Παρασκευή 31 Μαρτίου 2017

A voice from Sierra Leone: "Enter through the narrow gate..."

Fr Themi Adamopoulos, Sierra Leone (photo from here)

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it" [Matthew 7:13-14].
"Guard and keep safe the deposit [of godly truth] your faith entrusted to you, turn away from worldly and godless chatter [with its profane, empty words], and the contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and by doing so have erred (missed the mark) and strayed from the faith" [1 Timothy 6:20-21].

Please, see the video here

See also:

Orthodox Mission
Orthodox Sierra Leone

Τετάρτη 29 Μαρτίου 2017

The Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete - a dialog between a human and his soul

Orthodox.net (photo from here & here)
The Great Canon of St Andrew, Bishop of Crete, is the longest canon in all of our services, and is associated with Great Lent, since the only times it is appointed to be read in church are the first four nights of Great Lent (Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, at Great Compline, when it is serialized) and at Matins for Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent, when it is read in its entirety (in this latter service, the entire life of St Mary of Egypt is also read).

There is no other sacred hymn which compares with this monumental work, which St Andrew wrote for his personal meditations. Nothing else has its extensive typology and mystical explanations of the scripture, from both the Old and New Testaments.  One can almost consider this hymn to be a “survey of the Old and New Testament”. Its other distinguishing features are a spirit of mournful humility, hope in God, and complex and beautiful Trinitarian Doxologies and hymns to the Theotokos in each Ode.

The canon is a dialog between St. Andrew and his soul. The ongoing theme is an urgent exhortation to change one’s life. St Andrew always  mentions his own sinfulness placed in juxtaposition to God’s mercy, and uses literally hundreds of references to good and bad examples from the OT and NT to “convince himself” to repent.

A canon is an ancient liturgical hymn, with a very strict format. It consists of a variable number of parts, each called an “ode”. Most common canons have eight Odes, numbered from one to nine, with Ode 2 being omitted. The most penitential canons have all nine odes. Some canons have only three Odes, such as many of the canons in the “Triodion” (which means “Three Odes”).

In any case, all Odes have the same basic format.  An “Irmos” begins each Ode. This is generally sung, and each Irmos has a reference to one of the nine biblical canticles, which are selections from the Old and New Testament, which can be found in an appendix in any complete liturgical Psalter (book of Psalms, arranged for reading in the services). A variable number of “troparia” follow, which are short hymns about the subject of the canon. These are usually chanted, and not sung. After each troparion a “refrain” is chanted. At the end of each Ode, another hymn, called the “Katavasia”, either  the Irmos previously sung, or one like it is sung.

The troparia of the Great Canon in all its twelve Odes are usually chanted by the priest in the center of the church, with the choir singing the Irmos and Katavasia. There are varying traditions about bows and prostrations. Some prostrate and some make the sign of the cross and bow three times after the Irmos and each troparion.

General Themes of the Great Canon.

Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my fallsMon:1.1

Desire to change - dialogue with the soul

Come, wretched soul, with your flesh, confess to the Creator of all. In the future refrain from you former brutishness, and offer to God tears of repentanceMon:1.2

Recognizing Reality

The end is drawing near, my soul, is drawing near! But you neither care nor prepare. The time is growing short. Rise! The Judge is at the very doors. Like a dream, like a flower, the time of this life passes. Why do we bustle about in vain? Mon:4.2

How to pray - Laments and supplications to God

Thou art the Good Shepherd; seek me, Thy lamb, and neglect no me who have gone astray Mon:3.5

OT and NT examples of righteousness and unrighteousness, for the purpose of emulation or avoidance.

Do not be a pillar of salt, my soul, by turning back; but let the example of the Sodomites frighten you, and take refuge up in Zoar.(Genesis 19:26) Thu Ode 3:5

I have reviewed all the people of the Old Testament as examples for you, my soul. Imitate the God-loving deeds of the righteous and shun the sins of the wicked.Tue Ode 8

The Great Canon was written by a holy man to teach himself the right way to live. We cannot benefit from it unless we make it a priority to stand in prayer, in the church, and listen to it, with a great desire and expectation for God’s grace to teach us and heal us. Our theology is first and foremost – experienced and prayed, and not only “studied”.


