Tag Archives: Holiness

On Miracles That God Performs Through Icons

Icons are windows to heaven. We have them in our churches, we have them in our homes, and perhaps in our car/locker/workspace/elsewhere as well. They are in these places as visual reminders of Truth. Icons remind us of the power of God at work, either through the written images of Christ Himself or of those gone before us who have followed Him completely and became saints. They help us to better understand the scriptures and to better connect with the person/people written on them. Icons draw us to God by virtue of their beauty, the stories of faithfulness they represent, the Scriptures they unveil. It is a miracle that something so simple as a prayerfully-written icon can do so much to help us on our journey toward Him.

Occasionally, God chooses to move beyond that sense of “being drawn,” and to work other miracles through them. The purpose of this blog post is to help each of us to learn about some of the icons He is using in this way (or has recently used in this way), and to read the stories of miracles wrought through them. It is our hope that this post will be encouraging and help each of us to be aware of how God is at work through icons. (These stories will also encourage our children when we share the stories with them. Children are naturally full of wonder, and will benefit from knowing these amazing ways in which God is at work through holy icons. So, please share the stories that your children will benefit from hearing so they can be encouraged, as well!)

Here are a few examples of miracle-working icons and their stories, as well as information related to miracle-working icons:

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What would you do if some of the icons in your prayer corner miraculously began streaming myrrh? Read this account by Subdeacon Nectarios himself, of what happened in his home. In the account, you’ll read about two streaming icons (each with different-smelling myrrh), a cat, a “doubting Thomas” who ends up with a mouthful of “proof,” and a few of the miracles that the miraculous myrrh have wrought. Glory to God! http://www.orthodoxhawaii.org/icons.html

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The Kardiotissa Icon of the Mother of God, at St. George Orthodox Church in Taylor, Pennsylvania, has been exuding myrrh ever since it was anointed with the myrrh of the Hawaiian Iveron icon in October of 2011. Many, many lives have been changed as a result. Read some of the miracles that have happened, as accounted in this homily: http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/2014-sermons/the-miracles-and-wonders-of-god-the-crying-icon-of-taylor-pa

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“Over the past ten years there have been many miracles; some I’ve heard about and some I haven’t. There have been many physical healings, external, and there have also been many spiritual, inner healings. Through this Icon many of the faithful have experienced radical transformations in their lives. It’s as if people become liberated from the ‘old man’ and ardently strive towards God.  When the Icon is present in various churches, monasteries and homes, one senses a renewal of love for the Mother of God; almost immediately many people approach for confession, spiritually reborn through a feeling of repentance.  I’d like to say that the Mother of God helps our believers sense their sinfulness before Her Son, Jesus Christ.”

Read this and more of the story and miracles of the copy of the Iveron icon of the Mother of God (the same one whose copy was sent to Hawaii and began myrrh streaming there, and when that one in turn visited the Kardiotissa icon in Pennsylvania it began exuding myrrh as well), which was brought to Canada from Mt. Athos by a Chilean convert to Orthodoxy here:  http://www.roca.org/OA/120/120k.htm

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“One can go on for a very long time listing the different holy Icons of the Ever-Virgin Mary and Theotokos and all the wonderful countless miracles of our Panagia. It is, however, important for all Orthodox Christian believers to always seek the holy intercessions of the Mother of God and to turn to Her for aid, healing, comfort and salvation.” Read some of the miracles in this article: http://saintandrewgoc.org/home/2014/8/25/the-miraculous-icon-of-panagia-portraitissa-the-keeper-of-th.html. Then, spend some time praying and asking the Theotokos to pray for you and your loved ones – and the whole world!

