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