Saturday, November 17, 2018

On Patiently Bearing One’s Cross



And He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:17-18).

The major tenet of Christian moral teaching is the teaching about the narrow path or the bearing of one’s cross. Saint Ignatius Bryanchaninov indicates that the narrow path has been established by God Himself for His true followers.


“Our Lord Jesus Christ spent His earthly life in the greatest humbleness, being subjected to constant sorrows and harassment, being persecuted, slandered, humiliated by His enemies, who finally sent Him to a shameful death with criminals. The path of salvation that leads to eternal life has been established by the Lord as a narrow way full of sorrows – established both by the Lord’s holy example and by His holy teaching. The Lord advised His disciples and His followers that they would be sorrowful in the world, i.e. during their earthly lives, that the world would hate them, would persecute and humiliate them, would put them to death. The Lord likened His disciples’ and followers’ situation among depraved humanity to that of sheep among wolves. From this we can see that a life on earth full of trials and tribulations is the Lord’s own establishment for His true servants. And being the Lord’s own establishment, it cannot be deflected by any human means, any wisdom, any sensibility, any prudence, any vigilance.”



The great Russian pastor Protopriest Valentin Amphiteatrov also paid a great deal of attention to the Holy Fathers’ teaching on the bearing of one’s cross, and provided constant instruction on the proper endurance of sorrows, unquestioning fortitude, and complete submission to the will of God.

“Let us, Christians, follow the example of the Mother of God and immerse our will in the will of the Almighty, awaiting from Him instruction and aid in all good things…” “Why does the Saviour exhibit such wondrous tranquility amid the most terrible suffering? – because of His complete submission to the will of God the Father. He suffered, He pleaded in His humanity to have the chalice of suffering pass Him by. But the moment arrived in which He ended with a prayer: not as I will, but as Thou wilt. After that the Saviour no longer prayed to have His predestined chalice of suffering pass Him by…

The Lord showed such an example so that we, too, would seek tranquility in absolute submission to the will of God. For this reason He demands self-sacrifice from us, saying: whoever wishes to follow Me should deny himself. It is as though He were saying: whoever wishes to attain the perfection prescribed in the Gospel should reject his own will and live according to God’s commandment, because without God’s will even a single hair will not fall from your head. Do not pay any attention to things that are both pleasant and unpleasant for your vanity. Do not depend on mighty protectors and do not be offended by your visible enemies. Pleasant things are given to you for you not to become despondent, while unpleasant ones are given so that you do not overstep yourself. The mighty of this world may offer support to you only if God allows it, while persecutors may torment, humiliate, and harm you only as long as God allows it. Raise you mind and heart to God, and you will easily believe that God decisively rules over everything. One can do evil without the will of God, but even evil itself leads to a point at which good becomes clearer and more precious.”

In showing that life on earth does not represent any real joy or comfort except for the hope of salvation, St. Ignatius explains that the entire Christian life on earth consists solely of repentance. “Having taken upon Himself the human flesh and all human weaknesses except sin, the Lord also took penitence upon Himself… The innocent and most holy Lord, having suffered in His humanity for the guilty and sin-infected mankind, has shown suffering to be the path of salvation for all His followers, for all those of His provenance and ancestry… The innocent and most holy Lord spent His entire earthly life in suffering: even more so should the guilty suffer in full realization that they deserve to suffer; they should rejoice that by means of short-lived suffering they are delivered from eternal torment, they enter the ranks of the Lord’s followers and intimate ones. Whoever rejects suffering does not believe himself worthy of it, – such a one does not acknowledge his fall and damnation! Whoever passes his earthly life in pleasure – such a one renounces his own salvation!”

Acknowledging oneself worthy of all manner of punishment leads to a knowledge of the Saviour, as can be seen in the example of the wise thief. Some may say, perhaps, that the thief was an obvious criminal, and thus such a repentant state was natural for him. However, the other thief who was crucified next to Christ was likewise an obvious criminal, and yet he did not arrive at a realization of his sinfulness because there was no mercy or humility in his heart, but only hardness and pride. God’s saints continuously thought of themselves as sinners despite evident gifts of grace; the greatest villains, on the contrary, justified themselves and, being up to their neck in evil deeds, did not cease to proclaim their own virtue.”

