Saturday, September 19, 2015

Concerning Humility of Wisdom ( Abba Dorotheos )

One of the elders has said: "Before everything else humility of wisdom is needful for us, so that we may be ready to say to every word which we hear, forgive me; for by humility of wisdom all the arrows of the enemy and adversary are broken." Let us examine what meaning the words of the elder has. Why does he not say that continence (temperance) is needed first of all? For the Apostle says, (I Cor. 9:25) Every man that strivest for the mastery is temperate in all things. Or why did the elder not say that before everything else the fear of God is needful for us? For in the Scriptures it is said: (Ps. 110:10) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and again, (Prov. 15:27) By the fear of the Lord everyone departs from evil. Why did he not say that before everything else alms-giving or faith is necessary for us? For it is said, (Prov. 15:27), By alms and by faithful dealings sins are purged away, and the Apostle says, (Heb. 11:6) Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God).

Thus, if without faith it is impossible to please God, and if by means of almsgiving and faith sins are cleansed, if by the fear of the Lord everyone is brought away from evil, and if the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and one who is laboring must be continent in everything, then why did the elder say before everything else that humility of wisdom is needful for us, setting aside everything else which is so needful? The elder wishes to show us by this that neither the very fear of God, nor almsgiving, nor faith, nor continence, nor any other virtue can be perfected without the humility of wisdom. This is why he says, "Before everything else, humility of wisdom is needful to us—so as to be ready to say to every word we hear forgive me; for by humility of wisdom are all the arrows of the adversary broken." And so you see, brethren, how great is the power of humility of wisdom; you see what force the word forgive has. But why is the devil called not only enemy, but also adversary? He is called enemy because he is the hater of mankind, the hater of good, and a slanderer; and he is called adversary because he strives to hinder every good deed. If one should wish to pray, he opposes and hinders him by means of evil remembrances, by means of captivity of the mind and despondency. If one wishes to give alms, he hinders by means of the love of money and stinginess. If one wishes to keep vigil, he hinders by means of laziness and carelessness, and in this way he opposes us in every deed when we wish to do something good. This is why he is called not only enemy, but also adversary. But by humility of wisdom, all the weapons of the enemy and adversary are broken. For in truth, great is humility of wisdom, and every one of the saints has travelled by this path; by labor they have made short their path, as the Psalmist says, Behold my lowliness and my toil, and forgive all my sins; (Ps. 24:18) and I was brought low, and He saved me (Ps. 114:6). And besides, it is humility alone that may conduct us into the Kingdom, as the elder Abba John has said—but only slowly.

Thus, let us also be humbled a little, and we shall be saved. If we who are infirm cannot labor, then let us try to be humbled; and I believe in the mercy of God that for the little we do with humility, even we shall be in the place of the saints who have labored much and worked for God. Even if we are infirm and cannot labor—can it be that we cannot become humble? Blessed, O brethren, is he who has humility. Great is humility! One saint who had true humility said it very well: "Humility does not become angry at anyone and angers no one, and it considers anger completely foreign to itself." Great is humility, for it alone opposes vainglory and preserves a man from it. And do not people become angry also over property and food? But how is it that the elder says that humility does not become angry at anyone and angers no one? Humility is great, as we have said, and it strongly attracts to the soul the grace of God. Having come, the grace of God protects the soul from the two onerous passions mentioned above. For what can be more onerous than to become angry and to anger one's neighbor? As someone has said: "It is not at all the nature of monks to become angry, nor likewise, to anger others." For in truth, if such a one, (i.e. one who becomes angry or angers others) is not soon covered with humility then he, little by little, comes into a demonic state, disturbing others and himself being disturbed. This is why the elder said that humility does not become angry and does not anger. But what am I saying? As if humility protected from only two passions… It protects the soul also from every passion and from every temptation.

When St. Anthony saw all the nets of the devil and, sighing, he asked God: "But who can escape them?" Then God replied to him: "Humility will escape them," and what is even more astonishing, He added: "They will not even touch you." Do you see the grace of this virtue? In truth there is nothing stronger than humility of wisdom—nothing vanquishes it. If something painful should happen to one who is humble, he immediately turns to himself, judges himself that he is worthy of this, and he does not begin to reproach anyone, or lay the blame on anyone else. In this way he bears whatever happens without disturbance, without sorrow, with complete calmness, and therefore he does not become angry, nor does he anger anyone. And thus, before everything else, humility of wisdom is needful for us.

There are two humilities, just as there are two prides. The first pride occurs when one reproaches his brother, when one judges and dishonors him as being of no importance, and deems himself superior. If that person does not soon come to himself and strive to correct himself, little by little comes to the second kind of pride, rising up against God Himself. He ascribes all his labors and virtues to himself and not to God, as if he performed them by himself, through his own reason and efforts, and not with the help of God. In truth my brethren, I know one person who once came to such a pitiable condition. At first when any of the brethren would say something to him, he would belittle each one and reply: "What is the meaning of that? There is no one worthy apart from Zosimas and those like him." Then he began to judge these persons also and say: "There is no one worthy except for Macarius." After a little time he began to say, "Who is Macarius? There is no one worthy except for Basil and Gregory." But soon he began to judge these also, saying: "Who is Basil, and who is Gregory? There is no one worthy except for Peter and Paul." I said to him: "In truth, brother, you will soon begin to belittle them also." And believe me, in a short time he began to say: "Who is Peter? And who is Paul? No one has any significance except for the Holy Trinity." Finally he raised himself up in pride against even God Himself, and in this way he went out of his mind. Therefore, O my brethren, we must labor with all our power against the first pride, so that we may not little by little fall into the second, that is, into complete pride.

There is a worldly pride and a monastic pride: worldly pride is when one becomes proud before his brother that he is richer or more handsome than he, or that he wears better garments than he or that he is more nobly born than he. When we see that we are becoming vainglorious over such qualities, or because our monastery is larger or richer than others, or because there are many brethren in it, then we must know that we are still in worldly pride. It likewise happens that one becomes vainglorious because of some kind of natural gifts: one, for example, is vainglorious because he has a good voice and sings well, or because he is modest, works zealously, and is efficient in service. These qualities are better than the first ones mentioned, however this is also worldly pride. Monastic pride, on the other hand, is when one becomes vainglorious because he is exercising himself in vigils, in fasting, that he is devout, that he lives well and is careful. It likewise happens that one might become humble for the sake of glory. All this has to do with monastic pride. It is possible for us not to become proud at all; but if one is unable to escape this entirely, then at least let him become proud over the qualities of monastic deeds, and not over something worldly.

