Saturday, July 21, 2018

Leave all things in the hands of God ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

 

Question yourself as to whether this faith is within you, or perhaps you are led by worldly wisdom. And if you leave all things in the hands of God, behold! You have acquired faith and undoubtedly, without any question, you will find God to be your helper. And so, even should you be tried a myriad of times and should satan tempt you to abandon faith, prefer death a thousand times more and don’t obey worldly wisdom. 
 
In this way the door of the mysteries will be opened to you and you will be amazed how the chains of worldly wisdom previously bound you. Now you will fly with divine wings above the earth and breathe the new air of freedom, which, of course, others are deprived of. If, however, you see that within you, you are governed by worldly wisdom, and in the smallest danger you lose hope and despair, know that you have not yet acquired faith, and consequently also hope, in God.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Excerpt taken from the book- Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

On the Beginners’ Spiritual Shortcomings ( Father Arsenie Boca )


Propensity for Haughtiness 
 
They are more readily inclined to give lessons, rather than to receive them. They condemn within their heart those who do not understand faith as they do and they manifest that condemnation – at first, secretly held in their hearts – through their words – and that is when you feel like you hear the Pharisee who thought he was worshipping God when he was vaunting himself for his own deeds, while despising the tax-payer. That sort of attitude is to please the devil. All of these things drive one’s soul to pride and haughtiness. They are of no use whatsoever to the beginners (on the contrary, they change whatever else they have good in them, into sins), as they cease bearing with one another and if anyone comes up to belittle their fellowman, that pleases them. They will see the straw in their brother’s eye yet will fail to notice the beam in their own eye; they will make a big deal out of the other’s minor deeds and will efface their own – greater – faults.
They don’t like confessor Fathers who do not praise them for their actions and don’t appreciate their good behaviour – because such spiritual sons’ sole pursuit is to be praised and commended in everything they do.
They even try to convince others that they have an accomplished spirit and harbor true piety.
They even go as far as not confess their sins anymore, lest they should downplay themselves in the process and they avoid mentioning their mistakes in order to render them lighter. They will avoid by all means praising others, but they do not like not being praised by others. Sometimes they will go as far as to ask others to praise them. Beginners very seldom escape such weaknesses.


Propensity for Spiritual Stinginess 

They complain whenever they don’t receive the comfort they expected from their spiritual Fathers or their fellowman. They always look to filling up their minds with spiritual advice and teachings. They dedicate all their time to reading and have no more of it left for the spiritual work, which should be their first and foremost duty.


Propensity for Anger
 
They are always in a bad mood.
They do their duty sloppily.
They get upset for the slightest thing and end up being unbearable to the ones around them.
They blame others.
They badmouth others.
They give moral lectures in a bitter and high voice, as if they were the only ones who would have access to being virtuous.


Propensity for Spiritual Greed 

They exhaust themselves carrying out prayer rules.
They apply themselves to fasting without limits.
They keep away from people who would invite them to take bodily food.
They lack discernment.
They work against the commandments.
They want bodily canons (rules) rather than mind-based canons.
They don’t listen to their spiritual Fathers.
They take pride in making various efforts without discernment.
Such spiritual “sons” are encouraged by the devil to behave this way.
They always look for pulling out counsels that suit them, from their spiritual Fathers.
In case one rejects their ideas, they sulk like children.
Whatever they do, they do superficially, because they are convinced that they do nothing good before God, whenever He doesn’t work [in their life] as they would like Him to.
They take the Eucharist many times, without their spiritual Father’s approval.


Propensity for Envy and Worldliness
 
Their fellowman’s spiritual wellness always gets into their eyes.
They suffer when they hear someone else being praised.
Another person’s virtue makes them sad and if given the chance, they will belittle and persecute it, in order to break off all praise for that person.
They want to be the first in everything.


Excerpt from CĂRAREA ÎMPĂRĂTIEI – ”The Way to the Kingdom” – by Fr. Arsenie BOCA

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Three Kinds of Gifts from God ( St. John Cassian )


After the evening meal we sat on the mats, as monks do, and we waited for the discussion which had been promised us. Out of deference to the old man we remained silent for a while. Then he interrupted our respectful silence with the following words.
"The direction taken by our earlier discussion has brought us now to the need to state the nature of spiritual gifts, and the tradition of our elders, as we know, us that this takes a threefold form.

