Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Racism from the Church's Perspective - Met. Ephrem (Kyriakos)

Met. Ephrem (Kyriakos) "Our life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3)

Christ God came, suffered, was crucified and rose from the dead: all this for the salvation of the world, for the sake of every person.

Therefore, there is no place for nationalism or for sectarianism... Every person is meaningful before God, whether he knows God or does not know Him, whatever his nationality, race or religion. The Holy Bible affirms the dignity of every person created in the image of God. It is true that the Jews were known as God's chosen people. This was only a historical stage when God used them as a means to come in the body and to make every nation that believes in Him His own nation. Therefore, the Apostle Paul says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Indeed,Christ-- whether a person knows Him and believes in Him or does not know Him and believe in Him-- is sown in the heart in every human and even traced upon every human face.

In his Spiritual Instructions, Saint Dorotheus says, "Suppose a circle whose center is God and whose rays are different paths. Every person of the created world walks along one of the rays toward the center, where Christ God is (whether the person realizes it or not). He approaches his brother walking along a different ray toward God, the center itself. The more they distance themselves from one another, the more they distance themselves from God."

Racist behavior has been rooted in the reality of sin since the beginning of humanity. A saying known among the Greeks is "he who is not a Greek is a barbarian". This racism is rooted in our blood, us weak humans, but those who believe in Christ reject it and fight it with the word of the Gospel: "
Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).

"All the seed of Adam is intended for salvation, having been renewed in Christ," according to Saint Irenaeus. People saw in the early Christians a "third race", as Tertullian put it, in the spiritual sense. That is, a "new people" in whom the two races, Jews and pagans, meet. Therefore, Christianity rejects every form of racism or religious discrimination. My neighbor is not only the person from my tribe, my neighborhood or my religion. Rather, he is every person that I meet along my way. Therefore we must respect strangers and accept dialogue, participation and cooperation with other ethnicities.

Europe attempted to renounce such distinctions after the French Revolution through embracing secularism but it deviated from the right path by renouncing at the same time all divine, religious values. Christ participated in the salvation of all outcasts, such as the Samaritans and pagans like the Canaanite woman, and so we must emulate Him. Schools have a prominent role in working to acquire a conscience that is not racist, through education that focuses on what is common to all people and that that which is unique about the other can be a source of richness for us.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, Koura and Dependencies

Sunday, February 24, 2019

To see Paradise with a telescope ( St. Paisios )

Whoever thinks that he can come to know the mysteries of God through external scientific theory, resembles the fool who wants to see Paradise with a telescope.

St. Paisios

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Small Things are Important ( Saint Luke the Surgeon )

This short story is an example how the little things demonstrate our firmness in our faith. Valentine Voino-Yassenesky was a highly respected surgeon at the time of the Communist revolution in Russia. He stands as a example for us because of the faith he demonstrated in a most horrible period of persecution for Christians in Russia. He later became Bishop Luke and then was affirmed as Saint Luke the Surgeon.

Valentine's deep faith was revealed in his life and work. His love for the sick and his great interest in the suffering sprang from his faith in God. He had an icon of the Mother of God hanging in the operating room. Before an operation he would make the sign of the cross, pray, and then make a cross with iodine on the patient's body. Only after this would he get down to work.
In the beginning of 1920, however, an examination committee ordered the icon to be removed from the operating room. Doctor Valentine reacted vigorously without fearing the consequences. He left the hospital, declaring that he would return only when the icon was returned to its place. ONe of the representatives of the committee declared with a certain dose of irony: "The operating room is a place of public service. We have separated the state from the church. IF your surgeon wishes to pray, that's fine and dandy, but he should keep the icon at home!"
Valentine did not yield. One admires his courage. At a time when he was in danger of losing not only his position but even his life, the faithful doctor dared to stand up to the resolute authorities for the sake of his faith. Hie persistence and unshakable faith in God brought quick results.
The wife of one of the Party members was brought to the hospital in need of an immediate operation. She demanded that only Professor Voino-Yassenetsky operate on her. Valentine was called to the visitor's room and asked to do the operation, but he answered firmly: "I am very sorry but in accordance with my beliefs, I cannot enter the operating room until the icon is first hung in its place."
The husband of the sick woman promised that, if the operation was done, the icon would be back the next morning. Valentine agreed. The operation was successful and the husband of the sick woman kept his world.
I recommend that you read his story in the book The Blessed Surgeon by Archdeacon Vasiliy Marushchak. It will not only give you a sense of what a strong faith can mean, but also give you an insight to the great difficulties the Russian people faced during the Communist period.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Teaching the Jesus Prayer ( St. Porphyrios )

This is a story of one of the spiritual children of Elder Porphyrios told about how he taught them to pray.

He placed us towards the east, two of us to his left and two to the right, with him in the middle. “Now we’ll pray noetically. 
First, I will say the words, and you will repeat them. But be careful, without anxiety or force, you’ll say the words calmly, humbly, with love and sweetness.” The Elder started off with his fine, delicate and eloquent voice, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” He said it very slowly, word by word, without forcing it at all. It was as though he had Christ before him and he was begging him, with a log pause after the word “Christ”, Coloring his words “have mercy on me” with an entreating tone. And we repeated it each time, trying to imitate his stance, the color of his voice and if it at all possible his spiritual disposition. 
At some point, the Elder stopped saying the prayer out loud and just continued whispering it on his lips. We did the same thing. How long did our night-time prayer take? I don’t remember. All I remember was that the Elder imparted an emotion to us that I cannot express with human words.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

If man is constantly in prayer he sees a light in his soul ( Gerontissa Makrina )

If man is constantly in prayer he sees a light in his soul, he sees a shine, a splendor, comes with abundant tears, sweet and delicious, feels a spiritual fullness that can not be captured by his mind. 
Gerontissa Makrina

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Becoming a practiced soldier of Christ ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

For it is absolutely necessary for the grace of God to leave, once a tried struggler has acquired a good taste of it in the beginning, so that he may be tested and become a practiced soldier of Christ.

