Δευτέρα 28 Οκτωβρίου 2019

"The young martyr Anastasia humbly came out to meet the armed soldiers..."

Holy Martyr Saint Anastasia the Roman (October 29)

Orthodox Church in America
The Martyr Anastasia the Roman lost her parents in infancy, and was then taken to be reared by the abbess of a women’s monastery, named Sophia. She raised Anastasia in fervent faith, in the fear of God and obedience.
The persecution against Christians by the emperor Decius (249-251) began at that time. The city administrator, Probus, on the orders of the emperor commanded that Anastasia be brought to him. Blessed by her abbess to suffer for Christ, the young martyr Anastasia humbly came out to meet the armed soldiers. Seeing her youth and beauty, Probus first attempted flattery to make her deny Christ.
“Why waste your youth, deprived of pleasure? What is there to gain by enduring tortures and death for the Crucified? Worship our gods, marry a handsome husband, and live in glory and honor.”
The saint steadfastly replied, “My spouse, my riches, my life and my happiness are my Lord Jesus Christ, and you will not turn me away from Him by your deceit!”
Probus subjected Anastasia to fierce tortures. The holy martyr bravely endured them, glorifying and praising the Lord. In anger the torturers cut out her tongue.
The people, seeing the inhuman and disgusting treatment of the saint, became indignant, and the ruler was compelled to end the tortures by beheading the martyr. In this manner, Saint Anastasia received the crown of martyrdom.
The body of the saint was thrown out beyond the city to be eaten by wild animals, but the Lord did not permit her holy relics to be dishonored. At the command of a holy angel, Abbess Sophia went to find Saint Anastasia’s mutilated body. With the help of two Christians, she buried it in the earth. 
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!

See also

Holy Martyr Epimachus of Alexandria & others holy Apostles & saints in October 31
Saint Jose Munoz-Cortes the new martyr of Athens/ Greece, from Chile & Canada (+31 October 1997)

Σάββατο 19 Οκτωβρίου 2019

St Artemios the Great Martyr of Antioch & St Matrona of Chios — Άγιος Αρτέμιος ο Μεγαλομάρτυρας & αγία Ματρώνα της Χίου (20 Οκτ.)

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ αμέσως μετά το αγγλικό
Saint Artemios, the Great Martyr of Antioch (from here)
He was a prominent military leader during the reigns of the emperor Constantine the Great (May 21), and his son and successor Constantius (337-361). Artemius received many awards for distinguished service and courage. He was appointed viceroy of Egypt. In this official position he did much for the spreading and strengthening Christianity in Egypt. He was sent by the emperor Constantius to bring the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew from Patras, and the relics of the holy Apostle Luke from Thebes of Boeotia, to Constantinople. The holy relics were placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles beneath the table of oblation. The emperor rewarded him by making him ruler of Egypt.

The emperor Constantius was succeeded on the throne by Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian in his desire to restore paganism was extremely antagonistic towards Christians, sending hundreds to their death. At Antioch he ordered the torture of two bishops unwilling to forsake the Christian Faith. During this time, St Artemius arrived in Antioch and publicly denounced Julian for his impiety. The enraged Julian subjected the saint to terrible tortures and threw the Great Martyr Artemius into prison. While Artemius was praying, Christ, surrounded by angels, appeared to him and said, 
“Take courage, Artemius! I am with you and will preserve you from every hurt which is inflicted upon you, and I already have prepared your crown of glory. Since you have confessed Me before the people on earth, so shall I confess you before My Heavenly Father. Therefore, take courage and rejoice, you shall be with Me in My Kingdom.” 
Hearing this, Artemius rejoiced and offered up glory and thanksgiving to Him. On the following day, Julian demanded that St Artemius honor the pagan gods. Meeting with steadfast refusal, the emperor resorted to further tortures. The saint endured all without a single moan. The saint told Julian that he would be justly recompensed for his persecution of Christians. Julian became furious and resorted to even more savage tortures, but they did not break the will of the saint. Finally the Great Martyr Artemius was beheaded.

His relics were buried by Christians. After the death of St Artemius, his prophecy about Julian the Apostate’s impending death came true.
St Artemius is invoked by those suffering from hernias.

Saint Matrona of Chios (from here)

Icon from here
Saint Matrona of Chios (also called "Saint Matrona Chiopolitis") was born during the 15th century in the village of Volissos on the island of Chios, Greece. This is the same village in which St. Markella was martyred in 1462. The Church celebrates her memory on October 20, and the finding of her head on July 15.
Saint Matrona was born in the village of Volissos on Chios sometime in the fourteenth century. Her parents, Leon and Anna, were highly respected and well-to-do Christians. Mary was the youngest of seven children. From her youth, she showed an interest in monasticism. When the time came for her parents to arrange her marriage, she refused because she wanted to remain a virgin. To avoid this marriage, she left Volissos and went to an area overlooking the village, called Katavasis. Here she began her spiritual struggle by fasting and prayer. Soon other nuns joined her. [1] Her parents searched everywhere to find her. After locating her, they convinced her to return home. Mary complied with her parents' wishes, except for one—she refused to wed. Her parents, seeing that she still desired to lead a monastic life, gave her their consent to pursue her ambition.
When Mary's parents died, she distributed the farmland she inherited among her sisters and the orphans of the community. She left Volissos and returned to Katavasis. Her food was simple and brought to her by one of her sisters. After three years she left Katavasis and went to the capital of the island, where there were many women's monasteries. [2]

Upon visiting the different monasteries, Mary found a small secluded one consisting of three nuns: a mother and her two daughters. The nuns, realizing her sincerity, immediately welcomed her into their home. At this point Mary's name was changed to Matrona. (When a nun reaches a high point in her monastic life and becomes a Stavrophore, a new name is bestowed upon her, symbolizing a second baptism and a new way of life).

