Saints for Various Needs

Synaxis of All Saints

Synaxis of All Saints

“We should seek the intercessions and the fervent prayers of the saints, because they have special ‘boldness’ (parresia), before God.” Saint John Chrysostom

THROUGH THEIR INTERCESSIONS . . .

The Orthodox Church is a living and vibrant community of faithful Christians made up of the members of the Church militant and the church triumphant. The Church militant are those of us who are still part of this world, diligently striving to live our lives according to God’s teachings and commandments. The Church triumphant are those individuals who have been called by God to be with Him in paradise and continue to pray for us.

Holiness or sainthood is a gift given by God to mankind through the Holy Spirit. Man’s effort to become a participant in the life of divine holiness is indispensable, but sanctification itself is the work of the Holy Trinity, especially through the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, a famous Orthodox Theologian, has stated that “in private, an Orthodox Christian is free to ask for the prayers of any member of the Church, whether canonized or not. It would be perfectly normal for an Orthodox child, if orphaned, to end his evening prayers by asking for the intercessions, not only of the Mother of God and the saints, but his own mother and father. In its public worship, however, the church usually prays only to those whom it has officially proclaimed as saints.”

In the Orthodox Church there are six classifications of Saints:

  1. The Apostles, who were the first ones to spread the message of the Incarnation of the Word of God and of salvation through Christ.
  2. The Prophets, because they predicted and prophesied the coming of the Messiah.
  3. The Martyrs, for sacrificing their lives and fearlessly confessing Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.
  4. The Fathers and Hierarchs of the Church, who excelled in explaining and defending, by word and deed, the Christian Faith.
  5. The Monastics, who lived in the desert and dedicated themselves to spiritual exercise (askesis), reaching, as far as possible, perfection in Christ.
  6. The Just, those who lived in the world, leading exemplary lives as clergy or laity with their families, becoming examples for imitation in society.

Each and every one among these saints has his or her own calling and characteristics: they all fought the “good fight for the faith” (I Tim. 6.12 and II Tim. 4.7). All of them applied in their lives the scriptural virtues of “justice, piety, fidelity, love, fortitude and gentleness” (I Tim. 6.11).

The ultimate goal of humankind is to imitate God and live the life of deification (theosis). Saint Maximos the Confessor describes saints as being men and women who have avoided the unnatural development of the soul, that is, sin, and tried to live the natural way of life, turning and looking always towards God, thus achieving total unity with God through the Holy Spirit. This is why we look to the example of their lives for strength and encouragement, and why we continue to pray to them to intercede on our behalf to our Lord.

The following is a list of Saints called upon for special purposes: *

To Have a Child

  • St. Anna, Mother of the Theotokos
  • St. Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner
  • St. Sabbas the Sanctified of Palestine
  • St. Irene Chrysovolantou

For Safe Childbirth

  • St. Eleftherios

For the Care and Protection of Infants

  • St. Stylianos

For Young People

  • Holy Great Martyr Demetrios the Wonderworker

Delivery from Sudden Death

  • St. Barbara the Great Martyr

Against Drinking

  • Holy Martyr Boniface and the Righteous Aglais

For Travelers

  • St. Nicholas: in general, and specifically for sea travel
  • St. John the Russian: for transport, auto, busses
  • St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople: for safety at sea

For Cobblers

  • St. Eustathius the Cobbler of Georgia

For Physicians

  • St. Panteleimon
  • The Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas and Damian
  • For the Kitchen, Home
  • St. Euphrosynos the Cook
  • St. Sergius of Radonezh: for baking
  • Sts. Spyridon and Nikodim of Kievo-Pechersk: Prosphora making

For Trading

  • St. Paraskeva

For Headaches

  • Holy New Martyr Demas of Smyrna

For Eyes

  • St. Paraskeva

For Ears

  • St. Spyridon the Wonderworker

For Teeth

  • St. Antipas of Pergamum

For Hernias and Intestinal Disorders

  • Holy Great Martyr Artemius
  • St. Artemius of Verkola

For Throat

  • St. Blaise of Sebastia

For Finding Employment

  • St. Xenia of St. Petersburg

For Help in Studies

  • The Three Hierarchs:St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian
  • St. Sergius of Radonezh
  • St. John of Kronstadt
  • St. Justin the Philosopher

