Σήμερα, πού εἶναι ἡ πρώτη Κυριακή τοῦ Λουκᾶ, μᾶς θυμίζει ἡ Ἐκκλησία μας πῶς κάλεσε ὁ Κύριος τούς τέσσερις πρώτους μαθητές του, Ἀνδρέα καί Πέτρο, Ἰωάννη καί Ἰάκωβο. Μελετώντας καί τά τέσσερα Εὐαγγέλια διαπιστώνουμε κάτι πολύ βασικό, ὅτι στίς σχέσεις τοῦ Ἰησοῦ μέ τούς μαθητές του διακρίνονται οἱ ἑξῆς βαθμίδες: γνωριμία κλήση ἐκλογή ἀποστολή.
Ὁ Κύριος πρίν καλέσει τούς μαθητές του, εἶχε μιά γνωριμία μαζί τους. Μετά ἀπό τή Βάπτιση καί τούς πειρασμούς, ἐκεῖ στόν Ἰορδάνη, γνώρισε, ἀνάμεσα στούς μαθητές τοῦ Προδρόμου, τόν Ἀνδρέα τόν πρωτόκλητο, τόν Ἰάκωβο, τόν Ἰωάννη καί κατόπιν τόν Πέτρο. Αὐτή εἶναι ἡ πρώτη γνωριμία, ἡ ὁποία στή συνέχεια ἔπαιξε βασικό ρόλο στήν ἱστορία τῶν μαθητῶν.
Μετά ἀπό τή γνωριμία ἔχουμε τήν κλήση, ἡ ὁποία ἀναφέρεται στά τρία πρῶτα Εὐαγγέλια ἀλλά μέ μία διαφορά. Στό κατά Ματθαῖον καί στό κατά Μᾶρκον λέγεται μόνο ὅτι ὁ Κύριος τούς συνάντησε στή λίμνη καί τούς κάλεσε νά τόν ἀκολουθήσουν, χωρίς νά ἀναφέρεται ἡ θαυμαστή ἁλιεία. ῾Ο Λουκᾶς ὅμως, βλέπει πολύ ἀπαραίτητο τό στοιχεῖο αὐτό τῆς θαυμαστῆς ἁλιείας καί δέν τό ἀποσιωπᾶ. Ὁ Κύριος κάλεσε τούς πρώτους μαθητές του μετά ἀπό ἕνα καταπληκτικό γεγονός: Παρακάλεσε τόν Πέτρο καί ἔσυρε τό πλοιάριό του λίγο πιό μέσα στή λίμνη. Ἀνέβηκε ἐκεῖ, γιά νά προστατευθεῖ ἀπό τό πλῆθος πού κόντευε νά τόν ρήξει στή θάλασσα. Τό ἔκανε ἄμβωνα καί κήρυξε στόν λαό. Μόλις τέλειωσε θέλησε νά πληρώσει τό ἐνοίκιο στόν Πέτρο καί στούς συνεταίρους του. Γι’ αὐτό τούς εἶπε: «Πηγαίνετε νά ψαρέψετε». «Μά, Κύριε», τοῦ ἀπαντοῦν, «κοπιάσαντες δι᾿ ὅλης τῆς νυκτὸς ἐλάβομεν οὐδέν», δέν πιάσαμε τίποτα. Αὐτοί ἦταν ἐπαγγελματίες ψαράδες, ὁ Χριστός -ὡς ἄνθρωπος βέβαιαδέν μποροῦσε νά ξέρει ἀπό θάλασσα, διότι ἦταν τέκτων, τεχνίτης, μαραγκός. Ἦταν ψαράδες, παράλογο γιά ὥρα πρωινή νά πᾶνε νά ψαρέψουν. Ὅμως ὁ Πέτρος συμπληρώνει: «᾿Επὶ δὲ τῷ ρήματί σου χαλάσω τὸ δίκτυον», ἐπειδή τό λές, θά ρίξω τά δίχτυα». Δέν εἶπε ὁ ἔμπειρος ψαράς «μά ἐγώ εἶμαι ψαράς, ξέρω σπιθαμή σπιθαμή τή λίμνη, ἐσύ πού δέν ξέρεις θά μοῦ πεῖς νά ψαρέψω τέτοια ὥρα;», ἀλλά λέει: «Ἀφοῦ ἐσύ τό λές θά τό κάνω». Καί γέμισαν τά δίχτυα τόσο, πού κινδύνευαν νά σχισθοῦν καί ζήτησε τή βοήθεια τῶν συνεταίρων, τῶν ἀδελφῶν Ἰωάννη καί Ἰακώβου.
Πολύ σπουδαῖο μήνυμα μᾶς διδάσκει αὐτό τό ἱστορικό σημεῖο· ὅτι οἱ ἄνθρωποι μόνοι τους μπορεῖ νά κοπιάσουν μέρες καί νύχτες στή ζωή τους καί νά μήν κατορθώσουν τίποτε. Ἐνῶ μέ τήν ὑπακοή στόν Κύριο ἔχουν τήν εὐλογία του, καί τά ἀδύνατα γίνονται δυνατά. Μέ τόν Χριστό, καί ἄν ἀκόμα ἡ λογική δέν τό κατανοεῖ, τά ἀποτελέσματα εἶναι θαυμαστά. Θά τό πεῖ ὁ Κύριος ἀργότερα στούς μαθητές του· «χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν» (Ἰω 15,5).
