Κυριακή 27 Δεκεμβρίου 2020

“Man is mud who is commanded to become a god” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

Echoes of a Fresh Start

Glory to God 4 all Things // Fr. Stephen Freeman

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)

There are many things about the “elder” years of my life that I prefer to my youth. Had I known then what I know now, perhaps the statement would not be true. Nonetheless, the providence of God has preserved me and brought me to a place of peace. Reviews are now appearing for the movie, Hillbilly Elegy. I have not seen the film, though I read the book when it first came out. It is the not-so-unusual account of an Appalachian life that managed to escape the cycle of dysfunction and poverty that mark this area of the world. I have known many versions of that story, not all with happy endings. It is also a version of the story written by a man who is still young. I wonder about how it continues to play in his head.

As a child, the versions of the dysfunctional cycle around me seemed normal. Everybody’s parents beat them. Alcohol was the drug of choice. Tobacco was omnipresent (we had a designated “smoking area” in High School). In hindsight, my neighborhood was better than some. Parents were employed.

Like Hillbilly’s author, J.D. Vance, some of us escaped the cycle and managed to “move up” in the world (that is, enter some version of the American middle class). But, in general, we still carried that world around in our heads and always felt some version of it looking over our shoulder. Some are still living the elegy, while others live with its ghosts.

I am older now and a more stable peace has settled in. I have learned to breathe. As I breathe, though, I watch the children of our present time. I have four adult children and five grands. My church is inundated (happily) with children who represent almost half of the parish. I delight in spending time with them (as circumstances permit). One thing that I have seen about children is that they constitute a “fresh start.” Regardless of the baggage garnered by a family’s many dysfunctional generations, our children do not enter the world with that weight. Epigenetics suggest that there is some minimal skewing of our inner world by what has come before. On the whole, we do not stand on the shoulders of our ancestors: we have to be placed there.

It is this “freshness” that I want to consider in particular. For though each child born bears, in some manner, the image of the parents who engendered them, they still enter as a relatively unencumbered version of ourselves. I have been spending some extended time with my four-year-old grandson as his mom settles in with his new-born brother. To go hiking through the woods (a common activity) is to see the world through his eyes of wonder. “Is this the largest tree in the world?” was asked several times earlier this week. His explosions of excitement mark every hundred yards of trail. My joy is to stop and look at everything myself, and to borrow his excitement as my own.

There are many things each child will likely bring into the world with them. The strange post-modern world with its imaginary landscape that bears so little resemblance to reality has not yet touched a new mind. Despite all the rhetoric of the universities, children think in “binary” terms: girl, boy, and so forth. For though cultures do “enculturate,” they have traditionally done so in a manner that supports procreation and the family. I use this single example to stand for so much more. I have written many times that we almost always lose our arguments with gravity. When we fall down, gravity speaks persuasively. By the same token, that which tradition describes as “natural” has gained such an honor through our many centuries of experience. Not every fall is as quick to reveal itself as those governed by gravity – but all of nature carries a “gravity” about it. Every child born must learn to walk, and is designed for a world whose gravity equals that of Earth. Regardless of how some seek to “re-imagine” nature, each child born comes with a pre-disposition to favor nature as traditionally known.

No doubt, there will be many who would want to argue this point with me, suggesting that each child is tabla rasa, and only culture shapes them. My answer is simple: wait and see. Gravity always wins.

This point of view is rooted in the Scriptures as well. There are two limits which God has given us that act as a form of gravity within the human project. The first is death.

“My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Gen. 6:3).

No matter how ignorant and contrary to nature we might choose to be, no matter how stubbornly we might strive against God, we will die. The sod will close our struggle with a finality against which there is no argument. Modernity continues to imagine ways to lengthen our days, or, perversely, how to transfer our humanity into machines (and vice-versa), but we should remain confident in death’s service to humanity. The Towers of Babel we seek to build crumble. Gravity wins.

The second limit is that of children. Children do not begin where their fathers left off. They get a fresh start, or, enough of a fresh start that the race is preserved. Cain killed Abel, but not every brother kills his brother. The argument for gravity (and all that it symbolizes) begins with every generation. It is a relentless form of salvation interwoven into the natural order.