GIFTS THAT COME FROM THE HOLY

"The first cause of the gift of healing is the merit earned by holiness. The grace of working miracles is to be found among specially chosen and just men. It is quite evident that the apostles and many saints worked miracles and wonders. This was in accordance with what the Lord Himself had commanded when He said, 'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, expel the demons. You have freely received. Give freely.' (Matthew 10:8)

GIFTS THAT COME FROM SINNERS

"Second, for the edification of the church or of those who bring forward their own patients or of those who have to be healed, the virtue of healing comes even from sinners and from the unworthy. Of such people the Savior had this to say in the gospel: 'They will say to me on that day: Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and did we not drive out devils in your name, and did we not do many wonders in your name? And I will say out loud to them. I do not know you. Leave me, you workers of iniquity' (Matthew 7:22 - 23). But by contrast, if faith is lacking in those who bring forward the sick, then it will not be permitted, even to those with the gift of healing , to work a cure. The evangelist Luke had this to say: 'And Jesus could not work miracles among them because of their unbelief' (Mark 6: 5 - 6 -- NOTE: this is NOT in Luke, but in Mark). It was at this time that the Lord said: 'There were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisaeus the prophet and no one of them was cured except Neman the Syrian' (Luke 4:27).

GIFTS THAT COME FROM DEMONS

"The third kind of healing is a trick and deception worked by demons. A man caught up in obvious wrongdoing is an object of admiration of being a holy man and a servant of God and he becomes, for evil spirits, the means of enticing others to imitate him even to the extent of doing wrong like him. The way is now open for scandal and even the sanctity of religion is maligned. And it is quite certainly the case that this man who credits himself with the gift of healing is brought crashing down all the harder because of the pride in his heart.
"The demons have also the following trick. They cry out the names of those whom they know to have none of the merits of holiness and to possess none of the fruits of the Spirit. They pretend to be burnt up by the merits of such people and to take flight from the bodies of the possessed. Deuteronomy has this to say about such persons: 'If a prophet should arise among you or a man claiming visionary dreams, and if he foretells a sign and a portent, and if what he says should actually happen, and if he should say to you, "Let us go and follow strange gods who are unknown to you and let us serve them," do not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. For the Lord your God is putting you to the test, bringing out into the open whether or not you love Him with all your heart and with all your should (Deuteronomy 13: 1 - 3). And in the gospel he says this: 'Fake Christs and fake prophets will rise up and they will perform great signs and wonders so that if possible even the chosen will be led into error' (Matthew 24:24).

BEING ON GUARD

"Therefore we must never be admirers of those who pretend to do such things out of virtuousness. We must note, instead, whether they have become perfect as a result of driving out their sins and because of the improvement of their way of life. This is something that is certainly not achieved through the act of faith of someone else or for reasons that are obscure to us. It happens because of a man's own zeal and the divine gift of grace.
"Such, then, is the practical knowledge which is otherwise called 'charity' by the apostle and which, on his apostolic authority, is to be preferred to all the speech of men and angels, to the full faith which can even move mountains, to all knowledge and prophetic power, to the utter abandonment of the things of the world, and, finally, even to glorious martyrdom. He listed all the types of charismatic gifts and had this to say: 'To one man the Spirit grants wisdom in preaching, to another knowledgeable discourse, to another faith, to another the gift of healing, to another the working of cures' (I Corinthians 12:8 - 10) and all the rest. But he will go on to speak of love, and notice how he put this before all the charisms: 'I will show you a way that is better than any of them' (I Corinthians 12:31).
"In this way it is clearly shown that the high point of perfection and blessedness does not lie in the working of those miracles but rather in the purity of love. And not without good reason. The former have to vanish and to be done away with. But love will endure forever. Hence we never see the Fathers caught up in these wonderworkings. By the grace of the Holy Spirit they were possessors of such capacities but they never wanted to use them unless they were coerced by utter, unavoidable necessity."

from St. John Cassian (trans Colm Luibheid), "Conferences," (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), pp. 174 - 176

Thursday, July 12, 2018

St. Marina and Satan: A Syriac Dialogue Poem



Translated by Sebastian P. Brock
O discerning listeners, come and listen to the dispute between Marina and Satan, and sing praise to the Lord of all.
St Marina and Satan: A Syriac dialogue poem 
 
SATAN
The Evil One said to Marina, the dearly beloved virgin,
‘Desert and Sown , in their envy, have spoken falsehood against you’. 
 
MARINA
‘Every word Desert and Sown have spoken against me is in falsehood:
in the name of the Lord do I put my hope to escape victorious from them’.

SATAN
‘In the name of the Lord you shall escape if you pay attention and listen to me, my daughter:
reveal your identity, that you are a woman, and you will escape from all guile’. 
 
