Monday, September 26, 2016

The children, their joys and their difficulties ( St.Paisios )

Q.: I’ve noticed, Elder, that sometimes babies smile at the time of Divine Liturgy.

A.: They don’t do that only at the Divine Liturgy. Babies are in constant contact with God, because they’ve got nothing to worry about. What did Christ say about little children? ‘Their angels in heaven continually gaze upon the face of my Father who is in heaven’. They’re in touch with God and with their guardian angel, who’s with them all the time. They smile in their sleep sometimes, and at other times cry, because they see all sorts of things. Sometimes they see their guardian angels and play with them- the angels stroke them, tease them, shake their fists and they laugh. On other occasions they see some kind of temptation and cry.

Q.: Why does temptation come to babies?

A.: It helps them to feel the need to seek their mothers. If there wasn’t this fear, they wouldn’t need to seek the comfort of being cuddled by their mothers. God allows everything so that it’ll turn out well.

Q.: Do they remember what they see as babies when they grow up?

A.: No, they forget. If a little child remembered the number of times it had seen its guardian angel, it might fall into pride. That’s why, when it grows up, it forgets. God’s wise in His doings.

Q.: Do they see these things after baptism?

A.: Of course after baptism.

Q.: Elder, is it all right for an unbaptized child to reverence relics?

A.: Why not? And they can be blessed with the holy relics. I saw a child today, it was like a little angel. I asked, ‘Where are your wings?’ It didn’t know what to say! At my hermitage, when spring comes and the trees are in blossom, I put sweets on the holm-oaks next to the gate in the fence and I tell the little boys who come: ‘Go on, boys, cut the sweets from the bushes, because if it rains they’ll melt and spoil’. A few of the more intelligent ones know that I’ve put them there and laugh. Others really believe that they’ve grown there and some others have to think about it. Little children need a bit of sunshine.

Q.: Did you put lots of sweets, Elder?

A.: Well, of course. What could I do? I don’t give good sweets to grown-ups; I just give them Turkish delight. When people bring me nice sweets, I keep them for the kids at the School [the Athoniada]. ‘See, last night I planted sweets and chocolates and today they’ve come up! See that? The weather was good, the soil was well-turned because you’d dug it over well and they came up just like that. See what a flower garden I’ll make for you. We’ll never need to buy sweets and chocolates for kids. Why shouldn’t we have our own produce?’ (Elder Païsios had planted sweets and chocolates in the freshly dug earth and put lilac blossoms on top to make it seem that they were flowering).

Q.: Elder, some pilgrims saw the chocolates you planted in the garden because the paper stood out against the soil. They didn’t know what to make of it. ‘Some kid must have put them there’, they said.

A.: Why didn’t you tell them that a big kid put them there?

Q.: Elder, why does God give people a guardian angel, when He can protect us Himself?

A.: That’s God looking after us especially carefully. The guardian angel is God’s providence. And we’re indebted to Him for that. The angels particularly protect little children. And you wouldn’t believe how! There were two children once, playing in the street. One of them aimed at the other to hit him on the head with a stone. The other one didn’t notice. At the last moment, apparently, his angel drew his attention to something else, he leapt up and got out of the way. And then there was this mother who went out into the fields with her baby. She breast-fed it, put it down in its cradle and went off to work. After a bit, she went to check and what did she see? The child was holding a snake and looking at it! When she’d suckled the child, some of the milk had stayed on its lips, the snake had gone to lick it off and the baby had grabbed hold of it. God looks after children.

Q.: Elder, in that case, why do so many children suffer from illnesses?

A.: God knows what’s best for each of us and provides as necessary. He doesn’t give people anything that’s not going to benefit them. He sees that it’s better for us to have some sort of defect, a disability instead of protecting us from them.

Source: Discourses 4, Family Life, published by the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Experiences, Teachings and Struggles ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

         The Differences between the Trials

Trials (peirasmoi) are so called because they engender experience (peira), since in the unseen war they do indeed afford spiritual knowledge to those who are attentive. Anything is called a trial if it is in opposition to our struggle for faith and true piety while we are pressing on towards submission to God, but they are subdivided into various kinds, according to the understanding of the Fathers. There are the trials of those taking part in the struggle, so that they may make additional gains and progress in their struggle. There are the trials of the slothful and unwilling, to make them beware of things that are harmful and dangerous. There are the trials of those who are drowsy or sleeping, in order to wake them up. Then again there are the trials of those who have distanced themselves and gone astray, to make them draw near to God. Different again are the trials of the righteous and friends of God, so that they may inherit the promise. There are also trials of the perfect, which God permits in order to bring them forward in the Church for the strengthening of the faithful and as an example to be emulated. There is also another kind of trial, again of the perfect, such as those endured by our Lord and the Apostles, who fulfilled the law of communion with the world by taking up the trials which are ours.

