USA OF MY HEART
USA OF MY HEART
IRELAND OF MY HEART
Saint Begnet of Ireland and her Holy Well
in Dalkey Island, Ireland (7th century)
Feast day: November 12
Saint Begnet (also Begneta, Begnete, Begnait or Becnait) is a patron saint of Dalkey, Ireland. The name Begnet is most likely a diminutive form of Beg or Bec. She is noted as a “virgin, not a martyr”. St Begnet was an Irish princess who lived in the 7th century. Her feast day is November 12. Two ruined churches in Dalkey are named for Begnet, one on Dalkey Island, and the other near the 15th-century stone townhouse now serving as Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre, in the area known as Kilbegnet. A holy well located near the martello tower on the island is also associated with her.
St Begnet’s father was Colman, the son of Aedh in the parish of Kilbegnatan (Kilbegnet or Cill Becnait). Like many other female virgin saints, she is described as beautiful and desirable, but she refused her numerous suitors in favor of religious devotion. Her social status is sometimes given as “Irish princess”, and thus she would have been a valuable bride. She is said variously to have lived as an anchorite or to have served as the first abbess of nuns on a small island off the coast of England.
She gave her name to the two churches in the area and Dalkey town and surrounding area was for many centuries known as Kilbegnet. Perhaps she came from Dalkey, or perhaps she sailed from here to pioneer her religious order. It may also be possible the churches were dedicated to her memory by missionaries, spreading the faith after her death.
As a child, St Begnet was visited by an angel who gave her a bracelet inscribed with a cross as a mark of her vocation.
St Begnet grew up to become a beautiful woman and had many suitors. Her parents arranged her marriage to the son of the King of Norway. But still dedicated to the vows she had taken, Begnet had no wish to take a husband. To avoid marriage, she left home, leaving everything but the bracelet given to her by the Angel. She found passage in a small boat and sailed to Northumbria on the West Coast of England. There she was received into the Church by Bishop Aidan and became the first abbess of nuns. Her convent was constantly plundered by pirates, so after several years Begnet moved inland towards Cumberland.
Her bracelet became an object of veneration after her death.
Saint Begnet’s Well
Dalkey Island, Ireland
Dalkey Village, Ireland
St Begnet’s Church, 9th century
St Begnet’s Church
The 9th century granite church named after the virgin Saint, St Begnet, probably replaced an earlier wooden church dating back to the Early Christian period. The Nave dates to the 10th century and later the Bellcote and Chancel were added in the 13th century. Inside the Nave on the eastern side of the doorway is a Stoup and there is an Ambry built into the southern wall of the chancel. Scattered throughout the graveyard are a number of decorated headstones and on the northern side of the church is a rare Tau Cross.
The ruin of the church of St. Begnet on Dalkey Island, Ireland
Goat Castle, Dalkey Village, Ireland
Dalkey heritage centre
In the Dalkey heritage centre there is the Rathdown Slab. The slab was found in the graveyard surrounding St Begnet’s Church in 1855. The Rathdown Slabs are usually linked to churches dated to the 11th and 12th century. The first slabs were recorded by Austin Cooper in 1781 and since then the number of viking slabs has risen to around 30. This particular slab is one of the finest examples and standing at about 5 ft tall one of the largest. It is thought the slab may have been decorated originally with viking art such as the cup marks, but that a number of christian symbols such as the large ring with a cross in the centre, may have been added later. Other examples have been recorded at Kilgobbin Church, Rathmichael Church, Whitechurch, Ballyman, Kiltiernan, Tully Church, Killegar and more recently in Dundrum.
St Begnat’s Church of 9th century
in Dalkey Village
St Begnet of Dalkey Island, Ireland (+7th ce.)
ORTHODOX HEART SITES
GREAT BRITAIN OF MY HEART
Saint Palladius 1st Bishop of Ireland & Scotland,
from France (+450)
Saint Palladius was the first Bishop of the Christians of Ireland, preceding Saint Patrick.
The Palladii were thought to be amongst the most noble families of Gaul, and several of them held high ranks in the Church of Gaul. Saint Palladius was the son of Exuperantius of Poitiers.
Saint Palladius held the (higher) rank of Deacon of Rome.
Saint Palladius was married and had a young daughter. In Rome, he kissed his family goodbye in the manner of the Apostles, and lived as an ascetic in Sicily around 408-409, giving his daughter to a convent on that island. He seems to have been ordained as a priest around 415. He lived in Rome between 418–429, and appears to be the “Deacon Palladius”, responsible for urging Pope Celestine I to send the bishop Germanus to Britain, where he guided the Britons back to the Orthodox faith.
In 431, he have been sent as the first bishop to the Christians of Ireland: Palladius, having been ordained by Pope Celestine, is sent as first bishop to the Irish believing in Christ. Palladius landed at Hy-Garchon, where the town of Wicklow now stands.
Irish writers that chronicled the life of St. Patrick state that St. Palladius preached in Ireland before St. Patrick, although he was soon banished by the King of Leinster, and returned to North Britain. According to Muirchu (who lived two centuries later) in the Book of Armagh, God hindered him…and neither did those fierce and cruel men receive his doctrine readily, nor did he himself wish to spend time in a strange land, but returned to him who sent him. Palladius was accompanied by four companions: Sylvester and Solinus, who remained after him in Ireland, and Augustinus and Benedictus, who followed him to Britain but returned to their own country after his death. Palladius is most strongly associated with Leinster, particularly with Clonard, County Meath.
According to St. Prosper, Palladius arrived among the Scots in North Britain (in the consulate of Bassus and Antiochus) after he left Ireland in 431. Scottish church tradition holds that he presided over a Christian community there for about 20 years.
St Palladius’s Chapel
5th century shrine is among the earliest Christian sites in Scotland.
