Monday, December 27, 2010

Homily I on St. Stephen the Protomartyr, by St. Gregory of Nyssa

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Homily I on St. Stephen the Protomartyr, by St. Gregory of Nyssa
How lovely is the inspiration exhibited by those who are good, and how sweet is the joy which they disclose! See, we acquire a feast from a feast and grace from grace. Yesterday the Lord of the universe welcomed us whereas today it is the imitator [Stephen] of the Lord. How are they related to each other? One assumed human nature on our behalf while the other shed it for his Lord. One accepted the cave of this life for us, and the other left it for him. One was wrapped in swaddling clothes for us, and the other was stoned for him. One destroyed death, and the other scorned it.

Brethren, let us hasten to the stadium where the great athlete contends against the wicked adversary of human life by stripping himself in the arena by his confession [of faith] [cf. 1Cor 4.9]. Indeed, as Paul has said [Heb 12.4], Stephen [Stephanos] has become a spectacle to the world, angels and to men. He was the first to have received the crown [stephanos] of martyrdom, the first to have paved the way for the chorus of martyrs and the first to have resisted sin to the point of shedding blood. It seems to me that the entire host of transcendent powers, angels, and myriads both assist and accompany them [i.e., the martyrs]. If we hear anything honorable in the heavens from among the principalities, powers, thrones, ruling forces and the entire heavenly assembly, their words provide an athletic spectacle by contending with an opponent [cf. Col 1.16 & Eph 1.21].

Let human life resemble a stadium for the contestants where one person contends against another. That antagonist which showed himself hostile to human life from the fall of our first parents until the time of Stephen strove to be victorious over men, yet the great athlete of faith considered his assaults as nothing [cf. Wis 2.24]. Both took up arms against each other: the inventor of death confronted a threat to death, whereas the disciple of life confessed his faith. For who could not help but admire this new type of struggle when truth judged between life and death chronicled the truth? For while the herald of a life hidden [in God] remained unknown, he nevertheless divulged it to men. At once he forsook this life and rightly judged it better to exchange a more honorable life for the present one.

It would be beneficial to accurately record his contest in order to disclose the order of our method by a series of miracles. Recently a powerful wind from heaven scattered every airy, deceptive power of the demons and filled the Apostles' house. Tongues of fire resided in each man corresponding with the number of those who received the grace of the Spirit. All were overcome by shock and confusion with the widely diverse languages immediately which the disciples spoke according to the sound and wonder of tongues and to the astonishment of those from every nation who were dwelling in Jerusalem [cf. Acts 2.2-5]. This was not a result of training and study but was a gift in the form of speaking which suddenly came from the Spirit's [J.705] inspiration. Those engaged in constructing an earthly tower must speak the [J.78] same language when building the church's spiritual dwelling. And so, the Holy Spirit's wonderful dispensation introduced grace in order to diffuse it, thereby providing a common benefit for everyone through the medium of the human voice. In this way the preaching of piety might not be limited to one tongue and remain unprofitable for those persons who spoke various tongues.

Even at this early point the Pharisees did not believe with their own ears and concocted to trip up persons astonished by these miraculous events as though new wine had made them [the Apostles] insane [cf. Acts 2.13]. Then Peter's solitary defense captured three thousand souls for Christ [cf. Acts 2.41], after which the church grew in the number of those who had been delivered. Those who were saved opened the temple's Beautiful Gate for the man born lame [cf. Acts 3.2ff] because his miraculous healing both increased and led to the faith persons lame in soul. As a result, many flocked when the faith was preached and sought help from the diverse profusion of grace at which point Stephen, who was wealthy in wisdom and grace by the Spirit, was summoned to assist the Apostles [cf. Acts 6.5]. Let no one think that the name of minister [diakonia] made him inferior to the dignity of the Apostles. Since Paul realized that he was a minister of the mysteries of Christ [cf. 1 Cor 4.1] and the Lord of the universe brought salvation by assuming human , he was not ashamed to be called a minister. As the Apostle says, he was in their midst as one who serves [cf. Lk 22.27] and as one who provides a variety of ministries [cf. 1 Cor 12.5-6].

Just as fire consumes useful material and bright flames rise on high, so did the Holy Spirit make the rays of grace shine brighter through Stephen's nobility. Similarly, all turned to him because he was gifted with knowledge and training. Those few persons who gathered together seemed to be a dense crowd much like a phalanx which attempted to assail Stephen who was equally serene whether in the company of many or few persons. Then certain persons under the guise of Alexandrians, Libertinians, Cyrenians and men from every place engaged the athlete in a debate regarding the truth. The father of lies assumed a human form and rose against truth which Stephen had spoken [cf. Jn 8.44]. However, the truth brought forth trophies against such lies, and its excellence wonderfully put to flight every assault of deception. The minister of truth sought the truth about the enemy who concealed his substance; rather, he made the truth appear as something which lacks substance.

How does this ruse affect the preacher? I believe that it comes from the devil. If any of you shares his strength, the truth destroys it in Stephen. But if that truth is loftier than your machinations, why are you deceitfully planning evil against the vessel of truth in order to destroy what remains of it? Dogs do this when they open their mouths for stones cast to them, yet they cannot touch the person whom threw them. Since true facts repulsed such a lie and could no longer find another champion of deception, all who looked squarely at the manifest truth remembered his own struggle. Stephen directed his energy against his accusers who passed judgment upon him, for they brought false accusations against him while being marked by rage and slander. The Jews brought various accusers against Stephen including judges who were either elected or who were subservient to death and did not know the impact of a ruinous vote levelled against Stephen. For just as experienced athletes bring down their more formidable opponents through vigorous training and thereby make them fall, so did the great Stephen who lay prostrate upon the ground overcome his adversary with difficultly.

From this point began the Apostles' journey throughout the entire world and their preaching. If it were not for [Stephen's] murder and the Jews' rage against the Apostles, perhaps the grace of the Gospel would have been confined to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Having been driven out by the Jews to another nation, the teaching of the [Christian] mysteries expelled the devil from the world. Thus Samaria received the preaching [cf. Acts 8.14]; salvation reached the eunuch through Philip [Acts 8.26ff]; Paul was a great vessel of election armed against the devil's wrath and his threats against whose arrows he raised a shield [Acts 9.15], thereby abolishing him from the entire earth and making all places accessible to the faith of Christ. As a result, Egyptians, Syrians, Parthians, Mesopotamians, Galatians, Illurians, Macedonians as well as nations from everywhere hastened to hear the preaching. Do you see Stephen's athletic prowess and how the adversary was brought down to ruin although he appeared more excellent than his adversary by making false accusations?