 The Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete

All these texts are available at http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/

As chanted on Monday of the first Week

As chanted on Tuesday of the first Week

As chanted on Wednesday of the first Week

As chanted on Thursday of the first Week

As chanted on Thursday of the Fifth Week

St Andrew, Archbishop of Crete.
Commemorated July 4 

From The Prologue from Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich  ©1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK (icon from here)

 Born in Damascus of Christian parents, he was dumb until the age of seven. When his parents took him to church for Communion, the power of speech was given to him. Such is the divine power of Communion.

He went to Jerusalem at the age of fourteen and was tonsured in the monastery of St Sava the Sanctified. In his understanding and ascesis, he surpassed many of the older monks and was an example to all. The Patriarch took him as his secretary.

When the Monothelite heresy, which taught that the Lord had no human will but only a divine one, began to rage, the Sixth Ecumenical Council met in Constantinople in 681, in the reign of Constantine IV. Theodore, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was not able to be present at the Council, and sent Andrew, then a deacon, as his representative. At the Council, Andrew showed his great gifts: his articulateness, his zeal for the Faith and his rare prudence. Being instrumental in confirming the Orthodox faith, Andrew returned to his work in Jerusalem.

He was later chosen and enthroned as archbishop of the island of Crete. As archbishop, he was greatly beloved by the people. He was filled with zeal for Orthodoxy and strongly withstood all heresy. He worked miracles through his prayers, driving the Saracens from the island of Crete by means of them. He wrote many learned books, poems and canons, of which the best-known is the Great Canon of Repentance which is read in full on the Thursday of the Fifth Week of the Great Fast.

Such was his outward appearance that, 'looking at his face and listening to the words that flowed like honey from his lips, each man was touched and renewed'. Returning from Constantinople on one occasion, he foretold his death before reaching Crete. And so it happened. As the ship approached the island of Mitylene, this light of the Church finished his earthly course and his soul went to the Kingdom of Christ, in about the year 740.

See also


Τρίτη 28 Μαρτίου 2017

An Orthodox Greek woman about the children in Madagascar


Photo from here*
Orthodox Mission of Madagascar | Facebook
On the Orphanage project from missionary Matina Kouvoussis (March, 2015):

"Orphanage - A Noble Cause
Our experience and observations in Madagascar have shown that children in this country are severely marginalised due to poverty. Statistics show that over 60% of the children do not attend school and child labour is still a common phenomenon even today.
Young girls have a higher susceptibility of not receiving an education, as they are forced to marry at a young age. More often than not they are then neglected by their partner and are left to rear their children alone, engaging in hard manual labour to earn a living.
Unfortunately, young girls that are orphaned or that come from problematic families see no future for themselves and become victims of child exploitation.
Our conscience and Christian responsibility does not allow us to ignore this tremendous social problem that surrounds us. It is for this reason that we were motivated to build an orphanage/hostel for girls.
The aim of this project is to raise and protect parentless children, or children that come from problematic families in a safe, Christian environment - providing them holistic care both on a material and spiritual/psychological level, and to offer them an education that is due to every child despite their race, colour or creed."

* "Recent photos of the Orphanage in Madagascar. Isn't it beautiful? Thank you to all those who contributed in some way to make this happen and provide a safe haven for many children. We are now trying to acquire 50 mattresses, single sheets etc to fit 50 beds for the Orphanage. We will keep you posted. God bless you all and may you keep on opening your hearts and help out those who need our help. We will be needing much furniture for the Orphanage so please if you are in a position to, keep on donating..." (from here).


Madagascar: Orphanage of Love...
Orthodox Madagascar
Orthodox Mission
African Children
African Women

The Orthodox Christian Church in Madagascar
The official web site of the Orthodox Holly Diocese of Madagascar 

Orthodox Mission of Madagascar | Facebook

Domestic Violence and Poverty in Africa: When the Husband’s Beating Stick is Like Butter
The African Woman & the role of Woman in Orthodox Church: she must become the light of the world 
Oppression of Women in Africa


Madagascar: Orphanage of Love...