Fordoun was the site of a chapel founded by the 5th century saint, Palladius, who is said to have preached and died here.
The saint’s relics were preserved in a silver shrine with the chapel that he built at Fordoun.
The chapel – also known as Paldy Kirk – was the mother church for the Mearns region. The ruins of a 13th century chapel built on the site of the original 5th century building can still be seen beside the later church and there is still a well known as St Palladius’s Well in the grounds of the manse.
The ancient ruins were rebuilt in the 16th century and again in 1788. In 1828 the roof collapsed and the chapel was finally abandoned in favour of the new and much grander building we see today. Within the ruined 13th century building is a holy water stoup and an aumbry in the north wall. The three large lancets are a 17th century addition.
The most intriguing feature in the chapel ruins is not above ground however. Protected by a metal grate are stone steps leading down into the earth to a crypt unse the chapel floor.
One plausible theory is that the crypt was where the relics of St Palladius were held, and where pilgrims came to visit his shrine. King Kenneth III was one of those piulgrims; it is said that he was on his way to Fordoun when he died in 994 AD.
In the vestibule of the church is the Fordoun Stone, a beautifully carved Pictish cross slab. This was discovered in 1787 when the pulpit of the chapel was pulled down. The cross may have been hidden here during the Reformation. It shows a marvellously intricate cross and traditional pictish symbols, plus inscriptions in Ogham and a Roman script.
There are several interesting old gravestones near the chapel (some actually leaning agaimst the chapel wall). One stone to William Christison has a rather pointed reminder (literally); a finger points upwards to the heavens above, and a single word is carved – ‘Home’.
Palladius was the first Christian missionery in northern Scotland. He was ordained a priest by Pope Celestine in 430 AD, and is thought to have preached in Ireland before arriving in the Mearns area of Scotland. Presumably he found the natives less than receptive, for his martyrdom occurred not long after his arrival.
The chapel is accessible at any time.
IRELAND OF MY HEART
Bishop of Ardmore, Ireland (5th ce.)
Saint Declan of Ardmore (Irish: Declán mac Eircc, Latin: Declanus, died 5th century), was an early Irish saint of the Déisi Muman, who was remembered for having converted the Déisi in the late 5th century and for having founded the monastery of Ardmore (Ard Mór) in what is now Co. Waterford.
Like Saint Ailbe of Emly, Saint Ciarán of Saigir and Saint Abbán of Moyarney, Saint Declan is presented as a Munster saint who preceded Saint Patrick in bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was regarded as a patron saint of the Déisi of East Munster.
It was through his father that Declán belonged to the royal dynasty of the Déisi Muman. Saint Declan’s mother Dethiden or Dethidin. Saint Declan’s birthplace is said to be Drumroe, near Cappoquin (west Co. Waterford).
Saint Declan first embarks on a journey to Rome, where he studies and is ordained bishop by the Bishop of Rome. At Rome, he meets his fellow countryman St Ailbe of Emly, and on returning to Ireland, he meets St Patrick. St Declan recognises the supreme authority of both saints and with Patrick he comes to an arrangement about the sphere of their mission in Ireland. On St Patrick’s instructions, St Declan founds the monastery of Ardmore (Irish Ard Mór), which lies near the Irish coast, in the southeast of the kingdom of the Déisi Muman, and having obtained Patrick’s blessing, goes on to convert the Déisi to Christianity.
Saint Declan is contemporary of Saint David of Wales in the 6th century. Likewise, the even later saint Ultan of Ardbraccan (d. 655-657) is presented as Declán’s pupil.
The saint later paid a visit to the Déisi of Mide/Meath, where the King of Tara welcomed him and granted him land for the purpose of founding a “monastery of canons”. The monastery founded there became known as Cill Décláin (Kilegland, Ashbourne, Co. Meath).
Saint Declan is one of four Munster saints who they founded monasteries and preached the Gospel in Munster before their younger contemporary St Patrick ever set foot in Ireland. These bishop saints, also included St Ailbe of Emly, St Ciarán of Saigir and St Abbán of Moyarney. The same claim was apparently made for St Íbar of Beggery Island, according to the Life of St Abbán, which identifies him as St Abbán’s uncle and teacher.
According to his Life, St Declan is reposed in the Lord at his monastery in Ardmore and was subsequently buried there. His feast day in the martyrologies is 24 July.
Also, St Declan was responsible for introducing rye (Irish secal, from Latin secale) into Ireland.
The path walked by Declan from Ardmore to Cashel, County Tipperary has been restored as St Declan’s Pilgrim Path.
A round tower still stands at the site of the saint’s monastery at Ardmore as well as earlier ecclesiastical ruins, such as a stone oratory and a small stone church.
ORTHODOX HEART SITES
PORTUGAL OF MY HEART
The 9 Saints nonuplet sisters Virgin-Martyrs of Portugal:
Saints Wilgefortis (Liberata) the crusified, Marina, Quiteria, Genibera, Eufemia, Marciana, Germana, Basilia & Victoria the Virgin-Martyrs in Mediterranean (+139)
& Saint Ovidius 3rd Bishop of Braga, Portugal (+135)
Saint Virgin-Martyr Wilgefortis or Liberata the crusified
in some icons show her with a beard in a memory of Virgin Mary’s miracle
to avoid to marry the pagan king
The names of the 9 Virgin-Martyrs from Portugal:
Saint Wilgefortis or Liberata or Eutropia the crucified, Virgin-Martyr in Aguas Santas, Spain (July 20, +139)
Saint Marina or Margarida, Virgin-Martyr in Aguas Santas, Spain (January 18, +139)
Saint Quiteria, Virgin-Martyr in Aire-sur-l’Adour, France (May 22, +139)
Saint Eufemia or Eumelia, Virgin-Martyr in Braga, Portugal (September 16, +139)
Saint Marciana or Marica, Virgin-Martyr in Toledo, Spain (January 9, +139)
Saint Germana Virgin-Martyr and the Saints Paul, Gerontius, January, Saturninus, Suxessus, Julius, Katus and Pia, Martyrs in Numidia, North Africa (January 19, +139)
Saint Victoria / Vitoria / Rita, Virgin-Martyr from Braga, Portugal (November 17, +139)
Saint Genibera / Genebra / Gemma, Virgin-Martyr from Braga, Portugal (+139)
Saint Basilia or Basilissa, Virgin-Martyr from Braga, Portugal (July 12, +139)
Feast days: Jan 9, 18 & 19, May 22, June 3, July 12 & 20, Sep 16
The Saints 9 Virgin-Martyrs of Portugal were born in the year 119 A.D. in Braga, Portugal. They were the daughters of pagan Castelius Lucius Severus and Calsia.
