Orthodoxy (42)

Alexander, Archbishop of Alexandria
Feast Day: May 29

Saint Alexander was born in about 250 AD, and occupied an important position among the clergy of the Egyptian metropolia. He possessed all the qualities of a true Christian, being devout, full of zeal, holding great love for his brethren, and was especially concerned for the poor. In 313, Achillas, who previously occupied the episcopal, died, and Alexander was elected to succeed him. He took on the rebuilding of the Egyptian Church following the persecution, and being concerned for the formation of his clergy, raised those who had been sanctified in ascesis and solitude, to the priesthood and episcopate. He organised the building of the great Church of St Theonas in Alexandria, and organised support for the persecuted faithful.

He stood up to the supporters of Bishop Meletius of Lycopolis, who had ordained priests for the vacant offices of bishops during the persecution, and who, to justify his schism, refused to reconcile those who lapsed in their faith. A priest Arius, formerly a strong supporter of the Meletians, who Alexander helped to restore to the truth, and who he was close with, later began to go against Alexander's teachings. Arius began to teach that the Word of God had not existed from all eternity but instead was pre-eminent among created beings, teaching against the unity of the Three Holy Persons of the Godhead. Alexander tried to bring him back to the truth but could not. His heresy quickly spread all over Egypt, dividing the Orthodox, and the supporters of Arius and the Meletians. Alexander decided to excommunicate Arius and his disciples but not before calling together a council of a hundred bishops in Alexandria to confirm the sentence.

Sunday, 08 May 2016 22:17

Conversation with a Video Repair Man

The following article was written by Father Emmanuel in his early years as a Priest.

I recently took in my old VHS video machine in for repair. No sooner had I entered the repair shop when the man behind the counter started to engage me in deep discussion. I really had no opportunity to speak other than to offer the odd nod of approval and wear a friendly smile. Presbytera often speaks about the verbosity of middle aged men we would call to our home for the odd repair job. There was no way she was going to get away with simply the job being done and payment being made. Any hint of politeness of course which is well ingrained in us instantly communicates friendliness and approval which inevitably leads to the offer of coffee, tea and biscuits and the opportunity to hear more about life's' meaning. People it seems, particularly middle aged men have a need to philosophize about life – they are continually searching for meaning beyond the immediate task at hand. People can apply themselves remarkably well to menial tasks but there is no way that the human spirit can remain there. Once knowledge is acquired and the skills associated with the use of that knowledge is mastered, the human spirit wants to move on and to rise above it all. It is as if once the brain has learnt its tasks and functions successfully, we arrive at the point (sometime after the challenge has gone) where we ask ourselves 'Is this what life is all about?' It is said that 'familiarity breeds contempt', as a strong desire within us drives us to shift our focus of interest away from the reasoning of the brain to another place which has a different orientation – our heart. This can happen to us when we are young or old and people of all walks of life no matter who they are. Hopefully, at some point in our lives, whether it be a conscious shift or not, whether it be as a result of some crisis in our life or by gradual maturation – we will tend to move from a focus of knowledge and reasoning about the world and the things of the world, to a knowledge of the heart within us, so that, God willing, we may be able to hear God's voice.


Memory of the Venerable Fathers Massacred at Mount Sinai
Feast Day: January 14

Mount Sinai, the place where God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, is a holy place, and has drawn people to it ever since. A great Monastery (Saint Catherine's Monastery) was later constructed on its slopes, however, long before its construction in 527, many ascetics lived scattered in the wilderness. They were tried and tested and faced many difficulties but praying unceasingly, they left all things in God's hands.

