The Ascension of the Lord

The image of Christ’s Ascension is majestic. The disciples remained stunned by amazement and watched joyfully and with bewilderment the Ascension of the Lord into heaven.

Saint evangelist Luke writes in this respect: And after he said this he was taken up before their very eyes… and they were intently looking up into the sky, as He was going… (Acts 1,9-10).

According to the words of saint Athanasios the Great, the disciples did not see Christ ascending to heaven, but looked all the time carefully, which means that „they gazed continuously upwards, towards Christ”. Therefore it was a continuous focus of their look. We could say that they stood pinned to the place and watched Christ who was ascending to heaven.

Above the feeling of magnificence of the image with Christ who was ascending to heaven, this focused look has also the meaning that those who are true Christians have permanently the eye of their soul, namely their thought – turned to the sky.

In this context we must analyze the urge ”let us lift up our hearts”, said by the priest or ”let us lift up our mind and hearts”, from the holy liturgy of Jacob, brother of the Lord. These words are relevant because, as Saint Apostle Paul says, our homeland is not on earth, but in heaven. Our citadel is in heaven, from where we wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philip 3, 20). On another occasion Saint Paul recommends:

”Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col. 3,2). This focus of the sight towards Christ and the elevation of the mind up to Him is in connection with the hesychia of the mind, namely with the hesychast life, which means the detachment of the mind of any wordly desire and its reference only to Christ. Of course in accordance with the hesychast and neptic theology, this means the return of the mind in the heart, through Christ; in this way, the thought ascends to God. Therefore it is not a deflection of the natural course of the mind, but a purification and an enlightment of it.

While the disciples were looking into the skies, the Angels, about whose participation at the Ascension we will discuss below, said that in the same way Christ ascended to heaven, he will descend: This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1,11). This means that, though they did not see Christ anymore, the disciple remained with their look focused to heaven, in ecstasy and bewilderment.

Analyzing more carefully these angelic words, saint Athanasios the Great says that actually the Angels revealed to the disciples that Christ remains God-Man for ever and He will come back with His Body, because he did not take flesh from The Holy Mother of God only for using it, but for remaining for ever in creation. He did not incarnate only for a while, but for ever. Christ remains God-Man for ever.

The word of the Archangel refers at the Second Coming of Christ in His glory to judge the living and the dead. Referring at His Second Coming, Christ Himself said: ”When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him…” (Matthew 25. 31). Actually, the teaching of Saint Apostle Paul relating to the fact that the saints would be taken and lifted up for welcoming Christ, Who will come with plenty of glory refers exactly at this coming. That’s why in the Creed we confess:

”And He shall come again with glory”.

The words used by the Angels for referring at the Second Coming of Christ are found in the Old Testament as well,  in the form of a prophecy.

The prophet Daniel says: ”In my vision at night I looked and there, before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heanven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.” (Daniel 7, 13). At this coming refer as well Christ’s words: ”and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24,30).

From the moment of Christ’s Ascension till that of His Second Coming there is no empty space, for between these two moments exists the Church, through which we become members of Christ’s Body and through which we are in communion with Him.

Those who are an organic part of the Church and true members of Christ’s body, will be able to live, according to the level they reached, both Christ’s Ascension and the glory of His Coming.

Whom does the devil torment more?

The devil fights everybody, because he wants to take them all to hell. But he torments the most the virtuous ones, those who fervently pursue „the good fight of faith”[1], those who have a rich spiritual fruitage. Just as the children throw stones in the nut trees with fruits, in the same way the devil throw stones at those who have spiritual fruitage. And just as the thief goes to steal where are found earthly treasures, in the same way the devil goes to steal from places where are found spiritual fruits.

Saint Hrisostom says that „ the thief does not come where is rush and grass, but where are the gold, the silver and the pearls. He does not go to rob straw huts or wodden barracks. Cause there are no valuable things. He goes instead to the rich homes, with plenty of money, silver, gold or other precious things.

He goes to tables and… where he would fill his sack. Likewise the devil „does not enter where is the lewd, the foul, the rapacious, the covetous”. (EPE 33, 406).

He does not go to fight those lacking virtue, the foul, the rapacious, the covetous, for they are possessed by that addiction and he cheats them easily. He has to strain more when he goes to fight with the struggling monks, who walk faithfully on the path of sanctification or the Christians who struggle full of zeal and awareness.

In another homily, the saint with golden words remarks that the pirates do not attack the ships that carry sand, cause sand is a cheap and heavy material, that no one bothers to carry on his back. The pirates attack the ships that carry uncountable fortunes or very valuable goods.

In the same way the devil attacks the Christians who have virtue and holiness[2]. From  the Holy Scripture we find that the devil sent his hound dogs and tried to kill the fire prophet Elijah.

He imprisoned and cut the head of the preacher of repentance, the honored Forerunner!

He threw his poisoned arrows at the wise and handsome Joseph, who was a spiritual diamond, a foreshadower of Christ!

He tormented the long-suffering Job, who was a righteous, God-fearing man and who receded from everything was evil and deceitful.

He is such a relentless, unwavering tempter that he went in the desert to entice even our Lord!

How does he attack our lives?

The men hater does the same with us. If he sees that we walk steadfastly on the path of God’s commendments, he tries to divert us. If he sees that we confess Christ, he tries to silence us. If he sees that we do good, he brings us obstacles for stopping us. If he sees that we pray ardently, he brings us yawns and drowsiness for ceasing our prayers. He watches how we worship God.

