For Orthodox Christians, life is the experience of entering ever more deeply into the many and eternal banquets of Christ. The banquet of His love that we feast upon when we discover and convert to Him in our hearts. The banquet of repentance, where the Father makes merry when we return to Him, we prodigal sons and daughters. The banquet of His Holy Body and Blood that is offered to us every Sunday, the Lord’s day – His banquet that we are called to weekly. The banquet of the fasts and feasts of the Church. And the greatest banquet of all! The feast spread out at the table of Christ’s Second Coming when we will enter into the eternal feast of Paradise and when the righteous anger of the Householder will call to account those who rejected His invitation. Continue reading
On December 2 the holy Orthodox Church commemorates the recently-glorified God-bearing elder of our times, St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyiva, who reposed on this day in 1991. He was known as a humble ascetic with the gift of foresight who always served the Divine Liturgy with compunction. In his memory we offer below his final letter, as well as an audio recording of his heartfelt serving of the Divine Liturgy.
While at the Holy Skete of Kavsokalyvia on Mt. Athos, the Elder Porphyrios had given orders for his grave to be dug. Through a spiritual child of his, he dictated a farewell letter of advice and forgiveness to all his spiritual children.
Here is the letter as it was sent to the site Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries from the Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. It was found amongst the monk’s garments that were laid out for his burial on the day of his departure. This letter is a profound example of the humility of the saints who have acquired the likeness of God through their humble ascetic offerings.
My dear spiritual Children,
Now that I am still in charge of my faculties, I want to give you some advice.
Ever since I was a child, I was always in sin. When my mother sent me to watch the animals on the mountain, (my father had gone to America to work on the Panama Canal for us his children, because we were poor), there, where I shepherded the animals, I slowly read, word by word, the life of St. John the Hut-dweller and I loved St. John very much. I said a lot of prayers, like the young child that I was, twelve or fifteen years old, I don’t remember too well. I wanted to follow his example. So, with a lot of difficulty, I secretly left my parents and came to Kavsokalyvia on the Holy Mountain. I became obedient to two elders, the true brothers, Panteleimon and loannikios.
They happened to be very devout and full of virtue, I loved them very much and because of that, with their blessing, I gave them absolute obedience. That helped me a lot. I also felt great love for God and got along very well. However, because of my sins, God allowed me to become ill, and my elders told me to go to my parents in my village of St. John, Evia. Although I had sinned a lot from when I was a small child, when I returned to the world I continued to commit sins which, today are very many. The world, however, thought highly of me, and everyone shouts that I’m a saint.
I however, feel that I am the most sinful person in the world. Of course, whatever I remembered I confessed, and I know God has forgiven me. But now I have the feeling that my spiritual sins are very many and I ask all those who have known me to pray for me, because, for as long as I lived, I humbly prayed for you, too. Now that I’m leaving for heaven, I have the feeling that God will say to me, “What are you doing here?” I have only one thing to say to him, “I am not worthy of here, Lord, but whatever your love wills, it’ll do for me.” From then on, I don’t know what will happen. I however, wish for God’s love to act.
I always pray that my spiritual children will love God, Who is everything, so that He will make us worthy to enter His earthly uncreated Church. We must begin from here. I always made the effort to pray, to read the hymns of the Church, the Holy Scriptures and the Lives of the Saints. May you do the same. I tried, by the grace of God, to approach God and may you also do the same.
I beg all of you to forgive me for whatever I did to upset you.
Kavsokalyvia, June 4/17 1991
Celebrated on 5 December
The unknown village of Mutalaska, in the Province of Cappadocia, became famous through this great light of the Orthodox Church, for Saint Sava was born there. He left the home of his parents, John and Sophia, at the age of eight and became a monk in a nearby Monastery called “Flavian’s.”
After ten years, he moved to the Monasteries of Palestine, staying longest in the Monastery of Saint Euthymius the Great (January 20th) and Theoctistus. Euthymius, who had the gift of discernment, foretold that he would be a famous monk and leader of monks, and that he would found a Monastery that would be greater than any other of that day. After Saint Euthymius’s death, Sava went into the desert, where he lived for five years as a hermit in a cave which an Angel of God showed him. After that, when he had become a perfect monk, he began by divine Providence to gather round him many desirous of the spiritual life. They very quickly grew in number, so that Sava had to build both a church and many cells. Some Armenians also came to him, and he set aside a cave for them, and they celebrated the services there in their own language. When his father died, his aged mother Sophia came to him and he made her a nun and gave her a cell away from the Monastery, where she lived in asceticism till her death.
