It is most timely, in memory of our dear Father Rodion of Three Pillars Orthodox Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the upcoming feast of St Xenia of Petersburg, that we share the story of how Father Rodion obtained the compunctionate hymn of the Canticle of St. Xenia, translated and sung by the nuns of Holy Nativity Convent, Brookline, MA, USA. (it is used with permission and is copyright).
Dear and Faithful Orthodox Christians,
‘Saint Nicholas exhibits the perfect balance of meekness and zeal!’
–Gregory, Metropolitan, Locum Tenens of the See of Toronto – Sermon on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, Dec 6 / Dec. 19, 2021
Truly Our Saviour blessed us with a beautiful and grace-filled Feast of Saint Nicholas, our holy Patron!
With light snow falling since the early morning, our Church, the trees, homes, and parks were all covered with beautiful white snow, as we came together with our beloved Metropolitan Gregory, the locum tenens of the Holy Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, for the Vigil on the Eve of Saint Nicholas. We were honoured to have Father Sergey with us, and joyous indeed, that Father Isaac, Abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery traveled from Boston to Toronto to share in the brilliance of the Feast.
In the Sermon, our Metropolitan encouraged us all to imitate the meekness of Saint Nicholas, together with the firmness of his witness to the Truth of our holy Faith. ‘This is what we see in all the holy fathers, when it came to matters of the Faith they were like lions, they stood and there was no compromise.’ Gregory, Metropolitan, Locum Tenens of the See of Toronto
Following the Liturgy, we continued our celebrations with a Parish Luncheon and a talk on various subjects from Metropolitan Gregory and Father Isaac. Inspired by their instruction on topics that included our offering of candles with prayers, the Kollyvades Fathers including Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, Saint Macarios of Corinth, and Saint Arsenios of Paros, who were persecuted in their day, and yet beacons of the true traditions of Orthodoxy and their teachings remain so important for us today.
I ask Our Saviour to bless all those who helped in preparing the Church and the meal for the Feast, and to bless the chanters, the bell-ringers, and those who provided hospitality to our clergy and guests from out of town, and to everyone who came to offer their prayers and honour Saint Nicholas. Let the light of this Feast strengthen and encourage you, as we continue with prayers and fasting in preparation for the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ which is now just a few weeks away.
O holy Hierarch, Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, intercede before God in our behalf!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Beloved Orthodox Faithful,
Today we celebrated with great joy the Feast of Saint Nectarius of Aegina, the Wonderworker on the 100th Year Anniversary of his blessed repose. A great intercessor for us, a Saint renowned for miraculous healings, a great writer of Christian instruction and theology, and a man of great humility filled with the Holy Spirit!
Saint Nectarius instructs us in his writings:
“Prayer is truly a heavenly armour, and it alone can keep safe those who have dedicated themselves to God. Prayer is the common medicine for purifying ourselves from the passions, for hindering sins, and curing our faults. Prayer is an inexhaustible treasure, an unruffled harbour, the foundation of serenity, the root and mother of myriads of blessings.”
–(“St. Nectarius of Aegina”, 1981, by Constantine Cavarnos)
Let us follow his instruction and ask Saint Nectarius to intercede with Our merciful Saviour, that in this time of difficulty, Our Saviour shelter and protect us and keep us in His divine grace.
And recalling the magnificent hymn “O Pure Virgin”, that he wrote, let us also say to the Mother of God:
“O thou my hope deliver me, from harm and all adversity. Rejoice, O unwedded Bride! And by thy prayers show me to be, an heir of immortality. Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!”
The first appearance of the honored Cross occurred in the year 312, in October, during the time of St. Constantine the Great. It appeared in the sky at noontime and was composed of radiant stars, with the words, “By This, Conquer”. Thus, by this first manifestation, the honored Cross became the labarum, the standard, of the first Christian empire, which served the purpose of proclaiming and conveying our Orthodox Christian faith and piety throughout the known world.
The second majestic appearance of the Cross took place during the reign of Emperor Constantius, the son of St. Constantine the Great, in the holy city of Jerusalem on May 7th, 351, the day of Pentecost, when St. Cyril was bishop of Jerusalem. The honored Cross was comprised entirely of a certain divine light visible to everyone for a week, and in magnitude it stretched from Golgotha and the Church of the Resurrection all the way to the Mount of Olives.
In this pamphlet, we have eye-witness descriptions of the third appearance of the Cross. These descriptions are provided by individuals still living in 1975, when the first edition of this pamphlet appeared in Greek.
In the early 1900s and especially in the 1920s, there were strong anti-Church and secularist forces in power in Greece and in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. These forces introduced the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is adequate for the functions of business, the stock exchange, and other worldly, secular activities. Liturgically, however, it is in no way possible to reconcile the Gregorian calendar with our canonical , Orthodox Christian Paschalion. Moreover, the introduction of a Church calendar change by a local church created an unacceptable liturgical disunity within the Church Itself.