Spiritual Fathers also participate in this law of ‘communion’ by bearing the burdens and the weaknesses of their spiritual children through prayers and other struggles which supplement what is lacking in others. There is also another way, according to the Fathers, in which one person may be a sharer in someone else’s trials, and this is as follows: the accuser shares in the trials of the accused, the slanderer in those of the slandered, the wrongdoer in those of the wronged – especially when those who are wronged endure the harm done to them without a murmur.

We shall speak at this point of the trials of those who are making progress as a result of their attentiveness and willingness to struggle, which – again in the judgement of our Fathers – are usually the following: indolence, heaviness of body, languor of the limbs, listlessness, confusion of the mind, suspicion of bodily sickness – faintheartedness, in other words – darkening of the thoughts, being abandoned by human help, constriction in their external needs and the like. All these things, when – by God’s consent – they befall participants in the struggle, give rise to a sense of dereliction. Their faith then begins to be waver, as if the hope which had given them heart up till then had been cut off. But secretly grace consoles them so that they do not change their regime, because it convinces them that the trial has not come from themselves, since everything testifies that they have not abandoned their consistent good practice. After facing this difficulty and receiving the mystical consolation of grace, they turn with faith and yearning towards God who has power to save them, and fall down in humility asking His salvation, which is the end to which they have endured these trials. Such, according to the Fathers, are the trials of those who are advanced and making progress in spiritual matters.

In those who chance to neglect their duties or, which is the most terrible, fall into self-conceit and pride, the trials are different and harsher, in the same way as surgical operations and excisions are called for in cases of serious illness. The demons at first make war on them openly and quite shamelessly and insistently, and beyond their strength (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). They experience a darkening of the intellect so that they lose the power of discrimination altogether, and imbecility and idiotic thoughts abound; an intense war of the flesh, pressing their will to go contrary to nature; anger for no reason and intractability in whatever concerns their own will; quarrelling on the spur of the moment and rebuking people at random; blasphemous thoughts against God; a loss of courage in the heart; being mocked by the demons, secretly and openly; lack of restraint in idle talk and, in general, a desire for the world and for idle vanities. After that, trials which are severe and hard to dispel: strange and unaccustomed symptoms of illness and painful wounds, a poverty and dereliction that is unaccustomed and defies consolation and everything else that is impossible and insoluble, which gives rise to despair and fear because the heart is devoid of hope. All these things are consequences mainly of pride, and come upon the person who has been led astray into believing in himself; and all these are the medicines for his healing, to make him sober up and humble himself and vomit out the bile of this devastating perversion.

As in matters of grace there are means of assistance which augment our progress both in time and in quantity, so also on the side of error there are factors which contribute to its fluctuation. On the side of grace, when by the grace of Christ someone treads the strait and narrow way (Mt 7:14) of the commandments according to the measure of his understanding, he increases the aid and illumination given by grace if he also acquires humility and sympathy in the service of love. Something comparable happens on the side of error. If impatience and grumbling are added to it, one’s cross becomes twice as heavy if not more. Faintheartedness and lack of hope are the most excruciating horrors of the unseen war, and are reserved for hard and unhumbled characters as the harshest lesson, which is a taste of hell itself and of punishment, a palpable sign of desertion and dereliction. Here it takes the prayers of saints and the intervention of a miracle for the heart to be softened. Many prayers and tears are needed for this sick soul to be reunited with grace and so be healed: otherwise it is inevitable that error will conquer, and that way lies madness and destruction.

O blessed humility and gratitude! Who is wise and will keep thy ways and understand thy statutes, that he may win thee totally and have thee as his intimate companion: that thou mayest go before him and follow him in all his ways, until thou presentest him to thy Master and King, who has taken thee as His delight and sharer of His throne and has revealed thee to us! For he says, ‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart’ (and not just in appearance) ‘and you will find rest for your souls’! (Mt 11:29).

It was not our intention to repeat so many problems and explanations well known from our Fathers; we were carried away by our train of thought, since almost unintentionally we found ourselves amidst the whirlwinds of trials to which we so often fall victim through our many deficiencies and lapses in attention.

The ever-memorable Elder never stopped explaining to us at every stage of our life, in his own delightful way, the aim and purpose of these ‘contractual afflictions’. We saw the movement and functioning of these afflictions constantly within the framework of the spiritual law which regulated everything in our lives in detail. Indeed, how much wisdom is concealed here in those who have understanding in the science of the spiritual life, when they chart their course over this ocean of life using nothing but this lodestone of the spiritual law, ‘the law of the spirit of life’! (Rom. 8:2).

Our relationships with our neighbour and on the meaning of sorrows..

An admonishing epistle on our relationships with our neighbour and on the meaning of sorrows.
By monk Markellos Karakallinos

Nothing makes the way for the approach of God easier as does the mercy that is offered from the depth of the soul for those who are in need. The Lord said: "Inasmuch you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me" (Matt 25:40).

The one who heals the needs of the others like God, imitates God, through philanthropy and demonstrates that he bears within himself in analogy with God, the power of providence for the salvation of his brother.

