Sunday, July 31, 2016

Why should a child be baptized as an infant ? ( Elder Cleopa )

There are some who say Baptism should only be given to adults because we must first have repentance and faith. Earlier I was asked to comment on this subject and recently found the teaching of Elder Cleopa on this topic.

The Elder begins his explanation by pointing out the precursors to Baptism found in the Old Testament. He writes,

There in [the Old Testament] we read how God appeared to Abraham when he was ninety-nine years of age and, among things, told him to circumcise all the men and to circumcise all the male children who would be born from that time on on the eighth day after their birth. As for him who would not be circumcised , he would perish (Gen 17: 10-14). We see, then, that God did not say to Abraham that children and youth should be circumscribed when they became adults... Some say the Baptism of babies is meaningless since they don't understand anything when they are Baptized. But what did Issac, Abraham's child, understand on the eighth day? Undoubtedly he understood nothing. His parents, however, understood. This is how it is with Baptism as well, as it is practiced in the Orthodox Church, since it is well-known that circumcision symbolizes Baptism in the Old Testament.
He gives another example of the Exodus from Egypt and the passage through the Red Sea which is also seen by Church Fathers as prefiguring Baptism. This is affirmed by Paul who says, "Moreover brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor 10:1-2). Moses had told the pharaoh , "We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds we will go." (Ex 10:9).
He then points out that on the day of Pentecost the Apostles received the Holy Spirit and preached to the people what the Spirit had tight them, telling them to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for "the promise is unto you, and to your children" (Acts 2:39).
Elder Cleopa says,

"For what promise? The promise of Baptism. Thus, the promise was for the children as well. When it is said that they were baptized, it does not say three thousand men and women were Baptized, but three sous and fouls, which means that among those baptized were children."He next presents examples of families who were baptized as recorded in the New Testament. Lydia with her whole family (Acts 16:14). The prisons guard who took Paul and Silias to his house who was Baptised with his whole family ( Acts 16:33). Then there was Crispus and his family (Acts 18:8), and Stephanos and his household (1 Cor 1:16).

He writes,

Jesus Christ likewise, made it clear that little children ought to be Baptized, for when they brought Him some children to be blessed by Him, and His disciples obstructed them, the Lord scolded them, saying: "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven; And He laid His hands on them, and departed hence" (Matt 19: 13-15). Hence , if the Lord calls children unto salvation from a young age, why would we obstruct them from receiving Holy Baptism?But how about the question of faith. Is it possible for children to be saved without faith?
The Elder responds,

"It is true that children are not capable of believing at the young age of their Baptism, but neither are they able to doubt or deny Christ. He is not saved who only believes, but he who first of all is baptized... While children do not have faith, they have godparents. These sponsors are adults who accompany the infants to Baptism and make the required confession of faith in their stead. Godparents are the spiritual parents of the children whom they baptize and undertake to guide them into a new life in the Holy Spirit... The priest conducts the Baptism based on the faith of the parents, the sponsors, and the other witnesses present.It is written in Scripture that the faith of a few can save others.
Here are examples given by Elder Cleopa,

"By faith the Roman centurion healed his servant (Matt 8:13). The servant did not believe, but on account of the faith of his master, Christ returned him to full health. Four people brought a paralytic tot he Savior: When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the also, Son, thy sons be forgiven thee (Mark 2:3-5)... On the basis of the faith of Jarius the Lord raised his twelve-year-old daughter (Matt 9:18). On account of faith of others, the Lord healed a dumb, demon-possessed man (Matt 9:32). On account of the faith of the woman of Canaan, the Savior healed her daughter, casting out the demon that possessed her (Matt 15:21). Likewise on the account of faith of a father, the Lord healed his epileptic son (Matt 17:14). These and many other testimonies from Holy Scripture make clear to us that on account of the faith of parents, and others who stand as witnesses at Holy Baptism, the Lord grants sanctification and salvation to the baptized children."We also see this practice from the early days of the Church, The earliest explicit reference to child or infant baptism is in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, about 215 A.D.: "Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them." (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 21:15, c. 215 A.D.)

We must also keep in mind that baptism marks the beginning of our Christian life, each of us who are baptized must continue daily to persevere in our faith until the end of our earthly life. As St. Paul says: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect... I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do... I press on toward the goal to win the prize..." (Philippians 3:12-14)

Elder Cleopa
Reference: The Truth of our Faith, Vol. II, 17-34

A Story about Judging...