Her mother, Calsia was disgusted at the fact that she went through nine childbirths and not one of them was male. She called on her maid Sila to dispose of them by drowning the nine infants. Sila was a follower of Christianity so she ended up giving the babies to a Christian monk to be raised in the Christian community. Their father King Lucio was completely unaware of their birth.
Saint Ovidius the Bishop of Braga in Portugal, took care of the girls, baptized them Christian, and taught them all about Christianity. St Quiteria was the most dedicated out of her sisters when it came to their faith. She was fascinated with the Virgin Mary and the words of Christ. The monk eventually told the girls that their biological parents were the Royal Rulers of the country, but none of them had the desire to live a luxurious life.
St Wilgefortis (Liberata), St Quiteria and their seven other sisters around breaking Christians out of jail. This lasted for a few years until they were caught and brought to the King. Once the King realized who they were he asked them to live in the palace. While the sisters lived there they praised Jesus everyday and eventually turned their room into a prayer hall. When the King realized they were Christians he told them to give it up and marry Roman pagans. They refused and were locked up in jail. In jail they praised and glorified Jesus, and eventually an angel came and told St Quiteria “Happy and fortunate you are, for you deserved to find grace in front of God, so that God has chosen you as his spouse. It is God’s will, that you are to live in solitude in the mount Oria and there you will exercise in oration and contemplation”. The angel released them from jail and they escaped all going in different directions. St Quiteria followed the angel and lived on the top of a mountain, where she was eventually captured. Once she again declined the marriage offer, she was imprisoned. Again she was freed by an angel, and returned to the mountain along with a group of other women whom she converted to Christianity. Along the way she had received the crown of martyrdom, and met Prosen Lastiano the ruler of the city Aufragia. She converted him to Christianity, but then a few days later he gave it up and became a pagan again. Prosen and his soldiers reached the mountain with intentions to kill her, but as the were ascending he fell down suddenly and lost all feeling in his hands and legs. Through the prayer of St Quiteria he regained his senses, and became full of faith. King Lucio was infuriated at the fact that his daughter converted women from his palace and one of his good friends to Christianity. Lucio and his soldiers left the palace so they could hunt her down. When they finally found her at the Aire-sur-l’Adour church in Gascony, France, he again tried to force her into marriage, and she declined because she wanted to remain a virgin for Jesus. Her father then ordered one of his soldiers to behead her, and it was done instantly. They also beheaded all of the other Christian women she was with. Αfter she was beheaded she walked to the Church of the Virgin Mary with her head in her hands.
Saint Marina was condemned to die in an oven. But she was rescued from this fate by St. Peter, who brought her out of the oven and water to cool her off. Later she was beheaded, but her head bounced around three times causing three fountains to spring from the ground.
In the place where she martyred there are:
-The prison of Saint Marina
-The church of Ascension: The oven of torture
-“Piocas”: The pond, where she was refreshed by St. Apostle Peter
-The sacred Fountains of Saint Marina: The places where her head bounced
-Saint Marina’s Oaks: Places with miraculous properties
-Vacariza carving stones
A parallel archaeological excavation and study of the local church has shown that the earliest layer of the present Church was built in the 6th century (AD 502 – 593).
Saint Wilgefortis, or Liberata, was martyred after Saint Marina in Aguas Santa in Spain. She was promised by her father to a pagan king. She took a vow of virginity and tried to stave off the wedding through prayer; she hoped to become repulsive and thus undesirable. Her prayers were answered in an odd way. She sprouted a beard.Her father, furious, had her crucified.
Saint Euphemia, or Eumelia, another sister, threw herself from a cliff to avoid capture. When she fell, the rock opened and swallowed her whole; a spring immediately appeared on the spot. This idea of being swallowed by rock and a subsequent spring echoes the Galician legends around St. Jacques and legends around Saint Fris, whose cult is centered in Gascony….where a lot of the 9-sisters action was said to have taken place.
Their sister Saint Marciana arrested in Toledo in Spain, where she was martyred.
Their sister Saint Victoria arrested in Cordoba in Spain, where she was martyred.
Their sister Saint Germana arrested and martyred in Numidia in North Africa, with the Saint Martyr Paul and 17 other Holy Martyrs.
Their sisters Saint Genibera and Saint Basilia arrested and martyred in Mediterranean Sea.
Saint Ovidius, also Saint Auditus, is a Portuguese saint. Saint Ovidius was a Roman citizen of Sicilian origin. Tradition states that he was sent to Braga by Pope Clement I, where he served as the city’s third bishop around 95. He baptized Saint Wilgifortis (Liberata) and her sisters after they were abandoned by their mother.
He was martyred for his Christian faith in 135.
The Portuguese call him Santo Ovídio, and sometimes, by the folkloric São Ouvido (literally “he who is heard” or “ear”), a folk-etymological translation of the Latin name Auditus; this name was then rendered as Ovídio. Because of his name, Saint Auditus or Ovidius was traditionally invoked against auditory diseases.
