Monday, June 27, 2016

Bearing the Shame of Confession..( Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou )

Question: In taking the steps which you have presented to us, the most difficult thing, I think, is to overcome the fear of shame. This is what I try to do in my parish. People will not come to confession although their souls are burdened and things are driving them crazy, because they cannot overcome the shame to admit their sins. How do you lead people in this direction?

Answer: I think that the strength to bear shame is a gift from God. When I was a young and inexperienced spiritual father, Elder Sophrony told me to encourage the young people to confess precisely the things of which they are ashamed, for if they learn to do so, shame is transformed into strength against the passions, and they will overcome sin. This is precisely what occurred in the person of Zacchaeus. He bore shame voluntarily, and the Lord, Who was on His way to Jerusalem in order to suffer the Cross of shame, saw Zacchaeus bearing shame for His sake and recognized in him a kindred spirit. Zacchaeus had put himself prophetically in the way of the Christ, in the way of the Cross, and in a prophetic way the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ was activated in the heart of Zacchaeus. His heart was enlarged and he was able to enter into the power of faith. Christ has saved us through the Cross of shame, so when we suffer shame for His sake He considers this as gratitude, and in return He transmits to us His grace which regenerates our life.

This is exactly what happens in confession. Those who confess sincerely and take upon themselves the shame for their sins are regenerated. But those who shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Nothing special, the usual things…’ they do not bear any shame, their heart remains unmoved, and they hardly receive any benefit. But those who, with shame and a contrite heart, strip their souls naked before God and before another mortal, ‘of like passions’ (Acts 14:15) with them—that shame of theirs really finds the heart, humbles it and brings it to the surface. This then, opens the heart to receive the grace of regeneration, of consolation. We see this in the life of many that come to us: the greater the shame they bear with contrition, accusing themselves before God, the greater the grace they receive to amend their lives and make a new beginning.

From “Remember thy First Love” by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou 
Source: Orthodox Heritage Vol. 10, Issue 11-12

The Apostle Paul: Incorporeal, even though he had a Body ( Saint John Chrysostom )

More than all other people, it’s Paul who shows us what we are, how noble our nature is and what measure of virtue we’re able to achieve. And now he arises from the place he has arrived at and, in a clear voice, to all those who condemn our nature, he defends us on the Lord’s behalf, urging us towards virtue, stopping the shameless mouths of those who blaspheme and proving that there’s very little difference between us and the angels, if we but guard ourselves.

Without having a different nature, without receiving a different soul, nor living in another world, but, having been brought up on the same land and place, with the same laws and customs, he surpassed all the people who’ve ever lived since our race was founded. Where are those people who say that virtue’s difficult and evil’s easy? Because Paul rejects this, saying: ‘For this slight, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.’ And if such afflictions are slight, how much more so are our pleasures.

This is not the only admirable thing about him- that, because he was so greatly disposed he didn’t suffer from his efforts at gaining virtue- but that he also exercised virtue without reward. We, of course, don’t put up with pains for the sake of virtue even if there are rewards. He, on the other hand, sought it without any prizes, and easily overcame anything that was considered a hindrance to it. And he never invoked the weakness of the body, the difficulties of his circumstances, the tyranny of nature, nor anything else as an excuse. Even though he’d taken on more responsibility than generals and all the kings of the earth, he was on top of things every single day and, although the dangers increased, he still displayed youthful enthusiasm. This is why he declared: ‘Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead’. And while he was awaiting death, he invited others to enjoy it with him: ‘Rejoice and be glad for me’. Even though he was threatened by dangers and suffered insults and every form of dishonor, he still rejoiced, writing to the Corinthians: ‘Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, persecutions’. He called these the armour of righteousness, showing that he derived great benefits even from them and that he was protected on all sides from his enemies. And although they tormented him everywhere, despised him, defamed him, he went from strength to strength and proudly planted trophies all over the earth, thanking God: ‘Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession’.