We have talked about the first kind of pride is and what is the second. We have likewise talked about worldly pride and monastic pride. Let us examine now the two kinds of humility. The first kind of humility consists in respecting one's brother as more intelligent than oneself and more excellent in every way, and in a word, as the Holy Fathers have said, it consists in considering that one is lower than all." The second kind of humility consists in ascribing one's labors to God—this is the perfect humility of the saints. It is naturally born in the soul from the fulfillment of the commandments. It is just as with a tree—when there is much fruit on it, the fruits themselves bend the branches down; and the branches on which there is no fruit strive upwards and grow straight. There are certain trees which do not give fruit; but if someone were to take a stone and hang it to the branch and bend it down, then it would give fruit. The soul also, when it is humble, produces fruit, and the more fruit it produces, the humbler it becomes; and the nearer the saints came to God, the more they saw themselves as sinners.

I recall that once we were conversing about humility, and when one of the well-known citizens of Gaza heard us say that the closer one comes to God, the more one sees himself as a sinner, he was astonished and said: "How could this be?" Not understanding, he wished to know what these words meant. I said to him: "Noble citizen, tell me what you consider yourself to be in your city." He replied, "I consider myself to be great and the first one in the city." Then I said to him, "But if you were to go to Caeserea, then whom would you consider yourself to be there? He replied, "To be the last of the nobles who are there." "And if," I said, "you were to go to Constantinople, and come near to the Emperor, whom would you consider yourself to be there?" He replied, "Almost as a beggar." Then I said to him, "Even so, the nearer the saints came to God, the more they considered themselves to be sinners. So, when Abraham saw the Lord, he called himself earth and ashes. (Gen. 18:27); and Isaias said I am wretched and unclean (Isa. 6:5); and likewise Daniel, when he was in the pit with the lions and Habakkuk brought him bread saying: Receive the meal which God hath sent thee, replied: Thou has remembered me, O God (Dan. 14:36, 37). What humility his heart had! He was in the pit in the midst of the lions and was unharmed by them, and not once only, but twice, and after all this he was astonished and said, And thus God hath remembered me.

Do you see the humility of the saints and how their hearts were? They even refused out of humility what was sent from God to help them, fleeing glory. Just as one who is clothed in a silk garment would run away if someone were to throw an unclean garment at him, so as not to soil his own precious garment, so also the saints, being adorned with virtues, flee human glory so as not to be defiled by it. One who seeks glory is like a naked man who desires to find some shirt or anything else with which to cover his shame; so also one who is not clothed in virtue seeks human glory. Thus the saints, sent by God to help people, in their humility refused glory. Moses said (Exod. 4:10, 12), I beg Thee to place another one who is able, for I am a stutterer. Jeremiah said: I am the youngest one (Jer. 1:6). In a word, each of the saints acquired this humility, as we have said, through the fulfillment of the commandments. But what precisely this humility is and how it is born in the soul, no one can express in words, unless a man learn this by experience; for it is impossible to learn it from words alone.

Once Abba Zosimas spoke about humility, and a certain sophist who was present heard what he said and desired to understand it precisely. He asked him, "Tell me, why do you consider yourself sinful? Do you not know that you are holy? Do you not know that you have virtue? After all, you see how you fulfill the commandments—so how can you consider yourself sinful when you act in this way?" The elder did not know what answer to give him, but only said: "I do not know what to say to you, but I consider myself sinful." The sophist insisted, desiring to know how this could be. Then the elder, not knowing how to explain this to him, began to say to him in his holy simplicity, "Do not upset me; in truth I consider myself to be sinful."

Seeing that the elder was perplexed as to how to reply to the sophist, I said to him: "Does not the same thing happen in the arts of both sophistry and medicine? When someone has studied an art well and is practicing it, then according to the measure of his practice the physician or sophist acquires a certain habit, but he cannot say and does not know how to explain how he became experienced. In fact, the soul acquires the habit gradually and imperceptibly, through practice in the art. So it is also with humility—from the fulfillment of the commandments there comes a certain habit of humility, but it is impossible to express this in words." When Abba Zosimas heard this he rejoiced, immediately embraced me and said, "You have understood that matter, it is precisely as you have said." Having heard these words, the sophist was satisfied and agreed.

The elders also have told us something which helps us to understand humility. No one can explain the very condition into which the soul comes from humility. Thus, when Abba Agathon was near death and the brethren asked him, "Are you also afraid, Father?" he replied, "As much as I was able, I forced myself to keep the commandments, but I am a man, and how can I know if what I have done is pleasing to God? For one is the judgment of God, and another the judgment of man." Behold how he opened our eyes to understand humility and showed us the path whereby we acquire it. But how it is in the soul, as I have already said many times, no one can say or aphrehend through words alone—the soul can learn this but a little, and only from life. However, the Fathers have told us what brings us to humility, for in the Patericon it is written: "A certain brother asked an elder, "What is humility?" The elder replied, "Humility is a great and divine matter. Serving as a path to humility are bodily labors, performed reasonably. Also, it is when one considers himself below everyone else and constantly prays to God—this is the path to humility. But humility itself is divine and beyond understanding."

But why did the elder say that bodily labors bring a soul to humility? In what way do bodily labors become spiritual virtues? By considering himself below everyone, as we have already said, one opposes the demons and the first kind of pride—for how can one consider himself greater than his brother, or become proud towards another or reproach or belittle anyone, if he considers himself below everyone? Likewise, to pray without ceasing also clearly opposes the second kind of pride, for it is evident that one who is humble and reverent, knowing that it is impossible to perform any kind of virtue without the help and protection of God, does not cease always to pray to God that He might have mercy on him. For one who is ceaselessly praying to God, even if he should be able to do something, knows why he did this and cannot become proud. He does not ascribe this to his own power, but he ascribes all his success to God, always gives thanks to Him, and always calls upon Him, trembling lest he be deprived of such help and his infirmity and powerlessness be discovered. And thus with humility he prays, and by prayer he becomes humble, and the more he advances always in virtues, the more he always becomes humble. And to the degree he becomes humble he receives help and advances through humility of wisdom. But why does the elder say that bodily labors bring one to humility? What relation do bodily labors have to the disposition of the soul? I will explain this for you. After transgressing the commandments the soul was given over, as St. Gregory says, to the deception of the love of pleasure and self-will and came to love the bodily. It became, as it were, united or one with the body, and everything became flesh as, is written, (Gen. 6:4) My spirit shall not remain among these men, for they are flesh. The poor soul then sympathizes with the body and with everything which is done with the body. This is why the elder also said that bodily labor also brings the soul to humility. For there is one disposition of soul in a healthy man and another in a sick man; one disposition in one who is hungry and another in one who is full. Likewise, there is one disposition of soul in a man who is riding upon a horse, another in one who is sitting on a throne, and yet another in one who is sitting on the earth; there is one disposition in one who wears beautiful clothing and another in one who wears poor clothing. Thus, labor humbles the body; and when the body is humbled, the soul is also humbled with it. So, the elder said well that bodily labor leads to humility. Therefore, when Agapius was subjected to warfare from blasphemous thoughts, knowing as a wise man that the blasphemy proceeded from pride, and that when the body is humbled then the soul is also humbled with it, he spent forty days in the open air so that his body, as the writer of his life says, began to bring forth worms as happens with wild animals. He undertook such a labor not for the sake of the blasphemy, but for the sake of humility. Thus, the elder said truly that bodily labors also lead to humility. May the good God grant us humility, for it delivers a man from many evils and protects him from great temptations. May there be glory and dominion to God forever. Amen.

