Saturday, 31 May 2014



          For two thousand years in the Orthodox Church, the tradition has been for women and girls to veil their heads during worship, whether at Church for the Divine Liturgy, or at home for family prayer time.  What is the Scriptural and Patristic evidence for this tradition, and why is it important?  In this article, we will take a look at head coverings in the Old Testament, head coverings in the New Testament, head coverings according to the early Church, head coverings in icons, and head coverings today. 

Head coverings in the Old Testament

          Centuries before the birth of Christ, women’s head coverings were an accepted practice for God’s people.  It was not merely an option for those who wished to be holy.  Rather, it was a matter-of-fact expectation that all women would cover their heads.  When the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to pen the first five books of Scripture, women’s head coverings were simply assumed to be the normal practice. In the Book of Numbers, when a unique ceremony is performed that requires an uncovered head, Scripture makes a point to say that the woman’s head covering needs to be removed: “the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands.” (Numbers 5:18) Of course, such a requirement would make little sense, if women did not normally keep their head covered.  Even earlier than this, in the Book of Genesis, we read about Rebecca, on a journey to meet her future husband Isaac: “Then Rebecca lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to their servant, ‘who is this man walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant, ‘it is my master.’ So she took a veil and covered herself.” (Genesis 24:64-65).

Her godly discretion is a model for women today.  She did not flaunt her physical beauty. Rather, she veiled herself, increasing her allure through an outward display of modesty.  Women’s head coverings can also be found in the story of Susanna.  It is the captivating story of a beautiful, virtuous woman who was falsely accused, and later vindicated by the wisdom of young Daniel.  Susanna wore a veil that covered not only her head, but her face as well.  Scripture looks disapprovingly upon the removal of her veil. “Now Susanna was exceedingly delicate and beautiful to behold but those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered,) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty.  Therefore her friends and all her acquaintances wept.  (The story of Susanna/Daniel 13:31-33).  In this passage of Scripture, virtuous people approve of women head coverings and veils, while ungodly men seek their removal.

Head coverings in the New Testament

          Women’s head coverings are one of the many points of similarity between Israel and the Church. Godly women had covered their head for thousands of years prior to the advent of Christ. And when the New Testament Church was born, godly women continued the practice.  In St. Paul’s first epistle to the Church in Corinth, he instructs everyone to follow the holy traditions which have been received: “Now, I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor. 11:2).  Women’s head coverings are one of the holy traditions which the Church had received, and St. Paul spends the next several paragraphs discussing them.  He says that head coverings manifest honor, in the context of worship:

1.   Every man praying or prophesying, having his head  covered, dishonors his head. (1 Cor. 11:4).
2.   Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. (1 Cor. 11:5).
The message is pretty clear:  It is honorable for a woman to wear head coverings during worship, but it is dishonorable for men to wear them.  This is why men remove their hats for prayer, even to this day.  Not content to make his point only once, St. Paul reiterates himself a few verses later.  Women are to cover their heads, and men are not to do so:

1.   A man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of god; but woman is the glory of man.
(1 Cor. 11:7).
2.   The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor. 11:10).
The Old Testament reveals that this holy tradition is ancient, but it only begins to hint at the reasons.

          Here in the New Testament, we are given some reasons for the practice.  According to 1 Corinthians 11, head coverings manifest woman’s honor.  They also are important because of the angels.  Angels are present with us when we pray, and when we worship.   While we may not fully understand why head coverings are important to the angels, it is sufficient for us to know that this reason is given in Scripture.  If Scripture says that women’s head coverings are important to the angels, then it is something we should take seriously.

Head coverings according to the Early Church Father

          St. John Chrysostom (407 A.D), in a sermon at the Feast of the Ascension, spoke both of angels and the veiling of women:  “The angels are present here.  Open the eyes of faith and look upon this sight.  For if the very air is filled with angels, how much more so in the Church!  Hear the Apostle teaching this, when he bids the women to cover their heads with a veil because of the presence of the angels.”

Origen, another prominent teacher of the early Church said: “There are angels in the midst of our assembly.  We have here a twofold Church, one of men, the other of angels.  And since there are angels present, women, when they pray, are ordered to have a covering upon their head because of those angels.  They assist the saints and rejoice in the Church.”  The Apostolic Tradition was written in the second century, and the author is believed to be St. Hippo of Rome.  This book has instructions for catechumens, including this:  “And let all women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth.”
And St. Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on First Corinthians says: “The angels find it extremely hard to bear if this law that women cover their heads is disregarded.”

Head coverings in the Icons

Icons in the Orthodox Church are a visual guide to the Faith, a short picture book of Christianity. Icons teach us about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and about the lives of many Christians who have gone before us.  Icons also teach us about head coverings.  Virtually every icon of an Orthodox woman displays her wearing a head covering. As far as I know, the only exception is St. Mary of Egypt, and she was a solitary saint who lived alone in the desert, far away from any people. Among the female saints who participated in society, all of them wore head coverings, and their head coverings are shown in the icons.  Even Mary the Mother of God, the most blessed woman in the entire universe is shown in icons wearing a head covering.  Can you think of a better role-model for women?

Head covering Today

In our Church, all women and girls are asked to wear head coverings, in obedience to God’s command in Scripture, and out of respect for the holy traditions of the Orthodox Church.  Just inside the front door of the Church, we keep a basket of head coverings, just in case a woman forgets hers at home and needs to borrow one for the day.  Head coverings are also worn at home during family prayer time.  While honoring God’s direction is a reward unto itself, there are many other benefits as well. For example:  Head coverings manifest a woman’s honor.  As St. Paul points out in Scripture, a woman brings honor to herself by covering her head during prayer.

Head coverings encourage humility.
Godly women come to church to focus on worship, not to draw attention to themselves.  A girl may be tempted to show off an attractive hairdo. When a woman wears a head covering, this temptation is removed.  She can focus on prayer, instead of on hair.  
Head coverings save time.  In today’s culture, it can be tempting to spend a lot of time and energy on hairstyles.  But head coverings are quick and easy.  It takes a lot less time to put on a head covering that it does to prepare a hairdo for display.

Head coverings help us show love and consideration for our brothers.  Godly men come to Church to focus on worship.  But the flowing locks of beautiful women can be distracting.  By veiling her hair, a woman can display her modesty, and remove an unnecessary distraction.  A mainstream theological journal recently published an article about women’s’ head coverings.  Soon after, the author of the article became a member of the Orthodox Church in the article; she beautifully illustrates the iconic purpose of head coverings:  
“My wearing a head covering is not only a symbol or sign that I am in agreement with His order, but that I visibly, willingly submit to it.  With submission comes blessing.” Christa Conrad.

In an issue of The Handmaiden, a lady name Elizabeth gives her testimony about wearing head coverings: “For twelve years I have worn a scarf at all times.  I now perceive that it has been and continues to be essential for the pilgrim journey and salvation of my soul. The bottom line for me and a growing number of my sisters remains obedience.  And with it comes a sense of being in our rightful place in God’s ordered universe, rejoicing with the angels.  Now I gratefully say, I am in the presence of the great I AM, at prayer and in Church, surrounded by the angelic host, worshipping our Lord and King.  To God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Fr. Thomas Moore, Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, Columbia, SC.

Γέροντας Παΐσιος: «Θα έρθη καιρός πού όλοι θα πιστέψουν»

Γέροντα, πώς συμβαίνει άνθρωποι πιστοί νά φθάνουν στην αθεΐα;
- Στο θέμα αυτό μπορεί νά υπάρχουν δύο περιπτώσεις. Στην μία περίπτωση μπορεί νά ήταν κανείς πολύ πιστός, νά ενήργησε ή δύναμη τού Θεού στην ζωή του μέ πολλά χειροπιαστά γεγονότα, και ύστερα νά έφθασε σέ μιά θόλωση στο θέμα της πίστεως.

