Sunday, August 20, 2017

I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )



“Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? Very simply, because pleasure and happiness accustom one to satisfaction with the things given in this world, whereas pain and suffering drive one to seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of this world. I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus—not necessarily to relieve the pain, but that Jesus, in Whom alone we may transcend this world, may be with me during it, and His will be done in me. But in pleasure I do not call on Him; I am content then with what I have, and I think I need no more. And why is a philosophy of pleasure untenable?—because pleasure is impermanent and unreliable, and pain is inevitable. In pain and suffering Christ speaks to us, and thus God is kind to give them to us, yes, and evil too—for in all of these we glimpse something of what must lie beyond, if there really exists what our hearts most deeply desire.”


Fr. Seraphim Rose

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Elevation of the Bread in Honour of the Most Holy Mother of God ( Saint Maximos the Greek )


The Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, who became a human person for us (though He was sinless), voluntarily underwent the crucifixion, death and burial so that our human nature, which the father of evil had caused to be cast out of paradise in olden times, could be elevated. Christ rose, however, and was elevated to His initial glory, and then sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to his disciples and apostles. After the God/Man/Word ascended into heaven, the eye-witnesses and servants of the Lord were in the upper room, as Saint Luke tells us, and after they had received the Holy Spirit they were unwilling to neglect preaching the Word of God in order to wait on tables. So they appointed deacons in their place. When the preachers of salvation sat down at table, they placed on it a napkin with a loaf on it, which was the Saviour’s portion and similar to those He had eaten when He was still incarnate among them, before His passion.

When the holy apostles rose from the table, the oldest and first among them took the loaf in his hands, raised it up and proclaimed ‘Great is the name’. The other disciples of the Word responded ‘of the Holy Trinity’. Then the deacon who was serving said ‘Glory to You in the name of Christ the Saviour’. And the apostles again answered ‘Glory to You our God’. The name of the Holy Consubstantial Trinity without beginning was said once and ‘glory to You our God, glory to You’ twice, because of the two elements, divinity and humanity, the two energies and two natures, and their perfect union in the God/Man/Word.

The holy apostles performed this rite both when they were together and when they were apart, after they’d gone out to teach all the nations. At the Dormition of the Holy, Most Pure, Ever-Virgin Mary, the Sinless, Uncorrupt, Mother of the Word, the Most Honourable and Sublime of all celestial concepts, the renewal of our race, the most precious, God-receiving vessel of the whole of the Divinity, the apostles, who were at the ends of the known world, were taken up in clouds and transported to Gethsemane to offer their services at the burial of the most pure body of the Mother of God the Word. By God’s will, which sees and arranges all things, the holy and great Apostle Thomas was not with the others at the burial of the Mother of the Word, just as, when the Saviour appeared to His disciples behind closed doors after His resurrection and taught them about peace, Thomas wasn’t there and didn’t believe the other disciples and companions.

Because of this good disbelief, he taught us, through touching the most pure members of the Saviour’s body- the ribs and the hands- that we should believe that He Who suffered the Passion while still among us is indeed the perfect God. So, in this instance, too, by the ineffable and unspoken will of Him Who orders all things and governs all things well, Thomas wasn’t present at the funeral of the Mother of God. He came three days later, borne on a cloud and immediately hastened to the grave, together with the other apostles, in order to venerate the life-receiving body of the Mother of God. And so the whole of the human race was given salvation and the correct faith.


Dormition of Theotokos, by hand of Georgios Kordis, egg tempera on wood

Just as the incarnate God rose from the dead, so the holy body of His Mother was taken up into the heavenly domain. On their return from the grave, the apostles talked to Thomas, the preacher of the truth, about how he was transported on the cloud. They recalled the words of the song of the Mother of God, her miracles and her final resting in the grave. He in turn related the persecutions, the temptations and the hardships he’d suffered on his journey. He named the cities, the residents of which had come to believe through his preaching, and also told them what he saw when he was taken up in the cloud. He told them all of this. Then they went to eat and thereafter began to elevate the portion which had been placed in honour of Christ the Saviour.

When the deacon who was performing this rite took this bread in his hands, he raised it and said ‘Great is the name’ and the apostles replied ‘of the Holy Trinity’. And when he said ‘Glory to you our God glory to you’- oh, how ineffable and delightful are Your mysteries, Christ our King, through which you perform miracles! Wishing to satisfy the great desire of the Apostle Thomas to see the All Holy and Ever-Virgin Mother of God, You allowed him to see You and Your holy Mother, all the heavenly powers and all those who had fallen asleep throughout the ages ascending from earth to heaven. The apostles gazed in terror at Our Lady and her Only-Begotten Son. And instead of saying ‘Glory to You, our God, glory to You’, they exclaimed ‘Most Holy Mother of God, help us!’ And other apostles shouted ‘Through her intercessions, God, have mercy upon us and save us!’ Since then, this elevation of the ‘Panayia’, Our Most Holy Lady, has been celebrated in commemoration of the Mother of God herself.

And so we celebrate the elevation of the ‘Panagia’ when we rise from the table, for the sanctifying of our souls and bodies. Who can praise in an appropriate way her innumerable miracles, which are still being performed to this day? Were we able to concentrate the eloquence of all orators into one mouth and a single voice, we still wouldn’t be able to find a way to tell the secrets of her wonders, which she performs on land and sea: illnesses disappear, demons are put to flight, prisoners are liberated from bitter enslavement, the down-trodden are freed from the misery that oppresses them. And from what I’ve seen and heard, anyone who raises a finger, a stone, or some plant in her memory and her name receives the same deliverance from tribulations as the person who elevates the bread in honour of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, took the bread in His hands and said ‘Take, eat; this is my body’ and ‘do this in remembrance of me’. Christ is the head, which is why those who partake of His great mystery, if they receive it worthily, will receive His glory and become gods by grace.

Those who instituted the sacraments were pleased to confirm that, because of this bread which is elevated in honour of the holy name of the Mother of God, we should be delivered from every evil and should partake of her holy body. And, thanks to her protection, that we should be delivered from eternal torments and be counted worthy of the eternal blessings, through her prayers and those of all the saints throughout the ages. Amen.
 
http://pemptousia.com/2017/08/the-story-behind-the-elevation-of-the-bread-in-honour-of-the-most-holy-mother-of-god/

The Dormition of the Mother of God: a liturgical approach

The feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated on August 15 by the Christian world and is the greatest of those established by the Church in honour of the Mother of the Lord. It may be the oldest of all. The first evidence we have for it dates from the 5th century, round about the time when the 3rd Ecumenical Synod was called in Ephesus (451), at which the dogma of the Mother of God was defined and the honour due to her was developed. It appears that it was first held in Jerusalem on 13 August and was transposed soon afterwards to the 15th of the same month. It was a general feast of the Virgin, without particular reference to her Dormition.

It was called “the day of Mary, the Mother of God”. The centre for the celebrations initially was a kathisma (seat), a church in her name, which was located outside Jerusalem, some three miles along the road leading to Bethlehem. The association of the feast with the Dormition of the Mother of God occurred at the famous church of Our Lady in Gethsemane, “Mavrikios’ house of prayer”, where her grave was. This church quickly acquired the status of the most important pilgrimage site of the Mother of God, and its renown became the reason why the feast on 15 August quickly spread throughout the Christian world, East and West, as the feast of the Dormition.



