I LOVE GREECE!
Α. Write an acrostic poem using the word FREEDOM.
Β. Fill in the missing vowels and find the phrase:
G r _ _k h_r_ _s g_v_ fr_ _d _m t_ _ _r h_ m_l_nd _n 1821.
C. Match and make sentences:
1. The Greek revolution started and their country.
2. The children in Greece white and blue.
3. The Greeks loved God in land and sea.
4. The Greek flag is took part in the Revolution.
5. The Greeks fought went to the secret schools.
6. Men and women in Zaloggos.
7. Women wanted to die free in Agia Lavra.
D. Choose and write the heroes:
KANARIS, SO LO MOS, KOLOKOT R ONIS, MAKRYGIANNIS, BYRON, KAPODISTRIAS, MPOUMPOULINA
1. He was the first Prime Minister of Greece:
2. He is our national poet:
3. He is the most famous Greek hero:
4. A famous British poet who helped the Greeks:
5. She was a Greek fighter from Hydra:
6. He burnt the Turkish ships in Psara:
7. We read his writings about the Greek Revolution.
E. Fill in with the correct answer:
(Hydra, st Kosmas Aitolos, cross, Souli, Zakynthos, Dervenakia, free)
1. …………………………….. helped the Greeks to make schools.
2. Andreas Miaoulis was from ………………………………….
3. Tzavellas was a hero in ………………………………………...
4. The Greek flags had the …………………………….. on them.
5. Solomos was born in …………………………………………….
6. Kolokotronis fought in …………………………………………
7. The Greek fighters fought so we can live ……………….
In some churches above the Beautiful Gate there is a big painted eye to remind us of a great truth, that God can see everything. Like a caring father, who carefully watches where his child goes and what does, God who is our heavenly father, doesn’t take His eyes off us. He watches us with all His love all the time.
Cain, unfortunately, the first child of Adam and Eve, forgot this truth. If he had this in mind, he wouldn’t commit the terrible crime he did.
One day Cain, who was a farmer, wanted to offer a sacrifice to God. He took some of the fruits he had gathered from his fields and burned them on an altar. Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve, who was a shepherd, offered God a sacrifice, too. But he chose to sacrifice the best of his sheep.
God saw the gifts of Abel with much joy. But Ηe didn’t care about Cain’s gifts. God doesn’t need our gifts. What He wants from us is to offer Him our heart. Cain offered Him, a sacrifice, but not with his heart. On the contrary, Abel loved God with his whole heart. And God knew it. He is omniscient and knows what every single heart hides within. That's why he didn’t like Cain’s gifts but he gladly accepted Abel’s gifts.
Cain understood that God didn’t like his gifts and that made him very upset. But God spoke to him with fatherly love:
- Why are you so sad? Why do you look so gloomy? Isn’t it your fault that you chose and offered gifts with a cold heart? Now, don’t worry. You can correct your mistake if you want to.
Cain, however, put the blame on his brother, Abel, as if it were his fault. A thought was swirling in his mind: "Why God accepted Abel’s gifts and not mine?"
One day he asked Abel to take a walk together. The kind-hearted and innocent Abel walked joyfully next to his brother. There was nothing evil in his mind. Cain, however, when they went far away and he was sure that no one would see him, attacked Abel as a wild beast and killed him!
When he saw that his brother was dead, he was frightened. He didn't know what to do. He began to run in the wilderness to get away from his brother’s frozen body as fast as possible.
But he heard God’s voice asking him:
- Cain, where is your brother?
And what did Cain answer? Listen to his cheeky answer:
- How would I know? Am I the guardian of my brother?
He wanted to hide his crime from God! Cain thought he was alone in the wilderness when he did his terrible act. He was wrong! He thought that no one saw it because no one was around. He was wrong! Cain forgot that Someone is always and everywhere present.
God’s voice was now stricter to the murderer:
- What have you done, Cain? Your brother΄s body cries out to me from the ground! From now on you will be cursed by the land that received your brother's blood! You will work on it and it will no longer yield its crops for you! In your entire life you will tremble and groan!
God said these words to the murderer with pain because He never stopped loving him. God loves all of us and He wants our salvation and our happiness. When He saw Cain trembling from the fear of being killed for the murder he committed, He promised him that He wouldn’t let anyone hurt him.
Even if Cain was no longer afraid of being killed, he spent his entire life full of guilt and remorse. The suffering face of the innocent Abel was continuously haunting him.
Under God’s gaze
Cain could never imagine how tyrannical his life would become after his brother’s murder! Alone in the wilderness, in a single moment, he committed the terrible crime that made him miserable for the rest of his life!
Was he alone in the wilderness? Yes, no man saw him. However, God saw him! If Cain had in mind this great truth, that God watches him, he wouldn’t commit this crime. "God watches me!" this thought would save him from the horrible sin.
We should have this thought in mind too and it will prevent us from many mistakes. How can I do this evil before His eyes? How can I watch dirty videos on the television or the internet? How can I take something that is not mine or make sinful actions under the gaze of my God?
Words, actions, thoughts ... Remember some of them: in the schoolyard with some schoolmates ... or in the isolated corner of the neighborhood with some friends... in the house with brothers or sisters... or during the night alone in front of the computer...
The only thing that can save our five senses from sin, is our God’s sweet presence. If I see, hear, speak, think together with God, everything I do will be just and proper. I won't have guilt or remorse. I will have God’s grace! God bestows His grace upon all the people who are trying to stay away from what makes Him sad, from what stains their souls.
Have you ever thought to spend your day like this? Then start with this thought: God watches me! Remind yourself this great truth all day long: I constantly live under my heavenly Father’s watchful eye! Try it and then all your life will be beautiful.
Take a look at the world surrounding us. Is it as beautiful as God created it? No, nature often seems to be wild. Why does this happen, though? Let’s take a look at the events one by one.
