Tuesday, July 30, 2013


34. Make your heavenly family
protectors of your souls.

(Sermon for the celebration of Saint Markella and Saint Maria Magdalene)


Saint Markella of Chios celebrates today!  Today Saint Isidoros, patron of your village, celebrates as well since Saint Markella is his sister.  Both, as you know, come from Chios.  
 The saints are like us. 
-When our friend or relative celebrates, don’t we celebrate too?
-When a friend, relative or fellow villager happens to be celebrating, don’t we go to greet him?
-Yes.  We celebrate all together.
The same occurs in heaven.  In heaven, all the saints are one family.  Each one loves the other.  It is not like here on earth where one person may hate the other.  In heaven they are all one family. 

«God asks us to build our heavenly family»

This is why God wants us to emulate our heavenly family.  And today Isidoros rejoices because his sister celebrates.  He is not only Saint Isidoros.  He is our brother Isidoros.  Our friend  Isidoros.  A part of our life.
-Imagine you are a family and one of your children has become a saint and gone to heaven.  What would you call him?  My saint?  Or my son/my daughter?
-My son!
Well, we are the same as the saints.  It upsets God to see us glorify them as saints and not as our brothers, friends and children.
Yesterday, I was invited for a meal.  This family had a little girl called Anna.  At some point, I asked her:
-How old are you, my little one?
-I am ten years old.
Ten years old I thought to myself and was touched.
-Do you know why?
Because my Saint, whose name I have, my Saint Elpida (Hope), was ten years old, like this small girl.  I took her in my arms and hugged her.
How could this little girl, and everyone present there, know the joy I felt at that moment because I thought that in this world, I had found my saint.
-What should I call her?
-My Saint Elpida?  But she is only 10.
-What do you call a ten year old child?
-Don’t you call her my little girl, my child?
The saints are the same.  This is what they want us to call them and are glad.  They are glad because those in heaven want to be loved as we on earth love each other, because they came from earth. Suppose a small child became a saint and its mother calls it my little girl/my son.
-What will it call her from heaven?  Won’t it call her “Mother”?
Our relationships with heaven must be family relationships.  Beloved family members.  So, don’t love, respect and glorify Saint Isidoros only as a saint, but as your brother.  The same also applies to Saint George.  Not only as Saint George, but as our brother.  Saint Dimitrios too.  Not only as Saint Dimitrios, but as our brother.  Love all the saints as our brothers, friends and beloved people.
-Do you understand?
The Saints don’t want only your glorification.   They want to live in your heart.  They want to live in your life.
Once, I went to a place where a little girl was acting crazily.  At one point I asked:
-What is wrong with this child?
-She is possessed by demons, they told me.
-What did this child have inside her?
-She had demons.
-What are demons?
-Bad spirits, satanic spirits.
-What did they do to the child?
-They hurt her, caused her pain, made her talk nonsense and made her want to hit out.
-Do you see what bad spirits do?  This is exactly it.

Along with these demon-possessed people, who’s to say there aren’t angel-possessed people?
God, according to the love you have for a saint, allows them to enter your heart and protect your soul, like angels.  Is there anyone who loves only one saint?
One will say, but I love Saint Nektarios, I love Saint Marina, I love Saint Katerina.  If you love them and call them to you, into your heart, then these spirits of our great saints will also be in your soul.
-And do you know what they will do?
They will protect your soul along with your guardian angel.  Like angels, they will guard you.

«God is our Mother and Father»

-What does God ask for?
He asks that we build our heavenly family.  As on earth, where we have our family of father, mother and siblings, God wants you to make your heavenly family.  He doesn’t want us to be defenseless.  He wants us to feel God Himself as our father and our mother.
-Do you know how God wants us to love Him?
-In a home, what are the needs of a child?
-Is his Father’s love enough?
-Of course not.  It needs his mother’s absolute love, too. 
So, it needs both its father for protection and its mother for tenderness and support. 
 -So, is only a mother necessary?
-No, a father is also necessary.
This is our God, both Mother and Father.  Like a mother, hugging with tender support, and like a father, protecting and guarding.  Don’t forget this.  I will say it again.
-How does God want us to love Him?
-As our parent, like a mother and like a father.  He is our Mother and our Father.
This secret, that God loves us in this way, like a Mother and a Father, is the biggest secret in the world.  Do you know why?  Because when a person loves God like a Mother and a Father, the demons disappear, they can’t withstand this.  This fire, this passion, this love, the respect a child has for his mother and father are so mighty that the demons cannot come near.  For this reason, happy is the person who kneels and says:
«Father, you are my Mother, in whose hands I leave my soul.  Heavenly Father, embrace me».
-What is that tender moment like when a child opens its arms and hugs his mother around the neck?
-How does his mother feel?
-She is overwhelmed with joy.  This is the truth.
Mother and father are overwhelmed with joy when their child hugs them around the neck.  It’s the most sacred and strongest moment because the child actually hangs from the neck of his father.  He hangs from his father’s love.  The moment he hugs him with his two arms, a miracle happens.  The father’s heart is next to his child’s heart and both beat within their chests.  The paternal and maternal support of the father is joined with the adoration and love of his child.  This is exactly what God wants from us.

«I give you my Saints as your most precious siblings»

-What else does our Holy Father ask of us?
“Since you call Me your Father and your Mother, I will give you the most precious helpers, your most precious siblings.
-Do you know who these are?
All those who love Me on earth.  All those who adore Me.  All those who have fallen in love with Me.
-Do you want to learn who they are?
They are here, all the Saints who are depicted in the icons of your church as well as your numerous Saints, girls, boys and grandparents”.
Sometimes I walk past the church of Saint Anna in Kalavarda.  In the past, as I walked by I said: “My Saint Anna, I ask you for your blessing”
-Now when I walk past, do you know what I say?
“Grandmother Anna, I ask for your blessing.”
-Do you know why?
When a small child says “my grandfather”, as soon as he says this word, his grandfather is overwhelmed with joy! 
“Grandmother” says the grandchild and immediately what does the grandmother do?  She is overwhelmed with joy.  All she wants is to embrace her grandchild and live this sweet, tender, affectionate love that a grandparent shares with their grandchild. 
-So, why not say “Grandfather Zachariah”, “Grandfather Joachim”, “Grandmother Anna” and “Grandmother Elizabeth?”
This is how we must learn to speak to our saints.  Call Dimitrios and George, “my brother”.  Feel them near us, they are our friends.  They will take you on their horses and ride far away from temptation.  They will raise their spear and strike Satan.
-Who will fight Satan?
-Do we see Satan?
-No.  And yet he battles us in secret.
-Have you ever seen him?
-No.  And yet, don’t you feel him fighting us?
Yes.  This is exactly what happens.  The secret demons which, so as not to frighten us, God does not allow us to see, are seen by those in our heavenly family, our siblings in heaven, George, Dimitrios, Markella, Magdalene and all the Saints.  These are our heavenly family.  We just call out to them and they help us:  “Please, come near me and help me.” And they come.  Just ask for their help.
-If you don’t ask for help, does anyone come?
-When does someone come to help?
When you call out and say: “Please, help me now”.

“Make the Archangel Michael your spiritual godfather”

So today we have one more chance to build our heavenly family. I have done the same. When I received the message from heaven, I made my family.
-And do you know who I included first?
The Archangel Michael.  I told him:  “You won’t simply be in my family; you will be my spiritual godfather.  You will guide me.  You will hold my hand”.
Everyone will have The Archangel Michael as their godfather. Put him beside us.  Continuously call out to him:  “You will be the protector of our souls”.  He will then send his angels to stand by us, to protect our homes.  When he feels our love, he will never leave us; his angels will always guard us.
-Isn’t this a great thing?
-Yes.  For this reason, we will have the Archangel Michael as our godfather.  Make him the backbone of your heavenly family. 