If he sees that our thoughts fly far away or are filled with the noise of the wordly worries, the devil is very content.

But if we attend the Divine services, he starts fighting us. He brings back memories from our childhood, works we left unfinished, urgent calls we had to make and so many others of this kind. And if he does not succeed to divert our attention, he calls other demons to help him. He watches how we study the Holy Gospel.

If he sees that our mind does not understand in their depth the divine words, the devil does not worry much. But if we are a good ground and listen to the word of God with a good grace and study it ardently day and night and hide it deeply in our heart as a treasure and make a life advice from it, the devil makes the impossible become possible in order to stop us reading the divine word and do something else.

From what’s been written we understand how sly is the enemy, how deceitful are his crafts and how hard he tries to cheat us by this means, how furiously he accomplishes his devilish work and how skillfully he uses any opportunity for diverting us. But we should not fear him,

Because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4, 4). We should learn to discover his decoys and take precautions in due time, in order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2, 11), Apostle Paul writes. But more than anything else we should humble ourselves, cause the devil does not bear humility. As soon as we humble ourselves, he goes away.

Therefore, we should not leave our ramparts, no matter how hard we would be tormented by the devil.

The soul that’s not idle stirs the devils against himself.

But when temptations multiply, the rewards multiply as well, saint John Climacus says.

[1]see 1 Timotheios 6, 12.
[2]Homily at Job.

Some miracles of the holy relics of Saint Maria Magdalene, from the Holy Monastery Simonos Petras, The Holy Mountain

Saint Maria Magdalene

            A special place among the holy relics found in the Holy Monastery  Simonos Petras from the Holy Mountain is occupied by the left hand of the holy prude and equal to the Apostles, Maria Magdalene . This hand of the saint is incorrupt, with its skin and tendons and spreads a heavenly scent. Moreover, those who kiss it with piety and faith find that it’s warm.

            In the Holy Monastery Simonos Petras from the Holy Mountain, due to the numerous miracles made by the Saint until today, she is considered and revered by the monks as the second founder of the Holy Monastery.

But let’s see some of them:

In 1945, a big fire broke out in the forest of the Holy Monastery Iviron. The wind blew hard and in a few hours the fire reached the ridge of the mountain, where the forests of the monasteries Iviron, Filotheu and Xiropotamu neighbors ours. Everybody thought that the forests would be destroyed. The fathers of our monastery were announced in time and ran to the fire place.

Then the hieromonks Neofit and Panteleimon, moved by the great piety they had for the holy relics of the Saint, took them there.

Nobody could approach the fire, because he would have been in danger of being caught in by the burning flames.

Nevertheless – thanks to your miracles, oh, Christ, our Lord – as soon as the two priests approached the fire with the holy relics, the fire stopped and till they finished the service for blessing the water and the oratory dedicated to saint Maria Magdalene, the fire quenched completely, to the great amazement of the fathers gathered there.

*

            A similar miracle took place in the forest of the same monastery with the holy relics of saint Maria Magdalene in 1947.

*

            In 1911 in the locality Galatista near Thessaloniki some worms appeared and destroyed the plants. The people from that place asked from the monastery the holy relics of  Saint Maria Magdalene and immediately after the fathers finished the service for blessing the water, the worms disappeared.

*

            Likewise, in 1912, in the locality Epanomi near  Thessaloniki appeared a lot of locusts. Then the people of the town asked the fathers to send them the holy relics of  Saint Maria Magdalene.

 After they read the oratory dedicated to the saint and performed the service for blessing the water, the locusts disappeared completely. The people from Epanomi have a special gratitude for the saint  Maria Magdalene.

*

            And the saint has made and continues to make many more miracles with those who call her faithfully.

Source: Archim. Haralambie Vasilopoulos, Saint Maria Magdalene, ed. Orthodox Press, Kanigos 10, Athens 1984, pp. 42-45.

ASTROLOGY – The occult and the contemporary idolatry

An interview given by father Arsenios Vliankoftis to the reporter Theodor Duca.

Not long time ago we went to the Holy Monastery of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian from the locality of Vatopedi – Halkidikis and we had the opportunity to talk with  father Arsenios – an expert in subjects about heresies – relating to astrology. We had a cogent discussion of high concern for all of us.

Father Arsenios, in the past years astrology entered people’s lives for good. What’s the opinion of your holiness?

Considerable effort is being made for pushing it into our lives and for sure this is not coincidentally. It is a real problem and the media has a great responsibility. The public is overwhelmed by advertising messages on astrology, in the true sense of the word.

You said that considerable efforts are made so that  astrology enters our lives and that it’s not coincidentally. What do you mean?

Astrology is not neutral if talking in religious terms, but fully integrated to the wide space of occult. It believes in the so-called karma and in reincarnation. It is important that on the relevant ads we read: „psychic, astrologer, parapsychologist, tarot cards”. Therefore, all these go together, „in a single pack”, according to a modern cliché. In the same time, we must not forget that the antichristic movement of the „New Era of the Acquarius” is based on astrology. So this dark circle pushes astrology forward, pursuing to make people believe in it. First, we have to stress it out  that the belief in astrology is incompatible with the Orthodox Faith. Meaning that a real Christian cannot believe in the same time in astrology. And the Holy Scripture tells us this. Those who persist in being interested in astrology, magic and fortune telling are subject to heavy canons of repentance, in accordance with the Holy canons of our Church. They separate themselves from the Church.