But let us return again to the stadium. How do the calumniators enflame the people? They say, "He does not cease to speak words against this holy place and the Law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs which Moses handed down to us" [Acts 6.13-14]. Such is the allegation presented by the devil's speech, but who pays attention to such rubbish? Against whom do they rage so vehemently and what evil can they detect in his words? They even brought forth another indictment against [Stephen] claiming that he boasted that this place would be destroyed and that the institutes of Moses would be changed. What outrage doe these words contain whether they happen to be true or false? If false, there is no cause for alarm; if true, what unjust ground is there for denunciation? For what had transpired will indeed happen again whether or not we remain silent. Can the murder of him who was denounced earlier relieve persons who are grieving? For example, Jesus the Nazarene was condemned by the same vote of reprisal levelled against Stephen. If he who is unjust vents his wrath, gives place to injustice and alters customs, Stephen is not responsible for these acts but it is Jesus, as the accuser says, and the court is compelled to pass judgement against him who is accused. Oh, what an unfair verdict for those who are listening! Since Jesus, says the judge, changes the laws, Stephen should then [J.83] be stoned. How did Jesus abrogate the Law when he affirmed its antiquity by saying, "I did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it" [Mt 5.17]? Who strengthened his disciples according to the Law? He forbade them to become angry and to commit murder [cf. Mt 5.21-22], rejected adultery out of desire [cf. Mt 5.39], ordered that grief not be repaid since unjust hands cannot lay hold of you [cf. Mt 6.19ff] and wiped out passion, a result of greed, and taught mastery over it. Why were these neither mentioned nor examined when judgement was passed? I do not wish the crowd of those bloodstained judges to be present and do not want to know about places associated with such malevolent persons, the celebrated temple's location, the huge amount of stones, the gold left over which equalled the small amount left in the temple, the sacrifices according to the Law such as the ram, calf, lamb, heifer, dove, turtle-dove and he-goat for averting evil [cf. Lev 16.20ff]. Therefore if they condemn Stephen to death in order to deflect their sadness, they reveal their fruits through that terrible murder. If nothing is left, they claim that the vote counts, not the murder.

But let us see in the succeeding struggles how he who was covered by stones as if they were snow had warded off his murderers and how he returned a variety of thunderbolts against those who cast stones. The Jews knew the Christians' weapons which the great Stephen used to ward off their attacks and who made it the law of life. They were all fierce, standing in a circle, looked at him with a hysterical gaze and brandished a weapon against Stephen in their hands. However, he resembled a priest according to the spiritual law, was a pure sacrifice, submissive, and offered his own body instead of an offering of sprinkled blood. He saw God in the celestial sanctuary, made petition on behalf of those who mistreated him, exchanged their bloodthirstiness for a good deed and cried out in their ears, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" [Acts 7.60]. By this prayer he expiated their sin which the murderers committed by their transgression and who were exasperated at his prayer. However, this did not prevent them from casting stones until the great Stephen fell into a sweet, blessed sleep as though he were surrounded by tender flowers or by gentle dew.

The athletes have achieved victory before we see those crowned who had engaged in fierce struggles since before seeing the contest, we have attained the goal of their struggles. I believe that we must not neglect them without mentioning the outstanding nature of their witness. This gathering of murderers was so filled with rage that they resorted to bloodshed; their evil was so strong that it restricted their breathing; their glance, appearance and passion was manifested by their teeth as divine Scripture says concerning enraged hearts which gnashed their teeth against him [cf. Acts 7.54]. Being in their midst, he girded himself against their hostile, murderous intent, surmounted their contemptuous intentions, resisted their wrath with patience and their threats with disdain, the fear of death with contempt, hatred with love, ill-will with benevolence and slander with truth.

Not only did the true athlete reveal one type of victory but combatted by countless virtues every form of evil which the Jews devised, thereby resulting in victory. I hear about various contests of strength in gymnasiums when athletes strip themselves naked in the arena and achieve victory against their contenders. Such martyrs are sovereign in the stadium, resisting with their own power every adversary and are as a beacon of triumph for all to see. The false wisdom of the Libertinians, Cyreninas and sages [J.86] from Alexandria [Acts 6.9] contend against him who is triumphant through true wisdom: courage overcomes fear, disdain conquers threats, charity subdues savagery and truth is victorious over falsehood. They sought to murder him, and their hands were already armed with stones; their glance and breathing through their teeth [M.713] held tightly together revealed their brutality. Nevertheless, he saw them as brothers and greeted them as fathers saying, "Men, brothers and fathers, listen [Acts 7.2]!"

They persuasively devised all sorts of calumny by convening a council of murderers against the truth. [Stephen] neither reproved them out of fear, was unconcerned with impending dangers nor did he consider death; rather, having his soul raised on high and appearing as though her were senseless to everyone gazing upon him, he taught them as though they were foolish children and demonstrated the error of their doctrines with regard to faith. In their presence [Stephen] briefly recounted the story of Abraham as well as the saints who followed him [cf. Acts 7.2-7]. He also added Moses, his birth, upbringing, education, initiation on the mountain, smiting the Egyptians, service to the Israelites and prophesy concerning the mystery of the Lord [cf. Acts 7.20-22, 30, 34, 36-37]. What especially incited this group and [J.87] fomented their illness was that Moses to whom they were especially devoted was a mentor for their teaching. They rose up against him in order to quiet him, something which Stephen desired in order to end his bitterness. He exited human nature and before he left the body, with pure eyes gazed upon heaven's gates and the temple's interior, the revelation of divine glory and the effulgence of his glory [cf. Acts 7.55-56]. The stamp of the Father's glory [cf. Heb 1.3] could not be described, and the athlete saw his brilliance among men which accommodated itself to human nature. Thus being outside human nature, he shared the angelic nature which seemed like a miracle to these murderers. His face was changed to assume that of the angels and seeing invisible reality, he proclaimed the grace he had beheld [cf. Acts 7.56]. But they blocked their ears and did not wish to see this with their eyes, preferring their own self-righteous since they were not capable of hearing this divine report. However, he shared the grace with those present although he alone was worthy of it: "I see the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand" [Acts 7.57]. They exclaimed with a great voice, blocked their ears and unanimously rushed upon him. History recounts a similar uproar in order to show how their actions coincide with the Sodomites, for the judge [God] hears their wicked cry when he says, "The cry of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah have reached me" [Gen 18.20-21]. Therefore they shouted out in order that the cry against Stephen might be heard.

