Orthodox Thought for the Day

ORTHODOX THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Care for your soul

Each of us must mainly take care for himself, for his own soul, for his personal spiritual welfare, because according to the Apostle, each of us must give an account for himself to God.  Our confusion stems from the fact that we are inclined to educate others, and we try not only to persuade others, but also to dissuade, and to provide proof through various arguments. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Kingdom of God within

Humble yourself more in thought before God and men, and in this way you will see the Kingdom of God within yourself, and at that time your face will radiate with fervent peace and a pleasant smile.  St. Anthony of Optina

An example God gave us in these latter times:
St. John Maximovich of Shanghai & San Francisco

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our hope is in the Lord our God

One must always pray that the Lord will show him the way…Let us pray to the Lord that He will save us and will come to our aid in times of sorrow and need.  I see no other refuge or hope.  Human solutions are vain and mistaken.  When you have to endure something which is very difficult, but you know that it is not of your own will, you receive moral relief and peace of soul.  May God’s will be done!  May the Lord not discredit our faith and devotion to His will.  Our only hope is in God.  He is our firm foundation for everything else is unsure.  You absolutely do not know where it might be better, where it might be worse, or what to expect.  May God’s will be done!  Our work is to preserve ourselves in the faith, and to keep ourselves from every sin, and entrust everything else to God. 

 

The cause of all evil & its remedy

Listen to what the Lord Himself tells us, Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you shall find rest for your souls, (Matt 11:29).  There you have it in a nutshell:  He has taught us the root and cause of all evils and also the remedy for it, leading to all good.  He shows us that pretensions to superiority cast us down and that it is impossible to obtain mercy except by the contrary, that is to say, by humility.  Self-elevation begets contempt and disobedience begets perdition whereas humility begets obedience and the saving of souls.  And I call that real humility which is not humble in word and outward appearance but is deeply planted in the heart; for this is what He meant when He said that I am meek and humble of heart. 


Sunday, August 25, 2013

A worthwhile new "read"

Deepen your encounters with God and others.  Orthodox brother, Dr. Stephen Muse, invites each of us to do just that.  To this end, he has written a superb new book titled, BEING BREAD.  Through various stories from his own life experience he gives us glimpses into the mystery of the self.  His stories are, in essence, ours as they relate to the struggles and passions inherent to each of us.  But, he does not leave us there.  Instead, he helps guide us toward encounters with God and those around us that can be transforming.  His narratives are imbued with an Orthodox phronema (mindset) that make them particularly meaningful. 



Twenty-five vignettes give insight into encounter and what it can mean for us and for the nourishment of the world, i.e., "being bread."  Stephen's spiritually honest narratives open doors for our own personal examination.  What we learn can spur us toward growth, allowing us to actually find genuine meetings between the Living God and those whom He has made.  Therein, of course, lies LIFE.  Especially helpful are the gentle, yet probing, questions at the end of each piece meant to engage us further and provide (sometimes surprising) clarification for our own lives.
 

BEING BREAD encourages introspection.  You’ll find its content suitable for personal devotions or for a spiritual reading group.  In my opinion, it's an offering that meets a need for Orthodox readers who are actively seeking to deepen the quality of their momentary brushes with God and humanity.

Below is one of the chapters from BEING BREAD.  Consider reading it aloud because the word choices paint a vivid picture which you’ll enjoy just by the sound of it alone.  I'm guessing that most readers will be able to relate to at least one snapping turtle experience of their own.  Enough.  Give it a read--you'll be glad you did!
 

BEING BREAD—available from your local Christian book seller. $19.95, published by Orthodox Research Institute, ISBN 978-1-933275-65-9.  BEING BREAD is also offered at a significant discount by both www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.  Some of you may even have an arrangement with these on-line shops that allows for free shipping right to your door.   

BEING BREAD-an interview with Stephen Muse: 
http://vimeo.com/71582772
 
SNAPPING TURTLE LESSONS IN DIALOGUE 

The mark of contemporary man is that he really does not listen…I know people who are absorbed in ‘social activity’ and have never spoken from being to being with a fellow human being…Love without dialogue, without real outgoing to the other, reaching to the other, and companying with the other, the love remaining with itself—that is called Lucifer.  Martin Buber 

One day I stopped the car to render assistance to the largest snapping turtle I had ever seen:  a veritable one-eyed giant at least two feet wide at the center.  The kids and mom watched as dad had his first encounter of a close enough kind with this enormous and opaque alien presence, silent and still as a Dominican Friar as his radar took in the approaching menace now towering above him with unknown intent. 

Grabbing him by the tail like my friend’s neighbor, who says he nonchalantly drops them in a bag, clearly was not going to work with this behemoth.  I reached out with both hands for the opposite sides of his armor.  The sudden unceremonious Harumph! he gave me after he hunkered back into his shell and exploded like a jackhammer, his jaws flashing for a fraction of a second more like a mako shark, let me know he was not exactly thrilled with my approach.   My leg muscles spasmed, and the hairs on my neck stood up like straight pins as the adrenalin surged through me. 

Now I was more excited than one should be when considering the best way to pick up a thirty pound razor-lipped, battle-hardened, special forces turtle on a singular mission to drag his armor plated self across the steaming July-heated asphalt.  I reached for a stick, still thinking to pull him out of harm’s way before some other unfeeling dinosaur on four wheels decided to nail him to the pavement just for the sheer entertainment of it.  When his jaws clamped down, I read the message with my hand loud and clear.  Had it been my finger, it would have had emergency room written all over it.  I let go. He was not interested in my help.  I do not think he even liked me!  He certainly did not understand or care about my good intentions to render assistance. 

With my newly acquired respect for the old mossy-back, I stood away and watched with awe as he continued his pilgrimage in his own good time.  Humbly walking back to the car on rubber legs amidst the laughter and imitations of the whole scene by the kids, I was thinking to myself, “Just because you feel a strong desire to help someone doesn’t mean they want you to or even that you will know how, even if you think you do.” 

Transformative encounter in its depths is always a meeting between strangers, evoking awareness of the unplumbed parts of ourselves.  Even in familiar relationships, the fire that lights up the path of intimacy arises from sparks created by direct contact with the untrammeled bedrock of the soul beneath the familiar.  Approaching the apophatic mystery of a person with the presumption of already knowing how to help someone simply on the basis of past history, or by virtue of having had many years of experience, ordination, a license or an advanced degree or whatever else is presumed to take the place of real presence, genuine loving interest and a willingness to be taught by the other, is a recipe for disaster. 

Even a seemingly slow and plodding tortoise of a person, after downing enough of that potent elixir of unconfessed sins, losses, addictions, tragedies, and betrayals amassed over a lifetime, can temporarily morph into a mythical, fire-breathing, armor-plated snapdragon just waiting to take off a finger or spit out venom on anyone who dares to speak or listen in routine, clichéd ways indicating an unwillingness to risk a personal encounter.  Such fire-breathing is frequently in its depths a person’s prayer to God who may seem just a little too frightening or a little too distant to be vulnerable enough to be affected by the slings and arrows of their outrageous misfortunes to even bother crying out.  A person’s spiritual pain may be rage at God for being such a cruel taskmaster.  Or maybe it is the universe’s indifference or any variety of the other false faces endlessly painted and projected onto God by our own self-judgments posing as knowledge about the other.  The proverbial “log in my own eye” inevitably swings back as if from God, hitting me on the head until I give up and absent myself or reactively attack back.  Persisting in faith with and for each other, means we are likely to catch a glimpse of parts of our own unexplored selves. 

Paul Ricoeur observed somewhere, “The quickest way to the self is through the others.”  Jean Paul Sarte added, “The other is hell.”  The truth is that we become ourselves by our willingness to go through hell with and for the sake of the other.  The risk of vulnerability and involvement are what together ignite vitality and passion.  The price of admission is tolerating the anxiety and uncertainty along the way as you move off the edge of the map of the known world where fear of mythical sea monsters begins.  Then like Jacob we wrestle face to face in the darkness with an unknown unconquerable alien presence receiving a blessing in the process.  One approaches here a mysterious work encountered by the saints that dwells in the deeper fathoms of the human heart where, as St. Makarios the Great observed:  There are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil.  And there are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices.  But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the Apostles, the treasures of grace—there are all things. 

To truly encounter another requires passion-bearing.  One must be willing to be affected in his or her own self at the same depths and to the same degree as the person she or he encounters.  This is why the Way of Christ is both desired and feared.  Entering the silence and struggling in the darkness confronted by one’s own and another’s neglected and abandoned heart is at points like encountering a wild and wounded snapping turtle.  God is not tame.  Neither is the heart, nor the world present in the depths of our fallen human capacity for sin or that of our neighbor’s, in spite of the pretty psychological clothing and custom designer-surgery garments of skin we wear to pretend otherwise. 

