Sunday, December 29, 2019

Honor your spiritual Father with all your might ( St. Ephraim the Syrian )

Honor your spiritual Father with all your might and do not render inefficacious the counsels of him who begat you in the Lord; for in this way, the evil demons will never prevail over you.

St. Ephraim the Syrian

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Christmas Tradition on the Island of Tinos.

 
Tinian people preserve their local manners and customs as sacred. Besides, many of those stem from ancient religious traditions. These customs survive mostly in the villages, although the Main Town also has its own traditions. In addition, the locals often combine their deep religious faith with their love for dancing and singing, regularly organizing local festivities and fairs.

A custom that proves the deep religious faith of Tinians is the lighting of Vigil Lights. It is an unwritten law, binding the locals to light all the country chapels this way every Saturday afternoon and on the eve of the celebration of a saint’s memory. Every chapel has a permanent or temporary owner, responsible for keeping the custom. Non-fulfillment of this obligation is considered a moral offence not tolerated by the locals.



This custom sometimes takes the form of a solemn religious promise. Thus, many Tinians often as a token of gratitude, supplication or thanks to a Saint, vow to go to the chapel dedicated to the Saint’s name. The pilgrims arrive at the chapel early in the morning. If the oil lamps are already lit, they add some oil to keep them burning and they leave the oil bottle they brought with them next to the candelabrum so it can be used later.

In every case, the ritual includes candle lighting and incense burning. These three ritual elements are the only material sacrifice that has survived since the early Christian years. Its nature is symbolic. Its value is not measured by the materials offered, but by the pilgrim’s devoutness. In general, oil lamp lighting represents the light in their souls. The flame symbolizes the light of the Holy Spirit and the resplendence of all the Saints who are deep in the locals’ hearts.



An old Christian custom, of monastic origin, is held during the Christmas season in Tripotamos. Every year, one family, whose leader receives the title of ‘Kavos’, takes on the responsibility of taking care of the village church, which is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. Among their responsibilities is to keep the oil lamp (vigil light) hanging over the Icon of the Nativity lit all year round. In addition, they keep the church clean, they pay the costs for the Christmas Divine Liturgy, the provision of candles, while they are also responsible for the making of a huge candle for the New Year’s Day Service.

On Christmas day, at noon, the Kavos invites the priest and the men – the head of families of the village – for lunch. Each one of the guests has to bring his own fork, spoon, bread and wine, all wrapped in a napkin. The Kavos has to make provisions for a lavish meal, with soup, veal stew, and braised meat with tomato sauce, stuffed vine leaves and several other local specialties. Wine is served in goblets, special mugs of hemispherical shape made of brass that are used only on this occasion.

After the meal, the priest and some of the table-companions carry the Icon of the Nativity from the church to their host’s house chanting Christmas hymns. The Icon is placed on the table, the priest hands out the holy bread, while everyone lights candles, similar to those used in the morning service. This is the moment when the priest appoints the next ‘Kavos’. After eating the traditional sweets, the Icon is taken back to church while the crowd chants Christmas hymns.

On the next day (26th of December) all the men of the village gather again in the house of the former Kavos, to finish up the leftovers from the previous day. Typically, the responsibilities of the former Kavos end with the Christmas meal. However, the oil lamp has to remain lit till the last day of the year. After Divine Liturgy on the 31st of December, there is a procession of the Icon around the houses of the village according to the custom of ‘podariko’ (= first visitor at a house on New Year’s Day is considered to bring good luck).

Today the list for the title of Kavos runs till 2025, which means that this custom is very popular with the locals. In earlier days though, the Kavos would be a last-minute choice, since most of the families were not well-off.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Life Giving Cross


A WOODEN CROSS
In the U.S. Military you will see Officers wearing gold or brass bars to show their different ranking to the enlisted men, and women of our Arm Forces.
Whereas in the Orthodox Church, you will often see a simple Priest, high ranking Bishop, or monk wearing a wooden Cross to remind Christ forgiveness through His death, burial, resurrection.
 
In the Army of God, Christ is our greatest example of True humility, and servanthood.
We can read many examples of this in Christ ministry and throughout Holy Scripture:
Christ humility and humility can be understood as Our Good Shepherd when He made Himself lower then the ranks of Angels in order to be the Sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world. 
 
Christ Who was the Creator of the Universe was born of a Virgin, and became  dependent on the very one He created by receiving milk from her breast.
Christ Who is the Bread of Life fasted 40 days in the desert before being tempted
by the devil to turn a stone into bread.
Christ Who is the Living Water ended His ministry in thirst by becoming our curse
while hanging on a Tree.

Christ Who was innocent before His procurators, pleaded guilty in His silence, yet I
the chief of sinners stand guilty of all charges.



Galatians 3:13 "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse
for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra ( December 6 )

Reading:

This Saint lived during the reign of Saint Constantine the Great, and reposed in 330, As a young man, he desired to espouse the solitary life. He made a pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem, where he found a place to withdraw to devote himself to prayer. It was made known to him, however, that this was not the will of God for him, but that he should return to his homeland to be a cause of salvation for many. He returned to Myra, and was ordained bishop. He became known for his abundant mercy, providing for the poor and needy, and delivering those who had been unjustly accused. No less was he known for his zeal for the truth. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of the 318 Fathers at Nicaea in 325; upon hearing the blasphemies that Arius brazenly uttered against the Son of God, Saint Nicholas struck him on the face. Since the canons of the Church forbid the clergy to strike any man at all, his fellow bishops were in perplexity what disciplinary action was to be taken against this hierarch whom all revered. In the night our Lord Jesus Christ and our Lady Theotokos appeared to certain of the bishops, informing them that no action was to be taken against him, since he had acted not out of passion, but extreme love and piety. The Dismissal Hymn for holy hierarchs, The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock ... was written originally for Saint Nicholas. He is the patron of all travellers, and of sea-farers in particular; he is one of the best known and best loved Saints of all time.

Apolytikion of Nicholas the Wonderworker in the Fourth Tone

A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Nicholas, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

Kontakion of Nicholas the Wonderworker in the Third Tone

Saintly One, (St. Nicholas) in Myra you proved yourself a priest; for in fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, venerable One, you laid down your life for your people and saved the innocent from death. For this you were sanctified as One learned in divine grace.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

An exegesis on women's head coverings ( Deacon Joseph Gleason )

 

For two thousand years in the Orthodox Church, the tradition has been for women and girls to veil their heads during worship, whether at Church for the Divine Liturgy, or at home for family prayer time. What is the Scriptural and Patristic evidence for this tradition, and why is it important? In this article, we will take a look at head coverings in the Old Testament, head coverings in the New Testament, head coverings according to the early Church, head coverings in icons, and head coverings today.


