Orthodox Thought for the Day


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the value of insults

Nothing is so useful to the beginner as insults.  The beginner who bears insults is like a tree that is watered every day.  Abba Isaiah

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Climb upward by descent

More often than not, we ourselves create most temptations when we put our ego within our collaborations with others; that is, when we wish to exalt ourselves.  No one climbs to heaven through worldly ascent, but through spiritual descent.  He who walks lowly, always walks with surety and never falls.  Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos

The salt of the spiritual life

As salt is needed for all kinds of food, so humility is needed for all kinds of virtues.  St. Isaac the Syrian

Sunday, February 26, 2012

St. Ephraim the Syrian's Lenten prayer

Lord and Master of my life,
cast away from me the spirit of
idle curiosity,
love of power,
and vain talk.

But, grant me, your servant,
the spirit of
and love.

Yes, Lord and King,
Grant me to see my own faults
and not to judge my brothers and sisters.
For you are blessed unto the ages of ages,

This prayer is used throughout Great Lent, at morning and evening prayers, accompanied by prostrations.

May God grant us all a spiritually profitable Great Lent.  Kali Sarakosti!
Pres. Candace

Benefit of Lenten discipline

The value of fasting consists not in abstinence only from food, but in a relinquishment of sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meat is he who especially disparages it.  The change in our way of life during these blessed days will help us to gain holiness.  Therefore, we should let our soul rejoice during the fast.  St. John Chrysostom 

Readying ourselves for Great Lent

Those who in secret pursue virtue are receptive to spiritual gains, not by way of their stage triumphs but rather those things which are produced remain within the heart.  He who sees all things done in secret gives us the reward of sobriety.  Let us fast today, not by bending down our heads, but by praying, within the chamber of our souls.  Hymn of the Triodion

Friday, February 24, 2012

Prepare for Forgiveness Sunday Vespers

By +Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The weeks that have preceded Forgiveness Sunday are weeks during which, in the form of stories that actually took place or of parables, we are presented with the basic sins, the basic brokenness of ours.
This was the time when we should have examined ourselves deeply, deeply; stood before God, at times with horror at what we have accepted to be, at times with pain at what has become of us in the consequence of the life which was ours.
And now we have come to a point which is called Lent. Lent is an Old English word derived from the German that means spring, the beginning of life. Lent is no longer the time allotted to us for repentance. It is the time which, having repented week after week, we should be able together to move along a path that will lead us, through the examples of saints, first to Calvary with Christ and see there what the consequences are of our own sinfulness; because as we read in the life of one saint, in response to a priest who was begging Christ to punish the evil-doers, the Lord appeared to him and said, 'Never ask Me for that. If there was only one sinner in the world I would become man again, and again die upon the cross for him or her to be saved.'
When we will stand together at the foot of the cross on Great Thursday night or by the tomb of Christ on Great Friday, we must realise that this has happened because of each of us — not for the totality of mankind taken wholesale, but because of each of us. Christ died for each of us. And we must at that moment bring to Him ourselves in such a way as to show Him that for us, His death upon the cross was not in vain. And then move towards the Resurrection to rise with Him, to rise in exultation, to rise in gratitude, but to rise also renewed, a new creature — not perfect yet, because we have years during which we will have to follow the same path step by step, again and again, until we reach our full maturity and can enter into God's Kingdom.
Today we will ask forgiveness from one another. This is totally unrealistic if we imagine that we can approach each of those who have hurt us, wounded us, at times destroyed our lives, and say, 'Let us agree that the horror that you have brought into my life does not exist. I forgive you. Go in peace.'
We are not mature enough for this. The martyrs were capable of this; we are not. But a thing which we can do, which each of us can do, is to say, 'Because you are so loved of God, so loved by Christ, that He became man, lived, taught and died for you, and not only for me, I accept you as you are. Indeed, I would be so happy if you were different, if you were not a cross on my shoulders, a wound in my heart, a terror in my life, a humiliation. But there is still time ahead of us, and for the moment I accept you as you are and I shall carry you, this acceptance, on my shoulders. As St Paul says, 'Carry one another's burdens, because it is the way in which you will have fulfilled the law of Christ.'
And carrying the burden upon our shoulders means primarily to accept my neighbour as he is, hoping that things will change, praying for him or for her that the grace of God should transform, transfigure this person — but also me, because what judge am I of another's sins while I am a sinner, while I am a temptation, a wound in the life of so many others?
So let us make this attempt. When we come to one another and say, 'Forgive me' it will not mean, if you answer 'Yes I do' that nothing that was wrong between us is annihilated, exists no more. But it means 'I accept you as you are, sinful, a wound in my flesh, a wound in my heart, a problem in my life — but I accept you and I will carry this acceptance, and you, throughout life, and pray for God's blessing to be on you and pray for God to heal both of us, that I should become such that I do not lead you into temptation, be the cause of your own fall.
Let us therefore pray together during this service, bring to God true repentance of what we are and what we have been, but also bring one another to God.
Moving towards Calvary, moving towards the resurrection has been compared by one of the ancient writers to travellers who board the same ship. They will never arrive safe if there are quarrels between them, if they are not at one. Let us be at one, with Christ who is at the rudder, with Christ who has given His life for each of us, however difficult we are for one another. And when we say, 'Yes, I forgive,' it means, 'I accept you as you are with whatever consequences to me. I accept you, and give my life as an offering for yours.' Amen.