God chose a very beautiful piece of land, a huge garden in the East, surrounded by four big rivers, in the region of Mesopotamia. He put the first people, Adam and Eve, to live there, in Paradise, in the garden of Eden. The scientists who have conducted research on this, located the traces of early human life, the first tribes and the first civilizations in Mesopotamia, in SW Asia. That is to say, as the Holy Bible informs us, where paradise was placed.
Adam and Eve, living inside the garden of EDEN, where innocent, like young children, and they were full of HAPPINESS. They had everything they wished for. There were all kinds of trees and fruits in this garden. However, this was not what filled them with joy. Do you know what made their happiness bloom? LOVE: they loved God very much and they could feel how much He loved them as well! They could meet Him every day and talk to Him, like children to their father. They enjoyed this MEETING very much!
God showed His love to humans in many ways – HE gave them immortal souls, made them the sovereigns of earth, blessed them with an abundance of goods and the pleasure of meeting Him. People, however, did not have any means of showing their love to Him. That’s why, God gave to Adam and Eve a COMMANDMENT: “You are allowed to eat from every tree in paradise, but not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because as soon as you do, you will die”. In this way, by TRUSTING God and OBEYING His commandment, Adam and Eve could show Him their love and that they really wanted to stay with Him forever. The same goes for us as well. Every time we follow God’s commandments, we show Him our love.
When my love for God is deep,
His commandments I do keep!
Adam and Eve were really happy inside the garden. Someone, though, envied this HAPPINESS and wanted to destroy it. This “someone” is the enemy of every good thing, the devil, whose only wish is to separate people from God. One day, he approached Eve, taking the form of a serpent and talked to her in a human voice.
- Why does God forbid you to eat fruits from all the trees in the paradise?
- He does not forbid us to do that, replied Eve, we may eat the fruit from all of the trees in here. The only tree that He told us to neither touch nor eat from is the tree in the middle of the garden; because if we do, we will die.
- Oh no, you will not die, said the serpent. God knows that if you eat from this tree, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods. You will know what is good and what is evil.
Eve, then, looked at the tree and for the first time it appeared quite beautiful to her and its fruits seemed very attractive. She stretched her arm and -alas!- she cut a fruit, ate it and gave it to Adam as well. What a tragic moment! They believed devil’s words, the enemy of God, the enemy of every good thing, and ignored God’s commandment, the one who showed them so much love!
From that moment on, they were no longer innocent. They started feeling shame and fear. Their soul was filled with darkness. They lost their happiness. Deep sorrow dominated their hearts since the first sin on earth was committed. Do you know what sin is?
Disobedience to God’s commandments is sin
and it brings along sadness and grief.
As the evening, the time when God would come to visit them, got closer and closer, Adam and Eve grew even more afraid. Ashamed of themselves, they found a place to hide. Sin had blacked out their minds so much, that they thought they could hide from the all-knowing God. In a short while, they heard His voice:
- Adam, where are you?
- I heard your steps as you were approaching and I hid myself, because I am naked, was Adam’s timid reply.
- Who told you that you are naked? asked God. Did you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
God asked him that, not because He did not know, of course -since He knows everything-, but because He wanted to help Adam admit his mistake, his sin. However, Adam didn’t say: “Yes, my Lord, I did not follow what You asked, I did not do Your will, I am sorry”, instead, he started giving excuses: “The woman You gave me as a companion, gave me to eat.”.
God then, turned to Eve:
-Eve, why did you do that?
-The serpent deceived me, was her response.
Hearing all this, God got very sad, because Adam and Eve, who were so happy with Him, should separate from Him. They were cast out from Paradise. Away from God, they could no longer be immortal or happy as they were before. What awaited them was sorrow, pain and death. God told Eve that she would give birth to her children in pain, and Adam that he would have to work hard to earn his living.
Sin did in fact fill the world with MISERY. From that moment onwards, people got tired, felt pain, often shed TEARS. ACCIDENTS, ILLNESSES, DEATH, HYPOCRISY, WAR, CRISIS have occupied our world, along with wickedness. All these are misfortunes that appeared after the first sin. Even nature itself became wild. Earthquakes, floods and all sorts of natural disasters started occurring. None of those existed in Paradise before the fall of man.
The gates of Paradise were closed. Forever? No! In that terrible and frightening moment, when there was no hope for Adam, Eve and their descendants, God conceived a plan of love to save them. He could not stand watching His children live in sorrow, even if they disregarded His commandment, so He made a promise to them. He would send Someone to free them from sin and return them to Paradise! This sweet promise that God made is called the first-gospel, which means “the first good news” and it reveals our God’s infinite love.
Did God keep His promise? He most definitely did. He sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in our world to save us. He was born from a distant descendant of Eve and Adam, the virgin Mary, the Most Holy Theotokos.
Paradise’s gates: doors shut,
were opened by Christ’s sacrificial love.
Acts chapters 6-7
The persons who belong to the same family look more or less like each other: in the eyes, in the colors, in the features of the face ... We can recognize the children especially if they look like their parents.
In the same way, we Christians, who are all one family with God our Father, must look like to our Father! Today I will tell you the story of a young man who managed to look like our Lord Jesus Christ. He lived in the first years of the Church, yet to this day all the faithful admire him and would like to imitate him.
Stephen, that was his name, believed and loved Christ with all his heart. He stood out among other Christians for his strong faith, but also for his wisdom. He was full of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. That is why he was chosen to be one of the seven deacons, that is, one of the seven helpers of the apostles. Tireless, Stephen cared for the widows, for the poor, for all those in need. In addition, he preached zealously for Christ. He even performed miracles with Jesus Christ’s power.