Head coverings in the Old Testament

Centuries before the birth of Christ, women’s head coverings were an accepted practice for God’s people. It was not merely an option for those who wished to be holy. Rather, it was a matter-of-fact expectation that all women would cover their heads. When the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to pen the first five books of Scripture, women’s head coverings were simply assumed to be the normal practice. In the Book of Numbers, when a unique ceremony is performed that requires an uncovered head, Scripture makes a point to say that the woman’s head covering needs to be removed: “the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands.” (Numbers 5:18) Of course, such a requirement would make little sense, if women did not normally keep their head covered. Even earlier than this, in the Book of Genesis, we read about Rebecca, on a journey to meet her future husband Isaac: “Then Rebecca lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to their servant, ‘who is this man walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant, ‘it is my master.’ So she took a veil and covered herself.” (Genesis 24:64-65).

Her godly discretion is a model for women today. She did not flaunt her physical beauty. Rather, she veiled herself, increasing her allure through an outward display of modesty. Women’s head coverings can also be found in the story of Susanna. It is the captivating story of a beautiful, virtuous woman who was falsely accused, and later vindicated by the wisdom of young Daniel. Susanna wore a veil that covered not only her head, but her face as well. Scripture looks disapprovingly upon the removal of her veil. “Now Susanna was exceedingly delicate and beautiful to behold but those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered,) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty. Therefore her friends and all her acquaintances wept. (The story of Susanna/Daniel 13:31-33). In this passage of Scripture, virtuous people approve of women head coverings and veils, while ungodly men seek their removal.


Head coverings in the New Testament

Women’s head coverings are one of the many points of similarity between Israel and the Church. Godly women had covered their head for thousands of years prior to the advent of Christ. And when the New Testament Church was born, godly women continued the practice. In St. Paul’s first epistle to the Church in Corinth, he instructs everyone to follow the holy traditions which have been received: “Now, I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor. 11:2). Women’s head coverings are one of the holy traditions which the Church had received, and St. Paul spends the next several paragraphs discussing them. He says that head coverings manifest honor, in the context of worship:


1. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. (1 Cor. 11:4).
2. Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. (1 Cor. 11:5).
The message is pretty clear: It is honorable for a woman to wear head coverings during worship, but it is dishonorable for men to wear them. This is why men remove their hats for prayer, even to this day. Not content to make his point only once, St. Paul reiterates himself a few verses later. Women are to cover their heads, and men are not to do so:


1. A man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of god; but woman is the glory of man.
(1 Cor. 11:7).
2. The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor. 11:10).
The Old Testament reveals that this holy tradition is ancient, but it only begins to hint at the reasons.


Here in the New Testament, we are given some reasons for the practice. According to 1 Corinthians 11, head coverings manifest woman’s honor. They also are important because of the angels. Angels are present with us when we pray, and when we worship. While we may not fully understand why head coverings are important to the angels, it is sufficient for us to know that this reason is given in Scripture. If Scripture says that women’s head coverings are important to the angels, then it is something we should take seriously.


Head coverings according to the Early Church Father
St. John Chrysostom (407 A.D), in a sermon at the Feast of the Ascension, spoke both of angels and the veiling of women: “The angels are present here. Open the eyes of faith and look upon this sight. For if the very air is filled with angels, how much more so in the Church! Hear the Apostle teaching this, when he bids the women to cover their heads with a veil because of the presence of the angels.”


Origen, another prominent teacher of the early Church said: “There are angels in the midst of our assembly. We have here a twofold Church, one of men, the other of angels. And since there are angels present, women, when they pray, are ordered to have a covering upon their head because of those angels. They assist the saints and rejoice in the Church.” The Apostolic Tradition was written in the second century, and the author is believed to be St. Hippo of Rome. This book has instructions for catechumens, including this: “And let all women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth.”
And St. Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on First Corinthians says: “The angels find it extremely hard to bear if this law that women cover their heads is disregarded.”


Head coverings in the Icons

Icons in the Orthodox Church are a visual guide to the Faith, a short picture book of Christianity. Icons teach us about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and about the lives of many Christians who have gone before us. Icons also teach us about head coverings. Virtually every icon of an Orthodox woman displays her wearing a head covering. As far as I know, the only exception is St. Mary of Egypt, and she was a solitary saint who lived alone in the desert, far away from any people. Among the female saints who participated in society, all of them wore head coverings, and their head coverings are shown in the icons. Even Mary the Mother of God, the most blessed woman in the entire universe is shown in icons wearing a head covering. Can you think of a better role-model for women?

Head covering Today
In our Church, all women and girls are asked to wear head coverings, in obedience to God’s command in Scripture, and out of respect for the holy traditions of the Orthodox Church. Just inside the front door of the Church, we keep a basket of head coverings, just in case a woman forgets hers at home and needs to borrow one for the day. Head coverings are also worn at home during family prayer time. While honoring God’s direction is a reward unto itself, there are many other benefits as well. For example: Head coverings manifest a woman’s honor. As St. Paul points out in Scripture, a woman brings honor to herself by covering her head during prayer.


Head coverings encourage humility.
Godly women come to church to focus on worship, not to draw attention to themselves. A girl may be tempted to show off an attractive hairdo. When a woman wears a head covering, this temptation is removed. She can focus on prayer, instead of on hair.

Head coverings save time. 
 In today’s culture, it can be tempting to spend a lot of time and energy on hairstyles. But head coverings are quick and easy. It takes a lot less time to put on a head covering that it does to prepare a hairdo for display.


Head coverings help us show love and consideration for our brothers. Godly men come to Church to focus on worship. But the flowing locks of beautiful women can be distracting. By veiling her hair, a woman can display her modesty, and remove an unnecessary distraction. A mainstream theological journal recently published an article about women’s’ head coverings. Soon after, the author of the article became a member of the Orthodox Church in the article; she beautifully illustrates the iconic purpose of head coverings:

“My wearing a head covering is not only a symbol or sign that I am in agreement with His order, but that I visibly, willingly submit to it. With submission comes blessing.” Christa Conrad.