Who therefore is so indifferent that does not wish to be like God, in other words, wishing to approach that which is in His likeness while the manner of doing good and of sympathy towards his neighbor is so easy? Without compassion and love towards the neighbor, no virtue can remain undefiled.

Let us learn the habit of observing and examining only ourselves, and never bother ourselves with the actions of the others. We should recognize only one judge, wise and just, the Holy God, who judges with wisdom and justice, everything that happened and even for the reason they happened.

Let us limit ourselves by severing every connection to the external and not allow our eye to see, nor our ear to hear, not even the tongue to talk about the things of others. Let us use more sympathy than empathy towards others.

Let us listen to the divine preacher Paul who advises us: "I beg you to behave with all humility and meekness, and longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Eph 4:2). "If therefore different and varied gifts and not the same were given to others, there should be absolutely no reason that this distribution should be the cause of enmity between you. For this distribution was not done by chance but was done by Christ Himself. "But for every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph 4:7).
"Put away the old man of your earlier way of life who is corrupted by the deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man who is created according to God in the holiness of truth" (Eph 4:22-24). For if we endeavour this with ourselves then we shall succeed "that we walk worthy of God who calls us to His Kingdom and glory" (1Thess 2:12)
Holy God grants us His grace, but we have to recognize that whatever good we may do it is not done by us but by God. We must sympathize with the one who lacks and do not believe that he is a sinner, such as lazy, evil, chatterer, thief, liar. If we acquire this awareness, we shall never criticize anyone even when we see him sinning mortally.
We shall think thus: "He does not have Your grace my Christ that is why he sins. If you leave me, I too will do the same and even worse. You help me and I can stand on my feet. The brother sees that much and he does that much".
You ask from your brother what God has not given him. If you'll understand well what I tell you, everybody will not be responsible but only you. If you therefore wish your neighbour to be always good as it pleases you, remove his offenses with the grace (gifts) you have.....".

"It is just to pray for God to remove his offences so that he may see and act correctly. If however you will ask differently to receive your justice, you will appear unjust and would be necessary therefore for the gift (grace) to keep going back and forth until it finds comfort in your soul. For that much grace one is entitled to have as he agreeably endures the offense. As much weight your neighbor patiently bears (Elder Joseph the Spiliote).
Other faster way does not exist for one to persist in the offences that visit us whatever they may be.

The spiritual condition of a person and the grace he possesses is demonstrated by the patience he has. The proof of the existence of this virtue is the tolerance, longsuffering, patience. These are the jewels of every struggling Christian.

For this, my dear soul, during periods you struggle and get burnt by the fire of sin, do not fall asleep, do not neglect to struggle and hope on the non-combative power of God with which you will put out the fire of sin, overcoming thus the devil. Sing with joy and contentment together with the melodic Theodore Studite: "With Your right hand oh Word protect me, that the fire of sin not burn me" (5th antiphone, 1st tone).

You should know that the devil is useful to all of us, if we use him appropriately. He owes us a lot and we succeed from him not with small profit, as happened with the just Job.
If you do not become negligent and if you do not betray yourself, neither could the devil harm you. The weak becomes harmed everywhere while the strong benefits everywhere. For the spiritual inclination is always very important and man's intention always succeeds.

Let us therefore not blame the responsibilities of our sins on the devil nor on others. What is appropriate for us to do? To do just this. To introspect ourselves and our wounds for then we shall be able to apply the medicine necessary for our healing, for he who ignores his disease will not tend to his healing.
Holy Chrysostom prompts us to bless those that disturb us and to consider them benefactors and not curse them as enemies. "This we should always consider that the one who blesses his enemy blesses himself and he who curses the enemy curses himself and the one who prays for the enemy prays for himself and not him".
Elianos praised the tax collectors of Sparta because they did not revenge the Klazomenes who dishonoured them. They had gone to Sparta and painted the thrones of the tax inspectors where they sat while in judgment. The inspectors when they learned this, they did not become angry nor did they delve evil for evil. They ordered however the speaker to declare the following famous words: "It is allowed for the Klazomenes to act ugly".
These tax collectors we should imitate, us Christians, And if they curse us or do us evil or swear at us, we should not revenge but let us hear what Chrysostom advises us in his sermon on repentance: "He who does not treat himself unjustly, no one else can make him suffer loss... and if you do everything you can do, the help of God will surely follow....., however if one suffers loss and is wronged, it certainly derives from himself, not from the others, even if they were innumerable all those that wronged and harmed him. For if he did not suffer this by himself, all those living on the whole earth, even if they hit him, they could not in the least harm him who walks and is attentive in the Lord....."
The sorrows and the diverse temptations always are spiritually beneficial. Holy Adelphotheos Jacob considers the sorrows as a cause for spiritual joy, and for this he observes: "Count it all joy my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the test of your faith works patience" (Jam 1:2-3). You will rejoice in your sorrows and temptations knowing that the test of your faith through the sorrows will certainly result in a safe and completely steady patience. This patience then being unshakeable will produce the fruit of your perfection, that you may be perfect and complete, that you will thus lack nothing.
Apart from the temptations that God permits, there are temptations that are produced by our sinful passions. No man who suffers from sin, say that God is the reason he is tempted and pushed into sin. Everyone becomes disturbed and pushed into sin by his own bad intentions, which bring him down and with the bait of pleasure draws him in.
Most happy is the man that maintains himself with patience and looks forward to the test of sorrows. And he is most blessed for when through this test he becomes unshakeable, tested and fit, he will receive the bright and glorious crown of eternal life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him.