Father Arsenios, we’d like you to tell us what does astrology believes more specifically?

Astrology believes that when someone is born, the position of the stars puts an indelible mark on his personality. The position of the stars decides his future. But it does not tell us how it happens. What kind of influence is this the stars exert upon us.  You saw it, we say „believe”. And it is indeed a belief in the occult and the ancient idolatry, which denies God and deifies nature. They don’t believe that there is a God  who takes care of man, nor that the man is free, but believe that everything is coordinated by a blind and impersonal fate.

Something similar to the Muslim kismet[1]-…

Exactly. Of course it’s a superstition. Besides this, astrology since the years of Renaissance in the West (XVIth century) separated itself from the science of astronomy. Astrology remained  stuck to the geocentric system, that is not accepted by any scientist, while astronomy adopted the heliocentric system. There is no scientist to accept astrology, on the contrary, there are some decisions of certain international  congresses that condemn astrology as a superstition and a quackery.

Despite these, many times the astrologers show diplomas.

It’s mere quackery. There is no recognized university in the world  to teach astrology or grant diplomas of astrologer. But it happens the following thing: Astrologers found associations with stilted names in Greece and other places, calling them institutes, academies, colleges. They become presidents, general secretaries etc. And then they give each other titles and diplomas.

How is it that sometimes the foresights of the astrologers „come true”?

Your question is opportune and I shall answer it. It’s not true that the predictions of the astrologers come true. Apart from the cases of fraud, we have the situations when the „prophecies come true”. Meaning that the astrologer tells you that you would get sick and you start behaving like a sick man. You adjust your status and the „prophecy” comes true naturally. But even in the case when it doesn’t come true, the astrologer tells you that the prediction didn’t come true because you had a negative attitude. Meaning that either white or black,  rightness is on their side.

You mean something like Pythia’s oracle[2]?

Exactly. The astrological language (that of the horoscope) is full of safety valves, so that the astrologer may be right in all cases. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that the words „is possible”, „maybe”, „you tend to” are commonly used in horoscopes. They also mention certain truths that might be accepted by anyone. The astrologer in the horoscope pursues to flatter someone and uses a very friendly tone with him. We have to say as well that astrology is based on a rational and scientifical error. Here we have what in Logic we call: „vicious circle”[3]. Meaning that the astrologer seeing some stars in the sky, with no real connection between themselves (one may be relatively close to us and the other one much farther), interconnects them and according to his imagination, he gives them shapes and names. For instance, he tells you that now we are in the sign of the Leo and the man who is born in a period when the sun passes through it is a lion and will have the attributes of the lion. Meaning that the astrologer assigns them qualities and then says that these represent the characteristics of those who belong to this astrological sign. You see, there is an obvious logical error and „a vicious circle”?

   However, anyone can give other names to the same groups of stars. For example today, when we don’t use the bow and arrow anymore, we cannot call the constellation of the Saggitarius in this way. We will give it another name.

In essence is about a kind of primitive magic thinking. In astrology there is something else that helps the astrologers to convince their victims. It’s the so called technique of multiple factors. So he analyzes you and notices certain traits of character he assigns for instance to the sign of the Aries and he tells you: „I think you’re an Aries”. If you say you’re not, he asks you: „Where is your moon positioned?” (meaning the position of the moon in the moment when you were born). If from what you tell him it turns out that it was positioned in the Aries, he tells you: „You see, I’ve found that out?”. But if you tell him: „I don’t know”, he would tell you: „I think you’re in the Aries”. If he doesn’t succeed he goes on by saying: „Actually very few know the precise time and place of their birth, so that they could give the astrologers all the information they require for making what they call a «scientific horoscope»”. Of course  it’s „scientific” just in their opinion.

In the end, can someone predict the future, to make all this discussion have a sense?

The belief of our Church is clear: Future is known only by God who is omniscient and this does not cancel human freedom.

Neither Satan, nor the demons or the astrologers know the truth.

Being initiated into the occult, the astrologers may be announced by the demons with whom they collaborate – there are times and words used for calling a certain demon –for facts from the past or the present. The „masters” of astrology are in reality magicians and satanists. In its common form, astrology acts a a light „spiritual narcotic”, that introduces the enthralled man in the wide occult space, for passing afterwards  through  maybe tougher „spiritual narcosis” like magic.

What do you mean by „spiritual narcotic”?

It’s a common expression and is used because the supporters – just like in the case of the common narcotics – are gradually led to total addiction. The true follower of astrology cannot make a step further in his life without consulting his astrologer beforehand.

Therefore, the consequences of the preoccupation for astrology are hard and dangerous.

That’s why who wants to start studying it out of mere curiosity, has to think well before.

We can’t play with the fire.

There’s involved the producer of the deceit as well, isn’t it so?

Of course it is. Let me give you a clear proof. There are TV shows with astrologers where while the show is on (assuming that’s a live show )it’s used a trailer announcing: „You’re watching the show (so-and-so) with recorded exemplary phone calls”. They do the same at the shows with fortune tellers. In this way the shrewd get money from the high costs of the phone calls.

What do you think? What’s the cause that pushes the people towards astrology?