Abba Dorotheos

298 passions ( St. Peter Damascene )

The passions are:

lack of understanding,
dearth of good actions,
moral errors,
spurious knowledge,
lack of discrimination,
evil intention,
a conscienceless soul,
idle chatter,
breaking of faith,
assent to evil,
mindless coupling,
demonic provocation,
bodily comfort beyond what is required,
sickness of soul,
weakness of intellect,
a reprehensible despondency,
disdain of God,
lack of faith,
wrong belief,
poverty of faith,
fellowship in heresy,
ignorance of God,
denial of God,
the love of idols,
lack of progress,
the eating of unclean food,
soft living,
secret eating,
solitary eating,
love of popularity,
ignorance of beauty,
mindless desire,
giving offence,
forswearing oneself,
lack of compassion,
hatred of one’s brothers,
breaking fasts,
acceptance of bribes,
disdain of one’s neighbour,
making sport of others,
obfuscation of thoughts,
mental blindness,
attraction to what is fleeting,
drowsiness of soul,
excessive sleep,
heavy drinking,
mindless enjoyment,
using foul language,
unbridled desire,
burning lust,
a stained soul,
feigned affection,
immodest dancing,
improper songs,
license of tongue,
excessive love of order,
reprehensible collusion,
illicit gains,
hardness of heart,
empty words,
mindless joy,
mindless friendship,
bad habits,
silly talk,
clinging to life,
satanic love,
lack of the fear of God,
scorn for one’s neighbour,
spiritual paralysis,
hatred of God,
a falling away from God in all things,
utter destruction — altogether 298 passions.

St. Peter Damascene

When you are sick you visit a doctor, for your soul its a spiritual father ( St. Symeon the New Theologian )

This is the story of how St. Symeon the New Theologian met his spiritual father, St Symeon Eulabes (The Pious). "This story illustrates the close bond uniting the master and the disciple, and how such love overcomes all fear. It also shows that before choosing and following a spiritual father one must first believe in him;
It was he (St Symeon the Pious), who invited Symeon to follow him. 'Come, my child I will lead you to God'. When Symeon hesitated, his spiritual father told him: 'Light a great fire, that I may pass into the center: do not follow me if I do not remain untouched! 'These words confused me', Simeon wrote, 'and I did what he had commanded. And the flame burned and he stood in its center, intact, unconsumed, and he called me to him. I said I'm afraid master, I am a sinner! He advanced, came to me and embraced me saying , Why were you afraid? Why this fear and trembling? This is a great and frightening wonder: you will see even greater things!'
Finally to subdue Symeon's fear, his spiritual master made him approach: 'He enfolded me with his arms, and he kissed me again with a holy kiss, and he yielded a fragrance of immortality. I believed, I chose to follow him, and I desired to become his slave, his alone." Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, In The Light of Christ, p.98-99, SVS Press 1986.

Fr Sophrony Sakharov quoting from St. John Climacus establishes the connection between spiritual fatherhood and Christ Himself in his book 'On Prayer', p.89 as quoted by Fr Zacharias;
"..spiritual fatherhood is linked with the mystery of the word of God, which is begotten in the heart of man through prayer" Fr. Zacharias Zacharou, 'The Enlargement of the Heart' p.164, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2006. Spiritual fathers are those who, in the fear of God, remain unwavering in the pre-eternal current of the will of God, and who are vouchsafed to hear the still small voice of Christ(I Kings 19:12), and to obey it with humility and discernment, overcoming their own psychological inclination,.". ibid p.164
"A spiritual father bears in himself the blessedness flowing from the knowledge of Christ way, and he thus becomes the means of leading the life of men out of the hell they have created, by the negative effect of their passions, and into pure Christian life and spiritual freedom.He is constrained by only one thought; how the person can be healed. ( Father Sophrony used to say that when the spiritual father prays for his children, as soon as he pronounces their names, he feels in his heart their state, weather they are in a good state or in a bad state, in comfort or in despair). The father confessor offers this sacred service on behalf of the little ones, the unfortunate ones who are themselves completely indifferent. He does not plot against their freedom, but instead considers exclusively his future reward. (That is to say, he must remain selfless, only consider God's reward, and not expect to be rewarded by anyone or anything in this world).The spiritual father is the image of the 'Good Shepherd' who has greater love, and lays down his life for his sheep. John 10:11" ibid p.174-175. "He offers repentance for himself and for all the sins of those whom God has entrusted to him". ibid p.177.

"But if Christ is to send such a father, he is to be sought in fervent prayer and in a spirit of repentance. Symeon (The New Theologian) told a Christian; 'humble yourself and say, O Lord, You do not desire the death of the sinner but that he be converted and live. You descended to earth precisely to resurrect the ones who have fallen and are dead in consequence of their sin. You enable them to see You, the true light, as far as this is possible to man. Send me a man who knows You, that by entirely submitting myself to his service as to Yours and by fulfilling Your will by doing his, I may please You, the only God, and be awarded Your kingdom, even, I a sinner'. A certain identification is made here between Christ and the spiritual father, but it is always Christ, the one true God, who remains the real father". Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, 'In The Light of Christ' p. 92-93, SVS Press,1986

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos points out that "Only those who have been cured and have attained communion with God are theologians, and they alone can show Christians, the true way to reach the 'place' of cure." Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos in 'Orthodox Psychotherapy'
p. 30-31. "Therefore the theologian and the spiritual father are the same thing" ibid p.35
St. Nicetas Stethatos ( disciple of St. Symeon) states that, "anyone who is uninitiated in the spiritual life is falsely named even if by ordination he is set over all the others in rank and mocks them and behaves arrogantly" ibid p.91

Fr. Simeon P. Koutsas explains the role of the spiritual father in Orthodox tradition, in an article published by the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Inquiries. It is published in this blog with written permission from O.O.D.E.