Schema-Monk Panaret of Philotheou

My blessed spiritual guide from Kafsokalyvia, Fr. Nikodemos, told me the following story, borrowed from Athonite patristic manuscripts:

A certain Christian believer went to his spiritual guide for confession over the space of 15 years, and confided his human infirmities to him. One day, as was his custom, he went to visit his spiritual guide in order to make his confession. When he came to the house, this man opened the door and saw his confessor sinning with a woman. He quickly went out of the house, and as he was leaving, he said to himself, “Oh, woe is me! I have gone to confession to him for all these years! What should I do now? What will happen to me now — will I perish? How can all those sins that he absolved me of be forgiven, when he himself is such a sinful person?” So this man reasoned, reeling under the weight of such a blow, and not knowing what he should do next.

As he was going back along the way, he became thirsty. Proceeding a little further, he stumbled upon a small, swiftly-flowing little brook with the purest, clearest water. He bent down and began to drink. He drank and drank, and even after he had satisfied his thirst he still wanted to drink this cool water. And, standing up, he thought: “If here, downstream, the water is so pure, how pure it must be at the source!” And with this thought he set off to find the spring where the brook began. And when he had found the source, what did he see there? To his horror, he saw that the water was flowing out from the muzzle of a dead dog — right from its mouth. Then, sighing from the depth of his soul, the man exclaimed, “Woe is me who have gone astray, I have defiled myself and have drunk this contaminated water! Apparently I really am sinful and bad, that such misfortunes are happening to me!”

And then, when he was so upset, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “O man, why are you so upset and so sad because of what is happening to you? When you saw the brook and began to drink from it, weren’t you filled with joy that you had found such pure water? You drank and couldn’t drink your fill, but now, after you have seen that the water is flowing out of a dog’s dirty mouth, you say that you have been contaminated? Even though the dog is dead and unclean, don’t be upset, because the whole world drinks the water that you drank, even though it flows out of a dirty dog’s mouth, because the water itself doesn’t belong to the dog—it is a gift of God, this water comes from God.

“And likewise your confessor: the sins that you confessed to him are forgiven you; the forgiveness of sins is not his gift, it is a gift of God to man. The Most-Holy Spirit grants the remission of sins to a person who thoroughly and sincerely confesses his sins and weaknesses.”

The Lord God Jesus Christ Himself said to His Holy Apostles and disciples, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23). God grants this power to people in the Sacrament of the Priesthood, but only to those who have been canonically ordained and have a blessing to hear confessions and forgive sins. The Holy Apostles passed this power down to the first bishops and their successors, those who, in turn, were lawfully ordained priests and confessors. Inasmuch as priests celebrate the Holy Sacraments, their rank is far higher even than the rank of Tsar. The priestly rank is higher than any worldly rank, because, no matter in what worldly rank a man is, nevertheless he has recourse to a priest for the remission of sins. This establishment is of Christ Himself and the tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church — there is no other way in the Church.

“You only saw how he sins, but you cannot see his repentance”

And the Angel said to him, “Go to your confessor, whom you saw sinning, and do a prostration to him and ask him forgiveness for judging him. As regards his personal sins, God Himself tries his conscience and He Himself will hold him responsible. Thus, you only saw how he sins, but you cannot see either his repentance or how ardently he repented. So with you, instead of repentance is added the sin of judgement, while he, if he repents, can bring to God worthy fruits of repentance. And so, remember, don’t judge anyone.”

After the Angel had said this, he became invisible. This Christian, went back to his confessor as the Angel had told him to do, did a prostration and told him what he had seen and heard from the Angel of the Lord. His confessor began to weep bitterly and groan as soon as he had heard what the Angel had said, regretting his sin, and asking forgiveness from the All-Merciful, Compassionate and All-Good God, having a firm intention to correct himself from this time on and to make amends for his deed, unto the glory of God and unto the salvation of his soul.

After my spiritual guide, Fr. Nikodemos, had told me about this instructive incident, he continued further, with love: “There it is, my brother Haralampos (this was in 1934, before my tonsure)—we don’t have any right to judge and scrutinize other people’s sins and actions. As the Apostle Paul says, Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth (Rom. 14:4). How much less do we have the right to judge priests and spiritual guides, those whom the Lord tries far more seriously, and whom the devil tempts with sophisticated slyness and mastery. The Lord, addressing absolutely everyone, says, Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged (Mat. 7:1-2). We are commanded to forgive our close ones their mistakes and shortcomings, to repent of our own personal sins, and to judge and punish only ourselves. If we want to be saved, let us forgive our brother according to the Gospel commandment: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you… (Mat. 6:14).

Yes, my brother, judging is a great sin, and we should not be occupied with others and we shouldn’t scrutinize the sins and transgressions of other people! We receive spiritual benefit only when, seeing or hearing something indecent, we forgive our brothers with love and try to help them, praying for them.