All righteous people spent their earthly lives in sorrow: “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). When the Lord came across the virtuous youth in the Gospel, He offered him to follow after Him, taking up his cross. Let us not reject the summons! The summons is accepted when, upon the arrival of sorrows, a Christian deems himself worthy of these tribulations; a Christian takes up his cross and follows the Lord when he thanks and glorifies God for all the sorrows that have been sent, when he submits himself entirely to the will of God, when he fulfills the Gospel commandments, especially the commandment on loving one’s enemies.

“The cross of true crossbearers is a good-natured endurance of unmerited suffering. When we see a sick person calling upon the name of God without complaint, when we see before us widows and orphans who, having lost their dear ones, submit themselves to the will of God, – these are Christ’s crossbearers. When we see before us people who are ragged and deceived, when we see people whose honor and innocence is being trampled upon by envy, malice, and slander, – these are Christ’s crossbearers. And we ourselves are Christ’s crossbearers when we allow goodness to take over our hearts.”

The Holy Spirit Himself extends a celestial greeting to those who have been subjected to misfortunes: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations” (James 1:2). “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12).

Nowadays this teaching is especially important, because, according to the prophecies of the Holy Fathers, in the end times the monastics and all Christians will be saved primarily through endurance of sorrows. Other endeavors: fasting, spiritual labors, great physical feats, nightly vigils, etc. will be taken away from us because of a paucity of spiritual and physical strength. “One time the Holy Fathers of an Egyptian skete were prophetically discoursing about the last generation. “What did we do?” – they said. One of them, the great abba Ischerion, replied: “We fulfilled God’s commandments.” They asked him: “What will those who come after us do?” “They, – said the abba, - will fulfill only half of our endeavors.” And again he was asked: “And what will those who come after them do?” Abba Ischerion replied: “They will not engage in any monastic endeavors, but they will be subjected to sorrows, and those of them who endure will have a higher standing than either we or our fathers.”



The same applies to the whole of Christendom!



Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia,” No. 17, 2004.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Struggles Against the Sexual Passions ( STS. BARSANUPHIUS AND JOHN )



The question of Abba Dorotheus to the Great Elder: 
 
-- Q: I am being strongly attacked by sexual passion; I am afraid that I may fall into despondency, and that from the infirmity of my body I will not be able to restrain myself; pray for me, for the Lord’s sake, and tell me, my Father, what I should do? 
 
A: Brother! The devil, out of envy, has raised up warfare against you. Guard your eyes and do not eat until you are full. Take a little wine for the sake of the body’s infirmity of which you speak. And acquire humility, which rends all the nets of the enemy. And I, who am nothing, will do what I can, entreating God that He might deliver you from every temptation and preserve you from every evil. Do not yield to the enemy, O brother, and do not give yourself over to despondency, for this is a great joy to the enemy. Pray without ceasing, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ, deliver me from shameful passions,” and God will have mercy on you, and you will receive strength by the prayers of the Saints. Amen. 
 
-- Q: The same brother, being attacked by the same sexual passion, asked the same Great Elder to pray for him and to tell him how to distinguish whether a man is being tempted by his own lusts or by the enemy. 
 
