The Church of the Resurrection

The Church of the Resurrection

The history of the Church of the


The Church of the Resurrection.

In 313AD, Flavius Valerius Constantinus or Great Constantine, ceased the persecutions of the Christians through the Mediolan decree. In 324AD he won over Licinius and became the sole emperor of the Roman Empire. On 20th May began the work of the 1st Ecumenical Synod at Nicea of Bithinia to deal with the Arian heresy. At the Synod, the Bishop of Jerusalem Makarius took part (the Jerusalem Patriarchate was not yet founded). During some of his conversations with the emperor, he raised certain matters concerning the Holy Places. One of these concerned the temple of Aphrodite that was built by idolaters on the Golgotha hill, to impede the Christians in their pilgrimage at the spot of the crucifixional sacrifice of the Lord. During the same time, the mother of Great Constantine, Saint Helen travelled to Jerusalem with the intention of restoring the Christian rule and worship on the lands where the God-man walked and the building of the Holy Churches at the most important places of His presence.
Special care was required in the area of Golgotha. In that area, excavations were done during the time of the emperor Adrian, to install the idol and temple of Aphrodite on the Tomb of the Lord, with the intention of impeding the Christians from pilgrimages at the area. The first task of Saint Helen was the discovery of the Holy Cross. The attempt succeeded with the Holy Cross being found inside a cave together with the other two of the crucified robbers and the rest of the utensils of the crucifixion. The miracle of the resurrection of the widow confirmed the cross of Christ. Afterwards while the place was being cleaned the signs of the Crucifixion, unnailing and burial of the Lord, came to view. The items that comprised the temple and the idols were removed and the area was consecrated. We could say there was an archeological find by Saint Helen and the restoration of the Holy Monument. With royal donations the Church of the Resurrection was built for the first time. Eusebius of Caesaria saved in his "Ecclesiastic History" the letter that Great Constantine sent to the Bishop of Jerusalem, Makarius: "Victor Constantine, most reverend Makarius. So great is the grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ, that it does not appear to be worthy of the present miracle by any extent of expression. Because even that spot of the most holy despotic passion, which was hidden for so long under the earth and was unknown for so many periods of time until when it elected to shine in his own restorers, that were freed with the retraction and wearing out of the common enemy of all, truly it goes beyond any human mind and causes great surprise and admiration that if all the world's wise came together and tried to praise according to its worthiness, they would not be able to say the least. That much this miracle goes beyond any human understanding, as much as the heavenly surpasses the worldly. For this therefore I always have this intent, that first and only first, that as the true faith reveals itself with continuously newer miracles, in the same way, the souls of all of us should eagerly study the holy rule with all prudence and grateful willingness. Also I wish for everybody to be completely certain, of what I believe is obvious to everybody, that above all I intent through divine beckoning of the sacred place which I lightened from its burden of obscene idols that were added to it, to decorate with beautiful buildings, as this place was sacred by God's judgment from the beginning and appeared more holy since it brought forth light to the belief of the salvific passion".
Continuing, the letter of Great Constantine provides some instructions on the construction allowing though a relative freedom of selection by Makarius. According to Theodoritus Cyrus, the bearer of the letter, was Saint Helen. Socrates in his "Ecclesiastic History" informs us that the Church was built in her presence with the plans of the architect Zenovius. Elements of these plans were retained in later constructions, such as the open vault (rotunda) above the All Holy Tomb (it was believed that only the heavens could cover the Tomb of the God-man). A great care was taken in the shaping of the surrounding grounds. We earlier mentioned that a great quantity of earth was removed and the area around the cave was leveled. We should add that the same cave was shaped accordingly to enable the construction of a cabin around it. Most of the archeologists agree that the hill of Golgotha was included in the first church and moreover in its present form. This we can conclude from the historical descriptions, such as in the internal testimonies that are in the "Catechises" (specifically in # 24) of Holy Kyrill of Jerusalem.
The construction work was concluded in 335AD. The inauguration took place on 13th September 336AD by the Bishops who took part in the Synod of Tyre. The first church is known to us as the "Constantinian Basilica" of Eusebius of Caesaria.
In 614AD a general of the Persian king Hosroe 2nd captured Jerusalem. A terrible destruction occurred. Large number of Christians were slaughtered by the Persians as well as of the accomplice Jews. More than 300 monasteries were burnt down. The same result had the Churches of the City, like the Holy Church of Sion, the Church of the Theotokos donated by the emperor Justinian, the Church of the Assumption on the Mount of Olives etc. The Church of the Resurrection became the focus of the hatred of the Zoroastrians and was burnt down. Provisions of more than 300 years were stolen. Offerings by Great Constantine, Saint Helen and Queen Eudocia were confiscated. Among the other heirlooms was the diamond studded cross of Theodosius 2nd that was installed on the Holy Golgotha, the priceless Cross donated by empress Theodosia, the onyx cup from which it is believed that the Lord drunk during the Last Supper, the diadem of the king of Ethiopia Elisvan, the utensils of the Temple of Solomon that were donated by Justinian. The most valuable heirloom that was taken was the Holy Cross which was inside a golden case, sealed with the seal of the Patriarch. This event greatly disturbed the Christian world. The Holy Cross was transported to the Capital of the Persian nation together with many prisoners. The patriarch Zacharias was also taken prisoner.