In Jerusalem the number of Christians increased more and more. This, however, angered Christ’s enemies. The Pharisees and the high Priests hated Stephen and envied him. One day at the synagogue, some people got up to talk to him. They tried to trap him with their words and questions. But in vain. They did not succeed. It was impossible for them to counter argue his wisdom. Stephen left them speechless. Humbled as they got, blinded by their envy and hatred they decided to pay men to lie that they had heard Stephen blaspheming Moses and God! So, they managed to turn the common people and the religious leaders against him! He was arrested and dragged to the Jewish council to stand trial. Indeed, a trial was held against him. Witnesses were presented. What did they claim against Stephen? They passionately accused him: "This man does not stop cursing our temple and the mosaic law!". But had they ever heard Stephen curse? Of course not! They were false witnesses; they were paid to lie. It was time for the accused to answer. They all turned their eyes to him. What a contrast! Those had dark looks but Stephen’s face shined with a heavenly beauty, he looked like an angel! Everyone was left stunned.
Stephen held the floor. He reminded the Jewish judges of the history of their people, starting with the patriarch Abraham. He talked about Moses and the temple of Solomon. So, he showed them that they had unjustly accused him of using blasphemous words. He ended his address with strict probing. He spoke to them with the language of truth: "You are the ones who crucified Jesus, you are always the ones going against the will of God!" While they were listening to him hatred pierced their hearts like a knife. They looked at him aggressively. How he dared to speak to them with such boldness! Stephen would pay them dearly for it! But God helped his faithful young man. He opened the sky. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and he saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father. "Behold," he said, "I see the heavens open and the Son of man, that is, Jesus Christ, standing at the right hand of God!" His enemies could no longer bear listening to him. They shouted at him with wild voices and pulled him out of the city. They started throwing stones at him mercilessly. They were determined to kill him. And how did Stephen answer? Did he respond with hatred? No! Stephen prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!". While the stones were falling like rain on him, he knelt bloodied and exhausted and with a loud voice coming from the depths of his heart, he exclaimed: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them, forgive them!" As he finished his words full of love and forgiveness, his soul fluttered to heaven. He was the first to win the incorruptible crown of martyrdom. He is the first martyr of Christ. That is why he is called the first-martyr.
Forgiveness, the attribute of God’s children
How did young Stephen managed to look like our Lord Jesus Christ? As Christ on the Cross forgave and prayed for those who crucified him, Stephen forgave and prayed for those who stoned him. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). You may not have bitter enemies yet. Every day, however, you are given various opportunities to forgive. These are some cases when we need to forgive:
♦ When they make fun of us, sometimes even behind our backs, for something we may not be able to do or do not do so well or for some of the habits we still have or for our weaknesses and imperfections.
♦ When our classmates or people we consider our friends lie to us. How many times have we been disappointed, when we found out that those we trusted betrayed our friendship with a lie!
♦ When we are being slandered, that is, when they spread false rumors that we said or did something bad.
♦ When they curse us, they speak badly to us, they tell us words that hurt.
♦ When they hit us, they push us and want to throw us down, without us even provoking them.
Every day, we have reasons to forgive. But do we forgive? Our first reaction is to take our revenge: Did they fool us? Let’s fool them back. Did they hit us? Let's hit them back. Did they swear at us? Let’s swear at them back. That is easily done. That is why there are so few who manage to do the opposite, to forgive with their heart.
But it is so necessary to forgive! How can I say the "Our Father" if I do not forgive? Jesus Christ has taught us to say in this prayer "Forgive our sins, as we also forgive those who have wronged us." So, if we have not forgiven, how dare we say the "Our Father"? Christ also told us: "If you do not forgive others, then I will not forgive your sins" (see Mt 6:15). And we commit so many sins ... If we do not forgive the mistakes of others, our own sins will remain unforgivable!
But how will we be able to forgive? With Christ’s help we can make a difficult perhaps, yet a worthy struggle: We should not pay back the evil they did to us. On the contrary:
♦ Has anyone hurt me? I must find an opportunity to respond to him with kindness!
♦ Has he spoken insultingly to me? I’ll answer him with love!
♦ Has he talked badly about me? I’ll look for an opportunity to talk about him with praise!
♦ Has someone hurt me? I’ll make a prayer for him!
God, who is my father, raises His sun for both those who love Him but also for His enemies (see Mt 5:45). He grants to everyone, without exception, His goods. Therefore, if I want to be like Him, in order to be His true child, I have to do the same: to give to all, to friends and enemies, my love and my forgiveness! If I show love only to those who love me, if I do good only to those who treat me well, I do not do anything great (see Luke 6:32-33). However, by God’s power I can achieve something much greater: to show love to those who have done me harm! Every time we will achieve, by God’s grace, such a "great leap", we will experience the joy of the greatest victory! And in heaven the crown of glory will be prepared for us!
The world, that surrounds us, is indeed very beautiful! Everything, from the smallest flower to the galaxy, is made with wonderful art and exceptional beauty. Nature looks like a beautiful painting, that God gave to us, His children. It looks not only like a painting but also like a book, like a wonderful and illustrated book! In its pages we can read a great truth, which is not written with words, but with colors and paintings! So, those who are illiterate can also read it.
But what does this wonderful and illustrated book of nature say? There is a God, omniscient and omnipotent who created the whole world, because He loves us very much!
What was there before the creation of the world? Infinite darkness. There was no blue sky, no wide sea, no land with its vegetation. There was nothing, except the eternal and loving God.
And God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light! By His word the endless darkness disappeared. And then by His Word He created the whole world in six days, in six time periods that we don’t know how long they lasted∙ maybe millions or even billions of years, maybe much less.
• On the first day God created the light and divided the light from the darkness. And He called the light “day”, and the darkness “night”.
• On the second day God made the firmament, and he called the firmament “sky”.
• On the third day God divided the waters from the land. Thus, He separated the sea from the land. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants and fruitful trees.” And it was so.
• On the fourth day God created two bright stars, the sun and the moon, which determine the day and the night and the various seasons. He also created countless more stars.
• On the fifth day God said and the animals of the sea were created, as well the birds of the sky.
