That Which is Bread

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? – Isaiah

All the financial advice we need

Righteous Joachim and Anna, parents of the Most Holy Theotokos

Of the Righteous Joachim and Anna:

They lived devoutly and quietly,
and of all their income they spent one third on themselves,
distributed one third to the poor
and gave the other third to the Temple,
and they were well provided for.
— St Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid for September 9

Joy of all who sorrow

Some of the Church’s wonder-working icons are honored in much the same way as Saints: they have feast days, are commemorated in the Synaxarion, and may have churches dedicated to them.

One of these is the “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. The original seems to have appeared in medieval Russia, and was kept at the Pochaev Monastery in Ukraine. Various copies and versions, several of them also wonderworking, spread through Russia.

The OrthodoxWiki article on the Icon describes it thus:

The design of this icon depicts the Theotokos, a most beautiful blossom of heaven, standing among the flowers of paradise. Her Son is visible above her in the clouds, the King of heaven and earth. Along both sides of the icon, framing the Mother of God, are suppliants (us), asking for her intercession. She stands with her arms spread open and her head tilted as if listening. The tenderness and kindness of a loving mother are evident in her face. She stands in paradise and yet among us.

The image shown here is an English-language “translation” of the Russian original at San Francisco’s Holy Virgin “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Cathedral, where the relics of St John Maximovitch are enshrined.

Here is the text (slightly modernized) of the icon. Each phrase is accompanied by an image of suppliants asking the Virgin to intercede for their various sorrows.

The Most Holy Theotokos — The Joy of All Who Sorrow

You who are being persecuted and are in exile and in prison, who are hungry and naked and thirsty, rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for behold, all is given life and comfort.

To the aged you are  a staff, a succor and a comfort, O Lady.

Visit those who are aged and ailing, and have mercy on them, O Mother of God on high.

Upon those who are naked and cold, have mercy.

Be a covering, O Lady, for those who are naked with the nakedness of unbelief.

O Lady, you are the healing of the sick and the deliverance from every illness.

O Virgin Theotokos and Lady, you are our hope and comfort in illness.

To all who sorrow and are downtrodden, who are hungry and thirsty, who are strangers and aged, who are poor and suffering, you are a comfort, protection & intercession.

You are the joy of those who sorrow and the defender of the downtrodden.

Change our sorrow into joy, O Lady, for we are greatly sorrowful.

You are a provider for the hungry, and for those in all sorrow and want.

Look down upon us, O Lady, as you are merciful, and guide and nourish us.

O Lady, comfort of the wandering,  comfort us.

As we travel, O Lady, be our companion.

Pastoral care: not always pretty

St Arsenios of Cappadocia

Recently I read Elder Païsios’  life of  Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia, who lived among the persecuted Greeks in Eastern Turkey in the last days of the Ottoman empire. I was struck by this strange story of one of the Saint’s miracles, a jarring reminder that Divine love and divine care are not always what we imagine.

When Father Arsenios had gone to the Holy Land for the fifth time, a woman by the name of Sophia got into his cell through the window, not to steal anything, but for revenge, because he had been very strict with her about some nasty things she had done in her life.

While her husband, who was with her, waited outside, Sophia got inside and turned the whole place upside down and knocked everything over he had in his cell, even the Crosses and Gospels. In fact, they say she even evacuated her bowels on the sheepskin on which Father Arsenios used to kneel and pray before his icon-stand.

So when Father Arsenios returned from his pilgrimage and saw all this, he felt sorry for that poor soul, and repeatedly invited her to go and see him, but she paid no attention. Finally the President [of the town] went and fetched her and presented her in front of Hadjiefendis, who, when he saw her, said to her:

“What was that you did? Not even an impious Turk would have done that, throwing the Gospels and the Crosses on the ground.”

But Sophia, unfortunately, instead of repenting and asking forgiveness started using bad language and swore at Father Arsenios shamelessly.

Then he said to her:

“You’d do better to have no brain at all that the one you’ve got, child, because that one will see you in hell. So I’m going to beg Christ to take it away from you, so at least you’ll be judged as a madwoman, and in that way your soul will be saved.”

And, indeed, from that very moment, Sophia lost her mind, and from the wild beast she had been, she became like a baby, a little child with no harm in her, smiling innocently all the time. She lived for a number of years here in Greece, too.

This is known to all the Farasiotes, only that some have misunderstood Father Arsenios, because they thought he had cursed her. But the way the President told me, and the others, and the way I see it myself, he not only did not curse her, but in this way actually blessed her and assured her entry into Paradise, because only sheep go there, not wild goats. This was the opinion of the serious-minded Farasiotes, that in this way Hadjiefendis saved Sophia.

— Elder Païsios, Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, pp 124–125

Source of icon image: Full of Grace and Truth blog.

Note: “Hadjiefendis” is a Turkish title, meaning roughly “honored pilgrim,” by which St Arsenios was known among his people. He often healed the ailments not only of his Christian flock, but of many Muslim Turks who came to him for prayer.