His feast day is June 3.
ORTHODOX HEART SITES
ATHEISTS MET ORTHODOXY
A dialogue of an atheist &
Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos of Athens,
One morning, the Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos was in a conversation with 2-3 visitors at his home. One of them was an ideological atheist and a communist. Suddenly, someone from outside came rushing in, and informed them that the city of Athens had been flooded with photographs of Mao Tse Tung, with the inscription “Glory to the great Mao”. It was the day that the Chinese dictator had died.
Father Epiphanios: That’s the way things are, my child. Atheists do not exist. Only idolaters exist, who take down Christ from His throne and in His place they enthrone their own idols. We say: “Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. They say: “Glory to the great Mao”. You pick and choose which one you prefer.
Atheist: You also choose your drug, grandpa. The only difference is, that you call it Christ, others call it Buddha, etc. etc…
Fr. Epiphanios: My child, Christ is not a drug. Christ is the Creator of the entire universe. He is the one Who governs everything wisely, from the multitudes of infinite galaxies, down to the minutest particles of the microcosm. He has given life to all of us. He is the One Who brought you into this world and has bestowed you with so much freedom, that you can actually doubt Him, and even deny Him.
Atheist: Grandpa, its your right to believe in all of those things. But that doesn’t mean they are true. Do you have any proofs?
Fr. Epiphanios: You think all of this is just a fairy tale, don’t you?
Fr. Epiphanios: Do you have any proof that it is a fairy tale? Can you prove that what I believe is false?
Fr. Epiphanios: You didn’t reply, because you don’t have any proof either. Which means, you believe they are fairy tales. I spoke to you of believing, when I referred to God; you, however, although rejecting my belief, essentially believe in your faithlessness, since you cannot back it up with proofs either. However, I must tell you that my belief is not something “out of the blue”; There are certain supernatural events, upon which it is founded.
Atheist: Just a minute! Since we are talking about believing, what would you say to Muslims or Buddhists for example? Because they also talk about believing. And they too have high moral standards. Why is your belief better than theirs?
Fr. Epiphanios: So! The criterion of the truth is supposedly judged by this question of yours? Because the truth is most certainly one; truths cannot be many in number. The thing is, who is the possessor of the truth? That is the major question. Hence, it is not a matter of a better or worse belief! It is a matter of the only true belief!
I agree, that other beliefs also have moral teachings. Naturally, Christianity’s moral teachings are incomparably superior. But, we do not believe in Christ because of His moral teachings. Or for His prompting to “Love one another”, or for His sermons on peace and justice, freedom and equality. We believe in Christ, because His presence on earth was accompanied by supernatural events, which was a sign that He is God.
Atheist: Look, I also admit that Christ was an important philosopher and a great revolutionary, but let’s not make Him a god now……
Fr. Epiphanios: My dear child! All the great disbelievers in history were snagged by that detail. The fishbone that stuck in their throat, which they just couldn’t swallow, was exactly that: That Christ is also God.
Many of them were willing to say to God: “Don’t tell anyone that You are God incarnate; Just say that You’re an ordinary human, and we shall be more than ready to deify you. Why do You want to be an incarnate God, and not a deified human? We are willing to glorify You, to proclaim You as the greatest among men, the holiest, the most ethical, the noblest, the unsurpassable, the one and only, the unprecedented… Isn’t that enough for You ?
Ernest Renan –he was the head of the chorus of deniers- thunders out the following, with regard to Christ: “For tens of thousands of years, the world shall be uplifted through You”, and “You are the cornerstone of mankind; if one were to wrench Your name away from this world, it would be like shattering its foundations” and “the aeons shall proclaim that amongst the sons of men, never was there born anyone that could surpass You”. But this is where Renan and his likes stop. Their very next phrase is: “But a God, You are not!”
And those poor wretches cannot perceive that all of these things constitute an indescribable tragedy! Their dilemma is inevitably relentless: Either Christ is an incarnate God, in which case, He is indeed, only then, the most ethical, the holiest and noblest personage of mankind, or, He is not an incarnate God, in which case, He cannot possibly be any of these. In fact, if Christ is not God, then we are talking about the most horrible, the most atrocious and the most despicable existence in the history of mankind.
Atheist: What did you just say?
Fr. Epiphanios: Exactly what you heard! It may be a weighty statement, but it is absolutely true. And I will tell you why.
Let me ask: What did all the truly great men say about themselves, or what opinion did they have of themselves ?
The “wisest of all men”, Socrates, proclaimed that “I came to know one thing: that I know nothing”.
All the important men in the Old and New Testament, from Abraham and Moses, through to John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul, characterized themselves as “earth and ashes”, “wretches”, “monstrosities”, etc…. 
But, strangely enough, Jesus’ attitude is quite the opposite! And I say strangely enough, because it would have been natural and logical for Him to have a similar attitude. In fact, being far superior and surpassing all others, He should have had an even lower and humbler opinion of Himself . Ethically more perfect than any other, He should have surpassed everyone and anyone in self-reproach and humility, from the moment of the world’s Creation to the end of Time.
But, the exact opposite is observed!
First of all, He proclaims that He is sinless: “Who among you shall check Me for sin?” (John, 8:46). “The lord of this world is coming, and he can find nothing in Me.” (John, 14: 30)
He also pronounces very high ideas of Himself: “I am the light of the world” (John, 8, 12); “I am the path and the truth and the life” (John, 14: 6).
