Will the Heterodox Be Saved?

30 September 12

With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse. The blessed one replied more or less thus: “You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins… I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever.”

We believe the foregoing answer by the saintly ascetic to be the best that can be given in this matter.

Endnotes

* The Greek word for “heresy” is derived from the word for “choice” and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1984), pp. 33-36.


Whatever Happened to the Robe of Christ?

29 September 12
Commemoration of the apparition of the Pillar with the Robe of the Lord under it at Mtskheta in Georgia

Commemoration of the apparition of the Pillar with the Robe of the Lord under it at Mtskheta in Georgia

Commemorated on October 1

During the reign of King Aderki of Kartli, the Jewish diaspora in Mtskheta learned that a wondrous Child had been born in Jerusalem. Then, thirty years later, a man came from Jerusalem to deliver this message: “The youth has grown up. He calls Himself the Son of God and preaches to us the New Covenant. We have sent envoys to every Jewish diaspora to urge the scholars of the religion to come to Jerusalem and judge what measures should be taken in regard to this matter.”

In response to the envoy’s request and at the recommendation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Elioz of Mtskheta and Longinoz of Karsani were chosen to journey to Jerusalem. Elioz of Mtskheta was born to a pious family, and as his mother prepared him for the journey, she tearfully begged him not to take any part in the spilling of the blood of the Messiah.

When the Roman soldiers were nailing our Savior to the Cross on Golgotha, Elioz’s mother miraculously heard each strike of the hammer. She cried out in fear, “Farewell majesty of the Jews! For inasmuch as you have killed your Savior and Redeemer, henceforth you have become your own enemies!” With this she breathed her last.

St Sidonia of Georgia

St Sidonia of Georgia

After the soldiers had cast lots for the Robe of our Lord, it was acquired by Elioz and Longinoz, and with great honor they carried it back with them to Mtskheta. Upon their arrival, Elioz met his sister Sidonia, who took from him the Sacred Robe. With much grief she listened to the story of our Savior’s Crucifixion, clutched the Robe to her breast, and immediately gave up her spirit.

Many miracles were worked by the Robe, and news of this flashed like lightning throughout Mtskheta. King Aderki had a great desire to possess the Robe but, frightened by the miracles, he did not attempt to free it from Sidonia’s embrace. Elioz was obliged to bury his sister and the Precious Robe together. A cypress tree grew up on Sidonia’s grave. When the disciples of Christ cast lots after Pentecost, the lot for evangelizing Georgia fell to the Most Holy Theotokos. But Christ revealed to His Mother that it was not His will for her to preach there. “You have been entrusted to protect the Georgian nation,” He said, “but the role of evangelizing that land belongs to My disciple Andrew the First-called. Send him with an image of your face “Not-Made-By- Hands” to protect the Georgian people to the end of the ages!”

According to the will of God and the blessing of the Theotokos, St. Andrew the First-called set off for Georgia to preach the Christian Faith. He entered Georgia from the southwest, in the region of Atchara, and subsequently preached in every region of the nation. He established a hierarchy for the Georgian Church and then returned to Jerusalem for Pascha. When he visited Georgia for the second time, the Apostle Andrew was accompanied by the Apostles Matthias and Simon the Canaanite.

Years passed and, under threat from Persian fire-worshippers and other pagan

Saint Nino of Georgia

Saint Nino of Georgia

communities, the memory of Christ faded from the minds of the Georgian people.

Then, at the beginning of the 4th century, according to God’s will and the blessing of the Most Holy Theotokos, the holy virgin Nino arrived in Kartli to preach the Christian Faith. She settled in the outskirts of Mtskheta, in the bramble bushes of the king’s garden. St. Nino inquired as to the whereabouts of our Lord’s Robe, but no one could remember where it had been preserved. In her quest for the Precious Robe, she became acquainted with Elioz’s descendants, the Jewish priest Abiatar and his daughter, Sidonia. St. Nino converted them to Christianity.

St. Nino was blessed by God with the gift of healing. She healed the afflicted through the name of our crucified Savior and through the grace of the cross formed from grapevines by the Theotokos and bound with strands of St. Nino’s hair.

At that time King Mirian ruled Kartli. Following in the footsteps of his ancestors, he worshiped the idol Armazi, but in the depth of his heart he was drawn to the Faith that the holy virgin was preaching. Mirian’s wife, Queen Nana, was the daughter of a famous military leader of Pontus. Thus, the king had received some prior knowledge of the Faith of the Greeks.

Once Queen Nana fell deeply ill, and only through the prayers of St. Nino was she spared from death. After this miraculous healing, King Mirian became intrigued by the Faith that St. Nino was preaching, and he began asking the newly enlightened Abiatar about the Holy Scriptures.

Once, while he was hunting on Mt. Tkhoti near Mtskheta, King Mirian was suddenly gripped by an evil spirit, and he burned with a desire to destroy the Christian people of his land and—above all others— the virgin Nino. But suddenly the sun was eclipsed, and the king was surrounded by darkness. The frightened Mirian prayed to the pagan gods to save him from this terror, but his prayers went unanswered. Then, in utter despair, he began to pray to the Crucified God-man and a miracle occurred: the darkness scattered and the sun shone as before. Raising his hands to the east, Mirian cried out, “Truly Thou art the God preached by Nino, God of gods and King of kings!”

Having returned to the capital, King Mirian went immediately to the bramble bushes where St. Nino dwelt. He greeted her with great honor and spent several hours seeking her counsel. Upon her recommendation, he sent messengers to Emperor Constantine in Byzantium, requesting that he send priests to baptize the people of Kartli and architects to build churches.

