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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Love is the fruit of prayer ( St. Isaac the Syrian )

Love is the fruit of prayer ...
 Patiently abiding in prayer signifies a man's renunciation of himself.

Therefore the self-denial of the soul turns into love for God. 
St. Isaac the Syrian

Monday, May 8, 2017

God is everywhere... ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

 God is everywhere. There is no place God is not…You cry out to Him, ‘Where art Thou, my God?’ And He answers, “I am present, my child! I am always beside you.’ Both inside and outside, above and below, wherever you turn, everything shouts, ‘God!’ In Him we live and move. 
We breathe God, we eat God, we clothe ourselves with God. Everything praises and blesses God. All of creation shouts His praise. Everything animate and inanimate speaks wondrously and glorifies the Creator. 
Let every breath praise the Lord!

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Passions that control us ( St. John Damascene )

These eight passions should be destroyed as follows:  
gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men.

When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.”

St. John Damascene

Battling a passion ( St. Paisios )

Once, the father of a girl who had cancer, and whom the doctors told that she had only a few more months to live, came to the Holy Mountain. He brought some of her belongings so that the "Father" could bless them, and asked the Elder to pray for his daughter.

The Elder said to him:

—I shall pray, but you, as a father, should bring some sacrifice to God, for the sacrifice of love greatly "predisposes" God to help.

The father asked:

— What shall I sacrifice, Gheronta? The Elder said:

—What passions do you have? Sacrifice one of them. Not being very spiritual, the father answered:

— I do not know, I have no passion….

Then the Elder asked:

— Do you smoke?

— Yes, — he answered.

— So, give up smoking out of love for your daughter, and then God will cure her.

He promised to do that and, really, gave up smoking. After that, the girl began to recover gradually, until she became completely healthy. The doctors later confirmed her full recovery.

After a while, the father, apparently having forgotten about his vow, started smoking again. At the same time, the cancer began to return to his daughter, so that she found herself in the previous grave state.

Then the father again came to the Holy Mountain and visited the Elder.

The Elder, looking at him sternly, said:

—If you, as a father, do not have enough piety to sacrifice your passion and save the life of your child, then there is nothing I can help you with.

The Elder persistently emphasized the fact, that a man does not have the right to say, "I cannot," he can only say: "I do not like" or "I do not want."

When people, overwhelmed by some passion, say, that some force prevents them from doing good, they should know that this force is nothing else but their own force, which is given them for loving, but that began to act in the wrong direction. And, inasmuch as they love their passions, they naturally do not want to cast them off, because you do not wish to lose that which you love.

Consequently, when coming to hate a passion, one should find something better and elevated to replace it with. For, if a man cannot find anything better for himself, he will not know where to direct his love and his forces, and will suffer because of this.

"Very often people came to me and asked:

— Gheronta, I smoke, and cannot give it cigarettes. What should I do?

The Elder asked: — Do you want to give it up?

I hear the answer: — Yes, Gheronta, I tried many times, but in vain.

Then the Elder said: — Yes, it happens! … From this moment on, stop smoking, and God will help you."

The person, subjected to the passion, normally objects:

— No, Gheronta, I cannot!

Then the Elder, interrupting him before he can finish the phrase, powerfully said:

— There is no "I cannot," fulfill it and that’s all! Do not give in to the thoughts, which suggest that you will not be able to deal with this habit.

In this way, the Elder instilled in each of us, that we are autocratic. If we became the slaves of some passion, then this happened according to our own will. And, if we remain its slaves, then only through attachment to it, because we are delighted to be in servitude.

But when we fall in love with our freedom and our being with Christ, then from that moment on, when we want it, we become free from passions and become God’s children. This proves, that we are autocratic. Moreover, Christ gave His commandments to ordinary sinners and, consequently, slaves of sin. He commanded them to get freed from the yoke of sin and to come nearer to Him. He said to the fornicator: "Do not sin," to the thief: "Do not steal," and to the wrong-thinking: "Do not judge."

If we were involuntary slaves, then God would not command: "Leave that place and come to Me," for we would have been unable to fulfill it. Therefore, if He tells us, that we should leave them on our own, this means that we voluntarily submit to our passions, love them and long for them. But at the moment that we start hating them and turn our love to God, then we are immediately freed.

Thus, it is necessary to:
realize, that we voluntarily gave ourselves to passions and are therefore sick,
hate our passion, which is destroying us,
love God and virtues.

This will put us on the path to moral freedom and true happiness.

St. Paisios

Sunday, April 30, 2017

When praying, take your time and clear your thoughts!!!!! ( St John of Kronstadt )

“When praying, keep to the rule that it is better to say five words from the depth of your heart that ten thousand words with your tongue only.