The athlete fully realized the benefit hidden beneath the murderers' bitterness because they who stood in a circle ready to stone him provided him with a crown much like a victor's crown plaited at enemy hands. Therefore [Stephen] warded off their murderous intent by a blessing and being fully aware of their plan to slay him, was prepared to suffer death at their hands. Furthermore, he believed that his enemies had the opportunity of conferring a benefit upon him. For this reason the person who knows Christ wishes to bring his enemies into submission. [Stephen] knew that the Lawgiver was patient, recalled his command to love one's enemies, to do good to those who bear hatred and to pray for one's enemies [cf. Mt 5.44]. But the athlete's goal does not consider human glory; rather, he seeks to overcome the entire world by the magnificence of his triumph and to outstrip human endurance, thereby rejecting every type of praise.

Although [Stephen] acquires victory in accord with every human manner of praise, we should pay attention to the narrative which pertains to the salvation of souls. Just as there are some athletes who have ceased their activity and train youths for athletic competitions through skillful technical maneuvers to vanquish their adversaries, so I think we should be trained by the great Stephen in piety that we might escape the grips of spiritual adversaries [pneumatomachoi]. For those who are mad with rage detract from the Spirit's glory claiming that Stephen is an advocate of their error when he gazed intently at heaven and saw God's glory and Jesus standing at his right hand [Acts 7.55]. They claimed that he perverted the teachings of piety when, if the Spirit should be included along with the Father and Son, why did not Stephen see in his vision the Spirit with the Son? Therefore how did Stephen cause such distress by uttering these words with his hands outstretched? How does his reasonable tactics counteract such distressing words since he countered the incredulity of his adversaries at that very spot? Do you seek, oh pneumatichos, when the Father's glory appears and the Son stands at his right, the location of the Spirit? If the Spirit were present within you, you would not fail to notice what is proposed [of the Spirit] much like those with defective vision who are ignorant of gold lying at their feet. At any rate I have now gotten wind of this and [desire] that you do not subscribe to the rumor devised by the Jews.

How did Stephen see transcendent glory? Who laid bare heaven's gates for him? Was this the work of men? Which of the angels enabled inferior [human] nature soar to that height? Stephen was not alone when he was generously filled with power coming from the angels which enabled him to see what he saw. What was recorded? "Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God and his Only-Begotten Son" [Acts 7.55]. As the Prophet says, light cannot be seen unless one is filled with light: "In your light we shall see light" [Ps 35.10] (If observation of the light does not share this same light, how can anyone deprived of the sun's rays see it?). Since the Father's light makes this possible, the Only Begotten [Son's] light emanates through the Holy Spirit which makes it visible. Therefore the Spirit's glory enables us to perceive the glory of both the Father and Son. But can we say that the Gospel is true which says that "No man has ever seen God" [Jn 1.18]? How do the Apostle's words agree with the following, "No man has seen nor can see [God]" [1Tm 6.16]? If human nature and power can perceive the glory of the Father and Son, their vision must indeed be mistaken. However, history is true and cannot lie. The evil deed of the pneumatomachoi is indeed made clear because Scripture bears witness to similar situations. For Stephen beholds God not in human nature and power but is united by grace to the Holy Spirit who elevates him in order to comprehend God. Therefore, one cannot say that Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit, as the Apostle says [cf. 1 Tm 6.16, 1Cor 12.3]. One cannot contemplate the Father's glory because where the Spirit is the Son is seen and is grasped the Father's glory.

But history presents us with another problem, namely, the weapon of impiety coming from the Christomachoi who condemn the Only Begotten [Son], for they consider the One present in the Father's glory to be inferior to his authority. What about Paul? How shall I answer them? What does the prophet David who lived earlier say when he explained the glory of the Only Begotten [Son] by the teaching of the Spirit? David says, "The Lord said to my Lord, `Sit at my right hand'" [Ps 109.1]. The Apostle says that the Lord is seated at the right hand of God's throne [Col 3.1, Heb 1.3]. If this represents either a place of inferiority or a seat of honor, testimony concerning [J.92] its magnificence is added in order to signify the loftiness of honor and the reception of true piety. For the Spirit's grace teaches all these things. Stephen, being filled with the Holy Spirit, saw everything and spoke about what he knew. While in the Spirit, David calls "Lord" as the Gospel says [Mt 22.43]; when Paul, speaks of him, he mentions mysteries in the Spirit [1 Cor 14.2]. Therefore if there is one teacher who is in complete harmony, the teaching is the Spirit of truth which was present in divinely inspired persons. Then how can any dissonance be present in teachings? But there is another seat and position which I can easily point out and will now mention it. Instead of showing concern for the body, these words should refer to what is incorporeal. With regard to man, the seat signifies that part of the body's hips which enables it not to continuously bear strain and thereby become weighed down and crooked. On the other hand, an upright position upon one's knees signifies that a person does not rest upon his hips when seated. But when it comes to transcendent nature, sitting and standing have no place with such concepts since each is separate and should be understood respectively. We neither subscribe to a bent position regarding incorporeal nature nor a sitting down with regard to what is formless; rather, we devoutly understand that each represents stability and being unmoved in every good. For standing and sitting apply to God and do not pertain to a difference of words concerning concepts which teach that God is firmly standing and sitting unmoved in the good. The prophet David and the apostle Paul do not comprehend the sitting of the Only Begotten [Son] in the same manner because the Father is standing and the Son is sitting. Indeed, by mentioning only the fact that the Son is sitting, Scripture tells us about the standing of the Son and no longer suggests the sitting of the Father. For just as Paul and David both confessed the Father sitting through the Son's standing at his right, indeed nothing is taught beforehand concerning the Father which is also true regarding Stephen where the Son is standing and revealed in the Father's glory. Thus this image is valid if it appears to be a satisfactory archetype. Goodness is present in what is good, light is present in the light it reflects and primeval beauty is present in everything supported by an appropriate image. Thus we should clearly understand the image of the Son's sitting, the Father's sitting and the standing in the standing which differs from the archetype's properties.

