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Tuesday, January 17, 2017
By Archimandrite Elpidios Vagianakis (in greek)
SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT
FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM
(Commemorated on January 17th)
HIS CHILDHOOD YEARS
Saint Anthony was born in 251 A.D. in Koma, a small village in south Memphis in Egypt near the banks of the Nile River, during the era of the Roman Emperor Decius, a notorious persecutor of Christians.
His parents were rather wealthy but also devout Christians. By his nature little Anthony was an extremely sweet, polite, and humble child. Everyone loved him as their own child for the goodness and respect which he showed to all people.
He loved everyone, even the most scorned person. Whenever Anthony saw a poor, orphaned or sick child, he was inclined to assist them.
Even though he was so young, his words were full of wisdom and prudence.
But what most impressed everyone and made them refer to him as a child of God was his great devotion and tender love towards Jesus Christ. Whenever he spoke of Him, his heart would burn like lava in a volcano.
His greatest joy was attending divine services with his beloved parents in their small village church. There, he would listen carefully to the reading of the Gospels, which he had an eager desire to follow and apply precisely in his life.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
22. The miracle of Christmas
The bells were ringing for the most joyful celebration of Christians, Christmas, and the hearts of all the people poured out numerous wishes like a fragrant aroma for a Merry Christmas and many happy years of peace and joy!
The same wishes were repeated once more, after the Christmas Mass, to the spiritual father of a group of young children, who were visiting the monastery of the Archangels, up the mountain, to celebrate the birth of the God-man Jesus Christ.
-May God give you, my beloved children, many happy and blessed years. I wish you may also embrace the sweet Holy Infant of Bethlehem, as those blessed shepherds embraced Him, when they visited Him one cold night in the cave where He was born.
-We would very much like, our reverend father, for you to talk to us about that night and the miracle of the birth of our Christ!
21. The divine Infant of Bethlehem
No-one ever doubted that the presence of a small baby is one of the strongest joys of earth, which brings great happiness. At the sight of the innocent infant and his angelic smile, even hard-hearted people soften and their hearts become peaceful.
A baby does not distinguish between good and bad people. He smiles at all of them innocently and honestly. He spreads out his little hands to everybody in order to enjoy their love and hugs.
No-one is ever afraid of an innocent infant. Infants never harm anyone. Inadvertently, the only feeling they may provoke is the sense of the wide gap between their innocence and the cunning that older people have. That's why when you look at them, you remember the lost greatness of innocence which you also once had. Really, how many times have we wished we were innocent like them!
Friday, December 23, 2016
Α Guide to Repentance
Α Guide to Repentance
A few words of introduction
Every man, my brother, is made up of:
-the mortal and material body and
-the immaterial, immortal and spiritual soul.
God created man in this way.
However, as the body needs to be cared for, to be cleansed, to be clothed, to be fed, in the same way the immortal soul has its own needs:
- ITS CLEANSING, that is confession, by which it will be cleansed of the various impurities of its sins.
- ITS CLOTHING, not to be naked and freezing, that is, all those works of love which our Christ commands us to do through His Gospel, and
- ITS FOOD, that is, Holy Communion, the all holy Body and Blood of the crucified sweetest Son of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
If, however, we look after our material body with such great care, shouldn't we pay more attention to our immortal soul which is, as our beloved teacher Jesus says, more valuable than our body?
“Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37-38)
In this little booklet, written for you with a lot of love, you will read some simple reflections on the great Sacrament of Repentance and of Confession, since that's why our Christ came to earth, to bring repentance to mankind, because without it no-one can truly love Christ and be saved.
20. The night of Christmas
It was slowly getting dark and the sun was disappearing behind the mountains of Bethlehem. The cold and frost made the inhabitants of this small village, as well as all those who came from distant places to be registered at the place of their birth, go inside their homes early. Soon the streets were deserted and no one was walking about outside.
To tell the truth not everyone, because just outside the village a pious man, leading a donkey with a young girl on its back, who looked like she was pregnant, was anxious to arrive at a house in time before it got too late.