This happened on June 24 of the year 324, which was a Saturday. King Mirian began to construct a church so that the priests arriving from Constantinople would have a place to serve. Seven columns to support the church were formed from the wood of a cypress tree that had grown in the king’s garden. Six of the columns were erected without a problem, but the seventh could not be moved from the place where it had been carved. St. Nino and her disciples prayed through the night, and at dawn they watched as a youth, encompassed by a brilliant light, descended from the heavens and raised the column. The miraculous column began to shine and stopped in mid-air at a height of twelve cubits.

Sweet-smelling myrrh began to flow from under the Holy Pillar’s foundations, and the entire population of Mtskheta flocked to that place to receive its blessing. Approaching the Life-giving Pillar, the sick were healed, the blind received sight, and the paralyzed began to walk.

By that time a certain Bishop John and his suite had arrived from Constantinople. St. Constantine the Great sent a cross, an icon of the Savior, a fragment from the Life-giving Cross of our Lord (from the place where His feet lay), and a nail from His Crucifixion as gifts to the newly enlightened King Mirian and his people.

At the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers in Mtskheta, the king and queen, the royal court, and all the people of Kartli were baptized into the Christian Faith. After the glorious baptism, Bishop John and his retinue from Constantinople set off toward southern Georgia, for the village of Erusheti. There they built churches and presented the Christian community with the nail from our Lord’s Crucifixion. Soon after, they began to construct Manglisi Church and placed the fragment from the Life-giving Cross inside.

King Mirian wanted to keep some of the newly obtained sacred objects in the capital city, but St.Nino informed him that one of the holiest objects, the Robe of our Savior, was already located in Mtskheta. The king summoned the priest Abiatar and inquired about the Robe, then rejoiced greatly after Abiatar confirmed St. Nino’s words that the Robe of the Lord was held in the embrace of Sidonia, who was buried under the stump of the cypress tree which now served as the pedestal for the Life-giving Pillar.

At that time a lush, sweet-smelling, wonder-working tree grew up on a mountain over Mtskheta and, at Bishop John’s suggestion, Prince Revi, the son of King Mirian, ordered that the tree be chopped down and a cross formed from its wood. The tree was chopped down and replanted, without its roots, next to a church that was under construction. For thirty-seven days the tree retained its original appearance—even its leaves did not fade or wither. Then, after thirty-seven days had passed, three crosses were formed from its wood.

For many days after this miracle the people of Mtskheta saw a vision: during the night a fiery cross shone above the church, surrounded by stars. When morning came, two of the stars had moved away from the cross in opposite directions—one to the west and the other to the east. The fiery cross headed to the north, stopped for some time over the hill on the other side of the River Aragvi, then disappeared.

St. Nino advised King Mirian to erect one of the three crosses in the west, on Tkhoti Mountain, and another in the east, in the village of Ujarma. But it was unclear where the third cross should be erected, so King Mirian prayerfully beseeched the Lord to reveal to him the place.

The Lord heard his prayers and sent an angel to show him the place: a rocky hill to the north of the capital, at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari Rivers. Today this hill is called Jvari (Cross) and upon it towers the magnificent church of Jvari Monastery. At the moment the cross was erected on this hill, all the idols in Mtskheta fell and shattered to pieces.

Prior to his death King Mirian blessed his heir, Prince Bakar, and urged him to dedicate his life to the Holy Trinity and fight ceaselessly against idolaters. Then he peacefully reposed in the Lord.

According to his will, Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles King Mirian was buried in the upper church at Samtavro, where today a convent in honor of St. Nino is located. The king was too modest to be buried in the lower church, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, in which the Life-giving Pillar had been preserved.

Queen Nana reposed two years later and was buried next to her husband.


St Romanus the Meoldist

29 September 12

Commemorated on October 1

Saint Romanus the Melodist was born in the fifth century in the Syrian city of

St. Romanus the Melodist, "Sweet-Singer"

St. Romanus the Melodist, “Sweet-Singer”

Emesa of Jewish parents. After moving to Constantinople, he became a church sacristan in the temple of Hagia Sophia. The monk spent his nights alone at prayer in a field or in the Blachernae church beyond the city.

St Romanus was not a talented reader or singer. Once, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, he read the kathisma verses. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. The clergy ridiculed Romanus, which devastated him.

On the day of the Nativity, the Mother of God appeared to the grief-stricken youth in a vision while he was praying before her Kyriotissa icon. She gave him a scroll and commanded him to eat it. Thus was he given the gift of understanding, composition, and hymnography.

That evening at the all-night Vigil St Romanus sang, in a wondrous voice, his first Kontakion: “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One…” All the hymns of St Romanus became known as kontakia, in reference to the Virgin’s scroll. St Romanus was also the first to write in the form of the Oikos, which he incorporated into the all-night Vigil at his places of residence (In Greek, “oikos”).

For his zealous service St Romanus was ordained as a deacon and became a teacher of song. Until his death, which occurred about the year 556, the hierodeacon Romanus the Melodist composed nearly a thousand hymns, many of which are still used by Christians to glorify the Lord. About eighty survive.


A Not-So Dry Spell

29 September 12

I know, I did really well a week ago with posts. At least one post per day for aost a week straight. Then, eality took over and I got side tracked. How do people manage to so this on a daily basis? I’ve yet to figure that our. Not that there is nothing to post, I have two projects that are obgoing on this blog, it’s just that things happen and days go by and I sort of put this thing on the back burner.

I turned in my last set of assignments (that were completed back in August, I am a slacker, of this I am ware already). So, now that tht is done, what do you think I went and did? I filled out a FAFSA so that after almost 14 yeas of “trying” to attaain my B.A. I set the goal of getting it done ASAP. Not really sure when that is going to be, although I have a meeting with an advisor at Western International University to go over my options on my lunch break Monday.

We had “Nation Celebration this ast Friday night, and although that meant that my day as a whole was extremely long, it was totally worth it.
i got to hang out with some great coworers, great families, great kids, and had an all in all great time.