Αυτό συμβαίνει, όταν λ.χ. κάνη κανείς άσκηση αδιάκριτη με εγωισμό, πιάνη δηλαδή ξερά την πνευματική ζωή. «Τί έκανε ό τάδε Άγιος; λέει, θά το κάνω καί έγώ», και αρχίζει νά κάνη μιά αδιάκριτη άσκηση.
Σιγά-σιγά όμως, χωρίς νά το καταλάβη, δημιουργείται μέσα του μιά ψευδαίσθηση ότι, άν δεν έφθασε στά μέτρα του τάδε Αγίου, κάπου εκεί κοντά πρέπει νά είναι. Έτσι συνεχίζει την άσκηση. Αλλά, ενώ πριν από αυτόν τον λογισμό τον βοηθούσε ή θεία Χάρις, τώρα αρχίζει νά τον έγκαταλείπη. 

Γιατί, τί δουλειά έχει μέ τήν υπερηφάνεια ή Χάρις τού Θεού; 
Όποτε δέν μπορεί πιά νά κάνη τήν άσκηση πού έκανε προηγουμένως καί ζορίζει τον εαυτό του. Μέ το ζόρισμα όμως δημιουργείται άγχος. Έρχεται καί ή υπερηφάνεια πού είναι μιά αντάρα καί του δημιουργεί μιά θόλωση.
Καί ενώ είχε κάνει τόσα καί είχε ενεργήσει ή θεία Χάρις καί είχε γεγονότα, αρχίζει σιγά-σιγά νά έχη λογισμούς απιστίας καί νά αμφιβάλλη γιά τήν ύπαρξη του Θεού.

Ή δεύτερη περίπτωση είναι, όταν θέληση ένας αγράμματος νά άσχοληθή μέ το δόγμα. Έ, αυτός δέν είναι καλά!
Άλλο νά ρίξη μιά ματιά, γιά νά γνωρίση το δόγμα. Άλλα καί ένας μορφωμένος άν πάη υπερήφανα νά άσχοληθή μέ το δόγμα, καί αυτόν, επειδή έχει υπερηφάνεια, θά τον εγκατάλειψη ή Χάρις του Θεού, καί θά άρχίση νά έχη αμφιβολίες.
Δέν μιλάω φυσικά γιά έναν πού έχει ευλάβεια. Αυτός καί μορφωμένος νά μήν είναι, μπορεί νά ρίξη μιά ματιά μέ διάκριση, μέχρι εκεί πού μπορεί νά έξετάση, καί νά κατανόηση το δόγμα. Άλλα ένας πού δέν έχει πνευματικότητα καί πάει νά ασχοληθή μέ τά δογματικά, αυτός, καί άν πίστευε λίγο, μετά δέν θά πιστεύη καθόλου.

- Γέροντα, ή απιστία έχει έξαπλωθή πολύ στην εποχή μας. 
- Ναι, άλλα συχνά βλέπει κανείς και σ' αυτούς ακόμη πού λένε ότι δέν πιστεύουν στον Θεό νά ύπάρχη μέσα τους κρυμμένη λίγη πίστη. Μιά φορά μού είπε ένα παλληκάρι: «Δέν πιστεύω ότι υπάρχει Θεός». «Έλα πιο κοντά, τοϋ είπα. Ακούς το αηδόνι πού κελαηδάει;
Ποιος του έδωσε το χάρισμα αυτό;». Το καημένο ένα κι ένα συγκινήθηκε. Έφυγε εκείνη ή σκληράδα της απιστίας και άλλαξε τό προσωπάκι του.
Άλλη φορά είχαν έρθει δύο επισκέπτες στό Καλύβι. Ήταν περίπου σαράντα πέντε χρονών και ζούσαν πολύ κοσμική ζωή.
Όπως εμείς οι μοναχοί λέμε «αφού είναι μάταιη αύτη ή ζωή, τά αρνούμαστε όλα», έτσι και εκείνοι, από τήν αντίθετη πλευρά, είπαν «δέν υπάρχει άλλη ζωή» καί, όταν ήταν νέοι, άφησαν τίς σπουδές τους καί ρίχτηκαν στην κοσμική ζωή.
Έφθασαν σέ σημείο νά γίνουν ψυχικά καί σωματικά ράκη. Ό πατέρας τού ενός πέθανε άπό τήν στενοχώρια. Ό άλλος κατέστρεψε τήν περιουσία τής μάνας του καί τήν έκανε καρδιακιά. Μετά άπό τήν συζήτηση πού κάναμε, είδαν τά πράγματα αλλιώς.
«Εμείς αχρηστευθήκαμε», έλεγαν. Έδωσα στον έναν μιά εικόνα γιά τήν μάνα του. Πήγα νά δώσω καί στον άλλο μία εικόνα, άλλα δέν τήν έπαιρνε. «Δώσε μου ένα σανιδάκι άπό αυτά πού πριονίζεις, μοϋ λέει. Δέν πιστεύω στον Θεό· στους Άγιους πιστεύω».
Τότε τού είπα: «Ή καθρέφτης είναι κανείς ή καπάκι άπό κονσερβοκούτι, άν δέν πέσουν οι ακτίνες του ήλιου επάνω του, δέν γυαλίζει. Οι Άγιοι έλαμψαν μέ τίς ακτίνες τής Χάριτος του Θεού, όπως τά αστέρια παίρνουν φώς άπό τον ήλιο».
Τους καημένους τους νέους τους ζαλίζουν μέ διάφορες θεωρίες. Είχα προσέξει έκεϊ στό Καλύβι ότι συνήθως δύο μαρξιστές πενηντάρηδες έμπαιναν στά γκρουπ τών νέων, γιά νά τους ζαλίζουν.

Οί μαρξιστές δέν πιστεύουν καί, όταν πάς νά τους απόδειξης τήν ύπαρξη του Θεού, κρίνουν τον Θεό καί είναι όλο ερωτήσεις· «γιατί αυτό, γιατί εκείνο κ.λπ.».