Schemamonk Panaret of Philotheou
Translated by Dimitra Dwelley
from Dimitri Lampadist’s Russian translation of the modern Greek original


Source :

Saturday, July 30, 2016

You will consider everyone your brother or your sister ( St. Paisios )

To his spiritual children the Elder wrote: "To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain. You will consider everyone your brother or your sister, for we are all children of Eve (of the large family of Adam, of God). Then, in your prayer you will say: ‘My God, help those first who are in greater need, whether they are alive or reposed brothers in the Lord.’ At that point, you will share your heart with the whole world and you will have nothing but immense love, which is Christ." 

(Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Epistles, p. 50).

Friday, July 22, 2016

Restrain oneself from anger ( St. Seraphim of Sarov )

It is necessary by all means to try to keep one’s spiritual peace, and not to become provoked by insults from others. To do this, it is necessary always to restrain oneself from anger, and by careful watch to guard the mind and heart from unclean waverings.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Homily on St. Paraskevi by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes

                 St. Paraskevi the Great Martyr

Homily on St. Paraskevi by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
"A Bedrock of Virtue"
St. Paraskevi was not an ordinary woman. She was a spiritual meteor, a bedrock of virtue, unshakable amid the ocean of the corrupt community.

She implemented that which Christ said, that: “He who hears my words and keeps them resembles a house built upon the rock, and though the rains came and the winds and the rivers fell upon it, the house was not shaken.” (Matthew 7:24-25) And St. Paraskevi was a bedrock of virtue. Foamy waves fell upon her, the greatest waves of life.

First, the wave of corruption fell upon her. She was not born in a small village. She was born in the most corrupted city, which in the Holy Scriptures is called the Babylon of the world due to its corruption (Revelation 17:5). She was born in Rome, in a suburb of Rome. But however, she remained uplifted. She was a lily among the dung of her community.

Let us all hearken to this, for when we see some woman being led astray, we say: “The community is responsible.” Yes, the community is responsible, I don't deny this. But she herself is also responsible. Give me a woman who loves Christ like St. Paraskevi, and throw her into the most corrupted community, and no wave and no devil could shake her.

As soon as one wave left, a stronger wave fell upon her: the wave of orphanhood. This wave is terrible. St. Paraskevi was orphaned of her father and her mother. Because of this she is a protector of orphans. She was orphaned at that age when children could become prey to unscrupulous traffickers who try to exploit them. But she stood tall even while an orphan. She had within her a great fervor for holiness, the life of virginity and grandeur.

Woe to the woman who does not have these great desires. No matter how high she climbs, no matter how many qualifications she has, she is deplorable. It is better to be an unlettered villager, which is like a lily, like the flowers that grow in the crags of the rocks of our homeland.

Therefore, the waves of corruption and orphanhood fell upon her, but she remained untouched. Because of this I call her a rock. Furthermore, another rock fell upon her, that of money, of wealth. After the death of her pious parents, she remained the sole inheritor of their vast property, which they left to her.

Every other girl would think differently. One might buy silken clothes, one might go to dances and gatherings, one might run right and left, would go on trips, would experience the spirit of the sinful life. St. Paraskevi however did the opposite.

Money is a great temptation. It is better to be a blessed poor person. Thrice-blessed are little huts, more than great homes. Because in huts dwell diamonds, while in the palaces and the large homes dwell many times prideful souls, who do not love Christ.

Money fell into the hands of St. Paraskevi. But she did what St. Anthony did, who had also inherited vast property. He went into church one day. His ear hearkened to the Priest who was reading the Gospel: “Sell your goods and give them to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21) Sell everything and give them to the poor. Anthony heard this. And he did not say that Christ was saying this to others. He distributed his property to the poor. As he hearkened to the words of Christ, so did St. Paraskevi. She kept only a small amount, and with this she founded a small sisterhood of orphan women virgins, who were dedicated to preaching, to enlightenment and to philanthropy.

So many foamy waves fell upon St. Paraskevi. Finally, the red wave of blood fell upon her! It was a time when only one would be heard to be a Christian, and one would be put in prison. They seized her at that hour when she had gathered the girls together to teach them. They led her before the judge. They asked her: “Are you a Christian?” She responded: “I boast that I am a Christian.” “We give you,” they said, “three days time to deny Christ.” “No,” the Saint responded, “I don't need time to decide. From this instant I dedicated to sacrifice my life for Christ. Do whatever you wish.”

And her martyrdom began. They threw her in a dungeon in the prison. They whipped her with bullwhips. They threw her to the wild beasts. They threw her into a cauldron with burning tar and oil. She endured many forms of martyrdom, but all of these she conquered through the power of Christ.

At the end, her hour came. They took her to a temple of the idols with statues of the false gods. She knelt, closed her eyes and made a mystical prayer to God. Immediately, there was an earthquake. The statues fell to the earth and became dust.

