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The merciful person gives whatever he has

“The merciful person is he who gives to others what he has himself received from God, whether it be money, or food, or strength, a helpful word, a prayer, or anything else that he has through which he can express his compassion for those in need.”
–St. Peter of Damascus

When I first read this quote on the Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage newsletter, it struck me. The act of compassion is not limited or confined to material support, but can encompass a good word, a heartfelt prayer, even the steadfast support of one’s mere presence–whatever one happens to be able to give, whatever one has on hand.

This is a comfort to those would like to show love and kindness in accordance with the Gospel commandment, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” but do not know what to do or where to begin, when confronted by many needy neighbors.

There is no need for extravagance, no room for the worrying that only leads to stagnant inaction. God sends brothers and sisters in need to us every day, and we, who want to be merciful, give them something of our love–a warm greeting, a kind word, a prayer, money, food.

Spiritual support is every bit as important as material support. Bread is necessary for the body’s survival, but without truth, the soul will die. So we should offer both. And if we have no money or bread, as Orthodox Christians, we at least have the Word of Truth.

Many have died through lack of corruptible bread, and we pray for and pitty them. But there are also many who, refusing to abandon the Living Bread which came down from Heaven, gave their bodies over to cruel deaths, torments, and deprivations of material things. These we honor and entreat for their prayers.

They are the Saints of God who teach us the meaning of discernment, for they sacrificed passing pleasures for eternal good things, while we who love sin are all too eager endulge in our passing desires–food, drink, companionship, material comfort, doing our own will, and other miscellaneous passions.

It is our lot in life, carrying our cross on the narrow road to the Kingdom of Heaven, to do a little work on ourselves–a little self denial, following again the advice of St. Peter of Damascus, who, in speaking of the Saints, said, “It was through victories in small things that the fathers won their great battles.”

It is a small thing to say “no” to yourself once, a small thing to give something of what is yours out of compassion for a brother or sister in need once. But many small, individual instances of combining our small, imperfect, feeble but sincere effort with the great grace of God are what purify the soul and make it God-like.

A prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos

by St Peter of Damascus

Blessed Queen of the universe,
thou knowest that we sinners have no intimacy with God whom thou hast borne.
But, putting our trust in thee,
through thy mediation we thy servants prostrate ourselves before the Lord:
for thou canst freely approach Him since He is thy son and our God.
Thus I, too, unworthy believer that I am, entreat thee, holy Queen,
that I may be allowed to perceive the gifts of grace bestowed on thee
and on the other saints,
and to understand how thou dost display so many virtues.
Simply thy giving birth to the Son of God shows that thou excellest all other beings.
For He Who, as creator of all,
knows all things before they come into existence,
found thy womb worthy of His indwelling.

From St. Peter of Damascus (Book 1 : A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pgs. 129-130), from the Web site:

A life of one St. Peter of Damascus (October 4)

Our holy father among the Saints, Peter of Damascus (of Capitolias), was Bishop of Damascus (or Bostra), Syria, at the time of the Islamic conquest of the region. He was seized by the Mohammedans for preaching against Mohammed and condemned to death. His captors tortured, blinded, crucified, and finally beheaded him. He gave his life for the love of Jesus Christ in the year of Our Lord 750. Through his steadfast intercessions, may Christ our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Editor’s note: The various Synaxaria and Martyrologies don’t appear to be very clear on who St. Peter of Damascus was and when he lived. There is evidently some confusion between 4 Saints named Peter, at least two of them bishops, and at least one a martyr–two of Damascus, one of Maiouma and one of Capitolias, both in the region of Damascus, whom the Eastern Church commemorates on Feb. 9 and Oct. 4. The St. Peter of Damascus who wrote the above statements and prayer from the Philokalia was probably a hesychast monk of the 12th century. Through the prayers of all four Saints Peter of Damascus, may the Lord God forgive us our sins and grant us, in His mercy, the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.


Save the starving Christians!

St. Edward, King and Martyr

st-edward2.jpgsts_edward.jpgstedwardmartyr.jpgst_edward_with_scenes.jpgedwardshrine.jpgedwardicon.jpga-edward2.jpgsaint_edward.jpgst-edward.jpgAs you can see, in honor of the Sunday of Orthodoxy (last Sunday) and the Restoration of the Holy Icons, we’re putting up all the icons we could find of this Holy Martyr. Holy Martyr and King Edward, pray to God for us! Here’s an article on him from Wikipedia: here is the service (Eastern Rite) to St. Edward:

Even the saints in heaven do missionary work on the earth

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Bishop of Myra in Lycia

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Bishop of Myra in Lycia

The Apparition of St. Nicholas at Juneau
and the Conversion of the Tlingit-Aukwanton

Which we commemorate on 7 December

From an article by the late Dr. Helen A. Shenitz, Ph.D. Dr. Shenitz, who reposed in the Lord in April of 1973, was a leader in the return of the St. Nicholas parish in Juneau to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad from the Metropolia schism.

     In 1890, the Sitka Indians, headed by Prince Khliantych, informed the Russian priest, Fr. V. Duhov, that the Yarkon (Prince) of the Tlingit-Aukwanton people of Juneau, Ishkhanalykh, desired to be baptized into the Orthodox Christian Faith. To this, Khliantych added that he had no doubt that the entire Tlingit-Aukwanton would become Orthodox Christians if the priest would visit Juneau and baptize the Yarkon.

     On July 26, 1892, Bishop Nikolai of Alaska and the Aleutians, visited Juneau and was met by Tlingit leaders, who expressed the strong desire to be baptized. They also begged the Bishop to build a church in Juneau, promising to donate land, lumber and labour.

