Archive for December, 2008

29th Tuesday 2008. Hearing the Gospel preached. Hebrews 4:1-13

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

29th Week After Pentecost – TUESDAY

Today’s readings, followed by a few exegetical, pastoral & personal thoughts.


Hebrews 4:1-13 1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.


Luke 21:12-19 12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. 13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony. 14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. 16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. 18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish. 19 In your patience possess ye your souls.



Heb 4:1-2 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.


Hebrews is among the most difficult of all the books in the entire bible, but within its intricate layers of theology are certain things that anyone with “ears to hear” can understand. These verses are such an example.


The Gospel is very simple: hear, believe, do, and be saved. We are such fickle, lazy creatures that we often delude ourselves into believing that hearing is enough, as if knowledge concerning holiness makes one holy. It just so happens that yesterday the Prophet Haggai was commemorated, and I read his short book of prophesy. It contains startling moral teaching that very much applies to St Paul’s words. Haggai was rebuking the faithless Jews who were not obeying the will of God to rebuild the temple, and asked them a series of questions.


 (2:11) In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius the king, the word of the Lord came to Aggeus the prophet, saying:  (11)  (2:12) Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests the law, saying:  (12)  (2:13) If a man carry sanctified flesh in the skirt of his garment, and touch with his skirt, bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat: shall it be sanctified? And the priests answered, and said: No.  (13)  (2:14) And Aggeus said: If one that is unclean by occasion of a soul touch any of all these things, shall it be defiled? And the priests answered, and said: It shall be defiled.  (14)  (2:15) And Aggeus answered, and said: So is this people, and so is this nation before my face, saith the Lord, and so is all the work of their hands: and all that they have offered there, shall be defiled. (Hag 2:10-14 DRB)


The jist of the holy prophet’s discourse, in so many words, is this: being around holiness does not make one holy. Hearing about holiness (hearing the gospel preached) does not make one holy. Only hearing and doing, with the heart changing, can make one holy.


The Gospel preached is just like a sanctified item wrapped in a garment. The Gospel contains the words of life, and when it touches the ears, they are holy, but if these words of life are not unwrapped and allowed to penetrate into the “joints and marrow”, then the soul does not become holy.


How much holiness is all around us? We attend the liturgy every Sunday, and perhaps even commune the Holy Mysteries, but do we change? Why do we not change? St Paul tells us plainly: because the things we heard were not “mixed with faith”.


Faith is to do what we hear; and in time, to be what we hear. The Apostle gives us the example of the Jews in the wilderness, who heard but did not do, and then asks us to compare ourselves to them. He tells us we should be afraid, lest we end up in the same state.


As a Christian, I am acutely aware of how little I have become holy, even though I am surrounded by holiness. I wonder if I have done enough, changed enough. St Paul’s words are a ringing rebuke to my ears.


Do they sting your ears too? What can you do about this?


I am always available to give constructive suggestions in every personal case. Talk to me. Let’s work together to become holy. 




Note: Please contact the author with suggestions to form a complete bibliography, especially online sources.


The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Luke, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!



Priest Seraphim Dec 17/30 2008.                                                                                               St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas;1-13+luke21;12-19.html;1-13+luke21;12-19.doc;1-13+luke21;12-19.pdf


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2 Sundays before Nativity 2008. the Holy Supper.

Sunday, December 28th, 2008


Homilies related to the Nativity

From this day forward. St Herman’s day Dec 12 2008

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

The following is a fragment of a conversation between St Herman and some officers of a Russian ship, recorded by his disciple Yanovsky; it includes perhaps the most familiar quotation from St Herman.

 "But do you love God?" asked the Elder. And all answered: "Of course we love God. How can we not love God?"


"And I, a sinner, have tried to love God for more than forty years, and I cannot say that I perfectly love Him," answered Father Herman, and began to explain how one must love God. "


If we love someone," he said, "then we always think of that one, we strive to please that one; day and night our heart is preoccupied with that object. Is it in this way, gentlemen, that you love God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always remember Him, do you always pray to Him and fulfill His Holy commandments?"


We had to admit that we did not.