Brothers, you should ponder our words and thoughts and hold them as introductory remarks since Stephen's vision provokes reflection. We are not only spectators of Stephen's contest but since we are full of the Holy Spirit, we share his grace and eradicate adversaries for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.
For Homily II on St. Stephen by St. Gregory of Nyssa, see:
St. Stephen the Archdeacon and Protomartyr (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, December 24, 2010

"The Word became flesh", by St. John of Kronstadt

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Icon of the Holy Nativity of Christ (


A Sermon by St John of Kronstadt on the Nativity of Christ

The Word became flesh; that is, the Son of God, co-eternal with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit, became human – having become incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. O, wondrous, awesome and salvific mystery! The One Who had no beginning took on a beginning according to humanity; the One without flesh assumed flesh. God became man – without ceasing to be God. The Unapproachable One became approachable to all, in the aspect of an humble servant. Why, and for what reason, was there such condescension [shown] on the part of the Creator toward His transgressing creatures – toward humanity which, through an act of its own will had fallen away from God, its Creator?

It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined for eternal suffering and torment.

And the Word became flesh! order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption into incorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children.

O, boundless compassion of God! O, inexpressible wisdom of God! O, great wonder, astounding not only the human mind, but the angelic [mind] as well!

Let us glorify God! With the coming of the Son of God in the flesh upon the earth, with His offering Himself up as a sacrifice for the sinful human race, there is given to those who believe the blessing of the Heavenly Father, replacing that curse which had been uttered by God in the beginning; they are adopted and receive the promise of an eternal inheritance of life. To a humanity orphaned by reason of sin, the Heavenly Father returns anew through the mystery of re-birth, that is, through baptism and repentance. People are freed of the tormenting, death-bearing authority of the devil, of the afflictions of sin and of various passions.

Human nature is deified for the sake of the boundless compassion of the Son of God; and its sins are purified; the defiled are sanctified. The ailing are healed. Upon those in dishonour are boundless honour and glory bestowed.

Those in darkness are enlightened by the Divine light of grace and reason.

The human mind is given the rational power of God – we have the mind of Christ (Cor. 2, 16), says the Holy apostle Paul. To the human heart, the heart of Christ is given. The perishable is made immortal. Those naked and wounded by sin and by passions are adorned in Divine glory. Those who hunger and thirst are sated and assuaged by the nourishing and soul-strengthening Word of God and by the most pure Body and Divine Blood of Christ. The inconsolable are consoled. Those ravaged by the devil have been – and continue to be – delivered.

What, then, O, brethren, is required of us in order that we might avail ourselves of all the grace brought unto us from on high by the coming to earth of the Son of God? What is necessary, first of all, is faith in the Son of God, in the Gospel as the salvation-bestowing heavenly teaching; a true repentance of sins and the correction of life and of heart; communion in prayer and in the mysteries [sacraments]; the knowledge and fulfillment of Christ’s commandments. Also necessary are the virtues: Christian humility, alms-giving, continence, purity and chastity, simplicity and goodness of heart.

Let us, then, O brothers and sisters, bring these virtues as a gift to the One Who was born for the sake of our salvation – let us bring them in place of the gold, frankincense and myrrh which the Magi brought Him, as to One Who is King, God, and Man, come to die for us. This, from us, shall be the most-pleasing form of sacrifice to God and to the Infant Jesus Christ.

(Translated into English by G. Spruksts, from the Russian text appearing in Chapter 2 of "Solntse Pravdy: O Zhizni i Uchenii Gospoda Nashego, Iisusa Khrista" ["The Sun of Righteousness: On the Life and Teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ"], by Protopriest [Saint] Ioann [John] (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, pp. 4-6. English-language translation copyright © 1983, 1996 by The Saint Stefan of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission from "KITEZH: The Journal of the Russian Cultural Heritage Society," Vol. 12, No. 4 (48).
Icon depicting the events surrounding Christ's Nativity (i.e. the Magi seeing the star and meeting with Herod, Joseph being instructed by the angel in a dream, the Magi worshipping Christ, the Slaughter of the Innocents, etc.) (
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A miracle of St. Nicholas in Kozani

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
A miracle of St. Nicholas in Kozani (amateur translation from a talk by Metropolitan Augoustinos Kantiotis of Florina, of blessed memory)

"Some say: “‘At that time!’ You make us crazy with this. We constantly hear ‘at that time’, ‘at that time’, ‘at that time’ [a miracle occurred]”. These are not correct, however. It was not only back then that miracles occurred. The power of Christ remains inexhaustible; yesterday and today and tomorrow, and until the close of the age, until the setting of the sun and the rivers cease to flow and the stars cease to shine in the heavens, the power of Christ and of His Saints will work wonders. Do you want an example?

From 1943-1945 I was in Kozani, the capital of Western Macedonia. Those were terrible days for our nation. The rebels seized over 300 people from Kozani, innocent people, and they locked them in prison in Kozani, where they were awaiting their fate. There was great agony throughout the city. The morning of December 6th was the day on which Kozani celebrates St. Nicholas as their patron in their beautiful and historic church of St. Nicholas, Kozani. It was a feast day therefore in Kozani, but the Christians however were so saddened and worried, that that day tears were running from their eyes. Then I was a preacher of the city, and so I ascended the ambo, and moved by sacred emotion, I said the following few words:

“Today St. Nicholas of Kozani celebrates. Today St. Nicholas is in mourning and weeps, for innocent men are in the prisons. As those glorious soldiers were in the prisons and were saved by Nicholas, thus today also, in the prison of Kozani there are these innocent men.” Continuing, in danger of my life, I called out drammatically to the rebels, towards the Captain Marko Vafeiadi, who ruled the region during that time and was an untamed terror. I told them: “In the name of the Nazarene, in the name of the righteous one, in the name of humanity, you must, on this holy day of St. Nicholas, free these innocent men.”

Thus I spoke. And though I was addressing hard hearts, through these the Saint appeased the most relentless characters. As the sun melts wax, thus his intervention melted the hearts of those men. The same evening, before the sun set, the 300 people of Kozani were freed and on the streets of Kozani! And no wonder why the miracle with the three soldiers is especially moving. He saved the three soldiers when he was in Lycia bodily, he saved the three in Constantinope when he was in heaven, and he saved 300 people of Kozani in our days."

