Orthodox Thought for the Day


Friday, October 28, 2016

Holy Networking

No, it’s not an exclamation.  Instead, it’s a request for action. 

In short, would you help us, please? 

Fr. Nektarios is trying to round up 1000 seed packets to take to Kosovo on November 14.  Right now we have 614 packets.  Do any of you have a relationship with a local plant nursery or with gardening friends who might have be willing to donate seed packets for humanitarian relief?  Would you be willing to do some “holy networking” to find out?  This is, of course, to benefit the recipients of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund. 

Recently, a kind request to a nursery from a parishioner in New England yielded a gift of 100 seed packets.  If nurseries learn that the seeds are going to feed people who might otherwise go hungry, they are often willing to make a donation.  They would prefer to have new packets of seeds to sell in the spring than ones left over from the previous year.  Will you help with this humanitarian aid request for Serbian families &  monasteries in Kosovo, beloveds?  All it might take is a little “holy  networking.” 

Please mail seeds to arrive by the end of the first week of November, if possible.  Fr. Nektarios boards the plane on November 14.

God bless & reward you, our benefactors! 

Thank you so much,
Presbytera Candace
DMRF Board Member 

Mail seeds to:     
Decani Monastery Relief Fund
Very Rev. Nektarios Serfes
2618 W. Bannock Street
Boise, ID   83702

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A resource for readers

I would like to let you all know about a professional on-line counseling service offered by someone I know and respect, John Garner.  John’s been a licensed, professional counselor for about 30 years and he is also a devout Orthodox Christian.  So, if you are looking (or know someone who is looking) for a counselor or life coach, please visit his site to learn morehttps://counselorcobblerjohn.com/  Be sure to check out his video on the “About Me” page. 


God’s peace,
Presbytera Candace

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Bible is like a garden

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16.  The soul, therefore, gains great advantage from the reading of the Bible.   

Like a tree planted by streams of water, Psalms 1:3, the soul is irrigated by the Bible and acquires vigor, produces tasty fruit, namely, true faith, and is beautified with a thousand green leaves, namely, actions that please God. 

The Bible in fact, leads us towards pure holiness and holy actions.  In it we find encouragement to all the virtues and the warning to flee from evil. 

The Bible is a scented garden, delightful, beautiful.  It enchants our ears with birdsong in a sweet, divine and spiritual harmony, it touches our heart, comforts us in sorrow, soothes us in a moment of anger, and fills us with eternal joy.   

Let us knock at its gate with diligence and with perseverance.  Let us not be discouraged from knocking.  The latch will be opened. 

If we have read a page of the Bible two or three times and have not understood it, let us not be tired of re-reading it and meditating on it.  Let us seek in the fountain of this garden, a spring of water welling up to eternal life, John 4:14.  We shall taste a joy that will never dry up, because the grace of the Bible garden is inexhaustible.   

Thinking about gardens and bees, here is a short message from former bee keeper, Matushka Nina: 

Another great patron of bees and beekeepers is St. John the Baptist. We had an outdoor icon of him in our bee yard.  Every year on the feast of Mid-Pentecost, when gardens and orchards are blessed, he also would bless the bee yard.  And also St. Spyridon would be one, as he is always depicted wearing a beekeeper’s hat in icons.


Some people have undertaken a project of planting a Bible Garden.  You can find photos of these beautiful gardens on-line.  The book below is useful for getting your own Bible Garden going:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Found: Patron Saints for Bee Keepers

St Ambrose of Milan is considered to be the patron saint of beekeepers (+ December 7).  In the life of the saint it is mentioned that when he was an infant a swarm of bees settled in his mouth, said to be a sign he would become a great orator. His preaching was reported to "sound as sweet as flowing honey" which earned him the alternative moniker of the "Honey-Tongued Doctor." 

Sincere thanks to Carmen, who provided the information above.

