by John Brady
This piece first appeared in In Communion, the journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

The roster of 20th-century saints includes some who lived very public lives — such as Russia’s Royal Martyrs — and not a few who strove to live ‘hid with Christ in God.’ Saint Silouan of Mount Athos might have passed without a worldly trace if God had not sent Archimandrite Sophrony to record his life for our benefit. Likewise, Mother Gavrilia (+1992), an undoubted Saint (not yet officially glorified) of the Church, lived only to love and serve God in humility — ‘not to exist’ as she herself said. By God’s providence her spiritual daughter and namesake, nun Gavrilia, has assembled for us a radiant biography and collection of the Gerondissa’s sayings, Ascetic of Love, which may prove to be one of the great spiritual testaments of our time.

Avrilia Papayanni was born in 1897 to a wealthy Greek family in Constantinople, which remained her home until 1923, when the family was deported to Thessaloniki as part of the infamous ‘exchange of populations.’ Avrilia entered the University of Thessaloniki as the second woman ever to enroll in a Greek university. Though the path to worldly distinction seemed open to this intelligent, unconventional and privileged young woman, she chose another way: in 1932, responding to a command (as she later described it) of Christ Himself, she moved to Athens to live alone and work in nursing homes. She then traveled to England (arriving with one pound to her name) and studied physiotherapy in London. In 1947 she opened her own physiotherapy practice in Athens. Already her nearly-unique path of combined service and hesychia was beginning to emerge: though she had many wealthy clients, she donated her services to the poor, said the Jesus Prayer constantly during her treatment sessions, and healed many by her prayers, often using her medical procedures as ‘cover’ for her wonderworking intercession.

In 1954 her beloved mother died. The moment was a pivot in her life: she wrote that her mother’s death ‘severed the last tie that had kept me bound to normal, material life on this Earth. Suddenly I was dead… I was dead to the world.’ She spent that entire night awake, her room filled with a blinding radiance coming from the icon of Christ. Within a year she had closed her therapy practice, given all her money and belongings to the poor, resolved to live in absolute poverty, and (now aged almost sixty) headed for India with no plan, but a strong sense that Christ had called her there. (In this time of heightened enmity between Islam and the West, it seems a miracle in itself that only fifty years ago she traveled alone, by bus, from Jordan through Iraq and Iran, to India — and that at every stop she was invited to enter the local mosque to ‘pray to her God.’)

Avrilia arrived in India with one dress and a Bible (her only reading at that time) and stayed for five years, at first giving free physiotherapy to lepers and the poor at several clinics and ashrams. She worked and mingled freely with Hindu gurus and protestant missionaries, making no distinctions in her loving openness to all. A casual reader of her biography might fear that she was careless or syncretistic in her Orthodox faith, but a closer reading will put any such concerns to rest. Throughout her years away from Orthodox churches or contacts, she kept the fasts strictly and never prayed with non-Orthodox, Christian or not. (When invited, she would answer ‘I do not pray aloud and never in company. I pray alone or at Church… but do come and tell me your news over a nice cup of tea.’) The only example that I have found of her ever speaking severely to anyone came when, on a speaking tour, a protestant made a disparaging remark about the most holy Theotokos. Mother Gavrilia immediately took aside the person in charge and said ‘Brother, I am sorry but I must tell you that as of tomorrow I will no longer be with you… I cannot hear such words for Her, Whom I love most after our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Suitable apologies were forthcoming, and the tour continued.

Toward the end of her time in India, the same Voice that had called her to give her life to the poor led her to spend eleven months in eremitic solitude in the Himalayas . During this time she received the call to monastic life. In 1959 she entered the Monastery of St Lazarus in Bethany, where she was tonsured a nun after a three-year novitiate, receiving the name Gavrilia.

The next twenty years were a heady mix of monastic quietude alternating with speaking tours, three years of missionary service in East Africa, and another three years in India working with Fr Lazarus Moore’s Orthodox community. Archimandrite Sophrony asked her to become abbess of his women’s monastery in England, but she declined — one of the few times that she refused any of the calls to service that repeatedly drew her away from her increasingly-cherished silence and solitude.

In 1979 she was given free use of an apartment in Athens that over the next ten years became known to her disciples as the ‘House of Angels.’ Here she would spend half of each day in prayer, receiving no one, the other half in counseling and healing a stream of visitors. In her last few years she moved to a hermitage in Aegina, then to Leros, where she received the Great Schema in 1991 and reposed in peace the following year.

Her biography includes (but does not emphasize) a startling series of miracles: a sudden, complete healing from the last stages of Hodgkin’s disease, regeneration of a lens after cataract surgery, out-of-body travel to Mt Sinai, to name a few — but, as one of her spiritual children told me, the most significant miracle for those who knew her was her own presence and her all-pervading love for all. As Nun Gavrilia wrote, ‘Mother Gavrilia’s entire life, which was a hymn to the Lord, became thanks to Him, a burnt offering, a holocaust to His love.’

The sweetness and openness of Mother Gavrilia’s character was fed by a quiet but constant askesis and awareness of the rigor of Christ’s commandments. (I was brought up short by her statement that the Christian religion ‘is for the very few.’ By the standards to which she held herself, I am very far from being one of those few.) Even as she extended herself without reserve to serve others, she felt the relative smallness of her service. While living at the New Jerusalem Monastery in Greece (1967, aged 69) she offered free physiotherapy to residents of the Russian Old People’s home. She wrote ‘You can imagine my joy at being here and treating these aged people… I joke and laugh and see their mournful faces change. What a pity all is so temporary… Unless Joy comes from within — that is from its Source — it does not last. As soon as I leave, it is as if I had never shared His Joy with them. Here I understand the words of Christ: My joy I give unto you: not as the world giveth…’

Mother Gavrilia’s life obliterated the inane distinctions that we so often make between prayer and service, contemplation and action. She had no theories about the Church, society, the Christian life, or anything else. Her only ‘program’ was to love with the love that proceeds from complete abandonment to Christ, and to act as that love dictated. At one time this might express itself in ‘social action,’ at another time in secluded hesychia. The difference was immaterial because the Source was the same.