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A miracle of St. Anastasia the Roman

St. Anastasia the Righteous Martyr of Rome - Commemorated on October 29th (
A miracle of St. Anastasia the Roman (amateur translation)
The accident
Kosta, a young man and father of two young children, was returning from Athens to his home (a great distance) on September 11th 2002 by motorcycle. He had just arranged some work and returned tired. During the trip, the motorcycle overturned and he went flying and collided with a column. The trauma, as he himself relates, caused him to fracture ribs and pelvis, and the lower ends of five vertebrae of his spine. One of the fractures cut a vein, which led the physicians to diagnose him with a retroperitoneal hematoma due to the internal hemorrhage. This caused his doctors to throw up their hands, because this type of case does not lend itself to a surgical intervention. After 24 hours in intensive care, Kosta, exhausted from the loss of blood, was led to the operating room. “I was on death's door, I had lost three liters of blood, when the doctors decided to make an attempt at salvation. They operated on my stomach area, to not let me die, as they had told me later, without any medical attempt. The surgery was a failure, for they couldn't reach the necessary location, and simply, as they told me, they were waiting for me to die”, Kosta relates today emphatically, truly moved.

The unexplained
Curiously, however, while they were awaiting his fate, Kosta lived. “The vein closed on its own and the doctors up till today consider it a miracle”, he says. The young father remained in the hospital for ten days. Then he returned to his home for 15 days, after which time he returned to the hospital for another intervention, to clean the hematoma. On October 26th 2002, the feast of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr, he returned home, to his good wife and his two young girls. The improvement in his health, as he himself relates, was rapid. Until the sign, there was nothing that had made an impression on him.

The discussion with the Saint
On the morning of October 29th, he experienced a dream or vision that changed his life, and gave an answer to that which the doctors were all calling a miracle. He relates the following himself: “I saw a short and very young girl, who was wearing a dark greyish robe and a head covering—like a scarf—on her head come close to me. I couldn't, however, discern her face. Her presence, however, emitted an indescribable fragrance. She was walking in a cruciform manner on top of a terrible snake, to which she was indifferent. I was also struck with color of the sky and the unprecedented—bizarre—first light of the day. Before I could ask her who she was, she stopped 4-5 meters in front of me and said: “I am St. Anastasia. I saved you.” Her manner was as if she had not done anything special, most likely that I not feel indebted to her action. With an especially challenging and skeptical manner I asked her: “Why did you save me?” And she with her manner showed how she was simply following some command, as she replied: “Because Panagia asked me to.” As Kosta relates, during this discussion, the presence of St. Anastasia had created an atmosphere of indescribable sweetness.

The martyrdom of St. Anastasia the Roman (
Kosta awakened astonished from the dream-vision, and got up and called a friend of his who was a monk. He was literally startled by the morning telephone call. Kosta did not reveal his dream to the monk, but asked him simply: “Do you know of a St. Anastasia?” As he told us, he had heard of St. Anastasia the Deliverer-from-potions, but had never called upon her. “Which St. Anastasia, the Roman who celebrates today?” replied the monk. The monk's reply further shocked Kosta. He avoided, however, to tell him anything from his dream.

A few days later, Kosta received a telephone call from a priest friend of his, who was pleased to learn of the progress of his recovery. During their discussion, he told him that when they meet, he would tell them about a dream of St. Anastasia the Roman, in order to answer some of his questions. The priest's insistence, however, caused Kosta to tell him what had happened. “Kosta, do you know where I am right now, and why I insisted on you telling me?” the priest asked him. And he continued without waiting for a response: “I am at the Holy Monastery of Gregoriou on the Holy Mountain, and in a short time we will venerate her Holy relic that is found in the Monastery, along with other pilgrims.” Kosta was astonished a second time. “Do you understand the shock that I experienced?” he said.

The holy patron saints of Gregoriou Monastery: Sts. Anastasia the Roman, Nicholas the Wonderworker, and Gregory the Founder (
Because of his work, Kosta visited Holy Churches and monasteries nearly every day. Thus, in the April of 2004, he recounted to a monk outside of the gate of his monastery in Loutraki, Corinth, his dream. During their discussion, a car passed by. The driver and his little girl were known to the monk. They greeted him and the monk told Kosta: “This man...Kosta has a tama to build a chapel in the area in honor of St. Anastasia the Roman. Because of this he named his girl Anastasia.”

All of this had literally strengthened Kosta's faith as unshakable, and also that of his family and friends. He himself is at the feast of St. Anastasia every year at the Monastery of Gregoriou and maintains a relationship with St. Anastasia in his daily prayer. It is certain that this acquaintance with St. Anastasia changed his whole life. Amid this relationship, he placed as his priority the will of Christ, and daily experiences the miracle of the Orthodox faith. Glory to God!
For the life of St. Anastasia the Roman, see:
Troparion - Tone 4
Your lamb Anastasia, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: "I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You. Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered myself in love." Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Kontakion - Tone 3
Purified by the waters of virginity, righteous Anastasia, you were crowned by the blood of martyrdom. You grant healing and salvation to those in need, and who call on you from their hearts, for Christ gives you strength, pouring out on you ever-flowing grace!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The wondrous icon of Christ of Latomos

Icon depicting the miracle of Christ of Latomos (Source:
On the wondrous, not-made-by-hands icon of Christ of Latomos Monastery
St. Theodora was the Christian daughter of Maximian (286-305), co-emperor with Diocletian (284-305). She was baptized a Christian by the Bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Alexander (commemorated May 28th), who was later a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. Taking on her new Christian responsibilities, she was troubled by her idolatrous parents, so she told them that she suffered from some sickness, and she as a result sought (for health reasons) to build a house and a bathhouse for herself in the north part of the city. The place was named Latomia because there were stones there that were used to build the church. Immediately after the workers finished the buildings, she converted the bathhouse into a church, under the guidance of the Bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Alexander. She ordered an iconographer to create a mosaic in the eastern apse depicting the Most-Holy Theotokos. When he was finishing the icon, he was struck with amazement, for the next day, the face of the Theotokos no longer appeared, but that of Christ on a light-bearing cloud, surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists, and the Prophets Ezekiel and Habbakuk.