When you observe that your heart is cold and prays unwillingly, stop praying and warm your heart by vividly representing to yourself either your own wickedness, your spiritual poverty, misery, and blindness, or the great benefits which God bestows every moment upon you and all mankind, especially upon Christians, and then pray slowly and fervently.

If you have not the time to say all the prayers, it does not matter, and you will receive incomparably greater benefit from praying fervently and not hurriedly than if you had said all your prayers hurriedly and without feeling: ‘I had rather speak five words with my understanding that ten thousand in an unknown tongue.’

But it would, of course, have been very well had we been able to say those ten thousand words in prayer with due understanding and feeling.”

St. John of Kronstadt

A Guide to Confession ( St John of Kronstadt )

Genuine Repentance & Confession heals and makes the immortal soul holy. This is the correct way to prepare for Holy Communion.

So that we can better examine the depths of our conscience, it would be ideal to first read several books on the Sacrament of Confession. Also, discuss any uncertainties that you may have with your wise Spiritual Father-Confessor. The greatest science or knowledge is to get to know ourselves. Also we must not deny ourselves the greatest thing that every human soul thirsts for: a peaceful conscience and eternity with God.

This joy is only granted by the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. He himself instituted the single path to salvation for the repentant sinner within his Church, the holy Sacrament of Repentance and Confession. This is why, friend, you must overcome any obstacle whatsoever that blocks the road to Holy Confession. Here awaits you with genuine Christian love the good Confessor, the representative of Christ, who as a fellow human being can understand and have compassion on his brethren who are also sinful.

Cast far away, brethren, any thought of embarrassment or fright. Why be seared or frightened when your soul frets and pains from the deadly consequences of multi-faceted sin. If sickness tortured your body, would you avoid the hospital or doctor because of embarrassment? But at the same time, do not be led astray by certain people who wish to have read on them a “blessing only,” without having previously confessed. Whenever this happens from ignorance or neglect, it is a terrible sin and an insult to God. With faith, then, and honesty, proceed to Holy Confession.

Be certain also that the infinite love of the crucified and resurrected Lord will welcome you and transform you, removing the weight that burdens you! He himself said, “Come to Me all ye that are heavy laden and I will grant you rest.”

                           You and God
Do you believe in God, the Holy Trinity, and in the divinity of Christ? Do you respect the Holy Virgin Mary, the Saints, and the Angels? Do you believe in the Church and its Mysteries (Sacraments)? Do you believe that Heaven and Hell exist?
Do you trust yourself always, and especially during the difficult times of your life, to the care and Providence of God? Or do you despair and show a lack of faith?
Perhaps in the problems, afflictions, sicknesses, and trials of your life you moan and complain against God and lose your faith and confidence?
Do you believe in mediums, fortune-telling, tarot card reading, or coffee-cup reading? Do you tell other people to believe in such things and go to such people?
Do you believe in superstition?
Do you believe in luck?
Do you pray morning and evening and before and after each meal? Are you embarrassed to make the sign of the cross in the presence of others, for example, in a restaurant or outside a holy church when you are passing by? Do you not make your cross properly?
Do you read the Holy Bible as well as other Orthodox spiritual books daily?
Do you go to church on Sundays and on the major Feast Days?[3]
Do you follow the Divine Liturgy carefully and reverently from the start until the end, or do you go late and leave before the end? Do you let your mind wander in church?
Do you go to church dressed in a proper and dignified way? Are you careful not to laugh, or talk even if it is a Wedding or Baptismal service?
Do you perhaps prevent or restrict your spouse or children from going to church? Or do you tell your acquaintances not to go to church?
Do you commune regularly or only once a year, and then without Holy Confession?
Do you give oaths without need or, if so, lie as well? Did you perhaps not fulfill your oath, vow, or promise? The Bible forbids oaths completely, saying that our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (St Matthew 5:7).
Do you blaspheme the Name of God, the Virgin Mary, and our Saints by speaking irreverently of them?
Do you fast (unless you have a serious health problem) on Wednesdays and Fridays and during the appointed periods of the year?[4]
Do you throw religious books or periodicals in unclean places?