St. Gregory of Nyssa famously said, “Man is mud who is commanded to become a god.” That same frightening freedom is birthed with every child. And though the child is not aware of its meaning, it is born with a burning desire for God that will never be extinguished. This is the true “gravity” that guides the soul. Culture and nurture may fail and offer some tawdry substitute for God in which case the gravity of the soul will create misery. Regardless, every soul is capable of salvation, capable of giving thanks to its Creator who first shaped the mud into human form.

Though the pendulum of civilization swings in a frightening arc, its pivot point remains grounded in the providence of God.

Spend time with young children if the circumstances of your life permit. Listen to their normalcy (before someone distorts it). It is the sound of a gravity that reaches through time and will extend beyond. The universe declares the glory of God, including the fresh voices of children. Their sound, for a time, silences the noise of the enemies and the avenger.

Κυριακή 8 Νοεμβρίου 2020

November 8, 1866: the Holocaust of the Arkadi Monastery (Rethymno, Crete - Greece)

greekcitytimes.com, by

November 8, 1866: Commemorating the Holocaust of the Arkadi Monastery

The Arkadi Monastery (Μονή Αρκαδίου) is one of Crete’s most venerated symbols of freedom.

By the mid-19th century, the Ottomans had occupied Crete for more than two centuries, despite frequent bloody uprisings by Cretan rebels determined to win independence and union with Greece.

During the Cretan revolt of 1866, the Arkadi monastery played an active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule. It was manned by 259 armed men (including 45 monks) and sheltered 943 Greeks (mostly women and children) seeking refugee from the encroaching Turks.

On the morning of 8 November, an army of 15,000 Ottomans and 30 cannons, directed by Turkish commander Suleyman, arrived on the hills of the monastery. Suleyman sent a last request for surrender, however the Cretans responded with gun fire.

The battle stopped with nightfall, and began again in the evening of November 9. Cannons destroyed the doors of the monastery and the Turks made it into the building. At the same time, the Cretans were running out of ammunition and they were forced to battle with only bayonets or other sharp objects. The Turks had the advantage.

The last Cretan fighters were finally defeated and hid within the monastery. Thirty-six insurgents found refuge in the refectory, near the ammunitions. Discovered by the Ottomans, who forced the door, they were massacred.

November 8, 1866: Commemorating the Holocaust of the Arkadi Monastery

Meanwhile, the women and children were hiding in the monastery’s storage room. The Turkish soldiers had them surrounded. That is when Cretan patriot Konstantinos Giaboudakis gathered the consensus of all inside to do the unthinkable- set the barrels of powder on fire and die, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. The explosion also killed more than 1,500 Ottoman soldiers.

Of the 964 people present at the start of the assault, 846 were killed in combat or at the moment of the explosion. 114 men and women were captured, but three or four managed to escape, including one of the messengers who had gone for reinforcements. The remains of numerous Cretan Christians were collected and placed in the windmill, which was made into a reliquary in homage to the defenders of Arkadi. 

November 8, 1866: Commemorating the Holocaust of the Arkadi Monastery

The Ottomans considered taking Arkadi a big victory and celebrated it with cannon fire. However, the tragedy of Arkadi turned world opinion on the conflict. Volunteers from Serbia, Hungary and Italy arrived on the island.

Frenchman Gustave Glourens, a teacher at the Collège de France, enlisted and arrived in Crete by the end of 1866. He formed a small group of philhellenists with three other Frenchmen, an Englishman, an American, an Italian and a Hungarian. This group published a brochure on ‘The question of the Orient and the Cretan Renaissance’, contacted French politicians and organised conferences in France and in Athens. 

Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi wrote letters praising the patriotism of the Cretans and their wish for independence.

Letters written by French poet Victor Hugo were published in the newspaper ‘Kleio’ in Trieste, which contributed to the worldwide reaction. The letters gave encouragement to the Cretans and told them that their cause would succeed. He described the tragedy of Arkadi: 

“One knows this word, Arkadi, but one hardly understands what it means. And here are some of the precise details that have been neglected. In Arkadi, the monastery on Mount Ida, founded by Heraclius, six thousand Turks attacked one hundred ninety-seven men and three hundred forty-three women and also children. The Turks had twenty-six cannons and two howitzers, the Greeks had two hundred forty rifles. The battle lasted two days and two nights; the convent had twelve hundred holes found in it from cannon fire; one wall crumbled, the Turks entered, the Greeks continued the fight, one hundred fifty rifles were down and out and yet the struggle continued for another six hours in the cells and the stairways, and at the end there were two thousand corpses in the courtyard. Finally the last resistance was broken through; the masses of the Turks took the convent. There only remained one barricaded room that held the powder and, in this room, next to the altar, at the center of a group of children and mothers, a man of eighty years, a priest, the hegumen Gabriel, in prayer… the door, battered by axes, gave and fell. The old man put a candle on the altar, took a look at the children and the women and lit the powder and spared them. A terrible intervention, the explosion, rescued the defeated…and this heroic monastery, that had been defended like a fortress, ended like a volcano.”