To the degree that we actually reach out and touch the wounds we discover in ourselves and one another, it will indeed draw blood—if not from us, most certainly from God who is waiting there, to meet us in our private hells where we most fear to tread.  In such encounters, the Spirit begins to speak in sighs too deep for words and the miracle of redemption begins. 

1Homilies 43.7; trans. George Maloney, Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter (New York: Paulist Press, 1992), 222. 

Questions for Discussion: 

1.      What kind of listener am I?  Do I seek to discover the world of another beyond my own projections?  Am I more interested in being listened to than in listening?  Do I always need agreement in order to remain in relationship with people because differences of viewpoints are threatening to me? 

2.      Who have been snapping turtles in my life and what have I learned from the encounters?  What have I discovered from praying for my enemies?  Do I seek to understand others on their own terms in their own context or do I assume they are just like me? 

3.      When have I been willing to go to hell with and for the sake of another as a free gift of love?  What blessing did I receive from this experience?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blessed are the merciful


Christ Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount
Modern Coptic icon, painted by the nuns of Saint Demiana Monastery, Egypt 

Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy, (Matt 5:7).  The merciful person is he who gives to others what he has himself received from God, whether it be money, or food, or strength, a helpful word, a prayer, or anything else that he has through which he can express his compassion for those in need.  At the same time he considers himself a debtor, since he has received more than he is asked to give.  By Christ’s grace, both in the present and in the world to come, before the whole of creation he is called merciful, just as God is called merciful (cf Luke 6:36).  

Your prayers will comfort & strengthen imprisoned Archbishop Jovan of Skopje

Beloved Readers,

Below is a message from Fr. Nektarios Serfes who especially keeps near and dear to his heart (and helps us, also), the plight of imprisoned Archbishop Jovan of Skopje.  Please see Fr. Nektarios’ letter of August 10, below, and mercifully offer prayers for our brother, an imprisoned hierarch, Archbishop Jovan. 

If you desire to provide material assistance in addition to prayer support, here is a link to the Archbishop Jovan Fund USA:  http://www.serfes.org/missionary/archbishopjovanfund.htm

 







Beloved in Christ our Lord,  

Hear this humble plea and prayer please! In a prison cell in Skopje (FYROM) sits or rather prays a humble Archbishop as he wonders does anyone care about him? His name is His Eminence, Metropolitan Jovan of Skopje and has faithfully remained ever faithful to the Patriarchate of Serbia, as well as his bishops, his priest, his monks, nuns, and faithful parish members.  

What do you think the Archbishop is praying about  in his cell right now? God be merciful to me a sinner! Also may our Lord God forgive those who have injured me and our beloved Orthodox Church. While in his prison cell Archbishop as well at this hour feels the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, as to face to face through his endurance, through his hardship, and through his pains of his illness, but he has not given up just yet!  

The Archbishop still lives, how long is unknown to us because of your prayers he has survived in spite of the fact he needs an operation, in spite of the fact he has not received Holy Communion before he went in prison in December 2012 just for being a Orthodox Archbishop who simply desires to remain faithful to our Lord and His Church.  

Please remember in your loving prayers Archbishop Jovan and light a candle for him when you go to Church this Sunday, the Archbishop will be greatly comforted and feel your prayers as well as the Light of Christ will continue to shine in his heart.  

Peace to your soul!  

+Archimandrite Nektarios (Serfes)
President of The Archbishop Jovan Fund USA, 
Who prays for you and with you! 

God love and bless you!

 

 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The conscience and our accountability

A man needs to satisfy his conscience towards God by not despising God’s precepts, even those concerning things which are not seen by men or those things for which one is not accountable to men.  For example, did he neglect his prayers?  If an evil thought came into his heart, was he vigilant and did he keep control of himself or did he entertain it?  He sees his neighbor saying or doing something; does he suspect it is evil and condemn him?  To put it simply, all the hidden things that happen inside us, things which no one sees except God and our conscience, we need to take account of.  This is what I mean by our conscience towards God. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Special prayers for the departed

I know some dear people who have recently lost loved ones.  I was looking through one of my prayer books and thought it might be a mercy and blessing to share a few prayers which may fulfill a need not only for those I know personally, but for other readers as well. 

Memory eternal!

