Monday, May 30, 2011

The Little Russian Philokalia

There are very few books that are published in Volumes.  However, one of my favorites has been a Volume published by St. Herman's Press, The Little Russian Philokalia.  Originally, it was a series of books published in 5 volumes.  The first volume being St. Seraphim of Sarov .  The second volume is on Blessed Abbot Nazarius, who was the Spiritual Father to St. Herman of Alaska, which was the third volume in this series but has been discontinued and no longer in print.  The fourth volume was dedicated to  St. Paisius Velichkovsky, who was the individual who came into contact with the Philokalia that was published on Holy Mount Athos.  The fifth volume is to St. Theodore of Sanaxar, which is the last volume in the series.  

I have had the blessed chance to come into contact with each of these series.  Though only 3 of the original 5 volumes are being published these short books, no more than 150 pages, contains some of the most spiritually enriching texts from these wonderful men of God and each one who show forth that these men were truly blessed with many Graces from God.  

I highly suggest looking into trying to get one of the books that are still being published and let the spiritual insight of these men of God fill your soul with such peace and love that you will want to take their message and spread to everyone you know.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday of the Blind Man

Today, the Orthodox Church heard in the Divine Liturgy Gospel reading about the Blind Man, which comes on the 5th Sunday after Pascha.  

The Lord Jesus was coming from the Temple on the Sabbath, when, while walking in the way, He saw the blind man mentioned in today's Gospel. This man had been born thus from his mother's womb, that is, he had been born without eyes (see Saint John Chrysostom, Homily LVI on Matthew; Saint Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V:15; and the second Exorcism of Saint Basil the Great).

 When the disciples saw this, they asked their Teacher, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" They asked this because when the Lord had healed the paralytic at the Sheep's Pool, He had told him, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (John 5:14); so they wondered, if sickness was caused by sin, what sin could have been the cause of his being born without eyes. But the Lord answered that this was for the glory of God. Then the God-man spat on the ground and made clay with the spittle. He anointed the eyes of the blind man and said to him, "Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam." Siloam (which means "sent") was a well-known spring in Jerusalem used by the inhabitants for its waters, which flowed to the eastern side of the city and collected in a large pool called "the Pool of Siloam."

Therefore, the Saviour sent the blind man to this pool that he might wash his eyes, which had been anointed with the clay-not that the pool's water had such power, but that the faith and obedience of the one sent might be made manifest, and that the miracle might become more remarkable and known to all, and leave no room for doubt. Thus, the blind man believed in Jesus' words, obeyed His command, went and washed himself, and returned, no longer blind, but having eyes and seeing. This was the greatest miracle that our Lord had yet worked; as the man healed of his blindness himself testified, "Since time began, never was it heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind," although the Lord had already healed the blind eyes of many. Because he now had eyes, some even doubted that he was the same person (John 9:8-9); and it was still lively in their remembrance when Christ came to the tomb of Lazarus, for they said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have caused that even this man should not have died?" Saint John Chrysostom gives a thorough and brilliant exposition of our Lord's meeting with the woman of Samaria, the healing of the paralytic, and the miracle of the blind man in his commentaries on the Gospel of Saint John.

I come to You, O Christ, as the man blind from birth. With the eyes of my soul blinded, I cry out to You in repentance, "You are the resplendent Light of those in darkness."

"In Peace Let us Pray"

There are certain lines from our Liturgical services that always remind me of the beauty and true authenticity of our Faith in Christ's Church.  One of the lines is in all our services, whether it be Vespers, Orthros, or Divine Liturgy, "In peace let us pray to the Lord."  

How wonderful it is for our Priest to recite these words in our Liturgical services!  "In peace let us pray to the Lord."  Meditate on that simple line.  Seven simple words but with the most important two at the begining, "In peace..."  When our Priests from all Orthodox Churches call upon us to pray, it is to be in peace.  And we all respond, "Lord have mercy!"