The holy monks would be frequently visited by marauders who roved the desert. On one occasion, a Saracen chief happened to die while his band was encamped by the Church used for Sunday Divine Liturgies. The barbarians, angry at the loss of their chief, vented their rage on the monks, massacring the superior of the community, Doulas, as well as all the Fathers who were living in cells in that area. The desert ground was covered with the blood of these holy men, when a great flame shot up from the summit of the mountain, making the mountain of God appear like a pillar of fire and smoke. At the sight of this great wonder, the barbarians, filled with fear, fled from there, leaving behind the dreadfully mutilated bodies of the holy men.
Thirty-eight venerable ascetics were counted. Some had their heads completely severed, others were barely held on, and some cut in half. Filled with tears, it was up to the few survivors who remained to bury the remains of these holy monks. They found two other monks who survived the attack; one gave up his last breath to God that evening but the other, Sabas, while not badly wounded, wept at not being counted worthy to join his brothers. Sabas prayed, exclaiming, “Woe is me, wretched and unworthy sinner that I am, who am alone excluded from the everlasting blessedness which the holy Martyrs have acquired today!” His prayer was heard, and he too gave up his soul, joining his brothers in Christ. Thus, forty holy Martyrs gave up their souls that day.


The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Young Men: Ananias, Azarias, and Misael
Feast Day: December 17

Much is written about the greatness of the holy prophet Daniel. His name means, “God is my Judge” or “God is judging,” and there is even a book in the Old Testament written by him. His unwavering faith in the midst of present dangers is a testament to his complete love and trust in God.

Five hundred and ninety-seven years before the birth of Christ, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, captured Jerusalem, and travelling back to his land, took a number of select people, as well as the sacred things from the Temple of God. Amongst those selected was Daniel, only eight years old, and his three companions. They were of royal lineage, and were selected for instruction in the Chaldean language and literature, that they may enter the king's service. They were given new names by their instructor, the chief eunuch.

Daniel kept himself blameless in the eyes of the law. He and his companions practised prayer and fasting, not touching food offered them from the royal table, and seemed to be strengthened by it, appearing more lively and better looking than the other children. From God was given them wisdom and knowledge, and to Daniel also the gift of interpretation of dreams and visions.

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 00:00

The Life of a Saint: Saint Theodosios of Argos

Saint Theodosios of Argos
Feast Day: August 7

It was during the era of 862, that Theodosios was born. By this time, the Christian Church was firmly established and it's truth shone forth. Theodosios' parents were devout Christians, and they brought him up in the highest tradition of Christian faith. Theodosios decided at an early age to devout himself entirely to the service of Jesus Christ.

He decided to take up his service in the region of Peloponnesos, near the town of Argos. While travelling to this area, he received a vision of St John the Baptist, who directed him to build a chapel in his name. For this, he would receive his blessing in the name of Jesus.
As directed, he sought out the faithful and oversaw the completion of the chapel. Then filled with the heavenly spirit, he desired a life of monasticism, where he could draw nearer to God.

Having joined the monastic life, he spent many years in isolation, after which it became evident that he had been blessed with the ability to heal. The divine grace of his patron, St John the Baptist, and a trace of the serenity of Jesus, was clearly visible by those seeking his comfort and healing. Pilgrims from all the regions of Christianity were drawn to the monastery that he nurtured to great prominence. It was a place that never faced persecution but instead brought comfort. There were, however, those who were envious of him and wanted to bring him down. They brought false accusation of sorcery and witchcraft against him. They branded him a heretic and created trouble that caused Archbishop Petros to consider reprimanding him.

Friday, 17 July 2015 07:36

The Life of a Saint: Saint Elijah

Saint Elijah
Feast Day: July 20

Elijah, or Elias as he was also known, unlike other men, did not die the death of a mortal man. Instead, he was raised up into Heaven by the hand of God. Elijah is believed to have been a prefiguration of either Jesus Christ or Saint John the Baptist, and although most commonly known as a prophet, is venerated as a Saint. He was a man of God, a wonder-worker, who communed with God and is venerated on equal grounds as the mighty Moses. During the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, it is noted that as Christ's face shone like the Sun and His garments became as white as snow, that there appeared Moses and Elijah, talking with Him. (Matthew 17:2-3)

Saint Elijah lived in the eighth century B.C. and was from Tishbe of Gilead, during the reigns of Ahaziah and Ahab. During that time, the tribes of Israel had started to forget God. Instead, they began worshipping the false god Baal, that was introduced by the wife of Ahab, Jezebel. She brought forth idolatrous priests, erected temples to Baal, and began converting the people to the worship of it. Elijah stormed against the evils of the priests of Baal, who were contaminating the pure worship of God and demoralising the land. Elijah did not stop fighting against this evil at every opportunity, and preached the word of God with great passion and eloquence, bringing many who had strayed, back to God. After being discredited by Elijah, the false prophets of Baal returned to Jezebel for additional strength and the influence of the throne.