One of the most valuable portions of Ascetic of Love is a luminous collection of ‘Sayings.’ I can find no better way to close than to quote the first and last of these:

Any place may become a place of Resurrection, if the Humility of Christ becomes the way of our life.

Come, let us be silent.

https://orthodoxwiki.org/Gabrielia_%28Papayannis%29

Life

The Gerontissa Gabrielia (Gavrielia) was born in Constantinople (Istanbul) on October 15, 1897 to Helias and Victoria Papayannis. She was the youngest of four children.

She grew up in the city until her family moved to Thessalonika in 1923. She went to England in 1938 and stayed there throughout the Second World War. She trained as a chiropodist and physiotherapist. As a result of her services to her fellow citizens during and after the war, she was honored by the English government with the offer of citizenship, an honor she politely declined.

In 1945 she returned to Greece where she worked with the Friends Refugee Mission and the American Farm School in Thessalonika in early post-war years. Later she opened her own therapy office in Athens until 1954. In March of that year, her mother died and the office was closed. Sister Gabrielia left Greece and traveled overland to India where she worked with the poorest of the poor, even the lepers, for five years. She worked with Baba Amte and his family who built and organised village-communities for the lepers of India. She accepted no reward for her services, trusting always in God’s providence.

In 1959, she went to the Monastery of Sts Mary and Martha in Bethany, Palestine, to become a nun. When she arrived she asked Fr. Theodosius the chaplain for a rule of prayer. Fr. Theodosius was somewhat surprised to find that she could read liturgical Greek. Fr. Theodosius said, “The great elders that we hear about no longer exist. I certainly am not one. You came here to save your soul. If I start giving you rules, you will lose your soul and I will as well. But here is Fr. John. He will be your elder.” So for her first year in the monastery he set her to reading only the Gospels and St. John Climacus. (It should be noted that at that time ‘The Ladder’ had not been published in Modern Greek.)

She stayed in Bethany for three years. In April, 1962, word came that Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople sought to send an Orthodox monastic to Taize in France. Sister Gabrielia went by way of Taize (she spoke fluent French from childhood) to America.

By 1963 she had returned to Greece. She was tonsured to the Small Schema by Abbot Amphilochios (Makris) on Patmos in the Cave of St. Anthony under the Monastery of the Annunciation just before she and the nun Tomasina left again for India. Elder Amphilochios was enthusiastic about the idea of a nun who would be open to the active outreach in the world. Once in India she spent three years in Nani Tal in Uttar Pradesh where Fr. Lazarus (Moore) was the priest and where he consulted the Gerontissa in his translations of the Psalter and the Fathers. Between 1967 and 1977 she traveled in the mission field of East Africa, in Europe, including visiting old friends and spiritual fathers Lev Gillet and Sophrony of Essex. She returned again to America, and briefly to Sinai where Archbishop Damianos was attempting to reintroduce women’s monasticism.

She traveled extensively, with much concern and broad love for the people of God. Some of her spiritual children found her in Jerusalem beside the Tomb of Christ; others found her on the mission field of East Africa. In the 50s and 60s she was a spiritual guide and comfort to thousands of people all over the world. She would pray for all of them by name in her daily rule of prayer.

For years, beginning in about 1977, she lived hidden in a little apartment, the “House of the Angels” in Patissia in the midst of the noise and smog and confusion of central Athens. This modest apartment was a place of refuge for all of those who would visit her seeking a word of comfort.

In 1989 she moved to Holy Protection Hermitage on the island of Aegina, close to the shrine of St. Nectarios. There, she called the last two of her spiritual children to become monastics near her, and there she continued to receive many visitors. At the start of Great Lent in 1990 she was hospitalized for lymphatic cancer. She spent forty days in the hospital, leaving during Holy Week and receiving Holy Communion on Pascha. To the amazement of her doctors, further tests revealed the cancer had miraculously disappeared.

The Gerontissa finally withdrew to solitude. With only one nun as a companion, she moved for the final time in her life, to the island of Leros. There they established the hesychastarion of the Holy Archangels. Only in this last year of her life did she accept the Great Schema at the hands of Fr. Dionysius from Little St. Anne’s Skete on Mount Athos. He came to give her the Schema in the Chapel of the Panagia in the Kastro on the top of Leros.

Gerontissa Gabrielia passed from this world on March 28, 1992, having never built a monastery. Over the years, six of her spiritual children did become monastics, but never more than one or two were with her at a time. Only the angels could count the number of lives that God touched and changed through her. Her biography and collected writings were published in Greek in 1996, through the work of her last monastic daughter and the contribution of many, many others who held the Gerontissa dear.

Anyone who knew the Gerontissa realized that God has not left us without His saints, even down to the present day. The few words recorded here scarcely suggest the clarity and love of her soul. Words are only the tools of this world; the wonder of the Gerontissa was wrapped in the mystery of the silence of the world to come.

She never sought a reputation. She never allowed anything about her to be published during her long life and only allowed her children to take photographs in her very last years. Those whom God touched through her called her Gerontissa; she never made herself anything but the nun Gabrielia.

She was humility and love incarnate.

Special Relationships

Elder Amphilochios (Makris) – tonsured her into the Great Schema, on the island of Patmos in the “Cave of St. Anthony”, belong to the Monastery of the Evangelismos, before she and another nun Tomasina left for India.
From the Sayings of the Gerontissa

Assorted short sayings

Mother Gavrilia
1. Every place may become the place of the Resurrection. It is enough that you live the humility of Christ.
2. As for sleep, keeping vigil is enough.

3. There are people who are vigilant about some things, and there are people who are vigilant about all things.

4. Not a knowledge that you learn, but a knowledge that you suffer. That is Orthodox spirituality.

5. Do not desire many things–more than you have, that which is far away. Rather, seek to take care of what you have so as to sanctify it.