MARINA
‘Those men and women who have emerged victorious first entered into trials and were rescued
by the hope they held in the name of the Lord – and like them I too have hope’. 
 
SATAN
‘ I have revealed and shown you the right path by which you shall be victorious, but you won’t listen;
I am greatly upset in my concern for you, and my pain won’t go away since you won’t listen to me’.
 
MARINA
‘My skin cleaves to my bones [Lam.4:8]: I have greatly toiled in my labours so as to be numbered among males in order to steal
righteousness from them’. 
 
SATAN
‘If you wish to be numbered among males, listen to what I have to say to you:
go and reveal your identity, how you are a woman, and then go and live in the world along with men’.
 
MARINA
‘What you have to say is miles away from what I have in mind:
my desire is to die in the wild and I shall not do what you have said’. 
 
SATAN
‘This wild place shall be your tomb and you will not get away from trials,
for if you don’t listen to my words, you will die and perish, with your hope cut off’. 
 
MARINA
‘Great woe is reserved for you and for whoever listens to any of your words.
There is hope in God, and those who hope in him are not ashamed’. [Ps 25:3] 
 
SATAN
‘It is a double woe that you will have if you fail to listen to any of my words:
you will die in the wilderness and wild beasts and birds of prey will devour you’. 
 
MARINA
‘I will sing praise while I live, [Ps 146:2] while I have a place where to sing;
and whether I live or whether I die, it is to the Lord I belong all the time’. 
 
SATAN
‘Sing on then, and don’t stop for in a little while your song will come to an end;
you will go down to Sheol without hope and your lot will be a double woe’. [cp Ps 31:18, 55:16] 
 
MARINA
‘The Lord is living and holy is his name, and whoever hopes in him will not be ashamed: [Ps 25:3]
from this monastery I will not depart. and will not go away from its gate’. 
 
SATAN
‘Savage animals are roaring, eager to rip you apart, and vultures too;
if you don’t carry out my advice they will tear you apart and drink up your blood’. 
 
MARINA
‘A great blessing will be mine if they tear my body apart and drink up my blood,
for my Lord is the Lord of all: he will not do what you have said’. 
 
SATAN
‘So torture you consider a blessing? What then do you think of eternal woe?
Flee from the error in your mind; follow my advice and live’. 
 
MARINA
‘Let the sea and land testify concerning me, the heavens too, and all that is in them, [cp Deut 4:26, 31:28]
that I renounce you and your words: cursed is your counsel, and accursed your name’. 
 
SATAN
‘I know that women don’t have much intelligence or brain, for they don’t know what they are saying,
and they do what is harmful to themselves’. 
 
MARINA
‘All the advice that you give is bad; your words are bad too because you are bad:
as our Lord said in his Gospel, “a tree that is bad bears bad fruit”’. [Matt7:17] 
 
SATAN
‘Check your words, stupid woman, and shut up: you don’t realize it is your duty to save yourself,
as far as you are able, and live a normal life, and not perish’. 
 
MARINA
‘Accursed are your words, Satan, and accursed is the instruction which you teach.
for your mouth is full of cursing and wickedness, and on your tongue are fraud and deceit’. 
 
SATAN
‘You haven’t read or learnt the Scripture; you are ignorant and you don’t listen.
My words and utterance are full of truth, and deceit is far from my heart’. 
 
MARINA
‘If I listen to you I will indeed perish, for you have set a trap that leads to perdition,
and I won’t be able to save myself if I listen to you and your counsel’.
 
SATAN
‘My advice is crystal clear, its light is illumined by the sun, but because the light of your mind is darkened
you don’t see the light even when it shines out’. 
 
MARINA
‘Take a rest from laying your traps, for I shall break them all up:
I place my hope in Jesus’ name and no harm will come to me’. 
 
SATAN
‘You should give a rest to your words: that I should rest is not my wish.
It is a great sin that you commit if you remain in this wild place. 
 
SATAN
‘You will do yourself harm at the hands of marauding robbers:
if they realize you are a woman I don’t know what they will do to you!’. 
 
MARINA
‘The hope that I’ve placed in God will rescue me and I will not be harmed;
he is the hope of the poor and the orphans, and to all who hope on him’. 
 
SATAN
‘Escape from all sorts of harm while you still have a chance to escape:
don’t put the Lord, your Lord, to the test, hoping he will perform a miracle with you’. 
 
MARINA
‘It is from you that I will make my escape and I won’t touch your words of advice;
if I escape from you and your words, then will I be accounted blessed!’. 
 