And he sought maltreatment and insult about his preaching more than we seek honour, and death more than we seek life, and poverty more than we seek riches, and pains more than others seek comforts- not just a little more but much more- and sorrow more than others seek joy and to pray for his enemies more than others cursed them. And he overturned the order of things, or rather we’ve reversed them. What he did was keep that order as God had ordained it. Because what we said above [the positive things] are in accordance with nature, but the rest [the negative], are against it. The proof of this? That Paul, who was a human being, observed the former rather than the latter. The only thing that was dreadful for him, and which he avoided, was conflict with God- nothing else. Just as, of course, nothing else was desirable for him, other than pleasing God. And I’m saying nothing about the present or the future. And don’t tell me about cities, nations, kings, armies, money, satrapies and dynasties, because he thought them less than a spider’s web. But just think about what’s in the heavens and then you’ll understand the powerful love he had for Christ. Because this was a filter for him, Paul admired neither the status of the angels, of the archangels or anything else.

He had within him the greatest thing of all- love of Christ. And with this, he considered himself the most fortunate of men. Without it, he had no desire to become one of the dominions, the principalities or powers, but with this love he desired to be among the least and the lost, rather than among the first and foremost. For him, there was only one hell: to lose that love. That was Gehenna for Paul, that was punishment, that was infinite evil, just as delight was to achieve that love. That was his life, his world, his angel, his present, his future- kingdom, promise and wealth untold. Anything that didn’t lead to this he thought neither unpleasant nor pleasant. In the same way that he wrote off all visible things, as if they were sodden grass. The tyrants and the cities that foamed with rage against him, seemed like mosquitoes, while the torments and punishments were like so many childish games, which he suffered for Christ.

He accepted them with joy and was prouder of his chains than Nero was when he had the royal diadem on his head. He spent his time in prison as if he were in heaven and accepted the blows and whippings more gladly than others seized prizes. He loved the pains no less than the trophies, because for him that’s what they were. This is why he called them grace. But note this well. It was a prize to die and be with Christ, but the contest was in staying alive. Yet he preferred the latter to the former, since he thought it was more necessary for him. Being separated from Christ was a struggle and an effort, whereas being with Him was the prize. But, for the sake of Christ, he preferred the struggle.

You might say that all of that was a pleasure for him, because it was for Christ’s sake. I also say that: that what for us would be a cause of sorrow brought him great satisfaction. So why do I talk about the dangers and other tribulations? Because he was genuinely in a constant state of grief. This is why he said: ‘Who is sick and I’m not sick, who is made to stumble and I’m not indignant?’ But you might say that he even had sorrow as a satisfaction. Those who lose their children and are allowed to mourn, are comforted; but when that’s forbidden to them they’re distressed. Nobody’s ever mourned their own woes as much as he did those of other people. How do you think he behaved when, given that the Jews aren’t saved, he prayed to fall from heavenly glory so that they might be? It’s obvious that, if they weren’t going to be saved, this was much worse for him. If it hadn’t been, he wouldn’t have asked for this. But he thought it a lighter burden and one that had greater consolation. It wasn’t just that he wanted it, but he cried aloud, saying: ‘I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart’.

How can you compare him to anyone else, given that he suffered almost every day on behalf of all the inhabitants of the world, all together, and for the gentiles, and for the cities and for each person individually. To what iron or to what diamond? What can you call that soul of his: golden or adamantine? It was more resistant than any diamond and more valuable than gold or precious stones. It outdid the resilience of a diamond and the value of gold. So with what element can we compare it? With nothing that exists. But if gold could become diamond and diamond gold, then we might compare it with them.

But why should we compare it with diamonds and gold? Compare the whole world and you’ll see that Paul’s soul was of greater value. Paul talks about those who were prominent because they wore the skins of animals and lived in caves and holes in the earth, but we could say so much more about him, since he really was more worthy than any of them. So if the world wasn’t as valuable as Paul, what was? Heaven, perhaps? But even that’s too small. Because, to heaven and the things to be found there, he preferred the love of the Lord, which was as preferable to him as goodness is better than evil. He’d have preferred it to an infinite number of heavens. This is why he doesn’t love us in the same way as we love him, but so much more that it’s impossible to present it in words.
Just look at what he was deemed worthy of even before the future resurrection. He was taken up into Paradise, elevated to the third heaven, where he was shown things so ineffable that it was forbidden for anyone to mention. And quite rightly. He walked upon the earth as if he were consorting with angels. This is how he did everything, and, although he had a mortal body, he demonstrated the purity of the angels, and, although he was subject to such needs, he tried never to seem inferior to the heavenly powers. He traversed the whole world like an eagle and disdained pain and danger as if he were incorporeal. He looked down on earthly things as if he had already gained heaven and he was always as alert as if he were associating with the bodiless powers.

