Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Miraculous Chapel of St. Theodora

What we know of the life of St. Theodora of Vasta comes entirely from local tradition, but her little chapel in southern Greece is known throughout the world and visited by thousands every year.

The Chapel of St. Theodora dates approximately to the 12th century and it is entirely made of stone. What is extraordinary about this church however is that there currently grow 17 enormous trees on the roof of this small structure. Most of them are over 30m high, and some of them are over 1m in diameter. Many of the trees weigh over 1 ton. Yet, even if the roof of the little church is thin and without any special support, it remains standing for centuries now as if by a miracle. Scientists have studied the case and they confess their inability to explain how the trees grow on such a thin roof, without destroying the church. The little church is under great pressure, and over time some minor restoration has been necessary, but that is mainly due to the curiosity of some inexperienced people who have tried to “understand the mystery”. Unprofessional interventions have affected the church’s architecture, though only to a small degree.

According to tradition, St. Theodora, prior to her martyrdom, prayed: “May my body become a church, my blood a river, and my hair trees.” Today this is exactly what one sees when visiting this holy shrine. On the spot where her martyred body is said to lay, locals built a church in her honor. A river also runs beneath this chapel and the trees have grown above it.

The little church is currently under the protection of the Metropolis of the region, as well as under that of the Minister of Culture, as a Byzantine monument of national value.

Believers without hesitation see this church as an unexplainable miracle, celebrating the feast of St. Theodora annually on Bright Tuesday for centuries, until 1956 when her feast was transferred to September 11th, due to a certain resemblance in story with St. Theodora of Alexandria who is also celebrated that day.

But what do scientists say about the miracle in Vasta?

In 2003, at the fourth symposium of “Archaeometry” in Greece, a geophysical report on the little church in Vasta was presented. Researchers from the University of Patras came to Vasta especially to study “the miracle”. They decided to make an ultrasound test, and to analyze each part of the walls. The results of the research offered the researchers the necessary answers in order to receive the approvals needed for the complete restoration of the monument. They observed how the roots have grown through the small free spaces in between the stones of the wall, all the way to the ground. The walls are under constant pressure, and the building has become “a living body”.

The archaeological findings lead to the same conclusion: the way the roots have followed this path and the fact that the church and its roof are untouched appear to be in fact a miracle, which is unique in this world, and unexplainable.

Eleftherios Beligiannis, an Engineer from Athens, said in 1986: “Since the winds that blow in that area have the power to uproot trees, it is clear how much force the 17 trees press upon the roof”.

Loukos Constantinos, a Geologist of Corinth, said in 1987: “There is no geological explanation. It is a continuous miracle”.

George Raptis, a Silviculturist of Nafpaktos, said in 1992: “The entire phenomenon is beyond any of man’s logical, natural and scientific explanations”.

Eleni Stavrogiannis-Perry, an Architect from Kalamata, said in 1993: “The phenomenon is scientifically unexplainable. Considering the position of the church, its temporary construction and its age, the heavy weight and the winds should have gradually destroyed it. But it is still standing, after so many centuries, without any serious damage”.

Anastasios Tinkas, an Archaeologist, Historian and Theologian from Attica, said: “The entire growth, existence and life of the trees on the roof of the little church of the pious martyr Theodora is amazing, beyond any man’s natural reasoning and explanations. This shows a rare characteristic: God’s intervention for His creature, the making of the miracle”.

Mr. Pallas, Director of Antiquities from Athens, said: "Under the laws of nature, at least the large trees, because of the slope, height and perimeter, should have destroyed it. To stand imperiously, is something that science cannot give an explanation".

P. Makrigiannis, a Geologist, said in 1993: “Seventeen giants supported on nothing! All these huge trees are rooted on nothing, or better said, on a roof which is only a few centimeters thick! However, the biggest surprise awaits us inside. There is not even the smallest root coming through the old walls. There is no crack caused by them! When the wind blows through one of the huge trees of the church, its roots form such strong levers, that the small settlement should crash immediately. As a geologist, I know very well that the walls should have been crushed and broken down only under one tree, and they are seventeen!"

It should be noted that this church is also in the Guinness Book of World Records as a miraculous wonder.

