Archive for March, 2009

Mother Maria Skobtsova

If one were to consider which Orthodox Saints particularly embodied a faithful response to Christ’s Parable of the Last Judgment (the Sheep and the Goats) in St. Matthew 25:31-46, one of the more recent ones,  Mother Maria Skobtsova of Paris, would be a prime candidate.

From the article “Saint of the Open Door” on the website In Communion:

She took literally Christ’s words that he was always present in the least person. “Man ought to treat the body of his fellow human being with more care than he treats his own,” she wrote. “Christian love teaches us to give our fellows material as well as spiritual gifts. We should give them our last shirt and our last piece of bread. Personal almsgiving and the most wide-ranging social work are both equally justified and needed.”

“If someone turns with his spiritual world toward the spiritual world of another person,” she reflected, “he encounters an awesome and inspiring mystery …. He comes into contact with the true image of God in man, with the very icon of God incarnate in the world, with a reflection of the mystery of God’s incarnation and divine manhood. And he needs to accept this awesome revelation of God unconditionally, to venerate the image of God in his brother. Only when he senses, perceives and understands it will yet another mystery be revealed to him — one that will demand his most dedicated efforts …. He will perceive that the divine image is veiled, distorted and disfigured by the power of evil …. And he will want to engage in battle with the devil for the sake of the divine image.”

Her credo was: “Each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world.” With this recognition came the need “to accept this awesome revelation of God unconditionally, to venerate the image of God” in her brothers and sisters.

She was a warrior against those things by which “the divine image is veiled, distorted and disfigured by the power of evil,” a “disability that touches us all. And she fought by means of a gentle and practical welcome of people in deep need, acting boldly and courageously to meet those needs:

She saw that there were two ways to live. The first was on dry land, a legitimate and respectable place to be, where one could measure, weigh and plan ahead. The second was to walk on the waters where “it becomes impossible to measure or plan ahead. The one thing necessary is to believe all the time. If you doubt for an instant, you begin to sink.”

The water she decided to travel on was a vocation of welcoming and caring for those in desperate need. She began to look for a house of hospitality and found it at 9 villa de Saxe in Paris. . . . .

In time the house soon proved too small. Two years later a new location was found — a derelict house of three storeys at 77 rue de Lourmel in the fifteenth arrondisement, an area where many impoverished Russian refugees had settled. While at the former address she could feed only 25, here she could feed a hundred. The house had the additional advantage of having stables in back which were now made into a small church. Again the decoration was chiefly her own work, many of its icons made by embroidery, an art in which Mother Maria was skilled. The new property as a modern Noah’s Ark able to withstand the stormy waves the world was hurling its way. Here her guests could regain their breath “until the time comes to stand on their two feet again.”

As the work evolved she rented other buildings, one for families in need, and another for single men. A rural property became a sanatorium.

Paris had come under Nazi occupation, and Mother Maria would not turn away Jews from her doorstep; she hid them from the Nazis. Eventually she was found out and she was sent to a concentration camp.

Unable to correspond with friends, little testimony in her own words has come down to us, but prisoners who survived the war remembered her. One of them, Solange Perichon, recalls:

“She was never downcast, never. She never complained…. She was full of good cheer, really good cheer. We had roll calls which lasted a great deal of time. We were woken at three in the morning and we had to stand out in the open in the middle of winter until the barracks [population] was counted. She took all this calmly and she would say, ‘Well that’s that. Yet another day completed. And tomorrow it will be the same all over again. But one fine day the time will come for all of this to end.’ … She was on good terms with everyone. Anyone in the block, no matter who it was, knew her on equal terms. She was the kind of person who made no distinction between people [whether they] held extremely progressive political views [or had] religious beliefs radically different than her own. She allowed nothing of secondary importance to impede her contact with people.” . . . .

On the 30th of March [1945] Mother Maria was selected for the gas chambers — Good Friday as it happened. She entered eternal life the following day.

