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

translated by:

post in greek:

Monday, September 23, 2019

What is true hope ? ( St. Seraphim of Sarov )

If a man has no worries about himself at all for the sake of love toward God and the working of good deeds, knowing that God is taking care of him, this is a true and wise hope. 
 If a man takes care of his own business and turns to God in prayer only when misfortunes come upon him which are beyond his power, and then he begins to hope in God, such a hope is vain and false. 
A true hope seeks only the Kingdom of God... the heart can have no peace until it obtains such a hope. This hope pacifies the heart and produces joy within it.
St. Seraphim of Sarov

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The devil will use every opportunity to pit the true Orthodox Christians against each other ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )

In the coming years, the devil will use every opportunity to pit the true Orthodox Christians against each other, sometimes with issues great and other times (more commonly) small. 
We must try with steadfastness to not get caught by the bait.

Fr. Seraphim Rose

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When St. Paisios Smacked a Theology Student

I once visited Father Paisios with a student of theology who was at a critical stage. He asked him about his studies. The student naively told him about a work of his dealing with the creation of man. At one point he told Father Paisios: "At one point God didn’t know what to do, so He formed Adam and Eve, to pass His time." I saw Father Paisios with lightning speed raise his hand and gave him a heavy smack. The student lost it, became dizzy, he stood briefly with bulging eyes trying to realize what happened, and then he began to cry, sobbing like a small child. 
Father Paisios was looking at him, not saying anything, and let him cry. After much weeping, he said: "Blessed one, what is this that you said? Come with me." He took him by the hand, like a mother with a young child, and brought him to the sink and said: "Wash your face." Then he gave him a towel to wipe his face of the tears and brought him back to his seat. He then began with humor, tenderness and much love to indicate his error, and to say that we should not speak about God and His work with indecency. Moreover, he even wrote a graceful dedication in one of his books and gave it to him. Needless to say, I followed this entire scene speechless and ecstatic.

When I would visit him, after asking his advice on issues dealing with my personal life, I would ask him about issues I was facing with my spiritual children. I told him about a child who was very lively and reactive and asked for an opinion on how to treat him. He replied disarmingly: "Do what a mule driver does with the animal. Hold him securely by the reins and sit far away so you don’t get kicked."
When I recall my memories of that holy figure, I am moved, I shed tears and I pray. May we have his holy prayers. 
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos 
 Excerpt from the book Μαρτυρίες Προσκυνητῶν – Γέροντας Παϊσιος ὁ Ἁγιορείτης – 1924-1994, σὲλ 43-44, ἐκδόσεις Ἁγιοτοκος Καππαδοκίας, Νικόλαος Α. Ζουρνατζόγλου, ἐπισμηναγὸς Ε.Α.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Letter to a person who had to choose between suicide and begging.. ( Saint Nicholas Velimirovich )


You write that all your worldly goods were sold off to a third party. When you found yourself out on the street with nothing and nobody, you headed to the cemetery, bent on killing yourself. You had no doubts or second thoughts about this. 
Exhausted by the vexations, you lay down on your parents’ grave and fell asleep. Your mother appeared to you in your sleep and berated you, saying that in the Kingdom of God there were plenty of people who had been beggars, but not a single one of those who had done away with themselves. That dream saved you from suicide. Your beloved mother really did save you, by God’s providence. You began to beg and to live off begging. And you’re asking if, by doing so, you’re transgressing God’s law.

Take courage. God gave the commandment: ‘Don’t steal’. He didn’t give any commandment ‘Don’t beg’. Begging without any real need is stealing, but in your case it isn’t. The general and emperor Justinian was left blind in his old age, with no possessions or friends. He would sit, blind, outside the courtyard of the throne and beg for a little bread. As a Christian, he didn’t permit himself to consider suicide. Because, just as life’s better than death, so it’s better to be a beggar than a suicide. [Saint Nikolai seems to be confusing two people here. There was a medieval Latin legend that Belisarius, Justinian’s great general, had his eyes put out and ended his days as a beggar, but this is generally, though not universally, held to be spurious. WJL]

You say that you’re overcome with shame and that your sorrow’s deep. You stand at night outside the coffee-shop that used to be yours and ask for money from those who go in and out. You remember that, until recently, you were the owner of the coffee-shop and now you don’t dare go in even as a customer. Your eyes are red from weeping and lamentation. Comfort yourself. God’s angels aren’t far from you. Why are you crying about the coffee-shop? Haven’t you heard of the coffee-shop at the other end of Belgrade where it says: ‘Someone’s it wasn’t; someone’s it won’t be’? Whoever wrote those words was a true philosopher. Because that’s true of all the coffee-shops, all houses all the castles and all the palaces in the world.

What have you lost? Something that you didn’t have when you were born and which isn’t yours now. You were the boss, now you’re poor. That’s not loss. Loss is when a person becomes a beast. But you were a person and have remained so. You signed some papers for certain of your prominent customers and now your coffee-shop’s in the hands of a stranger. Now you look through the window and see everybody laughing, just the way they used to, and you’re wandering the streets with tears in your eyes and covered in shame. 
Never fear, God’s just. They’ll all have to answer for their misdeeds. But when they attempt to commit suicide, who’s to say whether the merciful Lord will allow their mothers to appear to them from the other world in order to keep them from the crime? Don’t consider them successful even for a moment. Because you don’t know how they’ll end up. 
A wise man in ancient Greece said: ‘Never call anybody happy before the end’. It’s difficult to be a beggar? But aren’t we all? Don’t we all depend, every hour of every day, on the mercy of Him Who gives us a life to lead? Now you’ve got an important mission in the world: to engage people’s attention so that they remember God and their soul and to be charitable. Since you’re forced to live in silence, delve into your soul and talk to God through prayer. The life of a beggar’s more heroic than that of a boss. ‘For gold is tested in the fire and accepted people in the furnace of humility’ (Sir. 2, 5). But you’ve already demonstrated heroism by rejecting the black thought of suicide. 
This is a victory over the spirit of despondency. After this victory, all the others will be easy for you. The Lord will be at your side.
Peace and comfort from the Lord!

Source: Δρόμος χωρίς Θεό δεν αντέχεται…, Ιεραποστολικές επιστολές Α, En Plo Publications, pp. 121-3.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

To partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is to receive in oneself the Risen Christ ( St. John Maximovitch )

To partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is to receive in oneself the Risen Christ, the Victor over death, granting to those with Him victory over sin and death. 
Preserving in ourselves the grace-filled gift of Communion, we have a guarantee and foretaste of the blessed, eternal life of the soul and body.

St. John Maximovitch