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Much has been written about St. Gregory Palamas, and I, certainly, am not qualified to write about the saint or even comment on those writings. I do know that St. Gregory Palamas was greatly misunderstood during his life. I shall allow others to do my speaking for me on this.

First, there are the writings of St. Gregory Palamas himself (only 3 are included here – there are many more):

Gregory Palamas: The Triads

Gregory Palamas: The Saving Work of Christ

Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas: On Bearing Difficulties: To Those Who Find Hard to Bear All the Different Kinds of Difficulties Which Come Upon Us from All Sides (ed by Christopher Veniamin)

Next, there are commentaries about St. Gregory, of which six are included below:

The Contribution of Saint Gregory Palamas to Hesychasm: Theological Presuppositions of the Life in the Holy Spirit (Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries)

Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews: St. Gregory Palamas and the Prayer of Silence

St. Gregory Palamas on Icons as Tools for the Heart (Podcast from Ancient Faith Radio) [Link opens the podcast; Length: 16:01]

Fr. Bassam A. Nassif: Light for the World: the Life of St. Gregory Palamas (1296–1359)

Sergei V. Bulgakov: St. Gregory Palamas and the Second Sunday of Great Lent [on Mystagogy]

Second Sunday in Lent: St. Gregory Palamas

Although there are many more good references, this is all I will include here for now.

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Excerpt from St. John Climacus, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”, (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978)

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Step 8: On Freedom From Anger and On Meekness
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— As the gradual pouring of water on a fire completely extinguishes the flame, so the tears of mourning are able to quench every flame of anger and irritability.  Therefore, we place this next in order.

— Freedom from anger is an insatiable appetite for dishonor, just as in the vainglorious there is no unbounded desire for praise.  Freedom from anger is victory over nature and insensibility to insults, acquired by struggles and sweat.

— Meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected, whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonor or in praise.

— The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated; the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul; and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds.

— Wrath is a reminder of hidden hatred, that is to say, remembrance of wrongs.  Wrath is a desire for the injury of the one who has provoked you.  Irascibility is the untimely blazing up of the heart.  Bitterness is a movement of displeasure seated in the soul.  Anger is an easily changeable movement of one’s disposition and disfiguration of soul.

— As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes.

— If it is a mark of extreme meekness, even in the presence of one’s offender, to be peacefully and lovingly disposed towards him in one’s heart, then it is certainly a mark of hot temper when a person continues to quarrel and rage against his offender, both by words and gestures, even when by himself.

— If you want, or rather intend, to take a splinter out of another person, then do not hack at it with a stick instead of a lancet, for you will only drive it in deeper.  And this is a stick – rude speech and rough gestures.  And this is a lancet – tempered instruction and patient reprimand.  “Reprove,” says the Apostle, “rebuke, exhort,” but he did not say “beat.” (II Timothy 4:2)  And if even this is required, do it rarely, and not with your own hand.

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Conception by St Anna of the Theotokos

Conception by St Anna of the Theotokos

The Conception by Saint Anna, of “Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God”

Commemorated on December 9

The Conception by Saint Anna, of “Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God”: Saint Anna, the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She entered into marriage with Saint Joakim (their mutual memory is made 9 September), who was a native of Galilee. For a long time Saint Anna was childless, but after a span of some 20 years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, an Angel of the Lord announced to them the Conception of a Daughter, Who would bring blessing to all the human race. The Conception by Saint Anna took place at Jerusalem, where also was born the MostHoly Virgin Mary by name. The majority of icons, dedicated to the Conception by Saint Anna, portray the MostHoly Virgin trampling underfoot the serpent. “Down the icon, along its sides, Saints Joakim and Anna are depicted usually with upraised hands prayerfully folded; their eyes also are directed upward and hey contemplate the Mother of God, Who as it were soars in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is portrayed an orb wound round with a serpent symbolising the devil, which in the face of fallen forefathers strives to conquer with its power all the universe”.

There also exist icons, upon which Saint Anna holds on her left arm the MostHoly Virgin at an infant age. Upon the face of Saint Anna is portrayed a special reverence. An ancient icon of large size, written on canvas, is located in the village of Minkovetsa in the Dubensk district of Volynsk diocese. And from ancient times this feast was especially venerated in Russia by pregnant women.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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Saint Silouan on Love

Saint Silouan on Love

St. Silouan

St. Silouan

The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. The soul that has learned of God’s grace to pray, feels love and compassion for every created thing, and in particular for mankind, for whom the Lord suffered on the Cross, and His soul was heavy for every one of us.

