Friday, February 10, 2017

"Neither fire, nor the sword..."

St. Charalampos the Hieromartyr (source)
  
Neither fire, nor the sword, nor death, nor persecutions, nor trials, nor hunger, nor danger, nor any tortures that could be devised, could truly overtake your love, or separate you from your Beloved [Christ], O Champion worthy to be praised.
-from the Matins Canon to St. Charalampos the Hieromartyr

(source)

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, January 23, 2017

A miracle of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg: "You know where to go!"

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg (source)
  
About fifteen years ago, I heard this story about an event that took place in Northern California—an unusual story, about a miracle of St. Xenia of Petersburg. Nun Nina, now Abbess Nina of St. Nilus Skete in Alaska, had heard it from Fr. Weldon Hardenbrook, who at the time was the rector of a church in Santa Cruz County. I wrote it down immediately, but unfortunately the notebook I wrote it in is located somewhere far away from me now, and I am writing it again from memory—so that people might know that Blessed Xenia the fool-for-Christ of St. Petersburg helps people everywhere, even people who previously knew nothing about her. She helps not only those who have prayed to her, but even those who will pray to her.
  
This priest, Fr. Weldon, served in a parish that consisted of former Evangelical Christians who had embraced Orthodox Christianity. There was a time when their flourishing community was not Orthodox, and all kinds of people came to them to hear their Christian message. One day, a young man rode up to the church on his Harley Davidson. His appearance betrayed the life of a prodigal, but he was sincerely interested in hearing about Jesus. A relationship formed with the Fr Weldon, now an Orthodox priest (who told this story), and the young man began to gradually change his ways. He had given up one vice after another when the pastor told him that his “biking” would have to go if he wanted to truly follow Christ. This was too much for the newly-born Evangelical to bear, and he left the community and his pastor’s care, never intending to return.
  
Our biker rode off on his Harley Davidson, and soon had a terrible accident, which cost him his legs. Eventually he landed back in the company of his old “friends”, in a run-down apartment in a low-rent neighborhood in the bad part of a crime-ridden city. One evening, as he and his companions were abusing drugs and alcohol in a particularly vigorous way, he slipped over the edge and lost consciousness. The others were also far from sober and took him for dead. Not understanding clearly what they should do, and as usual avoiding all contact with the police, they simply dragged his limp, legless body to the street and threw him into the nearest garbage dumpster. In there, the next morning, he came to his senses. It was a rude awaking indeed to find himself in a dumpster, wallowing in refuse. Climbing dazedly out of that would-be coffin, he sat down on the curb, thinking the darkest thoughts. “So, this is what I have come to. Useless, human trash. Thrown away like garbage.”
  
Sunk in these pessimistic thoughts, he was suddenly stirred by the presence of an old lady in tattered clothes—what people call a “bag lady”. She was coming closer to him with a fierce, accusatory expression. “You know where to go,” she said, pointing at him. “So, go there!” At that moment the man remembered his former pastor, and the church where he had almost reformed. Determined to find it again, he made his way back to the town where it is located.
  
When he returned to that church it was different. There were gold domes with crosses on the roof, and the interior was completely changed. No pews; and there was a sort of screen at the front, with strange images of holy people. He looked around in wonder, when his gaze caught the image of a woman—the very “bag lady” who had told him where to go in that hour of dire depression. It was Holy Blessed Xenia, the fool-for-Christ of Petersburg.
  
He met his old friend, now an Orthodox priest in a cassock, wearing a cross. He received holy Baptism himself, and began to live the life of a dedicated parishioner, this time truly transformed.
I do not know what has come of this man since. I have no reason to believe that he is anywhere other than at that parish, but as I have said, this story was related to me fifteen years ago. However, the fact remains that this miracle of St. Xenia happened to person who knew nothing of her, who lived in a place very far from Russia, and when he needed it the most.
Nun Cornelia (Rees), 06 / 02 / 2014, (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

St. Maximos the Confessor: "He who believes fears..."

Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world (source)
  
"He who believes fears; he who fears is humble; he who is humble becomes gentle and renders inactive those impulses of incensiveness and desire which are contrary to nature. A person who is gentle keeps the commandments; he who keeps the commandments is purified; he who is purified is illumined; he who is illumined is made a consort of the divine Bridegroom and Logos in the shrine of the mysteries."
-St. Maximos the Confessor,
"Two-Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God", The Philokalia
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, January 6, 2017

"O Lord, wishing to fulfill all things..."

Icon of Holy Theophany: the Baptism of Christ and the Revelation of the Holy Trinity (source)
  
O Lord, wishing to fulfill all things that You ordained before the ages, You received the servants of Your mystery, from among the Angels, Gabriel, from among Men, the Virgin, from among the Heavens, the Star, and from among the Waters, the Jordan, in which You washed away the sin of the world, O our Savior, glory to You.
-Doxastikon of the Liti for the Great Feast of Theophany,
St. John of Damascus

(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, January 2, 2017

St. Seraphim of Sarov: "There is nothing better than peace in Christ..."

St. Seraphim of Sarov, speaking with Nicholas Motovilov (source)
  
There is nothing better than peace in Christ, for it brings victory over all the evil spirits on earth and in the air. When peace dwells in a man’s heart it enables him to contemplate the grace of the Holy Spirit from within. He who dwells in peace collects spiritual gifts as it were with a scoop, and he sheds the light of knowledge on others. All our thoughts, all our desires, all our efforts, and all our actions should make us say constantly with the Church: “O Lord, give us peace!” When a man lives in peace, God reveals mysteries to him.
-St. Seraphim of Sarov
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

St. Basil the Great: "Jesus Christ is for us a lesson..."