The feast was later elevated, with a preparatory fast and the extension of the feasting until 23 August or even to the end of the month and so it became not only the greatest of the feasts of the Mother of God but also one of the most important in the Church’s year. It was only natural that this should be so, because Our Lady is the best-loved and holy person after Christ, which is why she has attracted the honour and veneration of all generations of Christians. Countless churches and monasteries have been built in honour of her Dormition; in every church, behind the main entrance, wonderful wall-paintings of astonishing composition depict her funeral; her service his been embellished with choice hymns; and fine words and encomia have been expressed by the Fathers and modern Church figures on the day when we commemorate her. All generations of humankind have rivalled each other in presenting the best they have to offer, to praise and bless the Virgin Mary in word and deed.

THE FESTAL CONTENT OF THE FEAST

If we are to understand the festal content of the feast of the Dormition, and indeed, that of the other feasts of the Mother of God, the Conception, the Nativity, and the Entry, we need to look back briefly at the sources from which the information concerning her was drawn. Otherwise, it’s impossible to interpret all the things associated with this celebration: the narratives, the hymnography and the iconography. The authentic historical sources, the Gospels and the other books of the New Testament have not preserved any information about her life before the Annunciation or after the Ascension of the Lord. The intention of the authors was to narrate the life and the work of salvation of Christ, and whatever was directly linked with Him; not to satisfy the devout curiosity or the historical interests of their readers. By word of mouth, however, the tradition of the Church preserved various pieces of information having to do with the life of the Mother of God before the Conception of the Lord and after His Resurrection. Thereafter different authors, devout for the most part, took this information and embellished it throough their imagination, and, to give their works greater kudos, affixed great apostolic names to them. The Church rejected these works and called them apocryphal and falsified. In later times, many of these narratives, in their most basic forms, provided the subject matter for the formation of feasts, the construction of narratives, the poetry of hymns and the composition of icons. In any case, as we’ve said, the core of these narratives had as its base very old historical traditions concerning the person of the Mother of God.

STORY OF THE EVENT OF THE DORMITION

The event of the Dormition, in particular, is told, apart from elsewhere, in an apocryphal narrative which bears the name John, the disciple beloved of Christ. We shall present a summary of this lengthy text here. At each point, the reader will recall corresponding phrases from the hymns and synaxarion of the feast and details from the icon of the Dormition, which was composed by Byzantine artists.

After Christ’s Ascension, the Mother of God went to the life-receiving tomb every day and prayed. One Friday, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and saluted her: “Hail, you who bore Christ our God. The Lord has heard your prayer and you will leave the world and enter the true and eternal life”. The Mother of God returned home, burned incense and prayed to Christ to send her John and the other apostles, so that they could be present at her death. Her petition was heard and the first to arrive, snatched up in a cloud was John and then the others were borne by clouds and came from the ends of the earth, to which they had scattered. The Lord arrived in his radiant glory and, with thousands of angels, He received the soul of His Mother. She blessed the apostles and the world, interceded for the salvation of all and, having been given the assurance that any soul invoking her name would not be put to shame but would find mercy and comfort and defence and boldness in the present life and that of the future, she gave up her holy soul into the hands of her Son.

The apostles surrounded the body and, chanting, lifted up her bed with the body lying upon it, to be buried. A Jew by the name of Jeronias made to attack the bed, but an angel of the Lord, with a sword of fire, cut off his arms at the shoulder, and they remained attached to the bed. He repented and they were re-attached, while the apostles continued the cortege undisturbed. The body was buried in a new tomb in Gethsemane, but on the third day was transported to Paradise.

CHURCH POETRY

The poetry of the Church has embellished this simple narrative. The three stikhira (poetic hymns) in the first tone at Vespers (the first an automelos [contrafactum] and the others based upon it) praise the Mother of God and her Dormition in a wonderful manner. The substructure, however, can easily be recognized as the apocryphal narrative: Gethsemane, the words of Gabriel, the presence of the angelic powers, the transition from the grave to heaven.

The stikhira at Lauds in the 4th tone have the same theme. In the first, the whole cosmos, heavenly and earthly, rejoices, accompanying the mother of Christ and singing a funeral song for her. The other two describe the arrival of the apostles and their chanting at the graveside, as well as the presence of the angelic powers and the reception of her spotless soul by Christ.

Finally, let us take a look at the most exceptional tropario of her feast, and, indeed, of all our troparia. It is the doxastiko at Vespers. It takes its subject matter from the apocryphal narrative. The exceptional nature of the hymn lies in the fact that it is not sung in only one tone, as are all the other Church hymns, but in all eight.

Tone 1

By the royal command all the God-bearing apostles were snatched up into clouds on high

Tone Plagial 1

On reaching your immaculate and life-giving body, they embraced it fervently.

Tone 2

The highest powers of heavens attended, with their own master,

Tone Plagial 2

Seized with awe, they accompanied your inviolate body which had held God, and went on high before you, calling, unseen, to the ranks above: “Behold the Maid of God, the Queen of all, is at hand”.

Tone 3

Open wide the gates and welcome the mother of the everlasting light.

Tone Plagial 3

For through her the salvation of mortals has come; we are not strong enough to look upon her and are unable to render honours worthy of her.

Tone 4

For her excellence is beyond all conception

Tone Plagial 4

Therefore, most pure Mother of God, living forever with your Son and life-bearing King, pray without ceasing that your young people may be sheltered and saved from every adverse assault, for we have your protection.

Tone 1

And we bless you in beauty and light unto all ages.

Source: Λογική Λατρεία [Logical Worship], Apostoliki Diakonia Publications, Athens 1984.

(www.apostoliki-diakonia.gr)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Christ, Church, Husband, And Wife

Image result for orthodox wedding

“For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:23)

Some brides-to-be resent this epistle read at every Orthodox Church wedding. They think it’s sexist—not politically correct in this era of liberation of women. But that objection is misdirected. This advice of St. Paul is not about subordination of woman to man, nor is it about control. This is about love. The holy apostle is not putting wives down; he’s raising the vision of husbands to a spiritual awareness of responsibility.

It’s a daring equation, comparing the husband with Christ. Can a Christian who wears a cross at his neck and hangs a cross in his bedroom not comprehend the great, sacrificial love that Jesus Christ has demonstrated for His Church? There is not an atom of selfishness in it. Who reading the gospels can find somewhere or some word of the loving Lord that suggests, “What’s in it for Me?” Show me a place that implies the Church doing something for Christ, rather than what Christ is doing for the Church.

St. Paul is speaking to all married men. Do you expect or even demand obedience from your wives? Look up at Christ on the cross. Will you ever do that for her? You insist that your wife love you exclusively. That’s your right as a husband and her obligation as your wife. Then you must first demonstrate your willingness to lay down your life in her behalf. If it comes to one of you making a sacrifice for the sake of the family, step out smartly and be the one who offers his life for wife and family. Yes, granted, St. Paul wrote that the husband is the head of the wife, but that’s not all he wrote on the subject. The love of Christ for the Church is your measure of your own adoration of your wife. God forbid that you ever terrorize her, intimidate her or control her by temper tantrums or any of the more subtle mind control methods rampant in our culture. You were commissioned by Christ in the sacred sacrament of marriage to love and honor her—she is ever your queen, and you must look for the crown still worn on her head, albeit invisibly.

