Saturday, October 31, 2015

How Can We Love When Someone Harms Us? ( St. Porphyrios )

First, we should never expect others to speak to us politely. This expectation is an ego-centric trait of ours. We need to let other speak as they wish . 

St. Porphyrios says, “we shouldn’t become beggars for love. Our aim should be to love them and pray for them with all our soul.”

But what do we do when someone injures us with slanders or insults. This is a difficult teaching. Here is how St. Porphyrios approaches it.
When someone injures us in whatever way, whether with slander or with insults, we should think of him as our brother who has been taken hold of by the enemy…. We need to have compassion for him and entreat God to have mercy both on us and on him… A person who condemns others does not love Christ. Our egoism is at fault.

He gives us an example:
Let’s suppose someone is all alone in the desert. Suddenly he hears a voice crying out in distress in the distance. He follows the sound and is confronted by a horrendous sight: a tiger has grabbed hold of a man and is savaging him with his claws. The man is desperately shouting for help. In a few minutes he will be torn to pieces. What can the person do to help? Can he run to his side? How? It is impossible. Can he shout for help? Who will hear him? There is no one within earshot. Should he perhaps pick up a stone and throw it at the man to finish him off? Certainly not, we would say. But that is exactly what can happen if we don’t realize that the other person who is acting badly towards us has been taken hold of by a tiger, the devil. 

We fail to realize that when we react to such a person without love it is as if we are throwing stones at his wounds and accordingly we are doing him great harm and the “tiger” leaps onto us and we to the same as him and worse. What kind of love do we have then for our neighbor and even more importantly, for God?.. We should regard our brethren with sympathy and behave with courtesy towards them, repeating in our hearts with simplicity the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ,” so that the grace of God may strengthen our soul and so that we don't pass judgment on anyone.

Our task when we are injured and we see an vice in another person is to inundate him or her with the grace of God and have the upmost compassion so he or she may be healed.

In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you. This is what is written in the Law and in the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Understanding the Soul ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )

I remember many years ago a spiritual teacher asking me this simple question, "Can you describe your soul?" This question haunted me for several years. So, what is the nature of our soul? How do we get to know it? Knowing soul is something that requires stillness in the mind. Our mind is continually in motion distracting us from a deep inner knowledge. Saint Theophan suggests that we divide the soul into different parts to know it –– intellectual, desiring and sensual.

Intellectual Aspect: You intellect stands about your memory and imagination; this intellect, among with intellectual labor, obtains for you definite concepts or cognitions about things.... This leads to thoughts, opinions and suppositions. Its business is to reason, think things over, and reach necessary conclusions.
But, normally our mind is filled with thoughts of all kinds. It is not still so we can make reasoned choices. We become driven by our passions.

Desirous Aspect: The faculty that operates here is the will... At its foundation lies zeal, or ardor––the thirst for something.... In a person who has lived for some time almost everything is done by habit.
Normally instead of using the will to do God's will we instead override it with our habits to meet the demands of our passions. So, not only do we have the confusion with the scattering of our thoughts but we also have a distorted inconsistent use of our desiring aspect seeking selfish desires.

Sensual Aspect: the Heart. Everything which enters the soul from the outside, and which is shaped by the intellectual and desirous aspects , falls to the heart; everything which the soul observes on the outside also passes through the heart, That is why its called the center of life... It constantly and persistently senses the condition of the soul and body, and along with this the various impressions from the individual actions of the soul and body... compelling and forcing man to furnish everything which is pleasant to its.
But it is most commonly tormented by the passions and it does not operate in peace. It then leads us to emotions and attachments that may not lead us to unity with God.

We can now begin to understand the nature of our spiritual life which is for our soul to regain its proper place so we can center our life on the will of God instead of the passions of our body. Of course it still needs to care for the body but as a secondary effort. The soul longs to be reunited with God, a unity broken by Adam and Eve, and a brokenness that Christ showed us how to heal, establishing His Church to help us in this effort.

Source: Saint Theophan the Recluse

The Spiritual Life, pp 48 - 60

The Church in our times ( St. Paisios )

'' The Church is the Church of Christ and He is the One Who governs Her.
The Church is not a temple built with stones, sand and mortar by the faithful, and destroyed by the fire of barbarians.

The Church is Christ Himself. ''

With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man- Elder Paisios

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jesus Prayer: Key to a Restful Sleep?

The best way to prepare for a restful sleep is to start a practice of nightly prayer where you repeat one hundred times or more the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Many of us struggle to get a sound night’s sleep. The drug stores make huge profits on sleep remedies and there are now even specialized sleep clinics. Most of us are unaware about how our dreams and negative forces impact us during our sleep. We tend to discount this aspect of our life because this all happens deep in our subconsciousness. Our minds are filled with unprocessed stimuli from our busy life during the day that carry over into our night time sleep. What we need is a way to slow down our mind, to calm it, to bring our focus on God before we go to bed so he can bless us with a restful sleep.

The best way to prepare for a restful sleep is to start a practice of nightly prayer where you repeat one hundred times or more the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This prayer, in the tradition of the Church, is one of the most powerful prayers. As you repeat it slowly in your mind, concentrating on the words, you mind shifts its attention away from your problems of the day. You begin to focus on God and seek His help and forgiveness. After you pray in this way, read a passage from the Bible or from the writings of one of the Church Fathers. You are now filling your mind with spiritual thoughts that will replace those you have collected from a hectic day. Then, as you get into bed, begin again to say the Jesus Prayer. Let it put you to sleep.

This is not as easy as it sounds. You will have to work at it for a while. As you practice it you will find that your mind changes and your sleep deepens and becomes more restful.
This period between being awake and going to sleep is a critical transition period. We shift from control of our conscious mind to our subconscious mind deep within. It is a time when demonic powers can interfere. This is where the prayer helps to open your heart to God in forgiveness, seeking his mercy to grant you a peaceful sleep free from troubling dreams and needless worries. As you enter into this subconsciousness, the prayer will enter deep within and help to open the door of your heart letting the Holy Spirit bring you calm and peace.

If you do experience a bad dream that awakens you, immediately begin to say the Jesus Prayer to bring your mind back to a calm state. Then keep repeating it until you again fall into sleep. After awhile the prayer will automatically begin in your subconscious mind to stop troubling dreams even before you awake.

The Devil Dies When He Does Not Receive the Pleasure of the Senses ( St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite )

Since the devil has as nourishment the passions and pleasures of the senses, he too will die as he is deprived of this nourishment. “The strong lion perishes for lack of prey” (Job 4:11). St. Neilos has noted that the devil is often referred to as an “ant-lion,” just as the passions are. This means that at first these passions appear as something very small, but later become great and strong like lions. Do you see, dear brother, what great enemies you have to defeat? Do you see that by cutting off the passions of the senses, you are also going to put Satan to death? But alas this cutting off and this victory cannot be won without a war. It is like the external wars, no one can win a victory without first waging a war against the enemy. It is certain that you have to experi­ence a great struggle in each of your senses both from the point of view of habit and of the enemy.

For the bad habit desires to draw each sense toward its pleasurable object when it is present. On the other hand, the enemy desires to wage a great battle in the memory and imagination of the mind in order to achieve its consent to enjoy that pleasure, so that, in doing so, the devil can also enjoy the same pleasure. But you must stand courageously and never consent to the will of the enemy. Say to yourself that iambic proverb of St. Gregory the Theologian: “No one can excel by beginning from cowardice; it is the victories that bring praise.”