We are not called to pray in anger.  We are not called to pray in greed.  We are not called to pray in cruelty.  NO!  We are called to pray in peace.  Peace.  For many people we think of peace as it applies in today's terms or in our cultural subtext.  But that is far from it's spiritual connection to our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We first hear Jesus speak of peace in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9).  Here, we can see that peace is not some random act, but a declaration from Christ, to us.  Jesus calls us to be "peacemakers."  We are not called to cause strife or disunity.  We are specifically called to be peacemakers.  Imagine now that line, In peace let us pray to the Lord, and let us recall our actions, thoughts, and hearts, and truly dwell on this and ask ourselves: "Have I been a peacemaker?"  "Have I tried to bring those who are angry with each other together in peace?"  "Have I caused others to go against each other, attempting to usurp the peace between them?  If we have, can we truly recite back "Lord have mercy?"  

Second, we hear Christ tell the woman who could not stop bleeding, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering" (Mark 5:34).  When we go about our day, after a Liturgical service, especially after Divine Liturgy when we partake of the Most Holy Precious Body and Blood of our Savior, do we realize that our faith has healed us and thus we should go forth in peace?  After the services when we walk out of the Temple of our Lord, should we not carry with our Faith, Peace, since it has healed us and freed us from suffering?  If our Faith cannot bring you Peace to your life, how much do you suffer?  Realize that Faith in Christ, the Church, and the Saints can bring us so much healing to our lives if we go on in peace.

At a third time, after Christ's Resurrection, he appears to His Disciples, "While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you' " (Luke 24:36).  In Christ's first appearance to His Disciples He does not exclaim, "Truly I am Risen" or "Behold the Son of God is before you."  No, he proclaims to them, "peace be with you."  How wonderful of our Lord to continue to preach this message of peace!  He does not go around and questions those who doubted His Resurrection nor does He exclaim to them as to what to do next.  Our Heavenly Lord simply says, "peace be with you."  How often to we meet our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and give the usual American standard "Hello" or "Hey, how are you"  or "What's up."  Should we not take cue from Jesus Christ and when we come upon those who we share a Sacramental life with greet them with "Peace be with you!"  Who better to imitate to follow a pure Christian life than taking what our Lord said and did and applying to our every life.  Greet your family members, your friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ with a joyous voice, that comes from a true heart, and say, Peace be with you!  Truly then, you will see the effect it has on those whom you greet.  

Thirdly, in the last Gospel, Christ constantly expounds the importance of this simple word.  In the first instance we read, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you" (John 14:27).  There are very few things that we read about in the Gospels that Jesus Christ specifically gives to His Disciples, one is salvation, two is the Eucharist, and third is His peace!  Jesus Christ before the Passion wanted His Disciples to not only carry His message but he wanted them to have His peace.  Which we see in the second instance why this is so, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace" (John 16:33).  In our Lord and Savior we do not only receive salvation, but we receive Heavenly peace if we believe in Him.  By believing in Christ and His Church we are given the gift of peace!  How often in our daily lives do we constantly battle with ourselves over worldly issues or question over our Faith?  How often to we get angry at ourselves or others, but yet we still call ourselves Christians, despite that when we were Baptized and Chrismated into the Church we were given Christ's peace.  He gave it to us so that we might find peace in ourselves but also that when in doubt, in pain, in confusion, we can turn to Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and recall that in Him we will find peace.  

In all four Gospels, Jesus gives us examples and tells us how to carry out our lives, and that is simply in peace.  That we be peacemakers, the our Faith will bring us peace, that Christ exclaimed to the Disciples peace be with all of us, and  lastly that He gave us His peace so that we might find peace in Him.  

So, when you go to Church and in the Services your hear the Priest recite, "In PEACE, let us pray to the Lord," let us recall all these instances and let it reside in our hearts that we have carried them out as a commandment that Jesus left us, and with peace in our hearts we can proclaim back, "Lord have mercy!"

