Dear People, Christ Is Risen,
In my daily searches of the internet in Greece, I came upon a wonderful video of Fr. Nikon of Philotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos, giving a talk entitled “The Power of the Sacraments in the lives of Orthodox Christians” in Αίκατερίνη, Greece. He talks about real life experiences dealing with the miraculous through the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. These stories are mind boggling because they speak of a spiritual dimension of Christian life that has been lost in most of the Christians of the West. I was so taken with these stories that I needed to translate them into English for our faithful here in the States. In one of the stories Fr. Nikon refers to the Holy Mother Prousiotissa who is instrumental in directly saving the life of a young Greek soldier who is driving a truck on a mountain road. In looking up Παναγία Προυσιώτισσα I found the following historical roots of this particular miracle-working icon of the Holy Mother.
According to the tradition of our Church, this icon was in a Church in Prousa, Asia Minor. During the iconoclastic period when icons were being destroyed by heretics of that time this icon was saved from destruction by a leading member of the Orthodox Church. In order to save the icon, in 829 AD he took the icon from the Church. This Church leader had every intention of taking this icon to Greece for its safe-keeping. But when he reached the city of Kallipolis, the icon was lost. The icon then miraculously found its way to the location where it is found today in Prousa, Greece. This miraculous event was disseminated amongst the Orthodox faithful of that time. The man, who had attempted to take the icon to Greece and then lost it, found out about the miracle and proceeded to its location where the icon found its resting place and verified that it was the same icon he attempted to save in Asia Minor. He was so impressed with the miraculous events surrounding the icon’s travels that he dedicated the rest of his life to monasticism. You should also know that there are many miracles attributed to this icon of the Holy Mother over the centuries but we will leave that for another time. We pray that you will enjoy these real life miracles from the lives of ordinary people in the Orthodox Christian Church of Greece.
Χριστός Άνέστη, Christ Is Risen +Fr. Constantine J. Simones, May 11, 2014 in Waterford, CT, USA
THE POWER OF THE SACRAMENTS IN THE LIVES OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS
Faith is life. It is not simply a question of knowledge. We are not saved because we have learned about our faith. We will be saved not because we believe but because we show our faith by the way we live. Knowledge does not save us. Knowledge gives us the ability to live the way Jesus wants us to live. This is so because Christ did not come into the world to teach us theology and philosophy. He came into the world to give us a new way of life. Even the devil believes but his faith does not save him. All people have knowledge but all people are not saved. Show me your faith in your good works is the commandment we have received. We say that we love Jesus Christ. This may be so but what does Jesus say; “you will reveal your faith in Me through your good works.” “He who loves me will honor my commandments.” The way we live life makes us Christians, not our faith. If we live life properly we will also have a proper philosophical outlook and we will have good thoughts. This is so because philosophy comes from the life that we are living. Not living the right way brings with it wrong knowledge and a wrong philosophy of life. The proper way of living will foster good thinking. Since faith is not something that we learn by reading books and hearing sermons about faith, it is acquired by the way we live life.
Faith is not logical. This is so because our human nature has been inherited from Adam and Eve from which came death and corruption. We may not be guilty for the sin they committed but we are born with their nature and their fall from grace. We have inherited all of this. And because of this fall our good God has for a second time opened the Gates of Heaven to us in order to take us in. The issue at hand is whether or not we accept this invitation. These Heavenly Gates for us Christians are the sacraments of the Church. Before we were baptized evil was part of our human nature into which we were born. Now the Grace of God attempts to attract us to Him so that we may be saved. When we enter the Gates of Baptism and this entrance is sealed with Holy Chrism (confirmation oil) evil no longer dwells in us. Evil is now banished from us and the Grace of God is now within us. In spite of this evil continues to try to keep us outside of the Gates of Heaven.
THE POWER OF THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
His response was most intriguing. When his mother found out that her son had become an Orthodox monk, she became very curious. She asked many question like what does being an Orthodox monk mean. She then attended a Russian Orthodox Church in the capital of Peru in order to learn more about the Orthodox Christian Church. She began asking questions of the priest about the Orthodox Church. She wanted to know what the Orthodox Church was and how if differed with the Roman Catholic Church? The Russian Orthodox priest answered all her questions with a great deal of patience. She attended that Church again and again and she fell in love with it. Finally when Father Simeon arrived in Peru after many years of absence, he found that his mother was ready to be received into the Orthodox Church. When the day of baptism arrived, Fr. Simeon went to a lake with his mother and performed the Sacrament of Baptism there. He immersed her three times in the waters of the lake. During the third immersion something most unusual took place to his mother. As her son literally raised her from the water for the third time she remained in the air for a moment then plunged back down into the water. Fr. Simeon’s brothers who were watching this whole scene unfold thought their brother was drowning their mother. They rushed forward and would have beaten him up if their mother had not raised herself up from the water and spoke to them.