Your love for her must be always pure and sacred. She is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and you must do nothing to defile that living temple. She is baptized in the blessed water of Jordan. It takes nothing from the romance or the love act to treat your wife as a being precious in the sight of the Lord. Any expression of love that degrades, humiliates or plain uses the partner is unworthy of your marriage. Any violation of your marital obligations to one another, adultery or lewdness, will invite the serpent of evil into your bed, cause you deceit and hypocrisy, and reduce you to shame and self-rejection.

True love will be constantly in search of ways to please your spouse, not yourself. Real affection is given through a glance, a touch, a card or flower. This woman is not your cook, your washerwoman or maid. She is far more than the one who cares for your children. If that’s all she is to you, you are unworthy of calling yourself her husband.

If as you heard at the wedding, you “leave father and mother and cleave to your wife,” she has become your very body. You are one flesh and blood with her. You can no more separate yourself from her that you would hack off your right arm. Despite our wicked society, you don’t change partners; you live with the one that God gave you.

Most of all, your love is a reflection of the love of Christ for your spiritual family and the Church of which you all are a part. Your home is an extension of your parish, a chapel where love is the binding ingredient between your family members and with the loving Lord and yourself.
 
http://www.pravmir.com/christ-church-husband-and-wife/

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Abbess Makrina of Portaria and Her Teachings


This beautiful article (and the photos that accompany it) is on our holy mother among the saints, Abbess Makrina of Portaria. As many of my readers know, I love blessed Makrina very much and so I wanted to share this lovely article.

 Chosen of God from her mother’s womb The blessed eldress experienced many sorrows—her parents’ untimely death, mortal illnesses, hunger, the horrors of war, and hard physical labor.

She was chosen of God from her mother’s womb. When Maria was only seven years old, during prayers with other children she heard an inner voice calling her to the angelic life of monasticism. At that same moment, the girl experienced a divine presence in her heart and began to weep with copious tears. She left her friends, ran home, and fell weeping before the holy icons.

On the same evening, after her father had returned home, Maria told him that she would like to become a nun. When her father asked whether she knew what it meant to become a nun, his little daughter didn’t answer. Then he understood that this was a call from God. He smiled at Maria, and strengthening her holy desire said, “Be a good nun, my child!”

How Maria was healed from a mortal illness

From her earliest childhood, Maria always had great reverence for the Most Pure Theotokos. During the German occupation, the girl was diagnosed with pleurisy. Once she was sitting alone in a dark room, dying from hunger and praying to the Mother of God, peacefully waiting for her to take her from this life. At a certain moment the room was filled with light, and Maria saw a nun who came up to her and lovingly promised to heal her. In a moment the pain and feeling of hunger disappeared, and Maria felt as if she had just eaten a satisfying dinner. After this miraculous vision she was also healed of that serious case of pleurisy.

“I have never seen such pure thoughts in any other person.”

The blessed eldress was closely acquainted with several Greek ascetics of piety, several of whom have recently been glorified as saints by the Church. When she first met the now canonized St. Paisios the Hagiorite and made a full prostration to the ground before him, the elder responded quickly by making a full prostration before her. He would not rise until the eldress rose first. St. Paisios reposed only two months after blessed Macrina’s soul had passed to eternity.* When he heard about the blessed nun’s reposed, the saint said, “there will not be another one like her.”

The blessed elder Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Euboa said to some people who lived near Abbess Macrina’s monastery, “If I were you I would walk every day to the monastery to receive a blessing from Eldress Macrina before going to work.” St. Porphyrios of Kapsokalyvia and Elder Ieronymos of blessed memory both also spoke very highly of Gerondissa Macrina.
Elder Ephraim of Arizona and Abbess Macrina.

Elder Ephraim of Arizona wrote of blessed Macrina: “She was an extraordinarily virtuous person and was distinguished by her humility, meekness, attentiveness, and ceaseless prayer. She had a wondrous purity of mind. I have never seen such pure thoughts in any other person.”

Abbess Macrina’s monastery became a “divine nursery”.

Thanks to Abbess Macrina, the Panagia Hodigitria Monastery became a “divine nursery,” out of which grew several new monasteries in the U.S. and Canada. Today in the Greek Archdiocese of North America there are already ten convents, and all of them trace their history to St. Joseph the Hesychast.
Abbess Macrina and sisters.

Five stories of the blessed eldress Macrina.

We would like to share with you, dear readers, several stories that blessed Macrina related to her spiritual children for their edification.

The first story, about the pious widow

One day a widow heard someone knocking at her door. When she opened it she saw a young, pregnant woman whom she had never seen before. The woman said to her, weeping, “You are my mother, you are my protector, you are my salvation!” Without any hesitation the widow let the woman into her home and over the next few months secretly took care of her. Every evening when it was dark outside, she took the woman out for a walk so that she would remain strong and healthy, but in such a way that no one else would see her. Not long before the woman gave birth, with her consent the widow found a pious couple who agreed to adopt the child.

Soon afterwards, the widow’s son, who lived in America, contacted her and asked her to find him a good and pious girl to take in marriage. His mother asked him to come to Greece as soon as possible, because she had found him a wonderful girl whom he could marry. Before introducing him to the young woman, she told him all about how she had met the girl, and that she had given birth out of wedlock.

At first the son was disturbed, because he couldn’t believe his mother would choose a bride for him who had already lost her purity. But she was able to convince him that this was God’s will and that they would live happily together. So, the marriage took place in the widow’s village, and then the son returned to the United States with his young wife.

During that year of 1919, a flu pandemic broke out in Europe resulting in 20 million deaths, and the pious widow became one of those victims. Since her son could not arrive in time for his mother’s funeral, he decided to come when her body would be exhumed after three years for internment in the ossuary (according to the Greek tradition).
Eldress Macrina, Elder Ephraim, and Fr. Joseph.

When three years later they were nearing the place of burial, the air was filled with a wondrous fragrance that everyone noticed. But that was not the entire miracle: God had covered the widow’s bones with a filigree of pure gold. When her son’s wife saw this she fell to the ground on her knees, broke into tears and said to all, “This is because she protected me!” When this became known, a multitude of people came from all over Greece to venerate the pious widow, and they became the witnesses of this event. This included many bishops and priests!

How many wounded souls Gerondissa Macrina “protected” with her unconditional love! And how many more does she continue to protect with her constant intercession and prayer for us before the heavenly throne of God!

The blessed eldress always taught her sisters and those who came to her for spiritual advice to give glory to God for all things: for the so-called good and the so-called bad. Here is a story she related regarding this:

In one of the villages near her monastery there lived a pious couple who had a ten-year-old son. Their next-door neighbor was an old woman with an intolerable personality. She was constantly berating everyone, angrily and unfairly scolding her neighbors, and when their son would return from school she would throw sticks and stones at him.

