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Σάββατο, 24 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ARCHIMANDRITE JOSEPH ABBOT OF THE ST. NEKTARIOS GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF ROSCOE, NY






A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ARCHIMANDRITE
JOSEPH ABBOT OF THE ST. NEKTARIOS GREEK
ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF ROSCOE, NY

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

        In the story that follows Kyriakos offered the utmost gifts of love at the risk of his life to his enemy.  We pray that the Grace of our Newborn Christ deposits within our souls this type of sacrificial love that pushes aside passions and enmity, so that we see our neighbor as an image of Christ—just as our Holy Fathers wisely stated: “Have you seen your brother, you have seen the Lord thy God.” 

May you have a good and blessed Christmas Season, and a spiritually prosperous forthcoming 2017.
                With much love in the Newborn Christ,
                Archimandrite Joseph and the whole brotherhood of our Monastery

        The following true story took place during the Greek-Italian war and the subsequent German occupation of Greece.  Kyriakos was descending the steep mountain range of Pindus Mountain when he heard cries in the distance.  He stopped, lowered his rifle and prepared for combat.  He proceeded very cautiously toward the direction of the howls.  “Aqua--Agua!”   The sobs of a plea for water prompted Kyriakos to turn his eyes toward the base of a certain bush.  There he witnessed an Italian soldier lying in the mud face-up, and squirming with all his remaining strength.  The two men stared at each other.  They did not speak each other’s language.  They were unaware of each other’s intentions.  The only thing they both knew is that they were enemies.  At first Kyriakos stood hesitant, uncertain of what to do, shortly after, however, he knelt down and from his belt bag, he took out an improvised bandage and a little bottle of iodine.

        He cleaned the wounds and the blood covering the man’s face, he bandaged his enemy’s head, and offered him all the water in his canteen to quench the injured Italian’s thirst.  Thereafter, he helped him stand on his feet, he supported him, and, like two brothers embracing each other, he walked him to the medical station.  As he prepared to leave, unexpectedly the Italian man held on to him tightly.  Kyriakos was even more surprised when the Italian soldier reached toward his chest and pulled out a pendant hanging from a gold chain.  He cupped it with his hands, kissed it, and then deposited it in Kyriako’s palms.  His grateful gaze did not permit Kyriakos to make even the slightest objection.  The gift of gratitude was a response to the gift of love.  It was a few days before Christmas.

        Things remained this way until German soldiers arrived, wars, hardships, deprivation, and famine followed.  Many people died of starvation in those days. Kyriakos had removed the expensive Italian pendant countless times with the intention of selling it, but he always ended up wearing it again.  He could not resolve to sell it.  “We could sell it, Kyriako,” advised his wife one day.  “We are wasting away from hunger day by day, in this dark occupation.”  “God will provide,” repeated Kyriakos over and over again.  “God will provide,” in the end, however, he gave in when he witnessed that his children were on the verge of dying from starvation.  He arose, and quickly made his way down to the road.  In a short while he found himself approaching an Italian army truck.  He crossed the road impulsively and found himself behind the truck’s enclosed carriage.  Pulling the canvas cover aside, he couldn’t believe his eyes! There before him were freshly loaves of bread.

        He was gazing at the loaves, breathing in the aroma, and dreaming.  He wished he could call all the malnourished children along with his own children so they could at least enjoy the smell.  This is what he was pondering with closed eyes when suddenly he was struck from behind by two brawny Italian soldiers.  They would have finished him off right then and there had their commanding officer not stopped them. “Mercy,” gasped Kyriakos.  “A little bread. Mercy, we are dying.”   Having made the request, he slowly removed the precious piece of jewelry he was wearing and placed it around the officer’s neck.  It was the most valuable item Kyriakos possessed at that moment, which he wanted to exchange for the little bread. 

        At that moment, the Italian officer began to sob uncontrollably, and he clutched within his grasp Kyriako’s emaciated hands, the hands of his savior.  He straightway recognized in Kyriakos’ face of the Greek soldier who some time ago had saved his life.  Kyriakos tried to leave but the hands of the Italian officer did not allow him.  The hands of God did not allow him.  So great was the Italian officer’s gratitude to his savior Kyriakos, that he continued to feed him and his entire family through the rest of the occupation.






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