Why does God Permit temptations to come to those who Love Him..( Saint Issac The Syrian )

From the love that the saints show for God on account of
the things they suffer for His Name's sake(when they endure
straitness and do not forsake that which God loves),their
hearts acquire the boldness to gaze toward Him without a
veil and to beseech him with confidence.Great is the power
of bold prayer.For this reason God allows His saints to be
tried by every sorrow,then to experience anew and prove His
aid,and to understand how great a providence He has for them,
for in their perils He is found to be their Redeemer.And again
He does this so that they may gain wisdom from temptations,
lest they be unlearned men and be deprived of the two parts
of training,and so that they may acquire the knowledge of all
things,lest perhaps they be mocked by the demons.For if He
exercised them only in that which is good,they would lack
training in the other part and would be blind in battles.

If we say that God guides His saints without training and without
their knowledge of it,then we are saying that He wishes them to
be like oxen and asses and creatures which posess no freedom.
If a man is not first tried by the experience of evils,he has no
taste for the good.Hence when in evils he meets with that which
is good,he will be unable in knowledge and freedom to make use
of it as being his very own.How sweet is knowledge that is gained
from actual experience and diligent training,and what power it
gives to the man who through much experience has found it within
himself,the same is know by those who have been assured of and
have seen the help it affords them.
Then they learn the weakness of their nature and the help of Divine
power,when God first withholds His power from them while they
are amid temptations.Thus He makes them conscious of their
nature's impotence,the arduousness of temptations,and the cunning
of the enemy.
Thus he gives them to understand against whom they must wrestle,
what kind of nature they are clothed with,how they are protected
by divine power,how far they have advanced on the way,to what
height God's power has raised them up,and how powerless they are
before the face of every passion when the divine power is
withdrawn from them.
Through all these things they acquire humility,cleave closely
to God,look for His help with expectation,and persevere in prayer.
Whence could they have received all these boons,if they had not had experience of the many evils which God allowed them to undergo?
As the apostle says,'And lest i should be exalted above measure
through the abundance of the revelations,there was given to me a
thorn in the flesh,a messenger of Satan.'But by the experience of many interventions of divine assistance in temptations,a man also acquires firm faith.Henceforth he has no fear,and he gains stout-heartedness in temptations from the training he has acquired.

Trial is profitable for every man.For if trail was profitable for
Paul.'let every mouth be stopped,and all the world become guilty
before God.'The diligent are tried,that they might add to their riches,the lax are tried,that they might guard themselves from what is harmful; the sleepy are tried,that they might be armed with wakefulness,those afar off are tried, that they might draw nearer to God;those who are God's own are tried, that with boldness they might enter into His house.

The son who is not trained will receive no profit from the riches of his father's house.For this reason.then,God first tries and afflicts,and thereafter reveals His gift.Glory be our Master Jesus Christ Who brings us the sweetness of health by stringent medicines!
There is no man who will not feel oppressed at the time of training,
nor any who will not find the time bitter wherein he is given the medicine of trails to drink.Without temptations a man cannot
acquire a strong constitution,yet to endure with patience is not
within our power.For how should the clay vessel endure the vehemence of the waters,if the divine fire had not hardened it?.
If we submit ourselves to God,while beseeching Him humbly with
perseverance in unceasing desire,we shall certainly receive all,
in Christ Jesus our Lord.Amen.


Επιμέλεια: Γιώργος Θεοχάρης
Αγιορείτης μοναχός από τα ερημικά ''Κατουνάκια'' κρούει τον κώδωνα του κινδύνου για τους όσους παρουσιάζονται ως εξορκιστές

Τις τελευταίες σε αμερικανικά μέσα ενημέρωσης τρεις νεαρές γυναίκες εμφανίζονται ως σωτήρες όσων πάσχουν από δαιμονικές ενέργειες.
Μιλώντας στο «Αγιορείτικο Βήμα» μοναχός από τον Άθωνα κάνει έκκληση προς όλους τους πιστούς και μη να μην εμπιστεύονται τη ψυχή τους σε οποιαδήποτε μορφής εξορκιστών καθώς όπως είπε, με τη δαιμονική ενέργεια που χρησιμοποιούν είναι αδύνατο να εξαγνιστεί η ψυχή διώχνοντας κάθε κακή ενέργεια από πάνω. Ο εξορκισμός γίνεται μόνο από Ιερέα που γνωρίζει…και συμπλήρωσε:

Παραπέμπω τους αναγνώστες σας στο ευαγγέλιο:«Προσέχετε εαυτοίς από των ψευδοπροφητών͵ οίτινες έρχονται προς υμάς εν εν δύμασι προβάτων͵ έσωθεν δε εισι λύκοι άρπαγες• αλλ΄ από των καρπών αυτών επιγνώσεσθε αυτούς» (Ματθ. 7.15)

Ιδού το δημοσίευμα που κάνει το γύρο του κόσμου μέσα από αμερικανικά μέσα ενημέρωσης.