Fasting and Forgiveness

Portrait of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

By Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

sermon preached on Forgiveness Sunday, February 25, 1996

Today two themes dominate the readings of the Holy Scriptures; St Paul speaks to us about fasting and the Lord about forgiveness, and St Paul insists on the fact that fasting does not consist simply of depriving oneself of one form of food or another, neither does it, if it is kept strictly, obediently, worshipfully, give us any ground to be proud of ourselves, satisfied and secure, because the aim of fasting is not to deprive our body of the one form of food rather than the other, the aim of fasting is to acquire mastery over our body and make it a perfect instrument of the spirit. Most of the time we are slaves of our bodies, we are attracted by all our senses to one form or another of enjoyment, but of an enjoyment which goes far beyond the purity which God expects of us.

And so, the period of fasting offers us a time during which we can say not that I will torment my body, limit myself in things material, but a time when I will re-acquire mastery of my body, make it a perfect instrument. The comparison that comes to my mind is that of tuning a musical instrument; this is what fasting is, to acquire the power not only to command our body, but also to give our body the possibility to respond to all the promptings of the spirit.

Let us therefore go into fasting with this understanding, not measuring our fasting by what we eat and how much, but of the effect it has on us, whether our fasting makes us free or whether we become slaves of fasting itself.

If we fast let us not be proud of it, because it proves simply that we need more perhaps than another person to conquer something in our nature. And if around us other people are not fasting let us not judge them, because God has received the ones as He receives the others, because it is into the heart of men that He looks.

And then there is the theme of forgiveness, of which I will say only one short thing. We think always of forgiveness as a way in which we would say to a person who has offended, hurt, humiliated us, that the past is past and that we do not any more hold a grudge against this person. But what forgiveness means more deeply than this is that if we can say to a person: let us no longer make the past into a destructive present, let me trust you, make an act of faith in you, if I forgive you it means in my eyes you are not lost, in my eyes there is a future of beauty and truth in you.

But this applies also to us perversely, we think very often of forgiving others, but we do not think sufficiently of the need in which we are, each of us personally, of being forgiven by others. We have a few hours left between the Liturgy and the Service of Forgiveness tonight, let us reflect and try to remember, not the offenses which we have suffered, but the hurts which we have caused; and if we have hurt anyone in one way or another, in things small or great, let us make haste before we enter into Lent tomorrow morning, let us make haste to ask to be forgiven, to hear someone say to us: in spite of all that has happened I believe in you, I trust you, I hope for you and I will expect everything from you, and then we can go together through Lent helping one another to become what we are called to be — the disciples of Christ, following Him step by step to Calvary, and beyond Calvary to the Resurrection. Amen.

 Thank you to the Metropolitan Anthony Archive for use of this sermon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On forgiveness and healing

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt (1636)

To forgive does not mean to forget what has happened, but to shoulder the weight of another person’s frailty or even another person’s evil. St. Paul says, “Learn to carry one another’s burdens.” These burdens are often the failure of each of us to be worthy of our calling, our incapacity to love one another, to accept one another, to serve one another, to help one another on the way that leads to God. Let each of us pass a judgement on our whole soul, on our whole life, judge ourselves honestly, and ask forgiveness not only from God but from our neighbor, which is sometimes much harder than asking forgiveness from God.

We are all frail. We are all in need of support. Do we give this support to one another? Or do we choose those whom we want to support because we like them, because supporting them is a joy, because supporting them means that they also respond to us by gratitude, by friendship? Let us avoid seeking reasons not to forgive.

I remember a man who said to me, “I can forgive every person who has sinned against me, I can even love them, but I must hate the enemies of God.” I thought of something which is told to us in the life of one of the saints, in which a priest was praying to God to punish those who betrayed Him by their lives if not by their words. And Christ appeared to him and said, “Never pray for the punishment or the rejection of anyone. If there was only one sinner in the world, I would choose to be incarnate again, and again to die upon the cross for this only sinner.”

Remember, if we do not forgive our brother, it is not only he who goes away with pain and tears in his heart, but we are wounded. If we do not forgive, we are ourselves not healed. The evil that occurred to us at the hands of another person remains with us, damaging our soul, destroying us.

Let us learn to forgive, so that others may be healed, but also that we may be healed ourselves. Come and bow down before the icon of Christ and of the Mother of God, and then turn to one another with the readiness to be forgiven and to forgive, whatever the cost to us.

+Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh
from a Forgiveness Vespers sermon given in 1999
Source:  In Communion magazine #55, 2010

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On humility by St. Ephraim the Syrian

Humility is so powerful that even the all-conquering God did not conquer without it.  Humility was even able to bear the burden of a stiff-necked nation in the desert.  Moses, the humblest of men, was given charge of the nation that was the most stubborn of all men.  God, Who needed nothing to save His people, later found Himself in need of the humility of Moses just to abide the grumbling and complaining of His critics.  Only humility could tolerate the perversity of a nation that dismissed signs in Egypt as well as wonders in the desert.  Whenever pride caused divisions in the nation, the prayer of humility healed their divisions.  Now, if the humility of a tongue-tied man endured six hundred thousand, how much more does His humility endure, Who granted speech to the tongue-tied!  For the humility of Moses is a mere shadow of the humility of our Lord.  St. Ephraim the Syrian

Poison in your heart

The memory of insults is the residue of anger.  It keeps sins alive, hates justice, ruins virtue, poisons the heart, rots the mind, defeats concentration, paralyses prayer, puts love at a distance, and is a nail driven into the soul.

If anyone has appeased his anger, he has already suppressed the memory of insults, while as long as the mother is alive the son persists.  In order to appease anger, love is necessary.

Remembrance of Jesus’ passion will heal your soul of resentment, by making it ashamed of itself when it remembers the patience of the Lord.

Some people have wearied themselves and suffered for a long time in order to extract forgiveness.  By far the best course, however, is to forget the offences, since the Lord says, ‘Forgive at once and you will be forgiven in generous measure.’ (cf. Luke 6:37-38)

Forgetting offences is a sign of sincere repentance.  If you keep the memory of them, you may believe you have repented, but, you are like someone running in his sleep.

Let no one consider it a minor defect, this darkness that often clouds the eyes even of spiritual people.  St. John Climacus

From the July 16th entry in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain, A Patristic Breviary by Thomas Spidlik, Cistercian Publications

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When enmity and malice strike

Pray, my brethren, to the Mother of God when the storm of enmity and malice bursts forth in your house.  She, Who is all-merciful and all-powerful, can easily pacify the hearts of men.  Peace and love proceed from the one God, as from their Source, and Our Lady--in God, as the Mother of Christ the Peace, is zealous, and prays for the peace of the whole world, and above all--of all Christians.  St. John of Kronstadt

Monday, February 20, 2012

A worthy meditation

If it is to be first you desire, be last.  If to rule, be the servant.  If  to be heard, be silent.  You desire to have, then give.  If you desire to buy, then save.  If it is a well mannered child you desire, nourish him.  If a learned child, teach him.  If the love of the child, love him first.  If respect, respect them first.  If honor, love those around you.  If you desire they love you, suffer long, be amiable, do not get angry, nor exaggerate, nor boast.  Love your neighbors and you, too, will be loved.  If you desire to be God’s, do good for life, respect your older brother and you will have the respect of the younger one.

If it is the grace of the Holy Spirit you desire, think with God, live with God, piously.  Paul came from Saul.  All that you desire is attained through effort.  Without effort no great song can be sung; without effort no saber can be forged!  Expect not only the “good” to come your way.   In your home you must establish the “good,”then watch over it with great care.  You are on sand and it is marshland beneath your feet.  In a moment you fall and become filthy.  In a moment you lose all you have attained.

A moment and all you have gathered is spilled.  In a  moment love turns to hatred, and your face a murky glow.  All your knowledge turns to ignorance and stupidity.  Your reputation, to ridicule and respect to scorn.  The stirring of passions will alter that which was  patient, peaceful and kind to anger-filled, quarrelsome and gossiping….

O Lord of the hosts, be the Commander of my life!  You alone give to those undeserving and love where there is no love and heal where faith has been lost, and are merciful to those filled with hate and heal those who ridicule Your Name.  Your love is inexhaustible, it rejoices the heart and gives hope.  Without you, O Creator, there truly is no meaning and life turns to the darkest of nights.  With You is fullness, without You only an empty nothing.  Be, then, our power, help and strength.  That I always praise and love You (and never forget You) above all the earthly riches and smoke.

If it is to have that you desire, then fill your hearts and minds with the Lord.  All will be yours.  He is the “All and Everything” and beyond all things and in all things, Whom we desire and to Whom we hasten.  It is Him that my soul thirsts for.  To Him be glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

Priest Simon J. Turkic, Serbian Diocese of Central Europe

translated by Fr. Milovan Katanic, from his blog "Again & Again" http://frmilovan.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/if-you-desire/

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On blaming

It is most necessary and helpful for the soul to endure with fortitude every tribulation, whether inflicted by men or by demons.  We should recognize that our sufferings are no more than we deserve, and we should never blame anyone but ourselves.  For whoever blames others for his own tribulations has lost the power of judging correctly what is to his own advantage.  St. John of Karpathos (The Philokalia, Vol 1)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fear only to grieve the Lord

From Abbot Nikon in Letters to Spiritual Children:

You seem to be disappointed that years pass and you are still unsettled. All this comes from worldliness and the prince of this world.  He is trying to frighten you.  He confuses your thoughts, suggests various fears, and lies, endless lies, thereby giving himself away on all fronts.

