Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Sunday, 28 June 2015

St Nektarios on Seeking Happiness

We often seek happiness through journeys abroad, riches, as well as vain possessions and pursuits. St Nektarios of Aegina urges us to look beyond these means, in order to reach true, everlasting joy and fulfilment.

Instead of searching for happiness outside of ourselves, through external possessions and journeys, St Nektarios writes that joy is found within our very hearts; within ourselves.

'Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts : 
"I will visit them, and will walk in them, and will be a God to them, and they will be my people." (2 Corinthians 6:16)

If we truly seek happiness through these means, we are never deprived of any good; as all good gifts are bestowed upon us by the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit: 'They have the greatest good in their heart: God Himself!' St Nektarios compares happiness found out-with the heart, as a structure built on uneven ground; leading to a life of uncertainty and instability.

Most of us waste our time 'wishing our lives away' ; anxious to finish school or university,  to travel, or retire, however Saint Nektarios highlights that every day and hour can be a time of great joy, peace, and fulfilment. Temporary travels, the use of technology, and possessions, are not necessary for obtaining happiness; but life in Christ makes it possible to live every hour in happiness and peace, remembering His promise that 'I am with you always' (Matthew 28:20) as we go about our daily lives seeking His joy within our hearts, and sharing it with our fellows.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Saint Januarius of Naples

Following my visit to Barcelona, I took the ferry to Italy, travelling to Naples; the country's third largest city. After pizza (invented in this historical city) I made my way through the bustling streets to the Cathedral, dedicated to Naples' patron Saint, Januarius ( known locally as San Gennaro) 

Saint Januarius suffered martyrdom for Christ around the year 305, during the persecution under the orders of emperor Diocletian. He had been arrested and put on trial due to his Christian confession. Authorities threw Januarius into a burning furnace, however he came out miraculously unharmed. He was consequently stretched out and beaten, then placed into the circus to be killed by wild beasts; however the dangerous animals did not harm the saint. With disbelief and astonishment, the governor of Campagna (Menignus) claimed these miracles were due to sorcery. Though Menignus had witnessed God's intervention, and presence through His servant Januarius, he sentenced the saint to beheading.

Following Saint Januarius' death, Christians took up his body, and collected his dry blood, placing them in the centre of Naples. Since the fifteenth century, the same remains of his blood liquifies when the container is placed for veneration - and many miracles have taken place following this recurring event. According to tradition, during an eruption of Vesuvius in 431, the faithful Christians of Naples fervently prayed for the saints intercessions, leading to the lava stopping before reaching the city. 

'The Master has given you to Naples, O Holy one, as a precious treasure and fountain of healing. You are a guardian and protector of the faithful, and you avert the evils of Vesuvius' fire. Therefore we cry to you in faith: Rejoice, O Januarius, Our father and protector!' 
 - Troparion

- The Crypt of Saint Januarius, consisting of his holy relics, within the Cathedral of Naples

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Saint Eulalia of Barcelona

After returning from an enjoyable trip to Spain and Italy, posts will resume throughout the summer; including a selection of articles on Saints, as well as holy sites, discovered on my recent travels. 

The first stop, on my recent travels, was the Spanish city of Barcelona, capital of Catalonia. St Eulalia (290AD), a thirteen year old Christian Martyr, is the city's patron saint, commemorated on August the 22nd. During the time of persecution under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, the governor Dacian arrived in Barcelona to get rid of the faithful Christian population. Hearing this news, Saint Eulalia left her home, travelled to the city centre and made a bold denunciation of the judge, who had been forcing people to renounce the Christian faith in God, asking them to offer sacrifices to false idols. After her courageous public denunciation, Dacian gave the judge orders to strip the blessed girl, and brutally beat her. Eulalia refused to recant her belief, and so the romans continually subjected her to several tortures, leading to crucifixion and finally decapitation. Saint Eulalia steadfastly endured the torment, and assured her torturers that 'God helps me, and the Lord is the defender of my soul' (Ps 53/54:4). She fervently prayed that the Lord would take her from this life, to Heaven, and with this strong prayer she passed away into God's open arms. Tradition tells us that a snowstorm hit the area after her death, covering the holy martyr's naked and tortured body like a white garment.

The Sequence of Saint Eulalia (known as the Canticle of Saint Eulalia) is the earliest surviving piece of french haghiography and one of the earliest pieces of french text. This historical document describes the Saint resisting pagan threats, bribery and torture from the emperor Maximian - recounting her miraculous survival after being burned, followed by her decapitation. According to this Saint's biography, and Holy Tradition of the Church, a white dove flew from her body following her death, as she ascended into Heaven to be united with the Triune God;  Who she adored, faithfully worshipped, and loved.