Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the course of every week, I run across several good articles that are worth sharing.
Below is a letter from Abbess Michaila that stresses the need to maintain a grateful heart,
even when we are feeling “alone, deprived, unloved, hurting from a broken heart,
or in physical pain that seems beyond our strength to bear”, in times of trial and testing,
such as the church is currently experiencing. It is especially important to cultivate an
atmosphere of forgiveness, thankfulness to God and gratitude for each other.
I will send an excerpt from a letter
of Elder Joseph the Hesychast in a second message.
With love in Christ,
Dear Friends in Christ,
We would like to share with you briefly the edifying account of a saint: Nikiforos the Leper. (A beautifully adorned, inspiring book about him has just been published by the Monastery of the Life Giving Spring, in Dunlap, California.) He was born on the island of Crete at the close of the ninteenth century, in a poor but pious village, and was orphaned when very young. At the age of thirteen, his grandfather-guardian sent him to the city of Chania to learn a trade, so as to be able to support himself. Young, lost in a big city, without having known the embraces of his own parents, he soon faced a yet greater sorrow. He began to notice spots on his skin and recognized it as the most dread disease of leprosy. Thirteen years old, alone, with no one in whom he could confide. What to do?? He hid the sores for a number of years, under the torment of hoping no one would notice. The fear was real. Had the authorities discovered him he would have been sent to the Spinalonga leper colony, known as the grave of the living dead. Persecution, isolation, life-long confinement…When his sores on his face and hands became more visible, he fled to Alexandria, Egypt. Affliction and worry were his constant companions. Enlightened by God, our pious young sufferer, now aged 24, revealed his secret to the hierarch of Alexandria who was also from Crete. Wasting no time, this fatherly shepherd contacted his friend, the future saint Anthimos, who was the priest of the leper colony on Chios. As a note, Fr. Anthimos, as was found out later, paid a hefty fee of 30 gold coins which were required in order to receive this young leper (a requirement for anyone who was not a native of Chios). Fr. Anthimos had painstakingly earned this money for the foundation of a much-desired monastery, but instead gave it for our future saint.
Fr. Anthimos had lovingly transformed this leper colony into a spiritual paradise. Instead of the blasphemous screams of the lepers, he nurtured the tormented inhabitants into a devout community of Christians. It was here that our young sufferer was sent. Fr. Anthimos tonsured him a monk and gave him the name Nikiforos; and the latter became his true spiritual son. Who can say that God doesn’t hear?? Look at the blessings in the life of this young man. Even though he endured such a heavy burden of sorrows—being orphaned, alone, an outcast, considered unclean and unfit for human society, in physical pain and affliction from the disease—yet our Lord brought him to the feet of a true man of God. From Fr. Anthimos, Nikiforos learned how to pray, even in the midst of his physical afflictions, which unfolded as a life-long martyrdom. Rotting skin, maimed limbs, nearly blind…. And through his pain, he became an icon of meekness, an example of patience equal to Job, and a comfort to all those around him. After his death, his relics (even small particles of them) are fragrant. Who can judge? Did the Lord not love him, for allowing such a painful and dread disease? How can we not see that his afflictions were a most sacred ladder leading to heaven? And now, following in the footsteps of Christ, this “outcast” has the uncanny gift of being so approachable, and ready to intercede for others like us in our comparatively small pains and sorrows, as if taking our own “unbearable” pain upon himself.
It seemed fitting to share this life as we head into the month wherein our nation celebrates Thanksgiving.
Living in an affluent country, most give thanks (assuming they do) from their abundance. Our forbears who celebrated the first Thanksgiving pulled together out their meager want what little they had and thus offered their thanks to the Lord. Would we, if we had even just half of our current creature comforts, offer sincere thanks? Along with our gratitude, do we humbly acknowledge that we have been given more than our fair share? And, striking to the heart of the matter, are we able to maintain a grateful heart during those times when we feel alone, deprived, unloved, hurting from a broken heart, or in physical pain that seems beyond our strength to bear? A prayer of gratitude at such times shines with the brilliance of the widow’s mite, valued so highly by our Lord.
One can only imagine that St. Nikiforos had cultivated a grateful heart in the midst of his extreme trials.
This is evident by the letter of recommendation offered by the hierarch of Alexandria to St. Anthimos, describing the young man’s noble character, and also by the grace that emanated from him as he consoled all those around him.
Wishing you the intercessions of this comforting saint, who in his life was hidden like a treasure from the eyes of the world. May his prayers penetrate our hardened hearts that we may offer genuine gratitude each day for the blessings therein, including those that are hidden from our earthly understanding but known to our Lord, the true Knower of Hearts.
With abundant blessings,
Friends of the Monastery
St. Paisuis Orthodox Monastery
of the Serbian Orthodox Church
P.O. Box 1075, Suffered, Az. 85548
Tel: (928) 348-4900
End of October, 2016