Sunday, May 20, 2018

The source of all sins - Pride ( St. Justin Popovich )



The sin, which synthesizes all the sins of the world is: “the pride of life.” That is the first sin in all the worlds: the sin of Satan. The source of all sins, which always was and will forever stay as such. It can be said: pride is the ultimate sin. Every sin, through its life force, comes from it and holds to it: “the pride of life”–woven from countless multifarious prides, both great and small, both short-term and long term. Let us remember the primary things: the pride of glory (scientific, government, in any rank or position in general), pride of beauty, pride of wealth, pride of benevolence, pride of humility (yes! of humility), pride of charity, pride of success…There is not a virtue that pride cannot convert into a vice. The pride of prayer converts the person praying into a Pharisee, and the ascetic into a self-murderer. So, every sin, in reality is a sin through pride, because Satan in in reality Satan through pride. If it were not for pride, sin would not exist, neither in the angelic or the human world. All this “is not of the Father.” That which is of the Father is the Only Begotten Son of God. He is incarnate and personified humility before all of His divine perfections. In His Gospel, the beginning virtue, the ultimate virtue is humility (Matt. 5:3). Humility is the only medicine for pride and all other sins.

St. Justin Popovich

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Crossing One’s Legs ( Church Etiquette )

In many cultures throughout the world, crossing one's legs is taboo and considered very disrespectful. In North America there are no real taboos against such action, rather, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable. Should we do so in church? No. Not because it is “wrong” for us ever to cross our legs, but because it is deemed too casual—too relaxed—for being in the presence of God. 
When we get settled in our favorite chair at home, we lean back, kick up our legs, and allow our minds to wander. Remember, sitting in church is a concession, not the norm of prayer. We strive to remain attentive (i.e.: “Let us attend”) at all times as a soldier prepared for (spiritual) battle before his commander. Should we sit, we do so attentively, that our minds not wander from the “one thing necessary.”

Sunday, May 13, 2018

On control of the tongue (St Nicodemos)

The greatest necessity of all is to control and curb our tongue. The mover of the tongue is the heart: what fills the heart is poured out through the tongue. And conversely, when feeling is poured out of the heart by the tongue, it becomes strengthened and firmly rooted in the heart. Therefore the tongue is one of the chief factors in building up our inner disposition.


Good feelings are silent. The feelings which seek expression in words are mostly egotistical, since they seek to express what flatters our self-love and can show us, as we imagine, in the best light. Loquacity mostly comes from a certain vainglory, which makes us think that we know a great deal and imagine our opinion on the subject of conversation to be the most satisfactory of all. So we experience an irresistible urge to speak out and in a stream of words, with many repetitions, to impress the same opinion in the hearts of others, thus foisting ourselves upon them as unbidden teachers and sometimes even dreaming of making pupils of men, who understand the subject much better than the teacher. ‘ This refers, however, to cases when the subjects of conversation are more or less worthy of attention. But in most cases loquacity is a synonym of empty talk, and then there are no words to express the many evils, which arise from this ugly habit. In general, loquacity opens the doors of the soul, and the devout warmth of the heart at once escapes. Empty talk does the same, but even more so. Loquacity distracts one’s attention out of oneself, leaving the heart unprotected. Then the usual passionate interests and desires begin to steal into it, at .times with such success that at the end of such empty talk the heart has not only consented, but has decided to commit passionate deeds. Empty talk is the door to criticism and slander, the spreader of false rumours and , opinions, the sower of discord and strife. It stifles the taste for . mental work and practically always serves as a cover for the absence of sound knowledge. When wordy talk is over, and the fog of self-complacency lifts, it always leaves behind a sense of frustration and indolence. Is it not proof of the fact that, even involuntarily, the soul feels itself robbed’?

Wishing to show how difficult it is for a loquacious man to refrain from saying something harmful, sinful and wrong, the Apostle James said that keeping the tongue within its rightful bounds is the property only of the perfect: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body’ (James iii. 2). As soon as the tongue begins to speak for its own pleasure, it runs on in speech like an unbridled horse, and blurts out not only the good and seemly, but also the bad and harmful.

This is why the Apostle calls it ‘an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James iii. 8). Long before him Solomon too said: ‘In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin’ (Prov. x. 19). In general, let us say, like Ecclesiastes, that a loquacious man shows his folly, for as a rule only ‘a fool . . . is full of words’ , (Ecclesiastes x. 14).

