Τετάρτη, 14 Νοεμβρίου 2018

Nativity Fast in the Orthodox Church (November 15th - December 24th)

Orthodox Way of Life

Orthodox Icon of Nativity of Christ
Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger be prepared, let the cave show it's welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away...
On November 15th we begin the forty day period where we proclaim the miracle of God becoming man. This is the time in the Orthodox Church where our attention is drawn to the great mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We await his coming in anticipation of the great joy of His birth on Christmas Day. For our preparation the wisdom of our Church asks us to participate in a fast, with all the inconvenience and discomfort it may bring. If this is a season of such great joy, why is this the practice of Orthodox Christians around the world? Why are we asked to fast when we hear daily the hymn "Hark, the herald angels sing!" almost every pace we go?
By our fasting we are reminded that this is not simply the birth of a baby, but God being united with man.  It is the moment when the unchangeable is joined with the changeable, eternal life with mortal life, He who holds the universe in His hand and who created all comes in the flesh for our salvation.
Thou who has adorned the vault of heaven with stars has been well pleased to be born as a babe; and Thou. Who holds all the ends of the earth in the hallow of Thy hand art laid in a manger of dumb beasts... (Sticheron of  Third Hour, Eve of the Nativity)
This is an event that should make us tremble with awe and wonder, bring us to humility and desiring to offer thanksgiving. But are we not engulfed in the secular traditions of this holiday season with its focus on gifts and parties, where the significance of this great event is often less than an afterthought? Do we take time to think about why God was incarnated and became man? Do we reflect on the truth that it is through His becoming one with us that we can now become one with Him? Do we remember that before this event man was not able to overcome the fear of death, held in bondage to sin? The reality is that the Virgin birth of Jesus is the greatest miracle in the history of mankind. Now man can become like God and be united with Him in Paradise with eternal life. With a fast we are preparing for celebration of the beginning of the transformative journey He prepared for our salvation.

November 15 is the starting point for a spiritual journey to the day of this great joy.  This journey is one one that requires our development of greater humility so we can fully appreciate what God have given to us.  This is by nature an ascetic journey. Like our journey to be united with God, it is not one where we can make use of our social relationships or our material possessions.  This is a journey where we must learn to surrender our souls to the will of God, relinquish our control over the journey to Him whose birth we are about to celebrate. This is the spirit we must embrace as we enter into this fast. It is a period of preparation just as the manger was prepared for Christ.
Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger be prepared, let the cave show it's welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away; born of a Virgin, God has appeared to men, formed as we are and making godlike the garment He has put on. Therefore Adam is renewed with Eve, and they call out: 'Thy good pleasure has appeared on earth to save our kind.' 
Christmas Day is about the great mystery of God's becoming like us, we who are bound to death, so He can transform us to become like Him, overcoming our mortality and becoming fully alive in Him. The Canon of Matins for the Nativity says, "He establishes a path for us, whereby we may mount up to heaven." This coming event is not just about God coming to us, but all of humanity being lifted up into He who is born on Christmas Day in the form of man, Christ the Incarnation of God.
The Nativity of Christ (from here)
This Nativity fast is to help us lift ourselves above all those things which bind us to our worldly life, freeing ourselves to be united in Him. As we fast we are reminded that we depend on Him for our food and have also are in need for spiritual food that is much more than our daily bread. We learn this by forgoing the extra sweets, the pleasurable drinks, the abundant foods so we will not be fully satisfied by the earthly pleasures but seek instead the treasures that are beyond this life and world. In this process of fasting we are lifting our thoughts to things that are of the heavenly realm that bring us true joy and unbounded pleasures. The fast is a time to break our attachments to those things which have power over us, learning to set them aside so we can be freely governed by God's will alone.
By engaging in this period of fasting where we can work towards our purification with the help of God's grace, we cooperate with God in our spiritual growth and the all important journey to become one with Him.  after all, this is the aim of our Orthodox way of life. In this way we are able to approach Him on Christmas Day with joy, just as did the Magi and the shepherds of Bethlehem.
Cleansing our minds through fasting, let us offer through our lives virtues instead of myrrh, preparing with faith our entry into the feast of the Nativity, storing up treasure in our souls and crying: Glory in the highest to God in Trinity, whose good pleasure is not
revealed to men, that in His love for mankind He may set Adam free from the ancestral curse (death). Christmas Day is truly the day of our Salvation. This is the joy we should celebrate when this day comes.
The Nativity Fast is like the fast of Lent, but not quite as strict. Let us not rebel against such self-imposed constraints on our desires, but embrace this practice which Christ Himself practiced and called us to do likewise when He said, "When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites." Note he did not say IF you fast, but WHEN you fast.  Why do we resist this important practice? It seems odd that we are willing to pay large sums of money to enter into special diet programs like Jenny Craig, while, when the Church asked us to engage inn such rates for our spiritual well being, we resist and even think it something impossible to do. 
Unfortunately fasting is not practiced in much of the Christian world the days. Our Protestant friends do not fast and evn the Catholics no longer give much importance to fasting. It is a Tradition given to us through Christ Himself and passed on to us by the Apostles that many have lost.  But the Orthodox Church still teaches at his important practice. If you do choose to follow our Lord and do as He asks of us and enter into a fast in preparation of this most special day, you will be rewarded when that day comes. 
There are two periods in the Nativity fast. The first is the period from November 15 to December 19. The second is from the 12th to Christmas eve. In the first period the practice as taught by the Greek Orthodox Church is to maintain a strict fast on Wednesday and Friday as normal and to abstain from meat and dairy on the other days with fish, wine and oil allowed. From the 20th of December on it is a strict fast with wine and oil allowed only on Saturday and Sunday. You can follow the fasting guidelines as shown on the calendar included in the bulletin or on the Church calendar provided to you each year.