But, apart from these, He also projects demands of absolute dedication to His Person. He even penetrates the holiest of man’s relationships, and says: “Whomsoever loves their father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. and whomsoever loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew, 10: 37). “I came to turn man away, against his father, and the daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew, 10: 35). He even demands a life and a death of martyrdom from His disciples: “They shall deliver you to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you shall be dragged before leaders and kings for My sake…. And brother shall deliver his brother to death and the father his son, and the children shall revolt against their parents and shall put them to death…. And you shall be hated by everyone, for my namesake…. And he that shall endure to the end, he shall be saved…. Do not fear those who destroy the body….. Whomsoever shall deny Me before mankind, I too shall deny him…. Whomsoever has forfeited his soul for My sake, shall recover it” (Matthew, 10: 17 onward).
And now I ask you: Has anyone ever dared to demand for himself the love of mankind, forsaking their very life? Has anyone ever dared to proclaim his absolute sinlessness? Has anyone ever dared to utter the words: “I am the truth”? (John, 14: 6) No-one, and nowhere! Only a God can do that. Can you imagine your Marx uttering things like that? They would take him for a lunatic and nobody would be willing to follow him!
Now, just consider, how many people sacrificed everything for Christ’s sake, even their very life, having believed in the veracity of His words regarding Himself! If His proclamations about Himself were false, Jesus would have been the most despicable character in history, for having led so many people to such a huge sacrifice! What ordinary man – no matter how great, how important, how wise he may be – would deserve such a tremendous offer and sacrifice? Well? No-one! Not unless he were God!
In other words: Any ordinary man that would demand such a sacrifice from his followers would have been the most loathsome person in history. Christ, however, both demanded it, and achieved it. Yet, despite this ‘achievement’, He was proclaimed by the very deniers of His divinity as the noblest and holiest figure in history. So, either the deniers are being illogical when they proclaim this most loathsome figure as “holiest”, or, in order to avoid any illogicality, and to rationalize the co-existence of Christ’s demands and His holiness, they must concede to accepting that Christ continues to remain the noblest and holiest figure in mankind, but, only under the condition that He is also God! Otherwise, as we said, He would be, not the holiest, but the most loathsome figure in history, being the cause of the greatest sacrifice of all ages, and in the name of a lie! Thus, Christ’s divinity is proved by His very deniers, on the basis of those very characterizations of His person!
Atheist: What you just said is really very impressive, but it is nothing but speculation. Do you have any historical facts that would confirm His Divinity?
Fr. Epiphanios: I told you at the beginning, that the proofs of His Divinity are the supernatural events that took place while He was here on earth. Christ did not rest on the proclamation of the above truths alone; He certified His statements with miracles as well. He made blind people see and cripples walk; He satisfied the hunger of five thousand men and manifold numbers of women and children with only two fish and five loaves of bread; He commanded the elements of nature and they obeyed; He resurrected the dead, amongst which was Lazarus, four days after his death. But the most astounding of all his miracles was His own Resurrection.
The entire edifice of Christianity is supported on the event of the Resurrection. This is not my speculation. The Apostle Paul said it: “If Christ had not risen (from the dead), our faith would be futile”. (Corinthians I, 15: 17). If Christ is not resurrected, then everything collapses. But Christ was resurrected, which means He is the Lord of life and death, therefore God.
Atheist: Did you see all of this? How can you believe it?
Fr. Epiphanios: No, I didn’t see any of it, but others did: the Apostles. They in turn made this known to others, and they actually “signed” their testimony with their own blood. And, as everyone acknowledges, a testimony of one’s life is the supreme form of testimony.
Why don’t you likewise bring me someone, who will tell me that Marx died and was resurrected, and that he is willing to sacrifice his life in order to testify it? I, as an honest man, will believe him.
Atheist: I will tell you. Thousands of communists were tortured and died for their ideology. Why don’t you embrace communism in the same way?
Fr. Epiphanios: You said it yourself. Communists died for their ideology. They didn’t die for real events. In an ideology, it is very easy for deception to seep through; and because it is a characteristic of the human soul to sacrifice itself for something it believes in, this explains why so many communists died for their ideology. But that doesn’t compel us to accept this ideology as something true.
It is one thing to die for ideas, and another to die for events. The Apostles didn’t die for any ideas. Not even for the “Love one another”, or any of the other moral teachings of Christianity. The Apostles died for their testimony of supernatural events. And when we say ‘event’, we mean that which is captured by our physical senses, and is comprehended through them.
The Apostles suffered martyrdom for “that which they heard”, “that which they saw with their own eyes”, “that which they observed and their hands touched” (John I, 1) 
Just like the clever speculation by Pascal, we say that one of the three following things happened to the Apostles: either they were deceived, or, they deceived us, or, they told us the truth.
Let’s take the first case. It is not possible for the Apostles to have been deceived, because everything that they reported, was not reported to them by others.They themselves were eye and ear witnesses of all those things. Besides, none of them were imaginative characters, nor did they have any psychological inclination that made them accept the event of the Resurrection. Quite the contrary – they were terribly distrustful. The Gospels are extremely revealing, in their narrations of their spiritual dispositions: they even disbelieved the reassurances that some people had actually seen Him, resurrected.
And one other thing. What were the Apostles, before Christ called them? Were they perhaps ambitious politicians or visionaries of philosophical and social systems, who were longing to conquer mankind and thus satisfy their fantasies? Not at all. They were illiterate fishermen. The only thing that interested them was to catch a few fish to feed their families. That is why, even after the Lord’s Crucifixion, and despite everything that they had heard and seen, they returned to their fishing boats and their nets. In other words, there was not a single trace of disposition in these men for the things that were to follow. It was only after the day of the Pentecost, “when they received strength from on high”, that they became the teachers of the universe.
The second case: Did they deceive us? Did they lie to us? But then, why would they deceive us? What would they gain by lying? Was it money? Was it status? Was it glory? For someone to tell a lie, he must be expecting some sort of gain. The Apostles though, by preaching Christ – and in fact Christ crucified and resurrected – the only things that they secured for themselves were: hardships, labours, lashings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, nakedness, attacks from robbers, beatings, incarcerations and finally, death. And all this, for a lie? It would be undoubtedly foolish for anyone to even consider it.
