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Saint Cosmas Of Aitolos- Teachings

November 7, 2009 Leave a comment

GetImageDetail.asp“Among the religious figures who have appeared among the Greeks during the past two centuries, none has been as universally acclaimed as Cosmas of Aitolos (1714-1779). In addition to being given the tile “Equal to the apostles,’ he is numbered among the “Teachers of the Nation”.

The following are the Apolytikion, Kontakion, and Megalynarion to St. Cosmas, and his feast day is commemorated in the Orthodox Church on August 24th.


APOLYTIKION

By teaching the Divine Faith, thou hast richly adorned the Church and become a zealous emulator of the Apostles; for having been lifted up by the wings of divine love, that hast spread far and wide the message of the Gospel. O glorious Cosmas, entreat God that He grants us His great mercy.


KONTAKION

Having led an irreproachable life on Athos, like Moses thou hast been deemed worthy of God’s manifestation; wherefore truly thou dost gladden the Church exceedingly by thy deeds and thy God-inspired words, O Father Cosmas, having contended for which, thou hast been adorned with a double crown.


MEGALYNARION

Rejoice thou emulator of the Apostles, teacher and luminary of the Church; rejoice thou divine cultivator of piety, associate of Martyrs and peer of Angels.



GOD

It is proper to begin our teaching with God, and when we finish it to thank God – not that I am worthy to mention and utter the name of God, but I am sure that God suffers me to do so through His great and infinite compassion.

God, the all-good and most merciful, my brethren, is one, and whoever says that there are many Gods is a devil.

He is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; yet one nature, one glory, one kingdom, one God. He is all light, all joy, all compassion, all love. This All-holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship.

He is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is not we along that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-holy Trinity.

Again, out of their love for the Holy Trinity men and women as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as many lived in the world with temperance and virginity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving and other practices; and all went to Paradise and rejoice forever.


LOVE

If we want to fare well in this life and to go to Paradise, and to call our God love and father, we must have two loves: the love for God and the love for our neighbor.

It is natural for us to have these two loves, and contrary to nature not have them. Just as a swallow needs two wings in order to fly in the air, so we need these two loves, because without them we cannot be saved. Let us have love for God and for our fellow men. Then God comes and brings us joy and implants the eternal life in our hearts, and we fare well in this life and also go to Paradise, there to rejoice forever.

Fortunate is the man who has these two loves in his heart, that for God and that for his brethren. He surely has God; and whoever has God has every blessing and does not bear to commit sin. Again, wretched is the man who does not have these two loves. Surely he has the devil and evil, and always sins.

God, my brethren, asks us to have these two loves. As He Himself says in His Holy Gospel: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets.” Through these two loves all the Saints of our Church, men and women, attained sainthood and won Paradise. Whoever has blessed love, firstly for God and secondly for his fellow Christian, becomes worthy of receiving the Holy Trinity in his heart. If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.

Know my brethren that love has two characteristics, two gifts. One of them is to strengthen man in what is good and the other is to weaken him in what is evil. I have a loaf of bread to eat; you do not have. Love tells me: Do not eat it alone, give some to your brethren and you eat the rest. I have clothes; love tells me: Give one garment to your brother and you wear the other one. I open my mouth to accuse you, to tell you lies, to decieve you; but at once I remember love and it deadens my mouth, and does not allow me to tell you lies. I stretch out my hands to take what belongs to you, your money, all your possessions. Love does not allow me to take them.

Do you see, my brethren, what gifts love has? Those of you who earn your bread by means of your toil and sweat should rejoice, because that bread is blessed; and if you give a little of it as alms it is reckoned as much. But those who live by means of injustice and grasping should mourn, for what you thus acquire is cursed; and if you give alms out of these they do not benefit you at all, being fire that consumes you.

The Martyrs won Paradise through their blood; the Ascetics, through their ascetic life. Now you, my brethren, who have children, how will you win Paradise? By means of hospitality, by giving to your brothers who are poor, blind, or lame.


HUMILITY

The Christian needs two wings in order to soar upward and attain Paradise: humility and love. When the first order of angels fell from angelic glory and became demons, the other nine orders humbled themselves and worshipped the All-Holy Trinity, and remained in their place and rejoice forever. We, too, my brethren, must reflect what an evil thing pride is – that it cast down the dcvil from angelic glory and he will always burn in Hades – and that humility kept the angels in Heaven, and they rejoice perpetually in the glory of the Holy Trinity. Let us then, my brethren, aviod pride, because it is the first daughter of the devil, is a path that leads to Hades; and let us have humility, because it is angelic, is a path that leads to Paradise.