This Holy Father endured many attacks from those close to him, from heretics and from demons. But he overcame them all in these ways: those close to him he won over by his goodness and forbearance, the heretics by an unshakeable confession of the Orthodox faith, and the demons with the sign of the Cross and the invocation of God’s aid. He had a particularly severe battle with the demons on the mountain of Castellium, where he founded the second of his seven Monasteries. He and his neighbour, Theodosius the Great, are considered to be the greatest lights and pillars of Orthodoxy in the East, kings and Patriarchs were brought to the right Faith by them, and these holy and wonderful men, strong in the power of God, served each and every man as an example of humility. Saint Sava entered into rest in 532 A.D. at the age of 94, after a life of great labour and great reward. Among all his other great and good works, let this be remembered above all: that he compiled the first Order of Service for use in Monasteries, now known as the Jerusalem Typikon.
Luke 18: 18-27
The rich ruler in this Bible reading did think of God and did think of eternal life and asked the most important question for himself and for all of us – how to obtain eternal life.
St. Catherine was born during the latter part of the third century in Alexandria in Egypt. Being of royal lineage, she was immersed in the great cultural tradition of Alexandria and was exposed to learning at an early age. Tall, beautiful, cultured, and erudite, Catherine was held in high esteem for her mastery of the arts and sciences of her time. Innately intelligent and inquisitive, she acquainted herself with the writings of the philosophers, poets, physicians, and scientists of the Hellenes. In fact, in recognition of her superb learning, the Church gave her the title “the Wise.”
Through the influence of her pious mother Catherine became a Christian in her youth. Her love of learning led her to the study of the sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers. She became a devoted follower of the Lord Christ, an exemplary doer of God’s word, and an ardent defender of the Orthodox faith. Wise, modest, and pure Catherine gave her heart to Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and the Saviour of the world.
On November 25, 305, while still in the prime of her youth, Catherine was martyred in the city of her birth during the reign of the impious Roman Emperor Maxentius, who had begun anew a violent series of persecutions against Christians. When the Emperor had come to Alexandria he had an encounter with Catherine. He marvelled at her loveliness and wisdom but was dreadfully dismayed by her defence of Christians. Because she was of imperial stock, he did not wish to harm her out-rightly but hoped to humiliate her to submission. He ordered that she defend her faith in open debate with the renowned pagan orators and philosophers of Alexandria, hoping that she would be made a spectacle and thereby retreat to her pagan roots. Instead Catherine routed the rhetoricians.
The Emperor was moved to wrath and ordered that Catherine be stripped of her imperial garb, flogged, and tortured. But neither the threats nor the tortures were able to sunder Catherine from Christ. Having failed to entice her, the cruel Emperor ordered her decapitation.
The holy relics of St. Catherine were later brought to the Monastery of Mt. Sinai, founded in the fourth century in a remote location in the Sinai Peninsula on the site of the Burning Bush at the foot of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3). Eventually, centuries aft er acquiring her relics, the Monastery took the name of St. Catherine.
The Icon of St. Catherine
Because of her royal lineage, St. Catherine is depicted invariably in imperial garments holding a martyr ’s cross. She is often shown seated at a desk upon which is an open book. Other books and a celestial sphere are at her feet, indicating her extensive knowledge and wisdom. She is also portrayed with her left hand resting on a wheel, the symbol of progress but in her case the emblem of her martyrdom.
Many believers wish that God would at some point in their lives speak to them – if for no other reason than to know for sure that He existed.
In Luke 12:16-21, we are presented the story of a man to whom God spoke directly. Unfortunately, God’s words to the man were “You fool!” It certainly would be a rude awakening for any of us believers if when God finally spoke to us, first words were to call us a fool! We might then wish that God had never spoken to us, for such a judgment by God would not be a welcomed word by us.
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 holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Philip was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. The Church remembers St Philip on November 14. He was not the St Philip (October 11) who was one of the Seventy Apostles. Continue reading
7th Sunday of Luke, Luke 8: 41-56
In today’s Holy Gospel we hear of the healing of Jairus’ daughter… and not just a healing from sickness, but a much more radical healing… her resurrection from the dead. Continue reading
TRUE PRAYER is undistracted, prolonged, performed with a contrite heart an alert intellect. The vehicle of prayer is everywhere humility, and prayer is a manifestation of humility. For being conscious of our own weakness, we invoke the power of GOD.
PRAYER unites one with GOD, being a divine conversation and spiritual communion with the Being that is most beautiful and highest.
PRAYER IS FORGETTING EARTHLY THINGS, AN ASCENT TO HEAVEN.
THROUGH PRAYER WE FLEE TO GOD.
PRAYER is truly a heavenly armour, and is alone can keep safe those who have dedicated themselves to God. Prayer is the common medicine for purifying ourselves from the passions, for hindering sin and curing our faults. Prayer is an inexhaustible treasure, an unruffled harbor, the foundation of serenity, the root and mother of myriad’s of blessings.
~ From the Writings of Orthodox Saints, Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes