Friday, 16 May 2014


  Fr. Nikon of Mount Athos


Dear People, Christ Is Risen,  

In my daily searches of the internet in Greece, I came upon a wonderful video of Fr. Nikon of Philotheou Monastery, Mt.  Athos, giving a talk entitled “The Power of the Sacraments in the lives of Orthodox Christians” in Αίκατερίνη, Greece.  He talks about real life experiences dealing with the miraculous through the sacraments of the Orthodox Church.  These stories are mind boggling because they speak of a spiritual dimension of Christian life that has been lost in most of the Christians of the West.  I was so taken with these stories that I needed to translate them into English for our faithful here in the States.   In one of the stories Fr. Nikon refers to the Holy Mother Prousiotissa who is instrumental in directly saving the life of a young Greek soldier who is driving a truck on a mountain road.  In looking up Παναγία Προυσιώτισσα I found the following historical roots of this particular miracle-working icon of the Holy Mother. 
According to the tradition of our Church, this icon was in a Church in Prousa, Asia Minor.  During the iconoclastic period when icons were being destroyed by heretics of that time this icon was saved from destruction by a leading member of the Orthodox Church.  In order to save the icon, in 829 AD he took the icon from the Church.  This Church leader had every intention of taking this icon to Greece for its safe-keeping.  But when he reached the city of Kallipolis, the icon was lost.  The icon then miraculously found its way to the location where it is found today in Prousa, Greece.  This miraculous event was disseminated amongst the Orthodox faithful of that time.  The man, who had attempted to take the icon to Greece and then lost it, found out about the miracle and proceeded to its location where the icon found its resting place and verified that it was the same icon he attempted to save in Asia Minor.  He was so impressed with the miraculous events surrounding the icon’s travels that he dedicated the rest of his life to monasticism.  You should also know that there are many miracles attributed to this icon of the Holy Mother over the centuries but we will leave that for another time.  We pray that you will enjoy these real life miracles from the lives of ordinary people in the Orthodox Christian Church of Greece. 
Χριστός Άνέστη, Christ Is Risen +Fr. Constantine J. Simones, May 11, 2014 in Waterford, CT, USA


 Panagia  Prousiotissa

Presented by Fr. Nikon of Mount Athos at the
Academy of Aikaterini, Greece, 2014

Faith is life.  It is not simply a question of knowledge. We are not saved because we have learned about our faith.  We will be saved not because we believe but because we show our faith by the way we live.  Knowledge does not save us.  Knowledge gives us the ability to live the way Jesus wants us to live.  This is so because Christ did not come into the world to teach us theology and philosophy.  He came into the world to give us a new way of life. Even the devil believes but his faith does not save him.  All people have knowledge but all people are not saved.  Show me your faith in your good works is the commandment we have received.  We say that we love Jesus Christ.  This may be so but what does Jesus say; “you will reveal your faith in Me through your good works.” “He who loves me will honor my commandments.”  The way we live life makes us Christians, not our faith.  If we live life properly we will also have a proper philosophical outlook and we will have good thoughts.  This is so because philosophy comes from the life that we are living.  Not living the right way brings with it wrong knowledge and a wrong philosophy of life.  The proper way of living will foster good thinking.  Since faith is not something that we learn by reading books and hearing sermons about faith, it is acquired by the way we live life.  

Faith is not logical.  This is so because our human nature has been inherited from Adam and Eve from which came death and corruption.  We may not be guilty for the sin they committed but we are born with their nature and their fall from grace.  We have inherited all of this.  And because of this fall our good God has for a second time opened the Gates of Heaven to us in order to take us in.  The issue at hand is whether or not we accept this invitation.  These Heavenly Gates for us Christians are the sacraments of the Church.  Before we were baptized evil was part of our human nature into which we were born.  Now the Grace of God attempts to attract us to Him so that we may be saved.   When we enter the Gates of Baptism and this entrance is sealed with Holy Chrism (confirmation oil) evil no longer dwells in us.  Evil is now banished from us and the Grace of God is now within us.  In spite of this evil continues to try to keep us outside of the Gates of Heaven.  