I wanted to say exactly the same. When the man feels the need and desire to give a meaning to his life and find answers for the so-called existential questions (where do I come from, where am I going, what’s the meaning of life) and he doesn’t choose the right path, he doesn’t find the right answers, but gets tangled in the dangerous ways of the occult. Then  for sure this man would get interested in astrology too. Many people want easy solutions, for others freedom is a burden and others prefer to let the stars decide for themselves.

Father Arsenios, what would you recommend for dealing with this phenomenon or problem?

Only when someone is consciously and deeply present in the space of the Church, he is protected of all the occult and dangers.

But the state must assume its responsibility as well.

It’s harmful to allow advertising the occult even on the national TV channels.

Another question. What means what’s called by some people the moving of the astrological signs?

This as well as the so called third astrological sign have put the astrologers in difficulty lately, because they ruin their rookery.

This means that the people who according to the astrologers belong to a certain astrological sign, actually belong to the next one. It is commonly called mill.

This is bad news for astrology, but despite that, it irresistibly continues its journey.

And this thing is caused by the fact that it is part of an entire context of interpreting the world that addresses to the confused people who live far from God.

Many say: „I won’t fall victim to the magicians and astrologers. As for those who fell victims and were ruined, that’s their own business”. What do you say about this?

It’s not like this. This is a very serious matter. Besides the fact that indifference towards our neighbour and his problems is not a Christian behavior, I would tell those who say such things: let’s say that the teacher of your children is a follower of astrology.

Then he won’t take as much into account the conclusions of pedagogy in educating your children but would study their horoscope.

Of course, your children might be attracted in the space of astrology and occult by such a confused teacher. Something similar happens when you fall into the hands of a doctor who is a follower of astrology. He won’t study that carefully the blood tests and radiographs, but your horoscope.

And it happens the same with the politician who believes in astrology.

One like this would take stands in serious matters related to home and foreign policies only after studying the horoscope and consulting his astrologers.

So, you see that astrology raises serious problems with consequences not only for the fools who fall as its victims, but for all of us.

What recommendation would you make in the end of this interesting discussion?

When someone would ask us the question: „What’s your sign in the horoscope?”, let’s give him this answer: „I am not an animal, I am a human being” (In the ancient Greek zodio means a small animal) And let’s also take into account the following thing: If the time the astrologers waste on reading their newspaper: „What do the stars say about you”, with the consequence that they become enslaved from free, they would have spent it for reading a page from the Holy Scripture or any other book useful for our soul or they would have dedicated it to prayer, their life would have changed and they would have become actually free.

„PARAKATATHIKI” Magazine, May-June 2003.

[1] Faith, destiny.

[2] Pythia was a priestess of  Apollo who made forecasts in the Oracle from Delphi.

[3] In Logic, the circular reason, also known as circulus in probando, petitio principii or vicious circle, is a logical error in which the sentence to be demonstrated has already been stated implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises. As a notion of Logic, the circular reason was defined for the first time by Aristotle, in his book intitled Analytica Priora in Latin, around the year 350 b.c.

What else do we know about the Christians from Syria?

In the „Black Book on the condition of Christians in the World”, coordinated  by the French journalist Samuel Lieven, it is mentioned that 150 millions of Christians are persecuted nowadays in the world. „Center for the study of Global Christiany” estimates that over Christians are killed annually for their  faith, meaning one at every five minutes. The wars of the last years and the recent development of the Islamic State in Irak and Syria are followed by strong persecutions against Christians.

Two Syrian high ranking clerics from Aleppo, the Orthodox metropolitan Paul Yazigi, the brother of the Patriarch of Antioch, John the X-th, and the Coptic metropolitan John Ibrahim, have been kidnapped since 2013 and nothing has been found out about them. A Lebanese Arab wondered: „In Irak and Syria Christians are persecuted, killed, the churches are bombed and burnt. All this is happening and the free world is heedless to their agony and pain. So I am asking: aren’t they human too? Don’t they deserve to be helped by the organizations for human rights and the states that support them? It seems that the world sides with the mighty, not with the righteous.”

What do we know about the Christians from Syria? What are we doing for them? In the following lines there are some sequences from the life of some Orthodox monasteries, related by a nun from Syria.

The Jihadis occupied a village with 200 families of Christians. I went to the Muslims and told them: „Patriarch John helps all the refugees, Muslims and Christians alike. Help us to liberate the people of the village”. These men talked with the Jihadis and the people were saved. They let them leave their houses just with the clothes they had on them.

The Muslims from Persia (Iran) are educated and there aren’t so many fanatics. But the Muslims from other countries, where women are not even allowed to drive are fanatics. They believe that whoever kills the non Muslims, will go straight to heaven. They threaten you: either you become Muslim or I kill you. They cut even the heads of the children who refuse to become Muslims. They kidnap girls and keep them for themselves or sell them in the market.

They declare that the war is jihad (n.n. – in Arabic the term means fight, resistence and refers at the religious duty of any Muslim to fight till the entire mankind would become Muslim or under the authority of the Muslim state).  The husbands discuss this matter in the family, the man decides to go to war. He says: „Run, do whatever you want. I go to the holy war”. The governmental army knows from what villages are coming the Jihadis and attacks them. Then the families of the Jihadis are forced to leave their villages and ask for help from Christians. They have many children. They all come to the holly abbess to ask for help.