Of course, angels have often undertaken to protect various nations, but none of them took such great care of the nations entrusted to them as Paul did of the whole world. And don’t tell me that it wasn’t Paul who did these things that I’m saying. Even if it hadn’t been him who performed all this, he still wouldn’t have been unworthy of this praise, because he prepared himself to be worthy of this great grace. Michael undertook the protection of the nation of the Jews, but Paul took on the land and the sea, the inhabited and the uninhabited parts. I’m not saying this to belittle the angels- perish the thought- but to show that it’s possible, even though we’re human, to be with them and to stand close to them. Why didn’t the angels undertake this? So that you’d have no justification when you’re indifferent and so that you wouldn’t be able to have any recourse to some ‘difference in nature’ when you’re apathetic. In any case, the miracle’s even greater. How is it not wonderful and strange that words expressed in human language should banish death, forgive sins, repair our broken nature and make heaven on earth?

This is why I’m amazed at God’s power, this is why I marvel at Paul’s willingness: because he received such grace and because he made himself into this person. And I ask you not merely to admire but to imitate this example of virtue, because then we’ll be able to receive the same crown as he did. And if you have any doubts on hearing that, if you manage to do the same, you’ll get the same reward as Paul, listen to what he himself says: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for Him to be made manifest’.

Do you see how he’s inviting all into the same society? Since there are the same things for everyone, let’s make sure that we become worthy of the blessings that have been promised to us. And let’s not look solely at the size and extent of the achievements, but also at the passionate willingness through which he wrested such grace. And also at the kinship of nature, because we have all of that in common. In this way, the excessively difficult will seem easy and unburdensome for us. If we but labour for this short time, we’ll wear that incorrupt and immortal crown, by the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to Whom belong glory and power, now and forever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

Saint John Chrysostom

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Demons and the Power of the Cross ( St. Paisios )

Elder Paisios was asked the following regarding demons (called "tagalakia" by some Greeks) and the power of the Cross:

- Elder, my thoughts tell me that the devil, especially nowadays, has a lot of power.

- The devil has evil and hatred, not power. The love of God is all-powerful. Satan tries to appear all-powerful, but he does not succeed. He seems strong, but he is completely weak. Many of his destructive plans are spoiled before they even begin to be manifested. Would a very good father allow some punks to hit his children?

- Elder, I'm afraid of tagalakia(Demons).

- What is there to fear? Tagalakia have no power. Christ is all-powerful. Temptation is rotten to the core. Don't you wear a Cross? The devil's weapons are weak. Christ has armed us with His Cross. Only when we discard our spiritual weapons, then the enemy has power. An Orthodox priest showed a small Cross to a magician, which made the demon he invoked through his magic tremble.

- Why is he so afraid of the Cross?

- Because when Christ accepted the beatings, the slaps and the blows, the kingdom and power of the devil was crushed. By which way did Christ conquer? "With the rod the rule of the devil was crushed," says a Saint. That is, with the last blow of the rod to His head, then the power of the devil was crushed. Patience is the spiritual defense and humility is the greatest weapon against the devil. The greatest balm of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is that the devil was crushed. After the Crucifixion of Christ he is like a snake with its poison removed or a dog with its teeth removed. The poison of the devil has been removed, the teeth of the dogs, the demons, have been removed, and now that they are disarmed we are armed with the Cross. The demons can do nothing, nothing, to those who have been formed by God when we do not give them the right. They only cause a commotion because they have no power.