For Church-Chanting

  • St. Romanos the Melodist

For Iconographers

  • St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist
  • St. John of Damascus

For Patient Endurance of Affliction

  • St. Job the Much-Suffering
  • Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastia: especially in freezing cold weather
  • Holy Forty-Two Martyrs of Amorion

For Protection Against Thieves

  • St. Gregory the Wonderworker of Kievo-Pechersk

For Stone-workers

  • Holy Martyrs Florus and Laurus

For Soldiers

  • Holy Archangel Michael
  • St. George the Great Martyr
  • St. Barbara the Great Martyr

For Spiritual Help, Consolation and Compunction

  • St. Ephraim the Syrian
  • St. Alexis the Man of God
  • St. Seraphim of Sarov

For a Good End to One’s Life

  • Holy Archangel Michael
  • St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople

For Captives and Court Cases

  • St. Onouphrios the Great
  • St. Peter of Athos
  • St. George the Great Martyr

For Help in Distress, Poverty, Etc.

  • St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
  • St. John the Almsgiver of Alexandria
  • St. John of Kronstadt

For Finding Things

  • St. Phanourios the Great Martyr
  • St. Menas the Great Martyr of Egypt

For Meeting a Difficult Situation, an Interview, Etc.

  • St. David the Prophet, Psalmist and King
  • The Holy Unmercenaries and Healers
  • SS. Cosmas and Damian of Rome
  • SS. Panteleimon and Hermolaus
  • St. Julian the Martyr
  • St. John of Kronstadt
  • St. Nectarios of Aegina
  • Holy Archangel Raphael

For Animals and Livestock

  • St. George: cattle and herds
  • St. Parthenius of Radovysdius: cattle
  • SS. Spevsippus, Elesippus and Melevsippus: horses
  • St. Tryphon: geese

For Protection of Crops from Pests

  • St. Michael of Synnada

For the Protection of Gardens Against Pests

  • Holy Great Martyr Tryphon: also for hunters and Patron of Moscow

Against Demons and Witchcraft

  • SS. Cyprian and Justina
  • St. Theodore Sykeote
  • St. Mitrophan of Voronezh

For Chastity and Help in Carnal Warfare

  • St. John the Forerunner
  • St. Demetrios the Great Martyr
  • St. John the Much-Suffering
  • Holy Martyr Theodore the Byzantine
  • Holy Martyr Ignatios of Athos
  • St. Mary of Egypt
  • St. Joseph the All-Comely
  • St. Susanna [Old Testament]

For Mental Disorders

  • St. Naum of Ochrid
  • St. Anastasia
  • St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia: the possessed

Against Plague

  • St. Haralambos
  • St. Marina the Great Martyr

For Help Against Quick-Temper and Despondency

  • St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

For Workers in Hospitals

  • Holy Unmercenaries Saints Cosmas and Damian
  • St. Dositheus, Disciple of Abba Dorotheus

For Guilelessness and Simplicity

  • Holy Apostle Nathaniel and St. Paul the Simple

* Reprinted from Orthodox Family Life. Volume 3, Issue 3. Spring 1998

St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia

St. Basil the Great of Cappadocia (329–379)

St. Basil the Great of Cappadocia (329–379)

Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, “belongs not to the Church of Caesarea alone, nor merely to his own time, nor was he of benefit only to his own kinsmen, but rather to all lands and cities worldwide, and to all people he brought and still brings benefit, and for Christians he always was and will be a most salvific teacher.” Thus spoke Saint Basil’s contemporary, Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium.

Saint Basil was born in the year 330 at Caesarea, the administrative center of Cappadocia. He was of illustrious lineage, famed for its eminence and wealth, and zealous for the Christian Faith. The saint’s grandfather and grandmother on his father’s side had to hide in the forests of Pontus for seven years during the persecution under Diocletian.

Saint Basil’s mother Saint Emilia was the daughter of a martyr. On the Greek calendar, she is commemorated on May 30. Saint Basil’s father was also named Basil. He was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician, and lived at Caesarea.