One day the father turned to God with fervent prayer and decided to ask Him how to deal with that old woman’s bad temper. The Lord answered him, “She will live another thirty years!” And what was the man’s response to this news? He unmurmuringly said, “Glory to God!” He shared God’s answer with his wife and she likewise said, “Glory to God!” When the son came home from school and heard the news about God’s answer to his father’s prayer he also said, “Glory to God!”
Elder Ephraim and Gerondissa Macrina.

The next day, total silence reigned in the old woman’s house. She did not go outside to pour out her wrath upon her neighbors. The father went to see how she was doing and discovered that she had apparently died in her sleep. He began to pray to God in order to understand how this could happen, and the Lord said to him, “When you answered, ‘Glory to God!’ I shortened her life by ten years. When your wife gave the same reply I took away another ten years. And when your son said the same thing and also glorified Me, I took away the final ten years of her life.”

The third story, about the need for struggle with the spirit of contradiction

There is another story that Eldress Macrina often retold about the prophet Moses. When Moses was with the Israelites in the desert, they were dying of thirst. God commanded the prophet Moses to strike his staff against the rock so that a spring of water would come out. The prophet doubted: “Is it possible for water to come out of a rock?”

During her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the blessed Eldress Macrina went to find this place. She called it the “rock of contradiction”.

Moses did not show immediate obedience to the Lord—he showed it late. Afterwards the Lord said to him, “Because you gainsaid Me you will never enter Canaan, the Promised Land.”

The eldress said that we should war with the spirit of contradiction and try to always show obedience. That is why obedience is the first and foremost thing taught in a monastery.

This story was told by the eldress’s spiritual daughter Alexandra Lagou, professor of medical history at the University of Medicine of Ioannina in Greece. One of blessed Macrina’s favorite teachings was about God’s great goodness—it was often found in her talks. She often spoke a great deal about patience. I remember how she taught me with her characteristic gentleness. “Is there any end to God’s great goodness? No! So should human patience also be endless.”

I remember, after 1992, when blessed Macrina went to America to see Gerondissa Taxiarchia of blessed memory. The flight over the ocean that lasted many hours produced such a strong impression on her that later she said to me, “What a miracle that is: You fly and fly, and beneath you is nothing but ocean! God’s great goodness is endless like the ocean. So should human patience be endless, like the ocean.”
Eldress Macrina with the sisters.

Many times at the end of our talks I would incline my head on her knees so that she would bless me, and she would bless me and say, “Like an enormous ocean, like great rivers and valleys, may the Lord grant us so much patience.” At the word “patience” she would use the plural. She would also say, “The grace of patience is the strongest grace,” because patience is at the foundation of all virtues. We cannot perform a single virtue without patience.

The fifth story, about Maria’s miraculous healing

Many of blessed Macrina’s instructions point to the primary importance of prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. The eldress often emphasized the acute need for us to have “spiritual assertiveness”, in praying the Jesus prayer and in the reading of our daily prayer rule. Here is one of her favorite stories, which she would relate when talking about prayer.

One woman named Maria had a stroke, after which she remained totally paralyzed below the waist and to some degree on her upper right side. Eldress Macrina had taught her five years before her stroke to repeat the Jesus prayer and the prayer, Most Holy Theotokos, save us” as often as possible throughout the day, and when some essential need has arisen.

So now, confined to her bed and motionless, with her prayer rope in her left hand, Maria ceaselessly, with pain and boldness, called out, “Most Holy Theotokos, help me!” and “Most Holy Theotokos, save me, a sinner!”
Eldress Macrina’s cell.

After several days of this heartfelt prayer, one time the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her during her prayers. She was radiant, bright as the sun, and followed by a multitude of Angels and Archangels; and Maria felt that the Mother of God literally covers and protects the whole world!

The Most Holy Theotokos said with her heavenly voice, “Maria, my child, what can I do for you?” This pious woman at first asked her to give her back her ability to turn from one side to the other, because she was in great pain. But then she started begging, “In fact, most of all I want to be saved. I thirst for salvation, and that’s why I am calling out to You.” And our most kind Protectress replied, “I will give you what you ask; that is what I came for, because you called to me day and night. I want all of you to call to Me! Call out to Me constantly, and I will hear you and come to you.”

The entire room and the whole house were filled with radiance and a heavenly fragrance that came from the Mother of God. But in the words of the blessed Eldress Macrina, all of this woman’s family members were witnesses to this living miracle. The heavenly fragrance remained in the house for many days, especially in the sick woman’s room. Maria’s face shone with the grace she had received. She not only began gradually to turn from one side to the other, but in just a few days she was completely healed and rose from her bed of pain.

At the end of this story, Gerondissa Macrina concluded that the Most Holy Theotokos wants for EVERYONE to call upon Her for help. The eldress said, “What did she say? ‘I want you all to call upon Me. I want you to call me, and then I will hear you and come. I want you to call to Me, ‘Help me, Most Holy Theotokos, Most Holy Theotokos save me, Most Holy Theotokos save my child,’ and tell Me everything you want from the depths of your heart’.”

The blessed eldress showed through this story that the Most Holy Theotokos WANTS for us to turn to Her and She promises us that She will help us by her presence!

Through the prayers of blessed Gerondissa Macrina, Most Holy Theotokos, save us! 
 
https://lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/abbess-makrina-of-portaria-and-her-teachings/

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Attention is the first teacher of truth and consequently absolutely necessary ( St. Nektarios of Aegina )

Attention is the first teacher of truth and consequently absolutely necessary.
  Attention rouses the soul to study itself and its longings, to learn their true character and repulse those that are unholy. 
Attention is the guardian angel of the intellect, always counseling it this : be attentive. 
Attention awakens the soul, rouses it from sleep... Attention examines every thought, every desire, every memory. Thoughts, desires, and memories are engendered by various causes, and often appear masked and with splendid garb, in order to deceive the inattentive intellect and enter into the soul and dominate it. 
Only attention can reveal their hidden form. Often their dissimulation is so perfect that the discernment of their true nature is very difficult and requires the greatest attention. One must remember the saving words of the Lord: "Be wakeful and pray that ye enter not into temptation." He who is wakeful does not enter into temptation, because he is vigilant and attentive.

St. Nektarios of Aegina

Hope in God ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )



Question yourself as to whether this faith is within you, or perhaps you are led by worldly wisdom. And if you leave all things in the hands of God, behold! 
 
You have acquired faith and undoubtedly, without any question, you will find God to be your helper. And so, even should you be tried a myriad of times and should satan tempt you to abandon faith, prefer death a thousand times more and don’t obey worldly wisdom.
 
 In this way the door of the mysteries will be opened to you and you will be amazed how the chains of worldly wisdom previously bound you.
 
 Now you will fly with divine wings above the earth and breathe the new air of freedom, which, of course, others are deprived of. If, however, you see that within you, you are governed by worldly wisdom, and in the smallest danger you lose hope and despair, know that you have not yet acquired faith, and consequently also hope, in God. 
 
Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Seek truth with love... ( St. Nicholas of Serbia )

Truth is not a thought, not a word, not a relationship between things, not a law. Truth is a Person. 
It is a Being which exceeds all beings and gives life to all. If you seek truth with love and for the sake of love, she will reveal the light of His face to you in as much as you are able to bear it without being burned. 
 