Not finding the necessary solution from the big European powers, the Cretans sought aid from the United States. The Americans became sympathetic toward the Cretans’ efforts and many American philhellenes arrived to advocate for the idea of Cretan independence.

In 1868 a question of whether to recognise Cretan independence was addressed in the House of Representatives, but the majority ultimately voted not to intervene in Ottoman affairs.

In 1898, with help from Greece and the Great Powers (England, France, Italy and Russia), Crete won its independence and the Turks withdrew from the island, which they had held since 1669.

Then in 1913, the long-fought-for goal was achieved and Crete was united with Greece.

The Arkadi Monastery became a national sanctuary in honour of the Cretan resistance. 8 November is a day of commemoration. The explosion did not end the Cretan insurrection, but it attracted the attention of the rest of the world. 


See also

The feast of the Angels & St. Nektarios the Wonderworker in the Orthodox Church (8 + 9 November)

Σάββατο 10 Οκτωβρίου 2020

Governments evicting God – from inside the Christian Chalice?

New Hampshire’s Attorney General bans the Orthodox Church’s traditional distribution of Holy Communion

Translate from Greek A.N.

Due to the recent event in the Orthodox Diocese of Boston, with the intervention of the Attorney General of New Hampshire Mr. Gordon J. MacDonald - regarding the use of the common Holy Spoon for the distribution of Holy Communion - we, as Orthodox Christians of Greece wish to share with you the experience of our people (and all orthodox Christian peoples) for over a thousand years, that no virus, infection or disease is ever transmitted through the Holy Communion of the Orthodox Church.

First of all, albeit not acquainted with him personally, we stand in solidarity with the Metropolitan of Boston Methodius, and we wish to congratulate him for his steadfastness in what is self-evident - that is, that the distribution of Holy Communion using the common Spoon is absolutely safe. Metropolitan Methodius did what was self evident as an Orthodox, and the American authorities did what was self evident for them (as non-Orthodox).

The issue here is what we - the Orthodox Christians of Greece – have acknowledged as self evident for entire centuries and why it is impossible for us to agree that “at least six parishioners” of Portsmouth, who reportedly contracted the corona virus, were (undoubtedly?) infected while receiving Holy Communion.

The reason for this reaction is that (a) they could have contracted any kind of virus, in any part of the city, in any manner, just as many other people could have.  Are we to believe that there are no other recorded cases in that entire city – only those who received Holy Communion?  (b) If the corona virus - and any virus for that matter – could be transmitted when receiving Holy Communion, then EVERY ORTHODOX CLERGYMAN (worldwide) would have been infected. We would like to ask: how many Orthodox clergymen in the U.S. are among the recorded cases?  Obviously, clergymen can also become infected – with anything and anywhere, like all people – except through Holy Communion. If they could become infected by anything through Holy Communion, then EVERY priest would have succumbed to various sicknesses, given that priests consume the remaining content of the Holy Chalice after each Service, using the same common Spoon as all the faithful who received Holy Communion during that Service: young and old, healthy and sick.  It would be of interest to learn exactly how many Orthodox priests have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since its initial spread – with Holy Communion as the proven culprit – not only in Boston, but also anywhere in the world....

As such, the praxis of the Metropolitan of Boston was appropriate, and it would be good, to say the least, for him to have the support of all Orthodox Christians in the world; hopefully the Archdiocese of America and the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as all the Orthodox Churches worldwide will “dare” to stand by him, and not abandon him to his critics.

Is Holy Communion safe to consume?