One time I was in the Cell of the Honorable Cross, and I had a very beautiful vigil. During the night many demons had collected on the ceiling. At first they were beating heavy and making noise, as if they were dragging large tree trunks. I made the sign of the Cross towards the ceiling and chanted: "We venerate Your Cross Master...." When I finished, the dragging of the logs continued. "Now," I said, "we will form two choirs. In one you will do the dragging above and I will do the other below." When I began, they stopped. First I chanted "We venerate Your Cross...", then "Lord, Your Cross you gave to us as a weapon against the devil...." I had the most pleasant night chanting and, when I stopped for a bit, they continued the entertainment! Every time they present a different work.

- When you chanted the first time, they didn't leave?

- No. Once I was done, they began. Yes, both choirs had to complete the vigil! It was a beautiful vigil! I chanted with longing! I had good days!

- Elder, what does the devil look like?

- You know how "beautiful" he is? Something else! If only you could see him! And how the love of God does not allow people to see the devil! O, the majority would die from their fear! Imagine if they saw him act, if they saw the "sweetness" of his form! Again, some would be greatly entertained. You know what kind of entertainment? How do they call it? Cinema? For anyone to see such work, they would have to pay a lot of money, but even then they would not be able to see him.

- Does he have a horn, a tail?

- Yes, all the accessories.

- Elder, did the demons become so ugly when they fell and the angels became demons?

- Well, of course! Even now it's as if lightning struck them. If lightning strikes a tree, will not the tree immediately become a black stump? They are the same way, as if they've been struck by lighting. At one time I told the tagalakia: "Come so I can see you, that I may not fall into your hands. Now that I am looking at you, your appearance shows how evil you are. If I fall into your hands, what evil I will suffer!"

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Saint - Episode 1

4Etv and Saint Nicodemos Publications present the film Agios...Watch the spiritual transformation of a mans heart, wounded by the ultimate betrayal, injustice, hate and anger.
Prayer, forgiveness and Christ's love turn Vasilis into the Saint of his Prison.
Translated by Fr. Nicholas Palis-Edited and adapted by CZ and support staff.
Two more episodes will be posted on the following two Sundays.
Many thanks to the family of the leading actor Savas Eliades and Maria and Theodora.
available at

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The leaders of any given evil heresy also attempt to interpret their writings ( St. Gregory Palamas )

 “The leaders of any given evil heresy also attempt to interpret their writings, but their purpose is to harm their followers and deny that truth which is in accordance with piety, using the words of the Spirit against the Spirit. The words of the gospel of grace are lofty and suitable for mature ears and minds, but these words too our God-bearing Fathers softened in their own mouths, making them appropriate for those of us who are less than perfect, just as mothers devoted to their children chew solid food and render it serviceable and easy to take for babies still at the breast. The moisture in their mothers’ mouth is nourishment for the children, and the thoughts in the hearts of our God-bearing Fathers are suitable food for souls that listen and obey The mouths of evil, disreputable men, however, are full of deadly poison which, when mixed with the words of life, makes even them lethal for careless listeners.”

St. Gregory Palamas

Homily 34, On the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Becoming a practiced soldier of Christ ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

For it is absolutely necessary for the grace of God to leave, once a tried struggler has acquired a good taste of it in the beginning, so that he may be tested and become a practiced soldier of Christ.

And without such temptations, no one has ever ascended to perfection. This stage that we mentioned where many fall into delusion is the stage where the grace of God withdraws in order to make us, as we have said, practiced soldiers of war, so that we are not infants forever. But the Lord wants us to become worthy men and brave fighters able to guard His riches. That is why He allows us to be tempted.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

For a Christian, the best type of death is, of course, martyrdom for Christ the Savior. . . .( Martyred Priest Daniel Sysoyev )

For a Christian, the best type of death is, of course, martyrdom for Christ the Savior. In principle, that is the best type of death one may attain. While some people sent condolences to Optina Hermitage after the murder of three monks [on Pascha, 1993], for a Christian, [such death] is in fact a source of great joy. In the ancient Church, people never sent condolences when anyone was killed. All of the churches immediately sent their congratulations. Imagine! To congratulate them with the fact that they had a new defender in Heaven! Martyrdom washes away every single sin except heresy and schism….