"For our good, for our happiness," concluded the Elder, "at least let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!"

St Nicholas day 2008. Video: Singing, short homily.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008


Other links to the video: YouTube, Yahoo, MySpace, Metacafe, Google, DailyMotion, and Veoh

28th Week After Pentecost – Wed. Loneliness, and the mouth of the lion.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

2 Timothy 4:9-22  9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. 13 The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. 22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.


Luke 20:1-8 1 And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders, 2 And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority? 3 And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? 5 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? 6 But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. 7 And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. 8 And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.


St Paul wrote this letter when he was in prison for the second and last time. It was most probably the last letter in the canon of scripture that he wrote. In vs. 16, his “first answer” refers most probably refers to his discourse recorded in Acts 22. This was just previous to his first imprisonment.


In this, his second imprisonment, there is a sense of retrospective in his words. Here is a man who has “fought the good fight”, and was contemplating the end of his life, which could come at any time.


St Paul’s words remind me of one of the greatest temptation of the pastor, and indeed, even the zealous Christian: loneliness. This loneliness is not because of lacking the company of persons, but because of the great sense of sadness that floods the heart of the believer because of the overwhelming volume of unbelief, timidity and inconstancy in the world, even among those who profess belief in Christ. Even our Lord Jesus Christ had this temptation:


“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.  (67)  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?  (68)  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:66-68)


This feeling, in my opinion, is what the Apostle has in mind when he states that he was

delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (vs. 17)


The reference to the “lion” is from the psalms:


“O Lord my God, in thee have I trusted: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me.  (2)  Lest at any time the enemy seize my soul as a lion, while there is none to ransom, nor to save.” (Psa 7:1-2 Brenton)


 “(16:12) They laid wait for me as a lion ready for prey, and like a lion’s whelp dwelling in secret places.  (13)  (16:13) Arise, O Lord, prevent them, and cast them down: deliver my soul from the ungodly: draw thy sword” (Psa 17:12-13 Brenton)


Perhaps most people would think that “deliverance” would mean personal freedom, and safety from physical harm, this certainly is not what the Apostle has in mind. The majority of the Christian life is a battle in the heart; this is where the “lion” is most active.



The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Luke, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!



Priest Seraphim Nov 4/17 2008.                                                                                              St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas;9-22+luke20;1-8.html;9-22+luke20;1-8.pdf;9-22+luke20;1-8.doc


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28th Tuesday readings/commentary. All scripture… should be read!

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
2 Timothy 3:16-4:4 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.


Luke 19:45-48  45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. 47 And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, 48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.


When St Paul was writing about scripture, the NT as we know it did not exist. He was referring to the OT here, but of course, his words apply to the NT also. At the time, the canon of the NT was just in its nascent stage. Various letters were treasured by the church, copied, and read in services, but there was as yet no discussion by the church about which letters to include in “scripture”.


Most of us would agree that the NT is somewhat more understandable. The OT language is much more difficult, and on almost every page, the events being described have a meaning that applies to the present time in which they were written, and also point to Jesus Christ, the cross, and other things that are quintessentially about the Christian church.


What are our reasons for neglecting so great a treasure? The Gospels are often quite simple and direct, and we MUST read them often. It is good to read them every day. The Epistles help apply the Gospels to our lives and explain the theology and practice touched on in them. The Psalms are the church’s prayer book, used in every service. They have a marvelous way of applying to every person, in every moment of their life. I try to chant at least a kathisma every day, and every time I do this, something “jumps out” at me. Try this habit, and you will become more literate as a Christian, and be empowered to make significant changes in your life.


I know the bible is difficult to understand for many people, including some in my flock. We are lazy people, and tend to give up things that are difficult, however, the bible is not like some physics textbook that we would never understand no matter how many times we read it (Reader Nicholas, a physics teacher, being excepted). When we read the scriptures with effort, we will begin to understand them. I write these meditations to inform and encourage, but only the reader is capable of taking the next step: READING THE SCRIPTURES. Like Philip, I must say to you “Come and see!” See what happens if you actually apply yourself to treading the scriptures daily. 