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers and our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN.

5th Sunday after Great and Holy PASCHA.
Sunday of the Blind Man, 5-29-2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

St. Constantine & St. Helen

Today, the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Constantine and his mother St. Helen.  

This great and renowned sovereign of the Christians was the son of Constantius Chlorus (the ruler of the westernmost parts of the Roman empire), and of the blessed Helen. He was born in 272, in (according to some authorities) Naissus of Dardania, a city on the Hellespont. In 306, when his father died, he was proclaimed successor to his throne. 

In 312, on learning that Maxentius and Maximinus had joined forces against him, he marched into Italy, where, while at the head of his troops, he saw in the sky after midday, beneath the sun, a radiant pillar in the form of a cross with the words: "By this shalt thou conquer." The following night, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a dream and declared to him the power of the Cross and its significance. When he arose in the morning, he immediately ordered that a labarum be made (which is a banner or standard of victory over the enemy) in the form of a cross, and he inscribed on it the Name of Jesus Christ. 

To learn more about the Chi Rho click HERE

On the 28th Of October, he attacked and mightily conquered Maxentius, who drowned in the Tiber River while fleeing. The following day, Constantine entered Rome in triumph and was proclaimed Emperor of the West by the Senate, while Licinius, his brother-in-law, ruled in the East. But out of malice, Licinius later persecuted the Christians. Constantine fought him once and again, and utterly destroyed him in 324, and in this manner he became monarch over the West and the East. Under him and because of him all the persecutions against the Church ceased. Christianity triumphed and idolatry was overthrown. In 325 he gathered the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, which he himself personally addressed. In 324, in the ancient city of Byzantium, he laid the foundations of the new capital of his realm, and solemnly inaugurated it on May 11, 330, naming it after himself, Constantinople. Since the throne of the imperial rule was transferred thither from Rome, it was named New Rome, the inhabitants of its domain were called Romans, and it was considered the continuation of the Roman Empire. Falling ill near Nicomedia, he requested to receive divine Baptism, according to Eusebius (The Life of Constantine. Book IV, 61-62), and also according to Socrates and Sozomen; and when he had been deemed worthy of the Holy Mysteries, he reposed in 337, on May 21 or 22, the day of Pentecost, having lived sixty-five years, of which he ruled for thirty-one years. His remains were transferred to Constantinople and were deposed in the Church of the Holy Apostles, which had been built by him (see Homily XXVI on Second Corinthians by Saint John Chrysostom).

As for his holy mother Helen, after her son had made the Faith of Christ triumphant throughout the Roman Empire, she undertook a journey to Jerusalem and found the Holy Cross on which our Lord was crucified (see Sept. 13 and 14). After this, Saint Helen, in her zeal to glorify Christ, erected churches in Jerusalem at the sites of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, in Bethlehem at the cave where our Saviour was born, another on the Mount of Olives whence He ascended into Heaven, and many others throughout the Holy Land, Cyprus, and elsewhere. She was proclaimed Augusta, her image was stamped upon golden coins, and two cities were named Helenopolis after her in Bithynia and in Palestine. Having been thus glorified for her piety, she departed to the Lord being about eighty years of age, according to some in the year 330, according to others, in 336.

Having seen the image of Thy Cross in Heaven, and like Paul, having received the call not from men, Thine apostle among kings entrusted the commonwealth to Thy hand, O Lord. Keep us always in peace, by the intercessions of the Theotokos, O only Friend of man.

Today, Constantine with his mother Helen present the Cross, the most precious wood. It shames unbelievers. It is a weapon of faithful kings against their adversaries. A great sign has come forth for us which is awesome in battle.

Monday, May 9, 2011

St. Alexis (Toth) of Wilkes-Barre

On Saturday, May 7th, the One True Church commemorates our righteouss Father among the Saints, Alexis (Toth) of Wilkes-Barre.