WIDOW'S PRAYER
 
O my God, it was Your good will, which is beyond the mere understanding of man, to call my husband to Yourself.  This is truly a heavy cross for me to bear; yet I flee to You alone for deliverance, for You are the almighty helper and supporter of widows, and the all-loving Father of orphans.  Help me, for I am helpless;  feed me, for I am alone; and strengthen me to fulfill Your holy will.  I place all my hope in You, O gracious Master:  Hear my humble prayer, through Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns together with You unto ages of ages.  Amen.
 
PRAYER AT THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE
 
Master, Lord, immaculate Creator of all, in Your love for mankind You created woman from Adam's rib and blessed them, saying:  Be fruitful, multiply and conquer the earth.  You joined the two into one body and commanded that no man separate that which You had joined tighter.  Look down from heaven, O compassionate Father, and behold the grief and pain which have fallen upon my heart and soul as I behold my separation today from the one whom You, O Lord, gave to be my husband (wife) and my support in this life.  Show Your loving-kindness to me, O merciful Lord, at this hour which is so difficult for my soul to endure.  Lord, Jesus Christ, comforter of those who mourn, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of You, saying that You would come to heal those whose hearts were crushed.  Be my comforter and hear me as I raise my voice to You with faith.  I pray, O gracious King, forgive whatever sins my husband (wife) committed in this life; whether by word, deed, or thought, knowingly or unknowingly.  Receive the soul of Your servant, O Lord, in Your eternal heavenly kingdom, among the dwelling of the saints.  At Your proper time, grant that my soul, which longs for that kingdom, may also dwell in that holy place where, once again, our souls shall meet and, together, offer glory and praise to Your all-holy name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.
 
PRAYER AT THE DEATH OF A PARENT
 
O Lord, You heard Joseph grieving over the death of his father, Jacob, as he wept and kissed him.  Your own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, also knew of the love of a mother, for as He suffered upon the cross, He beheld His Mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near her, and He said, Woman, behold your son.  And to the disciple He said, Behold your mother.  Good Master, look down from heaven and see the pain and grief which have laid hold of my heart and soul today.  Be merciful to me, Your servant, and receive the prayer which is offered to You by a child who has lost his beloved father (mother).  Forgive whatever sins he (she) has willingly or unwillingly committed, whether by word, deed or thought.  Merciful Master, hear the grieving voice of one who has been taught to turn to You with true faith in times of need, and to raise my eyes and voice to You.  Show Your mercy, O Lord, and grant rest to my father (mother), making him (her) a partaker of Your eternal blessings and granting him (her) a place at Your right hand, for blessed and glorified are You unto all ages.  Amen.
 
Prayers found in the Orthodox Prayer Book published by New Varatic Publishing, Holy Protection Monastery, Lake George, Colorado.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Overthrow of the chiefest terror

 
Death itself, which once was man’s chiefest terror, has been overthrown, and now that which was once the object of hate and loathing is preferred to life.  These are the achievements of Christ’s presence:  these are the tokens of His power.  For it was not one people that He saved, as when through Moses He divided the sea and delivered Israel out of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh (cf Exodus 14:16); no, rather He rescued all mankind from the corruption of death and the bitter tyranny of sin:  not leading them by force to virtue, not overwhelming them with earth or burning them with fire, or ordering the sinners to be stoned, but persuading men by gentleness and long-suffering to choose virtue and vie with one another and find pleasure in the struggle to attain it. 



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blessed Feast of the Holy Dormition



An extract from the encomia (hymns of praise) by St. Hierotheos who was physically present at Panagia’s Dormition: 

When was such a wonder of wonders ever seen by men?  How does the Queen of all lie breathless?  How has the Mother of Jesus reposed?  Thou, O Virgin, wast the preaching of the prophets; thou art heralded by us.  All the people venerate thee; the angels glorify thee.  Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee, and through thee, with us.  With Gabriel we hymn thee, with the angels we glorify thee; and with the prophets we praise thee, for they announced thee. 

Habakkum beheld thee as an overshadowed mountain, for thou art covered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Daniel beheld thee as a mountain from whom, seedlessly, the solid and strong King, the Christ, issued forth.  Jacob saw thee as a ladder upon Whom Christ came down to eat and drink with us.  And although we, His slaves, contemplate ascending into the heavens, yet thou hast ascended before all.  Rejoice, O Virgin, for Gideon beheld thee as a fleece.  David saw thee as the virgin daughter of the King.  Isaias called thee Mother of God and Ezekiel a gate.  All the prophets prophesied thee! 