In an issue of The Handmaiden, a lady name Elizabeth gives her testimony about wearing head coverings: 
“For twelve years I have worn a scarf at all times. I now perceive that it has been and continues to be essential for the pilgrim journey and salvation of my soul. The bottom line for me and a growing number of my sisters remains obedience. And with it comes a sense of being in our rightful place in God’s ordered universe, rejoicing with the angels. Now I gratefully say, I am in the presence of the great I AM, at prayer and in Church, surrounded by the angelic host, worshipping our Lord and King. To God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


Fr. Thomas Moore, Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, Columbia, SC.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

We have an obligation to advise others ( St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite )

There are people who make excuses and utter the following cold and indifferent words: 
“Why should I be concerned with what other people do? ...
 Why should I advise and correct another person?
 I am not responsible for him!” Such people must realize that they are obliged by the natural law, the ethical law, the Gospel, and the invisible warfare (which their fellow brothers in Christ are experiencing) to be concerned for others.
 
Let us listen to the divine St. John Chrysostom who reproves such people with his golden and sweet words. He says that no one should speak in this manner because such statements are demonic and characteristic of the callousness of the devil; and Christians have no ties and nothing in common with the devil, whereas they have numerous things in common with their brothers in Christ.“Do not utter this chilling phrase, ‘What concern is it to me? I have nothing to do with him’ ... for this is a satanic saying. It is diabolical cruelty. It is only with the devil that we have nothing in common, whereas with all human beings we have much in common.”
 
Furthermore, he advises us to be concerned for the salvation of our brothers because when we look after the salvation of others we simultaneously attend to what is beneficial for us.
“Do not utter that phrase replete with gross insensitivity, ‘What concern is it to me? I have my own affairs to worry about.’ For it is precisely then that you care about your own affairs, when you seek the advantage of your neighbor. This is why St. Paul said, ‘Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’swell being’ (Cor.10:24).”
 
Elsewhere, he censures them who make excuses by pointing out that the statement many people make, “It’s none of my business,” was first voiced by Cain who murdered his own brother.
 He continues to say that such remarks give rise to all the evils, and he posses the following question: If the salvation of your fellow Christian is of no concern to you, to whom is it a concern? 
To them who do not believe in God?
To the idolaters who rejoice when they see Christians sinning?
 Or to the devil who struggles to destroy and throw Christians into sin?
 
“Do not say to me, ‘What do I care? 
Fear him who first uttered these words. The statement ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (Gen. 4:9)expressesthe same meaning. This is from where all the evils sprout forth; for we consider the wounds of our body to be something foreign. 
 
What are you saying? 
You do not care about your brother? 
Who will care about him? 
The unbeliever, who gloats over him, upbraids him, and insults him? 
The devil, who impels him to sin and trips him up?”
St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
https://www.stnektariosmonastery.org/en/index.php 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The healing of St. Iakovos Tsalikis by St. Charalambos


"Once," as St. Iakovos Tsalikis related: "When I was a small child, I suffered a severe cold, as I was struck bed-bound with great shortness of breath and terrible pain in the left side of my chest.

There was no doctor in the village, and our only refuge was God and His Saints. We had in our home a small silver icon of St. Charalambos--it was wonderworking--over 600 years old, and we had brought it from Asia Minor as a family heirloom.

My mother therefore, offered much prayer and prostrations, entreating the Saint. Then, I saw the hand of a Priest, from the wrist down, pass over my head, and descend to my chest where I was having pain, and make the sign of the cross over my and pat my head. Immediately, the pain passed along with the shortness of breath, and I became well. I told me mother:

"Mother, I saw the hand of a Priest cross me and pat me on the head, and now I'm fine. It all passed." I even told her with such detail, even about the hair on the wrist, as I saw it.

"My child," my mother said, "it was St. Charalambos, who came to heal you. You should remember this day forever (it was the feast of the Holy Apostle Thomas) when the miracle happened, because you were dead, and resurrected."

Friday, November 8, 2019

The true Christian... ( Saint John Chrysostom )

The true Christian, moving his tongue to praise God, leans on his knees and raises his hands and mind to plead with God, pours out tears of repentance and pity before God.

The true Christian never swears, always speaks the truth ... according to the Lord's command, yes and no in his answers.

Saint John Chrysostom

Sunday, November 3, 2019

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.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Fruits of the Jesus Prayer ( Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos)



-I will mention to you some of the fruits of the Jesus prayer,since i can see you are very eager to learn.In the beginning the Jesus prayer is the bread which sustains the athlete,then it becomes oil which sweetens the heart and,in the end,it becomes wine which intoxicates man,that is,which creates ecstasy and union with God.To be more specific,The first gift which Christ gives to the man of prayer is the awareness of his sinfulness.He stops believing that he is " good" and considers himself"the desolating sacrilege..standing in the holy place"(Matt,24,15).Like the saw of a surgeon cutting through bone,the sharp word of the spirit penetrates to the depths of the soul.There is so much impurity within us!Our soul reeks. Sometimes people come in my cell and they give a bad odour..from their inner filth.Well then,whatever was unknown before to the athlete,is now revealed to him through the Jesus prayer.

