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Saint Fursey, Bishop in Ireland, Missionary in East Anglia, founder of Monasteries in France.

Saint Fursey Abbot of Ireland

“The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints” (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)

Saint Fursa (Fursey), a saint famous not only for his missionary labours in England and France but also for his visions of the afterlife. His Feast Day is Jan 16.

Saint Fursey – (+650), of Peronne in France, was an Irishman of noble birth. His father was Fintan, son of Finlogh, a chieftain of South Munster; his mother, Gelges, was daughter of Aedh Finn of the Hui Briuin of Connaught. Saint Fursey was born somewhere among the Hui Briuin, and baptised by St. Brendan the Traveller. His parents having returned to Munster, the child was brought up there, and from his boyhood he gave his attention to the reading of the Holy Scriptures and monastic discipline. He studied on the island of Inisquin in Lough Corrib, under abbot Saint Meldanr called his ‘ soul-friend. He later built a monastery for himself at a place called Rathmat, which appears to be Killursa (Fursey’s Church), in the north-west of the county of Clare.

Saint Fursey's church

One day Saint Fursey traveled to Munster to visit his relatives. After he arrived he had the first of several remarkable cataleptic seizures, during which he had visions of bright angels, who raised him on their wings, and soothed him by hymns. In one vision famine and plagues were foretold. This evidently refers to the second visitation of the plague known as the Buidhe Connaill, ‘the yellow or straw coloured plague,’ which visited Ireland about fourteen years after Saint Fursey’s death. Deeply impressed by them, Saint Fursey travelled through Ireland, proclaiming what he had heard. At Cork he had a vision of a golden ladder set up at the tomb of St. Finn Barr and reaching to heaven, by which souls were ascending.

For ten years, in accordance with angelic directions, Saint Fursey continued ‘to preach the word of God without respect of persons, for 10 years. In the notes on the ‘Calendar of Oengus’ a strange story is told of his exchanging diseases with St. Maignen of Kilmainham. To avoid admiring crowds and jealousy, Saint Fursey went away with a few brethren to a small island in the sea, and shortly after, with his brothers Foillan and Ultan, he passed through Britain (Wales), and arrived at East Anglia, where he was hospitably received by King Sigebert.

The Venerable Bede records the Saint’s arrival, in his works:

Whilst Sigbert still governed the kingdom, there came out of Ireland a holy man called Fursey. renowned both for his words and actions, and remarkable for singular virtues, being desirous to live as a stranger and pilgrim for the Lord’s sake, wherever an opportunity should otter. On coming into the province of the East Angles, he was honorably received by the aforesaid king, and performing his wonted task of preaching the Gospel, by the example of his virtue and the influence of his words, converted many unbelievers to Christ, and confirmed in the faith and love of Christ those that already believed. Here he fell into some infirmity of body, and was thought worthy to see a vision of angels; in which he was admonished diligently to persevere in the ministry of the Word which he had undertaken, and indefatigably to apply himself to his usual watching and prayers; inasmuch as his end was certain, but the hour thereof uncertain, according to the saying of our Lord, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. ” Being confirmed by this vision, he set himself with all speed to build a monastery on the ground which had been given him by King Sigbert, and to establish a rule of life therein. This monastery was pleasantly situated in the woods, near the sea; it was built within the area of a fort, which in the English language is called Cnobheresburg, that is, Cnobhere’s Town. Anna, king of that province, and certain of the nobles, embellished it with more stately buildings and with gifts. This man was of noble Scottish blood, but much more noble in mind than in birth. From his boyish years, he had earnestly applied himself to reading sacred books and observing monastic discipline, and, as is most fitting for holy men, he carefully practiced all that he learned to be right. Now, in course of time he himself built a monastery, wherein he might with more freedom devote himself to his heavenly studies.
After another vision – twelve years since his last one – he hastened to build the monastery Cnoberesburg or Burghcastle, in Suffolk, on land granted by the king. Then, committing it to the charge of Goban and Dichull, he went away to his brother Ultan, with whom he lived as a hermit for a year.

Because of the disturbed state of the country he had to go to France and take refuge with Clovis, king of Neustria. The king being a child, the government was in the hands of Erchinoald, mayor of the palace, who gave him land at Latiniacum, now Lagny, on the Marne, six leagues from Paris. Here he erected a monastery in 644. According to the account in the ‘ Codex Salmanticensis,’ it was when travelling- with Clovis and Erchinoald that his last illness came on. He died on 16 Jan. in 650, at Macerias, now Mazeroeles. He was buried at Peronne, in the church built by Erchinoald, and with this place his name has since been associated. He was reputed to have performed miracles in his life-time, and even his pastoral staff, if sent to a sick person, was supposed to have a healing power. The brethren whom he took with him formed the nucleus of an Irish monastery, and the succession appears to have been kept up by emissaries from Ireland, as we read in the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ at 774, that ‘Moenan, son of Cormac, abbot of Cathair Fursa (the city of Fursa, i.e. Peronne) in France, died.’

Saint Fursey’s visions were placed on record soon after his death in ‘the little book’ to which Baeda refers, and which Mabillon considers to be the life published by Surius at 16 Jan. Baeda describes the agitation of a monk who, when describing what he heard from Fursey’s lips, though it was the severest season of the year, and he was thinly clad, broke out into a profuse perspiration from mere terror.

[Codex Salmanticensis, p. 77 (London, 1883); Bedae Eccl. Hist. lib. iii. cap. 19; Lanigan's Eccl. Hist. ii. 448-64; Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 774 ; Calendar of Oengus, p. xxxv; Dr. Todd's St. Patrick, p. 406.] T. 0.

L. Stephen, ed., Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XX (1889), 333-334

St. Fursey Abbot of Ireland


Saint Fursey of Ireland was given the following experience by God about the events of the particular judgment; St. Fursey died on a journey and was brought back to life. The following is taken fromBarneval’s translation:

He was sick; his strength was exhausted; his life was despaired of. Leaning painfully on another’s arm, he went out, took a few steps outside of the house and began the evening office. All absorbed in prayer, he was murmuring psalmody, when he felt himself enveloped in darkness; his feet refused to proceed; he was brought back for dead.

After he felt himself enveloped in darkness, he beheld four hands stretched towards him from above, and take him by the arm; and hovering above four wings white as snow. He desired perfectly the hands and the wings; the rest of the bodies of the angels he could see but dimly. When they reached a certain height, he distinguished their heavenly countenances, shining with wonderful radiance; but in this splendor he perceived no corporeal form. Before him, too, he perceived a third angel, all glittering, armed with a white buckler, and a sword like a flash of lightning. The splendor which they diffused, the harmonious beatings of their wings, the melody of their chant, the divine beauty of their look, filled his soul with indescribable sweetness; for they chanted, the first intoning, the others taking it up: “The saints shall go from virtue to virtue; the God of gods shall be seen in Sion.” And the chant rose, then descended to the end. He heard also an unknown hymn chanted by thousands of angelic voices, but he could distinguish only one verse: “They shall go forth to meet Christ.” All these celestial countenances seemed to him alike; but the light was so brilliant that the corporeal form was hidden from his eyes.

Fain would he have remained in the world whose splendor and harmony he enjoyed; but he was to accomplish his human trial, and the angels brought him back; and his soul, ravished by their chants, knew not how it had returned to its prison.

Meanwhile the night had passed, and the cock was crowing. He heard no more the voices of heaven; he heard human voices groaning and lamenting. At that moment those who surrounded his body uncovered his face; a slight flush tinged his pallid cheeks and the man of God, addressing them, said, “Why do you cry and make this noise?” Then they told him all that had happened, how he had died the evening before, and how they had remained all night long watching beside his lifeless corpse. He arose; the sweetness and splendor of the angels returned to his mind, and remembering their promise to return, he regretted that no wise man was night to whom he could confide what he had seen. In order that the angels, on their return, might not find him unprepared, he asked and received the Body and Blood of the Spotless Lamb. Thus he remained that day and the next in great debility; but in the middle of the night, about the hour of Terce, as his relatives, his friends, and many of the neighbors were there to see him, the shades came upon him; his feet grew cold and stiff; he stretched out his hands in the attitude of prayer, feeling with joy the approach of death; for he remembered the delightful vision which had already been once announced to him by similar signs. He fell back on his bed, overcome by sleep, and he heard the frightful clamors, as it were a great multitude calling upon him to come forth. But opening his eyes his saw only the three angels standing beside him; the noise and the sight of men vanished; he already enjoyed the concerts and beauty of the angels. The one on his right hand said, “Fear not; thou shalt find a defense.”

They bore him off; the roof of his dwelling disappeared beneath his eyes. He passed through the howls and yells of the demons, and he heard one of them say, “Let us go and join battle before his eyes.” On his left he saw a dark whirlwind, where horrible countenance writhed, and ranged themselves in battle before him; for as far as he could see, the bodies of the demons were black and frightful, inspiring horror with their long, disproportioned necks, their wretched emaciation, their large, round, deformed heads. When they flew or fought, he saw only an undefined, sinister shadow. Who but knows the frightful forms that the unclean spirits can assume to terrify a soul? Moreover, their features were hidden from him by the dense darkness, as those of the angels by the intense light.

The demons fought, darting fiery arrows; but these were extinguished against the heavenly buckler, and the enemies fell before the face of the armed angel. Yet he would reason with them, saying, “Arrest not our steps, for this man has no part in your perdition.” But the adversary protested, and said, blaspheming, that God was unjust in permitting sinners to escape damnation when it is written, “Not only those who do evil, but those who agree with them that do evil, are worthy of death.” And the angel contended, and the holy man thought that the noise of the combat and the clamors of the demons were heard all over the world.
Satan, overcome, like a crushed serpent, lifted up his venomous head and said, “He has often held idle discourse, and he cannot without expiation enjoy bliss.”

The Angel replied, “If thou findest no capital accusations he shall not perish for such slight faults.”

