Saturday, August 20, 2016

Homily on Christ Walking Upon the Water, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)

Christ walking on the water (source)
Homily on Christ Walking Upon the Water (Gospel Reading of the Ninth Sunday of St. Matthew), by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
A school, my beloved, our Church is a school. Our teacher is Christ. We are all students, small and great. And our book? The Gospel, greater than all the books of the world. What did we hear in today's Gospel? What does it say? It relates one of the countless wonders which our Lord worked, which He works, and which He will continue to work until the close of the ages. What is the wonder?
In the Holy Lands there is a lake, which exists to this day. In this lake, the Disciples of Christ were sailing one night in a small boat. In the beginning, the sea was peaceful. But later the wind began to blow stronger and stronger. Waves were lifted up, great waves. During the night, the clouds had covered the sky, not even one star was visible. The ship was in danger. All were afraid. And where was Christ? He was not in the boat like other times. He was far away on a mountain. He was not sleeping, He was keeping vigil. All night below the stars He conversed with His heavenly Father. He was praying for the whole world.
Let me make an observation. Christ kept vigil. How much does this censure us! If we said that we were serving a vigil today, how many would come? I gave the order to serve vigils in our region. In our city, how many came? About two-hundred women and men, and a few tens of children. The rest? Sleeping, or more likely watching television. And you expect prosperity?
Let me return to the topic. That night that the Disciples were in danger, Christ was missing. And as if their fear was not enough, straightaway they saw upon the wild waves something like a ghost, and they were even more terrified. In a short time however they confirmed that it was not a ghost, it was our Lord Jesus Christ, and He was walking upon the waters. “It is I”, He told them, “Do not fear.” (Matthew 14:27) Then Peter says: “If it is you, O Lord, tell me to come towards you.” And Christ told him to do so. Immediately Peter stepped upon the waves and began to walk as if on dry land, like it was a steady road. But as he approached Christ, a wave came. Peter's eye left Christ, and he looked at the wave, and was shaken. He began to sink, and was going to be drowned, and cried out loudly: “O Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) Then, Christ extended His hand, grabbed him, and told him: “O man of little faith! Why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31) Afterwards, Christ also entered the boat, and as soon as he stepped foot on the hull, the wind and the waves ceased. The Disciples were finally safe. They knelt and worshiped Him, saying: “Truly, You are the Son of God!”
This wonder teaches us many things. I will only say one thing, that this life that we are living is like a sea. From the day that we are born until we die, however many years that we life, life is like a journey on the sea. And like the sea is not always peaceful, but frequently lifts up waves and sinks ships, thus is also our life. Here, a short time ago there was a storm in the Atlantic. A whole boat was sunk and many people drowned. Like the sea can create storms and endanger men, thus is our life. Life has many dangers, it has many wild waves.
What are the waves? The various misfortunes of human life. They say that the baby, as soon as it leaves its mother's womb, cries. What does this mean? This is a foretaste, that our life is weeping, a “valley of wailing” (Psalms 83:7) It enters another world, into a sea with waves, and it senses its weakness. How can we count the waves after waves?
One wave is illness. Once, I remember a bright child came to the metropolis from northern Epirus. His father was weeping, his mother was crying, because the child could not hold his head up, he could not stand up straight, he had weakness. They went to doctors, they went here and there, nothing. You have your head upright, your eyes healthy, your ears healthy, your heart healthy, everything is healthy. Do you say thank you, or do you remain indifferent? Health is a great thing. Have you lost your health? Woe, here is a wave, a great wave of trials.
And another wave comes: poverty. Do you know what it means, to come home at noon and to not have anything to eat? Have you ever been hungry? You have not. Beforehand, children would die in the streets. They had nothing to eat. They were skeletons. And not, down in Africa, they are dying like flies. They don't have bread. And when someone brings them a little food, they fight to split it. There are places where they are suffering, and if you threw them an orange—which we throw into the trash many times—a hundred children would fight like lions for an orange, and we eat them by the handful. How thankless we are! God gives us all of our good things.
The youth, who will year this, they will tell you: “We are fine...” Yes, my beloved children, to this point you are fine, because you have just entered the sea of life. You haven't had great waves, which test us adults. You have little waves. What are the little waves? For example, problems with school lessons, the struggle during test season, the danger of misfortune. The newspapers wrote that a young girl failed her exams, and committed suicide. She did not have faith, and she was left to drown by a little wave.
Young people and children, ask your grandparents, they will tell you what they went through, what wild waves hit them. And they however were not shaken, because they believed in God. You, however, are still “mommy's boys”. You have just exited into a wave. Think about what is taking place in the world. Now you have “mommy” to look after you, and you have “daddy” to feed you. If—God-forbid--your mother or father died, you would see a terrible strike, the wave of orphanhood. How many orphans there are!
Later you will grow older and get married. You young lady, do you think that getting married will save your whole situation? What if your husband is crude, will you have patience? Another calamity is the evil match, another wave. Once, a woman came to the metropolis, battered, scratched. She was bleeding from her wounds. Her husband got drunk and struck her all night, and she called the police and ran to the metropolis. I felt sorry for her. A terrible wave is the harsh tongue of a husband, cursing and the slander of evil relatives.
You say, I will get married, I will take a good man. But at one point your husband might die. Widowhood! Do you know what it means to remain without your spouse, without your protector?
Therefore, sickness is a wave, poverty is a wave, misfortune is a wave, orphanhood is a wave, an evil spouse is a wave, widowhood is a wave, and so are the various situations of life, like slander and divisions, etc. However, a wave for the whole society are the general adversities and natural disasters, floods, droughts, etc. All of these are waves.
But I haven't yet said the greatest wave. What is it? It is sin, which we do not think about. Sin comes and strikes us, to sink the little ship of our soul, to cause us to drown. This is the most terrible wave.
What is needed? Prayer. Save us, O Lord! Let us have faith in God, and from this we will take courage. And even if in this world we are left without mother or father, even if we fall into orphanhood or widowhood, even if we are tried by hunger or thirst, even if we are found in the desert with wild beasts, or in a terrible society of injustice and indifference, even if there were an earthquake or flood, even if the earth filled with scorpions and snakes, and even if the stars begin to fall, and the earth is risen up, and if the sun were quenched, let us not loose hope. “And if nothing would remain for me within this world, where would I go, where would I stand? There on high is my God, so how could I loose hope?” Let us not be false Christians. Let us entreat God to array us with unshakable faith. Then, whatever dangers will find us, we will remain unshaken upon the rock of faith. Amen.
+Bishop Avgoustinos
(Delivered in the Holy Church of St. George Protis—Florina, 8/5/90, translated from source)
Christ walking upon the waters (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