The abbot of the Monastery of Holy Theodosius that time was Modesto. He took over the comforting of the people of Palestine with the backing of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Saint John the Merciful. He bought back lots of prisoners, fed the hungry population, returned the monks to their monasteries. With monk Antishus they started a fundraising in all of the East, for the restoration of the Church of the Resurrection. Saint John the Merciful, apart from the monetary sums he donated, he sent a thousand workers, materials, transportation animals fully laden with foodstuff. The restoration of the Church of the Resurrection was completed in 626AD. Unfortunately the ugly economic situation of the destroyed region and of the empire in general did not allow the return of the Church in its original magnificent form. History tells us that the first person baptized in the Church was a Persian soldier, the later great martyr Saint Anastasius the Persian. In continuation, the emperor Iracleus trounced the Persians and forced them to free the prisoners and the Patriarch Zacharia. He personally took the Holy Cross and brought it to Constantinople and afterwards to Jerusalem in 630AD. The Raising of the Holy Cross took place on 14th September which event is commemorated every year since. Iracleus donated great sums of money for the restoration of the monuments and granted tax exemption for the area, for the relief of the people. The new Church was of a byzantine style, simpler as we already said. The description of the Church we find in the narration of Arkoulfus, written in 680AD.
In 637AD Caliph Omar became the ruler of Jerusalem. Following exchanges with Patriarch Sophronius, he delivered a decree (Actiname) by which it secured the domination of the Romans (Greeks) on the Holy Lands and regulated the responsibilities and rights of the Christians. The text of the Actiname was as follows: "........The present is a letter of I, Omar, son of Hattab, and was delivered to the respectable and honourable Patriarch Sophronius of the Royal Nation (namely the Greeks) at the Mount of Olives, the holy place of Jerusalem, as a treaty and promise regarding the citizen priests and monks and nuns wherever they may be and wherever they may wish to be. That they have security (when the subject keeps the responsibilities of the subject, must have security and protection from us faithful and by us leaders) and to remove from the causes of disturbances according to the displayed submission and obedience, and so that they have security, they as well as their Churches, monasteries and everything under their control shrines both within and without such as the Kamames (namely the Church of the Resurrection) and the large Church at Bethlehem of the birth of Jesus (as long as there is peace) and the cave which has three doors, the noon, the arctic and the western one, that they have security the Christian nations that exist there, namely, the Iberians and Ethiopians and those coming for pilgrimage, Franks, Copts, Syrians, Armenians, Nestorians, Jacobites and Marionites, the followers of the said Patriarch, who shall have primacy over them (the Royal Nation) because it has received grace by the honourable and beloved prophet (namely Mohammed) who was sent by God (namely Allah) and honoured the seal of his honourable hand and ordered that they have favour and security. Thus the faithful benefit those in honour of those that benefit them. They are exempt from the "harage", the "kafar" and from the taxes and are also exempt from both land and sea service. Entering the "Kaname" (Church of the Resurrection) and the rest of the shrines they may pay nothing. Of the Christians who come to the Kaname to worship let each of them give to the Patriarch one gram of silver or one third of a gram. Every faithful man and woman therefore let them keep what we decreed, whether be king, or judge, or leader with worldly authority, rich or poor from the muslim faithful men and women" The testimonies of the present Arab officials followed who validated the document, with directions on its use.
The above document guaranteed the security of the Christian people and the pilgrims of the Holy Lands as well as of the shrines. Other decrees of subsequent Caliphs detailed the regulations of property ownership. In 813AD during the caliphate of Al-Mamoun, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Thomas, started work on the repair of the dome. The necessary expense was paid by somebody from Egypt by the name Vocam. The required lumber was imported from Cyprus and the repairs were completed in 814AD. In the middle of the dome, the Patriarch installed another small dome, of approximate height that of a man, to help impede the torrential rains from entering the Church. A certain muslim by the name Obeidawlah (the suffix Dawlah indicates that he was an official) sued the Patriarch, accusing him for the additions he made which resulted in the Church of the Resurrection becoming taller than the mosque of Omar. He invited the Patriarch and other notables of the Christians and locked them in jail until the hearing of the case. Then came to the imprisoned Patriarch Thomas, a muslim and advised him in the handling of his defense. He suggested for example, that when the witnesses are questioned, to ask them what were the previous and present heights. Sure enough, during the deposition of Obeidawlah, the Patriarch asked the witnesses for the height of the dome. However, because they did not know they left embarrassed. The Patriarch and the rest were freed and the muslim who helped them was rewarded handsomely.
The relations of the Christians of Jerusalem with the muslim authorities reflected the development of relations of the Caliphate and the Empire. Thus in 969AD an enraged crowd of muslims entered the Church of the Resurrection and desecrated it, in retaliation for the capture of Antioch by the army of Nikephorus 2 Fokas. The Patriarch of Jerusalem John 4th met a martyric death by fire.
In 995AD, Hakem Ibn Amrillah ascended to the throne of Egypt. His mother was Christian. History remembers him as an unstable and indecisive tyrant. His views were never steady for long and this had repercussions in his policies especially on religious matters. He persecuted the Christians with greater fanaticism than his predecessors because he did not wish to show any traces of influence from his maternal ancestry. The zenith of his hatred of the Christians was the destruction of the Church of the Resurrection in 1010. It was rumoured that somebody during the night dropped a carcass of a dog inside the Jerusalem mosque. The following day when the muslim discovered the desecration of the mosque, they became enraged against the Christians of the City. Then, Hakem ordered the destruction of the Church. The enraged crowd turned on the holy shrine and totally destroyed it. They then gathered wood and burnt down the ruins. Only Golgotha stood as a witness to the sanctity of the place. As if the destruction was not enough, the fanatic muslims grabbed the Patriarch, gouged his eyes and sent him shackled to Cairo.