Then the old accuser said, “If you forgive not one another, my heavenly Father will not forgive you.”

The Angel replied, “When has he done vengeance, or whom has he injured?”

The devil said, “It is not written, “If you take vengeance,” but, ‘Unless you forgive from your hearts.’ ”

The Angel replied, “Pardon was in his heart; there he kept it following human custom.”

The demon said, “As he has received the sin from human custom, so shall he receive chastisement from the supernal Judge!”

“Well,” replied the angel, “we will judge him before the Lord.” Thrice overcome, the enemy had not exhausted his viperous venom; he rejoiced: “If God is just, this man shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; for it is written, ‘Unless you become like little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ This man has not accomplished this word.” “We will judge him before the Lord,” repeated the angel; and he combated, and his adversaries were crushed.

Then the angel who stood at Saint Fursey’s right said to him, “Behold the world.” The man of God looked, and he saw beneath him a darksome valley; and he saw, too, four fires, separated from each other by regular distances. “What are these fires?” asked the angel. As he did not know, the angel said, “These four fires gnaw away the world, although all sins have been effaced in baptism, by confessing Christ, and renouncing Satan, his works and pomps. The first is falsehood; for men fulfill not the promises made in baptism to renounce Satan and all his works. The second is cupidity; for they put the goods of this world before the love of heavenly things. The third is dissension; for they fear not, even without reason, to offend their neighbor’s soul. The fourth is impiety; for they esteem it as nothing to deceive and strip the weak.”

And the fires spread; they formed one conflagration, and it approached. The saint in fear said to the angel, “See! the fire is coming upon me.” The angel replied, “Thou has not kindled it; thous shalt not be consumed in it. Great and terrible as it is, it measures its ardor by each one’s faults; for in it all iniquity shall be consumed; and as the body is consumed by evil desires, so shall the soul be burned by a just expiation.” The saint then beheld the angels advance and divide the fire, which formed two walls, and on each side his two angels protected him.

In the very midst of the flames unclean spirits flew about; they took arms, and a new battle was joined.

One of them said, “The servant that knoweth his master’s will and doeth it not, does he not deserve to be beaten?”

“And wherein,” replied the angel, “has this man failed to accomplish the orders of his Lord?”

“He has,” says Satan, “accepted the gifts of the wicked.”

“He has thought, ” observed the angel, “that they had done penance.”
“He should have tried their perseverance in penance,” said the demons, “and then taken their gifts; for presents blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the just.”

The angel replied, “We will judge him before God.”

The great deceiver, seeing himself baffled, burst forth in blasphemies against his Creator. “Till now,” he cried, “we have believed God truthful!”
“Well ?” asked the angel.

“The prophet Isaias,” continued the insolent spirit, “has promised that the fault not purged on earth shall be purged in heaven, when he cried to the Jews, ‘If you will hearken to me, you shall bear the fruits of the earth; but if you will not, and provoke my wrath, you shall be devoured by the sword.’ Now this man has not purged his faults on earth, and receives no punishment here; where then is God’s justice?”

But the indignant angel cried out, “Blaspheme not, for thou knowest nought of God’s secret judgments.”

And Satan said, “What is secret here?”

“As long as penance may be expected,” said the angel, “the Divine Mercy does not forsake the creature.”

“But,” objected Satan, “there is not time here for penance.”

“Perhaps there is,” observed the angel; “thou knowest not the depths of the Divine Mysteries.”

The demon closed, saying, “Let us go; there is no judgment here!”

But another continued: “There is still a narrow door which few pass, and there we can wait. It is written, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ ”

The Angel replied, “This man has done good to his neighbor.”

“It is not enough,” rejoined the enemy, “to do good, unless he loves his neighbor as himself.”

“To do good,” retorted the angel, “is the fruit of charity, and God will render to every man according to his works.”

But the devil persisted: “His charity has not fulfilled the precept; he must be damned!”

Then the accursed troop combated, but the angels triumphed.
Six times vanquished, the devil, according to his wont, burst forth into blasphemies. “If God is not unjust, if falsehood displeases him, and disregard of his word, this man shall not be exempt from torment; for he promised to renounce the world, yet loved the world, contrary to the order of the apostle, who says, ‘Love not the world, nor the things of the world.’ Now, this man was withheld neither by his own promise nor by the injunctions of the apostle.”

To which the holy angel replied, “Not for himself did he love the things of the world, but to distribute them to the needy.”

“No matter how a man loves them,” persisted the frightful spirit, “if he loves them, he violates God’s law and his Christian engagement in baptism.”

The Angels triumphed; their enemies succumbed; but the devil still had recourse to insidious accusations. ” ‘Unless you declare to the perverse their perversity, I will seek in your hands the trace of their blood.’ So it is written. This man has not, as in duty bound, preached penance to sinners.”

“It is written,” replied the angel, “in those times, the wise man shall be silent for these times are bad. When the hearers despise the word, the tongue of the master is tied.”

But the old accuser said, “Yet he should speak till he suffered and died; he can neither consent nor be silent.”

Thus did the demons fiercely dispute and combat, until by God’s judgment the angels gained the victory, and their enemies were overthrown and prostrated.

Then around the saint spread an immense brightness, and the angels and the elect chanted, “Pain and length of time are nought when an eternity of glory is gained.” Saint Fursey was inundated with sweetness and joy, and raising his eyes, he saw great radiant multitudes; their dazzling wings flashed in space. They came to him and surrounded him, and the trouble, the terror inspired by the fires and the demons, were banished afar. To his eyes appeared two venerable men whom he had known in the country of his birth, and he thought that they were dead. Approaching, they told their names–Bevan and Meldan; and they conversed familiarly with him.

At that moment, in heaven’s calm depths opened an ethereal door; two angels entered; around them gushed with new force the Divine Light, and the pure spirits were heard chanting in four choirs, “Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of Sabbaoth.” And as his soul was intoxicated with the inexpressible delight, the ravishing canticles of heaven, the angels grouped on his right and his left; and the one on his right asked him whether he knew where these transports of joy took place; and as he knew not the angel told him, “It is in the assembly on high, to which we belong.”

Meanwhile the melody became ever more clear and more penetrating, and Saint Fursey thought that they were chanting for him. He said to the angel, “It is a great joy to hear such concerts.” “It is a joy,” replied the heavenly spirits, “of which we are often deprived for the service of men; and even then the devil undoes our work by corrupting man’s heart. In this kingdom of peace and purity,” he added, ” no judgment is pronounced except on human wickedness.” But Saint Fursey’s soul was absorbed in the joy and delights of heaven.

But lo, from the invisible city came forth, luminous as angels, Meldan and Bevan; and coming to Saint Fursey, they had him return to his mortal life. In silence and with a troubled heart did he receive this order; and as the angels bore him away, the two saints said, “What fearest thou? Thy toil is but a day’s journey. Preach and announce to all that judgment is at hand.” Saint Fursey interrogating them as to the end of the world, they replied that it had not come, although it was not far off; that famine and disease would ravage the human race, and that a sign should be seen in the sun.
Bevan spoke long to the holy man, revealing to him that God’s wrath was suspended over the nations, but that it menaced especially their princes and doctors. In grave words, worthy of the Gospel and Heaven, he gave him wholesome advice and priceless instructions, which Saint Fursey was to transmit to Ireland. “Go, then,” he said at last, “proclaim to her princes that they must leave iniquity, do penance, and work out their salvation. Declare to the princes of the Church that God is jealous when they prefer the world to Him, and that it is serving the world to neglect the care of souls.”

Then the blessed company that attended him departed,and he remained alone with the three angels. They were soon near the great fire; and the angel, as on the first occasion, went before, clearing the way, dividing the flame right and left; but lo, from the midst of the furnace a human face, a man hurled by the demons, struck the saint’s shoulder, and cheek touched cheek. Saint Fursey felt his shoulder and cheek burn, and he saw that it was a man who on his death bed had left him a garment. The angel seized the damned one, and hurled him into the flames. But the spirit of malice cried, “Why repulse him who thou didst welcome? Thou didst share his goods: share his torment.” “It was not through avarice,” replied the angel, “that he accepted his present, but to save his soul.” The fire ceased. Yet the angel said to Saint Fursey, “The fire that thou hadst kindled has burned thee; if thou hadst not receive the clothes of this man dying in his sin, thou wouldest not have felt in thy body the fire of his torture.” And he too exhorted him to preach penance to men.

Saint Fursey found himself above his dwelling; but he recognized neither the house nor the crowd of persons lamenting, nor his garments, nor his body; and when the angel had him resume his mortal tabernacle, he feared to approach it, not recognizing the corpse. “Away with this fear,” said the angel; “even in it thou canst preserve thee from weakness and evils; thou hast just now triumphed over the assaults of the evil one; he shall not more prevail against thee.” At the same time, looking at his body, the breast opened as if to receive his soul, and the angel’s last words were, “Let pure water be poured over they limbs, and thou shalt feel no pain but that of the fire that has touched thee. Do good; till the end we will follow thy steps, and thus we shall receive thee amongst us.”
Issuing from the profound repose of death, he sat up, and beheld the multitude of his kindred, neighbors, and ecclesiastics, who surrounded him. Then he groaned over the greatness of human folly; and thinking how difficult and dangerous a passage death is, how divine the reward of those who reach the blissful abode, he revealed in order all that he had seen. He ordered pure water to be poured over him, and the print that that damned one had left became visible. The body, strange to declare, bore the mark of the pain that the soul alone had undergone.

Then leaving his house, he preached the word of God, and announcing to all the people what he had seen and heard. Grace was incomparable in him–disengaged from earth, giving himself to all, to prelates and the faithful, to nobles and kings, amiable to the good, terrible to the wicked; and the power of miracles was also in him.