Matrona surpassed the other nuns in her devotion, spirituality, and understanding. Her sincerity convinced other girls to come to this monastery and lead the same type of life. The church itself was small, and so the abbess agreed with Matrona's plan to enlarge it and to build cells for the nuns. Any remaining farmland and personal belongings Matrona sold, and the monastery built a public bath with the money received from this sale so that the poor and wayfarers could bathe. These baths were very common at this time. After this, the renovation of the church began. When the church was completed (with the help of St. Artemios, to whom it was dedicated), the abbess of the monastery died. The nuns then elected Matrona as the new abbess. She showed charity to the poor, and was able to heal the sick.[1]

After the Genoese conquered the island of Chios, they plundered the island and the monasteries, including the monastery of St. Matrona. When one of these foreigners attempted to attack the nuns of the monastery, the saint prayed for divine help. From the heavens bolts of lightning fell to the ground, killing the assailant. The foreigners, seeing the destruction, fled from the island in fear.

After these events, Matrona dreamt of her own death. She suffered from an illness for seven days. In the seven days she advised the other nuns as a mother would advise her children. She received Holy Communion sometime before 1455.[1] She was buried in the monastery's church, in which she had spent the greater part of her life. To honor this great saint, Miracles are said to have occurred after her death. Many people with all manner of afflictions came to the church and were cured.

In the village of Katavasis, there was a church built to honor the place where St. Matrona had first started her spiritual struggles. Later, a larger church was built and the smaller one was used as a cemetery chapel.

The Holy Monastery of St. Matrona was built by the noble Roidis in 1470 near the village of Mesa Didima. He originally intended to build a summer villa; however, Matrona appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to build the monastery instead.[3] His sisters were the first two nuns to enter the monastery. The abbot of the monastery during the Turkish Occupation was the Holy Nikiforos of Chios. Nikiforos wrote the 24 Hymns of Agia Matrona. Today, four nuns dwell in the monastery. The monastery celebrates the saint's feast day on October 20 each year.

Άγιος μεγαλομάρτυς Αρτέμιος (από εδώ)

Ο άγ. Αρτέμιος, έργο Χρήστου Στύλου
Ο Άγιος Αρτέμιος ήταν διακεκριμένος πολιτικός του Βυζαντίου και ευσεβέστατος χριστιανός. Ο Μέγας Κωνσταντίνος, εκτιμώντας τα ηθικά και πολιτικά του χαρίσματα, του έδωσε το αξίωμα του πατρικίου και τον διόρισε Δούκα και Αυγουστάλιο της Αλεξανδρείας.

Το 357 μ.Χ. πηγαίνει στην Πάτρα, κατ' εντολή του Αυτοκράτορα Κωνστάντιου, γιου του Μεγάλου Κωνσταντίνου, για να παραλάβει τα σεπτά λείψανα του Αγίου Ανδρέα και να τα ανακομίσει στον νεόκτιστο Ναό των Αγίων αποστόλων στην Κωνσταντινούπολη (3 Μαρτίου 357 μ.Χ.).

Κατά την διαμονή του στην Πάτρα και με την επίβλεψη του κατασκεύασε υδραγωγείο. Στρατοπεδευμένος στην περιοχή της Μονής Γηροκομείου ελεούσε και βοηθούσε πλήθος αναξιοπαθούντων και κυρίως γερόντων, γεγονός που δικαιολογεί την τοπωνυμία Γηροκομείο.

Όταν, το 363 μ.Χ., ο Αρτέμιος άκουσε ότι ο Ιουλιανός ο Παραβάτης βασάνιζε τους χριστιανούς στην Αντιόχεια, ήλθαν στα χείλη του τα λόγια του ψαλμωδού Δαβίδ προς το Θεό: «Κύριε, πνεύματι ηγεμονικώ στήριξόν με» (Ψαλμός Ν' (50), στ. 14). Κύριε, στήριξε με με σκέψεις σταθερές και θέληση ισχυρή, που να κυριαρχεί μέσα μου και να με κατευθύνει στην υπεράσπιση του αγαθού με θάρρος.

Πράγματι, ο Αρτέμιος, με τη δύναμη που του έδωσε ο Θεός, πήγε αμέσως στην Αντιόχεια και με παρρησία ήλεγξε ευθέως τον Ιουλιανό για τις παρανομίες του κατά των χριστιανών. Ο Ιουλιανός, που δεν περίμενε τέτοια στάση από αξιωματούχο, τον συνέλαβε και τον μαστίγωσε αλύπητα. Έπειτα του έσπασε τα κόκαλα με πέτρες, και τελικά τον αποκεφάλισε. Το Ιερό λείψανο του Αρτεμίου παρέλαβε κάποια διακόνισσα, η Αρίστη, που το μετέφερε στην Κωνσταντινούπολη, στο ναό του προφήτου Προδρόμου.