The mother then explained to everyone what was happening to her during the third immersion into the water. She said that everything around her lit up brilliantly and she was filled with Light. This Light entered her body and it was so powerful that she became emotional and fainted. She was given the name Έλευθερία (Freedom). (Translator: This Light that Eleftheria experienced is known in the Orthodox Church as the Uncreated Light of God.)
ANOTHER STORY ABOUT THE POWER OF HOLY BAPTISM THAT TOOK PLACE IN ATHENS, GREECE
A young man from the City of Piraeus, Greece was a sailor who on one of his trips met a girl in Brazil. The young people fell in love and the question of marriage came up. The young Greek sailor told the girl that he was a Greek Orthodox Christian and if they were to be married that she would have to become a Greek Orthodox Christian. The girl did not have any objections to this request and she started catechism classes in Brazil and continued with them when they moved to Greece. The only problem they encountered in Greece was that the boy’s mother did not want her for her son. She said: “who is this person you brought to me? You can take her back to where she came from.” The son said that he loved the girl and the mother continued to object strenuously calling her all kinds of unsavory names. The son did not pay any attention to his mother’s objections and the girl continued with her catechism lessons. When the mother saw that she could not persuade her son she decided to seek the intervention of a magus, a magician.
The catechism lessons had finished and the girl was baptized. The mother then went to the magus who was well known in Athens. He told her: “I will make it so that your son will not even want to see that girl again. The incantations of the magician began. One day, two days, three days and then four days went by and nothing was happening. The mother went back to the magus but this time with her husband. They gave the soothsayer more money and the magician said to them: “I will succeed for I have never failed before.” Another week went by, then ten days went by, and still nothing happened. The parents of the boy went back to the magician to find out what was going on. The magus said to them: “I do not want you to think that I am a charlatan and that I am simply trying to get more money out of you. I will return to you all the money that you have given me. I am doing this because I cannot do anything to that girl. I have invoked the help of some of the greatest demons that exist. Every time they attempt to bewitch that girl they are fended off by that white dress she wears which has a red emblem on her breast. (The white dress was her baptismal garment and the red on her chest was the seal of confirmation).
THE DEMONS ARE POWERLESS BEFORE THE GRACE OF BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION
Fr. Nikon tells us that he was at a particular Monastery on Mt. Athos. Someone at the Monastery told him to go to the courtyard of the Monastery for there was a visitor there who was a well informed individual. I went to the courtyard and found a delightful man who was well-spoken, well-educated and knew five different languages. We immediately became friends. I unfortunately found out that he taught Zen in the city of Thessaloniki. He had a school that taught the techniques of Zen. Because of his involvement with Zen he truly believed that he possessed a sixth sense that no one else had. In order to prove his point he told me the following incident. He said: “One night I felt with this special ability that I possess that there was going to be an earthquake in the city. It was ten o’clock at night and I told my mother that we should go out for a walk. We left the house and walked to Venizelos Square. We sat on a park bench and we waited. Suddenly we felt that all of Thessaloniki was shaking. It was an earthquake which destroyed an apartment building and a number of people were killed. Why, therefore, does it seem strange to you that I should have this sixth sense?” I responded to him, “You are a saint.” He was not fool enough to say that he was a saint. But he was also smart enough not to say that he was demon-possessed. He said: “I am not a saint but that doesn’t mean that I am demon-possessed.”
My response to him was that animals also sense the coming danger of earthquakes and make all kinds of noises. These animals know in advance that an earthquake is coming. He said in response: “Does that mean they are demon-possessed?” You could not persuade him with any argument that you brought forth about the dangers of Zen. How could you convince someone like that who is receiving information from a demon? When a person’s mind is taken over by a demon how can we convince them to repent? Those who think they are very smart easily become possessed. These people cannot be saved unless God Himself miraculously cures them.