                      You and Others
Do you have hatred and ill-feelings towards someone who did you wrong or insulted you in their anger?
Are you suspicious and do you without reason suspect that everyone supposedly talks about you, that they don't want you, and that they don't love or like you?
Are you jealous and upset over the progress, fortune, possessions and beauty of others?
Are you unmoved by the misfortune and needs of your fellow men?
In your transactions with your business partners, co-workers, and clients, are you honest and forthright?
Have you criticized or slandered your fellow man, wrongly accusing them?
Are you sarcastic and patronizing towards believers, or towards those who fast and endeavor to live a Christian life, or towards those who have physical/mental problems and/or disabilities?
If you heard some information or criticism against someone, did you pass it on to others and harm (even unwillingly) their reputation and respect?
Did you criticize the conduct, actions, faults, and mistakes of another person when they were not present, even if what you said was the truth? Have you ever criticized the clergy? Do you gossip about and criticize the personal lives of others? Did you listen to someone blaspheming God or a holy person, and not protest?
Do you curse those who have harmed you, or curse yourself in difficult moments of your life, or curse the day and hour in which you were born?
Do you send others “to the devil” or give them rude hand gestures?
Do you respect your parents? Do you look after them? Do you put up with their elderly weaknesses? Do you help them with their bodily and spiritual needs? Are you mindful of their spiritual needs by making sure they go to church and partake worthily of Holy Communion? Have you abandoned them?
Have you misguided your parents to leave to you in their will more of their estate than is proper, thus causing injustice to your brothers and sisters?
Perhaps in your anger did you hit anyone with your hands or injure them with your words?
Do you perform your job or occupation properly and with a good conscience? Or are you unfair to others?
Do you steal? Perhaps you have encouraged or helped another person to steal? Have you agreed to cover up a theft? Have you bought or accepted goods known to be stolen?
Are you ungrateful towards God and generally towards your helpers and beneficiaries? Do you grumble and murmur against them?
Do you keep company with bad and sinful people or associates? With your words or example, have you ever pushed anyone to sin?
Have you ever committed forgery? Have you ever embezzled or defrauded the public? Have you borrowed money and/or other possessions and without returning or repaying them?
Have you ever committed murder, in any way?
Do you entangle yourself in the lives of others or in their work or their families and become the cause of strife, quarrels and disturbances?
Do you have mercy and compassion on the poor, on orphans, on the elderly, on families with many children struggling to make ends meet?
Have you lied or added or subtracted from the truth? Do you flatter others in order to get your own way?
Did you craftily ask for a dowry when you declared your intentions to marry?
Have you ever sent an anonymous or cruel letter to anyone?

Are you a slave to materialism and worldly goods?
Are you greedy or a lover of money?
Are you stingy?
Are you wasteful? Do you live by the Gospel command that whatever you have leftover and above your needs belongs to the poor? Do you have too much love towards pets and waste money on them while people are dying of starvation?
Are you conceited and arrogant? Do you talk hack to your elders and superiors?
Do you like to show off with your clothing, wealth, fortunes, and the academic achievements of your children or of yourself?
Do you seek attention and glory from people? Do you wear perfume, make-up, and change the appearance that your Creator gave to you?
Do you accept compliments and praise from others gladly and like to be told that no one else exists who is as good as you?
Do you get upset when others reveal your faults and do you get offended when others examine you and when your seniors make comments about you? Do you get angry?
Are you perhaps stubborn, high-minded, egotistical, proud, or cowardly? Be careful with these sins, as the diagnosis and solution to them are difficult.
Do you gamble or play cards, even without money, with relatives and people at home to “kill time” as the saying goes?
Have sexual sins polluted your body, mind, or soul? For example, have you engaged in fornication (sexual intercourse before marriage), or masturbation, prostitution, homosexuality, lesbianism, etc.?
Do you watch dirty shows on television or at the movies?
Do you read pornographic, immoral books and magazines?
Have you ever considered committing suicide?
Are you a slave to your stomach (i.e. gluttony)?
Are you lazy, careless and negligent? Do you not help out when you can?
Do you say improper, dirty, and immoral words or use swear words for the sake of humor or to insult or humiliate others?
Do you have a spirit of self-denial?
Do you expel from your mind bad or sly thoughts that come to pollute your heart?
Are you careful so that your eyes don't gaze or stare at provocative pictures or people? Do you go to the movies and theatres?
Are you careful what you ears hear? Do you like to hear sinful music and conversations?
Do you dress immorally? If you are a woman, do you wear men's clothing, (e.g. pants) or short skirts, open shirts; transparent shirts, and scandalize others with your appearance? In addition, do you dress in this way when appearing at holy places? If you are a man, do you dress provocatively?
Have you appeared naked in public or semi-naked in a swimsuit or bikini publicly?
Do you dance in a provocative and sinful manner? Do you listen to sinful immoral songs? Do you frequent parties, nightclubs, and bars? Do you celebrate sinful, worldly festivals such as mardigras, gay and lesbian festivals, Halloween etc.?
Are you a drunkard? Do you abuse “recreational” or pharmaceutical drugs?
Do you smoke? Smoking destroys your God-given valuable health and is also wasteful of money, and therefore is a sin.
Do you talk excessively about meaningless things?

