Category Archives: Feast Days

Ascension of our Lord

“Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be lifted up, ye ancient doors, and the King of glory shall enter in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts – he is the King of glory!”

These verses from Psalm 23 were seen by some of the Church fathers as a prophetic indication of the mystery which we celebrate today: that 40 days after his Resurrection from the dead, the Lord ascended into heaven with his risen and glorified body and sat on the right hand of his Father in heavens, placing our human nature, his own flesh which was born on earth, crucified and risen, in glory, majesty, and honour, because he who took that flesh was not a man but God’s only Son, his Wisdom and his Word. Continue reading

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ANNUNCIATION OF THE THEOTOKOS

On March 25, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation by Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she should become the mother of Jesus Christ the Son of God, as today is exactly nine months before Christmas!

It is the day Archangel Gabriel announced the Incarnation of Christ, saying to the Theotokos, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:31) Today we commemorate a sacred event when the love and will of God was made known to humankind.

This holy Feast is a sacred event when the love and will of God was made known to humankind.

We sing the exclamation of the Virgin Mary, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour! (Luke 1:46-47). We offer thanksgiving and praise to God for His marvellous works and His glorious revelation. Through the message of the Gospel, we affirm that joy greeted the Incarnation of our Lord; joy filled the hearts of the multitudes who received Him in faith and those who found hope; and joy compelled many to go forth to the ends of the world and pro-claim the blessed and eternal life that comes through Christ and the Gospel.

Annunciation of the Theotokos
The Lord wishes to come to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. And for this miracle to happen, He always expects us to respond just like the Virgin Mary did, in practice, in our everyday life. He expects us not only to say but also experience this for a whole lifetime: “Behold the servant of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” More or less, every man will find himself, as the Virgin Mary did, at a crucial moment, when he will have to decide whether to say “yes” or “no” to God.

This is the story of our whole life: one way or another, God’s grace hovers around us, trying to convince us to say “yes”. And if we say “yes”, the Logos becomes flesh. Christ indeed comes into us, indeed is carried in us, indeed takes us up-on Himself, and this is how we become of Christ and grow in the Lord.

~ Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos (†)

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The Garden of the Holy Spirit: Saint Iakovos of Evia

Holy Elder Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia reposed in the Lord on November 21 on the Feast of Hesychasm in the Entrance of the Theotokos. Commemorated on November 22

The Garden of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual biography describing the life of a contemporary Greek Orthodox Elder, Iakovos Tsalikis, abbot of the Monastery of Saint David in Evia, Greece. The Elder’s biography begins with his family’s flight as refugees from Asia Minor to the island of Evia. It follows with a description of the Elder’s early life, especially his upbringing in the faith by his pious mother, his asceticism, and his love for prayer and the sacred Church services.

From a young age, the spiritual diligence and self-sacrifice of Iakovos was rewarded by God with an abundance of spiritual gifts, and the book recounts miraculous instances of the power of his prayers.

At one time when the children of his village contracted mumps, their parents gathered them all to see Iakovos who was then just a teenager. After reading prayers for them and blessing them, the children instantly became well. After the patient struggles of Iakovos in the world, he entered into the monastery of St David. There, the young monk faced harsh trials as he performed his monastic duties. He endured temptations from the older monks as well as the demons. The author imparts his intimate knowledge of St Iakovos’ ascetic practices which enables the reader to follow his path to sanctity.

Apart from the labours of his monastic obedience and frequent illnesses, St Iakovos undertook the further spiritual exercise of keeping all-night prayer vigils at the hermitage of his predecessor, St David of Evia. His asceticism and patience formed him into a charismatic Elder with spiritual vision. The gifts he was graced with included seeing angels and saints before him when serving at the altar, and seeing the sins of those who came to him during confession before they opened their mouths. Many more examples of St Iakovos’ spiritual gifts are given in the book which acquaints the reader with the life and spiritual journey of this inspirational modern Orthodox saint.

~ Professor Stylianos Papadopoulos

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The Sunday before the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross

11 September 2022
St John 3:13-17

The feast and commemoration of the Elevation (Exaltation) of the Honoured and Life-giving Cross falls on September 14 in the Holy Orthodox Church’s ecclesiastical calendar.

On this day we commemorate two events connected with the Precious Cross of Christ: the finding of the Cross on Golgotha by the equal-to-the-apostles King Constantine and his mother St. Helena, and the returning of the Cross to Jerusalem from Persia. Continue reading

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Therefore, Choose Life: The Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos

AUGUST 15: DORMITION OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY THEOTOKOS

‘In giving birth, thou didst preserve thy virginity. In falling asleep thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated to life, O mother of Life, and by thy prayers thou deliverest our souls from death.’ (Troparion of the Feast)

‘Neither the tomb nor death could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the mother of Life, she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.’ (Kontakion of the Feast)

The hymns of this Feast of the Dormition refer again and again to the most holy Theotokos as the ‘Mother of Life’, but the Virgin Mary is not the first to be given this title. The title ‘Mother of Life’ directs us back to the beginning of creation, to the first man and woman in the garden. For, at the precise moment that the Lord God pronounces the curse of death for their disobedience, the man, Adam, turns to his wife and, in what is perhaps the most optimistic act of the entire Old Testament, calls her Eve – Zoe – Life, for she was, as the Scripture says, the ‘mother of life’.