Καί ἡ συνέχεια πολύ ἀποκαλυπτική, ὅπως τήν γράφει ὁ ἱστορικός Λουκᾶς. Ὁ Πέτρος πέφτει στά πόδια τοῦ Κυρίου καί τοῦ λέγει: «Φύγε ἀπό τή βάρκα μου, διότι εἶμαι ἁμαρτωλός». Ἀλλά ὁ Κύριος τόν ἐνθαρρύνει: «Μὴ φοβοῦ· ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν». Θυμίζει ὁ Πέτρος τούς μεγάλους προφῆτες, τόν Μωυσῆ, τόν Ἠσαΐα, τόν Ἰεζεκιήλ, πού ὅταν τούς καλοῦσε ὁ Κύριος πρόβαλλαν τήν ἁμαρτωλότητα καί τήν ἀκαταλληλότητά τους. Καί ὁ Πέτρος καί οἱ ἄλλοι μαθητές, πού καλοῦνται στή μεγάλη ἀποστολή, τό πρῶτο πού νιώθουν εἶναι ἡ ἁμαρτωλότητά τους, ἡ ἀδυναμία τους. Ἔτσι πρέπει νά νιώθει κάθε πιστός, ὅταν τοῦ ἀναθέτει ὁ Κύριος μία ἀποστολή μέσα στό ἔργο του, ὅτι ὄχι μόνο εἶναι ἀδύναμος καί ἀκατάλληλος ἀλλά καί γεμάτος ἁμαρτίες.
Προσέξτε καί μιά λεπτομέρεια, ἀδέλφια μου, πολύ διδακτική. Μετά ἀπό τό θαυμαστό σημεῖο, οἱ ψαράδες τῆς Γαλιλαίας δέν χάρηκαν τήν πλούσια ψαριά. Δέν ἔτρεξαν νά τήν ἐκμεταλλευτοῦν. Ἡ μεγάλη χαρά τους δέν ἦταν ἡ ψαριά, ἦταν πού τούς κάλεσε ὁ Κύριος νά εἶναι κοντά του γιά πάντα. ῎Ετσι λοιπόν ἀφήνουν καί τά δίχτυα, ἀφήνουν καί τά καράβια καί τούς γονεῖς τους, ἀφήνουν καί τήν ψαριά -ἄλλοι ἄς τή χαροῦν καί ἄς τήν ἀπολαύσουνκαί ἀκολουθοῦν τόν Ἰησοῦ.
Στ. Ν. Σάκκος
Κυριακή 23-9-2001, Ἱ. Ν. Ἀναλήψεως,
ΜΑΘΗΜΑΤΑ ΚΑΤΩΤΕΡΟΥ ΚΑΤΗΧΗΤΙΚΟΥ
Ἀπό τήν σειρά "Μαθαίνω γιά τόν Θεό", τόμ. Β΄
Ὁ Θεός στήν Καινή Διαθήκη
(Ἐκδόσεις "Χριστιανική Ἐλπίς" Ὀρθόδοξη Ἀδελφότητα)
Twelve-year-old Jesus at the Temple
The only incident we know of Jesus’ childhood is His visit to the Temple in Jerusalem as a twelve-year-old boy. That’s why it’s so interesting to study it.
Passover (meaning Easter) was the most important Hebrew feast, because they remembered and celebrated how their ancestors crossed the Red Sea and were freed from the slavery of Egypt. When the time of Passover was near, pious Jews from all over Palestine were happily preparing for their usual pilgrimage. They were travelling to Jerusalem, the sacred city, in order to worship God all together in their one and only temple, the Temple of Solomon.
Travelling wasn’t easy at that time. It was tiring and dangerous. The travelers had to walk for days and few were lucky enough to have an animal to ride. There was always the fear of being attacked by thieves who would set traps on isolated paths. For that reason, people used to travel in groups, forming caravans, which was a safer and more pleasant way to travel.
Holy Mary, twelve-year-old Jesus and Joseph, their protector, were travelling with a caravan, among relatives and friends, from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It was a three-day walking distance at least, but nobody minded the trouble. They were happy because the Temple was their destination. While walking, they were singing the Psalms, praising God.
They stayed in Jerusalem for seven days. When the celebration of Passover was finished, the caravan set off to return to Nazareth. After walking throughout the day, they stopped to camp for night. That’s when the Holy Mother and Joseph realized that little Jesus was missing! The women had been walking on the front of the caravan and the men behind them. Joseph thought that Jesus was with His mother and Holy Mary thought that Jesus was walking along with Joseph. They were so worried when they couldn’t find him anywhere! At sunrise they went back to Jerusalem.
They looked for Him in the city. They searched among the caravans who were leaving and they searched in the streets until they reached the Temple. They went inside and saw little Jesus sitting among the teachers of the Jewish law and discussing with them! He was talking and they were listening! He was giving advice, answering to questions, explaining passages of the Old Testament, interpreting prophesies and giving valuable knowledge about God. They were surprised because they had never heard such a speech! They were fascinated, taken aback. A twelve-year-old boy had made them hang on His every word! The teachers had become students wondering: “How is he so wise?”. They didn’t know, they couldn’t even imagine who they were talking to.
Jesus himself revealed His identity when His mother asked Him: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Then Jesus revealed the truth: He wasn’t Joseph’s son, as everybody thought, but the son of God! “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” God is His Father! Only Holy Mary and Joseph knew this secret. Was it the time for everyone to know? No, it was still early for this. The others couldn’t understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. They couldn’t but admire the twelve-year-old boy and His extraordinary wisdom. After all, He stood up and followed – obedient as always – Holy Mary and Joseph. It wasn’t the time for His public ministry yet.
Later, in His thirties, Christ started preaching and making miracles. His divine power and wisdom became more evident. He wasn’t only a human but God, the son of God who became human too. He is the God-Man!