By monk Markellos Karakallinos
Publication Orthodox Kypseli

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Protestantism? Is the loyal child of Papism ( St. Justin Popovich )

“Protestantism? It is the loyal child of Papism. It went from one heresy to another over the centuries because of its rationalistic scholasticism, and it is continually drowning in the various poisons of its heretical errors. In addition, Papal haughtiness and ‘infallible’ foolishness reign absolutely within it, ruining the souls of its faithful. First of all each Protestant is an independent pope when it comes to matters of faith. This always leads from one spiritual death to another; and there is no end to this ‘dying’ since a person can suffer countless spiritual deaths (in a lifetime).

Since this is the way things are, there is no way out of this impasse for the Papist-Protestantic Ecumenism with its pseudo-Church and its pseudo-Christianity without wholehearted repentance before the God-man Christ and His Orthodox Catholic Church. Repentance is the remedy for every sin, the medicine given to man by the only Friend of man (Christ).”

St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Humanistic Ecumenism”

Time is Precious ( St. Cyril Patriarch of Jerusalem )

We live in this vain world and are truly ignorant; or rather we have not yet understood why we are alive, what value this life of ours has, and what purpose man has on earth! Unfortunately, we have
become almost like the irrational beasts. We live without considering that the time of our life here is the most precious thing for future restoration. We use up and waste this time with no regret. And when we come to our senses, we shall be unable to bring this time back.
Therefore, how truly wise is the man who has realized the great value of time in this transient life and who takes advantage of it accordingly,
enriching his life with good works, so that when the grievous hour of death comes, his conscience will be confident and say in his defense before the spiritual prosecutors, the demons, “I have done what I should, so why are you still raging?”

St. Cyril Patriarch of Jerusalem

Monday, September 19, 2016

Humbleness is the key to keep the Grace ( Fr. Raphael Noica (of Essex) )

Monasticism is like living something from the age that shall come, in which, as the Savior says: “They neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the Angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). We [monks] are not like the angels, yet life has a tendency towards that, and when you receive the call [to monasticism], you don’t know what hit you, because in this [human] nature you don’t have any confirmation. So then, of course, you need someone to validate or invalidate your call. Because if you don’t [do this], you will suddenly find – or you will start to think: I’ll go to madhouse with my calls!

So, the Spiritual Father can validate or invalidate this thing on some level, but even this level is quite difficult to be defined. The essential line is this: I’m the only one who knows if I am for monasticism or not. Nobody else [would]! And the Spiritual Father can validate or invalidate, but he can’t… Father Sophrony [Sakharov] had [in Paris] Fr. [Sergius] Bulgakov as Spiritual Father and when he confessed to him that he would like to go in Mount Athos to became a monk, his Spiritual Father replied to him with a French saying: “The best is the enemy of the good”. Father Sophrony considered this word of his Spiritual Father, but he didn’t accept it – finally he went to Mount Athos and became a monk.

I got you here to a very difficult matter, to a thinking in which we all must assume our responsibility before God, before eternity – and not only in patterns in which we entered, but yet in a spirit of responsibility and obedience. And I say again: monasticism exists only in the intimate dialogue of every soul with God our Creator. So, I am deeply touched by the love of that sister for her own monasticism and for you; she thinks if she was fulfilled [in monasticism], you will be fulfilled too. But if this [call] isn’t from God – not for her reasons (they have some value, but they’re relative) – the most important thing, the absolute thing is to find into God: is this my way, or not? And: are really the hardships I endure a sign that I’m not on the right path, or they are some obstacle that needs to be overcome – all of these, through prayer…

Question: What prayers do I need to make, for me to find out?

Fr. Raphael: Begin [to pray] with this question. Put it before God – any prayer. Ask Him: “O, Lord, how should I pray? What do You expect of me?” Any thought you have – just add to it “Lord!”; add to your thinking a bit of “Lord!”, add [Him] to all your thoughts. This way, if you add a bit of “Lord!”, instead of you thinking like an engine which runs for nothing, your thinking will become prayer, and the engine will start to move the wheels.

Question: Is it possible to have matrimony, and also holiness and Jesus’ Prayer?

Fr. Raphael: The holiness is the nature of the man, the one that we should acquire in this ephemerality, and it isn’t something special for man – I mean it’s something different from transient, for biological life. The holiness is the nature that’s eternal in God, so it’s the nature of man. And either in matrimony, either in monasticism, either in other ways – if they are – the man always seeks the holiness. But we transformed the sanctity into a pattern; we made from it a false image; we put the Saints onto a pedestal which is very high and distant from us, and we look at them with a reversed binocular, to make it even more distant – and afterwards we are wondering why we don’t get there.