We were born for perfection. Do not neglect such a treasure which was designed such that:


“the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”




The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Luke, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!



Priest Seraphim Dec 10/23 2008.                                                                                     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas pentecost-tuesday-28_2008_2timothy3;16-4;4+luke19;45-48.html pentecost-tuesday-28_2008_2timothy3;16-4;4+luke19;45-48.doc pentecost-tuesday-28_2008_2timothy3;16-4;4+luke19;45-48.pdf



New commentaries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/

Archive of: commentaries: 

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27th Sun 2008. The Healing Of The Woman With An Infirmity Of Eighteen Years. It is really pretty simple.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008


All Homilies for this Day:
27th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)
27th Sunday after Pentecost (Word DOC format)
The Healing Of The Woman With An Infirmity Of Eighteen Years
27th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
Two Visions Of The Kingdom
Ephesians 6:10-17, Luke 13:10-17
27th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
The Healing Of The Woman With An Infirmity Of Eighteen Years
It is really pretty simple.
Luke 13:10-17


Luke 13:10-17 10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

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St Nicholas, Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia: 10 Things

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

St Nicholas’ day is Friday (TOMMOROW!) this week. In order to celebrate our patron, we will try to post something about St Nicholas every day.


  • Vigil for St Nicholas: Thursday 6:30 PM. TONIGHT!
  •  Divine Liturgy and festal lunch (fish allowed) Friday 9 AM 


St Nicholas, Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia: 10 Things



1. St Nicholas was a bishop in Myra, in the land of Lycia in the fourth century. This area is present day Anatolia (a part of modern day Turkey), on the South coast, in Asia Minor. St Paul preached here.

2. The name “Nicholas” means “victory of the people”, or “namesake of victory”. This meaning is mentioned in some of the hymns of his service:


As a true namesake of victory, / to the faithful people thou hast shown thyself / to be mighty amid perils, / O holy Nicholas, hierarch of Christ; / for whenever thou art invoked, / thou dost quickly hasten / to those who with love have recourse to thy protection. / For, appearing to the faithful by day and by night, // thou savest them from dangers and evil circumstances. (Vespers, Lord I have Cried)


3. We do not know exactly when St Nicholas was born, but he is known to have died peacefully about (345-351).


4. There are many stories in many countries about St Nicholas. No doubt, some are myths. How can one know which is which? It stands to reason that our service for St Nicholas, which is very old and has been used by countless saints and holy ones, would contain the accurate stories. We do know for sure that he was not a fat man who wore a red suit.


5. St Nicholas is know as the “Myrrh streaming”, because his relics have exuded sweet myrrh, and caused many healings. In our time, his relics abide in Bari, Italy.


6. St Nicholas is the most celebrated Saint other than the Apostles, the Most Holy Theotokos and John the Baptist. He is commemorated every week on Thursday (along with the Holy Apostles), when his troparion and kontakion are sung.


7. St Nicholas had the benefit of good parents. His parents, Theophannes and Nonna were very pious, and gave great alms because they were wealthy. One of his uncles was a bishop (also named Nicholas).


8. St Nicholas is known as a patron to the oppressed, especially prisoners. Also, travelers and sailors have traditionally had a great devotion to him.


9. St Nicholas, perhaps more than any other holy father, caused the defeat of Arius in the First Ecumenical Council (Nicea, 325 AD). He is remembered for slapping Arius, who was expounding his heresy at the council with great eloquence.


Nowadays, things are more defined, but at the time of the council, the Arian heresy was a real threat to the true Christian faith. Simply put, it posited that Jesus Christ was a creature, created by the Father, and having god-like qualities. Arius had many sympathizers, and excellent rhetoric was highly valued and influential in that day.


Holy Nicholas could not bear to see Arius spewing his poison, so he slapped him and rebuked him. For this, he was removed from the council. The next day, the bishops planned to depose him, however, at night,  some of the bishops had a vision where Nicholas was standing between the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was holding the Gospel, and The Theotokos, holding an omophorion. They proceeded to give these tokens of Episcopal rank to Nicholas. Due to this vision, Nicholas was restored to his rank with great honor, and Arius was put to shame. The moral to this story: Sometimes you can slap a heretic, but only if you are holy!