Do not prolong your conversation with a man, who is not listening to you with a good heart, lest you weary him and make your-self abhorrent, as is written: ‘He that useth many words shall be abhorred” (Ecclesiasticus xx. 8). Beware of speaking in a severe or superior manner; for both are highly disagreeable and make people suspect you of great vanity and a high opinion of your self. Never speak about yourself, about your affairs or your relatives, except when it is necessary, and even then be brief and say as little as possible. When you see that others speak too much of themselves, force yourself not to imitate them, even if their words appear humble and self-reproachful. As regards your neighbour and his affairs, do not refuse to discuss them, but always be as brief as you can, even when you have to speak of such things for his good.

While conversing, remember and try to follow the precept of St. Thalassius who says: ‘Of the five attitudes in conversation with others, use three with discrimination and without fear; use the fourth infrequently and refrain from using the fifth altogether”

(Philokalia, the first century, 69). One writer understands the first three as follows: ‘yes”, ‘no”, ‘ of course” or ‘this is clearly so”; by the fourth, he understands doubtful things and by the fifth, things totally unknown. In other words, about things you know for certain to be true or false, or self-evident, speak with conviction, saying that they are true, or false, or evident. About doubtful things better say nothing, but when necessary, say that they are doubtful and reserve your judgment. Of what you know nothing, say nothing. Someone else says: we have five forms’ Or modes of speech: the vocative, when we invoke someone; the interrogative, when we ask a question; the desiring or soliciting form, when we express a desire or request; the defining, when we express a decisive opinion on something; the commanding, when masterfully and authoritatively we express a command. Of these five, use the first three freely; the fourth, as rarely as possible; the fifth, not at all.

Speak of God with all homage, especially of His love and goodness; at the same time be fearful lest you commit a sin by speaking wrongly, confusing the simple hearts of the listeners. Therefore, listen rather to others on this subject, collecting their words in the inner treasure-house of your heart.

When the conversation is of other things, let only the sound of the voice enter into your ear, but not the thought into your mind, which must remain unwaveringly directed towards God. Even when it is necessary to listen to the speaker, in order to understand what he speaks of and to give a suitable answer, do not forget, in the midst of listening and speaking, to raise the eye of your mind on high where your God is, thinking of His greatness and remembering that He never loses sight of you and looks at you either with approval or disapproval, according to what is in the thoughts of your heart, in your words, movements and actions. When you have to speak, before expressing what has entered your heart and letting it pass to your tongue, examine it carefully; and you will find many things that are better not let past your lips. Know moreover that many things, which it seems to you good to express, are much better left buried in the tomb of silence. Sometimes you will yourself realise this, immediately the conversation is over.

Silence is a great power in our unseen warfare and a sure hope ‘of gaining victory. Silence is much beloved of him, who docs not rely on himself but trusts in God alone. It is the guardian of holy prayer and a miraculous helper in the practice of virtues; it is also a sign of spiritual wisdom. .St. Isaac says: ‘ Guarding your tongue not only makes your mind rise to God, but also gives great hidden power to perform visible actions, done by the body. If silence is practised with knowledge, it also brings enlightenment in hidden doing” (ch. 31 in Russian edition). In another place he praises it thus: ‘ If you pile up on one side of the scales all the works demanded by ascetic life, and on the other side—silence, you will find that the latter outweighs the former. Many good counsels have been given us, but if a man embraces silence, to follow them will become superfluous” (ch. 41). In yet another place he calls silence ‘the mystery of the life to come; whereas words are the instruments of this world” (ch. 42). St. Barsanuphius places it above preaching the word of God, saying: ‘•’If you are just on the very point of preaching, know that silence is more worthy of wonder and glory.” Thus, although one man ‘holdeth his tongue because he hath not to answer”, another ‘keepeth silence, knowing his time” (Ecclesiaaticus xx. 6), yet another for some other reasons, ‘for the sake of human glory, or out of zeal for this virtue of silence, or because he secretly communes with God in his heart and does not want the attention of his mind to be distracted from if (St. Isaac, ch. 76). It can be said in general that a man, who keepeth silence, is found wise and of good sense (Ecclesiasticus xx. 5).