They couldn't stand it anymore. Thousands of barbarous hands of the idolaters seized her, took her outside and to the place of execution. Her face was shining like the sun. She knelt, prayed and thanked God. Finally, she was beheaded by a Roman soldier. And while her precious head fell down, and her blood watered the earth, her soul, white as a dove, flew to the heavens.

Since then, how many years have passed! But as long as the world will exist, the name of St. Paraskevi will remain unto eternity. For: “The memory of the righteous is unto eternity.” (Psalms 111:6)

My brethren, St. Paraskevi is an example for all of us. But foremost, she is an example of a virtuous life and faith for women and young people. In this age of great corruption, she is the example and the mirror for virtue for womanhood

We live in a time of Babylon, a time of the Apocalypse, when the devil is roaring. He tries to strike the whole world. But most of all, he rabidly fights to strike and to soil girls and women. He wants not a single girl to remain unsoiled.

He fights we terrible magazines and newspapers. He soiled our girls with terrible brochures, with movies, with TV shows, which are schools of crime and dishonor. He soils them with mixed baths, with terrible photographs, with corrupting dances, with parties. The day will come when you will not find a pure girl. What will we do?

To arms, my brethren, to arms! Not to physical weapons, but to spiritual ones. Fathers, mothers, look towards the honor of your girls.

I'm finished, but rather, I'm not yet finished, because I want to be paid. What payment? Money? I am a monk and I leave that to you. I will not finish my homily unless my soul is satisfied.

Do you want your homes to be blessed and your girls to be secure? Today, the feast of St. Paraskevi, I entreat you all to do three things. First, go straightaway to your home, and look everywhere to find terrible articles and pictures, and gather them to light them with a holy fire to burn them all. Second, I recommend to all of you to go buy the life of St. Paraskevi and an icon of hers to hang in your home, and speak to your children: “My daughter, my child, become like St. Paraskevi.” And the third thing? Having done the first two, light a candle for the wayward women, those who live in filth and dishonor, and say to St. Paraskevi: “St. Paraskevi, you who are a lily of heaven, help these women of Greece, the women of the whole world to return near the Panagia, near to God, near to Greece, so that we might all have the protection of the Holy Trinity”, Whose blessings I pray might be with you all. Amen.

+Bishop Avgoustinos
(homily delivered in Chaidari, Athens, before 1967)

St. Paraskevi the Great Martyr

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

St.Marina and Satan: A Syriac Dialogue Poem


Translated by Sebastian P. Brock
O discerning listeners, come and listen to the dispute between Marina and Satan, and sing praise to the Lord of all.
St Marina and Satan: A Syriac dialogue poem
The Evil One said to Marina, the dearly beloved virgin,
‘Desert and Sown , in their envy, have spoken falsehood against you’. 

‘Every word Desert and Sown have spoken against me is in falsehood:
in the name of the Lord do I put my hope to escape victorious from them’.

