Saturday, May 23, 2020

The moment of death ( St. Luke the Surgeon of Simferopol )

 Before David became the King of Israel, he was a servant of King Saul. Since Saul knew that David would someday take his throne, he attempted to kill him. Once when his life was in danger, the Prophet David said to those who were his supporters: “I am only one step away from death.At one time I was almost dead.I hardly had a pulse and my heart almost stopped beating.But the Lord was merciful to me and I am still weak and I am able to speak to you only in a seated position.I wish to tell you something very important about this. I want to talk to you about being cognizant of death because it is very close to each one of us, as it was close to me last Saturday.Anyone of us can die suddenly at a time when it is unexpected.You should know that the lives of many people are ended abruptly.”

Remember always—engrave the name of the Lord in your hearts.Always remember this and do not ever forget it.When people prepare to go for a long walk or start a new chore, they gird themselves for the effort.And when they walk in the darkness of night they carry with them a lantern and this is very important because it must always light our way.

The same thing is true about our spiritual lives.We must gird ourselves and keep our lanterns lit.We must be untiring workers of God and we must struggle against Satan who tries at every turn to hinder us from reaching Christ. He tries to kill us with temptations.This is why the Lord Jesus gave us this command: “They encircled us while we had our lanterns burning.”

We must never forget that earthly life has been given to us so that we can prepare for eternal life. Our fate in eternal life will be judged and based on how we have lived our lives in this world.

You should be faithful to Christ.You should be faithful to the way of life He has shown you in the Book of Revelations written by John the Apostle and Evangelist.He tells us in that book: “Become faithful until death and you will be given the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:8).  We must be faithful to God.We must serve God tirelessly every day, every hour and every moment of our lives.Our life is short, we cannot waste the few hours, days, and years living our lives aimlessly.We should always think about the hour of our death.

All of the holy ascetics always remembered the hour of their death.It was part of their daily prayer life.They even had human skulls in their cells to remind them of their own death.They would look at them with tears in their eyes knowing that they too would follow in their footsteps.They served God tirelessly and worked for the Lord just like St. Seraphim of Sarov did.They would remember every day the words of the 33rd psalm which is read at the vesper service: “The death of the sinners is evil.”Just like you, they also remember the following words: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 16:5). Sinners have a great fear of death and I have seen many examples of this in my life.But there is one particular incident that I witnessed forty years ago that made such a deep impression on me that I will never forget it.

At that time I was a provincial doctor and I was invited to the home of a very evil man.As I entered his house I was startled by the great deal of turmoil that I found there.People in the house were running all over the place.An old man was lying on a bed. His face was very red and as soon as he saw me enter the room he began to yell out at me saying: “Doctor, I beg you to save me.I am dying, I realize now that I will die.”

Where was this man before this moment in life?What was he thinking when he was terrorizing so many people during his life?What was he thinking when he was taking all the people’s money?Now death had arrived.It is here and it is too late now to say: “I am dying, and I realize that I will die.” He should have lived his life knowing someday that he would die so that he would not now be prepared for death.

Who is there in the world that does not fear death? Only he who follows Christ and lives by His commandments does not fear death because he knows the promises made by Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Mt 5:12).

The deaths of the saints were completely different from those of us who lack faith. St. Seraphim of Sarov died while kneeling in front of an icon of the Holy Mother to whom he always prayed.He fell asleep in the Lord on his knees for precious was his death in the eyes of the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us: “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtakes you.”(John 12:35). While you are alive you still have the Light of Jesus Christ. In life you still have the ability to go to Church to hear the commandments of God and to hear the words of Scriptures.You should walk in that Light because when death comes, the Light will go out for you.This is so because beyond the grave, there is no remission of sins and you will receive your reward in accordance to the good deeds that you did in life.

Therefore, walk in the Light while you have the Light so that you will not be overwhelmed by the darkness, the eternal darkness of death.St. Paul the Apostle says: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
(2 Cor. 6:2). Now that we are living is the acceptable time for our salvation.Now, we should think about our salvation and to prepare ourselves for eternal life.That is what all Christians do, all those who love Christ.