This second destruction of the Church of the Resurrection provoked a grievous impression in all the Christian world. In one of his many changes of his mind, Hakem permitted its restoration but no one dared do it during his tyrannical reign. In 1028 following the death of Hakem his son Dareh ascended to the throne of Egypt. That time the Emperor of Constantinople was Romanus 3rd the Silver. He got in touch with Dareh, who then allowed its reconstruction. The Romans (Greeks) to facilitate their goal, sent money, materials and workers to start the work. His successors Michael Paphlagon and Constantinus 8th Monomachus, continued the work with their donations. After the expulsion of Dareh by the Caliph of Bagdad, Moustanzar, representatives were exchanged with Constantinople. One of the topics on the "agenda" was the freeing the 5000 muslim prisoners of the Romans, who would help in the completion of the work. The emperor Constantinus 8th Monomachus, agreed and five thousand muslims arrived in Jerusalem and contributed to the completion of the work. The new Church of the Resurrection was completed in 1048AD.
In 1099AD the Crusaders arrived in front of the walls of Jerusalem. New suggestions for the destruction of the Church by muslims were rescinded at the last moment as misbegotten. On July 16 of the same year, Jerusalem passed on to the Frankish hands and their leader Gedephrede. Their presence there lasted 88 years. During those years the Latin respected the buildings of the Roman Emperors and they did not bring about changes or modifications in its construction. They limited themselves to the repairs of the Latin Patriarchy of Almericus to which the emperor Manuel Comnenus contributed.
In 1187AD, Saladin, expelled the crusaders and became the Lord of Jerusalem. Together with the knights the latin clerics left from the Holy City. Saladin meted out reprisals which in part were directed at the Church of the Church of the Resurrection. He sealed all the gates of the church, save one, and shut the dome windows of the nave. He removed the Cross that was at the Dome and moved it around the streets of the city to be jeered by the people. The damage would have been greater had the Byzantine diplomacy not been effective. The emperor Isaac Angel calmed down the Kurd Sultan. Saladin then issued a decree by which the complete Church and all the other shrines were returned to the owners, the Romaics (Greeks). The decree was carved in tiles which were mounted on the side of the Gate. The content of the decree was as follows: "I, Silah Ed-din, Sultan of Egypt and its counties of Palestine, Jerusalem, Nablus and Damascus and associated counties, order that the monks of the Royal Nation of the Romans, and their priests and nuns as well as the pilgrims to the Church of Kamame (Church of the Resurrection), arriving Gourgides (Greeks) and Copts and Hambesis not to pay haratz or Kafar or any other fee, they should be exempt. Moreover I decree that the Patriarch of the Romans that is in Jerusalem, to designate all the origins of the Nazorians, namely those that come here, Armenians, Copts, Syrians, Nestorians and Franks and all other nations that are Nazorins. And the Kamame from now on to remain undisturbed and none of the muslim dare convert it into a mosque and the Nazorians to enter it unhindered. Thus I decree and let no muslim dare disobey my order".
Since then and until 1229AD masters of the Church remained the Orthodox. In 1229 the Kaiser of Germany Frederic 2nd Barbarossa, attacked Palestine and became ruler of Jerusalem. The Latin clergy then returned to Palestine and the Orthodox were excluded from their rights until1244. During this period they suffered great hardships. In 1244 the Sultan of Egypt Saleh Egioup recaptured the Holy Lands and restored the primacy of the Orthodox on the shrines, turning over the keys of the Church of the Resurrection to the Greek Patriarch. In 1390 according to the agreement with the emperor of Romains (Greeks) John Cantacouzino, the Church was restored.
At the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th, the greater part of Islam was destroyed by the Mongols. A single strong dynasty remained, that of the Mameluks of Egypt. Due to living together with the Copts of Egypt, they delivered to them some shrines, such as the Church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross. Also, they were given a section at the North East Nathrex of the Church for use as lodging. This action opened a "can of worms". Little by little other sections were delivered to the heretics. They got the chapel of the partition of the cloths of Christ and a space behind the Cabin of the Sepulchre to perform their services. Also delivered were two rooms under the places mentioned above. The Marionites took the chapel of the flogging and of the "Do no touch Me". The Armenians took a part of the Catechumens and the place on which the Theotokos was standing with Saint John. After the fall of the City (Constantinople) and the resulting lack of political protection of the Orthodox, the heretics boldened, asked for the keys of the Church. This situation held till 1517AD a date during which the Ottoman Sultan entered the Holy City (Jerusalem). With this change, the Orthodox Patriarch Dorotheos came to the new master, showed him the decrees of the previous masters and asked the restoration of the property status. Selim delivered a "hatti sheriff" which went thus: ".........the present Patriarch of the Romans, having come together with the rest of the monks and subordinates, has requested that the Churches and the monasteries and shrines situated within and without Jerusalem, to have again like before under their control and use according to the sacred "Aktamen" of Omar and the conditions of the previous kings. I therefore order with my present Decree for them to control the structure facing and opposite to the Gate of "Kamame" (the Church of the Resurrection) and lying in the