What is the essence of Christianity?  This--that the All-mighty, All-knowing Creator of the Universe has such love and compassion for man, such care for him and his salvation, that He gave up His Only-Begotten Son to shame, the Cross and death.  He cares not only for mankind as a whole, but for every person individually; each and every minute He holds him in His hand, protecting him from visible and invisible foes, granting him wisdom through other people, books, and life's circumstances.  If it is necessary to chastise a person in order to instruct him or to prevent him from falling into a worse mishap, He does so with mercy, and if a person is able to accept this in the right spirit, He rewards him greatly, as though He feels sorry for having issued the punishment.  Those whose inner vision has begun to clear can see God's amazing Providence over man in things both great and small. And so it is.  If for man's sake God sacrificed that which He loved most--His Son--then how can He begrudge anything: even the whole universe is nothing compared to such a sacrifice.  The Lord does not hold back anything, especially from those who yearn for Him, who try to keep His word, who feel compunction after every committed sin, seeing this as a breach of His will, as inattentiveness towards Him, as ingratitude and lack of love towards Him.

Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out, (John 6:37).  The Lord rejoices over every person who longs for Him immeasurably more than a mother rejoices over displays of love from her own child.  For this reason, do not fear the future.  “God is with us,” today, tomorrow and always.  Fear only to grieve Him through some form of sin.  If in our weakness we fall into some wrong, let us repent and the Lord will forgive us as long as we do not consciously choose evil, attempt to justify ourselves or murmur against God.  Fear nothing.  Be bold to bring to the Lord all your troubles, confusion, fears, hurts from the demons and people.  He both desires and knows how to relieve you of these and to free you from them when this will be most beneficial for you.

Do not trust in yourself and in people.  Trust in God's word, the Gospel.  Study the Gospel through your own life experience.  Life in Christ will give you such fullness, such an understanding of everything, such spiritual joy, steadfastness--that the life of worldly people will seem (as indeed it is) of little value, uninteresting, impoverished, pitiable, frivolous, full of insignificant squabbles, unhappiness and often great misfortunes.  You are fortunate.  Treasure this.  Thank God for this, and He will multiply His goodness towards you many times over for your gratitude, as much as you are able to contain.  Indeed, I hope this shall come to be!  May the Lord keep you and bless you.

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On self-restraint and purity

Bodily fasting alone is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity; it must be accompanied by contrition of heart, intense prayer to God, frequent meditation on the Scripture, toil and manual labor.  These are able to check the restless impulses of the soul and to recall it from its shameful fantasies.  Humility of soul helps more than everything else, however, and without it no one can overcome unchastity or any other sin.  St. John Cassian

Serve the sick and speed their recovery

If your heart has been softened either by repentance before God or by learning the boundless love of God towards you, do not be proud with those whose hearts are still hard. Remember how long your heart was hard and incorrigible.   

Seven brothers were ill in one hospital. One recovered from his illness and got up and rushed to serve his other brothers with brotherly love, to speed their recovery. Be like this brother. Consider all men to be your brothers, and sick brothers at that. And if you come to feel that God has given you better health than others, know that it is given through mercy, so in health you may serve your frailer brothers.

St. Nikolai Velimirovic

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When darkness prevails

At the time of darkness, more than anything else, kneeling is helpful.  St. Isaac the Syrian

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Restoration from God the Father

Thank God every day with your whole heart for having given to you life according to His image and likeness - an intelligently free and immortal life...Thank Him also for again daily bestowing life upon you, who have fallen an innumerable multitude of times, by your own free will, through sins, from life unto death, and that He does so as soon as you only say from your whole heart: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee!' (Luke 15:18).  St. John of Kronstadt

Diary of a martyrdom

Diary of a Martyrdom

Ss. Perpetua, Felicity and their companions

Commemorated by the Orthodox Church on February 1

This is a short account of the martyrdom of a group of Christians from the third century.   It took place in Carthage, a Roman province in North Africa. This account is based on the written account, the diary of Perpetua, one of the martyrs.  This is one of the greatest treasures of martyr literature, a document that preserves the actual words of the martyrs and their prison experience.  The final details of the martyrdom were written by a Christian witness to their deaths in the arena.  St. Perpetua’s diary is a historic record and the earliest surviving text written by a Christian woman.