Alexis Georgievich Toth was born to Father George and Cecilia Toth on March 14, 1853, near Eperjes (now Presov) in Zepes county of Slovakia during the reign of Franz Joseph Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. He followed in the steps of his father who was dean of the United Greek Church in the county. He was educated in the local preparatory schools and then went on to the Roman Catholic seminary for a year and then on for three years to the Uniate Greek Seminary in Ungvar. He continued on to the University of Prague where he graduated with a degree in Theology.

After marrying Rosalie Mihaluk on April 18, 1878, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1878 by Bishop Nicholas Toth, the Uniate Greek Catholic bishop of Presov. In a few years his wife Rosalie, whose father also was a priest, and their only child were to die. After his ordination Father Alexis was an assistant priest in Saros county before becoming the curate in the United Greek Catholic Church in Homrogd. Then Bishop Nicholas Toth appointed Father Alexis his chancellor. In 1881 the bishop appointed him director of the United Greek Catholic Seminary of Presov and professor of Canon Law and Church History. He continued in these position under Bishop Toth's successor, Bishop John Valyi.

Then late in the 1880s, Father Alexander Dzubay, who studied with Father Alexis in the seminary, wrote a petition from America to Bishop John asking that Father Alexis be sent to America. The bishop agreed and sent Father Alexis as a "missioner." He arrived in the United States on November 15, 1889, and on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, Father Alexis conducted his first services in the new St. Mary's Church in Minneapolis as the first resident priest to serve this church officially. However, the church edifice was incomplete, there were no furnishings, no vestments, but a debt. Over the next year Father Alexis worked with his community, preaching, asking for donations, acquiring furnishings, vestments, and bringing the parish to an organized, stable institution, all this without receiving any salary.

As a Uniate, Father Alexis understood that he must visit the ruling Roman Catholic bishop in the area, Archbishop John Ireland of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in St. Paul. Archbishop Ireland was a strong advocate of the "Americanization" movement within the Roman Catholic Church, and thus was a strong proponent of the Americanization of the Catholic immigrants. And in this regard, Archbishop Ireland looked upon Father Alexis and his flock as an alien sect that did not have the capacity or desire to fit into his plans for Americanization. So, upon presenting his credentials to Archbishop Ireland on December 19, 1889, the Archbishop immediately rejected him as a Catholic, not recognizing the Greek Rite nor Father Alexis as a priest nor even his bishop. Archbishop Ireland directed all Roman Catholic priests and their flock to not have any relations with Father Alexis and his people. Father Alexis sent reports to his bishop in Slovakia about his reception by Archbishop Ireland but heard nothing in return. Other Uniate priests in the United States sent letters to Father Alexis reporting that they had had similar confrontations. The problems for the Uniate priests reached a head after they met to discuss their situation. They learned that they were to be all recalled and returned to Europe.

These confrontations brought Father Alexis to a course of action about which he had thought about before and that was to return to Orthodox Christianity. On December 8, 1890, St. Mary's parishioners wrote to the Russian Consul in San Francisco to obtain information about a Russian Orthodox bishop and followed up by traveling to San Francisco to talk with Bishop Vladimir (Sokolovsky) of San Francisco. Then, in February 1891 Father Alexis traveled with a parish group, led by the Church Warden, Paul Podnay, to met with Bishop Vladimir. At this time Father Alexis was received into the Orthodox Church. Bishop Vladimir, hearing that Father Alexis was not receiving any pay, established a stipend to help him. On March 25, 1892, Bishop Vladimir visited the St. Mary's parish and formally accepted the community of 361 immigrants into the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. On July 14, 1892, the Ruling All-Russian Holy Synod officially approved and sanctioned this move.