Fr. Nikon now continues the story at a Monastery on Mt. Athos. He said that a person came to the Monastery one day who was a foreigner. He had a son and they travelled throughout the Greek islands. They had a wonderful time doing this. This man said to Fr. Nikon: “As I was travelling to these beautiful Greek islands I saw something that appeared to be very strange to me. I saw a man wearing black clothes with a strange black hat. As it turned out he was a priest for I had never seen one before. I followed him until he came to a building and started ringing a bell. He then took out a key, unlocked the door and entered the house. I later realized that it was a Church. The priest entered the Church. What the priest did next I do not know. It might have been a vesper or some other Church service. When the priest finished doing his priestly duties, I approached him and asked him why he was wearing that type of clothing. He responded that is the way Orthodox priests are dressed in the Orthodox Church. I then asked him what the differences were between the Roman Catholic, the Protestant Churches and Orthodoxy. The priest responded by telling him the differences. The priest spoke to him in English and then gave him a book to read along with an English New Testament. I read the material and became enthusiastic about the Orthodox Church. I then decided to become an Orthodox Christian. The priest told me I should not rush into becoming an Orthodox Christian and I should just take my time. I took catechism lessons for a whole year.”
THE MIRACULOUS POWER OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST
Fr. Nikon tells us the following story. A priest from one of the provinces in Greece visited him one day. He had many years of priestly experience. Because of the confidentiality of the sacrament of confession his name cannot be revealed. He said that during all those years in the priesthood he did not feel like something special was taking place during the Divine Liturgy. Specifically, he said that he did not believe that the bread and wine during the Holy Eucharist were changed into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. His question was: could it be simply a symbolic thing? Is it reality? Why do I not believe? Fr. Stephanos, his confessor, told him that God knows why He does not reveal these mysteries to us. He does this either because we are unworthy or because of our egos, because of our passions or maybe because we could not endure seeing the reality of this great mystery. This priest left and after three months he visited me again and I could not believe how terribly he looked. His face looked white with fear and he had lost a lot of weight. He revealed to me what happened to him after he left our Monastery.
When the priest came around he asked the sexton what he saw in the chalice. He responded that everything was normal, it contained just the bread and wine. The priest then got up with difficulty saying over and over again “Lord I believe, I believe” while trembling. He then concluded the Divine Liturgy. (It is customary for the priest to consume the consecrated bread and wine that remains in the chalice after giving communion to the faithful). Having experienced such a vision of the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, he did not know whether or not he could consume the elements in the chalice. Sweating profusely, after some time he managed to finally consume the elements that had by now returned to their natural state of bread and wine. He asked his father confessor if he would receive mercy after so many years of unbelief. A month later he offered his resignation saying he could no longer perform the Divine Liturgy. He took a position in an office of the Metropolis of his Diocese. We must live these things in order to believe in them.
THE MIRACULOUS POWER OF THE BODY & BLOOD OF CHRIST WHETHER IN THE OLD OR NEW CALENDAR CHURCH
Fr. Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery was with Fr. Nikon when the Monastery phone rang. Fr. Ephraim questioned whether or not he should answer the phone. He answered it and there was a woman on the line and she was very agitated. She was talking loudly and excitedly. Fr. Ephraim kept interrupting her saying to her “didn’t I tell you to be patient, have faith and God would answer your doubts.” When Fr. Ephraim was finished with the conversation, I asked him, if it was not a question of confession why was the woman so upset. He told me that the woman was a teacher from Epirus. She was a member of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church. She kept complaining to Fr. Ephraim that Orthodox priests of the New Calendar do not dispense divine grace. These priests have betrayed the faith. They have joined the Pope of Rome. The Patriarch of Constantinople is a heretic because he embraces the Pope. The priests of the New Calendar do not have the true priesthood. On hearing this, the Elder said to her, no my child, it is not like that. Our priests dispense divine grace. He then advised her to fast and pray for three days and then attend a New Calendar Church to receive Holy Communion.
She did as she was told and received Holy Communion from a New Calendar priest. He also said to her: “if, as you say the priest does not have divine grace you do not have anything to lose, you will simply consume a little wine and bread. I see that you have sincere conviction about the Church, about Jesus and about His Holy Mother. They will help you to understand as I have explained it to you.” After she received Holy Communion and went back to her place in the Church, she suddenly realized that there was something strange about the communion in her mouth. It felt strange because it was like chewing on a piece of plastic. She then retrieved the piece of communion from her mouth with her fingers. When she looked at it she discovered that it was raw flesh and her fingers were covered in blood. Upon seeing this she started yelling and screaming: “Jesus have mercy on me. Holy Mother of God forgive me.” The faithful ran forward to help her and they realized at that moment that a miracle had taken place. They told the woman to place the communion back in her mouth and not to be afraid. She finally placed the communion in her mouth and it returned to the natural elements of bread and wine. This is the power of our Orthodox Church.