Every now and then, he was trying to give her courage, because he saw that the time to give birth had come and the young girl was extremely tired from the trip which had taken several days.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
19. The little sheep of God
In the first three centuries A.D. the Christian Church lived one of the most bloody and most heroic periods in its history. Masses of Christians wrote with their blood moving pages of love about the Crucified Jesus and His Gospel.
Terrible and horrible tortures were invented, to eradicate from the hearts of the faithful Christians the love they had for our Lord Jesus Christ.
The boldness, however, and the courage all the Christians showed when facing the tortures were remarkable! With unimaginable patience and bravery, children and adults, men and women, young and old, even young children suffered all these tortures with enthusiasm, for the sake of their Christian faith.
One such child, the young noble Agnes, was in her early teens, when she was asked to confess with courage the love she had for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Saint Agnes was born in the year 290 A.D. in Rome. The Emperor was then the great persecutor of Christians, Diocletian. Her parents had aristocratic origins and were very wealthy. From the time she was a toddler Agnes learnt about Christ and like a thirsty fawn which runs to the spring of gurgling water to drink, she was studying the holy Gospel and the great teaching of love, as interpreted through the Holy Book.
18. A heavenly sunbeam
(The Great Martyr Saint Christina)
Like a heavenly sunbeam the only daughter of General Ourvanos was born and raised in the city of Tyre in Syria, around 200 AD. Everyone from far and wide spoke about her wonderful beauty, but also about this young noble girl’s good manners.
Her father, being a supreme general was often away in the East with the troops of King Severus and fearing that someone would dare to hurt her during his absence, built a tall tower. He enclosed his little girl in this together with many servants to look after her.
The greatest fear of her pagan father was that someone would introduce Christianity to his daughter. So that's why he filled this tower with dozens of gold and silver statues of pagan gods. In this tower, there was everything, so that his daughter would not need to come out at all, that's why he strictly ordered her not to leave the tower.
17. The Pearl of Sicily
(The life of St. Agatha)
The precious pearl of heaven, Saint Agatha, was born and raised in Sicily, Italy in the 3rd century AD, when the Emperor of Rome was Decius.
She was only fifteen years old when the persecution of the Christians began. But the divine love that burned her breasts for her beloved Jesus was so great that she was not afraid at all. Instead she ran to support the Christians of her country and help them to remain faithful to the true faith of Christ.
She said that we live temporarily on this earth and that our true home is in heaven, in God's embrace. What's the point, then, of living here for a few years of false joys and pleasures and then losing the eternal happiness of Heaven?
She helped them with her example, to love her heavenly Bridegroom of Jesus even more and for His grace not to fear anything, not even the terrible tortures of the idolaters.
16. Three great evils have started
-I heard you saying father that, because of our sins, three great evils have started, which all of humanity will soon have to face. Could you please tell me more about this?
-All the world, my child, is a vast earthly kingdom, which is ruled by several leaders. We, the people, elect these leaders according to our beliefs and desires. When we respect God and strive to live according to His Will, we elect the right and pious leaders. God then blesses the people and the country, so that the people live happy and cheerful lives, but also for the country to enjoy the great gift of peace. Nature, seeing the love of man towards its Creator, becomes his friend and ally and generously gives him its fruits and its gifts.
-Father, can nature perceive the spiritual changes in the human soul?
15. Talk to God like a little child
-Many times, Father, I've heard you talk about the value and the power of prayer. I was impressed when you said that, of all the virtues it is the only one that, when done correctly, can very easily bring Divine Grace to our soul. You also said that Satan fears it very much because it burns him and destroys his evil powers! Therefore, I would like to ask you, if possible, to tell me more about it and help me learn how to correctly pray to our Lord.