Ten children were born to the elder Basil and Emilia: five sons and five daughters. Five of them were later numbered among the saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (July 19) was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted strong influence on the life and character of Saint Basil the Great; Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (January 10); Peter, Bishop of Sebaste (January 9); and Theosebia, a deaconess (January 10).

Saint Basil spent the first years of his life on an estate belonging to his parents at the River Iris, where he was raised under the supervision of his mother Emilia and grandmother Macrina. They were women of great refinement, who remembered an earlier bishop of Cappadocia, Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (November 17). Basil received his initial education under the supervision of his father, and then he studied under the finest teachers in Caesarea of Cappadocia, and it was here that he made the acquaintance of Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25 and January 30). Later, Basil transferred to a school at Constantinople, where he listened to eminent orators and philosophers. To complete his education Saint Basil went to Athens, the center of classical enlightenment.

After a four or five year stay at Athens, Basil had mastered all the available disciplines. “He studied everything thoroughly, more than others are wont to study a single subject. He studied each science in its very totality, as though he would study nothing else.” Philosopher, philologist, orator, jurist, naturalist, possessing profound knowledge in astronomy, mathematics and medicine, “he was a ship fully laden with learning, to the extent permitted by human nature.”

At Athens a close friendship developed between Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus), which continued throughout their life. In fact, they regarded themselves as one soul in two bodies. Later on, in his eulogy for Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks with delight about this period: “Various hopes guided us, and indeed inevitably, in learning… Two paths opened up before us: the one to our sacred temples and the teachers therein; the other towards preceptors of disciplines beyond.”

About the year 357, Saint Basil returned to Caesarea, where for a while he devoted himself to rhetoric. But soon, refusing offers from Caesarea’s citizens who wanted to entrust him with the education of their offspring, Saint Basil entered upon the path of ascetic life.

After the death of her husband, Basil’s mother, her eldest daughter Macrina, and several female servants withdrew to the family estate at Iris and there began to lead an ascetic life. Basil was baptized by Dianios, the Bishop of Caesarea, and was tonsured a Reader (On the Holy Spirit, 29). He first read the Holy Scriptures to the people, then explained them.

Later on, “wishing to acquire a guide to the knowledge of truth”, the saint undertook a journey into Egypt, Syria and Palestine, to meet the great Christian ascetics dwelling there. On returning to Cappadocia, he decided to do as they did. He distributed his wealth to the needy, then settled on the opposite side of the river not far from his mother Emilia and sister Macrina, gathering around him monks living a cenobitic life.

By his letters, Basil drew his good friend Gregory the Theologian to the monastery. Saints Basil and Gregory labored in strict abstinence in their dwelling place, which had no roof or fireplace, and the food was very humble. They themselves cleared away the stones, planted and watered the trees, and carried heavy loads. Their hands were constantly calloused from the hard work. For clothing Basil had only a tunic and monastic mantle. He wore a hairshirt, but only at night, so that it would not be obvious.

In their solitude, Saints Basil and Gregory occupied themselves in an intense study of Holy Scripture. They were guided by the writings of the Fathers and commentators of the past, especially the good writings of Origen. From all these works they compiled an anthology called Philokalia. Also at this time, at the request of the monks, Saint Basil wrote down a collection of rules for virtuous life. By his preaching and by his example Saint Basil assisted in the spiritual perfection of Christians in Cappadocia and Pontus; and many indeed turned to him. Monasteries were organized for men and for women, in which places Basil sought to combine the cenobitic (koine bios, or common) lifestyle with that of the solitary hermit.

During the reign of Constantius (337-361) the heretical teachings of Arius were spreading, and the Church summoned both its saints into service. Saint Basil returned to Caesarea. In the year 362 he was ordained deacon by Bishop Meletius of Antioch. In 364 he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. “But seeing,” as Gregory the Theologian relates, “that everyone exceedingly praised and honored Basil for his wisdom and reverence, Eusebius, through human weakness, succumbed to jealousy of him, and began to show dislike for him.” The monks rose up in defense of Saint Basil. To avoid causing Church discord, Basil withdrew to his own monastery and concerned himself with the organization of monasteries.