A: Brother! Without labor and contrition of heart no one can be delivered from passions and please God. When a man is tempted by his own lust, this may be known from the fact that he is careless about himself and allows his heart to reflect about what he has done before; and then a man himself draws passion unto himself through his own lust. His mind, being little by little blinded by passion, begins, unnoticeable for himself, to pay attention to someone for whom he feels attraction, or to speak with him, and he finds occasions on which to converse with him or to sit with him, and by all means he strives to fulfill his desire. If one allows thoughts to pay heed in this, warfare will increase until a fall, albeit not in body but in spirit, in agreement with thoughts; and it turns that such a man lights the fire himself in his own substance. But a sober and prudent man who desires to be saved, when he sees from what it is that he suffers harm, carefully preserves himself from evil remembrances, is not drawn into passionate thoughts, avoids meetings and conversations with those for whom he feels attraction and avoids every occasion for sin, fearing lest he himself ignite a fire within himself. This is the warfare which proceeds from one’s own lust, which a man brings on himself . . .
Tame your steed with the bridle of knowledge, lest, looking here and there, he become inflamed with lust towards women and men and throw you, the horseman, to the ground. Pray to God, that He may turn “your eyes, lest they see vanity” (Psalms 118:37). And when you will acquire a manful heart, warfare will depart from you. Cleanse yourself, as wine cleanses wounds, and do not allow stench and filthiness to accumulate in you. Acquire weeping, so that it might remove from you freedom (looseness) in your relations, which destroys the souls that adopt it. Do not throw away the implement without which fertile land cannot be worked. This implement, made by the Great God, is humility: it uproots all the tares from the field of the Master and gives grace to those who dwell in it. Humility does not fall, but raises from a fall those who possess it. Love weeping with all your heart, for it also is a participant in this good work. Labor in everything to cut off your own will, for this is accounted to a man for sacrifice. This is what is meant by: “For Thee we are mortified all the day, we are accounted as sheep for slaughter” (Psalms 43:22). Do not weaken yourselves by conversations, for they will not allow you to prosper in God. Firmly bridle the organs of your senses: sight, hearing, smelling, taste, and feeling, and you will prosper by the grace of Christ. Without tortures no one is a martyr, as the Lord also has said: “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19), and the Apostle says, “in much endurance, in sorrows” (II Corinthians 6:4). 
 
-- Q: Pray for me, my Father, I am very much disturbed by thoughts of sexual sin, despondency, and fear; and a thought says to me that I should converse with a brother to whom I feel attracted when I see him, lest by my silence I give him occasion for suspicion. I feel likewise that the demons are somehow pressing me, and I fall into fear. 
 
A: Brother! You are not yet instructed in warfare with the enemy, which is why there come to you thoughts of fear, despondency, and sexual sin. Stand against them with a firm heart, for combatants, unless they labor, are not crowned, and warriors, unless they show the King their skill in battles, do not become worthy of honors. Remember what David was like. Do you not also sing: “Test me, O Lord, and try me, kindle my inwards parts and my heart” (Psalms 25:2). And again: “If a regiment arm itself against me, I will hope in Him” (Psalms 26:3). Likewise, concerning fear: “For if I should go in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” (Psalms 22:4). And concerning despondency: “If the spirit of the powerful one should come upon thee, do not leave thy place” (Ecclesiastes 10:4).
Do you not wish to be skilled? But a man who is not tested by temptations is not skilled. It is battles that make a man skilled. The work of a monk consists of enduring battles and opposing them with manfulness of heart. But since you do not know the cunning traps of the enemy, he brings thoughts of fear and weakens your heart. You must know that God will not allow against you battles and temptations above your strength; the Apostle also teaches this, saying: “Faithful is the Lord, Who will not leave you to be tempted more than you can bear” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Brother! I also in my youth was many times and powerfully tempted by the demon of sexual sin, and I labored against such thoughts, contradicting them and not agreeing with them, but presenting before my own eyes eternal tortures. For five years I acted thus every day, and God relieved me of these thoughts. This warfare is abolished by unceasing prayer with weeping.
And the fact that the demons are pressing you proceeds from their envy; if they could, they would chase you out of your cell also; but God does not allow them to take possession of you, for they do not have authority for this. God could swiftly relieve you, but then you would not begin to oppose another passion (when it comes). May the demons not weaken you so as to turn your attention to a brother (to whom you are attracted), or to converse with him; but If you should happen unexpectedly to come together with him, against your desire, restrain your glance with fear and decency and do not listen attentively to his voice. And if this brother, out of ignorance, should himself begin to speak with you or sit next to you, then skillfully avoid him, but not suddenly, rather with decorum. Say to your thought: “Remember the terrible Judgment of God and the shame which will then overtake those who are attracted by these shameful passions.” Compel your thought, and you will receive help, by the prayers of the Saints, and God will have mercy on you. Do not be a child in mind, “but a child in malice” (I
Corinthians 14:20); in mind, O brother, be perfect. Pay heed to yourself, as to how you will meet God. Amen.
-- If you wish to be delivered from shameful passions, do not behave with anyone familiarly, especially with those toward whom your heart is inclined by a lustful passion; through this you will be delivered also from vainglory. For in vainglory is involved the pleasing of men, in the pleasing of men is involved familiarity of behavior, and familiarity of behavior is the mother of all passions. 
 