With what songs of hymnody shall we praise the holy hierarch, / the opponent of impiety and champion of piety, / the leader, great ally and teacher, / who putteth to shame all the infamous, / the destroyer of Arius and his minions? / For his sake hath Christ, Who hath great mercy, // cast down the arrogance of the enemy. (Vespers, Lord I have cried)


10. History has preserved nothing written by St Nicholas.


11. St Nicholas is asked to intercede for prisoners partly because he saved some military commanders who were unjustly condemned to death.


Let us all praise Nicholas, / the great archpastor, hierarch and prelate of Myra; / for he saved many men / who were unjustly condemned to be executed, / appearing to the emperor and to Ablavius in a dream, // annulling the unjust verdict. (Matins, Expostilarion)


[1] This document is a list of ten (or more) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at They are also posted to the blog “Redeeming the Time” – Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim 6:6)

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

This is an excerpt from today’s readings. I always desire to send short scriptural commentaries every day to the blog, but have good weeks and bad weeks. This has been a bad week for scriptural commentary, as this is the first time. In the spirit of the verse, I will try to be content with sending just a little bit of a thought to you.


I send these things because I want you, the reader (and of course, many of you are of my small flock also) to: 1. Read the bible 2. Be inspired to read the bible and 3. learn to find personal meaning in the things you read. The bible is a difficult book, and many do not read it because it is hard to understand. It is my hope that these short commentaries illuminate the meaning at least a little bit, and inspire you to read on your own, every day.


Although much of the bible is difficult, parts of it are "easy". The verse above is one of those parts. The first words Jesus spoke to His assembled disciples after His resurrection was "Peace be unto you". Contentment comes from peace, or better, being at peace. We cannot be at peace unless we are without sin. Our passions leave us with no peace. All that matters in life is that we find peace, because if we find it, we have found God, and become like God. We cannot do ANYTHING effectively unless we are at peace (content). when I read these words about contentment, I realize how far I am from being content, but am also filled with hope that I will sometime attain true contentment, because Our Lord promised it to us.


I want to tell you emphatically that when you are not content about your life, you are sinning. This happens to me all the time, so I am a sinner telling others about sin, but the message is nevertheless true. All of us should learn to recognize our silent attitudes and feelings, and known whether we are “in the Spirit” (as it was sometimes said of the Apostles in Acts) or not. Much of our sin is our overall attitude about life. We should strive to be content, but this does not happen from just wanting such a state. You cannot feel good unless you do good. The holy are content. Let us strive to be holy, and then we will find perfect rest.



1 Timothy 5:22-6:11  22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. 23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. 24 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. 25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. 1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

St Nicholas feeds the Athonite Fathers during the Fascist Occupation

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

St Nicholas’ day is Friday this week. In order to celebrate our patron, we will try to post something about St Nicholas every day.


  • Vigil for St Nicholas: Thursday 6:30 PM
  •  Divine Liturgy and festal lunch (fish allowed) Friday 9 AM 

"What are you doing?" the unknown priest asked. "Is this all the wheat you have? No more?"

The fathers at the Athonite monastery replied that this was all they had indeed. It was December, and they were unable to buy any more because of the Fascist Occupation. It should be noted that 10,000 okas’ weight of wheat was needed a year for the monastery’s survival, and that they could not even buy one oka of it.

The unknown priest took a few wheat kernels in his hand, blessed them and threw them on top of the rest of the wheat. He blessed the four points of the horizon, the monastery, and the sea, and then was about to leave.

"Where do you come from?" the fathers asked him. "Stay to have some bread and olives."

"I come from very far away — from Myra in Lycia," he said and departed.

One of the brothers had in the meantime gone for some food to offer the visitor, but the elder, who turned out to be the monastery’s protector, had vanished. The remaining 150 okas of bles! sed wheat lasted for half a year, that is, from the month of December when St. Nicholas appeared to them, until the following July when the new crop came in.

From An Athonite Gerontikon