Ἀπολυτίκιον Ἦχος πλ. α’. Τὸν συνάναρχον Λόγον.

Εὐσέβειας τοῖς τρόποις καλλωπιζόμενος, ἀθλητικῆς ἀγλαΐας ὤφθης, σοφὲ, κοινωνός, πρὸς ἀγῶνας ἀνδρικοὺς παραταξάμενος· ὅθεν ὡς λύχνος φωταυγής, τῶν θαυμάτων τὰς βολάς ἐκλάμπεις τῇ οἰκουμένῃ, Ἀρτέμιε Ἀθλοφόρε, πρὸς σωτηρίαν τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν.

Αγία Ματρώνα η Χιοπολίτιδα (από εδώ).
Η εικ. από εδώ, όπου ιστολόγιο αφιερωμένο στην αγία.

Η Οσία Ματρώνα ονομαζόταν, αρχικά, Μαρία και γεννήθηκε στο χωριό Βολισσός της Χίου από γονείς ευσεβείς και πλουσίους, τον Λέοντα και την Άννα. Έξι άλλες αδελφές της Μαρίας, μεγαλύτερες της, παντρεύτηκαν η μία μετά την άλλη, περιζήτητες νύφες για την ομορφιά, την ανατροφή και για την καλή προίκα τους. Η μικρότερη αφοσιώθηκε στη μελέτη των θείων και ασχολείτο θερμά με φιλανθρωπικά καθήκοντα. Έτσι θέλησε να ακολουθήσει άλλο δρόμο. Η τακτική επαφή της με τις καλογριές των γυναικείων μοναστηριών του νησιού, έκανε τη Μαρία να ποθήσει την αγνή μοναχική ζωή. Αλλά η αγάπη προς τους γονείς της, τη συγκρατούσε στο πατρικό της σπίτι. Όταν όμως αυτοί πέθαναν η Μαρία δοκίμασε τη μοναχική ζωή κοντά σε μια ευσεβή χήρα, που ασκήτευε με τις δύο θυγατέρες της. 

Μετά απ' αυτή τη μοναχική εμπειρία, αποφάσισε να προσχωρήσει στις μοναχικές τάξεις. Χειροτονήθηκε λοιπόν μοναχή και μετονομάσθηκε Ματρώνα. Η διαγωγή της μέσα στη μικρή αδελφότητα ήταν άριστη. Η διάθεση της πάντοτε αγαθή, φιλάδελφη, ταπεινή και εγκάρδια. Μάλιστα, από τα έσοδα της πώλησης της περιουσίας της, κτίστηκε στο μοναστήρι ωραιότατος ναός. 

Μετά από κάποιο χρόνο, πέθανε η γυναίκα που κοντά της η Ματρώνα γυμνάστηκε στη μοναχική ζωή. Τότε όλες οι μοναχές από κοινού, εξέλεξαν ηγουμένη -παρά τη θέλησή της- τη Ματρώνα. Υπό τις οδηγίες της η αδελφότητα ζούσε με πολλή εγκράτεια, υπακοή και ευσέβεια. Το 1462 η Ματρώνα πέθανε, αφού έζησε ζωή πραγματικά αγία. (Άλλες πηγές υπολογίζουν τον χρόνο κοιμήσεως της Αγίας 100 περίπου χρόνια πριν το 1462, διότι η πρώτη βιογραφία της γράφτηκε από τον Μητροπολίτη Ρόδου Νείλο, 1357).

Σημείωση: Επειδή στα γυναικεία μοναστήρια συνήθιζαν να λέγουν την ηγουμένη κυρά, επικράτησε μέχρι και σήμερα να καλούμε την Οσία Ματρώνα, Αγία Κυρά και από αυτό προέρχονται και τα ονόματα Κυράτσω και Κερασιά που εορτάζουν σήμερα.

Συμπλήρωμα (από την ανάρτησή μας Χριστιανικά θαύματα σε μουσουλμάνους)
Όταν η αγία εντάχθηκε στο μικροσκοπικό μοναστήρι, όπου ζούσε η μητέρα με δυο κόρες της, αν και δεν ήταν ηγουμένη, πολλές γυναίκες παρακινήθηκαν, λόγω της αγιότητάς της, να μονάσουν κοντά της.Έτσι, η αγία, που είχε ήδη μοιράσει όλα τα χρήματα και τα κοσμήματά της στους φτωχούς, δαπάνησε και τα κτήματα της πατρικής της κληρονομιάς για να μεγαλώσει το μοναστήρι τους.

