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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A paralyzed boy is healed at Panagia Malevi

Nun Agne told us: "In 2007, a fifteen year-old boy came to the Monastery, who was one step away from the end.

He was from Cyprus, and suffered from his first steps in life from cancer.

His father had died, and his mother tried to remain strong for him, and for his smaller brother, Vasile. The child had had 23 surgeries, but nothing had happened.

His condition got worse, and thus the doctors at the great hospital of Athens told his mother that he needed another surgery. They didn't know if he would be able to survive the surgery, as he was already paralyzed.

His mother, one day before traveling to Athens, saw the Panagia in her sleep, who told her: "Don't worry. I am Panagia Malevi. Come to my home, and Andreas will be well."

The woman, as soon as she awoke, asked her mother who was Panagia Malevi, and she also did not know. The women asked around, and learned that the Monastery was in the area of Greece called Kyrouria. Thus, the woman took her child to the airport, and rented a taxi, and came here to the Monastery."

According to the nun, the inhabitants of the village and the nuns and the taxi driver helped the mother put the child in the wheelchair, and bring him into the church to venerate the icon. And as soon as he embraced it, Panagia filled him with strength. The child, as he said, felt within him something strange penetrate his body, and he straightaway cried out: "let me walk". His mother and all of those around him froze. Everyone began to cry, and Andreas stood up, walked and began to run.

Nun Agne mentioned: "I have been in the Monastery for forty years, and I confess that at that instant, I felt the presence of Panagia so clearly...I shudderd. Andreas left standing, and left his wheelchair here, because as he told us, he didn't need another." The doctors who tested the boy after his visit to Panagia Malevi could not believe how this child was walking, and they could see how he was still alive.

The tests furthermore still showed cancer in the largest part of his body, but the child is well. From then Andreas and his mother visit the Monastery once a year to thank Panagia.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Let every breath praise the Lord! ( 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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Homily on Pascha ( St. Gregory the Theologian )

Yesterday I was crucified with Him…
Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

  St. Gregory the Theologian

Monday, April 10, 2017

Holy Week: An Explanation

Holy Week: An Explanation

Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations. Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday). Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let's explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week.

Lazarus Saturday: Lazarus Saturday is the day which begins Holy Week. It commemorates the raising of our Lord's friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days. This act confirmed the universal resurrection from the dead that all of us will experience at our Lord's Second Coming. This miracle led many to faith, but it also led to the chief priest's and Pharisees' decision to kill Jesus (John 11:47-57).

Palm Sunday (The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem): Our Lord enters Jerusalem and is proclaimed king - but in an earthly sense, as many people of His time were seeking a political Messiah. Our Lord is King, of course, but of a different type - the eternal King prophesied by Zechariah the Prophet. We use palms on this day to show that we too accept Jesus as the true King and Messiah of the Jews, Who we are willing to follow - even to the cross.

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: The first thing that must be said about these services, and most of the other services of Holy Week, is that they are "sung" in anticipation. Each service is rotated ahead twelve hours. The evening service, therefore, is actually the service of the next morning, while the morning services of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday are actually the services of the coming evening.

Understanding that, let's turn to the Services of Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (celebrated Palm Sunday , Monday and Tuesday evening). The services of these days are known as the Bridegroom or Nymphios Orthros Services. At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sing the "Hymn of the Bridegroom." We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God's Kingdom.

Each of these Bridegroom Orthros services has a particular theme. On Holy Monday, the Blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob the Patriarch, is commemorated. Joseph is often seen as a Type of Christ. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery by them. In the same way, our Lord was rejected, betrayed by His own, and sold into the slavery of death. The Gospel reading for the day is about the barren fig tree, which Christ cursed and withered because it bore no fruit. The fig tree is a parable of those who have heard God's word, but who fail to bear the fruit of obedience. Originally the withering of the fig tree was a testimony against those Jews who rejected God's word and His Messiah. However, it is also a warning to all people, in all times, of the importance of not only hearing the God's word, but putting it into action.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is read on Holy Tuesday. It tells the story of the five virgins who filled their lamps in preparation for receiving the bridegroom while the other five allowed their lamps to go out, and hence were shut out of the marriage feast. This parable is a warning that we must always be prepared to receive our Lord when He comes again. The theme of the day is reinforced by the expostelarion hymn we sing: "I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me." The theme of Holy Wednesday is repentance and forgiveness. We remember the sinful woman who anointed our Lord in anticipation of His death. Her repentance and love of Christ is the theme of the wonderful "Hymn of Kassiane" which is chanted on this night, reminding us one more time, before "it is too late," that we too may be forgiven if we repent.

Holy Unction: The Mystery or Sacrament of Holy Unction is celebrated on Holy Wednesday evening. Actually this service can be celebrated any time during the year, especially when one is ill. However, because of our need for forgiveness and spiritual healing, we offer this service during Holy Week for the remission of our sins. We should prepare for this service in a prayerful way, as we do for Holy Communion.

