Orthodox theology

The Story Behind “My Elder Joseph the Hesychast”

by Hieromonk Ephraim, St. Nilus Skete, Alaska

Hieromonk Ephraim is a longtime disciple of Elder Ephraim of Arizona who received the elder’s blessing to live and struggle ascetically at St. Nilus Island Skete, near Kodiak, Alaska. Fr. Ephraim as offered us the fruit of his hagiographic labors on the windswept isle for our readers’ edification.

We begin today with Part 1, his introduction.    

St. Joseph the Hesychast was one of the greatest monks of the Holy Mountain in the 20th century. His life story and teachings have been translated into many languages and touched thousands of people. People have been moved especially by the stories told by his disciple, Elder Ephraim of Arizona, in the book My Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Due to the popularity of this book, I was asked to write this article, explaining the story behind it. In Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this article, I will share some unpublished anecdotes about St. Joseph.

Stefan Uros II Milutin (1282-1321)

The long reign of one of the most illustrious and powerful medieval Serbian figures - the "Holy King Uros", (Milutin by given vernacular name; pr. mee-LOO-tin) - marked the elevation of Serbia to a dominant Balkan position, and saw cultural and economic prosperity and advances along many lines.

The first 17 years or so of the new king's rule witnessed considerable international activity - through much warfare and some diplomacy - most of it south and east against the ailing Byzantine state, some against decentralized Bulgarian interests in the northeast. Much of that was brought to a close with the Serbo-Byzantine peace treaty of 1299, which recognized the new realities of Serb expansion into the mostly South Slavic ethnic space in Macedonia. The agreement was sealed by a high-level royal marriage between the king and emperor Andronikos' minor daughter Simonida (Simonis), and assured a generally cordial relationship between the two courts for the rest of Milutin's reign. Helplessly caught in the middle of court diplomacy was the unhappy young princess; her unlikely moral vindication ultimately came through her fine portrait, well preserved and juxtaposed to the much older king at Gracanica monastery: her firm forceful gaze, having mostly defied visible Ottoman attempts at vandalism and eradication, remained for generations a famous reminder and symbol - as much of defiance as the transcendental triumph of real values over time.

The Holy Great Martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki

This glorious and wonderworking saint was born in Thessalonica of noble and devout parents. Implored of God by childless parents, Demetrius was their only son, and so was raised and educated with great care. Demetrius's father was a commander in Thessalonica.

When his father died, Emperor Maximian appointed Demetrius as commander in his place. As he appointed him, Maximian, an opponent of Christ, particularly recommended that he persecute and exterminate the Christians in Thessalonica. Demetrius not only disobeyed the emperor but openly confessed and preached the Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Thessalonica. When the emperor heard of this he became furious with Demetrius. Then, when he was returning from battle against the Sarmatians, Maximian stopped at Thessalonica to investigate the matter.

How Should a Christian React to Dreams?

Even among the pagans there was a difference of opinion about dreams. One pagan sage (Protagoros) stated: "Each dream has its own meaning, its own significance, and it is useful in life to heed [them]." Another pagan sage (Xenophon) explained that all dreams are vain and deceptive, and that whoever pays attention to and arranges his affairs based upon them, is going astray. One must seek truth within, i.e. first of all, one need not pay attention to all dreams, and second, one should not necessarily disregard all dreams as vain and empty of meaning.

Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord

Holy Apostle James, the Brother of God (Adelphotheos) was the son of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos (December 26). From his early years James was a Nazarene, a man especially dedicated to God. The Nazarenes vowed to preserve their virginity, to abstain from wine, to refrain from eating meat, and not to cut their hair. The vow of the Nazarenes symbolized a life of holiness and purity, commanded formerly by the Lord for all Israel. When the Savior began to teach the nation about the Kingdom of God, Saint James believed in Christ and became His apostle. He was chosen as the first Bishop of Jerusalem.

Sergius & Bacchus the Great Martyrs of Syria English Ελληνικά Print


These holy Martyrs were Romans of high rank in the service of the Emperor Maximian, to whom it was reported that they did not take part in the festivals of the idols. When he called them into his presence, they confessed their Faith in the one God. He had them arrayed in women's clothes and paraded through the streets in mockery. They were afterwards scourged, from which Saint Bacchus died. This was about the year 296. Saint Sergius was then taken to Resapha in Syria, where he was tortured and beheaded. His tomb in Resapha became a very famous shrine, to which pilgrims came from as far away as Western Europe; Resapha was later renamed Sergiopolis in his honour.