• On the sixth day God said and all the animals of the land were created.
The last and most perfect creature was man.
When someone builds a house, there is a purpose for it: to be inhabited. The great architect, the omniscient God, built this wonderful world, this wonderful house, for one and only purpose: to donate it to His child, so that it would become his residence. Man was created by God with special care. He created man’s body out of clay. Then He blew into his face His divine breath and gave to him life and immortal soul. He made him capable of thinking, feeling, talking. He also gave him a companion, so that he would not be alone. He first made him to sleep soundly and then took from his side to create the woman. God called the man "Adam", which means “soil”, and the woman “Eva”, which means "life". Adam and Eva were the first people who were created. They are called forefathers, because they are the ancestors of all men. God blessed them saying: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and all the animals of the earth and all the reptiles that are crawling on earth" (Ge 1:28). Humans increase and progress with this blessing up to this day.
The creation, as we mentioned, was completed in six days. On the seventh day God rested and rejoiced at His creations, as artists rejoice when they finish their work.
Some, of course, argue that the world was created by chance, without a plan or a creator. Does that seem reasonable to you?
Imagine that we are exploring a forest. Then suddenly, we can see a house in front of us. We approach it and the door is open, but no one is inside. It is a well-furnished, clean and neat house. It has a table set with hot food and the clock on the wall shows the same time as our watches. What would you say if someone from our group argued: "This house was grown up as a plant here in the desert! Nobody has built it". You would laugh at him, and of course you would consider that claim absurd.
None of the things that are around us have been done on their own, by chance. Not even a small pencil. Someone invented them and manufactured them. The infinite universe, which exists and moves for centuries precisely and harmoniously, was created by God.
Once two friends disagreed with each other. The first one was claiming that the world was created on its own, by chance. The second one, who was faithful, tried to convince him that God created the world. So, he asked him:
- Do you like my watch?
- Yes, I do. Is it a present?
- Did you buy it?
- No! I found it on my hand this morning! I was sitting in my office, which was full of things. And suddenly, a wire, a piece of leather, a glass -and I don’t know what else- assembled on my hand. They created this watch, and its clock hands showed the right time. From that moment on it is operating correctly on its own! Isn’t it incredible?
- Are you kidding? his friend said.
- No, my friend, I just want to explain to you that if it is impossible for a simple watch to be made by chance, how is it possible for the universe, which has been functioning for millions of years like the most miraculous watch with perfect accuracy, to have been created on its own? There is a wise Creator, who created the world and rules it.
The Creator of the world is the only one who can give us information about how the world has been created. No one else was present at the time of creation. Scientists make some assumptions, they formulate various theories, but as time passes, one theory overthrows the other. We are only sure of what God himself has revealed to us.
How do we know all these things about the creation of the world? How did God reveal them to us? We can read them in God’s book. Except for the wonderful and illustrated book of nature, God wrote for us another book! It is called the Bible or the Holy Scriptures.
This book stands out from the rest of the books in the world. If we gathered all the books that were written throughout the centuries in a huge stadium they would form a giant pile, a huge mountain. And if we wanted to place on top of the pile the king of the books, we would place the Holy Bible.
It stands out from the human books because God Himself wrote it! How? He used the hand of the prophets and the apostles. When we were little, our mothers would take our hand to help us write our first letters. It seemed that we were writing them, while in fact she wrote them. That’s what happened with the prophets and the apostles. They wrote the Holy Scriptures, but they were enlightened and inspired by the Holy Spirit. That's why the Holy Scriptures are the only divinely inspired book. Through its pages God Himself speaks to us and reveals to us His eternal truth.
The Bible is divided into two parts:
a) Old Testament describes God’s revelation in the history of the Hebrew people, before Jesus Christ’s birth and it has 49 books
b) New Testament contains the life and teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles in its 27 books.
It's been three days since Friday when the Jews crucified Christ on Golgotha. The two disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, placed Him in the tomb. They sealed His tomb with a large stone. What about the other disciples of Christ? Where could they be? They are all together in a house with a heavy heart from grief, but also with the doors closed, well secured, because they are afraid. The enemies of Christ may come to arrest them. In one night they arrested their beloved Master and so unjustly dragged him to the courts, they slandered him, they sentenced him as a criminal to death on a cross ... So, how can they not be afraid now? Their own lives may also be in danger.
From time to time the scribes and Pharisees may seek them out, they may lead them to their death. Some pious women, Christ’s followers, just before they came and surprised them. They went early in the morning to offer with all their love - the most exquisite myrrh to their dead Master, but they found the tomb empty! And not just that but one Angel said to them that Christ is risen! And the most shocking, as they were returning, Christ Himself met them resurrected! "We saw him with our own eyes, he greeted us, he spoke to us", the Myrrh-bearers said happily.
The disciples, however, could not believe them. But is it possible? They were convinced that Christ died on the cross. They knew that they had put him in the tomb and the tomb was closed with a large stone. What are these now that the claim? Probably because of their pain and their great love for the Master, they imagined everything that was being said. This is what the disciples thought.
Βut when they were all gathered together, and though the doors were closed, suddenly Christ appeared among them! "Peace be upon you"! Ηe greeted them with the well-known greeting exchanged by the Jews at that time. They were frightened just as they saw Him. They were scared. Do they see a ghost? Is it a dream? But no! It is true! They can hear His sweet divine voice: “Why are you troubled? Why do you have doubts within you? Look at my hands and my feet to make sure that I really am. Come and touch me. The ghost has no flesh and bones, as you can see I have”. And saying this, he showed them the marks of the nails which he had in his hands and on his feet. He also showed them His side, which had been pierced by the soldier's spear on the cross.