Great and Holy Thursday: On Holy Thursday we turn to the last events of our Lord and His Passion. Thursday morning begins with a Vesperal Divine Liturgy commemorating the Mystical Supper. As previously mentioned, this is actually Holy Thursday evening's service celebrated in the morning in anticipation. Everyone who is able should make an effort to receive Holy Communion at this service as it was at the Mystical Supper that our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist. At this Liturgy a second Host is consecrated and kept in the Tabernacle. It is from this Host that Holy Communion is distributed to the shut-ins and the sick throughout the coming year.

Thursday evening actually begins the services of Great and Holy Friday. The service of the Twelve Passion Gospels commemorates the solemn time of our Lord's Crucifixion. After the reading of the fifth Gospel, the holy cross is carried around the church in procession, and Christ's body is nailed to the cross in the center of the church.

Great and Holy Friday: This is a day of strict fast. As little as possible should be eaten on this day. It is the only day in the entire year that no Divine Liturgy of any kind can be celebrated. In the morning we celebrate the Royal Hours. These solemn hours are observed as we read the various accounts and hymns concerning the crucifixion. In the afternoon we celebrate the Vesper service of the taking down of Christ's body from the cross. During the Gospel reading, our Lord's body is taken off the cross and wrapped in a new, white linen sheet. This act commemorates the removal of Christ's body from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42). Later in the service, the Epitaphios, or winding-sheet, with Christ's body on it is carried in procession and placed in the recently decorated tomb. In the evening the Lamentations Orthros service is sung. This service begins in a solemn manner, but by the end of the service we are already anticipating the Resurrection of our Lord. Remember again, that the Holy Friday evening Orthros is actually the first service of Holy Saturday, the day in which we commemorate our Lord's body resting in the tomb while His all-pure soul descends into Hades to free the faithful of the Old Covenant.

Great and Holy Saturday: This day is a day of hope and waiting. In the morning we celebrate a Vesperal Divine Liturgy which commemorates Christ's victory over death. Bright vestments are worn as we anticipate Christ's Resurrection. Laurel leaves are strewn throughout the church during the service, because in the ancient world laurel leaves were a sign of victory. As the leaves are strewn, the choir chants "Arise O God and Judge the earth, for to Thee belong all the nations." The Old Testament story of Jonah in the belly of the whale is read at this service because Jonah is seen in the Church as a Type of Christ. As Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish, and was then safely deposited back onto land, so our Lord was three days in the tomb before His glorious Resurrection. The Vesperal Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday concludes the services of Holy Week, and brings us to the eve of Great and Holy Pascha.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Our Personal Cross

Before God decided to send you the Cross
that you are now carrying,
He inspected it with His all-wise eyes,
He examined it with His divine logic,
He selected it with His infinite righteousness,
He warmed it with His loving heart,
He weighed it carefully with His merciful hands
to confirm that it is not heavier than what you can lift,
And, having taking into account your strength,
He blessed it and placed it on your shoulders.
You can carry it.
Hold on to it as you ascend
from Golgotha to the Resurrection.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The miracle of the crucified Christ opening his eyes in the Holy Sepulcher

Glory to God!
I wanted to share something with you. A priest had put this on Facebook and I thought you'd be interested:
"Regarding the miracle of the crucified Christ opening his eyes in the Holy Sepulcher this week:
After I received several messages inquiring about what is being circulated on Facebook regarding the miracle of the crucified Christ opening his eyes in the church of the Holy Sepulcher—where Christ was crucified—I would like to clarify the following:

1- The miraculous event occurred this past Wednesday before the eyes of many priests and visitors, including my friend Archimandrite Malateus Basal whose friend took the pictures , who assured me of what happened in detail, which is that the eyes of the crucified Christ on the icon—which are always closed—remained open throughout the day.
2- Miracles allowed by God’s Love strengthen our weak faith, but they are not the reason for our faith. Our faith goes deeper than that. We have seen God in the flesh, we have heard Him, we have eaten with Him, and we witnessed His Crucifixion, His Death, His Resurrection and His Ascension to Heaven. The greatest miracle which is far underappreciated occurs in every Divine Liturgy, where bread and wine are transformed to the Body and Blood of Christ. Let us always be mindful of this.
3- We look at this miracle and all miracles as a sign from God to strengthen our faith and to remember the Divine Love of the One who died on the cross for our sins. May we repent and prepare ourselves for a true Holy Week and Resurrection.

Praise God for all things.

Father Theodoros Daoud"

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Read the Holy Scriptures ( Father Seraphim Rose )

From a lecture delivered by Hieromonk Seraphim Rose at the 1979 St. Herman Summer Pilgrimage Platina, CA

IT IS WELL known that Protestants spend a great deal of time on Holy Scripture, because for them it is everything. For us Orthodox Christians the Scripture also holds an essential place. Often, however, we do not take advantage of it, and do not realize what importance it has for us; or if we do, we often do not approach it in the right spirit because the Protestant approach and Protestant books about the Scriptures are widespread, while our Orthodox approach is quite different.