As a result,he considers himself below all people and thinks Hell is his only eternal habitation and starts crying.He cries for his dead self.Is it possible for one to cry for the dead of his neighbour and not for the dead who is in his own house?In this way the athlete of the Jesus prayer,too,does not see the sins of others,but only his own death.His eyes become fountains of tears which flow from the affliction of his heart.He weeps like a condemned person,and at the same time he cries,"Have mercy on me",Have mercy on me","Have mercy on me".With these tears,as we said above,the purification of soul and nous begins.As water cleanses dirty things,as the falling rain clears the sky of clouds and the earth from filth,likewise tears cleanse and whiten the soul.The tears are water of the second baptism.Thus the Jesus prayer brings the sweetest fruit of purification.-Is man completely purified when divine grace visits him?-He is not purified completely,but is always seeking purity of heart for purification is a never ending effort.St.John Climacos reports this saying which he had heard from a monk,who had achieved dispassion."The perfect but still unfinished perfection of the perfect".The more one weeps the more one is purified;the more one sees the deeper layers of sin the more he feels the need to weep again.St.Symeon the New Theologian elucidates this point well:
"These by frequent prayer,by unutterable words by the flow of the their tears purifying their souls.As they see their soul purified,they are set on fire with love,the fire of desire,to see it perfectly pure.
But as they are powerless to find perfection of light the process is incomplete.The more I am purified I,the sinner,am illumined,the more He appears,the spirit who gives purity.Each day,it seems I begin again to be made pure,to see.In a fathomless abyss,in a measureless heaven,who can find a middle or an end?
As you under stand,my father,man is being continuously perfected and cleansed.The passive aspect of the soul is first cleansed and then the intelligent power of the soul.The faithful are initially delivered from the passions of the flesh;then-through harder prayer and more intensive struggle,from the passions of hatred ,anger and rancour.When man manages to be freed from anger and rancour,it is obvious that the passive aspect of his soul has almost been purified.Then the entire warfare is carried out in the intelligent aspect,and the athlete wars against pride,vainglory and against all vain thoughts.This warfare will follow him to the end of his life.But all this course of purification takes place with the help and energy of grace,so that the faithful becomes a vessel receptive of rich divine grace.Again St.Symeon writes:
For man cannot overcome his passions unless the light comes to our help.Even so,it does not happen all at once.Man by nature cannot receive all of a sudden,the spirit of God.But much must be achieved,all of which is in his power.Detachment of soul,despoiling of goods,separation from his own,giving up his will,renouncing the world,patience in temptations,prayer,sorrow,poverty,humility,dispassion.
-And how does one understand that his soul is beginning to be purified?-This is easy,the wise hermit answered.It becomes perceptible very soon.Hesychios the elder uses a nice image.As poisonous food which enters the stomach and causes disturbance and pain,comes out when we take medicine,and the stomach is relieved afterwards and feels the relief,the same happens with spiritual life.When man accepts evil thoughts and subsequently,experiences their bitterness and their heavyness,he "vomits easily and casts the evil thoughts out completely"through the Jesus prayer,attaining the sense therefore that purification is taking place.Moreover,the man of prayer becomes aware of purification,because the internal wounds that the passions cause cease bleeding.In the Gospel of the Evangelist Luke we read about the woman who had a flow of blood that:"she..came up behind him,and touched the fringe of His garment;and immedeately her flow of blood ceased"(Lk.8.44).
When one approaches Jesus Christ,he is immediately healed-"the flow of blood ceases":the blood of passions ceases to flow.I wish to say that images,circumstances,persons who used to scandalize us cease to now.In other words, when various persons or things disturb us,it is obvious that we are wounded by the attacks of the devil.It is within us that the scandal lies.Being purified through the help of the Jesus prayer,he sees all people and all things as creatures of God.He considers,especially human persons,as images of God Who is full of love.Whoever,therefore,is dressed with the grace of Christ also sees the others dressed with such grace,even if they are naked.Whereas he who is destitute of Divine grace,sees even those who are dressed as if they were naked!

An excerpt from the book "A Night in the desert of the Holy Mountain" by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

My dear Mother, Panagia ( St. Joseph the Hesychast )

All the saints wrote many praises to our Panagia. But I, the poor one, have found no words more elegant or sweet to describe her, than to cry out to her at every moment: 
'' My dear Mother! My dear,sweet Mother! 
When my soul departs may it come into thy hands, and through them may it be given to its Creator, thine Only-begotten Son.


St. Joseph the Hesychast

Friday, October 18, 2019

Basic Orthodox knowledge – the true interpretation of the signs of the times (Fr. Seraphim Rose)



The first thing we must have if we are going to have the true interpretation of the signs of the times is something we can call basic Orthodox knowledge. That is, knowledge of the Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments (and not just according to the way it seems, but according to the way the Church has interpreted it); knowledge of the writings of Holy Fathers; knowledge of Church history; and awareness of the different kind of heresies and errors which have attacked the Church’s true understanding of dogma and especially of the last times. If we do not have a grounding in sources such as these, we will find ourselves confused and unprepared. That is precisely what our Lord tells us: to be ready, to be prepared. Unless we have this basic knowledge, we will not be prepared and we will misinterpret the signs of the times.

A few years ago a book was printed in English which has become a fantastic bestseller for a religious book. It has sold over ten million copies in America. It’s called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, a Protestant Evangelical in Texas. In a rather superficial style he gives his interpretation of the signs of the times. He believes it’s the last times we are living in now. He believes that everywhere around us there are being fulfilled these signs which our Lord talked about. If you read this book, you find that sometimes he gets something more or less correct according to our Orthodox understanding, sometimes he is totally off, and sometimes he is partly wrong, partly right. It’s as though he’s just guessing, because he reads the Scripture according to his own understanding. He has no basic Orthodox Christian knowledge, no background in the true knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. Therefore, if you read this book seriously, you will find that you become very confused. You don’t know what to believe any more. He talks, for example, about a millennium which is supposed to come before the end of the world. He talks about the rapture, when Christians are supposedly gathered up into the heavens before the end of the world, and then watch how the people suffer down below. He talks about the building of the Temple in Jerusalem as though this is a good thing, as thought this is preparing for Christ’s coming.

If you read such books as this (there are many other books like it; this one happens to be a bestseller because the author caught the imagination of people just at one particular time), and if you take them all as truth, you will find that instead of recognizing Christ—which is the whole reason for our understanding about the signs of the times—you will be accepting Antichrist.

Take, for example, the very question of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is true, according to Orthodox prophecies, that the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. If you look at people like Hal Lindsey, or even the Fundamentalist Carl McIntire, they are also talking about the building of the Temple, but they’re talking about it as though we are building it in order for Christ to come back and reign over the world for a thousand years. What they are talking about is the coming of Antichrist. The millennium, according to the Protestant interpretation, as being a special thousand-year reign at the end of the world, is actually the reign of Antichrist. In fact, there have already been people who have arisen and proclaimed their thousand-year kingdom which is going to last until the end of the world. The last one was Adolf Hitler. This is based upon the same kind of chiliastic idea: that is, interpreting the millennium in a worldly sense. The actual thousand years of the Apocalypse is the life in the Church which is now, that is, the life of Grace; and anyone who lives it sees that, compared to the people outside, it is indeed heaven on earth. But this is not the end. This is our preparation for the true kingdom of God which has no end.