6. One thing is education: that we learn how to love God.

7. Nothing is cheaper than money.

8. Better hell here than in the other world.

9. It is not that which we say, but that which we live. It is not what we do, but what we are.

10. I put on the raso (the monastic habit), and I don’t say anything unless asked. The raso speaks.

11. If you have love for the whole world the whole world is beautiful.

12. Someone said that the Christian is one who purifies love and sanctifies activity.

13. We desire our freedom. Why? In order to be slaves to our passions.

14. Conference: When good-for-nothing people gather and decide that nothing can be done.

15. The aim is that even when we have the parasite in the head . . . we have the Paraclete in the heart.

16. We become a replication of heaven with “May Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

17. One who loves does not notice, just as one does not notice that he breathes.

18. When the doors of Heaven are open, so the doors on earth are also open.

19. When the mind (nous) is not scattered in worldly things and is united to God, then the “Good day” that we say becomes a blessing.

20. Every rejection and negativity destroys our work.

21. We must not exist before every image and likeness of the Other.

22. In the beginning of our life we have need of the presence of another to love or befriend. As we progress, the One–God–fills us with such love and His joy that nobody at all is needed. All of this longing for another the soul does in the beginning because it still doesn’t know Whom it loves and therefore thinks it needs a certain person.

23. God often does not desire the act but the intention. It is enough that He sees you are willing to do His command.

24. Jesus Christ gave the golden rule: alone and with the other.

25. When God created us, He gave us life and breathed His Spirit into us. That Spirit is Love. When we lack love, we become corpses and are altogether dead.

26. The Christian must respect the mystery of the existence of everyone and everything.

27. To reach nonexistence, love, love, and love—and so identify completely with the Other, with every other. Then at the end of the day you ask yourself, “Do I want anything? No. Do I need anything? No. Do I lack anything? No.” That’s it!

28. The spiritually advanced person is the one who arrives at a place of no identity and who has understood in his depths that whatever happens is the will of God or by the permission of God.

29. Only when the person stops reading otherbooks except the Gospel does he begin to make real interior progress. Only then, united with God through the Prayer, can he hear the will of God.

30. Never desire anything but the will of God, and receive with love the evil that comes to you.

31. Do not respond to a person with the evil he brings you, but see Christ in his heart.

32. Never say, “Why has this happened to me?” Or when you see someone with gangrene or cancer or blindness, don’t ask, “Why did this happen to them?” But ask God to give you the vision of the other bank of the river. Then you will see with the angels as it is in fact: Everything is according to the plan of God. Everything!

34. If we want to be good monastics, we must at every moment think of God before monasticism. Otherwise we will not become good monastics.

36. Our most vulnerable spot is found in many words and discussions.

38. When you have thought of critcism . . . judging others, ask God to take hold of you at that hour so that you can love that person as He loves. Then God will help you see your condition. If Christ were visible, could you criticize?

42 What we say remains to eternity.

43 Only when you are perfected in Love can you arrive at dispassion.

48. When needed, God will send someone to us. We are all fellow travelers.

49. The language of God is silence.

50. Whoever lives in the past is as if dead. Whoever lives in the future in his fantasy (or imagination) is naive, because the future belongs only to God. The Joy of Christ is found only in the present, in the Eternal Present of God.

59. Better to say the Jesus Prayer aloud than not at all.

66. Worry is for those who do not have Faith.

67. Anxiety and worry is for those who don’t have faith.

68. Love is only on the Cross.

68. Love is only found on the Cross.

69. Relationship is difficult when “I” stands above “You”.

70. As God loves you, so does He love your enemy.

71. Do you want to pray? Prepare to answer God secretly.

74. We should arrange to live in the world like the oil and the water in a vigil lamp, which do not mix and thus are in and for God. In the world, but not of the world.

75. We are all containers; sometimes of the Light, sometimes of the Dark.

80. Only when we are “still”…not busy-bodies…busy-bodying…caught up in many activities… do we give the angels an opportunity to do something.

81. You do what you should, and God will do what He should.

93. How beautiful is the Mystery of Tommorrow!

95. The Lord said: “Whoever wants something, believing he will receive. It is enough that the request is in agreement with the Commandments of God, that is with Love.

100. If you knew that you are not Here, then you would be There.

101. In order for miracles to occur, it is enough that we love. Neither prayer nor komboskini has such power.

102. My experience teaches me that nobody can help anyone, no matter how much they wish to of they love. Help comes only from God when it is His time.

103. When we have God always in mind, then God has us always in mind. (When we think always of God, God thinks always of us.)

105. We are only useful when we do not exist for ourselves, and the opposite.

106. We must not make decisions for others. Leave them to the Angels and they will find the best solution.

107. Never forget that you are His.

108. Like Symeon of Cyrene we must be ready to run to the help of our fellowman.

109. If you seek assistance from someone who is busy, he will do it for you, not the indolent and the lazy.

110. Woe to me if I do not love.

111. Three things are needful. First Love, Second Love, Third Love.

112. The fasting of a diet is so easy when one wants to slim. And so difficult is the Wednesday and Friday fast when the Church wants it.

113. In the Church we should always sit in the same place, for the Angels.

114. After the Liturgy, we should sit in the Church so long as we can, for the Angels

115. When we are talking and someone interrupts us, we should not continue. It means that he should not hear that which we would have said. The Angels do thus.

116. He who does not want to see anybody is not human.

117. Nowhere are we ‘forever’. (We are never anyplace “forever”.)

118. Whatever happens to us is only our own fault.

119. Every morning, on the new page we open, we sign the blank. Whatever God wills, let Him write. (Every morning open a new page and put your signature on the blank. Whatever God wants, let Him write.)