Ό Προφήτης Ησαΐας λέει ότι αυτοί πού δεν θέλουν να σωθούν, δέν καταλαβαίνουν[5]. Μια φορά τους είπα: «Βλέπετε τα αστέρια; Αυτά δέν είναι βιδωμένα· κάποιος τά κρατά στό στερέωμα. Γιά τον Χριστό, όσα είπαν οί Προφήτες εκπληρώθηκαν.
Έχουμε τόσους Μάρτυρες, πού ήταν πριν πολύ άπιστοι, δήμιοι, ειδωλολάτρες, καί μετά πίστεψαν στον Χριστό καί μαρτύρησαν. Μερικούς τους έκοβαν την γλώσσα, γιά νά μή μιλάνε γιά τον Χριστό, καί με κομμένη γλώσσα μιλούσαν καλύτερα!
Κάθε μέρα έχουμε τόσους Αγίους πού εορτάζουν! Είναι ζωντανή ή παρουσία των - Αγίων. Καί όταν ακόμη εμείς δέν τους βρίσκουμε, εκείνοι μας βρίσκουν!
Πολλοί ασκητές στην έρημο, πού δέν έχουν ημερολόγιο καί δέν ξέρουν ποιος Άγιος γιορτάζει, λένε «Άγιοι της ημέρας, πρεσβεύσατε υπέρ ημών» καί παρουσιάζονται οί Άγιοι καί τους φανερώνουν καί το όνομα τους· καί μάλιστα είναι Άγιοι με δύσκολα ονόματα.
Κοιτάνε ύστερα οί ασκητές το ημερολόγιο καί βλέπουν ότι γιορτάζουν εκείνη τήν ημέρα οί Άγιοι πού τους παρουσιάσθηκαν[6]. Αυτό πώς το βλέπετε;».
Μετά μου είπαν: «Γιατί πάνε οί Άγιοι στους καλογήρους καί δέν πάνε νά βοηθήσουν τον λαό πού έχει ανάγκη;». «Μέ τί ήρθατε εδώ, παλληκάρια; τά ρώτησα· μέ το αεροπλάνο;». «Όχι, μέ τό αυτοκίνητο», μού λένε.
«Εντάξει· στον δρόμο πού ερχόσασταν, πόσα προσκυνητάρια είδατε; Αυτά δέν φύτρωσαν μέ τά πρωτοβρόχια. Βοηθήθηκαν οί άνθρωποι από τους Άγίους και από ευλάβεια τα έφτιαξαν, και ανάβουν και τα κανδήλια. Οί πνευματικοί άνθρωποι, όσο πετούν τά υλικά, τόσο ανεβαίνουν. Οί ύλιστές, και αυτοί κάτι απολαμβάνουν φτιάχνουν π.χ. τόσα κύπελλα, παίρνουν τόσα χρήματα· άμα φτιάξουν περισσότερα, παίρνουν περισσότερα. Εσείς μόνον την προπαγάνδα κάνετε καί σταματάτε εκεί· δεν έχετε τίποτε νά απολαύσετε. Είστε οί πιό ταλαίπωροι, διότι, όταν πετύχετε αυτό πού θέλετε, δεν θά έχετε κανένα άλλο ιδανικό, μόνον το βάσανο της μαρξιστικής σκλαβιάς». Στο τέλος μου είπαν: «Είσαι πολύ καλός άνθρωπος, δίκαιος, σοφός...».

Πάντως είτε το θέλουν οί άνθρωποι είτε δεν το θέλουν, θά ερθη καιρός πού όλοι θά πιστέψουν, γιατί θά φθάσουν σε αδιέξοδο καί θά επέμβη ό Χριστός.

1. Ίω. 15,5.
2. Θεοτόκιο β' ήχου.
3. Βλ. Ματθ. 9,29 και Μάρκ. 9,23
4.Ψαλμ. 81,6
5. Πρβ. Ήσ.
6, 9-10. 6. Στις 3-6-1979, επειδή ό Γέροντας δέν θυμόταν ποιος Άγιος γιόρταζε εκείνη τήν ήμερα καί δέν έβρισκε τά γυαλιά του, γιά νά δή στό ημερολόγιο - μόλις τότε είχε έγκατασταθή στό Καλύβι «Παναγοΰδα» καί ακόμη δέν εΐχε τακτοποιηθή -, έκανε κομποσχοίνι λέγοντας «Άγιοι της ημέρας, πρεσβεύσατε υπέρ ημών». Τότε τόν επισκέφθηκε ό Άγιος Λουκιλλιανός πού γιορτάζει εκείνη τήν ημέρα καί τοΰ επανέλαβε τρεις φορές τό δύσκολο όνομα του.


Δέν πρέπει οὔτε γιά ἀστεῖο νά ἐπικαλούμαστε τόν διάβολο - Τό περιστατικό τοῦ μοναχοῦ Ἰωσήφ

Στην Σκήτη του Αγ. Παντελεήμονος στο Κουτλουμούσι, ο μοναχός Ιωσήφ, θέλησε να επισκευάσει, στο πάτωμα της καλύβας του, ένα σανίδι που είχε σπάσει. Καθάρισε το σάπιο, πήρε με ακρίβεια τα μέτρα, έκοψε το σανίδι και πήγε να το τοποθετήσει. Όταν το έβανε στη θέση του, το σανίδι ήταν μεγαλύτερο. Το πήρε, έκοψε το περίσσιο και πήγε πάλι να το τοποθετήσει. Το είδε πως ήταν μικρότερο απ΄ ότι έπρεπε.
Ο Γέρο – Ιωσήφ, ήταν μαραγκός στο επάγγελμα. Παίρνει για δεύτερη φορά τα μέτρα, κόβει άλλο σανίδι στα μέτρα που χρειάζονταν με ακρίβεια, πήγε να το βάλει στη θέση του, αλλά και πάλι περίσσευε, το έκοψε, κι όταν πήγε να το καρφώσει, έγινε μικρότερο. Τότε έχασε την υπομονή του και με θυμό είπε : «Άει στο διάβολο, διάβολε, τί έχεις, τί να σου κάμω για να ταιριάξεις ; Τέσσερις φορές σε μέτρησα και τέσσερις σε έκοψα, τώρα τί διάβολο έχεις και δεν ταιριάζεις» ;
Ο ταλαίπωρος αυτός μοναχός, αντί να ειπεί την ευχή και να επικαλεστεί τη θεία βοήθεια στην εργασία του, προτίμησε να μνημονεύσει τον διάβολο, ο οποίος δεν άργησε αλλά κάτι τέτοιες ευκαιρίες ζητάει, γι΄ αυτό παρουσιάστηκε μπροστά του, ο διάβολος, μ΄ όλη την αγριωπή μορφή του και του είπε : «Με φώναξες γέροντα, τί είναι, τί θέλεις ; Εδώ είμαι ΄ γω για να σε βοηθήσω».
Ο Γέρο – Ιωσήφ τρομαγμένος έκαμε το σταυρό του, παράτησε το σανίδι κι έτρεξε στον Πνευματικό του να εξομολογηθεί, αλλά από τότε μέχρι σήμερα έχουν περάσει περισσότερα από 30 χρόνια και δεν μπορεί να συνέλθει, του έμεινε ο φόβος και μια αφηρημάδα στο μυαλό, σαν αντιμισθία από τον διάβολο.
Τούτο ας γίνει μάθημα σε όλους, μικρούς και μεγάλους, να μη λένε το διάβολο, ούτε για αστεία. Επειδή, ο διάβολος βάνει τον άνθρωπο να θυμώνει και στον θυμό του επάνω, τον βάνει να βρίζει ή να βλασφημεί τα θεία, κι αν δεν κατορθώσει τούτο, τον πείθει να ειπεί στον συνάνθρωπό του, στον αδελφό του, στο παιδί του, ή και στον εαυτό του ακόμη, «Άει στο διάβολο». Τούτο γίνεται κακίστη συνήθεια και πολλοί γονείς στέλνουν τα παιδιά τους στον διάολο.
Ενώ μπορεί ο άνθρωπος να αποκτήσει καλές συνήθειες κι αντί να λέει «άει στο διάβολο», να λέει «άει στην ευχή» ή «άει στο καλό σου» ή όπως συνηθίζουν οι πατέρες να λένε «να σε πάρει η ευχή» ή «ο Θεός να σ΄ ελεήσει», που είναι το καλύτερο απ΄ όλα. Έτσι συνηθίζει ο άνθρωπος να εύχεται και να λέει πάντοτε τα καλά, σύμφωνα με την Αγία Γραφή «ευλογείτε και μη καταράσθε» (Ρωμ. 12, 14».