Photo from here*

By the Grace of God our Missionary work here in Madagascar is being continued despite the innumerable difficulties and hardships that we have to face daily.
It is true that the situation due to the economic crisis has now become really tough and our struggle here is given under very difficult conditions. Nevertheless, we never lose hope.
The orphanage in the capital city of Antananarivo has now been completed. It is going to house more than two hundred orphans. However, the costs for feeding, health care and education are expected to be very high. If we do not support the project, the suspension of the operation of the orphanage will inevitably continue. Nevertheless, it is still one of the largest orphanages in the country, and even state bodies are anxiously awaiting the implementation of the promises of our Orthodox Church toward our poor people knowing that our disposition towards the people we minister to is honest and selfless, unlike other denominations and confessions.
The sensitivity that we show to the children of the country and particularly to the orphaned ones is by no means a result of uncritical thinking or unclear judgment.

The children here and especially in the province die every day of diseases that are usually directly related to undernourishment or malnutrition, that is, lack of food or poor diet as well as lack of proper clothing and medical care.
In Tulear province we have recently baptized children mutilated in a car accident who do not have any support whatsoever. These children are too small to be aware of traffic dangers, so during a game they can carelessly go onto the road. Sometimes a passing car after hitting them leaves them either disabled or mutilated and sometimes even dead.
In this article we present photographs of some of these children who were recently begging us to do anything to just relieve their misery. In one of the photos you will see a child literally moving on all fours using his hands as feet and wearing slippers on them instead of the feet. As I was leaving for Greece, he was begging me to bring him a wheelchair as soon as possible.

In the Missionary Center of Tulear we have three brothers blinded by a hereditary disease. We help them as much as we can. All three are students at a school for blind children. On my return from Greece, they are expecting me to help them with their fees and bring them schoolbags and notebooks from Greece.
Daily we are approached by parents and children who are seeking help. Weary and embittered fathers or mothers with one of their children in their arms burning from malaria or typhoid fever, or because the virus has penetrated into their organism through a minor injury and has created a fistula due to lack of antiseptic or antibiotic. Many times at the clinic in Tulear I have seen children being saved from certain death. Their parents, destitute in their vast majority (about 90%), come and implore us to help them…
Seeing these images daily, I can’t help thinking of the anguish, pain and endurance of these parents; these people who walk kilometers carrying the sick child in their arms; who get drained out in the sun and the heat trying to save their little sprout from the jaws of death. So these hands and the prayers of these people when they leave us are the precious jewel we have closely guarded in our heart here in the Mission.

They tell us when leaving and embracing us: "Nowhere else have we been given any help. Everybody demanded our money and would not say a word about treatment. You not only did not ask for money, but you also shared our pain and grief and cried with us. Above all, you saved our child."
“Tahin’ Zanahary”.
"May you always be a seed of God’s blessing."
Could anyone ever expect to hear such beautiful wishes oftentimes coming out of mouths of non-believers?
These people may not be faithful, but they are filled with love, hope and sometimes not too late with the spirit of God too.

From the Holy Metropolis of Madagascar

* "Recent photos of the Orphanage in Madagascar. Isn't it beautiful? Thank you to all those who contributed in some way to make this happen and provide a safe haven for many children. We are now trying to acquire 50 mattresses, single sheets etc to fit 50 beds for the Orphanage. We will keep you posted. God bless you all and may you keep on opening your hearts and help out those who need our help. We will be needing much furniture for the Orphanage so please if you are in a position to, keep on donating..." (from here)


Orthodox Madagascar 
Orthodox Mission

African Children  

The Orthodox Christian Church in Madagascar
Orthodox Mission of Madagascar | Facebook

Κυριακή 26 Μαρτίου 2017

Ambassadors of the Faith: Sharing the Light and the Love of Christ

About the Feast of the Annunciation of Ever-Virgin Mary (March 25)

" Chronia polla! Many years! Munoga yayeta! Imyaka myinshi to all especially those who bear the names Evangelos, Evangelia, from BUJUMBURA BURUNDI..." (from here - about Orthodox Church in Burundi, here)

Father Thomas J. Paris (*)
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

"My Soul Magnifies the Lord"