You may read the entire story on the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s website:

Also you will find great edification through reading one of her writings, Types of Religious Lives:

The icon above is from Jim Forest’s flicker page Mother Maria Skobtsova:

holiness, socialization, and life together in God

I have gathered together the posts which further explored the subject of my THESIS :socialization in Orthodox Christian life, as it applies to people with disabilities (as declared by St. John Chrysostom) Click on THESIS above to access it. 49 pp.

If we are going to struggle together with persons who have disabilities (all of whom also having abilities) toward union with God the Father, deification in Christ, and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit (I write as a sinner myself, disabled by sin) the posts listed below are the ones that are my attempt to add my voice to those of St. Paul (especially his first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12), the Shepherd of Hermas, (concerning our being shaped by God as fitted stones for His Temple), St. Antony, St. John Chrysostom, Dr. John BoojamraVigen GuroianMyriam Shwayri, and Maria Rifioti.

People with disabilities, as members of familes and as members of the Body of Christ, in God’s Providence, are essential “components” in the Father’s eternal plan toward the fullness of life which is the Kingdom of God. They have abilities, as Myriam Shwayri of Al-Kafaat in Lebanon reminds us; and Orthodox Christian Parishes must provide avenues for their use of those abilities in the life of the Church. We must be faithful to the Apostolic Tradition, the Gospel of Christ.

For the least of these Christ’s brethren are only “least” according to the misguided, utilitarian measures which human beings employ in their ultimately futile effort to make a life in this passing age. In Christ’s eyes they are the ones whom He identifies with:

“As you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.”

He raises up the lowly, and puts down the exalted.

Here are the posts:

Boojamra on Socialization:

the Christian family and ascetic struggle:

socialization: becoming living stones:

holy is normal:

living stones: socialization revisited, in relation to deification:

summing up “Living Stones, Socialization:”

Myriam Shwayri on the Al-Kafaat Foundation :

the 318 Fathers of the 1st Council of Nicea

Holy Fathers with St. Constantine

Holy Fathers with St. Constantine

Virtually all of them, Marutha says, “were more or less maimed…Some had the nails of their fingers or toes torn out; some were otherwise mutilated.” Thomas of Marash, he says, had been imprisoned for 22 years, and each year his captors had cut off a finger, put out an eye, or wounded him some other way in an attempt to make him deny Christ. . . .

text from Khorea Frederica Mathewes-Green’s The Voice Beneath the Altar [from A Faith and Culture Devotional, Zondervan, 2008]

A fuller quote, from 

…  The General Council having thus received authority from the king, the fathers directed that there should be gradations in the assembly and that each Bishop should sit in his place according to his rank. Chairs were there made for all and the king entered and sat with them. He kissed the spots which were the marks of Christ in their bodies. Of the 318 fathers, only 11 were free from such marks, whose name were Absalom, Bishop of Edessa, and son of Mar Ephrem’s sister, Jonah of Raikson, Mara of Dora, George of Shegar, Jacob of Nisibis, Marouta of Mepairkat, John of Goostia, Shimon of Diarbekir, Adai of Agal, Eusebius of Caesarea and Joseph of Nicomedia. But all the others were more or less maimed in their persecutions [15] from heretics. Some had their eyes taken out; some had their ears cut off. Some had their teeth dug out by the roots. Some had the nails of their fingers and toes torn out; some were otherwise mutilated; in a word there was no one without marks of violence; save the above-named persons. But Thomas, Bishop of Marash was an object almost frightful to look upon; he had been mutilated by the removal of his eyes, nose and lips; his teeth had been dug out and both his legs and arms had been cut off. He had been kept in prison 22 years by the Armanites [Armenians] who used to cut off a member of his body or mutilate him in some way every year, to induce him to consent to their blasphemy, but he conquered in this fearful contest to the glory of believers and to the manifestation of the unmercifulness of the heretics. The fathers took him with them to the Council and when [14] the king saw him, he fell down upon the ground and worshipped + him saying, “I worship thee, O thou martyr of Christ, who art adorned with many crowns.”