Other than that I promise to pot more often, maybe go another week with daily posts. We shall see.


The Port Arthur Icon of the Mother of God

18 September 12

Commemorated 18 September

Image of the Triumph of Our Lady of Port Arthur

It is not given to us to perceive what is awaiting the Church ahead. Woes and persecutions often accompany the life of a Christian. But the miraculous reappearance of the icon of the most Holy Theotokos proves her gracious Intercession for all Orthodox Christians. This will give us courage and selflessness in bearing our own cross.

-Archbishop Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primorye

In December 1903 an aged sailor who was one of the last defenders of Sevastopol during the Crimean War came to the city of Kiev to pray before the holy relics of the Lavra of the Caves.

One night some strange noise woke the old man up and he saw the Theotokos with angels around her, among them the Archangel Michael and the Archangel Gabriel. The Theotokos was standing upon two discarded and broken swords on the shore of a bay, with her back turned to the water. She was holding a white aer with blue fringe, upon which was an Image of the Savior, “Not-Made-By-Hands.” Angels in the clouds of blinding light were holding a crown above her head and the Lord of Sabaoth was sitting still higher on the throne of glory, encircled with the blinding radiance.

The old man was moved and experienced the uttermost awe, but the Theotokos comforted him and said, “Russia will soon be involved in a very difficult war on the shores of a far sea; many a woe is awaiting her. Paint an icon showing my appearance as it is now and send the icon to Port Arthur. If the icon is in that city, Orthodoxy will triumph over paganism and Russian warriors will attain my help, my patronage, and their victory.” The blinding light filled his room and the vision disappeared.

Port Arthur was a city named for a captain of the English vessel Algerino, founded in Manchuria in 1858 on the site of a former Chinese settlement, Lao Shun. Forty years later China leased this city (along with its nearby territories) to Russia because of the Japanese threat. Thus Russia became the intercessor and defender of the Far East territories. In 1902 the St. Nicholas Orthodox garrison church was built there.

This appearance was the first revelation of this kind in 20th century Russia. The 20th century has been called the time of the Russian Golgotha but also the Age of the Glory and Triumph of the Most Holy Theotokos, for in it the Theotokos manifested many miracles, signs, and revelations. The Most Pure One is ever present where her Son is being crucified. Therefore she did not forsake Russia’s Cross in that mournful time.

In Kiev they took heed of the old sailor’s story, and but two months after the appearance of the Theotokos it was spoken about all over Russia. In the beginning of 1904 the Russo-Japanese war broke out with the attack of Japanese torpedo boats on the Russian ships of the port of Incheon, Korea.

Russians remembered the behest of the Theotokos and began to raise money. Ten-thousand people donated, giving kopeck by kopeck, and the icon was executed exactingly according to the description of the old sailor. It was blessed during Holy Week and sent to St. Petersburg, being entrusted to the care of Admiral Verkhovsky. The people of Kiev expressed their hope that the admiral would make every possible effort, losing no opportunity to deliver the icon safely and as quickly as possible to the fortress of Port Arthur.

The icon was in the admiral’s house by Pascha, but he did not hasten to send it to the Far East. For several days his home was like an artist’s salon. Generals, senators, and representatives of the local authorities dropped by to have a look at the icon. Metropolitan Antony of St. Petersburg also paid a visit and reminded the admiral that the icon was rightly to have been delivered to Port Arthur and that he should have made haste to fulfill the will of Our Lady.

On March 31st the commander of the Russian Navy, Stepan Makarov, perished not far from Port Arthur. During those days the Emperor Nicholas II wrote in his journal, “All the day long I could not come to myself because of this heartbreaking woe. Let God’s will abide in everything, but we shall ask for His mercy towards us who are sinful.”

Historical Background

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was fought on account of competing claims to dominion in north-eastern China and Korea. In February of 1904 Japan initiated war by attacking Port Arthur, the defense of which lasted into the beginning of 1905. The Japanese defeated the Russian Army in the general battle at Moukden, and the Russian Navy at the Korean Gulf (Susima Island).

When the War ended, Japan’s military resources were running short but Russia was only beginning her military actions. Nevertheless, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty left Port Arthur and half of Sakhalin island to Japan, brought Korea under Japanese influence, and completely liquidated the Russian Pacific Navy.

An American historian Dennett wrote in 1925:

Now very few suppose that Japan was deprived of the fruits of its forthcoming victories by concluding the Portsmouth peace treaty. The contrary opinion predominates: Japan had already been exhausted by the end of May and only that very treaty saved it from complete defeat in its collision with Russia.

Admiral Verkhovsky apparently did not see the tragedy of Makarov’s death as sufficent cause to deliver the icon the Triumph of the Theotokos. Thus it continued to be a decorative element of his apartment.

Admiral Nikolai Skryidlov was appointed to the position of the perished Makarov. When he was preparing to set out for the battlefield of Port Arthur, the Dowager Empress Maria (mother of Nicholas II) decided to take responsibility for the icon. After a short moleben the icon was delivered to the carriage-wagon of Admiral Skryidlov. He promised personally to bring the icon right to the cathedral of Port Arthur.

But the admiral’s train did not go immediately to the Far East, as he himself was busy straightening out home and family affairs. In the end of April of 1904 Port Arthur was besieged and as a result Skryidlov came to Vladivostok instead of Port Arthur.

One of his contemporaries commented in a written account of what came to pass, “The miraculous icon the Triumph of the Theotokos was temporarily placed in the Cathedral of Vladivostok on August 2, 1904.” This indicates that it was not placed in the Church for public veneration until ninety days after Admiral Skryidlov’s arrival. He, busied with concerns, simply forgot the icon. It was after a decree of Empress Maria that the icon was finally taken from the admiral’s house to the Dormition Cathedral.

