Contemporary theology

A Miracle on Christmas Eve

When Christmas Eve comes, how we wish for a miracle! And miracles really do happen. These two stories were found for us by Maria Saradzhishvili on the pages of Georgian periodicals. They are not only miraculous examples of God’s Providence in life, but portray the hearts of people filled with great nobility, self-sacrifice, and love. And of course, faith in God.

The first story. About an abortion that didn’t happen, a blind man, and a seeing heart.

This happened to a friend of mine a long time ago.

Nino moved to the city to study. She was seduced by a married man. She became pregnant, and the rest unfolded according to the usual pattern: The guilty party gave her money for an abortion. But Nino already loved her unborn child and rejected this idea. She well knew that her strict father and brothers would not forgive her this mistake, but returned home anyway to her village in her seventh month of pregnancy. New Year’s day came, and she hoped that this fairy-tale night might work a miracle, that her family would forgive her and forget everything.

A Spiritual Wall. St. Stefan of Dečani

Photo: decani.org On November 23/24, 2019,Visoki Dečani Monastery in the Serbian Autonomous Region of Kosovo and Metohija celebrated its patronal feast day, of St. Stefan of Dečani, the great medieval king and martyr who built the Monastery and whose incorrupt relics lie there today. Always an occasion marked with great joy and solemnity, this year was notable due to the larger than usual number of pilgrims who came from all over the Balkans and Europe to celebrate the life of this great saint of the Church of Christ. At the Divine Liturgy, the large katholikon, one of the largest in the Balkan peninsula, was overflowing with pilgrims and it is estimated that over 3,000 people came.

A Christian’s Entire Life Should be Divine Worship

One of Fr. Daniel Sysoev’s Last Interviews

Fr. Daniel Sysoev, formerly rector of the Church of the Apostle Thomas in Kantimerovskaya,was one of the most active missionaries of the Russian Orthodox Church. Late in the evening on November 19 he was shot by a Muslim fanatic, and the next day he died of his gunshot wounds. In this last interview of his life, he spoke of the urgent need for Christian piety. It is especially interesting that Fr. Daniel, who would soon be martyred, spoke of love for God as the love the martyrs had—which hints to us that he himself had that love.

How does the Orthodox Church understand piety? What is the essence of piety?

—Piety is the blessed worship of the Lord God. It is manifested in relations between man and God and between people. The apostle James said: “True piety is care for widows and orphans and to remain undefiled from the world” (cf. Jas. 1:27). A pious person honors God not only with prayers, prostrations, and sacred rites, but with his entire life. For example, you are recording an interview right now, and your interview should be a form of worship of the Lord God. If you do it for your own vainglory, it will be impiety, because you are reverencing an empty glory. Whatever a man lives for is what he turns out to be. Piety includes your way of life, and most importantly, a correct motivational system. Improperly motivated steps lead to improper deeds. This is very important to remember, because mistakes are often hidden in this small thing. People think that the main thing is to take action, and in the name of what—that’s not important. But everything is the opposite here. The sacrifice of an atheist is worth less in the eyes of God than the sacrifice of an Orthodox person, because you can sacrifice in the name of false ideas, become proud, and thereby destroy your soul, but an Orthodox Christian can humble himself, praise the Creator, and thereby be saved.

Anecdotes about St. Joseph The Hesychast

Omitted From the Greek, Romanian, Arabic, and Georgian Editions of My Elder Joseph the Hesychast

As explained in Part 1 of these articles, the following stories were included in the published editions of Elder Ephraim’s biography of St. Joseph only in English and Russian.    

His Simple Mother

The mother of Francis [i.e., Elder Joseph] was a simple person. One day when he was older, he took her to a movie theatre to show her a motion picture for the first time in her life. When the movie depicted a burning room, she thought it was real and starting shouting, “Fire! Fire!”

The Story Behind “My Elder Joseph the Hesychast”

by Hieromonk Ephraim, St. Nilus Skete, Alaska

Hieromonk Ephraim is a longtime disciple of Elder Ephraim of Arizona who received the elder’s blessing to live and struggle ascetically at St. Nilus Island Skete, near Kodiak, Alaska. Fr. Ephraim as offered us the fruit of his hagiographic labors on the windswept isle for our readers’ edification.

We begin today with Part 1, his introduction.    

St. Joseph the Hesychast was one of the greatest monks of the Holy Mountain in the 20th century. His life story and teachings have been translated into many languages and touched thousands of people. People have been moved especially by the stories told by his disciple, Elder Ephraim of Arizona, in the book My Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Due to the popularity of this book, I was asked to write this article, explaining the story behind it. In Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this article, I will share some unpublished anecdotes about St. Joseph.