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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Saint Theodosios the Hesychast of Trnovo, Bulgaria
From his youth he was most pious and devout, and at a young age dedicated himself to God, choosing the holy monastic life in a monastery near Vidin. At his tonsure he was named Theodosios. He was adorned with many virtues, but chiefly with holy humility, the foundation of all the others.
After the repose of his Spiritual Father, he began searching for a new guide to the godly way of life, aflame with desire for silence and prayer.
Then, in 1331, he heard of the arrival in Bulgaria of the renowned St. Gregory of Sinai, who, along with his disciples, brought the hesychastic tradition from Sinai, Crete, and the Holy Mountain—which he had left, owing to barbarian incursions—to Bulgaria. From there, hesychasm spread and gave rise to a significant spiritual blossoming throughout the Balkans in general, and later in Russia.
St. Theodosios hastened to unite himself with the newly arrived Byzantine Hesychasts, to whom he submitted himself with utmost humility, learning through experience the mystery of the knowledge of God (θεογνωσίας) and reaping the sweet fruits of watchfulness (νήψεως) and prayer of the heart.
Turkish invaders, however, began to make threatening appearances in this region of Paroria, as it was called, at the boundaries between the Roman Empire and Bulgaria. The Hesychasts were forced to seek aid and protection from the Bulgarian King, John Alexander (1331-1371). This was granted through the intercessions of St. Theodosios, whom the king knew and admired. Thus, the king readily placed the monks under his protection and, for their sakes, built four monasteries with defensive towers.
When St. Gregory of Sinai reposed in the Lord in 1346, the multinational brotherhood of monks requested St. Theodosios to assume the Abbacy. The Saint declined and departed with certain other brothers (among them the great Greek-Bulgarian Saint, St. Romilos, whom our Church commemorates on 18 September) for the Holy Mountain.
But there, too, their hesychastic sojourn was of short duration because the barbaric invaders obliged them to move yet again. St. Theodosios first went to Thessalonica, then to the Skete of the Venerable Forerunner in Veria, and later to Constantinople. Finally, the Saint returned to his homeland and between 1348 and 1350 built a monastery on Mt. Kilifarevo, near Trnovo, with generous aid and subsidy from the king.
At that time, St. Theodosios had a vision of a mountain covered with sundry flowers and a great variety of wondrous trees with diverse and beautiful fruit. A radiant man was ordered to pick the fruit. The Saint understood that the vision revealed the future glory of the place and that that wilderness would be filled with monks who would bear a rich crop of virtues for the Heavenly Cultivator.
And, indeed, for at least half a century the Monastery of St. Theodosios was distinguished as a beacon of faith and virtue and as a center of spiritual renewal. Fifty or so disciples gathered around the Saint—illustrious men adorned with virtues and talents and with godly and worldly wisdom, so that the Monastery of Kilifarevo would justly be characterized as the “University of Medieval Bulgaria”!
The monastery was founded on the spiritual precepts of St. Gregory of Sinai. Obedience, charity, good administration and management, the cultivation of silence and noetic prayer predominated. A great emphasis was also placed, however, on culture and education: the copying of manuscripts, the translation of Patristic texts into Slavonic, calligraphy, the teaching of the liturgical arts, etc.
Among the renowned disciples of St. Theodosios was St. Evthymios, who later became Patriarch of Trnovo (1375-1393). His memory is honored by the Bulgarian Church on 20 January. At the Monastery of Kilifarevo, Evthymios was deemed worthy of a wondrous experience, which revealed the sanctity of his Spiritual Father and teacher St. Theodosios:
Once, he went for his customary evening visit to the cell of his Abba. But despite the fact that he recited the usual prayer [“Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers...”—Trans.] and knocked repeatedly at the door, there was no answer. Then from a window he saw a marvelous and otherworldly sight: St. Theodosios was at prayer in his cell with his hands and eyes raised to heaven, bathed from head to foot in a heavenly flame, which made him radiant, but without consuming him! He was all Light, all Heavenly Fire! Evthymios withdrew in trembling, glorifying God.