An eyewitness wrote:

Kneeling people in tears and with deep faith were praying before the icon. Those from the navy and the infantry, from soldiers to the admiral and general fell down before the icon and were asking in their zealous prayers for the consolation, encouragement, and intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Bishop Evsevy of Vladivostok spoke these words August 6th before serving the first moleben before this miraculously revealed icon:

Though the icon has not reached Port Arthur, let not the heart of the old sailor who was made worthy of this vision nor the hearts of those who raised money for the icon be troubled. The Lord is All-merciful and Almighty, and though the icon of His Most Pure Mother is in Vladivostok she is able to help the warriors of Port Arthur, and all Russian warriors. Let us, citizens of Vladivostok, leap for joy to have such a holy thing.

But almost everyone felt that something wrong had been done. The publishing house of the Orthodox News and the military authorities received scores of letters daily. This one summarizes the people’s opinions:

As the icon has not come to the point of its final destination, it cannot give the grace-filled help and protection of the Theotokos. Now it is high time we asked for heavenly intercession, and if this help was promised upon the fulfillment of certain conditions, we ought not to have left things halfway done. Let every way of delivering the icon be attempted, however hazardous; this being the will of the Theotokos, Her icon is sure to get to Port Arthur. Even if it does not happen we will submit our will to the Theotokos, and there will be no reproach in our souls for our inattention to what the Heavenly Queen has told us through the old sailor.

A group of young Orthodox officers tried several times but failed to deliver copies of the icon to Port Arthur. In the Dormition Cathedral molebens before the icon did not cease, an eyewitness wrote that there were as many crying and praying people as ever and one could hear the oft repeated question: why did they not send the icon to Port Arthur after all? Why was there no person who out of sheer love for the Motherland could take on a perilous but noble quest of delivering the icon of the Theotokos?

It was then that the person appeared who could attempt such a noble deed: a retired officer, Nikolai Fyodorov. He was in his fifties and suffered from rheumatism and stomach disease, and surely never thought of any daring feats living as he did far from the Far East in Gatchina (near St. Petersburg). But then he came across the newspaper article expressing the view that nobody could fulfill the mission of taking the icon to its destination.

So Nikolai Fyodorov told his wife about his taking a risky journey to the Far East and immediately made for the city of Kronstadt to ask the blessing of the great pastor of the Russian land, St. John of Kronstadt. Later he recounted that during his travel many little miracles occurred and all the difficult problems were somehow easily solved. He said that it was not surprising, as he had St. John’s blessing.

On October 7th Nikolai arrived in Vladivostok. On the same day Admiral Skryidlov received from Copenhagen a telegram from the Dowager Empress, which said that he should let Mr. Fyodorov take further care of the icon.

Delivering the icon by land was out of question so Nikolai decided to take it first to the city of Shanghai, China. The Norwegian steamer Eric was to take the icon on November 22nd. The Diocese News wrote that during the entire time before the appointed date Fyodorov fasted, made confession, and took Holy Communion.

The steamer left and the believers waited hopefully for some news, but it did not come; Port Arthur fell on December 20th.

At last on January 11th a letter came to Vladivostok in which Fyodorov said that there had been no sail wind for some time and he had had to stop at Chifu. At that time four torpedo boats returned from Port Arthur with the most grievous news. Port Arthur had given up. But the ways of God are unknown, and so it was not God’s will for Fyodorov to reach the city.

The head of Russian Orthodox mission in Korea Archimandrite Pavel said:

Glory to God that there was a man in Russia who manifested the Christian courage and faith that we lack. Alas! The history of the icon of the Triumph of the Theotokos was a test for our faith, and the fact of its having been painted in Kiev is as unusual as the lesson which Port Arthur taught us.

Having entered the 21st century we should not forget the will of the Most Pure One revealed to us one-hundred years ago. It was not fulfilled because some military officials lacked belief in her intercession. All of this left a sorrowful memory and a wound in the Russian heart. St. John of Kronstadt used to say that Russia failed because of negligence towards the holy icon.

Let us think: is it not because Russian people have left their religious unity and forsaken the ancient holy things and testaments of their forefathers that woes and disasters now torment Russia? The Lord bestowed upon our nation the role of a keeper and protector of holy things. These holy things are the religious and moral foundations for establishing one’s personal, family, and social life so as to draw away the evil and give an ample space for the good.

-Metropolitan John of St. Petersburg

Nikolai Fyodorov had to give the icon to his military commanders. Afterwards it returned to Vladivostok in May 1905, having been in the itinerant church of the commander-in-chief.

Following the revolution of 1917 the Dormition Cathedral was closed and then demolished. The icon of Port Arthur was lost in the whirl of tragic events that fell on Russia in the 20th century. There was much conjecture as to where the icon might be. Then the Lord was pleased to reveal yet another of His miracles.

Though many attempted to erase the memories of the past, a command of the Theotokos cannot be rescinded. On February 18th, 1998 pilgrims from Vladivostok came across the icon of Port Arthur in an antique shop in Jerusalem!

On May 6th, 1998 the Port Arthur icon of the “Triumph of the Theotokos” returned to Vladivostok. The joyful believers welcomed it with a Cross Procession and triumphant bell ringing. Now the original icon is in the chapel of the Vladivostok diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On Pascha of 2003 the doors of a new church in honor of this icon opened in Vladivostok. The church began holding services during the year of the 100th anniversary of the appearance of the Theotokos. There then emerged a public movement called “Blessing the Far East.” Soon an exact copy of the icon was produced, and this copy was carried in a seaside Cross Procession along the coast of the Primorye Region.