                              For Couples
Do you remain faithful to each other? It is tragic when one of you is unfaithful to the other.
Did one of you embarrass or criticize the other publicly or privately?
Do you not endure the apparent weakness of the other? Do you show harshness?
Do you or your partner permit the other to follow the latest fashion and trend and anything which is opposed to the law of God? Do you perhaps drag the other along to parties on the condition that you will in this way provide the other the means to follow fashion and a worldly life?
Do you take into consideration the struggle the other has outside and inside the home, so that you both help each other bodily and spiritually in the struggle?
As a partner, have you had excessive sexual demands and degraded your relationship? Do you abstain from sexual relations on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, Feast Days, (including the night before) and on the days of the Holy Fasts of the Church?
Do you perhaps prevent your partner from going to church, spiritual gatherings and talks?
Do you bring up your children “in the instruction and counsel of Christ”? Do you only concern yourself with their intellectual growth and not with the nature of their character?
Do you direct your children to go to church regularly, to go to confession, to frequently partake of Holy Communion (properly prepared), and to go to Sunday school? Do you teach holy virtues by word and example? Have you taught them to pray in the morning, evening and before and after at each meal? Have you taught them to pray with respect and reverence?
Are you careful of the things they read? Do you buy books and periodical of religious and cultural subjects for them to read and lean?
Do you watch with whom they keep company and who their friends are?
Do you lead them to sinful shows and entertainment or allow them to watch television unsupervised?
Do you teach them humility and meekness and are you careful that they dress in a dignified way?
Do you curse them when they upset you? Do you “send them to hell” or “to the devil”?
Have you had abortions or do you prevent yourself from having children (i.e. contraception)?
Have you been unjust to your children in the division of your estate?
Do you as a parent believe that the responsibility of raising and educating your children rests only with your partner? You have an obligation to educate them and to read to them so that you can relieve you partner.
Do you scorn your children by giving them insulting hand gestures and reprimand them with improper language?
Does each of you love and respect the parents of the other?
Do the grandparents of your children and other relatives get too involved in the family and cause disagreements and disputes?
Do you interfere in your children's families?
Is your partner a blasphemer? Have patience, and try hard to eliminate cursed blasphemy!
Have you ever considered divorcing your partner?
Do you allow your children to become fanatical about sports and even miss church in order to play (e.g. Sunday morning games)?
Are you fair and just with your family, considering and respecting their views and wishes, or do you behave like a dictator?
+ + +

He who is accustomed to give account of his life at confession here will not fear to give an answer at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ. It is for this purpose that the mild tribunal of penitence was here instituted, in order that we, being cleansed and amended through penitence here below, may give an answer without shame at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ. This is the first motive for sincere confession, and, moreover, it must absolutely be made every year. The longer we remain without confessing, the worse it is for us, the more entangled we become in the bonds of sin, and therefore the more difficult it is to give an account. The second motive is tranquillity: the more sincere has been our confession, the more tranquil will the soul be afterwards. Sins are secret serpents, gnawing at the heart of a man and all his being; they do not let him rest, they continually suck his heart; sins are prickly thorns, constantly goring the soul; sins are spiritual darkness. Those who repent must bring forth the fruits of repentance.

Consciousness, memory, imagination, feeling, and will are helps to penitence. As we sin with all the powers of our soul, so penitence must be from our whole soul. Penitence in words only, without the intention of amendment and without the feeling of contrition, may be called hypocritical. Should the consciousness of sins be obscured, it must be cleared up; should the feeling be smothered and dulled, it must be roused; should the will become blunt and too weak for amendment, it must be forced; “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (St. Matt. 11:12) Confession must be sincere, deep, and full.

—St John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ, p. 280)

Friday, April 28, 2017

It is not possible to come to know God unless we live according to His commandments ( St. Silouan the Athonite )

No matter how much we may study, it is not possible to come to know God unless we live according to His commandments, for God is not know by science, but by the Holy Spirit. Many philosophers and learned men came to the belief that God exists, but they did not know God. It is one thing to belief that God exists and another to know Him. If someone has come to know God by the Holy Spirit, his soul will burn with love for God day and night, and his soul cannot be bound to any earthly thing. 
St. Silouan the Athonite

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Godparenting

Once I was helping a priest during baptism. When the mystery ritual was over a woman with a small boy entered the baptismal room accompanied by a man who looked Asiatic. The woman started asking to baptize the boy as they were leaving the town that day. The man introduced himself as a godfather-to-be. "Are you wearing a cross?" asked the priest of the man. "What for?" was the reply. "What do you mean — what for? Aren’t you an Orthodox believer?" — "No, I am Muslim," — replied the man.

This anecdotal episode shows vividly how lightly people take the task of choosing godparents. A large majority of them do not comply with the minimal requirements of the Church: they do not know a single prayer or how to cross themselves, they did not read the Gospel, they do not wear a cross. Some godfathers think it proper to "have a glass for bravery" before coming to church, godmothers are sometimes dressed immodestly and overusing cosmetics. And almost nobody knows anything about what the role and responsibilities of godparents are, or what they should be at all.