Friday, 30 May 2014

Ἡ σημασία καί ἡ λειτουργική διανομή τοῦ ἀντιδώρου

Το αντίδωρο και η διανομή του αποτελούν το επισφράγισμα της τέλεσης της Θείας Ευχαριστίας. Το αντίδωρο αποτελεί μικρό απότμημα του πρόσφορου, από το οποίο εξήγαγε ο λειτουργός και εναπέθεσε στο δισκάριο τον αμνό και τις λοιπές μερίδες (της Θεοτόκου, των εννέα Αγγελικών Ταγμάτων, των Αγίων, του επιχωρίου αρχιερέα, των ζώντων και κεκοιμημένων μελών της Εκκλησίας) κατά την ακολουθία της προσκομιδής.
Η διανομή του αντιδώρου αφορά όσους πιστούς δεν έλαβαν μέρος στο κοινό ευχαριστιακό ποτήριο. Αυτό διαφαίνεται και από την ετυμολογία του όρου (αντί + δώρο), όπου ως δώρο εννοούνται τα Τίμια Δώρα. Η σημασία του αντιδώρου είναι δευτερεύουσα, σε σύγκριση με την ανεκτίμητη ωφέλεια του πιστού από την μετάληψη των ευχαριστιακών Δώρων. Όμως, η αδυναμία των πιστών να μετέχουν στη Θεία Κοινωνία κάθε φορά που αυτή τελείται, ώθησε την Εκκλησία να διανείμει το αντίδωρο ως στοιχείο παρηγορίας των πιστών που δεν μετέλαβαν.
Κατά τον Συμεών Θεσσαλονίκης, οι πιστοί που δεν μετείχαν του κοινού ποτηρίου έλαβαν τον αγιασμό από την απλή μετοχή τους στην ακολουθία μόνο νοητά. Οι πιστοί αισθάνονται ότι λαμβάνουν και έμπρακτα τον αγιασμό με τη λήψη του αντιδώρου.
 Η ευλογία του αντιδώρου αποτελεί αντικείμενο διχογνωμίας. Σχετικά με αυτήν υπάρχουν τρεις θέσεις. Η πρώτη θέση τοποθετεί την ευλογία του κατά τη διάρκεια της προσκομιδής. Ο λειτουργός αφαιρεί τελετουργικά τις αναγκαίες για τη μυσταγωγία μερίδες κατά την προετοιμασία των Τιμίων Δώρων στην κόγχη της προθέσεως. Στη λειτουργική διδασκαλία του Συμεών Θεσσαλονίκης, η ιερότητα του αντιδώρου έγκειται στο γεγονός ότι είναι αγιασμένος άρτος «σφραγιζόμενος τὲ τῇ λόγχῃ, καὶ ἱερὰ  δεχόμενος ρήματα». Ο Άγιος αναφέρεται στην ακολουθία της προσκομιδής, όπου ο κληρικός υψώνει το όλο πρόσφορο πριν να αφαιρέσει από αυτό τον αμνό και τις ενδιάτακτες μερίδες, αλλά και στην κατεργασία του πρόσφορου κατά την ακολουθία αυτή.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Η ΑΝΑΛΗΨΗ ΤΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ( π.Ἀλεξάνδρου Σμέμαν)

Ἕνα ρίγος χαρᾶς διαπερνᾶ τὴ λέξη “ἀνὰληψη”, πού δείχνει μιὰ πρόκληση πρὸς τοὺς ἀποκαλούμενους “νόμους τῆς φύσεως”, πρὸς τὴ διαρκῆ κάθοδο καὶ πτώση· εἶναι μιὰ λέξη πού ἀκυρώνει τοὺς νόμους τῆς βαρύτητας καὶ πτώσης. Ἐδῶ ἀντίθετα τὰ πάντα εἶναι ἐλαφράδα, πέταγμα, μιὰ ἀτέλειωτη ἄνοδος. Ἡ Ἀνάληψη τοῦ Κυρίου γιορτάζεται σαράντα μέρες μετὰ τὸ Πάσχα, τὴν Πέμπτη τῆς ἕκτης ἑβδομάδας μετὰ τὴ γιορτὴ τῆς Ἀνάστασης τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Τὴν Τετάρτη, τὴν παραμονή, ἡ Ἐκκλησία τελεῖ τὴν ἀποκαλούμενη “Ἀπόδοση τῆς ἑορτῆς τοῦ Πάσχα”, σὰν νὰ χαιρετᾶ δηλ. τὸ Πάσχα. Ἡ ἀκολουθία εἶναι ἀκριβῶς ἡ ἴδια, ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς μέχρι τέλους, ὅπως αὐτὴ τῆς νύχτας τοῦ Πάσχα, μὲ τὴν ἀπαγγελία ἀκριβῶς τῶν ἴδιων στίχων: “Ἀναστήτω ὁ Θεὸς καὶ διασκορπισθήτωσαν οἱ ἐχθροὶ Αὐτοῦ…”, “Αὕτη ἡ ἡμέρα ἥν ἐποίησεν ὁ Κύριος, ἀγαλλιασώμεθα καὶ εὐφρανθῶμεν ἐν αὐτῇ”. Ὅταν ψάλλει αὐτοὺς τοὺς στίχους ὁ ἱερεύς, κρατᾶ τὴν πασχάλια λαμπάδα καὶ θυμιατίζει ὁλόκληρη τὴν ἐκκλησία, ἐνῶ σὲ ἀπάντηση ψάλλεται τὸ “Χριστὸς ἀνέστη”. Ἀποχωριζόμαστε τὸ Πάσχα, τὸ “ἀποδίδουμε” στὸ ἑπόμενο ἔτος.

Ἴσως νὰ ἔπρεπε νὰ αἰσθανόμαστε λυπημένοι. Ἀντί ὅμως γιὰ λύπη, μᾶς δίνεται νέα χαρά: ἡ χαρὰ νὰ στοχαζόμαστε καὶ νὰ γιορτάζουμε τὴν Ἀνάληψη. Σύμφωνα μὲ τὴν εὐαγγελικὴ διήγηση αὐτοῦ τοῦ γεγονότος, ὁ Κύριος ἀφοῦ ἔδωσε τὶς τελευταῖες ὁδηγίες στοὺς μαθητές, «ἐξήγαγε … αὐτοὺς ἔξω ἕως εἰς Βηθανίαν, καὶ ἐπάρας τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῦ εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εὐλογεῖν αὐτὸν αὐτοὺς διέστη ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν καὶ ἀνεφέρετο εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν. καὶ αὐτοὶ προσκυνήσαντες αὐτὸν ὑπέστρεψαν εἰς ῾Ιερουσαλὴμ μετὰ χαρᾶς μεγάλης», (Λουκ. 24, 50-52). “Μετὰ χαρᾶς μεγάλης…”. Ποιὰ εἶναι ἡ πηγὴ αὐτῆς τῆς μεγάλης χαρᾶς πού ἀντέχει μέχρι σήμερα καὶ ἐκρήγνυται μὲ τέτοια ἐκπληκτικὴ λαμπρότητα τὴν ἡμέρα τῆς Ἀναλήψεως; Ἐπειδὴ φαίνεται σὰν ὁ Χριστὸς νὰ ἔφυγε καὶ νὰ ἄφησε μόνους τούς μαθητές· ἦταν μιὰ μέρα χωρισμοῦ. Μπροστά τους βρίσκεται ὁ πολὺ μακρὺς δρόμος τοῦ κηρύγματος, τῶν διωγμῶν, τοῦ πόνου καὶ τοῦ πειρασμοῦ πού γεμίζουν μέχρι ὑπερχείλισης τὴν ἱστορία τοῦ Χριστιανισμοῦ καὶ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Φαίνεται πώς παρῆλθε ἡ χαρά, ἡ χαρὰ τῆς ἐπίγειας καὶ καθημερινῆς συντροφιᾶς μὲ τόν Χριστό, πώς ἔφθασε στὸ τέλος ἡ προστασία πού παρεῖχε ἡ δύναμη καὶ ἡ θεότητά Του.