CONFESSION

If you want cure your soul, you need four things.

  1. The first is to forgive your enemies.
  2. The second is to confess thoroughly.
  3. The third is to blame yourself.
  4. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more.

If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us.


FASTING

We who are pious Christians must fast always, but easpecially on Wednesday, because the Lord was sold on that day, and on Friday, because He was crucified on that day. Similarly, it is our duty to fast during the Lent seasons, as the Holy Spirit illumined the holy Fathers of the Church to decree, in order to mortify the passions and humble the body. Moreover, if we limt the food we eat, life becomes easier for us. Fast according to your ability, pray according to your ability, give alms according to your ability, and always hold death before the eyes of your mind.


VIRGINITY

Just as we humans prefer gold to sliver, so the Lord indeed likes marriage, but likes virginity more, in order to show you that if you can preserve your viginity and become a monk, or if you are a woman a nun, you are fortunate and thrice blessed, you are free from worldly things, you are like an angel.

However, if you want to preserve your virginity, you must put as the first foundation the non possesion-of-property (Aktemonsyne) and must discipline your body with fasts, prayers, vigils, and hardships in order to humble the flesh. Also, you must flee from the world… There is no other way for the monk to be saved except by withdrawing far from the world.


WOMAN

God created woman equal with man, not inferior. My Christian, you must love your wife as your companion, not consider her as your slave, for she is a creature of God, just as you are. God was crucified for her as much as for you. You call God Father, she calls Him Father, too. Both of you have the same Faith, the same Baptism, the same Book of the Gospels, the same Holy Communion, the same Paradise to enjoy. God does not regard her as inferior to you.


KEEPING SUNDAY

Do not separate yourselves from Christ and from the Church. Do you hear the priest ringing the bells? Rise at once, wash yourselves, and go to church. Attend the Orthros (Matins) attentively and likewise the Divine Liturgy.

We should not work or do business on Sunday. The profit that you gain on Sunday is curse… Keep Sunday as a day dedicated to God.


THE JESUS PRAYER -ALSO KNOWN AS “THE PRAYER OF THE HEART”

This prayer should never be absent from you: Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the living God, through the Theotokos and all the Saints, have mercy upon me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant.” (This is the actual Jesus Prayer: “O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME, A SINNER.“) Always say this prayer both with your mouth and with your mind, day and night, wherever you may be, whether eating, walking, working, or sitting. Always meditate on it, as it benefits you a great deal., frees you here from every evil, delivers you there from eternal Hell, and renders you worthy of going to Paradise, our heavenly country.


MEDITATION ON DEATH

There is no better teacher than death. Have death before your minds: the time when you will leave this unreal world and will go to the other one, which is eternal.


LIFE AFTER DEATH

We who are pious Christians must henceforth not weep for the dead like the impious and the unbelievers, who do not hope in the resurrection. This world, my brethren, is like a prison. When must man rejoice? When he enters the prison or when he is being liberated from the prison? It seems to me, when enters the prison he must weep and be sad, and when he comes out of the prison he must rejoice. Therefore, my brethren, do not grieve for the dead, but if you love them do what you can for their souls; offer liturgies, memorial services, fasts, prayers, alms.


TEACHING OF THE SCRIPTURES

Heed all the thoughts of the Holy Gospels, because they are all diamonds, treasures, joy, delight, eternal life. The existence of many churches neither preserves nor strengthens our faith to the proper extent and in the proper manner, if those who believe in God are not enlightened by the Old and the New Testament. I have found the words and the commandments of Christ pure, holy, true, splendid, brighter than the sun; and whoever believes in Christ and calls Him God and lives in accordance with His teaching, contained in the Holy Gospels, is fortunate and thrice-blessed. The Holy Spirit illumined firstly the holy Prophets, and they wrote the Divine Scripture; seondly, He illumined the holy Apostles; and thirdly, He has illumined the holy Fathers, and they have explained the books of our Church, in order that we may know how to conduct ourselves. Our Faith has been made secure by wise and learned Saints, who both explained the Holy Scriptures precisely and have enlightened us through their divinely inspired discourses.


Source: Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos, by (Dr.) Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94.

“Young man, I say to you, arise.”

October 18, 2009 1 comment

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.  Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Luke 7:11-17

The story of the Widow of Nain is one of the most powerful of the Gospel stories about Jesus. As he is about to enter a city called Nain Jesus meets some men carrying the corpse of a young man who has just died. He is told that he is the only son of a widow. Moved by the widow’s grief, Jesus raises the young man from the dead and restores him to his mother. The crowd standing round are terrified, but give glory to God.