Saint Cybi, Abbot of Cornwall and Wales +550

Saint Cybi the tawny and Saint Seiriol the fair


“The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints” (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)

Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Saint Cybi Felyn, Abbot of Cornwall and Wales
(c. AD 483-555)
Feast Day Nov 5/18

Prince Cybi the Tawny was born around AD 485 in the Callington region of Cornwall. He had a fine education and took a keen interest in Christianity even in his youth. At the age of 27, he made pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem and eventually became a priest, being consecrated bishop by the Bishop of Poitiers. On returning home, he found that his father, King Salom, had died and he was nominally the monarch of his country. But Saint Cybi had set his heart on a life dedicated to God and so, when he was formally offered the Cornish throne, he politely refused and Cornwall once more became united with Dumnonia.

Saint Cybi then began to travel the Celtic World. He founded churches at Duloe, Tregony, Cubert and Landulph in Cornwall. He later crossed the Bristol Channel to Edeligion in South-East Wales, with several followers (including Saint Cyngar of Llangefni). The local King, Edelig, did not welcome them at first. Eventually, however, the monarch was brought round and gave the Cornishman two churches at Llangybi-upon-Usk and Llanddyfrwyr-yn-Edeligion. Cybi then moved on to Ireland (staying with his cousin, St. Dewi (David) at Mynyw (St. Davids) en route). He settled on the Island of Aran Mor where the Irish came to know him as St. Mo-Chop. After Aran, Cybi and his followers moved to Meath and then Mochop, but each time they were hounded by a local presbyter. So, Cybi sailed for Wales once more.

Saint Cybi landed on the Lleyn Peninsula and lived for a while at Llangibi near Pwllheli. Here the local King, Maelgwn Gwynedd, came across him while out hunting a certain goat. Saint Cybi used his kindness to pacify the King’s anger at finding an unapproved Christian community in his kingdom, and even persuaded him to give the saint one of his palaces, at what became Caer-Gybi on Ynys-Gybi. Saint Cybi and his followers settled here and established a thriving monastery. The Cornishman became a firm friend of Saint Seiriol who lived on the opposite side of Ynys Mon (Anglesey), and the two would often meet up for prayers at the Clorach Wells in Llandyfrydog in the center of the island. This journey, with his face to the sun, allowed Saint Cybi to nurture a tan. Hence his epithet of ‘Felyn’.

Saint Cybi attended the Synod of Llandewi Brefi in AD 545, where his advice was sought by a number of priests hoping to make a pilgrimage to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island). The men were worried about Saxon pirates, but the saint persuaded them that if their faith was strong enough they had nothing to fear (how very timely). While in Dyfed, Saint Cybi founded the Church of Llangybi near Lampeter. He died on 5th November AD 555 and was buried on Ynys Enlli (Bardsey).


St. Seiriol Gwyn
(Born c.AD 494)

Saint Seiriol the Fair was a younger brother of Kings Cynlas of Rhos and Einion of Lleyn. He entered the religious life and lived in a small hermitage on the Eastern Peninsula of Ynys Mon (Anglesey). His two ruling brothers later decided this humble residence was far too lowly for their Royal brother and founded an important monastery around his cell. Thus, Seiriol became the first Abbot of Penmon Priory. His hermitage and holy-well can still be seen there today.

Saint Seiriol became a very good friend of Saint Cybi who lived at Caer-Gybi on Ynys Cybi (Holy Island) on the far side of Ynys Mon (Anglesey). The two would often walk several miles to meet up for prayers at the Clorach Wells in Llandyfrydog in the center of the island. This journey with his back to the sun allowed Saint Seiriol’s complexion to remain so fair that he was given the epithet of “Gwyn”.

When Saint Seiriol was of old age, he retired to Ynys Lannog (Priestholm), just off the coast from Penmon. It became known as Ynys Seiriol in his honour, though it is now better known as Puffin Island.

Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates The Protection of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Agia Skepi Holy Protection


Feastday October 1/14

“Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

When Panagia finished praying she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.”  Saint Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, Saint Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Saint Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

Panagia implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them not go away from my icon unheard.”

Saint Andrew and Saint Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible.    After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the church of Blachernae, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered.   In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting Saint Andrew in contemplation of her.

Saint Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the  Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.
Faith in the Theotokos  in Epirus was also outstanding during the Second World War.   Her role was catalytic not only because she constituted the basis of people’s faith, but also because, with her miraculous interventions, she proved to have been the greatest ally of the Greek army on the snowy and rough mountains of Epirus.

Of course, miracles and apparitions were reported in many regions of Greece during the war, but at the front, at the Greek – Albanian borders and on Pindus, Virgin Mary was the protector and the leader of those who fought for their country under difficult circumstances. Their faith was so strong that they could see her encouraging them and “covering” them protectively, while they were fighting on the snowy mountains of Pindus and Albania.

The account given by Vassililki Bouri, niece of Spyridon Houliaras, who fought at the borders, is characteristic. According to it, Spyridon Houliaras used to narrate incidents of the war to his relatives before he died. The one that affected him the most, however, was a miracle of Virgin Mary. While the soldiers were fighting under really adverse conditions, Virgin Mary appeared in front of them and as a protector “covered” them with her mantle and led them towards their enemy, ready to confront them.

This miracle is also corroborated by the accounts of other soldiers of that time who fought on the mountains of Pindus. At the front, Greek soldiers saw the same vision everywhere: at nights, they could see a tall, slim woman figure walking with her kerchief resting on her shoulders. For the soldiers she was no other than Virgin Mary, the defender general of Greeks.

Tasos Rigopoulos, a soldier in 1940, reports from the front: I’m writing from an eagle’s nest 400 metres higher than the top of Parnitha. Everything around me is snowwhite. The reason I’m writing […] is to share with you what I’ve experienced, what I saw with my own eyes; something that I’m afraid you won’t believe if you hear it from others. A few moments before dashing against the blockhouses of Morova we saw a tall woman dressed in black standing still some 13 metres away. The guard yelled: “Identify yourself”. There was no answer. He yelled angrily once more. At that moment, as if struck by electricity, we all whispered: “Panaghia!”. She hurled herself at the enemy as if she had eagle wings. We followed her. We could constantly sense the bravery she was transmitting to us. We fought hard for a whole week until we finally took the Ivan-Morova blockhouses. […] She was always dashing forth. And when, victorious at last, we were advancing to defenseless Koritsa, our Defender turned into steam, smooth smoke, and vanished into thin air”. [11] On the mountain ridge of Ronteni, the soldiers of the 51st independent battalion, under the commands of major Petrakis also witnessed a miracle. From the 22nd of January and on, every evening at half past nine the enemy’s heavy artillery commenced fire against the battalion and the road that was used by transport vehicles. There was a lot of nervousness and heavy casualties. The daring scouts were unable to locate the enemy’s artillery. Apparently, the enemy was changing its position every evening. The situation was really desperate. It was an evening in February when the enemy artillery was heard firing once again. “Panaghia, help us, save us”, shouted the major spontaneously. Suddenly, a bright cloud came into sight from a distance, something like a halo was formed and the image of Virgin Mary appeared. She started bending towards the ground and stopped right over a ravine. Everybody in the battalion shivered as they witnessed the miracle. “Miracle!”, they shouted and they prayed. Immediately, they sent a message to the Greek artillery, the Greek canons fired, and right after that there was a silence. The Greek bombs had achieved a perfect strike. [11]

“No matter how faith is expressed during war, it is certain that it offers assistance to the soldier who is tested. And the image of the protector makes him hopeful and optimistic. …People from Arta, fighting at the front, were afraid neither of mortars nor of enemy bullets, as long as they had the image of Panaghia in front of them…”. [12] Yiannis Tsarouchis, after having painted “The Virgin of Victory” on the cap of a box of herring, having in mind a badly painted picture of the Virgin that was going around the camp, he was on his way to the commander of the battalion in order to present his work. The painting had already acquired a fame of being miraculous and on his way to the commander some soldiers from Arta “being in a state of religious excitement, demanded that the miraculous icon spend at least one night at their camp. All the soldiers were shouting: “The Virgin, the Virgin. Leave it here for one night”. Suddenly, the alarm sounded. […] we lied down, according to the orders we had. None of the soldiers from Arta did the same. “Hey! Comrade! How can you be scared when you hold the Virgin in your hands?”, one said”. [12]

It was also characteristic that on the military identification cards, right next to the personal details there was a picture of Virgin Mary. And just moments before they attacked, they would pray, shout “Panaghia mou!” (my Virgin) three times, and dash forth9.

The importance of Virgin Mary’s miraculous interventions was acknowledged right after the end of the Second World War. For this reason, the celebration of Agias Skepis, which in 626 A.D., when Her miraculous intervention saved Constantinople from the Avaroi (Turkish-Mongolian Nomads), was officially established to be celebrated on October 1st, was transferred in 1952 on the 28th of October to remind them of her miraculous intervention during the most difficult period for Greek people.

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”


Apolytikion in the First Tone

O Virgin, we extol the great grace of thy Protection, which thou didst spread out like a bright cloud beyond all understanding; for thou dost invisibly protect thy people from the foe’s every assault. Since we have thee as our shelter and certain help, we cry to thee with our whole soul: Glory to thy great deeds, O most pure Maid. Glory to thy shelter most divine. Glory to thy care and providence for us, O spotless one.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us the faithful hasten to the Theotokos now and venerate her sacred veil, as we chant unto her, singing hymns to praise and honour her, as is fitting; for she shelt’reth with her shelter and all her faithful flock and preserveth them unharmed from all calamities, as they cry to her: Rejoice, Protection most radiant.


Martyr Saint Phocas the Gardener

Martyr Saint Phocas the Gardener


Martyr Saint Phocas the Gardener of Sinope
Feastday - September 22/Oct 5

The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener came from the city of Sinope on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Having a small garden, he lived modestly. He sold what he grew, and supported himself on the proceeds. He helped the needy and paid for the housing of vagrants. The Christian piety of the saint had a great influence on other people. Even pagans deferred to him with deep respect. Under his influence they often abandoned their error and accepted the Christian Faith.