An ancient people recognized their children to be their genuine offspring only after placing before them a viper and observing them catch it courageously. You too, dear brother, must make the enemy realize that you are a true child of Christ Who is your heavenly Father, and who has overcome the passions and the devil-through the cour­age you demonstrate in fighting against the evil passions of your senses. And if the enemy stands to fight you, be not afraid to tell him what that brave Spartan said to Xerxes: “Oh king, you managed to sail the sea and to cut a channel across the peninsula of Athos, but you will not pass the side of one armed Spartan.” For this reason then show the enemy that you are not a slave of your senses, but lord and king. Show that you are not only flesh and blood, but a rational mind, appointed by God to be leader and sole ruler over the irrational passions of the body. Say to yourself that wise proverb about evil habits: “The best learning for man is to unlearn evil.” Now, if I have learned, wrongly, to give to my senses their sensual objects, and this wrong learning has brought about a bad habit, and this bad habit a still further bad condi­tion, why can I not now learn to do the opposite? Let, therefore, the good learning become a good habit and the good habit a good and permanent condition. If, in doing this, I am to experience difficulties and bitterness at first, let me experience them. Afterward I will be able to experience both ease and joy. The first efforts to learn and practice the virtues and establish the habit of virtuous living are often very bitter and most difficult for the senses. The activity that follows after these initial efforts to acquire the habit of virtuous living is very easy, ineffably sweet, and enjoyable.

Briefly we can say that angels are invisibly present, holding crowns in their hands. Christ himself is the one Who will crown you every time you are victorious in the battle against the evil passions of the senses and you do not succumb to them. St. Basil said: “Suffering brings glory, and tribulation brings crowns.” But you have been beaten once or twice (I hope not!). Be not completely overcome. Stand firm and courageous, calling upon God for help. If you do so, the grace of God will come directly to your help and will not leave you to be completely overcome by the enemy. Do you want to be sure of this? Follow me and let us travel to Sodom. Have you come? Behold the five kings of Sodom mentioned in Holy Scripture (Gen 14), who were then under the hegemony of the Assyrian king Chedorlaomer and who were paying tribute to him and to the other kings with him for ten years. In the thirteenth year they rebelled and did not want to pay the tribute to the Assyrian king, who then declared war on them. It appeared soon afterward that the five kings were subdued and captured by the Assyri­ans. What happened next? When Abram heard about this, he ran to their aid; he fought, he won, and he liberated them for the sake of his nephew Lot.

St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain - A Handbook of Spiritual Council – Chapter 8; Guarding All the Senses in General pp. 136-145 (“The Classics of Western Spirituality” series.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Do Demons exist?

There are many Christians who think demons are just old fashioned myths. For a long time, I was one of them. To many, demons are just vehicles to explain things like suffering, illness and evil––not considered to be real beings that have their own wills and who are intent on keeping us separated from God. This is a spiritual deception of a grand scale. When we deny the existence of these invisible beings, we also deny all invisible beings, and this would include God the Creator of all that is both visible and invisible. Frequently, we only allow ourselves to acknowledge as real what we can sense with our senses or measure scientifically. We in effect block out of consideration the entire invisible or spiritual realm, including both angels and demons.

The consequences of this deception are important. When we deny their existence we deny the spiritual struggle we must engage in, or the spiritual war that Saint Paul says Christians are engaged it. If there is no war, no struggle, then all that is necessary to be Christian is to mentally embrace Christ by saying, “I believe,” attend church on Sunday, be nice to others, and support social activities of the church and community. There is no need for ascetic practices to overcome forces that lead us astray. No need for prayer and fasting.

This view that denies the existence of demons is one that is promoted by the Devil himself. It is his greatest deception, making us believe that he does not exist. It makes us passive in our spiritual life. Here is what St. Irenaeus of Lyons of the second century says of the work of the devil, “He had indeed been already accustomed to lie against God, for the purpose of leading men astray.” (Against Heresies, 5.23.1) “To lead men astray,” he says! This is the danger.

Scripture very clearly teaches that demons are real (In the Gospels alone, the word “demon” is used thirty-two times, “devil” and “Satan” both appear fourteen times, and the phrase “the evil one” appears five times.). Also, in the sacrament of Baptism, from the early days of the Church, we have the prayers of exorcism which are read to this day. After these prayers are read the Priest asks the Catechumen, “Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his worship, and all his angels, and all his pomp?” Also in the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for God to protect us, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” The Apostle Peter calls to each Christian: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

If the Gospel writers did not believe that demons exist, why would they use the term "demon" so often! There are excellent Greek words for disease and madness (which appear in the New Testament). Without any doubt we find a clear reference to demons throughout the Scripture. It was not written there by mistake or to allude to some kind of physical illness. The facts of the gospel records clearly show that Jesus believed in personal demons. He addressed them and they addressed Him. Today, we can find people who can recount similar personal encounters with demons. Even though they are invisible beings, they are no less real than any other person to whom our Lord Jesus Christ spoke.

To avoid spiritual deception we need to develop a keen awareness of these demonic forces, because they are our enemy on our spiritual path. If we are to follow Christ, we, like Him, have to recognize the power of the evil forces we face. We of necessity need to properly prepare ourselves to fight against them, knowing they are actively attacking us. Without such a recognition, our efforts will be weak and ineffective. This is the nature of the authentic Christian struggle.

There was a time not so long ago that I used to worry about what would others say of me if I begin to talk about the demons who attack me? I feared the possibility ridicule and being rejected as some kind of religious kook, a Neanderthal thinker. I worried that they would say I am naive, old fashioned, ignorant of modern scientific views, one babbling superstitious and archaic views. This is the challenge we face in todays world. Generally, a minority (34% for Orthodox and 40% for all Americans according to PEW Survey of Religious Landscape) of the population believes in demons with certainty. In our spiritual struggle we must go against the prevailing thought patterns that do not reflect the spiritual truth of the created world. We must be prepared to be mocked and ridiculed for our views. We cannot be deceived and ignore these forces that are woking against us. We cannot be luke warm on this belief. It is not enough to think there is the possibility of such beings. We must in fact see them with certainty, as the enemy worthy of combating in intense spiritual warfare. This is the key to our eventual union with God. These forces are trying to prevent us from joining with Christ and growing in a way where we become part of Him and part of His Kingdom.

The Joyous Feast of Pumpkin - Archbishop Kyrill

It is that time of the year when the secular society in which we live is preparing for the festival of Halloween. Many do not know its spiritual roots and history, and why it contradicts the teachings of the Church. The feast of Halloween began in pre-Christian times among the Celtic peoples of Great Britain, Ireland and northern France. These pagan peoples believed that life was born from death. Therefore they celebrated the beginning of the "new year" in the fall (on the eye of October 31 and into the day of November 1) when, as they believed, the season of cold, darkness, decay and death began. A certain deity whom they called Samhain was believed by the Celts to be the Prince of Death and it was he whom they honored at their New Year's festival.