Holy, All-Praised Apostle Philip & St. Gregory Palamas the Archbishop of Thessalonica (November 14 )

Orthodox Church in America / November 14

Image result for άγιος φίλιππος
Holy, All-Praised Apostle Philip 
Icon from here
The Holy and All-praised Apostle Philip was a native of the city of Bethsaida in Galilee. He had a profound depth of knowledge of the Holy Scripture, and rightly discerning the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies, he awaited the coming of the Messiah. Through the call of the Savior (John 1:43), Philip followed Him. The Apostle Philip is spoken about several times in the Holy Gospel: he brought to Christ the Apostle Nathaniel (i.e. Bartholomew, April 22, June 30, and August 25. See John. 1:46). The Lord asks him where to buy bread for five thousand men (John. 6: 5-7). He brought certain of the Hellenized Jews wanting to see Jesus (John. 12:21-22); and finally, at the Last Supper he asked Christ to show them the Father (John. 14:8).
After the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostle Philip preached the Word of God in Galilee, accompanying his preaching with miracles. Thus, he restored to life a dead infant in the arms of its mother. From Galilee he went to Greece, and preached among the Jews that had settled there. Some of them reported the preaching of the Apostle to Jerusalem. In response, some scribes arrived in Greece from Jerusalem, with one of the Jewish chief priests at their head, to interrogate the Apostle Philip.
The Apostle Philip exposed the lie of the chief priest, who said that the disciples of Christ had stolen away and hidden the body of Christ. Philip told instead how the Pharisees had bribed the soldiers on watch, to deliberately spread this rumor. When the Jewish chief priest and his companions began to insult the Lord and lunged at the Apostle Philip, they suddenly were struck blind. By his prayer the Apostle restored everyone’s sight. Seeing this miracle, many believed in Christ. The Apostle Philip provided a bishop for them, by the name of Narcissus (one of the Seventy Apostles, January 4).
From Greece the Apostle Philip went to Parthia, and then to the city of Azotus, where he healed an eye affliction of the daughter of a local resident named Nikoklides, who had received him into his home, and then baptized his whole family.
From Azotus the Apostle Philip set out to Syrian Hieropolis (there were several cities of this name) where, stirred up by the Pharisees, the Jews burned the house of Heros, who had taken in the Apostle Philip, and they wanted to kill the apostle. The apostle performed several miracles: the healing of the hand of the city official Aristarchus, withered when he attempted to strike the apostle; and restoring a dead child to life. When they saw these marvels, they repented and many accepted holy Baptism. After making Heros the bishop at Hieropolis, the Apostle Philip went on to Syria, Asia Minor, Lydia, Emessa, and everywhere preaching the Gospel and undergoing sufferings. Both he and his sister Mariamne (February 17) were pelted with stones, locked up in prison, and thrown out of villages.
Then the Apostle Philip arrived in the city of Phrygian Hieropolis, where there were many pagan temples. There was also a pagan temple where people worshiped an enormous serpent as a god. The Apostle Philip by the power of prayer killed the serpent and healed many bitten by snakes.
Among those healed was the wife of the city prefect, Amphipatos. Having learned that his wife had accepted Christianity, the prefect Amphipatos gave orders to arrest Saint Philip, his sister, and the Apostle Bartholomew traveling with them. At the urging of the pagan priests of the temple of the serpent, Amphipatos ordered the holy Apostles Philip and Bartholomew to be crucified.
Suddenly, an earthquake struck, and it knocked down all those present at the place of judgment. Hanging upon the cross by the pagan temple of the serpent, the Apostle Philip prayed for those who had crucified him, asking God to save them from the ravages of the earthquake. Seeing this happen, the people believed in Christ and began to demand that the apostles be taken down from the crosses. The Apostle Bartholomew was still alive when he was taken down, and he baptized all those believing and established a bishop for them.
But the Apostle Philip, through whose prayers everyone remained alive, except for Amphipatos and the pagan priests, died on the cross.
Mariamne his sister buried his body, and went with the Apostle Bartholomew to preach in Armenia, where the Apostle Bartholomew was crucified (June 11); Mariamne herself then preached until her own death at Lykaonia.
The holy Apostle Philip is not to be confused with Saint Philip the Deacon (October 11), one of the Seventy.