St. Nicholas of Serbia

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Man is more than sublime when he cares for the dead. ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )



Man is sublime when he cares for the living; man is more than sublime when he cares for the dead.

A man often cares for the living out of selfishness. But what selfishness can there be in a man’s caring for the dead? Can the dead pay him, or express their gratitude?

Some animals bury their dead; giving them to the grave, they give them over to forgetfulness. But when a living man buries a dead one, he buries a part of himself with the dead man and returns home carrying a part of the dead man in his soul. This is especially clear – terribly clear – when a kinsman buries a kinsman, and a friend a friend.

O gravediggers, in how many graves have you already been buried, and how many corpses live in you! 
 
St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? . . . ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )

“Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? Very simply, because pleasure and happiness accustom one to satisfaction with the things given in this world, whereas pain and suffering drive one to seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of this world. I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus—not necessarily to relieve the pain, but that Jesus, in Whom alone we may transcend this world, may be with me during it, and His will be done in me. But in pleasure I do not call on Him; I am content then with what I have, and I think I need no more. And why is a philosophy of pleasure untenable?—because pleasure is impermanent and unreliable, and pain is inevitable. In pain and suffering Christ speaks to us, and thus God is kind to give them to us, yes, and evil too—for in all of these we glimpse something of what must lie beyond, if there really exists what our hearts most deeply desire.”
 Fr. Seraphim Rose

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sometimes the devil deceives us and makes us unable to be pleased with anything ( St. Paisios )



Grumbling is caused by misery and it can be put aside by doxology (giving praise). Grumbling begets grumbling and doxology begets doxology. when someone doesn’t grumble over a problem troubling him, but rather praises God, then the devil gets frustrated and goes off to someone else who grumbles, in order to cause everything to go even worse for him. You see, the more one grumbles, the more one falls into ruin.

Sometimes the devil deceives us and makes us unable to be pleased with anything; however, one can celebrate all things in a spiritual manner, with doxology, and secure God’s constant blessing. 
 
St. Paisios

Friday, July 14, 2017

Have no anxiety about anything . . . ( St. Paul )

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
 
St. Paul, Philippians 4:6

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How often our church life is just a matter of habit! ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )

 Every Orthodox Christian is placed between two worlds: this fallen world where we try to work out our salvation, and the other world, heaven, the homeland towards which we are striving and which, if we are leading a true Christian life, gives us the inspiration to live from day to day in Christian virtue and love.But the world is too much with us. We often, and in fact nowadays we usually forget the heavenly world. The pressure of worldliness is so strong today that we often lose track of what our life as a Christian is all about.


Even if we may be attending church services frequently and consider ourselves “active” church members, how often our churchliness is only something external, bound up with beautiful services and the whole richness of our Orthodox tradition of worship, but lacking in real inner conviction that Orthodoxy is the faith that can save our soul for eternity, lacking in real love for and commitment to Christ, the incarnate God and Founder of our faith.


How often our church life is just a matter of habit, something we go through outwardly but which does not change us inwardly, does not make us grow spiritually and lead us to eternal life in God.

Fr. Seraphim Rose

Friday, June 30, 2017

God's grace through divine healing




We appeal to God for the healing of our souls and bodies only as a last resort. God’s healing is always a miraculous act, and we are afraid of facing the manifestation of the almighty power of God. Although the healing we receive from God is a gift, we also know that its implications are many and everlasting.

There is a price tag on divine healing, and the price is a complete change of life. It is indeed a serious price – for change does not come easily. For this reason, divine healing can only take place when it is really wanted. It also requires a total submission and a full commitment to the relationship of faith with God’s divine power.



In order to understand this process, we can look closely at the healing performed by our Lord, Jesus Christ at the pool called Bethesda by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. An angel of the Lord would come down at a certain time and stir the waters of the pool. Then, “whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had” (John 5:4).

At the pool, there was a man who had suffered from an infirmity for thirty-eight years. “When Jesus saw him lying there,” says the Gospel, “and knew that he already had been in that condition for a long time, He said to the him, ‘Do you want to be made well’ ” (complete, whole)?

At first, this question seemed superfluous to the sick man as suggested by his answer: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

But the Lord’s question had a deeper meaning. The Lord asked the sick man if he really wanted to be made well and if he were ready to pay the price of the divine healing that the Lord was about to perform. Was he committed to the relationship that would be established by the divine intervention about to take place? Was he ready to submit totally to the will of God?

Divine healing would not only take away the man’s infirmity, but would also change his life forever. It would change his heart and his mind. It would also make him spiritually well. So, in other words, the Lord was asking the sick man, “Are you ready to be touched by God in this special way?”

When he agreed, Jesus commanded him, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”

The man obeyed the Lord, even though he knew it was the Sabbath day.

Those who saw him carrying his bed, reminded him, “It is the Sabbath day, and it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Showing his complete submission to the Lord, he answered them: “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ”

After the healing, the Lord disappeared among the multitudes of people.

The Gospel says that, at this point, the healed man did not know who Jesus was. It was only after awhile that the Lord met him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing will happen to you.”

First of all, in the healing process, the sick man obtained the forgiveness of his sins. Secondly, the healing that he accepted changed his life so much that he could not go back to his old ways of understanding or leading his life. In fact, it was as if the sick man was arraigned and placed on divine parole. “If you break your parole,” the Lord seemed to say, “you will not only go back to your old situation, but to an even worse one.”

Divine healing as a gift from God, still has a spiritual price. When we pay it, however, we help ourselves. It changes us more drastically then anything before has ever changed us.

It calls us to a new life, a renewed relationship with our fellow man, and a total submission to God. That’s why it often seems much easier to take a pill and go to bed, or to see a doctor and then complain about the bill.

Nonetheless, have courage my friends. Don’t be afraid to appeal to God’s healing and to accept His purifying power that changes everything within you. Divine healing erases our sinful past, makes well of our present and helps save our souls. We must also remember that His healing will place us on divine parole, and that we must sin no more. Amen.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

St. John the Forerunner performs miracles

I heard the following account that took place in 1937 [says monk Lazaros] to my amazement and surprise from monk Chrysanthos:
"As you are aware, Father Lazarus, for many years now I have repeatedly attempted to become a
director and member the monastery’s Council of Elders.

After trying at length, pleading with various fathers, and oftentimes bringing this matter up
with the Abbot without success, I became
extremely distraught and upset.Through the
synergy of the devil, I became despondent and my mind was darkened to such an extent that I decided to put an end to my life. "Can you believe it?" I would ask myself.


"They appoint so many other younger monks to
this position! But they disregard me, even though I have grown old in this monastery working at so many different assignments! I will not tolerate this any longer. I'll go down to the shore, and jump in the ocean then it will be on their conscience."


I pondered on these thoughts for a several days, until I firmly decided to go through with it. However, our merciful Lord, through the intercessions of our holy patron Saint John the Honorable Forerunner, gave me the thought to fast for three days prior to executing my plan.


