Τρίτη 31 Ιουλίου 2018

The Singular Goodness of God

It has long seemed to me that it is one thing to believe that God exists and quite another to believe that He is good. Indeed, to believe that God exists simply begs the question. That question is: Who is God, and what can be said of Him? Is He good? This goes to the heart of the proclamation of the Christian faith. We believe that God has revealed Himself definitively in the God/Man, Jesus Christ, and preeminently in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Years ago, a friend of mine was speaking with an Orthodox priest about certain matters of conscience. In the course of the conversation, my friend mentioned concerns with the judgment of God, expressing a certain dread. The priest responded by turning around a small icon of Christ that was on his desk so that my friend could see it. It was the icon of Christ, “Extreme Humility,” that pictures Him in the depth of His humiliation and suffering. “Which God are we talking about?” was the priest’s question. My friend’s concerns were answered in that moment. Whatever our concerns might be, the goodness of God is revealed in that icon without qualification.
It is possible to use the entire Jesus story as a way of proving the existence of God, only to then proceed to think of God in terms that are somehow removed from Christ Himself. I’m not sure whether we imagine this “God” to be the “Father” or something else. These conversations (and thoughts) are often expressed in terms of, “I believe that God…” and on from there. I think of this as the God of the blackboard. Jesus is used in order to prove the blackboard but then we begin to fill in that large, blank wall with our own imaginings (or various passages of Scripture that we might use as a counterweight to the story of Jesus).
Sometimes those imaginings are extrapolations from Scripture (this story or that). Sometimes they are the productions of opinion. Many times our imaginings were handed down to us or written in our minds long before we ever thought about the matter.
If the stories of Scripture “prior” to Christ were sufficient for the knowledge of God, Christ would not have spoken in correction of the conclusions falsely drawn from them. There is a Greek word for an interpretation of the Scriptures: exegesis. It is most informative to note that St. John (in the Greek) says:
The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has exegeted Him. (Joh 1:18)
Christ is how we “read” God. We cannot get behind Christ to speak about God as though we knew anything of God apart from Christ. We do not know God “prior” to Christ. When Christ declares that He is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that “no one comes to the Father except by Me,” He is not merely describing the path of salvation, He is making it clear that it is through Him alone that we know God. This is also affirmed in St. Matthew’s gospel:
All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matt. 11:27 NKJ)
Christ not only reveals God, but He reveals the goodness of God. He is what goodness looks like. Throughout His ministry, every word and action is a revelation of goodness. That goodness is supremely made manifest in His voluntary self-emptying on the Cross. This revelation is definitive and must be always borne in mind when we consider who God is and what kind of God He is. He is the kind of God who empties Himself for our sake, unites Himself to our shame and suffering, and endures all things that He might reconcile us to Himself and lead us into the fullness of life in Him.
This is the proper “exegesis” of the Scriptures. Anything that imagines God in a manner that is not consistent with this presentation is a deviant reading (for a Christian). This calls for an inner discipline. When reading even the most disturbing imprecatory passages within the Scriptures, we should search for the image of the Crucified Christ within them. There are frequent paradoxes in such an approach. This is particularly true in the language of hell (and its synonyms).

Uganda, Orthodox Holy Liturgy, July 2018 (from here)