From an Orthodox Christian point of view, we can see many diabolical beliefs and practices associated with this feast which have endured to this time. On the eve of the New Year's festival, the Druids, who were the priests of the Celtic cult, instructed their people to extinguish all hearth fires and lights. On the evening of the festival, a huge bonfire built from oak branches (oak was regarded by the Celts as sacred) was ignited. Upon this fire sacrifices were burned as an offering in order to appease and cajole Samhain, the Prince of Death. It was also believed that Samhain, being pleased by the offerings, allowed the souls of the dead to return to their homes for a festal visit on this day. It is from this belief that the practice of wandering about in the dark dressed up in costumes imitating ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, fairies, etc. grew up. For the living entered into fellowship and communion with the dead by what was, and still is, a ritual act of imitation, through costume and the activity of wandering around in the dark of night, even as the souls of the dead were believed to wander.

The dialogue of trick or treat is also an integral part of this system of beliefs and practices. It was believed that the souls of the dead who had entered into the world of darkness, decay and death, and therefore into total communion with and submission to Samhain, bore the affliction of great hunger on their festal visit. Out of this grew the practice of begging, which was a further ritual enactment and imitation of what the Celts believed to be the activities of the souls of the dead on their festal visit. Associated with this is the still further implication that if the souls of the dead and their imitators were not appeased with "treats", i.e., offerings, then the wrath and anger of Samhain would be unleashed through a system of "tricks", i.e. curses. Such is the true meaning of this pagan feast. It is then evident that for an Orthodox Christian participation at any level is impossible and idolatrous, resulting in a genuine betrayal of God and Church. If we participate in the ritual activity of imitating the dead and wandering in the dark asking for treats or offering them to children, we then have willfully sought fellowship with the dead, whose Lord is not Samhain, but rather Satan. It is to Satan then that these treats are offered, not to children.

There are other practices associated with Halloween from which we must stay away, such as sorcery, fortune telling, divination, games of chance, witchcraft and the carving of an ugly face upon a pumpkin and then placing a lit candle within the infamous Jack O' Lantern. The pumpkin (in older days other vegetables were used) was carved by the Celts in imitation of the dead and used to convey the new light (from the sacred oak fire) to the home where the lantern was left burning through the night. This "holy lantern" is no other than an imitation of the truly holy votive light (lampada) offered before an icon of Christ and the saints. Even the use and display of the Jack O'Lantern involves participation in this "death" festival honoring Satan.

The Holy Fathers of the first millennium (a time when the Church was one and strictly Orthodox) counteracted this Celtic pagan feast by introducing the Feast of All Saints. It is from this that the term Halloween developed. The word Halloween has its roots in the Old English of All Hallow E'en, i.e., the Eve commemorating all those who were hallowed (sanctified), i.e. Halloween Unfortunately, either due to lack of knowledge or understanding, the Celtic pagan feast being celebrated on the same day as the Christian feast of All Saints (in western Christiandom) came to be known as Halloween.

The people who remained pagan and therefore anti-Christian reacted to the Church's attempt to supplant their festival by celebrating this evening with increased fervor. Many of these practices involved desecration and mockery of the Church's reverence for Holy Relics. Holy things, such as crosses and the Reserved Sacrament, were stolen and used in perverse and sacrilegious ways. The practice of begging became a system of persecution designed to harass Christians who were, by their beliefs, unable to participate by making offerings to those who served the Lord of Death.

One can see in contemporary Western society that the Western Church's attempt to supplant this pagan festival with a Christian feast failed. How then did something that is so obviously contradictory to the Holy Orthodox faith gain such acceptance among Christian people?

The answer is spiritual apathy and listlessness which are the spiritual roots of atheism and turning away from God. Today's society urges one that Halloween and other such festivities, notwithstanding their apparent pagan and idolatrous origin, are nonetheless harmless and of no consequence. Upon closer consideration these pagan festivals are the source for destroying any kind of spiritual foundation and lead to disbelief and outright atheism.

Halloween undermines the very basis of the Church which was founded on the blood of martyrs who had refused, by giving up their lives, to partake in any form of idolatry

Holy Mother Church must take a firm stand in counteracting any such (pagan) events. Christ taught us that God is the judge in all our actions and beliefs and that we are either FOR GOD or AGAINST GOD. There is no neutral or middle of the road approach.

Today we witness a revival of satanist cults; we hear of satanic services conducted on Halloween night. Children are kidnapped by satanists for their ritualistic sacrifices. Orthodox clergy are ritualistically killed as has happened more than once in California. Everywhere Satan reaches out to ensnare as many innocent people as possible. The newsstands are filled with material on spiritualism, supernatural phenomena, seances, prophesies and all sorts of demonically inspired works. These works all serve Satan, for they are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but the fruit of the spirit of this world.

Archbishop Kyrill

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Holy Fire 2015 -- Check this be the judge..

This morning I was taking this video, I came home to watch it and show it to my Family , I realized that from every candle light came out a cross , I've never seen something like this before...

True Joy - Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Don’t expect to find joy and rest in anything that grieves your soul and upsets divine grace. Joy is a gift of God to our soul…

And if you dishonor it, it will not come back, unless you feel sorry and repent with much pain for every sin you committed. But what is the point of thoughtlessly chasing away the dove of grace, and then with regret and many sighs seeking it back again?

Many people have chased joy away by foolishly dishonoring it, and then it never came back.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Monastic Wisdom, Forty-ninth Letter, p. 23

The prayer of Mount Athos ( Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra )

The prayer of Mount Athos, who does not recognize it? It is comprised of one small phrase, of measured words.

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

With the loud cry “Lord”, we glorify God, His glorious majesty, the King of Israel, the Creator of visible and invisible creation, Whom Seraphim and Cherubim tremble before.

With the sweet invocation and summons “Jesus”, we witness that Christ is present, our Savior, and we gratefully thank Him, because He has prepared for us life eternal.

With the third word “Christ”, we theologically confess that Christ is the Son of God and God. No man saved us, nor angel, but Jesus Christ, the true God.

There follows the intimate petition “have mercy”, and we venerate and entreat that God would be propitious, fulfilling our salvation’s demands, the desires and needs of our hearts.

That “on me”, what range it has! It is not only myself, it is everyone admitted to citizenship in the state of Christ, in the holy Church; it is all those who are members of the body of the Bridegroom.

And finally, so that our prayer be full of life, we close with the word “a sinner”, confessing – since we are all sinners – as all the Saints confess and became through this sound sons of light and of the day.

  Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

The Church is an endless source of miracles… ( St. Paisios of Mount Athos )

Despite appearances and the unworthiness of the monks and clergy, the Church is an endless source of miracles.

It takes water and makes it Holy Water; it takes bread and wine and makes the Holy Eucharist; it takes man made of dirt and makes him a god!

But many people do not see the miracles. Because if they saw them they would not despise or hate the Church of Christ, but they would love and honor Her and would not be talking about Her with contempt as they do.

St. Paisios of Mount Athos

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Brother and the Old Man - The path to salvation ( Saint Maximus the Confessor )

I was recently moved by reading an article by Saint Maximus the Confessor. I was surprised at its clarity and simplicity, yet its completeness and elegance. I had always thought of Saint Maximus as one to avoid reading because he was so hard to grasp. What I found was the opposite. It will try and capture the essence of this article which is a dialogue between a brother and an old man.

It is titled "the Ascetic Life".

He begins with a question asked by one of his spiritual children who asks,

"What was the purpose of the Lord's becoming man?

Answer: Our salvation.

Question: How do you mean?

Answer: Man, made by God, disobeyed God in Paradise. He then was subject to death. From generation to generation he became more and more evil because of his dedication to his passions rather than to the commandments of God. God then sent His Son to take on flesh to show us the way to live according to His commandments. He promised man at this time that those who did follow Him would live in heaven forever. He also threatened man with eternal punishment if he did not obey. The Son suffered, was killed, but then resurrected showing that all those who struggle will find the path to eternal life in heaven.