THE POWER OF CONFESSION OVER UNCLEAN SPIRITS
Fr. Nikon tells us another story about the power of the sacraments of the Church. He said a judge one day came to Mt. Athos for confession. He was one of the leading judges in Greece. He had a big personal problem and he wanted to go to confession to Fr. Ephraim. The Elder told the judge since he was staying at the Monastery for a few days, he would see him tomorrow. The following day the monks called the judge to go to confession. Shortly after entering the room with Fr. Ephraim we all heard these bone-chilling screams coming from the confessional. We all rushed in to see if the judge was harming the Elder. Upon entering we saw before us the Elder removing and folding his stole while the judge was on the floor thrashing around like a fish. The Elder said there was nothing wrong with him and that we should take him to his room and that they would continue with the confession tomorrow. When we took the judge back to his room he came back to his senses and he asked us what had happened. We told him that nothing had happened. We told him that he became dizzy and fainted. The next day the judge went in to continue the confession. We were not very far from the confessional when we again heard those blood-curdling screams. We all ran again to the room to see what was happening. We saw the same scene as we had seen the day before. The Elder told us to take him to his room and that he would see him tomorrow at confession. Finally, after three sessions, this man was able to give his complete confession.
This judge later told us himself what happened to him during his confession with Fr. Ephraim. He said that during the confession something bitter came forth from within him. It was like a cancerous tumor being jettisoned from his body. He then felt much lighter and then he said he now understood after all these years what that voice was that was telling him to butcher his wife. During these years he had an insatiable desire to kill his wife. He would go into the kitchen, take up a knife to kill his wife. But because of his great love for his wife instead of killing her he proceeded to cut to pieces all the pictures of his wife in the house. The voice would also tell him to butcher his children. There was not a picture in the house that was not pierced by the knife. Fr. Nikon finished the story by saying that this man visited him in his cell recently. He told him once he had confession nothing has happened to him again. He suffered this affliction for more than fifteen years. Fr. Nikon said at the end of this story that sixty out of one hundred people who are diagnosed with psychiatric problems are demon possessed.
DEMONIC ENTITIES ATTEMPT TO DESTROY FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Fr. Nikon tells the story of a young soldier who was driving a truck on a mountain road. The road was wide and he was going fast. He suddenly saw in the distance that there was a turn in the road. Upon seeing this he attempted to break the truck and the breaks would not respond. He then attempted to turn the truck toward the wall of the mountain in order to avoid driving off the cliff into the abyss below. He discovered that the steering wheel would not respond and he couldn’t believe that both the brakes and the steering wheel were not working. He then attempted to open the door to jump out of the truck. He could not open the door. He then tried to open the door on the passenger side of the truck. He found that he could not open that door either. At that point, he could not think of anything else that could possibly save his life. He then grabbed his head with both hands and yelled out to the Holy Mother: “Holy Mother of God Προυσιώτισσα save me.” He had a special love for this particular depiction of the Holy Mother. He then lay down on the seat and waited for the truck to fly off the edge of the road into the precipice below. He waited and waited and waited thinking by now he should have gone off the edge of the road.
When he sat up and looked out the window he saw that the truck was continuing straight ahead on the road. He then said: “Thank you Holy Mother. It was a miracle of the Holy Mother.” He was a pious young man. He finally arrived safely at his destination. Months and years went by after this near disaster and he had practically forgotten about the episode. One day when he went to Athens and ran into an old friend of his from the City of Patras. He hadn’t seen him for a long time and he asked him if he had time to spend the afternoon with him. His friend from Patras responded that he was asked to visit someone in a psychiatric hospital near Athens so they decided to go there together. When they arrived at the hospital compound they saw many patients walking around doing crazy things. The hospital attendant came and was leading them to the patient they wanted to see. While they were walking along suddenly one of the patients in the hospital courtyard lunged at the young soldier and grabbed him by the neck. He screamed at him saying: “You miserable rat, you were saved from me up there on that mountain road. That woman dressed in black took control of the truck when I was on the verge of destroying you.” The hospital attendants then grabbed the possessed man and pulled him away from the soldier. Fr. Nikon finished this story by repeating the words of a prayer service to the Holy Mother, “Άπό τών πολλών μου άμαρτιών άσθενείς τό σώμα καί τήν ψυχήν.” “Because of my many sins, sick are both my body and my soul.” Please remember people that demons are terribly afraid of that Lady dressed in black.