By this action Father Alexis Toth gained the distinction of being the first Uniate Greek Rite Catholic priest in America to lead his people in reunion with the Orthodox Church. Having been sent originally to America to be a missionary to the immigrants, Father Alexis, in his new role, was to fulfill his destiny as the missionary leading his people back to the Orthodox Church. In December 1892 he evangelized the immigrants in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, preaching and enlightening them about their social and religious future in America. In 1902, he received the parish of St. John the Baptist in Mayfield, Pennsylvania, into the Orthodox fold. Elevated to the rank of protopresbyter, he was in the forefront, over the years until his death, of receiving parishes from the Unia into Orthodoxy. Through his efforts over 20,000 Carpatho-Russian and Galician uniates were re-united with the Orthodox Church.

On May 7, 1909, he died and was buried in a special shrine at the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Monastery (South Canaan, Pennsylvania). On May 29, 1994, Protopresbyter Alexis Toth was glorified as St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre.
Excerpted from the Orthodox Church in America's website:

Our holy Father Alexis, the defender of the Orthodox Faith and zealous worker in the Lord's vineyard, was born in Austro-Hungary on March 18, 1854 into a poor Carpatho-Russian family. Like many others in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Toths were Eastern Rite Catholics. Alexis' father and brother were priests and his uncle was a bishop in the Uniate church. He received an excellent education and knew several languages (Carpatho-Russian, Hungarian, Russian, German, Latin, and a reading knowledge of Greek). He married Rosalie Mihalich, a priest's daughter, and was ordained on April 18, 1878 to serve as second priest in a Uniate parish. His wife died soon afterwards, followed by their only child - losses which the saint endured with the patience of Job.

In May, 1879, Fr Alexis was appointed secretary to the Bishop of Presov and also Administrator of the Diocesan Administration. He was also entrusted with the directorship of an orphanage. At Presov Seminary, Father Toth taught Church History and Canon Law, which served him well in his later life in America. St Alexis did not serve long as a professor or an administrator, for the Lord had a different future planned for him. In October, 1889 he was appointed to serve as pastor of a Uniate parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like another Abraham, he left his country and his relatives to fulfill the will of God (Gen 12:1).

Upon his arrival in America, Father Alexis presented himself to the local Roman Catholic diocesan authority, Archbishop John Ireland, since there was no Uniate bishop in America at that time. Archbishop Ireland belonged to the party of American Catholics who favored the "Americanization" of all Roman Catholics. His vision for the future was founded on a common faith, customs, and the use of the English language for everything except liturgical celebrations. Naturally, ethnic parishes and non-Latin rite clergy did not fit into this vision. Thus, when Father Toth came to present his credentials, Archbishop Ireland greeted him with open hostility. He refused to recognize him as a legitimate Catholic priest or to grant permission for him to serve in his diocese.

As a historian and professor of Canon Law, Father Toth knew his rights under the terms of the Unia and would not accept Archbishop Ireland's unjust decisions. In October of 1890, there was a meeting of eight of the ten Uniate priests in America at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania under the chairmanship of Father Toth. By this time the American bishops had written to Rome demanding the recall to Europe of all Uniate priests in America, fearing that Uniate priests and parishes would hinder the assimilation of immigrants into American culture. Uniate bishops in Europe refused to listen to the priests' pleas for help.

Archbishop Ireland sent a letter to his parishes ordering their members not to attend Father Toth's parish nor to accept any priestly ministrations from him. Expecting imminent deportation, Father Toth explained the situation to his parishioners and suggested it might be best for him to leave and return to Europe.

"No," they said. "Let's go to the Russian bishop. Why should we always submit ourselves to foreigners?" It was decided to write to the Russian consul in San Francisco in order to ask for the name and address of the Russian bishop. Ivan Mlinar went to San Francisco to make initial contact with Bishop Vladimir; then in February, 1891 Father Toth and his church warden, Paul Podany, also made the journey. Subsequently, Bishop Vladimir came to Minneapolis and on March 25, 1891 received Father Toth and 361 parishioners into the Orthodox Church of their ancestors. The parishioners regarded this event as a new Triumph of Orthodoxy, crying out with joy: "Glory to God for His great mercy!"