God has no need for punishment. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He cannot will our destruction and punishment while at the same time not willing that we should perish. Even the language of the fires of hell as a self-inflicted reality can be misleading. We know by experience that we are capable of inflicting great suffering on ourselves and we can easily imagine that stretching into eternity. What is being described, however, are the inner dynamics of a relationship with Divine Love: compassionate, forgiving, gentle, self-emptying in the extreme. The language and imagery of Scripture can be graphic, at times repulsive, particularly in the confusion of modern literalism.
These matters must be read within the heart (for that is where they were written). The singular commitment of the heart must be grounded in the goodness of God. We are not asked to look at something that is repugnant or horrible and say that it is good. That would do damage to the soul. What we know in Christ tells us that God is good. It is this that we look for as we search the depths of our world for understanding.
An element of God’s goodness that is frequently overlooked is found in our freedom (even when we misuse it). Nothing else in all creation is given the freedom that marks human existence. Everything else around us expresses its nature. A dog always acts as a dog. Human beings have the capacity in our freedom to act contrary to our nature. Sometimes our own sanity is insane. Some of the Fathers describe this capacity as “godlike.” We have been given a freedom that transcends our nature. It is this freedom that, potentially, finds expression in the fullness of personal existence.
We are created with the capacity to see God “face-to-face,” to interact as an equal, regardless of how absurd that might seem. It is an existence that is not confined to nature or circumstance but finally is above both. It is an existence that is constituted solely by love. I have seen this freedom exercised as love, even within the depths of protracted, life-long suffering. The goodness manifested in such examples is staggering.
I do not think there is a calculus that can be brought into this reality. Is the freedom we are given worth the price? No calculus is possible because we cannot measure the things involved. I cannot measure the suffering of an innocent child (as did Ivan Karamazov) just as I cannot measure the full joy of the freedom of love. What we have in Christ, however, is an example of both.
Here, we profess, is the most Innocent of the innocent, who, “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, disregarding the shame” (Heb. 12:2). The “joy that was set before Him,” is not some sort of private bliss. It is the joy of love, in freeing those who are held in bondage so that they might see Him face-to-face (as an equal) in all of the fullness of a true personal existence.
I cannot imagine this, nor measure this. But I can say that I see this. I see One who is utterly good, compassionate and self-emptying, walking the path of the unimaginable because He is good and thinks we are worth it. My faith (trust, loyalty) says, “I want to walk that path – help me!” I take His death and resurrection as the revelation of God and of the world as well.

Κυριακή 29 Ιουλίου 2018

Full Impact Faith: An Interview with Fr. Turbo Qualls

Journey to Orthodoxy
by Tudor Petcu

Another in our series by Romanian writer, Tudor Petcu. Tudor is a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, Romania. His work focuses on the evolution of Orthodox spirituality in Western societies. In this article, he interviews Fr. Turbo Qualls – the unofficial winner of the aware for the ‘Best Clergy Name’ ever.

1.) First of all, please, explain me what should we know about Saint Moses the Black and why is he considered so important for the orthodox community of black Americans.

St. Moses was one of the Desert Fathers who lived in the early part of the 5th cent. According the Hagiographical accounts of his life, he was an unruly slave, who became a notorious thief, murderer and gang leader who would later find profound repentance as a monastic, priest and spiritual father.
His life is of particular importance for many Black Americans due to the social, moral and spiritual parallels between his life and ours. More importantly, we see in his response to the struggles that beset him, a path towards salvation and becoming more Christ-like.

2.) How would you describe the history and evolution of Orthodox community of Black Americans in the US and what would be its main uniqueness in the orthodox world, if I can call it like that?

I would say that the history of Black Americans within Orthodoxy is still very young and developing. Much of the reason for this is due to the social barriers that many of the first immigrant Orthodox communities adopted in order to fit in with what was perceived to be the “American” mindset. In other words, historically there hasn’t been as welcoming and evangelistic attitude towards Black Americans by the Orthodox Church due to the racism that has been both explicit and implicit in American society. Thankfully that is slowly starting to change.
In respect to the uniqueness, I would say the the experience of Black Americans in the U.S. is much closer to the experience of many of the “old country” Orthodox than that of the average “White” American. It must be noted that when this term is used, it should be generally interpreted as WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). The reason for this is due to the reality of the experience of being treated as a second class citizen and often times being persecuted unto death. Both the Russian and Romanian Christians experienced this under communism. The Greeks and Serbs under the Turks. The Syrians under Islam, etc.