Question: What are the commandments?

Answer: As the lord said, "Go, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19).

Question: But Father, who can do all the commandments, there are so many of them?

Answer: He who imitates the Lord and follows in His footsteps.

Question: Who can imitate the Lord? He was God and I am a man, a sinner, enslaved by many passions.

Answer: The Lord tells us, "Behold I have given you the power to tread serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. (Luke 10:19) Paul tells us, "They that are Christ's have crucified their flesh." (Gal 5:24) Christ says, "He that loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me" (Matt 10:37). "He that taketh not up his cross and followeth me, is not worthy of me" (Matt 10:38). And, "Every one that doth not renounce all that he possesseth cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33)

Question: But the Lord's commands are so many , who can keep them all in mind in order to strive for them?

Answer: They are all summed up in one word. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole strength and with thy whole mind, and thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:30). We need to separate from worldly things and passions to genuinely love either God or neighbor.

Question: What things do you mean?

Answer: Food, money, possessions, acclaim, relatives and the rest.

Question: But, didn't God make these things and give them to us for our use?

Answer: Yes He did, and everything He made is good. Our error is that we prefer material and worldly things above the commandment of love. The Lord has said, "He that loves me will keep my commandments" (John 14:15)

Question: But, how can I love the person who hates me?

Answer: The Lord does not command the impossible when he says, "Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you" (Matt 5:44). It is because we are lovers of material things and pleasure, more than His commandments, that we are not able to love those who hate us.

Question: Look Father, I have given up everything, relatives, property, luxury, and acclaim but still I am not able to love one who hates me. What am I to do?

Answer: You cannot love your tormentor unless you know the purpose of the Lord.

Question: What is the Lord's purpose?

Answer: The Lord knew the whole law rested on love (Matt 22:37-40). He therefore set out a life to demonstrate a life of love and claim victory over the devil and all his temptations. He tried to teach the Jews this way of love. But this only stirred up their hatred of Him. But He did not hate them who opposed him or who tried to kill him. Instead of hate He set forth love. After complete victory over the devil, He crowned Himself with the Resurrection all for our sake. His purpose was as a man to obey the Father until death keeping the commandment of love. In addition to his life we can also learn from the lives of His disciples. Remember what he said on the Cross, "Father, forgive them, since they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Question: What you say is true, pray for me that I may have the strength to know perfectly the Lord's and His Apostles' purpose so I can be sober minded in time of temptations.

Answer: If you are always attentive to what I have told you you can have this awareness. You must remember that your brother is tempted in the same way you are.

Question: Tell me how to hold on to soberness.

Answer: Complete lack of concern for earthly things and continuous meditation on the divine Scriptures brings the soul to fear God. It is the fear of God that brings soberness.

Question: What should one do to devote one's self continuously to God?

Answer: Be merciful and do good to one's neighbor, be long suffering in this regard, endure all he inflicts. It is love that tames our anger.

Question: What is long suffering?

Answer: perseverance in adversity, endurance of evils, to abide to end of temptation, not to let anger out by chance, not to think anything that does not become a God fearing man. (Eccl 1:29) Many difficulties that we are given are part of our training. We should give thanks to God for everything He gives us like David, Job and his wife.

Question: Why do I lack compunction?

Answer: Because you have no fear of God and are complacent. Such people scorn the thought of the dreadful punishment of God that awaits us if we do not live with love. Maximus then give an extensive review of this punishment as recorded in Old Testament and New Testament. (Deut 32:22, 41; Isa 33:14, 50:11, 66:24; Jer 13:16, 5:21, 2:19-21, 15:17; Ezech 7:8; Dan 7:9, 7:13-15; Ps 61.12; Eccles 12:13; 2Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10; Jer 31:10; Matt 7:13, 25:41; Exod 20:13-15; Matt 5:20; Jer 9:1.) We must think about the defense we must have on that judgement day. Are not we all gluttonous? Are we all not lovers of pleasure? Are not we all desirous of material things? Are not we all nurturers of wrath? Are not we all revilers? Are we not fond of scoffing.... Are we not worse than the Jews who killed Christ? How can we be called sons of God? Do we show the fruits of the Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, meekness, contingency (Gal 5:22). How can we be called Christians, who have nothing at all of Christ in us?

Maybe someone will say, I have faith and faith in Him is enough for my salvation. But James tells us, "The devils also believe and tremble; Faith without works is dead in itself (James 2:17; 2:19; 2:26). So also is works without Faith.

Those who truly believed Christ and made Him dwell within themselves spoke like this: "And I live, now not I; but Christ lives in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself for me (Gal 2:20). Christ clearly said, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that treat you with despite (Luke 6:27).

Question: After hearing all this the brother is in tears saying, there is no hope of salvation for me.

Answer: the Lord said, "With men salvation is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26) Isais said, "When you return and moan, then you will be saved" (Isa 30.15). The Lord says, "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 4:17). Let us purify our hearts, let us weep for our sins, let us quite our vices, let us hear His threats, let us love one another with our whole heart. Let us master our passions.

We must rid ourselves of every bit of sinfulness from our hearts. "Let us then love one another and be loved by God; let us be patient with one another and He will be patient with our sins. Let us not render evil for evil, and we shall not receive our due for our sins." (Maximus)

The Lord has told us as follows:

"Forgive, and you shall be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). If you will forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses"(Matt 6:14). Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt5:7). "With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt 7:2).

Our salvation is in our will's grasp. Let us give ourselves totally to the Lord. Let us place all our hope in Him alone. Let us love every man sincerely, but put our hope in none. Let us truly do penance. Let us watch and be sober. Let's emulate the Holy apostles and the saints imitating their combats., eagerness, preserve fence, patience, endurance, in long suffering, compassion, meekness, zeal, unfeignedness in love, sublimity in low lioness, plainness in poverty, kindness, clemency.

I encourage you to seek and read the entire article by Saint Maximus

Reference: The Ascetic Life, Vol 21 Ancient Writers, pp 103-135

Children that Stray from the Faith: A Monastic Answer



How can we help our children regain their faith if they stray away from church in high school or when they go to college?

Mother Raphaela:

We cannot do anything to help our children regain their faith if they stray away from Church as they grow up. Once our children have grown, we have to let go of them and let them lead their own lives and make their own choices and decisions. Whether we have raised them well (and the biggest part of that is giving them an example by the way we have lived our lives and spoken our words), whether we have made huge mistakes that we must learn to repent of before God and His people, or whether we have raised them well along with some mistakes, what is left to us is prayer. Prayer is not trying to manipulate our children from a distance—perhaps even thinking that God and His saints are more powerful manipulators than we are if we can get them on our side. Prayer is taking the time and making the space regularly in our lives to put our children (and all of our loved ones) in God’s hands; asking the saints for their help in doing this; asking their guardian angels and their saints to be there with them. Prayer is letting go and trusting God. Such prayer is also a powerful statement to our children that we trust them. As long as we are taking the time and making the space to rescue them, we are giving them an equally powerful message that we think they are still children, incapable of handling whatever it may be.