Seventy years ago a doctor lived in St. Petersburg, Russia. His name was Gaaz.He had been assigned to serve the needs of those in jail.He had a very kind heart.He had a heart full of compassion and he loved all people.In his position as a doctor to those in jail, he did everything in his power to help these unfortunate people. He saw the prisoners being sent off to far away prisons in chains.He knew that they would be forced to walk thousands of miles until they reached the jails in Siberia and his compassionate heart went out to them.In order for him to feel their pain, he also wore chains on his feet and walked for hours around the yard of his home.When he was on his death bed, this holy man and physician said to the people around him the following miraculous words, words that all of us should keep in our hearts.“You should make it a priority in your lives to do good deeds for people.It is urgent for you to do this because death awaits all of us.Do not be frivolous in your lives.You should be faithful to Christ until death and God will give you the crown of life.”

The Prophet Isaiah said something which we also should remember and imprint it upon our hearts.“Be troubled you complacent ones; strip your lives bare, and gird sackcloth on your waists.” (Isaiah 32:11).

Tremble and remember death.You should always remember the time when you will leave this life and do not ever forget it.In order for us to have this mindset, and to follow Jesus Christ, we need the help of God.Without this help we will not be able to defeat the temptations of Satan.This is why we should ask God to send us Divine Grace.

Lord, have mercy on us sinners. Lord help us.

We should entreat Jesus like the idol worshiping woman did as you heard today in the Gospel reading.She was a Canaanite woman and when she saw Christ with His disciples she began calling after Him and entreating Him with the following request: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” (Mt. 15:20). But the Lord did not pay any attention to her and He silently continued his journey.The woman continued to entreat Him but He would not answer her.Finally His disciples said to Him: “Send her away, for she cries after us.” (Mt. 15:23).And the Lord answered: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Mt.15:24).

The woman continued to entreat Him. What did the Lord say to her?“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Mt. 15:26.And in response he heard an astounding answer filled with humbleness and compassion.“True Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Mt. 15:27), give me a crumb from your mercy.The Lord stopped when He heard this and said to her: “O woman, great is your faith.Let it be to you as you desire and her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Mt.15:28).

Many of us live a life that is not consistent with the Christian message.Many of us are burdened with various sins.Many of us have forgotten the Word of God which says: “The sting of death is sin.” (1 Cor. 15:56). Death wounds the person who becomes a slave to sin.Then, if we are weak and if the garments of our souls are all black with sins aren’t we like the dogs?Shouldn’t we also shout unto Christ as the Canaanite woman did: “Lord, I am like a dog, have mercy on me!” “You have girded me with strength for battle and the lanterns are lit around me. Amen.”

St. Luke of Simferopol

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Entreat the Mother of Light, the immaculate Theotokos, to help you.. ( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )

Entreat the Mother of Light, the immaculate Theotokos, to help you, for she is the greatest means of consolation after God.

When a person calls upon her holy name, he immediately senses her help. She is a mother; when she was on earth, as a human being and fellow-sufferer, she suffered the same things we do, and for this reason , she has great sympathy for pained souls and swiftly comes to help them.

Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Why the Orthodox World-View ( Father Seraphim Rose )

by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina

“It is truly later than we think; the Apocalypse is now.“

Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an Orthodox world-view, and why it is more difficult to build one today than in past centuries.

In past centuries—for example, in 19th century Russia—the Orthodox world-view was an important part of Orthodox life and was supported by the life around it. There was no need even to speak of it as a separate thing—you lived Orthodoxy in harmony with the Orthodox society around you, and you had an Orthodox world-view provided by the Church and society. In many countries the government itself confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of public functions and the king or ruler himself was historically the first Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian example to all his subjects. Every city had Orthodox churches, and many of them had services every day, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the great cities, in many cities, outside the cities, and in the countryside, in deserts and wildernesses. In Russia there were more than 1000 officially organized monasteries, in addition to other more unofficial groups. Monasticism was an accepted part of life. Most families, in fact, had somewhere in them a sister or brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin or someone who was a monk or a nun, in addition to all the other examples of Orthodox life: people who wandered from monastery to monastery, and fools for Christ. The whole way of life was permeated with Orthodox kinds of people, of which, of course, monasticism is the center. Orthodox customs were a part of daily life. Most books that were commonly read were Orthodox. Daily life itself was difficult for most people: they had to work hard to survive, life expectancy was not great, death was a frequent reality—all of which reinforced the Church’s teaching on the reality and nearness of the other world. Living an Orthodox life in such circumstances was really the same thing as having an Orthodox world-view, and there was little need to talk of such a thing.