I thus isolated myself in my room for three days.
I shut my door and window shutters, and, within the darkness of my cell, I prayed continuously for two days and nights without eating or drinking anything, without even lying down on my bed. I prayed standing, then seated, and when I sensed sleep coming on, I would again arise to pray. On the third day, around 10 o'clock in the evening, suddenly a brilliant light appeared that lit up my entire room.


Simultaneously, I heard a loud voice saying to me: "Why aren't you at peace? Why are you distraught
and planning to go down to the shore to drown in t
he sea?" As soon as I saw the light and heard this voice, the sadness and dejection that had been plaguing me altogether disappeared, and I began
crying, wailing, and shedding tears, asking for forgiveness, and confessing that I had sinned and been deceived by the evil one: "Forgive me, Saint John..." He then responded, "Why have you stopped chanting?

Why haven't you approached the chanter's stand this past week, but instead you wander about here and there asking to become a director? Don't I know who should become a director? If I don't want you to become a director, how can you become one? Don't I know who should become a director?" In the meantime, I had fallen to the ground and was weeping ceaselessly,
begging for forgiveness, and promising that henceforth I would be at peace, I would return to the chanter's stand, and never again seek to become a director.


After I said these things,the brilliant light vanished. I no longer felt uneasy, I immediately felt peace, and when the bell rang for the beginning of the service, I went to church and
followed the entire service."

Monk Chrysanthos [notes monk Lazaros] was very guileless, and for twenty-five years he had
chanted in the right choir with much zeal and reverence.


This is why he received divine mercy and
special intervention from the Honorable Forerunner.

from the book
Narrations from Dionysiou Monastery

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. ( St. John Chrysostom )





Enter into the Church and wash away your sins.

For here , there is a hospital and not a court of law.


St, John Chrysostom

The devil will use every opportunity to pit the true Orthodox Christians against each other ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )


In the coming years, the devil will use every opportunity to pit the true Orthodox Christians against each other, sometimes with issues great and other times (more commonly) small. We must try with steadfastness to not get caught by the bait.

Fr. Seraphim Rose

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lying: right or wrong ( St. Paisios )


Can we lie to save someone's life? Should we lie if its a good reason?

St. Paisios give this advice:

It is a sin for someone to lie. When he lies for a good cause, i.e. to save someone else, this is half a sin, because the lie is for the benefit of his fellow man and not for himself. However it is also considered a sin; therefore, we should keep it in mind, and not fall into the habit of telling lies for insignificant things.In our day-to-day world we are bombarded with advertisements trying to influence us. Many of the claims are partial lies or half- truths intended to deceive us into thinking something other than what is the full truth. This is also a form of lying that we are commonly caught up in. Do we not often tell half-lies (a bit of embellishment) during our daily activities to make things seem better than they really are? Lies of all kinds will do us harm unless we recognize the error in engaging in them.


  St. Paisios gives some advice to business owners.

There are good and bad merchants, honest and dishonest ones. The honest ones tell the truth, use good materials and their prices are reasonable. The others lie and make illicit profits. At the beginning people ignore the honest merchant and his shop runs the risk to close down. Later on, though, God reveals the fraudulence of he dishonest ones and gives His blessing to the honest merchants.In the end he is saying that we are rewarded by our truthfulness. But in the short term we may be put at an disadvantage materially. This is why there is so much lying in our day-to-day world and why we must struggle not to engage in such activity. Any sin can separate us from God.

  St. Paisios

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The kindness of God ( St. Paisios )

 As the kindness of God renders everything useful for a good purpose, so too must we, His creatures, make good use of everything in order to be benefited and benefit others.

St. Paisios

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The powerful influence a mother has over her child ( Saint Nektarios of Aegina )


The upbringing of children must begin during infancy. This is necessary in order to direct the child’s powers of the soul—as soon as they begin to emerge—toward good, virtue, and truth, while simultaneously distancing them from evil, indecency, and falsehood.


This age is the secure foundation upon which a child’s moral and intellectual understanding will be erected. Thus, Fokilidis says: “It is necessary to teach someone to do good work while he is still a child,” because man sets out from childhood, as from a starting block, to run the race of life.


St.Basil the Great affirms: “It is necessary for the soul to be guided right from the very beginning toward every virtuous exercise, while it is still soft and moldable as wax; so that, as a child begins to speak and to acquire discernment, there exists a road comprised of the elemental concepts and devout etiquette that were initially imparted, giving him the ability to speak good and useful things and inspiring him to acquire a proper moral conduct.” Truly!


Who will not agree that the first impressions during childhood remain permanently ingrained and unforgettable? Who doubts that various influences during early youth become so deeply imprinted upon a child’s tender soul, that they continue to exist vividly throughout the duration of his life?


Nature has appointed parents, but especially mothers, to be instructors during this early stage of life. Hence, it is necessary for us to suitably teach and diligently raise virtuous women, on account of their supreme calling to become teachers; for they will serve as the images and examples that their own children will follow. A child mimics either the virtues or bad habits of his mother—even her
voice and manners, even her ethos and conduct to such an extent, that one can very appropriately liken children to phonographic records that initially register sound, and then play it back as it was originally voiced, in the identical pitch, the same quality, and with the same accent and emphasis.




Each glance, every word, every gesture, and every action of a mother becomes the glance, word, expression, gesture, and action of her child. Hence, Asterios notes: “one child speaks exactly like his mother, another bears a striking resemblance to her personality, while yet another takes on his birth giver’s manner and conduct.” By being in the constant presence of her child and through her repeated counsels, a mother profoundly affects the soul and character of her child, and she first provides him with the initial impetus toward virtue.

Saint Nektarios of Aegina

Sunday, May 28, 2017

When God created man, He planted something divine into him ( Abba Dorotheus )


When God created man, He planted something divine into him — a certain conception — a spark that has both light and warmth. The conception that enlightens the mind and indicates what is right and what is wrong is called conscience. Conscience is a natural law. Living in times before any written law, patriarchs and saints pleased God by following the voice of their conscience.

Abba Dorotheus

Friday, May 26, 2017

Three moving miracles of St. John the Russian




An unbelieving physician is miraculously healed

At Limne of Evia lived and worked a physician named Mantzoros. As a physician he was very good, but he did not believe in Christ, and of course did not wish to hear questions about religion and the soul. He was against religion, and his opinions were harsh on the subject of Christianity.

One day, he however became very sick. This illness had struck this unbelieving doctor with terrible pains as soon as it arrived. Amidst unbearable pains, he was taken to the Hospital of Chalkida. There, due to his illness, they were unable to help him, so they sent him to the Athens clinic “Pantocrator”, which is on September 3rd road. There they took x-rays and and ran blood tests, which showed that he had a problem with his large intestine...The physicians of the Hospital, therefore, said that if he agreed, he would be operated on the next day. He agreed, based on the medical knowledge that he had. But the words of his brethren: “Take hope in the Almighty, O brother”, led him to a spontaneous prayer from his soul the night before his surgery. He entreated God, not only to make him well, but to forgive him for the disbelief which he had shown for so many years.

During his prayer, someone knocked on his door and entered. It was a beautiful young man, who opened his door and entered the doctor's room.

“What do you have?” he asked.

“I am very sick” the doctor answered.