Will our children always “turn out right”? No. Especially not on our schedule. But if we truly pray, if we truly love God, then we give them the best possible atmosphere to choose what is good and true, even when it does not seem right to us. And they will know that we love them, no matter what. This is the way God loves. For some of us, part of the Cross we may be asked to carry is to share in the suffering He endures each time one of us turns away from Him in order to pursue our own self-willed agenda.

Overall, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our children (and for all of our loved ones) is really to learn and understand that we are always, wholly, totally in the presence of God no matter what we do or say, no matter what we endure or perpetrate. Whether we recognize His presence or not, we cannot get away from Him. If we accept this presence and the great love that He has offered us and will always offer us, even now we have a foretaste of heaven. This is a simple understanding, but it is the basis on which all theology and prayer rest. Any words of theology and prayer apart from this realization are simply “noisy gongs and clanging cymbals” (1 Corinthians 13:1). When we make the time and the space, with God we acquire the love of the Holy Spirit, and as St. Seraphim teaches us, then God can save thousands around us.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Eight points For Our Spiritual growth : St.Paisios

The following is advice Elder Paisios gave on spiritual growth after he was asked for his blessing by a visitor:

1. You must take care of the purification of your soul on a daily basis.

2. You must acquire divine justice and not logic, for only then the grace of our Christ will come to you.

3. Before you do something, think if Christ wants you to; the, act accordingly.

4. You must perfectly practice obedience, so you may later talk to others about the virtue of obedience.

5. The "no" you say to people must be "no", and the "yes" must be "yes". Do not pretend, but say whatever you think, even if it hurts the other person; say it in a good manner, however, and also give some explanations.

6. You must have and maintain this spiritual dignity; always pay attention to what pleases your fellow monks and not to what pleases yourself.

7. Everyday, you should read a section from the New Testament for the purification of your soul.

8. Do not look at what other people do, or examine how, and why they do it.
Your own goal is the purification of your soul and the perfect submission of your mind to divine grace. So everything for the sake of your goal; pray, study, say humbly the Jesus prayer, being aware that you absolutely need God's mercy. In other words, pay attention to your spiritual work. This is advice we can all benefit from.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp 25-26

Fear During Divine Service Because of Unconfessed Sins ( Saint Ambrose of Optina )


The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.

I have received your letter dated 30 September. You write about yourself in this way: "For more than two years I have been ill with an unknown illness which doctors can not understand. The disease is such that I have more fear, especially reciting the Divine Liturgy, and also the constant melancholy, and pensiveness, and anguish. Though it is inconvenient to resolve this kind of confusion and disease without seeing you, but considering melancholy and fear you experience, I think that the beginning and the first cause of your disease were your childhood sins that probably you could not confess properly or were ashamed to do it; but you should had done it especially before your deacon ordination. The second cause may be that you haven’t always kept your conscience clear combining deacon ministry with married life, because a person ordained into this service is required a particular keeping of conscience, which is not infrequently prevented by either excessive use of strong drinks or intemperance with respect to irritation and anger. Each of these weaknesses alone has the power to bring great harm to the soul, especially if they are combined at the same time.

The same condition and state happens when a man despite his weaknesses and failures does not humble himself, but becomes arrogant and abases others. I think that in your sickness, first of all, you need to strive for release from aggravating anguish and fear. And you can achieve this, first, if you can find in your region such a confessor to whom with full faith and perfect sincerity you could humbly confess everything that lied heavy on your conscience from six years to this day; and secondly - if you firmly decide not to return to such actions that cause fear and anguish, as the Lord Himself said in the Gospel to the sinner, “go, and sin no more” (Jn 8: 11). If you do so and from now on you are determined to keep yourself and your conscience, then we can hope that you will not only get rid of the grief and fear aggravating you, but you can get such a relief in your bodily disease, with God’s grace and help, that will be useful for you, by the will of Lord, All-good, All-knowing, Almighty and having the providence of salvation for everyone.

Saint Ambrose of Optina

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

God created woman equal with man ( Saint Kosmas Aitolos )

God created woman equal with man, not inferior. My Christian, you must love your wife as your companion, and not consider her as your slave, for she is a creature of God, just as you are.

God was crucified for her as much as you. You call God ‘Father,’ she calls Him ‘Father’ too.

Both of you have the same Faith, the same Baptism, the same Book of the Gospels, the same Holy Communion, the same Paradise to enjoy.
God does not regard her as inferior to you.

 Saint Kosmas Aitolos

Σχήμα Μοναχου - Monastic Schema

The Miracles of Childlike Faith ( St.Paisios )

"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." - Luke 18:17

The blessed Elder Paisios (+ 1994) talked about a simple monk with a heart of a small child. This monk, believing that the "Holy Ascension" (Αγία Ανάληψη) was a holy woman, such as Saint Paraskevi (literally translated as Saint Friday), said the following in prayer: "Saint Ascension, if only we had fish today!" His prayer was answered by "Saint Ascension" and a fish was brought to him.

One illiterate nun from a village in Corinth would say: "Holy God, Holy Weather, Holy Death, have mercy upon us" (Άγιος ο Θεός, άγιος ο καιρός, άγιος ο θάνατος, ιλέησον ημάς), confusing the words of the prayer. Yet when she would pray this, her face sparkled!

A simple mother said to the priest of a village: "My Father, I brought my child for you to read a prayer, because it has no appetite!" And he recited the prayer for the "opening of a well"! And the child's appetite was "opened"!

True simple faith!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Carrying your cross ( Elder Ephraim of Katounakia )

Everyone has a cross to carry. Why? Since the leader of our faith endured the cross, we will also endure it. On one hand, the cross is sweet and light, but, on the other, it can also be bitter and heavy.

It depends on our will. If you bear Christ’s cross with love then it will be very light; like a sponge or a cork. But if you have a negative attitude, it becomes heavy; too heavy to lift.

Taken from the book: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia

When Christ enters your heart ( St. Porphyrios )

When you find Christ [in the heart], you are satisfied, you desire nothing else, you find peace. You become a different person.

You live everywhere, wherever Christ is. You live in the stars, in infinity, in heaven with the angels, with the saints, on earth with people, with plants, with animals, with everyone and everything. When there is love for Christ, loneliness disappears.

You are peaceable, joyous, full. Neither melancholy, not illness, nor pressure, nor anxiety, nor depression nor hell.

When Christ enters your heart, your life changes. Christ is everything. Whoever experiences Christ within himself, experiences ineffable things– holy and sacred things. He lives in exultation…

St. Porphyrios

Monday, October 19, 2015

Something No Orthodox Christian Kitchen Should Be Without ( St. Euphrosynos )

It is said that there are two things most Greek cooks do not go anywhere without: a knife and an icon of St. Euphrosynos. For Orthodox Christians, St. Euphrosynos the Cook is the patron saint of cooks and chefs. This being the case, it is traditional for Orthodox Christians to have in their kitchens an icon of St. Euphrosynos. Those unaware of St. Euphrosynos typically follow the western practice of hanging a Leonardo DaVinci inspired "Last Supper" icon. For Orthodox, however, the depiction of the "Last Supper" is more appropriately called the "Mystical Supper", since it was primarily a liturgical event which is often reserved for depiction in the Holy Altar area of a church.

The life of St. Euphrosynos, who is commemorated every year on September 11th, can be read here, and at the bottom of this link is a prayer to St. Euphrosynos traditionally said before

Chef's Hats and Orthodox Monastics

It is worth noting, since St. Euphrosynos was an Orthodox monastic on Mount Athos, that tall white chef hats (toque blanche), according to many, have their origins in the black tall hats (kalimavkion) of Greek Orthodox monastics. It is said that in the middle ages, Greek monks who prepared food in the monasteries wore tall white hats so that they could be distinguished from the normal monks who wore tall black hats.