The disciples looked and wondered. How can they believe in this unexpected joy, that Christ was resurrected? But also, how can they continue to doubt? They can see Him with their own eyes, they can hear Him, they can touch Him! "Do you have something for me to eat?" Christ asked them, wanting to give them further proof of His resurrection. They immediately brought him grilled fish and honeycomb with honey. Christ took them and ate before them. They slowly realized the great truth, that he is alive! When he had soon disappeared from amongst them, the bones of the fish and the wax of the honeycomb were left behind. Thus no one could say: "Did we have a dream? Did we imagine that?"
From the company of the disciples, however, Thomas had missed out. When he returned, the other disciples said to him happily, "We have seen the Lord!" But he could not believe them. "If I do not see in His hands the marks from the nails," he said, "and if I do not put my finger in the marks from the nails, and if I do not put my hand on His side, I will not believe."
Exactly one week later, the disciples had gathered in the same place. This time they had Thomas with them. Jesus appeared – while the doors were closed once again - and He stood among them. "Peace be upon you", he greeted them and turned to Thomas: - “Come, Thomas, bring your finger here and see my hands, bring your palm and put it on my side, so that you are not a nonbeliever but a believer. Thomas was shocked. “My Lord and my God!” he exclaimed with great faith. The Lord heard all that Thomas had said and now came to assure him with convincing proof of His resurrection. Yes, Thomas can no longer be a nonbeliever. He is now certain that Christ has risen! And he is also sure that after Christ was resurrected, after he conquered death, he could not be a simple man; he is God himself!
This is why the resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in history and the most glorious celebration of our Church. Because it assures us that our Christ is not only a man, but the true God and the victor of death. What grief henceforth can steal our joy? Our greatest enemy, death, was defeated! Christ was resurrected and one day he will resurrect us all, so that we can live eternally close to Him in the joy of paradise! That is why the faithful never cease chanting:
"Christ is risen from the dead,
by His death He trampled upon death,
and to those in the tombs He granted life".
A saint of the twentieth century
Have you ever realized that we might have a saint living among us? You might be wondering how this is possible in our time. Do not think that this is strange. Every age, even ours, has its saints. And these saints move very simply and silently among us, that is why no one realizes their presence immediately.
Saint Nektarios was a simple child. He was the fifth out of six children from a poor family. When he was thirteen years old, in 1859, he left his birthplace, Silivria in eastern Thrace, and went to Constantinople to find work and get educated.
He was a young child, but with strong faith. That is why he was not afraid in the face of difficulties. The merchant, near whom he would work, was suddenly forced to immigrate to a faraway place. Therefore, young Anastasis - that was his baptismal name - could not follow him. Thus, he found himself in the big city alone, unknown among strangers. He was not alone, though. He had an inseparable friend and companion, Jesus Christ, whom he believed in and loved. With His power he could face the problems of life with courage.
He found work in a workshop where he had to stack tobacco balls in large boxes and crates. He had to work from very early in the morning until late at night. Unfortunately, his boss was constantly angry, he was furious at everyone. However, Anastasis did not lose his courage. Every day he did his prayer and started his work with confidence.
And when night came, he had a special joy. He carried out a secret missionary plan that he had come up with: He took separately more than fifty wrappers, in which the boxes with the tobacco were wrapped, and he wrote passages from the Bible and words of the Fathers on them! He had collected such passages in a thick notebook, which he carried with him. He had learned a lot of them by heart, as well. He felt so happy that he could offer them to people! This poor man could donate the most precious pearls! And how wonderful! Ever since Anastasis started this beautiful habit, his work started flourishing. The orders they would get were increasing!
But as winter arrived, poverty hit Anastasis hard. Because of time and effort, his clothes and his shoes were worn out. That year, the winter was heavy, with a lot of snow and endless rains. The child was cold and he suffered terribly. One night, he decided to approach his boss and ask for help. But he looked at him with contempt and spoke sternly to him. He showed no desire to support him.
Anastasis soaked his pillow in tears that night. When he fell asleep for a while, he saw in his dream the omnipotent Christ. He asked him why he was crying, but he could not answer. When he woke up, it was still dawn, so he decided to write a letter. He took a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote: "Christ, you asked me why I was crying. My clothes and my shoes are worn out, my toes have come out and I suffer. I'm cold in the winter now. I went to my boss yesterday and he sent me away ... Christ, what can I do? Forgive me for bothering you. I worship and adore you, your slave Anastasios ". The child with the simple but strong faith put his letter in an envelope and wrote: "For the Lord Jesus Christ". Address: "To heaven".
It was still dawn when he set off for the post office. He had to post other letters, as well. On the way to the post office, he met his neighbor, Mr. Themistoklis, who had a shop with frames opposite his workplace. He was also going to the post office. Seeing Anastasis running with holes in his shoes in the cold morning, he felt sorry for him and was he showed willingness to post his letters, too.
Α week later, Anastasis was in for an unexpected surprise. He received a postal parcel. Sender: Jesus Christ! So, did he receive his letter? And now what does he send him? With trembling hands, full of wonder and emotion Anastasis opened the package. His eyes watered. The package contained brand new clothes and shoes! He fell on his knees and thanked his beloved Christ with tears.
However, his sufferings were not over. His boss, as soon as he saw him well dressed, made some evil thoughts. He thought that Anastasis had stolen his new clothes and shoes, and started beating him mercilessly. "I'm not a thief, I'm not a thief, sir," the child repeated, crying.
The neighbor heard their voices and immediately ran to reveal the truth. He was the "angel" who had sent the parcel on behalf of Christ. He was surprised when he saw the envelope with Jesus Christ and read its contents. Moved by the child's need and fervent prayer, he wanted to give him a present. Nevertheless, Anastasis was in for a second gift by Mr. Themistoklis: He was hired in his shop, to work in better conditions.