Vast numbers of the people of Greece refused to accept these anti-canonical, anti-Church changes being forced upon them by state police power. Such people suffered persecution, imprisonment, and deprivation at the hands of secular police powers. But the spiritual eyes of true Orthodox Christians saw clearly even if, at the time, they did not completely comprehend the evil of the new calendar. It was a forerunner and a sign of the greatest heresy in the history of the world—Ecumenism. Many people, however, became confused. Some began to waver. Just as the Arians were in control of the worldly power in 351 and were able to force their heresy upon the empire, so at this time, the calendar innovators controlled the worldly power of Greece. In such a troubled and dangerous time, the All-Merciful God heeded the needs of His people. Again, as in 351, God sent a wondrous apparition of the sign of the All-Honourable Cross to seal the truth and put the false teachers to shame.
The appearance of the Cross took place in this manner: In 1925, on the eve of the feast of the Exaltation of the All-Honourable and Life-giving Cross of Our Saviour, September 14 according to the Orthodox Church calendar (September 27, new style), the all-night vigil was served at the Church of St. John the Theologian in suburban Athens. By nine o’clock that evening, more than two thousand of the Orthodox faithful had gathered in and around the church for the service, since very few true-Orthodox churches had been accidentally left open by the civil authorities. Such a large gathering of people could not, however, go unnoticed by the authorities. Around eleven P. M. the authorities dispatched a platoon of police to the church “to prevent any disorders which might arise from such a large gathering.” The gathering was too large for the police to take any direct action or to arrest the priest at that time and so they joined the crowd of worshippers in the already over-flowing courtyard of the church.
Then, regardless of the true motives for their presence, against their own will, but according to the Will which exceeds all human power, they became participants in the miraculous experience of the crowd of believers.
At 11:30 P.M., there began to appear in the heavens above the church, in the direction of northeast, a bright, radiant Cross of light. The light not only illuminated the church and the faithful but, in its rays, the stars of the clear, cloudless sky became dim and the church-yard was filled with an almost tangible light. The form of the Cross itself was an especially dense light and it could be clearly seen as a Byzantine cross with a crossbar toward the bottom. This heavenly miracle lasted for half an hour, until midnight, and then the Cross began slowly to rise up vertically, as the cross in the hands of the priest does in the ceremony of the Elevation of the Cross in church. Having come straight up, the Cross began gradually to fade away.
Human language is not adequate to convey what took place during the apparition. The entire crowd fell prostrate upon the ground with tears and began to sing prayers, praising the Lord with one heart and one mouth. The police were among those who wept, suddenly discovering, in the depths of their hearts, a childlike faith. The crowd of believers and the platoon of police were transformed into one, unified flock of faithful. All were seized with a holy ecstasy. The vigil continued until 4:00 A.M., when all this human torrent streamed back into the city, carrying the news of the miracle because of which they were still trembling and weeping.
Many of the unbelievers, sophists, and innovators, realizing their sin and guilt, but unwilling to repent, tried by every means to explain away or deny this miracle. The fact that the form of the cross had been so sharply and clearly that of the Byzantine Cross, with a crossbar at the bottom for a foot-rest, completely negated any arguments of accidental physical phenomena.
The fact that such an apparition of the Cross had also occurred during the height of the first great heresy must impress the Orthodox with the importance of the calendar question and of all that is connected with it. No sensible person can discuss this issue lightly, with secular reasoning or with worldly arguments. Innovators, like the Arians in 351, are left without extenuation or mitigation.
By this third appearance, our Lord and Saviour has confirmed from on high that we are to remain faithful to the heritage we have received from our Holy Fathers, and which was codified by the First Ecumenical Council and sealed by almost two thousand years of usage by the subsequent Ecumenical, Local and Pan-Orthodox Councils of our Church.
(The above text is Copyright © 1997, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA, all rights reserved.)
Saint Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great, when she was already advanced in years, undertook, in her great piety, the hardships of a journey to Jerusalem in search of the Cross, about the year 325. A temple to Aphrodite had been raised up by the Emperor Hadrian upon Golgotha, to defile and cover with oblivion the place where the saving Passion had been suffered. The venerable Helen had the statue of Aphrodite destroyed, and the earth removed, revealing the Tomb of our Lord, and three crosses. Of these, it was believed that one must be that of our Lord, the other two of the thieves crucified with Him; but Saint Helen was at a loss which one might be the Wood of our salvation.
At the inspiration of Saint Macarius, Archbishop of Jerusalem, a lady of Jerusalem, who was already at the point of death from a certain disease, was brought to touch the crosses, and as soon as she came near to the Cross of our Lord, she was made perfectly whole. Consequently, the precious Cross was lifted on high by Archbishop Macarius of Jerusalem; as he stood on the ambo, and when the people beheld it, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy.”
It should be noted that after its discovery, a portion of the venerable Cross was taken to Constantinople as a blessing. The rest was left in Jerusalem in the magnificent church built by Saint Helen, until the year 614. At that time, the Persians plundered Palestine and took the Cross to their own country (see Jan. 22, Saint Anastasius the Persian). Later, in the year 628, Emperor Heraclius set out on a military campaign, retrieved the Cross, and after bringing it to Constantinople, himself escorted it back to Jerusalem, where he restored it to its place.
(The above text is taken from the Great Horologion, Copyright © 1997, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA, all rights reserved.)