It would be nice to have Jesus Christ among us, even for a while! We could ask Him questions; He could explain so many things to us and reveal divine secrets!
We can invite Jesus to be among us at Sunday’s school. He isn’t just a wise man of the past, He is the God-Man. He isn’t restrained by the flow of time. He can sit among us today just as He sat among the teachers of the law. He said “Wherever two or three of you gather in my name, I am among them” (Mt 18:20). Every gathering at Sunday’s school is a meeting with Christ!
We can listen to Him today just as the teachers did back then. In fact, He has left us His wise words written in His book, the Holy Bible! Every page is full of divine wisdom. Every word is inspired by God!
The lessons in Sunday’s school are taken from the texts of the Holy Bible. The Gospels narrate Christ’s life and teaching. Those, who won’t miss a single gathering, will be the happiest of all! Those, who listen carefully to the sacred words of the Bible, will be blessed by God! If the words are studied carefully, they are engraved on the heart and the person is filled with God’s wisdom.
A person that has God’s wisdom:
• Is enlightened and thinks accordingly.
• Makes the right decisions.
• Stands out because of his/her way of speaking and acting.
Here are two incidents of children who had God’s wisdom:
a. Catherine is at Grade 5 of primary school. Her classmates messed up. They caused the blackboard to fall and as a result both the teacher’s chair and the bookcase got damaged. The students decided to pretend they didn’t know anything but Catherine insisted on telling the truth paying for the damage with the money from the class’s money box. The students agreed and in the end the teacher praised their honesty instead of scolding them.
b. Paul is a sixth-grader. The two classes of his grade had been fighting for a long time. The reason was their playtime, as each class blamed the other for cheating. Whenever they talked, they mostly offended each other. Paul couldn’t stand this situation. He suggested making a huge card decorated with drawings and stickers. He wrote “We don’t want to fight! Let’s be friends forever! We are sorry!”. His classmates followed his plan and now the two classes are inseparable.
May all the students have a fruitful school year and gain God’s wisdom, so that their parents and teachers will be proud of them.
I ask for God’s wisdom
To study, to go to school,
to live with God my leader!
Δεῖτε ἐδῶ ὑλικό-ἀφιέρωμα
γιά τά 100 χρόνια ἀπό τήν Μικρασιατική καταστροφή
Genesis 4:25-26; 6:1-9:17
The rainbow is a fascinating sight! As soon as it makes its appearance in the sky, we rush to see and admire it. Do you know that it is actually connected with a historical event we can be find in the Holy Bible?
Many years ago, there were only two families that lived on earth: the descendants of Cain, the “Cainites”, who were wicked and evil, like their ancestor, and the descendants of Seth. Seth was the first child that God gave Adam and Eve after Abel’s death. He was pious and kind like Abel. His descendants, the “Sethites”, were virtuous people devoted to God, too.
As time passed, however, since the “Sethites” begun to marry women out of Cain’s lineage, unfortunately, everyone drifted toward evil. There was only one family that stood out, because they retained their faith and love to God. This was Noah’s family.
One day, God called upon Noah and told him:
- The earth is filled with people’s sins. The time has come for me to destroy them, all living creatures and plants. You, however, will make an ark, an enormous ship. You will build it to have three floors and be separated in compartments. Cover it inside and outside with pitch. Then enter the ark with your sons – Noah had three sons: Ham, Shem, and Japheth – your wife and your sons’ wives. Take, two of every kind, a male and a female of birds, animals and every creeping creature. Store plenty of food for yourselves and for them.
Noah immediately begun building the ark with eagerness. But, while he was obeying to God’s will, the rest of mankind continued doing works of evil without any regret. They would even mock Noah but he pretended not to listen. The only thing that mattered to him was this: To do what God had ordered. He was building the ark for one hundred and twenty years and continued advising people to repent their ways. Their hearts, however, had been hardened and they paid no attention to his words. They kept becoming worse day by day.
When the ark was finally ready, God informed Noah: “In seven days, the earth will flood. It will be raining for forty days and forty nights”. And so it happened! Right after Noah entered the ark along with his family and all of the animals, exactly as God had asked him to, the terrible flood begun. The waterfalls of the sky opened up! For forty days and forty nights, the rain continued to fall relentlessly. Water covered the surface of the earth, even the tallest of mountains. Everything drowned, people and animals! No living creature survived that dreadful downpour. No living creature, except for those eight people – Noah’s family – along with the animals they had gathered inside that big ark. The ark continued to drift and as the waters went higher, it rose higher, too.
Eventually, the rainstorm stopped. A strong wind blew, the clouds withdrew and the skies cleared up. The water begun to slowly subside. It took over a hundred days for land to appear. The earth looked like an endless sea. One day, the ark finally rested on solid ground atop mountain Ararat, a tall mountain in Armenia. Several days later, the summits of other mountains came into view. Noah let a raven fly outside, but it did not return. He, then, let a dove fly outside. The dove came back and seven days later he let her out again. When she returned, she was holding an olive tree branch in her beak, a sign that the waters had decreased enough for trees to appear. Seven days passed and he sent her out again, but she did not return to him anymore. Noah then, removed the ark’s covering and saw that the waters had completely receded. It had been over ten months since the flood had broken out.
Noah, however, did not rush to get out of the ark. He was waiting for God’s commandment. Two months later, when the earth dried up, God commanded that everyone should go out of the ark. It was exactly one year since the day they had entered the ark. As soon as pious Noah and his family set their feet on land, they set an altar and offered a thanksgiving sacrifice to express their gratitude to their God and savior. They prayed and gave glory to God from the bottom of their hearts, for He kept them safe inside the ark and saved them from the terrible flood.