Most “White” Americans do not have a working memory or experience of this type of suffering; where as, Black Americans do. It is helpful if you understand that slavery, Jim Crow and the general struggle of Black people in America is both ongoing and relatively new. For instance, my Grandfather was the son of Slaves. That is not far removed from me at all. The ability to endure suffering in such a way that it will bring one closer to Christ is one of the key facets of Orthodoxy, and the Protestant and Roman Catholic experience which is more prevalent in America does not have the means to expound on that experience. Although the majority of Black Americans are Protestant historically, the experience of being Black in America is indivisible from the experience of suffering.
Therefore, the inability for Protestantism to articulate and expound on that reality is one of the main reasons that many Black Americans have over time left Christianity altogether for some other faith or even atheism.

Fr Turbo, photo from here
3.) Which are the main reasons why some Afro-Americans have taken the decision to convert to Orthodoxy from your point of view? According to the question above, I would be very glad if you could talk a little bit about your spiritual road to Orthodoxy, about your pilgrimage in the Orthodox Church.

From my perspective, the key reasons why Afro-Americans convert to Orthodoxy, (which is to find the true and historical Church of Jesus Christ) are identical to all other folk, except in one case. That one exception is to reconcile the racism that is inherent in American Christianity, which is namely Protestant. For many Afro-Americans, the experience of Christ is so powerful, and has sustained our families and community for generation upon generation, but the racism and oppression that has been enacted in the name of Christ is often too much to reconcile. This is a large part of the reason why the growth of Orthodoxy among Afro-Americans is not as rapid as it could be; namely, because Orthodoxy is still unknown in this country, many Afro-Americans arent aware that there was a Church that did not participate in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and that did not promote the racism of the West.

My journey given here at the website for a parish I attended when I first became Orthodox (11 years ago). Here is the portion of the article discussing my journey. The link to the whole article is below.
For many years the crop of inquirers and catechumens of all ages came from more traditional Evangelical, Anglican and Charismatic backgrounds. Then one day Turbo Qualls, a young African American tattoo – artist (and now developing iconographer) showed up. His background included drug use, witchcraft and Magick before he became a Christian as an Evangelical. He had been leading a Monday night Bible study and discussion group at “Sid?s Tattoo Shop” in Anaheim, California with other young, disaffected, punk-rock counter-culture kids, turned off by the overtly materialistic American culture and looking for solid truth.
One of Turbo’s first encounters with Orthodox Christianity was the book “Youth Of the Apocalypse” published by Saint Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California (founded by Fr Seraphim Rose). It had been circulating around the southern California Christian punk rock scene he was part of. Once he read the book he discovered that some of the lyrics and ethos of the punk rock music scene had in fact been inspired by Orthodox Christianity, without being directly attributed to it.
Turbo was looking to find his place.
“I grew up often being the only “black guy? around, so I was hungry for “identity?.
The Christian punk scene provided that for awhile, but while the church I attended provided community, it did not really provide an „identity,?” Turbo explains. Through his reading and exploration Turbo discovered the Eastern Orthodox Church of “St Moses The Black”, the fourth-century Ethiopian Orthodox monk from Egypt. St Moses was formerly a suspected murderer and leader of a gang of fierce bandits, before hiding out at a monastery in Egypt and being drawn by the peace and tranquility he discovered there. Turbo visited St Barnabas and became a catechumen. Soon others like him, some only marginally Christian – some sporting dredlocks, tattoos, multi-colored hair, Mohawks, lip and nose piercings – began to show up with him. Like Turbo they were drawn by the reverence, the beauty and the depth of Orthodox Christianity.
When asked what impact Orthodox Christianity has made on his life, Turbo reflects before answering:
“Our family?s prayer and devotional life is now the center of our home life. That?s probably one of the biggest changes.” He continues: “I also realized I needed to be kind to my wife and be a truly “good? man; not just to maintain some Christian veneer, but real goodness, because I know I will be judged.”

4.) How does the dialogue between the Orthodox community of Black Americans and the historical orthodox churches looks like at this moment?