We have a monk on Mt. Athos that is a very beloved priest.  He came to us from a far away country.  He had a very adventurous life.  He traveled to many countries and learned many things.  He was a truly refined man, a man with grace.  He came to us from the distant land of Peru.  His mother must have been a very holy woman.  I say this as an Orthodox Christian priest because she is one of those sheep that is still outside of the sheep’s fold.  I say this because when this priest was a young boy his mother would tell him the following: “When you grow up you will be wearing black clothes.  I do not know what that black clothing is. You will live in a place that is not an island and yet you can get there only by boat.” (Mt. Athos). As a layman this future priest grew up, got an education and traveled throughout the world.  During one of his trips he went to Paris where he met an Orthodox Christian monk and was attracted to the Orthodox Christian Church.  He was then baptized and then tonsured a monk taking the name Simeon.  He later was ordained to the priesthood.  After many years, he returned to Peru to see his family and proceeded to baptize his mother in a lake.  Fr. Nikon who is narrating this story tells us that he met him again on Mt. Athos one day while traveling to the Philotheou Monastery.  When he told me about the baptism of his mother, I asked him how this was possible since he had not seen her for so many years.  How was it possible to prepare her properly for baptism without catechism?  

His response was most intriguing.  When his mother found out that her son had become an Orthodox monk, she became very curious.  She asked many question like what does being an Orthodox monk mean.  She then attended a Russian Orthodox Church in the capital of Peru in order to learn more about the Orthodox Christian Church.  She began asking questions of the priest about the Orthodox Church.  She wanted to know what the Orthodox Church was and how if differed with the Roman Catholic Church?  The Russian Orthodox priest answered all her questions with a great deal of patience.  She attended that Church  again and again and she fell in love with it.  Finally when Father Simeon arrived in Peru after many years of absence, he found that his mother was ready to be received into the Orthodox Church.  When the day of baptism arrived, Fr. Simeon went to a lake with his mother and performed the Sacrament of Baptism there.  He immersed her three times in the waters of the lake. During the third immersion something most unusual took place to his mother. As her son literally raised her from the water for the third time she remained in the air for a moment then plunged back down into the water.  Fr. Simeon’s brothers who were watching this whole scene unfold thought their brother was drowning their mother. They rushed forward and would have beaten him up if their mother had not raised herself up from the water and spoke to them. 

The mother then explained to everyone what was happening to her during the third immersion into the water.  She said that everything around her lit up brilliantly and she was filled with Light.  This Light entered her body and it was so powerful that she became emotional and fainted.  She was given the name Έλευθερία (Freedom).  (A note from the translator) (This Light that Eleftheria experienced is known in the Orthodox Church as the Uncreated Light of God.)


The Wedding Garment, by Saint Gregory the Dialogist

And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. (Matt. 22:11)

What is meant, brethren, by this wedding garment? It cannot signify either baptism or faith, because who can enter this marriage feast without baptism or without faith? Because undoubtedly the mere fact of not believing excludes one from the Church. So what can we understand by this wedding garment but charity? We must suppose then, that this man enters without a wedding garment who is a member of our Holy Church by reason of his faith, but who lacks charity. It is so called with good reason because our Maker wore it when He came as a bridegroom to unite Himself to the Church. There was no other means than God's love by which the Only-begotten could unite the souls of the elect with Himself. This is why John tells us: God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son (John 3:16). He who came to men for love's sake, calls this love the wedding garment. All of you, then, who are members of the Church and believe in God have indeed come to the marriage, but you are without a wedding garment if you discard the cloak of charity. If any of you is invited to an earthly wedding, he changes his dress so that he may show the groom and bride his participation in their joy; he would be ashamed to appear shabbily dressed among the guests and merry-makers. We assist at God's marriage feast and nevertheless, we are loath to undergo a change of heart. The angels rejoice when they see God's chosen ones admitted into heaven. How do we visualize this spiritual banquet, those of us who lack that festive garment which is the only one that gives us beauty in God's sight?

We must remember that, as a cloth is woven between two wooden frames, one above and the other below, thus also charity is founded on two precepts: the love of God and the love of our neighbor. For it is written: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength ... and thy neighbor as thyself (Mark 12:30). It is worth noting here that a limit and measure is set to the love of our neighbor , as we read: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The love of God, however, is marked by no limit, as we are told: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength. We are not told, then, how much we must love, but the manner in which we must do so: with everything we have. For only he truly loves God who does not think of himself. It is necessary to observe these two precepts of charity if we desire to be found wearing the wedding garment. This is what the prophet Ezekiel means when he tells us that the front of the gate of the city built on a mountain measures two cubits (Ezek. 40:9); for undoubtedly we cannot enter the heavenly city if in this church, which is called the gate because it is outside that city, we have no love for God or man. As we see also in the book of Exodus that it is prescribed that the curtains destined for the tabernacle should be dyed twice in scarlet coloring (Ex. 26:1). You, my brethren, you are the curtains of the tabernacle, veiling by virtue of your faith the heavenly mysteries in your hearts. But the curtains of the tabernacle must be twice dyed in scarlet. That is a color like fire. And what is charity, if it is not fire? But this charity must be twice dyed, that is, steeped in the love of God and in the love of our neighbor. The man who loves God so that his contemplation leads him to forget his neighbor has indeed the color of scarlet, but not twice dyed. Again, he who loves his neighbor, but whose love leads him to forget God, has the color of scarlet but with a single dye. In order that your charity may be steeped in both, you must be inflamed with love of God and of your neighbor, so that compassion for your fellow-man does not induce you to abandon contemplation of God, nor an excessive desire for that contemplation make you cast aside all pity. So, every man who lives among other men should seek God, the object of his longings, but in such a fashion as not to abandon his neighbor; and he should help his neighbor in such a way that it will never check his progress towards God to Whom he speeds. 