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, was born in the year 1296 in Constantinople. Saint Gregory’s father became a prominent dignitary at the court of Andronicus II Paleologos (1282-1328), but he soon died, and Andronicus himself took part in the raising and education of the fatherless boy. Endowed with fine abilities and great diligence, Gregory mastered all the subjects which then comprised the full course of medieval higher education. The emperor hoped that the youth would devote himself to government work. But Gregory, barely twenty years old, withdrew to Mount Athos in the year 1316 (other sources say 1318) and became a novice in the Vatopedi monastery under the guidance of the monastic Elder Saint Nicodemus of Vatopedi (July 11). There he was tonsured and began on the path of asceticism. A year later, the holy Evangelist John the Theologian appeared to him in a vision and promised him his spiritual protection. Gregory’s mother and sisters also became monastics.
After the demise of the Elder Nicodemus, Saint Gregory spent eight years of spiritual struggle under the guidance of the Elder Nicephorus, and after the latter’s death, Gregory transferred to the Lavra of Saint Athanasius (July 5). Here he served in the trapeza, and then became a church singer. But after three years, he resettled in the small skete of Glossia, striving for a greater degree of spiritual perfection. The head of this monastery began to teach the young man the method of unceasing prayer and mental activity, which had been cultivated by monastics, beginning with the great desert ascetics of the fourth century: Evagrius Pontikos and Saint Macarius of Egypt (January 19).
Later on, in the eleventh century, Saint Simeon the New Theologian (March 12) had provided detailed instruction in mental activity for those praying in an outward manner, and the ascetics of Athos put it into practice. The experienced use of mental prayer (or prayer of the heart), requiring solitude and quiet, is called “Hesychasm” (from the Greek “hesychia” meaning calm, silence), and those practicing it were called “hesychasts.”
During his stay at Glossia the future hierarch Gregory became fully imbued with the spirit of hesychasm and adopted it as an essential part of his life. In the year 1326, because of the threat of Turkish invasions, he and the brethren retreated to Thessalonica, where he was then ordained to the holy priesthood.
Saint Gregory combined his priestly duties with the life of a hermit. Five days of the week he spent in silence and prayer, and only on Saturday and Sunday did he come out to his people. He celebrated divine services and preached sermons. For those present in church, his teaching often evoked both tenderness and tears. Sometimes he visited theological gatherings of the city’s educated youth, headed by the future patriarch, Isidore. After he returned from a visit to Constantinople, he found a place suitable for solitary life near Thessalonica the region of Bereia. Soon he gathered here a small community of solitary monks and guided it for five years. 

In 1331 the saint withdrew to Mt Athos and lived in solitude at the skete of Saint Sava, near the Lavra of Saint Athanasius. In 1333 he was appointed Igumen of the Esphigmenou monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 the saint returned to the skete of Saint Sava, where he devoted himself to theological works, continuing with this until the end of his life.
In the 1330s events took place in the life of the Eastern Church which put Saint Gregory among the most significant universal apologists of Orthodoxy, and brought him great renown as a teacher of hesychasm.
About the year 1330 the learned monk Barlaam had arrived in Constantinople from Calabria, in Italy. He was the author of treatises on logic and astronomy, a skilled and sharp-witted orator, and he received a university chair in the capital city and began to expound on the works of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3), whose “apophatic” (“negative”, in contrast to “kataphatic” or “positive”) theology was acclaimed in equal measure in both the Eastern and the Western Churches. Soon Barlaam journeyed to Mt Athos, where he became acquainted with the spiritual life of the hesychasts. Saying that it was impossible to know the essence of God, he declared mental prayer a heretical error. Journeying from Mount Athos to Thessalonica, and from there to Constantinople, and later again to Thessalonica, Barlaam entered into disputes with the monks and attempted to demonstrate the created, material nature of the light of Tabor (i.e. at the Transfiguration). He ridiculed the teachings of the monks about the methods of prayer and about the uncreated light seen by the hesychasts.
Saint Gregory, at the request of the Athonite monks, replied with verbal admonitions at first. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put his theological arguments in writing. Thus appeared the “Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts” (1338). Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics, with the assistance of the saint, compiled a general response to the attacks of Barlaam, the so-called “Hagiorite Tome.” At the Constantinople Council of 1341 in the church of Hagia Sophia Saint Gregory Palamas debated with Barlaam, focusing upon the nature of the light of Mount Tabor. On May 27, 1341 the Council accepted the position of Saint Gregory Palamas, that God, unapproachable in His Essence, reveals Himself through His energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Barlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself was anathemized and fled to Calabria.

But the dispute between the Palamites and the Barlaamites was far from over. To these latter belonged Barlaam’s disciple, the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, and also Patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341-1347); the emperor Andronicus III Paleologos (1328-1341) was also inclined toward their opinion. Akyndinos, whose name means “one who inflicts no harm,” actually caused great harm by his heretical teaching. Akyndinos wrote a series of tracts in which he declared Saint Gregory and the Athonite monks guilty of causing church disorders. The saint, in turn, wrote a detailed refutation of Akyndinos’ errors. The patriarch supported Akyndinos and called Saint Gregory the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church (1344) and had him locked up in prison for four years. In 1347, when John the XIV was replaced on the patriarchal throne by Isidore (1347-1349), Saint Gregory Palamas was set free and was made Archbishop of Thessalonica.
In 1351 the Council of Blachernae solemnly upheld the Orthodoxy of his teachings. But the people of Thessalonica did not immediately accept Saint Gregory, and he was compelled to live in various places. On one of his travels to Constantinople the Byzantine ship fell into the hands of the Turks. Even in captivity, Saint Gregory preached to Christian prisoners and even to his Moslem captors. The Hagarenes were astonished by the wisdom of his words. Some of the Moslems were unable to endure this, so they beat him and would have killed him if they had not expected to obtain a large ransom for him. A year later, Saint Gregory was ransomed and returned to Thessalonica.
Saint Gregory performed many miracles in the three years before his death, healing those afflicted with illness. On the eve of his repose, Saint John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. With the words “To the heights! To the heights!” Saint Gregory Palamas fell asleep in the Lord on November 14, 1359. In 1368 he was canonized at a Constantinople Council under Patriarch Philotheus (1354-1355, 1364-1376), who compiled the Life and Services to the saint. 