With the coming to power of the emperor Valens (364-378), who was a resolute adherent of Arianism, a time of troubles began for Orthodoxy, the onset of a great struggle. Saint Basil hastily returned to Caesarea at the request of Bishop Eusebius. In the words of Gregory the Theologian, he was for Bishop Eusebius “a good advisor, a righteous representative, an expounder of the Word of God, a staff for the aged, a faithful support in internal matters, and an activist in external matters.”

From this time church governance passed over to Basil, though he was subordinate to the hierarch. He preached daily, and often twice, in the morning and in the evening. During this time Saint Basil composed his Liturgy. He wrote a work “On the Six Days of Creation” (Hexaemeron) and another on the Prophet Isaiah in sixteen chapters, yet another on the Psalms, and also a second compilation of monastic rules. Saint Basil wrote also three books “Against Eunomius,” an Arian teacher who, with the help of Aristotelian concepts, had presented the Arian dogma in philosophic form, converting Christian teaching into a logical scheme of rational concepts.

Saint Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the activity of Basil the Great during this period, points to “the caring for the destitute and the taking in of strangers, the supervision of virgins, written and unwritten monastic rules for monks, the arrangement of prayers [Liturgy], the felicitous arrangement of altars and other things.” Upon the death of Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil was chosen to succed him in the year 370. As Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil the Great was the newest of fifty bishops in eleven provinces. Saint Athanasius the Great (May 2), with joy and with thanks to God welcomed the appointment to Cappadocia of such a bishop as Basil, famed for his reverence, deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, great learning, and his efforts for the welfare of Church peace and unity.

Under Valens, the external government belonged to the Arians, who held various opinions regarding the divinity of the Son of God, and were divided into several factions. These dogmatic disputes were concerned with questions about the Holy Spirit. In his books Against Eunomios, Saint Basil the Great taught the divinity of the Holy Spirit and His equality with the Father and the Son. Subsequently, in order to provide a full explanation of Orthodox teaching on this question, Saint Basil wrote his book On the Holy Spirit at the request of Saint Amphilochius, the Bishop of Iconium.

Saint Basil’s difficulties were made worse by various circumstances: Cappadocia was divided in two under the rearrangement of provincial districts. Then at Antioch a schism occurred, occasioned by the consecration of a second bishop. There was the negative and haughty attitude of Western bishops to the attempts to draw them into the struggle with the Arians. And there was also the departure of Eustathius of Sebaste over to the Arian side. Basil had been connected to him by ties of close friendship. Amidst the constant perils Saint Basil gave encouragement to the Orthodox, confirmed them in the Faith, summoning them to bravery and endurance. The holy bishop wrote numerous letters to the churches, to bishops, to clergy and to individuals. Overcoming the heretics “by the weapon of his mouth, and by the arrows of his letters,” as an untiring champion of Orthodoxy, Saint Basil challenged the hostility and intrigues of the Arian heretics all his life. He has been compared to a bee, stinging the Church’s enemies, yet nourishing his flock with the sweet honey of his teaching.

The emperor Valens, mercilessly sending into exile any bishop who displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for this same purpose. He sent the prefect Modestus to Saint Basil. He began to threaten the saint with the confiscation of his property, banishment, beatings, and even death.

Saint Basil said, “If you take away my possessions, you will not enrich yourself, nor will you make me a pauper. You have no need of my old worn-out clothing, nor of my few books, of which the entirety of my wealth is comprised. Exile means nothing to me, since I am bound to no particular place. This place in which I now dwell is not mine, and any place you send me shall be mine. Better to say: every place is God’s. Where would I be neither a stranger and sojourner (Ps. 38/39:13)? Who can torture me? I am so weak, that the very first blow would render me insensible. Death would be a kindness to me, for it will bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and labor, and to Whom I hasten.”

The official was stunned by his answer. “No one has ever spoken so audaciously to me,” he said.

“Perhaps,” the saint remarked, “ that is because you’ve never spoken to a bishop before. In all else we are meek, the most humble of all. But when it concerns God, and people rise up against Him, then we, counting everything else as naught, look to Him alone. Then fire, sword, wild beasts and iron rods that rend the body, serve to fill us with joy, rather than fear.”