There are many books of basic Orthodox knowledge now available. Those who are seriously concerned about studying the signs of the times should first be very well versed in some of these books, and they should be reading them, seriously studying them, and having them as daily food. The best books to read are not someone’s interpretation of Revelation (the Book of Apocalypse), because right now there’s not really any Orthodox interpretation of this in English.2

The best books are the basic spiritual textbooks. First of all there are basic texts of Orthodox dogmas, the various catechisms. One of the best is the eighth-century work of St. John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith, which goes through the whole of the catechism. An even earlier one is St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures, that is, lectures prepared for people about to be baptized, which goes through the whole Creed and tells what the Church believes. There are many similar books of catechism, both in ancient times and in more modern times. More recently we have the catechisms in Russian of Metropolitan Platon and Metropolitan Philaret, which are a little shorter and simpler.

Then there is a different kind of book: commentaries on Holy Scriptures. There are not too many of these in English,3 but we do have some of the commentaries of St. John Chrysostom. This area is a little bit weak in English, because there are many good books in Russian which are not in English yet, including more recent books of commentaries on the Scriptures, even on the Apocalypse. Archbishop Averky’s books are very good, but they’re just being put into English now. God willing, before too long, they will be out.4

Then, besides these two kinds of books—basic catechism and commentaries on Scripture—there are all the books on Orthodox spiritual life. These include the Lausiac History (which tells about how the monks lived in Egypt, and how they fought spiritually), the Dialogues of St. Gregory of Rome, the Lives of Saints, The Ladder of St. John, the Homilies of St. Macarius the Great, the books of St. John Cassian, the Philokalia, Unseen Warfare and St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ. These books deal with basic Orthodox spiritual life, spiritual struggle, how to discern the wiles of the demons, how not to fall into deception. All of them give a basic foundation by which to understand the signs of the times.

Then there are the works of more recent writers who are in the same patristic spirit as the ancient Holy Fathers. The main examples are the two great writers of 19th-century Russia, Bishop Theophan the Recluse and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov,5 whose works are now coming out gradually in English. Bishop Ignatius’ book The Arena and various articles by Bishop Theophan are in English.6 These two writers are very important because they transmit the patristic teaching down to our times. They have already explained many questions which arise concerning how to understand the Holy Fathers. For example, the new Orthodox Word has a whole text of Bishop Ignatius on the toll-houses which the soul meets after death. Sometimes, in reading the Holy Fathers, one has questions on such subjects and doesn’t quite know how to understand what the ancient Fathers say, and these more recent Father explain these texts.

There are the histories of the Church, which tell of God’s revelation to men and how God acts with regard to men. It is very instructive to read the stories of the Old Testament, because exactly the same things repeat themselves in the New Testament. Then one should read, along with he New Testament, the histories of the New Testament Church. For example, there’s a pocketbook of Eusebius’ History of the Church, which traces the history of the Church down through the first three centuries, written from an Orthodox Christian point of view.7 It’s very important to see what early Church writers saw was important in the history of the Church: the martyrs, the apostles, and so forth.

So all these different kinds of writings help to prepare us with basic Christian knowledge, that is, catechisms, commentaries on Scripture, books on spiritual life, more recent patristic books in this same spirit, and histories of the Church. Before we do too much reading about what specifically the signs of the times mean, we should have a basic background in all of these categories of books. All of them prepare one to understand something about the signs of the times. Once one has begun to prepare oneself like this, it is not merely a matter of adding knowledge up in one’s head and being able to repeat by heart certain phrases, to have exactly the right interpretation of a Bible verse, or anything of the sort.


Fr. Seraphim Rose

Monday, October 14, 2019

Balance the physical realities of our daily life with our spiritual needs. ( St. Seraphim of Sarov )

One of the common errors we make is to think in either/or or black&white terms. For example we may read from one of the desert fathers about giving up all that is of this world and to only concentrate on God. If this notion is taken literally we will create great problems in our life by ignoring the reality of our integral existence. We are physical and spiritual beings. We cannot separate one from the other. It is equally wrong to ignore spirit and to live according to our physical needs alone. This is the most common of errors as our physical needs and passions seem to be the stronger and difficult to manage. What is essential for our spiritual well- being is to balance the physical realities of our daily life with our spiritual needs.

How do we best do this? This is where discipline and balance are essential. We have to be attentive to both body and spirit. We need to pray and we need to eat. We need to set aside time for exercise and for worship. We can't let one dimension of our life out weigh the other. We must care for our whole being all the time.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov says the following:


One should go by the middle path: ‘turn not aside to the right hand nor to the left’ (Pr. 4:26); and one should render unto the spirit what is spiritual, and unto the body what is bodily; for the maintenance of temporal life, one should render what is necessary, and for life in society, that which is lawfully demanded by it, in accordance with the words of Holy Scripture: ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’ (Mt. 22:21).

He calls this balance the "middle path." our approach to life must be one that is a balance. We must care for the body we have been given, we must have time to express our love for our neighbors, and we must also continually nurture our love for God. When we have such balance we will find that our heart is filled with peace and that God's grace fills it with His love enabling us to walk this thin line of balance. With perfect balance there is no sin but only harmony and love.

I must admit, this is not an easy path to find. Most of will find this balance hard to find. This is why the Church provides so many ways to assist us. As we are more aware of our sinfulness we are discovering the points of imbalance in our lives. Through the ascetic practices, worship and regular participation in the sacraments, we are making an effort to achieve a better balance. No one can walk out on a high wire ir even a balance beam without practice and self effort. The same is true in aging the necessary balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of our life.


St. Seraphim of Sarov

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Triumph of the Church ( St. John Chrysostom )


"How does one prove that Christ is God? 
We should not try to answer this question by using the argument of the creation of heaven and earth, because the unbeliever will not accept it. If we tell him that He raised the dead, healed the blind, expelled demons, he still will not agree. If we tell him that He promised us resurrection from the dead, the kingdom of heaven, and ineffable goods, not only he will not agree, but also he will laugh at us.
How then shall we lead him to the faith, especially when he is not spiritually developed? Surely, we shall do this by resting on truths which are acceptable both to us and to him without any dispute or shadow of doubt.
We shall start from the fact that Christ planted the Church in the world. What is the point then that we absolutely agree upon? It is the fact that Christ planted the Church. It is by this means that we shall reveal the power and prove the divinity of Christ. We shall see that it is impossible to regard the dissemination of Christianity in the whole wide world in such a short period of time as a human work. And indeed, when Christian ethics invites people who have bad habits and are slaves to sin to a higher life. And yet, the Lord managed to liberate from such things not only us, but the entire human species.
Christ’s superbly wondrous achievement is the Church. He achieved this without using arms, without spending money, without mobilizing armies, without causing wars. He achieved it by starting only with twelve disciples, who were insignificant, uneducated, poor, naked, unarmed… 
It was with such human resource that He succeeded in persuading the nations to think correctly, not only in the present life, but also in the life which is to come. He managed to nullify the ancestral laws, to uproot ancient customs, and to plant new ones. He managed to detach man from an easy way of life and to lead him to a difficult one. He managed all these things, although all fought against Him, and He had to endure a degrading crucifixion and an ignominious death!
 