This initiative came from the people themselves, and was not the result of any coercion from outsiders. The Russian Orthodox Church was unaware of the existence of these Slavic Uniate immigrants to America, but responded positively to their petition to be reunited to the Orthodox Church.

The example of St Alexis and his parish in returning to Orthodoxy was an encouragement to hundreds of other Uniates. The ever-memorable one was like a candle upon a candlestick giving light to others (Mt.5:15), and his flock may be likened to the leaven mixed with meal which leavened the whole (Mt.13:33). Through his fearless preaching he uprooted the tares which had sprung up in the wheat of true doctrine, and exposed the false teachings which had led his people astray. Although he did not hesitate to point out errors in the doctrines of other denominations, he was careful to warn his flock against intolerance. His writings and sermons are filled with admonitions to respect other people and to refrain from attacking their faith.

While it is true that he made some strong comments, especially in his private correspondence with the church administration, it must be remembered that this was done while defending the Orthodox Church and the American Mission from unfounded accusations by people who used much harsher language than Father Toth. His opponents may be characterized by intolerance, rude behaviour, unethical methods and threats against him and his parishioners. Yet, when Father Alexis was offended or deceived by other people he forgave them, and he would often ask his bishop to forgive his omissions and mistakes.

In the midst of great hardships, this herald of godly theology and sound doctrine poured forth an inexhaustible stream of Orthodox writings for new converts, and gave practical advice on how to live in an Orthodox manner. For example, his article "How We should Live in America" stresses the importance of education, cleanliness, sobriety, and the presence of children in church on Sundays and Holy Days.

Although the Minneapolis parish was received into the Orthodox Church in March, 1891, it was not until July, 1892 that the Holy Synod of Russia recognized and accepted the parish into the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians. This resolution reached America only in October, 1892. During that time there was a climate of religious and ethnic hostility against the new converts. Father Alexis was accused of selling out his own Carpatho-Russian people and his religion to the "Muscovites" for financial gain.

In reality he did not receive any financial support for a long time, for his parish was very poor. Until his priestly salary began to arrive from Russia, the righteous one was obliged to work in a bakery in order to support himself. Even though his funds were meager, he did not neglect to give alms to the poor and needy. He shared his money with other clergy worse off than himself, and contributed to the building of churches and to the education of seminarians in Minneapolis. He was not anxious about his life (Mt.6:25), what he would eat or drink or wear. Trusting in God to take care of him, St Alexis followed the admonition of Our Savior to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Mt.6:33). So he bore the tribulation, slander, and physical attacks with patience and spiritual joy, reminding us that "godliness is stronger than all" (Wisdom of Solomon 10:12).

Bishops Vladimir, Nicholas, St Tikhon, and Platon recognized the special gifts of Father Toth, so they often sent him forth to preach and teach wherever there were people of Slavic background. Even though he was aware of his shortcomings and inadequacies, yet he was obedient to the instructions of the bishops. He did not hesitate or make excuses, but went immediately to fulfill his mission. St Alexis visited many Uniate parishes, explaining the differences between Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Uniatism, stressing that the true way to salvation is in Orthodoxy.

Like Josiah, "he behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of his people" (Sir 49:2). He was instrumental in the formation or return of seventeen parishes, planting a vineyard of Christ in America, and increasing its fruitful yield many times over. By 1909, the time of his blessed repose, many thousands of Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniates had returned to Orthodoxy. This was a major event in the history of the North American Mission, which would continue to shape the future of Orthodoxy in this country for many generations to come. Any future growth or success may truly be regarded as the result of Father Toth's apostolic labors.