Fr Moses Berry, photo from the post The realities of slavery, hopes and dreams for the African-American community for a Black Orthodox Priest in America

It is not as monolithic of a situation as one might think. There are countless Black denominations just like the rest of the Protestant world. There are pockets of communities that the Brotherhood of St.Moses are speaking with, but currently, I find that the greatest obstacle to impact-full dialogue is the lack of a unified Orthodox voice in America. If the Orthodox hierarchy were to denounce the heresies and atrocities that were committed and still unrepentanted of in the West, you would see a record movement of Afro-Americans coming to Orthodoxy.

5.) Could you say that the Orthodox community of Black Americans has a certain voice in the American society or if it will become stronger in the future?

Yes. Those of us who have had the doors of Orthodoxy opened to us understand the profound power that is hidden. This power is trans-formative and liberating; more importantly, it is the very validation of our refusal to deny Christ, even though society, history and other Black folk call us fools for being apart of what is wrongly considered a “white mans” religion. We understand why others think and say that; however,
we have tasted of the Cup of Immortality and know that there is no other place for us to go. (John 6:68)

See also: Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African American Community 

Orthodoxy of the Heart - Father Seraphim Rose and the Orthodox Christians of Africa
African-American Orthodoxy — Eight principal areas of convergence between African spirituality and Ancient Christianity

Alternative Christianity: Orthodoxy and the Mainstream Church  

Ferguson, MO vs. Malcolm X: Are We Chasing Our Tails? - It is time for us all to come home...

Monk Moses of Platina Monastery (California, USA) (photo)

The realities of slavery, hopes and dreams for the African-American community for a Black Orthodox Priest in America (video)
St. Simon of Cyrene & Black History Month (February 27th: St. Simon’s Day)

Τετάρτη 25 Ιουλίου 2018

"Ivory Coast or Coast of Orthodoxy?"

Photo from here

By the grace of God and with the blessings of His Beatitude, after a long time I was made worthy to visit the neighboring to Ghana country, called Ivory Coast. That name had always aroused my interest and curiosity. Why “Ivory Coast”? Who called it by that name and why?
Living in West Africa and studying the history of the region, I discovered that Ghana as well had other names in the past; it was formerly called “Gold Coast” and sometimes “Slave Coast”, and there I understood that the colonists then named these coasts and later the countries after the products they obtained from these areas.
This realization made me wonder how much we Orthodox people differ from the colonists! They would take the most precious things from these people, whereas we Orthodox people bring to these coasts the most precious thing that we have, Orthodoxy, that’s why we call them “Coasts of Orthodoxy.” Therefore, each one of us ultimately names and characterize these coasts, those by means of abstraction, we by means of addition.

We celebrated this Easter in Abidjan, the capital city of Ivory Coast, and in our parish of the Lord’s Resurrection. Father Jeremiah, the priest and «pillar» of the church, had been ministering alone for many years until this Easter, when he got two new brothers in the priesthood, Fr. Sebastian and Fr. Deacon Albert. It is a great joy and blessing to have two priests and one deacon; together we are called to proclaim and spread the Orthodox faith in this country, where the Orthodox Church enjoys the respect and appreciation not only on the part of the rulers of this country but also of the whole of Africa because the Orthodox Church has always been a force of unity and has (always) had a purely missionary presence without any interference in matters of power, politics or racism.
However, now there is an immediate need for a new church in the nearby town of Agboville, 70 kilometers away from the capital city of Abidjan, where there is a small parish community without a church. They only have a straw hut used as a church building when the Divine Liturgy is performed, but whenever there is heavy rainfall, it crumbles and has to be made again from the beginning. The existence of a church building will give impetus and growth to this community. Fortunately, we have secured the land from a faithful native sponsor, and we pray that God will breathe into the heart of a believer among you who are reading this article and are interested in the Mission in Africa, so that this sacred dream will come true.

The Orthodox Missionary Fraternity has given many samples and examples of sacrificial offering for the creation of new Orthodox Coasts in this world so that people will find a haven, a joyous place, a place of rest and encounter with Christ. I wish and pray that our Lord will bestow every blessing upon you in abundance.