-- Q: What should I do, my Father? I suffer from sexual passion. 
 
A: As much as you can, wear yourself out, but according to your strength; and have hope not in this, but in love from God and in His protection, and do not give yourself over to despondency, for despondency serves as the beginning of every evil. 
 
-- Q: What do the words you have spoken mean: 
 “See to it, lest you be drawn away by a thought of sexual sin?” 
 
-- A: This happens not only with regard to sexual passion, but in other cases also. The mind is subjected to this as a consequence of distraction, and when this happens a man should cry out to himself, saying: “O Lord! Forgive me for the sake of Thy holy Name; I have been subjected to this for my negligence. Deliver me from distraction and from every net of the enemy; for Thine is the glory unto the ages. Amen.” And let the following be for you the sign by which you may know that you are drawn away: if one is speaking with others and his mind is distracted here and there, it happens that when he speaks of one thing his thought passes over to something else; this is what it is to be drawn away. Likewise, if anyone is doing something and passes over in thought to something else; in his forgetfulness he either ruins what he is doing or does something more than necessary, and this is likewise (a case of) being drawn away. In the same way a sexual thought draws us away. It happens that one is conversing with another, and if the enemy succeeds in drawing his mind away from God-pleasing sobriety, then, as a consequence of distraction, a sexual desire appears in the mind. And this is likewise a drawing away, because it has happened not from reflection or remembrance, but a man is drawn away by it out of forgetfulness. And such a one is like a traveller who, by reason of grief that comes upon him, goes away from the straight road and finds himself on another road. But coming back to himself, a man should call out to himself, according to what has been said above, and hasten to God’s mercy. The Lord is merciful and will accept him like the prodigal son; we know with what mercilessness He accepted the latter. But when this warfare arises in the mind even without distraction, one must be sober, not take enjoyment of such thoughts, no tarry in them, but all the sooner hasten to God the Master.

from “Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life,” trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990), pp. 71 - 76, 113, 126-127 (selections).

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A plea from the newly established Three Hierarchs Academy ( Florence, AZ )






The Three Hierarchs Academy, located in the beautiful deserts of Florence, AZ was founded in March 2018 by local families. Led by Headmaster, Fr. Peter Heers, and offering a K-12th grade program, its mission is to initiate its students into the Way, Truth and Life Incarnate, Who is Christ, the Light of the world. 
For more exciting information about this new Orthodox School please see: https://www.threehierarchsacademy-az....
 
To provide much needed support for the Academy please consider offering a donation at: https://threehierarchsacademy-az.org/....

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

There are three stages for salvation ( Elder Ambrose of Optina )



"There are three stages for salvation. St. John the Golden Tongue states: a) Do not sin. b) If you have sinned, repent. c) Those who repent inadequately, have to bear their sorrows as they find them."

Elder Ambrose of Optina

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Our intercessors in Heaven , Orthodox veneration of Saints



During baptism a person receives a name in honor of a saint, who from that time becomes his heavenly protector. Every Orthodox Christian should be acquainted with the life of his heavenly protector and should appeal to him in prayer for help and guidance. Our righteous ancestors always tried to mark the day of commemoration of their saint – their “Namesday” – by partaking of the Holy Mysteries, and celebrated this day with greater ceremony than their birthday.

What is the reason for the Orthodox worship of God’s saints? Do the saints in heaven know of our needs and difficulties, and do they show any interest in us? Do they hear our prayers and do they try to help us? Should we appeal to the saints for help at all, or does it suffice to pray only to God? Members of sects, who have lost the apostolic tradition, do not understand the essence and the purpose of Christ’s Church and, therefore, reject the need to pray to the saints in heaven. We will briefly expound the Orthodox teaching on the subject.

