Good King Wenceslas

You’ve probably heard the song Good King Wenceslas around Christmas time. Who was he and why do we sing about him?

He was king of the Czechs about a thousand years ago and ruled with utmost compassion and love for his people. His heart was bigger than his entire kingdom. In addition to numerous charitable deeds that he personally carried out, he also translated part of the New Testament into the language of the people so they could understand it.

Today is his feast day, that is, the day on which he is remembered and commemorated. Below is more about St. Wenceslas, also called Vatslav from the The Prologue of Ochrid:

Vatslav was the grandson of St. Ludmilla. As king, he labored in the Faith like the great ascetics, and strengthened the Orthodox Faith among his people. He was strict in ensuring that no innocent person suffer in the courts. In his zeal for the Christian Faith and in his love for his fellow man, St. Vatslav purchased pagan children who were being sold as slaves, and immediately baptized them and raised them as Christians. He translated the Gospel of St. John into the Czech language, and transported the relics of St. Vitus and St. Ludmilla to Prague. His brother Boleslav invited him to be his guest, and then killed him in his court. Immediately after this, Boleslav brought in German priests and had the services celebrated in Latin. St. Vatslav suffered in the year 935 and his relics repose in Prague.

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In Harmony with Nature

There exists within us this internal Way, or as some of the Eastern ancients called it, the Tao.  St. John Cassian records one desert father speaking of this internal Way that was still quite strong in the pre-Flood days.  People could walk into the woods and know which plants were edible, which were toxic, and which were good for medicines.  The knowledge was intuitive, and did not necessarily have to be taught.  Humans simply flowed with this internal rhythm.

The animals sensed when man was flowing with the rhythm of this internal Way and were at peace with him.  It was not until after the great Flood that we see animals fearing mankind, Continue reading In Harmony with Nature

Calamities and the Wrath of God (St. Paisios)

St Paisios of the Holy Mountain (the Athonite)Locusts, wars, droughts, and disease, they are all scourges.  This is not God’s way of educating human beings; it is, rather, the result of our moving away from Him.  Scourges happen when we stray from God.  His wrath then comes to make us remember Him and ask for His help.  It’s not that He arranges and orders, so to speak, these calamities.  Rather, God allows them to happen because he sees how far human evil can go, and how unwilling we are to change our ways.  This is His way of bringing us to our senses.   But it is not something that He has arranged; rather, it is the natural result of our own self-will, our own actions.

God told Joshua [1] not to exterminate the tribe of the Philistines, because the Philistines were supposed to be a scourge to the Hebrews every time they would forget God.  So every time the Hebrews abandoned God, the devil acquired rights over them, and he would have his “cousins,” the Philistines, attack them.  They would take the Hebrew children, smash them on rocks and kill them.  Once when the Hebrews were attacked without being at fault, God fought on their side.  He sent big hail, the size of stones, and destroyed the Philistines, because in that case the Israelites had a right to divine intervention. [2] Continue reading Calamities and the Wrath of God (St. Paisios)

Holy Martyrs Timothy and Maura

Orthodox_icon_of_Saint_Timothy_and_Maura_the_Martyrs_largeTimothy and Maura were a young couple who had been married for only twenty days.  They suffered during the reign of Diocletian (284-305).  Timothy was captured first and charged with being a Christian, which he confirmed.  It was discovered that he was a reader in the church, which means, among other things, he was responsible for the safekeeping of the Christian books and scripture.  Possessing such materials was a crime punishable by death.

When he refused to deny his faith and reveal the location of the sacred writings, he was then tortured so severely that even the torturers and the people watching asked the governor to ease up a bit.  The governor refused and only sat around devising even more cruel ways to torture brave Timothy. Continue reading Holy Martyrs Timothy and Maura

St. Photius of Constantinople

Photius-of-Constantinople-PatriarchToday, February 6th, we commemorate the one whom some historians say was second to St. John Chrysostom in influence on the Constantinoplitan throne. I’ve decided to complete a blog entry about St. Photius because his teachings and the heresies he faced are as relevant today as they were some 1,200 years ago.

St. Photius ascended the Partriarchal throne after his predecessor, Ignatius, was deposed in the year 857. He was raised from layman to Patriarch in six days, which is unusual. He was a man of great learning in both secular and theological studies.

A great deal of controversy surrounded his quick appointment, particularly in the West. Pope Nicholas I sent delegates to investigate the matter and was assured that Photius’ appointment was legitimate. Years later, Nicholas changed his mind and held a council to anathematize Photius. Nicholas’ successor, Pope John VIII, later annulled the decisions against Photius and even sent him an omophorion (or pallium) to confirm Photius’ appointment.  Many years later, the Latin (Roman Catholic) church reversed their decision again and they now support Pope Nicholas, whom they call St. Nicholas the Great. Continue reading St. Photius of Constantinople

Saint Moses the Black

st_moses_3_trim_1200One of the first saints I encountered while researching Orthodoxy was St. Moses the Black (also called the Ethiopian).  There was something about his unconquerable spirit, when faced with temptation, that greatly inspired me.  Additionally, the man had grasped what it means to be humble and to not judge one’s neighbor.  Below I will provide some excerpts from the Prologue of Ohrid by St. Nikolai Velimirovich and some of St. Moses’ teachings from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

The Reading

Moses was an Ethiopian by birth and by profession, at first, a robber and leader of a band of robbers and, after that, a penitent and great ascetic. As the slave of a master, Moses escaped and joined the robbers. Because of his great physical strength and arrogance, the robbers chose him as their leader. Continue reading Saint Moses the Black

In Praise of The Theotokos!

A Homily

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Some seven hundred years ago, St. Gregory Palamas delivered a beautiful and inspiring homily regarding the Dormition of the Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary. Below are some excerpts:

…There is also nothing dearer or more necessary for me than to expound with due honor in church the wonders of the ever-virgin Mother of God…If “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15) and “the memory of the just is praised” (Prov. 10:7 LXX), how much more fitting is it for us to celebrate with highest honors the memory of the ever virgin Mother of God, the Holy of Holies, through whom the saints receive their hallowing?

That is exactly what we are doing today by commemorating her holy dormition and passing away, through which, having been made a little lower than the angels (cf. Ps. 8:5), she arose incomparably higher than the angels, archangels, Continue reading In Praise of The Theotokos!