Reporting to Valens that Saint Basil was not to be intimidated, Modestus said, “Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the Church.” Basil the Great again showed firmness before the emperor and his retinue and made such a strong impression on Valens that the emperor dared not give in to the Arians demanding Basil’s exile. “On the day of Theophany, amidst an innumerable multitude of the people, Valens entered the church and mixed in with the throng, in order to give the appearance of being in unity with the Church. When the singing of Psalms began in the church, it was like thunder to his hearing. The emperor beheld a sea of people, and in the altar and all around was splendor; in front of all was Basil, who acknowledged neither by gesture nor by glance, that anything else was going on in church.” Everything was focused only on God and the altar-table, and the clergy serving there in awe and reverence.

Saint Basil celebrated the church services almost every day. He was particularly concerned about the strict fulfilling of the Canons of the Church, and took care that only worthy individuals should enter into the clergy. He incessantly made the rounds of his own church, lest anywhere there be an infraction of Church discipline, and setting aright any unseemliness. At Caesarea, Saint Basil built two monasteries, a men’s and a women’s, with a church in honor of the Forty Martyrs (March 9) whose relics were buried there. Following the example of monks, the saint’s clergy, even deacons and priests, lived in remarkable poverty, to toil and lead chaste and virtuous lives. For his clergy Saint Basil obtained an exemption from taxation. He used all his personal wealth and the income from his church for the benefit of the destitute; in every center of his diocese he built a poor-house; and at Caesarea, a home for wanderers and the homeless.

Sickly since youth, the toil of teaching, his life of abstinence, and the concerns and sorrows of pastoral service took their toll on him. Saint Basil died on January 1, 379 at age 49. Shortly before his death, the saint blessed Saint Gregory the Theologian to accept the See of Constantinople.

Upon the repose of Saint Basil, the Church immediately began to celebrate his memory. Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23), in his eulogy to Saint Basil the Great, said: “It is neither without a reason nor by chance that holy Basil has taken leave from the body and had repose from the world unto God on the day of the Circumcision of Jesus, celebrated between the day of the Nativity and the day of the Baptism of Christ. Therefore, this most blessed one, preaching and praising the Nativity and Baptism of Christ, extolling spiritual circumcision, himself forsaking the flesh, now ascends to Christ on the sacred day of remembrance of the Circumcision of Christ. Therefore, let it also be established on this present day annually to honor the memory of Basil the Great festively and with solemnity.”

Saint Basil is also called “the revealer of heavenly mysteries” (Ouranophantor), a “renowned and bright star,” and “the glory and beauty of the Church.” His honorable head is in the Great Lavra on Mount Athos.

In some countries it is customary to sing special carols today in honor of Saint Basil. He is believed to visit the homes of the faithful, and a place is set for him at the table. People visit the homes of friends and relatives, and the mistress of the house gives a small gift to the children. A special bread (Vasilopita) is blessed and distributed after the Liturgy. A silver coin is baked into the bread, and whoever receives the slice with the coin is said to receive the blessing of Saint Basil for the coming year.

The Making of Christ Pulling Peter from the Water

Source: Orthodox Arts Journal

By Jonathan Pageau

Christ Pulls St-Peter from the Waters. Linden and gilding. 4′ x 5′. Carved by Jonathan Pageau.

Christ Pulls St-Peter from the Waters. Linden and gilding. 4′ x 5′. Carved by Jonathan Pageau.

Since I began icon carving full time 4 years ago now, I had a secret list of the things I wanted to make, certain objects and images that were dear to me.  To my own joy and surprise, I have been progressively checking off items from that list with ongoing commissions, making even those objects and icons I did not think could find patrons such as complex reliquaries, wedding crowns, opus sectile icons or the image of the Holy prophet Jonah.

One of the images I had secret hope of making is Christ pulling St-Peter out of the water. For those who have read some of my writings one can quickly see how it encompasses so much of my vision of the incarnation, of death, resurrection and the pastoral reminder on where to focus our eyes when advancing into the chaotic world.  So last year, when a patron commissioned this icon at a size of 4’ x 5’ for St. Peter Orthodox Church in Bonita Springs, Florida, I was ecstatic.   This is the biggest icon I have carved to date.