The Spiritual Father: Spiritual paternity in the light of Orthodox Tradition
by the Reverend Simeon P. Koutsas, Metropolis of Nea Smyrni, Athens. A Publication by the Sacred Metropolis of Kalavryta and Aegialia, Aegion 1995. Re-published, from Myriobiblos


1. The Significance of the Institution

Each and every person has a biological father - the one to whom he owes his entry into this life. Apart from his biological father however,a Christian also has a spiritual father. He is the one to whom he owes his spiritual rebirth - the one who introduces him into the life in Christ and guides him towards the path of Salvation. Our biological birth brings us into this life; it introduces us into the community of human beings. Our rebirth in Christ - a different kind of birth - introduces us into the community of the Church and provides us with the potential to actually live that life in Christ.
In the ancient Church, where the faithful (almost the majority) received Baptism at a mature age, the spiritual father for a Christian was the ecclesiastic pastor that would catechize him, provide him with the baptismal sacrament and then proceed to lead him into the in-Christ way of life. Nowadays, when almost everyone is baptized as an infant, the spiritual father of a Christian is oftentimes not the same priest that baptized him, but the one who at some point in time led him into believing consciously and then directed him towards a consistent Christian way of life. The example of the Apostle Paul allows us to perceive the mystery of spiritual paternity in all its spiritual splendour. Paul is the spiritual father of the Christians of Corinth, as well as many other cities of his time. When addressing the Christians of Corinth, he writes (in 1 Cor.4:14) : "I do not write these things to reprimand you, but advise you as beloved children of mine. For even if you have ten thousand teachers in Christ, you do not have many fathers; for I have begotten you in Jesus Christ, through the Gospel."

Paul, therefore, to the Christians of Corinth was not simply their instructor and teacher in Christ; he was their father. He was the one who had given spiritual rebirth to them. He was the one who introduced them into the family of the Redeemed. His apostolic heart was ablaze with his love for his spiritual children. That in-Christ paternal love was the motive power behind his apostolic concern. He longed to transfuse not only the Gospel to them, but also his soul (1 Thess. 2:8). He struggled painstakingly to form Christ within them (Gal. 4:19). He never ceased to advise "each one individually" and "with tears", in his desire for their spiritual edification and their stabilization in the in-Christ way of life. (Acts 20:31, Ephes.4:12-16).
This Pauline perception of the content and the significance of spiritual paternity permeates the whole of Orthodox spiritual tradition. Saint Simeon the New Theologian, one of its most genuine bearers (whom we will be frequently referring to), wrote the following to one of his spiritual children: "We conceived you through teaching, we underwent labor pains through repentance, we delivered you with much patience and birth pangs and severe pain and daily tears" [Epistle 3, 1-3). As we can see, spiritual birth is compared to natural childbirth and, just like the latter, the former likewise entails three stages: conception, gestation and labour.
For a better understanding of the role of our spiritual father, we are also enlightened by two other images that we frequently encounter in the texts of our holy Fathers. The first one is the climb up a steep and rough mountainside. He who attempts such a climb for the first time, must necessarily follow a specified path; he must have a climbing companion and guide who has been up that mountainside before and knows the way up. That is precisely the role of a spiritual father: an experienced climbing companion and guide on our spiritual path, our in-Christ way of life. The second image is from the realm of physical training, the realm of athletics. All those who train in any athletic sport whatsoever are in need of an experienced guide, their trainer, who will introduce them to the secrets of that sport and will guide them meticulously during their period of training. Analogous is the mission of the spiritual father: having acquired experience himself on in-Christ living, he then undertakes to initiate his spiritual children.

2. How it Evolved Within the Historical Course of the Church

As time passed and the institutions of the Church developed, likewise the institution of spiritual paternity took root and developed. The place where it was especially cultivated was, naturally, the desert. The place of monasticism. And as in the case of other elements, so did this institution spread and permeate the spiritual life of the entire Church. We are all familiar with the terms that we encounter in ascetic literature: "Abba" and "Elder" or "Geron" in the Greek equivalent and "Starets" in the language of our co-believing Russian brethren.

«What is that which prompts someone to become an Elder? How is he instated and by whom?» This question was posed by one of the most noteworthy theologians of the Orthodox Diaspora - Bishop Kallistos Ware - in order to highlight the character of spiritual paternity in the answer that he gives ("The Kingdom Within", Akritas publications, Athens 1004, p.117). From this answer of his, I shall convey his more basic positions:

« The spiritual father or Elder is essentially a "charismatic" and prophetic personality, who has undertaken that ministry with the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. No human hand ordinates him, only the hand of God. It is the Church's expression of an "event" and not the Church's expression of an institution. Nevertheless, there exists no dividing line between the prophetic and the institutional elements in the life of the Church; each develops within the other and is entwined with it. Thus, the ministry that the Elders provide - which is charismatic per se - is linked to a clearly defined function within the institutional framework of the Church, which is that of a Priest-Confessor... Although the mystery of Confession is definitely a suitable opportunity for spiritual guidance, the function of an Elder does not relate to that of a confessor. An Elder provides guidance, not only during a person's confession, but also in many other cases. It is a fact, that while a confessor must always be a Priest, an Elder can be an ordinary Monk...
But, if an Elder is not ordained, nor instated by an act of the official hierarchy, how does he reach the stage of undertaking such a ministry?... Within the continuing life of the Christian community, it becomes apparent to the faithful people of God - the true guardians of Sacred Tradition - that this or that person has the gift of spiritual paternity or maternity. Then, with a free and unofficial manner, people begin to approach those persons for counsel or guidance.» ("The Kingdom Within", Akritas publications, Athens 1004, p.117-119)

3. The Spiritual Father's Mission

What, exactly, is the work of a spiritual father? «To attend to the souls that are redeemed by the blood of Christ» we are told by Basil the Great (Epitome of Terms ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 305). The spiritual father is a guide to in-Christ living. He is the physician of the soul,who, «with much compassion, according to the science of the Lord's teaching» (Basil the Great, "Ethika" ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 129), heals the passions and helps his spiritual child to acquire an in-Christ health; that is, a live faith and a stable spiritual life. If the condition and the purpose of Christianity - we are taught by Basil the Great - is the emulation of Christ, then «those who are entrusted with the guidance of the many ought to project the emulation of Christ to the weaker ones, with their (personal) intermediation». ("Oroi Kata Platos" ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 204). On the path that leads to communion with Christ and theosis (deification), our spiritual fathers are the experienced guides and untiring supporters. But for a pastor to serve such a lofty and responsible opus, he must necessarily be truly spiritual himself - an instrument «attuned and played by the Spirit», as Saint Gregory the Theologian writes. Only one who has learnt something out of personal experience is capable of imparting it; thus, for a spiritual father to guide others into the Christian way of life, he must first be living it himself. He must be a «norm for the faithful» (1 Tim. 4:12) and a «living Gospel». According to Basil the Great, he must provide «his own life as a distinct exemplar of every commandment of the Lord» (as above, ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 204). His example should speak more than his words; He should inspire, with his virtuous living, edify, with his love and paternal affection, since - according to Saint John of the Ladder - «a true shepherd is proven by his love. It was for the sake of love that the Great Shepherd was crucified.» (To Poemen 24, PG 88, 1177Β).

4. Two Fundamental Characteristics: Perspicacity and Love

We would need many hours if we were to describe the person of the spiritual father, the way that it surfaced from within our age-old ecclesiastic tradition, and to enumerate the individual charismas that characterize a genuine Elder. We shall therefore very briefly touch on two of his most essential charismas.