Perpetua was a 22 year old mother with a son a few months old.  In her martyrdom, she was accompanied by her servant, Felicity, who was pregnant, and three others, including her teacher, Saturus.  Perpetua was from a noble family and as a convert to Christianity, she, along with her companions, were imprisoned in the year 203AD.  Their crime was defying the Emperor Septimus Severus who decreed that all imperial subjects were forbidden under severe penalties to become Christians or Jews.  While in prison, Perpetua’s father, who was not a Christian, begged her to deny her faith, but she would not.  Knowing that they were to suffer and die for Christ, Felicity, desiring to be martyred with her companions, but unable because she was carrying a new life in her womb, gave birth to her child in prison and the child was given into the care of another Christian, in order that the companions might die together.  The night before their martyrdom, they partook of an agape meal or meal of love in the Christian tradition and they went to their deaths in the arena the next day with radiant faith. 

The faithful lives of these Christians brought about the conversion of their jailer, Pudens, and many witnesses.  Even to this day, those reading of these holy martyrdoms receive the witness of faith and may yet be converted to Christ on the basis of this ancient diary of an early Christian woman and her companions who put nothing in this world before their faith in Christ. 

Read St. Perpetua’s diary here: http://www.amyrachelpeterson.com/Groups/1000004968/Saint_Perpetua/Perpetua_The_Martyr/Read_Perpetuas_Prison/Read_Perpetuas_Prison.aspx

An historical production of the lives and martyrdoms of this group of Saints has been produced on DVD by Christian History Institute/Torchlighters.  It is called “The Perpetua Story.”  This DVD is excellently done and worthy of viewing! There are two versions of the account on the DVD, a 30 minute or so animated version (for a younger crowd) and the other is a documentary which runs about an hour.  The documentary follows Perpetua’s written diary and was filmed in Tunisia where the martyrdom took place.  This version is more suitable for teens/adults.   Visit www.torchlighters.org and you will find some audio downloads available.  The DVD is distributed by Vision Video and you can also find a digital download of the movie by visiting their site www.visionvideo.com and typing in Perpetua Story

Torchlighters produces a number of fine videos focusing on the courage and Christian witness of well-known Protestant Christians as you will see by the other DVD’s they have available.  Noting what a wonderful job they did with The Perpetua Story, we can pray that they might be inspired to further investigate the lives of early Christian martyrs and produce other inspiring programs based on those witnesses.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On the beginnings of repentance

You ask how to lay the beginnings of repentance--if you wish to begin repentance, look at the woman sinner: she washed Christ’s feet with her tears (Luke 7:38).  Tears wash away sins of every person.  But a person acquires tears by internal efforts, through the diligent study of the Holy Scripture, through patience, meditation on the Last Judgment and eternal shame, and through self-denial, just as the Lord said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me," (Matt 16:24). To deny one’s self and to take up the cross — means to sever your own will in everything and regard yourself as nothing.  Ss. Barsanuphius and John

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Orthodox Saint Valentine

Today, I share with you the February 14, 2011 posting from John Sanidopoulos’ web site Mystagogy on the Orthodox Saint Valentine.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Orthodox Saint Valentine

St. Valentine the Hieromartyr (Feast Day - February 14 and July 6)

The ancient martyrology of the Church of Rome marks February 14th as the remembrance of "the martyr Valentine, presbyter of Rome" (Valentinus mean "vigorous" in Latin). Unfortunately the historical data for the saint is incomplete.

The Martyrdom of the Saint in Rome

Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth. The great virtue and catechetical activities of the saint had become familiar. For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

"Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?" asked the emperor.

Then the saint replied "My lord, if you knew the gift of God, you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ."

One of these judges stopped the saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury, and St. Valentine boldly replied, "They are miserable, and spent their lives through corruption and crime!"

The judge furiously shouted, "He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!"

The emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity, and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians. Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed. "Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved, and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory."

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present: "What a beautiful teaching this man preaches."

But the mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout: "See how this Christian mislead our Prince."

Then Claudius brought the saint to another judge. He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years. Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed: "Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child." Oh the great miracle! The child saw! So the judge with all his family confessed Christ. Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and finally received holy baptism.

When the emperor heard about all these events, he initially thought not to punish them, but thought that in the eyes of citizens he will look weak, which forced him to betray his sense of justice. So St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured, were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

The Relics of the Saint in Athens

After the martyrdom some Christians salvaged the body of the saint and put a bit of his blood in a vile. The body of the martyr was moved and buried in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, a burial place of most of the martyrs. Over the years, somehow he was "forgotten" since almost every day there were buried in these catacombs new martyrs for several decades. The memory of Valentine's martyrdom however remained robust, particularly in the local Church of Rome. Officially the memory of St. Valentine was established in 496 by Pope St. Gelasius.

Fifteen centuries pass and we arrive at 1815, at which time the divine intention was to "disturb" the eternal repose of the saint. Then the relics were donated by the Pope to a gentle Italian priest (according to the custom of the time). After this the relics are "lost" again until 1907 where we find them in Mytilene in the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady. It seems that after the death of the priest that a descendant of his had inherited the relics who had migrated in Mytilene, which was then a thriving community of West-European Catholic Christians. There they remained until 1990 when they were moved to Athens in the Church of Saints Francis and Clara's Italian community, where they are today.