There are three points to make about this story. nain

1) The first thing to note is the great compassion that Jesus shows by this and other miracles. Jesus does not need to show by miracles that he is the Messiah and the Son of God (though they do have this effect as well for those who have faith). He performs miracles because he feels sorry for people. The three occasions recorded in the Gospels when Jesus raises someone from the dead certainly show this. Jesus raises the young man at Nain from the dead because of his pity for the widow. He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead because he had compassion on her parents. He raised Lazarus from the dead because he was a very dear friend, and because he felt compassion for his two sisters, Martha and Mary.

It is difficult for us to realise just what effect Jesus’ action would have had on the widow of Nain. For a woman to be left with no man to support her in the agricultural communities of the Middle East in New Testament times was catastrophic. The woman in the story had lost both her husband and her only son, so that there was no one left to do the farm work. Her life would have been completely devastated. Not that the women of that time and place were weaklings. One of their jobs was to fetch water from the well, which often involved carrying huge pitchers of water considerable distances. But the back-breaking farm work, involving long hours in the fields, was definitely a man’s job. In any case, the widow could not have inherited the land. The loss of her only son would have left her dependent on the charity of more distant relatives and neighbours. So she was indeed greatly in need of Jesus’ compassion.

2) This story when combined with the two other Gospel stories about Jesus raising people from the dead illustrates Jesus’ absolute power over death. When he raised Jairus’ daughter she had only just died. She was still on her death bed. The son of the widow of Nain had been dead some time and was being carried to the grave. Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, and no doubt his body had already started to decompose. Yet Jesus raised him too! So however long a person has been dead Jesus can raise him. That is important for us, because besides physical death there is also spiritual death.  But, just as our Lord Jesus Christ can raise people to physical life however long they have been dead, so he can restore us to spiritual life however spiritually dead we may be. We have only to want to be restored. Jesus can save the worst of sinners – anyone who wants to be raised from spiritual death.

3) Jesus raised the young man because he had compassion on the widow, his mother. The wife of Jairus joins her tears to those of her husband. Lazarus is Jesus’ very dear friend, but he is especially moved by the grief of the sisters, Martha and Mary. We find women are also very much involved in stories about God raising people from the dead that are found outside the Gospels. (Jesus raises people from the dead because he is God. It is important to remember that it is always God who raises people from the dead. If there is a saint or a prophet involved, he is only the channel). In the Acts of the Apostles God raises Dorcas from the dead at the request of St Peter, who is moved by the grief of the group of widows. In the Old Testament God raises a widow’s son at the request of Elijah, who is moved by the mother’s tears. At the request of Elishah, God raised from the dead the son of the Shumamite woman who had asked Elishah to help her. These facts are important for us too. They remind us that women as well as men have a part to play in God’s scheme for salvation. In one of the prayers at the Sixth Hour we ask the Mother of God to intercede with Jesus for us, “for the prayer of a Mother availeth much to the goodwill of the Lord.”


Apart from this and our sympathy, we feel ourselves incapable of offe ring anything else to those who are mourning. The power of death has so outstripped our strength that we crawl around like insects in its shadow; and as we heap earth over a dead body, we feel that we are heaping earth over a part of ourselves in the deathly darkness of the grave. The Lord does not say “Weep not!” to the woman in order to show that we should not weep for the dead. He Himself wept for Lazarus (John 11:35); He wept in advance of many who would later suffer in the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44); and lastly, He praised and blessed those who weep, “for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Nothing so calms and cleanses a man as tear. In the Orthodox methodology of salvation, tears are among the first means of cleansing the soul, heart and mind. Not only should we weep over the dead, but also over the living, and especially over ourselves, as the Lord recommended to the women of Jerusalem: “Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:28). There is, though, a difference between tears and tears. The Apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13), like the pagans and the godless, for they mourn their dead as utterly lost. Christians must mourn the dead – not as lost but as sinners, and their mourning must therefore be conjoined with prayer to God that He will forgive the sins of the departed and lead them, by His mercy, to the heavenly Kingdom. Because of his sins, a Christian must mourn and weep also for himself—and the more often the better; not as those who have no faith and hope, but, on the contrary, specifically because he has faith in the living God and hope in God’s mercy and in eternal life.

St. Nikolai Velimirović

Kontakion 2

As when seeing the widow weeping bitterly, O Lord, Thou wast moved with pity, and didst raise her son from the dead as he was being carried to burial, likewise have pity on me, O Lover of men, and raise my soul, deadened by sins, as I cry, Alleluia!

Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

Categories: Biblical Studies, Homilies

The Venerable Pelagia. The Venerable Thais

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment


The Venerable Pelagia

Pelagia was a repentant sinner. She was born to pagan parents in Antioch, and was endowed by God with great physical beauty. Pelagia used her beauty to the destruction of her own soul and those of others. She became very wealthy as a result of her prostitution.

Once, while walking past the Church of the Holy Martyr Julian, in which Bishop Nonnus was preaching, she stopped in and heard a sermon on the Dread Judgment and the punishment of sinners. Those words so shook her and changed her that she immediately felt revulsion for herself, acquired true fear of God, repented of all her sins and fell down before St. Nonnus with the plea that he baptize her: ” Have mercy on me, a sinner, holy Father. Baptize me and teach me repentance-I am a sea of iniquity, an abyss of destruction, a net and weapon of the devil.”

Thus this penitent begged the hierarch of Christ with tears, and he baptized her. At her baptism, Blessed Romana, the deaconess of the church, was her godmother. Romana, as her spiritual mother, grounded her well in the Christian Faith. But Pelagia was not satisfied with baptism alone. She was keenly aware of the multitude of her sins and, pricked by her conscience, decided on a great ascetic labor. She left her enormous, sinfully gained wealth to the poor, and secretly went to Jerusalem as the monk Pelagius. There, she shut herself up in a cell on the Mount of Olives, and began the difficult ascesis of fasting, prayer and all-night vigils.

After three years, St. Nonnus’s deacon, James, visited her and found her still alive, but when he visited her again several days later, he found that she had reposed, and he honorably buried her body. St. Pelagia entered into rest in about the year 461.

Thus, this formerly terrible sinner pleased God by her repentance and labor, was forgiven of her sins, and became sanctified. And her purified and enlightened soul was deemed worthy of the Kingdom of God.


The Venerable Thais


Thais was a repentant sinner. She was an Egyptian by birth. Like St. Pelagia, Thais also spent her youth in unrestrained fornication. Thais was directed in this evil way of life by her shameless mother. But the merciful God, Who does not desire the death of a sinner, but salvation, found a way in His wondrous providence to save the sinner Thais.

One of the disciples of St. Anthony the Great, Paphnutius the Sindonite, heard of Thais’s sinful life, and the spiritual poison with which she was poisoning the souls of many men. He decided to save her, with God’s help. Clothed in secular clothing, St. Paphnutius took one gold coin and went to the city. He found Thais and gave her the gold coin. Thais, thinking that this man gave her the gold coin for an impure act, took Paphnutius into her room. Then Paphnutius opened his blessed mouth and denounced Thais’s sins and called her to repentance.

Thais’s soul and conscience were both awakened, and she burst into tears of profound, sincere repentance. Distributing all her goods to the poor, she entered a convent at the instruction of St. Paphnutius, and remained there for about three years, closed off in a cell, living only on bread and water. St. Paphnutius visited her before her death, and brought her out of her cell against her will. She soon fell ill, and after a brief illness gave up her purified and sanctified soul to God. St. Paul the Simple, another disciple of St. Anthony, saw in a vision a most beautiful habitation in Paradise, prepared by God for St. Thais the penitent. This holy soul entered into rest in the year 340.

***


REFLECTION


Oh, if only we would invest as much effort in our souls as we invest in our bodies!

Oh, if only we could become as desirous of adorning ourselves with virtue before God and His glorious angels, as we do with the vain, transitory, external displays of appearances!

At first, both Pelagia and Thais were only aware of theier bodies, while their souls were slaves bound in the prison of the body. Both were adorned with nothing but vanity: clothed in vanity, arrayed with vanity, surrounded by vanity, and flattered by vanity.

But what a sudden change! What a divine turn of events in their lives! More wondrous than if a wild apple were to be grafted and begin to bring forth sweet fruits; or if a turgid, fetid swamp were suddenly to become clear, pure potable water.

When Bishop Nonnus, in the company of other bishops, first saw the sinner Pelagia in her outward splendor-clothed in the most expensive garments, adorned and bedecked with rings, necklaces and baubles, perfumed, and surrounded by slaves-Bishop Nonnus began to weep, and said to his companions:


” In truth, I have learned much from this woman. The Lord will set her before His Dread Judgment and will rebuke us through her. How many hours does this woman spend in her room bathing herself, clothing herself, adorning herself, and looking at herself in the mirror-and for what? Only to appear more beautiful to men. And we, who have the immortal Bridegroom in heaven, do not strive to adorn our souls with repentance; we do not hasten to bathe them with the tears of repentance and clothe them in the beauty of the virtues, that they might appear more beautiful before the eyes of God!”

Source: The Prologue from Ohrid – October 8


Categories: Lives of Saints