The governor of the district, aware that St Phocas was spreading Christian teachings, gave orders to find and kill him. The saint himself accidentally came upon those sent after him, and without revealing his name, he courteously received them, fed them and prepared a place for them to spend the night.

At night he went into the garden, then prepared a grave and a place for his burial. He even made arrangements for all his possessions to be distributed to the poor after his death. In the morning St Phocas declared to the strangers that it was he for whom they were searching, and told them to fulfill the duty entrusted to them. The visitors were distressed, not wanting to kill the kindly saint. They felt honor bound to spare St Phocas, but he would not hear of it, and humbly bent his head beneath the sword.

They buried the holy Martyr Phocas in the grave that he himself had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. An accurate account of the martyr’s death was collected by Asterius of Amasea (+ 410). The holy Martyr Phocas is especially venerated by seafarers, and he is called upon by those traveling by sea.

Martyr Saint Ia of Persia





Martyr Saint Ia of Persia

Martyr Ia of Persia
Feast day - September 11/24

The Holy Martyr Ia was arrested along with 9,000 Christians by the Persian emperor Sapor II, and they were all brought to the Persian city of Bisada. The chief of the Persian sorcerers demanded that the saint renounce Christ, but she remained unyielding and so she was tortured. Then St Ia was thrown into prison. She was beheaded after repeated tortures.

According to Tradition, the sun was darkened at the time of her martyrdom, and the air was filled with a sweet fragrance.

Saint Theodora of Alexandria (+490)

Saint Theodora of Alexandria

Feast day – Sept. 11/24


Saint Theodora was from Alexandria, she was the wife of a young man.   One day,  persuaded by a fortune-teller, she committed adultery with another man and immediately felt the bitter pangs of her conscience.    She then decided to cut her hair, dress in men’s clothing, and enter the men’s Monastery of Octodecatos, under the male name of Theodore.

Saint Theodora’s labor, fasting, vigilance, humbleness and tearful repentance amazed the entire brotherhood.    When a promiscuous young woman slandered her, saying that Theodore had made her pregnant, Saint Theodora did not want to justify herself, but considered this slander as a punishment from God for her earlier sin.  She was  then thrown out of the monastery, and spent seven years living in the forest and wilderness, caring for the child of that promiscuous girl.

Saint Theodora overcame all diabolical temptations:  she refused to worship satan, refused to accept food from the hands of a soldier, and she refused to heed the pleas of her husband to return to him, for all of this was only a diabolical illusion, and as soon as Saint Theodora made the sign of the Cross everything vanished as smoke.

After seven years, the abbot received her back into the monastery, where she lived for two more years, and reposed in the Lord.     Only then did the monks learn that she was a woman.    A  angel appeared to the abbot and explained everything to him.   Her husband came to the burial, and then remained in the cell of his former wife until his repose.

Saint Theodora possessed much grace from God:  she tamed wild beasts, healed infirmities, and brought forth water from a dry well.  God glorified a true penitent, who with heroic patience repented nine years for just one sin.   She reposed in the year 490.

Saint Pachomios The Great, The Founder Of Coenobitic Monasticism +346


Saint Pachomios the Great

Saint Pachomios was born in the Thebaid (Upper Egypt), in the 3rd century.    His parents were pagans. and they gave him an excellent secular education.    From very young he had a good character, and he was prudent and sensible.

At the age of 20, he was summoned to serve in the army of the emperor of Saint Constantine  the Great.    The new conscripts were detained in a city prison that was guarded by soldiers.  The Christians who lived nearby fed the soldiers and took care of them.

When Saint Pachomios saw that these people acted this way because of their love for God, fulfilling His commandment to love their neighbor, this made a deep impression upon his pure soul, and  Saint Pachomios vowed to become a Christian.    When he returned from the army after the victory,  he was Baptized, and moved to the lonely settlement of Shenesit.   He then began to lead a strict ascetic life.   Saint Pachomios understood that he needed spiritual guidance,  so he went to the desert-dweller Elder Palamon.    The Elder accepted him, and he began to follow the example of his instructor in monastic struggles.

After about 10 years of asceticism, Saint Pachomios went through the desert, and stopped at the ruins of the former village of Tabennisi.    He then heard a Voice ordering him to start a monastery at that place.   Saint Pachomios told the Elder Palamon of this, and they both believed these to be the words as a command from God.

They both then went to Tabennisi and built a small monastic cell.   The holy Elder Palamon blessed the foundations and predicted its future glory.    A short while thereafter, Elder Palamon reposed in the Lord.   Then an angel of God came to Saint Pachomius in the form of a schemamonk and gave him a Rule of monastic life.   Soon his older brother John came and settled there with him.

There were many temptations and assaults from the Enemy of the race of man that Saint Pachomios had to endure, but he resisted all temptations with prayer.

As time went on, men who were interested in holy monasticism began to gather around Saint Pachomius.   Everyone was so impressed by his love for work, which enabled him to accomplish all kinds of monastic tasks.   He planted and took care of a garden, he taught those seeking guidance, and he took care of the sick.

Saint Pachomios started a monastic Rule of cenobitic life, giving everyone the same food and clothing.  The monks of the monastery fulfilled all the obediences that were assigned to them. One of the various obediences was the copying of books.   They were not  allowed to possess their own money, or to accept anything from their relatives.   Saint Pachomios felt that an obedience that was accomplished with zeal was greater than fasting or prayer.   He demanded  the monks to perform an exact observance of the monastic Rule, and he chastised those who were slothful.

Saint Pachomios had a sister, and one day she came to see him, but he was very strict and refused to see her.   Through the gate keeper, he blessed her to enter upon the path of the monastic life.   He promised his help with this.   His sister Maria cried, but she was obedient to her brother and did as he had ordered.   The Tabennisi monks built her a hut on the opposite side of the Nile river.   Women began to gather around Maria who also wanted to become nuns.    A woman’s monastery was formed with a strict monastic Rule that was given to them by Saint Pachomios.

Eventually there was such a great number of monks at the monastery where Saint Pachomios was at that  it was necessary to build seven more monasteries in that same area.

There were 7000 monks, all under the guidance of St Pachomios.   He visited all the monasteries and administered them.    St Pachomios always remained a deeply humble monk, and was always ready to listen and accept the words of each brother.

Saint Pachomios was very severe and strict with himself, but was kind and condescending towards the deficiencies of spiritually immature monks.   One day one of his monks was eager for martyrdom, but Saint Pachomios turned him from this desire and instructed him to fulfill his monastic obedience.   He taught him to tame his pride, and trained him in humility.

Another one of his monks did not listen to his advice and left the monastery.    He was captured by a brigand, who threatened him with death and forced him to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.    The monk filled with despair, returned to the monastery, and Saint Pachomius ordered him to pray intensely day and nigh.   He told him to keep a strict fast and to live in complete solitude.    The monk was obedient, and this saved his soul from despair.
The saint taught everyone to avoid judging others, and he himself feared to judge anyone even in thought.

Saint Pachomios always cared for the sick monks with such love.   He would visit them, and cheered those who were disheartened.   He urged them to be thankful to God, and put their hope and trust in His holy will.     Saint Pachomios relaxed the fasting rule for the sick, if this would help them recover their health.    Once, in the saint’s absence, the cook did not prepare any cooked food for the monks.   He assumed that the brothers loved to fast.   So instead of fulfilling his obedience, he plaited 500 mats, something which Saint Pachomios had never told him to do.   For his punishment and because of his disobedience, all the mats prepared by the cook were burned.

Saint Pachomios would always teach the monks to rely only upon God’s help and mercy.   At one time it happened that there was a shortage of grain at the monastery.   The saint prayed the whole night, and in the morning a large quantity of bread was sent to the monastery from the city, at no charge.    The Lord blessed Saint Pachomios with the gift of wonderworking and healing the sick.

The Lord had revealed to Saint Pachomios what would happen in the future of monasticism. The saint learned that future monks would not have such zeal in their struggles as the first generation had, and they would not have experienced guides.    Prostrating himself upon the ground, Saint Pachomios wept bitterly, calling out to the Lord and imploring mercy for them. He heard a Voice answer, “Pachomios, be mindful of the mercy of God.   The monks of the future shall receive a reward, since they too shall have occasion to suffer the life burdensome for the monk.”

When Saint Pachomius fell ill from a pestilence that afflicted the region, his closest disciple, St Theodore (May 17), took care of him with much love and reverence.    Saint Pachomios reposed around the year 346, at fifty-three years of age.   The fathers of the monastery buried him on a hill  that was there near the monastery.

Please intercede for us O Saint Pachomios, that our souls be saved!

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Thou didst prove a chief pastor of the Chief Shepherd, Christ, guiding the flocks of monastics unto the heavenly fold, whence thou learnest of the habit and the way of life that doth befit ascetic ranks; having taught this to thy monks, thou now dancest and rejoicest with them in heavenly dwellings, O great Pachomios, our Father and guide.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Since thou hadst shown forth the life of the Angels while in a body, O God-bearing Pachomios, thou wast also counted worthy of their glory; and with them thou standest before the Lord’s throne, interceding that divine forgiveness be granted unto all.

Saint Isidore and Saint Myrope the Great Martyrs of Chios

Saint Isadore of Chios Saint Myrope of Chios

“The Holy  and Great Martyr Saint Isidore lived during the third century.    He was a native of Alexandria, but then lived on the island of Chios.    When Decius (249-251) first ruled as emperor,  he issued an edict to make a census of all those capable to serve in the armies of the Roman empire.   Saint Isidore, tall and very strong, was drafted into the regiment of the military-commander Numerius.   Saint Isidore was a Christian, he lived a life of temperance and abstinence.    He was chaste and he shunned all pagan customs.   Then another imperial edict was commanded.    All soldiers were to worship the Roman pagan gods and offer sacrifice to them.    If anyone disobeyed they would be tortured and put to death.   One day, the centurion went to the military-commander Numerius, he reported that Saint Isidore was a Christian.    When Saint Isidore  was brought before Numerius and interrogated, without flinching he confessed his faith in Christ the Saviour and refused to offer sacrifice to idols.   Numerius tried to persuade the saint to obey  the emperor so that he would not be tortured, but Saint Isidore said, that he would only obey  the will of our God, Jesus Christ the Saviour, and that he would never renounce Him.    Saint Isidore was then handed over to torture.   While he was being  tormented he praised Christ God and denounced the pagan idols.