Saint Valentine the Greek

We should first say that there is not sufficient information on the national origin of the saint, though there are some other (shades of) evidence that the saint was of Greek origin. Few example, the earliest depiction of the saint bearing the inscription «O ΑΓΙΟC BAΛΕΝΤΙΝΟC" in Greek, is in the Church of Our Lady the Ancient (Santa Maria Antiqua) of the 6th century which was the parish of Greeks in Rome. The church particularly venerated saints who were Greeks and generally from the East. The decoration and renovation of the church was ordered by the Greek Pope John VII (705-707) and finished by his successors, including the last Greek Pope Zacharias (741-752). But perhaps it is no coincidence that after seventeen centuries, the remains arrived in Greece. The issue here still requires research.

Saint Valentine: Patron of Lovers

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine's life, there is accompanied various legends, such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses from his garden, he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously. This shocked the saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him. Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the saint and afterwards were offered a rose that blessed them. Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the saint to bless their marriage. Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military obligations were not allowed to marry; meanwhile the saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the "saint of lovers" is to be associated with the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15. Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period. Certainly, however, the saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers, gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

Saint Valentine and Orthodoxy

Many, however, raise the objection that St. Valentine is not mentioned anywhere in the calendar of the Orthodox Church. Indeed on 14 February in the calendar of the Church there are commemorated Saints Auxentios, Maron and the martyrs Nicholas and Damian. The explanation is simple: in ancient times hagiographic directories, biographies and martyrologia were written to be primarily used locally in their own character, and the fame and reputation of a saint locally does not mean that it extended also throughout the Church. So there may be saints honored widely in one region and completely unknown in another, eg, St. Demetrios, who is famous throughout the Eastern Church, yet in the West is not honored at all, and is almost unknown, but this does not mean that he is not a saint. Another example of the modern Church: St. Chrysostomos of Smyrna († 1922) who in Greece is known, yet in Russia is completely unknown, but this does not mean that he is not a saint.

Honor Martyrs - Imitate Martyrs

We honor our saints and St. Valentine when we imitate their courage to proclaim their faith in Christ the Savior, even at the cost of their lives. We honor them when we beseech them to appeal to God to have mercy on us and forgive our many sins. We honor them when they are our models of the life in Christ. We do not honor the saints when we measure their 'worth' by worldly amusements and festivities in the best circumstances ... Honor Martyrs - Imitate Martyrs!


1. Encyclopedia New Advent (www.newadvent.org)

2. Patron Saints Index (www.catholic-forum.com/saints/indexsnt.htm)

3. Oxford Dictionary of Saints

4. Ελληνισμός & Ορθοδοξία, Εκδόσεις PSL Λιβάνη

5. Ο άγιος Βαλεντίνος της Αθήνας, Εκδόσεις Καλός Τύπος

: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Read also:

Ο Άγιος Βαλεντίνος επιστρέφει στη Μυτιλήνη…

Ο «Μυτιληνιός» Άγιος Βαλεντίνος… επιστρέφει

As an addendum to this post, I would like to mention that there is an excellent DVD available, a dramatization of the life/martyrdom of St. Valentine called The First Valentine.  It's suitable for kids ages 8+ and adults appreciate it, too.  I've used it in Sunday School classes and at St. Valentine's Day parties with my daughter's friends.  You can find it as an instant play item on Amazon.com.  Of course, you can order a DVD from Amazon, or better yet, from Vision Video which offers it at a deeply discounted price at this time.  The theme is faith in Christ which results in sacrificial love and it is beautifully done.  Pres. Candace

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On returning to God

If sinners only knew that they were the work of God and the pleasure of His heart:  "We are His workmanship," (Eph. 2:10).  If the sinner was sure that his rank in God's eyes was foremost among the cares of the Almighty and his dispensation from eternity, and that the mind of God had been preoccupied throughout the ages with his returning, and that the entire heaven waited in expectation for his return, he would never be ashamed of himself, condemn his ability, or procrastinate about his return.  Matthew the Poor, The Communion of Love

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On the return of a sinner

The sinful soul which does not know the Lord fears death, thinking that the Lord will not forgive her sins.  But this is because the soul does not know the Lord and how greatly He loves us...The Lord not only forgives but rejoices exceedingly at the return of a sinner.  St. Silouan of the Holy Mountain (Athos)

Friday, February 10, 2012

On the formation of children

If we seek the things that are perfect, the secondary things will follow.  The Lord says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."  What sort of person do you think the children of such parents will be?  What kind of persons are all the others who associate with them? Will they not eventually be the recipients of countless blessings as well?  For generally the children acquire the character of their parents, are formed in the mold of their parents' temperament, love the same things their parents love, talk in the same fashion and work for the same ends.  If we order our lives in this way and diligently study the Scriptures, we will find lessons to guide us in everything we need.  St. John Chrysostom