Do You Want to Know a Secret?
I have a secret that I would like to share with you. One might call it "an open" secret, but many people have stumbled because they ignored the truths in this secret. They have led sad, unfulfilled and many times wasted lives because they didn't implement the wisdom hidden in this secret.
Here's the secret. Hush; bend your ear close so that you will hear clearly. The secret of a happy, joy-filled life is a grateful heart. Without a heart filled with gratitude there is never a possibility of a life of happiness.
As we celebrate the Annunciation, we remember the earth-shaking news that God is taking on flesh. The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, is going to enter the world as one of His creatures, to unite Himself with us, so that we can ultimately be united with God the Father.
It is a day that stumps the imagination. How? Why? Could God really do something like this? Could He actually become man and still remain God? What does that do to us? How does it change our future, yours and mine?
"My Soul Magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." (Luke 1:46,47) is a paean gushing forth from a heart filled to overflowing with gratitude. It is the opening lines of the Magnificat sung by The Panagia, the Mother of God after hearing the following words from her cousin Elizabeth:
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, but why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42)

The young teenage woman was truly overwhelmed by the message brought to her by the Archangel Gabriel. "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" The Archangel's reply was both comforting and yet overwhelming. "For, with God nothing will be impossible."
Icon from the site
And Mary's response was the culmination of humankind's long effort to accomplish. Mary on behalf of all humans gives the one response that is needed from all of us. Yes Lord, I want to serve you. I do accept your offer of love. Change me so that I can be a clean vessel carrying you within me. Let the miracle of your birth in time transform mortals into timelessness.
Mary's song of bursting praise is the manifestation of a heart filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. As we learn from the Orthodox Study Bible Mary knew her Scripture. The Bible was her inspiration and guide. "My soul magnifies the Lord" was a hymn first offered by Hannah who in her advanced years uttered this inspired prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10). It was prayed by expectant Jewish mothers for centuries.

Her words echo thanksgiving and gratitude:
"He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation."
Now this was not the only response that Mary could have given to the announcement from the Archangel and the words of Elizabeth.
She could have said, "Thanks, but no thanks. I really don't want to be a spectacle carrying a child under these strange circumstances. I don't need all that pressure on me to try to live up to some high standard that will curtail my activities, restrain my play, exercise program and entertainment. I don't have time to raise a child. I don't have the financial means, for I am so over my head in debt already. I didn't ask for this honor. Give it to someone else. Why is it always me who is given the difficult problems? How come Miss 'so and so' gets off so easy and I am the one saddled with a child. I have so much more to experience in life before I need to take on the responsibilities of motherhood? Why poor me! "

Yes Mary could have responded in this or some other negative way, but thankfully she didn't. She knew intuitively that a life of complaining, dissatisfaction, resentment, jealousy, grumbling and lament never brings happiness. Nor does resignation or indifference.
Happiness comes not when we reluctantly accept a new situation, a burdensome challenge or difficult responsibility, but when we embrace it and thank God for the opportunity to grow. Mary did not simply resign herself to her fate. She saw God acting, God loving, God offering, and she whole-heartedly embraced the new reality and burst into a song of praise and thanksgiving. She found true happiness in a life filled with gratitude.
Mary, the Theotokos, remains a model for all generations. She is the "Canon" the Rule or Measure by which all of us are to gauge our lives. She said Yes to God's offer of love. She gratefully worshipped and thanked Him. May we be wise enough to do the same.

(*) Protopresbyter Thomas J. Paris has served as Dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension for the past thirty-three years. He is founder and co-chair of the Metropolis Spiritual Renewal Ministry and author of a six-year Bible Study on the Old and New Testaments. He organizes and conducts yearly Retreats for Teenagers and adults. He is a Graduate of Holy Cross Theological School and the Theological School of the University of Athens.

The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25 each year. The Feast commemorates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb.
Biblical Story 
The biblical story of the Feast of the Annunciation is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke (1:26-39). The Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, who was living in Nazareth, and said to her, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” Mary was perplexed and wondered what kind of greeting this was.
The angel told her not to be afraid, for she had found favor with God. He said, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary responded to the angel by asking how this could happen since she had no husband. The angel told her that the Holy Spirit and the power of God would come upon her, and that the child to be born of her would be called holy, the “Son of God.”
The angel then proceeded to tell the Virgin Mary that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived a son in her old age (John the Baptist), and affirmed that with God nothing is impossible.
In faith and obedience to the will of God, Mary replied to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” Upon her response, the angel departed.
It is on the Feast of the Annunciation, that Orthodox Christians commemorate both the divine initiative of God, whereby He took on flesh from the Virgin for our salvation, and the human response, whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation offered to her. He elected to become man, and He desired to do this with the willing agreement of her whom He chose as His mother. Mary could have refused, for she was not a passive instrument, but an active participant with a free and positive part to play in God’s plan for our salvation. Thus, when on this and other feasts the Orthodox Church honors the Theotokos, the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose to follow His will.
Icon of the Feast 
The icon of the Annunciation is one that presents the joy of the announcement of the coming of Christ. It is an icon of bright colors, depicting the Archangel Gabriel (1), who has descended from heaven, and the Virgin Mary (2), who has been chosen to be the Mother of God.