This superbly wondrous achievement is not human. Surely, such things do not occur to human beings. What occurs is the exact opposite. In other words, as long as they are alive and prosper their work progresses. When, however, they die, what they created is destroyed along with them. This is endured not only by the rich or the leading ones, but also by the chief governors. This is so, because their laws are abolished, their memory is obliterated, and their names are forgotten, while their intimate associates are pushed aside. These things occur to those who originally governed the nations by a mere nod, and led to war grand armies; to those who condemned to death and recalled the exiled. To the Lord, however, it was the exact opposite that occurred.

It is superbly wondrous because it was achieved by the Crucified Christ. Before the crucifixion the state of his work looked pitiful. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The rest of the Disciples fled in order to save their lives, while many believers abandoned Him. He was left alone among enemies. And yet, after the slaughter and the death, so that you may learn that the Crucified Christ was not a mere man, all things became brighter, jollier, and glorious. 
 
Peter, the head Apostle, who before the crucifixion did not bear the threat of a maidservant, but after so many heavenly teachings and his participation in the divine mysteries said that he does not know the Lord, the same one after the crucifixion preached Him to the ends of the world. Innumerable martyrs were sacrificed, because they preferred to be put to death than to deny Christ, as the head Apostle had denied Him after being intimidated by a young maiden. 
 
The amazing submission of the world to the Crucified Christ and His Apostles: Now, all the lands, all the cities, the deserted and the inhabited places, confess the Crucified Lord. On Him faith is placed by kings and generals, archons and consuls, slaves and freemen, unlettered and educated, the barbarians and the various nations of humanity. Even that small and insignificant tomb that received the blood stained and tortured body of the Lord is more valued than a thousand royal palaces and more venerable even to kings. 
 
What is even a greater paradox is the fact that what happened to the Lord also happened to His disciples. Because, those who were despised and imprisoned, those who were atrociously tortured and underwent innumerable martyrdoms, the very same ones, after their death, were more honored than the kings. Where do we see this? In Rome, the emperors, the consuls and the generals put aside all things and run to venerate the tombs of Peter the fisherman and Paul the tent maker. In Constantinople, those who bear diadems on their heads, wish to be buried next not close to the tombs of the Apostles but at the entrance of their temples. And so the kings become the doormen of the fishermen! Indeed, they are not ashamed for this, but boast about it, not only themselves but also their descendants.
 
Christ’s prophesy about the Church and its speedy fulfillment. When Christ’s disciples were only twelve and the Church was not in any one’s thought, when the Jewish synagogue was still flourishing and the impious idolatry dominated almost the entire world, the Lord had prophesied: “On this stone (i.e. on Peter’s confession of faith) I will build my Church, and the powers of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Do you realize the truth of this prophesy? Do you see its fulfillment? Think how important a fact is the spreading of the Church almost to the entire earth in a very brief span of time.
 
 Think how the life of so many nations changed and led to the faith so many peoples, how it abolished ancestral customs, how it liberated from age-long habits, how it scattered like dust the domination of pleasure and the power of sin, how it extinguished like smoke the foul smell of the sacrifices, the idolatrous ceremonies, the abominable feasts, the idols, the pagan altars and temples, how it erected sacred altars everywhere, in our land and in the lands of the Persians, the Scythians, the Africans and the Indians. What I say? Even in the British Isles, which are beyond the Mediterranean, in the ocean, the Church was spread and erected altars.
 
The superbly wondrous liberation and change that the Church induced in the world: The work of liberation of so many peoples from age-long shameful habits, as well as the change in the manner of life from an easier to a more difficult one, is indeed wondrous, or rather superbly wondrous. It is a proof of divine operation (energy), even if no one had opposed it, even if peace had prevailed and many had assisted. 
 
Because this spreading of the Church did not only come into collision with ancient habit, but also with pleasure, the happy manner of life. In other words, it had two powerful opponents, which tyrannized humanity: habit and pleasure. 
 
Whatsoever people had received, from centuries ago, from their fathers, their grandfathers and their ancient ancestors, even what they had received from the philosophers and the rhetoricians, all these things they agreed to despise, an attitude extremely difficult. Besides, they had to accept a new manner of life, which was indeed much more difficult; because she removed them from luxury and attached them to fasting. She removed them from avarice and led them to lack of property. She removed them from profanity and led them to chastity. She removed them from aggressiveness and led them to gentleness. She removed them from envy and led them to friendship. She removed them from an easygoing and pleasurable life and led them to a life of difficulties, hardships, and full of sorrows. Indeed she led to this life those who had been accustomed to the life of luxuries. Surely, those who became Christians were not people who lived in some other worlds and did not have sinful habits, but were those who had rotted in them and had become more flexible than clay. It was them that she called to follow the hard and ragged road. And it persuaded them to follow it!
 
The superbly wondrous work of the Twelve Apostles in the spreading of the Church. How many were persuaded? Not two, not ten, not twenty, not a hundred, but an innumerable crowd. And how many did she use to persuade them? She used two men, uneducated, uncultured, unknown, poor, without property, without bodily strength, without glory, without illustrious ancestry, without rhetorical eloquence. She used twelve men who were fishermen, tent makers, whose mother tongue was foreign; because, they did not speak the same tongue with the idolaters. They spoke Hebrew, which was different from all other languages. It was with them that the Church was built up and spread to the ends of the world. This is not the only wondrous fact, but there is also the fact that these few, these poor, these uneducated and despised men, who set out to change humanity, did not pursue their work without disturbance. They were confronted with innumerable wars from every side. They were opposed by every nation and in every city. But why do I speak of nations and cities? War was raised against them even on every house. Their teaching separated on many occasions the child from the father, the daughter in law from the mother in law, the brother from the brother, the servant from the master, the citizen from the ruler, the man from the woman, and the woman from the man. In every family not all believed simultaneously,, and so the Christians suffered daily harassments, ceaseless enmities, a myriad of deaths. All fought them as common opponents and enemies. They were pursued by kings, governors, citizens, freemen, slaves, crowds, cities. They did not pursue only them, but –how terrible– even the neophyte catechumens, i.e. those who just believed.
 