When they kidnapped the nuns of the monastery from Maloula, for ten days a mullah went to them and talked to them about Islam, trying to persuade them to become Muslim. He told them: „Maybe your parents forced you to become nuns. If you become Muslims and marry, you are free”. The nuns didn’t say anything. Because they couldn’t convince them, then they sent some women to persuade them. The women told them: „Bring the Bible and the Koran to compare them”. But the nuns didn’t say a word to them. They stayed ten days more with the women and afterwards they were kept in some houses for three months and a half.  When they were kidnapped, the Jihadis took from the monastery the books, the icons and the money. When they took them to those houses, they gave them back their money, but they didn’t give them back the icons and books. How could the nuns pray without the prayer books? Every day, for three months and a half they said only the prayers they knew by heart. After they were liberated, the nuns went to Lebanon.

They burnt the church of the monastery from Maloula. At saint Tecla’s grave they took out the ground. The home for orphans and the cells of the nuns escaped. Now the government rebuilds the monastery and the Patriarch hopes that in three months the nuns could go back.

At Cherub Monastery the army came before arrived the Jihadis and defended the area, so the monastery was not occupied. But now there isn’t any more monk there, just the army.

We have electricity two hours per day. We have a power generator, but we don’t have any fuel. In February we didn’t have diesel fuel for the car. There are many thieves who steal, taking advantage of the entire situation – the people are poor, they have to steal in order to survive.

Who helps us with money? The holy mother of God. We cultivate flowers and send them to Lebanon and they are sold there. In this way we are able to aid the people who come and ask for our help. We couldn’t receive in the monastery all the families that came here. We preferred to pay rent  for them in houses from the villages, otherwise they would have created big disorder within the monastery. We must keep our monastic ordinance. A man is sick with diabetis and he doesn’t have a fridge to keep the insulin for the injections there. We gave him the fridge we had. Nobody can afford buying a washing machine or a fridge now, cause they cost much more.  The nuns are kind-hearted and they give to the poor all they have in the monastery.

A family from Aleppo that was rich before, now took shelter in our area. The woman came and asked for only two plates, two spoons and two knifes. But two of the nuns went to see how they live. They live in a very poor house : without floor or beds, there is nothing in it. The nuns came back and said what they saw and they were crying. We gathered a carpet, a bed and other things and took them to that family.

Every Sunday the nuns go by car and pick up all those who want to come to the Holy Liturgy, then drop them back home. We take care that all of them find work.

We don’t get out of the monastery. After sunset we stay with a big fear. We don’t send nuns in the city by car. Every night, the nuns hold a vigil for those who fight in the war. They send us letters: „Do pray for us, please! Light a candle. They came against us”. Once we gave small icons with The Holy Mother of God, Trihierusa. A soldier put it on his chest, he was shot there, but he didn’t die.

We feel sorry to leave the monasteries. We see young people who put all their hopes in us: „Here is a monastery, they pray for us”, they say. It means an aid, a hope for them. We cannot leave. Many put their hopes in our prayers. The Muslims who go in the army come and ask for our blessing: „Pray for us! We are not Christians, we are Muslims, but do pray for us, please!”.  When they get a two days leave from the front, they don’t go straight home, they come to us. They make the sign of the cross, even the Muslims, then go to their homes and back to the war. In the memorial prayers there are so many names of soldiers! They ask us to mention them in our prayers daily. Mothers come, cry and ask us to pray for their sons.

A young soldier told us: „I can’t kill anybody – he could be my neigbour”. He doesn’t use his gun. He goes to war because it’s compulsory. God has been protecting him for three years. He neither killed anyone, nor was killed.

The fakir’s „miracle” and the Jesus Prayer

Eye witness of the case described below,  archimandrite Nicolae Drobianzkin is one of the countless martyrs from the revolutionary times of Russia. In his wordly life he had a brilliant career, being IInd rank captain in the military marine and alongside with this he got deeply involved in occultism, editing the occult magazine Rebus. After being saved by saint Seraphim of Sarov from a certain death in the sea, he planned a pilgrimage to Sarov. Coming back from his pilgrimage, he gave up on his career and on occultism and became a monk. He was ordained priest and served as a missionary in China, India and Tibet, ministering at different churches and being adviser  for some monasteries. After 1914 he lived at the Lavra of the Caves from Kiev. He ceaselessly spoke to the young people who went to him in those times about the influence of the occultism upon the facts happening on the political scene of Russia. In the autumn of 1924, at a month after he had received the visit of a gentleman called Tonholz, the writer of the book „Black magic”, he was killed in his cell by some „unknown men” with the obvious consent of the Bolsheviks. The murder weapon was a knife with a special handle, having the shape of an occult symbol.

The happenstance related here by father Nicolae, reveals the true nature of the spiritual phenomena found in various Eastern religions. It took place shortly before 1900, it was recorded around the year 1922 by the doctor A. P. Timofenghievici and published by him in a Russian magazine from the diaspora („Orthodox Life”, 1956, nr.l).

One wonderful tropical morning, our ship cut its way through the Indian Ocean approaching the island of Ceylon. The lively faces of the travellers, in their majority Englishmen, who were going with their families to their jobs or business from the Indian colony, were turned towards the horizon, looking about the fascinating island that was for almost all of them linked with so many stories and interesting, mysterious descriptions of the travellers.