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world (source)
  
Dearly Beloved, each word and deed of Our Saviour Jesus Christ is for us a lesson in virtue and piety. For this end also did He assume our nature, so that every man and every woman, contemplating as in a picture the practice of all virtue and piety, might strive with all their hearts to imitate His example. For this He bore our body, so that as far as we could we might repeat within us the manner of His life. And so therefore, when you hear mention of some word or deed of His, take care not to receive it simply as something that incidentally happened, but raise your mind upwards towards the sublimity of what He is teaching, and strive to see what has been mystically handed down to us.
-St. Basil the Great, "That prayer is to be placed before all things"
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Homily VI on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity of Christ (source)
  
Homily VI on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian
Blessed be the Messenger that was laden, and came; a great peace! The Bowels of the Father brought Him down to us; He did not bring up our debts to Him, but made a satisfaction to that Majesty with His own goods.
  
Praised be the Wise One, who reconciled and joined the Divine with the Human Nature. One from above and one from below, He confined the Natures as medicines, and being the Image of God, became man.
  
That Jealous One when He saw that Adam was dust, and that the cursed serpent had devoured him, shed soundness into that which was tasteless, and made him [as] salt, wherewith the accursed serpent should be blinded.
  
Blessed be the Merciful One, who saw the weapon by Paradise, that closed the way to the Tree of Life; and came and took a Body which could suffer, that with the Door, that was in His side, He might open the way into Paradise.
  
Blessed be that Merciful One, who lent not Himself to harshness, but without constraint conquered by wisdom; that He might give an ensample unto men, that by virtue and wisdom they might conquer discerningly.
  
Blessed is Thy flock, since Thou art the gate thereof, and Thou art the staff thereof. Thou art the Shepherd thereof, Thou art the Drink thereof, Thou art the salt thereof, yea, the Visitor thereof. Hail to the Only-Begotten, that bare abundantly all manner of consolations!
  
The husbandmen came and did obeisance before the Husbandman of Life. They prophesied to Him as they rejoiced,[saying,] "Blessed be the Husbandman, by Whom the ground of the heart is tilled, Who gathereth His wheat into the garner of Life."
  
The husbandmen came and gave glory to the Vineyard that sprang of the root and stem of Jesse, the Virgin Cluster of the glorious Vine. "May we be vessels for Thy new Wine that renews all things."
"In Thee may the Vineyard of my Well-beloved that yielded wild grapes1 find peace! Graft its vines from Thy stocks; let it be laden entirely from Thy blessings with a fruit which may reconcile the Lord of the Vineyard, Who threatens it."
  
Because of Joseph the workmen came to the Son of Joseph saying, "Blessed be Thy Nativity, Thou Head of Workmen, the impress whereof the ark bore, after which was fashioned the Tabernacle of the congregation that was for a time only!"2
  
"Our craft praises Thee, Who art our glory. Make Thou the yoke which is light, yea easy, for them that bear it; make the measure, in which there can be no falseness, which is full of Truth; yea, devise and make measures3 by righteousness; that he that is vile may be accused thereby, and he that is perfect, may be acquitted thereby. Weigh therewith both mercy and truth, O just One, as a judge."
"Bridegrooms with their brides rejoiced. Blessed be the Babe, whose Mother was Bride of the Holy One! Blessed the marriage feast, whereat Thou wast present, in which when wine was suddenly wanting, in Thee it abounded again!"
  
The children cried out, "Blessed He that hath become unto us a Brother, and Companion in the midst of the streets. Blessed be the day which by the Branches4 gives glory to the Tree of life, that made His Majesty be brought low, to our childish age!"
  
Women heard that a Virgin should conceive and bring forth a Son: honourable women hoped that thou wouldest rise from them; yea noble ladies that Thou mightest spring up from them! Blessed be Thy Majesty, that humbled Itself, and rose from the poor!
  
Yea the young girls that carried Him prophesied, saying, "Whether I be hated or fair, or of low estate, I am without spot for Thee. I have taken Thee in charge for the bed of Childbirth."
  
Sarah had lulled Isaac, who as a slave5 bare the Image of the King his Master on his shoulders, even the sign of His Cross; yea, on his hands were bandages and sufferings, a type of the nails.
  
Rachel cried to her husband, and said, Give me sons.6 Blessed be Mary, in whose womb, though she asked not, Thou didst dwell holily, O Gift, that poured itself upon them that received it.
  
Hannah with bitter tears asked a child;7 Sarah and Rebecca with vows and words, Elizabeth also with her prayer, after having vexed themselves for a long time, yet so obtained comfort.
  
Blessed be Mary, who without vows and without prayer, in her Virginity conceived and brought forth the Lord of all the sons of her companions, who have been or shall be chaste and righteous, priests and kings.
  
Who else lulled a son in her bosom as Mary did? who ever dared to call her son, Son of the Maker, Son of the Creator, Son of the Most High?
  
Who ever dared to speak to her son as in prayer? O Trust of Thy Mother as God, her Beloved and her Son as Man, in fear and love it is meet for thy Mother to stand before Thee!
(source)
  
The Nativity of Christ (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!