Honoring the martyrs

Those who honor the martyrs should imitate the martyrs.
St. John Chrysostom

Let us honor the holy hieromartyr Haralambos whose glorious testimony has been preserved for us in Church hagiography--in excess of 100 years old, he glorified Christ in the most honorable way--wondrous is God in His Saints! The excerpt below comes from http://www.goarch.org/special/haralambos/index_html

Feast of the Holy and Glorious Hieromartyr Haralambos

February 10

The holy, glorious Martyr Haralambos lived at the time of the Emperor Septimus Severus (194-211) in the city of Magnesia on the River Meander near Ephesus. He was 107 years old and had ministered as priest to the Christians of the city for many years, devotedly instructing them in the way of truth and preaching Christ to all, regardless of the threats of the pagans.

When he was denounced as a dangerous mischief-maker and brought before the tribunal of the Governor Lucian, he responded to his threats in these terms, “You little know what is for my good and well-being. Nothing could be more pleasing to me than to suffer for Christ. So don’t hesitate to put my old body to the tortures you deem the worst, and you will learn that the power of my Christ cannot be overcome.” He was then stripped of his priestly robe by the tormentors, who tore his flesh with iron claws without being able to elicit a single cry of pain from him. On the contrary, he said, “Thank you, brothers. In flaying my old body, you are renewing my soul and preparing it for everlasting blessedness.”

When the Governor saw the steadfastness of the old man, far from repenting and giving glory to God, he hurled himself at him in uncontrollable rage, tearing at his skin with his bare hands. Then, by an act of God, his hands were suddenly severed and remained claw-like and lifeless on the Martyr’s body. Moved to pity by the tyrant’s cries and supplications, Saint Haralambos gave himself to prayer and obtained his healing. This astonishing miracle and demonstration of the love of Christians for their enemies brought Lucian, as well as the tormentors Porphyrius and Baptus, to believe in Christ God and to renounce the cult of idols. Three women onlookers also rushed forward and fearlessly proclaimed their faith. The grateful Governor was immediately baptized by the Saint and a great many inhabitants of the province of Asia were won for Christ.

When the Emperor Severus learned that the inhabitants of Magnesia and the surrounding country were abandoning idolatry and receiving holy Baptism from the old priest who had been condemned to death; that the blind were recovering their sight at his prayer and the crippled were walking, he was very troubled indeed. He immediately sent 300 soldiers to Magnesia with orders to bring the Saint, nailed and chained, to Antioch in Pisidia where he was residing. The soldiers treated the old man very badly on the road, until the horse on which they had set him suddenly uttered a condemnation of the Emperor as an enemy of God, and of his soldiers as slaves of the Devil—to the great terror of the military, who for the remainder of the journey did the Saint no harm.

As soon as the venerable old man was brought before him, the Emperor had him thrown into a blazing furnace with a long skewer through his chest. However, the fire went out as soon as it touched the Saint who, to the Emperor’s astonishment, remained insensible to what he suffered. What was the secret of his invulnerability, the tyrant wanted to know. “The power of Christ!” replied the Saint. Severus then put this to the test and presented him with a man possessed by a demon for thirty-five years. The Saint drove out the unclean spirit with a single word. Severus next produced the corpse of a young man about to be buried. After addressing a fervent prayer to God, Saint Haralambos gave the youth his hand and, to the Emperor’s amazement, raised him from the bier as though from sleep.

Then the Prefect Crispus shouted, “Your Majesty should put this sorcerer to death straight way!” At this, the Emperor’s hatred broke out again and he commanded Saint Haralambos to sacrifice to the idols. On his refusal, he ordered them to break his jaw with stones and to set his beard on fire. But God acted once again. The flames turned on the tormentors and the place where they stood was shaken by an earthquake.

Lifted up off his throne and suspended in the air, the Emperor was whipped for a good while by unseen angels. On learning of his predicament, his daughter Galinia confessed Christ as Almighty and came to implore the holy Martyr to release her father from chastisement. This he did; but the Emperor’s amazement at the power of God was short-lived, and he soon returned to his idolatrous madness. Despite the remonstrances of Galinia, who reminded him of the divine blessings which had lighted on him, he kept Saint Haralambos in custody and had him tortured anew. He also turned on Galinia and threatened her with death unless she sacrificed. She made as if to obey but, on entering the temple, she threw the statues to the ground and broke them in pieces. Severus sent to the foundry to have new statues cast, but she shattered these too, so that he became a laughing-stock.

Severus then made a last attempt to break the instigator of his daughter’s conversion. But Saint Haralambos withstood every device of his tormentors with adamantine fortitude and all the onlookers were dazzled by the brilliance of Grace. He welcomed the death sentence with joy, and, on reaching the place of execution, he raised his hands and eyes to heaven. He thanked God for having brought him to the issue of his contest, and he asked Him to grant salvation of soul, health of body and abundance of good things in the name of His Martyr. A voice from heaven was then heard. “Come Haralambos, valiant in fight, to share in the joy and splendor of the Martyrs and holy priests!” His head fell beneath the sword on February 10 and his body was buried by the blessed Galinia.