The Church is the ark of salvation
A flood like that one will never happen again. God promised this to Noah and his family, when they got out of the ark. He even marked this covenant with a sign: the rainbow. We often have a chance to see it after a heavy rain and it is there to remind us of God’s promise.
We are in danger, however, of a new kind of deluge. What is this deluge that threatens us? It is the sinfulness that rules our world; the impiety and the immorality, the lies and the hatred. Evil has flooded our world and seeks to sweep us all away. Who is going to be the one to preserve piety, innocence, honesty and kindness? It is the one who secures themselves inside the ark of salvation. Yes, even today there is an ark of salvation that can protect and save us. Do you know what this ark of salvation is? It is the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We all entered this holy ark the day we got baptized. We remain safe and sound inside it when we take part in the Divine Sacraments. When we go to church every Sunday, when we go to confession and when we receive Christ’s Body and Blood. When we gather in our Sunday school where we learn the words of the Holy Bible.
Let’s set a new goal today: To never miss the Holy Liturgy and Sunday school on Sundays! In this way, we will keep ourselves safe within the ark of salvation, the Church, which gives shelter and joy to all of us!
Even if some people approach you to mock and make fun of you, remember Noah’s story. The people of his time laughed at him. They made fun of him for being the only one who believed to the one, true God. Still, Noah did what God asked him to. He did not waver; he was not affected by the sinful life surrounding him. For this, only Noah and his family survived that horrible flood.
From this world’s flooding waters
I ask, Lord, liberation.
My life I will keep safe
Inside Your Church’s ark of salvation
By Stergios N. Sakkos
It is the law of nature, which human ingenuity has made a law of mechanics: The height to which the top can reach, depends on the stability of the base. The roots go deep into the soil, so that the tree can grow and bear fruit. The builder digs deep into the ground in order to raise the building. How could the building possibly stand without a foundation? Similarly in the spiritual life, the inner holiness results in growth and progress. For this reason, the Holy Bible persistently emphasizes the necessity of inner purity, and the saints of the Church had as a goal of their lives to "dig inside".
In our times, seeming good externally and impressing others are priorities. A lot of attention and prayer is needed, so that the Christian does not lose the sailing course, does not "drift away", as the apostle Paul writes (Heb 2:1), and does not deviate from the right path. It is precisely in this need that our holy Church comes to help with its entire program. The Church exhorts and leads its children to a renewal of the inner man, to reach a spiritual "depth".
"Be on your guard", the apostle Peter exhorts the "beloved brothers" of his time but also of every era "so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:17-18). With the Baptism and the Anointing, we entered the area of "steadfastness", we were placed as "living stones" in the unshakeable foundation of the Church, which is Christ himself, and monopolizes salvation on earth. Our steady course within the Church ensures and guarantees our growth. It is our duty not to be left behind, fruitless; not to lose our steadfastness.
Undoubtedly, the ship of the Church is sailing safely to its heavenly destination. It will surely reach the serene port no matter how many storms it encounters. Our only anxiety is whether we, its members, will be on board, in the holy ark of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church until the end. And this anxiety is well-founded and justified, because serious dangers and powerful enemies threaten to us take us away from the Church, to snatch us from her arms, to uproot us from her vineyard! Some of them come from the outside; they are declared enemies of the Church while others spring from its bowels. Some of them are well-known, overt and powerful and others are insidious and camouflaged. How, then, will we remain steadfast, stable and growing in the ark of salvation? The centuries-long history of faith highlights the proven means that every believer must use for their steadfastness:
♦ The name of the Lord. “Jesus’ name scourges the enemies. There is truly no stronger weapon on earth nor in heaven”, stresses St. John of the “Kλίμαξ”. The simple prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me", is the umbrella, the lightning rod that neutralizes the passions. With its help, we are immersed deeper in grace and stabilized in the Church, on the ground of our salvation.
♦ The memory of death grounds us in reality as it reminds us of our transience and perishability. In this way it kindles the desire for the incorruptibility of eternity and the perfect reality of heaven. "For our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20), emphasizes the apostle Paul. There, in heaven, our desires come true and our destiny is fulfilled. This certainty gives meaning and direction to our life here.
♦ Waiting for the Lord. "For you I keep myself chaste, and holding my shining lamps I run to meet You, my Spouse", chanted the Christians of the first centuries, as the saint and martyr Methodius, Bishop of Olympus reports. They waited daily for the Lord, and this feeling made their love warm, their faith alive, their hope immovable,
their repentance constant and overwhelming, their lives bright. And if the Second Coming of Christ does not take place in our days, who can assure us that death won’t come sooner than expected?
♦ Divine worship with the experience of prayer and the holy sacraments keeps open the communication with the reality of heaven and sanctifies our being.
♦ The word of God, the lives of saints and martyrs, the writings of the fathers of our Church are also proven helpers in the struggle of spiritual life.
♦ The example of the holy members of the Church is still a great support. There are still today, thank God, the good examples around us. Let them be our inspiration.
"If you have seen your brother, you have seen God," say the saints. The salvation of each one of us is a personal but also a collective affair, in the sense that within the body of the Church we walk along with our brothers. I cannot remain indifferent to their own salvation. I must stand as a brother in the need of the others. To feel them as brothers and to run alongside them. Here is the diamond foundation for the true progress of our world. This is the foundation for true spiritual fruitfulness.