Η Μπριν Λάρσον και οι Τες και Σαβάνα Σέρκενμπακ μοιάζουν με συνηθισμένες έφηβες Αμερικανίδες. Και έτσι θα ήταν, αν για επάγγελμά τους δεν είχαν... τους δημόσιους εξορκισμούς. Αυτοαποκαλούνται «μαχήτριες της ελευθερίας» και στη διάρκεια των εξορκισμών κραδαίνουν ασημένιους σταυρούς και Βίβλους προκειμένου να στείλουν τους δαίμονες που κυριεύουν τους ανθρώπους, πίσω στην κόλαση.

Όπως αναφέρει το βρετανικό BBC, η 18χρονη Μπριν συνάντησε τις αδελφές Τες και Σαβάνα πριν οκτώ χρόνια σε μάθημα καράτε.

«Κάναμε προπονήσεις μαζί, μαθαίναμε πως να αγωνιζόμαστε και πώς να υπερασπιζόμαστε τους εαυτούς μας και τους άλλους» δηλώνει η Σαβάνα 21 ετών. Όμως ήταν οι κοινές θρησκευτικές τους πεποιθήσεις αλλά και το επάγγελμα του πατέρα της Μπριν, Μπομπ Λάρσον - ο οποίος είναι ιερέας και υποστηρίζει ότι έχει εκτελέσει περισσότερους από 15.000 εξορκισμούς - που ώθησε τις τρεις κοπέλες να ξεκινήσουν τους εξορκισμούς.

Πιστεύουν ότι τα κακά πνεύματα και οι δαίμονες προκαλούν στους ανθρώπους δυστυχία, κατάθλιψη και εθισμούς. «Ένας δαίμονας δεν κυριεύει κάποιον όποτε το θέλει, ο Θεός δεν το επιτρέπει αυτό» εξηγεί η Μπριν στο BBC και προσθέτει: «Αυτό συμβαίνει όταν κάποιος διαπράττει κάποια αμαρτία ή κάνει κάτι ή του κάνουν κάτι και επιτρέπει στον δαίμονα να μπει μέσα του». Οι κοπέλες συνοδεύουν τον Μπομπ Λάρσον σε δημόσιους εξορκισμούς σε Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες και Ευρώπη.

Όπως λέει η 18χρονη Τες, κάθε χώρα έχει ένα συγκεκριμένο είδος δαίμονα. Συγκεκριμένα, η Βρετανία θεωρείται «θερμοκήπιο» μαγείας, εξαιτίας της δημοτικότητας των βιβλίων «Χάρι Πότερ» της Τζ. Κ. Ρόουλινγκ. «Τα ξόρκια και τα πράγματα που διαβάζεις στα βιβλία Χάρι Πότερ, δεν είναι αποκυήματα της φαντασίας, είναι πραγματικά ξόρκια.
Προέρχονται από βιβλία μαγείας» εξηγεί η Τες. Η Μπριν, που θεωρείται η βασική εξορκίστρια, υποστηρίζει ότι οι εξορκισμοί δεν έχουν καμία σχέση με θεατρική παράσταση, παρότι όταν οι τρεις κοπέλες ανεβαίνουν στην σκηνή, το κοινό τους τις υποδέχεται σαν ροκ σταρ. «Ειλικρινά δεν κάνω σόου, απλά κάνω επίδειξη της δύναμης του Θεού. Δεν το κάνουμε για τις κάμερες» λέει.

Οι υπηρεσίες τους φυσικά προσφέρονται με το αζημίωτο, καθώς για κάθε προσωπικό εξορκισμό, η οικογένεια του «δαιμονισμένου» ή και ο ίδιος, καταβάλει μία εθελοντική προσφορά μερικών εκατοντάδων δολαρίων. «Οι άνθρωποι πληρώνουν χιλιάδες δολάρια για να πάνε σε κλινικές αποτοξίνωσης και σε ψυχιάτρους αλλά υπάρχει αυτή η ιδέα ότι η πνευματικότητα πρέπει να έρχεται δωρεάν» εξηγεί ο Μπομπ Λάρσον.