A compilation dedicated to answers provided by medical specialists

Sources: Rethemnos.gr // Ευχή  (with interspersed supplementary comments)

Below are several excerpts which we believe substantiate scientifically that which all orthodox Christians are steadfastly familiar with: that diseases are NOT transmitted through Holy Communion – that is, through the use of the common Spoon and Chalice. The reason we persist in reminding this fact is because it has been proven through experience for entire centuries.  If any evidence of transmission of serious diseases had ever come to the attention of the faithful, the Church Herself would have changed the method of distributing Holy Communion, ages ago.

Obviously, those who are afraid of contracting diseases or infections through Holy Communion are afraid because of their personal - religious or ideological – convictions, without actually having seen it happen. Therefore the more valid viewpoint - scientifically speaking (i.e., based on evidence) - is that Holy Communion is proven to be absolutely safe. 


1. Excerpt from the letter sent to the President of the Republic of Cyprus by 152 health professionals (among whom 100+ are doctors), with their request that churches be opened:

«…In bibliography there is not a single scientific article, study or research evidencing that germs and viruses are transmitted through Holy Communion. The only scientific proof that can exist and can be accepted by the scientific community wherever there is no specific research, is a retrospective clinical experience, which – in the case of Holy Communion – would be a retrospective clinical experience of 2000 years (for example, of Priests and not only them, who daily consume the remnant of Holy Communion in Hospitals, including Hospitals for Infectious Diseases, and who have never contracted anything)».

The full article in Greek here.

2. Excerpt from the reply by the Medical Society of Athens in 1988, sent to Senator at the time Vasilis Agorastis, who had vehemently claimed that AIDS could be transmitted through Holy Communion:

«...At any rate, there is not a single verified case of an ordinary faithful person having contracted a disease through Holy Communion. Not even of any priest, who, as a matter of fact, after distributing Holy Communion to the faithful and completing the ritual, swallows all the remnants of Holy Communion down to the last trace, together with whatever had come from the mouth of every person who had partaken with the same Holy Spoon and had ended up inside the Holy Chalice. Not even during the years that tuberculosis was raging, syphilis was rampant and leprosy was widespread! Obviously the same would have applied for AIDS.  Data that could lead Medicine to intervene does not exist».  

The full article in Greek at: here.

3. Excerpt from the article by Ioannis Kountouras, Professor Emeritus of Thessaloniki’s Aristotelian University’s School of Medicine, titled «Incomplete scientific corona virus data conflicts with Holy Communion»:

«...A preliminary study that took place at the Hepatological Health Centre of the 2nd Pathological Clinic of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, titled “EXPERIENCE OF ADMINISTERING ENTECAVIR IN PATIENTS WITH CHRONIC ACTIVE HEPATITIS Β” by Kountouras and assoc., at the 30th Pan-Hellenic Convention of Gastroenterology, Athens 2010 and was published in the magazine Annals of Gastroenterology 2010; 23 (Suppl.): p.128. The study involved 71 patients with chronic active hepatitis Β [52 men, 19 women, of average age 53,4 yrs (analogy 31-79 yrs) who received a personal therapeutic regimen of Nucleos(t)ide Analog Entecavir, which is administered to this day (Nguyen MH, et al. Clin. Microbiol. Review 2020; 33:e00046-19). On taking into account the occupations of the patients, the study showed that only 1 out of the total 52 male patients was a priest with active pastoral duty, i.e., a percentage of 1,92%. (…)  The statistical analysis showed that laypeople had a significantly higher possibility of an HBV infection compared to clergymen – as regards HBV or possibly other viruses of an analogous epidemiological profile, including nCov.

To summarize, these findings indicate that clergymen not only do not comprise a “high risk” group for the transmission of the HBV virus, but rather appear to represent a safe group, compared to other occupations (...).

Given: a) the reported detection of HBV and of nCoV in the excretions of the host – which also include saliva, b) the consumption of the usually large quantity of the remnant of Holy Communion after its distribution to the faithful by the ministering priest and c) the expected high degree of HBV virulence or an analogous degree of nCov in priests seen as an infectious reservoir on account of Holy Communion, have proven statistically that this “accusation” is not valid.

The specific excerpt in Greek here, titled «Scientific conclusions regarding the transmission of diseases through Holy Communion: the case of Hepatitis B (HBV)».

The entire Greek text by the professor here.