In fact, one should not take the word «martyr» to mean one who has suffered death by torture. It literally means «witness.» Thus, a person is a martyr if, with his death he bears witness to the fact that Christ has conquered death, that He was resurrected from the dead. One’s witness lies in this, and not in the fact that he has been tortured.

If we are talking about the natural end of life, the best such natural death is one whose approach you anticipate … For a Christian, the most awful possible death is one that is sudden and unexpected, for such a person departs into eternity unprepared.

The Martyred Priest Daniel Sysoyev, from his book Instructions to Immortals, or What to do if you Nonetheless Have Died.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

God is Where There is Humility ( Elder Arsenie Papacioc )

—Fr. Arsenie, tell us, how can we be saved from our many earthly cares, so that we might have more time for prayer?
—Fr. Ioannichie, pure prayer from the heart and lips to God is a great work! Prayer is a sharp arrow that all the saints have aimed at heaven for thousands of years, and not only they, but also the simplest Christians. Prayer has pierced the heart of the heavens, perhaps it has reached those who were displeased with the earth's inhabitants, and salvific replies have returned along the same path; thus was faith preserved on earth from generation to generation.
Brother Christian, you also have your own history: you have entered into the great Christian union—the Church—and are forever redeemed by the Savior's sacrifice. That means that you are of great worth, and you have a great and noble responsibility. Is it so difficult for each of us to simply and directly ask God to help us in our troubles and sufferings, and to thank Him?!
Where is the man who has nothing to ask of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Mother of God? They say that the Mother of God is offended by those who never ask her for anything! She is the prayerful intercessor for people; and as much as God can do through His power, so much can the Mother of God do by Her prayer. Show that you are the child of the Mother of God, having a child's heart in your breast!
And we can be free of earthly cares only if we want to be—after all, our salvation depends upon us. As souls given by God, we must show more will, in order not to immerse ourselves in these earthly cares and burden ourselves with them to such an extent. We shall manage our lives as people of higher thought, and as responsible human beings. If we were to ask those who are saved and living in heaven, "What did it cost you to attain such blessedness?" they would reply, "Time, a little time well spent on the earth!" That means that we have absolutely no other time to bring our souls to perfection—souls that are called, gifted, and full of such resolve.
We must think about the fact that we are called "the angelic ranks" [the monastic rank is called the angelic rank. –OC]. Angels pray unceasingly, throughout eternity.
—What is the easiest way to overcome in the struggle against fornication and fleshly thoughts?
—In order to overcome in the struggle against fornication, in whatever stage it may be, we must first of all ask for grace from the Good God. This is not a short term battle, because we must definitely achieve total victory. At first, each one sees that he is powerless to withstand it; but with God all things are possible.
He who enters into this struggle must:
–want to be freed of this struggle, no matter what happens;
–pray with all his heart to the Mother of God, and ask her help;
–avoid, as much as possible, all circumstances that might arouse passions;
–do not accept into your mind those suggestions that might seem innocent, but then begin to solidify into images. Route all these thoughts, changing your mind to prayer—but your own prayer, and not something someone else recommended, no matter who that might be; into prayer with your own sighing, even if it is without words.
If the attack is aggressive, pleasurable, and vanquishing, one must call out to the Mother of God, and not give in. During the first phases, he should confess contritely and purely, not sparing himself and not blaming incidents, circumstances, or other individuals. He will be greatly helped if he goes to confession often.

Fr. Ioannichie (Balan)

