A hymn to the Theotokos
O great mystery! On beholding His wonders, I proclaim His Divinity and do not deny His humanity. For since He loveth mankind, Emmanuel hath opened the gates of nature, and as God He brake not the bars of virginity. But thus He came forth from the womb, even as He entered through the hearing; He was incarnate even as He was conceived; impassibly did He enter, ineffably did He come forth, according to the Prophet, who said: This gate shall be shut and no one will pass through it, save the Lord God of Israel alone, Who hath great mercy. (The Dogmatic of Small Vespers Tone 2—translation taken from Pentecostarion, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Massachusetts, p. 105)
Instructions of the Eldress Makrina (1995+) of the Panagia Ogiditria Convent, Portaria, Greece
In this post I want to share some instructions of the evermemorable Elderss Makrina which are unpublished have been circulated in hard copy form. I will first recount something of the little information that I have be blessed to know of her life. Mother Makrina was born in the region of Smyrna of Asia Minor, her father was named Photios and his wife Anastasia; their surname was Vasopoulo. The father was noted as a very charitable man even from his youth. They brought two gifted children into the world to whom they gave a Christian upbringing. Maria who would later become Gerontissa Makrina the Eldress of the Holy Monastery of the Panagia the Directress (Ogiditria means Directress) was the eldest of the two, she was born in the year 1921 and while she was still a young infant her parents came to Volos, Greece.
Around the age of 10 Maria lost both her virtuous parents, her father first, and a year after her mother. She lived through the hardships of the German occupation of WWII. Sometime afterwards she lived together with several other young women with whom she was befriended. They shared both like aspirations to the ascetic life and also the same spiritual father. His name was Ephraim and he was under the direction of Joseph the Hesychast. So, in time, they naturally came under his direction and later that of Elder Ephraim, the current Elder of St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona.
They lived a strict ascetic life and frequented the Church often attending vigils. When the proper time came and an opportunity arose land and a building was acquired. This was in Portaria which is located outside of the sea port Volos and a little ways up a mountain. This is where the convent is now located. She became abbess but left the administration to other capable sisters while concentrating her efforts on the spiritual guidance of the sisterhood. She was a gifted and renowned spiritual mother to who even many men came for spiritual guidance. She was extremely humble. Once the Elder Ephraim was asked how she attained such a depth of humility and he answered: She was in obedience to my Elder and considered herself to be the least of the sisters. It was in June of 1995 that she reposed.
The following are the notes of a conversation which Gerontissa (Gerontissa is the Greek for Eldress) Makrina had with a young woman about to enter a monastery. Gerontissa specifically told this young woman to write these words down. Thus she recollected:
Only if you see yourself as ZERO, being full of passions, can you see God. If you cannot see that you are nothing then you cannot see God. God lives only in the humble person.
You must run after the Prayer (the “Prayer” is the Jesus Prayer). To have the Prayer you must continually pray inside. Run after the Prayer, do not be talking rather only be praying.
Before you begin your canona (that is, rule of Prayer) make the sign of the Cross and ask Christ to help you to only glorify Him today and not to grieve Him all the day until evening.
God wants us to be humble and meek because there’s a devil who never sleeps waiting to swallow us.
Stay humble with the sweet name of Jesus, Jesus’ name will soften your heart. All the day long you will want to say only Jesus’ name. If your mouth is filled with Jesus’ name you will not be able to hurt anyone with your words. All things that you do will be soft. If you touch another sister it will be as soft as a sponge. The name of Jesus will soften you to the point of tears in all things.
Do not pay attention to the many thoughts in your head; ignore them and the devil will leave you alone. Do not think. Gerontissa Makrina does not think she only prays, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”.
Do not allow the demon of jealousy to enter your heart. This jealousy is a most bitter medicine, it is like poison. First jealousy starts in your heart and the next step is hatred. REMEMBER, Gerontissa loves each daughter equally. Do not say, “Oh, Gerontissa did this for her and not me.” Or, “Gerontissa loves me more than her.” Gerontissa like Jesus does not play favorites but loves each equally.
Ignore all things that the sisters do. Don’t look at what any sister is doing, look only to your own deeds and faults. Concern yourself with the Jesus Prayer. If a sister wrongs you say to yourself, “God allows these things to happen, may it be blessed”. Say to yourself you came to the monastery for God not for other sisters or to be better that the other sisters or to judge the other sisters. You came to the monastery only for God so do not concern yourself with the other sisters. Only concern yourself with “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”
Give all your strength to God. Give everything you have to God. Give whatever you have to God. RUN to all the services. Never miss a service. Always be early and eager to worship in services and pray. Give all your strength to God.
When you are jealous the next step is hate, this happens to many people. You must know that the thought that Gerontissa loves another sister more or helps another sister more are all tricks of the devil to cause jealousy. PAY NO ATTENTION to the devil’s TRICKS. Ignore them all, do not pay attention and live life like an angel.
If you are never angry, always forgiving instantly and constantly blaming yourself knowing that you CAN NEVER BE RIGHT you will have heaven on earth and in your heart. And Christ will help you to do all these things. You must be like Christ. You MUST NEVER LOVE one sister more than another sister, love each sister EQUALLY. If they hurt you or wrong you love them even more.
Read over and over again the services from Holy Thursday and Holy Friday. Remember how Jesus suffered. You must be like Jesus. Pick up the heavy load of your cross and follow Him and then He Himself will help you to carry your cross. Say, “Christ will help me pick up my cross and the devil will not touch me if I willingly pick up my cross”. Also, “I BEAR THE SHORTCOMINGS OF MY SISTERS with a glad heart because I have MORE shortcomings than any other sister or person”.