Today, on the other hand, all this has changed. Our Orthodoxy is a little island in the midst of a world which operates on totally different principles—and every day these principles are changing for the worse, making us more and more alienated from it. Many people are tempted to divide their lives into two sharply distinct categories: the daily life we lead at work, with worldly friends, in our worldly business, and Orthodoxy, which we live on Sundays and at other times in the week when we have time for it. But the world-view of such a person, if you look at it closely, is often a strange combination of Christian values and worldly values, which really do not mix. The purpose of this talk is to see how people living today can begin to make their world-view more of one piece, to make it a whole Orthodox world-view.

Orthodoxy is life. If we don’t live Orthodoxy, we simply are not Orthodox, no matter what formal beliefs we might hold.

Life in our contemporary world has become very artificial, very uncertain, very confusing. Orthodoxy, it is true, has a life of its own, but it is also not very far from the life of the world around it, and so the life of the Orthodox Christian, even when he is being truly Orthodox, cannot help but reflect it in some way. A kind of uncertainty and confusion have also entered into Orthodox life in our times. In this talk we will try to look at contemporary life, and then at Orthodox life, to see how better we might fulfill our Christian obligation to lead other-worldly lives even in these quite terrible times, and to have an Orthodox Christian view of the whole of life today that will enable us to survive these times with our faith intact.

Life Today Has Become Abnormal

Anyone who looks at our contemporary life from the perspective of the normal life lived by people in earlier times—say, Russia, or America, or any country of Western Europe in the 19th century—cannot help but be struck by the fact of how abnormal life has become today. The whole concept of authority and obedience, of decency and politeness, of public and private behavior—all have changed drastically, have been turned upside down except in a few isolated pockets of people—usually Christians of some kind—who try to preserve the so-called “old-fashioned” way of life.

Our abnormal life today can be characterized as spoiled, pampered. From infancy today’s child is treated, as a general rule, like a little god or goddess in the family: his whims are catered to, his desires fulfilled.; he is surrounded by toys, amusements, comforts; he is not trained and brought up according to strict principles of Christian behavior, but left to develop whichever way his desires incline. It is usually enough for him to say, “I want it!” or “I won’t do it!” for his obliging parents to bow down before him and let him have his way. Perhaps this does not happen all the time in every family, but it happens often enough to be the rule of contemporary childrearing, and even the best-intentioned parents do not entirely escape its influence. Even if the parents try to raise the child strictly, the neighbors are trying to do something else. They have to take that into consideration when disciplining the child.

When such a child becomes an adult, he naturally surrounds himself with the same things he was used to in his childhood: comforts, amusements, and grown-up toys. Life becomes a constant search for “fun” which, by the way, is a word totally unheard of in any other vocabulary; in 19th century Russia they wouldn’t have understood what this word meant, or any serious civilization. Life is a constant search for “fun” which is so empty of any serious meaning that a visitor from any 19th-century country, looking at our popular television programs, amusement parks, advertisements, movies, music—at almost any aspect of our popular culture—would think he had stumbled across a land of imbeciles who have lost all contact with normal reality. We don’t often take that into consideration, because we are living in this society and we take it for granted.

Some recent observers of our contemporary life have called the young people of today the “me generation” and our times the “age of narcissism,” characterized by a worship of and fascination with oneself that prevents a normal human life from developing. Others have spoken of the”plastic” universe or fantasy world in which so many people live today, unable to face or come to terms with the reality of the world around them or the problems within themselves.

When the “me generation” turns to religion—which has been happening very frequently in the past several decades—it is usually to a “plastic” or fantasy form of religion: a religion of “self-development” (where the self remains the object of worship), of brainwashing and mind-control, of deified gurus and swamis, of a pursuit of UFO’s and “extra-terrestrial” beings, of abnormal spiritual states and feelings. We will not go into all these manifestations there, which are probably familiar enough to most of you, except to discuss a little later how these touch on the Orthodox Christian spiritual life of our days.

It is important for us to realize, as we try ourselves to lead a Christian life today, that the world which has been formed by our pampered times. makes demands on the soul, whether in religion or in secular life, which are what one has to call totalitarian. This is easy enough to see in the mind-bending cults that have received so much publicity in recent years, and which demand total allegiance to a self-made “holy man”; but it is just as evident in secular life, where one is confronted not just by an individual temptation here or there, but by a constant state of temptation that attacks one, whether in the background music heard everywhere in markets and businesses, in the public signs and billboards of city streets, in the rock music which is brought even to forest campgrounds and trails, and in the home itself, where television often becomes the secret ruler of the household, dictating modern values, opinions, and tastes. If you have young children, you know how true this is; when they have seen something on television how difficult it is to fight against this new opinion which has been given as an authority by the television.