Vasiliki writes that Deacon George, who is a bee keeper, honors St. Haralambos as a Patron Saint for those who tend bees: 


Both Ss. Haralambos and Ambrose were mentioned as Patrons for bee keepers in the comments section of The Blessing of Bees article.  It’s very nice to see both Saints being put forth by readers as Patrons for bee keepers.  God bless and maintain the bee population and those who help keep God’s creatures healthy and viable on the earth!

Meet St. Gobnait, whose icon was recently written by Ortho Thought reader, Vicki Kendall.  Thank you for sharing this piece of sacred art with us.  

There are a few sources on line with reference to St. Gobnait.  This basic one https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gobnait has a photo of a statue of the Saint found in Ireland.  If you zero in on the details, you will see the bees at the base of the statue. 
Thanks to all of you who submitted info on Bee Keeping Saints in the Orthodox Christian tradition!

On the Blessing of Bees

This is a very  neat page from Fr. Ted’s blog regarding bees and the blessing of bees:  https://frted.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/the-blessing-of-the-bees/

Does anyone know if there is an Orthodox Patron Saint for bee keepers?  One of our readers would like to know.  I see that some names are suggested in the article comments—if anyone else knows more, please write and let me know in return.

Thank you,
Presbytera Candace

Perseverance above all

St. Jerome wrote, "Christians will not be asked how they began but, rather, how they finished.  St. Paul began badly, but finished well.  Judas's beginning was praiseworthy, but his end was despicable.”

St. Gregory said, "You live a good life in vain if you do not continue it until you die."  And, "The value of good work depends on perseverance." 

And, to St. Isidore it is attributed, "Our behavior is only acceptable to God if we have the strength of purpose to complete any work we have undertaken."  And, “The reward is not promised to the one who begins, but rather to the one who perseveres.”

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Blessings worth sharing--you've made it possible!



How often do you receive a request for prayer or a financial appeal and then hear nothing afterwards?  Are you ever curious to know what your prayers or financial gifts are doing?  Are they making a difference?  How would you know?   

As an Orthodox Priest and President of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, I feel a special obligation to let you know what your prayers and gifts have accomplished over the past year.  Be assured--God is great, even in difficult circumstances, such as daily life for the Orthodox Christians of Kosovo and Metohija.   

Earlier this year, I asked for your assistance in purchasing a much needed ambulance for the hospital in Osojane.  I can joyfully say that the hospital now has a fully equipped ambulance!  It was recently purchased in Germany and driven back to Kosovo.  Its arrival was met with a great deal of relief and thanksgiving!

Fr. Isaiah & new ambulance 
The ambulance was actually purchased by a single donor!  This allowed all the funds given previously for that purpose to be used to purchase other long desired necessities—appliances, in particular.  The Fund purchased needed appliances for families as well as for a local monastery.  The joy of the receivers filled our own hearts with much gladness—thanks be to God!


The DMRF continues to provide basic necessities routinely—food, toiletries and the like for approximately 200 families.  One of the women served is shown here with a box of provisions.  Her gratitude is evident in her smile. 


In addition, the DMRF has purchased chain saws, tractors and farm animals (to replace those too often stolen).  And, we offer assistance to meet electric bills for families and monasteries which simply don’t have the financial resources to meet them.
Many of you helped provide seeds last fall for spring planting.  This project was a great success!  Families, monasteries and soup kitchens are all better supplied this fall than they were the last.  I’ve been asked to thank all of you who generously sent seed packets for our Christian brethren.  Last year I carried 1,000 packets with me to Kosovo and I hope to do it again when I travel there next month.

Fr. Nektarios & friend in Kosovo

 Yes, I am, by the mercy of God and with His blessing and help, traveling to Kosovo in mid-November.  I plan to leave the USA on November 14, returning home on the 30th.   

I ask your prayers.  My desire is to bless and be blessed in the process of this humanitarian trip.  Truly, it is hard to go and hard to return.  What God provides me is spiritual profit and heartfelt joy as consolation.  And I carry you all in my heart.   

I count it a privilege to make the journey and to represent the DMRF of which you are part.  Without you, there is no Decani Monastery Relief Fund.  There is nothing tangible to give to bring hope, love and inspiration to those living in difficult circumstancesSo, thank you, dear brothers and sisters!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from every Serbian heart which receives blessings from the Fund.