What shall we call thee, O Virgin?  Paradise.  It is meet, for thou hast blossomed forth the flower of incorruption, Christ, Who is the sweet-smelling fragrance for the souls of men.  Virgin?  Verily, a virgin thou art, for without the seed of man thou gavest birth to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Thou wast a virgin before birth and virgin at birth and still a virgin after.  Shall we call thee Mother?  This is meet too; for as a Mother thou gavest birth to Christ the King of all.  Shall we name thee Heaven?  This thou art also for upon thee rose the Sun of righteousness.  Wherefore, rejoice O Virgin, and hasten to thy Son’s rest and dwell in the tents of His beloved.  Hasten there and make ready a palace and remember us and all thy people also, too.  O Lady Mother of God, for both we and thyself are of the race of Adam.  On account of this, intercede on our behalf; for this supplicate thy Son Whom thou hast held in thine embrace, and help us in our preaching and then afterwards that we may find rest in our hopes.  Go forward, O Virgin from earth to heaven, from corruption to incorruption, from the sorrow of this world to the joy of the Kingdom of the heavens, from this perishable earth to the everlasting Heaven.  Hasten, O Virgin to the heavenly light, to the hymns of the angels, to the glory of the saints from all the ages.  Hasten, O Virgin, to the place of thy Son, to His Kingdom, to His power, where the angels chant, the prophets glorify and the Archangels hymn the Mother of the King, who is the lit lampstand, wider than the heavens, the firmament above, the protection of Christians, and the mediatress of our race.”   

Thus, with these words of praise he bid farewell and embraced the body of the all-holy one, the Panagia.   



Above text from The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, CO  pp 476-77.  Originally sourced from The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church (in Greek), see footnote 134, pg 592, in The Life of the Virgin Mary for greater detail.  



Slide show of the Dormition Feast at the tomb of the Theotokos in the Garden of Gethsemane:  http://www.demotix.com/news/1731093/greek-orthodox-feast-assumption-dormition#media-1730883

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love the sinner, hate the sin

Who hated sin more than the saints?  But they did not hate the sinners at the same time, nor condemn them, nor turn away from them.  But they suffered with them, admonished them, comforted them, gave them remedies as sickly members, and did all they could to heal them. 

 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Sane Family in an Insane World

Beloved readers,

Today I would like to share with you an essay which appeared on the Discerning Thoughts blog recently.  It is titled, A Sane Family in an Insane World:  https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/a-sane-family-in-an-insane-world/

Pres. Candace

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The process for resolving problems

[A]s soon as our thoughts begin to oppress us, we must turn to God; and take to Him our cares and the cares of our neighbor.  I always take my problems - and the problems of those who come to me for advice - to the Lord and His Most Holy Mother for them to resolve.  And that is what they do.  As for me, I cannot even help myself.  How then can I help anyone else? 

Monday, August 5, 2013

If you can invest about an hour in behalf of your soul's health


you will receive a blessing by listening to this talk:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it3VL0C9QDI 

The video features Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, a monk from the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England and a disciple of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, speaking on the topic Human Relationships in the Light of Christ. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Seven Holy Sleepers of Ephesus

Entry below is found here:  http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2011/08/holy-seven-youths-of-ephesus.html

The Holy Seven Youths of Ephesus
The Holy Seven Youths and Martyrs of Ephesus - Commemorated on August 4 and October 22 (http://www.korners.com.ua/russian/painters/912)


"The Seven Youths of Ephesus: Maximilian, Iamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus (Constantine) and Antoninus, lived in the third century. St Maximilian was the son of the Ephesus city administrator, and the other six youths were sons of illustrious citizens of Ephesus. The youths were friends from childhood, and all were in military service together.

When the emperor Decius (249-251) arrived in Ephesus, he commanded all the citizens to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Torture and death awaited anyone who disobeyed. The seven youths were denounced by informants, and were summoned to reply to the charges. Appearing before the emperor, the young men confessed their faith in Christ.

Their military belts and insignia were quickly taken from them. Decius permitted them to go free, however, hoping that they would change their minds while he was off on a military campaign. The youths fled from the city and hid in a cave on Mount Ochlon, where they passed their time in prayer, preparing for martyrdom.