I shall indicate to you the most direct and simple method to acquire the habit of silence: undertake this practice, and the practice itself will teach you how to do it, and help you. To keep up your zeal in this work, reflect as often as you can on the pernicious results of indiscriminate babbling and on the salutary results of wise silence. When you come to taste the good fruit, of silence, you will no longer need lessons about it. […]


St. Nicodemos

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bored or Lonely? ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )

Boredom can easily lead to loneliness and loneliness to depression. Saint Theophan gives us some good advice how to avoid boredom. He says that each time you feel yourself alone, think of God and your guardian angel who is with you at all times. Take advantage of all such opportunities for a moment of solitude with God and have a conversation with Him. Then learn to fill your day with meaningful activities.


He shares advice a father gave to his daughter.


Everyone has a number of daily chores, which they work off like some sort of quitrent. There are many people, however, for whom these quitrent chores are simple and do not take much time. there is a lot of time left over whereby, if it is not filled with anything, there is no way to avoid boredom. Here is the most reliable way for you to avoid it: Arrange things so you do not have a single moment and al your time is filled with suitable occupations so that , upon completion of one activity, you have another one ready to begin.
What kind of activities should these be? 1) Aesthetic occupations: music, singing, painting. 2) Some sort of handicraft: knitting, needlework and the like. 3) The best remedy for boredom, however, is to acquire a taste for serious reading and the study of subjects that you are unfamiliar with. It is not so much the reading that drives away boredom as the study. If you follow this smile advice you will find shortly you will not a enough time to do everything you want to do. You will lose that feeling of loneliness and avoid the terrible problem of depression. Even one who lives alone and rarely has guests will have a life filled with activity, one without boredom or loneliness.


Take up the reading of spiritual books and avoid frivolous novels and such. Dig into something that will engage your mind fully. Avoid the trap of TV which can dumb the mind. If you do go to the TV when bored then seek out something that will give you new insight about our world and that will engage your mind in an active way.


You can also seek out regular activities such as volunteering at Church or with another agency in town. But it's not necessary to become over active in social activities as these for many create to many tensions and often includes engaging with people who distract you spiritually. Each person has a different makeup so you need to seek activities that fit your personality, especially those that keep you learning. To be alone does not mean to be lonely. In reality we are never alone. God is always with us along with our guardian angel.


The more you study spiritual matters, including the Church history, teachings of the Fathers, as well as Holy Scripture, you will discover forever new topics which you are not aware of. Each one will broaden your world view and open you to greater and greater spiritual awareness at the same time. Your desire to learn will never be satisfied. Read and keep busy and you will become wise, devoid of loneliness. You will become more aware of God's ever presence.

Saint Theophan the Recluse
Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp 265-266

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A paralyzed boy healed by St. John the Russian



St. John the Russian, depicted with St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. John of Kronstadt


In one of the two children's hospitals of Athens, a mother lied at the head of her child day and night. She brought the child from Patras, because the child's chronic affliction, paralysis of the lower extremities, had worsened in the last few days...

One evening, while the sun was setting, and the last few sunbeams lit up the hospital room, the mother remembered how she would go to a chapel of the Panagia high above Patras, and prayed, lighting the vigil lamps, sometimes with her husband, other times with her children. Her nous was fixed on that chapel. She prayed noetically: “My Panagia, my sweetest Mother who feels our pain, help my child. My Panagia, send me a Saint, look at my poor child, how in his life, he is struggling to stand on his feet. Help, my poor little boy.”

“Mother,” the child said, “who are you talking to?”

“My Georgie, remember when you read in your church book how our Lord lived in Palestine, and healed demoniacs, opened the eyes of the blind, lifted up Paralytics and made them to walk, and raised the dead? Tell him, my Georgie, and He will hear you, my good boy, tell Christouli to make you well.”

The helpless child, with his innocent gaze, looked at his mother, and at the sun which was setting. He looked on high towards the heavens.

That midnight, George saw a dream of a beautiful horseman, on a glorious horse. He stopped before him and said:

“Get up, Georgie, jump up on my horse!”

“But I am a paralytic, my feet don't move and hold me up.” he replied.

“Give me your hand, Georgie, get up on my horse. I am St. John from Russia, and our Lord sent me to bring you His grace and His healing power!"

The child, half awake, then awoke his mother, who picked him up so that he wouldn't fall out of bed.

“Mother, hold me, St. John from Russia told me to get up.”

In the morning when the night resident told the professor that the paralyzed child from Patras began walking that night, went with a hammer in hand, checked the child's reflexes, and plucked his feet with a sharp instrument, and he saw that his body was functioning normally.

“Go,” said the professor, “God had something to do with you."