In 2004 a second Cross Procession took place. A ship, the Pallada, delivered the icon to the city of Port Arthur (now Lushun, China). The Blessing the Far East organization, the church dedicated to the Port Arthur Icon, and the Far Eastern State Technical Fisheries University carried out this memorable event. The project was headed by Fr. Roman, the dean of the church dedicated to the Port Arthur Icon, as well as Dmitry Astapenko, the director of Russian club in Dalian, China. They, with the captain and crew of the Pallada, celebrated a triumphant service in the Russian cemetery of Port Arthur with prayers of penitence for those who had doubted the will of the Theotokos. Thus the Russian warriors who perished there received the icon after one-hundred years of waiting.

Another copy of this icon from St. Petersburg had visited the cemetery one year earlier on May 9, 2003. This copy was made the same year and traveled all over Russia, the Far East, Serbia, the Caucasus, and the Ukraine.

In January 2004 two guests from America, Dan Kendall and Gale Armstrong, of St. John Orthodox Community in Alaska, visited the Church of the Port Arthur Icon in Vladivostok. They became acquainted with the history of the icon. A copy, with inscriptions in English, was given to them after the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity. Thus began the triumphant glorification of the icon all over North America.

In September 2006, the St. Innocent Orthodox Missionary Society of Toronto delivered a miracle-working copy of the icon to Canada that had been executed in the Archangel Michael Russian Icon Art Salon exclusively for the Orthodox Christians of North America. The director of the Blessing the Far East organization, Yuri Korsakov, and the chairman of Russian St. Innocent Society, Arkady Mukhin, supported this missionary project. The Bishop of Anchorage, Sitka, and Alaska was the first to welcome the icon on its way to Canada in his blessed land spiritually related to Russia. Then the akathist for the icon was translated into English in St. John’s Cathedral (Eagle River, Alaska). The Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Theotokos began its triumphant tour across North America. Today this miracle-working copy has found its permanent home in Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.

I am absolutely certain that during my journey I both physically and spiritually felt the Grace of God proceeding from the icon.

-Nikolai Fyodorov


Saint Sophia and Her Three Children Faith, Hope, and Love

17 September 12
Saint Sophia and Her Three Children Faith, Hope, and Love

Saint Sophia and Her Three Children Faith, Hope, and Love

Commemorated on September 17

The Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love were born in Italy. Their mother was a pious Christian widow who named her daughters for the three Christian virtues. Faith was twelve, Hope was ten, and Love was nine. St Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. St Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ, but openly confessed it before everyone.

An official named Antiochus denounced them to the emperor Hadrian (117-138), who ordered that they be brought to Rome. Realizing that they would be taken before the emperor, the holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking that He give them the strength not to fear torture and death. When the holy virgins and their mother came before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composure. They looked as though they had been brought to some happy festival, rather than to torture. Summoning each of the sisters in turn, Hadrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls remained unyielding.

Then the emperor ordered them to be tortured. They burned the holy virgins over an iron grating, then threw them into a red-hot oven, and finally into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord preserved them.

The youngest child, Love, was tied to a wheel and they beat her with rods until her body was covered all over with bloody welts. After undergoing unspeakable torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the Faith.

They subjected St Sophia to another grievous torture: the mother was forced to watch the suffering of her daughters. She displayed adamant courage, and urged her daughters to endure their torments for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens were beheaded, and joyfully bent their necks beneath the sword.

In order to intensify St Sophia’s inner suffering, the emperor permitted her to take the bodies of her daughters. She placed their remains in coffins and loaded them on a wagon. She drove beyond the city limits and reverently buried them on a high hill. St Sophia sat there by the graves of her daughters for three days, and finally she gave up her soul to the Lord. Even though she did not suffer for Christ in the flesh, she was not deprived of a martyr’s crown. Instead, she suffered in her heart. Believers buried her body there beside her daughters.

The relics of the holy martyrs have rested at El’zasa, in the church of Esho since the year 777.


Saint Edith of Wilton (+984)

16 September 12
Saint Edith of Wilton (+984)

Saint Edith of Wilton (+984)

Today we honor holy Saint Edith, an English nun of Wilton, a daughter of the 10th century King Edgar of England, born at Kemsing, Kent, in 961.

Saint Edith was the “product” of rape: the illegitimate daughter of King Edgar by Wilfrida, a woman of noble birth whom King Edgar carried off forcibly from the nunnery at Wilton Abbey. He took her to his manor house at Kemsing, where Edith was born. (Edg

ar later repented publicly.) As soon as Wilfrida could escape, she returned t
o her nunnery, taking the child Edith with her.

Little Edith was educated by the nuns of Wilton Abbey, where her mother had become abbess. In the following years Edith herself became known for her love for Jesus, her self-denial in fasting and prayer, and her Godly example. In 979, Edith dreamt that she lost her right eye and believed it was a warning of the death of her half-brother King Edward the Martyr , who in fact was murdered at that very time.

Edith was offered the crown of England by some, but she refused it. Edith built a church at Wilton. Dunstan was invited to the dedication and wept much during liturgy. Being asked the reason, he said it was because Edith would die in three weeks. And so she died on September 15th, 984, at the age of 23. Edith was greatly celebrated for her learning and her sanctity, and miracles were reported after her death.

In time, St Edith became an important national patron: twenty-one churches in England were named after her, and Wilton Abbey itself was typically described as ‘the house and church of St Edith of Wilton’ or as the ‘monastery of St Mary and St Edith of Wilton’.

Through the prayer of Saint Edith, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!


Technological Musings by a Russian Priest

16 September 12
Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov

Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov

The following is an excerpt from an interview conducted with Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, rector of the Church of All Saints in Krasnoe Selo, Moscow.

Batiushka, you have vast experience in teaching. You have taught in secular schools as well as in Church educational organizations. You have also conducted the courses now gaining some momentum in Russia, called, “Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture.” What qualities, in your opinion, should a teacher have if he wishes to teach this discipline?

