Give Thanks to St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain

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  • Have you heard about the Jesus Prayer and the tradition of Prayer in the Heart ? Well, thank St. Nicodemos!
  • Have you been encouraged to take communion frequently and often? Thank St Nicodemos
  • Have you learnt about confession and gone to a good confessor? Thank St Nicodemos.
  • Have you read the Lives of the Saints? Thank St Nicodemos.
  • Have you heard about the Desert Fathers? Thank St. Nicodemos

St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain is a perfect example of what a person with no special title or position of authority can offer the church. St. Nicodemos  was never a bishop, or a priest, just an ordinary, simple, yet educated, monk. He came from a tiny island, of humble origins, lived a life of scholarship and prayer and was one of the greatest teachers the Orthodox Church has to offer. He is one of the most important Orthodox authors of the modern era, and did his utmost to make the strong hesychastic and liturgical tradition available to all. A prolific writer and anthologist, yet the common thread in all of his work is to encourage the ordinary Christian to go deeper and deeper into the life in Christ.

It is not my purpose here to write a full life of St Nicodemos, but I will refer to it briefly. St Nicodemos was born in 1749 on the island of Naxos, receiving the baptismal name of Nicholas.  (His family name was Kallivourtsis). It was  on Naxos that he was first educated. He completed his studies at the Evangelical School in Smyrna a famous centre of learning at the time. As well as receiving a classical education in Greek, he also learnt, Latin Italian and French, and excelled in all his subjects.

However, the Russio-Turkish wars intervened, and following the defeat of the Ottoman Turks at Chesme, Orthodox Christian population of Asia Minor was punished with reprisals. St. Nicodemos, therefore.  returned to his native island of Naxos and and served as secretary and assistant to the Metropolitan of Paros and Naxos, Anthimos Vardis. It must be noted that throughout his studies and service to the Church he was noted for his purity of life, his depth of scholarship, but also his deep humility.

It was on Naxos that he met the Athonite monks Gregory, Niphon and Arsenios, and on the neighbouring island of Hydra that he met Macarios of Corinth, who had been exiled from his see by the Turks. They told him of the monastic life and the tradition of prayer in the heart.
These contacts inspired him to leave for Mount Athos. He entered Dionysiou monastery on Mount Athos in 1775. There he renounced the world, was tonsured a monk and was given the monastic name Nicodemos.

This was when St. Nicodemos really started to revive and teach the traditional Orthodox practices and patristic literature.

St Nicodemos touched upon every aspect of theological learning.

He wrote commentaries on all of the Epistles, the Book of Psalms,and even all the canon law of the Church, which he codified and commented upon in his groundbreaking tome called “The Rudder”

He also wrote a guide for confessors known as the Exomologitarion or Manual of Confession. He wrote a pamphlet encouraging frequent communion and thus spearheaded the Kollyvades movement. 

He wrote commentaries on the canons of Hymns sung on Feasts of Christ, and  of the Mother of God, as well as a whole host of other hymns, such as the Ninth Ode to the mother of God, the Hymns of Ascent sung in Matins etc.

St Nicodemos wrote out the Lives of the Saints, in a new Synaxarion, with a volume for each of the 12 months of the year. He also wrote a New Martyrologion, which catalogued all the new martyrs created under the Turkish yoke. Added to this were services written for many saints, including the new martyrs, as well as hymns to the Mother of God in the New Theotokarion.

St Nicodemos wrote a book on ethics called “Christoethia” , moreover his great work examining the human being and the state of the soul called the Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, or on guarding the five senses. He also reworked the book Unseen Warfare and wrote a book called Spiritual Exercises, pehaps taking the impetus from Western writers, but setting the ideas out wholly from a traditional Orthoodox perspective.

He reminded us again of the Desert Fathers with the publication of the Evergetinos. Most important of all was his work on the Philokalia . A marvellous anthology which weaves its way through the history of the Jesus Prayer from the time of St Anthony the Great to the great exegesis of this hesychastic tradition found in St. Gregory Palamas.

However, St Nicodemos writings were also a reflection of his own way of life. His biographer writes that many wounded by sin left bishops and confessors and ran to St Nicodemos.

His fame spread, and many Orthodox and non-Orthodox visited him to receive advice and spiritual guidance. Patriarchs, metropolitans, and lay officials such as John Kapodistrias, who later became the first prime minister of Greece, visited him

They were amazed to see a man dressed in rags – he had only one cassock – with plain sandals; old, without teeth, exhausted from the fasting and the hardships of his strict monastic life. St. Nicodemos’ lived a life of utter simplicity renouncing all the pleasures of he flesh. His food consisted of rice boiled in water, honey diluted with water, olives soaked in fava beans, and bread. He rarely ate fish. He practiced xerophagy  (i.e. eating uncooked food mainly bread, raisins, and nuts) in the true sense of the word. His eyes were full of flame and his mouth did not cease speaking the word of God. He was ready to explain the Scriptures to everyone, and then he would bend his head to the left side and say secretly the famous Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus, save me.” He spoke of himself as “a monster,” “a dead dog,” “a nonentity,” unwise,” “uneducated.” Yet, those who knew him said that he lived the life of an angel. He was humble, sweet, meek, and without possessions.

On July 5, 1809, he suffered a stroke leaving him paralysed on his upper right side. He did not speak much thereafter.

Early in the morning of July 14, 1809, as the earthly sun rose, the spiritual sun of Christ’s Holy Church was set, yet the rays of his teachings still shine upon us today.

In our Father amongst the Saints, Nicodemos, we truly have plenty to be thankful for. O Holy Father Nicodemos, pray to God for us!