“Make the Holy Mary your Mother”

-Who else could you put in your heavenly family?
-The Mother of God, our Holy Mary (Panagia).
-If you don’t include your mother in your family, who will you include? Who will protect you?
When Holy Mary feels that you love her like your mother, that you are her little girl, her little boy and you ask her “My Mother, help me” do you know what she will do? She will never remove her hands from you. This is what we must do; make Holy Mary our mother.

“Make your beloved Saints your siblings and copy their divine love”

Next, gather your heavenly siblings. They are all very strong.  They make the demons tremble with fear.  See what Marina did, a young girl only sixteen years old.  The devil thought it would be easy to destroy her.  First, he appeared before her as a fierce dragon.  Fire and flames came from his mouth and eyes to frighten her.  He tried to frighten her in her prison cell. The Saint immediately started praying to God.  Her divine love was great. Then the large dragon was transformed into a black dog.  When Saint Marina saw this, she understood that it was the devil and immediately grabbed the dog by its fur and, with a hammer which she found on the ground, hit the dog on the back and neck until it was humbled and useless.
What I want to point out is that Saint Marina didn’t manage to destroy the demon only through her prayer, but with her divine love.  Prayer isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to be close to someone you love.  You must show him with your love.  Faith alone isn’t enough.  I tell you again:  Faith is the strength, the base. It’s the foundation upon which a house is built.  But, if the floors aren’t built, what can you do with the base alone?
- Do you want to stay at the base? 
-No.  You must build the floors, the next level.
See what happened to Peter the Apostle:
-Wasn’t he faithful to Christ?  Didn’t he believe in Him?
-But was his faith strong enough so that he wouldn’t deny Him?  Did his faith help him not to deny Him?
-No. Why?
He simply needed to add something.  Faith without divine love is nothing.
A simple example:
A woman believes and says “This is my husband”.
A man believes and says “Yes, this is my wife”.
They both say it through faith.  But if they aren’t in love, what’s it worth? 
-So, what is needed? 
We must dress our faith in Christ with divine love.  We must be in love with Christ.  He must be our love, our life!  Our being! He must be everything to us!  This is what makes a child stand in prayer, raise his arms to heaven and make heaven and Him lean down towards him.
-Do you know why?  Because wherever there is divine love and heart-throbbing sweetness, fragrance evolves!  Spiritual fire!  And all the saints in heaven understand this.
-Do you know why?  Because all the saints didn’t become sanctified because they were martyrs, but because they had divine love!  Do you believe they would have had the courage to be martyred if they weren’t in love with Christ?  There is no sacrifice without love.  Love for God is what brings about martyrdom.  Love for God is what makes man not care about anything, to strongly confess his love for Christ, to be martyred for Him.

And this is what will happen in the extreme years to come, which are too close for you to imagine.  When the false prophet and the antichrist come to put their mark on man, who do you think will resist being marked? 
-All Christians? 
I regret to tell you this but many will submit. 
-Do you know who will deny the mark? 
Only those whose hearts beat with love in the name of Christ. 
For this reason, from now on you must prepare yourselves, to live the only worthy love on earth, the love for Jesus Christ.

“Motherly love is the strongest love of all”
Many loves exist on earth, such as the love of money.
-What is a miser?
His love is money.
-What is a sensualist?
His love is the flesh. These are all dangerous loves because they lead to loss and destruction. 
Only one love is worthy on earth.  Only one, which I wish we could understand.  It’s a love you’ve all experienced without knowing it.  It’s a love so divine, so superior which you all lived through but didn’t hold on to. It’s a love which those who have experienced it don’t want to explain it because it is personal.
-What is this great love?
- Isn’t it motherly love? 
-Wasn’t the best moment when you became mothers? 
-Wasn’t it when you held your infant in your arms?  Wasn’t it when you hugged it sweetly and said:  “This is my treasure, my child, my pride, my love”?
Isn’t this the love which as a father you said:  “This is my son and my daughter”?
Didn’t you struggle for this love all your life?  Didn’t you fight for this love, to raise it, educate it, and see it happy?  Don’t you spill your blood and your sweat for this love, to see your child happy?
Isn’t your child your love?  And it always will be because this is unaltered love.  This is why as grandparents we are doubly in love with our love, our child.