Continually forgive sisters. Forgive AT ONCE not one second later not one half second later because if you hesitate to forgive jealousy comes in the door then hatred and envy. Forgive instantly as Christ forgives instantly.
Never be angry, never allow anger to enter your heart. All anger is from the devil. Do not allow the devil into your heart. Only allow Jesus in your heart by forgiving instantly and ALWAYS BLAMING YOURSELF. I am NEVER RIGHT. I AM ALWAYS WRONG.
If a sister hurts you pray even MORE for her and love her even more. Be grateful to her for doing this wonderful favor for you. Love her as though she has given you a gift.
You must not pay attention to anything in the monastery. Do not pay attention to the devil and he will leave you alone.
The life for God will be beautiful. You will feel like you want to go to a higher mountain. You will wish for everyone to be monastics. You will feel like it is better for everyone to be in the monastery.
When saying the Jesus Prayer keep your mind empty; with the Jesus Prayer your mind will be clean and full of light. You will see your every fault. With the Jesus Prayer you will always say it is my fault NOT someone else’s fault.”
If your Gerontissa cuts off your will and hurts you ALWAYS say, “MAY IT BE BLESSED”. Gerontissa is helping you, giving you a great gift to cut your will.
DON’T BE LAZY. Hurry to all prayers and services. Give all your strength to God. DO NOT BE LAZY for God. You must run after Christ with prayer. The effort is your fight. All the effort is yours. The unceasing prayer takes HARD WORK AND LABOR.
Our first gift from God is our hearts. He gives it to us free. It is a piece of earth with stones. You must dig each day and plow each day taking away the stones to make the earth of your heart ready to yield a crop 1000-fold. It takes hard work every day to work the earth of your heart to give a crop of sweet grapes. Geronta (Geronta is the Greek for Elder) and Gerontissa are the machines to break up the big boulders in your heart but to remove stones can only be done by you. It takes a lot of hard work and labor to produce sweet grapes in the end from the rocky soil of your heart.
Read these words over and over again each day. Remember them. Also pray to the Panagia and St. Irene Chrysevalantou.
Also always RUN to help a sick sister. Always volunteer to help, do their work. Always care for the sick sister. This is very important to love them and care for them.
Have much, much, much patience. Have endless patience. Over and over again have this great patience; have patience, patience, patience. Endure, endure, endure. Endure EVERYTHING. Endure everything with much, much patience. Whatever happens to you endure with much patience, with a heart full of peace and a closed mouth. Endure with patience and peace will rest in your heart.
Never, never, never blame a sister for ANYTHING. Have much patience and endure. Never blame a sister, only blame yourself.
If you see something wrong then look the other way. Don’t think about it for a second, turn your head and look the other way.
Keep your mouth as a Church. Keep your mouth pure with only prayer in your mouth and on your tongue. Inside a church you find only glorification of God. It should be the same with your mouth, keep your mouth like a pure and clean virgin as a church to only be used for the glory of God and to glorify God. Keep your mouth like this with the Jesus Prayer.
Keep your mouth clean like a church by saying the Prayer. NEVER, NEVER, EVER talk about another sister or use your mouth to say sister so and so did this or that. Always, always, always say the prayer. Keep your mouth as a church and never talk about another sister.
Keep the mind on the Prayer and Christ. Always, always, always have Christ before your eyes. Never let your eyes leave Christ keep Him always before your eyes. Concentrate on Christ. Think only of your bridegroom.
Remember all the sisters have passions, I have passions, you have passions, we all have passions. Ignore all that the sisters do and pray for each other AND LOVE EACH OTHER!!!
When you ask Gerontissa or Geronta something say, “May it be blessed”, no matter what the answer is. THE FIRST TIME GERONTISSA SAYS IT!! Always do the will of Gerontissa. Jesus had perfect obedience to the Father unto death, so shall it be for you: PERFECT OBEDIENCE TO GERONTISSA UNTO DEATH.
You must ask in prayer, “Give me faith. Give me the love of Jesus. Give me humility”. These things are all gifts, only God can grant them. Pray. Pray. Pray.
A nun who always says, “Yes, may it be blessed”, has nothing to fear even death because it is a straight path to heaven.
Pray to be given patience. Have much patience. The devil will come but if you have patience and endure you can jump over him. With patience comes humility. God will come and rest in the soul of the humble person. He makes His home there. The more people are humble the more God can be found in them; the more prayer can be found in them. Only humble people can have the prayer inside of them. Pray for patience and humility. Supplicate God: “Please help me, make me humble, make me patience”. Patience is the foundation of the monastic life. First patience, then one waits for humility and then all other virtues.
The Prayer will come and go. Sometimes God hides Himself behind a mountain. Continue with the Prayer and God will show Himself.
We must be joyful in the monastery. We must see that the monastery is paradise and wish for everyone to be in the monastery.
If we do not see the beauty of God in this life then we will never see it in the next life. We must see the glory of God in the smallest flower.
Keep silence. You should be able to count your spoken words. The only other thing said is the Jesus Prayer. Walk with folded hands. Continue the Prayer. Even if you don’t see the evil one he may be hurting another sister-your prayer can help her. If you see a sister attacked by a temptation say, “I’m only going to eat one piece of bread instead of two or only drink one half glass of water so that God can help this sister.”