‘Mother of life’: this paradox expresses the truth that , as human beings, we were created for communion with God, and thus, we were created for life. Our fulfillment and our vocation is to live a life of communion with God, by love drawing nearer to Him toward sharing His immortality, sharing in His divine life.

We were not created for death. Death was not part of our nature, nor is the evil which causes death; and death is by no means ‘natural’. But neither was the punishment of death which followed from our disobedience any kind of contrived or arbitrary punishment; it was simply reality. By disobedience, we turned away from God and thus from the Source of Life; and so death became our destiny, for our nature became corrupted and we were no longer in direct communion with life. Death became our end, because, contrary to what most people in our society believe and what certain western confessions teach, the human soul is not naturally immortal. Rather, immortality is property of God alone; human beings cannot possess it, and we can only share in God’s own immortality by grace. Adam and Eve fell, not from a high state of perfection and immortality, but from a life growing and maturing toward perfection in God, growing towards sharing God’s own eternal life.

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Transfigured Sight and Speech

The Transfiguration of our Lord

“He took (Peter, James and John) up to the mountain, that He might show them His kingdom, before they witnessed His suffering and death…so that…they might understand that he was not crucified…because of his own powerlessness, but because it had please Him of His goodness to suffer for the salvation of the world.” ~ St. Ephraim

7th SUNDAY OF MATTHEW, Matthew 9: 27-35

It has never been hard to find people who view Jesus Christ in many different ways. Some use His name as a curse word or otherwise mock Him. Some make Him in their own image as an advocate of whatever agenda they prize most in life. Some view Him as a teacher or prophet to be admired, but not as the Son of God to be worshiped. Today’s gospel reading presents Him in a radically different way as One Who restores sight to blind beggars and the ability to speak to a man who had been possessed by a demon. Christ is not simply a miracle worker, of course, but the Saviour of the world Who, as St. Paul wrote, has welcomed us for the glory of God. Continue reading

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THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

The Wednesday which follows the fifth Sunday after Easter is the day when, in liturgical terminology, we ‘take leave’ of the Easter feast. We commemorate the last day of the physical presence of the risen Christ amongst his disciples; and to honour this presence, to honour the Resurrection once more, the Church on this Wednesday repeats the service for Easter Sunday in its entirety. And then we come to the fortieth day after Easter, the Thursday on which the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension. The Lord Jesus passed forty days on earth after His Resurrection from the dead, appearing continually in various places to His disciples, with whom He also spoke, ate, and drank, thereby further demonstrating His Resurrection.

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History of the Gorgoepikoos Icon

 

Screen Shot 2021-09-26 at 10.23.57 am

Commemorated 1st October

The best-known miraculous icon of the Holy Mountain Mount Athos, after Panagia Portaitissa, is an ancient wall-painting of the Blessed Virgin on the outside of the eastern wall of the refectory, to the right of the entrance, in the Docheiariou Monastery. Continue reading

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The Falling Asleep of St John the Theologian

Commemorated 26th September

The Holy and Divine Theologian, John the Evangelist was the son of Zebedee and Salome (one of the daughters of Saint Joseph the Betrothed), and the brother of James the Great. John and his brother were called at the same time to be followers of Christ and became two of the three (the other, Apostle Peter) closest disciples of Christ. They witnessed the healing of many people, the Light of the Transfiguration at Tabor, as well as many other miracles. Saint John, being the youngest of all the disciples, was also the most beloved disciple of Christ, following Him from the beginning of his ministry all the way to his Crucifixion and Burial. In the icon depicted, the Evangelist is shown leaning on the Lord’s chest at the Last Supper, a sign of love between the two. Continue reading

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The Idolatry of Not Taking Up Our Crosses: Homily for the Sunday After the Elevation of the Holy Cross and The Great Martyr Eustathios

SUNDAY AFTER HOLY CROSS, Mark 8: 34-38, 9:1

Galatians 2:16-20; Mark 8:34-9:1

Screen Shot 2021-09-19 at 10.24.42 amAs we continue to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we do something that would have made no sense to anyone at the time of our Lord’s ministry in first-century Palestine. The cross was then simply the most feared instrument of execution that the Roman Empire used to discourage anyone who thought of rebelling against the military occupation of their homeland. Our Lord’s disciples, along with the rest of the Jews, certainly did not expect a Messiah Who would suffer such a dishonourable fate. They wanted a new King David to liberate their land from the pagans and to bring power and glory to their nation. They wanted a deliverer to gain the whole world on their behalf, but who would have been unable to heal their souls. Continue reading

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