Τρίτη, 13 Νοεμβρίου 2018

St. John Chrysostom the Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the most important figures of world history

Orthodox Church in America

Commemorated on November 13
Troparion & Kontakion
Για τον άγιο Ελληνικά

Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the Three Hierarchs [January 30], was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military commander. His father, Secundus, died soon after the birth of his son. His mother, Anthusa, widowed at twenty years of age, did not seek to remarry but rather devoted all her efforts to the raising of her son in Christian piety. The youth studied under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians. But, scorning the vain disciplines of pagan knowledge, the future hierarch turned himself to the profound study of Holy Scripture and prayerful contemplation. Saint Meletius, Bishop of Antioch (February 12), loved John like a son, guided him in the Faith, and in the year 367 baptized him. 
After three years John was tonsured as a Reader. 
When Saint Meletius had been sent into exile by the emperor Valens in the year 372, John and Theodore (afterwards Bishop of Mopsuestia) studied under the experienced instructors of ascetic life, the presbyters Flavian and Diodorus of Tarsus. The highly refined Diodorus had particular influence upon the youth. When John’s mother died, he embraced monasticism, which he called the “true philosophy.” Soon John and his friend Basil were being considered as candidates for the episcopal office, and they decided to withdraw into the wilderness to avoid this. While Saint John avoided the episcopal rank out of humility, he secretly assisted in Basil’s consecration.
During this period Saint John wrote his “Six Discourses on the Priesthood,” a great work of Orthodox pastoral theology. The saint spent four years struggling in the wilderness, living the ascetic life under the guidance of an experienced spiritual guide. And here he wrote three books entitled, “Against the Opponents of Those Attracted to the Monastic Life”, and a collection entitled, “A Comparison of the Monk with the Emperor” (also known as “Comparison of Imperial Power, Wealth and Eminence, with the True and Christian Wisdom-Loving Monastic Life”), both works which are marked by a profound reflection of the worthiness of the monastic vocation.
For two years, the saint lived in a cave in complete silence, but was obliged to return to Antioch to recover his health. Saint Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch, ordained him deacon in the year 381. The following years were devoted to work on new theological writings: “Concerning Providence” (“To the Ascetic Stagirios”), “Book Concerning Virginity,” “To a Young Widow” (2 discourses), and the “Book of Saint Babylos, and Against Julian and the Pagans.”
In the year 386 Saint John was ordained presbyter by Bishop Flavian of Antioch. Saint John was a splendid preacher, and his inspired words earned him the name “Golden-Mouthed” (“Chrysostom”). For twelve years the saint preached in church, usually twice a week, but sometimes daily, deeply stirring the hearts of his listeners.
The apostle Paul dictates to St. John Chrysostom the interpretation of his letters. Icon (from here) of the hagiography of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi.
In his pastoral zeal to provide Christians with a better understanding of Holy Scripture, Saint John employed hermeneutics, an interpretation and analysis of the Word of God (i.e. exegesis). Among his exegetical works are commentaries on entire books of the Holy Scripture (Genesis, the Psalter, the Gospels of Matthew and John, the Epistles of the Apostle Paul), and also many homilies on individual texts of the Holy Bible, but also instructions on the Feastdays, laudations on the Saints, and also apologetic (i.e. defensive) homilies (against Anomoeans, Judaizers and pagans). As a priest, Saint John zealously fulfilled the Lord’s command to care for the needy. Under Saint John, the Antiochian Church provided sustenance each day to as many as 3,000 virgins and widows, not including in this number the shut-ins, wanderers and the sick.
Saint John began his commentary on Genesis at the beginning of Great Lent in 388, preaching thirty-two homilies during the forty day period. During Holy Week he spoke of how Christ was betrayed, and about the Cross. During Bright Week, his pastoral discourse was devoted to the Resurrection. His exegesis of the Book of Genesis was concluded only at the end of October (388).
At Pascha in the following year the saint began his homilies on the Gospel of John, and toward the end of the year 389 he took up the Gospel of Matthew. In the year 391 the Christians of Antioch listened to his commentary on the Epistles of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans and to the Corinthians. In 393 he explained the Epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, Timothy, Titus, and the Psalms. In his homily on the Epistle to the Ephesians, Saint John denounced a schism in Antioch, “I tell you and I witness before you, that to tear asunder the Church means nothing less than to fall into heresy. The Church is the house of the heavenly Father, one Body and one Spirit.”

Saint Anthusa, mother of st John Chrysostom (here)
The fame of the holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the death of Archbishop Nectarius of Constantinople, successor to Saint Gregory the Theologian, Saint John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch, and elected to the See of Constantinople. At the capital, the holy archpastor was not able to preach as often as he had at Antioch. Many matters awaited the saint’s attention, and he began with the most important -- the spiritual perfection of the priesthood. He himself was the best example of this. The financial means apportioned for the archbishop were channeled by the saint into the upkeep of several hospices for the sick and two hostels for pilgrims. He fasted strictly and ate very little food, and usually refused invitations to dine because of his delicate stomach.
The saint’s zeal in spreading the Christian Faith extended not only to the inhabitants of Constantinople, but also to Thrace to include Slavs and Goths, and to Asia Minor and the Pontine region. He established a bishop for the Bosphorus Church in the Crimea. Saint John sent off zealous missionaries to Phoenicia, to Persia, and to the Scythians, to convert pagans to Christ. He also wrote letters to Syria to bring back the Marcionites into the Church, and he accomplished this. Preserving the unity of the Church, the saint would not permit a powerful Gothic military commander, who wanted the emperor to reward his bravery in battle, to open an Arian church at Constantinople. The saint exerted much effort in enhancing the splendor of the church services: he compiled a Liturgy, he introduced antiphonal singing for the all-night Vigil, and he wrote several prayers for the rite of anointing the sick with oil.
The saintly hierarch denounced the dissolute morals of people in the capital, especially at the imperial court, irrespective of person. When the empress Eudoxia connived to confiscate the last properties of the widow and children of a disgraced dignitary, the saint rose to their defense. The arrogant empress would not relent, and nursed a grudge against the archpastor. Eudoxia’s hatred of the saint blazed forth anew when malefactors told her that the saint apparently had her in mind during his sermon on vain women. A court was convened composed of hierarchs who had been justly condemned by Chrysostom: Theophilus of Alexandria, Bishop Severian of Gabala, who had been banished from the capital because of improprieties, and others.
This court of judgment declared Saint John deposed, and that he be executed for his insult to the empress. The emperor decided on exile instead of execution. An angry crowd gathered at the church, resolved to defend their pastor. In order to avoid a riot, Saint John submitted to the authorities. That very night there was an earthquake at Constantinople. The terrified Eudoxia urgently requested the emperor to bring the saint back, and promptly sent a letter to the banished pastor, beseeching him to return. Once more, in the capital church, the saint praised the Lord in a short talk, “For All His Ways.” 