Nowadays the enemies of the Church are organized against it, seeking to eradicate piety and wither faith. Every day we witness the relentless and merciless attack against faith. Don't let this alienate us or scare us! It should only remind us of our duty as members of Christ’s Church. Not only the saints who have passed from this world but also the faithful, who today are struggling and with the grace of God remain firm and rooted in the Orthodox faith, call us to stay alert. Let's stay steady and keep growing. In this way, our brothers stay steady and grow along with us, too. This is how the kingdom of God is spreading on Earth and our society prospers and becomes sweet.
After the event of the language confusion, that happened when people were building the Tower of Babel, they were spread around the globe. Unfortunately, they forgot about true God on all those new places, they chose to live. They started worshiping the sun, the rivers, some animals or even some small statues they created, also known as idols. All of them though? No. Among all the pagans there was somebody who kept his faith in true God; Abram, like Noah who had lived earlier. Abram had such great faith in God, that God made him a patriarch, which means he was the father and the leader of a whole nation. Also, he was honoured to become the forefather, that is, the ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Abram lived at Mesopotamia, in town Harran. The area was called Mesopotamia because it was located in between two big rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. It was a very fertile land in the continent of Asia. So, this is where Abram inhabited along with his wife Sarah. He was a rich man owning lots of herds and lots of servants. He was very generous, and he would share his goods with people in need. Also, he welcomed any long-distance travellers he met. All these could use his home as a place to rest. He was a philanthropist and a hospitable man. Yet, the most important thing about Abraham was his great faith. Although, he lived among pagans, he believed and loved wholeheartedly the true God. And he proved his faith with actions.
-Abram! God’s voice reached him one day. Leave this land, your relatives and your family home and come to live at a place I’ll show you. Do you think that was a simple task God was asking him to do? He was ordered to leave behind his home and his loved ones and direct to the unknown! He had to pack all his belongings up and along with his servants and animals to walk day and night for days, maybe months without even knowing the destination! Was that easy? Of course not! But it was God requesting it. And since it was him, Abram would obey. He was ready, whatever the difficulties, to sacrifice everything for God! This shows his great faith.
God, also, gave him a great promise:
“From you I will create a great nation and all the earth’s tribes will be blessed”.
God repeated this promise to him many times:
“Your descendants will be many, countless, like the stars in the sky!”
God changed his name as well: From Abram to Abraham, which means “the father of many nations”.
Yet, time was passing year by year. Abraham got old. His wife, Sarah was sterile, meaning she could not give birth to a child. And then all these promises from God that his descendants would be countless, how could they turn real when they were childless? So, had Abraham stopped believing in God’s promises? Nothing, could have shaken his vast faith in God. If God said it, it will be done! So, what if it seems impossible? Nothing is impossible to God!
God indeed led Abraham to the rich land of Canaan. And in this place God gifted him with many goods, but also gave him an unbelievable happiness: a child, a graceful son. He named the boy “Isaac”, which means “laughter, joy”. Abraham was truly happy! And he felt even greater happiness since God had promised him that from his generation lots of nations would grow and God’s blessing would come to the earth.
One day, however, God said to him: “Abraham! Take your beloved son, Isaac, who you love so much and go to the mountain where I will show you. There you will offer him to me as sacrifice!”
What? Did he hear well? To offer Isaac as a sacrifice, his one and only son and be-loved child? God’s order was like a stab in Abraham’s heart. Such a sacrifice sur-passed his powers. And then, what about the promises that God had given him, how could they be realized?
And yet, Abraham the next day, early in the morning prepared the wood for the sacrifice and loaded it on the donkey. He took with him two servants and Isaac, and he set out for the mountain that God had told him to go.
Will he sacrifice, then, Isaac? But God had asked him to! Abraham was ready, however difficult it might be, to do even the greatest sacrifice for God! This shows the size of his faith.
Abraham fully trusting in God, he set off along with his beloved son, Isaac, to of-fer God a sacrifice high on the mountain. When the place of sacrifice was seen from afar, he unloaded the donkey and gave the wood to the unsuspecting Isaac to carry. Himself took the knife in his hands and what was needed for the fire and leaving be-hind the servants, father and son started going up the mountain. As they were walk-ing, Isaac asked:
“Father, here is the fire and the wood for the sacrifice! But where is the sheep we are going to sacrifice?”
“God will take care of the sheep for sacrifice, my child”, answered the faithful Abraham.
Without exchanging any more words, they continued to move on, until they reached the top of the mountain.
There, Abraham set up an altar with stones, he put the wood on top of it, tied up Isaac and he placed him on the woods of the altar. He stretched out his hand to reach the knife for the sacrifice but on the last moment he heard a voice from the heavens, the voice of an angel: "Abraham! Do not put your hand upon the child and do not harm him. God has seen how much you respect him, since for his sake you did not feel sorry sacrificing even your beloved child."
Abraham then lifted his eyes and saw a ram having his horns caught in a plant called Savek!
He took the ram and offered it as a sacrifice to God, full of gratitude for his love! Then God for one more time repeated to Abraham his great promise: "Your de-scendants will be countless, like the stars in the sky and like the sand of the sea. And from your generation shall come the blessing to the nations."
Meaning that from Abraham’s generation Christ would be born, the savior of the world.
Our Sacrifices for God
What did God see in Abraham and blessed him in such abundance? His great faith! And how did Abraham show his faith in God? By his obedience to the will of God; by doing big sacrifices in order to be obedient to God’s will.
What about us? How much do we believe in God? How can we count the weight of our faith in him? By counting the sacrifices, we make for God.
What sacrifices, do you think, can children make for God?
♦ They can sacrifice their sleep, for going to church on a Sunday morning.
♦ They can sacrifice doing activities with their friends, for Sunday school.