Before they saw the island, the ship began to be more and more intensely veiled in a smooth and ravishing fragrance brought by each waft. Finally a long, narrow shape of dark blue color showed up lying on the horizon. Its dimensions grew bigger as the ship was approaching it swiftly. You could already distinguish on the shore the wide-spread buildings, hidden in the green of the majestic date palms and the colorful crowd of natives who were waiting for the arrival of the ship. During the journey, the passengers befriended very easily. They stayed on the deck where they talked and laughed heartily, admiring the amazing view of the magical island which unfolded before their eyes. The ship made some slow maneuvers, preparing to anchor at the quay of Colombo harbor.

There it had to station for stocking with coal, that’s why the passengers had enough time for descending on the shore. The day was so hot that many passengers decided to stay on the ship till the afternoon. A nice chill replaced the burning heat of that day. A group of eight people that I joined myself, chose  colonel Elliot as their guide. He had lived before in Colombo and knew well the island and its surroundings. Then he made us a tempting proposal:

  • Ladies and gentlemen, would you like to go a few miles away of the city and visit a magician fakir? I think we are going to see something interesting.

We all accepted enthusiastically his proposal.

The evening had already fallen when we left behind us the noisy roads of the city and stepped on an enchanting path that was crossing the jungle. On our right and left side were glittering millions of dragonflies. To its end, the path widened unexpectedly and we found ourselves in the middle of a small clearing surrounded by the jungle. At one of its edges, under a big tree, it was something like a hut and near it was burning a small fire. An old, thin man, with a turban on his head was sitting down, cross-legged and with his gaze focused on the fire. Despite the noise caused by our arrival, the old man continued to stay absolutely motionless, without paying any attention to us. From somewhere out of the dark showed up a young man, who approached the colonel and asked him something in a whisper. After a short time he brought some small chairs and our group sat in a semicircle close to the fire. A thin, scented smoke raised to the sky. The old man continued to sit in the same position, showing that he didn’t pay attention to anything. The full rising moon somehow drove away the darkness and at its pale light all things took bizarre shapes. They all became silent and waited to see what was going to happen.

  • Look! Look there at the tree!, whispered uneasily miss Mary.

We all turned our heads towards the tree. And indeed, all the  huge foliage surface of the tree under which was sitting the fakir it was like waving quietly in the pale moonlight, while the tree started to fade away slowly and lost its shape. So to speak more precisely, I could say that an invisible hand threw over it a thin veil, which in time became thicker and thicker. In a short time, in front of our amazed eyes it appeared the waving surface of the sea. With a slight roar, the waves were coming one after another, forming a white foam. Bright clouds were floating on a sky that  turned blue. Stunned, we could not take off our eyes from that amazing sight.

Then a white ship showed up at the horizon. A heavy smoke was coming out of its two big flues. It swiftly drew cloer to us, cleaving the water. In great amazement, we recognized our ship, that had brought us to Colombo. A murmur of astonishment crossed the audience, when we read on the stern of the ship, written with golden highlighted  letters, the name of our ship: LUIZA. But what caused our biggest amazement was the fact that up, on the deck we saw ourselves. Let’s not forget that in those times the cinema had not been invented yet and it was impossible for someone even to conceive something similar to it.  Each one of us saw himself on the deck of the ship, among the people who were talking and laughing. What was absolutely amazing it was that I saw not just myself, but the entire deck of the ship, in its slightest details, like in a panoramic plan – thing which, of course, is impossible in reality. At a certain moment I saw myself among the passangers, I saw the sailors who were working in the other end of the ship, the captain in his cabin, I saw even Nelly, the monkey we all loved, who was eating bananas up, on the main mast. In the same time, all my companions, each one in his own way, were getting terribly excited because of the things they saw and they externalized their feelings by quiet exclamations and anxious whispers.

I had completely forgotten that I was a hieromonk and for sure I had no reason to attend such a show. Seduction was so powerful that both mind and heart had got silenced. Then my heart started beating so fast, like a warning signal. All of a sudden I felt like losing my control and a fear overtook my entire being. My lips started to move and utter: „My Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me the sinner!”. I immediately felt a relief. It was like some mysterious chains were falling down from me. The prayer became more and more intense and together with it, peace came back into my soul. I continued to look at the tree and suddenly, as if driven away by a wind, the image blurred and disappeared. I was not seeing anything else except the big, moonlit tree and the quiet fakir sitting near the fire. My companions continued to externalize their feelings, looking at the sight that for them had not disappeared.

Then it happened something with the fakir too, cause he lost his balance and fell on his side. The young man ran to him scared. The spiritual gathering interrupted all of a sudden.

Deeply influenced by their experience, the viewers got up, sharing passionately their impressions, without understanding why everything  interrupted so abruptly and unexpectedly. The young man attributed this to the exhaustion of the fakir who was sitting at that moment like before, with his head bent and without paying any attention to the people around  him.

Our group, after generously rewarding him, by means of the young man, for having the chance to witness such an amazing sight, got quickly ready for going back. At departure, involuntarily, I turned back to look again, in order to infix better in my memory all that scene. Suddenly I startled, having a bad feeling. My gaze met that of the fakir, who looked at me with such a hate. That lasted just a moment, then he resumed his usual posture. But that look opened the eyes of my soul for ever and I realized immediately whose power was that which caused such a  „miracle”.

LORD JESUS CHRIST HAVE MERCY ON ME!

 

source: „ATHONITE WITNESS”, Quarterly magazine of the Holy Monastery Xiropotamu, no. 5

The most beautiful day from my life as a taxi driver

It’s 10 pm and I am in the Peramata area. A girl stops me and tells me:

–   Omonia Square, please!