The next day, Evthymios found the Saint sitting outside his cell shedding bitter tears. He anxiously asked him the reason for his mourning, and the Saint revealed that God had made known to him the impending Turkish invasion of the region and the destruction of his monastery. The grievous events which followed soon after confirmed the clairvoyance of the Saint. At the end of the fourteenth century, the Turks destroyed the Monastery of Kilifarevo. It was rebuilt in 1596, only to undergo further destruction and to be built anew in 1718 and then later on again, in the nineteenth century. It exists to this day, but bereft of its original glory and grandeur.
It is also worth mentioning that in the era of St. Theodosios, in the fourteenth century, a great struggle was waged for the purity of the Faith. A particularly dangerous heresy—one widely diffused throughout the region—was that of Bogomils. It consisted of a Slavic version of the combination of previous heresies: those of Manichæan Paulicianism and Messalianism. This frightful, twofold heresy, with its anti-social character, totally rejected the Church (the Hierarchy, the Mysteries, and the veneration of Saints) and the structure of society (marriage, political and legislative authority and organization, etc).
The Bulgarian Church decisively battled against the heresy of the Bogomils in the Synods of 1350 and 1359. St. Theodosios was present at these Synods, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and of his oratory, he refuted the untenable doctrines of the heretics, which were condemned.
The Saint, despite his infirmities and his age, went to Constantinople together with four of his faithful disciples, including Evthymios, in order to meet and converse with his old and beloved confrere and co-ascetic Callistos—who had also been a disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai and was now Patriarch of Constantinople—, for his spiritual benefit.
Interestingly enough, the Holy Patriarch Callistos I was also the biographer of St. Theodosios, though his lengthy Life of the Saint has been preserved to our day only in a Slavonic translation.
The Holy Patriarch Callistos granted the Saint a cell in the Monastery of St. Mamas. There, Saint Theodosios had a presentiment of his end. He partook of the Immaculate Mysteries, and the entire room was filled with a fragrance. On seeing the “army of the Heavenly King” coming to meet him, he gave up his holy soul to our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom he had been such a faithful and exemplary servant. This took place on 27 November 1363. The Saint was buried in an honorable manner, as befits a Saint, and Angelic hymnody was heard at his gravesite. He has been interceding ever since for the peace of the world, the good estate of the holy Churches of God, and the salvation of us all.
Monday, 29 November 2010
This is a little late in appearing on this blog because it happened on the feast of the "transitus" of St Benedict on March 21st. However, I notice that readers are interested in this community on the outskirts of Lima; so I offer this for your attention. (Fr) David
Sunday, 28 November 2010
The trouble with Advent is that it’s too short! Why the liturgical season with all the best readings, chants and hymns should be so short in the Western Church has always been a mystery to me, especially as the Ambrosian Rite of Milan has the full six Sundays as do the Oriental Churches including all those in communion with Rome. The only solution, apart from grumbling, is to live this lovely season as intensely and as faithfully as possible. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Advent is a season full of hope and expectation. As we pray at Mass just after the Lord’s Prayer, “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In Advent we live in our own flesh the centuries of hope that marked the lives of men and women in Old Testament times as they longed for the Messiah to come and bring salvation, reconciliation and unity to the world. We prepare again, as we do every year, for the celebration of Christmas and the Epiphany, that magnificent, double re-enactment of the birth and manifestation in human flesh of the Son of God made man through the working of the Holy Spirit and the willing obedience of Our Blessed Lady. And we look closely at our Christian lives in the light of the Gospel and in the hope of correcting what we have done wrong as we look forward to Christ’s Second Coming, when he returns in glory to judge the living and the dead or in our case, perhaps, the living dead. Hope and expectation are also fulfilled, though we don’t always recognise this, every time we pray, every time we go to confession, every time we celebrate Mass and receive Holy Communion, for Christ is with us, he is among us and he is in us.