Faith in the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church ( St. John of Kronstadt )

“I believe in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Do you believe that all Orthodox Christians are members of one and the same body, and that therefore we must all “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” must care for one
another, help one another?

Do you believe that the saints are likewise members of the one body of Christ - that is, of the Church, and are our brethren, interceding for us before God in heaven? Do you respect every Christian, as a member of Christ, as His brother according to human nature? Do you love everybody as yourself, as your own flesh and blood? Do you generously forgive offences?

Do you help others in need, if you yourself have means? Do you teach the ignorant? Do you turn the sinner from the error of his ways? Do you comfort those who are in affliction? Faith in the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church inspires, obliges you to do all this; and for all this you are promised a great reward from the Head of the Church - our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. John of Kronstadt

Holy Relics - Orthodox Saints

Holy relics are a clear anticipation of the transfigured body after universal ressurection.The very fact that the bodies of the saints are kept in a state of incorruptibility is a foretaste, an anticipation of their future incorruptibility after resurrection and after their full theosis, deification. "But we all," writes St. Paul to the Corinthians, "with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Cor.3:18).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Advice about Confession ( St. Paisios )

We all know the importance of Confession, but yet so few take advantage of it. Here Elder Paisios shows us why it is so important.

A young man went to see the Elder. I arrived the moment he was ringing the bell, and waited behind him. After a while, Father Paisios opened the door and came to the fence.

- What's up, young man, what do you want? asked the Elder.

- Father, I would like to see you and get your advice on something.

- Have you gone to confession? Do you have a spiritual father?

- No, Father, I don't have a spiritual father and I haven't gone to confession.

- Well, then you better go to confession and then come to see me.

- Why can't I see you, Father?

-I will explain to you, so you can understand. Your mind is confused and troubled by the sins you have fallen into; as a result, you cannot realize the situation you are in. So, you will not be able to give me a clear picture of your problem. However, if you confess your sins, your mind will clear up and you will see things very differently.
Note how he relates confession to a clearing of the mind. So often we think of it as having our names taken off the list for breaking some kind of law. Elder Paisios is lifting this sacrament to its true value, one of clearing our mind so we can more clearly see God, receive His grace, follow His commandments and understand the spiritual nature of our life.

The story continues as the young man does not take heed of the Elder's advice.

Father, maybe I am confused and troubled and unable to tell you what exactly is wrong with me, but you yourself can understand the nature of my problem and tell me what to do.

- Listen, even if I can see with a certain clarity what is wrong with you, you still have the problem inside you. Since your mind is troubled, you will neither understand, nor remember what I will say to you. If you go to confession and you are tuned in the same spiritual frequency with us, then we will be ale to communicate. So, go to a spiritual father for confession and I will wait for your visit.
Without the cleansing that comes with confession, all the counseling we receive will fall on deaf ears and without the right understanding. We also need to take responsibility for our troubles and be willing to take them to our spiritual father and to offer them to God seeking forgiveness and direction about how to change our lives. Only then will we be able to listen and do something with the advice we receive. In this way the Holy Spirit works to cleanse our mind. It is only when the mind is cleared of our troubles are we able to be open to hear the wisdom of an Elder like Paisios.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 120

''The Rightful Life of Monastics”

       Fresco from Huretzi Monastery, Romania

This fresco depicting “the life of the genuine monk” is especially found in older Orthodox monasteries. Although this fresco depicts “the steadfast monk – the Christ’ follower,” we should also affirm that it represents “the one true Christian” who regardless of his social status, is a follower of Christ through his actions.

The genuine monastic is he who dies for the world to take on a permanent battle with his passions and his thoughts until his last breath. Ordinary Christian, married or not, has the same duty, to die to the world and start the same battle towards passions until the end.

Since the path to Christ’ Kingdom is narrow and rough, it is clear that the Christian whether be a monk or a layman, faces similar difficulties. St. John Chrysostom referring to the great labor toward salvation of both monastics and laymen alike, said: “The only difference between a layman and a monk is that the first is married and the other is not.”

The fresco representing the true monastic is usually depicted in the entrance of the church near other icons such as “the Ladder of Divine ascent” and “the Dreadful Judgment.”
In the center of the icon, the monk is showed as been crucified, dressed in his black cassock, barefooted, with his feet nailed to the bottom of the cross; his face is peaceful and his eyes and his mouth closed. To his right it is written: “Place a watch oh Lord upon my mouth.”
In his hands, he holds two burning torches, and an inscription near this says: “Thus, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds.” On his chest, he lays a parchment baring the words: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
On his womb, another writing will say: “Oh man, do not be deceived by gluttony.” Bellow his womb, another inscription writes: “Kill the members of thy earthly man!” Then, bellow his knees: “Prepare your feet for the Gospel of peace.”
At the top of the cross, a paper chiseled in stone depicts the following: “As for me, I will boast only in the cross of my Lord.

Both arms of the cross bare a seal at the end. The seal on the right bares the word: “And ye shall be hated by all for my name’ sake, but he who endures to the end shall be saved.” The seal at the left says: “Anyone of you, who does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple.” And the seal at the bottom of the cross, placed under his feet, writes: “Narrow is the gate and rough is the path that leads to salvation and few are those that find it.”
A dark cave with a dragon coiled inside is represented at the right side of the cross, near which it is written: “the consuming/eternal hades.” Above the mouth of the dragon, a naked young man with his eyes tied by a knot, holds a bow with its arrow pointing at the monk asking: “Commit fornication!” A name is written over the young man as: “the lover of fornication.” Many snakes are depicted above the cave, which suggest: “our thoughts.” A demon is portrayed near this scene with a rope pulling away the cross and saying: “You cannot bare it!” And on the right side of the cross, another small cross is placed with a flag upon which is written: “I can do all through Christ, Who has clothed me with power.”

A tower and a gate are seen at the left side of the cross. A man clothed in gold and fur, riding a white horse passes through this gate holding a glass of wine in his right hand and a spear in his left hand. Above his spear it is written: “Take pleasure in the riches of this world, the vain world!”
A hole is drawn behind this rider and death coming out, wearing a big coat over its shoulders and a clock upon its head, upon which it is writing: “Death and the grave.”
Two angels are depicted near the monk arms on both sides, each holding a paper in his hands; the angel from the right bares: “God sent me to your strength ” and the angel from the left: “Do good and do not be afraid.”
At the top of the cross lies the open sky, where Christ stands with the open Gospel upon His chest that reads: “If any man wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. ” In His right hand He holds a crown, and in His left a wreath of flowers. Immediately below our Savior, two angels are looking at the monk holding a long parchment where it is written: “Fight the good fight so you may receive the crown of righteousness.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Church Fathers on Love in Truth ( Constantine Zalalas )


'' Today, while the overall teachings of the fathers is under attack and the shipwrecks of Faith are numerous, the mouths of the faithful are silent.''

'' An obvious fall from faith and pride is to either subtract something from what is written or to introduce something new to the unwritten. ''

'' Anyone who is capable of speaking the truth but remains silent, will be heavily judged by God, especially in this case, where the faith and the very foundation of the entire church of the Orthodox is in danger.

