Daily Message: On Faith

St. Nicholas Planas

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be. Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.

Deacon: Having prayed for the unity of the faith, and for the communion of the Holy Spirit, let us commend ourselves and one another, and our life to Christ Our God.

Cantor: To You, O Lord.

Priest: O God of ineffable and unseen mysteries, in You are hidden the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, yet You have revealed to us this Liturgy and , in Your great love for mankind, appointed us sinners to offer gifts and sacrifices to You, for our sins and for the failings of the people. Invisible King, You perform works great and inscrutable, glorious and extraordinary, beyond number. Look upon us Your undeserving servants as we stand, as at Your Throne of the Cherubim at this Your Holy Altar, where Your Only-begotten Son, our God, rests in the awesome mysteries here offered.
Freeing us all, and Your faithful people, of all uncleanness, sanctify all of us, soul and body, with a sanctification that cannot be taken away. Thus, partaking of these divine Blessings with pure conscience, faces unblushing, hearts enlightened, and being quickened by them, we may be united to Your Christ Himself, our True God. For He said: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, abides in Me and I in him." Having Your Word indwelling and moving within us, we may thus become the temple of Your All-Holy and worshipful spirit, free of every wile of the evil one affecting our acts, our words, our thoughts, and so obtain the blessings promised to us as to your saints who have pleased you through the ages. Amen.

LIFE OF ST. NICHOLAS PLANAS (1851-1932). He was born on the island of Naxos, Greece in 1851. His parents, Captain John and Augustina, were quite well off but were also good people, with the simple and pure soul which distinguishes island people. They had their own estate, with a little chapel in the middle of it by the same name of Saint Nicholas. Very frequently little Nicholas Planas would hide in the chapel wearing a bed sheet, and he would chant whatever he knew, as he was still a small child. At other times he would gather his friends, and they would "celebrate" the Divine Liturgy.

He learned his first letters from his grandfather, Father George Melissourgos. Near him, Nicholas learned to read the psalter. He observed his grandfather's very movement in the Holy Altar and followed him in all the liturgies he did in the innumerable country chapels.

One winter night--as Papa Nicholas himself related about his childhood life--they were sitting near the fireplace and he told his father, "Father, at this moment our boat, the Evanggelistria, is sinking outside Constantinople."

Trembling, his father said to his wife, "Woman, what is the child saying?"

And truly, at that moment their boat was sinking. Immediately, to dismiss the idea of holy foreknowledge which he had, he said, "All small children have foreknowledge." (And because he didn't have any teeth he spoke like a little child).

His father died young. He had been pained in soul, not only for the loss of their boat, but even more so for the young lads who were lost along with it. Thus he left Nicholas an orphan at fourteen years of age. His mother took him and they went--together with his sister--to Athens. At that time Athens began at the Acropolis and reached up to Panaghia Vlassarou Church. They settled somewhere between St. John of Plaka and St. Panteleimon of Ilissou because there were quite a few Naxiotes builders and workers there. Their days were difficult. His mother worked washing and cleaning other homes so that they could survive. She took her children together with her no matter where she was working, because she was afraid of Athens. She trembled at the idea that they might take the evil path.

When he reached 17 years of age, his mother married him off to a good girl from the island of Kythira, Eleni Provelegiou. They had one child, a boy named John. Afterwards he was ordained a deacon in the church of the Transfiguration, Plaka, on July 28, 1879. Five years later, on March 2, 1884, he was ordained a priest in the church of the Holy Prophet Elias. In the meantime, however, his wife reposed. And so carrying the burden of being a widower, he entrusted himself and his son John to God's mercy. He had no estate because had split it with his sister and had put his own portion as collateral on a loan so that a compatriot of his could be saved from debt.

He was compassionate, and had no care for worldly things or estates. Night and day he was absorbed in divine worship, and with his small parish of Saint Panteleimon in Neo Kosmo which was comprised of 13 families. The people loved him. His simplicity, his island piety, his kindness, his chastity, his lack of love for money, drew everyone to divine worship. Everyone wanted him to bless their homes, their stores. And he ran everywhere joyously. From aristocratic homes down to the poorest homes, he never kept a drachma on him. The poor waited outside the church for him to distribute whatever he had in his pocket.

However, a certain priest without a parish of his own but handsome and gifted with a beautiful voice, in cooperation with the council members of St. Panteleimon, kicked him out of his parish and sent him to the church of Saint John, ( "The Hunter" as they called it then) in Vouliagmeni (a suburb of Athens). The new parish was very poor and was comprised of 8 families. His payment as a priest was one piece of meat from the fattened lamb of Meat-fare Sunday or Christmas. This did not bother him, however, because fasting was most important in his life. So long as he had a church in which to liturgize, he was happy.