‘In the name of the Lord you shall escape if you pay attention and listen to me, my daughter:
reveal your identity, that you are a woman, and you will escape from all guile’. 
‘Those men and women who have emerged victorious first entered into trials and were rescued
by the hope they held in the name of the Lord – and like them I too have hope’. 
‘ I have revealed and shown you the right path by which you shall be victorious, but you won’t listen;
I am greatly upset in my concern for you, and my pain won’t go away since you won’t listen to me’.
‘My skin cleaves to my bones [Lam.4:8]: I have greatly toiled in my labours so as to be numbered among males in order to steal
righteousness from them’. 
‘If you wish to be numbered among males, listen to what I have to say to you:
go and reveal your identity, how you are a woman, and then go and live in the world along with men’. 
‘What you have to say is miles away from what I have in mind:
my desire is to die in the wild and I shall not do what you have said’. 
‘This wild place shall be your tomb and you will not get away from trials,
for if you don’t listen to my words, you will die and perish, with your hope cut off’. 
‘Great woe is reserved for you and for whoever listens to any of your words.
There is hope in God, and those who hope in him are not ashamed’. [Ps 25:3] 
‘It is a double woe that you will have if you fail to listen to any of my words:
you will die in the wilderness and wild beasts and birds of prey will devour you’. 
‘I will sing praise while I live, [Ps 146:2] while I have a place where to sing;
and whether I live or whether I die, it is to the Lord I belong all the time’. 
‘Sing on then, and don’t stop for in a little while your song will come to an end;
you will go down to Sheol without hope and your lot will be a double woe’. [cp Ps 31:18, 55:16] 
‘The Lord is living and holy is his name, and whoever hopes in him will not be ashamed: [Ps 25:3]from this monastery I will not depart. and will not go away from its gate’. 
‘Savage animals are roaring, eager to rip you apart, and vultures too;
if you don’t carry out my advice they will tear you apart and drink up your blood’. 
‘A great blessing will be mine if they tear my body apart and drink up my blood,
for my Lord is the Lord of all: he will not do what you have said’. 
‘So torture you consider a blessing? What then do you think of eternal woe?
Flee from the error in your mind; follow my advice and live’. 
‘Let the sea and land testify concerning me, the heavens too, and all that is in them, [cp Deut 4:26, 31:28]
that I renounce you and your words: cursed is your counsel, and accursed your name’. 
‘I know that women don’t have much intelligence or brain, for they don’t know what they are saying,
and they do what is harmful to themselves’. 
‘All the advice that you give is bad; your words are bad too because you are bad:
as our Lord said in his Gospel, “a tree that is bad bears bad fruit”’. [Matt7:17] 
‘Check your words, stupid woman, and shut up: you don’t realize it is your duty to save yourself,
as far as you are able, and live a normal life, and not perish’. 
‘Accursed are your words, Satan, and accursed is the instruction which you teach.
for your mouth is full of cursing and wickedness, and on your tongue are fraud and deceit’. 
‘You haven’t read or learnt the Scripture; you are ignorant and you don’t listen.
My words and utterance are full of truth, and deceit is far from my heart’. 
‘If I listen to you I will indeed perish, for you have set a trap that leads to perdition,
and I won’t be able to save myself if I listen to you and your counsel’. 
‘My advice is crystal clear, its light is illumined by the sun, but because the light of your mind is darkened
you don’t see the light even when it shines out’. 
‘Take a rest from laying your traps, for I shall break them all up:
I place my hope in Jesus’ name and no harm will come to me’. 
‘You should give a rest to your words: that I should rest is not my wish.
It is a great sin that you commit if you remain in this wild place. 
‘You will do yourself harm at the hands of marauding robbers:
if they realize you are a woman I don’t know what they will do to you!’. 
‘The hope that I’ve placed in God will rescue me and I will not be harmed;
he is the hope of the poor and the orphans, and to all who hope on him’. 
‘Escape from all sorts of harm while you still have a chance to escape:
don’t put the Lord, your Lord, to the test, hoping he will perform a miracle with you’. 
‘It is from you that I will make my escape and I won’t touch your words of advice;
if I escape from you and your words, then will I be accounted blessed!’. 
Satan replied and said ‘If you reveal that you are a woman all the abuse you are getting
will go away and then you can sing praise and rejoice’. 
‘I will not give you any answer for all your talk is importunate:
all that you say is false. You give a lot of advice, but you are the one who needs it’. 
‘Cruel crosses are set up in readiness for you on every side:
summer is preparing burning heat for you, and winter, snow and ice’. 
‘Our Saviour endured the Cross because of our human race, and if he holds me
worthy to endure it, then this will be a great blessing for me’. 
‘Get up and prepare yourself to receive crosses, sufferings and torments which evil people,
and the monks, will bring upon you – just as you are wanting!’. 
‘I have already received these from you, and I will do so in future for I am ready for suffering:
whether from you, O Evil One, or from human beings, from wild animals, or from reptiles’. 
‘It is pride that women love, and boasting is in their heart, but in a little while they grow weak and are defeated:
then tears start coming, flowing from their eyes!’.
‘Yes, women love pride – as you have said in your pride; but they are humble before their Lord, while it is you and your pride they will trample down’.
Give peace to your Church and her children with that peace that pacifies all; rebuke the Evil One and his band: let them be scattered like smoke! [cp Ps 37:20]
Let peace reign in the midst of your Church; let fights and schisms be brought to an end:may they be brought under your yoke and do service before you. May your handmaid enter her monastery and in the Holy of Holies offer up to you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – and may both Desert and Sown be joined in peace.

May my supplication enter and be accepted in the presence of your divine tribunal; may the Evil One and his band feel shame, and may the Church be radiant in giving praise!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Parents need to devote themselves to the love of God.... ( St. Porphyrios )

What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home. The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relation to their children through their mildness, patience and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behaviour of the children. And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don't engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the par­ents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, har­mony and understanding between the parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.

The behaviour of the children is directly related to the state of the parents. When the children are hurt by the bad behaviour of the parents towards each other, they lose the strength and desire to progress in their lives. Their lives are constructed shoddily and the edifice of their soul is in constant danger of collapsing. Let me give you two examples.

Two sisters came to see me. One of them had gone through some very distressing experiences and they asked me what was the cause of these. I answered them:
'It's because of your home; it stems from your parents.' And as I looked at the girl I said:

'These are things you've inherited from your mother.'

'But,' she said,' my parents are such perfect people. They're Chris­tians, they go to confession, they receive Holy Communion and we had a re­ligious upbringing. Unless it is religion that is to blame...'

I said to them:

'I don't believe a word of all that you're telling me. I see one tiling only, and that is that your parents don't live with the joy of Christ.'