The victory of the Apostles and the Church is due to the power of the Crucified but also Risen Lord. It caused horror and wrath to the idolaters the thought of abandoning their pagan altars, of despising their bloody sacrifices, which all their fathers and ancestors practiced, and of believing in the Lord; of believing in Him who took flesh from the Virgin Mary, and stood trial before Pilate, and suffered numberless tribulations and degradations, underwent a dishonorable death, was buried and rose again. It is indeed a paradox, that, while the sufferings of the Lord were indisputable, -inasmuch as many had seen the lashings, the biting, the spitting, the slapping, the cross, the mocking, the entombment– it was not the same with the resurrection. The Lord, after his resurrection, manifested Himself only to the disciples. In spite of this fact, they spoke about the resurrection and persuaded the peoples and built up the Church. How did they do it? They did it with the power of the Lord, who sent them to preach his Gospel to the nations. It was He who opened to them the way. It was He who facilitated their difficult task. Had they not been assisted by the divine power, the spreading of Christianity would not have even begun.
 
The persecutions against the Church did not inhibit its expansion. The reason was that while the tyrants were forearmed against the Church, while the soldiers interposed their arms, while the mobs raged like a wild fire, while the bad habit was lined up in opposition, while orators, sophists, the rich people, ordinary citizens and leaders were aroused in enmity, the word of God, being stronger than the flame, turned the thistles into ashes, cleansed the fields and sowed the word of the preaching. Some of the believers were thrown into the prisons, others were exiled, others had their property confiscated, others were assassinated, and others were torn to pieces. In spite of the fact that Christians were treated as common criminals, suffering patiently every kind of punishment, humiliation and persecution, more and more people joined the Church. Indeed, the new believers not only were not discouraged by the tortures which they saw the older believers undergoing, but became more eager! They run by themselves, without constraint, showing gratitude to their torturers. They became more fervent in the faith, seeing the torrents of the blood of the believers. 
 
The expansion of the Church in spite of the persecutions proves the incomparable and unconquerable power of Christ. Did you see the incomparable power of Him who achieved all these wonders? How is it possible that people who are undergoing such horrid martyrdoms feel no sorrow? And yet, they rejoiced, and were elated! This is what St. Luke the Evangelist adduces as an example, when he says about the Apostles that “they left from the council rejoicing, because they were proved worthy to be ill-treated for the shake of Christ” (Acts 5:41). While no one can build even a wall with stones and plaster when is persecuted, the Apostles built up the Church throughout the world while sufferings persecutions, imprisonments, exiles and deaths as martyrs. They did not build her up with stones, but with souls –which is much more difficult; since it is not the same to build a wall as to persuade perverted souls to change their manner of life, to abandon their demonic madness and to follow the life of virtue. They achieved this, because they had with them the unconquerable power of the Lord, who had prophesied; “I will build up my Church, and the powers of Hell will not prevail against her” (Matthew 16:18). 
 
Consider how many tyrants fought the Church and how many persecutions they raised against it… Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and their successors right down to Constantine, were all idolaters. All of them –some more moderately, and some more harshly– fought the Church. Even if some of them did not raise persecutions, nevertheless, their attachment to idolatry motivated those who wanted to flatter them to oppose the Church. In spite of all this, the evil schemes and attacks of the idolaters were dissolved as cobwebs, scattered like dust, vanished like smoke. Besides, what were planned against the Church became the occasion of great benefits for the Christians. The reason was that such plans created choruses of martyrs, who constitute the treasure, the pillars, and towers of the Church. 
 
The wondrous fulfillment of what Christ prophesied about the Church reveals most clearly his true Godhead. Do you see the wondrous fulfillment of this prophesy? Indeed, “the powers of Hell cannot prevail against her.” Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come. No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church. If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices. How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles? Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church. No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think."



(Translated and edited by Protopresbyter George Dion. Dragas, PhD, DD, DTh; This article represents selections from St. John Chrysostom’s treatise To Jews and Greeks, a demonstration, that Christ is God… (PG 48, 813-838);



Source- http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.ca

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

God and the devil are found at opposite poles. ( St. Nicholas of Serbia )

God and the devil are found at opposite poles. No one can turn his face to God who has not first turned his back on sin. 
When a man turns his face to God, all of his paths lead to God. When a man turns his face away from God, all of his paths lead to perdition. 
When a man finally rejects God by word and in his heart, he is no longer fit to do anything that does not serve for his complete destruction, both of his soul and of his body. 
 
St. Nicholas of Serbia

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

An enlightened Christian found God with a lifeline to cancer!




Albanian 52-year-old Porphyria talks about her decision to be baptized into the Orthodox faith, about her dark path without her faith and her illness, which eventually made her even stronger.

Porphyria comes from Albania, is a new-born Christian, lived in Greece for many years, always loved Christ and then came the blessed moment when she was baptized and named Porphyria, out of love for Saint Porphyrios. However, various difficulties forced her to live as an immigrant for the second time and now she lives with her family in Germany. We met her in Greece and she spoke to us with the warmth of a true Christian comforted by the caress of God. She narrated without false humiliation her course in the dark path of the life without God and the sickness that she went through. She rejoiced with no trace of pride, as if she were talking about another woman's triumph.

Porphyria speaks to readers of "Orthodox Truth".
“I'm glad to be in Greece after three years. I'll try to tell them how my soul felt. And to speak even to a few who have the same experiences as me and to give them courage. I do not want to talk about my own experiences, but to glorify God for all He has given me. I want God to make me worthy, to express this love and gratitude that I have, to be heard by others. You know it's beautiful when we talk and support as much as we can people who have cancer, but it's very different when you go through the fire yourself and you want to talk by your own experience. The common experience says many things. Actually, I got sick of cancer for the second time. The first time I was ill I was 32 years old. Although I was familiar, I was terrified too. I remember the first day I went to do my first chemotherapy. There was a nest within me, a grief, a sadness, because I knew the road and didn't want to cross it again. That day I felt like the people who were sentenced to death and just before they were executed. I had this feeling when the medicine in my blood started to flow slowly. At that moment, I'm not going to hide it, I was tearful. "

Faced with this suffering, one can not but stand with utmost respect and with this feeling we asked her if she felt abandoned by God ...