Ascension Icon (A commentary) Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?

Forty days after Christ’s resurrection, He was taken up into the Heavens before the disciples, and so forty days after Easter, is the Feast of the Ascension. The icon for this feast shows the events as described in the Book of Acts, though as with all Holy Icons there is more revealed than just a straight retelling of the story in pictures.

The Ascension from the Rabbula Gospels (6th Century)

From the Rabbula Gospels (6thCentury)

Based on the accounts written by St Luke in his Gospel (Luke 24:36-53) and the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1-12), the icon of the Ascension is correspondingly ancient. One of the earliest surviving images of the Ascension, a full-page illustration from the 6th century Rabbula Gospels, is remarkably similar to all subsequent icons, with precious few variations. Icons from St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, for example, show little change between images of the Ascension made in the 6th century with those painted almost 600 years later. Regardless of age or location, the Icon of the Ascension seems to have been “canonized” early on in the Church’s history.

The image itself is characterized by colour: the robes of the Apostles, the Mother of God, the Angels, and Christ Himself surrounded by light; all this is suitable for the Feast itself, which is one of the Twelve Great Feasts and a joyous celebration.

The icon contains both confusion and peace: the former is borne of worldly reasoning, whilst the latter comes from divine, heavenly, order.

In the Scriptures, Jesus is described as being merely “taken up” into the skies and disappearing from sight behind a cloud. Seemingly contrary to this, the icon of the event shows Christ in glory: surrounded by a mandorla (or circle) of light, flanked by angels, and arrayed in brilliant golden robes. Indeed, the similarity between the appearance of Christ at His Ascension, and the appearance of Christ at His Second Coming are striking:

Left: Christ at the Ascension; Right: Christ at the Last Judgment
Left: Christ at the Ascension; Right: Christ at the Last Judgment

The image of Christ in glory, seated upon a “rainbow”, comes directly from the Book of Revelation, regarding the Last Judgment and Second Coming of Jesus Christ:

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. (Rev 4:2-3)

The reason Christ ascending into Heaven is depicted the same as Christ’s Second Coming is because of the words of the angels present at the Ascension:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

And so the Icon depicts Jesus’ Ascension and Second Coming “in like manner”. Not that the disciples below Christ fully understand these words yet.

The Mystery of Knowledge-By Saint Justin Popovich

Man has always been fascinated by ultimate things--life, death, the origin of the world--and his discoveries in other fields of knowledge have given him confidence to assume that some day these mysteries will also yield to the power of his intellect. Such pride of mind, however, can only lead away from the truth, which, according to Orthodox teaching, is the aim and foundation of all true knowledge. How is such knowledge acquired? Here we have part of a longer essay by the renowned Serbian theologlan of blessed memory, Archimandrite Justin Popovich (+1979), in which he distills the writings of Saint Isaac the Syrian on the Orthodox theology of knowledge. Briefly, he explains that because man's understanding became darkened through sin, through consorting with evil, he became incapable of true knowledge. Man can come to this knowledge only when his soul (the seat of understanding) is healed. This is made possible by means of the virtues, and the primary virtue in this remedial process is faith. 'Through faith, the mind, which was previously dispersed among the passions, is concentrated, freed from sensuality, and endowed with peace and humility of thought .... It is by the ascesis of faith that a man conquers egotism, steps beyond the bounds of self, and enters into a new, transcendent reality which also transcends subjectivity." In separate sections, Fr. Justin discusses prayer, humility, love and grace, all requisite companions of faith, before leading the reader into "The Mystery of Knowledge," which we have reprinted below with slight abbreviations.

According to the teaching of St. Isaac the Syrian, there are two sorts of knowledge: that which precedes faith and that which is born of faith. The former is natural knowledge and involves the discernment of good and evil. The latter is spiritual knowledge and is "the perception of the mysteries,'' "the perception of what is hidden," "the contemplation of the invisible." 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Απληστία, τσιγγουνιά και ελεημοσύνη