On hearing this, the other girl said:

'Listen, Maria, the Father's quite right. Our parents go to confession and receive Holy Communion, but did we ever have any peace at home. Our father was constantly complaining about our mother. And every day either the one refused to sit at the table or the other refused to go out somewhere together. So you see what the Father is saying is true.

'What's your father's name?' I asked her,

She told me.

'What's your mother's name?'

She told me.

'Well,' I said,' the feelings you've got inside you towards your moth­er are not at all good.'

You see, the moment she told me her father's name I saw his soul, and the moment she told me her mother's name, I saw her mother and I saw the way her daughter looked at her.

Another day a mother came to visit me with one of her daughters. She was very distressed and broke down in tears.

'What's the matter?' I asked.

'I'm in total despair over my older daughter. She threw her husband out the house and deceived us all with a pack of lies.'

'What kind of lies?' I inquired.

'She threw her husband out the house ages ago and she didn't tell us anything. We would ask on the phone, "How's Stelios doing?', and she would reply, "Oh, he's fine. He's just gone out to buy a newspaper." Each time she would think up some new excuse so that we wouldn't suspect anything. And this went on for two whole years. A few days ago we learned the truth from Stelios himself when we bumped into him by chance.'

So I said to her:

'The fault's your own. It's you that's to blame, you and your husband, but you most of all.'

'What do you mean!' she said indignantly. 'I loved my children to the point that I was never out of the kitchen. I had no life of my own at all. I took them to the church and I was always telling them the right thing to do. How can you say that I'm to blame?'

I turned to her other daughter who was with her and asked:

'What do you think about the matter?'

'The Father's right, Mum,' she said. 'We never ever enjoyed a single day when you weren't quarrelling with Dad.'

'Do you see then, how I'm right? It is you that are to blame. You traumatised the children. They are not to blame, but they are suffering the consequences.'

St. Porphyrios

Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, trans. by John Raffan (Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2005), 195-205.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Different Kinds of Energy - St. Gregory of Sinai

 In every beginner two forms of energy are at work, each affecting the heart in a distinct way. The first comes from grace, the second from delusion. St. Mark the Ascetic corroborates this when he says that there is a spiritual energy and a satanic energy, and that the beginner cannot distinguish between them. These energies in their turn generate three kinds of fervor, the first prompted by grace, the second by delusion or sin, and the third by an excess of blood. This last relates to what St. Thalassios the Libyan calls the body's temperament, the balance and concord of which can be achieved by appropriate self-control.


-- The energy of grace is the power of spiritual fire that fills the heart with joy and gladness, warms and purifies the soul, temporarily stills our provocative thoughts, and for a time suspends the body's impulsions. The signs and fruits that testify to its authenticity are tears, contrition, humility, self-control, silence, patience, self-effacement and similar qualities, all of which constitute undeniable evidence of its presence.


-- The energy of delusion is the passion for sin, inflaming the soul with thoughts of sensual pleasure and arousing phrenetic desire in the body for intercourse with other bodies. According to St. Diadochos it is entirely amorphous and disordered, inducing a mindless joy, presumption and confusion, accompanied by a mood of ill-defined sterile levity, and fomenting above all the soul's appetitive power with its sensuality. It nourishes itself on pleasure, aided and abetted by the insatiable belly; for through the belly it not only impregnates and enkindles our whole bodily temperament but also acts upon and inflames the soul, drawing it to itself so that little by little the disposition to self-indulgence expels all grace from the person thus possessed.

from The Philokalia: Volume IV, edited and translated by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), pp. 261 - 262.

God's help is greater than the demon's malice ( Part 3 ) - Basil bishop of Seleucia

 The devil showed the same ignorance during the
time of Christ’s baptism inthe Jordan River.
After he heard the voice coming from the heavens,
“This is My beloved Son” (Mt. 3:17), he said to Christ,
“If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Mt. 4:6). If the devil had known that he was speaking to God, he would not have attempted to scare Him by ordering Him to fall down
[from the roof of the Temple]; because for God
there is no height or depth.
St. Mark the Evangelist relates that the demons
spokein this manner:
“What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?
” (Mk. 1:24). 