As I prepare for this trip, there are ways to help make it happen.  Here are my requests before God and you, His vessels of love: 

·       Unopened seed packets.  Preferably organic seeds.  Seeds for quick growing produce, high yielding summer produce and fall produce that can help sustain people throughout the cold winter months.  We have already received a gift of 400 organic seed packets from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont.  And word has just come in that Johnny's Seeds, of Maine, will be helping us as well.  God bless those who’ve made this possible!  Can we, among us, come up with a few hundred more seed packets to reach the 1,000 packet goal by the first week of November?  May God abundantly bless this endeavor once more!  

·       The structure of the Decani Fund does not allow for the use of funds for personal travel.  I have asked our Lord for assistance in meeting travel expenses:  plane fare to and from Belgrade and the cost of one night each way in a hotel in Belgrade for both arrival and departure.  Total anticipated cost is: $1,400.00.  Any donations made toward this effort are gratefully received—it does not matter the amount given.  Any amount given over and above the request will be changed into Euros and distributed to families when I reach Kosovo.  God knows what is needed and He has always provided for this need through His faithful servants. 

Would you help me?  Can you send seed packets?  Can you help with trip expenses?  Will you continue to open your hearts and receive God’s blessing in the process?  I have confidence in you—as do the fathers of the Decani Monastery and the faithful who, without knowing you, bless and love you from the heart. 

Unopened seed packets and any donations for travel expenses can be sent to: 

Very Reverend Nektarios Serfes
Ss. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702

If you have any questions about the DMRF, please call me:  208-860-2479

God love and bless you!
+Fr. Nektarios Serfes


Thursday, October 6, 2016

On the quandary of voting


Apart from the election of a new president here in the United States, there appear to be at least two particular reasons for Christians to vote this November.  Neither seem to get much attention in the media, but both seem crucial for consideration:   

(1)  Supreme Court judges are expected to be appointed during next administration.  We, our children, grand-children and/or Godchildren will live with the consequences of the ideologies of the appointees and judgments handed down.  The possible implications for the future should be prayerfully weighed. 

(2)  This is an election for more than presidential candidates.  There are upstanding Christ loving men and women who are invested in upholding existing laws and improving various facets of the government who are seeking to be elected/re-elected to various offices across the United States.  Seek out those running in your locale if you don’t already know and give them your support.  Not every potential public servant is in the arena for the wrong reasons. 

When I think of the future of the United States, and the mercies and blessings that have comprised my own life as an American citizen for 60 years, I am brought to tears by the current state of affairs.  The Old Testament verse (II Chronicles 7:14) is something that I am clinging to and I hope all readers will cling to and practice faithfully as we move forward in uncertain and vulnerable times.  It is necessary to be both salt and light for the culture in which we live (Matt 5:13-16).  Humility, repentance, prayer—and doing what you can to keep evil in check as Edmund Burke so aptly wrote above.   



With love in Christ,
Presbytera Candace

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why are there so many "bad" people in Church?

Repentance. Photo: Alexander Osokin    

I often have to hear how people say about our Church, “You know, I don’t go to your church and won’t go, because it’s like a train station there—who don’t you see there? It would be alright if they were good people, but they’re not! I met one of them. Do you know what sort of man he is? And that girl is not any better. I won’t even mention the rest. And they go to services, cross themselves and don’t even blush…”

Why are there so many unfortunate, wretched, broken lives, strange and simply bad people in the Church, while the saints and righteous ones are hardly to be found? This scandalizes and turns away many.

But this is in fact the most remarkable thing, that there are only sick people all around! It means that you have come to the right place. It means that everything you have read in the Gospels and heard about Christ is true.

Who did the Lord take to heaven first? The repentant thief. Publicans, harlots, lepers, and the demonically possessed came to Him from all around. Not the righteous. The sick. All the rest had no time for Him. There were just fine without Him.