By God’s Providence, I have been connected with school teaching since 1983. I remember, when I was a young teacher, I came under strict judgment by soviet bureaucrats, who accused me of non-standard thinking. They requested that I be removed immediately from the soviet high school system, for in the 1980’s everything was supposed to conform to a particular format. However, in teaching generally, and in teaching Orthodox culture particularly, there should by no means be any standard approaches. One mustn’t follow a path well-trodden and fixed for all time. We, the educators of the 21st century, cannot get away with cliche phrases and generalities. We are pioneers, and are not afraid to discover new horizons.

When you enter a school auditorium for the first time, you must first of all be clear about the following: children are joyful, knowledge-loving creatures who look at the world (provided they have not been captivated by computer games — more on this later) with wide-open eyes. Therefore, every educator — and especially, every instructor of God’s Law — must have a fresh and sharp perception of the world, the ability to approach a subject from an entirely unexpected side. And most importantly, he must understand that the teacher and his pupils associate not on an intellectual, mental, discursive, or rational level, but rather through the heart and soul. Thus he can, and indeed must, begin this educational process with a secret prayer for its success.

It is probably not so easy to make this sort of contact with today’s children…

Today our young audience knows more than we ourselves know about the meaning of “good” and “bad.” They are overburdened with all manner of information. Often when associating with children you can observe and feel an untimely weariness with life. They are deprived of their childhood, of that unrepeatable time when (as it was for us as children) the adults would try to protect the child from crude, negative, and impure subjects, images, and impressions. Today’s educator can be compared to a soldier from the Ministry of Emergencies; to a rescuer who has arrived at the scene of an earthquake or shipwreck. His task is to pull some living being from beneath the rubble.

So today, coming into a class of high school students (I am speaking here of the situation in Russia’s capital city), you involuntarily bristle, because you can determine the moral state of your audience by the look in their eyes. One of them looks at you with a heavy, indifferent, weary gaze, as if to say, “I don’t regret, or call, or weep, / like the steam arising from white apple trees, I’m done, / overcome by withering gold; / no more shall I be young.”[1] Meanwhile, from another quarter you are being watched by a youthful being, who for some reason had no time to dress herself sufficiently for her lesson on “Fundamentals of Spiritual Culture.” All which was intended to be hidden from strangers is flashing forth. You try to understand what makes this being tick, but instead you lower your gaze in embarrassment — so sharp, assessing, and unabashed does her look seem to you. It is in exact accordance with the words of Solomon, The fornication of a woman shall be known by the haughtiness of her eyes, and by her eyelids (Sirach 26:12).

Thus, today’s teacher of spiritual culture — or lessons on morality, piety, or however such a discipline might be named—requires integrity of soul and life forces of love and truth that can withstand the pressure of these sarcastic, cynical looks, the heckling, indifference, and even plain rudeness. A teacher must be unconditionally sincere, and have warmth of heart.

The modern educator should understand that it is not possible for him to fit his material onto the Procrustean bed[2] of themes inherited from the late 19th, early 20th centuries. And these themes themselves, be they sacred history of the Old and New Testaments, the history of the Christian Church, or Liturgics as the total knowledge of modern Church Services, should be taught with great tact, sensitivity, and caution; most importantly, they should be related to those subjects which touch the young, modern audience in a living way. As for the servants of Aesculapius — doctors, whose main tenet is “Do not harm!” so should the teachers of spiritual culture have has their main tenet, “Do not bore!” Do not be a burden to your audience, but rather a joy.

We, educators, should look at our own selves very carefully and listen to ourselves objectively. And during the course of the lessons themselves, as we relate to the children, we should probe to ensure that they are not exhausted or burdened by our speech. I believe that during the coming years in Russia, not only will these subjects be legalized in every public school, but will even be introduced as part of the required curriculum. And may God grant that educators would be able to lay their treasure trove of educational experience and methodical approach at the children’s feet in that hour when they begin to talk with them about the intransient, the treasured, the ideal, pure, and beautiful — about everything which lives in the field of Orthodox culture.

One would expect that the children who participate in Church schools are likely to be more modest, obedient, attentive…

Our children live neither in caves, nor in the spiritual heights. They come from modern families; and even if these families participate in the life of the Church, even if they are pious, nevertheless, no one and nothing can protect our students from a wide range of influences — those “evil winds.” A teacher of spiritual culture should be an excellent diagnostician, he should be a spiritual doctor, who, upon entering the classroom at the beginning of the week, is obligated to make an immediate diagnosis discerning which wind, what virus has penetrated and conquered the minds and hearts of those teenagers during the past three or four days since their last meeting.

Last week it was the wind of coarse words. There is currently a problem in Russia: our mouths and lips have turned into a sort of bakery. Blini,[3] fudge, and various verbal buns stuffed with vulgarity, brazenness, and impure thoughts seem ever to be popping out. To simply pass these products by with indifference would mean allowing all of our great expectations and good intentions to go down the drain.

This week you see that the girls have begun chasing after the boys and battering them with book bags, filled with books, as a sign of undying love. And you need to prevent childhood trauma, and at the same time show that there are other ways for members of opposite sexes to make friends; you need to lead their secret mutual interest onto some more peaceful, constructive path.

Next week you will come against other, new temptations. Therefore we, Orthodox educators, are no ivory tower dreamers. We are realists, pragmatists, neighborhood doctors who participate in people’s fates.

Thus are we army officers, we stand in the front lines, where “horse and man were mixed in piles;”[4] cannon balls, the whistle of shot, clouds of earth rising hither and yon, the neighing of horses, calls to victory, shrieks of the wounded…. And there, in the midst of this military havoc, stands the educator like a hastening cavalryman. He looks out coolly at what is taking place, trying to bring comfort, to rescue one or another teenager, and at times even to guard with his own breast some youthful, inexperienced being.