4. Helen Yamarellou, Professor of Infection Pathology of the Athens National Kapodistrian University:

«Holy Communion is a Sacrament; when you go to receive Holy Communion, you do not receive it out of habit, you receive it because it is the Body and the Blood of Christ. Either you believe this and you receive it normally, or you don’t believe it.  There are no half-baked solutionsindividual spoons etc..  I am totally against them.  If we believe, we dont provoke our luck.  If I believe it can infect me, then I don’t believe in the greatest Mystery. Those who want to receive Holy Communion should not fear that it could ever transmit any microbe».

Source : here.

Mrs Yamarellou is a university professor specialized in infectious diseases, and would not have expressed herself in this manner unless there was data evidencing the transmission of diseases through Holy Communion. Furthermore, even a number of harsh accusers did not present any evidence to support their accusations!

5. Apostolis Hadjitolios, professor of the Medical School of the University of Thessaloniki and Director of the 1st Preliminary Pathological Clinic of ΑΧΕΠΑ (Greek initials for “American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association”) commented as follows:

«But, if one could contract something through Holy Communion, did we have to wait for the corona virus to become infected by it?  Wouldn’t the fact that fifty people can receive Holy Communion with the priest drinking the remnant of the Body and Blood of Christ from the Holy Chalice have led to incidents of infection – which would most certainly have been made public? (...) If transmissions during Holy Communion did take place through the years – not just through the years, but over entire CENTURIES – of extremely infectious diseases, then they would certainly have come to light and would have been “utilized” appropriately by due research; however - on the contrary - there are scientific publications with reviews, which state that there have been NO instances of diseases transmitted through Holy Communion!!».

The entire interview (Greek) here.

6. Official announcement by the Sacred Monastery of Saint John the Younger in Suceava of Romania (translated from Romanian):

«We would like you to bear in mind that our Hierarch, the Very Reverend Poemen officiated during the Paschal Divine Liturgy just like any other day, together with all the Fathers of the Monastery of Saint John the Younger.  All of them received Holy Communion from the same holy Chalice, as is the practice in every Divine Liturgy, except for one person – the Deacon who had been given the chores of sacristan, tending to the order of the Service.

Now, following many discussions and negative comments that were heard on television, the laboratory results of all the fathers and the lay assistants of our holy monastery have arrived.  Of all those who had been subjected to testing, only one person was found positive, and he is the Deacon who DID NOT receive Holy Communion from the holy Chalice that was held by the Bishop.

Source: Ecclesiastic News Agency ROMFEA»: here.

Attention: This is not an imaginary story («fake news»). The announcement in Romanian, with references to the findings of the regional Department of Public Health that performed the tests here.

7. Excerpt from the article by University Dr. of Theology Fr. Nikolaos Loudovikos, «Holy Communion during times of a pandemic»:

«The global epidemic of deaths and its accompanying phobic aura imposed not only psychological but also spiritual questioning on a section of the population, as is natural. There was a lot of talk about the Eucharist, about the possibility of the disease transmitted through it: that is, through the way it is offered with a shared Spoon. The issue has developed into a theological and even an international controversy.

In reality of course, the question posed is chiefly theological: how can the conviction be supported, that the Eucharist does not transmit diseases in the manner that it is distributed in the Orthodox Church? The question certainly seems to be conducive to an empirical answer at first, inasmuch as a vast number of priests, including the one writing these lines, have continuously associated innumerable times with people suffering with very serious and sometimes incurable diseases, and of course, as imposed by liturgical rules, consumed the remnant of Holy Communion that was shared with them, without ever contracting anything.

However a theological answer is also needed. The reason for this, among other things, is a recent article by Stavros Zoumboulakis in Lifo magazine, where it is argued that the essential properties of consecrated bread are not transformed: that it is naturally subject to all kinds of deterioration and pollution and can consequently transmit viruses and diseases, and that the only hope lies in changing the manner by which it is distributed. If this claim were correct, then there would be no priest over the age of 35 or 40, while the congregation, by sharing Holy Communion en masse during the major feasts, would be sick constantly and severely.

Nevertheless, there is a deeper theological issue here. [...] This means that the Precious Gifts, even if they have undergone external deterioration (by mold for example) or were mixed inadvertently (or, hypothetically, maliciously) with viruses and germs, the presence of Grace does not allow them to become harmful to the health of the faithful, precisely because - as Saint Simeon the New theologian had insisted – “they are already a reality and a presence of the Realm of God” (cmp. the words of Christ: “even if they drink something deadly, it will not harm them” (Mark 16:18). [...] ».