St. John Maximovitch of the intercessions of the Theotokos

The Most-holy Theotokos and Christ (source)
Having experienced all the difficulties of earthly life, the Intercessor of the Christian race sees every tear, hears every groan and entreaty directed to Her. Especially near to Her are those who labour in the battle with the passions and are zealous for a God-pleasing life. But even in worldly cares She is an irreplaceable helper. "Joy of all who sorrow, and intercessors for the offended, and feeder of the hungry, consolation of travellers, harbour of the storm-tossed, visitation of the sick, protection and intercessor for the infirm staff of old age, Thou are the Mother of God on high, O Most Pure One" (Sticheron of the Service to the Hodigitria). "The hope and intercession and refuge of Christians", "The Mother of God unceasing in prayers" (Theotokion of the Third Tone). "She day and night doth pray for us and the sceptres of kingdoms are confirmed by Her prayers" (daily Nocturne).
-St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco, "Orthodox Veneration of the Theotokos"
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"O Prophet and seer of the great deeds of God..."

The Holy Prophet Elijah (Elias) the Tishbite (source)
Kontakion. Mode 2. Automelon.
O Prophet and seer of the great deeds of God, renowned Elias, who stayed the rain clouds by your word, intercede on our behalf with the Lord who alone loves humanity.

Seeing humanity's great iniquity and God's measureless love for humanity, Elias the Prophet was angry and troubled and spoke uncompassionate words to the compassionate God. "Vent Your wrath," cried he, "on them who renounced You, O Judge most just." But in no way did he move the heart of the Good to punish the ones who renounced Him. For He ever awaits the repentance of all, as the Lord who alone love humanity.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

St. Gregory Palamas on the Holy Spirit

The Hetoimasia (Preparation) of the Throne, with the depiction of the Holy Spirit (source)
He is not just everywhere, but also above all, not just in every age and time, but before them all. And, according to the promise, the Holy Spirit will not just be with us until the end of the age, but rather will stay with those who are worthy in the age to come, making them immortal and filling their bodies as well with eternal glory, as the Lord indicated by telling His disciples, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
-St. Gregory Palamas,
"Homily Twenty-Four: On How the Holy Spirit was Manifested and Shared Out at Pentecost"
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, June 10, 2016