The Orthodox veneration of God’s saints stems from the belief that all of us, both those who are working on their salvation and those who have already achieved salvation, both the living and the reposed, make up a single divine family. The Church is a great society which encompasses both the visible and invisible worlds. It is a huge, universal organization, built on the principal of love, in which each individual must not only take care of himself, but also be concerned with the benefit and salvation of other people. The saints are those people who, more than others, showed love for their neighbors during their life on earth.

We, Orthodox Christians, believe that when a righteous person dies, he does not break off his tie with the Church, but enters its higher, celestial domain – enters the triumphant Church. Having attained the spiritual world, the soul of a righteous person does not cease to think, desire, feel. On the contrary, these qualities of the soul unfold here more fully and perfectly.

Contemporary non-Orthodox Christians, having lost their living tie with the heavenly-earthly Church, have the vaguest and conflicting notions of the other world. Some of them believe that a man’s soul goes to sleep after death and becomes disconnected from everything; others believe that even if a man’s soul continues its activity after death, it no longer has any interest in the world which it has left. Still others believe that one should not pray to the saints in principle, since Christians are in direct communion with God.

What is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures in regard to the righteous ones who have departed from this world and the power of their prayers? In apostolic times the Church was regarded as a single heavenly-earthly spiritual family. Apostle Paul wrote to newly-converted Christians: “But ye are come unto mount Sinai, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23). In other words, you, having become Christian, have merged with a great family and have come into close contact with the heavenly family and the righteous ones therein. Apostle Peter’s words of farewell to the Christians of Asia Minor – “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (2 Peter 1:15) – clearly confirm that he promises to continue to take care of them when he departs for the other, spiritual world.

The ancient practice of appealing to the holy martyrs and saints for help is based on the realization of live contact between the heavenly and the earthly Church and on belief in the power of their prayers.

We know that the most earnest and righteous people were still in their lifetime called by God His friends and were glorified by Him with gifts of the Holy Spirit and with miracles. Thus, Christ said to His apostles at the Mystic Supper: “Ye are My friends!… For whosoever shall do the will of My Father Who is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother” (John 15:14; Matt. 12:50). The Holy Scriptures provide many examples of the saints’ spiritual nearness to God and power of intercession before Him. Thus, for example, Abraham asked God to have mercy upon the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God was ready to fulfill his request if at least ten righteous people could be found in those cities. Another time God refrained from punishing Abimelech, king of Gerar, because of Abraham’s prayers for the latter. The Bible tells us that God spoke with the Prophet Moses face to face, “as a man converses with his friend.” When Miriam, Moses’ sister, sinned and was punished with leprosy, Moses was able to obtain forgiveness for her from the Lord. There are many other examples of the special power of the saints’ prayers.

The saints do not replace God and do not decrease the need to appeal to the Heavenly Father. After all, adult members in a family do not lessen the authority of the parents when they take care of their children together with them. Moreover, nothing gives greater joy to parents than to see older brothers taking care of younger ones. In the same manner our Heavenly Father rejoices when the saints pray for us and try to help us. God’s saints have a stronger faith than we do and are closer to God because of their righteousness. Therefore, let us appeal to them as to our older brothers who intercede for us before the throne of the Almighty.

It is noteworthy that the righteous ones, while still living on earth, saw and knew much of what is inaccessible to general comprehension. Even more so are these gifts inherent to them in the celestial realm, where they have gone after shedding their mortal flesh. During their life on earth, the saints were able to penetrate into the celestial realm by means of their spirit, and some saw hosts of angels, others were worthy enough to contemplate the image of God, still others were raised up to the third heaven and heard mysterious indescribable words there, as, for example, Apostle Paul. Now, residing in heaven, they are even more capable of knowing what takes place on earth and of hearing those who appeal to them, because the saints in heaven are “equal to angels.” From the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus we learn that Abraham, while being in heaven, could hear the cry of the rich man suffering in hell, despite the “great abyss” which divided them. Abraham’s words: thy brothers have Moses and the prophets, let them heed them, – clearly show that Abraham knew of the life of the Jewish people after his repose, knew of Moses and his law, of the prophets and their writings. The spiritual vision of the righteous ones’ souls in heaven is, undoubtedly, greater than it was on earth. Apostle Paul writes: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

The saints’ nearness to the throne of God and the power of their prayers for the faithful living on earth is evident in the book of Revelation, in which Apostle John writes: “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” Further on he describes a vision of the righteous ones, praying in heaven for people suffering on earth: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Rev. 5:11; 8:3-4).