Σύμφωνα με τον ίδιο, πριν πραγματοποιηθεί ο προσωπικός εξορκισμός οι πελάτες πρέπει να συμπληρώσουν ένα ερωτηματολόγιο με το οποίο εκτιμάται η ψυχολογική τους κατάσταση - αν, με λίγα λόγια, ο «δαιμονισμός» τους προκαλείται από ψυχολογικά προβλήματα ή από... πραγματικό δαίμονα.

Η Τες, η Σαβάνα και η Μπριν έκαναν μαθήματα στο σπίτι αφού λόγω της φύσης του επαγγέλματός τους, πρέπει να ταξιδεύουν πολύ. «Ταξιδεύουμε σε περισσότερες από 20 χώρες και δεν έχουμε χρόνο για να πηγαίνουμε στο σχολείο αλλά κάθομαι στο γραφείο μου και κάνω τα μαθήματά μου. Είναι πολύ καλύτερο από το να πηγαίνω στους χαζο - χορούς τους σχολείου» λέει η Μπριν. Η Μπριν και η Τες έγιναν δεκτές στο κολέγιο ενώ η Σαβάνα είναι ήδη φοιτήτρια. Ωστόσο, όπως δηλώνουν αυτό που είναι αποφασισμένες να συνεχίσουν είναι «η πνευματική τους μάχη ενάντια στις δυνάμεις του κακού». Την ιστορία των τριών κοριτσιών θα παρουσιάσει το BBC Three στις 12 Σεπτεμβρίου, σε ντοκιμαντέρ με τίτλο «Έφηβες εξορκίστριες».


Orthodox Christians and Holy Places in Syria: A Call to Prayer by Bishop Basil

The following is the address given by His Grace Bishop Basil to the parish of St Mary Orthodox Church in Wichita, Kansas regarding the crisis in Syria, on the morning of their patronal feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, September 8, 2013.

This week will be a very important week, an historical week, one way or another--our church, our Patriarchate in particular, and this world in general. This week our elected representatives will be asked to vote either for or against supporting aggression in the Holy Land. As I said it’s important first and foremost for our church. It’s where our spiritual roots are, the roots of all Christians. Not just us, but we as Antiochian Orthodox in particular, as our Father in God (Patriarch John of Antioch) lives there along with a million and a half Orthodox Christians.That’s more than we have total in the US. The Orthodox in Syria and Lebanon is not negligible, it’s 10 percent of the population. In our country, we’re less than 1 percent, our country being the United States.

Syria in particular but Lebanon as well, which is an integral part of greater Syria just by its geography and the majority of its history, is dotted with holy places. Holy places made holy by the presence of our Savior. Remember his conversation with the Canaanite woman, the Syro-Phoenician woman when he visited Tyre and Sidon in south Lebanon. It’s not in Disney World or Never Never Land. Its a real place with real people with real Orthodox Christians living there. You've heard of Caesarea Philippi, where our Savior went and had conversation with his 12 apostles saying, “Who do men say that I am?” and then to Peter “Who do you say that I am?” Caesarea Philippi is in Golan Heights, what now is the occupied portion of the Golan Heights. It belongs to our sister archdiocese, the archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran. And the Golan Heights itself is dotted with now empty, they were depocketed by the Israelis, Christian villages, Orthodox villages, whose churches during the occupation have been totally desecrated. Stripped. Not only of the icons and the chandeliers, but of windows, and water faucets. Their dead in Konetra were taken out of their graves, and teeth--gold teeth--taken from their mouths and wedding rings taken from the corpses’ fingers. These are holy places. Our Saviour walked there, the apostles walked there. Sweida, Bosra-Hauran in south Syria is where Timon, one of the original seven deacons as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, one of the original seven deacons was the first bishop. Paul the apostle made his way from Jerusalem up to Damascus, and the road is still there, the spot where he was knocked off his horse by the presence of our Saviour Jesus Christ when he was struck blind. There’s a monastery there, an Orthodox monastery. These are not just places in books, brothers and sisters. These are holy places where Christians, your spiritual ancestors, and for many of you your physical ancestors have lived the Holy Orthodoxy for the past 2,000 years. It’s why what happens this week is important. It’s important.