St. Luke the Surgeon on Holy Water

St. Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol (source)
"Drink Holy Water, the more often, the better. It is the best and most effective medicine. I'm not saying this as a priest, I'm saying it as a doctor, from my medical experience."
-St. Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Prayer for the upcoming Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Great Feast of Pentecost (source)
It is widely known that, in a few weeks, the primates and representatives from all canonical Orthodox Churches will gather in Crete for the first synodal gathering of this scope in many years. This will be a truly unique event, and though there are many who are arguing in support or in opposition to this upcoming council, its participants, the process, and the pre-conciliar documents, it is abundantly clear that all of us must pray deeply for illumination and guidance by the Holy Spirit for our bishops, that they might "rightly teach the word of Your truth". As such, I include hymns below for Pentecost, for the Holy Fathers, and a prayer that we hopefully all can offer, entreating the Lord and His Saints for the strength and wisdom to ever follow His commandments.

Apolytikion and Kontakion for the Great Feast of Pentecost, in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them Thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to Thee.
When the High One descended, confusing tongues, He divided the nations. And when He distributed the fiery tongues He called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy Spirit. 
Apolytikion for the Holy and God-bearing Fathers, in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Most glorified art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast established our Fathers as luminous stars upon the earth, and through them didst guide us all to the true Faith. O Most Merciful One, glory be to Thee.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, send down upon the bishops, clergy, and all those gathered in Thy name the grace of Thy Holy Spirit, for good and profitable counsel unto the benefit of all, and unto the confirmation of the Orthodox Catholic faith and piety, the good order of the Church.
Enlighten their minds with the light of His Divine understanding and truth, and make clear their lips and tongue, that they may counsel, proclaim and order all things unto the greater glory of His holy name.
May their actions be for the edification of the faithful people, the furtherance of good morals, and the uprooting and extermination of every heresy, disorder and wickedness, and do all things perfectly by the power and action and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
To Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Icon of the Holy and God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The relationship between St. Paisios the Athonite, and Elder Iakovos Tsalikis

 Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Three great Saints of 20th century Greece: Elder Iakovos Tsalikis (not yet officially canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate), St. Paisios the Athonite and St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia. All three had great love and honor for each other, and have helped many thousands throughout the world through their example, their teachings and their prayers. (source)
Witness of hieromonk Iakovos: "I was a layman, a student of the Ecclesiastical high school of Lamia, in 1986, with the name John. I was going to the Mount Athos, and I was going to visit, with the blessing of my Elder Iakovos Tsalikis, Elder Paisios, in order to be advised from him if I should become a monk or not. Elder Iakovos had great reverence for Elder Paisios, and when I went to him, he gave me something to give him as a blessing, and told me: "Tell Elder Paisios, when you reach Thessaloniki, that he should come to see us. As for me, Johnny, it is difficult for me to go see the Elder, because I must pass over mountains, valleys, the sea, and my health does not allow it, not to mention that Elder Paisios is a Saint, I am a sinner and unworthy." He then gave me 5,000 drachmas to light a candle in his chapel.

When I went to the Holy Mountain, I met the Elder right in front of his door. As soon as he saw me--then I was traveling with a hieromonk--he told me:
"Hey, good to see you, good to see you!"

We received his blessing, and he told me:
"Hey, what do you think? Will we make you a monk?"

"Elder," I told him, "I have a problem with my parents."

"Listen to what I tell you, let your parents weep for a month or two, so that you may not weep eternally, and before you loose the treasure." (He was referring to Elder Iakovos, without my telling him where I was thinking of becoming a monk.)

"Elder," I told him, "you have the blessing of Fr. Iakovos from the Venerable David [of Evia]."

"Oh, my child, these are the Saints who are struggling today and who pray with humility and love. I am not worthy to see this giant of Orthodoxy, but it is also a very far distance to meet him, and it requires struggle and much effort. But God has given us love, and we communicate between us spiritually."

"Elder, is it blessed for me to venerate in your chapel for a blessing?"

"No, it's not necessary."

"Elder, have love, for a blessing."

"No, my child, because maybe Elder Iakovos gave you 5,000 drachmas, and afterwards, what will I do with it, because I'm a monk?"

He did not let me go venerate. He gave me a prayer rope and a little cross to give to the Elder. When I returned to the Monastery, Elder Iakovos received me with joy. And I gave him the gifts from Elder Paisios and immediately he told me: "The 5,000 drachmas which Elder Paisios didn't accept, and that he didn't let you leave by venerating in the chapel, take it with you for your expenses in the school of Lamia." I was stunned.

"Elder, how do you know this?"

And he told me, whispering in my ear: "We, my child, communicate spiritually."
For a similar spiritual encounter in love between St. Paisios and St. Porphyrios, see here.
Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!