The skull of Saint Haralambos is kept at the Monastery of St. Stephen at Meteora. The fragments of his holy relics, which are to be found in many places in Greece and elsewhere, accomplish frequent miracles and have made Saint Haralambos, the most aged of all the holy Martyrs, especially dear to the people of Greece.

Adapted from The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of
the Orthodox Church, Vol. 3, compiled by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra and translated from the French by Christopher Hookway (Chalkidike, Greece: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 2001) pp. 463-466.

Holy Hieromartyr Xaralambos, pray for us!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thirsting after Christ

Thirst after Jesus and He will satisfy you with His love. St. Isaac the Syrian

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Advice to avoid spiritual shipwreck

Rejoice when you perform the virtues, but do not become exalted, lest, arriving at the pier, you suffer a shipwreck.  St. Nilus of Sinai

On releasing resentment

This excerpt comes from an article on resentment and forgiveness found on the Orthodox Christian Information site—find the entire article here, definitely worth reading and meditating upon:  http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/resentforgive.aspx

Abba Dorotheus, a Desert Father of the sixth century, says that we can be healed of the sickness of resentment, "by prayer right from the heart for the one who has annoyed us. We can pray such words as, 'O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.'" "In this," says Abba Dorotheus, "we are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through our brother's prayers.” [see footnote below]

When we continually force ourselves to bless and pray for others in this way, we will find that our Lord Jesus Christ will change, renew, and refresh our hearts. It may take some time and persistence, but gradually, almost imperceptibly, we will be changed. The poison of resentment, by the Grace of Christ, will leave our system.

St. Dorotheus of Gaza, Discourses and Sayings (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1977), p. 154

Monday, February 6, 2012

On anger

We must, with God's help, eradicate the deadly poison of anger from the depths of our souls. So long as the demon of anger dwells in our hearts ... we can neither discriminate what is good, nor achieve spiritual knowledge, nor fulfill our good intentions, nor participate in true life.... Nor will we share in divine wisdom even though we are deemed wise by all men, for it is written: Anger lodges in the bosom of fools (Eccles. 7:9). Nor can we discriminate in decisions affecting our salvation even though we are thought by our fellow men to have good sense, for it is written: Anger destroys even men of good sense (Proverbs 15:1). Nor will we be able to keep our lives in righteousness with a watchful heart, for it is written: Man's anger does not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20)....

If, therefore, you desire to attain perfection and rightly pursue the spiritual way, you should make yourself a stranger to all sinful anger and wrath. Listen to what St. Paul enjoins: Rid yourselves of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and all malice (Eph. 4:31). By saying 'all' he leaves no excuse for regarding any anger as necessary or reasonable. If you want to correct your brother when he is doing wrong or punish him, you must try to keep yourself calm; otherwise you yourself may catch the sickness you are seeking to cure and you may find that the words of the Gospel now apply to you: Physician, heal yourself (Luke 4:23), or Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother's eye, and not notice the beam in your own eye? (Matt. 7:3).

No matter what provokes it, anger blinds the soul's eyes, preventing it from seeing the Sun of righteousness.... Whether reasonable or unreasonable, anger obstructs our spiritual vision. Our incensive power can be used in a way that is according to nature only when turned against our own impassioned or self-indulgent thoughts.  St. John Cassian

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What is humilty?

Learn what humility is, you who have devilish pride!  What then is humility?  To be lowly minded.  And he is lowly minded who humbles himself, not he who is lowly by necessity.  To explain what I say (and pay attention):  he who is lowly minded when he has it in his power to be high minded, is humble.  For he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.  St. John Chrysostom

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The truth about spiritual healing

When you are sick, you feel weak and feeble, and your face is pale; you are incapable of performing your normal tasks, and people remark how ill you appear.  So you go to the doctor.  What do you want from him?  You say you want some medicine to cure your sickness. But if the cause of your sickness was cured, and you remained feeble and pale, would you be satisfied?  Of course not.  The truth is, a person goes to the doctor for relief of the symptoms of disease, not disease itself.  The doctor, on the other hand, knows that the symptoms cannot be relieved unless their cause is overcome.  Similarly, when we declare ourselves to be disciples of Christ, we claim that we want Him to cure our spiritual and moral disease.  Yet in truth we want Him to relieve the symptoms, such as misery, discontent, despair, and so on.  Jesus, by contrast, knows that He cannot relieve these symptoms unless He overcomes their deep, inner cause.  And this is where the problems arise.  While we would like to be rid of the symptoms, we stubbornly resist the efforts of Jesus to penetrate our souls.  We do not want our deep-set feelings and attitudes to be changed.  But only when we truly open our souls to the transforming grace of God will the symptoms of spiritual disease begin to disappear.  St. John Chrysostom