This miraculous occurrence the iconographer shared with Theodora, who wanted to keep it a secret. However, one of her servants informed her mother of what had happened. She called Theodora to give an explanation for what had taken place, and also to participate in sacrifice to the goddess Artemis for the salvation of her father Maximian, who was away at war with the Sauromaton. Theodora refused to reveal the existence of the icon and also to sacrifice to the idols. When her father had learned this, he had her locked in prison, where she received a martyr's death. The church that she build was burned, however, the icon remained unharmed, as St. Theodora had previously had it covered with plaster.
St. Senouphios the Righteous - Commemorated March 25th (
"Sometime in the reign of the iconoclastic emperor Leo V “the Armenian” (813–820), a monk named Senouphios “in the hills of Nitria in Egypt” heard a voice from heaven directing him to go “to the monastery in Thessaloniki called ‘of the stonecutters’ (Latovmwn).” Senouphios “had been begging God for a long time to be allowed to see him as he would come to judge the earth”; hearing this clear answer to his prayer, he set off at once with only his cloak and staff. After many adventures he arrived in the distant metropolis, only to be told by the monks that there was no image in Thessaloniki like the one he was seeking. Dejected by the thought he had been deceived by the Devil, the old monk returned to Egypt—only to have the heavenly oracle repeated more urgently. Once more he trudged the long way
back to Thessaloniki. This time he was rewarded. As he sat alone one day in the sanctuary of the Stonecutters’ Monastery,
“Suddenly there was a storm and an earthquake and, moreover, thunder and such a disturbance that it seemed the very foundations of the sanctuary were shaken. And immediately the mortar and the brickwork with the ox hide that overlay the sacred representation of the Lord . . . were stripped off and fell to the earth. Those sacred features of Christ appeared, shining with fiery appearance like the sun in the midst of the cloud. When the old monk, standing in the midst of the sanctuary, saw this, he cried aloud, “Glory to you, O God, I thank you,” and relinquished his blessed soul.”
(In search of the early Christians: selected essays, By Wayne A. Meeks, Allen R. Hilton, H. Gregory Snyder)
Picture of the wondrous, not-made-by-hands icon of Christ of Latomou Monastery that exists to this day (
Overview of the icon
"Christ sits on the rays of a gold rainbow in an aureole of blue light. Youthful, he wears a golden chiton and raises his right arm while holding an open scroll in his left hand. His scroll reads, "Behold our God in whom we hope and rejoice in our salvation, he will give rest to this house" (Isa. 25:9).'
His hands and feet bear the marks of the Crucifixion. Next to his head is the inscription, 'Jesus Christ of the miracle of Latomos." The halo of blue light surrounding his figure is composed of seven rings. The four apocalyptic symbols of the Evangelists emerge from the fifth ring of the mandorla. Clock- wise from the top left, these are Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark; their initials are inscribed above their heads.' Below this vision is a mountainous landscape that gradually descends into a water basin, where seven fish swim. On the two sides of the rocks stand the figures of the prophets Ezekiel and Habakkuk, identified by inscriptions above their heads." Ezekiel is depicted as an elderly man dressed in a chiton, standing with arms raised and palms open to the viewer in a gesture of awe and amazement. Habakkuk is represented as a youth seated on the rocks; he has propped his chin in his right hand and on his lap holds an open book with the written message, "Son of Man, eat this scroll" (Ezek. 3:1).18 The whole scene is imbued with a blue light that emanates from the halo above and highlights the draperies, the rocky mountains, and the waters. The setting, lyrical with gold and blue light, conveys the essence of the scene: a theophany."

The 14th Century "Poganovo" icon that depicts the miracle of Christ of Latomos (
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
We worship Thine immaculate icon, O Good One, asking the forgiveness of our failings, O Christ our God; for of Thine own will wast Thou well-pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, that Thou mightest deliver from slavery to the enemy those whom Thou hadst fashioned. Wherefore, we cry to Thee thankfully: Thou didst fill all things with joy, O our Saviour, when Thou camest to save the world.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on the Beheading of the Precious Forerunner

Salome holding the plate with the Precious Head of the Forerunner of Christ (
Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on the Beheading of the Precious Forerunner (Matthew 14:1-12)
2. “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus.” (Matt. xiv. 1). For Herod the king, this man’s father, he that slew the children, was dead.

But not without a purpose doth the evangelist signify the time, but to make thee observe also the haughtiness of the tyrant, and his thoughtlessness, in that not at the beginning did he inform himself about Christ, but after a very long time. For such are they that are in places of power, and are encompassed with much pomp, they learn these things late, because they do not make much account of them.

But mark thou, I pray thee, how great a thing virtue is, that he was afraid of him even when dead, and out of his fear he speaks wisely even concerning a resurrection.

“For he said,” it is mentioned, “unto his servants, This is John, whom I slew, he is risen from the dead, and therefore the mighty powers do work in him.” (Matt. xiii. 2). Seest thou the intensity of his fear? for neither then did he dare to publish it abroad, but he still speaks but to his own servants.

But yet even this opinion savored of the soldier, and was absurd. For many besides had risen from the dead, and no one had wrought anything of the kind. And his words seem to me to be the language both of vanity, and of fear. For such is the nature of unreasonable souls, they admit often a mixture of opposite passions.

But Luke affirms that the multitudes said, “This is Elias, or Jeremias, or one of the old prophets,” (Luke ix.) but he, as uttering forsooth something wiser than the rest, made this assertion.

But it is probable that before this, in answer to them that said He was John (for many had said this too), he had denied it, and said, “I slew him,” priding himself and glorying in it. For this both Mark and Luke report that he said, “John I beheaded.” (Mark vi. 16). But when the rumor prevailed, then he too saith the same as the people.

Then the evangelist relates to us also the history. And what might his reason be for not introducing it as a subject by itself? Because all their labor entirely was to tell what related to Christ, and they made themselves no secondary work besides this, except it were again to contribute to the same end. Therefore neither now would they have mentioned the history were it not on Christ’s account, and because Herod said, “John is risen again.”

But Mark saith, that Herod exceedingly honored the man, and this, when reproved. (Mark vi. 20.) So great a thing is virtue.

Then his narrative proceeds thus: “For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison, for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the people, because they counted him as a prophet.” (Matt. xiii. 3–5.)

And wherefore doth he not address his discourse at all to her, but to the man? Because it depended more on him.

But see how inoffensive he makes his accusation, as relating a history rather than bringing a charge.

4. “But when Herod’s birth-day was kept,” saith he, “the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.” (Matt. xiii. 6). O diabolical revel! O satanic spectacle! O lawless dancing! and more lawless reward for the dancing. For a murder more impious than all murders was perpetrated, and he that was worthy to be crowned and publicly honored, was slain in the midst, and the trophy of the devils was set on the table.