“Our Divine father is in love with us for we are His offspring”

I am telling you this, the biggest truth.  That our Divine Father, as an affectionate mother, is in love with us because we are His child, His little boy, His little girl.  He’s in love with our souls because we are His offspring.  He’s in love with us for we are His joy.  He is in love with us because for us, His children, He made His paradise. 
-Why does He need paradise without His children?  Why do you need your homes without your children? 
-What would you do with them without the love of your children? 
-What would God do with paradise and heaven if we don’t love Him?
For this reason, His heart leaps with longing when we love Him tenderly and affectionately from the depths of our hearts.
There are many prayers but none more beautiful, stronger, sweeter prayer than one which rises to heaven opening the doors of paradise not only to God but to the entire heavenly world.  Angels and Saints are seen descending.
Hear what is this most beautiful and sweetest prayer from the mouth of an Angel:
“Only in one instance does the glorification of heaven stop.  As you know, the angels continuously chant to God.  Only in one instance do they all stop. 
-When is this?  Do you know? 
When on earth a man, a creature of God, an offspring of God kneels, opens his heart and lets his love ascend, like a prayer, a fragrance to heaven above.  Then, all the prayers in heaven stop.  So strong is this fragrant love of man to God”.
This is why I ask you to start today.  Create God’s throne in your homes.  Put Christ’s icon there.  Also put His cross in your icon shrine.  And tell Him:  “You are my love”.

“Make Saint Markella part of your heavenly family”

This is what Saint Markella, who celebrates today, said. This small girl, Markella, was orphaned nearly at birth. Her respectful, Christian mother died young and left her alone with her pagan/heathen father. When this father learned that his daughter had become a Christian, he became a monster instead of a father. You see, only 2 letters differentiate pateras (father) from teras (monster). He chased her in order to commit lewd acts upon this small girl, his daughter! She was so beautiful, so sweet and so innocent, that she burned demons through her prayers. When this little girl knelt to pray, her tears flowed for the love of Christ and heaven was touched. But, she made the devils afraid. Do you know what they did? They entered her father, making him Lucifer’s tool, who chased her intending to disgrace her. The Saint abandoned her home, went to the mountain and hid in some bushes. Her father, after being directed by a shepherd, found her there. He lit a fire to force her out of the bushes.
The Saint ran towards the sea in an attempt to save herself.  Her father then grabbed a bow and shot her with an arrow.  Bleeding, the girl continued running towards the sea.  Seeing her strength abandoning her and the danger of being disgraced by her father, she spent her last moments of life praying to the Lord: 
“Christ, my body and soul belong to you, my beloved bridegroom.  Open a rock so that I may hide within”.
Truly, at that moment a rock opened and enclosed the Saint’s body except her head and chest.  Her father, after unsuccessfully trying to remove her from the stone, first cut off her breasts and then her head.  Her blood flowed upon the stones.  To this day, the stones there are coloured blood red from the blood of her holy head.
-What did her father get from her? 
Her breasts and her head.
-What did heaven gain?  A great Angel!
-What did we the people gain? 
An angel on earth to protect us.
How many miracles has Saint Markella performed until today and continues to perform? 

-Isn’t it worth the effort to include this girl, Markella, in our heavenly family, to help us?        
-Isn’t it worth calling to her and saying:  “Markella, my sweet girl, sweet angel of heaven, help us with our battles against Satan, especially the battles of the flesh?  Help us and release us with your supplication”.  Put Markella in your heavenly family.