“But you don't have anything wrong with you” he replied.
“What are you saying, my Christian? I have colon cancer of the final stage, and tomorrow I am going to surgery. Do you understand what is going on?”

The young man replied “You don't have anything wrong with you anymore. I made you well.”

“Don't you have any shame talking like this to a sick man?” the doctor said, “Are you just trying to calm me down?”


“I am Saint John the Russian. If you insist, have the surgery tomorrow, and you will be convinced that nothing is wrong with you.” The young man disappeared.

The doctor was full of agony, and he rang the bell in his room to ask the nurses who the young man was who came to his room. However, not one of the nurses had seen anything. The next day, the sick physician went to the operating room for the surgery. The doctors were ready for the operation when they heard the doctor tell them that he didn't need the surgery, and that his health was good: “Saint John the Russian healed me”.

“What are you talking about?” they asked him, “We're in the 20th century, what are you talking about brother? Our brother must be out of it.”

Though the sick man had improved, they continued with the surgery. He went under anesthesia, and when they opened him up, they did not find any cancer. The Saint had done his miracle, and the doctors were astonished, and were looking at each other. The doctor was totally well. He relates this himself, wherever he goes. (from the book: “Lives of Orthodox Saints 9: Saint John the Russian”, published by Entheos Vios

"The Saint Was Helping Me To Pray"
Aikaterina M. from Athens related the following miracle of St. John the Russian in 1995, about her first visit to the Church of Saint John the Russian in Evia:
The first time I came here with my friends, I barely knew who St. John was, nor did I know what to expect, as I had never seen incorrupt relics before. At first I was shocked - the saint's body was certainly there, as it should not have been if it had been subject to the normal processes of nature, but his skin looked dark and a little withered, and I was fearful of coming any closer to the glass coffin. I finally gathered my courage and went up to look. His face was covered with a gold cloth, out of reverence, but I could clearly see his hands and wrists. I knelt down beside the coffin to pray, feeling that even if it seemed strange to me, I should still try to be respectful. I asked the saint to help me understand what I was seeing, and to know him. When I finished praying, I went to sit in a chair off to the side while I waited for my friends. I thought that I should pray some more, but I didn't know any prayers to St. John so I took out my Akathist Hymn to the Panagia, which I always carry with me, and told St. John that it was for him also. I begged him to forgive me for not having a special prayer for him alone.

Probably like most people, I often don't pray very deeply unless someone I love is ill or in danger, and this time I began read the Akathist to the Panagia in my usual way, although I tried hard to concentrate on the words. Suddenly, I felt that someone had come up and was standing next to me. I looked around quickly, but the nearest person was kneeling at the relics with his back to me, about a dozen meters away. I went back to my prayers, and although I didn't actually hear anything spoken aloud, I had the distinct impression that someone was praying to the Panagia with me, with great strength and love. I suddenly found myself praying with a depth I have never felt before or since - as if I was somehow in the middle of the prayer, and it was alive. I could feel the prayer moving up to heaven, and I knew in my soul that it was St. John himself, praying with me.

I was filled with such awe and joy at the nearness of the saint who was helping me to pray even though I had been afraid of him. It felt like Pascha, and as if I had just received the Holy Mysteries. I come to him now as often as I can.

The Cane
For many years, pilgrims to the shrine of St. John the Russian saw a simple cane standing before the glass-enclosed sepulchre. It belonged to an old woman, Maria Spaik, who was bent over from osteoporosis and had been unable to stand upright for eighteen years. In August 1978, he relatives brought her to the Church of St. John and lifted her in their arms so that she could venerate the relics. When Maria saw the incorrupt body of the Saint, she began to cry, asking St. John to help her. As she prayed over the relics, she felt an invisible hand touch her back. The old woman drew herself up erect. Tears appeared in the eyes of all the onlookers. The bells were rung, and a Supplication Service was sung in thanksgiving. The cane was left at the shrine as a memorial of the miracle.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

On the parable of the talents ( Father George Calciu )


 “He gave to every man according to his strength”, says the Gospel.

To some, He gave five talents. I assume this is the sum of qualities that God granted to some of us according to our human strengths.

He gave to some two talents, and to others He gave one talent. So everyone received something. There’s not one man in this world, who has not received something from God. No matter how much we like to complain or think that we have no grace or gift from God, yet we were granted something. And a talent doesn’t mean only one gift, for a talent was a coin of great value. Certainly, some have received a little more, and others less. But everyone has received enough for himself.

What does mean to multiply the talents?

In this parable we are told, “to invest them as to acquire interest”. This means to use your gifts for the purposes that God had entrusted you. Every one of us live in a society, is part of a community or a church. All of us strive to do something for the church, for the community and for our fellow man. How we labor with the gifts that God has entrusted us, can gain us double.

Yet, there are some who say: “God gave me a gift, what am I to do with it? I’ll keep it and return it to Him at the last judgment, for what belongs to Him is His. “

These are the people who live in neutrality. In our Christian understanding, the evil in itself did not exist, only the good. When the good is absent, evil is born taking the place of good. So no one can say: “I do not care whether I do good as long as I do not harm anyone. I do not care for my neighbor’ warfare for I do not ask him for help.”

To not do good means to partake of evil, for where goodness is missing, evil takes the lead.

If you do not care that your neighbor is ill, you’re doing the will of Satan. When you do not care that your neighbor lives in poverty and perhaps a little help from you can get him out of his misery, you have committed evil. In the battle between good and evil, salvation or perdition, there is no neutral zone, for we’re all created by God and He is asking us to be His laborers.

Christianity is the religion of active works. Jesus Christ was active. He came into the world wanting to save us all. He did everything that was need: He cared for the spirit but also for the flesh. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, raised from the bed of suffering the sinner and the paralyzed. He conversed with the sinful women and with the publican. He called all to salvation. This means there is not one man in this world whom He gave no talent or who is not called to salvation. If one will not be saved, is because he did not want to be saved.

Everyone is called to serve the church, to serve God. Each one of you received one talent and God is asking you to use it. Multiply it by good deeds for your spiritual growth and for your salvation. Win the love of Him Who came into the world and was crucified for us.

So I ask all of you to contribute to the work of the Church by your good deeds, by your words and by your prayers. Preach the word of God outside the Church, oppose the sects that seek to dismantle the true Church of Christ, have love for one other, and live in unity.

Lets put off the quarrels! Lets put off the hatred! Lets renounce criticism!

Each one of us can be honored but also can be subject to condemnation. Lets seek neither praise nor criticism, but (seek) to serve Christ in a complete unity, as St. Paul says, “The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Head of the Church is Christ and we are its members. If one member suffers, the entire body will suffer. If one member rejoices, the whole Church will rejoice”.

This is your talent. These are the five talents we received from our Saviour and we need to multiply them. The Church belongs to you all, it is not solely the priest’ work, and I ask you to sacrifice for the Church, to bear fruit, to use the talent that God has giving you that the church may grow and become to the world that Holy Church where God dwells, and where all can be saved. Amen!