♦ They can sacrifice enjoying some delicious food, for fasting periods or when they are going to receive the Holy Communion.
♦ They can sacrifice their free time, for visiting someone who is sick or relatives or neighbors who live alone and seek some company.
♦ They can also sacrifice their pocket money for charity, giving their savings to the special box for the poor that there is in every Orthodox church.
All these sacrifices can measure our faith. And if sometimes it seems hard to make such sacrifices, we can only think of the huge sacrifice that Christ made for us. We should think this: "Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross for me. In front of his great sacrifice, whatever sacrifice of mine is tiny!".
It is common nowadays that people speak more than one language. Learning one or more foreign languages is encouraged, because it assists communication among people who come from different countries. However, this was not always necessary. All people once spoke the same language and lived in the same place. This information is given in the Holy Scripture and it is supported by linguists. So, when did people start speaking different languages? The answer can be found in an incident described in the Old Testament.
Noah’s descendants, blessed by God, were increasing significantly. Since they were too many to live in the same place, they headed southwest and settled in Senaar. But as time passed by, this land too wasn’t enough to accommodate them. So, they realized they had to disperse over different places. Before leaving they made an agreement to build a city with a tower which would make them famous.
-Let’s build together a city with a tower. The tower should be so high that it will reach the sky! Then our name will be known and remembered by future generations.
These words veiled pride. They thought themselves capable of building such a huge and admirable building on their own, without God’s help. How deluded were they! They never managed to finish their work.
At first everything was going according to plan, because they worked eagerly and the tower became higher and higher. But then, all of a sudden, something strange happened; they couldn’t communicate or cooperate. Everyone started shouting and arguing… They spoke different languages! The construction could no longer be continued.
As it is written in the Old Testament, God saw the city and the tower which was being built. He saw deeper, the pride in the hearts of the constructors. For that reason, he confused their language and threw a spanner in the works. Those proud people never succeeded in finishing the construction of the tower. Disappointed, they left it semi-finished. The tower was known to future generations by the name Babel which means “confusion”.
Noah’s descendants went separate ways. Ham’s descendants went to Africa, Japheth’s offspring to Europe and Shem’s to Asia. People gradually obtained distinct characteristics and color because of the climate differences in their habitats. In that way different races were formed.
In the course of time people forgot that they came from the same family, they once spoke the same language and they worshipped the same God. The difference of their appearance caused them to get estranged. Even worse, they started hating each other and fighting wars.
The Woe of Pride
The proud craftsmen in Senaar never finished their tower and ended up bitterly scattered and alienated. Nevertheless, they weren’t the first to be seized by pride. Pride is rooted in Satan. In the beginning Satan was an important and outstanding angel of God. His name was Lucifer which means “really bright”. However, he prided himself and thought he could take God’s place. So, the bright angel became a dark demon and ended up in hell.
Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, believed Satan’s lie and thought that they could become gods. So, they ate the forbidden fruit and as a result they lost heaven and their life became miserable. This megalomania and pride have often been human traits ever since.
Throughout history a lot of proud people appeared. They scorned their fellow human beings as inferiors. They became cruel and brought great disasters on people’s lives. Take Hitler for example. A single proud and cruel man, who ruled Germany, caused World War II. He thought he was powerful and wished to rule the whole world without respecting God and his will. The result was a failed plan, millions of dead people and destroyed civilizations. These are the woes of pride.
We often pride ourselves on our job, our appearance, our talents, our knowledge, our ancestors, or our achievements. We forget that everything good we have is owed to God. Some may think
-Is it bad that I’m happy when I succeed in something or when I earn something?
-Definitely not. But it’s one thing to feel happy and another to feel proud.
Pride makes us consider ourselves overly great and we start pursuing things out of our league, without considering God’s will. Then we are possessed by megalomania, like the people who wanted to build the tower of Babel. The result is to suffer from the consequences of our failure and mistakes.
Pride also makes us think that we are more important than others. The feeling of superiority urges us to behave disparagingly towards others, as if we are unique in the world.
Pride hardens our heart. A proud person is unable to feel affinity for others, be tolerant to others’ mistakes, show sympathy for others’ misfortunes. Proud people are full of themselves, having no interest in others.
A proud person becomes disagreeable in people’s eyes but also in God’s eyes. “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord”. (Prov 16:5). God looks away from a proud person and takes away His blessing. “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Is 66:2). A humble person attracts God’s eye and His grace.
We need to demolish the tower of pride and build the ladder of humility in its place. This ladder leads to the heavens!
First step: I don’t brag about my talents and belongings. Everything good I have got, isn’t mine but God’s. I cannot brag about what isn’t mine. So, I don’t flaunt my belongings or my achievements. Ι am not conceited but I live and behave with simplicity.
Second step: I don’t underestimate anyone or talk dismissively. I accept people as they are. I behave graciously. God bestows ηis gifts on everybody. It is an illusion to see only my talents and think that am superior to others.
Third step: I show everyone my love. When I love I can’t insult, I can’t be cruel. A humble person loves everybody and that love is the supreme virtue.
Here is the ladder of humility! The person who learns how to climb it, he gets closer to God.
Let’s pray to God to give us not only commodities, talents and successes but to give the most important of all; humility and modesty.
Pride is dreadful
It drives us away from God
Humility is wonderful
It elevates our soul to God
Αυθεντικές Ιστορίες Προσφύγων Β΄
Κυκλοφόρησε πολύ πρόσφατα, με αφορμή τα 100 χρόνια από τη Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή, ο δεύτερος τόμος «Αυθεντικές Ιστορίες Προσφύγων», που συνέγραψε ο δρ Θεολογίας Τσακαλίδης Γεώργιος. Πρόκειται για 24 ιστορίες προσφύγων, που συγκλονίζουν με την τραγικότητά τους, αλλά και εντυπωσιάζουν με το άρωμα που εκπέμπει η ευωδιαστή και αξιομίμητη ζωή τους. Άνετα θα μπορούσε να ονομασθεί το βιβλίο «Προσφυγικό Λειμωνάριο».