He does not address Christ as the Creator of man but as a citizen of Nazareth. “Since you are a visible being,” says the devil, “you should act accordingly. We see a human, but we feel as if we are being expelled by God. The lashes we are  receiving do not seem to be coming from an inhabitant of Nazareth but rather from someone who has descended from Heaven.
Reveal to us your nature through your works.”
“What have we to do with You, Jesus, Son of God?” (Mt. 8:29).
What are you saying, O devil?
You have the audacity to question,“You have
come now?”
Him Who created time and appointed the day of Judgment?
Alas! The devil is unaware that He Who has come is the eternal God, Who confirms His arrival in the form of a servant. He is unaware that the Lord and
God of all is wearing the [human] cloak, which he received from David.
The devil belittles Christ based on what he sees, but he is simultaneously invisibly thrashed by the power of Christ’s Divinity. This is why he rants using phrases containing both impudence and supplication.
“What have we to do with You, Jesus?
I implore You, do not torment me” (Mk. 5:7).
The demons suffer prior the Last Judgment because they are commanded to stop afflicting human beings:
“For He ordered the unclean spirit, ‘come out of the man’” (Mk. 5:8).
Furthermore, Christ the Master, desiring to
demonstrate to everyone present His incomprehensible Divine Providence for people even when they are immersed in terrible suffering, asks, “What is your name? And he [the demon] answered saying, ‘My name is Legion: for we are many’” (Mk. 5:9). 

Christ did not ask because He was unaware of his name, but rather to reveal to us how many murderous demons had taken hold of the human body, and that, despite all this , they were never able to put him to death. A multitude of demons that launched an onslaught on a single person, with the intention of putting him to death, were incapable of vanquishing him.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Science and Religion ( St. Luke the Surgeon )

  "When we examine contemporary science as developed by scientists such as Lamark and Darwin, we see the antithesis and I would say the complete disagreement that exists between science and religion, on topics that concern the more basic problems of existence and knowledge. For this, an enlightened mind cannot accept at the same time both one and the other and must choose between religion and science."

A well known German Zoologist, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), who was a good follower of Darwin, wrote these words some 65 years ago, in his book, “The Riddle of the Universe” that was very successful and as it seemed, had proved that faith is absurd. So says Haeckel that every enlightened man must choose between science and religion and should follow either one or the other. He considered it necessary that such men should deny religion because a logical man cannot deny science.

Truly, is this necessary? No, not at all, for we know that many and great scientists were at the same time great believers. For example, such was the Polish astronomer Copernicus who laid the foundation of all contemporary astronomy. Copernicus was not only a believer but was also a cleric. Another great scientist, Newton, whenever he mentioned the word God, he removed his hat. He was a great believer. A great bacteriologist of our time and almost a contemporary, Pasteur, who laid the basis of contemporary bacteriology, he would start every scientific work with a prayer to God. Some ten years ago a great scientist passed away, who was our countryman, physiologist Pavlov, who was the creator of the new physiology of the brain. He too was a great believer. Would Haeckel therefore dare say that these men did not have enlightened minds because they believed in God?

So what happens now? Why even today there are some scientists, professors at Universities whom I personally know and are great believers. Why don’t all the scientists deny religion but only those who think the same as Haeckel? Because these people believe only in the material and deny the spiritual world, they do not believe in life after death, they do not accept the immortality of the soul and of course they do not accept the resurrection of the dead. They say that science is capable of everything, that there is no secret in nature that science cannot discover. What can we answer to these?

We shall respond to them this way. You are totally right. We cannot limit the human mind that searches nature. We know that today, science knows only a part of the things we have of nature. We also understand that the possibilities of science are great. In this they are right and we don’t doubt it. What then do we doubt? Why don’t we deny religion like them and consider it contrary to scientific knowledge?

Because we believe wholeheartedly that there is a spiritual world. We are certain that apart from the material world there is an infinite and incomparably superior spiritual world. We believe in the existence of spiritual beings that have higher intellects than us humans. We believe wholeheartedly that above this spiritual and material world there is the Great and Almighty God.

What we doubt is the right of science to research with its methods the spiritual world. Because the spiritual world cannot be researched with the methods used to research the material world. Such methods are totally inappropriate to research the spiritual world.

How do we know that there is a spiritual world? Who told us that it exists? If we are asked by people who do not believe in Divine Revelation, we shall answer them thus: “Our heart tells us." For there are two ways for one to know something, the first being that which is spoken by Haeckel, which is used by science to learn of the material world. There is however another way that is unknown to science, and does not wish to know it. It is the knowledge through the heart. Our heart is not only the central organ of the circulation system, it is an organ with which we know the other world and receive the highest knowledge. It is the organ that gives us the capability to communicate with God and the world above. Only in this we disagree with science.

Praising the great successes and achievements of science, we do not doubt at all its great importance and we do not confine scientific knowledge. We only tell the scientists: “You do not have the capability with your methods to research the spiritual world, we however can with our heart."

There are many unexplainable phenomena which concern the spiritual world that are real (as are some type of material phenomena). There are therefore phenomena that science will never be able to explain because it does not use the appropriate methods.