In working out the drawing for the icon carving, I based the composition on my favorite version of this event, a 12th century mosaic from Sicily.

12th century mosaic from Sicily

12th century mosaic from Sicily

Many details are different, but the basic composition is the same. I reduced the size of the boat to make it less overwhelming and to fully have St-Peter under the boat.  I also wanted to make sure we could see at least the eyes of all the Apostles.  I changed Christ’s left hand so that instead of holding a scroll, it was placed in a position suggesting the upcoming motion, the rising of St-Peter.  I also added a few details, such as a dragon head on the boat and I changed the shape of the mast and sail to suggest a Chi-Ro.

Process of the drawing from first sketch to finished sketch. This drawing was small, 8′ x 10″.

Process of the drawing from first sketch to finished sketch. This drawing was small, 8′ x 10″.

One of the things that kept changing as I worked on the drawings was just how deep Peter was in the water.  The priest of the parish, Fr. Hans Jacobse, commented that he really wanted the water to be high up on his body to give that sense of sinking, but this created some challenges for me because I still wanted us to see St-Peter.  Wood is generally opaque to say the least. In the mosaic version, there is wonderful use of transparency and so I began pondering just how it could be possible to at least suggest transparency in wood.

Final scaled drawing at 4′ x 5′. The level of water on St-Peter is higher than on the sketches and will still change in the final carving.

Final scaled drawing at 4′ x 5′. The level of water on St-Peter is higher than on the sketches and will still change in the final carving.

Icon in process, attempting to find ways to show the transparency of water. Also notice that in the final image, the water goes up to St-Peter’s shoulder.

Icon in process, attempting to find ways to show the transparency of water. Also notice that in the final image, the water goes up to St-Peter’s shoulder.

I wanted the composition of the water to say something about the event and so beyond suggestions of transparency to show that St-Peter is actually in the water, I also designed it so to have a wave wrapping around his right foot in an image of the Psalms:

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. (Psalm 116:3)

The water under Christ’s feet in contrast seems to shoot out from under them, organized by their contact with them. I gilded some of the water to add to this sense of the organizing and transfiguring effect Christ has on creation.

The wave wraps around St-Peter’s foot.

The wave wraps around St-Peter’s foot.

Water seems to organize itself at the touch of Christ’s feet.

Water seems to organize itself at the touch of Christ’s feet.

Visually, I was looking forward to taking further the experimentation in carving water I had begun in my icon of Jonah. I wanted to create a sense of almost overwhelming movement which would contrast with the vigorous yet safe relationship established between Christ and St-Peter. Christ holds St-Peter by a firm grip, reminding us of the grip Christ has on Adam in the icon of the resurrection. Their gazes are fixed on each other, Peter with a hint of surprise and Christ with calm compassion.

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When Christ appears to the Apostles floating at sea, the waters are rising in a tempest. Christ approaches them above the flood, mastering the chaos, the chaos of the primordial waters, the chaos of the passions, of doubt, of all that is in the world of death. St-Peter is the only one to dare walk out with Christ, but because of this boldness, when peering into the storm he panics and sinks. Which one of us has not experienced this? We can imagine St-Peter crying out:

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. (Psalm 69: 1,2)

But the face of Christ appears to him through the waves and his hand reaches to catch him. We can hear St-Peter confess:

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2)

This is St-Peter, the son of Jonah, both the stable “rock” and the one who sinks, the bold fisherman who finds the gold coin in the fish’s mouth, but also that one in constant danger of being swallowed by the sea.

This is his story repeated over and over in the Gospels, the story of the one who recognized Jesus as Christ then immediately called out by Christ to “get behind me Satan”, the one who tells Christ he will never deny him then deny him three times as the three days of Jonah in the fish, the three days of Christ in the grave. To meditate on this cycle in the story of St-Peter is to pierce so many mysteries of the Church, so many signs of the times and so many cycles in our own lives.