The youngest of them, St Iamblicus, dressed as a beggar and went into the city to buy bread. On one of his excursions into the city, he heard that the emperor had returned and was looking for them. St Maximilian urged his companions to come out of the cave and present themselves for trial.

Learning where the young men were hidden, the emperor ordered that the entrance of the cave be sealed with stones so that the saints would perish from hunger and thirst. Two of the dignitaries at the blocked entrance to the cave were secret Christians. Desiring to preserve the memory of the saints, they placed in the cave a sealed container containing two metal plaques. On them were inscribed the names of the seven youths and the details of their suffering and death.

The Lord placed the youths into a miraculous sleep lasting almost two centuries. In the meantime, the persecutions against Christians had ceased. During the reign of the holy emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450) there were heretics who denied that there would be a general resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of them said, "How can there be a resurrection of the dead when there will be neither soul nor body, since they are disintegrated?" Others affirmed, "The souls alone will have a restoration, since it would be impossible for bodies to arise and live after a thousand years, when even their dust would not remain." Therefore, the Lord revealed the mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead and of the future life through His seven saints.

The owner of the land on which Mount Ochlon was situated, discovered the stone construction, and his workers opened up the entrance to the cave. The Lord had kept the youths alive, and they awoke from their sleep, unaware that almost two hundred years had passed. Their bodies and clothing were completely undecayed.

Preparing to accept torture, the youths once again asked St Iamblicus to buy bread for them in the city. Going toward the city, the youth was astonished to see a cross on the gates. Hearing the name of Jesus Christ freely spoken, he began to doubt that he was approaching his own city.

When he paid for the bread, Iamblicus gave the merchant coins with the image of the emperor Decius on it. He was detained, as someone who might be concealing a horde of old money. They took St Iamblicus to the city administrator, who also happened to be the Bishop of Ephesus. Hearing the bewildering answers of the young man, the bishop perceived that God was revealing some sort of mystery through him, and went with other people to the cave.

At the entrance to the cave the bishop found the sealed container and opened it. He read upon the metal plaques the names of the seven youths and the details of the sealing of the cave on the orders of the emperor Decius. Going into the cave and seeing the saints alive, everyone rejoiced and perceived that the Lord, by waking them from their long sleep, was demonstrating to the Church the mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead.

Soon the emperor himself arrived in Ephesus and spoke with the young men in the cave. Then the holy youths, in sight of everyone, lay their heads upon the ground and fell asleep again, this time until the General Resurrection.

The emperor wanted to place each of the youths into a jeweled coffin, but they appeared to him in a dream and said that their bodies were to be left upon the ground in the cave. In the twelfth century the Russian pilgrim Igumen Daniel saw the holy relics of the seven youths in the cave.

There is a second commemoration of the seven youths on October 22. According to one tradition, which entered into the Russian PROLOGUE (of Saints' Lives), the youths fell asleep for the second time on this day. The Greek MENAION of 1870 says that they first fell asleep on August 4, and woke up on October 22.

There is a prayer of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in the GREAT BOOK OF NEEDS (Trebnik) for those who are ill and cannot sleep. The Seven Sleepers are also mentioned in the service for the Church New Year, September 1."
(http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102195)


HYMN OF PRAISE: THE SEVEN HOLY YOUTHS OF EPHESUS
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
When the last rays of the sun turned the west bloody red,
Seven Youths, to God prayed,
That, on the morrow again find themselves alive and healthy,
Before Emperor Decius, brought forth to torture.
And lay down to sleep a long dream, a deep dream,
Time walked by a wide step.
One morning, from the east, the sun dawned
And the Seven from their deep sleep awakened.
And Jamblichus the youngest, to Ephesus hurried
To see, to hear, about everything he inquired,
Does Decius, even them, seek to slaughter,
And bread to buy for the Seven of them.
But behold, what kind of miracle: this is not the gate!
And even the town is totally different!
Everywhere, beautiful churches, domes, crosses,
Jamblichus asks himself: are those not dreams?
Nowhere a familiar face, nowhere kinsmen,
There are no persecutions; there are no martyrs.
"Tell me brethren, the name of this town,
And tell me the name of the emperor, who now reigns?"
Thus Jamblichus inquires. The people, at him, look,
And about him, everyone judges differently.
"This town is Ephesus, now and before,
In Christ, reigns Emperor Theodosius."
This Antipater [The Consul] heard and [Martin] the graying bishop,
The entire town was perplexed,
Everyone, to the cave hurries.
And saw the miracle, glorified God,
And the resurrected servants of Christ the Resurrected One.