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Watch this 8-minute video that shows miracle after miracle, mostly related to icons, which God has granted through His Holy Orthodox Church. Set to parts of the Vespers service chanted by Eikona, this video could be a wonder-filled way to end a day! (We recommend that you watch it before showing it to your children, so you know what they will see and can be prepared to answer related questions.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-AOO903CZA

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Throughout history, icons of the Mother of God have worked miracles. This article shares the commemoration days of many icons of the Theotokos, along with some of the stories of miracles attributed to those icons, set throughout history. These stories are not as recent as some of the above, but they are still miracles and well worth learning about! To read about an icon of the Theotokos and/or a miracle attributed to the icon, click on the month, then which of the days of that month you’d like to read about: https://oca.org/saints/icons-mother-of-god

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“Venerating a miracle is also a way of acknowledging the importance of its context. A weeping icon is amazing, but it’s obviously not meant to distract attention away from the liturgical, sacramental, and doctrinal life of the Church. If anything, a miracle should amplify the importance of Church practices and teaching, for the God who causes the miracle is also the God who established these as markers of his ‘new and everlasting covenant’ with mankind.” Read more about responding to miracles wrought through icons in this article:  http://myocn.net/miracle-greece-weeping-icon-mean/

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On Taking the High Road

“Always take the high road!” was the mantra of the long-time marching band director at our local high school. The year both of my children were in the band together was the first I remember hearing him say it. Chaperoning the band during home games and seeing this mantra painted in huge letters on the top of his conducting stand further hammered it into my memory. And he meant it, too! When other schools’ bands would continue to play piece after piece from the stands during a football game, leaving no time for our band to play, he would remind the kids, “take the high road!” If the other football team was not playing fairly, or the referees made a poor call, he would stand up before the band, and gently remind them, “take the high road!”

He took this life lesson one step further during each home game by sending his student leadership to meet the student leaders of the other band and present them with a small welcoming gift. No matter how the other team was playing, no matter how the other band was acting, our student leaders always walked around the football field and presented a gift. And with that gift came the opportunity for the band leadership to put the saying into practice.

The band director’s words continue to resonate in our minds even though he has retired. His modeling of the words, as well as the way in which he helped his students to practice them have left a lifelong impact. Our family continues to quote him, reminding ourselves and each other to take the high road.

Sometimes I have heard people encourage their children to “shake it off.” This can be a useful statement (especially if there’s a spider on them!), and is a good place to start for negative attitudes, experiences, and words. But it seems to me that “shaking it off” is only part of the solution. Shaking off something is a mental release of the anxiety or anger that a negative situation can present. Of course, that is necessary for moving on in a positive way. “Shaking it off” is a good start as one leaves something negative and perhaps painful behind and moves away from it.

But as Christians, are we not called to much more? Christ Himself extended grace and forgiveness to those religious leaders who, in their great religiosity, were actually leading people away from Him, although He is God. He extended that same grace and forgiveness to the very people who were crucifying Him. He even extends it to me, a sinner, and to you as well. Our Lord does not just shake anyone off with a thought of “good riddance!” and leave them behind. Instead, He tries to help them see the Truth, and when they choose not to, He asks God to forgive them. He always takes the high road.

“Always taking the high road” takes “shake it off” to the next level. If one takes the high road, not only are they releasing the negative event, or “shaking it off,” they are taking it one step further by doing something positive in its wake. By doing so, they are not just helping themselves, but they are also blessing and benefitting the others around them. In doing so, they are most likely even including those who may have caused the issue in the first place. They are acting just as Our Lord Himself did.

Taking the high road will very often include extending forgiveness. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you”  (Eph. 4:32) is not easy to do, and sometimes we get tired of forgiving the same person for the same sins against us. But how often do we commit the same sins against God and yet He forgives us? In the scriptures, we’re instructed to forgive and forgive others. For example, Matthew 18: 21-22: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” It seems like 490 times is a lot of times to forgive the same individual. But again, how often do we commit the exact same sins against God and yet expect Him to forgive us?!? Forgiveness plays a major role in taking the high road.

Our Lord was not the only one who took the high road. The saints have done so, as well. They have also encouraged others to follow suit. For example, St. Ignatius of Antioch spoke about taking the high road. He also suggested a way to successfully do so: through prayer! “And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men.  For there is in them the hope of repentance that they may attain to God.  See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way.  Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness.  While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit.”