The slanderers fled to Alexandria. But after only two months a new denunciation provoked the wrath of Eudoxia. In March 404, an unjust council was convened, decreeing the exile of Saint John. Upon his removal from the capital, a fire reduced the church of Hagia Sophia and also the Senate building to ashes. Devastating barbarian incursions soon followed, and Eudoxia died in October 404. Even pagans regarded these events as God’s punishment for the unjust judgment against the saint.
In Armenia, the saint strove all the more to encourage his spiritual children. In numerous letters (245 are preserved) to bishops in Asia, Africa, Europe and particularly to his friends in Constantinople, Saint John consoled the suffering, guiding and giving support to his followers. In the winter of 406 Saint John was confined to his bed with sickness, but his enemies were not to be appeased. From the capital came orders to transfer Saint John to desolate Pityus in Abkhazia on the Black Sea. Worn out by sickness, the saint began his final journey under military escort, traveling for three months in the rain and frost. He never arrived at his place of exile, for his strength failed him at Comana.
At the crypt of Saint Basiliscus (May 22), Saint John was comforted by a vision of the martyr, who said, “Despair not, brother John! Tomorrow we shall be together.” After receiving the Holy Mysteries, the hierarch fell asleep in the Lord on September 14, 407. His last words were, “Glory to God for all things!”
The holy relics of Saint John Chrysostom were solemnly transferred to Constantinople in the year 438. The disciple of Saint John, the venerable Isidore of Pelusium (February 4), wrote: “The house of David is grown strong, and the house of Saul enfeebled. He is victor over the storms of life, and has entered into heavenly repose.”
Although he died on September 14, Saint John’s celebration was transferred to this day because of the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. Saint John Chrysostom is also celebrated on January 27 and January 30 (Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom). 

The Holy Three Hierarchs along with their mothers,
saints Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa (icon from here)

Τετάρτη, 31 Οκτωβρίου 2018

Saint Jose Munoz-Cortes the new martyr of Athens/ Greece, from Chile & Canada († 31 October 1997)

Light of Desert
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ: Ο Χιλιανός νεομάρτυρας Χοσέ (Ιωσήφ) Μουνιόθ-Κορτέζ (1997)

At the end of October 1997, a terrible event occurred, one that shook the entire Orthodox world. In Greece, a young Romanian brutally murdered Joseph, Jose, Munoz-Cortes, guardian of the renowned Miracle-working, Myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God: The Keeper of the Portal.
An obituary compiled by the members of the “Icon’s House” Society in Montreal stated: “We live in a time of the flowering of spirituality, but only of satanic spirituality — a time when all that is of Christ, of Jesus, of God, evokes a tormenting irritation in carnal man and a rabid malice in the deluded. One of those deluded men brutally murdered Jose Munoz-Cortes, the guardian of the Miracle-working, Myrrh-streaming Icon of the Mother of God, the Keeper of the Portal.

In the fall of 1982, through ways unfathomable to the mind, an Orthodox Spaniard, an instructor of art history at the University of Montreal, was called by the Lord to a special service, which he was allowed to bring to its conclusion with a martyric death. In the face of his death, questions far from those contained in the police inquiry involuntarily arise. What did he feel when he first visited the Nativity Skete on Holy Mount Athos, where, as if accidentally, he noticed the Iveron Mother of God Icon? How did he understand the words of the Abbot of the Skete, Fr. Clement, when he unexpectedly yielded to the requests of the visiting young iconographer, saying, “The Most-Holy Virgin will leave with you”?
In what way was the gradual realization of the miracle expressed for him — from that very day, November 24, 1982, when Jose woke up in his Montreal apartment around three o’clock in the morning and noticed a blessed scent of unknown origin wafting over to him?


The Lord lead him with His mighty hand and His lofty design, and under these circumstances everything in the life of the future guardian of the Miracle-working Icon developed without artifice, and if it is possible to say so, naturally. An offspring of an ancient race, Jose was born in 1948 (1950) to a pious Catholic family in Chile. In 1962 while living in Santiago the 14-year-old boy was struck by the Orthodox divine services in the local Holy Trinity and Kazan Mother of God Church. He found himself in the church accidentally, as it were, while on the way to the Catholic cathedral. Two years later Archbishop Leonty of Chile baptized him into Orthodoxy. He studied theology in college for three years. Later, he wanted to accept monasticism, but there was not a men’s community where he had moved in Canada. Therefore, he continuously turned with prayers to the Most-Pure Theotokos that she show him his path, praying: “There I will go.”