Οι εφτά ιστορίες αφορούν σε ιερείς του Πόντου και της Μ. Ασίας. Από αυτούς τρεις σφαγιάστηκαν άγρια. Δύο ένιωσαν τη φρίκη και τον αβάστακτο πόνο να δολοφονούνται παρουσία τους όλα τα μέλη των οικογενειών τους, ο ένας μάλιστα και να ατιμάζονται προηγουμένως. Ο ένας φυλακίστηκε για ένα χρόνο και όταν αθωώθηκε και επέστρεψε στο σπίτι του, οι δικοί του είχαν ήδη εξοριστεί. Ούτε με τα μέλη της οικογένειάς του κατάφερε να ανταμώσει, ούτε στην Ελλάδα να φτάσει.
Άλλες εφτά ιστορίες αφορούν σε πρόσφυγες ενός οικισμού, του Κτενά της Κοζάνης, ενός ήδη διαλυμένου οικισμού, οι πρόσφυγες κάτοικοι του οποίου γνώρισαν διπλό ή και τριπλό ξεριζωμό. Δύο από αυτούς, αδέλφια, δημιούργησαν υπερ-πολύτεκνες οικογένειες, που σχηματίζουν σήμερα μαζί με τους απογόνους τους στην Μελβούρνη της Αυστραλίας ένα ολόκληρο χωριό 350 περίπου κατοίκων. Πολλά μπορούμε να διδαχθούμε όλοι από το παράδειγμά τους. Δώδεκα παιδιά γέννησε το ευλαβές ανδρόγυνο Γρηγόρη και Παρθένας Παντελίδη. Πεθαίνει μια κόρη σε ηλικία 19 ετών. Την επόμενη κιόλας χρονιά την αναπληρώνουν με νέα γέννηση, γιατί δεν θέλουν να πέσουν κάτω από τον ιερό αριθμό δώδεκα (τον αριθμό των παιδιών του Ιακώβ και τον αριθμό των μαθητών του Χριστού). Οικογένειες που γνωρίζουν την ιερή αποστολή τους και προσφέρουν πολύτιμες υπηρεσίες στην πατρίδα τους, που σήμερα με την ολιγοπαιδία μας κινδυνεύει να αφανιστεί.
Άλλες δέκα ιστορίες αφορούν σε πρόσφυγες από την ευρύτερη περιοχή της Μακεδονίας. Ένας από αυτούς, ο Θεόδωρος Τσανακτσίδης, κατέγραψε όσα έζησε ο ίδιος και μας άφησε τα γραπτά του πολύτιμη παρακαταθήκη. Σε 115 ανέρχονται οι δικοί του απόγονοι. Από τους υπόλοιπους εννιά άλλοι πήραν τα βουνά του Πόντου και έγιναν αντάρτες, για να σώσουν τις οικογένειές τους. Άλλοι κλείσθηκαν στη σπηλιά του Ότκαγια και έλαβαν πείρα του απάνθρωπου προσώπου του Τούρκου δυνάστη. Άλλοι γνώρισαν βάσανα και εξορίες. Άλλοι, ως λιποτάκτες του τουρκικού στρατού, βίωσαν μακροχρόνια τις σκληρές συνθήκες και την επικίνδυνη ζωή στην ύπαιθρο. Άλλοι αναγκάστηκαν να παντρέψουν κορίτσια 13 και 14 χρόνων με χήρους Ρωμιούς 20 και πλέον χρόνια μεγαλύτερους, μόνο και μόνο για να τα σώσουν από την ατίμωση των συνοδών Τούρκων στρατιωτών στην εξορία. Άλλοι αναγκάστηκαν να πνίξουν τα μωρά τους με τα ίδια τα χέρια τους, για να μη προδώσουν με το κλάμα τους το καταφύγιό τους, και πέσει όλη η μεγάλη ομάδα στα χέρια του εχθρού. Άλλοι τέλος γνώρισαν τη μεγάλη απογοήτευση στη νέα τους πατρίδα, που τους αντιμετώπισε μερικές φορές με σκαιότητα.
Κάθε μία από τις ιστορίες αυτές αποτελεί και έναν επί πλέον αδιάψευστο μάρτυρα της προγραμματισθείσας και συντελεσθείσας γενοκτονίας, όπως τη βίωσαν όχι το κοινωνικό σύνολο των Ποντίων, αλλά οι συγκεκριμένοι άνθρωποι με ονοματεπώνυμα, τόπο καταγωγής και φωτογραφίες τους. Ο συγγραφέας δεν θέλησε ούτε να ωραιοποιήσει ούτε να τραγικοποιήσει καταστάσεις. Τις κατέγραψε με απλότητα, όπως του τις διηγήθηκαν απόγονοι των ιστορουμένων προσώπων.
Το βιβλίο προλογίζει ο ομότ. Καθηγητής του Ε.Μ.Π. Ερμόπουλος Ιωάννης, αριθμεί 408 σελίδες και διανθίζεται με πολύ όμορφους πίνακες του γνωστού Πόντιου καλλιτέχνη Γιώργου Κωνσταντινίδη.