And the means too of the victory were worthy of the deeds done. For, “The daughter of Herodias,” it is said, “danced in the midst, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he swore with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.” (Matt. xiii. 6–8.)

Her reproach is twofold; first, that she danced, then that she pleased him, and so pleased him, as to obtain even murder for her reward.

Seest thou how savage he was? how senseless? how foolish? in putting himself under the obligation of an oath, while to her he gives full power over her request. But when he saw the evil actually ensuing, “he was sorry,” (Matt. Xiii. 9.) it is said; and yet in the first instance he had put him in bonds. Wherefore then is he sorry? Such is the nature of virtue, even amongst the wicked admiration and praises are its due. But alas for her madness! When she too ought to admire, yea, to bow down to him, for trying to redress her wrong, she on the contrary even helps to arrange the plot, and lays a snare, and asks a diabolical favor.

But he was afraid “for the oath’s sake,” it is said, “and them that sat at meat with him.” And how didst thou not fear that which is more grievous? Surely if thou wast afraid to have witnesses of thy perjury, much more oughtest thou to fear having so many witnesses of a murder so lawless.

But as I think many are ignorant of the grievance itself, whence the murder had its origin, I must declare this too, that ye may learn the wisdom of the lawgiver. What then was the ancient law, which Herod indeed trampled on, but John vindicated? The wife of him that died childless was to be given to his brother. (Deut. xxv. 5.) For since death was an incurable ill, and all was contrived for life’s sake; He makes a law that the living brother should marry her, and should call the child that is born by the name of the dead, so that his house should not utterly perish. For if the dead were not so much as to leave children, which is the greatest mitigation of death, the sorrow would be without remedy. Therefore you see, the lawgiver devised this refreshment for those who were by nature deprived of children, and commanded the issue to be reckoned as belonging to the other.

But when there was a child, this marriage was no longer permitted. “And wherefore?” one may say, “for if it was lawful for another, much more for the brother.” By no means. For He will have men’s consanguinity extended, and the sources multiplied of our interest in each other.

Why then, in the case also of death without offspring, did not another marry her? Because it would not so be accounted the child of the departed; but now his brother begetting it, the fiction became probable. And besides, any other man had no constraining call to build up the house of the dead, but this had incurred the claim by relationship.

Forasmuch then as Herod had married his brother’s wife, when she had a child, therefore John blames him, and blames him with moderation, showing together with his boldness, his consideration also.

But mark thou, I pray thee, how the whole theatre was devilish. For first, it was made up of drunkenness and luxury, whence nothing healthful could come. Secondly, the spectators in it were depraved, and he that gave the banquet the worst transgressor of all. Thirdly, there was the irrational pleasure. Fourthly, the damsel, because of whom the marriage was illegal, who ought even to have hid herself, as though her mother were dishonored by her, comes making a show, and throwing into the shade all harlots, virgin as she was.

And the time again contributes no little to the reproof of this enormity. For when he ought to be thanking God, that on that day He had brought him to light, then he ventures upon those lawless acts. When one in chains ought to have been freed by him, then he adds slaughter to bonds.

Hearken, ye virgins, or rather ye wives also, as many as consent to such unseemliness at other person’s weddings, leaping, and bounding, and disgracing our common nature. Hearken, ye men too, as many as follow after those banquets, full of expense and drunkenness, and fear ye the gulf of the evil one. For indeed so mightily did he seize upon that wretched person just then, that he sware even to give the half of his kingdom: this being Mark’s statement, “He sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.” (Mark vi. 23.)

Such was the value he set upon his royal power; so was he once for all made captive by his passion, as to give up his kingdom for a dance. vilifying, reviling, insulting. But not so the saints; they on the contrary mourn for such as sin, rather than curse them.

8. This then let us also do, and let us weep for Herodias, and for them that imitate her. For many such revels now also take place, and though John be not slain, yet the members of Christ are, and in a far more grievous way. For it is not a head in a charger that the dancers of our time ask, but the souls of them that sit at the feast. For in making them slaves, and leading them to unlawful loves, and besetting them with harlots, they do not take off the head, but slay the soul, making them adulterers, and effeminate, and whoremongers.

For thou wilt not surely tell me, that when full of wine, and drunken, and looking at a woman who is dancing and uttering base words, thou dost not feel anything towards her, neither art hurried on to profligacy, overcome by thy lust. Nay, that awful thing befalls thee, that thou “makest the members of Christ members of an harlot.” (1 Cor. vi. 15.)

For though the daughter of Herodias be not present, yet the devil, who then danced in her person, in theirs also holds his choirs now, and departs with the souls of those guests taken captive.

But if ye are able to keep clear of drunkenness, yet are ye partakers of another most grievous sin; such revels being also full of much rapine. For look not, I pray thee, on the meats that are set before them, nor on the cakes; but consider whence they are gathered, and thou wilt see that it is of vexation, and covetousness, and violence, and rapine.

“Nay, ours are not from such sources,” one may say. God forbid they should be: for neither do I desire it. Nevertheless, although they be clear of these, not even so are our costly feasts freed from blame. Hear, at all events, how even apart from these things the prophet finds fault with them, thus speaking, “Woe to them that drink wine racked off, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments.” (Amos vi. 6, LXX.) Seest thou how He censures luxury too? For it is not covetousness which He here lays to their charge, but prodigality only.

And thou eatest to excess, Christ not even for need; thou various cakes, He not so much as dry bread; thou drinkest Thasian wine, but on Him thou hast not bestowed so much as a cup of cold water in His thirst. Thou art on a soft and embroidered bed, but He is perishing with the cold.

Wherefore, though the banquets be clear from covetousness, yet even so are they accursed, because, while for thy part thou doest all in excess, to Him thou givest not even His need; and that, living in luxury upon things that belong to Him. Why, if thou wert guardian to a child, and having taken possession of his goods, were to neglect him in extremities, thou wouldest have ten thousand accusers, and wouldest suffer the punishment appointed by the laws; and now having taken possession of the goods of Christ, and thus consuming them for no purpose, dost thou not think thou wilt have to give account?