Consequently, the Apostles were neither deceived, nor did they deceive us. This leaves us with the third choice: that they told us the truth.
I should also stress something else here: The Evangelists are the only ones who recorded true historical events. They describe the events, and only the events. They do not resort to any personal judgments. They praise no-one, and they criticize no-one. They make no attempt to exaggerate an event, nor eliminate or underestimate another. They let the events speak for themselves.
Atheist: Are you excluding the possibility that in Christ’s case, it was just an incident of apparent death? The other day, the newspapers had written about someone in India whom they buried and three days later they exhumed him and he was still alive.
Fr. Epiphanios: My poor child! I will recall the words of the blessed Augustine again: “O faithless ones, you are not actually mistrustful; indeed, you are the most gullible of all. You accept the most improbable things, and the most irrational, the most contradictory, in order to deny a miracle!”
No, my child. It was not a case of apparent death with Christ. First of all, we have the testimony of the Roman centurion, who reassured Pilate that Christ’s death was a certainty.
Then, our Gospel informs us that on the same day of His Resurrection, the Lord was seen talking with two of His disciples, walking towards Emmaus, which was more than ten kilometers away from Jerusalem.
Can you imagine someone, who could go through all the tortures that Christ underwent, and three days after His “apparent death”, spring back again? If anything, he would have to be fed chicken soup for forty days, in order to be able to open his eyes, let alone walk and talk as though nothing had happened!
As for the Hindu, bring him here to be flogged with a scourge – do you know what a scourge is? It is a whip, whose lashes each have a lead chunk or a piece of broken bone or sharp nails attached to their end – bring him here, so we can flog him, then force a crown of thorns on his head, crucify him, give him bile and vinegar to drink, then pierce his side with a spear, put him in a tomb, and then, if he comes back from the dead, then we can talk.
Atheist: Even so, but all the testimonies that you have invoked belong to Christ’s Disciples. Is there any testimony on this matter, that doesn’t come from the circle of His Disciples? Are there any historians for example, who can certify Christ’s Resurrection? If so, then I will also believe what you say.
Fr. Epiphanios: You poor child! You don’t know what you’re saying now! If there had been such historians who had witnessed Christ resurrected, they would have been compelled to believe in His Resurrection and would have recorded it as believers, in which case, you would again have rejected their testimony, just like you rejected Peter’s testimony, John’s testimony, etc. How can it be possible, for someone to actually witness the Resurrection and yet, NOT become a Christian? You are asking for a roasted fowl, on a waxen skewer, that also sings! It just can’t be done !
I will remind you though – because you are asking for historians – of what I said earlier: that the only true historians are the Apostles.
Nevertheless, we do have testimony of the kind that you want; and it is by someone who didn’t belong to the circle of His Disciples: it was Paul. Paul not only wasn’t a Disciple of Christ, he actually persecuted Christ’s Church relentlessly.
Atheist: They say that Paul suffered from sunstroke and that it was the cause of his hallucination.
Fr. Epiphanios: My child, if Paul was hallucinating, the thing that would have come to the surface, would have been his subconscious. And in Paul’s subconscious, the Patriarchs and the Prophets would have been top ranking. He would have hallucinated about Abraham, and Jacob and Moses, and not Jesus, whom he considered a rabble-rouser and a fraud!
Can you imagine a faithful old granny seeing Buddha or Jupiter in her dream or delirium? She would most probably see Saint Nicholas or Saint Barbara, because she believes in them.
One more thing. With Paul, we have –as Papini notes- the following miraculous phenomena: First of all, the abruptness of his conversion. Straight from faithlessness to faith. With no intermediate preparatory stage. Secondly, the steadfastness of his faith. No wavering, no doubts. And thirdly, his faith lasted for a whole lifetime. Do you believe that all these things can occur after a case of sunstroke? They can in no way be attributed to such a cause. If you can explain how, then explain it. If you can’t, then you must admit the miracle. And you must know that for a man of his time, Paul was exceptionally well-educated. He was not your average little person, who was totally clueless.
I will also add something else. We today, my child, are living in an exceptional era. We are living the miracle of Christ’s Church.
When Christ said of His Church that “the gates of Hades shall not overpower Her” (Matthew 16:18), His followers were very few in number. Almost two thousand years have passed, since that day. Empires vanished, philosophical systems were forgotten, world theories collapsed. But Christ’s Church remains indestructible, despite the continuous and dramatic persecutions it has undergone. Isn’t that a miracle?
And one final thing. In Luke’s Gospel it says that when the Holy Mother visited Elizabeth (the Baptist’s mother) after the Annunciation, she was greeted with the words: “blessed are you amongst women”. And the Holy Mother replied as follows: “My heart magnifies the Lord. Behold, from this moment on, all generations shall call me blessed” (a’ 48).
What was the Holy Mother at that time? She was just an obscure daughter of Nazareth. How many knew her? And yet, since that day, empresses have been forgotten, distinguished women’s names have been extinguished, the mothers and wives of great generals went into oblivion. Who remembers, or even knows, Napoleon’s mother or Alexander the Great’s mother? Almost no-one. But, millions of lips across every length and breadth of the world, throughout the ages, venerate that humble daughter of Nazareth, the “more precious than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim”. Are we, or aren’t we –the people of the twentieth century– living in this day and age the verification of those words of the Holy Mother?
The exact same things are observed in a “secondary” prophecy of Christ: While He was staying at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him and poured her expensive fragrant oil over His head. Christ commented: “Amen, verily I say to you, that wherever this gospel will be preached in the world, it will also mention what this woman did, in her memory” (Matthew, 26: 13). Now, how large was His circle of followers at the time, so that one could say that they outdid themselves in order that their Master’s prophecy be fulfilled? Especially a prophecy such as this one, which, by today’s world standards, is of no importance to most people.
