Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Miracle of the Nuns.
John Noble


Vorkuta Gulag: From 1931 to 1957, 2 million prisoners
from the U.S.S.R. and 21 other countries
passed through the Gulag system 
        When the conversations turned to religion, as they soon did. I heard of an extraordinary happening. a miracle, which had just occurred in Vorkuta. God indeed was there with us! And the eagerness with which the men told me this story left no doubt as to the fact that the Iron Curtain could not keep God out of a country or out of the minds and hearts of its people. 
         It was in November of that year, 1950, just after our own arrival, that three nuns reached the camp under sentences of hard labor. The many thousand women prisoners at Vorkuta did not work in the mines but performed other rugged work, and the nuns were assigned to a plant which made bricks for construction work throughout the whole Arctic area of Russia. 

...servants of God and not of Satan...
        When the nuns were first taken to the brick factory, they told the foreman that they regarded doing any work for the Communist regime as working for the Devil and, since they were the servants of God and not of Satan, they did not propose to bow to the orders of their foreman despite any threats he might make.                                                                                            Stripped of their religious garb, the nuns' faith was their armor. They were ready to face anything and everything to keep their vow and they did face their punishment, a living testimony of great courage. They were put on punishment rations, consisting of black bread and rancid soup, day after day. But each morning when they were ordered to go out to the brick factory, into the day pits, or to any other back-breaking assignment, they refused. This refusal meant, of course, that they were destined to go through worse ordeals. Angered by their obstinacy and fearing the effect upon the other slave laborers, the commandant ordered that they be placed in strait-jackets. Their hands were tied in back of them and then the rope with which their wrists were bound was passed down around their ankles and drawn up tight. In this manner, their feet were pulled up behind them and their shoulders wrenched backward and downward into a position of excruciating pain. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

La prière, victoire sur la tragédie.
Saint Sophrony l’Athonite.


    C'est dans ma jeunesse que j'ai rencontré pour la première fois la notion de tragédie. Non dans mon expérience de la vie, mais dans mes lectures. Je la concevais comme quelque chose qui se présente à l'esprit de l'homme et le captive totalement. Jadis, cet objet d'attraction s'appelait «idéal». Pour atteindre ce qu'il a saisi intuitivement, l'homme est prêt à tous les efforts, à tous les sacrifices, même jusqu'à risquer sa vie. Cependant, lorsqu'il parvient au but, une cruelle déception l'attend: la réalité ne correspond pas à ce qu'il avait entrevu. La désillusion qui s'ensuit naturellement blesse son esprit, et tout se termine par une mort douloureuse et bien souvent odieuse.

Divers idéaux se présentent aux hommes forts. Souvent, c'est la soif du pouvoir, comme ce fut le cas de Boris Godounov. Dans la lutte pour réaliser sa secrète ambition, suivant l'exemple de ses nombreux prédécesseurs au cours des âges, il n'hésita pas à verser le sang. Mais lorsqu'il arriva à ses fins, il réalisa qu'il n'avait pas obtenu ce qu'il espérait : «je suis parvenu au pouvoir suprême, mais mon âme ne connaît pas le bonheur».

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Psychology and life in Christ.
Saint Sophrony the Athonite.

     Collected quotes from the book “I Know a Man in Christ” , by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos, published by, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2015.


Saint Sophrony the Athonite.
    People’s growing love of psychology is a terrible thing. Psychology helps those in the West, but it is a dreadful when the Orthodox learn psychology and substitute it for the neptic tradition of the Church. We must undermine Orthodox Christians’ love of psychology, because psychological methodology is outside the Orthodox tradition and, at the same time, it is characterized by the Western mentality. 

The whole of the West was influenced by St. Augustine. Augustinian theory is rather psychological; it deals with God psychologically. In Greece today there is a noticeable trend towards psychology, which is why St. Augustine is studied so much. St. Augustine may be a saint, but his work is subject to much exploitation. 

There is a great difference between the Orthodox and Western traditions. Psychology is adjusted to the Western tradition, so it differs enormously from the Orthodox tradition.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Miraculous Chalice.
Olesia Nikolaeva

Persecution of Christians during Communism.
        All those licensed officials in religious affairs who were given such power during the Soviet times warrant their own separate story. Sometimes the fate of a priest or parish lay entirely in their hands; they had the authority not to give a godly priest his registration papers at all, or to take them away, leaving him without a church, twixt the heavens and the earth, or to merely blackmail him by threatening to do so. Most of the time, the experienced priests, proficient in matters of the human soul, knew how to deal with them: they knew that they were easily swayed by money or drink; they were greedy, materialistic, and as a rule, easy to buy off or to ply with alcohol. Among the church folk they were called "liquored officials" ... 
        Fr Anatolii, however, a village priest with a large family, the spiritual son of Archimandrite Seraphim, who had also suffered much at the hands of his area's licensed official, converted the official to the Faith in the end. This is how it happened.