You have in your parish a special regard for the legendary image of Alexander Pushkin’s nanny. What is the significance of Arina Rodionovna for our times?

We have such a reverence for Arina Rodionovna in Krasnoe Selo that as a visitor to our church you will see a sign at the monastery gate[5] which reads, “Be a guest of Arina Rodionovna.” Having entered the grounds, you will see the sculpture of a nanny with the young Alexander Sergeevich, whose head she strokes with her sinewy, kind hand. Arina Rodionovna is a symbol of warm care, inexhaustible love, a wellspring of spoken consolation. This is the heart of the Russian woman, which, like a candle, spreads light and warmth around herself, placing her whole life upon the altar of the upbringing of our nation’s sons. The poet’s amazing feel for language was formed under her influence, and those sacred reminiscences which led him back to the bosom of the Church after his superficial denial of “deep, ancient tradition” are most probably owing to her. She is an old, kind nanny, who lives wholly through her grandchildren or wards, being to them at times both a mother and a father.

Arina Rodionovna is that very Holy Russia, presented to a young person not in the form of grandiose paintings, nor in the little understood Church Slavonic language, nor even in the image of 15th – 16th century architectural masterpieces, but rather in the countenance of a living woman, aged before her time from labors beyond her strength but not tormented, not broken or exhausted like the mother of Sonya Marmeladova, the heroine of Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment.

Arina Rodionovna is living, warm-hearted, has that special essence, that gleam in her eyes; a simple woman whose every word is penetrated with prayerful warmth, at times even marked with prophetic power. Arina Rodionovna is that being who can console by the mere touch of a finger, “light as a dream.” She is the miracle of Russian culture, and its symbolic embodiment.

While the “specter of communism” walks about Europe, here in Russia we have lived out the “left-wing disorder” of communism, renounced the horrors of godless revolution (we do not even have a holiday anymore honoring the revolution), and having lit the candle of faith, we walk the streets of old Moscow looking for Arina Rodionovna. We hope that she would quickly come to our children who have fallen into the claws of virtual computer sickness, who are suffering from aggressive American Disney cartoons, and are deprived of the warmth of the family hearth either due to incomplete families or their parents’ inability to understand the hearts of their own offspring. This is why the question of Arina Rodionovna touches me so deeply.

It seems to me that these days every educator should cultivate within himself all of the above-described qualities. And just such a personality will emerge regardless of gender — an Arina Rodionovna, whose words were alive, direct, filled with the energy of love; in a word: wise. In a word: a personality in whom there is no bitterness or merciless reproach. I think that it is time for Arina Rodionovna to rise from the grave.

Although, to be honest, it seems to me that she did not die; she has only been hidden from our parents’ view. Today, children are waiting for that unobtrusive wisdom, that delicacy in assessing historical or moral phenomena; they are waiting for that bright peace with reality which can only be given by a teacher who is a formed person, who has obtained a spiritual core and foundation. And I would consider myself happy if Arina Rodionovna would sometimes come to me, if only in my dreams, and share her experience with me, the unworthy.

You have touched upon the subject of computer games. It is natural for children to want to play games. Should this involvement in computer games be considered an illness?

In our times, we are witnessing the following phenomenon: mankind, having exhausted its strength, has figured out new ways and methods of child education, of informing the children and introducing some manner of intellectual habit through computers. At the same time, we are becoming convinced that these inventions do not in the least justify themselves in obtaining the goal. Children are drowning in the quagmire of computer games. There is danger not only to their spiritual well-being, but also to their mental and physical health. They are becoming invalids before they have even had the chance to fully unfold their extraordinary powers. I sometimes think about how our country is not so technologically equipped (thank God), as other countries; yet every year more and more children are turning into computer Monte Christos — imprisoned voluntarily in the Chateau d’Iff of their own apartments. Their souls no longer see the living world. “The world holds no interest, and bread is not sweet.”

We are also witnesses to the terrible loss which children are inflicting upon themselves — motionless and dehydrated, they truly become patients. Certain modern psychologists kindly remind us that in 19th century Russia schizophrenia was called stony insensibility — the incapability of sharply perceiving things in the world. A person who is free from computer sickness can say together with Pushkin, “I am born to think and to suffer.”

A child who is, to the contrary, entangled in the virtual tentacles of the octopus of computer games, really does appear bloodless in the eyes of a trained specialist. He looses interest in living life, all his reactions are dulled, and he seeks no friendship with his peers. He becomes Kay of Han Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, and finds himself in the land of icy hearts, an eternal captive of the Snow Queen, playing his melancholy game of Hermann Hesse’s computer beads, repeating together with the story’s famous heroine the words, “Freedom or no freedom, it’s all the same.” He has lost the will to live. He no longer dreams about the future, he has fallen into a slavery of the most horrendous kind — computer instincts. His soul becomes filled ever more each day with aggression, pride, and fornication. All this is made even worse by the fact that it is all coming about in a hidden way — in the form of computer games.

You have described a terrifying scenario. What antidote is there?

It seems to me that any means are good. Furthermore, I think that it is now time for more active ways of using spare time. I am willing to remember the famous soviet era words to teenagers, “O sport, you are the world!” Let your child be completely worn out by sessions at the swimming pool, let him disappear in the stadium. Let him love communion with horses more than with people —only let him be protected from computer horrors.

Of course, we should praise those child-care workers, teachers, educators, and parents who succeed in inculcating a love for living nature in children. Having traveled around the provinces, I am convinced of the great importance of a child’s contact with living earth. The deep provinces still retain the practice, begun by rural soviet era schools, of obligating the children to work a certain number of hours on the school grounds, growing plants. This is wonderful! Our dear little children see the fruits of their labors. They are present at the miracle of inception and growth of a new life —from a seed to a flower, or even a carrot… But for a child living in the big city this unfathomable miracle is, alas, unattainable.