Let science explain how the prophecies appeared on the coming of the Messiah, which were all fulfilled. Could science tell us how the great prophet Isaiah, some 700 years before the birth of Christ, foretold the most important events in His life and for which he was named the evangelist of the Old Testament? Could it explain the prophetic grace possessed by the saints and tell us with which physical methods the saints inherited this grace and how they could understand the heart and read the thoughts of a person they had just met for the first time? They would see a person for the first time and they will call him by his name. Without waiting for the visitor to ask, they would answer in regards to what troubled him.

If they can, let them explain it to us. Let them explain with what method the saints foretold the great historical events which were accurately fulfilled as they were prophesied. Let them explain the visitation from the other world and the appearance of the dead to the living.

They shall never explain it to us because they are too far from the basis of religion - from faith. If you read the books of the scientists who try to reconstruct religion, you will see how superficially they look at things. They do not understand the essence of religion, yet they criticize it. Their criticism does not touch the essence of faith, since they are unable to understand the types and the expressions of religious feeling. The essence of religion they do not understand. Why not? Because the Lord Jesus Christ says: "No one can come to me unless My Father who sent Me draws him to Me" (John 6:44).

So it is necessary that we be drawn by the Heavenly Father, and it is necessary that the grace of the Holy Spirit enlighten our heart and our mind. To dwell in our heart and mind through this enlightenment, the Holy Spirit and the ones who were found worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, those in whose heart lives Christ and His Father, know the essence of faith. The others, those outside the faith, cannot understand anything.

Let us hear the criticism against Haeckel from a French philosopher Emile Boutroux (1845-1921). So says Boutroux: “The criticisms of Haeckel concern much more the ways, than the essence, which he observes with such a materialistic and narrow view, that they cannot be accepted by religious people. Thus the criticism of religion by Haeckel is not referred to, not even in one of the principles that constitutes religion."

This is therefore our opinion regarding Haeckel’s book “The Riddle of the Universe” which up to day is considered the “Bible” for all those who criticize religion, which they deny and find it contrary to science. Do you see how poor and tasteless arguments they use? Don’t become scandalized when you hear what they say about religion, since they themselves cannot understand its essence. You people, who may not have much of a relationship with science and do not know much about philosophy, remember always the most basic beginning, which was well known by the early Christians. They considered poor the person who knew all the sciences yet he knew not God. On the other hand, they considered blessed the person who knew God, even if he knew absolutely nothing about worldly things.

Guard this truth like the best treasure of the heart, walk straight without looking right or left. Let us not bother with what we hear against religion, losing our bearings. Let us hold on to our faith which is the eternal indisputable truth. Amen.

St. Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol (1877-1961)

Conscience is the first law of God ( St. Paisios )

Conscience is the first law of God, which He deeply carved in the hearts of the First Created, and consequently, each one of us takes it as a "photocopy" from his parents when he is born.

Those who have managed to sensitize their consciences through the daily study of themselves feel themselves estranged from this world; and, as a result, worldly people are dumfounded by their discerning behavior.

Those, however, who do not examine their consciences are neither benefited by spiritual study nor by the advice of the Elders, nor are they even able to keep God’s commandments, since they quickly become insensitive.

St. Paisios

Friday, July 1, 2016

Strive hard to be a Christian wife and a Christian mother. ( Just for Mothers )

Your immediate concern should be with yourself. Strive hard to be a Christian wife and a Christian mother. This is not easy. If you do strive for this, you in your world will find as many snares and pitfalls as we [i.e., monastics] do in ours. Yours may be a different kind, but they are no less difficult to evade.
Starets Macarius of Optina

“How can I, living in the world, dwell in the presence of God?” The elder answered” “Do everything as one cooperating in God’s work.” To be a fellow worker with God in the task of marriage and bringing up Christian children is a grandiose and holy role…. All you learn about marriage, all your work for your marriage, is work for the salvation of your children, and this is not something small, but something which is of eternal value. 

A contemporary monk

Remember that love of the neighbor is the first work you must strive for. And you do not even have to leave your house to find that neighbor; your husband is that neighbor; your mother is that neighbor; and so are your children. 

Starets Macarius of Optina

The question for Christians who are already married and raising children is not: “How can I reduce to a bare minimum my family obligations so as to be “free” to lead a “more spiritual” life?” It is rather: “How should I nurture within my family life my love for God and my neighbor?” Sister Magdalen

The joint prayer of husband and wife is a great force. 

Starets Macarius

Not merely by living with him as a wife will she be able to save her husband, but by openly demonstrating a life lived according to the Gospel…. It is possible in the case of wives to display the same zeal and enjoy the same advantage [as Saint Priscilla in teaching Apllos: Acts 18:24-26]… The display of a grand philosophy and much patience, the scoffing at misfortunes of marriage, and the determination to follow this task through from beginning to end–this is to make the soul of one’s partner to be saved.

Saint John Chrysostom.