–   We’re going! I told her, but there was something in her voice I did not like.

The girl sat beside me. Right after we left, she asked me:

–   May I smoke?

–    You may.

She took a cigarette from her pack and while trying to find her lighter, the cigarette fell down. I switched on the light so that she could see. Before switching it off, my gaze fell on her hands. They were full of stings!

I can’t tell you what I felt in those moments. How painfully sorry I was for that girl!Oh Lord! How I wished I could help her! God, please put in my mouth Your Words, to tell her!

–   I need someone to talk to, I told her.

–   And you found me? she asked me surprised.

–   Yes, I want to talk to you.

In the meantime I stopped the car. We started talking about the difficulties I encounter due to my job. And little by little I steered the talk around her own life. I won’t tell you what we discussed, how big and serious was her problem, for not tiring you, but I am  telling you what she promised me: she gave me her word that she would start the rehab. And to be honest, I didn’t believe her.

We arrived in Omonia. When she took out the money to pay, I did not accept it. I just told her:

–   I won’t take it for I want you to remember what you promised me.

–   Be sure I won’t forget youy, she said and got down.

It passed about a year from that day and I forgot that encounter. One afternoon, I was in Aharnon, heading for Perama. I took a lady in the taxi as a passanger. We discussed about many various topics. At a certain moment I saw two kids waving to make me stop. I stopped.

–   We’re going to Perama. Are you taking us?

–   Come, kids! That’s right where we go.

The boy sat beside me. Looking at him, I realized he was taking drugs.

–   May I ask you something? I told him.

Before he answered – you may, he said straightly:

–   Yes, I was taking drugs!

–   And you’re not taking anymore?

–   No, I started the rehab together with my girlfriend.

–   Bravo, kids, congrats! Kids, you reminded me of a girl from Perama. I took her in my taxi about a year ago and after a long talk, she promised me she would start the rehab. May she be in good health, that sweet, afflicted girl, anywhere she would be!

Suddenly I heard the girl from the back sobbing heavily.

–   What’s the matter, girl? Can I do anything for you?

–   No, she answered among sobs. But I am the one you were talking about…I kept my promise.

–   Is it you?

–   Yes, it’s me!

I got down from the taxi  and after she got down too, we hugged one another and were both crying.

–   Thank you, thank you, my darling dear! I kept on telling her. To be true, I was not expecting you to keep your promise.

–   You gave my such strength that it was impossible to fail doing that. I thank you for taking out some of your time for me, when I got in your taxi. I found a confessor as you told me and I go to the church.

This was the most beautiful day from my life as a taxi driver

Antidoron

†Jeremiah, metropolitan of Gortina and Megalopoli

  1. Christian brothers, in my brief preach from today I shall speak to you about the gift we receive at the end of the Divine Liturgy. It is called antidoron („instead of gifts”), as in Greek and we take it instead of the Eucharistic bread. We call the Holy Communion the Consecrated Gifts . In the Holy Communion Christ gives us His body and blood as a gift, without deserving them. Therefore, the antidoron was spared for those who for certain reasons cannot take the Eucharist and  instead of it, instead of the consecrated gifts, they receive the blessing of the antidoron.
  2. And indeed great is the blessing of the antidoron, my brothers. It is a blessing because it is „permeated” by the holy prayers from the Proscomidy. During this holy service, from the prosphora made by the blessed hands of the pious women, the priest removes its core where is written: „Jesus Christ, NI, KA”, and puts it on the Holy Disk. Do you know what it symbolizes the remainder? It symbolizes the Holy Virgin’s womb. This is what saint Germanos, the patriarch of Constantinople says. Cause just like from her womb came out Christ, in the same way from the „womb” of the prosphora comes out, by the hands of the priest at The Holy Proscomidy, the core part with „JESUS CHRIST, NI, KA”. During the Divine Liturgy this part by the blessing of the priest – what a great miracle! – will become Christ, will be transformed into the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. The remaining part from the prosphora that symbolizes the Holy Virgin, just as I said, it is cut for antidora. Isn’t it a great blessing to receive this piece from the prosphora and eat it? In ancient times people called the antidoron „Holy Virgin’s Ascension”. They called it in this way cause the priest indeed raises the bread to his forehead when Proskomedia begins, saying a special troparion: „You redeemed us from the curse of the Law…”. And we call it like this because as I said the antidoron symbolizes the Holy Virgin’s womb.

As you may realize, Christian brothers, for being able to eat the antidoron, you must not eat anything before. For the reason that the antidoron „passed”  through the Proscomidy, that’s not like the Lity, where we eat the bread even if we have eaten before. And Proscomidy is the divine service related to the Divine Liturgy and named by some people „Liturgy in embryo”.