It is imperative that we teach our children to love, to forgive, and to shake it off. Because we are Orthodox Christians, it is even more important that we teach them to take it a step further by always taking the high road. Forgiveness and prayer are great partners that will help us to do so. Imagine what a blessing the Church could be to our world if each of us would truly take the high road all of the time?

May the retired band director’s mantra resonate in all of our minds. And may we live it well! Let us always take the high road. And let us teach our children to do the same.

Here are additional thoughts and ideas of ways that we can teach our children to always take the high road:

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Read another mom’s blog about teaching her child to take the high road: http://lifeonmanitoulin.com/2013/01/taking-the-high-road-things-we-teach-our-children.html

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St. Paul wrote an encouragement to help the Ephesians take the high road, in chapter four of his letter to them. See a chalk artist’s rendering of it here: https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfa1/v/t1.0-9/s720x720/223932_10150977305710909_151627035_n.jpg?oh=1415bf672acc4f66298da7825ea35dff&oe=567EEFFB

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Print and frame this verse from James to remind yourself and your family of how important it is to extend mercy while taking the high road: http://homewiththeboys.net/wp-content/uploads/Kind-Mercy-James-2-13.pdf

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Go for a walk in a place where you can choose a steep, high road or a flat/downhill one. Lead the family up the high road after walking on the low one, and talk about the difference. Is it easier or harder to take the high road? Apply this physical experience to the concept of “always taking the high road” so that the children know it is not the easy way out! But point out the difference in view: which way allows you to see better? The high road! Then discuss this quote: https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Rachel-St-John-Gilbert-work-strength-effort-Meetville-Quotes-274567.jpg

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One way to take the high road is to THINK before we speak. http://www.courageouschristianfather.com/before-you-speak-think-acronym/

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Taking the high road makes us better citizens of our country, as well. Find ideas (sorted by age level) for helping your children become more responsible citizens here: https://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/citizen/citizen.pdf

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Learning About a Saint: St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco (commemorated on July 2)

Author’s note: as I read “The Life of Saint John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco,” I was especially struck by the life and love of this saint. I began to research further and found online many accounts of his life on earth and of miracles resulting from his prayers both during this life and since his departure from it. What a blessing to be able to learn about such a recent saint! I feel as though I have met a dear (and very holy) old friend.

On July 2, we commemorate St. John Maximovitch, the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco. Who is this saint, and why do we commemorate him? This blog will offer a small glimpse into his life, as cited in the book The Life of Saint, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, compiled by Maria Naumenko and illustrated by Gabriela Moustardas.

Born in southern Russia on June 4, 1896 to well-off parents, John Maximovitch (baptized “Michael”) was a frail boy who loved to study. Throughout his growing up years, Michael was exposed to true holiness as his family attended church regularly and took him to visit holy icons and the relics of holy people. These experiences had a profound and lasting impact on his life.
He studied in a military school and then got his law degree before his family was forced to leave Russia because of the Russian revolution. When the revolution happened, his family escaped to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where Michael studied theology and got his theological degree in 1925. During these years, he met and was mentored by Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitsky, who tonsured Michael as a monk named John, and ordained him to the diaconate.

John was a very humble man all of his life. For example, when he was summoned to Belgrade to be consecrated as a bishop, he told someone who he met on a streetcar that he had been accidentally summoned to see another monk named John be ordained bishop. The next day, when he met up with the same woman again by chance, he told her that the mistake was even worse than he had originally expected, for they actually wanted to make HIM the bishop, but he felt unworthy of the position!

After his ordination, Bishop John was sent first to Shanghai to look after the many Russians who had fled the Soviets in Russia and ended up in China. While he was there, he tenderly cared for his flock. Besides his pastoral work, he assisted in the completion of a cathedral, improved religious education, and cared for many orphans.

In his extreme humility, the bishop did not care about how he looked. Despite his status in the church, he wore clothing made from inexpensive material and usually walked barefoot. Even when he was told to wear sandals, since the Russian word for “wear” means “carry,” he fulfilled the decree by tucking the sandals under his arm so he was, indeed, “carrying” sandals!