Κατά τις οικοδομικές εργασίες μάλιστα οι εργάτες βρήκαν έναν κρυμμένο θησαυρό. Τότε η αγία προσευχήθηκε με δάκρυα και είπε: «Κύριε, αν ο θησαυρός αυτός είναι σταλμένος από Σένα, φανέρωσέ μας το, αν όμως είναι παγίδα του διαβόλου, ας αφανιστεί». Και αμέσως ο θησαυρός μετατράπηκε σε ένα σωρό κάρβουνα. (Ίσως πρέπει η αγία να αναγορευτεί σε προστάτιδα του Χρηματιστηρίου –θα μας χρειαζόταν ένας έλεγχος σαν αυτόν).

Εικ. από εδώ
Ένα άλλο θαύμα της, ενώ ζούσε ακόμη και, χωρίς να το θέλει, οι μοναχές την είχαν εκλέξει ηγουμένη τους, ήταν το εξής: κάποτε βάρβαροι επιδρομείς από κάποια ευρωπαϊκή χώρα (Γενουάτες) επιτέθηκαν στο νησί και εισέβαλαν και στο μοναστήρι. Ένας απ’ αυτούς όρμησε να βιάσει μια μοναχή και αμέσως έπεσε νεκρός. Τότε η αγία δόξασε το Θεό, από τον Οποίο είχε ζητήσει προστασία, αλλά και προσευχήθηκε και αναστήθηκε ο επίδοξος βιαστής! Οι σύντροφοί του έμειναν άναυδοι και η αγία τους συγκέντρωσε, τους νουθέτησε και τους απέλυσε εν ειρήνη. Έφυγαν από το νησί και έκτοτε, όταν κάποτε επέστρεψαν, ήταν «ημερώτεροι και φιλανθρωπότεροι, και τα πρότερα δεινά δεν ετόλμησαν πλέον να κάμουν» (αγ. Νικοδήμου του Αγιορείτου, Νέον Μαρτυρολόγιον, εκδ. Αστήρ, 1993, σελ. 146-147).

Μετά την κοίμησή της (το θάνατό της) η αγία τέλεσε αμέτρητα θαύματα με τη δύναμη του Θεού. Πλήθος ασθενών θεραπεύτηκαν από διάφορες νόσους της ψυχής και του σώματος. Πολλοί από αυτούς διανυκτέρευαν στο ναό της, την έβλεπαν στον ύπνο τους και το πρωί είχαν θεραπευθεί. Ωστόσο ενέσκηψε η Τουρκοκρατία και η αγία τελούσε τα θαύματά της και σε χριστιανούς και σε μουσουλμάνους. Δύο απ’ αυτά αναφέρονται στο Νέον Μαρτυρολόγιον, σελ. 147 και 150. Τα μεταφέρουμε σε περίληψη:

Α. Στη μεγάλη πόλη της Μικράς Ασίας Μαγνησία ζούσε ένας Τούρκος πολύ πλούσιος, που έμεινε παράλυτος σε όλο το αριστερό μέρος του σώματός του. Παρά τις προσπάθειες των γιατρών και τα χρήματα που δαπάνησε, δεν ωφελήθηκε. Είχε όμως μια χριστιανή σκλάβα, τη Μαρία, η οποία του είπε: «Αφέντη μου, στη Χίο είναι μια μεγάλη αγία των χριστιανών, που γιατρεύει κάθε αρρώστια χωρίς βότανα και έμπλαστρα. Ας πάμε, να σε γιατρέψει».

Ο άρχοντας πήρε τη Μαρία και άλλους συνοδούς και πέρασε απέναντι, στη Χίο. Πήγαν στο ναό και η κοπέλα του είπε: «Ξεκουράσου λίγο και θα έρθει η γιάτρισσα να σε θεραπεύσει οπωσδήποτε» (είναι εκπληκτικό το θάρρος και η πίστη της, όπως επισημαίνει και ο άγ. Νικόδημος, γιατί θα μπορούσε η αγία, για κάποιο λόγο, να μη θεραπεύσει τον άρχοντα και η σκλάβα, που τον εξέθεσε κιόλας, να υποστεί τις συνέπειες). Όμως η αγία του εμφανίστηκε σε όνειρο και του είπε: «Για τα δάκρυα, τις προσευχές και την πίστη της ομώνυμής μου Μαρίας, της δούλης σου, σε θεραπεύω» [το όνομα της αγίας πριν γίνει μοναχή ήταν Μαρία]. «Σήκω και περπάτα στο όνομα του Κυρίου μου και πήγαινε υγιής στο σπίτι σου». Ο άρχοντας ξύπνησε εντελώς υγιής! Αφιέρωσε πολλά δώρα στο ναό και απελευθέρωσε τη Μαρία, η οποία παρέμεινε στο μοναστήρι και φρόντιζε το ναό για όλη την υπόλοιπη ευλογημένη ζωή της.

Το θαύμα αυτό προκάλεσε σάλο στη Μαγνησία, την πατρίδα του πρώην ασθενούς, και από τότε πολλοί Μαγνησιείς χριστιανοί έρχονταν κάθε χρόνο στη Χίο για να εορτάσουν τη μνήμη της αγίας, στις 20 Οκτωβρίου (γράφω «έρχονταν», γιατί οι χριστιανοί της Μαγνησίας ξεριζώθηκαν το 1922 και ήρθαν στην Ελλάδα ως πρόσφυγες).

