Tuesday, March 23, 2021

St. Paisios on Fear of Germs and Holy Things

The following conversation that St. Paisios the Athonite had with one of his spiritual children, which is recorded in Elder Paisios of Mount Athos: Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle, is of some interest, especially in the times we currently live in.

I remember also at the Coenobium we had a monk who as a layman had been a police captain. They made him a reader because was educated. He had been in the monastery for years yet was still disgusted by many things. He would not even touch a doorknob! He would try to open a door with his foot, or try to turn the knob with his elbow and then clean his sleeve with alcohol. He would even open the door of the Church with his foot. In his old age, God permitted that his feet developed gangrene, especially the one he use to open the door. I was serving as a nursing aide when he first came to the monastery’s hospital with his foot all bandaged up. The nursing orderly told me to untie it while he went to get some bandages. When I untied it, I gasped. It was covered with little worms. “Go down to the sea to wash it and get rid of the worms, and come to have me change the bandages.” I was at a loss seeing the condition of his foot, the degree of his punishment. The nursing orderly asked me, “Do you know the cause of his afflictions?” “Yes, it’s because he opens the door with his foot,” I told him.

-- And Geronda, did he continue to open the door with his foot?

-- Yes with his foot! And he had grown old as a monk.

-- Didn’t he understand in the end?

-- I don’t know. After that, I went to the monastery of Stomion in Konitsa. I don’t know how he died. But there in the Coenobium on Mount Athos some of the younger monks would eat the food left on the plates of the older monks as a blessing. Thy would gather the leftovers because thy had been blessed. Others would kiss the doorknob touched by the Elders, while the monk who was disgusted by everything would barely touch his moustache to the holy icons when he bowed to reverence them. One can only imagine what his poor moustache had to endure with the rubbing alcohol!

-- Geronda, when something like this happens with sacred things, is it not irreverence?

-- Of course; this is how things start, and then move on to further developments. The same monk reached the point of not kissing the icons because he feared that the monks who reverenced them before him had some illness!

-- In other words, if one is to avoid being disgusted, he must not be fussy or pay attention to such things?

-- People do not see what trash is mixed into the food they put in their mouth! Even if one has some phobia about getting sick, Christ will help if one makes the sign of the cross with faith. Many people who have various illnesses come by my Kalyvi*. Some simple folk who come will cross themselves when they pick up the tin cup I have there to drink some water. Others who are afraid do not touch it. Someone who held an important position in a company recently came to see me. He is so afraid of germs that he had bleached his hands white from frequent washings with disinfectant alcohol. He will even rub  the steering wheel of his automobile with alcohol. I felt sorry for him. Do you know what it is like to hold such an important position and to be like that? I gave him some loukoumi**, and he did not take It because I had touched it. But even if it had still been in the box, he would not have taken it because he would be thinking that someone else must have placed it in the box with his hands in the first place. I took the loukoumi and rubbed it on his shoe and ate it. I did a number things like that in order to help him free himself, even a little, from his feeling of disgust.

Today a young woman came here who was a hypochondriac. She would not receive a blessing when she entered because she was afraid of catching germs. And when she was leaving, after all I had said to help her, she still would not receive a blessing. “I won’t kiss your hand, Geronda, because I’m afraid of catching germs,” she told me. What can you say? Such people make themselves miserable (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos: Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle (published in Greece in 1999, and in English, in 2016, by the Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian”, Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece, pp.51-53).

*A little house.
**Also known as "Turkish delight"... but not by Greeks.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

Lent is about to begin, and one prayer we should all memorize and incorporate into our daily prayers during Lent is the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.  Prostration

But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.  Prostration

Yea, O Lord King, grant me to see my own failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.  Amen.  Prostration

Then twelve reverences (making the sign of the Cross, with a bow from the waist).  With each one we say:

O God, cleanse me a sinner.

Then, the entire prayer without a break:

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord King, grant me to see my own failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.  Amen.  Prostration

You will find this prayer in the current edition of the Jordanville Prayer Book on p. 171.

You can read an explanation of the meaning of this prayer by St. Luke the Surgeon of Crimea, in the following articles:


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Texts for Lenten Services / Annunciation


I send out the variable portions of Vigil on a monthly basis to this group, and so you can join it to receive these documents as soon as they are available:


I have also been posting the same variable portions in my monthly installments for reader services on this blog, and so, you can get them there too, for as long as the lockdowns continue.

You can find the Rubrics for most Lenten Services posted here (though the complete texts are in the St. Innocent Liturgical Calendar):


Also linked on the Rubrics page are the texts for Forgiveness Sunday Vespers. If you want everything put together, however, it is in this document:


The variable portions of the full Liturgies are posted here:


The variable portions for the Presanctified Liturgies are posted here:


All of the texts necessary for the Annunciation services are posted here:


I don't insert the Triodion variables into the fixed parts of the services for Annunciation because these change every year, but the other texts can easily be re-used from one year to the next (at least most of the time).

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Reader Services through the Sunday of St. John Climacus

This installment covers the Sundays and Feasts of Old Calendar March, which on the civil Calendar runs from March 14th through April 13th. I intend to keep these texts posted as long as there are states or English speaking countries that are still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus.

The Eves

For the Eves of the upcoming Sundays and Feasts, you could ideally do the Vigil. The fixed portions can be downloaded here:


or viewed in HTML, here:


For the Rubrics, see: http://www.saintjonah.org/rub/

The variable portions of the service can be downloaded here (all of these would be served on the eve of their respective days). The Sunday services require two files, because these combinations do not repeat annually. On Sundays, there are some hymns that are appointed according to which Matins Gospel is read. To find out which one is read, you also need to look at the Rubrics. For those texts, you will find them here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/matinsgospel.doc Those hymns are usually done at the Exapostilaria and then at the Doxasticon at the Praises.

For Forgiveness Sunday (March 14th n.s. / March 1st o.s.):



For Forgiveness Sunday Vespers (done on Sunday Evening), this text has everything laid out exactly as it would be done, with nothing omitted:


First Week of Lent: for Monday (March 15/2 ) through Thursday (March 18/5), the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is done. 


Ideally, this is done as a part of Great Compline, but if that is too much, you can do it as part of Small Compline.

On the Fridays of Great Lent, you can do the Akathist with Small Compline:


For the Sunday of Orthodoxy (March 21st n.s. / March 8th o.s.):



For the Sunday of the St. Gregory Palamas (March 28th n.s. / March 15th o.s.):



For the Sunday of the Cross (March 4th n.s. / March 22nd o.s.):



For the Feast of Annunciation (April 7th n.s. / March 25th o.s.):

Annunciation is one of the more complicated services in the Liturgy Year. If anyone wants to try to put it together, the rubrics and texts are posted here:


But for most people, I would suggest that if you are unable to go to Church, on the eve of the feast (Monday night) use this text for Small Compline, which has the Annunciation Canon in it, laid out for lay use:


For the Sunday of St. John Climacus (April 11th n.s. / March 29th o.s.):




In place of the Liturgies, you would do Typika:

For Forgiveness Sunday (March 14th n.s. / March 1st o.s.):


For the Sunday of Orthodoxy (March 21st n.s. / March 8th o.s.):


For the Sunday of the St. Gregory Palamas (March 28th n.s. / March 15th o.s.):


For the Sunday of the Cross (March 4th n.s. / March 22nd o.s.):


For the Feast of Annunciation (April 7th n.s. / March 25th o.s.):


For the Sunday of St. John Climacus (April 11th n.s. / March 29th o.s.):