Prayer from the Great Euchologion "For One Who Is Ill And Cannot Sleep"

Priest: Let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: O God, Great, Praised, Incomprehensible and Ineffable, Who didst fashion man with Thy hands, taking dust from the earth, and Who didst honor him with Thine Image, O Jesus Christ, Most-desired Name, together with Thy Father Who is without beginning, and Thy Most-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Spirit: Do Thou manifest unto Thy servant, N., and visit him (her) in soul and body, being entreated by our most-glorious Sovereign Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary; by the holy Bodiless Powers of Heaven; by the honorable and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; by the holy, glorious and all-praised Apostles; by the holy, glorious and right-victorious Martyrs; by our Fathers among the Saints and ecumenical Teachers: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom; by Athanasius and Cyril, Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, Cyril and Methodius, Teachers of the Slavs, Spyridon the Wonderworker, and all the holy Hierarchs; by the holy Apostle, Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen; by the holy, glorious Greatmartyrs: George the Trophy-bearer, Demetrius the Myrrgusher, Theodore Stratelates, and all the holy Martyrs; by our Venerable and Godbearing Fathers: Anthony, Euthymius, Savvas the Sanctified, Theodosius (Founder of the Common Life), Onouphrius, Arsenius, Athanasius the Athonite, and all the Venerable Ones; by the holy Unmercenary Physicians: Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Panteleimon and Hermalaeus, Samson and Diomedes, Thalelaeus and Tryphon, and all the rest; by Saint(s), N. (of the Day); and by all Thy Saints; and grant unto him (her) a peaceful sleep, the sleep of bodily health and salvation, and life and strength of soul and body, as once Thou didst visit Abimelech, Thy favorite, in the house of Agrippa, and gavest him the consolation of sleep, that he not see the Fall of Jerusalem, and having nourished him with sleep, didst raise him up again in the twinkling of an eye, to the glory of Thy goodness; and as Thou didst make manifest Thy holy glorious Seven Youths, confessors and witnesses of Thine Appearance in the days of the Emperor Decius and the Apostate, having sustained them in the cave for 372 years[1], as infants kept warm in their own mother's womb, none having endured corruption, to the praise and glory of Thy love for mankind, and for a testimony and confession of our regeneration and the resurrection of all. Do Thou Thyself, therefore, O Lover of Mankind and King, be present now also with the infusion of Thy Holy Spirit, and visit Thy servant, N., and grant unto him (her) health, strength and power, by Thy grace, for with Thee every action is good, and every gift is perfect. For Thou art the Physician of our souls and bodies, and unto Thee do we send up glory, thanksgiving and worship, together with Thy Father Who is without beginning, and Thy Most-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
1. It was actually about 184 years.
From The Great Book of Needs (vol. III), St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 2002, pp. 4-5.
(http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2011/08/prayer-of-holy-seven-youths-for-one-who.html)

Picture of the Cave of the Seven Youths of Ephesus ("Cave of the Seven Sleepers") as it appears today. Note: according to tradition, this cave was also the original burial place of St. Mary Magdalene (see here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2011/07/st-mary-magdalene-myrrh-bearer-and_24.html) (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-B3C9RC_M-xQ/TghFARsVfLI/AAAAAAAAADU/PpAAMxokP6U/s1600/Siebenschl%25C3%25A4ferKircheEphesus.jpg)


Holy Seven Youths of Ephesus, Troparion, in Tone IV
In their sufferings, O Lord,/ Thy martyrs received imperishable crowns from Thee, our God;/ for, possessed of Thy might,/ they set at nought the tormentors and crushed the feeble audacity of the demons.// Through their supplications save Thou our souls.

Or this troparion, in the same tone
Great is the wonder of faith!/ The seven holy youths abode in the cave/ as in a royal chamber,/ and died without falling into corruption;/ and after much time they arose as from sleep,/ as an assurance of the resurrection of all men.// Through their supplications, O Christ God, have mercy on us.

Kontakion, in Tone IV, "Having been lifted up..."
Spurning the corrupt things of this world and accepting gifts of incorruption,/ though they died yet did they remain untouched by corruption./ Wherefore, they arose after many years,/ burying all the unbelief of the wicked.// O ye faithful, praising them today in laudation, let us hymn Christ!

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!