He was certainly granted the possibility to stand before a miracle in this world, the kind of miracle that is impossible to comprehend. And the Holy miracle-working Icon, the Hope of those without Hope has healed not only the bodies but also the souls of those who turn to it, taming cruel hearts, bestowing the gift of tears, helping to find hope. Whoever saw the faces of the people, Orthodox and heterodox alike, in the many parish churches and monasteries to which Brother Jose brought the grace-filled myrrh-streaming Icon entrusted to him, the Icon of the Keeper of the Portal which opened the gates of heaven to the faithful, that person could not but comprehend, to the extent possible, how awesome and difficult to bear was the obedience given to this man, and how intolerable it must have been for the ancient serpent, the enemy of the Church of Christ.

In the sixth kontakion of the wonderful akathist to the Montreal Myrrh-Streaming Icon it is correctly noted: “You chose as the proclaimer of your miracles and the keeper of your icon in the Russian Diaspora not a bishop, not a prince, nor a monastic instructor, but an ordinary man from a foreign people, that no one might boast before God of his earthly origin. Rather that we may praise the praiseworthy, to know the Lord and in an Orthodox manner to call to Him: Alleluia.”
The more blinding the uncreated light of Christ’s miracles, the darker it is in the kingdom of this age. The murder of Jose Munoz-Cortes, guardian of the Miracle-working Icon of the Mother of God, is, we trust, still one more sign of the depletion of the branches of our time that have lived out their usefulness and a sign of the impending (rapid) approach of the victory that overcometh the world. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).


The Myrrh-Streaming Icons of Hawaii


The Stories of the Saints of North America
Saints Philaret, Metropolitan of New York & Eastern America
Matthew Gallatin: Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells
The Orthodox New-Martyr of Mexico: Paul de Ballester-Convallier
New Hieromartyr John Karastamatis of Santa Cruz
Lover of Truth: St John, The Wonderworker of San Francisco

A Different Light: Youthful Travelers in Contemporary America
Native American Pathways to Orthodoxy
Miley Cyrus, or: why Orthodox Mission in the West is an urgent need...
Orthodox Christian Monasticism in North America  

Saint Innocent and the Aleut people
The ancient Christian Church - About Orthodox Church in the West World...


New Martyrs  
A Deer Lost in Paradise

Latin America: Peoples in Search of Orthodoxy
Travelers on the Way to the Light

Σάββατο, 27 Οκτωβρίου 2018

October 28, 1940: the small Greece vs the Fascism & Nazism

Encyclical of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios of America for "No" Day (October 28, 1940)

Feast of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos
OXI (No) Day

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our commemoration of OXI Day each year leads us to reflect on a very challenging time in our world and for the people of Greece. As war was spreading throughout Europe, the Axis forces demanded the surrender of Greece on October 28, 1940. Bravely and honorably, the Greek people replied, “NO.” Today, we honor the bravery and sacrifice of our fathers and mothers who stood valiantly against the armies of the fascist powers. They proclaimed a resolute “NO” to occupation. The people of Greece affirmed their love of liberty and their right of self-determination. They saw the evil and unchecked power of fascist regimes, and in their response they committed their lives to protecting their country. In faith they knew that no matter the outcome they were willing to stand courageously in the face of this threat knowing that ultimately nothing could separate them from the nobility of their heritage and the love of God.

Today, we are inspired by our forbearers as we celebrate their courage and honor their memory. They said “NO” to those who advanced power and control at any cost. They stood firm against an ideology and its forces that would only separate them from their freedom, their rights, and their way of life. We find courage in their example and hope and strength in the promise that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

Icon from here

The experience of God’s love and the promise that His love is always with us helped the people of Greece in hope and faith to endure all things (I Corinthians 13:7). They knew that the power of God’s love was greater than the power of fascist regimes. They knew that the love of God was essential to their freedom, and to their love for their families and communities, and for their country.

With the assurance and truth of God’s love, we are able to stand firm against any evil use of power or false ideology. As the people of Greece in 1940 and as many witnesses of our faith have done, we can boldly proclaim “NO” in the face of those who seek to destroy life and liberty, those who use power to abuse and manipulate others, and those who try to separate us from our faith and the love of God.

As we commemorate the valiant people of Greece on OXI Day, and we laud their courage before the world, may we give thanks to God for the witness offered to us and to generations to come. May we also pray for the eternal memory and blessed repose of those who stood heroically for their faith and their nation. May we be inspired to stand firmly in the love of God, knowing that nothing can separate us from the great and saving love we have in Him through Christ Jesus.

With paternal love in Him,

† D E M E T R I O S
Archbishop of America

See also

Saint Demetrios the Great Martyr & Myrrhstreamer of Thessaloniki (October 26)

The Holy Great Martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki
The Megalynaria of Saint Demetrios
Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki as a Monastic
Who Is St. Demetrios Killing In His Icon?
The Passion and Miracles of St. Demetrios by Anastasius the Librarian
A Study of the Miracles of Saint Demetrios
The Russian Veneration of Saint Demetrios the Myrrhgusher
The Myrrhgushing Miracle of St. Demetrios in 1987: A Testimony
The Skeptic Who Investigated the Tomb of Saint Demetrios
The Miracle of Saint Demetrios Loumpardiaris
Saint Demetrios and Elder Philotheos Zervakos
Saint Demetrios and the Earthquake of 1978
When the Icon of St. Demetrios Wept in Kalamata in October of 1940
Book: In Search of St. Demetrios and Byzantium
Memorial Saturday of Saint Demetrios and the Battle of Kulikovo
Saint Nestor the Martyr of Thessaloniki