9. And these things I say not of those who introduce harlots to their tables (for to them I have nothing to say, even as neither have I to the dogs), nor of those who cheat some, and pamper others (for neither with them have I anything to do, even as I have not with the swine and with the wolves); but of those who enjoy indeed their own property, but do not impart thereof to others; of those who spend their patrimony at random. For neither are these clear from reprehension. For how, tell me, wilt thou escape reproving and blame, while thy parasite is pampered, and the dog that stands by thee, but Christ’s worth appears to thee even not equal to theirs? when the one receives so much for laughter’s sake, but the other for the Kingdom of Heaven not so much as the smallest fraction thereof. And while the parasite, on saying something witty, goes away filled; this Man, who hath taught us, what if we had not learnt we should have been no better than the dogs,—is He counted unworthy of even the same treatment with such an one?

Dost thou shudder at being told it? Shudder then at the realities. Cast out the parasites, and make Christ to sit down to meat with thee. If He partake of thy salt, and of thy table, He will be mild in judging thee: He knows how to respect a man’s table. Yea, if robbers know this, much more the Lord. Think, for instance, of that harlot, how at a table He justified her, and upbraids Simon, saying, “Thou gavest me no kiss.” (Luke vii. 54.) I say, if He feed thee, not doing these things, much more will He reward thee, doing them. Look not at the poor man, that he comes to thee filthy and squalid, but consider that Christ by him is setting foot in thine house, and cease from thy fierceness, and thy relentless words, with which thou art even aspersing such as come to thee, calling them impostors, idle, and other names more grievous than these.

And think, when thou art talking so, of the parasites; what kind of works do they accomplish? in what respect do they profit thine house? Do they really make thy dinner pleasant to thee? pleasant, by their being beaten and saying foul words? Nay, what can be more unpleasing than this, when thou smitest him that is made after God’s likeness, and from thine insolence to him gatherest enjoyment for thyself, making thine house a theatre, and filling thy banquet with stage-players, thou who art well born and free imitating the actors with their heads shaven?

These things then dost thou call pleasure, I pray thee, which are deserving of many tears, of much mourning and lamentation? And when it were fit to urge them to a good life, to give timely advice, dost thou lead them on to perjuries, and disorderly language, and call the thing a delight? and that which procures hell, dost thou account a subject of pleasure? Yea, and when they are at a loss for witty sayings, they pay the whole reckoning with oaths and false swearing. Are these things then worthy of laughter, and not of lamentations and tears? Nay, who would say so, that hath understanding?

And this I say, not forbidding them to be fed, but not for such a purpose. Nay, let their maintenance have the motive of kindness, not of cruelty; let it be compassion, not insolence. Because he is a poor man, feed him; because Christ is fed, feed him; not for introducing satanical sayings, and disgracing his own life. Look not at him outwardly laughing, but examine his conscience, and then thou wilt see him uttering ten thousand imprecations against himself, and groaning, and wailing. And if he do not show it, this also is due to thee.

10. Let the companions of thy meals then be men that are poor and free, not perjured persons, nor stage-players. And if thou must needs ask of them a requital for their food, enjoin them, should they see anything done that is amiss, to rebuke, to admonish, to help thee in thy care over thine household, in the government of thy servants. Hast thou children? Let these be joint fathers to them, let them divide thy charge with thee, let them yield thee such profits as God loveth. Engage them in a spiritual traffic. And if thou see one needing protection, bid them succor, command them to minister. By these do thou track the strangers out, by these clothe the naked, by these send to the prison, put an end to the distresses of others.

Let them give thee, for their food, this requital, which profits both thee and them, and carries with it no condemnation.

Hereby friendship also is more closely riveted. For now, though they seem to be loved, yet for all that they are ashamed, as living without object in thy house; but if they accomplish these purposes, both they will be more pleasantly situated, and thou wilt have more satisfaction in maintaining them, as not spending thy money without fruit; and they again will dwell with thee in boldness and due freedom, and thy house, instead of a theatre, will become to thee a church, and the devil will be put to flight, and Christ will enter, and the choir of the angels. For where Christ is, there are the angels too, and where Christ and the angels are, there is Heaven, there is a light more cheerful than this of the sun.

And if thou wouldest reap yet another consolation through their means, command them, when thou art at leisure, to take their books and read the divine law. They will have more pleasure in so ministering to you, than in the other way. For these things add respect both to thee and to them, but those bring disgrace upon all together; upon thee as an insolent person and a drunkard, upon them as wretched and gluttonous. For if thou feed in order to insult them, it is worse than if thou hadst put them to death; but if for their good and profit, it is more useful again than if thou hadst brought them back from their way to execution. And now indeed thou dost disgrace them more than thy servants, and thy servants enjoy more liberty of speech, and freedom of conscience, than they do; but then thou wilt make them equal to the angels.

Set free therefore both them and thine own self, and take away the name of parasite, and call them companions of thy meals; cast away the appellation of flatterers, and bestow on them that of friends. With this intent indeed did God make our friendships, not for evil to the beloved and loving, but for their good and profit.

But these friendships are more grievous than any enmity. For by our enemies, if we will, we are even profited; but by these we must needs be harmed, no question of it. Keep not then friends to teach thee harm; keep not friends who are enamored rather of thy table than of thy friendship. For all such persons, if thou retrench thy good living, retrench their friendship too; but they that associate with thee for virtue’s sake, remain continually, enduring every change.

And besides, the race of the parasites doth often take revenge upon thee, and bring upon thee an ill fame. Hence at least I know many respectable persons to have got bad characters, and some have been evil reported of for sorceries, some for adulteries and corrupting of youths. For whereas they have no work to do, but spend their own life unprofitably; their ministry is suspected by the multitude as being the same with that of corrupt youths.

Therefore, delivering ourselves both from evil report, and above all from the hell that is to come, and doing the things that are well-pleasing to God, let us put an end to this devilish custom, that “both eating and drinking we may do all things to the glory of God,” (1 Cor. x. 31) and enjoy the glory that cometh from Him; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
For more on the Beheading of the Precious Forerunner, see:
For a homily by St. Justin Popovitch on this feast, see:
The Holy, Glorious Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist (
Apolytikion of St. John the Forerunner in the Second Tone
The memory of the just is observed with hymns of praise; for you suffices the testimony of the Lord, O Forerunner. You have proved to be truly more venʹrable than the Prophets, since you were granted to baptize in the river the One whom they proclaimed. Therefore, when for the truth you had contested, rejoicing, to those in Hades you preached the Gospel, that God was manifested in the flesh, and takes away the sin of the world, and grants to us the great mercy.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!