According to the traditions of the Church an infant should be baptized on the 8th or the 40th day after birth. Clearly, to demand at this age faith and repentance — the two main requirements for unity with God — is impossible. Therefore, "godparents" have existed since ancient times — people, who according to their faith baptize the child. (In passing one must note that godparents are not necessary for those over 18 years of age.)

The godparent can only be an Orthodox believer, able to prove his faith. In fact a boy needs only a godfather and a girl — only a godmother. But due to an ancient Russian tradition both are usually invited to be godparents. Birth parents cannot become godparents of their child. Spouses cannot be godparents of the same child. Grandparents, brothers and sisters can surely be godparents of the baby.

After the baby is immersed in the font a godparent is to take it in his or her arms from the priest. That’s why in Slavonic a godparent is called a "recipient." Doing so, a godparent assumes responsibility to bring the child up in the spirit of Orthodoxy and will be held accountable for the upbringing at the Last Judgment. To their last day, godparents pray for their godchildren, they teach them to be faithful and devout, and they introduce them to the mysteries of the Church. That kind of connection between children and godparents is deeper and more everlasting than between birthparents and children. Both the destinies of the child and the godparent depend on how thoroughly those obligations are fulfilled by the godparent.

The Eight Deadly Sins ( St. John Cassian )

Our venerable and God-bearing Father John Cassian was a 4th/5th century monastic saint known for his writings on the monastic life and for his correctives of the anti-Pelagian writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. His feast day in the Orthodox Church is February 29th (celebrated on February 28th in non leap years), and it is also kept locally in Marseilles, France, on July 23rd.
St. John was born in the Danube Delta in what is now Dobrogea, Romania, in about 360. In 382 he entered a monastery in Bethlehem and after several years there was granted permission, along with his friend St. Germanus of Dobrogea, to visit the Desert Fathers in Egypt. They remained in Egypt until 399 except for a brief period when they returned to Bethlehem and were released from the monastery there. Upon leaving Egypt they went to Constantinople where they met St. John Chrysostom, who ordained St. John Cassian as a deacon. He had to leave Comtantinople in 403 when St. Chrysostom was exiled, and eventually settled close to Marseilles where he was ordained priest and founded two monasteries, one for women and one for men.
St. John's most famous works are the Imtitutes, which detail how to live the monastic life, and the Conferences, which provide details of conversation between St. John and St. Germanus and the Desert Fathers. He also warned against some of the excesses in St. Augustine of Hippo's theology whilst refraining from criticizing him by name. For this reason he has sometimes been accused of Semi-Pelagianism by the Latin and some Protestant commentators. St. John died peacefully in 435.