Ο στάρετς αγωνιζόταν επίμονα κατά της τσιγγουνιάς και της απληστίας, της ασυμπάθειας προς το πλησίον, για την άκαρπη συσσώρευση του πλούτου.
Έλεγε ότι τέτοιοι άνθρωποι, που ζουν μόνο για τη δική τους ικανοποίηση, που δεν θέλουν να σκέφτονται τους φτωχούς αδελφούς τους, είναι όμοιοι με τον άπληστο πλούσιο του Ευαγγελίου.
Ο στάρετς καλούσε τους ανθρώπους που είχαν πλούτο να βοηθούν τους φτωχούς, ακολουθώντας τα λόγια του αποστόλου: «Οι έχοντες ως μη έχοντες και οι μη έχοντες ως έχοντες». Με το παράδειγμα της φύσεως αποκάλυπτε την αμοιβαία σχέση των δημιουργημάτων του Θεού:
- Τα στοιχεία της φύσεως και της επιστήμης συμπληρώνουν το ένα το άλλο, μοιράζονται μεταξύ τους ότι έχουν, και η φύση στο λογικό ον, τον άνθρωπο, δίνει τα αγαθά της: το φως, τη θερμότητα, την υγρασία και μ’ αυτόν τον τρόπο διατηρείται η ζωή του και η ζωή του οργανικού κόσμου. Αλλά εμείς, τα λογικά όντα, οι άνθρωποι, συχνά μετατρεπόμαστε σε τσιγγούνηδες, αναίσθητους, κουφούς στους στεναγμούς και τις κραυγές των αδελφών μας.
Γι’ αυτό ας μοιραστούμε αμοιβαία τα αγαθά μας ο ένας με τον άλλο, ας ζηλέψουμε την αγαθή αφιλοχρηματία, ας μοιραστούμε τα αγαθά χωρίς τσιγγουνιά και αλαζονία, αλλά με γενναιοδωρία, με πραότητα και ταπείνωση. Η τσιγγουνιά και η φιλοχρηματία καταστρέφουν την ψυχή, και στην επίγεια ζωή αυτά τα πάθη οδηγούν σε βαρειές συνέπειες.
Υπάρχει η εξής διήγηση: Τρεις άνθρωποι, ενώ βάδιζαν στο δρόμο, βρήκαν ένα θησαυρό κι αποφάσισαν να τον καρπωθούν. Τον μετέφεραν σ’ άλλο μέρος κι έστειλαν τον ένα απ’ αυτούς στην πόλη για να αγοράσει κρασί και να το γλεντήσουν. Οι δύο που έμειναν συμφώνησαν να τον σκοτώσουν, ώστε ο πλούτος να μείνει σ’ αυτούς. Εκείνος όμως, αφού αγόρασε το κρασί, πήγε σ’ ένα φαρμακείο κι αγόρασε δηλητήριο για να δώσει στους άλλους δύο το δηλητηριασμένο κρασί, ώστε να κρατήσει μόνο για τον εαυτό του το θησαυρό. Και να τί έγινε. Ο ένας ήρθε από την πόλη με το κρασί. Οι άλλοι δύο τον σκότωσαν κι άρχισαν να πίνουν το κρασί. Δηλητηριάστηκαν κι έτσι απολέσθηκαν τρεις ψυχές.
Η τσιγγουνιά και η απληστία είναι το πιο καταστροφικό πάθος. Είναι η αμαρτία του Ιούδα. Πρέπει να έχουμε συμπάθεια και να είμαστε ελεήμονες.
Η ευσπλαχνία είναι μεγάλη αρετή. Ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Ελεήμων θεωρούσε χαμένη την ημέρα που δεν έκαμε ελεημοσύνη στον πλησίον. Οι ενάρετοι άνθρωποι ψάχνουν ευκαιρία για να βοηθήσουν κάποιον. Η Παναγία ιδιαιτέρως χαίρεται όταν οι χριστιανοί κάνουν ελεημοσύνη στον πλησίον, και οργίζεται με τους σκληροκάρδιους και άσπλαχνους ανθρώπους.
Σε μια οικογένεια συνέβη μια δυστυχία. Αυτοί που υπέφεραν ζητούσαν από τον πατέρα Σάββα να προσευχηθεί και οι ίδιοι, παρακαλούσαν τον Κύριο να ελαφρώσει το βάσανό τους, αλλά η θλίψη δεν περνούσε. Τότε ο π. Σάββας κατά τη διάρκεια μιας παρακλήσεως είπε:
- Συμβαίνει κάποτε ο Κύριος να στέλνει στους ανθρώπους κάποια συμφορά εξ αιτίας της ασπλαχνίας τους. Κι αυτοί προσεύχονται ζητούν από τον Κύριο να τους λυτρώσει απ’ αυτή τη θλίψη. Ο Κύριος όμως, σαν να μην ακούει την προσευχή τους, δεν ελαφρώνει τη θλίψη τους. Ο Κύριος ακούει όλες τις προσευχές, αλλά καθυστερεί, γιατί περιμένει να δείξουμε ευσπλαχνία. Χωρίς ευσπλαχνία ούτε ο Κύριος δείχνει το έλεός Του. Κάποιοι απομονώθηκαν στα όρια της οικογένειάς τους και δεν δίνουν σημασία στους πτωχούς, αυτούς που έχουν ανάγκη βοήθειας.
Έχετε δει καμμιά φορά πώς πιάνουν τα παιδιά τα περιστέρια; Για να μην πετάξουν, τους δένουν τα φτεράκια τους. Έτσι και ο άνθρωπος ο οποίος έχει προσκόλληση στα χρήματα, στα πράγματα, όπως και στο περιστέρι, είναι δεμένα τα φτερά της ψυχής του, κι εκείνη δεν μπορεί να πετάξει στα ουράνια σκηνώματα. Κι έτσι οι προσευχές του ανθρώπου αυτού δεν γίνονται δεκτές από τον Κύριο.
Ρώτησε κάποιος τον Γέροντα: - Κι αν κάποιος δεν έχει χρήματα και πράγματα, τί προσκόλληση μπορεί να έχει;
Ο Γέροντας απάντησε: - Όποιος δεν έχει τα μέσα για ελεημοσύνη, αλλά φθονεί εκείνος που τα έχει, είναι κι αυτός φιλάργυρος, λάτρης του πλούτου. Φύλαξέ μας, Κύριε, από τέτοιο πάθος! Ας είμαστε ευχαριστημένοι με τα πλέον αναγκαία για τη συντήρηση του σώματος, με τα απαραίτητα για να το ντύσουμε, ώστε να μην κρυώνει, για να το ενισχύσουμε ώστε να μην γίνει αδύναμο και να είναι φίλος στην ψυχή, για να δουλεύουμε στον Κύριο. Όλα τα άλλα είναι όλεθρος για την ψυχή. Ιδιαιτέρως φοβηθείτε την πολυτέλεια, την μίμηση στη μόδα. Μη μαζεύετε χρήματα. Όσα μείνουν μοιράστε τα στους φτωχούς.
Κάποιοι τα βάζουν στο βιβλιάριο για την «άσχημη ώρα». Αλλά τί λέει ο Προφήτης Δαυίδ; «Το αργύριον αυτού ουκ έδωκεν επί τόκω» (Ψαλμ. 14,5). Για μας είναι αρκετή η μέριμνα για τη σημερινή ημέρα. Στην Κυριακή προσευχή ζητούμε από τον Κύριο: «Τον άρτον ημών τον επιούσιον». Ας μη ζητούμε τίποτε σ’ αυτή την αμαρτωλή γη. Δεν έχουμε εδώ μόνιμη κατοικία, είμαστε ξένοι και παρεπίδημοι στη γη.
Υπάρχει κι άλλο είδος πλεονεξίας η λεγόμενη βιβλιομανία, όταν δηλαδή πολλοί μαζεύουν πολλά βιβλία, παρακλήσεις κ.λπ. και μένουν άχρηστα. Και οι ίδιοι δεν τα διαβάζουν και φοβούνται να τα δώσουν σε άλλους να τα διαβάσουν. Ένας τέτοιος πνευματικός θησαυρός δεν πρέπει να μένει αχρησιμοποίητος. Τον καρό που δεν τα διαβάζεις δώσε τα στους άλλους. Είναι κι αυτό ένα είδος ευσπλαχνίας που είναι ευάρεστη στον Θεό…


Monday, 26 May 2014


“But I tell you a truly, there are some standing here, who
 shall not taste death, till they see the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27).

          One of the most popular Saints among the Greek Orthodox people today is Saint John the Russian whose incorrupt relics are the boast of the Island of Euboea, Greece.  The multitudes who visit his shrine are such that there is daily bus service to the shrine from Athens.  Countless miracles flow from his relics and icons, and even now when the spirit of the world is having such an oppressive effect on traditional Greek Orthodox piety icons of the Saint are often found in buses and nearly all Orthodox homes. St. John was neither a celebrated hierarch nor an eloquent theologian but a simple young man who spent the better part of his life in a stable.

          St. John was born in the Southern part of Russia, in the Ukraine, to pious Orthodox parents. He was still a young man when he was conscripted by the Russian army to fight in a war against the Turks.  Sharing the unhappy fate of many other Russian soldiers, the Saint was captured and sold as a slave to a Turkish cavalry commander from the village of Procopi near Caesarea in Asia Minor. Fanatic in their Muslim beliefs, the Turks inflicted cruel tortures upon their Christian slaves in trying to force them to renounce their faith.  While some succumbed to this form of persuasion, many preferred to suffer death and a whole multitude of martyrs was thus added to the heavenly choir.  In their misguided zeal the Turks would also kidnap the sons of Christians and raise them as fanatical Muslim soldiers.  Procopi was the army camp of these Christian hating Janissaries and the new slave of the Turkish Aga became a target of their derisions.  But neither their insults nor the beatings of his Turkish master were able to shake the faith of the pious Russian youth who confessed that he would sooner die than lose what he treasured above all, the Holy Orthodox Faith.   

          The blessed John was assigned to work in the stable where he was also told to sleep.  Recalling the lowly Bethlehem cave and the manger where the Savior of the world first laid His head, the Saint rejoiced in his rude dwelling place.  In his humility he regarded his dark corner of the stable as a little paradise where he could freely offer prayer and praise to the true God.  The unshakable firmness of his faith, his patience, fortitude, and gentleness of spirit, gradually won the hearts of the Aga and his wife who offered the meek stable boy to sleep in a small room near the hayloft.  John, however, preferred to remain in the stable where he could toil more assiduously in the ascetic life, bringing his body into subjection to the spirit according to the Apostle’s command. He ate very sparingly and spent long hours in prayer with the Psalms of David continually on his lips.  Weekly he prepared himself to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in the nearby Church for he knew that without the strength of Christ he was powerless to persevere on the path of the truth faith.  At night he would secretly go and keep vigil in the narthex of the Church. The Lord rewarded the labors of His faithful servant and through him bestowed blessings also upon his Turkish master who became one of the wealthy and powerful men of Procopi. The Aga understood the cause of his new prosperity and did not shrink from telling it to his fellow citizens.