Just fine, without God. The Gospel calls this state death. Because the soul without God is a dead soul.

People are always confusing the Heavenly Church with the earthly Church. From this comes the misunderstanding, doubts, and confusion. All the saints and righteous ones are there, in the Kingdom of Heaven. But here on earth, the Church is a hospital for sins, spiritual illnesses and death. In our Church there is only one who is absolutely healthy, pure, perfect, and sinless. He is our Lord and God Jesus Christ. And it is by His power that the Church is delivered, treated, and cured.

Why is it that when we see sick, lame, and coughing people in an ordinary hospital no one gets the desire to point to his temples, turn heel and run? That is why it is a hospital, so that the sick would come and be healed. This is even more true for the Church, where it is not the body being healed, but the eternal soul. That sick people come with terrible wounds and diseases testifies to the power of the doctor they are seeking. Sinners who have resolved to be delivered from their sins and death testify to Christ.

Photo: Ivan Zhuk  

And when I look at people in church, my heart is filled with joy, because the Lord is here, with us, and He is healing. Sometimes people themselves don’t know why they go to church. The pain itself, the wounds that won’t stop gnawing at their hearts lead them here. Then suddenly, it all goes away. Without understanding the services, in general vaguely understanding what is going on, the person suddenly feels that he is now better. He—that is he, the heart—his heart, though just recently bleeding it is now peaceful and well. People can lie, books can deceive, but your own heart tells the truth. And this is the most remarkable thing that you can feel in the Church.

Denis Akhalashvili
Translation by OrthoChristian.com

04 / 03 / 2015

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Oct 2--Honoring the Memories of Ss. Cyprian & Justina

I never tire of drawing yearly attention to Ss. Cyprian and Justina during October.  I believe they are truly Saints for our current age, Saints for this time of the year, and Saints for this day, of course!    

This year as I read their account I was struck with the thought that there is no “neo paganism.”  The account of these Saints is nearly 1800 years old!  There is nothing new under the sun.  We read of the same old demonic tricks that are repackaged and recycled through the generations.  Let’s learn from Cyprian’s experience and what parallels can be made with what we see in contemporary society. 

Anyone who has dabbled in dark arts or read books that describe the kind of “talents” that Cyprian was given by the prince of darkness before his conversion to Orthodoxy will recognize that there is genuine power available to practicers of sorcery in all its forms.  That power is sourced from the demonic realm.  However, demonic power is impotent power when confronted with the power of Christ.  

 Learn about Cyprian, an authentic individual from the third century, who abandoned all the dark arts and became a Saint of God.  Let us call upon him and St. Justina in faith and appreciate what this account reveals to us.  Presbytera Candace

October 2--Demonic arts abandoned

Here below is a short life of Saints Cyprian and Justina celebrated on October 2 each year. Cyprian was once a sorcerer and converted to Orthodox Christianity in the third century.

By reading the lives of the Saints below, parents and young people can reckon that the phenomenon of sorcerers is not something that is pure fantasy found in fiction books only. It is real power energized by demonic forces, but not power that is greater than that offered by God Himself, to Whom the demons are subject and tremble. Note the power of the making of the sign of the Cross in this account...

Lives of Saints for Young People   


Saints Cyprian and Justina

In the reign of the pagan emperor Decius (249-251), there lived in the city of Antioch in Asia Minor a famous philosopher and magician whose name was Cyprian. His parents were pagan and when he was still a child, they sent him to study sorcery and demonic wisdom. Cyprian learned all sorts of evil tricks which he was able to perform with the help of demons. He could send diseases upon people, produce thunder, cause damage to crops, and finally he even learned how to call forth the dead from the graves and force them to speak by means of various magic spells. He became a great sorcerer, magician and destroyer of souls. God had given him a good mind, but Cyprian used all his knowledge to serve evil. He became the faithful slave of the prince of darkness.