In a community of very old men there was a man by the name of Serapion who was particularly adorned with the grace of discretion and whose conference I think is worth the effort to pur down in writing. When we had begged him to say something about the assault of the vices that would cast light on their origins and causes, he began in this way:
There are eight principal vices that attack humankind. The first is gluttony, which means the voraciousness of the belly; the second is fornication; the third is filargyria, which is avarice or love of money; the fourth is anger; the fifth is sadness; the sixth acedia, which is anxiety or weariness of heart; the seventh is cenodoxia, which is boastfulness or vainglory; and the eighth is pride.
Of these vices there are two kinds. They are either natural like gluttony or unnatural like avarice. But they have four kinds of operation. Certain ones cannot be consummated without bodily action, such as gluttony and fornication. Certain others, however, can be completed without any bodily action whatsoever, such as pride and vainglory. Some take their motivating causes from without, such as avarice and anger. Others, however, are aroused from within, such as acedia and sorrow.
Let us make this still clearer not only by a short discussion as well as we are able, but also by scriptural texts.
Gluttony and fornication, although they are in us naturally (for sometimes they also arise without any provocation from the mind but solely due to the instigation and itching of the flesh), nonetheless require external matter in order to be consummated, and thus they operate through bodily action. For everyone is tempted by his own lust. When lust has been conceived it gives birth to sin, but when sin has been consummated it brings forth death - "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."James 1:14-15)
The first Adam would not have been able to be deceived by gluttony had he not had something to eat and immediately and lawlessly misused it, nor was the second tempted without the enticement of some substance, when it was said to him: ''And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." (Matthew 4:3). It is clear to everyone that fornication also is not committed except by means of the body, as God says to the blessed Job with reference to this spirit : ‘’Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly." (Job 40:16).
Therefore these two in particular, which are exercised by means of the flesh, more especially require not only the spiritual concern of the soul but also bodily abstinence, since the mind's attentiveness is not enough of itself to check their urgings (as it sometimes does in the case of anger or sadness and other passions, which it can expel by mental effort alone and without chastising the flesh). Bodily discipline must come to its assistance, and this is accomplished by fasting, vigils, and works of penance, and to these is added living in a remote place, because just as they are generated through the fault of both soul and body, so they cannot be overcome except by the toil of both.
Although the blessed Apostle has declared that all the vices in general are carnal, since he has numbered enmity (hostility) and anger and heresies among the other works of the flesh (Galatians p8-21 - "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."), nonetheless we make a distinction based on a twofold division for the sake of a more refined understanding of their remedies and their natures. For we say that some of them are carnal, while some others are spiritual.
The carnal ones pertain especially to the enjoyment and feelings of the flesh; by them it is so delighted and gratified that it sometimes even arouses peaceful minds and drags them reluctantly to acquiesce in its will. About these the Apostle says: ''Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Ephesians 2:3).
But we call spiritual those that, having arisen at the prompting of the soul alone, not only give no pleasure to the flesh but even inflict it with serious sufferings and merely provide the sick soul with the food of a miserable enjoyment. Therefore these have need of the medicine of a simple heart, whereas those that are carnal are only remedied by a twofold cure, as we have said. Hence it is important to those who strive for
purity first of all to remove from themselves the very stuff of these carnal passions, by which either an occasion for or the memory of those same passions can be aroused in the soul that is still sick.
For a twofold sickness necessarily requires a twofold cure. Seductive images and matter need to be removed from the body, lest lust attempt to break out into deeds, and by the same token a more careful medication on Scripture, constant watchfulness, and solitude must be applied to the soul, lest it so much as conceive this In thought. In the case of the other vices, however, human companionship is of no harm, and indeed it is even of great help to those who really want to be rid of them, since they are frequently rebuked by the presence of other people, and although aggravations more readily appear, they are quickly remedied.
Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ, although he was declared by the Apostle to have been tempted in every respect as we are, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."(Hebrews 4:15). That is, he was without the contagion of this passion, having had no experience whatsoever of the pricks of fleshly lust by which we are inevitably stung, even unwittingly and unwillingly, for in his regard there was nothing like our own insemination and conception, as the Archangel said in announcing how his conception would take place: ''And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
Although these eight vices, then, have different origins and varying operations, yet the first six -- namely, gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, and acedia (anxiety, or weariness of the heart) -- are connected among themselves by a certain affinity and, so to speak, interlinking, such that the overflow of the previous one serves as the start of the next one. For from an excess of gluttony there inevitably springs fornication; from fornication, avarice; from avarice, anger; from anger, sadness; and from sadness, acedia. Therefore these must be fought against in a similar way and by the same method, and we must always attack the ones that follow by beginning with those that come before. For a tree whose width and height are harmful will more easily wither up if the roots which support it are exposed and cut beforehand, and pestilential waters will dry up when their rising source and rushing streams have been stopped up with skillful labor.
In order to conquer acedia, sadness must first be overcome; in order to drive out sadness, anger must be cast out beforehand; in order to extinguish anger, avarice must be trampled on; in order to eradicate avarice, fornication must be repressed; in order to overthrow fornication, the vice of gluttony must be disciplined.
But the two remaining ones, vainglory and pride, are linked in similar fashion, like the vices that we have spoken of, such that growth in the first becomes the start of the second, for an overflow of vainglory begets the beginnings of pride. But these differ wholly from those first six vices and are not leagued with them since they are not only not generated by them but even arise in a contrary manner and order. For when the former have been rooted out these sprout forth all the more, and at the death of the former these spring up and grow more vigorously.
Hence we are also attacked by these two vices in a different way. We fall into one of those six vices when we have been seduced by the one that comes before it, but we are in danger of falling into these two when we are victorious and, indeed, particularly after triumphs. Each vice, then, since it is begotten by an increase in the one that comes before it, is purged away when the one before it is diminished. Therefore vainglory must be suffocated in order for pride to be driven out. Thus, whenever the preceding ones have been overcome, those that follow fall idle, and, with the extinction of the ones that go before, the remaining passions wither away without any effort.
And although the eight vices that we have spoken about are connected and joined among themselves according to the scheme that we have mentioned, yet they are divided more particularly into four couplets. Fornication is allied by a special relationship to gluttony, anger is closely yoked to avarice, acedia to sadness, and pride to vainglory.

The First Evil Pair: Gluttony and Fornication.