When Saint Isidore’s  father  learned that his son was a Christian, he went to Chios to try to change Saint Isidore’s mind and to deny his faith.   He convinced Numerius to deliver Saint Isidore into his custody.  The Saint, however, entreated his father to open the eyes of his soul and behold the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His father would not listen, and could not accept the fact that his son believed in the Crucified Nazarene, and that he refused to accept his ancestral religion of idols.   His father condemned him and brought him back to Numerius.   He  entreating him to have his son put to death.    So Numerius had him tied to a horse, and the animal dragged him over rocks.

Then the military-commander had his tongue cut out , but even after this the saint continued distinctly to give glory to Christ our God.   Numerius became so frightened that he fell to the ground and himself lost his speech.     With the help of his soldiers, he got up and with gestures he demanded a small board and on it he wrote an order — to cut off the head of the saint.    Saint Isidore was overjoyed because of his death sentence and said:  “I glorify Thee, O my Master, that by Thy mercy Thou hast accepted me into Thy Heavenly Habitation!”   Saint Isidore was martyred in the year 251.

After his execution his body was cast out without burial.    Ammonios, who was a Christian in secret, took up his body and committed it to earth, along with Saint Myrope, (see below).    After all this had happened, Ammonios was then martyred in the city of Kyzikos.   His Feast day is September 4.
The Great Martyr Saint Myrope was born in Ephesus of pious and Christian parents.   She was called Myrope because of the fact that she would visit the grave of the Martyr Saint Hermione in Ephesus, and distribute the myrrh that flowed from her grave to heal those who were sick, and in need of help.    After her father died, Saint Myrope left her home with her mother, and they moved to the island of Chios.    This is where she suffered for Christ.    The holy virgin’s suffering happened soon after the martyrdom of the glorious Martyr Saint Isidore, who had been a soldier.    When the excecutioners had beheaded Isidore, the courageous Myrope together with Saint Ammonios,  secretly took his body, they censed it, and buried it with honor in a special place.    When Prince Numerian heard that the martyr’s body had been stolen, he wanted the guards put to death.    When Saint Myrope learned that innocent men would suffer because of her good deed, she went to the authorities and told them that she was the one who had taken the martyr’s body and buried it.    The prince ordered that  the entire body of Christ’s holy virgin was to be severely whipped.    When Saint Myrope’s body was covered with wounds, she was thrown into prison.    Our Lord did not leave His holy martyr without help.    At midnight, a heavenly light illumined the prison.   Many angels, together with Saint Isidore appeared to her.  “Peace be to you, Myrope,” Saint Isidore said to her.  “Your prayers have reached God, and soon you will be with us and will receive the wreath prepared for you.”   The holy martyr rejoiced, and at that moment surrendered her soul to our Lord Jesus Christ.    A sweet fragrance came forth from her holy body and filled the  whole prison.    One of the guards, seeing all of this and sensing the fragrance, believed in Christ.   He was baptized, and soon died a martyr’s death.    Saint Myrope was martyred, Dec 2, 251.

There is a local tradition where Saint Isidore was martyred.   The mastic trees shed fragrant tears at the site of the suffering of the Holy Martyr of Christ.     Masticha, a major product of the island of Chios, can only be gathered and prepared from the trees where Saint Isidore was martyred.   The masticha is a divine gift, and blessing  from our Lord to the people of Chios.

Ἀπολυτίκιον. Ἦχος δ’. Ὃ ὑψωθεῖς ἐν τῷ Σταυρῷ.
Ὡς στρατευθεῖς τῷ Βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, τῶν ἐπιγείων τὴν στρατείαν ἀπώσω, καὶ εὐθαρσὼς ἐκήρυξας Χριστὸν τὸν Θεὸν ὅθεν τὸν ἀγῶνα σου, τὸν καλὸν ἐκτελέσας, Μάρτυς θεοδόξαστος, τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἐδείχθης ὂν ἐκδυσώπει σώζεσθαι ἠμᾶς, τοὺς σὲ τιμώντας, παμμάκαρ Ἰσίδωρε.

Apolytikion    4th Tone
As a soldier of the eternal King who abandoned the earthly army, and bravely preached Christ God. Therefore as you completed your struggle well, O Martyr, you were glorified by God the Savior, Whom you entreat that we who honor you may be saved, O all-blessed Isidore.


Apolytikion    4th Tone   Be quick to anticipate
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee, received as the prize  the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God.   For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants, and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless presumption.   O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion of St. Isidore – Great-Martyr of Chios    4th Tone     On this day Thou hast  appeared
In thy holy prayers to God, thou hast shone brightly, a great guide for all the world.   Wherefore, we praise thee on this day, O Saint, thou Martyr of godly mind and boast of Chios, O glorious Isidore.


Apolytikion  1st Tone

O great martyr Myrope, and spotless Bride of Christ, you now stand beside Him with beauty and comeliness. As radiant and shining stones you bear your body’s wounds, and the porphyry of your blood as a royal robe, O glorious one. Entreat Him on behalf of us who praise your divine Struggle with fervor in victorious hymns and odes.

Apolytikion   4th Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice:  O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried.   I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee:  accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice.  Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.

Virgin Martyr Saint Glykeria at Heraclea and her jailer Martyr Saint Laodicius (+138)

Virgin Martyr Saint GlykeriaFeastday   May 13/26

The Virgin-Martyr Saint Glykeria suffered for Christ as a martyr because of her faith,  in the second century, during a persecution against Christians under the emperor Antoninus (138-161).   She came from an illustrious family, and her father Macarius was a high-ranking Roman official.   Later, the family moved to Trajanopolis, a city of Thrace.

Saint Glykeria parents died when she was young.  Falling in with Christians, she converted to the true Faith, and she visited the church every day.   Sabinus, the prefect of Trajanopolis, received the imperial edict ordering Christians to offer sacrifice to the idols.   So he designated a certain day for the people of the city to worship the idol Zeus.

Saint Glykeria very much wanted to suffer for Christ.   She her fellow Christians what she was about to do, and she begged them to pray that the Lord would give her the strength to go through the sufferings.   On the appointed day Saint Glykeria made the Sign of the Cross on her forehead, and went into the pagan temple.
The saint went up onto a raised spot in the rays of the sun, and removed the veil from her head, so the holy Cross that she traced on her forehead could be seen by everyone there.   She prayed fervently to God to bring the pagans to their senses and destroy the stone idol of Zeus.   All of a sudden thunder was heard, and the statue of Zeus crashed to the floor and smashed into little pieces.

The prefect Sabinus and the pagan priests were all in a rage, and he commanded the people to stone Saint Glykeria, but the stones did not touch her.   So they locked her up in prison, where the Christian priest Philokrates came to Saint Glykeria, and encouraged the martyr in the struggle that she was about to go through.

The next morning, when the tortures had started, suddenly an angel appeared in the midst of the torturers, and they fell to the ground, overcome with terror.   When the vision vanished, Sabinus, who was hardly able to speak, ordered them to throw the saint into prison.

When they shut the door, they securely sealed it with the prefect’s ring.   They made sure that  no one could get to her.    While she was in prison, angels of God brought Saint Glykeria food and drink.   After many days, Sabinus came to the prison and removed the seal.    Then when he went in by the saint, he was shaken when he saw her alive and well.

Sabinus then went to Heraclea in Thrace, and gave orders to bring Saint Glykeria there also. The Christians of Heraclea came out to meet her with Bishop Dometius, and he prayed that the Lord would strengthen the saint to endure martyrdom.
At Heraclea they cast Saint Glykeria into a red-hot furnace, but the fire was extinguished at once.  Then Sabinus, in a mindless rage, gave orders to rip the skin from Saint Glykeria’s head. Then they threw the martyr into prison onto sharp stones.   She prayed unceasingly, and at midnight an angel appeared in the prison and healed her of her wounds.

When the jailer Laodicius came to get Saint Glykeria the next morning, he did not recognize her.   Thinking that the martyr had been taken away, he feared he would be punished for letting her escape.  He wanted to kill himself, but Saint Glykeria stopped him.  Shaken by the miracle, Laodicius believed in the true God, and he entreated the saint to pray that he might suffer and die for Christ with her.
“Follow Christ and you will be saved,” the holy martyr told him.  Saint Laodicius placed upon himself the chains with which the saint was bound, and at the trial he told the prefect and everyone present about the miraculous healing of Saint Glykeria by an angel, then he confessed himself a Christian.

The Martyr of God, Saint Laodicius was then beheaded by the sword.   Christians secretly took up his remains, and reverently buried them.   Saint Glykeria was sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts.   She went to execution with great joy, but the lioness set loose upon the saint meekly crawled up to her and lay at her feet.

Saint Glykeria prayed to the Lord, begging Him to take her to Himself.     She then heard a Voice from Heaven, summoning her to heavenly bliss.   At that moment, another lioness was set loose upon the saint.  It pounced upon the martyr and killed her, but did not tear her apart. Bishop Dometius and the Christians of Heraclea reverently buried the holy Martyr GlyKeria. She suffered for Christ around the year 177.    Our Lord glorified Saint Glykeria with healing myrrh that flowed from her holy relics.
Saint Glykeria, name means “sweetness,” and she now rejoices in the unending sweetness of our Lord’s heavenly Kingdom.

Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours – A Homily by Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina

Saint Patrick of Ireland Saint Gregory of Tours

Saint  Patrick                                             Saint Gregory of Tours
In Step With Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours
A Homily by Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina.  It was given on St. Patrick’s day, March 17, 1977, to monks and pilgrims at the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery.
THE CONFESSION OF ST. PATRICK is a very simple document about how he planned to serve God and a few of the trials and sufferings he went through. From what St. Patrick writes, we see that in his lifetime he did not have the universal glory that surrounds him today. He apparently did miracles and many people had great respect for him, but he still had difficulties with bishops and church people, and there was controversy over whether he was doing things the way he should be doing them. This shows us that even those who later become quite glorious have to go through—in their own lifetimes—the same struggles that each one of us must go through; and it’s not seen until the end whether a person even saves his soul.

It is extremely important that we look at St. Patrick, not from the point of view of glory in the eyes of men, but as he is: that is, spiritually—his spiritual worth. It is of absolutely no significance that today everybody wears green on his day. When I was going to school, you had to do something to anyone who didn’t wear green—tie him up or something. It was obvious that those who did this had no idea of what St. Patrick meant, or what kind of Orthodox saint he was; it was just that the general opinion had been formed in society that he was very important. Gradually he is deprived of all religious meaning, and in the end the honoring of his memory becomes something close to superstition, some kind of a totally meaningless ritual. Of course, this is not what we should look at St. Patrick for. He was a burning apostle of Christ, and because he was close to God, and because God chose him, he was able to convert the whole of Ireland’s people.

All of us are very inspired by lives like his, and this makes one want to do something oneself. What can one do? The inexperienced convert gets the idea: “Oh! I’ll go to Ireland and do something.” Of course, it will not work out. It will not be like St. Patrick because it could only be done once. In a small way it is possible to imitate him, but in general such literal imitations do not work out. We should look to lives like that of St. Patrick for some kind of inspiration or guidance as to what we can do ourselves in our own conditions.

What is realistic? What can we do to be burning with that same apostleship in the conditions we have today? We look around, and we see that there does not seem to be too much of the inspiring phenomena of St. Patrick’s era: whole countries being converted, great monastic revivals, great movements towards Orthodoxy. On the contrary, we look around and see things which may very easily make us discouraged. One asks why there are no great apostles like St. Patrick today. Of course, it is very realistic historically. There was an age of apostles, there was an age when whole peoples were unconverted and apostles were sent out to them. Today, virtually the whole world has heard about Christ, and there are very few totally pagan peoples left who are not getting the Word preached to them. In Africa, as we continue to hear, the Orthodox Gospel is being preached to those wild tribes, from one country to the next, in East and Central Africa. But in most places, the peoples of the world have become rather weary, tired, worn out people who once heard of Christianity and have now got bored with it. It is very difficult to inspire oneself with that. Here and there are a few converts who find that Christianity is something fresh, that it is not the same as the ordinary idea of it. Nevertheless, not too much is very inspiring when you look around the world, from the point of view of Orthodoxy.

There are, of course, definite reasons for this. The conditions of the world today are quite different from what they were in the past. The whole phenomenon of the apostasy, of the falling away from the truth, means that people do not know how to accept the Gospel freshly. They have already heard about it and have been inoculated against it. Therefore, very few of them—when they hear the message of Orthodoxy—come.

Another thing in the air today that is different from earlier times is this “Mickey Mouse” atmosphere. It is the lack of seriousness that one sees in the air, in just everyday customs. For example, when people part, they say, “Take it easy”—the sort of thing that indicates: “Relax, take it easy, there’s nothing important going on. Just go along with whatever happens.” We used to say things like: “God be with you.” “Goodbye” even comes from the word “God”.

The young people of today are very much absorbed in the whole fantasy world of television. “Mickey Mouse’s” place is even called Disneyland, Disney World. Our whole spiritual and sober outlook is affected by this—even religious views. There is a very sincere fundamentalist Protestant in Florida who has a big parcel of land right next to Disney World, and who is going to make a replica of the Temple of Jerusalem, in order to attract the people going to Disney World to come over there for a spiritual thing, on the same level. They’ll be saying “ah! ” and “ooh! “—It will be the same thing as all the fairy castles they saw in Disney World. This whole atmosphere—this unreal, movie-type atmosphere is very much in, not only the air, but our very homes. It affects the whole seriousness of life, the way children are brought up—though children are obviously not brought up anymore. The whole idea of bringing them up, of raising them in a certain mold, is gone now. They just raise themselves, go into whatever influences are around, and the result is something very unserious. This is the chief reason why, when young people become independent, so many of them simply go crazy and get involved with various wild religions and drugs, why they run into crime and all kinds of mad things. In childhood they never had down-to-earth contact, either with spiritual life or simply with the seriousness of living from one day to the next. That is one of the chief things that makes our times different and much more difficult for spiritual efforts.

Another thing is all the modern conveniences which surround us and which, without a doubt, depersonalize and cause people to be less concerned for each other, more concerned about things, gadgets. The very idea of the telephone means that you can instantly have contact with someone for the sake of a message—nothing personal about it. If you have to go to great lengths to get to him, your soul is different than it would be if you just had to dial a number. All this makes our times different and very unfavorable to any kind of spiritual activity such as apostleship, missionary activity, leading just an ordinary spiritual life, monastic life and the rest.

Something else also is in our air which we Orthodox Christians have to be mindful of, and that is the weight of tradition. If we accept all that the Church hands down to us simply as something already accomplished, something given to us without our effort, as if it is just there and we can take it for granted—this already deadens us spiritually, because everything that is high must be fought for, must be struggled for. That is one reason why modern conveniences only depersonalize. The whole effort to make everything more convenient takes away the element of struggle, which is the fabric, the fiber of life.

With all these things in view, the whole of modern life becomes extremely oppressive. For a long time now, as far back as William Butler Yeats, seventy-five years ago or so, everything in the modern age had been accomplished and done, all the seeds had been sown. The twentieth century can add almost nothing of its own. It has only put into effect that which has already been sown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The result was that there was nothing more to do. Everything is done, it’s hopeless. As William Butler Yeats, a sensitive Irish poet, expresses it in his poem The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand
The Second Coming! Hardly are these words out
When a vast image of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

This is a kind of factual view of life: the worst people are simply immersed in evil deeds and the best people are going frantic, because there is no more spirituality left, there is nothing left to strive for, everything is taken away, materialism is triumphing, there is no hope for the world, and “the beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born”—the vision of Antichrist. The world is going hopelessly down and there is no hope of getting out.

All of this is the negative side we see surrounding us today, and it is a very real part of the atmosphere we breathe every day. On the other hand, we have the Orthodox Christian revelation; that is, the revelation of God to His Church. It has come down to us now these two thousand years, very richly, with many testimonies of Scriptures and Holy Fathers, giving us a definite spiritual outlook, a definite spiritual law of life. The spiritual life and its aim do not change from one time to the next. In fact, we know that from the very beginning, from the time when the Gospel was first preached until now, there are being gathered out of the world citizens of one kingdom, all going towards the heavenly kingdom. All these citizens will speak the same language, and know each other, because they have gone through the one, same Orthodox life, the same spiritual struggle, according to the laws of spiritual life.

The Holy Fathers spoke about the latter times as times of great weakness, in which there would not be the great signs which were performed in the early times of the apostles and in the desert by the first monks, when thousands of miracles were being worked, great Fathers were raising people from the dead, many supernatural events were occurring; and these very Holy Fathers said that this dazzling age of miracles would fade away, and in the end there would be almost nothing at all like that. In fact, those who would be saving themselves would seem totally indistinguishable from everybody else, except that they would somehow keep alive the struggle against all these temptations. Just keeping alive the spark of the true Christian Faith, without making miracles without doing anything out of the ordinary, would already make them, if they endured to the end, as great as or even higher than those great Fathers who worked miracles.

Therefore, in our times, it seems that outward activity for Orthodox Christians is greatly limited in comparison with past times. It seems that way. Still, the inward spiritual activity must be just as possible for those who are willing to struggle. And, in fact, we look around us and we see rather spectacular examples in our century: St. John of Kronstadt, who worked thousands of miracles, probably more miracles than anyone in the history of the Church; St. Nectarios in Greece, a very humble person, in complete disgrace as a bishop, but a wonder-worker especially after his death; and our own Archbishop John [Saint John of San Francisco, glorified in 1994], who lived and actually walked our very soil and passed within forty miles of here many times, undoubtedly blessing all this area, especially with the icon of the Kursk Mother of God. And so it’s obvious, in looking at these people and realizing they are spiritual giants, that it is possible to do something even in our evil times.

This brings us to some of the practical considerations concerning the qualities needed for being spiritually creative and fruitful. There are a few important things which come to mind. One thing is that we must see things the way they are; that is, not go off blind, acting blindly without knowing what’s going on in the world. We must be aware that there is such a thing as apostasy, that there are many different kinds of people who call themselves Christians, that they are acting in different ways and some of them are definitely in conflict with each other and with us, and that it can’t be that all of them are right and are on the right path. We can see historically how many different kinds of errors, wrong views, wrong kinds of actions got mixed in with Christian faith. We see the frightful modern revolutionary movement; that is, the movement totally away from religion, aiming towards a great world empire of atheism, a foreshadowing of which is seen in Communism. This is not just among the unbelievers or among those who don’t believe in the Orthodox way, but even among Orthodox people. We look around and see that many Orthodox people are simply, totally worldly and do not think about the higher side of their Faith. They take it for granted. “It’s all automatic. That’s what has been handed down. There’s always a priest somewhere. If he’s not in this town, he’s in the next one. He has sacraments and Holy Communion. We just go to him and get what we need and that’s all…. You go home and you’re satisfied…”

By reading and getting a historical perspective, we see that in past ages this was not considered enough, even by ordinary laymen. They were constantly doing things out of the ordinary. They were getting up very early in the morning. Every village had daily services. At four or five o’clock in the morning, Matins would begin. The people woke up and they went to church every morning, and again to Vespers in the evening. We take many, many Lives of Saints, and we read how they heard the church bell when they were children. If the child was very zealous for God, he would be the first one up in the morning and he would wake the parents up and get them ready for church. If the father could not go because he had to work in the fields, the child would get the mother up and they would go to church. Sometimes he went by himself. The whole atmosphere was penetrated with churchliness. And now, we see worldliness. Very seldom can one find a place where even daily services are celebrated in the world. People have grown unaccustomed to the idea that there is supposed to be an everyday church, everyday church services.