middle, "Mougtesel" (the Church of the unnailing) with the ancient manuals and oil lamps, the above and below four rooms that lie in the area called Golgotha which lies within the Patriarchy, the above and below seven rooms that lie in the area known as that of the Virgin Mary, The middle of the large Church (today's Catholicon), the Tomb and the "Coumben" with all the shrines, the outside of the Kamame lying in the courtyard three Churches, the opposite them church of Saint John, the within the Patriarchy lying church of the so called Helen and of Saint Hekla, the Seidangian, the Monasteries of Saint Euthymius, Saint Catherine, Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint George, Saint John the Theologian, the Virgin Mary's, another Monastery of Saint John and another Church of Saint John, Saint James of Zabadeus of the "Gourgedes" (Greeks), another Monastery of Saint George, the lying outside of Jerusalem monument of the Virgin Mary, the Monastery of Saint Sion, the jail of Jesus, the hospice of Saint Anna, the in the plains monuments, the Monastery of the Cross of the "Giourgides"(Greeks) , the Monasteries of Saint Symeon, Saint Elijah with the olive trees and vines, Saint Savvas, Saint George in the town of Peituzalla, the one in Bethlehem cave of the birth of Jesus, the keys to the gates, the one at arctic and the other at noon, and the surrounding two plots of gardens and the olive groves with their monuments, and the rest of the places where there are Monasteries and Churches of those subordinate to the Patriarch Greeks, Hambesies and Serbs and all their offerings as well as their Metropolitans and monks and to look after the bodies of the reposed Metropolitans and monks. At the door of Jerusalem, and at the Zemzem Sugiunamed water and at the Arap Kafari and at the steps, not to pay "koumerkia", "batji" nor when they have "kefsia" (feasts) and be totally free of all imposed fees and they not be disturbed by any other country during my present Sacred Decree but the Patriarch of the Romans have primacy above all other countrymen. According to the "Aktame" of Omar Hatteb and the Decrees of the previous kings, so do I also give with the present Decree the command that proper action be taken. If therefore after to day any people whether reigning or are most honourable Vezirs or Ulemans or Sulehads or Kadeds or Vaembads or Peitulmanides or Kasemids or Supasads or Zaimids and Timar Salabides or Muteferricads and Tsaousads and Sittaheds or Genitsars or the rest of the simple servants of my household wish to overturn the present decree, they, whatever they may be, will be responsible for my wrath and the torments of the Almighty God. Having in their hands my Sacred Decree they must show obedience.
For three years an untenable situation between the heterodox and the Patriarchate was about the possession of the keys. Selim had passed away and his son Suleiman assumed the authority. He decided that the keys be kept by the muslim guards of the Church, which is in force to this date. In 1537AD peace prevailed between the Europeans and the Ottomans. On this occasion some Franciscan monks arrived. They bought out the Marionites who became scarce. Gradually they latinized them and took over their quarters. This way the Franks infiltrated some shrines. Since then they created stumbling blocks and situations in the Holy Lands, trying sometimes through deceit and other times with "whites" to take over whatever they could. For a long period of time they thwarted through their actions the necessary repairs of the Church. Finally in 1720 during the Patriarchy of Chrysanthus and after many consultations it was decided to repair the Church. Every nation repaired its own places accordingly, except the Cabin of the Sepulchre. That was left "as is".
A new catastrophe happened in 1808. A certain Armenian church custodian, as he was drunk, placed lit candles by the iconostasis of the Armenian chapel, instead of placing them on the bronze candlesticks. Then he fell asleep. Soon the iconostasis caught fire, which the neighbouring Franciscans discovered first. They awakened the Agiotaphites (guards of the Sepulchre) and together they tried to put out the fire. The fire spread to the seraglio and from there to the dome. Despite the concerted efforts of the Greeks, Franks, Armenians, Copts and Syrians, extinguishing the fire prove ineffective. From this biblical catastrophe only the Sepulchre was saved. Not even its candle were extinguished by the smoke, and not even the wooden doors of the Cabin were affected. They (the doors) as witnesses to the miracle, were moved during the restoration to the Synodic of the Brotherhood of the Sepulchre. The Patriarch of Jerusalem Polycarpus was in Constantinople during this time. When they informed him of the destruction of the Church, he turned to the Ecumenical Patriarch Callinicus for help, who immediately espoused the struggle for the reconstruction of the magnificent building. Immediately, synodic letters and encyclicals were issued to all the Hierarchs of the throne. Moreover a dispatch was sent to the Sultan Mahmud for the issuing of the necessary permit. After the issuing of the permit the royal architect Comnenus from Mytelene, arrived voluntarily and assumed the work that began during the spring of 1809. Despite the difficulties created by the heterodox and people of other religions, the Church was restored and the work was completed. The inauguration took place on 13th September 1810. A part of the work was cancelled due to the activities of the French government. The parts that belonged to the heretics were restored and turned over by the Orthodox. Despite this the following 20 years suffered from squabbles and disagreements of property nature. In 1834 the windows of the dome were opened that had remained closed since the time of Saladin. At that time the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha was the master who was an eye witness of the stifling situation that resulted on Great Saturday in the death through asphyxia of a number of pilgrims.
New building repairs were needed in the mid 1842. Then the Greeks managed to obtain a permit from Sultan Abdul Medgit. That particular permit became a useless letter because once more the French government managed to cause its cancellation. After the end of the Crimean war, Russia, France and Turkey decided to repair the Church together without any changes in the property ownership status quo. The work started on 2 January 1867 and lasted two years.