After a few years, the little boy grew up. He became a teacher and later a monk, called "Nektarios". He studied at the Theological School of Athens and rose to high ecclesiastical positions in Alexandria, Egypt, until he became bishop of the Diocese of Pentapolis. However, his adventures in life were not over. Some people envied Saint Nektarios and slandered him with numerous false accusations. It is worthwhile to become familiar with his life in more detail, so as to admire the bravery of his soul, his trust in God, and his forbearance. Despite being very poor, and not having to eat for a few days, he did not say a bad word about any of his enemies.
Later, he became director of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School of Athens. Students there were destined to become theologians or priests. Saint Nektarios preached about faith and love to them. He used to lead by example. One night, he was cleaning the toilets of the school when he was "caught in the act" by the school principal. Why would he do such a thing? Well, the cleaner and his assistant, who constantly quarreled with each other, would often leave the toilets dirty, so Saint Nektarios did the job for them so as not to lose their salaries. His humiliation shocked both of them and they decided to change their behavior.
Saint Nektarios remained humble until the end of his life, without malice for his enemies. That is why God glorified him. Immediately after his death, on November 9, 1920, the saint began to scent and perform miracles. Today in the island of Aegina a glorious temple has been erected in his name and many pilgrims embrace his holy relics with reverence.
Saint Nektarios is a saint of the twentieth century. A lot of other saints followed: Saint Paisios, Saint Porphyrios, Saint Iakovos, Saint Sophia of Kleisoura. Our world has been constantly sending saints to heaven for centuries now. That's why we said in the beginning that maybe saints walk among us.
What if a lot of people are falling more and more into corruption? There are always the few chosen of God. And they are "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Mt 5: 13, 14). We put a little salt in the food, but it makes it taste better. And a small candle is enough with its small flame to light the deep darkness. So, the few people of God make the lives of people "tastier" and beautiful and they enlighten the world with the light of hope. May all of us, with the help of Saint Nektarios and the desire to "become a saint" in our hearts, believe and love Christ with all the power of our hearts! Amen.
Do you know any other great apostle of Christ besides the Twelve Apostles? Apostle Paul!
Do you know who was Paul before he met Christ? He was a fierce persecutor of Christians! He entered Christian houses, grabbed men and women and sent them to prison. Everyone was afraid and terrified because of him. He chased Christians not only in Jerusalem but also in other cities. He aimed to drag them all in chains to Jerusalem, leave none free.
Why so much hatred? What Christ and His students were to be blamed for? Paul was a pure Jew. He loved God, he studied the Old Testament and he followed precisely its law. When he heard about Jesus, he thought that a new religion had emerged, which misled Jews from the worship of the real God. This infuriated him! He wished to eradicate Jesus's name and exterminate His followers.
His actions were as a result of his zeal for the real God and his ignorance, so God did not leave him in the dark for long. He opened the eyes of his soul in a wondrous way.
Paul was on his way to Damascus in Syria in order to arrest Christians. As he was approaching to the city, suddenly a light from the sky shone brightly around him. Dazzled and blinded he fell down. While he was lying on the ground he heard a voice; "Saul Saul why are you chasing me? (Saul was his Hebrew name and Paul his roman one). Who is talking to him? Where is the voice coming from?
- "Who are you Lord?", startled Paul asked.
- "I am Jesus whom you are chasing", the Unknown's voice replied. "Stand up and go to Damascus where you shall find what you have to do."
The men of his company were also startled! They heard the voice but they could see nobody! When Paul stood up, his eyes were open but he couldn't see. His escort guided him by holding his hand until they reached Damascus. There he stayed for three days and three nights without being able to see. He neither ate nor drank anything.
A pious Christian, named Ananias lived in Damascus. He received Christ's command to go to meet Paul and cure him. Ananias was hesitant at first.
- My Lord I have heard a lot about this man. Christians of Jerusalem have suffered immensely due to him! He came here with the same purpose, to bring bound to Jerusalem those who believe in You.
- Go Ananias, the Lord replied, for I have chosen him to preach my gospel to heathens as well.
Indeed, Ananias went to the house where Paul was staying. He put his hands on him and said; "Saul, my brother, Jesus who revealed Himself to you on your way, sent me to you so that your vision is restored and you receive the Holy Spirit". Then something like scales fell off Paul's eyes! He could see! More importantly, he could see more clearly with the eyes of his soul that Christ was the real God. He was then baptized and he became a fiery apostle of Christ.
He started preaching immediately. He went to the synagogues, places where Jews gathered to study the Old Testament, and he explained that Jesus is the Messiah whom prophets spoke of, using unarguable points. He confirmed Jesus is the Son of God.
Everybody was surprised. "Isn't this man the fearsome prosecutor of Christians?" they wondered. Fanatic Jews even came up with a devious plan to kill him. They put guards at the gates of Damascus and waited for him to cross in order to kill him!
Some Christians found out about this plan. For this reason, they lowered Paul down from the walls of Damascus, hidden in a big basket! Paul left Damascus and returned to Jerusalem.
There fanatic Jews sought again to kill him. Therefore, Christians helped him escape and he found refuge in his hometown Tarsus.
What did Paul do after this adventure? Was he scared? Did he cower in some corner and was silenced? No! Be proud of how the fiery apostle threw himself in the missionary work!
From place to place, from town to town he speaks of Christ and His Resurrection. Think of the fact that there weren't advanced means of transportation at his time. He travels on foot for uncountable kilometers! He walks across dirt roads, over mountains and across the coast side. He doesn't spare fatigue or the threats against his life. In Lystra he is stoned and almost killed. The moment some Christians helped him up, he continued his mission with his wounds still open! Nothing could restrain him. He had only one wish, burning in his heart; to preach the Gospel to the whole world! Indeed he managed to preach not only in Palestine and several cities in Asia, but he also crossed seas, he reached Cyprus, Greece and even Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. In other words, he traversed the whole known world of that era.
Do you know where he preached in Greece? In Philippi, Thessaloniki, Veria, Athens, Corinth. He is the apostle of Greece! He was the first to bring the light of the Gospel and destroy the darkness of idolatry. In this wondrous work he had valuable partners, his student Timothy, the evangelist Luke, Silas and others.