The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God we cannot love our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love, and then even devils arouse our pity because they have fallen from good, and lost humility in God.

I beseech you, put this to the test. When a man affronts you or brings dishonor on your head, or takes what is yours, or persecutes the Church, pray to the Lord, saying: “O Lord, we are all Thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants and turn their hearts to repentance,” and you will be aware of grace in your soul. To begin with, constrain your heart to love enemies, and the Lord, seeing your good will, will help you in all things, and experience itself will show you the way. But the man who thinks with malice of his enemies has not God’s love within him, and does not know God.

If you will pray for your enemies, peace will come to you; but when you can love your enemies – know that a great measure of the grace of God dwells in you, though I do not say perfect grace as yet, but sufficient for salvation. Whereas if you revile your enemies, it means there is an evil spirit living in you and bringing evil thoughts into your heart, for, in the words of the Lord, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts – or good thoughts.

The good man thinks to himself in this wise: Every one who has strayed from the truth brings destruction on himself and is therefore to be pitied. But of course the man who has not learned the love of the Holy Spirit will not pray for his enemies. The man who has learned love from the Holy Spirit sorrows all his life over those who are not saved, and sheds abundant tears for the people, and the grace of God gives him strength to love his enemies.

Understand me. It is so simple. People who do not know God, or who go against Him, are to be pitied; the heart sorrows for them and the eye weeps. Both paradise and torment are clearly visible to us: We know this through the Holy Spirit. And did not the Lord Himself say, “The kingdom of God is within you”? Thus eternal life has its beginning here in this life; and it is here that we sow the seeds of eternal torment. Where there is pride there cannot be grace, and if we lose grace we also lose both love of God and assurance in prayer. The soul is then tormented by evil thoughts and does not understand that she must humble herself and love her enemies, for there is no other way to please God.

What shall I render unto Thee, O Lord,
for that Thou hast poured such great mercy on my soul?
Grant, I beg Thee, that I may see my iniquities,
and ever weep before Thee,
for Thou art filled with love for humble souls,
and dost give them the grace of the Holy Spirit.

O merciful God, forgive me.
Thou seest how my soul is drawn to Thee, her Creator.
Thou hast wounded my soul with Thy love,
and she thirsts for Thee, and wearies without end,
and day and night, insatiable, reaches toward Thee,
and has no wish to look upon this world, though I do love it,
but above all I love Thee, my Creator,
and my soul longs after Thee.

O my Creator, why have I, Thy little creature,
grieved Thee so often? Yet Thou hast not remembered my sins.

Glory be to the Lord God that He gave us His Only-begotten
Son for the sake of our salvation.
Glory be to the Only-begotten Son that He deigned to be
born of the Most Holy Virgin, and suffered for our salvation,
and gave us His Most Pure Body and Blood to eternal life,
and sent His Holy Spirit on the earth.

O Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself,
and for the whole universe,
that the nations may know Thee and live eternally with Thee,
O Lord, vouchsafe us the gift of Thy humble Holy Spirit,
that we may apprehend Thy glory.

http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/Holy_Fathers/St._Silouan_the_Athonite/

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Today we celebrate the Samaritan Woman. According to Church tradition, the Samaritan Woman was named Photini (Photina) (or in Slavonic, Svetlana). She was that Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to speak with the Lord Christ Himself at Jacob’s Well in Sychar (John. 4). Coming to faith in the Lord, she then came to belief in His Gospel, together with her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and five sisters who were called Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake. They went to Carthage in Africa. But they were arrested and taken to Rome in the time of the Emperor Nero, and thrown into prison. By the providence of God, Domnina, Nero’s daughter, came into contact with St. Photina and was brought by her to the Christian faith. After imprisonment, they all suffered for Christ. Photina, who first encountered the light of truth by a well, was thrown into a well, where she died and entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ.”
(Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, The Prolog from Ochrid / Ohridski Prolog)

By the well of Jacob, O holy one, /
thou didst find the Water /
of eternal and blessed life; /
and having partaken /
thereof, O wise Photina, /
thou wentest forth proclaiming Christ, the Anointed One.
(Megalynarion for St. Photina, according to the Byzantine usage.)