What is the end of this, what is the end of this story? When Christ appears to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection (John 21), it is the same sea in which St-Peter sank when attempting to walk on water. St-Peter recognizes his Lord on the land, and this time he does not walk on the water. This time his boldness leads him to dive into the deep, to put on his garment and voluntarily plunge, then to be asked three times by Christ: “Peter, son of Jonah, do you love me?” It is not when we walk on the water that we are closest to Christ, but it is when our boldness serves humility. It is when our boldness leads us to die that we are closest to the image of Christ. What impossible thoughts to consider, what scandal it is to fathom such things?

Coming back to our icon, we can say without hesitating that the image of St-Peter being pulled out of the waters is an image of our salvation in so many ways, and I find great joy in having made it.  I hope it will be a blessing for the parish to which it is headed.

Detail

Detail

Detail

Detail

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Process of Icon Carving

Recipe for Phanouropita

Everyone loved Fr. Stephanos’ phanouropita so we published the recipe below!

St. Phanourios is a saint who helps us in difficult situations including finding lost things, employment troubles, a saint to go to when we need something we do not have. When he answers the custom is to bake a cake in gratitude and thanksgiving and share it with others.

St. Phanourios’ name “Phanourios” comes from the Greek word, φανερώνω “phanerono”, meaning “I reveal”.

Learn more about St. Phanourios on the Antiochian Archdiocese website.

Download/Print (PDF)

What is Salvation For?

Icon of the Holy Eucharist

Icon of the Holy Eucharist

From the Palamas Institute for Orthodox Christian Pastoral Studies.

By Fr. Gregory Jensen

If I ask myself this question at all, “What is salvation for?” I’m likely to answer that my salvation is for me; so that I can be saved from sin and enter the Kingdom of God. But this is only a partial answer.

In his defense of the Christian faith, St Justin Martyr (Apology, 66 & 67) makes a couple of points that are worth reflecting on as we try to answer the question.

Let’s begin, with Justin’s outline of the basic structure of how the Church celebrated—in fact still celebrates—the Eucharist.

Interestingly, he doesn’t start with telling us what the Eucharist is but the conditions for participating in it:

And this food is called among us ???a??st?a [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

Sharing in the Eucharist requires that we believe what the Church teaches, that we have been baptized “for the remission of sins” and finally live as disciples of Jesus Christ (“lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ”). So, we need three things:

  1. Obedience to the teaching of the Church
  2. Repentance and baptism
  3. A life of intentional discipleship (“so living as Christ has enjoined”)

It only when all three of these are fulfilled Justin says, that we may “allowed to partake” ofthe Eucharist And we do this so that we can be joined to Christ by “prayer of His word” making “our blood and flesh … transmutation[ed]” into “the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

So, what is salvation for? Well it is for our transformation into another Jesus; we are saved so that we can become another Christ (alter Christus) not just metaphorically but actually by sharing in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Though this process of becoming another Christ is personal, It isn’t individualistic; it isn’t up to me alone to decide what it does or doesn’t mean to be a Christian. This is why, to return to Justin’s apology, when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist we begin by listening to the Scriptures:

[O]n the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray.

It’s only after reflecting on the Scriptures and our common prayer to God that, Justin says, the eucharist is “distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons”

So our salvation is not for our becoming another Christ. It is also for becoming a member of the Church. My salvation then is not simply “for me” but “for you” as well.

If, as often happens, we stop here, we risk missing the fullness of what our salvation is for.

The late Fr Alexander Schmemann has pointed out that Orthodox parishes are self-absorbed and self-important. We do things, he says, for the Church that we would condemn if done for the individual.

Hard as it is to say it, it is often the case that parishes really only care for themselves. The individual Christian and the local parish are important but they aren’t, really, the point of our salvation.

God doesn’t save me simply to transform me into the likeness of His Son.

And while God calls me to live as a member of the Body of Christ, this isn’t really what salvation is for.

So what is salvation for? Back to St Justin:

And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

Compare this to what we usually hear about stewardship. We give what our heart tells us not to keep the church open but to care for those “in distress.”

What this means is that salvation is for “the life of the world.”

So now the question is, how do we put our salvation into practice?

This essay first appeared on the Palamas Institute for Orthodox Christian Pastoral Studies website and is reprinted with permission.