Bishop John visited the sick daily, praying for them and doing whatever he could to help them. For example, once a woman who was thrown from her horse. She had her skull crushed but couldn’t be operated on (to remove the skull pieces pressing into her brain) because her pulse was so faint and the doctors knew she would not survive surgery. The bishop visited her and prayed over her for 2 hours. The woman’s pulse returned to normal. The surgery was able to happen, and was a success, through the prayers of the holy bishop. To this day, he cares for the sick and he intercedes for people who ask for his help, whether or not they are Orthodox!

When communism moved into China, (the now Arch)bishop John moved with his people to Tubabao, Philippines. This island, usually regularly buffeted by typhoons, was calm for two years and three months. During that time, Archbishop John walked around in the refugee camp every night, praying for his people and blessing the camp. (His prayers were powerful, for only two months after he and most of his flock left the island, a typhoon came through that flattened the entire camp.)

When the Russian refugees were relocated to the USA and Australia, Archbishop John was assigned to Western Europe. He oversaw the French and Dutch Orthodox Church, and gathered information on saints from that region that were part of Orthodoxy before the Latin Church left. Living in Europe didn’t sway the archbishop’s manner of dress: he continued to dress simply, and as a result, the French called him “St. John the Barefoot.”

Eventually, Archbishop John was sent to San Francisco, California. He worked hard to care for his flock, and also to enable the construction of the cathedral dedicated to the icon of the Theotokos, “Joy of All Who Sorrow.” He had plenty of opportunity for sorrow with that project, as opponents falsely accused him and stood in the way of the building. He patiently continued on with his work, blaming only the devil for the troubles once the cathedral was successfully completed.

During this part of his life, the Archbishop wrote sermons and encouragement to his people. Some of these have been published in English as well as Russian. All are full of his wisdom and contain answers to many questions about the Orthodox Faith.

Throughout his years of ministry, the archbishop always arrived early to church and stayed late. One reason it took him so long to leave was that, each time he left the church, he reverenced the icons as if he were saying goodbye to dear friends. On July 2, 1966, he stayed particularly late – 3 hours, to be exact – praying in St. Nicholas’ Cathedral in Seattle. He was visiting the cathedral along with the “Kursk” icon of the Mother of God. After he left the cathedral, he went next door to a parish house, and reposed in the Lord.

For 28 years, people visited his remains, which were buried in a chapel below the cathedral in San Francisco. When they visited, people would often ask Archbishop John to pray for them. They would also write petitions on slips of paper and place them beneath his mitre. Archbishop John continued his work after departing this life, and even today he continues praying on behalf of his people. Many miracles have happened because of his prayers. Glory to God for His work through the prayers of His servant!

In 1993, Archbishop John’s relics were discovered to be incorrupt. His relics, along with the way that he lived and the miracles God has performed in response to his prayers both during this life and since his repose, were evidence enough for him to be recognized as a saint of the Holy Orthodox Church. He was glorified as such on July 2, 1994. Today, his relics are housed in a special shrine in the cathedral in San Francisco. His prayers continue on for all who request them.

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, please intercede for us and for our salvation!

The Life of Saint John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco is a book for young people that was compiled by Maria Naumenko and illustrated by Gabriela Moustardas. It is available here: http://www.holytrinitypublications.com/en/Book/64/The_Life_of_Saint_John,_Wonderworker_of_Shanghai_and_San_Francisco_for_Young_People.html_

Find a dvd about St. John’s life here: http://hvcbookstore.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=54

Find the troparion and kontakion to St. John here: http://antiochian.org/node/37811

Find the supplication service to St. John here: http://hvcbookstore.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=350

The following are additional resources to help your family learn more about St. John the Wonderworker:

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Read the life of St. John the Wonderworker here: http://www.pravmir.com/living-proof-burning-faith-st-john-shanghai-san-francisco/
or here: http://www.orthodox.net/saints/john-maximovitch-brief-life.html

or here: http://www.saintjohnwonderworker.org/life-of-st-john/

or here: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/johnmx1.htm

or here: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/54575.htm

Listen to this concise recounting of his life: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday/st_john_maximovich_archbishop_of_shanghai_and_san_francisco