THE POWER OF THE SACRAMENTS OF HOLY MATRIMONY AND CONFESSION
One day Fr. Nikon and the young professor were driving to Athens together. During the trip Fr. Nikon heard a most unbelievable story from the professor. He revealed to him that there was something strange that was happening to him. As he was teaching a class he could feel a presence approach him and overwhelm his whole body. When this happened he became frozen in place and could not move. He became like a statue. He could feel this presence that would approach him and freeze him in place. This would also happen to him when he was driving but it first started when he was teaching in class. The students at first thought that he was joking and they began to laugh. But when this happened again and again the students would wait until it passed. He explained to the students that it was a nervous condition and it would pass. Fr. Nikon spoke to him to find out why this was happening to him. The professor said that once he was driving from Corinth to Athens and he was going fast. He suddenly saw before him a sharp turn in the road. He had driven this road many times and he couldn’t understand why there was this turn in the highway. As this was unfolding before him, suddenly a monk was sitting in the passenger seat next to him. The monk tapped him on his back with his left hand and directed him to go straight ahead with his right hand. What the professor was seeing before him on the highway was a stone wall. But following the directions of the monk he barreled ahead full speed into the stone wall. As soon as soon as he appeared to hit the stone wall it completely disappeared and the highway opened up before him straight ahead. When he managed to stop the car, he got out trembling. He looked back at the highway and he saw where the curve had been. That curse led directly off the road and into the ocean. He then said that his next concern was to find out who the monk was. Fr. Nikon asked for a description of him but he could not give a good one.
The problem with the entity did not stop for the professor at this point. Another time when Fr. Nikon went to see him he said to him: “Elder I bought a new house. As soon as I entered that house I realized there was something evil there. We thought that maybe the previous owners had done some kind of a satanic ritual there. We checked the house inside and out for signs of witchcraft. Fr. Nikon told the professor to call a priest for a house blessing and then he left. A year later, Fr. Nikon went to Mt. Athos to attend the Feast of the Philotheou Monastery he ran into the young professor. He asked him what he was doing there. I could see that he did not look well at all. He told me that one day after returning home from his teaching assignment, he felt that the evil spirit was approaching him again. This time instead of attacking him it attacked his wife. The evil entity had spread his evil throughout the house. His wife and children were screaming. I went into the kitchen and I saw the entity before me manifested like a fierce demon. It appeared to be half guerrilla and half human and it was strangling my wife. I started to pray the only prayer that I knew—The Lord’s Prayer. The husband lunged at the guerrilla and the three of them were rolling on the floor. After a while the guerrilla just disappeared. The husband and wife embraced one another in tears. The children were very upset. The professor called his friend and they decided they should go to Mt. Athos for confession.
At this point Fr. Nikon is still trying to figure out what had he done to leave himself open to demonic attacks. What could he have done to give such power to the Satan. Fr. Nikon told the two friends that they should visit all the holy Elders on Mt. Athos in order to find out was going on with the young professor. Since Fr. Paisios was nearby he suggested that they should visit him first. Fr. Nikon at this point left them. The following October, Fr. Nikon went to Athens to meet the professor. He asked what had happened to him after they parted. He responded: “I did everything you told me to do on Mt. Athos. We started with Fr. Paisios. We went to his hermitage where there were a lot of people waiting for him. Fr. Paisios came out to visit with the pilgrims. When I saw him, I froze. He was the monk that sat in the passenger seat of my car that saved me from certain death. Fr. Paisios approached us and he said that I should not say anything. We will talk later. What did Fr. Paisios tell you? We did what he told us to do. What was that? We were never married in the Church and we never baptized our children in the Church. The professor tried to rationalize that true love and living together was not wrong. He also rationalized that their children were not baptized because they wanted them to grow up and choose their religion for themselves. (Translator: I assume that this couple was married by the justice of the peace and not in the Church) Is this the New World Order of things?
Transliterated from a Greek video program by:
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, May 10, 2014, Waterford, CT USA, firstname.lastname@example.org