The entire article (Greek) here.

8. Comments by an Orthodox theologian, published here.

«…In this way, all those who oppose the Church and are unable to suffer the inexplicable fact that for 20 consecutive centuries the Orthodox observe without fear the tradition of the common Spoon or the common Chalice by basing themselves on their faith, will have the opportunity to attack, by hiding behind evidence called “objective scientific criteria”. They will say: “you have the right to be religious”, but “dangerous practices will be forbidden” - despite the fact that there has never been an issue of any kind of disease being transmitted through Holy Communion.  This demand will be imposed at some point, either soon or in a few years, and the religious intolerance of the few will strive with satisfaction to abolish a tradition that has never been described as “dangerous”, even though 2000 years have passed, because we are very much aware from within the ecclesiastical way of life that Holy Communion does not transmit germs. If things were differently, both the priests and us and the congregation in general would constantly fall sick and at some point we would have noticed that it was attributed to Holy Communion. In fact, during recent years our country has been afflicted quite a lot - by the common flu, the “swine flu”, the “avian flu”... but the Church had continued with absolute safety the Tradition of the common Spoon.

Assuredly, there is no logic in the argument that for 20 centuries “no one observed” that Holy Communion transmits germs, or that it is a source of epidemics. If this were the case, then the time would come when everyone would have noticed, because people learn through observation and life experience; just as people have eventually learnt so many things, likewise they would have eventually observed that the common Spoon causes epidemics.  And it is certain that if such a thing had been observed, then the common Spoon would have been banned even by the emperor in the past and made its use subject to a death penalty, because an epidemic could mean an economic, social, and military catastrophe. No one would have allowed the Church to be the cause of such disasters. Consequently, it is obvious that there has never been the slightest suspicion that Holy Communion transmits diseases. If such a thing had been observed, the means of distributing Holy Communion would have changed, since the Christians themselves would have been in fear of it…».

9. Priest-Monk Fr. Chrysanthos Katsouloyannakis (1893 – 1972) served as priest on Spinalonga - the “island of lepers” – for 10 years, and it is common knowledge that – to everyone’s surprise – after each Divine Liturgy, when all the attending lepers had received Holy Communion, he always consumed the remnant inside the holy Chalice.

The detailed description of his life here


Comments on the above are not necessary.  Let us remember that with His inference to Holy Communion, Jesus Christ had said: "I am the bread of life. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world". (John 6:50-58).

The stance of Christians of the 3rd century during a deadly epidemic

As a postscript – not relevant specifically to Holy Communion but relative to the manner that Christians had confronted a deadly epidemic (but also death per se) – we should be reminded of the self-denial with which they had helped during a deadly epidemic of the 3rd century in Alexandria of Egypt. We can find it written in the descriptions of the ecclesiastic historian of the 4th century, Eusebius (ref. Eusebius, Ecclesiastic History, 7, 22), which we believe it has something to say about our time:

«Then that disease barged in...  

So, most of our brothers, out of excessive and brotherly love, devoted to each other, without caring about themselves, fearlessly visited the sick, offered their services, cared for them “in Christ” and very happily died with them, having previously become infected through their contact with the others, contracting the disease from those near them and, of their own free will, also experiencing their pains.

And many, after caring for others in their illness and giving them strength, themselves died, somehow transferring the others’ deaths to themselves. And the popular saying - which always resembles a simple compliment - they had rendered a reality, by making their departure a propitiatory substitute for the others.

So, the best of our brothers, some elders and deacons and laypeople had left this life in this way, highly praised, so that this kind of death - the result of great piety and strong faith - does not seem in the least inferior to martyrdom. And, having lifted the bodies of the saints with outstretched arms, they held them in their embrace, closed their eyes and mouths, placed them on their shoulders and carried them out, hugged them, bathed them, and adorned them with their funeral garment. After a while, the same thing happened to them, because those who remained alive always followed to the death those who had died previously.

The gentiles (idolaters) however, did the exact opposite. They even sent away those who had just begun to be sick; they avoided their loved ones and they threw the sick onto the streets half-dead, and the dead they threw on the garbage heap without a burial, in an attempt to avert the spread and the touch of death – a thing that is not easy to avoid, in spite of their many precautions».

The full article in Greek here.