          Once, the Aga made a pilgrimage to Mecca a city most sacred to the Muslims.  While he was away, his wife invited friends and relatives for a meal and to pray for the Aga’s safe return from such an arduous journey. While they were getting ready to eat the mistress turned to John, who was serving the guests and said, “How much pleasure your master would have if he were here now and ate this pilaf with us!”  The pilaf, a common grain dish of the Middle East, was a favorite of the Aga.  Wishing the best for his master and firmly believing in the almighty power of God, John asked for a plate full of pilaf from his mistress, saying that he would send it to his master in Mecca.  The guests laughed but the mistress asked the cook to comply with the youth’s request thinking that he would take it to some poor Christian family as was his custom.

          Those who are familiar with the Gospel should not be astonished at what happened next for did not the Lord say that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move mountains?  Strong in his faith, the blessed one returned with the plate of pilaf to the stable and he petitioned the Lord to help him fulfill his pledge to deliver the pilaf to his master in Mecca. In answer to his prayer the plate of pilaf disappeared.  What amazed the entire household of Aga when he returned from Mecca was bringing with him the copper plate which had held the pilaf.  The Aga had been equally astonished to discover the steaming plate of pilaf in his locked room when he returned from the Mosque in Mecca. Still greater was his confusion when he realized that the copper plate was engraved with his initials just as all the vessels in his house. “For the sake of Allah, I cannot understand how it was brought to Mecca and who brought it!”  When his wife told him of John’s request, they both recognized the strange occurrence to be a miracle of God and henceforth all considered John as a righteous man who had found favor with God. 

          Once again the Aga and his wife tried to persuade the blessed one to change his dwelling place but the Saint preferred to remain amongst the animals willingly fulfilling his duties and continuing steadfast in his ascetic struggles.  He persevered in this manner of life until, after a few years, he became ill.  Foreseeing his end, he called for a priest and asked to receive Holy Communion. Fearing the fanaticism of the Turks, the priest did not want to bring Holy Communion to the stable. He received wisdom from above and did the following thing. He hollowed out an apple and lined the cavity with beeswax. He placed the Holy Communion inside it and was thus able to safely bring Holy Communion to the Saint.  Upon receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord, the blessed one surrendered his holy soul into the hands of God whom he loved so much.  He reposed on the 27th day of May, 1730 having spent some forty years in this temporal vale of sin and sorrow. 

          The Saint was given a Christian burial by order of the Aga who, as a token of his love and great respect for the Saint, gave an expensive cloth to cover his relics.  Three years later a light appeared over the tomb of Saint John which was seen by many.  At the same time, the Saint appeared in a dream to his father confessor revealing that it was the will of God that his relics be exhumed for his body was incorrupt.  Until 1924 the relics were kept in the Church of St. George in Procopi.  When, however, the exchange of populations took place between Greece and Turkey and many of the Christian inhabitants of Procopi were resettled on the Island of Euboea, the relics of their beloved Saint John were also moved.  They were received with great joy and veneration by the Greeks who built a majestic Church in his honor there in the village of New Procopi.  To this day, streams of pious Greek pilgrims make their way to this village on the Island of Euboea where the Saint answers the faith of their earnest petitions with his strong and quick intercessions before the throne of God.     

This biography is based on the life of the Saint by Photius Kontoglou the father of the renaissance of Byzantine iconography of the 20th century.


          The Saint performed many wonders even after his blessed repose. A descendent of the Aga told many of the following miracles:  “My children would not live except for a short time and would die while yet infants.  Their unfortunate mother, after she had lost hope in the wisdom of medicine, fled without my knowledge to the relics of the slave John so that he might grant her a little child which would not die while yet young so that we also might rejoice to see it as a young man or even a young girl.  In truth the righteous John heard the supplications of my wife.  God granted us a strong little boy whom we called, as you know, Kole Guwan Oglu (that is, Son of the Slave John) and he lives through the power of God through the prayers of John even until today.”

          Several times St. John has appeared in dreams and visions warning of impending dangers.  Once he warned some Greek school children that the roof of the school was about to fall; they had time enough to jump underneath their desks and when the roof fell, its beams came down upon the desks without striking even one of the children.  More recently we have heard about the miraculous healings of two severe cases of meningitis, one a 19 year old shepherd boy in Southern Greece and the other a 3 year old boy in London.  Today a part of the right hand of St. John is enshrined in a special silver reliquary in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, MA where many people come to venerate it and to ask for the intercessions of this simple Confessor of the Orthodox Christian Faith knowing that the Lord who resists the proud hears speedily the prayers of the meek.


          In the big Athenian hospital of St. Savas a mother had been battling advanced cancer and the doctors had given up treating her and told her children to take her home.  The doctors said: “Do not tire yourselves anymore by coming to the hospital to take care of your mother.”  The family was from the northern city of Kavala. The doctors said: “There is no hope for her life to be saved. Take her home, for if she dies here you will have the problem of dealing with hospital procedures and regulations.”  Her five children, who were gathered around their mother’s bed, began to weep on hearing the news from the doctors.  They wept for it was their mother the root of life who was dying and we all have only one mother in this life.  As this was going on, an unknown lady was passing by their room where they were gathered.  She saw the tragic scene and understood what was happening.  She asked the children: “Is this your mother? Listen to me; do not go on like this.  Beyond the power of science and doctors there is God and His Saints. Whatever was humanly possible you did.  Recently I went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint John the Russian at Prokopi, in Euboea where his holy incorrupt body is preserved. I took a little oil from the oil-lamp hanging over the Saint’s body with which to make the sign of the Cross over someone who is ill here in the hospital.  I will do the same for your mother and God will provide.” 

          How true it is that a few words, a little compassion, a little support, can greatly comfort and help one’s fellow man who is in distress or who is grieving.  Even if one sit’s silently next to someone who is ill gives them courage.  With a piece of cotton the unknown lady made the sign of the Cross on the forehead of the sick woman and left.  It is true that divine energy can be generated not only directly but also through articles and substances used in worship such as relics, holy water and oil for the Church has absolute faith in the therapeutic power of Christ.  This humble way of transmitting the powerful and uncreated energies of God to sick bodies by making the sign of the Cross on them using blessed oil or water from the Church is described by the Fathers of the Church as the most beneficial and purist form of cure offered by God (St. John Chrysostom).  It can be understood as a profound act of faith that someone should feel unworthy to ask Christ Himself through the intercessions of His Saints to come to the aid of a sick fellow human being. Is this not the essence of the power of Christ transmitted to us human beings through the simple elements of bread and wine in Holy Communion?

          But let us now return to our story.  A little while after the unknown lady had made the sign of the Cross over the sick woman, she opened her eyes and seeing that her children were weeping, she nodded to one of them to come close to her.  Her eldest daughter drew near to her and her mother whispered to her: “Why are you crying, my child?”  “Mother, it has been so many days since you have been aware that we are here and have talked to us and you ask us why we are weeping.”  “Yes, my child but a little while ago a young soldier came and told me that his name was Saint John the Russian and he made the sign of the Cross on my forehead and told me that I will return to life.”  In spite of her incurable disease, the mother recovered completely and now lives with her children and grandchildren as ordained by God and His Saint. 