His having been kicked out of St. Panteleimon parish, however, bothered him a lot. One night, as he was leaving St. John to go home, he was crying on the road. The place was deserted at that hour. Suddenly he saw on his path a young lad who said to him,

"Why are your crying, Father (Papouli)?...

"I am crying, my child, because they kicked me out of St. Panteleimon's."

"Don't be sad, Father (Papouli), I am always with you."

"Who are you, my child?"

"I am Panteleimon, who lives in Neo Kosmo."

And immediately he vanished from in front of him.

Every year, on the feast of Saint Panteleimon, he would go to the Saint's church in Neo Kosmo and do a vigil. One year, as he himself related, he was sick and had a fever. His relative did not allow him to go for his customary vigil. But because of the love which Father Nicholas had for the Saint, he went anyway. "That night," he himself said,

"After the Liti , exhausted, I learned on the edge of the Holy Table. In the delirium of the fever I saw the Saint in front of me, young and vigorous, holding a small glass full of medicine, and he told me, 'Drink it, my Father, to become well.' I took it from the hand and drank it and became completely well. The fever left me. For a whole week out through the Royal Gate and said, 'My children, I was very sick tonight, and at this moment Saint Panteleimon gave me medicine and I drank and became well. ' Everyone believed it and knelt down, glorifying the Saint."

When he would go into the church, a stir would occur from the reception people would give him. Some would kiss his hands, others his cassock, others his little head since he was short. Most of the time he liturgized in the church of the Prophet. On the feast days he would go to his own parish. In the church of St. John the Baptist there was a caretaker who disliked the geronda (elder). One day she swore at him with hand gestures, and at night she saw Saint John saying to her, "What did my servant do to you that you would swear at him like that?' And he gave her a slap on the cheek. In the morning her cheek was black and blue. The next day when Father Nicholas went to church the caretaker went in front of him, fell at his feet, asked his forgiveness, and simultaneously asked him to step on her hands. The meek and calm one went off to one side. She shouted, "Step on them, Father!" And again he responded, "But why should I step on them?" This lasted quite a while until he forgave her to what she had done, even though he had not noticed it.

In the various churches where he celebrated he was the consolation and refuge of people. He was the "sacred little elder" who comforted every human pain. His reputation had extended to the various eparchies also, and people hastened from everywhere to hear him liturgize, to kiss his hand for him to bless them...He reached 84 years of age and had never been slandered once, nor did anyone say anything against him. Everyone knew him and respected his holy personality. When he passed by they greeted him, taking off their hats.

His Liturgies:

For 50 consecutive years he liturgized every day from 8:00 am - til 2:00 p.m., in snows, in revolutions. Not even with the invasion of the Anglo-French in 1917 did he interrupt his series of Divine Liturgies. In the narrow streets of the Acropolis at 2:00 in the afternoon in July, he would liturgize in small chapels, as the sweat settled on the sacred vestments of his true laborer in Christ's vineyard.

On March 2, 1932, however, his holy life reached its end. He served the Divine Liturgy for the last time on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. As soon as he consumed the Holy Communion, he suffered a light fainting and was transported home, where his son John, and his daughter-in-law, Marigoula, offered their last services to their holy father. Like a little bird he gave up his holy soul to Him Whom he had worshipped his whole life long. News of the grievous event spread to all of Athens. People ran to venerate the holy relics of the venerable Geronda. Everyone wanted to kiss his hand for the last time. The Archbishop of Athens, Chrysostomos Papadopoulos, suggested that the burial take place at night so that everyone could embrace him. Thus it happened.

The Church of Greece, with an introduction from the Metropolitan of Patras, Nikodemos, who personally had met Saint Nicholas was granted to get his blessing, asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate to recognize Father Nicholas Planas' holiness. With a special Synodical Deed, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople numbered him in the listing of Saints of the Orthodox Church, and appointed that his memory be celebrated on March 2nd.

+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Personal note: I sincere feel blessed that I was ordained in the same church of Saint John the Baptist (Kynegos or Hunter) of Vouliagmeni that Saint Nicholas Planas served.

Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 2:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-5)

"Beyond these virtues one must be trained in great-hearted patience, so as to endure everything that happens to us without murmuring. We shall have patience when we accept everything that happens to us, both the joyful and the sorrowful equally, as from the hand of God. "In your patience possess ye your souls". Christ teaches us (St. Luke 21:19). Saint Ephraim says: "having acquired patience, one touches on every virtue; for one rejoices in sorrows, and is well-tried in misfortunes, is joyful in danger, ready for obedience, filled with love, glories in vexation, is humbled in reproaches, unwavering in misfortunes; he who has acquired patience has acquired hope, and such a one is adorned with every good work..." Geronda Nazarius

by Saint Gregory Palamas

Believing in God is different from believing God. To believe God is to regard His promises to us as sure and true, but to believe in Him is to have a right understanding of Him. Both are necessary for us and we must speak correctly in both respects, in such a way that people with correct understanding can be confident that we are faithful before the God to Whom our faith is directed and that, being faithful, we shall be justified by Him. "Abraham believed God", it says, "and it was counted unto Him for righteousness" (Romans 3:3, Genesis 15:6, Gal. 3:6, Jas. 2:23). Why was Abraham counted as righteous because he believed? He had received a promise from God that in his seed, that is, in Isaac, all the tribes of Israel would be blessed (Gen. 17:16; cf. 26:3-5, 24). Then he was commanded from God to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 17:21), through whom alone the promise could be fulfilled (Gen. 22:12), while he was still a child. Without contradicting , the father, was hastening on his way to become his son's murderer while at the same time regarding the promise concerning his son as infallibly sure (Gen. 22:1-18).

Do you see what sort of faith brings justification?  But Christ also promised us that we would inherit eternal life, pleasure, glory and the Kingdom, while then He commanded us to be poor, to fast, to live in lowliness and affliction, to be ready to die and to crucify ourselves together with our passions and desires (cf. Gal. 5:24). If therefore we eagerly do these things while at the same time believing God's promise to us, then we shall have really believed God in the way Abraham did, and it will be counted to us as righteousness.

Notice the consequence of these events. The fact that Abraham agreed to offer Isaac for slaughter was not just powerful evidence and proof of his faith. Because of it Christ, through Whom all the tribes of the earth were blessed and the promise was fulfilled (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; cf. 26:4-5), was born of Abraham's seed (St. Matthew 1:1-16). It was as if God was under an obligation to the man who gave his only-begotten true son for His sake, to give him in return His Only-begotten True Son for His sake and the sake of the promise made to him. It is exactly the same in our case. If because of God's commandments we are chaste, righteous, humble, patiently submit to every kind of evildoing and share out our possessions, if we submit our bodies to hardship through fasts and vigils, if, in a word, we crucify ourselves together with our passions and desires (cf. Gal. 5:24), this is not just proof that we truly believe Christ's promises, but it also, as it were, obliges God to give us in return eternal and incorruptible life and pleasure, glory and the Kingdom.

Christ looked at His disciples and said, "Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye that mourn. Blessed are ye merciful. Blessed are ye that are persecuted for righteousness' sake" (St. Matthew 5:3-4, 7, 10). But "woe unto you that are rich. Woe unto you that laugh. Woe unto you that are full. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you" (St. Luke 6:24-26). How I ask you, is it credible that someone believes God if he does not aspire to what the Lord pronounces blessed but to what He pronounces wretched? "Shew me", it says, "thy faith by thy works" (St. James 2:18). And, "Who is a wise man? Let him shew out of good conduct his works" (St. James 3:13).

The fact that we truly believe God, that we understand that His promises and warnings to us are true and sure, even though they have not happened yet, is shown by our good works and by our keeping of His commandments. But what proof is there that we have a right belief in God, that we have a trustworthy and devout understanding of Him? It is that we confess the same faith as our God-bearing Fathers. Sincerely believing God provokes opposition not only from the physical passions and the evil one's snares, but also from people in the grip of passions who lure others and drag them down with themselves into evil pleasures. In the same way, having a right belief in the one true God provokes opposition not only from ignorance and the enemy's promptings, but also from godless men who treacherously pull believers down into the depths of their own destruction. In both aspects of faith our greatest help comes not just from God Himself and Our God-given faculty of knowledge, but from the good angels and from God-fearing people who live according to His will.

This is why the Church of Christ, spiritual mother and curse of us all, clearly and publicly celebrates today those who were illustrious in their piety and virtue, their holy councils and godly doctrines these councils proclaimed. At the same time the Church briefly denounces the supporters of ungodliness and their evil pursuits and purposes, so that we can turn away from them, follow those whose understanding accords with God's intention, and believe in one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; from whom and through whom and in whom all things were made; Who is before all things and over all things and in all things and beyond all things, unity in trinity, trinity in unity, united without confusion, undividedly divided, almighty unity and almighty trinity.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+Father George