Let’s look briefly, then, at today’s readings. Isaiah reminds us that we are called to “go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob.” However, the temple we gather at as Christians is not a temple built with hands on Mount Zion or in Jerusalem, but Jesus Christ himself, who is the living Temple in whom we have part as living stones. We are invited to walk together as pilgrims towards Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the source of a new humanity whose members love one another, cease from all discord and work for peace.
St Paul exhorts us to wake up from sleep, the sleep of indifference and sloth, the sleep of sin, which is symbolised by night and darkness. In Christ the light has come: he is the Light of the world. Soon we will celebrate the Feast of Light, but it will only truly be Christmas for those who return to the Lord and ask forgiveness, so that their hearts are made new by grace. “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Gospel, Jesus himself tells us that we must be prepared, not just this Christmas but always. We must stay awake because we don’t know the day when our master is coming. How imprudent, how foolish we so often are, putting off time and again what is most urgent in our lives, sorting things out with God. Is it really worth hanging on to our sinful ways? How better life would be for all of us if we simply followed Jesus faithfully, as Mary and Joseph did, as John the Baptist and Isaiah did, as all the great saints of Advent did. This is so serious, so important for us that Jesus seems to threaten his disciples with those mini-parables of two men working in the fields, where one is taken and the other left, or of the two women at the millstone grinding, where one is taken and the other left. Then the parable of the householder who would have stayed awake had only he known at what time the burglar was coming. He would have stayed awake and his house would not have been burgled. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.
One of the consequences of original sin is that we give in so easily to temptation and, of course, the Devil plays on our weakness. When you make a good and wise decision, “I won’t do that anymore – I won’t be impatient, unkind, untruthful, lazy, I won’t put off doing whatever it is anymore,” do you hear that little voice within telling you so gently, so convincingly, “It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to change at once, stay just the way you are, do it again, that’s it, no-one will notice.” The Devil isn’t nearly as subtle as he makes himself out to be, but he knows we’re easy game. Now Advent is the time to get rid of all that. Advent is the time, the great opportunity to say, “No, I won’t.” The Church, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, the Saints, prayer and our own common sense are all here to help us. We can stay awake, we can be prepared and we can be filled with hope and with expectation, for Christ is truly with us. Now if Christ is truly with us and we are with him, then when he comes again as Judge there will be nothing to fear. He will say to us, “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.”
A useful little prayer to say over and over again this Advent, especially when you feel yourself falling asleep or giving in to temptation, is today’s Alleluia verse, “Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and give us your saving help.” May the good Lord help you keep a great Advent this year.
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Important Christian Literature
- "Cyberdesert" the Fathers on Prayer & the Christian Life
- "On Inmages" (Hilary of Poities John Damascene
- Abandonment to Divine Providence (Jean-Pierre de Caussade
- Ascent of Mount Carmel (John of the Cross)
- Augustine Baker (home page)
- Augustine Baker OSB "Sancta Sophia"
- Conferences of St John Cassian
- Confessions & Enchiridion (S> Augustine)
- Life of St Benedict (S. Gregory the Great)
- On St Symeon the New Theologian (i-pod)
- On the Gospel of St John and the "Epistle to the Hebrews (S. John Chrysostom)
- Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers vol. 1 (S. Athanasius)
- Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers vol.2. (S. Athanasius)
- Revelations of Divine Love (Julian of Norwich)
- Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of he Gospels, Sermons on the Gospels (S> Augustine)
- Spiritual Canticle of the Soul
- St Dionysius "Mystical Theology"
- St John of the Cross "The Dark Night of the Soul."
- The City of God (S. Augustine)
- The Cloud of Unknowing
- The Divine Names & Mystical Theology (S. Dionysius the Areopagite)
- The Inarnation (St Athanasius)
- The Life of St Teresa of Avila OCD
- The Practice of the Presence of God (Br Lawrence)
- The Rule of S. Benedict
- Works of Suplicius Severus, S. Vincent of Lerins, and S. John Cassia
Orthodox Monasteries Throughout The World
Benedictine Order -website
Orthodox Monasticism in Patristic and Monastic Studies
My Blog List
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Monasterio de la Encarnacion, Pachacamac - Lurin, LIMA
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