Are they or aren’t they miracles? If you can, explain them. But if you can’t, then admit them as such.
Atheist: I have to admit that your arguments are pretty solid. But I would like to ask you one more thing: Don’t you think that Christ left His work unfinished? That is, unless He deserted us. I can’t imagine a God that would remain indifferent to mankind’s suffering. We are down here toiling, while He, up there, remains apathetic.
Fr. Epiphanios: No, my child. You aren’t right. Christ did not leave His work unfinished. On the contrary, He is the one unique case in history where a person has the certainty that His mission was accomplished, and had nothing further to do or to say.
Even the greatest of philosophers, Socrates, who discussed and taught during his whole lifetime, and towards the end composed an intricate “Apology”, would have even more to say, if he had lived.
Only Christ – in the time bracket of three years – taught what He had to teach, did what He had to do, and finally said (on the Cross): “It is finished”. Another sample of His divine perfection and authority.
As for the abandonment that you mentioned, I can understand your concern. Without Christ, the world would be a theatre of insanity. Without Christ, you cannot explain anything: why are there sorrows, why injustices, why failures, why sicknesses, why, why, why…. Thousands of monumental “why”s.
Try to understand! Man cannot approach all of these “why”s with his finite logic. It is only through Christ that everything can be explained. All these trials merely precondition us for eternity. Perhaps then, we might be honored by the Lord with a reply to some of those “why”s.
It might be worthwhile, if I read you a beautiful poem* from Constantine Kallinikos’ collection “Laurels and Myrtles”, with the title “Questions”:
I asked a desert father of seventy years,
whose silver strands were blown by the wind:
Tell me o father, why, on this earth,
do the light and the dark inseparably move ?
And why must they – like twins – together sprout:
the thorn and the rose, the tear and the smile?
Why, in the loveliest part of the woodland green
have scorpions and vipers concealed their nests?
Why must it be, that the tender bud,
before unfolding its fragrant bloom,
be struck by a worm in the heart of its stem,
And left to die, like a shrivelled rag ?
Why are the plow, the seed and the hands
a must for the wheat, to become our bread?
Why must everything useful, noble, divine
always be purchased with tears and our blood,
while selfishness ever rampantly reigns,
and lewdness is swallowing up the world?
And why, amongst such harmony around,
must tumult and disorder find their way?
The hermit replied, with his somber voice
and right arm pointing to the sky,
that there, beyond those clouds of gold,
the Almighty weaves a tapestry divine.
But since we are wanderers of the lower plane
We see nothing but the knots and strings below,
It is no wonder, why the mind sees wrong,
when it should always be thankful and give praise:
for the day will come, when Christians all,
with souls that ride the skies with wings,
will gaze atop God’s tapestry and see
how careful and orderly everything was!
My child, Christ never abandoned us. He is forever with us, as a helper and a supporter, until the end of time. But you will realize this, only when you become a conscientious member of His Church and be joined by Her Sacraments.
Counsels for Life – From the Life and Teachings of Father Epiphanios
Orthodox Kypseli Publications
Thessalonica GREECE, 2005
SAINTS OF MY HEART
Holy Skull of St. Paraskevi in Petraki Monastery, Athens, Greece
Saint Paraskevi the Holy & Glorious Virgin-Martyr of Greece, from Rome (+161)
Patron Saint of the eyes
The holy and glorious Virgin-Martyr Saint Paraskevi (also Paraskeva) was arrested during the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (r. A.D. 138-161) under the penalty of refusing to worship idols and adhering to the state pagan religion. After enduring many tortures, she was eventually released by the emperor, continuing to profess Christ. She was eventually tortured and beheaded by the Roman governor Tarasius in the year 180. The Church commemorates her on July 26.
Saint Paraskevi, The Parthenomartyr, (July 26th), was born in a village near Rome during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD). Her parents were the pious Christians Agathonikos (Agathon) and Politea. Her parents prayed fervently for a child, and God finally blessed their piety. They gave great honor to Friday, the day of Our Lord’s suffering. Being born on this day, her parents named her Paraskevi (“Friday” in Greek, but literally “preparation”).
St Paraskevi obtained an excellent education from both secular and Scriptural instructors. She was also very knowledgeable in the field of philosophy. Bolstered by her Christian upbringing, she often conversed with other women about Christianity, trying to strengthen their faith in this new religion. Many distinguished families wanted this beautiful, educated and rich woman to marry their sons. Her understanding and kindness made her even more desirable. However having a higher goal in life, St Paraskevi rejected any marriage proposals.
When she was 20 years old, both her parents died 1eaving her as the sole heir to the family fortune. St Paraskevi did not use her fortune for herself. Filled with the spirit of Christ and Christian ideals, she sold all her worldly possessions using the money to relieve human suffering. There was a portion retained to a community treasury that supported a home for reverent virgins who stayed in a kenobion, a type of commune like a contemporary monastery. These women prayed and fasted doing charitable works. They preached primarily to Hebrew and idol worshiping women giving them an opportunity to learn about Christian salvation.
She left Rome at the age of 30 and began her holy mission, passing through many cities and villages. St Paraskevi’s activities occurred during a period that the Jews and Romans persecuted the Christian religion with the greatest intensity. Antoninus Pius (138-161) ruled Rome at this time, and he did not execute Christians without a trial. She was not caught immediately or put to death. Instead, Antoninus protected Christians against the blind mania of the Jewish and Roman inhabitants. Christians could only be brought to trial if another citizen lodged a formal complaint against them. Antoninus however had to repeal this law because of the many disasters which had befallen Rome and which were blamed on the Christians.