“Include Saint Mary Magdalene in your heavenly family”

Don’t forget the other, older, beautiful daughter for your heavenly family. This daughter, who when born on earth was so beautiful, so sweet, so affectionate, so tender, so compassionate, so giving, so divine. When she raised her hands to speak to heaven, her heart beat so tenderly, so sweetly. She called out to her Father not only with words but with her heart. When she said “My Father”, her heart echoed. Satan was terrified of this daughter, who was born in Magdala in Gallilea from which she was named.
I believe you understand of whom I speak:
Maria Magdalene!  For this sweet, wonderful daughter, this incredible angel whom Lucifer thought could give birth to the Messiah.  He couldn’t stand her love of God, her generosity, her divine love for her Father in heaven.  He couldn’t stand her virtues.  Then, do you know what he did? 
Lucifer himself sent 7 cunning demons to force the 7 graces of the Holy Spirit to torment her, believing in this way she couldn’t give birth to the Messiah.
Imagine the worth of this girl before God!  What power she had!  What spiritual fire within her!  Satan felt all this and sent 7 demons to torment her.  You can conceive the girl’s sadness and pain when she saw her heart flood with the cunning demons of selfishness, Lucifer himself.  Her heart was flooded with the demons of deceit, unfaithfulness, blasphemy, immorality and ruthlessness.  Her pain was so great that she couldn’t bear to kneel in prayer and her hot tears flowed to the ground.  Her pain and tears could pierce and burn marble.  She called out to her heavenly Father:  “Father, save me”.
 And He saw her struggle and finally put this information in her heart: 
“Your love for Me, my daughter, is like light, like fire.  Thus, I will allow you to serve the light itself, the fire itself”.
How could the girl understand all this then? 
Until the blessed day that the true light, Jesus, came to the suburbs of Magdala.  She was informed by the heavenly Father that she was finally sent her angel, whom she would love as her light, her life.  She awaited him impatiently and with great desire. 
There she met with Christ.  She falls to His feet.  He knows from His Father who this girl is.  He Himself as God knows this girl.  And the first thing he does is to set her free of the 7 demons. 
-Do you know how He freed her of them? 
He didn’t need to tell them to leave.  When Lucifer saw Maria Magdalene approach with the fire of her love, Christ-the true light, the demons couldn’t stand the blinding light seen only by them, but hidden to man.  The presence of God glowed like light. His presence was so great that the demons couldn’t bear it and abandoned Maria Magdalene.
Thus, the scripture says that since then she remained near him and Holy Mary (Panagia).  She was the first one that Holy Mary loved as a daughter.  And she loved Holy Mary as her mother.  She knelt at Christ’s feet and thought He was her brother, her friend, her beloved Father. 
But, listen carefully to what I say, that she loved Him as her son!  All the saints loved God as their God, their King, their Master.  But, she loved him as Holy Mary did, as her son.  In her heart she loved Him as her God and served Him as her son. 
-For this reason, do you know how Jesus loved her? 
Like His motherly daughter because he felt the adoring mother within this daughter. 
She was the first motherly daughter who adored Jesus.  She was the daughter who loved him with a mother’s love.  That’s why she never abandoned Him.  Wherever Holy Mary went, she was beside her.  Beneath the cross with her; at the grave with her.  Fearlessly, she is the first to leave at night to find her Beloved, as we hear in the hymns.  She can’t bear to be far from her beloved King, her God, her Son.  From Him who she loved like a daughter and like a child mother. 
Sometimes, when girls are small, we buy them dolls.  And we see the little girl play with the doll as if she is a mother.  Well, Maria Magdalene was really a mother as well as a motherly daughter to Jesus.  She adored Jesus very much.
Thus, after the Crucifixion, she was the only one who went to meet with the emperor Tiberius.  She went to Rome and managed to make Pilate, Kaiafa and Anna confess before the emperor.  Anna, of course, died along the way.  So they were punished for what they had done to her Teacher.  She was this fearless! She is the only daughter who immediately goes near a heart which she sees falling in love with her King.  She prays and covers it.
-Women, how can you not put this daughter in your heavenly family? 
Put Markella, Magdalene, Katerina, Paraskevi, Barbara, George, Dimitrios…  Put the saints you love into your heavenly family.  This will be your heavenly family, your girls and boys in heaven.  Your girl saints, your boy saints.  Make them your children, your friends.  Don’t love them only as saints but adore them as your own children, who will always be near you, supporting you. 