The father-confessor will understand him, console him, and assure him that he is not alone, yet not allow him to harden in his motivations, as if it were all "necessary and perfectly natural."
The father-confessor should have zeal and kindness in order to be able to tear his spiritual child away from this secret and many-headed passion. It is recommended to read books and everything that has as its goal the preparation for death. The lost one will be forgiven through repentance, no matter what sin he committed, and this will be a great achievement; but let no one deceive himself or suppose that he can find any forgiveness without repentance. Because of this sin, you cannot ever know what heaven and hell really are; and one should think about this and pray.
A person who is more spiritually inclined, but nevertheless gets wounded to a greater or lesser extent and then passes through the bath of repentance, counts this as a misfortunate accident. He will have a serious reason for truly meek humility—and this gives God more joy than when someone thinks highly of himself as never having fallen.
This is not a paradox, but divine justice and mercy. He, the Master of the house and Good Pastor, left his sheepfold of sheep and went to find the lost sheep, and then happily put it on His shoulders and carried it into the gates of the Kingdom of glory. I once read what I am telling you now: "Brother Christian, believe me, there are two kinds of joy, which cannot be combined—you cannot rejoice here on earth in pleasures that are transient and sinful, and then reign with Jesus Christ." "Then, iniquity will stop its mouth" (cf. Ps. 106:42). "Thou fool, the time that you use for evil digs a pit for you, and tomorrow eternity will come!" Saying this, I think that the father confessor can encourage the person who is struggling with onslaughts from without, and with nature from within.
—How can one conquer and route ambition and prideful thoughts from himself?
—A hideous and impure passion! All evil catches a fish in this murky water! God does not even want to hear about a proud person! He takes all grace away from him, so that he might stumble—maybe then he will become humble, as the Scripture says (cf. 1 Pet. 5:5).
He abandons him, and that person becomes a great abomination; He takes from him all sense of beauty, leaves him to roam around in chaos, in all manner of filthy back alleys of the world. He has no image, or likeness, or healthy reason. The holy fathers say truly, "Wherever there was a fall, pride first did its work." No other passion will liken you to a devil like pride.
All passions can, let's say, be excused due to nature and bad life circumstances; but pride cannot be justified by anything! It has an unbearable insolence—it attaches itself to any virtue if it can, and it even hides behind humility, which serves as its shield. We see this very often, and to prove what I am saying, it is as one father said: "That proud one is so humble!"
Because it is so dangerous and so broadly present in all ages and ranks, it would be good if no one would disdain any person, no matter how unimportant he may be—for Christ is within him—and would even ask his opinion, even if it is for a lark. This would be the first step, one length along the path of the Gospels.
It would be good to ask everyone's opinion, no matter who you are; for who knows? After all, God's grace rests more often upon the simple and unnoticed. Make a prostration, as they say, if only for the sake of humbling the body—for this also shows good manners—and you will see how much you need these people with whom God has assigned you to live. You will see, and will be convinced in life that wisdom really does abide more in places where there is humility—for God is there.
Lucifer fell irreparably; his grandiose fall happened due to one word only: "I". Having fallen, he became an adversary for eternity, an abomination of desolation. Let no one be deceived, thinking that without true purification in the only water of humility he can enter into the Kingdom from which the angels fell!
These are, in brief, my thoughts and exhortations about this, so that one might realize that God created us beautiful only for Himself!
—What can one do to restrain the tongue and acquire the gift of silence?
—This is truly a serious matter—to not be the master of your tongue. As the saints say, "The tongue leads us to great falls." More vanity than benefit comes from loquacity, and malignant gossip brings great danger not only in this world, but also in the next. They say that most of the people in hell are those who murdered with malicious words!
Brother, you must love you brother. Isn't this the Savior's most important commandment? He gave this commandment as the crown of all His teachings—that the only way to salvation is love; and He ascended the unforgettable and soul-rending Golgotha!
We must always reiterate to people the responsibility that we bear for our lifetime, the only time given to us, so that we would set a lock upon our tongue and purify our hearts from evil. St. Gregory the Theologian says: "We must answer for every superfluous word, even more so for every shameful word"; how much more horribly for every murderous word! The Patericon is very useful in this regard with its chapter on "The benefit of silence."
St. Isidore of Pelusium says, "Speaking with benefit is a blessing, but if it is reinforced by deeds, it is crowned." "For life without words brings greater benefit, while a commanding word evokes anger. If word and life are united they comprise the personification of all philosophy."
Treasure the Lord in your heart and let your attention abide there, and remain there before the Lord without leaving. Then you will notice every speck of dust in yourself. This is how mystical knowledge begins. It is a mirror for the mind and a lamp for the conscience. It dries up lust, extinguishes rage, humbles anger and disperses sorrow, tames insolence, scatters despondency, gives clarity to the mind, casts out sloth, truly humbles you and makes your reason undeceivable; it wounds the demons, and purifies the body. Such a person is no longer the participant in any wicked deed, but rather is alien to it. He thinks all the time, "Who shall I go to? I am a worm…" This is something different, having to do with remembrance of death and man's eternal lot, and belongs to mystical knowledge.