Despite my pain, sadness, and crush with the return of my illness, I was not damned. I did not feel that God had abandoned me or given me a punishment. By God's grace, I quickly got used to it. And while I felt like they were executing me, at the same time I was thinking that Christ would turn the potent medicine into water. This poison that would enter my blood, if it wasn't for my good, Jesus would make it water. Until then it was my grievance and my pain, but not against God. "






What Porphyria told us was simply told. We also discerned the noble progress made by the soul through pain, so that it may wish to impart the knowledge she had acquired in such a hard way and to become a missionary of pain to its peers.

After cancer I started searching for myself. I had read about Elder Paisios a lot and also about Saint Porphyrios, to whom I prayed a lot, though I had not met him. Saint Porphyrios was speaking in my soul! He urged people to confession and communion. He said, "My children, most of the things that afflict us, are demons. If you build your relationship with God, you'll have nothing. You will be saved."

So step by step I started to work on myself and say that somehow I have made a mistake. So I was baptized and became an Orthodox Christian. I was learning myself through the mysteries. I resorted to confession. Man must tell everything in confession, even his sinful thoughts, without being embarrassed. Even if he has done the worst crimes in the world. Because it's all tricks of the evil one who wants to separate us from our Father. So the sly one wants to give us false cues and remorse that
make us supposedly so soiled that we can't go near God. But Christ said that He came, just for sinners, the very sinners, the harlots and the publicans, I did not come for the righteous. If He came for the righteous He would have gone to the high priests and the pharisees only. "


From what we discussed with Porphyria, it was obvious that she got this experience without having been thrown into depression. She did not feel it was a punishment of God. Cancer and everything she learned from it did not come across to her as punishment. It was almost a source of inspiration:


"We are often entangled in the prosperity of this world, in the fine foods, the drinks, the beautiful clothes, all of which is what the wicked one wants us to pursue in our lives. This is how it seduces people. And they think they are doing well. And because I lived through cancer, even if for a little while, in Christ's love, I was full in the Holy Spirit in my cancer, and I had nothing to lose. While experiencing the disease, I could not eat, drink, dress, have hair, lag behind other people around me, but I felt I had everything, that I lacked nothing. Diets and food and hair and clothes and beauty. Everything was the grace of God. And if we do not have this grace we will never be happy. God is our joy and our health and our happiness and our wealth and everything is ultimately Christ. We have lost Him and we experience so much pain in our lives. So I want to shout to people that for me cancer is not the boogeyman that scares people, I don't see it as a curse. For me this was God's blessing. Christ knew that I deeply worshiped Him in my soul even before I was even baptized. I was actually looking for Him. I had a good soul and I was a Christian without being a Christian. However, I was also very sinful. When I was an atheist, I had made two abortions in my country. My doctors were telling me abortion is nothing. Later I read that the fetus has a soul and tears to pieces. I was ruthless and God was merciful to me. He allowed the cancer for me to realize that I too could find death. “But I'm not like you, I have a lot of love. I love you, I don't bully you. I only want to slap you just to make you come back because you left Me. How to get you back from going off the cliff. So I allow something that you say is a curse, pain and sorrow, but in reality it is sanctification. This is how I finally felt got the cancer. "


"The reason I live is related to trying to cleanse myself from sin."

Time in patients fluctuates at a different rate, and often clarifies the foggy landscape that faded away so far the dominant thinking. What Porphyria put forward for her life in terms of pre- and post-knowledge was a first-rate lesson for the sick and the healthy:

“But first I found the time to think and draw some conclusions about myself and my life. At first I had a lot in my head and I didn't think about God. I took time, through illness, to think about why I came to life. To work from morning to night? To have more and more to eat? I realized I didn't come to earth for that. The reason I exist on earth is not to sin. Then there is no reason for me to live. The reason I live is related to trying to cleanse myself from sin. To make Porphyria clearer than snow, as the psalm says ... This is what we should ask God, He only knows what is good for us, no matter what we usually ask for in our prayer. We are unhappy because we want our will to be done. But God does not have the same will as ours. Because he knows better than us what we ask him of. And so I slowly learned to leave it in His hands. And let Him bring whatever He wants.
"The Lord used the hard way to bring me back"

It would be naive to believe that after this "happy end" they lived better and we did better. Porphyria does not leave us in such illusions, which gives courage to the people who fall and fall again, that is to all of us. She will tell us:

"I was not always in a state of grace, let's say. Although I got baptized and communed, when I went to Germany again the living worries came. And I was sad because my will wasn't being done. Things weren't happening the way I wanted them too. Of course, man also thinks in spiritual life that he manages things on his own. He reads a book and thinks that's enough. Then comes selfishness and it crushes you. So I want to say that for me cancer was life-saving. It brought me to God from whom I had been so far. When God abandons me I am tragically unhappy. I miss everything, I blame everything and I want to put the blame with everyone and on everything. God used the hard way to bring me back to salvation. Everyone has to search within themselves whether or not they have lost God. God is everywhere and within us and around us, but I may have lost him personally. And something must be done or done to find Him. So I ask God to dwell in my soul, because everything is ultimately a gift from God. Do what you can and you will realize the rest are God's gifts."
“It is a paradise to have Christ in us. Otherwise, we will never be complete”

Often those of us who are baptized as infants run the risk of cultivating, a lifeless silence in our faith. But a newcomer, after years of ignorance that took his breath away, when he finds it again becomes excited and becomes a teacher. Porphyria teaches us:

By the grace of God I realize how much I love the whole world and those who have troubled and distressed me. This can not be done without Grace. People should not fear cancer or other misfortune. Even losing our children, no matter how difficult it may be, even then we are not discouraged. If one divinizes his child and forgets God, then the child's loss can work so that we can find the true God we had forgotten. First of all is God, we must love Christ above all. Then we are complete. If we ask Him, God will teach us His will, He will tell us what He wants from us. I say to myself that I am 52 years old and have lived most of my life. So I have to fight my passions step by step and become a child of light. A child of God, to show us how our Father is. If we are not saints, then we think we are living, but we are dead. It is a paradise to have Christ in us. Otherwise we will never be complete. We will always miss something. And that then leads us on the wrong paths. Because when we miss something we always look for it in the wrong places.
_________
Sophia Chatzi
published in the newspaper
ORTHODOXY ALITHIA Sept 11, 2019

translated by: https://orthodoxgladness.blogspot.com/

post in greek: https://apantaortodoxias.blogspot.com/2019/09/blog-post_62.html