St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (fresco)

Apolytikion of St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain – Third Tone
Thou hast been shown to be a godly clarion of holy oracles, teaching us righteousness. Thou wast adorned with wisdom’s grace, O Father, Saint Nicodemus For thou didst present to all thy pure life as a paradigm, pouring forth enlightenment by the wealth of thy godly words. Thy teachings of salvation illumined as light the whole world, O righteous Father.
   

 

Resurrection – St Gregory the Theologian

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us—you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.
St. Gregory the Theologian

Christ is Risen!

People rejoice, nations hear:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Stars dance, mountains sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Forests murmur, winds hum:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Seas bow*, animals roar:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bees swarm, and the birds sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

Angels stand, triple the song:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Sky humble yourself, and elevate the earth:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bells chime, and tell to all:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Glory to You God, everything is possible to You,
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

The words are from a poem by St. Nicholas Velimirovic.

Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom

If you are devout and love God, enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If you are a grateful servant,enter, rejoicing, into the joy of your Lord. If you followed the fast, receive your payment now.
If you worked from the first hour, receive today your just reward. If you came after the third hour, you are welcomed to celebrate. If you arrived after the sixth hour, have no doubt; for you suffer no loss. If you delayed until the ninth hour, come near with no cause to hesitate. If you arrived even at the eleventh hour, do not be fearful of the lateness; for the Lord is generous and accepts the last as He does the first.
He gives rest to him of the eleventh hour, as to him who worked from the first hour. He shows mercy to the last and attends to the first. To the one is given and to the other is granted. He accepts the works and welcomes the volition. He honours the act and praises the intention.
All of you, therefore, enter into the joy of our Lord; both first and last, receive your reward. You richand poor, with one another dance. You who are abstinent and you who are indolent, honour this day.
You who have fasted and you who have not fasted, be glad today. The table is richly laden; all of you,feast sumptuously. The calf is plentiful; let no one depart hungry. All of you partake of the banquet offaith. All of you enjoy the wealth of goodness.
Let no one deplore his poverty, for the Universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one lament for transgressions, because forgiveness has dawned from the Tomb. Let no one fear death, for the death of the Saviour has set us free.
He subdued it when it took hold of Him. He despoiled Hades when He descended into Hades. He embittered it as it tasted of His flesh. And anticipating this, Isaiah cried out, “Hades was embittered when it encountered You below.”
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was mortified.
It was embittered, for it was dethroned.
It was embittered, for it was enchained.
It received a body and came upon God. It received earth and met up with heaven. It received what it saw and stumbled upon what it did not see. Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life rules.
Christ is risen, and not one is to be found dead in the tomb.
For Christ rising from the dead has become the First to awaken among those who are asleep.
To Him be the glory and the power to the ages of ages.

Amen.

Lenten Concert: O My Sweetest Springtime

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Wednesday 9 April 2014, 19:00 p.m.

The Hellenic Centre

16-18 Paddington Street,

London W1U 5AS

The Education Office at the Embassy of Greece in London and the Cyprus Educational Mission (K.E.A.) in cooperation with The School of Byzantine Music of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain present an evening of Orthodox Christian Hymns of Great Lent and Holy Week.

The School of Byzantine Music Choir will perform selected hymns and contemporary Greek poems set to music. The programme also includes reading of poems, prose and hymns.

Entrance free. Booking essential on 02075639835 or at press@helleniccentre.org
Sponsored by The Hellenic Centre.

You are welcome!!!

The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

Originally posted on Monastery of Ypseni:

What is “the Great Canon of St. Andrew” ?


The Great Canon is a long chanted hymn in the form of a poem. It consists of four parts, each divided into nine odes like a regular canon, but there are more troparia (stanzas).
The refrain is  “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,” and a full prostration is performed.

What’s “Great” about it?


The Church decided to call it the Great Canon not so much for its length (250 troparia, or verses), as for the quality and power of its content.

When was it written?


It was written in the Seventh Century. When St. Andrew traveled to Constantinople for the 6th Ecumenical Council, in the year 680 AD, he brought with him and made public both his great composition and the life of St. Mary of Egypt, written by his compatriot and teacher, Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem…

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St Nectarios on Happiness

St Nectarios

How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside of themselves, in foreign lands and journeys, in riches and glory, in great possessions and pleasures, in diversions and vain things, which have a bitter end! In the same thing to construct the tower of happiness outside of ourselves as it is to build a house in a place that is consistently shaken by earthquakes. Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts: “I will visit them, and will walk in them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my people.” (II Cor. 6:16) What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself! 

On Candlemas Day By St. Sophronius Of Jerusalem

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Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.

The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.

The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Symeon the light whose brilliance is eternal.

Rejoicing with Symeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.

Through Symeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Symeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

By faith we, too embraced, Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel.

Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honour.

 

St Maximos the Confessor on the Beatitudes

maximusconfessor1“The world has many poor in spirit, but not in the right way; and many who mourn, but over money matters and loss of children; and many who are meek, but in the face of impure passions; and many who hunger and thirst, but to rob another’s goods and to profit unjustly. And there are many who are merciful, but to the body and to its comforts; and clean of heart, but out of vanity; and peacemakers, but who subject the soul to the flesh; and many who suffer persecution, but because they are disorderly; many who are reproached, but for shameful sins. Instead, only those are blessed who do and suffer these things for Christ and following his example. For what reason? ‘Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven,’ and ‘they shall see God,’ and so forth. So that it is not because they do and suffer these things that they are blessed (since those just mentioned do the same), but because they do and suffer them for Christ and following his example.

- St. Maximus the Confessor, Four Hundred Chapters on Love, Third Century, 47