Question: And how do we escape from these patterns?

Fr. Raphael: O, may Lord deliver you! You may have a little too much confidence in your youth. [You have to keep] always before your eyes the fact that God is a God of Love and, from there, [you have] to seek and to examine why [is happening] anything that hurts you…

I don’t like what I heard – Why? Because I’m a sinner, or because that word isn’t right.

And for the rest, I say again: May God guide you! The path [together] with God is the path of freedom. The freedom is, of course, dangerous – but I also got this image, when I was afraid to soar. I said to myself: But, if I won’t go… – let’s say we’re travelling to the Jerusalem above – if we won’t go on road because we’re afraid that something may happen to us on the way there, we’ll know only one thing for sure: we will remain here. If we’ll go, fine, maybe we won’t get there (which is not the case [when we are] together with God), but if we think [like] “Maybe we’ll get there, maybe we won’t get there”, we still have in our imagination 50% and 50%. If I stay, [if I remain], I have a 100% certitude I won’t get there!

I want, with all these, to give you a bit of courage. But with God, as long we stick to God, is impossible not to get there, as Christ said: “My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). And He added immediately: “My Father is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29). I emphasize this “no one is able”! Yet man is gifted with such a great Divine freedom, that in my freedom I don’t have my Salvation guaranteed – God didn’t put me in a concrete box. I have a frightful freedom, but this doesn’t mean God can’t support me until the end. I can’t express myself here more concrete, more correct, less clumsy, because we are at some boundaries where the human reason isn’t applicable anymore. We have for the one side absolute certainty that we will get there, because Christ said “no one is able to pluck them”, and for the other side my freedom, which could separate me from God in any moment; but if I add “God forbid!”, I can’t get separated.

There is one more thing: when we begin to see Who is the God of Love, Who is also Almighty, you’ll begin to see that you can’t get lost with this God – it’s impossible! [It is] when you see that our fallen nature is so evil, that everything God does for our Salvation we undo for our perdition, [that] you can’t save yourself in no way. We live, as a Serbian woman said many years ago, [thinking]: “I am tormented in Orthodoxy by this incertitude: that I may be saved, or I may be not. I would rather be like Protestants, who are sure that they are already saved!”

But something in her words “scratched” me and, after some time, I realized that we Orthodox aren’t living in incertitude, but into a double certitude. As I see myself, it’s impossible to save myself. Look, Christ spilled His blood for the Hebrew people and for the entire world, and the Jews called “His blood [to be] on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25) as a curse. So, how can be saved such a man, even with the almighty love of God? And yet, when you see that God Christ, with divine power, divine word, tried to put off that curse, saying to the women of Jerusalem: “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:28) – meaning “weep for those upon you called some minutes ago My blood, as a curse, and I spill it for Salvation.” [We have] such a God, Who even then doesn’t get offended!… And [Who], when they put nails through His hands, says: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); [Who], when He was dying by our hands, gives for our Salvation His body, broken by us; gives His blood, spilled by us – only if we want to. Well, with such a God, Who defeated even the Hell when He got there, making a path up to the staying to the right of Father – with such a God, how could you get lost?!

So, we have two certitudes: with me, salvation is totally impossible, and this is part of my confession. But, if I confess this, I also confess God – it is impossible to be lost with God. And, between these two impossibilities, I think God’s impossibility must triumph. It’s enough just to cling and stay, not to despair until the end because of enemy’s assaults – and [finally] God will drew me into his fishing net.

Question: How can we know if we have Grace after Liturgy?

Fr. Raphael: Notice one thing: when we are in Grace, we feel that everything is beautiful, that everything can’t have something else but a happy end. When we lose the Grace, we feel the darkness is so great, that we’ll never get out of it. Notice this is the characteristic of that condition. There is not and cannot be tragedy in God, however tragic our life may be. But those things of Hell and of falsehood are as any things of Hell – the work of falsehood wants us to despair. This is one thing, and I emphasize these effects for you to notice.

The second thing is we put very much emphasis on the preparation before Communion, for us to be, supposedly, worthy of commune. I say “supposedly” because we remain unworthy. Our worthiness is Christ. [Yet I see] we don’t understand well the need to find how to keep Communions’ Grace after Communion. In a way, this thing is more important than the preparation; this preparation before Communion is not for us to be worthy. This preparation is to prepare the soil of our soul. […] The most important thing is how to keep that Grace.

In this matter, I say to you, if you look to all the Philokalic Fathers, humbleness is the key. But what is humbleness? Because, beyond a certain pattern, we don’t know what humbleness is. For one thing, humbleness is spiritual realism. If I am the greatest sinner, then may God grant me the power to see I am the greatest sinner amongst people! This is a divine vision, that doesn’t belong to human reason, neither to comparison with the others. [Humbleness] belongs to a spiritual way of seeing things, a realist one. This is not a mannerism, but spiritual realism.