While he was touring the world, he was writing letters and epistles to Christians who lived in the cities he had passed or to his students, giving advice, resolving problems and answering questions. 14 Epistles are included in the New Testament, written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Among them there are the Epistle to the Phillipians, two Epistles to the Thessalonians and two to the Corinthians.
Paul the apostle dedicated his life to a great cause; preaching the Gospel of Christ everywhere. Wherever he went he was the mouth of Christ.
Nowadays God is searching for children - not adults only- to give them this sacred mission too; to become His mouth, to carry His words, His truth, His light to all the people who don't know Him.
There are kids in your school who know very few about Christ and His Gospel. There are people in your neighborhood, maybe even in your family, among your relatives who don't go to church, don't read the Holy Scripture, don't pray. Who will talk to them about Christ? Who will show them the right path?
God is searching. Will he find children who love Him to start a mission?
♦ To invite other kids to come to the Sunday school.
♦ To bring younger and older people to the church on Sunday.
♦ To give advise using Christ's words.
♦ To encourage others to read the Holy Scripture.
♦ To introduce a Christian magazine, to give a gift a Christian book.
Το not rest unless they guide a soul towards Christ! Children who love Christ ask at their prayers; "Christ, please help me bring a soul closer to You!"
Mission is the biggest benefaction. A former heathen who got baptized said; "If I am found worthy to go to heaven, firstly I will run and kneel before Christ for saving me with His sacrifice on the Cross. Immediately after, I will run and kiss the hands of the missionary who talked to me about Christ. He is my greatest benefactor since he is the person who introduced me to Christ my redeemer!"
Imagine ourselves being able to offer such a great benefaction; to help people learn about Christ! Is there something else that can manage to give us more happiness than that?
Paul the Apostle of Christ
you spread His Word worldwide
His sacred message nowadays
please help me assert likewise!
Have you ever met someone who can speak several foreign languages? It needs a lot of effort and an aptitude in order to be able to communicate in many languages.
Yet, some low-educated people managed to talk all the known languages in a single day - no, it's better to say in a moment! Listen to the incident, as it is described in one of the books of the New Testament which is called "Acts of the Apostles".
Jerusalem was crowded. It had been about fifty days since Passover, the greatest Jewish feast day. Do you remember what Jews celebrated on Passover? The miraculous passing through the Red Sea, their liberation from slavery in Egypt. Since it was their most important religious celebration, they made sure to be in Jerusalem during that time, even those who lived far away. In addition, most of them decided to stay in Jerusalem until Pentecost, another important feast day. It was a harvesting celebration, meaning that they rejoiced in collecting the first crops. They offered sacrifices in the Temple to thank God for the first crops from the land. It was called Pentecost because this celebration took place fifty days after Passover.
It was time for the Pentecost celebration, when suddenly there was a commotion in the city of Jerusalem. A loud rumble from the sky, like an extremely strong wind, startled everyone! They rushed to see what was happening. The rumble led them to assemble outside a house. Who lived in that house? Christ's students were gathered there. The loud rumble being heard, twelve fiery tongues, like flames, appeared and spread equally, each above an apostle. At that moment Christ's students were overrun by the Holy Spirit and they started talking in foreign languages!
The crowd outside heard them talk and they felt curious and impressed! How could those low-educated people speak so many languages? "They come from Galilee, don't they? How is it possible to hear them talk in our own dialect?" people discussed. "Parthians, Medes, habitants of Mesopotamia, of Judah, of Cappadocia, of Pontus, of Asia, of Egypt, of Libya, people who came from Rome, Crete and Arabia, we all hear these men talk in our language!" It's truly bizarre and wondrous! What all these mean?
Others, however, mocked the apostles. "They are drunk" they dared say. Is that what drunk people look like? The apostles talked with boldness about Christ and preached His Resurrection before the crowds. Their speech was so persuasive that about 3000 people believed in Christ and got baptized that day! Those people constituted the first Church.
In other words, that day is the birth day of our Church! It was the fiftieth (Pentecost) day after Christ's Resurrection. So, every year, fifty days after Easter we celebrate Pentecost and commemorate the birth day of our Church.
Since the great day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is always among us, both in the Church and with each Christian.
What is the Holy Spirit? It's neither a spirit, nor a wind, nor a fire. It appeared that way on the day of Pentecost in order to make his presence known. The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
Since the day of our baptism, we host the Holy Spirit inside us. He grants us with his gifts: love, happiness, peace, kindness and many more (see Gal 5:22-23).
His other name shows how much he loves us; he is called Paraclete. What does this word mean? Paraclete is the one who consoles, gives strength and guides to the right pathway.
The Holy Spirit or Paraclete conducts the seven sacred Mysteries/sacraments of the Orthodox Church; Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Holy Communion, Unction, Marriage and Ordination.
Each Mystery or religious Service begins with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. You have definitely heard of it. We recite it here in our church school, too. Let's say it all together.
What do we ask from the Holy Spirit?
a) Come and dwell in us; to come and make our heart his home. Of course, he came the day we were baptized. But the Holy Spirit gets sad with our sins, so he is forced to move away. We pray so that the Holy Spirit forgives us and returns in our heart. How wonderful it is to be with Paraclete!
b) And cleanse us from every stain; to clean us from every sin. When we first received the Holy Spirit on the day we got baptized, our soul became crystal white. However, our sins stain our soul. That's why we plead Paraclete to clean us from our sins.
c) And save our souls, O Good One. Satan wants to pull our souls away from God. He sets traps for us all the time. We plead the Holy Spirit to keep us safe from every danger that threatens our soul.
Let us pray, either all together here in the church school or when we are alone, let us plead whole-heartedly Paraclete, the Holy Spirit to stay forever inside us and to fill us with Its precious gifts.