About the Metropolitan of Accra Narkissos (from here & here)

Metropolitan Narkissos of Accra. From the article Akooaba! It means “Welcome”.
The Metropolitan Narkissos of Accra, born Samer Gammoh, was born in 1968 in Amman, Jordan,where he completed his schooling at the National Orthodox School. He holds a degree from the Theological faculty of the Universtiy of Athens (1988-1992), where he also completed post-graduate studies in Dogmatic History (1992-1994). He was tonsured a monk on 14/2/1994 by the late Metropolitan Iakovos (Gkinis) of Nicaea. 
He was ordained Deacon by the same Metropolitan on 15 February 1994 and as Priest by Metropolitan Vartholomaios of Megara on 11 June 1994 at the Holy Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Megara where he served for 16 consecutive years as Parish Priest and Preacher. Seconded to the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa by His Beatitude Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria on 16/6/2009, he went on to serve at the Patriarchal Monastery of St Savvas the Sanctified where he lived and as Principal of the “St Athanasios” Pariarchal Academy in Alexandria. 
At the same time he was Secretary for Arabic issues at the Chief Secretariat of the Patriarchate, Preacher and in charge of the catechetical work of the Arabic speaking parishes in Alexandria. On 23rd November 2013 proposed by His Beatitude, he was unanimously elected as Metropolitan of Nubia.
From here: In November 2015, having accepted the resignation of His Eminence Savvas Metropolitan of Accra, His Eminence Narkissos Metropolitan of Noubia was elected to the post, and elected as Metropolitan Noubia was the former Metropolitan Savvas of Accra.

See also

The Orthodox Church in Ghana & Ivory Coast 
Eglise Orthodoxe de Côte d'ivoire - Facebook
Ivory Coast: colonialism, freedom, history and the Orthodox Church 
I salute the brave women of the Orthodox community of Ivory Coast // Je salue les braves femmes de la communauté Orthodoxe de Côte d'Ivoire // .وإنني أحيي النساء الشجعان في المجتمع الأرثوذكس في كوت ديفوار
News & articles from the Holy Metropolis of Accra, Ghana
Orthodox Metropolis of Ghana - Facebook
African Initiated Church in Search of Orthodoxy...
Eight principal areas of convergence between African spirituality and Ancient Christianity
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)

Nice orthodox women from Kenya

From the page of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center

In the Holy Liturgy

"Calling all Orthodox women for a couple upcoming mission teams! In the next few months, two teams will be going out to Albania and Kenya to give clergy wives and female lay leaders encouragement, education, and guidance in their roles to strengthen the Church's witness there.
The Albania team will be from September 17 to 27, and the Kenya team will be from November 19 to 28.
For a small taste of one of these trips, here are some pictures from the 2016 women's trip to Kenya. Happy #TeamsTuesday!
If Christ has put it in your heart to take part in one of these teams, or to support them, please visit www.ocmc.org for more information."

Pleae, see also

International Women's Day : Women in the Orthodox Church...
African Women (tag)
Orthodox Women Saints
Womens' Orthodox Blogs
Male and Female Created He Them...

The Orthodox Church in Kenya & the Orthodox Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School of Makarios III
An Orthodox Christian parish in Turkana desert
Kenya: a dance from orthodox Turkana girls / ngoma kutoka orthodox Turkana wasichana !...
Orthodox Christian dialogue with Banyore culture
Hope for the Kikuyu (Kenya) / "The caves along the Tana River became the refuge for freedom fighters..."

The Kikuyu tribe proclaimed the Metropolitan of Nairobi as their “Elder” 
"These African faces are the new faces of the Orthodox Church"
Serving the Least of the Brethren 
Together in Christ – Articles from the Team of "Orthodox Africa"

Orthodox Kenya (tag)
The unjust murder of a young Orthodox Christian hagiographer and catechist in Kenya

  "THE WAY" - An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith
The Church as the Liberated Zone: "All we Christians are terrorists..."  
In Search of Orthodoxy (tag)
Orthodox Christian Mission Center

And yet, the Orthodox Church have saints in South Africa & in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa...