Who can tell of the saint's spiritual struggles? Who can speak of the prayers which his pious soul poured forth unto God? He did not make a public display of his piety, but prayed to God in secret with all modesty, with contrition and inward tears. God, Who sees everything done in secret, openly rewarded the saint (Mt.6:6). It is inconceivable that St Alexis could have accomplished his apostolic labors unless God had blessed and strengthened him for such work. Today the Church continues to reap the fruits of his teaching and preaching.

Father Toth's efforts did not go unrecognized in his own lifetime. He received a jeweled miter from the Holy Synod, as well as the Order of St Vladimir and the Order of St Anna from Czar Nicholas II for distinguished service and devotion to God and country. In 1907, he was considered as a candidate for the episcopal office. He declined this honor, however, humbly pointing out that this responsibility should be given to a younger, healthier man.

At the end of 1908, St Alexis' health began to decline due to a complication of illneses. He went to the seashore in southern New Jersey in an attempt to regain his health, but soon returned to Wilkes-Barre, where he was confined to bed for two months. The righteous one reposed on Friday, May 7, 1909 (April 24 on the Old Calendar), the feast of Sts Sava and Alexius the Hermit of the Kiev Caves. St Alexis' love and concern for his spiritual children did not cease with his death. Before closing the account of his life, it would be most appropriate to reveal but one example of his heavenly intercession:

In January, 1993 a certain man prayed to St Alexis to help him obtain information about his son from whom he had been separated for twenty-eight years. Placing his confidence in the saint's boldness before God, he awaited an answer to his prayer. The very next day the man's son telephoned him. It seems the young man was in church when he was suddenly filled with an overwhelming desire to contact his father. He had been taken to another state by his mother, and she changed his name when he was a child. This is why his father was unable to locate him. Having learned from his mother that his father was an Orthodox Christian, he was able with the help of an Orthodox priest to obtain his father's phone number in a distant city. As a result of that telephone call, the young man later visited his father, who rejoiced to see what sort of man his son had become. The father gave thanks to God and to St Alexis for reuniting him with his son.

St Alexis was a true man of God who guided many Carpatho-Russian and Galician immigrants through the dark confusion of religious challenges in the New World and back to the unity of the Orthodox Church through his grace-filled words and by his holy example. In his last will and testament St Alexis commended his soul to God's mercy, asking forgiveness from everyone and forgiving everybody. His holy relics now rest at St Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania where the faithful may come to venerate them and to entreat St Alexis' intercessions on their behalf.

In his Icon, the scroll reads: "This is the teaching of the Christian Orthodox Church,This is the teaching of your Forefathers, This is your Faith through which all of us will come to salvation.  Hold to it! Amen"

O righteous Father Alexis,
Our heavenly intercessor and teacher,
Divine adornment of the Church of Christ!
Entreat the Master of All
To strengthen the Orthodox Faith in America,
To grant peace to the world
And to our souls, great mercy!
Let us, the faithful, praise the Priest Alexis,
A bright beacon of Orthodoxy in America,
A model of patience and humility,
A worthy shepherd of the Flock of Christ.
He called back the sheep who had been led astray
And brought them by his preaching
To the Heavenly Kingdom!

View of the St. Alexis shrine.

Top view of the shrine

Monday, May 2, 2011

St. James the Apostle

On April 30 the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates St. John the Apostle, brother of St. John the Apostle & Theologian, the son of Zebedee.

James was one of the Twelve, like his brother John (celebrated on Sept. 26), whom the Lord called "Sons of Thunder," because they became great preachers and because of their profound theology. It was the Saint's boldness in preaching the Gospel that Herod Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, could not endure, and so he took him into custody during the days of the Passover, and slew him with the sword (Acts 12: 1-2); and thus he drank the cup of which the Saviour had spoken to him prophetically (Matt. 20:23). As for Herod, the following year he went down to Caesarea, and, as the Acts of the Apostles records: "Upon a set day, Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration" to the elders of Tyre and Sidon; and the flatterers that surrounded him "gave a shout, saying, 'it is the voice of a god, and not of a man.' And immediately an Angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory; and like his grandfather (see Dec. 29) "he was eaten of worms and gave up the spirit" (Acts 12:21-23)

O Holy Apostle James, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

The voice of thy God thou heardest when it called to thee, O glorious James; hence, casting off thy father's love, thou together with John thy brother didst run straightway to Christ the Lord, and with him was granted to see the Lord's most divine Transfiguration.

Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring

On Friday April 29th, Bright Friday, the Church celebrates what is called "Renewal Friday." 

Outside of Constantinople, towards the district of the Seven Towers, there was in ancient times a very large and most beautiful church named in honour of the Theotokos; it had been built about the middle of the fifth century by the Emperor Leo the Great (also called "Leo of Thrace," he is commemorated on Jan. 20). Before he became Emperor, he had encountered there a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water. Leo felt compassion for him and went in search of a source of water but found none. As he became downcast, he heard a voice telling him there was water nearby. He looked again, and found none. Then he heard the voice again, this time calling him "Emperor" and telling him that he would find muddy water in the densely wooded place nearby; he was to take some water and anoint the blind man's eyes with it. When he had done this, the blind man received his sight. After Leo became Emperor as the most holy Theotokos had prophesied, he raised up a church over the spring, whose waters worked many healings and cured maladies by the grace of the Theotokos; from this, it came to be called the "Life-giving Spring." The Church of Christ celebrates the consecration of this church on this day.

After the fall of the imperial city, this church was razed to the ground and the materials from it were used for building the mosque of Sultan Bayezid. Nothing remained of that church's ancient beauty, except for a small and paltry chapel, almost completely buried in the ruins. This chapel had twenty-five steps going down into it, and a transom window on the roof, wherefrom it received a little light. Toward the western side of the chapel was the aforementioned holy Spring, fenced about with a railing, and with fish swimming in it. Such was the condition of the Spring until 1821. Then even that little remnant was destroyed, occasioned by the uprising of the Greek nation against the Ottoman Empire; the sacred Spring was buried with it and disappeared altogether.

But in the days of Sultan Mahmud, when those subject to him were rejoicing in their freedom to practice their religion, permission was sought by the Orthodox Christian community to rebuild at least part of the chapel. Thus the work was begun on July 26, 1833. When the excavation had been made, and the foundations of the ancient church were found, there was rebuilt -- by a later writ of permission from the Sultan -- not merely a chapel of the holy Spring, but another new church, constructed upon the foundations of the ancient one. The building of this spacious, beautiful, and most majestic temple began on September 14, 1833, and the work was completed on December 30, 1834. On February 2, 1835, the Ecumenical Patriarch Constantine II, serving the Liturgy together with twelve hierarchs and a great company of clergy, as well as a boundless multitude of Christians, performed the consecration of this sacred church and dedicated it to the glory of the Mother of God. On September 6, 1955, however, it was desecrated and destroyed again by the Moslem Turks; it has been restored again, but not to the former magnificence.

As a life-giving fount, thou didst conceive the Dew that is transcendent in essence, O Virgin Maid, and thou hast welled forth for our sakes the nectar of joy eternal, which doth pour forth from thy fount with the water that springeth up unto everlasting life in unending and mighty streams; wherein, taking delight, we all cry out: Rejoice, O thou Spring of life for all men.

O Lady graced by God, you reward me by letting gush forth, beyond reason, the ever-flowing waters of your grace from your perpetual Spring. I entreat you, who bore the Logos, in a manner beyond comprehension, to refresh me in your grace that I may cry out, "Hail redemptive waters."

About Me

My photo
Northwest Arkansas, Arkansas, United States
My name is Ignatios Jason Rogers and I was received into the Holy Antiochian Orthodox Church at St. Nicholas in Springdale, AR on Christmas Eve of 2006. I am currently seeking the monastic path and hopefully one day will be able to enter a monastery.