Β. Το 1745 ήρθε στο ναό της αγίας οδηγούμενος από το χέρι ένας Τούρκος εντελώς τυφλός και παρακάλεσε τον εφημέριο (τον ιερέα) να ζητήσει από την αγία να του δώσει το φως του. Ο εφημέριος προσευχήθηκε και ο Τούρκος πήγε στο σπίτι του (ήταν κάτοικος της Χίου). Τη νύχτα είδε στον ύπνο του μια μοναχή, που του είπε να ξαναπάει στον παπά και να του ζητήσει νερό από «το λουτρό που είναι μέσα στο αρμάρι» (στο συρτάρι) να πλυθεί.

Έτσι και έγινε. Ο ιερέας αρχικά βρέθηκε σε αμηχανία, γιατί δεν υπήρχε εκεί κανένα λουτρό. Μετά σκέφτηκε τον αγιασμό που φύλαγε στο αρμάρι με την αγία κάρα (το κρανίο) της αγίας. Έδωσε στον τυφλό απ’ αυτόν κι εκείνος έπλυνε τα μάτια του και αμέσως είδε το φως του.

Ἀπολυτίκιον Ἦχος γ’. Τὴν ὡραιότητα
Χριστοῦ τοῖς ἴχνεσιν ἀκολουθήσασα, κόσμου τερπνότητα, Ὁσία, ἔλιπες, καὶ ἐμιμήσω ἐν σαρκί Ἀγγέλων τὴν πολιτείαν· ὅθεν ταῖς τοῦ Πνεύματος δωρεαῖς κατεφαίδρυνας, τὴν ἐνεγκαμένην σε νῆσον Χίον πανεύφημε· διὸ χαρμονικῶς ἐκβοᾷ σοι· χαίροις Ματρῶνα πανολβία.

Δες και:

Άλλοι άγιοι στις 20 & 21 Οκτωβρίου

Άγιοι της ευλογημένης και μαρτυρικής Χίου:

Γερόντισσες (ενότητα)

Πέμπτη 17 Οκτωβρίου 2019

St. Luke the Evangelist, "the beloved physician" (October 18th)

 Icon of Christ appearing to Sts. Luke and Cleopas on the way to Emmaus after His Resurrection (taken from here)

The following is from the Prologue of Ochrid by St. Nikolai Velimirovich for the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist (October 18th):
"Luke was born in Antioch. In his youth, he excelled in his studies of Greek philosophy, medicine and art. During the ministry of the Lord Jesus on earth, Luke came to Jerusalem, where he saw the Savior face to face, heard His saving teaching and was witness to His miraculous works. Coming to belief in the Lord, St. Luke was numbered among the Seventy Apostles, and was sent out to preach. With Cleopas, he saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). 
After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Luke returned to Antioch and there became a fellow worker of the Apostle Paul and traveled to Rome with him, converting Jews and pagans to the Christian Faith. Luke, the beloved physician, … greets you, writes the Apostle Paul to the Colossians. (Colossians 4:14). 
At the request of Christians, he wrote his Gospel in about the year 60. Following the martyrdom of the great Apostle Paul, St. Luke preached the Gospel throughout Italy, Dalmatia, Macedonia and other regions. He painted icons of the Most-holy Theotokos-not just one, but three-and icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Hence, St. Luke is considered to be the founder of Christian iconography.

Icon of St. Luke painting the first icons of the Theotokos and Christ under divine inspiration. When the Theotokos saw the icons St. Luke had painted of her, she said, "May the grace of Him who was born of me and my mercy be with these icons!" (Icons courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)

In old age, he visited Libya and Upper Egypt. From Egypt he returned to Greece, where he continued to preach and convert many with great zeal despite his old age. In addition to his Gospel, St. Luke wrote the Acts and dedicated both works to Theophilus, the governor of Achaia. Luke was eighty-four years old when the wicked idolaters tortured him for the sake of Christ and hanged him from an olive tree in the town of Thebes, in Boethia. The miracle-working relics of this wonderful saint were transported to Constantinople in the reign of Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine." (taken from the Prologue of St. Nikolai Velimirovich: here; another account is available here: here)
Exterior of the Church of St. Luke the Evangelist in Thebes, Greece, in which is his sacred Tomb (here)
The tomb of St. Luke exists to this day in the city of Thebes in Northern Greece, where they continue to celebrate his memory. In fact, every year his tomb gives off a miraculous liquid that performs many miracles, and especially heals people with eye trouble. 

The interior of St. Luke's Church in Thebes, Greece, with the Tomb of the Evangelist visible (taken from here)
The Tomb of St. Luke the Evangelist, Thebes (Thiva), Greece (here)