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See photos from (and related to) St. John’s life here: http://www.pravmir.com/in-the-footsteps-of-st-john-of-shanghai-and-san-francisco/

Find more here: http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/Holy_Fathers/St._John_Maximovitch/

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Hear Fr. Serge Kotar tell the story of St. John, including Fr. Serge’s experience with the uncovering of St. John’s relics, told in the chapel where the relics were first housed, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p94cQYHBQJY&index=10&list=PLCA40F9190CF902EA

Read more about the uncovering of St. John’s relics and watch the glorification service here: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/80365.htm

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Read this book written by St. John the Wonderworker: http://store.ancientfaith.com/products/Orthodox-Veneration-of-the-Mother-of-God.html

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St. John Maximovitch prayed constantly for his flock during his life on earth. Although he has fallen asleep in the Lord, he continues to intercede for the lives of those who ask for his help. Here are a few examples:

Read blogger and author Matushka Constantina Palmer’s blog on how St. John intervened in her family’s life after she asked for his prayers, here: https://lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/how-st-john-maximovitch-became-our-slava/

Listen to these episodes of Ancient Faith Ministries’ podcast “The Illumined Heart” which recount the stories of St. John the Wonderworker’s continued intervention in the lives of people, even since his repose. http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/my_days_with_st_john_the_wonder_worker_-_part_1

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/my_days_with_st_john_the_wonder_worker_-_part_2

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/my_days_with_st_john_the_wonder_worker_-_part_3

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/my_days_with_st_john_the_wonder_worker_-_part_4

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/my_days_with_st._john_the_wonder_worker

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/my_days_with_st._john_the_wonder_worker_-_part_6

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/visited_by_st._john_maximovitch_-_an_epilogue

St. John Climacus’ “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

This Sunday, we will be commemorating St. John Climacus. St. John was a 7th century monk who joined the Monastery of St. Catherine at the tender age of 16. He remained a monk in that region, pursuing holiness, loving God, and writing books and icons for the rest of his life. He is much remembered for the book he wrote, “Klimax” (Greek for “ladder”), from which he gained his name “Climacus.” The book primarily addresses monastics, but is a wonderful guide for anyone seeking to grow in their faith and become more like God. It is appropriate for us to remember him in the midst of our Lenten journey, and for us to (re)visit the ladder of divine ascent at this time.

Many monastics read this book during Great Lent, as a guide to help them in their pursuit of holiness. Many laypeople do the same! Each “step” of the ladder describes a way in which an Orthodox Christian can climb one step closer to holiness.

The ladder can help us as parents to become more like God; and thus, better lead our children as they, too, “climb the ladder.” Each of the ladder’s 30 steps is listed at http://saintanna.org/assets/forms/st_john_climacus.pdf, along with a few suggestions of how to learn about them together as a family. Let us take time to study these steps and work on them together as a family!

The book itself is available as a pdf at http://www.prudencetrue.com/images/TheLadderofDivineAscent.pdf or as an ebook at http://www.orthodoxebooks.org/node/53. An accompanying lectionary is posted at http://www.stbasils.com/ECS/Ladder.pdf. One mother’s ideas of introducing the ladder to her children is found at http://workisprayer.blogspot.com/2011/03/orthodoxy-children-and-ladder-of-divine.html.

The icon of the ladder is a useful tool for children to see how we can become closer to God; and how there are angels and demons working against each other in attempt to aid/thwart that climb. It is briefly explained at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rgGoVWmUww, and there is a printable clip art image of the ladder athttp://festalcelebrations.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/ladderdivineascent1.pdf orhttp://festalcelebrations.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/ladderdivineascent3.pdf.

Parents may also benefit from listening to podcasts about the ladder, such as http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/mysterion/the_topsy_turvy_ladderor http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/4th_sunday_of_lent_st_john_of_the_ladder.

Whatever method we choose to do so, let us learn more about the ladder of divine ascent, and, together with our children, continue taking steps on it, toward Christ.