The first is perspicacity and discernment, «in other words, the ability to intuitively penetrate the secrets of another's heart; to comprehend the secret depths that the other is not aware of. The spiritual father sees beyond the conventional gestures and habits with which we hide our true personality from the others - and even from our very self. And beyond all these trite details, he conceives the unique persona - the one that was created in the image and the likeness of God. This power is a spiritual one and not a physical one; it is not a hyper-sensitive perception, nor is it a sanctified divination, but a fruit of Grace, which has the prerequisite of continuous prayer and uninterrupted ascetic labour.» (Ware, as above, pp. 126-127).
The spiritual father's charisma of insight reveals itself par excellence as a discernment of thoughts. Discernment according to saint Simeon is the spiritual «lamp» and «eye», with which the spiritual father can see, both within his own heart as well as the hearts of his spiritual children. That way, he is able to make the correct diagnosis every time and impose the most suitable therapy (Catechesis 18, SC 104, 292). The discernment that has a cleanliness of the heart as a prerequisite is a charisma - a gift of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual father therefore, «who does not have the light of the Holy Spirit inside himself, can neither see his own actions clearly, nor will he be fully informed if they are pleasing to God. But neither will he be able to guide others or teach the will of God, or be worthy of perceiving foreign thoughts...» (Catechesis 33, SC 113, 250).

The second charisma of a spiritual father is love, the ability to love others and to undertake the sufferings and the trials of others.Without love, there can be no spiritual paternity. Love, according to our spiritual teachers, is not just the most basic of qualifications of a spiritual father, but the foundation and the essence of spiritual paternity. A love for the others presupposes a «co-suffering», a sharing of their passions with them - which is the literal meaning of the (Greek) word "sympathize": «lift each others' burdens, and thus fulfil the law of Christ» (Galatians 6:2). The spiritual father is the one who par excellence carries the burdens of others. of his spiritual children. He takes upon himself their sorrows, their guilt, their trials, their sins. And he agonizes and tirelessly attends to their improvement in Christ. «Brother Andreas, beloved of my soul», writes Abba Barsanuphius to one of his spiritual children, «... not even a blink of the eye, is the time that I do not have you in mind and in my prayer; and if I love you thus, then God, Who has fashioned you, loves you even more, and Him I beseech to guide you and govern you according to His will» (Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, "Book of Barsanuph and John", Sot. Schinas Publications, Volos 1962, Response108, p.132).
In the same book of responses by Barsanuph and John we encounter a soul-stirring prayer that makes the immense love of a spiritual father for his spiritual children apparent: «Behold, here am I and the children that You gave to me; protect them in Your Name, shelter them with Your right hand. Lead us to the harbor of Your Will and inscribe their names in Your book... Lord, either include my children along with me in Your Kingdom, or erase me also from Your Book... » (as above, Response 99, p. 82-83).

5. The Necessity of Seeking an Experienced Spiritual Father

The significance that a spiritual father has on the path to our in-Christ perfecting simultaneously proves the necessity for all of us to have - to discover - an experienced and foolproof spiritual guide. This is both a duty and a right. The responsibility of choice belongs to us also; it is a choice that we must make with the utmost care, since, as saint Simeon observes: «Truly rare, and in fact even until this day, are those who as caretakers of logical souls shepherd and heal well.» (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 346). Caution, therefore, is required. We must neither remain on our own (because we risk either becoming prey to the soul-devouring wolf - the devil - or, on falling, we will not have someone who will help us get up again - according to the words of the Ecclesiast: «Woe to the one, when he falls and there is no second one to raise him» (Ecclesiastes 4:10), but neither should we follow thoughtlessly behind a wolf or an «inexperienced physician» in which case it is certain that we shall undergo spiritual damage or remain incurable [cmp. Catechesis 20, SC 104, 348 and Epistle 1, (Words on confession) , Published by Κ. Ηοll (Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt bein griechischen Moenchtum, Leipzig 1898) p. 117].
Albeit the choice of spiritual father is - as already mentioned - our right and rests on our judgment, nevertheless, the discovery of an experienced spiritual guide is, finally, a grand gift of God.
That is why Saint Simeon counsels us as follows:
«Brother, beseech the Lord extensively that He might show you a man, who is able to shepherd you well, to whom you will owe obedience as if to God Himself, and the things that he says to you, you should unhesitatingly heed, even if those instructions appear to be against you and harmful.» (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 334).

That same teacher in his 7th moral homily provides us with an example of a prayer with which we can beseech God to send us an experienced spiritual father: «Lord, You who do not want the death of the sinner as much as You do his return so that he may live; Who descended for this reason to earth, so that those who are under sin and are dead because of it may be resurrected and look upon You, the true Light, as much as a person is able to see, make me worthy, send me a man who knows You, so that by serving him as though serving You and submitting myself with all my might and doing Your will within his will, be enabled to please You, the only God, and myself the sinner become worthy of the Kingdom» (Ethika 7, SC 129, pp.186-188).

6. The Reciprocation of the Spiritual Child to His Spiritual Father

The in-Christ edification of the faithful through their bond with a spiritual father is not self-evident. It presupposes their reciprocation to the love that they will be receiving and the concern that their spiritual father will be showing them.

A first and fundamental prerequisite is love. The bond that is forged between the spiritual father and his spiritual child is one of mutual love. The faithful responds to the spiritual father's love with his own reciprocal love. «There is nothing that can lead to learning thus wise; only by loving and by being loved» observes saint John the Chrysostom (Homily 6, 1 on A' Timothy, PG 62, 529). Spiritual bonds are far stronger than the natural ones, and the love that springs from Christ is far stronger than the one that is inspired by blood kinship. «For what can be more desirable than a true father?» Saint Theodore the Studite asks himself (To Plato 2, PG 99, 909Β), thus expressing his personal experience on his own spiritual father.
The love towards our spiritual father is genuine, when expressed as "faith" - that is, as trust - in his person. We assign our entire self to our spiritual father. We acknowledge him as our guide on the path to salvation, therefore we must have faith in him, and follow without any hesitations and inner doubts whatever he advises. Our Holy Fathers persist on this point very emphatically: «One must believe without a care in those who have undertaken to tend to us» advises Saint John of the Ladder (Ladder 4, PG 88, 717Β). Without a wholehearted trust in our spiritual father we cannot progress in Christian living.