     Bishop Nikolai was curious concerning the obvious fervor and zeal of the Tlingits to be baptized. Then the following miracle was related to him:

     “A young Tlingit man had a vision. A venerable old (white) man came to him and advised him to go to Sitka and be baptized. The young man followed the advice, and soon afterward became sick. On his deathbed, he called for the elders of the village and told them that the same venerable old man had come to see him again and told him to advise all the Tlingit people to be baptized. The young man died, but his message did not die with him. Soon, other Tlingits began to have the same vision, and the fervor to be baptized spread like a wild fire.”

     Upon hearing of this miracle, Bishop Nikolai left a priest in Juneau and promised that they would have a church in the near future. On July 29, 1892, Yarkon Ishkhanalykh and his wife were baptized. He was given the name of Dimitry, for the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios of Salonika, and the Yarkoness was named Elizaveta, for St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist. Upon seeing their prince baptized, the Tlingit-Aukwanton people flocked to the priest to follow his example.

     In 1893, with a donation from Bishop Nikolai, the building of the church began. Yarkon Dimitry gave the land, and the people kept their promise and gave lumber and free labour. The mind of the people was set upon one thing: that the church be named for St. Nicholas. Whether the Saint himself had directed this or not is not known for certain.

     On November 22, 1893, the church and priest’s dwelling were completed, and early in 1894, Bishop Nikolai consecrated the church in the name of St. Nicholas, Protector of Mariners. The Tlingits, like the Greek islanders, are a seafaring people whose principal occupation is fishing, and so they have an especial love for St. Nicholas just as their brothers in Greece.

     The fruits of Yarkon Dimitry’s true piety were to be seen in his descendants. His son, Yarkon Alexei, is known as “The Peacemaker,” for his work in ending the warfare amongst coastal peoples. His granddaughter, Alexandra Cecilia Kunz, has been shown forth as a confessor of the faith in these last days.

     The Tlingit people still fervently call upon St. Nicholas to protect them at sea. Through his holy intercession, may this faithful Orthodox Christian people be preserved in the holy faith until the end.

Source: Orthodox Life, Vol. 23, No. 4 (July-August 1973), pages 12-13.
The spelling “Tlinket” in the original has been changed to “Tlingit” for this HTML version.

From the Web site:

N.B. This information comes through a Web site run by schismatics, but the event it refers to can be corroborated through historical accounts to a certain extent. I Googled “Alexandra Cecilia Kunz and didn’t find much, except this same article and a reference to her on the calendar of that schismatical church naming her a Confessor. If anyone has any further information on her life and works, I would be very interested to learn it.–John, editor

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland, Bishop of Armagh

St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland, Bishop of Armagh

Here is a fitting hymn for St. Patrick’s Day, his “breastplate” prayer to the Most Holy Trinity. (For those wondering, a “breastplate” prayer combines a confession of faith in God, a cry to Him for help, invocation of the Most Blessed Trinity, and the sign of the Holy Cross.)

Saint Patrick lived from 372-466 A.D., and was the Apostle and evangelizer of Ireland. Although he was preceded by St. Palladius, it was St. Patrick’s mission which spread out over the whole island and is responsible for the mass conversion of the Irish people to Orthodox Christianity.

This prayer which he composed is a reflection of the faith he brought to Ireland–a faith utterly reliant on God, having nothing to do either with the darkness of this fallen world or the enjoyment of a comfortable life of complacency. Note that St. Patrick’s use of the word “bind” is highly active, bringing to mind the putting on of armor, and that this binding has an object, that is, warfare against the evil of demons, human enemies, and, foremost, the evil lurking in one’s own soul. Here it is, quoted from the Saint Ambrose Hymnal, translated by C.F. Alexander (1818-1895):

1. I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.

2. I bind this day to me forever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan River, His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;

His coming at the Day of Doom; I bind unto myself today.

3. I bind unto myself the power of the great love of Cherubim;

the sweet “well done” in judgement hour, the service of the Seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word, the Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prohpets’ scrolls,

all good deeds done unto the Lord, and purity of virgin souls.

4. I bind unto myself today the virtues of the star-lit heaven,

the glorious sun’s live-giving ray, the whiteness of the moon at even,

the flashing of the lightning free, the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

the stable earth, the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.

5. I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need.

The Wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward;

the Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

6.  Against the demon snares of sin, the vice that gives temptation force,

the natural lusts that war within, the hostile men that mar my course;

or few or many, far or nigh, in every place, and in all hours,

against their fierce hostility, I bind to me these holy powers.

7. Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, against false words of heresy,

against the knowledge that defiles, against the heart’s idolatry,

against the wizard’s evil craft, against the death-wound and the burning,

the choking wave, the poisoned shaft, protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

8. Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

9. I bind unto myself the Name, the strong name of the Trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.

Of Whom all nature hath creation; Etneral Father, Spirit, Word:

Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.

In principio…a word on beginnings

Beginning something, whether it is a small or a great thing, is all too easy in this one-click age. Sure, a little thought is required, but thought is a high-priced commodity. The amount of thought must correspond to the importance of the thing. Judging a thing’s importance, however, also requires time. So it is, that we often begin things willy-nilly, deeming them unimportant, only to realize later, sometimes much later, that our initial beginning was whimsical and cavalier.

Thus, I sit here, in front of the computer screen, enjoying my new blog and its set-up, but wishing I had at hand a fitting quote, something to lend gravity to the situation, if only for my own reference in the future. This would help assure me that my beginning was not dumb after all, that, even though I wasn’t ready to say anything special, still I could provide whoever out there is reading a little food for thought. Alas, my unpreparedness has exposed the truly capricious nature of my soul to the whole world. Oh, well. Better luck next time.

Sitka Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos

Sitka Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos

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