Saint Anna, the Mother of Theotokos, and Saint Olympias the Deaconess (July 25)

The Dormition of St. Anna, and the Skete of St. Anna (the larger), Mount Athos 

The Dormition of St. Anna - Commemorated on July 25 (icon courtesy of here used with permission)

Full of Grace and Truth
"Saint Anna was the daughter of the priest Matthan and his wife Mary. She was of the tribe of Levi and the lineage of Aaron. According to Tradition, she died peacefully in Jerusalem at age 79, before the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.

[The Theotokos had been orphaned of both her parents already when she was eleven years of age, when she was living in the Temple (see Sept. 8 and Nov. 21). Saint Anna is invoked for conceiving children, and for help in difficult childbirth. (here)]

During the reign of St Justinian the Emperor (527-565), a church was built in her honor at Deutera. Emperor Justinian II (685-695; 705-711) restored her church, since St Anna had appeared to his pregnant wife. It was at this time that her body and maphorion (veil) were transferred to Constantinople.
St Anna is also commemorated on September 9." (taken from here)
 Icon of the Dormition of St. Anna (taken from here)
"St. Anne's Skete (or, less commonly, The Major Skete of St. Anne's) is one of four sketes attached to the Great Lavra of Mount Athos. It is located near the cape of Mt Athos, near Little St. Anne's Skete. St Anne's Skete has the distinction of being the largest and oldest skete of Mt Athos and was founded to preserve the left foot of St Anne, the Mother of the Theotokos.

There are 51 brotherhood houses at St Anne's Skete, inhabited by 85 monks. The houses each have different handicrafts - some fishing, some gardening, others iconography, wood carving, miniature art or incense. The main church was built and frescoed in 1754, when it was dedicated to St Anne, and it holds the relics of several saintly martyrs of the Church." (taken from here).
Picture of St. Anna's Skete, Mount Athos (taken from here)
The following is a quote from Constantine Cavarnos, about an experience visiting the Skete of St. Anna for the vigil service:
"In The Holy Mountain I speak particularly about my attending the all-night vigil service in honor of Saint Anna, the mother of the Theotokos on August 6 (July 24 O.S.) the eve of the annual feast. There I say:

"I went by motorboat to the arsanas (landing place) of the Skete of Saint Anna, on the southern side of the Athos peninsula, in order to go up to the Skete and attend the feast in commemoration of the Dormition of Saint Anna, to whom this settlement of hermits is dedicated. This Skete is built on an abrupt slope a good distance from the sea. To reach its main church (known as the kyriakon, because the monks of the settlement gather in it on Sundays (Kyriake) for corporate worship), I had to walk uphill a for about half an hour.

Metropolitan Emmanuel of Ptolemais (Egypt) & bishop Athanasios of Kisumu (Kenya) in the holy procession (litany) of the feast day of st Anna 2017 in the city of Peristeri (meaning "pigeon/dove" in Greek), Attica, Greece. Photo from here.

"The all-night vigil service, which constituted the heart of the celebration, was one of the most memorable experiences I have had on the Holy Mountain. It began at 8 o'clock in the evening of the feast and continued until 8:30 in the morning, when the Divine Liturgy, which followed the great vespers and matins, ended. This service had a spiritual magnificence that moved one profoundly, evoking contrition and a strong feeling of the presence of God. The chanting was done by two choirs, each consisting of three monks, all of them having beautiful voices and well-trained in the execution of Byzantine music. They stood in stalls along the east wall of the nave that is in line with the iconostasis, and faced west towards the congregation. At the beginning of the service the church was dark, illumination being provided only by the small sacred oil-lamps in front of the icons of the iconostasis. 