Source: Ne vorbeşte părintele Arsenie. Ediţia îngrijită de а Arhimandrit Ioanichie Bălan. Vol. 1–3. Editura Mănăstirea Sihăstria, 2004.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Our prayers help the departed ( Nun Makrina )

 Maria (this was Mother Makrina’s name before she became a nun)lost her parents and was orphaned when she was nine years old. When she was twelve years old, she found work at a tobacco factory in Volos.

She used the first money she earned from this job to have a forty-day Liturgy for the souls of her parents. Her spiritual father began the Liturgies
for forty consecutive days, and she would attend the service daily. She would wake up at 3:00 am, and walk for approximately one hour from her
home to the chapel of Saint Apostle the New Martyr.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy, she would immediately leave for her work. During the forty-day period that the Liturgies were being served, she would pray in private in her home as well, for God to rest the souls of her parents.

On the fortieth day, when the final Liturgy was to
beheld, a little before she woke up, in a state
half-way between sleep and vigilance, she found herself in a green pasture with flowering trees,
similar to almond trees when their branches of are in bloom in the spring. She heard a voice telling her that this place belonged to her parents. Deeply moved, she began to call out to them, and they appeared to her, at which time she asked them anxiously if they are in a place of rest. They joyfully replied, “It was nice where we were before, but now we are even better.”

After this, she prepared to go to the final Liturgy.
At the conclusion of the service, as her spiritual father was handing out the antidoron, he asked
her to stay behind for a while because he wanted to speak to her.

Maria waited and shortly thereafter her spiritual father came to ask her how she felt while praying for her parents. Before Maria was able to respond, he told her that he also had seen them the night before just as she had seen them.

Maria then comprehended the immense value of the forty-day Liturgies, and when she later became an abbess, she always recommended to people to perform liturgies for both the deceased, as well
as for health and support of the living during life’s various difficulties.

from the life of  Nun Makrina (†1995)

Entering the gate into Paradise ( St. Paisios )

God is kind. He wants us all to be saved. If only a few were to be saved, why then was Christ crucified? The gate into Paradise is not narrow. There is room for all those who bow humbly and are not puffed up with pride, as long as they repent and give the burden of their sins to Christ.

Then there is plenty of room to pass through the gate.Man can be saved with a single humble thought, or with a proud one, lose everything.

St. Paisios

Monday, June 6, 2016

All things are the fruit of God's love...


Orthodox Christians believe that God is "the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invis­ible". The world is not eternal; only God is eternal. He created the entire world out of nothing: "for he spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood forth" (Ps. 33,9).

Man cannot determine the manner in which the world came into being; for it is not an object of scien­tific examination, for it transcends man's "rational" ability (his logic). Man is part of created reality, he cannot become an "observer" of the manner in which he himself was created!

The world is not of the same nature with God; "by nature" it is entirely different. The world is not a creation from the essence of God, "light from light" but the fruit of God's volition and freedom; there is an insurmountable chasm separating God's essence from the essence of the created world.

God need not have created the world. The world, however, was pre-eternally in God's "thought". Thus the creation of the world does not mean a change in God's life. The world came into being according to God's plan and at a time which pre-eternally existed in God's will.

Before making visible creation, God created the spiritual world, i.e. the angels: "When the stars were created, all my angels with a loud voice praised me", says God to Job (Job 38,7). Neither angels nor men existed pre-eternally. Angels are spiritual persons. They were created in time and are limited by space; the swiftness, however, of the angelic nature allows them to act everywhere; only God is not limited by space.

Also, the angels, like men, were created mutable, but through God's grace and their own disposition, they became firm and unshakable in virtue and remain faithful in their original mission: to glorify God and to minister unto man's salvation (Isaiah, 6,3; Luke 2,14; Hebr. 1,14).