          If you enter the Church of Saint John the Russian today you will see amongst many other things hanging before the shrine of the Saint, like the spoils of war, a simple and poor gift, a walking stick.  It belongs to Maria Siaka, an old lady from the village of Frenaro near Ammohostos, Cyprus.  For eighteen years she had been a hunchback and bent over so double that her face was but a short distance from the ground.  On the 11th of August, 1978 relatives of the old lady, together with some one hundred Cypriots brought her to the Church of Saint John.  Upon entering the Church they lifted her up to reverence the Saint’s incorrupt body.  Looking at the blessed body of Saint John the old lady wept and beseeched him to grant her a little divine help for the remainder of her life. Saint John saw the beauty of her soul, her grief and her deep faith.  At that moment, before the eyes of everyone there it seemed that an invisible force seized her shoulders with tremendous power and slowly began to unfold her body.  The spine creaked and returned to its original form; the old lady stood upright. Her fellow villagers wept, the bells of the Church rang out in joy, and prayers of thanksgiving were offered by all the Cypriots who could not hold back their tears.  Anyone who has had the good fortune to be present when a miracle occurs can understand these expressions of joy.  Finally, the voice of the old lady was heard: “What can I give you my young man, my Saint? I am poor.  I will give you my walking stick which I will not need for the rest of my life.”  The daily papers of Nicosia reported: “Maria Siaka, after her pilgrimage to the Church of Saint John the Russian in Greece can now, after nearly twenty years of being bent over double and seeing only the ground can now see the faces of her fellow villagers.  Thanks to the miracle of the Saint she is restored and completely well.”


          Eight years have passed since the wedding of M. Yiorgos K and his wife Archondoula and all this time they have waited in the hope of having a baby. A deep and incurable sorrow afflicts them.  How sad life seems to be when a woman cannot become a mother and does not have children. To give courage to his wife, her husband whispered to her one day, “be patient it is God’s will.  Nothing will be changed by tears and grieving.  The purpose of marriage is not only to have children; above all it is to enable us to grow spiritually and to become one with God here on earth and in eternity.  Mrs. Archondoula continued to pray every day with all her heart and soul.  From the time she was a little girl her mother had taught her to pray always because, as she used to tell her, “strong people pray and prayer arms people with patience and endurance during life’s difficulties.”

          From her youth to the present day she had come innumerable times with her family here to the Saint.  Many were the times she said to Saint John: “My great Saint John, I beg you, I beseech you, to intercede for me with God that I might be worthy of becoming a mother.  But I have been told by men and science for eight years now  that I am not going to become a mother and that I am not going to clasp a baby in my arms.  My house will be empty and my heart full of grief.  I will wait, my Saint, for an answer from heaven that God will grant me a child so that my house, my heart and my life will be full of joy and happiness. I will wait, my great Saint.”

          After this prayer, It is the evening of December 3rd, 1979.  Mrs. Archondoula, gloomy and tearful is trying to concentrate on her prayers.  But she is unable to: she is tired, she does not feel well and she has a bad feeling inside of her.  She wants to weep, to scream and lash out.  She turned to the icon shrine and on seeing the icon of Saint John burst into tears.  She said: “What after all have I done to you, my Saint? Do you hate me? Why? Why does not God give me this happiness my Saint, do you hate me?” Later on that night a little after midnight someone was heard climbing the stairs of their house.  The couple woke up. “Do not say anything,” whispered her husband.  “It is one of our employees who has mistaken the time and has come to get the keys to the office.  Do not talk and he will leave.”  Then there was a knock on the door of their room, and the door opened. A glow appeared in the darkness clearly revealing the figure of Saint John. Then they heard a voice: “Archondoula, what was that you said in your prayers tonight? Saints do not hate anybody.  It is not God’s will for you to have a baby yet.  Another two years will go by and then this happiness will be granted to you.”  The light then vanished and the voice of the Saint faded. Two years went by and the joy of God came abundantly with the first child, and then with a second and a third.  The sweet voices of the children filled the house and the hearts of their parents.  “The righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers out of all their troubles.”(Psalm 34:17)



It was the afternoon of Palm Sunday at the Shrine of Saint John the Russian.  This couple said to the priest there: “Father, my wife and I have come here to attend and celebrate with you the services of Holy Week; the Passion of our Lord.  We both want to come to confession and if we are worthy to receive Holy Communion.  But before you hear our confession we would like to tell you about our trials and tribulations.” The wife had been on the phone to Thessaloniki. As soon as she put the phone down, the wife and the husband decided to leave for Thessaloniki to find their daughter.  They explained: “We live in a small town in the province of Corinth. The owners of the house where our daughter had been staying in Thessaloniki did not hide anything from us. Our daughter had left the house eight days ago and they thought it likely she was being sought by the narcotics division of the police.  Lately, she had been returning to the house at dawn and sleeping all day.  A lecturer at the university who was a friend of ours cast us into a state of agony and fear with just one sentence: “You must find your daughter at any cost, he said, she must be in great danger.”  We searched for her but in vain.

          Two months later she telephoned her mother and using vulgar language that she never used before threatened my wife saying that we should not try to find her again and that she was finished with us.  She did not want to know us and the university was a waste of time for there were better things in life.  For six months now, Father, we have abandoned everything else and used all possible means to find her.  She has vanished into thin air. Either she has gone abroad or the drugs have killed her and her body has been disposed of.  The security police of Thessaloniki told us that this year more than two hundred girls are missing in Greece and most of them will never be found.  Under no circumstances could we stay at home this Easter.  We went to Thessaloniki again and were sickened to the depths of our souls by the filthy things we saw at those clubs where we were trying to find our daughter.  We returned home but could not bear to stay there.  We were at a complete loss as to what to do.  You see, we do not have any other children.  We are alone in the world. Our last hope is Saint John the Russian whom you serve here.  All Greece knows about his miracles.  We have decided to spend Holy Week near him in fasting beseeching him to save our child.”

          On Holy Saturday they heard the words of the troparion (hymn): “Before the mystery of God let everyone be silent and stand with fear and trembling.”  Father, we will be going home tonight which is Holy Saturday.  We thought we would attend the resurrection service in our small village.”  They left with hope in their hearts. There was joy written all over their faces.  On the afternoon of Easter Sunday all the bells of the Church of Saint John the Russian were ringing for the Agape Service.  I was wearing my festal priestly vestments and holding the candle of resurrection and was about  to start the service when I noticed through the half-opened south door of the altar a couple coming towards me with a young woman.

          The couple called out to me: “Father, Father, this is our daughter.  Look, this is our Effie, our beloved girl.  We found her in our home.  She was waiting for us, Father.  How can we thank the great Saint?  Oh God, God, glory be to you and your Saint.”  “Share in your parent’s joy, Effie.  I am very joyful too seeing you here at Saint John’s.” “Father, I survived.  This week I hovered between life and death. I had chosen death but an invisible power, after a superhuman struggle that took place within me, literally snatched me from the grasp of death and brought me back to life, to my house.  I will sing Father; I too will sing Christ is risen from the dead.”  Effie dissolved into tears and her father embraced her shaking body in his arms.  The Agape Service was delayed twenty minutes and people were waiting but in reality the Agape Service had already begun with Effie’s resurrection.     

“..And let us cry and shout, arise O Lord You who resurrect the fallen.” This is taken from the Easter Service.

This article about the life and miracles of Saint John the Russian is taken from the book “Life and Recent Miracles of Saint John the Russian” by Father John Vernezos of the Holy Shrine of Saint John the Russian Prokopi, Euboea, Greece, 1999.

Edited by:

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, January 21, 2014, in Waterford, CT, USA,
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