Saint Luke the Apostle and Evangelist
The divine Luke, both wise and learned,
Was tortured willingly for the Lord.
He could have avoided mockery and torture,
But the world would not have had the great Luke.
The young Luke beheld God's truth
And surrendered his heart to the Son of God.
He hearkened to the Teacher, beheld the Wonderworker,
And in Him he recognized the Immortal Creator.
He beheld the Resurrected One, and spoke with Him,
And worked miracles in His name.
Christ became his only joy,
And Luke sacrificed his mind, wealth and youth to Him.
When Luke became old, he was young in Christ,
And gave to the world what he received from the Lord.
And when he had given the world all he could give,
Then the world, fulfilling the Scripture, repaid him with contempt.
From an old olive tree the aged Luke hung,
With a smile on his face and his arms folded crosswise.
And the hand of Christ came down from heaven
And received the soul of His Evangelist.
Now, in radiant Paradise with the other apostles,
St. Luke prays for the Holy Church.
(taken from the Prologue of St. Nikolai: here)
Mosaic from Kykkos Monastery depicting the Theotokos asking St. Luke to paint the first icons of her and Christ, along with the Archangel Gabriel (who according to another tradition gave him three boards on which to paint icons) (taken from: here)
The miraculous icon of the Theotokos Kykkotissa from the Monastery of Kykkos on Cyprus. It is one of the icons attributed to St. Luke, and many miracles occur there through the grace of the Panagia. It is interesting to note that according to the will of Emperor Alexios, the faces of Christ and the Theotokos are ever covered with a cloth out of great reverence. (taken from here)

Many icons have been attributed to St. Luke throughout the Orthodox world. Some of these include Panagia "Megalospileotissa", or "of the Great Cave" near Achaia (here), Panagia Soumela in Beroia (here), Panagia Kykkotissa in Cyprus (website of the Monastery in Greek: http://www.imkykkou.com.cy/proskynima_monis.shtml), Panagia of Agiassou (here)the Tikhvin icon of the Theotokos (here), Panagia Malevi (here) and as many as seventy others, according to some sources. And regardless of whether or not it can be proven that St. Luke actually painted all such icons, endless miracles of the Theotokos continue to occur throughout the world through her holy icons, and the great and holy work of iconography enacted by St. Luke and sanctified through Christ continues to enrich the Church.

Another mosaic from Kykkos Monastery of St. Luke showing the icon to the Theotokos, and the Theotokos blessing it (taken from here)
Fresco from Decani Monastery depicting the translation of the Relics of St. Luke the Evangelist (taken from here)
On a side note, in 1992, then Metropolitan Ieronymos (now the Archbishop of Greece) made a formal request to the Catholic Archbishop of Padua to return a significant portion of the relics of St. Luke to his tomb in Thebes. This ended up prompting a large scientific endevour to determine if the relics in St. Justina's Church in Padua are really those belonging to the Evangelist. 
After many investigations, including DNA analyses (which linked the remains to someone of Syriac origin; St. Luke was born in Antioch), C-14 dating, and measurements of the lead sarcophagus, which actually matched the dimensions to the milimeter of St. Luke's tomb in Thebes, it was determined that there was significant scientific evidence that these remains belonged to St. Luke. 
To honor the Metropolitan's request, the Archbishop of Padua gave the Church in Thebes a rib from St. Luke, and the one closest to his heart. Thus, the Tomb of St. Luke in Thebes also bears a portion of his holy and grace-filled relics.
May St. Luke the Evangelist intercede for all of us and help us!
Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)
Stichera Tone 8. What may we call you.
What may I name you, Apostle? Heaven, for you declared the glory of God. Lightning, for you irradiate the world by your illumination. Cloud, that rains down divine streams. Mixing-bowl overflowing with the inspired wine of wisdom, wine that makes hearts glad. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

How may I now address you, O inspired by God? River, coming forth from Paradise for us. Ark of the covenant which Christ laid down. Beacon, blazing with spiritual light. Lamp, that irradiates the Church. Bread of life, divine table, cup of divine drink. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

What titles may I address you by, Inspired of God? Disciple, for you to us you proclaimed the good tidings: Christ. Physician, for you heal the passions of our souls. Lamp, blazing with spiritual light. Base and foundation of the faith, for it was you who traced out for us the all-revered Gospel. Intercede that our souls may be saved.

Apolytikion. Tone 3.
Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, intercede with the merciful God to grant our souls forgiveness of sins.
(translated by Fr. Ephraim Lash: here)
St. Luke the Evangelist, with scenes from his life (here)
  Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Τετάρτη 16 Οκτωβρίου 2019

Σάββατο 12 Οκτωβρίου 2019

Sts Zlata the Great Martyr & Cosmas the Melodist, the Poet & Hymnographer (October 13 + 14)

When the Eucharist bread and wine become Body and Blood of Christ

This article was prepared on the basis of the “answers” that were given to an OODE reader who had submitted an enquiry as to whether the bread and the wine used in the Orthodox Divine Eucharist was truly the Body and the Blood of Christ, or if it is a “spiritual” thing or something that depends on one’s “believing it”.