When I say “we celebrate,” what do I mean? It means that we (the Orthodox Christians) chant a special set of verses in various parts of the Vigil and the Liturgy that are totally specific to the Saint we celebrate. During the Vigil, we chant the Canon for the Saint during the Matins. The Troparia (verses) of the Canon detail the life of the Saint and the lessons we learn from him. We also chant the Troparion (if there is one) and the Kontakion (if there is one) for that Saint. During the Liturgy, there is a reprise of some of the Troparia from the Canon as well as the Troparion and/or Kontakion. Some Saints do not have a Troparion or Kontakion. I’ve never figured out exactly why. Other times, there may be one, but it isn’t used. Again, I’ve never figured out exactly why. But I’m sure the Church has a good reason!

Finally, the Gospel lesson during Vigil OR during the Liturgy recounts the Gospel that tells of the Saint (if Biblical – New Testament). If it is a Saint who came earlier or later, there will be a Gospel related to the Sunday.

In the case of the Samaritan Woman, The Gospel of the Liturgy is John 4:5-42 which tells of the meeting of the Samaritan Woman with Christ.

For some celebrations, we eat special foods or have special kinds of flowers or fruits we bring to Church as offereings, then share (fruits) afterward.

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Theodore was a disciple of St. Pachomius. He was born and raised as a pagan but as a young man came to the knowledge of the True Faith and was baptized. Learning about St. Pachomius, he secretly fled from his parent’s home to Pachomius’ monastery. St. Pachomius tonsured him a monk and admired him because of his unique zeal and obedience. When his mother arrived to ask him to come home, Theodore did not even want to appear before her but prayed that God would enlighten her with the truth. Indeed, not only did her son not return home, but she herself did not return home. Seeing a convent not far away which was under the spiritual direction of Pachomius’ sister, she entered the convent and was tonsured a nun. After a period of time Paphnutius, Theodore’s brother, also came to the monastery and was tonsured a monk. In time the bishop of Panopolis called St. Pachomius to establish a monastery for those who desired the monastic life. Pachomius took Theodore with him and entrusted him with the duty of establishing this new monastery. After the death of Pachomius, Theodore became the abbot of all Pachomius’ monasteries and lived to a ripe old age. Theodore lived a life pleasing to God, directing the many monks on the road to salvation. He died peacefully and took up habitation in the kingdom of Eternal Light in the year 368 A.D.

Reflection on St. Theodore the Sanctified: When Theodore the Sanctified was in Panopolis with St. Pachomius, his spiritual father, a philosopher came to him and offered to debate with him about the Faith. The philosopher then posed these three questions to Theodore: “Who was not born, but died?” “Who was born and did not die?” “Who died and did not decay?” To these questions, St. Theodore replied: “Adam was not born and died. Enoch was born and did not die. Lot’s wife died and did not decay.” And the saint added this advice to the philosopher: “Heed our sound advice; depart from these useless questions and scholastic syllogisms; draw near to Christ Whom we are serving and you will receive forgiveness of sins.” The philosopher became mute from such a pointed answer and being ashamed, he departed. From this, the enormous difference is clearly seen between a pagan philosopher and a Christian saint. The one [the philosopher] looses himself in abstractions, in cleverly twisted words, in logical provocations and in thoughtful sport while the other [the saint] directed his whole mind on the Living God and on the salvation of his soul. The one is abstract and dead, while the other is practical and alive.

We celebrate,today, the memory of St. Theodore the Sanctified, reminding ourselves of his example of simplicity of life and devotion to God.

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St. John of Kronstadt (1)
St. John of Kronstadt
from: Orthodox Photos
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The ever-memorable Russian Pastor, St John of Kronstadt, in his “Thoughts Concerning the Church” writes: “Acknowledge that all the saints are our elder brothers in the one House of the Heavenly Father, who have departed from earth to heaven, and they are always with us in God, and they constantly teach us and guide us to eternal life by means of the church services, Mysteries, rites, instructions, and church decrees, which they have composed-as for example, those concerning the fasts and feasts-, so to speak, they serve together with us, they sing, they speak, they instruct, they help us in various temptations and sorrows. And call upon them as living with you under a single roof; glorify them, thank them, converse with them as with living people; and you will believe in the Church” (St. John of Kronstadt, “What Does It Mean To Believe In The Church? Thoughts About the Church and the Orthodox Divine Services”)

(From: Fr. Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press, 1994).

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