Δευτέρα, 22 Οκτωβρίου 2018

Théosis (déification)

Icône de tous les saints (à partir d'ici)


Theosis ("divinisation", "déification") est le processus consistant à devenir un fidèle libre d'hamártía ("manquer la marque"), s'unissant à Dieu, dès cette vie et en plénitude lors de la résurrection des morts. Pour les chrétiens orthodoxes, la Théōsis (voir 2 Pierre 1:4) est le salut. La Théōsis suppose que les êtres humains sont destinés dès le commencement à partager la vie ou la nature de la Toute Sainte Trinité. Par conséquent, un fidèle, enfant ou adulte, est sauvé, délivré de l'état de non-sainteté (hamartía - qui ne doit pas être confondue avec hamártēma "péché") pour la participation dans la Vie (zōé, et non pas simplement bíos) de la Trinité - qui est éternelle. Ceci n'est pas à confondre avec l'(apothéōsis) hérétique - la "déification dans l'Essence de Dieu", laquelle est imparticipable. 
La théologie orthodoxe
La déclaration de Saint Athanase d'Alexandrie : "Le Fils de Dieu s'est fait homme, pour que nous devenions Dieu", résume parfaitement la notion de Théosis. La seconde épître de Pierre (II Pierre 1:4) affirme que que nous sommes devenus "...participants de la nature divine". Athanase amplifie le sens de ce verset quand il dit que la théosis, c'est "devenir par la grâce ce que Dieu est par nature" (De Incarnatione, I). Ce qui, autrement, semblerait absurde, que tombé, l'homme pécheur puisse devenir saint comme Dieu est saint, a été rendue possible grâce à Jésus-Christ, qui est Dieu incarné. Naturellement, l'affirmation chrétienne essentielle, que Dieu est Un, fixe une limite absolue sur le sens de theosis - il n'est pas possible pour tout être créé à devenir, ontologiquement, Dieu ou même un autre dieu.

Voir aussi

Le salut est le but du christianisme, et la tâche de l'Église. La "théologie du salut" est appelée Sotériologie.
Le christianisme orthodoxe croit fortement que Dieu s'est fait homme, afin que l'homme devienne semblable à Dieu (St. Athanase le Grand). Cette affirmation est le résumé du concept de theosis, essentiel à la théologie et à la spiritualité orthodoxes. De cette perspective, le salut n'est pas un acquis individuel - on ne l’obtient ni de ses propres forces et moyens, ni par l'accomplissement d'une loi quelconque -, mais un processus continuel de guérison de la nature humaine déchue, en collaboration avec la grâce de Dieu. Le christianisme considère le salut comme une délivrance de notre état de pécheurs ou de notre relation au péché. Le péché n'est pas la transgression d'une loi figée (d'où découlerait la culpabilité), mais une échec existentiel, un échec de la relation avec Dieu, avec son prochain, avec la création de Dieu, avec soi-même. Le penchant vers le péché est le signe (ou le symptôme) de la maladie de la nature humaine déchue, qui a besoin de traitement. La chute, le péché, le message évangélique, le salut sont considérés dans l'Orthodoxie à travers une relation d'amour. La participation au mystère du salut devient la participation à la relation d'amour avec le Dieu trinitaire. 

L'histoire du salut
Dieu a créé l'homme à son image et ressemblance 

Selon les Écritures, l’homme a été crée à l’"image" et selon la "ressemblance" de Dieu (Genèse 1, 26-27).
Être semblable à Dieu, par la grâce de Dieu est l’essentiel de la vie humaine. Les Écritures relatent que Dieu a «insuflé dans ses narines l’haleine [ou l’esprit] de vie » (Genèse 2, 7). Pour l’Église Orthodoxe, cet enseignement signifie que l’homme ne saurait être tout à fait humain, tout à fait lui-même, sans l’Esprit de Dieu.
L’image de Dieu signifie que l’homme a le libre arbitre, il a la raison, le sens de la responsabilité morale, tout ce qui sépare l’homme de l’animal et qui en fait une personne. Mais l’image signifie encore plus. Elle signifie le fait que nous sommes des « descendants » (Actes 27,28) de Dieu, nous sommes apparentés à Lui. Entre nous et Lui, il y a un point de contact, une similarité essentielle. L’abîme entre la créature et le Créateur n’est point indépassable, car nous avons été faits à l’image de Dieu et, pour cela, nous pouvons connaître Dieu et être en communion avec Lui.
La chute de l'homme

L’histoire de la Création et surtout celle d’Adam et Éve nous parle de la bonté fondamentale de tout ce qui existe et de la supériorité de l’homme par rapport aux autres créatures. Elle nous montre que l’origine du mal ne réside pas en Dieu, mais dans la plus parfaite de ses créatures, dont le choix libre du péché a porté dans le monde le mal et la mort, elle nous raconte comment l’homme a perdu la "ressemblance" à Dieu, la réponse à l’amour de Dieu.
L’Église nous enseigne que, lorsque nous ne répondons pas à l’amour de Dieu, notre humanité s’en retrouve diminuée. L’acte de foi qu’il demande de notre part n’est pas très différent de la foi et de la confiance que nous accordons aux gens autour de nous. Lorsque nous ne répondons pas à l’amour qui nous est donne par les gens qui nous aiment, nous devenons des individus superficiels et endurcis. 