We will examine in this article what the post-Apostolic Church had received from the Apostles - also what was safeguarded by the Orthodox Church of Christ from the Apostolic times to this day - and until the Lord Jesus Christ returns – on the subject of the Precious Gifts turning into Body and Blood of Christ.
The first references by Jesus Christ relating to the Divine Eucharist appear in John’s Gospel:
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. [...]  53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye do not eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.55 For my flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink.56 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:51-56).
Later, that same leader and founder of the Christian faith – Jesus Christ – actualized the Sacrament (Mystery) of the Divine Eucharist (aka “The Last Supper”), on the evening prior to surrendering Himself to the Cross for our sins; these were the words He said, as recorded by the Evangelists:
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.”  (Matthew 26:26-28).
The Lord didn’t say “take it, it symbolizes...”   Nor did He say “take it, it is..., but only by believing”. He clearly said THIS IS.  The faithful is called upon to accept the words as exactly spoken by Christ.
Commenting on this excerpt, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says:  “He demonstratively said ‘this is  my body and this is my blood’, lest you think that the phenomena taking place are but a type thereof, instead of - by some ineffable manner by the almighty God - actually CHANGED INTO Body and Blood of Christ”.
Theophylaktos himself mentions that:  “For He did not say, ‘this is a copy of’; He said ‘this IS my body’; by an ineffable energy it is changed, even though it appears like bread to us.  Because we are weak and would not have accepted to consume something raw and human flesh, that is why it looks like BREAD to us, but is actually FLESH”.  
While Zigavinos adds:  “...These words, ‘THIS IS MY BODY’ and ‘THIS IS MY BLOOD’ - just as He had supernaturally deified the flesh that He had assumed, thus ineffably did He CHANGE these (the bread and the wine) into His life-giving Body and His precious Blood.” (From “Memorandum on the Gospel of Matthew”, by P.Trembelas, pp.461- 462).
When giving instructions later on to the eminent officiators of the local Church in Corinth – and after repeating the words of the Lord, he says in conclusion:
27 Wherefore whosoever shall unworthily eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.28 But let a man examine himself, and thus let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself, by not having discerned the Lord's body.30 This is why many are weak and sickly among you, and many die.31 For if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged.32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we not be condemned together with the world. (1 Cor.11:27-32)
If the bread and the wine were mere symbols which “by believing” are Body and Blood of Christ (that is, for me who believes, they are; but for the other who doesn’t believe that much, they are not), the Apostle Paul would not have drawn the Church’s attention with the above words. Those who unworthily partake (=without prior confession and repentance, given that none of us is sinless), are guilty of THE BODY and THE BLOOD of the Lord, by NOT HAVING DISCERNED that they are truly His Body and Blood.  Paul clarified this matter very clearly.  
This Tradition given by Christ was preserved by the holy Apostles, who in turn handed it down to their successors, who likewise in turn handed it down to those who continued after them – thus reaching us, to this day.  
In his commentary regarding the non-discerning of Christ’s Body during the Divine Eucharist, Zigavinos mentions the following: “....by not understanding that IT IS A MAGISTERIAL BODY; a body that fills one with terror”.   (Memorandum on the Epistles of the New Testament, Vol.1, p.359).
Trembelas comments that: “The Lord offered Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross, so that by His death He would reconcile us with His Father, for the remission of our sins - along with all the other gifts and graces of His gospel. But with this (sacrifice), He also “introduced” the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, in which He provides His BODY AND BLOOD to every faithful person as LIFE-GIVING NOURISHMENT for their soul, and through which (Mystery), all the benefactions that came from His crucifixional sacrifice were rendered a personal acquisition for each and every one of the faithful”  (Memorandum, Vol.A, p.356)
Let us now move on, to Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, who was a DIRECT successor to the Apostles and as such, a continuer of the APOSTOLIC TRADITION.  Let’s see – therefore – how he too had perceived the specific matter, as evidenced in his epistles.  But before going there, let’s take a look at a brief overview of the life and the works of this very important Father and Teacher of the post-Apostolic era:
Professor of Theology H. Krikonis mentions:  “According to Eusebius, Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, where he served from 70 to 107 A.D., after Evodius, while according to Origen, he was a successor to the Apostle Peter.   John the Chrysostom mentions in general that Ignatius associated with the apostles, and the record of Martyrs states that he was an audient of John.  The same is mentioned by Eusebius, and additionally that audients were also Papias with Polycarp.  Anyway, it should be regarded as certain that he was acquainted with the Apostles.... In Antioch he served as bishop with extensive works and for many years – possibly between 70 A.D. through to his martyred death (113 A.D.)... he suffered martyrdom, possibly around 113, devoured by wild beasts (see icon).  He is commemorated on the 20th of December. (Apostolic Fathers, Vol.A, pp.113-115).
Patrology Professor St. Papadopoulos, among other, many and important mentions, also writes the following:  “The God-bearing Ignatius is the first Father and Teacher of the Church, just as he is the first major theologian after the apostles...  Ignatius’ theology, which bears the stamp of a major work, is genuine and has become the conscience, ethos, and Tradition of the Church, because it is poemantic (pastoral), it comprises the expression and the continuance of the apostolic Tradition and was created under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as he himself confirms.” (Vol.A, p.173)