The licensed official that Fr Anatolii got stuck with was highly dedicated, aggressive, a true thorn in his side: he would constantly go out of his way to play some dirty trick on priests. And so he established the following pattern: as soon as a godly priest, assigned to a new parish, would settle in to his new place and the parishioners would become comfortable with him, as soon as his children would start attending school, as soon as he would finish remodeling his porch or plant his vegetable garden, the official would immediately transfer him to another village in the very opposite corner of the diocese. Officially, he would complain that the priest was conducting antiSoviet agitation in his church. But for such a serious accusation, claiming the priest's participation in criminal activity, solid evidence was required. And so from the beginning this official would drop by during the sermon, trying to catch the priest saying something compromising, and then, as if he was himself scared of something, he would send in his secret informants with the same aim. Giving them instructions during one of his briefings, he uttered a phrase that took on a life of its own: "You must listen carefully to everything around you, but don't go into the actual church too often or for too long, or it will suck you in!" 

  In short, having failed to collect any proof against this Fr Anatolii, he still gave him and his nine children their share of troubles, tossing them around from village to village, from one community to another.
Believers standing in awe before communion.
painting by Egor Zaitsev Nikolaevich

Then one day he got another idea: there were new epidemics constantly springing up all over the country-whether of the flu, measles, or cholera. And so he commissioned a local artist to make a descriptive poster depicting an obese priest with a villainous, reddish-purple face standing with the chalice and communing malnourished old women. And on the chalice he ordered the artist to write: "flu epidemic" or "cholera epidemic." The old women, walking away from the priest, all stumble and fall on top of each other dead.

The licensed official hung these posters all over the place-at the train station, at the clinic, in his own office-and summoned Fr Anatolii to him.

"There, Anatolii Vasilievich, have a look at that," he spoke to him using the secular form of address of name and patronymic. "There's a countrywide epidemic, and you're spreading the disease by putting the same spoon in everyone's mouth. You can't do that. It's not sanitary! I should forbid you to give communion at this time! I should alert the Sanitary Epidemiological Services!"

"But we give communion for the healing of soul and body," Fr Anatolii began, but the licensed official repeated:

"Forbid it.!.."

Fr Anatolii looked at that vulgar scribble of a poster, sighed, examined the miserable-looking figure of the licensed official and that rotten little face of his, and said sympathetically:

"I think that way sometimes too-I have all sorts come to me for communion. They have tuberculosis, cancer, hepatitis, who knows what else. And when they've all communed, I consume whatever is left in the chalice. Then I lick the spoon clean after them. And so all that-the tuberculosis bacilli, the viruses, the infections-I guess they all end up inside me ... "

The licensed official happily nodded his head:

"There you go.!.. You are a spreader of infection.!.."

"All of this is inside me,"mused Fr Anatolii, "and yet look at me.!.."

With these words he drew himself up to his full height before the licensed official. And what a figure-over six feet tall, his shoulders a full fathom wide, his face smooth, tight, and rosy-the picture of health and beauty. Teeth straight and white like sugar, and his hair-next to the bald licensed official-like a magnificent mane, with large curls waving, and his eyes piercing bright like two falcons ... In short, Fr Anatolii was a very handsome man! A noble warrior.!..

The official representative looked and looked at him from the bottom up, and completely lost heart.

Fr Anatolii left him and busied himself with his affairs: service to God, his flock, his children, his matushka ...

Half a year later, the licensed official appeared at his doorstep, all yellow, shriveled, dried up, like grass in the field. He looked at the blooming priest-healthy and attractive-with dull eyes:

"Cancer," he said, "I've been diagnosed. Tumors. Bless me, Fr Anatolii, and then let me have a little bit from that miraculous chalice of yours, out of which you yourself commune. Only do it in secret. I'm a Party member. I shouldn't be doing this." 

"...let me have a little bit from that miraculous chalice..."

Fr Anatolii blessed him, and the licensed official became a secret Christian, like Nicodemus from the Gospel. Similar to the official, he had been a member of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus also came to Jesus at night, and when the time came, buried Him with his own hands, wrapping Him in linens soaked with sweet-smelling oils: aloes and myrrh. 


*A matushka is the wife of a priest or deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church. 


Ordinary Wonders: "The New Nicodemus". Stories of Unexpected Grace, by Olesia Nikolaeva.(2018)

Saturday, January 2, 2021

La Lumière de Vie.
Saint Sophrony l’Athonite.


Saint Sophrony l'Athonite.
    La Lumière du Christ est «énergie» de la Divinité, vie incréée et sans commencement du Dieu-Trinité. Cette énergie-acte est propre au Père et à l'Esprit saint. Dans cette Lumière, nous connaissons le Père, l'Esprit saint et le Fils monogène. Lorsque - par le bon vouloir du Père - cette Lumière nous illumine, le principe hypostatique qui est en nous à l'état potentiel de par notre naissance, s'actualise et devient capable de «voir» Dieu (voir Mt 5, 8), de recevoir la force essentielle, la richesse de la vie de Dieu lui-même. Sur terre, l'homme ne peut contenir l'absolue perfection de la Divinité; mais comme le Saint- Esprit agit en lui, il se reconnaît lié à Celui qui est en vérité le Créateur de toute vie et le centre unique de tout ce qui existe.

Encore et encore, parlons de cette Lumière de vie que les ténèbres du non-être ne peuvent engloutir (voir In l , 5). Je ne vis pas par moi-même: je suis tout entier tourné vers Celui que j'aime. Il m'a donné la vie, Il est ma vie. S'il en est ainsi, que suis-je donc.?..