-The fathers of our Holy Church, my child, named prayer the queen of virtues! And do you know why? Because by itself it has the power to unite a soul with its Creator! All other virtues simply help a soul to ascend to the throne of God. Prayer, however, when made with faith and humility, has the power to put you in the arms of God and help you experience, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the infinite motherly love with which your heavenly Father adores you! Through prayer you can also feel His infinite compassion for you and how much He wants to hold you like a child in His loving fatherly heart! Through prayer, every time you will ask forgiveness for your mistakes, He will bend down with much adoration and love, to tell you that He forgives you and how He wants you to become His small earthly angel! Through prayer you become one with your beloved God the Father, since you give Him the pleasure of holding you tightly in His arms and listening to the voice of His beloved child. Prayer, my child, is the most sacred moment for each person, since only with this can a man be worthy to speak with his almighty Father and the Creator of the whole universe. Prayer is the quickest path that leads you directly to God's kingdom, which is why all the Saints loved prayer more than any other virtue.
14. The three holy noble children
(The life of St. Sophia)
When the Emperor of Rome was Hadrian (117 A.D.- 138 A.D.) there lived in a town in Italy, a young and wealthy noble Christian woman whose name was Sophia.
She had lost her husband very early and lived alone with her three beautiful daughters, Faith, who was 12 years old, Hope, who was 10 years old and Love, who was just 9 years old. All three girls had a radiant beauty, not only physical beauty, but essentially from the many mental and spiritual gifts they had.
Sophia, as a mother, was a very good role model. She was kind, modest, humble, with a burning love for Christ in her heart, but also she was incredibly tender-hearted towards all poor and suffering people.
13. On the feast day of our Holy Virgin Mary
Maria together with her fiancé John went up the mountain, to the chapel of the Archangels, to attend the divine Liturgy and to receive the Body and Blood of their well-beloved King Jesus, on that great day of the feast of our Holy Virgin Mary.
Both of them love God very much and want to have a blessed family, which will worship the Creator and will live according to His Will.
After the divine Liturgy they did not leave immediately, but sat under a big shady tree beside the stone spring of cool water to enjoy the beauty of the mountain and thank God for the many gifts He gave them.
Their joy grew when they saw the elder priest approach them and sit near them like a sweet father close to his children.
12. God’s dreams for us
There is no man who doesn't dream of his future. Everyone has dreams young, old, men, women and even young children.
All dreams are mainly about the future and people's happiness. The priority in all these dreams is their future profession and the choice of a good spouse, with whom they will share the joys and sorrows of life.
In order for their dreams in the professional sector to succeed they are already working hard from an early age, studying endlessly for so many years, at elementary school and then high school and university. But in the emotional part of their life, even from small children they are watching, searching and looking anxiously until the appropriate spouse is found, with whom they will share the joys and sorrows of this life.
11. Myron vessels of love
Dimitris together with his friends, all students in the medical school of the university, are going up the mountain, to see and talk with the wise elder, who lives there ascetically in the monastery of the Archangels.
They heard so much from Dimitris about his holiness and wisdom, that they wanted, out of curiosity mostly, to get a closer look and see if everything they heard from their friend is true.
They are excited by the beauty of the mountain. The scenery is impressive, with the gurgling water of the brook flowing tirelessly in the green forest and the birds incessantly chirping the song of joy.
But Dimitris’ friends’ enthusiasm will grow when they see the elder ascetic welcoming them with that sweet warmth of his paternal love. Although they were seeing him for the first time, it did not take long for them to feel very comfortable and very at ease with him.
10. Confession of the heart
It's almost a week since the young medical student Dimitris, visited the wise ascetic elder at the chapel of the Archangels, up on the mountain.
Their discussion on various spiritual topics and especially the sacrament of confession, had captivated him. Throughout the week, he tried to study and discover, as much as it was possible, the errors and passions of his soul and to write them down. He was determined to confess them to the wise elder priest and ask him to guide him on the spiritual path he had already begun.
Now, he is happily going up the path through the forest, which would soon bring him closer to his divinely inspired guide.
The joy of the ascetic elder was obvious, when he saw the young student sitting next to him and asking him to hear his confession.