Strong in faith, learning, and eloquence, Paraskevi spoke persuasively to her fellow Roman citizens, leading them from idolatry to faith in Christ. Eventually, Antoninus heard of St. Paraskevi’s holy mission. Upon her return to Rome, several Jews filed complaints about her and Antoninus summoned her to his palace to question her. Attracted by her beauty and humility he tried with kind words to make her denounce her faith, even promising to marry her and make her an empress. Angered by her refusal he had a steel helmet, lined with nails and compressed on her head with a vice. It had no effect on the Saint and many who witnessed this miracle converted to Christianity. Thrown into prison, Paraskevi asked God to give her the strength to face the terror that awaited her. Antoninus again continued her torture by having her hung by her hair and at the same time burning her hands and arms with torches. The Saint suffered greatly, but had the will not to submit to the pain. Antoninus then prepared a large cauldron of oil and tar, boiled the mixture and then had Paraskevi immersed in it. Miraculously she stood in it as if she being refreshed rather than burned. Angered, Antoninus thought that she was using witchery to keep the contents cooled. Antoninus then approached the cauldron only to be blinded by the hot steam and searing emissions coming from the area. At this moment the mighty emperor asked for the intervention of St Paraskevi to heal him from this affliction to which she responded:
“Emperor, the Christian God is healing you from the blindness that was given to you as a punishment”.
Immediately, he regained his sight. Humbled by the miracle he freed the Saint, allowing her to continue her missionary activity and ended all persecutions against the Christians throughout the Roman Empire.
From this episode it is clear to the Christians that St Paraskevi has the intercessional ability to help people with visual ailments.
Astonished by the miracle, Antoninus released Paraskevi. He also ceased persecuting Christians throughout the Roman Empire.
This period was brief. After Antoninus’ death in 161, a plague broke out throughout the empire. Romans took it as a sign from their gods that that they were angered by the tolerance of Christianity. Under Antoninus’ successor, Marcus Aurelius (161-180), the laws dealing with “non-believers” were cahnged and the persecutions against the Christians resumed.
Despite these dangers, Paraskevi persevered in her missionary endeavors, spreading the Gospel wherever she traveled. By authority of emperor Aurelius the provincial eparchs Asclepius and Tarasios captured St Paraskevi. Having refused Asclepius’ demands to sacrifice to pagan gods, she was thrown into a snake pit. The Saint made the Sign of the Cross over the serpent and the serpent perished. Asclepius had heard of the Saint’s previous miracles, realized that a great and mighty power guarded Paraskevi and decided to set her free while Asclepius and his court were all converted.
Tarasios however was less tolerant. St Paraskevi was tied and beaten and afterwards imprisoned and a huge rock placed on her chest. She prayed to Christ to help her be strong. The next morning Paraskevi was taken willingly to the Temple of Apollo. Everyone praised Tarasios, thinking that he had succeeded in breaking St Paraskevi’s faith. However, upon entering the temple, the Saint raised her hand and made the sign of the cross. Suddenly, a loud noise was heard and all the idols in the temple were destroyed. The priests and idolaters dragged her from the altar, beat her, and pushed her out of the temple. The priests demanded that Tarasios kill Paraskevi. She was convicted and condemned to death by beheading.
It was customary to give the condemned their last wish. She asked to be left alone for a few moments so that she might pray for the last time. Afterwards, the roman soldiers returned and executed the Saint.
Many healing miracles occurred as a result of St Paraskevi’s divine intervention. It is said that that merely coming in contact with he dirt of her grave faithful, crippled could walk, demonized would return to health and that the infertile would bear children. Most importantly St Paraskevi healed the blindness of the roman emperor Antoninus Pius while she was in a heated cauldron. Her merciful disposition to her tormentor has made her an intercessor Saint for the healing of eye ailments.
Her remains were eventually taken to Constantinople, where they are venerated by the faithful to this very day.
Appropriate to your calling, O Champion Paraskevi, you worshipped with the readiness your name bears. For an abode you obtained faith, which is your namesake. Wherefore, you pour forth healing and intercede for our souls.
O most majestic One, we have discovered your temple to be a spiritual clinic wherein all the faithful resoundingly honor you, O famed and venerable martyr Paraskevi.
Tomb in Pounta, Greece
According to the tradition of the people of Epirus, Paraskevi was not martyred in Rome as mentioned in her traditional hagiography, but in Thesprotia where the Monastery of Saint Paraskevi of Pounta stands today. According to this tradition, strongly held by the locals, the headless body of the saint was entombed here and her tomb is still venerated today.
It is said that the persecutors of St. Paraskevi dragged her to the edge of the river Acheron to behead her. As the sword was raised over her head, she grabbed a stone pillar that she held so tightly that the print of her hands melted into it leaving an indelible mark. A church was eventually erected here by the faithful in her honor and housed her holy relics. Her skull was eventually placed in the walls of the church, though today it is kept in Moni Petraki in Athens.
According to the author and novelist Spyros Mouselimis, in his article “The Monastery of Pountas and the Feast of Saint Paraskevi” (Ηπειρωτική Εστία, 10, pp. 638-641, 1961), Pountas Monastery was known for its healing waters and numerous miracles. The pilgrims would cut off portions of the stone pillar of St. Paraskevi as a talisman, to the point that in 1960 the size of the stone was half its original size.
The property of the Monastery at one time was very great. According to Lambridis, at the end of the 19th century the annual revenue of the Monastery was 20,000 piastres, from which a boarding school was supported on its premises until 1913. After the population exchange of 1923 the Monastery was abandoned and did not operate again until 1975. Only the eastern side of the original Holy Altar area of the Katholikon survives today, while the rest of the church was restored in 1989 together with the inscription for the tomb of St. Paraskevi.
Today the Monastery operates as a female convent.
Source: Orthodox Wiki