The fact that Scripture is an essential part of our Faith can be seen in our Orthodox services. There are daily readings from the New Testament from both the Epistles and Gospels. In one year we read through almost the entire New Testament. In the first three days of the week before Pascha--the feast of Christ's Resurrection, the four Gospels are read in church, and on Thursday night of Passion Week twelve long selections from the Gospels are read concerning the Passion of our Lord, with verses sung in between, commenting on these passages. The Old Testament is also used in the services. In the vespers for every great feast three parables are read prefiguring the feast. And the Divine services themselves are filled with Scriptural quotations, Scriptural allusions and inspiration coming directly from Holy Scripture. Orthodox Christians also read the Scripture outside the services. St. Seraphim, in his monastic life, read the entire New Testament every week. Perhaps it is because we have such a richness of Scripture in our Orthodox tradition that we are often guilty of taking them for granted, of not valuing and making use of the Scriptures.

One of the leading interpreters of Holy Scripture for us is St. John Chrysostom, an early 5th century Holy Father. He wrote commentaries on practically the whole of the New Testament, including all of St. Paul's epistles and also many Old Testament books. In one sermon concerning Scripture, he addresses his flock:

'I exhort you, and I will not cease to exhort you to pay heed not only to what is said here, but when you are home also you should occupy yourselves attentively with the reading of Holy Scripture. Let no one say to me such cold words-worthy of judgment---as these: 'I am occupied with a trial, I have obligations in the city, I have a wife, I have to feed my children, and it is not my duty to read the Scripture but the duty of those who have renounced everything.' What are you saying?! It is not your duty to read Scripture because you are distracted by innumerable cares? On the contrary, it is your duty more than those others, more than the monks; they do not have such need of help as do you who live in the midst of such cares. You need treatment all the more, because you are constantly under such blows and are wounded so often. The reading of Scripture is a great defense against sin. Ignorance of the Scripture is a great misfortune, a great abyss. Not to know anything from the word of God is a disaster. This is what has given rise to heresies, to immorality; it has turned everything upside down."

Here we see that the reading of Holy Scripture provides us with a great weapon in the fight against the worldly temptations surrounding us – and we do not do enough of it. The Orthodox Church, far from being against the reading of Scripture, greatly encourages it. The Church is only against the misreading of Scripture, against reading one's own private opinions and passions, even sins into the sacred text. When we hear that the Protestants are all excited about something that they say is in the Scripture--the rapture, for example, or the millennium--we are not against their reading the Scripture but against their misinterpretation of the Scripture. To avoid this pitfall ourselves we must understand what this sacred text is and how we should approach it.

The Bible --the Holy Scripture, the Old and New Testaments---is not an ordinary book. It is one that contains not human but divinely revealed truths. It is the word of God. Therefore, we must approach it with reverence and contrition of heart, not with mere idle curiosity and academic coldness. Nowadays one cannot expect a person who has no sympathy for Christianity, no sympathy for the Scriptures to have a proper attitude of reverence. There is, however, such power in the words of Scripture--especially in the Gospels-that it can convert a person even without this proper attitude We have heard of cases in communist countries; the police go out in special squads to persecute believers and break up their meetings; they confiscate all their literature: Bibles, hymn books, patristic texts---many written out by hand. They're supposed to burn them, but sometimes either the person who is assigned to bum them or the person collecting them gets curious and begins reading the condemned materials. And there have been cases where this has changed the person's life. All of a sudden he meets Jesus Christ. And he's shocked, especially if he has been raised with the notion that this is a great evil; here he discovers that there is no evil here but rather something quite fantastic.

Many modern scholars approach the Scriptures with a cold, academic spirit; they do not wish to save their souls by reading Scripture: they only want to prove what great scholars they are, what new ideas they can come up with; they want to make a name for themselves. But we who are Orthodox Christians must have utmost reverence and contrition of heart; i.e., we must approach the word of God with a desire to change our hearts. We read the Scripture in order to gain salvation, not, as some Protestants believe, because we are already saved without the possibility of falling away, but rather as those desperately trying to keep the salvation which Christ has given us, fully aware of our spiritual poverty. For us, reading Scripture is literally a matter of life and death. As King David wrote in the Psalms: Because of Thy words my heart hath bee, afraid. I will rejoice in Thy sayings as one that hath found great spoil.

The Scripture contains truth, and nothing else. Therefore, we must study the Scripture believing in its truth, without doubt or criticism. If we have this latter attitude we shall receive no benefit from reading Scripture but only find ourselves with those "wise" men who think they know more than God's revelation. In fact, the wise of this world often miss the meaning of Scripture. Our Lord prayed: I thank Thee, O Father ..that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes (Luke 10:21). In our approach we must not be sophisticated, complicated scholars; we must be simple. And if we are simple the words will have meaning for us.

Church services ( Papa Dimitri Gagastathis )

 The good chanter and the priest play a great role in good church services.
When chanting, you must understand and feel what you say. Don't get proud that you supposedly chanted beautifully.You must live what you say.

Once I was chanting a hymn of Apostle Peter that was about his denial.
 Then I said '' ...and he cried bitterly, '' I saw tears coming out from his icon. The saint must have been pleased.
The priest's cassock is superior to trousers, it's got double grace.....

Papa Dimitri Gagastathis
Life, Miracles and Spiritual Counsels of a Simple Priest of Our Days. pg 98..