Our Mother, the Church, is again inviting us to celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and Mother of our God. Events relating to the lives of the Saints are a cause for joy, sacred contemplation, and opportunities for prayer and the worship of God glorified in Trinity. The month of August is a remarkable one for the Orthodox Church, for during this month we celebrate two great and historic events.
The Internet has steadily infiltrated our lives, given that so many people are using it nowadays. However, it appears that the contemporary young generation are users to such a degree that one could speak of an addiction to it (much like the dependence on addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol), as well as the need to be purged of the addiction with the help of a psychologist.
Yesterday (Sunday, July 28), at the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Luke in Hong Kong, after the Divine Liturgy we offered a Trisagion Prayer for the repose of the soul of a 19 year old man, named Santiago. The young man was a nephew of the leader of the Orthodox community at Kimlawis in Philippines. He was killed by members of the Blaan tribe, in the name of a barbaric pagan custom. A month ago a member of the tribe Blaan has been killed in Kimlawis.
While the greater part of the Protestant world talks about an “invisible Church”, which cannot be traced in History as a church with a specific structure, hierarchy and faith (striving thus to justify their sudden appearance after the 16th century) and instead claims that the Church is supposedly comprised of all who are faithful to Christ, regardless of the thousands of dogmatic differences (their familiar “branch theory”), there is one, much smaller portion of that world – the so-called 7th Day Adventists – who maintain that it is prophesied in the Book of Revelations that the Church will supposedly remain in hiding during the persecutions and would reappear during a specific point in time, near the End Times.
Hieromartyrs Hermolaos, Hermippos and Hermokrates of Nikomedia, were among the small number of those remaining alive after 20,000 Christians were burned alive in a church at Nikomedia in the year 303 (December 28), on the orders of the emperor Maximian (284-305). They lived in remote places and did not cease to preach Christianity to the pagans. The young pagan named Pantoleon (Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon, July 27) often passed by the house in which St Hermolaos had concealed himself. Once St Hermolaos chanced to meet the youth and asked him to stop by his house.
The epithet “Magdalene”, which always accompanies her name, at least in the Gospels, implies that she wasn’t married, since, in that case, she’d have had her husband’s name. “Magdalene” indicates that this particular Mary came from the commercial city of Migdal (Taricheae) on the west bank of Lake Galilee, or the Sea of Tiberias. She must have been a wealthy woman, provided, of course, we believe Luke’s information, because she gave generous material assistance to the work of Jesus and his twelve disciples, which was revolutionary for the time. According to the same source, she had personal experience of the healing power of Jesus, probably through some kind of exorcism.
St Paraskevi was born in Rome about 140 AD of Greek Christian parents. Her father, Agathon was rich and her mother, Politia, had many attributes, the greatest of which was her charitability. Agathon and Politia had been married for many years but they were childless. They prayed to God to bless them with a child which they would raise in a true Christian atmosphere. Their prayers were answered with the birth of a girl and because she was born on the sixth day of the week, they named her Paraskevi, the Greek word for Friday.
In the ranks of the Old Testament prophets, a special position is occupied by the Prophet Elijah, whose sacred memory the Church honours and celebrates today. In the New Testament, the name of the Prophet Elijah is frequently mentioned by Christ Himself. Zacharias, the father of the Forerunner, said that John would come “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, that is, that he would have the features and the zeal of the Prophet Elijah, that he would be the Prophet Elijah himself, whose return the people were awaiting. When Jesus bore witness to John the Baptist and praised him highly, He said that he was Elijah: “If you want, accept that he is Elijah who was to come”.
St Panteleimon was born about 284 AD in the city of Nicodemia. His father, Efstorgios, was an idolater while his mother, Evouli, was a devout Christian. She raised her son, whose real name was Pantoleon, in the Christian way of life. She passed away while her son was still young. His father sent him to study under the famous physician, Efrosinos. Quickly he surpassed the other students. He was handsome, soft spoken, humble and all who spoke with him felt true happiness and peace. Because of these virtues, he became well known in Nicodemia. One day he went with Efrosinos to the palace and it was here that the ruler, Maximian, first saw him. He instructed Efrosinos to educate Pantoleon to the utmost so that he could be appointed royal physician.
First of all, there is no “method” in the lives of these Christians, which they follow in order to attain such characteristics, nor were they initiated in any kind of mystic teaching. The only thing they did was to open wide their heart to Christ, as God, and to their fellow-man. Their way of life does not include the practicing of a certain method (for example Yoga, meditation or martial arts), but rather, we would say that theirs is a path, which includes a descent into two intelligible realms – which the contemporary saint, the Elder Sophronios Sakharov, characterizes as “Hades”: the “Hades of repentance” and the “Hades of Love”.