Διάθεση του βιβλίου από τον συγγραφέα:
Τηλ. 24610/39470, κιν.: 6947494401
Imagine receiving a letter from God. Wouldn't you be curious to read it? Wouldn't you look forward to opening the envelope? Wouldn't your heart be hammering from anxiousness? In fact, God did send us a letter. He wrote it using the hands of the prophets and the apostles. It's the Holy Scripture! God talks to us through its pages. It's called “God-inspired”, meaning that it was inspired by God.
An Ethiopian dignitary was holding that book while returning to Gaza from his pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. He was the Treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopians, an official position which is similar to a Minister of Finance in today's terms. This dignitary didn't believe in the “gods” that people worshiped in his country. He had heard about the God of Jews, the only true God. He felt a great desire for learning as much as he could about Him! But how could that be? He was informed about a book in which you can read about that God or, more accurately, God Himself speaks through this book.
The Ethiopian had done everything he could to find and acquire that book. He was so happy when he succeeded! He was finally holding God's words in his hands! He started reading it, indulging in each word.
He even took the book with him on his journey. He couldn't be parted from it, not even for one day. The more he read the more he loved it. In his eyes it was more valuable than his Queen's entire gold! Of course, he couldn't understand everything, so he had a lot of questions. Nevertheless, he kept on reading carefully.
Sitting in his luxurious carriage, he was absorbed in reading his favourite book. He was studying the words of the prophet Isaiah; "Like a sheep, he was led to be slaughtered...For the sins of my people I was led to death". (see Is 53:7-8). What did those divine words mean? He wished he found someone who could explain them to him! So absorbed was he that he didn't notice that a stranger had been walking alongside his carriage. The stranger was Philip the deacon. God had sent him to fulfill the Ethiopian's wish.
Philip heard the dignitary reading out loud Isaiah's words and asked:
- "Do you understand what you are reading?"
The dignitary answered politely:
- "How can I, unless I have someone explain them to me? Please, if you know the meaning of these words, get on my carriage."
Immediately Philip sat beside him.
- "Who is the prophet talking about? Himself or someone else?" the Ethiopian asked.
- "He is talking about Jesus Christ, the savior of the world."
Philip started narrating the story of Jesus; His birth, His teaching, His miracles, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension to heaven and the Pentecost. He explained the prophecies. He also recounted the events in Jerusalem a few days before. It was like the Ethiopian had read the whole Holy Scripture, the Old and the New Testament in a few hours. What a journey! What a great gift had God sent to him! The eyes of his soul were enlightened! His heart leapt with joy when he heard that whoever gets baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity becomes God's child.
- "There is water here!", he pointed to the small river which they were passing by. "What prevents me from getting baptized?"
- "Do you believe wholeheartedly?"
- "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!"
- "Then you can be baptized."
There, in the peace of the wilderness, where only the sound of the flowing river could be heard, Philip baptized the rich dignitary in the name of the Holy Trinity. There are no words to describe the Ethiopian's joy! As soon as the baptism was completed the Holy Spirit seized Philip and transferred him miraculously to another city named Azotus in order for him to preach the Gospel. The Ethiopian continued his journey. He was a new person now; the former heathen became the true God's child! This wondrous event is celebrated annually on the 27th of August.
The Holy Scripture is God's letter
God sent Philip to explain Isaiah’s words to the Ethiopian. But he also sends His people to us so as to explain His divine words; the priests and the preachers who teach the Gospel every Sunday during the orthodox liturgy. There is also the Sunday school, where the Gospel is explained to children and teenagers. All these are gifts from God so that we can learn about the divine truths.
The question that remains is whether we have the same desire as the Ethiopian. He longed to learn about God. He looked for and bought His book. He read it with interest and love. He couldn't help reading it every day. Although he wasn't able to understand everything, he sought the answers to his questions when he met a man of God. Do we feel the same longing?
Some people are like thirsty deer, which run to the wellspring and gulp the crystal-clear water. They try to learn more about God. Τhere are some children who wish like the Ethiopian to get this book. They keep it in their room, in their bookcase, on their desk or on a table beside their bed. They don't let a day pass without reading it. What's more, they ask Christian adults when they have questions or when they can't understand something.
Indeed, blessed are the children who love and read the Letter of God daily. They have a great progress in their life (see 1 Tim 4:16). Now I will narrate a true story of a little boy who was changed by the Holy Scripture. His name was Vasilis and he lived in a small village in Corinthia, Greece. He gave his new teacher a hard time at school. Everyone was always complaining about the little troublemaker. One day he snatched the ball of his classmates and ruined their game, at another time he smudged someone's notebook. He hit some children, he made fun of others, he swore... His parents didn't know how to handle the situation and his siblings were fed up with him.
Since the first month of the new school year, during the religious education lesson, the teacher talked to her class about the Holy Bible. Soon all her students bought a copy of the New Testament and started reading it eagerly. They even competed on who would manage to read it faster. Vasilis bought a copy, too. He read it carefully and he even could remember whole extracts by heart. He was the first to answer the teacher's questions on the subject. The more he was reading the more his behavior was changing. Before the end of that year everyone was talking proudly about “another” Vasilis. He didn’t swear anymore and he wasn’t naughty. He was amiable to everyone. His little sister wrote about him in her essay with the subject “My family’’: “I have a saint for a brother, Vasilis”.
Indeed, the letter of God has a unique power; to change our heart and attitude. There are plenty of good books that inform us. There are books which unfortunately deform us, meaning that they influence negatively our personality. The Holy Bible is the only book that can transform us. In other words, it helps us develop our virtues and correct our flaws. A fearsome person can become a saint, like the coal which can turn into a diamond.
A good book informs,
a bad book deforms,
the Holy Bible transforms!