To remain silent under these circumstances is to betray these and the appropriate witness belongs to those that reproach ( stand up for the faith ). ''

St. Basil the Great

How to Deal with Evil in the Way of Love ( St. Porphyrios )

What do we do when we are bothered by a seductive thought or a temptation?

First of all, don’t be afraid. Second, do not attempt to expel it. The important thing is to turn your attention to Christ.

The simplest way to do this is by making the sign of the Cross.

Elder Porphyrios says,
The most important weapon to use against the devil is the Holy Cross, of which he is terrified. … communication with the Christ, when it takes place simply and naturally without force, makes the devil flee. Also as you make your Cross say the words “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’

The Elder says,
This is our method. We will raise our ams to Christ and He will give us grace. This the same approach as given to us by Saint Neilos the Ascetic.
Whenever a temptation comes to you, or a dispute excites you, either to express at once anger towards your adversary or to utter a senseless cry, remember prayer and the judgment concerning it, and at once the disorderly movement in you will subside. (The Philokalia vol 2, trans. Constantine Cavarnos, p65) What we are doing is showing contempt for evil.

Reference: Wounded By Love, p 149 -151

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Fruit of Mental Prayer

Why do we pray? 
Is it for love, longing and divine eros for God, or for the hope of compensation and the wages which the Lord sends with the consolation and sweetness of Grace ?

Prayer is a basic necessity of our being as indispensable as breathing. It forms the natural environment of each soul, in which the love for God is the beginning and end.

But by no means can we not expect the fruits also, the taste of which makes man more easily attain his divine destination, in other words, his union with Christ, who is the beginning and the source of all good.

Themes from the Philokalia- Watchfulness and Prayer pg. 66
Archimandrite Ioannikos

Saints and Their Intercessions ( Saint Silouan the Athonite )

To many people the Saints seem far removed from us. But the Saints are far only from people who have distanced themselves – they are very close to them that keep Christ’s commandments and possess the grace of the Holy Spirit. In heaven all things live and move in the Holy Spirit. But this same Holy Spirit is on earth too.

The Holy Spirit dwells in our Church; in the sacraments; in the Holy Scriptures; in the souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit unites all men, and so the Saints are close to us; and when we pray to them they hear our prayers in the Holy Spirit, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.

The Saints live in another world, and there through the Holy Spirit they behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord’s countenance. But in the same Holy Spirit they see our lives, too, and our deeds. They know our sorrows and hear our ardent prayers. In their lives they learned of the love of God from the Holy Spirit; and he who knows love on earth takes it with him into eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, where love grows and becomes perfect. And if love makes one unable to forget a brother here, how much more do the Saints remember and pray for us!

Saint Silouan the Athonite (an excerpt from his writings)

Saint Porphyrios In the Brothel

Saint Pophyrios spoke of the following experience:

In the old days, during the feast of the Theophany, we used to sanctify homes. One year I also went to sanctify. I would knock on the doors of the apartments, they would open for me, and I walked in singing "In Jordan, You were baptized O Lord...."

As I went along the road called Maizonos, I saw an iron door. I opened it, walked into the courtyard which was full of tangerine, orange and lemon trees, and proceeded to the stairs. It was an outdoor staircase that went up, and down was the basement. I climbed the stairs, knocked on the door, and a lady appeared. Since she opened I began my common practice singing, "In Jordan, You were baptized O Lord...." She stopped me abruptly. Meanwhile, girls began to emerge from their rooms after hearing me from the left and right of the hallway. "I see that I fell into a brothel," I said to myself. The woman walked in front of me to stop.

"Leave", she told me. "It is not right for them to kiss the Cross. I will kiss the Cross and then you should leave, please."

I took seriously her disapproving attitude and said: "I cannot leave! I am a priest, I cannot go! I came here to sanctify."

"Yes, but it is not right for them to kiss the Cross."

"But we don't know if it is right for them or you to kiss the Cross. Because if God asks me for whom it is more right to kiss the Cross, the girls or you, I probably would say: 'It is right for the girls to kiss and not you. Their souls are much better than yours.'"

With that she became a bit red in the face, so I said: "Leave the girls to come kiss the Cross." I signalled for them to come forward. I began to chant more melodically than before: "In Jordan, You were baptized O Lord..." because I had such joy within me, that God had ordained things so that I may also come to these souls.

They all kissed the Cross. They were all made-up, with colorful skirts, etc. I told them: "My children, many years! God loves us all. He is very good and 'allows the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous' (Matt. 5:45). He is the Father of everyone and God cares for everyone. Let us make sure to come to know Him and for us to also love Him and to become good. May you love Him, and then you will see how happy you will be."

They looked at me, wondering. Something took a hold of their tired souls.

Lastly I told them: "I rejoice that God has made me worthy to come here today to sanctify you. Many years!"

"Many years!" they also said, and I left.

The Church As Spiritual Hospital According to St. John Chrysostom

For indeed the school of the Church is an admirable surgery — a surgery, not for bodies, but for souls. For it is spiritual, and sets right, not fleshly wounds, but errors of the mind, and of these errors and wounds the medicine is the word.

This medicine is compounded, not from the herbs growing on the earth, but from the words proceeding from heaven — this no hands of physicians, but tongues of preachers have dispensed. On this account it lasts right through; and neither is its virtue impaired by length of time, nor defeated by any strength of diseases. For certainly the medicines of physicians have both these defects; for while they are fresh they display their proper strength, but when much time has passed; just as those bodies which have grown old; they become weaker; and often too the difficult character of maladies is wont to baffle them; since they are but human.

Whereas the divine medicine is not such as this; but after much time has intervened, it still retains all its inherent virtue. Ever since at least Moses was born (for from thence dates the beginning of the Scripture) it has healed so many human beings; and not only has it not lost its proper power, but neither has any disease ever yet overcome it. This medicine it is not possible to get by payment of silver; but he who has displayed sincerity of purpose and disposition goes his way having it all.

On account of this both rich and poor alike obtain the benefit of this healing process. For where there is a necessity to pay down money the man of large means indeed shares the benefit; but the poor man often has to go away deprived of the gain, since his income does not suffice him for the making up of the medicine. But in this case, since it is not possible to pay down silver coin, but it is needful to display faith and a good purpose, he who has paid down these with forwardness of mind, this is he who most reaps the advantage; since indeed these are the price paid for the medicinal treatment.

And the rich and the poor man share the benefit alike; or rather it is not alike that they share the benefit, but often the poor man goes away in the enjoyment of more. What ever can be the reason? It is because the rich man, possessed beforehand by many thoughts, having the pride and puffed-up temper belonging to wealthiness; living with carelessness and lazy ease as companions, receives the medicine of the hearing of the Scriptures not with much attention, nor with much earnestness; but the poor man, far removed from delicate living and gluttony and indolence; spending all his time in handicraft and honest labours; and gathering hence much love of wisdom for the soul; becomes thereby more attentive and free from slackness, and is wont to give his mind with more accurate care to all that is said: whence also, inasmuch as the price he has paid is higher, the benefit which he departs having reaped is greater.

St. John Chrysostom, "Homily Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren"

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Are You a Fly or a Bee? ( St. Paisios )

Which of the following two categories fits you. Are you a fly or a bee? This was a question Elder Paisios asked guests who came to him accusing others of various things.

He says,

I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. the first one resembles the fly. the main characteristics of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground.

It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. if the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets, and dirt." there are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively, and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: "I don't know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil."