This is the history of the Church of the Resurrection to the 19th century in general terms.

The Kingdom of Heaven, where racial discrimination has no place (Saint Nephon)


I was always intrigued by the topic of whether people from the colored races had the same prospects of pleasing God as did the people of the white race, because I had never heard of any negro for example, who had become renowned for his spiritual labours and sainthood. Could it be - I had thought to myself - that the colour of one';s skin played some kind of role in matters of the soul? Could it be that God had shown some kind of disavowal in their case? But then, why would He disavow them?

So, once when I had visited the tiny cell of the blessed Nephon, it occurred to me to ask him about this matter. The righteous elder reassured me that God had called innumerable negro souls into His Kingdom, since they too are His creations, as they are the descendants of Shem and Ham -; the sons of Noah. (see Genesis, 10:6-31) In fact - he stressed - quite a few of them had shone brightly because of their virtues and their miracles. And to prove the truth of his statement, the elder proceeded to narrate 2-3 such cases.

";In olden times," he said, "the territory of Panephos (a significant city of Lower Egypt, not too far from the sea; in its place today lies the city of Menzaleh), was plagued by a plunderer - a heavily-built, savage man that was fearsome to behold and ruthless in his ways. His roaring cries alone could easily curdle the blood of his unsuspecting victim -; even the bravest kind ....

One night, however, he had an extremely frightening dream: it was as though he had suddenly found himself in the middle of an endless plain ....on looking around him, he noticed a fiery river spewing towards him with a loud rumbling noise, devouring everything in its path -; even the stones and the soil beneath it ...;. With small, hesitant steps, the robber edged towards that river to get a better look ...;But as soon as he reached its banks, four blazing spirits flew out of the fiery mass, grabbed him by the hair and tugged at him, in an attempt to drag him into the river ...; As they struggled to pull him in, one of the sprits said to him: You wretch! If you had become a monk, we wouldn't be dragging you into this place!'

He woke up in a sweat. He recalled that awesome sight with horror and giddiness. No matter how hard he tried to explain the dream, it seemed hopeless. His next thought was: "I think I will go and find an anachorite, (=a holy recluse that lives alone in the desert) and tell him of my dream. Monks usually know about such things perhaps one of them will reveal the meaning of the fiery river that I saw in my dream."

As soon as he uttered those words in his mind, he threw down the ";tools of his robbing trade"; and headed straight for the road leading to Panephos. After a while, he discerned a tiny anachorite cell in the distance. He hurried in that direction. No sooner had he knocked on the door, than it was opened immediately by an elderly man -; it was almost as though he was expected there!