In his "Chapters", Saint Simeon writes the following:
"He who has attained clear-cut faith - that is to say, trust - towards his father in God, when seeing him, he considers that he is seeing Christ, and, by staying with him or following him, he believes with certainty that he is with Christ and is following Him. One who is thus, will not desire to speak to anyone else, nor will he prefer anything of the things of this world above the remembrance of him, along with love." (Chapters, 1, 28, SC 51, 47).
If the duty of a spiritual father is to remain alert for the soul of his spiritual child, it is likewise the child's duty to obey and faithfully observe his guidance (Hebr.13:17). God Himself speaks to us, through our spiritual father. With the obedience therefore that we show him, we are essentially obeying the will of God. We are safeguarded from the errors that we would most certainly fall into, if we were to follow our own will. Finally, we attain inner freedom and thus attract the grace of God. Confession is one more important duty of the faithful. We trustingly confess everything to our spiritual father; not only the things we have done, but also our innermost thoughts. Saint Basil the Great urges us to "not keep any movement of the soul secret, but to bare whatever is hidden in the heart" ("Oroi Kata Platos" - Conditions breadthwise, 26, ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 184). Nothing is concealed from our spiritual father. With humility and filial trust, we should place everything at his feet. That is the only way our sins are forgiven by God. We are freed of the burden of guilt. We uproot our passions. And the spiritual father thereafter guides us safely through our spiritual life.


Everything that we outlined very briefly so far has to do with the faith and the experience of the Church on the institution of spiritual paternity, the way it evolved and developed in the past, and in fact more so in the sphere of monastic spirituality. The question therefore that very naturally arises here is: Does spiritual paternity - can it - function in the same way today, in our era? This question is opportunely significant, and can quite easily be the subject of another, separate homily. That is why tonight you must allow me to present only certain issues that are related to our theme, which seriously preoccupy many Christians and can be categorized in what could be referred to as the pathology of spiritual paternity.

1. "Elderism" in Many Contemporary Clergymen

Unfortunately, this is not a rare phenomenon. Many of our clergymen - several of whom may even be endowed with charismas and abilities - become zealous for the "glory" of an Elder far too soon. Extremely young in years, still immature as personalities, inexperienced as pastors, without ever having studied near - or submitted themselves under - another, more experienced spiritual father, they advertise themselves, or they artfully strive to project themselves through their environment as new Barsanuphius or as charismatic child-Elders... They roam - according to the words of our Lord - "both sea and land, in order to make one proselyte" (Matth.23:15); in other words, they go hunting for followers. They exercise a crushing oppression on the conscience of people, supposedly in the name of an obligatory "blind" obedience to one's Elder. They cultivate an unhealthy dedication to their person.

Unfortunately - and may His Eminence permit us to point this out - our bishops are equally responsible for this phenomenon; those bishops who perform ordinations too quickly and who assign spiritual paternity thoughtlessly to those still immature clergymen.

Truly wise are the observations that the recently reposed and veritably spirit-guided Elder Paisios had made, in one of his letters that recently saw the light of publicity, after his repose. It referred to the person of the elder that a candidate monk was called upon to select. Nevertheless, his words are also helpful to us in the world, with regard to choosing a spiritual father: "Strive as much as you can, (a) for your Elder to be a spiritual man, with virtues, and more practical rather that just a teacher. It is good, if he has become a captain after being a deck-hand, so that he won't enforce on others all the monastic information that he learnt by merely studying it, or, to have by nature immense love and discernment, so that he will ache for his children and not want to send them off to Paradise immediately, in the manner of Diocletian... It is also immensely helpful for the subordinate, if his Elder is at least eighteen or twenty years older than himself, because that will also generate a natural respect in the subordinate. (b) to find an Elder who lives a simple life, without cares and secular, redundant concerns, and who does not aspire to personal benefits, but aspires to the benefit of his subordinate's soul, and in general to the benefit of our Mother the Church." (Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Epistles, Publications of the Sacred Retreat «Evangelist John the Theologian», Souroti, Thessaloniki 1994, p. 43).

2. The Danger of Person-Worship

The duty of a genuine and experienced spiritual father is to orientate the gaze and the heart of his spiritual children towards the Person of the Lord, and not to his own person. Person-worship - whether pursued by the priest, or displayed by his spiritual child (and not rejected by the former) - is a sickness and constitutes a serious spiritual risk to both of them. Proper spiritual fathers do not project their own person, but the hyper-substantial Person of our Lord. They should not project themselves to such a degree that their "stature" looms between Christ and their spiritual child - thus obstructing it from gazing towards the Person of Christ; instead, they should stand aside, discreetly, and direct the spiritual child towards the Person of the One Who is our Redeemer. According to Bishop Kallistos Ware: «In reality, the relationship is not bilateral, but triangular, because beyond the Elder and his spiritual child there is a third party: God. Our Lord tells us that we should not call anyone "father", because we have only one father - the one in heaven (Matth.23:9). The Elder is not some kind of infallible judge or appellate, but a co-servant of the living God; he is not a dictator, but a guide and companion on the journey. The only true "spiritual guide" - in every sense of the word - is the Holy Spirit» (The Kingdom Within, p. 139).

3. The Degree of Obligatory Obedience to Our Spiritual Father

The purpose of spiritual paternity is not to secure a continuous dependence of the spiritual children on their father, but a source of assistance for them to gradually reach the state of spiritual freedom. A genuine spiritual father does not condemn his children to a lifelong spiritual infancy, but struggles constantly for them to mature spiritually and to become - according to the teaching of Saint Paul - "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4,13). (Ven.Christoforidou, Spiritual paternity according to Simeon the New Theologian, Thessaloniki 1977, p.31). Constraint and spiritual violence have no place in the relationship between a spiritual father and his spiritual children. Due obedience to our spiritual father is not a "blind" one, but a conscious one. It does not abolish our personal responsibility either, as that springs from our freedom 'in-Christ'. «The duty of a spiritual father is not to destroy a person's freedom, but to help him see the truth for himself. He does not strive to oppress a person's personality; only to give him the potential to discover himself, to develop, to mature, and to become what he is in reality... A spiritual father does not impose his own personal ideas and virtues, but helps his student to find his own exclusive calling... In short, he is only an usher of God, and he is duty-bound to lead souls onto God's path, and not his own.» (The Kingdom Within, p. 141).

Saint Barsanuphius says the following:
«You know that we have never placed shackles on anyone, not even on ourselves».
«Do not exercise pressure on (another's) intentions, instead, sow with hope; for even our Lord did not force anyone - He preached, and whoever wanted to, would listen» (Response 51 and 35, as above, p. 56 and 49).Furthermore, we must not confuse the degree of monastic obedience with the Christians' obedience to their spiritual fathers. Monastic obedience, with regard to its magnitude and duration, differs from that of Christians living in the world. For this reason, a spiritual father is not "legally" justified in demanding - and the spiritual child is equally not obliged to provide - the kind of obedience that an Elder is entitled to demand from a monk, who is indeed obliged to obey him "to his dying day" : an obligation that springs from the monastic vows that were given during his tonsure as a monk.