Secondly, Father Sophrony [Sakharov] defined humbleness as that quality of divine love which gives itself to the loved one without returning upon itself. This “without returning upon itself” means the humble one doesn’t consider upon himself, but seeks towards his loved one. Yet humbleness doesn’t mean just humiliation and carelessness for humiliation, but also care for the fulfillment of the loved one. Why? Because it lives through the loved one. It seeks into the loved one, it empties itself into the loved one, for it to receive in its emptied ego the loved one – for the loved one to rest into it, and for it to rest into the loved one. And that, in our [ecclesiastic] language, is called “perichoresis” – Father Sophrony used to called this “the pharmaceutical language of modern theology” [Fr. Raphael smiles], but [it is] a word which is the essence of eternal love.

On the other hand, I think a second definition will give you a better understanding of what we need to seek. Humbleness isn’t a thing by itself, it belongs to love. Father Sophrony said to me one day: “You think that what Saint Silouan said were great things, but know this: the only great thing is humbleness, because the pride prevents love.” Pride dwells in itself, and then, if I live in myself, neither of you will have place [here], nor God. But if I learn to empty myself, to give myself with the aim that God and whole humanity will have place [in me], then every person become a bearer of God and of the entire Universe. This is humbleness.

And then, [following] these paths, we’ll find both the justification to draw near the Holy Communion – [or] the worthiness, if you prefer, because the worthiness is not ours: then Christ will partake with us His worthiness. And, living in this spirit, we’ll be able to keep the Grace we receive in Communion.

Question: And, yet, how can we keep the Grace?…

Fr. Raphael: Well, by persisting on this path of humbleness. I mean, there are many things to say, but I say again – you will find your way through God, [together] with your Spiritual Father, each of you. The general path is the humbleness. Humbleness is the key to keep the Grace.

Question: And what if we don’t know what [humbleness] is, and we ask Lord to give us [humbleness]?

Fr. Raphael: [Then] Lord shall give it to you, so ask it from Lord – speaking of correct understanding…

Transcript from a conversation with youth of Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students, Bucharest, 14 March 2002

The True Slave and Freedom in Christ ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )

"For the slave called in the Lord is a freed person in the Lord, just as the free person who has been called is a slave of Christ" (I Corinthians 7:22).
The great news that Christianity daily announces to the world is that nothing is evaluated at full value according to its external appearance but by its essence. Do not evaluate things according to its color and shape but by its meaning. Do not evaluate a man by his position and property but by his heart – by his heart in which are united his feeling, his reason and his will.

According to this, for the world always a new teaching, he is not a slave who is outwardly enslaved; neither is he free who possesses outward physical freedom.
According to secular understanding, the slave is one who enjoys the world the least and a free man is one who enjoys the world the most. According to Christian understanding, a slave is one who least enjoys from the living and sweet Christ and the free man is one who enjoys most from the living and sweet Christ.
Further, according to secular understanding, the slave is one who carries out his own will less frequently and who carries out the will of others more frequently, and a free man is one who carries out his will more often and even less often the will of others. However, according to Christian understanding, the slave is one who carries out his will more often and even less often the will of God, and the free man is one who carries out the will of God more frequently and who carries out even less frequently, his own will.
To be a slave to the Lord is the only true and worthy freedom of man and, to be a slave to the world and to one’s self, sin and vice is the only fatal slavery.
Of the kings on the throne, a man would think: Are there any more free men on earth than those? However, many kings were the most base and the most unworthy slaves of the earth.
Of shackled Christians in the dungeons, a man would think: Are there any more miserable slaves on earth than they? However, the Christian martyrs in the prisons felt as free men and were filled with spiritual joy; they chanted Psalms and raised up prayers of gratitude to God.
Freedom which is tied to grief and sorrow is not freedom but slavery. Only freedom in Christ is tied with unspeakable joy. Lasting joy is the mark of true freedom.
O Lord Jesus, the only Good Lord, Who grants us freedom when You tie us stronger to Yourself, make us Your slaves as soon as possible that we would cease to be slaves of cruel and unmerciful masters. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Maintain Calmness and Simplicity - Don’t Struggle Directly With Temptations ( St. Porphyrios )

The Way of Love involves uniting ourselves with Christ. Our efforts should be continually focused on how we will be united with Him and keep Him continually in our heart. Our love for Christ is what must dominate both our mind and heart.

St. Porphyrios says,

What is holy and beautiful and what gladdens the heart and frees the soul from every evil is the effort to unite yourself to Christ, to love Christ, to crave for Christ and to live in Christ, just as Saint Paul said, ”It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). He advises us to make our struggle with calmness and simplicity. We don’t gain by forcing ourselves to be good or forcing ourselves to pray. We need to do things naturally and calmly. We need to do them because of our love of Christ. With love there is no need for forcing. When we love Christ we enthusiastically long for time in prayer and to participate in the Divine Liturgy and the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Confession.

