, it no longer means as much to us. Christ is the main focus of our lives. Any other main focus can become a form of idolatry.

(6) Avoid negativity
“It’ll never work.” “Oh, what’s the use?” “Everyone else is doing it.” This sort of negativity can drag us down, and even become addictive. It will ruin our desire to be creative, courageous and energetic. It will encourage us to live by lower ideals and lower standards. Stamp out negativity from the start, don’t give it a chance, and don’t feed it.

(7) Keep a journal
It is a good practice and one followed by many Saints to keep a notebook in which we write down things that inspire us, things people say, things that happen in our lives that reveal God’s providence and care for us. In the future we can then look back and be edified again.

(8) Do not neglect the Sacraments
Last, but certainly not least, do not be absent from the Divine Liturgy, make every effort to attend Vespers on Saturday nights and feast days, and receive the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion as often as you can. These Sacraments are a “forgotten medicine” today. They have a power not only to unshackle us, but to fill us with joy and strength. Holy Communion especially, when taken with due preparation, can center and strengthen our whole life in Christ. It is where we are united with Christ, who said, “Without Me ye can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

Life is a great potential, a vast horizon of endless possibilities. Each one of us has a path, a calling, a purpose in God’s plan, and this purpose will bring us fulfillment and joy. But to follow this path takes struggle, work, and even sacrifice. It is a “narrow way” in the words of Christ. Follow Christ, and follow your path, the path God sets for you. Do not follow the path that the world sets for you, nor others who may not have your best interest in mind. As contemporary saying states, “Life is short, pray hard.” To be truly happy, to meet our goals, to spend our time on earth with those who would bring us the most joy and love, means that we are seeking to follow Christ with our whole heart and being. It is only God who gives every gift, and He does so without measure to those who love and follow Him.


Friday, November 6, 2009

St Themelios of Kalymnos

St Themelios of Kalymnos
FD: November 7
Vesper Service on YouTube:


Ὁ Μάρτυς Θεμέλιος Μελετινῆς ὁ βλαστὸς, τὸν δόλιον δράκοντα, τοῖς τῶν αἱμάτων κρουνοῖς, ἀθλήσας ἀπέπνιξε, πίστει γὰρ ἀληθείας, μελιδὸν τετμημένος, ὥφθη τροπαιοφόρος, τοῦ Σωτῆρος Ὀπλίτης, πρεσβεύων ἀδιαλείπτως ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν

Thursday, November 5, 2009

003 - Humility - Humiliation and Humi-limit-ation, the process of setting boundaries for oneself!

All of our actions should be 'measured' or moderate, never in excessive or extreme but balanced. The importance of setting boundaries are significant. Limitation, and moderation in our discipline to others, is connected with the respect for the other person; one is neither called to 'betray oneself' nor to wound another in this moderation, but to be generous to our bodies and gentle towards others.

This is why Our Church encourages her community to have personal self-discipline and discipline imposed by another (eg Spiritual Father) since these two are interconnected. When individual limits are prescribed in this manner then we may attain a full measure of the stature of Christ (cf Eph. 4:13).

Paradoxically (Mt 18:3), one is called not to increase in spiritual complexity or appearance, but to decrease in the direction of simplicity to 'come to the measure of a child,' and to reach the dimensions of an infant. This childlike mentality, holy innocence, provides the key to the heavenly kingdom and holds the secret to spiritual direction. Deriving essentially from God - the efficacy of spiritual direction depends on the innocent trust of the disciple and the wisdom of the elder and depends more on the faith and obedience of the disciple, than on the power or charisma of the elder.

So, if we Orthodox limit ourselves, under the direction of a Spiritual father, it is in order to 'liberate our conscience'. This is the meaning of obedience in the spiritual life and it is a privelege to be able to submit to someone else in order to discover the limitless space of freedom.

This is the way of the cross and the way to follow in the footsteps of the Lord.

To Be Continued.

002 - Leo Tolstoy - Decree of Excommunication

In his lecture at Georgetown University:

Center for American Progress and Georgetown University
Gaston Hall of Georgetown University
Washington, DC (November 3, 2009)

His Eminence the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referenced Leo Tolstoy as being an Orthodox Christian.

A fellow blogger (John Sinidiopoulos, Mystagogy) reminded us today that Leo Tolstoy not only was not Orthodox, but he rejected Orthodoxy and in turn was excommunicated for this rejection.


For those who are not aware of this person, he was a great author but apparantly not a very good theologian.

For those who have some time, they can read some his teachings at these links, note that the content is not traditional and accepted Orthodox thinking (ie, his teachins are false):

001 - Meditation - 091105

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Excerpted from Father Stephen Wordpress weblog:

Every human being has a “secret place,” that within them that is most intimate – that is beyond words – that is made for God. Learning to enter this place is a very difficult thing and only comes with time and practice. But our culture, the world where the most secret things in our lives are shouted from the rooftops, tells us to profane our secrets and to shout them to the world. And thus we lose something at the very core of our Personhood. Violated, every man and woman becomes a harlot.

The Church, particularly the Orthodox Church, has a very different attitude towards the Secret. It is not to protect the evil or to create a conspiracy – it is to honor the most holy thing within each of us. Thus we learn to approach the Secret Place with great reverence, even in silence and awe.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)

I will offer a short exhortation: if you keep a website or a blog, do not make it a place for your secrets (as is too often done). There is no virtue in this, but only sin. Bring your secrets to God and stand next to His priest. There you will find love and respect, not judgment. And you will find a balm for your soul. This most public of all places (the internet) hates your secrets and would only use them to destroy you. Learn to be silent and speak to God in your heart. I offer this begging…if you have posted your secrets – remove them! Close the doors, draw the curtain and stand in secret before the Most High God!.

And so it shall be.