"Welcome! Welcome, young man! And may I ask what brought you to this part of the land? Were you perhaps upset by that fiery river and the four evil spirits that were dragging you by the hair, trying to pull you into the fire? What a horrible threat that river was, my child, wasn't it? Did you see how it even devoured the stones that it passed over?....Well, if you truly do wish to escape those flames, there is a way: You should repent sincerely for all the robberies and the lawlessness that you have engaged in all your life, and become a monk. That way, you will surely be saved, because that river has been prepared exclusively for the unrepentant sinners ..."

The elder had barely finished saying those words, when the robber threw himself at his feet, and began to cry like a little child ...

"Show me some mercy, precious father! The darkness in my soul is far deeper than the darkness of my complexion", he cried out, between sobs. "Show this wretch your mercy, and do with me as God instructs you!"

Indeed, not long after, that saintly elder tonsured the robber and made him a monk. After staying with him for a period of time and teaching him the appropriate order of monastic living, the elder left his cell to the new monk and departed for the innermost part of the desert, to continue with his ascetic living, amongst the wild beasts.

Well, that very same negro robber, with his own spiritual labours, reached such heights of virtue that during his moments of prayer, he would appear to glow all over, so intensely, like a brightly flickering flame or a radiant pillar of light ...; Innumerable demons would swarm upon him, but he, with his prayers, would burn them and destroy them altogether. God had also given him such a gift of wisdom that he had even written numerous spiritual teachings, and had also frequently sent many letters of counsel to the fathers of the scete and many other people as well ...

Finally, when he passed away, his precious relic exuded so much fragrant myrrh that -;according to the narrations of the people of that land- it had healed many sick and demon-possessed people ...


There was also another poor and old negro, who lived in a city called Ysia. He used to wander about aimlessly, here and there, silently muttering words that nobody could understand. Because of this, many people had believed he was not in his right mind.

There came a time when a severe drought had fallen on the land ...;.The animals were dying of thirst, the scorched earth had cracked open and the crops had all dried up ...;. The clergy and the faithful, with their bishop at the lead, made continuous entreaties and night-vigils with prayers for this plague to stop, but they were of no avail.

One night, the bishop saw in his dream an angel, who said to him: "This is what God commands you: Take your priests and go, first thing in the morning, and wait at the southern gate of the city; the first man that you see entering the city, approach him, stop him, and ask him to pray to the Lord to send you rain."

Indeed, at the break of dawn the very next day, right after Matins. The Bishop took his ministers and went to the southern gate, just like the angel had instructed him. They didn';t have to wait for very long; shortly afterwards, a old negro man appeared, who seemed to be walking towards the city gate. He was extremely old, and was carrying on his hunched back a bundle of wood.

The bishop stopped him, and helped him to set down the bundle of wood.

"Old man", begged the bishop, "please pray to God so that He might show His mercy and send rain, both for us and for this earth!"

Without any objection whatsoever, the old negro immediately raised his thin, bony arms towards the heavens and prayed.

In a matter of minutes, to everyone';s amazement, lightning and thunder began to manifest out of nowhere! Heavy black clouds started to gather rapidly, the sky darkened, and a torrential rain began to pour down from the sky. But oh, what a rainfall that was! A proper deluge! Houses began to be flooded and the surrounding fields soon resembled an expanse of sea!

The bishop was now forced to beseech the old man to pray again, for the rain to stop. The old man humbly and obediently raised up his arms once again to the heavens ....and the downpour ceased immediately!

Amazed at this double miracle, the bishop then persistently asked the old stranger to reveal his life story and to tell them what his spiritual labours were, that had endowed him with such a closeness to God.

But the old man bashfully refused to reply to the bishop.

"Your eminence, as you can see, I am nothing more than an old, negro nobody ...; Why are you bothering to look for virtues in me?"; he replied, without raising his head.

"In the name of the Lord of the heavens and the earth!"; the bishop cried out imperatively. "You must reveal the whole truth, so that the name of our Lord may be praised accordingly!"

"Forgive me, your eminence! You see, I haven';t done anything worth mentioning. The only thing that I have strived to keep since the day that I was baptized a Christian, was to never eat my bread without deserving it, and to never become a burden to anyone. So, every day I go into the hills and collect a bundle of wood, I load it on my back and go down to the city to sell it. From the money I get, I only keep two small coins -; just enough for the day';s meal. The rest of the money I give to poor people like me. Whenever the weather is bad and I can';t go up to the hills, I fast until the weather improves and then I go back up there again to bring my load of wood to the city, to sell it and provide for myself and my other poor townsfolk ....

With these words, the elderly negro respectfully bade the bishop and the other clergymen farewell, hoisted the bundle of wood onto his back once again, and walked into the city to sell it ...;.