We ask your prayers first and foremost for our president. That God might speak as we say in the liturgy “good things to his heart. That God might speak reasonableness and peace to the heart of our president. That he might speak peace to the heart of our elected officials, that they indeed become our representatives, that they speak the voice of the people. God speaks through his people, not through a congressman alone, or a president alone. He speaks through his people. May God hear our prayer for our armed forces. Men and women who sit on the edges of their seats to know whether they will be going to war or not. And don’t believe this “no boots on the ground.” It’s impossible. We’ve heard the promise many times. May God give strength to the parents. The spouses first and foremost of those soldiers, and their children, and their parents and their families, that he might grant them grace during these next coming days to prepare for the tension that must be laid upon them. And God be with the people of Syria. All of them, whether they’re Muslim, they’re Druze, Christians, Orthodox and not. May he be with our Father in God (Patriarch John of Antioch) who has already lost thousands of his people, and priests and deacons and monks and nuns in the war already. Whose monasteries and churches have been occupied and many destroyed by the so-called Free Syrian Army. Whose own brother was kidnapped and still remains kidnapped, Metropolitan Paul along with Archbishop Yohanna, since April 22 by freedom fighters. Freedom fighters--people who rape women, abduct bishops, desecrate churches, open peoples’ chests and pull their beating heart out and eat it in their presence. That’s the Free Syrian Army and their allies, Al Qaeda.

Two days ago I received a call from our Metropolitan Saba Esper, who you know, he has visited here. He is the archbishop of our own Wichita diocese’s sister diocese in south Syria. He spoke by telephone, right before he called me, with Mother Belagia. Mother Belagia is the abbess of the monastery of Saint Thekla in Maalula. It’s only like a 20-30 minute drive north of Damascus. It had been occupied for 3 days (the town). The town is one of three where they still speak Aramaic--Aramaic which our Saviour spoke. The only 3 towns left in the world. The majority of the people in Maaloula are Christians--Orthodox Christians. There’s a smattering of Catholics there, and there’s also some Muslims there, and they live there in peace. The beginning of this week they were occupied by the Free Syrian Army. It turned out to be Al Qaeda, and they turned out to be Chechens--the same ones who abducted our 2 bishops. The nuns took the children there, orphan girls there of St. Thekla, and they and the nuns, many who are aging, into the caves of the village to hide for 4 days. They didn’t even go out to buy bread. The villagers didn’t leave their homes for 4 days. And if you’ve never been to the Middle East, they don’t shop like we do. They go every morning to buy their bread and food for the day. So they were locked in their homes for 4 days. Those who went out were shot, so they knew to stay in their homes. Saba called me on Wednesday. Mother Belagia, and they were ringing all the bells in the town’s churches--the Syrian Army, you know the one that we’re told is so bad. The Syrian Army finally came and drove Al Qaeda out. And what did they find? They found 2 churches in the village completely destroyed. St. Thekla, which is ours, the Orthodox church in the village, and St. Sergius, which is a Catholic church in the village--completely destroyed. On the inside, the icons, the holy books, everything had been desecrated. Not just ripped off the walls, but covered in urine. Real desecration by that wing of the Free Syrian Army. God knows what the people of Syria, and by extension the people of Jordan, the people of Lebanon, the people of Turkey and the people of Iraq--because if there’s a war there’s a regional war--God knows the burden they may have to carry this week. Lighten their burden as you can. And that’s by your prayers. Have a soft heart towards the people. Wrongs were done on both sides--vicious wrongs on both sides. But as we’ve heard from some honest politicians this past week, there’s really no good armed force over there. No one we can trust. None. So the choice is between the evil that we know and that we’ve had for 30-40 years in that part of the world, or another evil we don’t know about except what they’ve shown us in this awful civil war for the past 2 and a half years.

So this week, really pray. Thank God that we live in a country that is safe. Where we can send our children to school, where you can go out and buy your groceries. But realize that that blessed country where we live can also be a disruptive force in other parts of the world, as it has been. Remember Bosnia. Remember Kosovo. Remember what happened in Belgrade, the capital of an Orthodox country, bombed by our armed forces on Pascha night, while people were going to church for the midnight service. God bless America--but a lot of evils have been done in her name. We pray that God will restrain our leaders from being the cause for any more evil and sorrow and hurt in this world. That we might extend a healing hand, to bring enemies together like we’re supposed to. Where we teach people to turn the other cheek, where we teach people to bless those who curse them, to love our enemies. That’s the gospel we preach, the gospel we die for. It’s the gospel which Orthodox Christians have been and I guess will continue to die for. Remember them in your prayers, and as I said, most especially our leaders, who will make the decisions. That God might pour out his Holy Spirit on them, and speak good things to their hearts.
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