120. When we pray we should lock our door.

125. If you do not reach the point of despair, you will never see the Light.

136. Be still and know…There is no greater school than this kind of stillness of the mind.

137. The only true joy is freedom from worry.

150. Christ said to us: Go and make disciples of all nations. And we – hushing up – what do we do?

179. The most powerful prayer is the Epiclesis of the Divine Liturgy.

183. Love is a bomb the destroys all evil.

192. The other day a lady asked me what would happen with the ‘toll booths’ after death. I said to her, ” I will tell them the Light of Christ shines to All! You however are in darkness and I don’t see you!”

194. The greatest part of my prayer here and for years now is Thankgiving. What else should I ask, when I have everything?

199. God put the sense in the head. Why? Do you know? So that we can not see ourselves. Yes! So that we see only the other and love only the other. And so that we see ourselves only in the eyes of the Other.

243. Some want to go to the Resurrection without passing by way of Golgotha.

244. Because the Christians could not put in practice the Gospel while living in the world, they fled. That’s how they became the first monastics.

259. Every person is ‘sent’.

267. Our soul is a Divine Breath. Our body is His Creation. In the whole of us we are the icon of God.

290. Day and night let us bless God for the gifts He gives us.

291. Few words, much love. To all. No matter who they are.

Conversations
Have Faith
Only one thing do I know that I have always, and it is not pride, nor fantasy, but that which I have day and night, wherever I find myself–three things: first, Faith; second, Faith; third, Faith. That’s all! Nothing else can I say to you. It has directed all my life. When we believe and someone says, “Do you want to come to Lebanon with me?” I say, “Yes.”

“How do you say Yes to everything?”

I say yes because I believe that if it is not for my good God will make it so that the No will come from the very one who invited me. Some paper will not be ready, or something will happen.

Today I am ninety years old–may you live so long! I read again and again and again in the Gospels, and I see something strange. Jesus Christ comes and says to the Apostles, “Leave now what you have and follow Me.”

Now, if they said, “And who are you? Why should we lose what we have? Why should we lose our profit? Where will you take us? What will you do with us?”—if they had said that, what would have happened? They would have remained in darkness.

They said Yes to some Unknown who came and said, “Throw all that away!” Why? Because they believed in God, and they waited for the One who would say to them, “Come!” And that was the beginning.

Because if we say No, what will happen? . . . One or the other: If you believe, you will walk on the water like St. Peter. If you are scared–Bloop! Nothing else.

Through all my life it has been like that. They called me to the strangest and most distant place in India. One night they sent me a message: “Come and see someone who is sick.” We started out in an ox cart driven by some shepherd boy. And as we were going up the mountain in the forest, what do I see above us? Two eyes shining, a tiger. What do you say then? “Lord have mercy on me, and may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

So I closed my eyes and saw that written within me. Because He said to us, “Why do you worry? Why do you worry? Even the hairs of your head are numbered!” Why worry? Faith is lacking. May we have faith.

Languages
Once when I was there where I was, some foreign missionary came and said to me, “You may be a good woman, but you’re not a good Christian.”

I said, “Why?”

“Because you have been here so long and you only go about speaking English. What local languages have you learned?”

I said to him, “I haven’t managed to learn any of the local languages, because I travel a great deal from place to place. As soon as I learn one dialect, they start speaking another. I’ve only learned ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good evening.’ Nothing else.”

“Bah, you’re no Christian. How can you evangelize? All the Catholics and Protestants learn all the local dialects in order to . . .”

Then I said, “Lord, give me an answer for him.” I asked it with all my heart, and then I said, “Ah. I forgot to tell you. I know five languages.”

“Really? What are these five?”

“The first is the smile; the second is tears. The third is to touch. The fourth is prayer, and the fifth is love. With these five languages I go all around the world.”

Then he stopped and said, “Just a minute. Say that again so I can write it down.”

With these five languages you can travel the whole earth, and all the world is yours. Love everyone as your own–without concern for religion or race, without concern for anything.

Everywhere are people of God. You never know if the one you see today might tomorrow be a saint.

388. Come let us be silent.

Thanksgiving
When in truth we appreciate the gifts which God gives us, we don’t have time to seek anything else. We run to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We see a person … thank you. We see a flower … thank you. We see a glass of milk … thank you. For everything … thank you. And such a joy comes into our life, that many do not understand even if they are close to us; What is all this! They said to me once in England: “What’s happening? Why are you so cheerful?” “Because I am alive and I see you!” Have a good day!

— Holy Protection, Aegina, 1989
Holy Communion
It’s not for us to decide when we should or should not receive communion. It is not easy to see ourselves clearly, especially on our disordered side. For that there must be the Spiritual Guide. There must be Sacred Confession which will draw out of us whatever should not exist in us.

—Leros, January 1, 1991
Monastic Society
The Lord said to His disciples: “Soon you will all scatter and leave me alone, but I am not alone because My Father is always with me”. The same with us, if we think about it. We are never alone. As soon as we turn to Him in a glance of our mind, we’ll find ourselves in the appropriate condition toward Him first, and then toward our fellowman. That is, if we want something, some enlightenment, immediately we run to the Gospel. (Certainly at the time when there is no suitable person.), that is my start. In the Gospel is Eternal Life, that is, Himself. God gave us our conscience: His Gospel. In this conscience we always find an answer. . . . Another thing that helps a great deal, as we know, is frequent prayer. It’s not something that should be in words, neither in thought. The Prayer is not something we do: it is a condition of soul. And wherever you find yourself, whatever you are doing, in whatever circle you are, your soul can be found in the condition of Prayer. For the soul is from God. Next, when it is helped with prayer and the Jesus Prayer to be united with the Holy Name, then it continues, whatever you do.

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The English version of the book is slated for publication in June so that readers from all over the world will have the chance to be imbued in the experience! A special thank you to Linda Imbler and Christine Tabaka, Sue Vincent, my wordpress friend Vincent from New Jersey, my friend Jendi from Winning Writers and Anders from Odyssey.pm,Derrick my dear wordpress friend and all my friends from wordpress, twitter and the Holy Land for having been my staunch supporters.