This, then, is one of the very great things which we see in front of us: this worldly attitude of people who are themselves in the Church. We must look at it realistically and see it the way it is: apostasy, error, evil, demonic activity and worldliness such as never before in the history of the world. These things are all anti-spiritual, anti-Orthodox. They lead down; and if anyone follows these paths, they do not lead one to salvation.

Then, once having done this—that is, having looked at things the way they are and been realistic about them—one must learn to fight on the right battlefields. The whole spiritual life is struggle. One must learn to know where one must fight, what one must do. This is extremely important, because it is very easy in the beginning stage to go totally off, by picking up and reading a book that talks about spirituality, hesychasm, and so on.

Bishop Theophan the Recluse [+1894], when quoting some of the Holy Fathers, deliberately omitted many of the passages which dealt with the physical sides of prayer. He did this knowing that—even in his time, the 19th century—many people would take those physical aspects as the end and begin imitating without getting the essence. Therefore he just left those writings out of his published works. Now, however, many of them are being published in English and you can read how you are supposed to sit on a stool with your head down, etc. People begin to imitate; they begin to think “this is it! “—and it is a matter of fact that if you fast for a long time and do certain exercises, you begin to have all kinds of things happen to you. But that is not spiritual life. It is almost guaranteed, on the contrary, that it is the activity of demons. The spiritual life is much more serious, much more down-to-earth, and therefore that is not the place where you are supposed to find it first of all.

Usually one can spot people who are not serious and are imitating. We even have a story from the early history of our brotherhood…. In San Francisco there was one who got on fire with the idea of the Jesus Prayer. He began adding prayer to prayer, and he finally came to, in the morning, 5,000. Right in the middle of the world, in the middle of the city, in the morning, before doing anything else, before eating, he was able to say 5,000 Jesus Prayers on the balcony, and he felt wonderfully refreshed and inspired. It happened one morning that somebody else came out right underneath the balcony and began busying himself and doing something while this person was saying his last thousand, and it so happened that this person was so put out by this that he ended up by throwing dishes at him! How can you deal with a person occupying himself with the spiritual life, with the Jesus Prayer, when all of a sudden, while he is saying it, he is able to start throwing dishes?

This means that inside of him the passions were free, because he had some kind of deceived idea or opinion that he knew was right for himself spiritually. He acted according to his opinion, but not soberly, not according to knowledge; and when the opportunity came, the passions came out. In this case it is more profitable not to say those 5,000 Jesus Prayers, but to do something else that is spiritual.

This, then, is not where we should be fighting the battle. We should begin fighting the battle right on the level of awareness, by being aware that we are surrounded by worldly forces. We must fight them by keeping our minds constantly up rather than down; that is, having in mind heavenly things. (I will explain shortly what is involved in this). For all practical purposes, in our times this means that we will have to be a little crazy; that is, we will not be in step with what ordinary church people are doing. We will be considered a little, at least a little, out of the ordinary, or even crazy. This is an absolutely essential thing. I’ll come back to this theme.

The Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the examples of Saint’s lives, the services of the Church—all these things have to do, not with worldliness in our daily life, but with conducting us to heaven. By looking above to these things, we are enabled to have zeal; that is, to see that there is something above this routine of worldliness, which is very boring, discouraging, and leads nowhere. But these higher things—these services, tales of people who have come back from the dead, Lives of Saints, writings of the Holy Fathers, Holy Scriptures, the interpretations of the Holy Fathers on passages of Scripture, which are very profound sometimes—these things always make us very zealous, if we have a spark of love for God within ourselves. We want ourselves to be living in such a state and to be going to heaven. But this zeal, by itself, must be of such a kind that it does not come just in a spurt and then eventually fade away. It must be of such a kind that it will last. This means the zeal must be tempered by something deeper, and that something deeper is what St. Seraphim calls determination; that is, zeal that is constant and keeps going—a sort of constant point for your whole life. It keeps you going even when you’re discouraged, because you see that there is something above towards which you are striving, and which does not depend upon your moods or your opinions. It is something which must be your constant possession. It is your determination to get to heaven. And this determination, or rather this zeal which becomes determination, must be constant, so that it will not go up and down and burn out.

In everything that happens, we must look at the higher side, that is, the spiritual side; because if we are sometimes looking at the higher side and sometimes at the lower side, we will be up and down. And the lower side is so powerful, operating even through what we saw in the life of St. Patrick in the golden age of Christianity: even through bishops, through those who are supposed to be the very ones leading the flock to heaven. They can be contrary, because they are human beings also. They can be actually discouraging, keeping people away from that goal in our times, of course, it is even worse.

Therefore, if we are sometimes looking above and sometimes below, if we are going one foot forward, one foot back, and then one foot forward and two feet back, we will simply not get to the gate of heaven. We must be at all times where we are in some way looking at the spiritual reality. I have an interesting quote from Abba Dorotheos of Gaza which we read just recently in church, and which gives a little hint about this. He says: “It is good, O brethren, as I always tell you, to place your hope for every deed upon God, and to say nothing happens without the will of God. Of course, God knew that this was good and useful and profitable, and therefore He did it, even though this matter also had some outward cause. For example, I could say that inasmuch as I ate food with pilgrims and forced myself a little in order to play the host to them, (that is, he overate) therefore my stomach was weighed down, and there was a numbness caused in my feet, and from this I became ill. I could also cite various other reasons for one who seeks them. For one who seeks them there is no lack of them. But the most sure and profitable thing is to say: in truth, God knew that this would be more profitable for my soul, and therefore it happened in this way. For out of everything which God creates, there is nothing of which it can be said that it is not good. For in the beginning He created all, and behold, they were all very good. And so no one should grieve over what happens, but in everything he should place his hope in God’s Providence, and be at ease.”*

There is a very interesting book from the same period of Abba Dorotheos (the sixth century) by St. Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, which is all about the life at the court of that time and religious people. There are very many interesting lives of Saints in it, as well as the lives of the kings. The kings of that time were particularly unedifying spectacles. They were constantly poisoning each other. The women were even worse…. There was one Brunehild and her sister Fredegund. They were trying to get their sons and grandsons on the throne, and what they didn’t do to get them there! They were dragging people by horse’s tails and killing them off, and lying and cheating and fantastic things—very uninspiring. But this bishop, St. Gregory, was there and was writing a history of this people, writing in such a way that it actually comes out very inspiring. Behind everything there is a meaning. St. Gregory is constantly on the lookout for comets, earthquakes, and such things. When a king does something wrong, there is an earthquake nearby, or if he goes and kills a person or a whole village unjustly, then there is a famine: and St. Gregory always sees that God is looking out. There is always something spiritual whenever something happens—a comet is seen, the king dies, etc. There is always a connection between what happens in the world and the moral state of the people. Even when the moral state is very bad, all the constant earthquakes and famines and everything else remind us that it is the wrong way to behave, and inspire people to behave correctly. Nowadays, the historians say that this is a horribly outmoded way of looking at things, that it is very “quaint” and “naive” and unsophisticated, and that of course nobody can think like that now. They think it’s very cute, in fact, to look at this after all these centuries and to see how people used to think. “But of course,” they say, “we serious historians are looking for the real causes.” By real causes they mean what a person ate and what it caused his feet to do and so forth. The Christian point of view, however, is that these are not the real causes, but the secondary causes. The real cause is the soul and God: whatever God is doing and whatever the soul is doing. These two things actualize the whole of history, and all the external events—what treaty was signed, or the economic reasons for the discontent of the masses, and so forth—are totally secondary. In fact, if you look at modern history, at the whole revolutionary movement, it is obvious that it is not the economics that is the governing factor, but various ideas which get into people’s souls about actually building paradise on earth. Once that idea gets there, then fantastic things are done, because this is a spiritual thing. Even though it is from the devil, it is on a spiritual level, and that is where actual history is made; all the external things mean nothing.

Thus St. Gregory is actually looking at history in the correct way, because he sees that there is a first cause, which is what God does in history and how the soul reacts to it, and that the secondary cause is ordinary events. Therefore, whenever he sees some great event like a comet or an eclipse, he tries to give it meaning. At one point, in telling of a strange sign that was seen in the sky over Gaul, he says in all simplicity, “I have no idea what all this meant.”** Of course, from the scientific point of view we know that we can predict these things, that they are caused by the shadow of the moon and so forth; but from St. Gregory’s point of view, why does God choose to frighten us like this? What is the moral meaning of it? He was constantly looking above, not below.

Our whole modern outlook is to look below to find the causes, the secondary causes. The whole Christian outlook is to look above, and that is why such people as St. Gregory as we can see by reading their writings and their lives—are constantly cheerful. This does not mean that they are overly happy, but rather that they are in a state of deep happiness, because they are constantly looking above and keeping in mind, with determination and constancy, to get to a certain place, which is heaven, and thus they see all the details in the world in that light. If what they see has to do with evil, with the nets of demons, with worldliness, with boredom, with discouragement, or just with ordinary details of living, all that is secondary and is never allowed to be first. In fact, we are told by the Holy Fathers that we are supposed to see in everything something for our salvation. If you can do that, you can be saved.

In a pedestrian way, you can look at something like a printing press which does not operate. You are standing around and enjoying yourself, watching nice, clean, good pages come out printed, which gives a very nice sense of satisfaction, and you are dreaming of missionary activity, of spreading more copies around to a lot of different countries. But in a while it begins to torture you, it begins to shoot pages right and left. The pages begin to stick and to tear each other on top. You see that all those extra copies you made are vanishing, destroying each other, and in the end you are so tense that all you can do is sort of stand there and say the Jesus Prayer as you try to make everything come out all right. Although that does not fill one with a sense of satisfaction (as would watching the nice, clean copies come out automatically), spiritually it probably does a great deal more, because it makes you tense and gives you the chance to struggle. But if instead of that you just get so discouraged that you smash the machine, then you have lost the battle. The battle is not how many copies per hour come out: the battle is what your soul is doing. If your soul can be saving itself and producing words which can save others, all the better; but if you are producing words which can save others and are all the time destroying your own soul, it’s not so good.