Τί πραγματικά σημαίνει φτώχεια!

Μια πλούσια οικογένεια ζει -όπως είναι φυσικό- με όλες τις ανέσεις, απολαμβάνοντας καθημερινά ό,τι επιθυμεί, μόνο που όλα τα μέλη της δείχνουν να μην εκτιμούν τον πλούτο τους. Το αντίθετο, μάλιστα! Είναι τις περισσότερες φορές αχάριστοι, δύσκολα ικανοποιούνται και πάντα ονειρεύονται κάτι παραπάνω από αυτό που έχουν. Ο πατέρας, απογοητευμένος από την αχαριστία, αποφασίζει να ξεκινήσει τη διδαχή από το γιο του και να του δείξει στην πράξη τι σημαίνει πραγματική φτώχεια. Έτσι επιλέγει μια φτωχή οικογένεια που ζει σε ένα ορεινό χωριό και τον παίρνει μαζί του να περάσουν λίγες μέρες μέσα στην απόλυτη φτώχεια… Όμως τα πράγματα δεν εξελίσσονται όπως ακριβώς θα ήθελε! Το αποτέλεσμα εκπλήσσει όχι μόνο τον ίδιο αλλά και όλους εμάς… Πέρασαν τρεις μέρες και δύο νύχτες στο χωριό. Στο δρόμο της επιστροφής ο πατέρας γεμάτος αγωνία ρώτησε το γιο του: «Πώς σου φάνηκε η εμπειρία;» «Ωραία», απάντησε ο γιος με το βλέμμα καρφωμένο στο κενό. «Και τι έμαθες;», συνέχισε με επιμονή ο πατέρας. Ο γιος απάντησε: - Εμείς έχουμε έναν σκύλο, ενώ αυτοί τέσσερις… - Εμείς διαθέτουμε μια πισίνα που φτάνει μέχρι τη μέση του κήπου, ενώ αυτοί έχουν ένα ποτάμι δίχως τέλος, με κρυστάλλινο νερό, μέσα και γύρω από το οποίο υπάρχουν και άλλες ομορφιές… - Εμείς εισάγουμε φαναράκια από την Ασία για να φωτίζουμε τον κήπο μας, ενώ αυτοί φωτίζονται από τα αστέρια και το φεγγάρι… - Η αυλή μας φτάνει μέχρι το φράχτη, ενώ η δική τους μέχρι τον ορίζοντα… - Εμείς αγοράζουμε το φαγητό μας, ενώ αυτοί σπέρνουν και θερίζουν γι’ αυτό… - Εμείς ακούμε CDs. Αυτοί απολαμβάνουν μια απέραντη «συμφωνία» από πουλιά, βατράχια και άλλα ζώα. Και όλα αυτά διακόπτονται πού και πού από το ρυθμικό τραγούδι του γείτονα που εργάζεται στο χωράφι… - Εμείς μαγειρεύουμε στην ηλεκτρική κουζίνα. Αυτοί ψήνουν στα ξύλα και ό,τι τρώνε έχει θεσπέσια γεύση… - Εμείς για να προστατευθούμε, ζούμε περικυκλωμένοι από έναν τοίχο με συναγερμό. Αυτοί ζουν με τις πόρτες ορθάνοιχτες, προστατευμένοι από τη φιλία των γειτόνων τους… - Εμείς ζούμε «καλωδιωμένοι» με το κινητό, τον υπολογιστή, την τηλεόραση… Αυτοί, αντίθετα, «συνδέονται» με τη ζωή, τον ουρανό, τον ήλιο, το νερό, το πράσινο του βουνού, τα ζώα τους, τους καρπούς της γης, την οικογένειά τους… Ο πατέρας, έμεινε έκπληκτος από τις απαντήσεις του γιου του… Και ο γιος ολόκληρωσε με τη φράση: «Σ’ ευχαριστώ, μπαμπά, που μου δίδαξες πόσο φτωχοί είμαστε…»!!! 

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