 

 

Προσφάτως βρεθήκαμε στην Αγία Γη των Ιεροσολύμων και πιο συγκεκριμένα την έρημο της Ιεριχούς. Εκεί όπου ασκήτεψε η Οσία Μαρία η Αιγύπτια και μυριάδες αναχωρητές.Κάναμε και μια μικρή στάση στην αγαπημένη μας μονή του Αγίου Γερασίμου του Ιορδανίτου ή αλλιώς στο Μοναστήρι της Πέρδικας ( Deir Hajla) όπου βρίσκεται η εικόνα της Γαλακτοτροφούσας.

Είχαμε την ιδιαίτερη ευλογία να συνομιλήσουμε με τον Γέροντα του Μοναστηριού Χρυσόστομο τα οποία θα ήθελα να μοιραστώ με τους αναγνώστες τόσο της σελίδας μου όσο και με το εκκλησιαστικό ιστολόγιο Καμπανοκρουσία στο οποίο έχω την τιμή να αρθογραφώ.

Ο ηγούμενος της Μονής επισήμανε τους κινδύνους για την Πατρίδα μας αλλά και τις σκοτεινές δυνάμεις. Μίλησε για τον κίνδυνο του ” κουλουάχαντ” που αραβιστί σημαίνει “Όλοι είμαστε ένα” και για την απουσία στεντόριας αντίδρασης στις κακοδοξίες και στα κελεύσματα του Οικουμενισμού.

Μας προέτρεψε να ζούμε μυστηριακή ζωή γιατί οι καιροί είναι ύπουλοι και να καυχιόμαστε για την Πατρίδα μας και τον Μέγα Αλέξανδρο γιατί ήταν ο μόνος μη Εβραίος που εισήλθε στα Άγια των Αγίων και έφερε τον πολιτισμό.

Η ελληνική παρουσία είναι έντονη στην Αγία Γη με την Ελληνική Σημαία να κυματίζει αγέρωχα και τις καμπάνες να χτυπούν δυνατά υπενθυμίζοντας μας ότι το ελληνικό στοιχείο δεν πέθανε.

Εδώ θα ηθελα να προσθέσω και ένα προσωπικό σχόλιο. Όλη αυτή η παραφιλολογία για την πρωτεύουσα του Ισραήλ και το θέατρο που παίζεται από την Νέα Τάξη Πραγμάτων είναι κατευθυνόμενη. Πρωτεύουσα  του Ισραήλ για τους Εβραίους ήταν και είναι η Ιερουσαλήμ και όσοι κατεβαίνουμε εδώ και μια δεκαετία στα Πανάγια  Προσκυνήματα το γνωρίζουμε αυτό. Απορώ πως καταξιωμένοι δημοσιογράφοι δεν το γνωρίζουν αυτό.

Για να κλείσω, θα ηθελα να προτρέψω τους φίλους των Παναγίων Προσκυνημάτων να συνεχίσουν να στηρίζουν  με την παρουσία τους  τους Αγιοταφίτες Πατέρες που κρατάνε Θερμοπύλες και διατηρούν το ελληνικό στοιχείο αναλλοίωτο μέσα στους αιώνες.

 

 

 

 

 

THE BIBLE – GREATEST MONUMENT OF MANKIND

There are distinguished persons and distinguished monuments which stand out in the annals of history. Their lives were full of adventure as they faced the tremendous opposition of their contemporaries as well as accepting enormous sacrifice in their own lives. One of the monuments, the greatest in the history of the world, is the Bible. It has met great challenges of its literal expression as well as its trials over its validity and accuracy. The critical scrutiny of the Bible is the most thorough effort and examination that has ever been made of a literary work from the beginning of time, an examination challenging its integrity and meaning. Its words, thoughts and personalities have been the subject of controversial discussion and debate through the centuries, both in its original language and its translation. From approximately 12 centuries before the Christian era through 20 centuries since (the former for the Old Testament and the latter for both the Old and New Testament), its construction, correction and restoration was achieved. The Bible is stronger today than ever before, despite the “scientific” effort to replace it with human elements of the laboratory and technology. The Bible is so different from other literary works of famous writers whose names are mentioned in the history of scientific findings that only a Superhuman Providence has kept it alive through its orbit of destiny. The Bible has been inscribed on stone, papyrus, lamb skin, in the memories of men and in the hearts of the people.

This extraordinary adventure of the Bible, a written document of historical validity, is so because its content and mission are different from all other examples of human literature, regardless of their valuable content of knowledge and human wisdom. The Bible was written by different writers over an extensive period of time, especially the Old Testament. The writers of the Old Testament began with Moses, covering 12 centuries before Christ and continuing through the writers of the historical, poetical, instructive and prophetic books, together with the writers of the New Testament, writing over a period of 50 years. They find themselves in agreement on thoughts, purpose, destination and mission. The readers of the Bible are overwhelmed and astonished to find these harmonious elements of destiny and purpose. No other literature of this kind exists. A close coherence of the Old and New Testaments, keeping their content intact, their continuity in “promises” and “fulfillments,” links them together so closely. The various writings of the Old and New Testaments witness one Editor with Authority that permeates their thoughts.

The literature of the Bible is an epic monument which influences the thinking of man and the molding of his character. “The Bible carries its full message, not to those who regard it simply as a heritage of the past or who praise its literary style, but to those who read it that they may discern and understand God’s Word to man. That Word must not be disguised in phrases that are no longer clear, nor be hidden under words that have changed or lost their meaning. It must stand forth in language that is direct and plain and meaningful to people today.”

THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGES – THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD

The Gospel of Christ and, in general, the Holy Bible are written with the inspiration of God. The Prophets and the Apostles have recorded in written form a portion of the oral teaching of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic as well as the New Testament in Greek. These are the original languages of the Holy Bible from which all the translations have been derived. God’s inspiration is confined to the original languages and utterances, not the many translations. There are 1,300 languages and dialects into which the Holy Bible, in its entirety or in portions, has been translated. This does not mean that the translations do not convey the meaning of the Bible for spiritual uprightness of the readers in their own language. On the contrary, the Bible should be spread and preached to “all nations.” The missionaries in foreign lands learn the language or the dialect of the new area into which they bring the Bible and other religious teachings. For example, the missionaries from Constantinople, Saints Cyril and Methodios, sent to Christianize the Slavic peoples in the 9th century, first translated the Bible and the ritual books into the language of the people.

Translations of the Bible are very necessary, but are not sufficient for formulating dogmas and doctrines of the Church, which requires reference to the original languages. The translations depend upon the genius and knowledge of the translator in the selection of the proper words and phrases to render meaning as close as possible to the text of the original language. It is well-known that a new translation is more or less a new interpretation. This is obvious when the Bible is translated in the same language, but in different expressions and words. For instance, in the English language there are many translations and renderings with different words and phrases, which imply that one translation differs from the other. The many translations in the same language are justified in that new renderings are different from the previous ones. The fact that there are many translations in the same language indicates that the first translation is not understood after many centuries. For instance, the first translation into the English language from the original New Testament Greek and Old Testament Hebrew by John Wycliffe in the fifteenth century is incomprehensible to the reader today in English.

Unique characteristics such as idioms and colloquialisms make it impossible for an accurate translation of the meaning of the original language. Therefore, the translations should be used for the spiritual guidance of the believers, but not for the formulation of dogmatic teaching of the Church. This is why it cannot be said that the translations are “the inspired word of God.” Only the original language is “the inspired word of God.” It should be repeated, however, that the translations of the Bible are necessary for the spreading of the Revealed Truths of God among the people in all languages. This is the great commandment of God and the mission of His Church, for Jesus Christ Himself commissioned the Apostles to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”, Matthew 28:19, 20. This is to be in many languages of the nations, especially to nations which have never heard the Christian Message.

THE TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE

The many translations are necessary for spreading the word of God without any obstacles in communication. However, this should not diminish the significance of the original languages of the Bible, the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, and the language of the era when the books of the Scriptures were written. The study of the original languages is imperative for the correct understanding of the meaning of the Bible. The knowledge of the original languages is also imperative in order to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular. The knowledge of the original language is especially necessary for the doctrinal teaching of the Bible.

The individual Christian is urged to read the Bible in his own language for his spiritual enrichment, but not to use the translation in arriving at personal conclusions. One should read the Bible against the background of the interpretation given it by the Church as a whole, not on one’s own interpretation. It is profitable, however, for one who studies the Bible to use short commentaries of the Church and to leave the dogmatic and systematic teaching to the Church, which is the authoritative and infallible body. Taking a Biblical verse out of context often is misleading and is the basic cause of the Christian Church being separated into many parts, each interpreting according to their own opinions and thoughts.

It is not the Bible itself that divides Christianity, but its interpretation based on personal premises. That is the weakness of the human element. This weakness of the human element is reflected in claims that the Holy Spirit has inspired the individual to interpret the Bible according to his own premise. This is where the fallacy lies-the claim that the Holy Spirit is the author of his own personal interpretation, a claim that all make. The fact that so many persons have claimed that the Holy Spirit has spoken to and chosen them personally should be clear and unmistakable proof that the interpretation of Scriptures lies only in the authority of the Church as a whole, and not with individuals. It should be stressed that the Bible is written on the background of the life of the Church, which has kept the Christian Message, Sacred Tradition, the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, undefiled. The Church, not individuals, was and remains the infallible interpreter of the written word, the Holy Bible. The mistake is even greater when the interpretation of the Bible depends upon the translations instead of the original Hebrew and, especially, the New Testament Greek text. The fact that there are variations in the translations of the Bible indicates most clearly the need for a common edition of the Greek New Testament on which other translations will depend.

A comparison of the text of this edition with that of the edition of the official New Testament text of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople shows approximately 2,000 variations. But most of them do not change the meaning of the New Testament. All the variations between these two texts are found in the apparatus of the critical edition of 1966, issued by the five Bible Societies. The text of the Patriarchate was prepared by a commission in 1904, and it also has approximately 2,000 variations compared to the Common Edition, Textus Receptus, prepared much earlier. Despite these efforts, there is still no one common edition of the New Testament Greek accepted by all. It must be recognized, though, that the edition issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople depended mainly upon the passages and verses designated by the Church to be read during the celebrations on Sundays and feast days, and for this reason, these passages were kept intact with fewer changes. It is evident that greater efforts involving all the Christian churches must be made to arrive at one common edition in the original language recognized by all Christians. This effort will be a step in unifying the Christian Church as Christ meant it to be, One Body, Undivided.

THE NEED TO KNOW THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGES

A critical examination of the text of the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible is indispensable, for through the centuries, many words were added or omitted. This was especially so before the printing press when there was only manual copying on rough lamb skin and papyrus. The scholarly study of the original languages is a valuable aid in correcting the mistakes and reestablishing intact the original texts from which the translations should be made. The prime purpose of such a valuable work is not only to make the Bible free from any and all changes and mistakes, but even more to make the original context and meaning available for translations in many languages for reading by all Christians. The simple purpose of the Bible is to be read and known by all the peoples of the world, in their own languages and in its pure and true form in its original languages and in its many translations.

The individual Christian should read the Bible as the Revelation from God Himself for his enlightenment and salvation. He should read the Bible with the fear of God and with true faith. The reader invokes the Holy Spirit to help him understand its deep meaning for his own personal and practical life. The Christian should read the Bible for his spiritual rebirth and divine assistance in order to understand its sacred content carried by the letter, which is a human organ and tool. Nevertheless, it is the spirit that gives life to the reader, for it is “not of the letter (of the new covenant) but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”, 2 Corinthians 3:6b; that is, “spiritual and not literal”, Romans 2:29b.