4. The Risk of Excessive Sentimentalism

The bond that exists between a spiritual father and his spiritual children resembles the relationship that exists within a normal family. Thus, just as the father and children in a normal family must be united in a mutual love, the same must also apply in a "charismatic family": that of a spiritual father, of an Elder. Nevertheless, it must not escape our attention that this bond is a par excellence Holy-Spiritual relationship, which needs to be purified of all sentimental relations and safeguarded from anything that might possibly hide an impassioned or a dangerous, sickly-sweet sentimentality.
Most certainly, love is often expressed with external signs. This of course also applies to spiritual bonds. Nevertheless, it requires a great deal of caution and discernment. In-Christ bonds must be distinguished by their modesty and their Doric austerity. And in order for these bonds to preserve these characteristics, a spiritual distancing is necessary.

5. Boasting About Our Spiritual Father

This is another frequent phenomenon. Many boast about their Elder. And they mention him thoughtlessly, with every opportunity, but in such a way that exposes their own spiritual nudity and their dangerous, sickly-sweet sentimentality. This phenomenon is not a healthy one. Saint Simeon the New Theologian brings the following to our attention: «Do not boast about your teacher for his being honoured by many, nor about having many obeying you because of his name; rather, rejoice if your name is to be written in the heaven of humility» (Catech.20, SC 104, 338). And Saint John of the Ladder speaks more austerely:
«I saw an unproven student boasting to certain people about his teacher's achievements, and although believing he would attain glory for himself by tending someone else's wheat, he instead caused himself ignominy, when everyone asked him "How is it, that such a good tree brought forth such a fruitless branch?"» (Ladder, 4, PG 88, 713Α).
Attention should also be paid to another similar phenomenon. It concerns the outspokenness of our spiritual father in the presence of God. Our Fathers therefore recommend that we should not be content with it. Nor should we confine ourselves to asking them to pray for us. We have a duty to struggle with zeal ourselves, for the sake of our salvation.
Once, as mentioned in the Gerontikon (Book of Elders), a brother visited Saint Anthony the Great and beseeched him: «Pray for me».
To which the elder replied: «Neither shall I be charitable, nor will God, if you yourself do not strive and beseech God» (Gerontikon, i.e. The Sayings of holy elders, P.B.Paschos publications, Athens 1961, p. 2b).

6. And One Final Point: Changing to Another Spiritual Father

As already mentioned, the choice of spiritual father rests on our own free judgment and preference. Nevertheless, the God-bearing Fathers point out that a change in an existing spiritual father could entail risks to our spiritual progress, and even to our very salvation.
Saint Simeon writes as follows:
«Do not wander here and there looking for renowned monks, and do not scrutinize their life. If, by the grace of God, you have found a spiritual father, tell your issues to him and him alone»(Ethika 7, SC 129, 184).It is therefore unacceptable and spiritually risky to wander here and there, changing spiritual fathers every now and then, without reason.
«Let us not look for those with foreknowledge, nor foreseers, but above all, those who are in every way humble and are suitable for our ailments» (Ladder 4, PG 88, 725D).

This advice by Saint John of the Ladder reflects exactly the mentality of many Christians of our time and their futile quests, which inevitably lead them to frequent changes in spiritual father. (Cmp. Saint Simeon the New Theologian, Catech. 20, SC 104, 334).

I again invoke the testimony of Bishop Kallistos: «There are many who think that they cannot find any spiritual father, because they imagine him as a particular type of person: they want a Saint Seraphim of Sarov, so they close their eyes to those that God sends them in reality. Quite often, their supposed problems are not that complicated, and they already know in their hearts what the answer is. However, they do not like the answer, because it demands a constant and persistent effort on their part; so, they search for a "Deus ex machina" who with one only miraculous word will suddenly make everything easy. People like these should be helped to understand the true character of spiritual paternity» (The Kingdom Within, p.145).

Reverend father, dear brethren,
The Orthodox ecclesiastic tradition is not something that leads back to the Past only; it is simultaneously Present and Future. It is the perennial faith and the incessant experience of the Church, in Grace. This also applies to spiritual paternity, an ecclesiastic institution that we endeavoured to shed light on tonight - even if only a very faint one - with the light of our Orthodox tradition. And the conclusion that is reached from this brief walk through the field of ecclesiastic tradition is: It is our duty to have a permanent and steady spiritual father. At the same time, it is our right to choose the one whom we will judge as being the most suitable. Not the most "accommodating" one, but the most experienced one - a man who is truly of God - and one who we can feel spiritually "comfortable" with and with whom we feel safe.
Saint Simeon observes something that still applies in our day: Those who know how to "shepherd well and to heal logical souls" are rare, in every era (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 346).

That is why we need to exercise care when choosing. And we should pray fervently, so that God will make us worthy of such a superb gift. «With prayers and tears», writes the same teacher, «beseech the Lord to send you a guide who is un-impassioned and holy»(Chapt.1, 49, SC 51, 53) - a guide on our course for the heavenly Kingdom.

From the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Inquiries

The Great Monastic Schema

The Great Schema in the Orthodox Church requires the traditional monastic vows, plus special spiritual feats. According to Archpriest G. S. Debolsky: "In the understanding of the Church, the Great Schema is nothing less than the supreme vow of the Cross and death; it is the image of complete isolation from the earth, the image of transformation and transfiguration of life, the image of death and the beginning of another, higher, existence."

As a monastic dignity, the Great Schema has been known since the 4th century. According to an ancient legend, this dignity was inaugurated by St. Pachomios the Great. However, as a form of monastic life, the Great Schema goes back to the origin of Christianity. Those who followed Christ's teachings on supreme spiritual perfection by voluntarily taking the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty were called ascetics to distinguish them from other Christians. They led a harsh and secluded hermit's life like St. John the Baptist, or like our Lord Jesus Christ Himself during his forty days in the desert.

According to the Rule of St. Pachomios, the act of acceptance into a monastery had three steps and consisted of (a) "temptation" (trial), (b) clothing, and (c) presentation to the starets for spiritual guidance. Each of the three steps undoubtedly had its own significance. They marked the beginning of the three stages in monasticism which have become deeply embedded in the life of the Eastern Church: first, the novice (or rasoforos); the second, the monk (known as a monk of the Lesser Schema); and the third, the monk of the Great Schema.

The Church historians Sozomen, Bishop Palladios of Helenopolis and Hieromonk Nicephoros maintain that St. Pachomios was the first to invest monks with the full monastic dignity of the schema.

It should be noted that not all the fathers and ascetics of the Church divided monasticism into the greater and lesser angelic schema. For instance, St. Theodore of Studios did not agree with this division, considering that there should be only one form of monasticism, just as there was one Mystery of Baptism.

However, the custom of dividing monasticism into two became widespread in the practice of the Church. The Lesser Schema thus became a kind of preparatory step to the Great Schema. Cenobitism came to be known as a "betrothal", and seclusion within a monastery as actual "matrimony". In accordance with the Rule the difference between the Lesser and Greater Schema began to be reflected in the habit. Those of the latter had embroidered crosses on their habit, while the former did not(7).

Those who take the Great Schema vows must be like an angel in the flesh; they must attain that degree of spiritual perfection which is possible for man. Constant contemplation of God, life in Him, and silence is their vocation.