Father George Calciu

And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. (Matt. 22:11)


And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. (Matt. 22:11)


What is meant, brethren, by this wedding garment? It cannot signify either baptism or faith, because who can enter this marriage feast without baptism or without faith? Because undoubtedly the mere fact of not believing excludes one from the Church. So what can we understand by this wedding garment but charity? We must suppose then, that this man enters without a wedding garment who is a member of our Holy Church by reason of his faith, but who lacks charity. It is so called with good reason because our Maker wore it when He came as a bridegroom to unite Himself to the Church. There was no other means than God's love by which the Only-begotten could unite the souls of the elect with Himself. This is why John tells us: God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son (John 3:16). He who came to men for love's sake, calls this love the wedding garment. All of you, then, who are members of the Church and believe in God have indeed come to the marriage, but you are without a wedding garment if you discard the cloak of charity. If any of you is invited to an earthly wedding, he changes his dress so that he may show the groom and bride his participation in their joy; he would be ashamed to appear shabbily dressed among the guests and merry-makers. We assist at God's marriage feast and nevertheless, we are loath to undergo a change of heart. The angels rejoice when they see God's chosen ones admitted into heaven. How do we visualize this spiritual banquet, those of us who lack that festive garment which is the only one that gives us beauty in God's sight?

We must remember that, as a cloth is woven between two wooden frames, one above and the other below, thus also charity is founded on two precepts: the love of God and the love of our neighbor. For it is written: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength ... and thy neighbor as thyself (Mark 12:30). It is worth noting here that a limit and measure is set to the love of our neighbor , as we read: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The love of God, however, is marked by no limit, as we are told: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength. We are not told, then, how much we must love, but the manner in which we must do so: with everything we have. For only he truly loves God who does not think of himself. It is necessary to observe these two precepts of charity if we desire to be found wearing the wedding garment. This is what the prophet Ezekiel means when he tells us that the front of the gate of the city built on a mountain measures two cubits (Ezek. 40:9); for undoubtedly we cannot enter the heavenly city if in this church, which is called the gate because it is outside that city, we have no love for God or man. As we see also in the book of Exodus that it is prescribed that the curtains destined for the tabernacle should be dyed twice in scarlet coloring (Ex. 26:1). You, my brethren, you are the curtains of the tabernacle, veiling by virtue of your faith the heavenly mysteries in your hearts. But the curtains of the tabernacle must be twice dyed in scarlet. That is a color like fire. And what is charity, if it is not fire? But this charity must be twice dyed, that is, steeped in the love of God and in the love of our neighbor. The man who loves God so that his contemplation leads him to forget his neighbor has indeed the color of scarlet, but not twice dyed. Again, he who loves his neighbor, but whose love leads him to forget God, has the color of scarlet but with a single dye. In order that your charity may be steeped in both, you must be inflamed with love of God and of your neighbor, so that compassion for your fellow-man does not induce you to abandon contemplation of God, nor an excessive desire for that contemplation make you cast aside all pity. So, every man who lives among other men should seek God, the object of his longings, but in such a fashion as not to abandon his neighbor; and he should help his neighbor in such a way that it will never check his progress towards God to Whom he speeds.



We know that the love which we owe to our neighbor is sub-divided into two precepts, as we read in Scripture: See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another (Tob. 4:16), and Christ tells us: As you would that men should do to you, do you also to them (Matt. 7:12). If we act towards our neighbor as we should like him to act towards us, and avoid doing to others what would be displeasing to us ourselves, then we observe the law of charity. But no one should think that he observes this law merely because he loves his neighbor; he must examine first the motive behind his love. For he who loves others, but not for God's sake, has not charity, even though he may think he has. True charity lies in loving our friend with and in God, and our enemy for God's sake. He loves for God's sake, who loves even those by whom he is not loved. Charity is usually proved only by the opposing trial of hatred. So that our Lord says, Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you (Luke 6:27). The man who loves his avowed enemies is following this command. Great and sublime are these precepts and often hard to obey; nevertheless they constitute the wedding garment. And that man who is without it has good grounds to fear that the king, at his coming, will cast him out. For we are told: The king went in to see the guests; and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. It is we, brethren, who attend the marriage of the Word: who believe in the Church, are nourished by the Scriptures, and rejoice in the union of God with the Church. I would have you consider very carefully whether you attend the feast in the wedding garment. Weigh your actions in your heart one by one: whether you foster hatred of anyone, whether you envy the good fortune of others or through malice seek to injure them.

See the king entering the feast, see how he scrutinizes the disposition of our heart. To that man whom he finds stripped of charity, he says in rapid anger: "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment?" It is striking, dearly beloved, that he calls this man "friend" at the same time as he reproves him, as if his real meaning were: Friend and no friend; friend by faith and no friend by his actions. But he was silent, since - with what pain we must say it - in that final judgment no word of excuse can help us, for he who accuses us outwardly is also he who accuses the soul's interior depths, who is a witness of our conscience. And yet we cannot forget that, if anyone has this garment of virtue, although not perfectly woven, he should not despair of obtaining the forgiveness of this merciful king when he comes, since he himself gives us this hope when he says through the Psalmist, Thine eyes did see my imperfect being, and in thy book all shall be written (Ps. 138:16). We have said these words for the consolation of those who have charity, although weak. We must speak now of those who lack it altogether. The Gospel continues:

Then the king said to the waiters: Bind him hand and foot ... and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That rigorous sentence will bind the hands and feet of those who do not restrain themselves now from wicked actions by amending their life. In other words, suffering will bind hereafter those whom guilt binds here. The feet which refuse to visit the sick, the hands which refuse to help the needy, are now voluntarily unbound to any good works. Therefore the willing slave of vice here upon earth will hereafter be the unwilling prisoner of endless torments. It is apt to say that he is cast into the outer darkness. Interior darkness is the blindness of the heart, while the outer darkness belongs to the everlasting night of damnation. That man is damned, then, who is banished into outer, not interior, darkness for he is expelled against his will into the night of condemnation who, in this life, fell willingly into blindness of heart. It is said that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; the teeth of those who satiated themselves in their intemperance on earth will be set on edge in hell; their eyes will weep because in life they satisfied them with the sight of unlawful things In this way, each member will suffer a particular torment as here it was used for the satisfaction of a particular vice.

But now that one man has been expelled, one who represents all the various types of evil, a general warning to all is given: Many are called, but few are chosen. This is indeed a terrible sentence, my dear brethren. Consider that all of us have been called, by faith, to the marriage of the Heavenly King. We all believe and confess the mystery of His Incarnation, sharing in the banquet of the divine Word. But at a future date the King of Judgment is to come. We know that we have been called; we do not know whether we have been chosen. It is all the more necessary, therefore, that we abase ourselves with humility, since we have not this certainty. There are some who never tried to do good; there are others who, although they began once, failed to persevere.We see one man pass nearly all his life in wickedness, but as he nears its end he returns to God by repentance and true penance. Another may seem to live the life of a saint, but end his days by falling into error and malice. One begins well and ends better; another plunges into evil from an early age and goes from bad to worse throughout his days. Each man, then, must live in fear, for he does not know what is to come, since we must never forget, but rather often repeat and meditate on the words: Many are called but few are chosen.


An excerpt from Parables of the Gospel by Saint Gregory the Great, Nora Burke, trans., Scepter Publishers, Dublin, 1960. 
 
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