“Start loving your Heavenly Father today, as your mother and father. The Saints as your siblings, your friends, your children”

-What do you say? Shall we start?
Let’s start.  I’m talking too much and can go on all night talking about the heavenly family.  Know one thing, everybody talks about and lives for what he has set as a goal.  When you set a goal, you achieve it.
It’s like a young girl in love.  I remember calling a young girl several times and her phone was always busy.  Then I asked her:
- I called you in the morning, the phone was busy.  I called you in the afternoon, busy again.  I called at night, needing to speak with your mother, and again your phone was busy.  What do you do all day?
-Why father?  I’m not doing anything bad.  I’m speaking with my boyfriend, she said.     Rightly said, giving me a lesson.  You, for an earthly boy, an earthly love, talk from morning till night.  And I, for my heavenly love, forgetfully speak endless hours of the day.
That’s why we’ll do what this girl did.  We’ll take heaven’s phone, a prayer, and talk.  Not just pray, but talk!  Heaven wants us to speak with Him, as if he is our own, to lift us to heaven.
-What do you say? 
-Shall we start today? 
Let’s start today to love our Father in heaven like our mother and father.  To love the Saints as our siblings, brothers of our hearts.  Our friends.  Our children.
-What will I call my Saint Elpida (Hope)? 
She was 10 years old.  Won’t I call her my little girl?  I will call her my beloved princess.  This is what I call her and her sisters as well.
 Saint Sofia had 3 girls:  Pisti (Faith) who was 12, Elpida (Hope) who was 10, and little Agapi (Love) who was 9. 
-Well, how will I love these girls?
 I’m 60.  How will I love them?  Won’t I see them as my little girls?    I call them my princesses in the morning when I wake and I tell them:  “My Princesses, don’t forget him who loves and adores you”.  And I feel as if they are always near me.  Because as we call out to them, so heaven calls to us.  I call them “My Princesses”.  They call me “My Prince”. 
So you will do the same.  Call George, who is the rose of the east, your star. 
-Do you know what heaven calls Dimitrios? 
Aromatically anointed Jasmine! 
Once I said:  “If only I knew, my Saint Dimitrios, what heaven calls you”. And in my mind came the words “Aromatically anointed Jasmine”.
This is what you will call them and they will come near you.
-Do you promise me?


I tell you again: Today’s Liturgy is dedicated to your being enlightened by God to love Him like our mother and our father. We will dedicate this Liturgy to bring down all our siblings from heaven to earth and to enter our hearts.
Let the satanic people have the spirits of demons within them.
-But what will we as Christians have?
The spirits of the Saints within us.  Our Saints to live in our lives.  They will guide us, help us, enlighten us, take us by the hand and lift us to heaven.  This is the most beautiful moment!

If you apply this, know that when the time comes for your soul to fly to heaven at the time of your death, you will not only see your Angel, who adores you, but also many heavenly children, all those children who you loved, will come and take you to their Kingdom, Jesus Christ.  This is the beauty!
We will dedicate this liturgy today to our heavenly family.  Pray for the duration of the liturgy, see which saints you love and tell them:  “I want you, and you, and you and you, my Saint, to be in my heavenly family”.  Every day you will pray for their memory and love them.  Let them feel your love, your adoration.  Let our heavenly Father feel your desire, your heartbeat, your love and be sure that you will never be without heavenly help.

God bless you all! Amen.

(A sermon of Fr Elpidios Vagianakis preached in St Isidoros' church - Rhodes, Greece, 2012)