Now let us discuss individually the different kinds of each vice. There are three kinds of gluttony. The first impels a person to hasten to eat before the fixed and lawful hour. The second is pleased with a full stomach and with devouring any edibles whatsoever. And the third desires more refined and delicate foods. These three entail no small loss for a person unless he struggles to extricate himself from all of them with equal diligence and care. For just as breaking the fast before the canonical hour is never to be dared, so likewise filling one's stomach and the preparation of costly and choice dishes must be avoided. From these three causes different and very bad states of health of the soul are produced.
We notice that the traces of this passion are in us when perchance, having been invited to eat by one of the brothers, we are not content to eat the food with the condiment with which it was seasoned by our host but demand with importunate and unbridled boldness that something be poured on it or added to it.
There are three reasons why this must never happen. In the first place, because the mind of the person must be practiced in the discipline of endurance and moderation and must, according to the Apostle, learn what a sufficiency consists in. For whoever takes offense at a slightly unpleasant taste and is unable to restrain the pleasure of the palate even for a moment will be completely incapable of controlling the hidden and greater desires of the body. Secondly, because it sometimes happens that the particular thing that we are asking for at a given moment is lacking and we would shame our host in his need and frugality by making known this poverty, which he would prefer to be known to God alone. Thirdly, because occasionally the condiment that we ask to have added is unpleasant to others, and we discover that we are annoying many people in trying to cater to our own gormandizing and desire. Therefore this boldness in us is to be disciplined in every respect.
There are three kinds of fornication. The first takes place in the union of the sexes. The second occurs without touching a woman, and for it we read that Onan, the son of the patriarch Judah, was struck down by the Lord (Genesis 38:9-10). This is called impurity in Holy Scripture. About this the Apostle says: "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." (I Corinthians 7:8-9). The third is that which is conceived in the soul and in the mind, and about which the Lord says in the Gospel: "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5=28).
"The blessed Apostle declares that these three kinds must all be extinguished in the same way when he says: "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5). And again he speaks of two of these to the Ephesians: 'Fornication and impurity should not be mentioned among you' (Ephesians 5:3). And again: "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (Ephesians 5:5). Just as we should guard against these three with equal care, so one is enough to keep us out of the kingdom of Christ.

The Remaining Vices: Avarice, Anger, Sadness, Acedia, Vainglory and Pride
There are three kinds of avarice. The first does not permit renunciants to be deprived of their wealth and property. The second persuades us by a still greater covetousness to take back What we have dispersed and distributed to the poor. The third demands that we long for and acquire what in fact we did not possess before.
There are three kinds of anger. One blazes up interiorly. . . Another breaks out in word and deed and effect... About these the Apostle says: "But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth." (Colossians 3:8). The third, unlike that which flares up, is not finished in a short space of time but is held over for days and seasons... All of these must be condemned by us with an equal horror.
There are two kinds of sadness. The first is begotten once anger has ceased, or from some hurt that has been suffered or from a desire that has been thwarted and brought to naught. The other comes from unreasonable mental anguish or horn despair. There are two kinds of acedia (anxiety or weariness of heart). One makes those who are seething with emotion fall asleep. The other encourages a person to abandon his home and to flee.
Although vainglory is multiform and multifarious and exists in many subdivisions, nonetheless it is of two kinds. The first is that by which we are uplifted because of carnal and external things. The second is that by which we are inflamed with the desire for empty praise because of spiritual and hidden things.
Yet in one way vainglory is beneficial for beginners, for those who are still stirred up by carnal vices. If, thanks to a word spoken at the time when they happen to be harassed by the spirit of fornication, they should think of the dignity of the priestly office or of the opinion of people who might believe that they are holy and blameless, and if only because of this consideration they should reject the impure urges of desire, judging them as base and unworthy either of their own good name or of that rank, they are restraining the greater evil with a lesser one. For it is better for a person to be troubled by the vice of vainglory than for him to fall into the fire of fornication, from which he could not or could barely be saved once he had been ruined.
One of the prophets expresses this sense very well when he speaks in the person of God: "For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off" (Isaiah 48:9). That is to say: As long as you are shackled by the praises of vainglory, you will never rush into the depths of hell and sink irretrievably by the commission of deadly sins.
It is not surprising that this passion is so strong that it can hold back someone who is hastening to the destruction of fornication, since the frequent experience of many people shows that once someone has been poisoned by this disease he becomes so tireless that he does not even feel fasts of two or three days.
Even in this desert we have often seen some people admit that when they were living in the cenobia of Syria they were easily able to go without eating for five days, whereas now they are so hungry at the third that they can hardly keep the daily fast until the ninth hour. When someone asked why, after having lived in a cenobium where he felt no hunger and often disdained to eat for whole weeks, he should now be hungry at the third hour. Macarius replied pointedly: "Because here there is no one to see you fasting and to support and sustain you with his praises. But there the attention of others and the food of vainglory filled you to repletion."