  1. Dear Christian brothers, in the same time with the antidoron you receive one more special blessing. Listen! How much you wish to enter the Holy Altar and worship the Holy Table! But this is not allowed to you, laymen, being especially forbidden to women. Although it is not allowed to you as laymen to enter the Holy Altar for kissing the Holy Table, by receiving the antidoron you kiss the priest’s hand that touched it. You may say that even on the road you may kiss the priest’s hand and receive the same blessing. No! Take heed! When you receive the antidoron, you get a special blessing from the priest. Because this is done right after the Divine Liturgy, when the priest’s hand touched the Holy Gifts and there is still some holy blood dripping from Christ’s blood, it is a hand from which is dripping the holy blood. So by kissing the priest’s hand when you receive the antidoron it is like you would kiss the Holy Table itself, if not even more. In order to receive this final blessing that I said you get when taking the antidoron, it is well understood that you must take it right from the celebrant priest’s hand and not from its vessel with your own hand.
  2. In the end I recommend you not to eat all the antidora you receive on Sunday from the priest (or even to ask for some more), but keep a little for eating it every day at home. Every morning take a small crumb (on an empty stomach) with little holy water, blessed at the beginning of each month. But first take the antidoron then the holy water, because the antidoron is from the Divine Liturgy. I repeat that according to the liturgical ordinances, the real antidoron is that which is cut from the consecrated prosphora, blessed by the priest; that from which is taken out the piece with „JESUS CHRIST, NI, KA” and is put on the Holy Disk and not the one which is cut from other prosphoras.

 

With a lot of blessings,

† Jeremiah, Metropolitan of Gortina and Megalopolis

The woman who died of cancer because of an iridologist

A woman with a benign tumor in the had  died because she followed the advice given by an iridologist, instead of going to hospital and be treated by doctors.

The two daughters of that woman relate what happened.

Everything started with a cyst. The woman decided not to go to the doctor and to see an iridologist instead.

Iridology is a pseudoscientific practice that diagnoses health problems and recommends treatments based on the analysis of  a person’s iris.

 Yes, you read it right. Someone looks at your iris and tells you what diseases you have and how to treat them.

No matter how absurd it may be, unfortunately there are people who believe that is a useful method.  This was the case  with the woman I am telling you about.

One of the woman’s daughters says that she was asked to PROMISE that she would not go to the doctor. The other  girl says that the woman treated the iridologist as if he were a priest, she believed everything he said, without asking any questions.

The iridologist recommended all kinds of queer healing methods, like the slight tapping of the forehead with the fingers or the repetition of certain „positive statements”. Moreover, he promised the woman to cure her of cancer in 3 months if she followed his advice.

Obviously the advice of the iridiologist didn’t work and in the end the disease evolved till the moment when the woman died.

Now let’s look objectively at iridology.

In the first place…

Most of the doctors do not approve iridology. Because it does not work and there is no evidence to support it. The iridologists are NO doctors.

Iridology has a name with scientific resonance. But it is not a science. It’s quite the opposite of science and of the medical treatment used in hospitals.

It is a form of alternative medicine, like acupuncture or homeopathy (these by the way don’t work either).

Iridologists are not doctors, they did not graduate any medical school. They just attended some courses (unacknowledged by the scientific community) and received a certificate of practice.

This is what’s important for you to understand now: iridology sounds like a science, but it isn’t. Just it sounds like it.

Now let’s see what the studies tell us…

The department of science:

An analysis from 2000 of all the research upon iridology reveals the fact that it’s an ineffective method when trying to detect liver or heart problems, asthma, psoriasis or ulcer (Ernst, 2000).

A study realized in 2005 clearly shows that iridology is ineffective when is used for detecting cancer. There were used 110 subjects (68 subjects with various forms of cancer and 42 healthy subjects). All these people were examined by an experienced iridologist, who didn’t know what patients suffered of cancer and who were healthy. He could choose between 5 forms of cancer or say that the patients were healthy.

The iridologist gave the right diagnosis for only 3 subjects. 3 subjects out of 110! Proof that iridology is ineffective in detecting cancer (Münstedt et al., 2005).

In conclusion, iridology is a pseudoscience, based on groundless data, that only sounds scientifically and that in situations resembling  with the case we presented you today may estrange people from efficient medical treatments and lead to tragedies.

 

I’m looking for God to tell me…

father Meletie Aivazelis

Once a peasant heard the priest in the church saying that if you give alms, you get back a hundredfold from God. When he went back home, he agreed with his wife to give the only ox they had and God would give them 100 oxen for this good deed. He did not hesitate to give his ox, having complete confidence in God.

So he gave his ox and waited for the reward from God. The time passed, but the oxen didn’t come. One morning he decided to climb the neighbouring mountain to find God and ask Him when he would give him the 100 oxen, as he heard in the priest’s preach.

While climbing the mountain, he met a hermit who asked him:

„Where are you going?”

„I’m going to meet God and ask Him when he gives me the 100 oxen for my almsgiving.

„When you meet Him ask Him about me too. Tell Him that I’ve been living for 40 years in the mountain in absolute reclusion. Have I gained the kingdom of heaven?

„Of course I will”, said the peasant and continued his way.

A bit higher he met an old man with a white beard who asked him:

„Who are you looking for?”

„I’ve heard in the church that if I gave alms I would get back one hundred times more from God. And now I’m looking for Him to ask when he gives me the reward for my almsgiving.

„Go back to your house and dig under the tree from your yard. There you will find a jug full of money. Don’t say a word about it to anyone, but continue to help people and you won’t be in need of anything all your lifetime.”

„Thank you, gheronda, but I still have something else to tell you. While I was coming to find you, I met a hermit who told me to ask you if after 40 years of ascesis and spiritual endeavours he has finally got the kingdom of heaven.

„Tell him that even if he stayed 40 years more in the mountain, he would  never gain the Kingdom of heaven. I’ve given him a rusk every day for 40 years and today I gave him two, one for himself and one for you, knowing that you were coming. However, he instead of giving you one kept them both for himself, without trusting Me. But you didn’t hesitate to give your ox, believing in what you heard in the church.”