Icon from TheoLogic Systems, Inc. (

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”( Revelation 6:9-10)

The disabilities of the confessors of the first Ecumenical Council at Nicea are ornaments of honor in the Kingdom of God, indications of their participation in the sufferings of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

The Nicene Creed, A.D. 325 & AD. 381 (2nd Ecumenical Council at Constantinople:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.  . . .

And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

see the Orthodox Church in America’s website listing on the Nicene Creed:

Myriam Shwayri on the Al-Kafaat Foundation

Al-Kafaat means “abilities;” people with disabilities also have abilities, and this is the focus of this Lebanese ministry. It is a ministry that is strongly supported by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and his Eminence Metropolitan Philip.

The following article is the text of a presentation given by Myriam N. Shwayri, daughter of the founder of Al-Kafaat Foundation in the country of Lebanon, during the 48th Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Convention in Montreal, Canada, on July 26, 2007. To access the presentation, click on:

The Al-Kafaàt Foundation | Orthodox Church

Also, hear an in-depth interview with Myriam on The Arabic Hour:

The website of Al-Kafaat:  The Al-Kafaàt Foundation


“they are the iris of your eye my Savior”

Metropolitan George Khodr

Metropolitan George Khodr

No one can ever put you in writing my Lord. You inscribed the universe with your blood. Your blood alone was the Word, the utterance, through which we came to discover that the uniqueness of God is that He loves. We yearn to you because of that freedom, through which you abolished slavery from the nature of religion, proclaiming us as your beloved, and that we may dare to call upon your Father since you made us your house’s own. . . .

This is a message from his Eminence Archbishop George Khodr, Orthodox Christian Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon, a word of adoration and a prayer. It is translated from Arabic and there are phrases in which the meaning is somewhat unclear, but overall the light shines through. One may access the entire prayer here:

And here is a portion of the prayer which relates to the theme of this weblog:

. . . O very sweet Jesus, make your home in the hearts of the poor and beggars of the earth, whether they know you or never have they heard of you. They are all yours through your one love to them. Accompany, my Lord, the children who are abandoned by their parents to all kind of iniquities. Calm down the weight of terrible diseases. Heal the solitude of the afflicted. Be the harmony and unity of the married and nurture their children. Take upon yourself these peoples, who the civilized nations, call retarded- for they are the iris of your eye my Savior. Assure the oppressed that you came to undo the oppression; that you are opposed to the oppressor until he repents. . . .

For a biography of on Metropolitan George Khodr:

Reprinted with amendments from February 2008

From THE WORD, March 2009: “Helping Martin Succeed”

Here is a personal story by an Orthodox Christian mother, Gina Bernard, concerning her son, Martin, in regard to his gifts and progress in light of his disability. It can be accessed by clicking on the March 2009 issue and accessing pages six and seven at this web address:

One of Martin’s pastimes is writing stories. (p. 7)

I’m looking forward to one day reading some of them.

On Page 3 the editor in chief, Archimandrite John Abdalah also comments on Martin and his story in relation to the mission of the the North American Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.
On Page 7, Ms. Bernard reveals that “Children with Special Needsis the new project of the AOW, the Antiochian Women.

For the March 2009 edition:

An Orthodox Christian Group Home

from the brethren who created the Challenge Liturgy Program,

The Hellenos House . . .

. . . an Orthodox Group Home for persons with developmental disabilities in the U.S.- in Wantagh, NY (Long Island). Click on the following for the info:

SAE – Blessing Ceremony for Hellenos House by Archbishop Demetrios

and for the most complete story available, click on the following (Translate this Page for English)

Greek News – Αγιασμός στο ”Hellenos House” από τον Αρχιεπίσκοπο – [ Translate this page ]


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