This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking, and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.

When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people, and puts me in a difficult situation, i tell him the above example. then I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp 43-44

A Word From Saint Nektarios to Future Priests

The following is taken from an address given by St. Nektarios when he was first assigned dean of Rizarios Ecclesiastical School.

“My children, in each of you there exists a future priest, an important element of the history and future life of our suffering country. You should be proud to wear your cassocks (anteri). Pray to the Almighty that He grants you the ability to serve His Church, for this vocation is not merely a job but is a mission which begins on earth and continues in heaven. Please heed these humble words and may your souls continuously shine with the eternal truths of our Holy Gospel…

“My children, I also want you to be proud of our Orthodox faith.

Orthodoxy is our treasure, our priceless pearl, if you will. Orthodoxy is also the light that guides us. If we were ever to lose this treasure, this light, then we would be scattered to the ends of the earth like dust, ceasing to exist as a people and as a nation. There are so many aspects of our treasure that I want to share with you, but our time today does not permit it. We will, however, have the chance to explore these aspects in future lectures.

Today, I would like to touch upon some other thoughts that I would like to share with you. My children, our lives begin like a clean piece of slate. It is up to us to determine what will be written on that slate. If on this virtues and good God-fearing acts are written, then we have lived up to our divine mission…

“So my children, I hope that from this day on we will live together as one family in Jesus Christ. We should, in essence, create a blessed brotherhood. I promise that I will stand by your side always as a spiritual father. As I close my talk to you today, may I comment on something which bothers me.

I have noticed that almost all of you are beardless. Why are you shunning this natural and beautiful tradition? Do not be swayed by the Europeans. We Greek Orthodox have our own traditions, which date back to the Apostles and early Fathers of the Church. I ask that you follow their manly examples, and hold yourselves to it. Do it for the struggles and hardships they endured for the early Church. This is, after all, the least we can do.”

Source: Saint Nektarios: The Saint of Our Century, Sotos Chrondropoulos, Holy Trinity - St. Nekatarios Convent: Aegina

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Prayer Walk ....

Controlling Anger

One of the common maladies we all face is anger. It can be triggered in many ways, usually when someone opposes what we think should be done. Of course we should try and eliminate the causes of anger, but we also need to be prepared to deal with it when we inevitably succumb to it.

Anger is an emotion, and science shows us that emotions are the result of a very fast and complex bodily reaction triggered by some external event. When we sense a challenge to our being whether physically or egotistically, there is a chemical reaction that is sent though out our blood stream so the whole body reacts. This happens very quickly. And when it does its hard to overcome. It's like a barking dog. Once the dog starts barking it's hard to get him to stop.

Here is the way to deal with this situation where we become angry which almost always leads to a sinful action.

1. Make the sing of the Cross saying," Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

2. Continue to recite this prayer.
If the anger recedes you can proceed rationally. But, frequently this is not enough. The chemicals have been released into your blood stream and the body is ready for a fight. Your heart bear increases and you feel agitated. This is the time for the prayer walk.

3. Excuse yourself and take a prayer walk. As you walk say the Jesus prayer and time it with your step: Lord - step, Jesus - step - Christ - step - Son - step - of - step - God - step - Have - step - Mercy........ and so forth. Keep on walking and saying the prayer until your body has returned to a calm and normal state. Do not return to the interaction that triggered the anger until you feel peace and love in your heart.

Now you can begin to reflect on the situation that triggered this event and rationally choose how to best respond to it in a way that is consistent with the Commandments of our Lord.

Of course you must first have the ability to intervene with this prayer. This is why it is important to include the recitation of the Jesus prayer in your daily prayer rule, and establish well worn groves in your brain that make it a habitual response.

A Spiritual Guide is a Must for Practicing the Jesus Prayer ( Saint Porphyrios )

Why is a guide necessary? Because you can easily be lead astray. In prayer, you may experience visions or lights which are demonic and lead you to pride. A guide can help you deal with such such experiences. He can help you avoid being trapped by your pride and self will. He can guide you in a progressive way, growing step by step to the stage where you will see the true light.

Elder Porphyrios speaks of the danger of delusion,

And if in this spiritual dimension desire is enkindled, not by your good self, but by the other self, the egotistical self, then undoubtably you will begin to experience a pseudo-joy. But in your outward life you will be ever more aggressive and irascible, more quick-tempered and fretful. These are the signs of a person who is deluded.

A guide must be a person who is experienced in the prayer of the heart. It cannot be someone who prays mechanically and has not experienced prayer with the grace of God. Such a person will only be able to tell you what he has read in books.

A spiritual guide will keep you out of danger of delusion.

The Elder advises,

This is the teaching. We say that prayer cannot be taught, but in point of fact it can be taught when you live with someone who truly prays. When you take a book about prayer and read it, it may be that you don't understand anything. But when you have an elder next to you who prays, whatever he tells you about prayer you understand and take to heart.

Reference: Wounded By Love, pp 124 - 126

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Power of a Prayer Habit ( St. Theophan the Recluse )

Much of what we do in life is done by habit. This is necessary because we otherwise would be flooded with decisions, overloading our neural circuits. As you examine your life you will find that are routines that you automatically go through during the day and in differing circumstances. Once established, habits are hard to break and it is difficult to introduce new habits.

Daily prayer is a habit that can help us in the darkest of times. But, first, you must have a daily prayer habit. Morning prayer (evening too) needs to become as automatic as brushing your teeth. This means that when you awake in the morning you must develop a routine that includes prayer. For me, I get up, take a shower, get dressed and then go automatically to my set prayer place. I have a rule of prayer I always follow. I do this every morning. No matter what is happening in my life, my morning begins with prayer because I have established this habit. There is no choice to make. It is a habit.

What happens when I am faced with a stressful situation or a feeling of depression? I have my prayer habit that saves me. No matter how I am feeling, I always begin my day with prayer out of habit and in prayer I seek help from God. It is prayer that lifts us above all our earthly concerns, even the darkest depression. God is always available to anyone who knows the power of daily pray.

In addition there is another habit that can come from this daily prayer habit, this is the Jesus Prayer. Because part of my daily prayer routine is to say the Jesus prayer again and again, I have another habit which guides me no matter where I am or what time it is. The Jesus prayer is always at the front of my mind because I repeat it so many times each morning. Then, when I am in need of help, it is there and I am able to pray using this short prayer at any moment.

The point I want to make is that the right kind of habits are extremely helpful in our spiritual journey. The Church puts great emphasis on habit and routine. Our daily services are routine, and repetitive. We are asked to make a habit of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. We know every Sunday there is a Divine Liturgy at a certain time in a certain place. The Liturgy is basically the same each Sunday and within it there are numerous repetitive prayers. We eventually over time learn them and they become part of us and also available to us wherever we are.

You cannot wait until you are in great distress and then expect to be able to pray. But with good habits of prayer you are able to seek God's help when you need it most.

Work with your Spiritual Father to guide you in creating a daily prayer habit.

Thought from Saint Theophan the Recluse:
All those who work on themselves must have as their aim to be attentive and vigilant and to walk in the presence of God. If God grants it, a soreness will appear in your heart; then what you desire, or even something higher still, will come of itself. A certain rhythm will set itself in motion, in virtue of which everything will progress upright, coherently and in the proper way, without your thinking about it. The you will carry a Teacher within you, wiser far than any earthly teacher. (Art of Prayer, p 170)