Likewise when we love God we should not struggle with temptations. When we do we only acknowledge the strength of the temptation and it gains control in you. When temptations arise focus on your love of God instead of attacking. When our mind is filled with Love of Christ there is no room to entertain temptations.

He says,

Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God and adhesion to God. As we study the hymns and psalms, when we pray, devoting ourselves to love of Christ, we receive grace and are able to combat temptations with ease. The challenge is to keep our mind focused on our heart which contains our insatiable love of Christ.

St. Porphyrios

Reference: Wounded By Love, p 137

If even one passion becomes a habit with a person, it will torment him. ( Abba Dorotheus )

If even one passion becomes a habit with a person, it will torment him. Sometimes, even one evil habit can surmount many good deeds performed by a person. For example, if even only one talon of an eagle’s foot gets entangled in a net, he would be captured. Similarly, a soul can fall into the hands of the enemy because of one passion. Consequently, don’t allow even one passion to turn into a habit, but constantly pray to God so as not to succumb to temptation. If through our weakness we find ourselves conquered, let us force ourselves to arise immediately, begin to lament before God’s goodness and begin again to be vigilant and dutiful. And God seeing our good intentions, humility and penitent heart, will offer His helping hand and will deal with us according to His mercy.

Abba Dorotheus

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The True Cross

One time a poor monk named Gennadios came to the Sacred Monastery [of Dionysiou on Mount Athos] from New Skete of Saint Paul to seek charity. He was an old man over seventy years in age. Our abbot, Archimandrite Gabriel, gave him whatever he wanted, even in conversation and in the spiritual life. The old man among others confessed the wondrous vision below, and which testifies to his virtuous and holy life.

On 14 September in 1967, Xeropotamou Monastery celebrates because it has the large Honorable Cross which also has a hole to which the Lord was attached. Because of the feast he also went to celebrate with them and venerate the All-Holy Wood. During the time of veneration at the end of Orthros, the old man came into ecstasy, and saw that flames of fire came out of the Honorable Wood and the entire surrounding area, as if it was on fire. Seeing this in ecstasy he was amazed and said to himself: "How do the brother monks approach and embrace the Honorable Cross and do not burn?" And how would he himself approach and venerate? It seemed to him totally impossible. When it came time for him to venerate he pleaded to the Panagia from the depth of his soul and heart to help him to approach. And, O the wonder!, the flames he saw extinguished and thus with courage and much reverence he approached and venerated.

This virtuous old man reposed on the day of the Elevation of the Honorable Cross on September 14th, which is a sign of his reverence for the Honorable Cross.

Monk Lazarus Dionysiatis

CANON To the Guardian Angel

Troparion: O Angel of God, my holy Guardian, keep my life in the fear of Christ God, strengthen my mind in the true way and wound my soul with heavenly love, so that guided by Thee, I may obtain the great mercy of Christ God.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: O holy Lady, Mother of our God, thou didst amazingly bear the Creator of all: with my Guardian Angel always pray His kindness to save my soul inhibited and bound by passions, and grant me remission of sins.

Canon, tone 8.

Song 1.

Eirmos: Let us sing to the Lord Who led His people through the Red Sea, for He alone has triumphed gloriously.

Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us.


Grant me, Thy servant, O Savior, worthily to sing a song and to praise the fleshless Angel, my Guide and Guardian.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

I lay alone in folly and idleness, O my Guide and Guardian; forsake not me who am perishing.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Guide my mind by thy prayer to fulfill the commandments of God, and to receive from God remission of sins, and teach me to hate all wickedness, I pray thee.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: With my Guardian Angel, O Virgin, pray for me thy servant to the Bountiful One, and teach me to fulfill the commandments of thy Son and my Creator.

Song 3.

Eirmos: Thou art the strengthening of all who come to Thee, O Lord, Thou art the Light of those in darkness, and my spirit sings of Thee.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.


All my thoughts and my soul I have committed to thee, O my Guardian; deliver me from all attacks of the enemy.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

The enemy troubles and tramples on me, and teaches me to follow my own desires; but, O my Guide, forsake not the dying.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Grant me to sing with thanksgiving and fervor to my Creator and God, and to thee my good Angel Guardian: O my deliverer, rescue me from foes that trouble me.

Now and ewer, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: Heal, O immaculate one, the most painful wounds of my soul, and drive away the enemies ever fighting against me.

Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Sedation: From the love of my soul I cry to thee, O Guardian of my soul, my most holy Angel! Protect and guard me always from the hunting of the evil one, and guide me to the heavenly life; teach me and enlighten me and strengthen me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, who gavest birth without seed to the Lord of all, pray Him with my Guardian Angel to deliver me from all doubt, and to give to my soul feeling and light, and to cleanse me from sin, for thou alone art a quick defender.

Song 4.

Eirmos: I have heard, O Lord, the mystery of Thy plan. I contemplate Thy works, and glorify Thy divine nature.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.