To further reassure me that the benevolent Lord had called multitudes of colored people to His Kingdom, the blessed Nephon told me of one more case, which he himself had witnessed:

It was during the time that the benign, Christ-revering Constantine was still king, when the elder had gone to visit one of the northern monastic communes on the coast. He found himself in the company of brothers who happened to be discussing the salvation of the soul. During the conversation, the topic of races and colored people came up. Everyone there had admitted that very many such souls had pleased God. One of the brothers named Harisethes had said the following:

";I assure you, my brothers, that I was fortunate enough to meet one such person -; a negro -; who was a major ascetic figure.";

Seeing how the brothers were eager to learn more about this person, Harisethes continued with his narration:

";I was working for a period of time in our monastery';s vineyard ( that was my predefined ministry at the time ). One day, I noticed a negro, a stranger, sitting underneath a large vine. I didn';t know who he was -; I had never seen him before. He had a flask of water in front of him to quench his thirst, and a handful of wild herbs was his meal. The sight of this man really impressed me. I didn';t disturb him, nor did I send him away. He stayed there, in the same spot, for a whole month. He remained absolutely silent, throughout the whole day, and throughout the night he would chant and pray incessantly. During all this time, he never emptied out the water in his flask, nor did he add any fresh water to it ...;. The water gradually became foul and stank, yet, despite my pleas, he did not let me change the water, nor did he accept to be given some bread to eat ...;.On unbearably hot days, he would go down to the shore, sit on a rock and roast himself under the blazing sun all day long ...; And if anyone approached him to see how he was doing, he would pretend to be demented. Yes, yes,'; he would say, I know you have come to kill me! But God up there is watching you!'; and he would point upwards, at the sky ...;.";.

With these examples that the blessed Nephon gave me, I was truly reassured that the Kingdom of Heaven is open to every soul, regardless of race or colour, since they too are God';s children.

"Just as the vineyard produces both white and colored grapes", the blessed elder said, to finish his story, ";thus God has created people of all colors -; black, red, yellow, white ...;according to where they live. After all, the earth itself is also multiform."

On saying these words, the servant of God withdrew into his cell to pray.



Saint Nektarios of Aegina, is the most widely known of Greek Orthodox Saints of the last two centuries.

altHe was born in October 1st, 1846 in Selybria in Eastern Thrace (now in Turkey). He was one of seven children of Dimosthenis and Mpalou Kefalas and at Holy Baptism was given the name Anastasios. His parents were pious Christians and they brought him up according to the teaching of the Church. Having completed elementary school in his home-town, at the age of 14 he left his family to seek work and education in Constantinople (Istanbul).

There he worked as a shop assistant in a tobacconist's shop and was able to earn a meagre living. He read as much as he could the Holy Scriptures and Writings of the Holy Fathers, and made a collection of wise sayings, which he used to write on the paper used to wrap his customers' goods. Later he worked as a teacher of the lower grades in the orphanage of the All-Holy Sepulchre. In 1866, at the age of 20, he went to the island of Chios, where he was appointed a teacher at a village named Lithi.

After seven years he entered the famous monastery of Nea Moni, and at the age of 30, having completed three years as novice under the care of the venerable Elder Pachomios, he was tonsured as a monk and given the name Lazaros. A year later, in 1877, he was ordained a deacon and received the name Nektarios. Elder Pachomios convinced him he should complete his high school studies in Athens, which was made possible through the financial support of a wealthy local benefactor, Mr Horemis.

After graduation he went to Alexandria to serve Patriarch Sophronios. The Patriarch insisted that Nektarios should complete his theological studies and sent him back to Athens. He graduated from the School of Theology in 1885. Upon return to Alexandria he was ordained priest in Cairo in 1886. His great service to the Church, his prolific writings and teachings, his energy and zeal, led to Father Nektarios' being ordained as Metropolitan of Pentapolis in Egypt, at a relatively young age.
As a Metropolitan he was greatly admired and loved by his flock for his virtue and purity of life. But this great admiration by the people aroused the envy of certain priests, who did not want to see him elevated as Patriarch. They made accusations about him to the old Patriarch and succeeded in having the blessed Nektarios removed from office in 1890, in a manner clearly improper in the Church of Christ.

He returned to Greece without trial or any explanation. He arrived in a very bad financial situation, and was refused any position because he was not a Greek citizen. Finally he was assigned to Evia. In 1894 the blessed Nektarios became Director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens, where he was to remain for 15 years. His own example, as priest and man, was the most important lesson for his students. These years were also productive for the writing of many of his books.

By 1900 his health became weak from all his pastoral and scholarly work. In 1904 he founded a monastery for women in Aegina, the Holy Trinity Convent, which flourished under his guidance. In March 1908 he resigned his position at the Rizarios and withdrew to the monastery. He lived the rest of his life as a true monk and ascetic. His holy and pious life shone forth like a guiding light to all near him. Through his prayers many people were healed.

In September 1920 he went into a hospital in Athens. He was placed in a ward reserved for the poor and unwanted. At 10.30 in the evening of November 8th, in terrible pain but in peace and at prayer, he gave up his spirit to God, at the age of 74. After his repose his Holy Body emitted a beautiful fragrance and many came to venerate his Holy relics. He was buried in his monastery in the place he had chosen, under a tree. For various reasons his tomb was opened a number of times after his burial. For 20 years his body was found intact and emitted a wonderful and heavenly fragrance.