Because the Bible took its literal form in the Christian community, which kept it intact, this community-the Church-was and is the treasurer and interpreter of the Revealed Truths of Christ. This Revealed Truth, taught orally by Christ and His Apostles, is the Sacred Tradition, a part of which later became the written New Testament. Therefore, when the Christian reads the Bible, he must read it against the background of this Sacred Tradition at large. The reader should also have in mind that the various parts of the Bible were not written systematically, but occasionally. Therefore, the Christian needs a guide to properly understand the meaning of the Scriptures. The guide is the interpretation given by the Church as a whole, which is infallible. The example that one needs to help him understand the Bible was given when Philip the Apostle asked the minister of Candace who was reading the Prophet Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And the minister answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Acts 8:30 (c.f. Acts 8:26-40). In order for the Bible to be read and understood by the people, it should be translated into the various languages of the people, using the interpretation made by the Church as a whole. This is the correct guide.

THE TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE INTO ENGLISH

The translation of the Bible into the English language coincided with the invention of the printing press and the period of Reformation (15th -16th centuries). Before this time, the use of the Bible in the West was forbidden in any language other than Latin. The Latin translation, from the original Hebrew and Greek, was made by St. Jerome in the fourth century. It became the authoritative Bible for the Western Church and was known as the Vulgate. The reading of the Bible, even in the Latin, was forbidden the lay people without permission. This denial by the authorities of the Western Church was one of the main reasons for the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, the first act of the first reformer, Martin Luther, was the translation of the Bible into German in 1522, which translation was the main factor in the establishment of the German language. Before the Reformation and the printing press, various parts of the Bible had been translated into English from the Latin Vulgate.

The Western Church was very strict in the use of Latin not only for the Bible, but also for the ritual worship of the Church, which was incomprehensible to the people. It should be noted that before the Reformation, there was no complete translation of the Bible in English. The only translation in English, from the Latin and not the original Greek language, covering only the New Testament and some parts of the Old, was that attributed to John Wycliffe of England. Despite the fact it was made with the knowledge of the authorities of the Church, its use was forbidden without special permission, according to the decision of the Synod of Oxford of 1407. The first translation of the Bible into English from the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, and the first which was printed was that of William Tyndale in c. 1523. Before this translation, the only printings of the Bible were the Vulgate (first printing, 1456), the Hebrew text of the Old Testament (1488), the text of the New Testament Greek by Erasmus (1516), with four revisions through 1535, and the literal translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin (1528). The translation of the New Testament into English from the original Greek text depended on the initiative of Tyndale (c. 1523), without the sponsorship or permission of the Bishop of London. Tyndale was denounced and forced to flee to Germany, where he probably met Martin Luther. Tyndale started to print the New Testament in English in Cologne, but was again forced to flee to another city, Worms.

In Worms, he finally completed the printing of the English translation of the New Testament in its entirety. This translation was reprinted many times in Holland. Copies of this translation reached England, where it aroused the anger of his enemies. Nevertheless, Tyndale continued his work and undertook to translate and print the books of the Old Testament. He first printed the five Books of Moses, the Pentateuch, in Antwerp in 1529-30. Over the next few years, he printed the other books of the Old Testament. Tyndale later printed the New Testament and the Pentateuch together with marginal notes reflecting the Protestant views. This further incensed his enemies, who had him condemned as a heretic. He was burned at the stake in Holland in 1536. Tyndale’s translation, especially that of the New Testament from the original Greek, marked the beginning of many other English translations from the original Greek, using Tyndale’s translation as a guide. Unfortunately, the original Greek New Testament edited by Erasmus in 1516, which was used by Tyndale for his English translation, contained many mistakes. Still, Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible was a pioneer work and an independent effort. Much of his translation is used in the King James Version of 1611.

TYNDALE’S TRANSLATION AND THE KING JAMES VERSION

Tyndale’s English translation of the entire Bible was the basis for the many other English translations that followed. The subsequent English versions are Coverdale’s Bible, 1535; Thomas Mathew’s Bible, 1537; the Great Bible, 1539; the Geneva Bible, 1560; and the Bishop’s Bible, 1568. Also the Rheims-Duae’s in 1582 was translated from the Latin Vulgate. Within approximately 50 years from the time of Tyndale’s first printed translations, the above six translations were made. It must be noted, however, that none of these English translations were accepted as an authorized English version because of general dissatisfaction with them and the many mistakes found in them. Therefore, after 30 years, another attempt to translate the Bible anew into English was made by a conference in England, where a new version of the Bible was suggested to King James. King James was convinced of the need for a new English translation of the Bible. He appointed 54 scholars to undertake the task. These scholars used the Bishop’s Bible of 1568 as a basis, but earlier English versions were also taken into consideration, especially Tyndale’s.

These 54 scholars, appointed to translate a new, original English version, failed because they used the earlier English translation, which had many mistakes. Thus, theirs was a new revision, not a new translation. Regardless, this new version was received with great enthusiasm and happiness, and within a generation, it displaced all other English translations. This new version became known as the King James Version, or the Authorized Version. This King James Version was printed in 1611 and has become the familiar form of the Bible for many English-speaking generations. The King James Version was the only version that bore the royal authority and was “appointed to be read in churches.” It is characterized as “the noblest monument of English prose.” The King James Version has played a prominent role in forming the personal character of the church and institutions of the English-speaking people.

Yet, even this King James Version was neither well-received nor free of criticism by some. Nevertheless, it has prevailed through the centuries and is still held in great esteem today, both by preachers and lay people, despite its defects, which were noted more clearly in the mid-nineteenth century and more so today. The Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible possessed today were unknown to the 54 scholars of the King James Version. The manuscripts of the Bible which were found later pointed out more clearly the serious defects of the King James Version. This fact convinced the Church of England in 1870 to make a revision of the King James translation. This revision was published in 1881 (N.T.) and 1885 (O.T.) and was known as the English Revised Version of the Bible, which included the Apocrypha, printed in 1895. However, to its detriment, this committee of revisers included only Anglican scholars. This version was not accepted by the vast majority of local churches and people, who cherished the King James Version.

THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION

The dissatisfaction with the new English Revised Version led scholars in America to once again attempt to issue another English translation based on this English Revised Version. The American scholars, who cooperated with the English revisers, made amendments in the English Revised Version and published it in 1901, calling it the American Standard Version. Numerous other new English translations were published over the years. Among those worthy of mention are: The New Testament by R. F. Weymouth, 1902; The New Testament, 1913, and The Old Testament, 1924, by J. Moffatt (complete Bible revised in 1935); The American Translation of the New Testament by E. G. Goodspeed, 1923; the Old Testament by J. M. Powis Smith, 1935; the Apocrypha by Goodspeed, 1938; The Westminster Version of the Holy Scriptures by the Catholic Church, 1935; a Revised Catholic Version by R. A. Knox (New Testament, 1945, Old Testament, 1949); The Basic English by S. H. Hooke (N. T., 1945, O.T., 1949); and The New Translation of the Bible in Modern English, by the Church of Scotland (including only Protestant churches), 1947.

Between 1881 and 1901, when the English Revised Version (1881) and the American Standard Version (1901) were published, there was an unhappy lack of agreement on an English translation acceptable to all. Therefore, the task of a new English translation was again undertaken by the International Council of Religious Education in 1937. This Council appointed a committee of scholars to study The American Standard Version for further revision. The committee studied this question for two years and concluded that there was need for a thorough revision of the American Version of 1901, using the Tyndale Version as well as the King James Version in light of today’s knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek texts and their meaning, and also using present understanding of the English language. The Council thereupon authorized an English revision of the Bible.

A committee of 32 scholars was appointed to make the new revision in cooperation with an advisory board of 50 representatives of all the denominations which had agreed to its need. The committee was then divided into two groups, one for the Old Testament and the other for the New. Each group submitted its work for the scrutiny of the other, with each change being made by two-thirds vote of the entire committee. The work of the committee covered approximately 10 years. The new revision was unanimously adopted by the advisory board and participating Protestant denominations. The result of this great effort is the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV). The New Testament was first printed in 1946. The complete Bible, Old and New Testaments, was authorized by vote of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America in 1951.

FINDING OF ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS OF ORIGINAL LANGUAGES

The Greek text of the New Testament used for the King James Version was that of Beza in 1589. Beza had two Greek manuscripts of great value of the fifth and sixth centuries, but he did not use them because they were different from the Greek text made by Erasmus (1516-1535). The manuscripts used by Erasmus were from the tenth century on, and he made little use of them. The discovery of many ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, especially after 1931, provided the committee of scholars with important new sources, including the information which recent discoveries have provided for a better understanding of the vocabulary and idioms of the Greek New Testament language. Since 1870, when the official undertaking of the revision of the King James Version took place, an enormous number of papyri have been unearthed in Egypt, containing private letters, official reports, petitions, business accounts and various other records of the activities of the first centuries. These findings were thoroughly studied by Adolf Deissmann, and his results were published in 1895. His study proved that many of the Greek words of the New Testament were used in the everyday life of the people of the first centuries and were not special words which belonged to what was considered Biblical Greek. These discoveries provided the committee of scholars of the Revised Standard Version with valuable material not available to previous translators. Another factor promoting the decision to revise the King James Version was that its archaic form of expression of English was not clearly understood by contemporary people. The use of such words as “thou,” “thee,” “thy” and “thine” and the verb endings, “est,” edst,” “eth” and “th,” made it difficult for most people to understand it. More than 300 words in the King James Version are misleading in light of today’s understanding. This was one of the reasons that led the Council to revise the King James Version. It must be noted that the Revised Standard Version is not a new translation, nor is it a paraphrase of the English language; it is a revision of the King James Version.

THE NEED OF A COMMON ENGLISH VERSION

There is a tendency today by churches, Bible societies and scholars to adopt one English translation of the Bible as a common, authoritative one. For the first time, even the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Revised Standard Version in 1966 to be used with the addition of the “Apocrypha” (books of the Old Testament designated by the Church “as worthy to be read,” which are incorporated in the Hebrew text in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate). When the Catholic Church adopted the Revised Standard Version, it received permission from the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, which holds the copyrights of this Version, to include its own explanatory notes in an appendix.

The Eastern Orthodox Church officially uses the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament which was translated from the original Hebrew language into Greek in the third century B.C. The Septuagint of the Orthodox Church contains all the Canonical Books and the Anaginoskoinena Books “worthy to be read” (called Apocrypha in the English Versions). For the New Testament, the original Greek text is used by the Greek Church, while the other Orthodox Churches have translated the Bible into their own native languages from the original Greek, with the Slavonic translation the oldest. The Orthodox Church has not, as yet, translated the Bible into English and so has no official English translation. In the meantime, the Orthodox are temporarily using both the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version.

THE BIBLE – THE REVEALED WORD OF GOD

The Bible, the inspired word of God, is a living monument in that it goes above and beyond being just a historical document or just a classic piece of literature. It is the Revelation of God Himself and His Will. The Bible is a divine account of God’s Design for the salvation of man; it is an account of the Incarnation of the Logos in the Person of Jesus Christ Who became flesh and dwelt among man. It was written to be read with reverence and faith. The Revelation and Message of the Bible should not be hidden or altered by words and phrases that have lost or changed their meaning over the years. The Bible was given to man so he might know the True God and His Revealed Truths, for without the Bible, Christ would be unknown to man. God speaks to man through the Bible. Therefore, the written word in its original context is indispensable for belief in Christ and for living His Commandments. The important words of the Holy Bible are:

“written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name “, John 20:31.