The Eight Principal Vices: How to Fight Them

Although these eight vices, then, disturb the whole human race, nonetheless they do not assail everyone in the same way. In one person the spirit of fornication is dominant, in another wrath rides roughshod, in a third vainglory tyrannizes, and in still another pride holds sway. And although it is evident that we are all attacked by all of these, yet we each suffer in different ways and manners.
Therefore we must so join battle against them that everyone spies out the vice by which he is particularly besieged and struggles chiefly against it, fixing all the care and attention of his mind on fighting it and keeping watch on it, brandishing the sighs of his heart and the many darts of his groans against it at every moment, employing the effort of his vigils and the meditations of his heart against it, pouring out the unceasing tears of his prayers to God, and insistently and continually demanding an end to the assault on him.
For it is impossible for a person to deserve to triumph over a passion before he has understood that he is not able to obtain victory in the struggle by his own diligence and his own effort, even though in order to be cleansed he must always be careful and attentive, day and night.
When he finds himself freed from it, he should once again and with similar intensity shine light on the hidden places of his heart, locate for himself whatever is still more horrible that he notices remaining, and move against it in particular with all the arms of the Spirit. Thus, when he has consistently overcome more powerful foes, he will have a quick and easy victory over the ones that remain, because the mind too becomes stronger through a succession of triumphs, and subsequent struggles with weaker foes make for readier successes in the battle. So it is with those who are accustomed to fight for prizes against all sorts of beasts in the presence of the kings of this world.
These persons, I say, make their first attack against the beasts that they have noticed are stronger and fiercer, and when these have been killed they more easily destroy the ones that are left, which are less terrible and less aggressive. Likewise, it is always the case that when the more powerful vices have been overthrown and are succeeded by weaker ones we shall obtain a perfect victory without any hardship. Yet it must not be thought that whoever struggles chiefly against one vice and seemingly does not pay much heed to the darts of others can be more easily wounded at an unexpected moment.
This will never happen. It is impossible for one who is concerned about the purification of his heart and has armed the attention of his mind for fighting any given vice not to have a certain fear of all the other vices and a similar watchfulness with respect to them as well. How indeed will a person deserve to obtain victory over the passion from which he yearns to be freed if he makes himself unworthy of the prize of cleansing by being contaminated with other vices? But when our heart's chief concern has been directed to fighting against one passion in particular, so to speak, we shall pray more intently about it and be especially careful and assiduous in our supplication, so that we may be worthy to watch out for it more diligently and thus obtain a swift victory.
The Lawgiver himself teaches us that we must keep to this plan of battle and not trust in our own strength in these words: "You shall not fear them, because the Lord your God is in your midst, a God great and terrible. He himself will consume these nations in your sight, little by little and by degrees. You will not be able to destroy them all at once, lest perhaps the beasts of the earth multiply against you. And the Lord your God will deliver them over in your sight, and he will slay them until they are completely destroyed."
But he likewise warns that we must not be proud of our victory over them: "Lest when thou hast eaten and art full," he says, "and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein. And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied, then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint (Deuteronomy 8:12-15). Solomon also says in Proverbs: "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him." (Proverbs 24:17-18) -- that is, lest seeing your proud heart he cease to assail him and you be forsaken by him and begin to be troubled once again by the passion that you had previously vanquished by the grace of God.
For the prophet would not have prayed and said: "0 deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever" (Psalms 74:19), unless he had known that, because of their pride of heart, some would be delivered over again to vices that they had overcome, so that they would be humbled.
Therefore we should be certain from experience and have learned from innumerable scriptural texts that we cannot conquer such great enemies by our own strength but only with the support of God's help, and that every day we must attribute to him the sum of our victory. This is recalled thus by the Lord speaking through Moses: "Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land; but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord swore unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Do not say in your heart, when the Lord your God has destroyed them in your sight: Because of my righteousness the Lord has led me in to possess this land, while those nations were wiped out because of their sins. For it was not because of your righteous deeds and the uprightness of your heart that you were led in to possess their land, but because they acted wickedly they were destroyed as you entered in. . .) (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).
I ask, what could be said more dearly against that pernicious opinion and presumption of ours, by which we want to attribute everything that we do to our free will and to our own effort? "Do not say in your heart, when the Lord your God has destroyed them in your sight: Because of my righteousness the Lord has led me in to possess this land."
Did he not express himself dearly to those whose souls' eyes are open and whose ears hear? Namely, when you have enjoyed a notable success in warring against the carnal vices and you see that you have been freed from their filthiness and from this world's way of life, you should not be puffed up with the success of the struggle and the victory and ascribe this to your own strength and wisdom, believing that you were able to obtain victory over evil spirits and carnal vices through your own efforts and application and free will. There is no doubt that you would never have been able to prevail over these if the Lord's help had not fortified and protected you.