Pray to God the Lover of men, and leave me not, O my Guardian, but ever keep my life in peace, and grant me the invincible salvation.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

As the defender and guardian of my life I received thee from God, O Angel. I pray thee, O holy one, free me from all harm.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Cleanse my foulness by thy holiness, O my Guardian, and may I be drawn from the left side by thy prayers, and become a partaker of glory.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: Perplexity confronts me through the evil surrounding me, O immaculate one, but deliver me from it speedily, for I run only to thee.

Song 5.

Eirmos: Rising early we cry to Thee, O Lord; save us, for Thou art our God, and other than Thee we know none.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.


As thou hast boldness towards God, my holy Guardian, pray Him to deliver me from the evils which offend me.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

O radiant light, make radiant my soul, my Guide and Guardian Angel, given me by God.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Keep me awake who sleep from the burden of my sins, O Angel of God, and by thy prayers raise me up to glorify Him.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: O Lady Mary, Virgin Mother of God, O hope of the faithful, subdue the attacks of the enemy, and to those who sing to thee give joy.

Song 6.

Eirmos: Grant me a garment of Light, O Thou Who wrappest Thyself in Light for a garment, most merciful Christ our God.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.


Deliver me from every misfortune and accident and save me from sorrow, I pray, O holy Angel, given to me as my good Guardian by God.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

Enlighten my mind, O good one, and illumine me, I pray thee, O holy Angel, and teach me to think always positively and profitably.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Calm my heart from present disturbance, and strengthen me to be awake to the good, O my Guardian, and guide me miraculously in quietness of life.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: The Word of God dwelt in thee, 0 Mother of God, and showed thee to men as the heavenly ladder. For by thee the Most High descended to us.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion: Have compassion on me, O holy Angel of the Lord, my Guardian, and leave me not, impure as I am, but irradiate me with the Divine Light, and make me worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Oikos: Grant my soul, humiliated by many temptations, the ineffable Heavenly Glory, O holy intercessor and singer with the Choirs of fleshless Powers of God. Have mercy and keep me, and illumine my soul with good thoughts, that I may be enriched by thy glory, O my Angel; subdue my foes who wish me evil, and make me worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Song 7.

Eirmos: Having arrived in Babylon from Judea, the children of old by their faith in the Trinity trod down the flame of the furnace singing: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.


Have mercy and pray for me, O Angel of the Lord, for I have thee as my defender for the whole of my life, the Guide and Guardian, given me by God forever.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

Let not my sinful pilgrim soul, given thee chaste by God, be murdered by robbers, O Holy Angel, but lead it to the way of repentance.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

My whole soul is disgraced by evil thoughts and acts, but make haste, O my Guide, and grant me healing with good thoughts, that I may always follow the right way.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

To Jesus: Fill with wisdom and divine strength all who cry with faith, through the Mother of God, to Thee, O Personal Wisdom of the Highest: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.

Song 8.

Eirmos: The King of Heaven, Whom Hosts of Angels praise, let us praise and exalt throughout all ages.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.


Strengthen the life of thy servant and never leave me, O gracious Angel, sent by God.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

I ever hymn thee, O Good Angel, Guide and Guardian of my soul, most blessed spirit.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Be my Veil and Visor in the Judgment Day of all men, when all deeds, good and evil, will be tried by fire.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: Be the help and peace of thy servant, O Ever-Virgin Mother of God, and leave me not bereft of thy protection.

Song 9.

Eirmos: Saved by thee, O pure Virgin, we confess thee to be supremely the Mother of God, and with Fleshless Choir we magnify thee.

O Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us.


Have mercy on me, O my only Savior, for Thou art merciful and kind-hearted, and make me a member of the Choirs of the Righteous.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

Grant me ever to think and do only what is useful, O Angel of the Lord, that I may be undefiled and strong in infirmity.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

Having boldness towards the Heavenly King, pray Him, with the other Angels, to have mercy on me, wretched as I am.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: O Virgin, who hast great boldness towards Him Who took flesh of thee, deliver me from attachments and grant me forgiveness and salvation by thy prayers.

Prayer to the Holy Guardian Angel

Holy Angel of Christ, I fall down and pray to thee, my holy Guardian, given me from holy Baptism for the protection of my sinful body and soul. By my laziness and bad habits, I have angered thy most pure light, and have driven thee away from me by all my shameful deeds, lies, slanders, envy, condemnation, scorn, disobedience, brotherly-hatred, grudges, love of money, adultery, anger, meanness, greed, excess, talkativeness, negative and evil thoughts, proud ways, dissolute madness, having self-will in all the desires of the flesh. O my evil will, which even the dumb animals do not follow! How canst thou look at me or approach me who am like a stinking dog? With what eyes, O Angel of Christ, wilt thou look at me so badly snared in evil deeds? How can I ask forgiveness for my bitter, evil and wicked deeds, into which I fall every day and night, and every hour? But I fall down and pray, O my holy Guardian: pity me, thy sinful and unworthy servant (Name). Be my helper and protector against my wicked enemy, by thy holy prayers, and make me a partaker of the Kingdom of God with all the Saints, always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.