SATAN
Satan replied and said ‘If you reveal that you are a woman all the abuse you are getting
will go away and then you can sing praise and rejoice’. 
 
MARINA
‘I will not give you any answer for all your talk is importunate:
all that you say is false. You give a lot of advice, but you are the one who needs it’. 
 
SATAN
‘Cruel crosses are set up in readiness for you on every side:
summer is preparing burning heat for you, and winter, snow and ice’. 
 
MARINA
‘Our Saviour endured the Cross because of our human race, and if he holds me
worthy to endure it, then this will be a great blessing for me’. 
 
SATAN
‘Get up and prepare yourself to receive crosses, sufferings and torments which evil people,
and the monks, will bring upon you – just as you are wanting!’. 
 
MARINA
‘I have already received these from you, and I will do so in future for I am ready for suffering:
whether from you, O Evil One, or from human beings, from wild animals, or from reptiles’. 
 
SATAN
‘It is pride that women love, and boasting is in their heart, but in a little while they grow weak and are defeated:
then tears start coming, flowing from their eyes!’.
 
 
MARINA
‘Yes, women love pride – as you have said in your pride; but they are humble before their Lord, while it is you and your pride they will trample down’.
Give peace to your Church and her children with that peace that pacifies all; rebuke the Evil One and his band: let them be scattered like smoke! [cp Ps 37:20]
Let peace reign in the midst of your Church; let fights and schisms be brought to an end:may they be brought under your yoke and do service before you. May your handmaid enter her monastery and in the Holy of Holies offer up to you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – and may both Desert and Sown be joined in peace.

May my supplication enter and be accepted in the presence of your divine tribunal; may the Evil One and his band feel shame, and may the Church be radiant in giving praise!


http://lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/st-marina-and-satan-a-syriac-dialogue-poem/

Monday, July 9, 2018

What we can do for the dead... ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )

Every one of us who desires to manifest his love for the dead and give them real help, can do this best of all through prayer for them, and in particular by commemorating them at the Liturgy, when the particles which are cut out for the living and the dead are let fall into the Blood of the Lord with the words: "Wash away, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated by Thy Precious Blood, by the prayers of Thy saints." We can do nothing better or greater for the dead than to pray for them, offering commemoration for them at the Liturgy, Of this they are always in need, and especially during those forty days when the soul of the deceased is proceeding on its path to the eternal habitations. The body feels nothing then: it does not see its close ones who have assembled, does not smell the fragrance of the flowers, does not hear the funeral orations. But the soul senses the prayers offered for it and is grateful to those whe make them and is spiritually close to them.

O relatives and close ones of the dead! Do for them what is needful for them and what it within your power. Use your money not for outward adornment of the coffin and grave, but in order to help those in need, in memory of your close ones who have died, for churches, where prayers for them are offered. Show mercy to the dead, take care for their souls. Before us all stands that same path, and how we shall then wish that we would he remembered in prayer! Let us therefore be ourselves merciful to the dead.

As soon as someone has reposed, immediately call or inform a priest, so he can read the "Prayers on the Departure of the Soul," which are appointed to be read over all Orthodox Christians after death. Try, if it be possible, to have the funeral in church and to have the Psalter read over the deceased until the funeral. The funeral need not be performed elaborately, but most definitely it should be complete, without abbreviations; think at this time not of yourself and your convenience, but of the deceased, with whom you are parting forever. If there are several of the deceased in church at the same time, don't refuse if it be proposed to serve the funeral for all together. It is better for a funeral to be served for two or more of the deceased at the same time, when the prayer of the close ones who have gathered will be all the more fervent, than for several funerals to be served in succession and the services, owing to lack of time and energy, abbreviated; because each word of prayer for the reposed is like a drop of water to a thirsty man. Most definitely arrange at once for the serving of the forty-day memorial, that is, daily commemoration at the Liturgy for the course of forty days. Usually, in churches where there are daily services, the deceased whose funerals have been served there are commemorated for forty days and longer. But if the funeral is in a church where there are no daily services, the relatives themselves should take care to order the forty-day memorial wherever there are daily services. It is likewise good to send contributions for commemoration to monasteries, as well as to Jerusalem, where there is constant prayer at the holy places. But the forty-day memorial must he begun immediately after death, when the soul is especially in need of help in prayer, and therefore one should begin commemoration in the nearest place where there are daily services.

Let us take care for those who have departed into the other world before as, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Fr. Seraphim Rose