Returning to Antioch, it was not long before Cyprian was teaching others how to perform evil tricks: some he taught to fly in the air, others to sail in boats on the clouds, still others to walk on water. By the pagans he was greatly honored as a chief priest and most wise servant of their horrid gods. The prince of darkness himself, as Cyprian later related, spoke with him face-to-face and praised him for his obedience, promising to help him in everything during his earthly life. Cyprian described how he saw the prince of darkness sitting on a throne and surrounded by a countless number of evil spirits.

Through his wicked way of life, Cyprian had already placed himself in the jaws of the devil. But the Lord Who, in His great love for mankind, desires that all men be saved, wished also to save Cyprian. And He did this in the following way...

There lived in Antioch at that time a certain maiden named Justina who had chosen Christ as her bridegroom. She served Him with her whole heart, with fervent prayer and a pure life. Seeing her virtuous life, the devil, the hater of mankind, became angry and began to do her harm.
In the same city there lived a young man named Aglaias who was very rich and led a very worldly life of pleasure. Once it happened that he saw Justina as she was going to church and he was struck by her beauty.

By evil trickery, the evil one planted in his heart shameful feelings towards the maiden. Aglaias, burning with passion, tried by every means to win the love of Justina, and thereby deceive her into falling into sin with him. But Justina firmly resisted for she had already chosen Christ as her bridegroom. Finally, unable to deceive her himself, Aglaias asked Cyprian to help him, promising him much gold and silver if he should succeed.

Cyprian called on one of the evil spirits who proudly said that he should have no trouble implanting the same impure thoughts into the heart of Justina. The next night, when Justina was praying, she noticed that some wicked thoughts had entered her head and she felt as though her body were possessed by a sinful attraction for Aglaias. Recognizing that this was caused by the evil schemes of the devil, she only increased her prayers. This put the demon to shame and he was forced to flee. The inward battle stopped and Justina glorified God and sang a song of victory.

Then Cyprian sent a more powerful demon. But, he, too, was unable to overcome the maiden. Finally the prince of darkness himself, disguised as a woman, came to Justina and tried to deceive her using words of Scripture. But Justina saw that this, too, was the work of the devil. She protected herself with the sign of the Cross and the wicked one immediately vanished in great shame.

Seeing how powerless even the prince of darkness was against Justina, Cyprian became angry and demanded to know what weapon the maiden used against them. The devil admitted: "We cannot behold the sign of the Cross, but flee from it because it scorches us like fire and banishes us far away."

Having become convinced that nothing could conquer the power of the sign of the cross and the name of Christ, Cyprian came to his senses and said to the devil, "O destroyer and deceiver of all. Now I have discovered your true weakness; woe is me. For, I, too, have been deceived. Get away from me, you wretched one." Angered by these words, the devil threw himself at Cyprian in order to kill him. But Cyprian protected himself with the sign of the Cross and the devil immediately leaped away from him like an arrow shot from a bow.

Fully realizing his sins, Cyprian went to the Christian bishop and begged him to give him holy baptism. He then gave him all his books of magic to be burned. Seeing his genuine repentance, the bishop baptized him and burned his books in front of all the believing people. Cyprian completely changed his life and began to work not only for his own salvation, but also to help others. Soon he was made a bishop and Justina became the abbess of a convent. The devil was angry at this betrayal of one of his former servants. He inspired the pagan rulers with the idea that Cyprian and Justina were their enemies because they were leading people away from the pagan gods to the worship of Christ. Many deceived pagans went to the governor and demanded that Cyprian and Justina be put to death. After they had bravely withstood many tortures, these two servants of the true God were beheaded with a sword. The devil had thought to destroy Cyprian and Justina, but instead, they had gained crowns of martyrdom and eternal life with Christ our God, to Whom be glory and honor forever. Amen.

(The above was adapted from the Life of Saints Cyprian and Justina, The Orthodox Word, Vol.XII, 5)

One can always invoke the prayers of Saints Cyprian and Justina against the darkness of this contemporary age. Two sources for icons of these Saints are www.orthodoxmonasteryicons.com and www.skete.com.  If you would like the Akathist prayers to St. Cyprian, please write to me and I will send you a copy for personal use (not to be copied or sold).  Pres. C.