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.

More information:

Image credit:

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

016 dormition of theotokos ikonaprazdnichchinuspenie-edit
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!

Saint Paisios, a Clairvoyant Elder of Our Times

Elder_Paisios_of_Mount_AthosToday we celebrate the memory of Saint Paisios, an Athonite elder whom God greatly gifted with miraculous wonders and clairvoyance due to his faithful struggle in Orthodoxy.  For his feast day (July 12), thousands upon thousands of people having been lining up to venerate his grave in Greece.

Elder Paisios gives me hope.  Seeing just how much the ways of the world have infiltrated into the lives and minds of Church-going people, it is good to see that God is still granting us clairvoyant elders for our guidance and salvation.

starsenios-elder-paisiosIf you are unfamiliar with Elder Paisios, you can read a biography of him here on OrthodoxWiki.  Also, there is a collection of his teachings, stories, and a biography here on this site.  In short, he was baptized by St Arsenius, raised by a pious mother, and after serving in the military, became a monk of Mt Athos.

I highly recommend the books that were compiled from his teachings.  Unlike many of the writings of the saints that are geared toward monastics, Elder Paisios had a great deal of contact with lay people and understood how weak today’s modern man is.  He mixed stories with his teachings and taught with sympathy and gentleness. Continue reading Saint Paisios, a Clairvoyant Elder of Our Times

Transcendence & Spiritual Experiences, Part 1

Through the Trees by DanWhile reading this, you are probably sitting in a room. Around you are most likely walls and perhaps other people behind some of those walls. If you could see through the walls surrounding you, a vision of more walls would likely be had if you are in a city, and trees and earth if you are in the country.

Were you to somehow float above everything with the vision of an eagle, your position would allow you insight on more things and people. Your knowledge of your surroundings would no longer be contained to the four walls about you.

Many of us have had such “transcendent” moments where it seems we tap into something higher than ourselves. Perhaps this has come during prayer or divine services; frequently this is experienced in nature. I had an atheist friend who confessed to having several of these moments while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Continue reading Transcendence & Spiritual Experiences, Part 1

On The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit

The enlightening discussion between Motovilov and St Seraphim of Sarov on acquiring the Holy Spirit.  It seemed proper to post on Holy Pentecost.

st seraphim of sarov with a bear from nativityofchristnetIntroduction

Saint Seraphim of Sarov was born in 1759, in the city of Kursk. His parents were pious Orthodox Christians, examples of true spirituality. At the age of ten, Seraphim was miraculously healed from a serious illness by means of the Kursk icon of the Theotokos. As a boy, he immersed himself in church services and church literature. He began monastic life at the hermitage of Sarov at the age of nineteen. He was tonsured as a monk when he was twenty-seven, and soon afterwards was ordained a deacon. Continue reading On The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit

Confronting Temptations

Elder Ephraim of Arizona, image from
Elder Ephraim of Arizona, image from

The Great Fast, also known as Great Lent, is just around the corner.  During this time, many Orthodox will begin eating a vegan diet.  Many of us will also make an effort to say a few more prayers each day and eliminate some distractions such as social media, television, and internet usage in order to create more time for prayer and spiritual reading.

These things of themselves do not save us.  Rather, they are the method which we use to open ourselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Those who are taking their spiritual struggle seriously during the Great Fast will likely find that the amount of demonic warfare increases.  This manifests itself in different ways: new distractions when we pull away from old ones, a barrage of thoughts that come during prayer and spiritual reading, and other temptations that wish to test our resolve.

Many of us wonder: why do I have to face these spiritual struggles?  Wouldn’t it be so much better if God could just wave a magical wand over us and make temptations go away?  Why do we have trials?

In answer to those questions, I will post the insights and stories of a God-bearing elder whose own elder was St Joseph the Hesychast.  He is from Mt Athos and currently is the elder of a monastery in Arizona.  His name is Elder Ephraim and this is from his book The Art of Salvation. Continue reading Confronting Temptations

St Gregory The Wonder Worker

Gregory The Miracle WorkerToday we celebrate the feast day of St Gregory the Wonder Worker (also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus).  I wanted to write about St Gregory because there are many people who believe that the concept of the Trinity was introduced into the Church at the Council of Nicea by Constantine and his “cohorts.”

I remember reading some pamphlet produced by the WatchTower a few years ago that was given to me by Jehovah’s (false) Witnesses.  At that time, I was attempting to figure out what I believed.  Was the church corrupt by the time of Constantine?  Was the doctrine of the Trinity a heretical concept later introduced?  I felt that Jesus was likely God incarnate, but I wanted to be open-minded to counterarguments.  The pamphlet was so full of historical flaws, misquotes of ancient Christian texts, and bad philosophy that I tossed it aside. Continue reading St Gregory The Wonder Worker