The analavos of the Great Schema monks are the signs of perfect monasticism, symbols not only of humble wisdom and gentleness, but also of the Cross, of suffering, of Christ's wounds, of constant dying with Christ.

The άνάλαβος (analavos) is the distinctive garment of a monk or a nun tonsured into the highest grade of Orthodox monasticism, the Great Schema, and is adorned with the instruments of the Passion of Christ. It takes its name from the Greek αναλαμβάνω (“to take up”), serving as a constant reminder to the one who wears it that he or she must “take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23). The ornately-plaited Crosses that cover the analavos, the polystavrion (πολυσταύριον, from πολύς, “many,” and σταυρός, “Cross”) — a name often, though less accurately, also applied to the analavos — reminds the monastic that he or she is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).

With regard to each image on the analavos, the rooster represents “the cock [that] crowed” (Matthew 26:74; Mark 14:68 Luke 22:60; John 18:27) after Saint Peter had “denied thrice” His Master and Lord (John 13:38).

The pillar represents the column to which Pilate bound Christ “when he scourged Him” (Mark 15:15) “by Whose stripes we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:24).

The wreath garlanding the Cross represents the “crown of thorns” (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2) that “the soldiers platted” (John 19:2) and “put upon the head” (Matthew 27:29) of “God our King of old” (Psalm 73:13), Who freed man from having to contend against “thorns and thistles in the sweat of his brow” (Genesis 3:18-19).

The upright post and the traverse beam represent the stipes and the patibulum that formed “the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14), upon which “all day long He stretched forth His hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Isaiah 65:2; Romans 10:21).

The four spikes at the center of the Cross and the hammer beneath its base represent the “nails” (John 20:25) and hammer with which “they pierced” (Psalm 21:16; John 19:37) “His hands and His feet” (Luke 24:40). when they “lifted up from the earth” (John 12:32) Him Who “blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us by nailing it to His Cross” (Colossians 2:14).

The base upon which the Cross stands represents “the place, which is called 'Calvary' (Luke 23:33), or 'Golgotha', that is to say, the Place of the Skull” (Matthew 27:33), “where they crucified Him” (John 19:18) Who “wrought salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 73:13).

The skull and crossbones represent “the first man Adam” (I Corinthians 15:45), who by tradition “returned unto the ground” (Genesis 3:19) at this very spot, the reason that this place of execution, “full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27) became the place where “the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45).

The plaque on top of the Cross represents the titulus, the “title” (John 19:19-20), with “the superscription of His accusation” (Mark 15:26), which “Pilate wrote” (John 19:19) “and set up over His head” (Matthew 27:37); however, instead of “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews” (John 19:19), which “was written over Him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew” (Luke 23:38), the three languages being an allusion to the Three Hypostases “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), this titulus reads, “The King of Glory” (Psalm 23:7-10), “for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:8).

The reed represents the “hyssop” (John 19:29) upon which was put “a sponge full of vinegar” (Mark 15:36), which was then “put to His mouth” (John 19:29) when in His “thirst they gave Him vinegar to drink” (Psalm 68:21), Him of Whom it was said that “all wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22).

The lance represents the “spear [that] pierced His side”; “and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34) from Him Who “took one of Adam's ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof" (Genesis 2:21) and Who “washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).

The plaque at the bottom of the Cross represents the suppedaneum of Christ, “His footstool” (Psalm 98:5), “the place where His feet have stood” (Psalm 131:7). It is slanted because, according to one tradition, at the moment when “Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the spirit” (Mark 15:37), He allowed a violent death spasm to convulse His legs, dislodging His footrest in such a manner that one end pointed upwards, indicating that the soul of the penitent thief, Saint Dismas, “the one on His right hand” (Mark 15:27) would be “carried up into Heaven” (Luke 24:51), while the other end, pointed downwards, indicated that the soul of the impenitent thief, Gestas, “the other on His left” (Mark 15:27), would “be thrust down to Hell” (Luke 10:15), showing that all of us, “the evil and the good, the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45), “are weighed in the balance” (Ecclesiasticus 21:25) of the Cross of Christ.

The ladder and the pincers beneath the base of the Cross represent the means of deposition by which Saint Joseph of Arimathea, “a rich man” (Matthew 27:57) who “begged for the body of Jesus” (Matthew 27:58; Luke 23:52), “took it down” (Luke 23:53), so that as in body He descended from the Cross, so in soul “He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9), “by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (I Peter 3:19).

Through these instruments, “the Cross of Christ” (I Corinthians 1:17: Galatians 6:12; Philippians 3:18) became the “Tree of Life” (Genesis 2:9; 3:22, 24; Proverbs 3:18, 11:30; 13:12; 15:4; Revelation 2:7; 22:2,14), by which the Lord Jesus reified His words that, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

The Greek letters that appear on the analavos are abbreviations of phrases that extol the Cross as “the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). From top to bottom:

• ΟΒΤΔ - Ό Βασιλεύς της Δόξης - “The King of Glory”

• ΙC XC NIKΑ - Ιησούς Χριστός νικά - ”Jesus Christ conquers”

• ΤΤΔΦ - Τετιμημένον τρόπαιον δαιμόνων φρίκη - "Honored trophy, the dread of demons”

• ΡΡΔΡ - Ρητορικοτέρα ρητόρων δακρύων ροή - "A flow of tears more eloquent than orators” (or, more likely: Ρητορικοτέρα ρημάτων δακρύων ροή)

• ΧΧΧΧ - Χριστός Χριστιανοίς Χαρίζει Χάριν - "Christ bestoweth Grace upon Christians”

• ΞΓΘΗ - Ξύλου γεύσις θάνατον ηγαγεν - "The tasting of the tree brought about death”

• CΞΖΕ - Σταυρού Ξύλω ζωήν εύρομεν - "Through the Tree of the Cross have we found life"

• ΕΕΕΕ - Ελένης εύρημα εύρηκεν Εδέμ - "The discovery of Helen hath uncovered Eden”

• ΦΧΦΠ - Φως Χριστού φαίνοι πάσι - “The light of Christ shines upon all”

• ΘΘΘΘ - Θεού Θέα Θείον Θαύμα - "The vision of God, a Divine wonder”

• ΤCΔΦ - Τύπον Σταυρού δαίμονες φρίττουσιν - "Demons dread the sign of the Cross”

• ΑΔΑΜ - Αδάμ - "Adam"

• ΤΚΠΓ - Τόπος Κρανίου Παράδεισος γέγονε - "The Place of the Skull hath become Paradise”

• ΞΖ - Ξύλον Ζωής - “Tree of life”

There are other items and abbreviations that may appear on the analavos, but these are sufficient to demonstrate that this holy garment silently proclaims “the preaching of the Cross” (I Corinthians 1:18) through its mystical symbolism, declaring for its wearer, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).