1. The Archangel Gabriel presents the good news of the coming of Christ to Mary (detail).

2. The Virgin Mary, who was chosen to be the Mother of God (detail).

The Archangel is shown with his feet spread apart as if he is running to share the good news with Mary (3). In his left hand is a staff, the symbol of a messenger. His right hand is extended toward Mary as he delivers the message and announces the blessing bestowed upon her by God (4).

3. The position of Archangel Gabriel's feet suggest that he is running to share the news with Mary (detail).

4. The Archangel's right hand is extended towards Mary as he announces the blessing bestowed upon her [Mary] by God (detail).

On the right side of the icon the Virgin sits on an elevated seat, indicating that as the Mother of God she is “greater in honor than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, who without corruption gave birth to God the Word.” In her left hand she holds a spindle of scarlet yarn (5) which depicts the task she was assigned of preparing the purple and scarlet material to be used in making the veil for the Temple in Jerusalem. Her right hand is raised in a gesture of acceptance in response to Gabriel’s message (6). Her posture expresses willing cooperation with God’s plan of salvation. The three stars on her garments (7) represent that she was a Virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ.

5. Her left hand holds a spindle of crimson yarn depicting the task that she had of making the veil of the Temple in Jerusalem (detail).

6. Mary's right hand is raised in acceptance of Gabriel's message (detail).

7. The three stars on the garments of the Theotokos represent that she was a Virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ (detail). 

8. A depiction of the divine realm and the Holy Spirit coming upon the Theotokos (detail).

At the top of the icon the segment of a circle represents the divine realm (8), from which three rays emerge. This demonstrates the action of the Holy Spirit coming upon her.
Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos 
The Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the Feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. Scripture readings for the Feast are the following: At Vespers: Genesis 28:10-17; Ezekiel 43:27—44:4; Proverbs 9:1-11. At the Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56. At the Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 2:11-18; Luke 1:24-38.
The Feast of the Annunciation in the Greek Orthodox Church also marks a day of national celebration for the people of Greece and those around the world of Greek descent. It was on March 25, 1821 when Greece officially declared its independence and began the revolution that would eventually give the nation its freedom after 400 years of rule by the Ottomans. In addition to the services for the Feast, festivities and parades are held and official proclamations are offered throughout the world in recognition of Greek Independence Day.
Festival Icons for the Christian Year by John Baggley (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000), pp. 21-30.
The Festal Menaion. Translated by Mother Mary (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1969) pp. 60-61.
The Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Catherine Aslanoff, editor and Paul Meyendorff, translator (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995).
The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos, written and compiled by Holy Apostles Convent (Buena Vista, CO: 1989).
The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Vol. 4, compiled by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra and translated from the French by Mother Maria Rule and Mother Joanna Burton (Chalkidike, Greece: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 2003) pp. 227-232.
Hymns of the Feast of the Annunciation

Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)

Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you."

Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)

To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"

Listen to the hymns from the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos

See also

More about the orthodox christian icon of the Annunciation of the Theotokos
Mother of God (Virgin Mary), Orthodox Church and African peoples (& Why the Orthodox Honor Mary)
Bikira Maria, Mama wa Mungu
Maria in die Ortodoksie

The Mother of God as "Eye" and "Earth"
Male and Female Created He Them
When the Orthodox Church celebrates pregnancy...  
Icons of the Mother of God 

Theotokos (tag in our blog)
- See more at: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2014/11/entrance-of-theotokos-resource-page.html#sthash.kErn0BI5.dpuf
- See more at: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2014/11/entrance-of-theotokos-resource-page.html#sthash.kErn0BI5.dpuf
Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel (March 26)