Another way is the study of a geographical area through hikes, travels, or visiting some secret, hidden areas of one’s native region. I think that it is ideal to organize children’s free time in this way, to bring them into contact with the history of their own localities. For example, there is a priest in Ryazan (who has a university degree in education) who has gotten permission for children to work in the local archives under the guidance of an expert. They searched for information on the clergy of Ryzan who served in days of yore. They compiled a list of priests beginning with the 15th century, then searched out their graves, where they planted crosses together with the children. Then, after celebrating the Divine Services, Batiushka asked the children to read the names in the commemoration books which they themselves had compiled. Thus, their labor in history became a spiritual labor, and an invisible link formed between former times and our own. Names culled from the depths of Siberian archival veins were presented to eternity. A dream! A truly poetic educator. Unfortunately, not everyone can do it just like this, but we are bound and obligated to find ways to actively fill our children’s spare time.

Now in Russia it has become fashionable (in the positive sense of the word) to take little boys to army bases in order to instill in them a warrior spirit. It’s nice for the soldiers as well to see the youngsters’ interest in their military activities and way of life. And you just have to see how the boys handle the armaments of previous generations, how they get photographed together with a bazooka or the elementary Kalashnikov machine gun.

Let all sporting achievements that breathe the fighting spirit into our youngsters, all that bears an element of good-natured excitement, be born, developed, and strengthened. These days, it seems to me that the main panacea against our civilization’s illnesses is to turn the little boys into Mowglys.[6]  This does not mean leaving them to their own devices, or depriving them of time with their parents, but rather letting them get to know the world of animals and plants. Let them go diving, let them catch fish; as long as they do not lock themselves into a room and become flying Dutchmen or phantoms, and waste their energy on those endless, onerous, and soul-corrupting games.

From what you say, I get the impression that cyber-addiction is becoming a serious problem in Russia. Do you meet many people suffering from this?

I do meet them, unfortunately. I see that the devil sneaks up unnoticed, and then enters audaciously and boldly, like a commander, into the homes of affluent people who have managed to get their heads above the waters of poverty, and amuse themselves with the above-mentioned acquisition. Often these people are not able to organize their children’s free time. More precisely, they fail to recognize the seriousness of these computer games in time before their homes are filled with them. Often catastrophe comes from unexpected quarters. The child has everything he needs for complete mental, intellectual, and spiritual development, but instead he becomes an expert on game technology, and the flux of his passion swells to unimaginable magnitudes. In Japan, by the way, it is against the law for children to use computers until they have reached a certain age.

Recently an inexpensive computer has been developed for use in schoolrooms of the Third World, as a way of spreading computerization all over the globe…

I like what Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin had to say when he was recently in Belgorod. There was a recent congress there on the implementation of national priorities and demographical politics. The President was asked his opinion on the computerization of kindergartens. He answered, “Well, that is too much. We would have to send all the children to psychiatric clinics,” and brushed the idea aside. We express our gratitude to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin for his sober approach and competent assessment of such insane initiatives. We likewise hope that his successor will also take heed.


[1] From a poem by Sergei Esenin [trans.].

[2] Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology, had a bed on which his guests were supposed to fit; and if they didn’t, he would either cut off their extremities, or stretch them on a rack to the required size. Furthermore, the bed was secretly adjustable according to his cruel whim [trans.]

[3] The word “blin” (or pancake) has been turned into a Russian swear word as a slightly softer expression of the cruder word implied [trans.].

[4] From the epic poem “Borodino,” by Mikhail Lermontov [trans.].

[5] The Church of All Saints in Krasnoe Selo, Moscow, is part of what was before the Bolshevik revolution the Monastery of St. Alexis, Man of God. These gates were the monastery gates [trans].

[6] The boy raised by wolves in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Interview with Nun Cornelia (Rees)

 


Martyr Ludmilla, Grandmother of St Wenceslaus

15 September 12

Also commemorated on 16 September:

Martyr Ludmilla the grandmother of St Wenceslaus the Prince of the Czechs

Martyr Ludmilla the grandmother of St Wenceslaus the Prince of the Czechs

The Holy Martyr Ludmilla, a Czech (Bohemian) princess, was married to the Czech prince Borivoy. Both spouses received holy Baptism from St Methodius, Archbishop of Moravia and Enlightener of the Slavs (Comm. 11 May).

As Christians, they showed concerned for the enlightening of their subjects with the light of the true Faith, they built churches and invited priests to celebrate the divine services. Prince Borivoy died early at age 36. St Ludmilla, as a widow, led an austere, pious life and continued to be concerned for the Church during the reign of her son Bratislav, which lasted for 33 years.

Bratislav was married to Dragomira, with whom he had a son, Vyacheslav. After the death of Bratislav, eighteen-year-old Vyacheslav came on the throne. Taking advantage of the inexperience and youth of her son, Dragomira began to introduce pagan manners and customs in the country.

St Ludmilla, of course, opposed this. Dragomira came to hate her mother-in-law and tried to destroy her. When St Ludmilla moved away to the city of Techin, Dragomira sent two boyars in secret to murder her. St Ludmilla was praying at the time, and the two assassins entered the house and carried out Dragomira’s orders.

The relics of the holy Martyr Ludmilla was buried in Techin in the city wall. Numerous healings occurred at her grave. Prince Vyacheslav transferred the body of St Ludmilla to the city of Prague and placed it in the church of St George.


A Hymn to the Great Martyr Euphemia

15 September 12

This hymn is sung by the Nuns of Saint Paisius in Safford, Arizona. This is from their CD “A Treasury of Spiritual Songs” which I HIGHLY recommend.


[Purchase CD]