Les prophètes

Depuis que l’homme était encore à l’image de Dieu, la quête de sens a été pour lui tout aussi importante que l’air et l’eau. La Création-même, oeuvre de Dieu, nous Le montrait. Mais, avant la venue du Christ, la signification du monde et de notre place à son intérieur était encore difficile à comprendre. Les gens ont créé des histoires pour les aider à expliquer le grand mystère de leur propre existence, du monde et de Celui qui était responsable de leur existence. Mais la connaissance du vrai Dieu leur échappait. Les Saintes Écritures parlent de cette absence de la connaissance comme obscurité. Dieu a envoyé alors des messagers pour leur parler, des saints hommes et femmes à travers lesquels il a fait des miracles, des prophètes qui annoncent le salut prochain. Finalement, Dieu a envoyé son propre Fils, Jésus Christ. Lorsqu’Il est venu, Celui qui a créé le monde a été enfin révélé au monde, en apportant de la lumière à ceux qui gisaient dans l’obscurité.

Mais, puisque l’homme est tombé, l’Incarnation n’est pas seulement un acte d’amour, mais aussi un acte de salut. Jésus Christ, en réunissant Dieu et l’homme dans sa personne, a rouvert à l’homme la voie de l’union avec Dieu. Dans sa propre personne, le Christ nous a montré ce qu’est la véritable « ressemblance à Dieu », et par son glorieux sacrifice rédempteur, il a replacé cette ressemblance à la portée de l’homme. Le Christ, le Second Adam est venu sur terre et il a renversé les effets de la désobéissance du premier Adam.

La rédemption signifie que le monde n’est pas un but en soi, mais une réalité qui nous indique une autre, plus vaste, celle de l’amour de Dieu pour nous et pour tout ce qui est autour de nous. Le monde, le temps, l’histoire, nos vies elles-mêmes sont "une épiphanie de Dieu, un instrument de sa révelation, de sa présence et de son pouvoir".
Dieu n’a pas abandonne son peuple après l’Ascension du Christ aux ciel. Depuis la Pentecôte, Son Église est toujours présente. 

Le jugement dernier

Le Christ va juger tous les peuples seulement en considérant comment ils l’ont servi en travaillant l’un pour l’autre, le dernier de ses frères. Ceci va montrer comment chaque personne a aimé Dieu et son prochain, l’amour de Dieu et l’amour du prochain étant devenu un, un amour dans le Christ et qui est le Christ. Aimer de cet amour est aimer avec l’amour du Christ est d’accomplir son "nouveau commandment" : "comme Je vous ai aimés, aimez-vous les uns les autres" (Jean 13,34-35; 15,12).Ceci comprend toute la vie de l’esprit. C’est par cela – et uniquement par cela – que l’homme sera jugé. Ceci est le couronnement de toute vertu et de toute prière, le plus grand et le plus parfait des fruits de l’Esprit de Dieu dans l’homme. La venue finale du Christ sera le jugement de tous les hommes. Sa présence-même se sera le jugement. Pour ceux qui aiment le Seigneur, Sa présence sera une joie infinie, le Paradis et la vie éternelle. Pour ceux qui le haïssent, la même présence sera torture infinie, l’Enfer et la mort éternelle.
« Que tous soient un »

Lors de la Dernière Cène, le Christ a prié pour « que tous soient un, comme toi, Père, tu es en moi et que je suis en toi, qu’ils soient en nous, eux aussi » (Jean 17,21). Tout comme les trois Personnes de la Trinité « reposent » l’une dans l’autre dans le perpétuel mouvement de l’amour, l’homme, fait à l’image de la Trinité, est appelé à se «reposer » dans le Dieu-Trinité.

Hors l’Église, pas de salut

Saint Cyprien écrit : « L’homme ne peut avoir Dieu pour Père s’il n’a pas pour Mère l’Église ». Dieu est salut, et le pouvoir rédempteur de Dieu est médié pour l’homme par Son Corps, l’Église. Le père Georges Florovsky l’exprime d’une manière un peu différente : « Hors l’Église il n’y a pas de salut puisque c’est l’Église qui est le salut ». L’Église est l’unité de ceux qui sont unis avec la Trinité. L’Église Une est unie comme sont unies les trois Personnes de la Trinité. Si un membre de l’Église fait usage de cette Église de la manière juste, pour la communion avec Dieu, il deviendra «semblable » à Dieu, il va acquérir la ressemblance divine ; selon l’expression de St. Jean Damascène, il sera «assimilé à Dieu par la vertu ». Acquérir la ressemblance divine est d’être sanctifié («déifié»), c’est devenir un «second dieu », « dieu par la Grâce ».

Voir aussi
  • Olivier Clément, L’Église Orthodoxe, 7e éd., PUF [Que sais-je ?], Paris, ???
  • Jean Meyendorff, L’Église Orthodoxe : hier et aujourd’hui, ???
  • en: Carlton, Clark. The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation (Faith Series). (ISBN 1928653022)
  • en:Ware, Kallistos. How Are We Saved?: The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition. (ISBN 1880971224

Voir aussi
Cet article fait partie de la série
Spiritualité Orthodoxe

Saints Mystères
Baptême - Chrismation Eucharistie - Confession Mariage - Ordination Sainte Onction
Trois étapes
Catharsis/Purification Theoria/Illumination Théosis/Divinisation
Nepsis - Metanoia Hesychia - Phronema Mysticisme - Nous
La Chasteté - L'Obéissance
La Stabilité - Le Jeûne
La Pauvreté - Le Monachisme
Humilité - Générosité Chasteté - Douceur Tempérance - Contentement Diligence
Culte - Vénération Règle de Prière - Prière de Jésus Reliques - Signe de la Croix
Pères de l'Eglise
Pères Apostoliques Pères du désert Cappadociens La Philocalie des Pères neptiques L'échelle sainte

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