When the right choir began to chant Psalm 140 (Septuagint): 'Lord, I have cried unto Thee; hear me: attend to the voice of my supplication ...' one of the monks lit the candles of the great chandelier (under the dome) known as the 'corona,' those of the three other chandeliers in the nave, and those before the icons of the iconostasis, in front of the Beautiful Gate, and elsewhere. Thus the intensity of the illumination gradually increased until the whole nave became well illuminated. It was a warm, pulsating light, unlike the lifeless light provided by electricity. The sacred figures depicted on the panels and walls now became visible, increasing the feeling of holiness and contact with the divine. This feeling was further strengthened by the frequent censing with the famed Athonite frankincense.

"When the priest said in a loud intoned voice: 'With fear of God, with faith and with love draw near,' many of the monks and lay guests moved forward to the Beautiful Gate to partake of Divine Communion.

"After the Liturgy, food was offered in the refectory to all who had attended the services.
"When the meal was over, one of the monks of the Skete, a retired Metropolitan named Anthimos, delivered a moving speech, in which he related the celebration to the goals of monasticism. The chief purpose of this event, he asserted, is to lift us to God and His saints, and to arouse our zeal to imitate Saints Anna and Joachim, to strive to acquire their virtues, to rid ourselves of 'passions' (negative emotions) and evil thoughts, to cleanse our soul of everything impure, so that we might attain happiness in the other, endless life, and so far as possible in the present life also." (taken from here)
 Icon of St. Anna, holding the Most-Holy Theotokos, from the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos (taken from here)

Picture of the holy, incorrupt foot of St. Anna, treasured in the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos, working many miracles (particularly with women who have trouble conceiving or during pregnancy)
(taken from here)
Another icon of the Dormition of St. Anna (taken from here)
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

O Godly-minded Anna, thou didst give birth unto God's pure Mother who conceived Him Who is our Life. Wherefore, thou hast now passed with joy to thy heavenly rest, wherein is the abode of them that rejoice in glory; and thou askest forgiveness of sins for them that honour thee with love, O ever-blessed one.

Kontakion in the Second Tone

We celebrate now the mem'ry of Christ's ancestors, while asking their help with faith, that we may all be saved from all manner of tribulation as we fervently cry aloud: Be thou with us, O Lord our God, Whose pleasure it was to glorify them both. (taken from here)

Saint Olympias the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the granddaughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the life of Saint Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympias’s mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed. When Saint Olympias was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleman. The marriage was supposed to take place when Saint Olympias reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon died, however, and Saint Olympias did not wish to enter into another marriage, preferring a life of virginity.
After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began to distribute to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed. She also gave generously to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.

Holy Patriarch Nectarius (381-397) appointed Saint Olympias as a deaconess. The saint fulfilled her service honorably and without reproach.
Saint Olympias provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople: Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, Onesimus of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, Saint Basil the Great’s brother Peter of Sebaste, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and she attended to them all with great love. She did not regard her wealth as her own but rather God’s, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.
Saint John Chrysostom (November 13) had high regard for Saint Olympias, and he showed her good will and spiritual love. When this holy hierarch was unjustly banished, Saint Olympias and the other deaconesses were deeply upset. Leaving the church for the last time, Saint John Chrysostom called out to Saint Olympias and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina. He said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the Church, but to continue serving it under his successor. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.

Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412), had repeatedly benefited from the generosity of Saint Olympias, but turned against her for her devotion to Saint John Chrysostom. She had also taken in and fed monks, arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilus had banished from the Egyptian desert. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her and attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.
After the banishment of Saint John Chrysostom, someone set fire to a large church, and after this a large part of the city burned down.
All the supporters of Saint John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. They summoned Saint Olympias to trial, rigorously interrogating her. They fined her a large sum of money for the crime of arson, despite her innocence and a lack of evidence against her. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara). But her enemies did not cease their persecution. In the year 405 they sentenced her to prison at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. Saint John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 Saint Olympias entered into eternal rest.

Saint Olympias appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia and commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. “Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried,” said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Saint Olympias and placed them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas.
Afterwards, during an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved. Under the Patriarch Sergius (610-638), they were transferred to Constantinople and put in the women’s monastery founded by Saint Olympias. Miracles and healings occurred from her relics. 
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