David of Thessalonike
Feast Day: June 26

It was during the fifth century in Thessalonike that a man named David was found. Thessalonike, at that time, was isolated and required a certain self-sufficient lifestyle. As a result, the men from this land were known for their hardiness, resourcefulness, and depth of faith.

David was a very handsome man, however, his gentle manner, pious sincerity, and deeply religious conviction, meant his place was with God. So having heard his calling to the monastic life, he abandoned the world, and took up the tranquillity at a nearby monastery. This monastery was dedicated to the martyrs Theodore and Merkurios, and while he held them in reverence, it was St Symeon Stylites, the indestructible saint who sat on top a sixty-foot pillar to remind passers-by of the salvation of man through Jesus Christ, that he revered more.

David progressed through the monastic life fairly quietly until one Summer day when he climbed up an almond tree to escape the heat. While there on the limb of the tree, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his hero, St Symeon. He selected a stout limb and made a resolution to stay in the tree until God called him down. After startling a passing monk below, David asked that he be given sustenance for as long as required, just like St Symeon.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 13:30

A Simple Story from a Humble Monastery

Let me share with you a story. A story that while is not long, will leave you with a sense of peace.
My story occurs at a monastery on Mount Athos, one afternoon, during the Fast of the Apostles. I was standing on the pier, gazing at out the sea. I could feel the warmth of the Sun, and hear the calming sounds of the waves. It was as if any stress or problems that still existed within me were being washed away.
I made many friends during my time there. One friend in particular, was spending the afternoon fishing, using some fishing wire, a hook, and dough for bait. He was there for almost an hour without a catch but that in itself was of no concern to him. We were at peace. Then all of a sudden, the waters were stirred up by something beneath. I never did manage to see what was beneath but at that moment, hundreds of fish started going crazy. They leaped through the air at heights of about a metre and all raced towards the pier. The pier was then covered with fish.
I couldn't help but laugh to myself at my friend's unfortunate situation. Having fished for so long, without a catch, and then all of a sudden to have the fish surrender themselves. It created a few chuckles. The monks too were amazed but thankful for this gift from God. They retrieved some buckets and began collecting the fish, that they may be as food for the monastery.

How amazing is this! Just a demonstration of God's providence. Just like when Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and they began to grow hungry. God sent them manna from heaven every day, and commanded that they only take enough for the day. In all things God provides for us. As Jesus says:

Monday, 04 May 2015 08:00

The Life of a Saint: Saint Irene

Saint Irene
Feast Day: May 5

During the fourth century in Persia, Christians were under persecution by various enemies and struggled to lead peaceful lives. Irene, whose name in Greek means peace, was one woman who, despite being in hostile land of great evil, endured to the end with Christ, in a manner that brought her sainthood.

Irene was born in the Persian city of Magydus, during the reign of Constantine the Great. She was the daughter of Licinius, governor of that region, who ruled with an iron will. She was raised in an ornate palace and at the age of eight, began studies, that lasted ten years, under the tutelage of Apelanios, who was renowned for his wisdom and intellect.

Apelanios was also Irene's biographer, and records that when Irene was a young woman, an angel of the Lord appeared to her in a dream. The angel told her that she had been chosen to be the voice of the Messiah among her own people. When she told Apelanios her dream, he stood in awe, and warned her that the road ahead would be difficult and filled with obstacles. Even still, Irene knew that her faith would sustain her.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 09:00

The Miracle of Carthage

The Miracle of Carthage
Feast Day: April 28

The "miracle of Carthage," although known to few, has left people questioning its validity. However, with medical evidence supporting the testimony of those who have been "clinically dead," only to be brought back to life, there is no reason to doubt this remarkable incident that took place in the seventh century, displaying the power of the Lord.

It was a venerable ascetic named Anastasios, who lived a pious and studious life in the monastery of St Catherine's at the base of Mt. Sinai, who authored this amazing story. He made known this remarkable occurrence during the reign of Emperor Heraklios (A.D. 625) only after careful scrutiny of the truthful tale that shows the power of good over evil.

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