Many people had regarded him as a Saint in his lifetime, because of his purity of life, his virtues, the theological nature of his publications, true to the tradition of the Church, his gift of foreknowledge and the miracles he performed. This recognition of him as a Saint spread rapidly after his repose. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople proclaimed him a Saint on April 20, 1961. His memory is celebrated on November 9th.

Thoughts and Deception(Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov)


Those who want to pray with a cleansed mind (nous) must not concern themselves with the latest news from the newspapers, or read books that are irrelevant to our spiritual life - especially those books that arouse the passions - and they must not strive to learn out of curiosity whatever pertains to the lives of others. All these things bring foreign thoughts to mind, and when a person attempts to elucidate them, they confound his mind even more.

When the soul is taught love by God, then it will feel sorrow for all of Mankind, all of Creation, and will pray that everyone might repent and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. But, should the soul lose this grace, love will abandon it (because without the grace of God, it is impossible to love one';s enemy) and that is when wicked thoughts will issue from the heart, as the Lord had said (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21-22).

Without the humility of Christ, Man';s nous (mind) will not be cleansed and his soul will never feel reposed in God, but will always be agitated by various thoughts that will hinder his "theory" (sighting) of God. Ah, the humility according to Christ! Those who have tried it, rush towards God, insatiably, day and night!

Ah, but what a weakling I am! I have been writing for just a short while, and yet I have quickly become tired, and my body yearns to rest. But even the Lord Himself, when He was on earth "in His flesh", was familiar with human frailty. He, the Merciful One, would also feel weary after His journeys on foot, and He had also slept on board a boat during the tempest; and, after the disciples had roused Him from His sleep, He commanded the sea and the wind to become still, and a great calm followed. So it is with our soul, whenever we call upon the most Holy Name of the Lord: a great calm follows.

Allow us, o Lord, to glorify You, until our dying breath ...;..

One can fall into deception, either out of inexperience, or out of pride. And if it is out of inexperience, the Lord heals the deceived one very quickly; however, if it is on account of pride, then the soul will be struggling for a very long time, until it has learnt humility and will then be healed by the Lord.

We fall into a deception, when we consider ourselves more prudent and experienced than the others - even our own spiritual father. This is what I myself had thought -in my inexperience- and this was the reason that I suffered. And I thank the Lord from my heart, because in this way, He humbled me and admonished me, and did not revoke His mercy from me. Now it occurs to me that without confessing to our spiritual father, it will not be possible to avoid deception, because it was to the spiritual father that God gave the gift of "binding and unbinding".

If you sense light inside you or around you, do not believe in it unless you also have a deep solemnity within you for God and a love for your fellow man. However, do not be afraid; only humble yourself, and that light will disappear.

Should you see a certain vision or dream, do not trust it, for if it was from God, the Lord Himself will inform you about it. A soul that has not tasted of the Holy Spirit cannot discern where the vision comes from. The enemy will give the soul a "sweet sensation" combined with vainglory, and it is from this, that deception will have become evident.

The Fathers say that when a vision is a hostile one, the soul feels confusion or fear; but this will happen only to the humble soul that considers itself unworthy of a vision. The vainglorious person however, may not feel either fear or confusion, because he is desirous of visions and regards himself as worthy of them, which is why the enemy can easily deceive him.

Celestial things are recognized through the Holy Spirit and terrestrial things through one';s physical state. Whosoever attempts to know God through the physical mind is deceived, because God can only be known via the Holy Spirit.

If you see demons with your mind, then humble yourself and try not to look, and run as fast as you can to your spiritual Geron (Elder), to whom you have surrendered yourself. Tell him everything, and the Lord will then show His mercy on you and you will be rescued from that deception. But if you believe that you know more about spiritual matters than your spiritual father and you cease to tell him whatever is happening to you, then, because of this act of pride, inevitably, a certain trial will "befall" you, in order to restore your prudence.

Fight your enemies with humility.

When you see another mind struggling with your mind, then humble yourself and the struggle will cease.

If you happen to see demons, do not be afraid, but humble yourself and the demons will disappear. But if fear does overcome you, you will not avoid suffering some harm. Be brave. Remember that the Lord can see you, if you have hinged your hopes on Him.

But, for the soul to acquire respite from the demons, it must humble itself and say: "I am worse than all the others; I am more wretched than every beast and every wild animal"...

Just as people enter a house and leave it, so do thoughts come from demons and they can leave, provided we do not hold on to them. If your thought says: "steal" and you obey, you are in this way giving the demon power over you. If your thought says: "eat as much as you want, until you are full", and you do eat excessively, then again the demon will hold power over you. Thus, if the thought of every passion conquers you, you will end up a dwelling-place of demons. However, if you commence with the appropriate repentance, then the demons will begin to quake and be forced to leave."