Great is the power of prayer! “Pray for each other, so that ye may be healed: the earnest prayer of the righteous can do much,” – instructs us Apostle James. Prayer for others is an expression of love for them; thus, by praying for us, the saints in heaven show their brotherly love and care for us.

In the Gospel and in other New Testament books we find numerous instances which testify to the power of prayer for others. Thus, for example, the Lord healed the son of a courtier in response to the latter’s plea; the entreaty of the woman of Canaan resulted in her daughter being freed from possession by demons; at the request of a father the Lord healed his possessed son, while at the request of friends He forgave and healed a man sick of the palsy, whom the friends had lowered down from the roof on ropes; the faith of the Roman centurion led to the healing of his servant. Moreover, the Lord performed the majority of His miracles from afar, without actually seeing the sick person.

Thus, if the prayers of plain people had such power, then even more powerful are the prayers of saints who stand before the throne of God. “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us,” – assures us Christ’s beloved disciple (1 John 5:14).

For this reason from ancient times the Church expounded a teaching on the benefit of prayerful appeals to saints. We see this, for example, in ancient liturgies and other written testimonials. In the liturgy of the Apostle James we read: “We especially commemorate the Holy and Glorious Virgin, the blessed Theotokos. Remember Her, Lord God, and by Her pure and holy prayers have mercy upon us and save us.” In commenting on the liturgy of the church of Jerusalem, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remarks: “We also commemorate (at the liturgy) the previously reposed – primarily the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, – in order that by their prayers and intercession God would accept our own appeal.”

The testimonies of the Church Fathers and teachers on the Church’s veneration of the saints are numerous, especially starting with the 4th century. But even from the beginning of the 2nd century there is direct written testimony of early Christians on their faith in the prayers of saints in heaven for their brothers on earth. Witnesses of the martyric end of St. Ignatius the God-bearer (early 2nd century) say: “Returning home in tears, we served an all-night vigil… Afterwards, having slept a bit, some of us saw the blessed Ignatius arising and embracing us, while others also saw him praying for us.” Similar records referring to the martyrs’ prayers and intercession for us can also be found in other narratives dating from this epoch of the persecution of Christians.

Belief in the holiness of a departed person can be confirmed by special testimonials, such as: martyrdom for Christ, a fearless confession of one’s faith, selfless service to the Church, the gift of healing, etc. This is especially true when the Lord affirms the holiness of a departed person through miracles occurring after the latter’s death and upon prayer to him.

Besides the assistance of prayer, the saints help us achieve salvation by the example of their lives. An acquaintance with the lives of the saints enriches a Christian through the spiritual experience of those who had embodied the Gospel in their lives more earnestly than others. We see here so many vivid examples of living faith, courage, patience. Being people just like us, and having overcome most difficult temptations, they encourage us to travel along the path of our life with patience and humility.

Apostle James urged Christians to imitate the patience of the ancient prophets and of Job the Long-suffering, and to acquire the strong faith of people like the prophet Elias. Apostle Peter instructed Christian wives to take an example of modesty and obedience from the righteous Sarah, wife of Abraham. The holy Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to imitate the spiritual labors of ancient saints, beginning with Abel and ending with the Maccabees. At the end of a detailed instruction on this subject he writes: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

The Lord says: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:15-16). The saints are the bright stars which show us the way to the Heavenly Realm.

Let us treasure the saints’ nearness to God and let us appeal to them for help, bearing in mind that they love us and are concerned for our salvation. An acquaintance with the lives of the saints is especially important in our times, when the concept of the Christian ideal has become so shallow and distorted among the wide mass of “Christians” of the most different varieties.

Bishop Alexander (Mileant)