And without such temptations, no one has ever ascended to perfection. This stage that we mentioned where many fall into delusion is the stage where the grace of God withdraws in order to make us, as we have said, practiced soldiers of war, so that we are not infants forever. But the Lord wants us to become worthy men and brave fighters able to guard His riches. That is why He allows us to be tempted.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Abortions are a terrible sin ( St. Paisios )

An instructive image: 
Christ, the Most-holy Theotokos and St. Stylianos blessing and protecting those who carry the blessed Cross of family life in Christ. 
A repentant woman wails of her sin of abortion. To the right, the New Herod of Abortion is depicted personified, with the physician helping her, and women bringing them their babes out of love of pleasure, hardness of heart, indifference, etc.
Note: Here Elder Paisios, with the divine illumination that he has, shares what a terrible sin and blight upon the entire world the sin of abortion is. He (and I) are not using this as a ruse to support any specific political candidate or party. And the Elder would never support those who would use violence to make a statement against abortion providers or patients. But may his words grant us all the contrition to realize how great a sin abortion is, and how we might all return to Christ in repentance, acknowledging the sacred image of God that is every human being, even from our mother's womb.

Elder Paisios: "Abortions are a terrible sin"

-Elder, one forty year-old woman, who has grown children, is three months pregnant. Her husband threatened that, if she does not have an abortion, he would leave her.

If she has an abortion, her other children would pay with sicknesses and accidents. Today, parents kill their children with abortions and do not have the blessing from God. In olden times, if a small child was born sick, they would baptize him, and he would die like an angel, and was more secured.

Parents had other older children, but they also had the blessing of God. Today, they kill their older children through abortions, as they strive to keep them alive while they are sick. Parents run to England, to America to heal them. And they continue to bear children even more sick, because they, if they sought to make a family, they could again give birth to sick children, at which point, what would happen? If they bore a few children, they would not run so much for the one who is sick. He would die and go forth as a little angel.

-Elder, I read once that every year, in total there are 50 million abortions and 200,000 women die from complications.

They kill the children because they say that, if the population would increase, there would not be enough to eat, in order for humanity to be preserved. There are so many uncultivated areas, so many woods, so that, with today's tools, for example, they could plant olive groves to give to the poor. It's not that they would cut the trees and there would be no Oxygen, because there would be trees to replace them.

In America, the wheat burns, and here in Greece, the fruit falls into the rubbish heap, etc. while in Africa, the people are dying from hunger. When people were dying from hunger in Abyssinia, because they had a great drought, I told a well-known ship-owner friend to help in these circumstances, to go to the rubbish dump and to load up a boat to take [the surplus foodstuffs] there for free. They didn't allow him to do this under any circumstance.

-How many thousands of embryos are killed every day!

Abortion is a terrible sin. It is murder, and of course a very great murder, to kill unbaptized children. Parents must understand that life begins from the instant of conception.

One night, God allowed me to see a terrible vision, to inform me regarding this matter! It was the evening of the Tuesday of Bright Week 1984. I had lit two candles in two tin cans, as I always do even while asleep, for all those who suffer spiritually or bodily. To those I include the living and the reposed. At midnight, as I was saying the [Jesus] Prayer, I saw a great field surrounded by a fence, studded by wheat that had just begun to grow. I stood outside the field, and I lit candles for the reposed and placed them on the wall of the fence.

To the left there was a dry place, full of rocks and cliffs, which was shaking continuously from a very strong cry from thousands of voices that break your heart and make you shudder. And even the toughest man, if he would hear it, would be unable to remain unmoved. As I was experiencing these heartbreaking cries, I asked within where these voiced were coming from, and what was happening with all that I saw, and I heard a voice tell me: “The field studded with wheat that has just sprouted, is the Cemetery with the souls of the dead that would be raised. At the place which was shaking from the heartbreaking cries are found the souls of children who were killed through abortions!”

Following this vision, I was unable to rest from the great pain that I experienced for the souls of the children. I could neither lie down to rest, though I had been busy that whole day.

-Elder, can something be done to remove the law regarding abortions?

Yes, but the Nation, the Church, etc. must be moved to inform the people about the consequences of declining birth rates. The Priest should explain to the world that the law regarding abortions is against the commandments of the Gospel. Doctors, from their own positions, should speak of the risks that follow the woman who has an abortion. See, the Europeans had royalty, and left this as an inheritance for their children. We had the fear of God, but we lost it and did not leave an inheritance for the next generation, and for this we legalize abortions, political marriage, [etc.]...When a man disobeys one commandment of the Gospel, he alone is responsible. When, however, something that clashes with the commandments of the Gospel becomes the law of the land, then the wrath of God falls upon the whole nation, that it may be chastened.
St. Paisios