Again, in everything one must be looking upward, and not downward, at the kingdom of heaven and not down at the details of earthly life. That is, the details of earthly life must be second, and this looking upward must be with zeal, determination and constancy. Constancy is something which is worked out by a spiritual regime based upon wisdom handed down from the Holy Fathers—not mere obedience to tradition for tradition’s sake, but rather a conscious assimilation of what wise men in God have seen and written down. On the outward side, this constancy is worked out by a little prayer, and we have this basic little prayer in the church services which have come down to us. Of course in different places they are performed according to one’s strength, more or less.

Constancy involves also a regular reading of spiritual texts, for example at mealtime, because we must be constantly injected with other-worldliness. This means constantly nourishing ourselves with these texts, whether in services or in reading, in order to fight against the other side, against the worldliness that constantly gnaws at us. If for just one day we stop these other-worldly “injections,” it is obvious that worldliness starts taking over. When we go without them for one day, worldliness invades—two days, much more. We find that soon we think more and more in a worldly way, the more we allow ourselves to be exposed to that way of thinking and the less we expose ourselves to other-worldly thinking.

These injections—daily injections of heavenly food—are the outward side, and the inward side is what is called spiritual life. Spiritual life does not mean being in the clouds and saying the Jesus Prayer or going through various motions. It means discovering the laws of this spiritual life as they apply to one in one’s own position, one’s situation. This comes over the years by attentive reading of the Holy Fathers with a notebook, writing down those passages which seem most significant to us, studying them, finding how they apply to us, and, if need be, revising earlier views of them as we get a little deeper into them, finding what one Father says about something, what a second Father says about the same thing, and so on. There is no encyclopedia that will give you that. You cannot decide you want to find all about some one subject and begin reading the Holy Fathers. There are a few indexes in the writings of the Fathers, but you cannot simply go at spiritual life that way. You have to go at it a little bit at a time, taking the teaching in as you are able to absorb it, going back over the same texts in later years, reabsorbing them, getting more, and gradually getting to find out how these spiritual laws apply to you. As a person does that, he discovers that every time he reads the same Holy Father he finds new things. He always goes deeper into it.

If one has all this in mind, having the possibility of constant spiritual nourishment, then one must say that it is not true that the whole church situation is hopeless today and that one can do nothing. In fact, the possible activities for today are quite surprising and unexpected. What might come out, we don’t know, but there are all kinds of possibilities. We should always learn to expect what is the unexpected, to be prepared for something that might not have been the same way just a little while ago, but that is still within the possibility of true Christianity. This is only done by looking up and not down. We have right in front of us an example of somebody who was like that constantly, and that’s our Archbishop John. It is obvious that he was constantly in a different world. He himself, I recall once, gave a sermon on the spiritual life, the mystical life, in which he said: “We have no such thing as some of the later saints of the Latin Church who were sort of up in the clouds—some kind of a realm of sweetness and light and pink clouds—that’s prelest. All of our sanctity is based upon having your feet straight on the ground, and, while being of the earth, constantly having the mind lifted upward.” It’s obvious that Archbishop John was himself like that. He would come from time to time to our shop next to the Cathedral [in San Francisco], and would always have something new and inspiring to say. He would come with a little portfolio, and would open it up and say, “Look! Here is a picture of St. Alban and here is his Life.” He had found it somewhere. He was collecting these things: the lives of Rumanian saints and all kinds of different things which were very inspiring and had nothing to do with everyday business or the administration of the diocese. In fact, some said he was a bad administrator, but I don’t know. I doubt it, because I know that whenever anyone wrote him a letter, that person always got a reply back in the language he wrote it in, within a very short time; therefore, when it came to things like that, he was very, very careful. But the first thing he was careful about was being constantly in the other world, constantly inspired and constantly living by that. The opposite of this is to make even the Church into some kind of business, to be looking at only the administrative side or the economic side or the lower, worldly side. If you do that long enough, you will lose the spark, you will lose the higher side. Archbishop John gave us the example of constantly looking up, constantly thinking of the higher things. In the end, the deeper you get into this, the more you see that there is nothing else possible. If you are an Orthodox Christian, you can do this and have people call you crazy or say that you are a little bit touched, or something like that; but still you have your own life—you lead it and you get to heaven. The alternative is to be bogged down in this boring world, which is totally overrun by machines and conveniences and opinions. You would be surprised at how these, opinions about what is right and what is wrong, what is the way to act and so forth, have no contact with reality. It even happens that there is a certain opinion in the air—I’d say it is universal among church people if they ever stopped to think about it—that of course, when you come to church you must be warm, because you cannot think about church services and prepare yourself for Communion when you have to think about cold feet. People tell us this. “It’s a very great draw back,” they say. “You cannot go and have cold feet and expect to have any spirituality come out.” This happens to be an opinion, and it’s totally off. The Holy Fathers have been living throughout the centuries in all kinds of conditions; and, though there is no deliberate plot of torturing oneself with cold feet—still, this is something which helps to make one a little more sober about the spiritual life, perhaps to help one to appreciate what one has, and not to just take for granted that one is going to be comfortable and cozy and that’s it. In our time, if one undertakes anything in the Church, and does not have in mind to be looking constantly to the heavenly realm, one will lose the spark of zeal, the interest in doing spiritual things, and will become worldly. Worldly means dead, spiritually dead.

It is very difficult in our times to be looking to heaven, because of all the weight, the dead weight of worldliness which lies upon us. If one applies oneself constantly, however, one can begin to do it. Even with a little bit of struggle, if applied constantly, one begins to form for oneself a whole different viewpoint, a whole different way of looking at life, a whole different possibility for action. Any kind of spiritual activity that is to come out of our world today, any kind of Orthodox missionary activity, apostleship, etc., must be on the basis of such a view of things. It must be based on looking first at what God wants, first at what is the higher side, first at what the Holy Fathers think, and only then looking down at the practical means one has to use, at money problems, and even at things like sicknesses, because they are all sent for our good, and we have to find how to bring the good out of them. If one does not do that, one is weighed down, especially in our days. If a person is in a place of leadership, such as a priest in a parish, and if he is going to look back and look first at the people, he will see that 99% of them are going to drag him down, because they have their problems and passions, confessions weigh him down, and so on. If this side becomes too important for him, it simply drags him back and he cannot lead them to heaven. Of course, a pastor or any kind of spiritual leader must be leading to heaven first himself and then the others, by looking first to the other world. We don’t have to imagine what that other world is like or have opinions about it, because we have the whole treasury—much of which is now available in English—of the writings of the Holy Fathers. Recently we have had such great fathers as Bishop Ignatius Brianchininov (+1867), who was one of the sharpest ones to speak about the apostasy, and also one of the greatest ones to speak about the Holy Fathers. We must get into their language, into their way of looking at things, because that is Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, of course, does not change from one day to the next, or from one century to the next. Looking at the Protestant and Roman Catholic world, we can see that certain spiritual writings get out of date. Sometimes they come back into fashion again, sometimes they go out. It is obvious that they are bound up with worldly things, which appeal to people at one time, or rather to the spirit of the times. This is not so with our Orthodox holy writings. Once we get into the whole Orthodox Christian outlook—the simply Christian outlook—which has been handed down from Christ and the apostles to our times, then everything becomes contemporary. You read the words of someone like St. Macarius, who lived in the deserts of Egypt in the 6th century, and he’s speaking to you now. His conditions are a little different, but he’s speaking right to you now, in the same language; he’s going to the same place, he’s using the same mind, he has the same temptations and failings, and there’s nothing different about him. It’s the same with all the other fathers from that time down to our century, like St. John of Kronstadt (+1908). They all speak the same language, one kind of language, the language of spiritual life, which we must get into. When we do that, we can save ourselves; and, as St. Seraphim says, “When you acquire the Spirit of Peace, the Holy Spirit, you can save thousands around you.” It is not for us to calculate whether thousands around us will be saved. It is only for us to acquire the Holy Spirit, and what God will do with that is His doing.

We have yet to expect in our times many surprising things, so we should not have the opinion that it is too late to do anything, everything is stuck, nobody cares, the world is collapsing…. All that is opinion, and opinion is the first stage of prelest (deception). Therefore we should free ourselves from being stuck in opinions, and should look at things freshly, i.e., according to the spiritual life. Father Nicholas Deputatov, who is obviously one who has much love for the Holy Fathers, has read their writings, underlined them and written them out in books. He says: When I get in a very low mood, very discouraged and despondent, then I open one of my notebooks, and I begin to read something that inspired me. It is almost guaranteed that when I read something which once inspired me, I will again become inspired, because it’s my own soul that was at one time being inspired, and now I see that it was something which inspired me then and can nourish me now also. So it’s like an automatic inspiration, to open up something which inspired me before.

Thus, when we think of someone like St. Patrick, our attitude should not be merely: “Aha, that was a long time ago, that was inspiring; but now—well, what’s the use?” On the contrary, in the activity of St. Patrick we should see the activity of a contemporary person, of a soul who was burning with zeal and love for God. He has gone to that country where we are to be citizens, if only we will strive. We are all of the same nationality, the Christian race. St. Patrick’s life should be for us a contemporary thing, something which applies to us today. Whatever inspiration we can take from it, is for us right now. And however much fruit this bears, depends on how much we love God and how much opportunity there is. The inspiration is ours for free.

* The Counsels of Abba Dorotheos, chapter 12 (translated from the Russian version by Fr. Seraphim Rose).

** The History of the Franks, V, 23.