Below are excerpts pertaining to our subject, taken from his genuine epistles:
When referring to the heretical teachings of the Gnostics (that Jesus only seemingly suffered and as such, did not die), Ignatius the God-bearer also made mention of the Divine Eucharist, where, according to the heretics, the bread was NOT the Body of Christ ( and by extension the wine was NOT His Blood ). Ignatius believed in the TRANSFORMATION/CHANGE of the bread and the wine, exactly as it was in the teaching of the previous, apostolic teachings.  Those who didn’t believe thus, he named “HETERODOX” (=of other beliefs).  Protestant faithful might want to check their beliefs, lest they have such Gnostic origins, rendering themselves heterodox, per Ignatius’ observations.
Epistle to the people of Smyrna, chapters 6 and 7: «…and inform those who are “heterodoxing” about the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to you, that they are opposing the opinion of God. They do not care about love, about widows, about any orphan, or any sufferer, or anyone tied or loosened, or hungry or thirsty.  They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, to NOT CONFESS THAT THE EUCHARIST IS THE BODY OF OUR SAVIOUR, Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, and which, by His uprightness, the Father raised....”
To the people of Smyrna, chapter 8: «…That is the certain Eucharist to believe, which is under the bishop or whichever one he allows.  Wherever the BISHOP is present, there let the congregation be; so that wherever Christ Jesus is, THERE THE OVERALL CHURCH IS....”
In other words, a Eucharist is valid when it is officiated by a Bishop who has apostolic succession, close to whom the people congregate – exactly as wherever Christ is, there is the Church.
In his epistles, Ignatius identifies the three degrees of priesthood, and speaks of the unity between them and the laity, and by extension, with God.  And this is the medicine that he proposes for confronting heresies and divisions in the Church: the unity that is achieved by obedience to the Bishop.  Could this be the underlying reason for the thousands of differing Protestant denominations?
We also have a very important testimony by Justin Martyr ca.150 A.D.. In fact, he refers to the “zeon” (hot water) of the Eucharist : «And on that so-called day of the sun (Sunday), everyone living in towns or fields come together for the same reason and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are recited as much as required.   Then, the reader having ceased reciting, the eminent priest proceeds by means of a sermon to lecture, and challenges them to emulate good deeds.  Then we all stand up and offer prayers, and, as we said earlier, after having ceased our prayers, bread is offered, and wine, and water, and the eminent priest offers up blessings and thanks, with all his might, and the laity acclaims by saying “Amen”, followed by the distribution and the partaking by each and every one, of the “thanked” precious Gifts (Holy Communion) , and to those not present, it is sent to them through the Deacons.” (Α Apology, 67, 3-5).
Justin mentions in the preceding chapter… «…for, neither as common bread nor as common drink do we receive them... our saviour assumed both flesh and blood; thus by the words of blessing over the sustenance of the Eucharist blessed by Him, out of which blood and flesh nourish us after their TRANSFORMATION,  WE ARE TAUGHT that they are the flesh and blood of the enfleshed Jesus.” (Α Apology, 66).
Irenaeus says the same:  «For, just as the bread from the earth, when receiving God’s invocation, IS NO LONGER COMMON BREAD.  (Against Heresies, IV 18)
Consequently, after invoking the Holy Spirit, the bread is no longer ordinary bread, and as such, nor is it a symbol.
When the iconoclasts taught that the only icon of Christ is the bread of the divine Eucharist, the 7th Ecumenical Council replied that “the precious gifts of the Eucharist are not simply an image; they ARE the Body and the Blood of Christ.”
Finally, we will close with Saint John of Damascus, who summarizes the orthodox faith as regards our subject:
«And you now ask: how does the bread become the Body of Christ, and the wine and water the Blood of Christ?
And I reply to you: the Holy Spirit descends upon them and transforms them, transcending logic and thought.  When receiving Holy Communion, we are given bread and wine; However, God knows the human condition and its weakness of usually avoiding whatever it is not familiar with in usage, because it is upsetting.
Thus, with His familiar condescension, God actualizes the supernatural, with means that are familiar to our nature.  And, just as in Baptism (where people are accustomed to bathing in water and anointing themselves with oil), He linked the Grace of the Holy Spirit with the water and the oil and made it a bath of rebirth, likewise here, where people usually eat bread and drink water and wine, He linked them to His godhood, transforming them into His Body and Blood, so that with the usual and natural we be led to the supernatural.
The Body (that we consume) – and had originated from the Holy Virgin – is truly the Body that is joined to divine nature. The Body which had ascended does NOT descend from heaven; the bread and the wine are transformed into Body and Blood of God.  And if you want to learn the way – how it is done - it suffices for you to hear that it is done by the Holy Spirit, exactly the way that the Lord had assumed flesh for Himself from the Holy Theotokos by means of the Holy Spirit. And we know nothing more, except that the Logos of God is real, active and almighty, whereas the manner (of His incarnation) is unsearchable...
The bread and the wine are not a “model” of Christ’s Body and Blood – of course not! – but is the deified, very Body of Christ, as the Lord Himself had said: “This IS my body” – not a model of His body, nor a model of His Blood, but “This IS my blood”; and prior to saying this, He had said to the Judeans that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, you shall not have eternal life. For my flesh is true fare and my blood is true drink”.  Elsewhere, He had said:  He who consumes me, shall live”.
That is why, with every fear, with a clean conscience and an unwavering faith, let us approach; and most assuredly, if we have no doubts, we shall receive in accordance with our faith. And let us honour this, with every cleanliness, both spiritual and corporal, for it is double.” (John of Damascus, Precise Essay of the Orthodox Faith, chapter 86, On the holy and Immaculate Mysteries of the Lord).
Translation:  A.N.