You, the Holy Spirit
you are the Heavenly King
Become our strength
Come and inhabit our being
ΜΑΘΗΜΑΤΑ ΚΑΤΩΤΕΡΟΥ ΚΑΤΗΧΗΤΙΚΟΥ
Ἀπό τήν σειρά "Μαθαίνω γιά τόν Θεό", τόμ. Β΄
Ὁ Θεός στήν Καινή Διαθήκη
(Ἐκδόσεις "Χριστιανική Ἐλπίς" Ὀρθόδοξη Ἀδελφότητα)
The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus
(Mt 9:18-26; Mk 5:21-43; Lk 8:40-56)
Today, we are going to visit one of the houses in Capernaum. This house hides a lot of pain. It's been a long time since laughter and joy were heard here. The only child in the family, a twelve-year-old girl, is seriously ill; she’s dying. The smile faded from her parents' lips and sadness tightens their hearts.
On the shore of Capernaum, many people were eagerly waiting for Jesus, once again. The suffering father was among the crowd. He had heard of Jesus. He had been informed that Jesus had cured many patients with serious illnesses. A hope was awakened in him. Could He cure his own child? If only he could reach Jesus…
And there he was! The father whose heart was full of pain, ran towards him. He forgot his high social status. He was actually the leader of a synagogue, responsible for maintaining order in one of the local synagogues, where Jews gathered to study the word of God, the Old Testament. In other words, he was a respected person in Capernaum. Jairus, that was his name.
The pain he was feeling, however, made him fall on his knees. He begged Jesus to come to his house. “My daughter”, he said, “is dying. I beg You, come and put Your hand on her so that she may be healed and live”.
Jesus, sympathized with the desperate father, reassured him and followed him. On the way to Jairus’s house the crowds almost crushed Him.
Thus, an unwell woman found an opportunity to approach and touch the edge of Christ’s clothes. She thought that she could go unnoticed. She had been losing blood for twelve years. She felt terribly exhausted. She had also spent all her money to pay for doctors to help her but they couldn’t do anything for her. In addition, she has been isolated from everyone for so long because of her illness. But this time she dared to approach Jesus.
As she approached Him, she said to herself: "If only I touched his clothes, I would be healed". Her faith in Christ was strong. And our Lord, who knows everything, rewarded her strong faith. Indeed, as soon as the sick woman touched Jesus' clothes, the bleeding stopped! What so many doctors could not do for years now, our Christ gave her in an instant.
Who touched me? Jesus asked because he wanted to show everyone the faith of the bleeding woman. “Teacher, the people are crowding and pressing against you and you ask who has touched you?"! Peter responded spontaneously. But Jesus insisted. The bleeding woman fell to her knees before Jesus and confessed to everyone what had happened. “Have courage my daughter!” Christ said. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!”
While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from Jairus’s house. He brought the bad news: “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the Teacher anymore. There is no reason for him to come to your house”.
The father’s heart broke. Hope faded. He believed that Christ could heal his dying child. But now? She is dead now. But what did the Lord say to him? "Do not be afraid Jairus, just believe in me and she will be healed". "Keep relying on me and your child will be saved". What did Christ mean by these words?
They arrived at Jairus's house. Everyone was crying, they were mourning for the death of the young girl. But Jesus said to them: “Stop wailing! She is not dead, but asleep!" How strange were the words of this Teacher! Everyone was convinced of the child's death. Some sneered and mocked Him.
Jesus Christ entered the house, the room where the dead girl was. He asked everyone to go out. He only kept with Him the girl's parents and three of His disciples: Peter, James and John. Everyone looked at him with wonder. What was he going to do?
Our Lord took the hand of the dead girl. Then, as if trying to wake her up from her usual sleep, he said sweetly: "Wake up, my girl!". And then - how miraculous! - immediately the child got up and started walking! The Lord raised her up!
Who can describe the surprise, the great happiness and the gratitude that the parents felt! Jesus urged them to give the child something to eat. They no longer doubted that their child was completely well.
Christ overcame death.
Our visit to this house in Capernaum, is an awe-inspiring event. If we go to the house of a dead person and tell his relatives: "Your man is not dead but he is sleeping", they will think that we are making fun of them. Christ however, to those who were crying without hope, said: "Do not cry, she is not dead but asleep!"
Christ calls death “sleep”. And the Church calls the dead “people who have been asleep”. Thus, a great truth is revealed to us: As the man who is tired falls asleep and he will wake up, so the dead are not lost, but asleep and they will wake up. Life does not stop at the grave. At the same time that people close their eyes to this life, they open the eyes of their soul to the other life and face our Savior Christ. That is why the early Christians were not afraid when their persecutors threatened them with death. Even small children waited fearlessly for death, because it would bring them closer to Christ!
Our life has lots of joys. But it would be a lie to tell you that it has only joys. If we look around, we will see many people suffering, others suffering from a serious illness, others in pain because they have lost their loved one.
Have you ever thought that we, ourselves, could be in their place? And if such a thing happens - it may has already happened to some of us - what will we do? Will we despair? No. We are certainly in pain, we are sorry for the separation from our loved ones, because we want to have them with us, to see them. But when we know that our dead are not lost, but live in the presence of God, we are in peace. We do not despair. Instead, we strive to be children of God, in order to be granted with the paradise where we will meet Him and those we love.
Today we witness our Lord resurrecting the twelve-year-old girl. He, who created the universe with one word of His, He also commanded the dead girl to be resurrected and she so did. But, is it possible for dead bodies to have ears and hear His word? Of course not. And yet, they hear our Christ’s voice and obey it, because He is the creator of life and the one who has defeated death!
And as he resurrected the daughter of Jairus, so he will resurrect us and everyone else, in His Second Coming. We confess this faith every time we say the Creed of our faith. Do you remember how it ends? "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the future age to come." That means: "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the future eternal life!"