Man was from the beginning created as body and soul; man's soul did not pre-exist. Holy Scripture states: "And God created man, taking earth from the ground and breathed into his face the spirit of life, and man became a living being" (Gen. 2,7).

Underlining the distinction between the Creator and the creatures, the Orthodox Christian does not make an idol of nature or of himself. He does not hope that in "identifying" with nature, he will broaden his existence; he does not seek out certain apocryphal transcendental powers within nature, believing that by "activating" them he will solve the problems he faces. His hope has reference to God the Creator, for He has created us from the beginning "according to His image" with a purpose to achieve the "according to the Image" (Gen. 1,26); he does not refer to the created world or to his own self. The meaning of life is to be found in achieving the "according to the likeness", our Archetype, which is outside our own essence and not "within us".

All that exists was created by God "very good"; "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1,31). The Orthodox Christian therefore evaluates all of material creation positively.

All things are the fruit of God's love, all things are sanctified in the Orthodox Church: not only man's soul, but his body as well, and all of material creation: all things contain within them the "seed" of perfection and are foreordained to life, free from corruption and death.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Eternal Life ( St. Hesychius, St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Anthony )

LET US ALWAYS REMEMBER DEATH, for from this remembrance is born in us the putting aside of all cares and vanities, the preservation of the mind and unceasing prayer, a healthy attitude toward the body and a loathing of sin, and, if the truth be told, almost every live and active virtue flows forth from it. Therefore, let us, if possible, do this work as uninterruptedly as our breathing is uninterrupted.  ( St. Hesychius ) .

The Saviour called the many mansions of the Father the various capacities of the mind of those dwelling in that realm, that is, the distinction and diversity of spiritual gifts which they enjoy according to the capacity of the mind. For, not according to a diversity of places, but according to the degree of gifts does he call the mansions many.

Just as each man enjoys the perceptible sun, depending on the purity and receptivity of his power of sight, and just as illumination from one lamp varies in a house, although the light is not divided into many lights, so in the future age all the righteous will abide indivisibly in one realm, but each, according to his own capacity, is illumined by one noetic Sun, and, according to his worthiness, attracts joy and gladness to himself, even though from one air, from one place, throne, sight and image. And no one sees the measure of his friend, both higher and lower, lest, if he see the superior grace of his friend and his own deprivation, this be a cause of sorrow and grief for him. There, each, according to the grace given to him, is glad inwardly in his measure. Outside them all is one sight and realm ­ and besides these two degrees, I understand just one realm on high and another below, in the midst of them is variety in a diversity of gifts. ( St. Isaac the Syrian ).

Death, for men who understand it, is immortality; while for the simple, who do not understand it, it is death. And one should not fear this death, but ought to fear the perdition of the soul, which is ignorance of God. This is what is terrible for the soul! Life is the uniting and joining of the mind (spirit), soul and body; while death is not the perdition of these joined parts, but the dissolution of their union; God preserves all this even after the dissolution. Just as a man comes forth from his mother's womb, so does a soul come forth naked from the body. Some are pure and bright, some are spotted by falls, and some are black from many transgressions. That is why the wise and God­loving soul, remembering and considering the calamities and extremities that come after death, lives piously lest it be condemned and subjected to them. But the unbelievers, the mindless in soul, do not perceive and they sin, despising what is to come. Just as on issuing forth from the womb thou dost not remember what was in the womb, so on issuing forth from the body thou dost not remember what was in the body. Just as on issuing forth from the womb thou becamest better and greater in body, so on issuing forth from the body pure and undefiled, thou wilt be better and incorrupt, abiding in the heavens.

Mortal men ought to care about themselves, knowing in advance that death awaits them. For blessed immortality is the lot of the holy soul when it is good, and death eternal meets it when it is evil. Remember that thy youth is past and thy powers exhausted, while thine infirmities have grown and already the time of thy departure is near, when thou wilt give an account of all thy deeds; and know that there, neither will brother redeem brother, nor will father deliver son. Always remember thy departure from the body, and do not let eternal condemnation out of thy thoughts; if thou wilt act thus, thou wilt not sin unto the ages.  ( St. Anthony the Great )