The message of this universal temptation that attacks men today—quite openly in its secular forms, but usually more hidden in its religious forms—is:Live for the present, enjoy yourself, relax, be comfortable. Behind this message is another, more sinister undertone which is openly expressed only in the officially atheist countries which are one step ahead of the free world in this respect. In fact, we should realize that what is happening in the world today is very similar whether it occurs behind the Iron Curtain or in the free world. There are different varieties of it, but there is a very similar attack to get our soul. In the communist countries which have an official doctrine of atheism, they tell quite openly that you are to: Forget about God and any other life but the present; remove from your life the fear of God and reverence for holy things; regard those who still believe in God in the “old-fashioned’ way as enemies who must be exterminated. One might take, as a symbol of our carefree, fun-loving, self-worshipping times, our American “Disneyland”; if so, we should not neglect to see behind it the more sinister symbol that shows where the “me generation” is really heading: the Soviet Gulag, the chain of concentration camps that already governs the life of nearly half the world’s population.

Two False Approaches to Spiritual Life

But what, one might ask, does all this have to do with us, who are trying to lead, as best we can, a sober Orthodox Christian life? It has a lot to do with it. We have to realize that the life around us, abnormal though it is, is the place where we begin our own Christian life. Whatever we make of our life, whatever truly Christian content we give it, is still has something of the stamp of the “me generation” on it, and we have to be humble enough to see this. This is where we begin.

There are two false approaches to the life around us that many often make today, thinking that somehow this is what Orthodox Christians should be doing. One approach—the most common one—is simply to go along with the times: adapt yourself to rock music, modern fashions and tastes, and the whole rhythm of our jazzed-up modern life. Often the more old-fashioned parents will have little contact with this life and will live their own life more or less separately, but they will smile to see their children follow after its latest craze and think that this is something harmless.

This path is total disaster for the Christian life; it is the death of the soul. Some can still lead an outwardly respectable life without struggling against the spirit of the times, but inwardly they are dead or dying; and— the saddest thing of all—their children will pay the price in various psychic and spiritual disorders and sicknesses which become more and more common. One of the leading members of the suicide cult that ended so spectacularly in Jonestown four years ago was the young daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest; satanic rock groups like Kiss—”Kids in Satan’s Service”—are made up of ax-Russian Orthodox young people; the largest part of the membership of the temple of satan in San Francisco, according to a recent sociological survey—is made up of Orthodox boys. These are only a few striking cases; most Orthodox young people don’t go so far astray—they just blend in with the anti-Christian world around them and cease to be examples of any kind of Christianity for those around them.

This is wrong. The Christian must be different from the world, above all from today’s weird, abnormal world, and this must be one of the basic things he knows as part of his Christian upbringing. Otherwise there is no point in calling ourselves Christian—much less Orthodox Christians.

The false approach at the opposite extreme is one that one might call false spirituality. As translations of Orthodox books on the spiritual life become more widely available, and the Orthodox vocabulary of spiritual struggle is placed more and more in the air, one finds an increasing number of people talking about hesychasm, the Jesus Prayer, the ascetic life, exalted states of prayer, and the most exalted Holy Fathers like St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Gregory the Sinaite. It is all very well to be aware of this truly exalted side of Orthodox spiritual life and to have reverence for the great saints who have actually lived it; but unless we have a very realistic and very humble awareness of how far away all of us today are from the life of hesychasm and how little prepared we are even to approach it, our interest in it will be only one more expression of our self-centered, plastic universe. “The me-generation goes hesychast!”— that is what some are trying to do today; but in actuality they are only adding a new game called “hesychasm” to the attractions of Disneyland.

There are books on this subject now that are very popular. In fact, Roman Catholics are going in very big for this kind of thing under Orthodox influence and themselves influencing other Orthodox people. For example, there is a Jesuit priest, Fr. George Maloney, who writes all kinds of books on this subject and translates St. Macarius the Great and St. Symeon the New Theologian and tries to get people in everyday life to be hesychasts. They have all kinds of retreats, usually “charismatic”; people are inspired by the Holy Spirit, supposedly, and undertake all types of these disciplines which we get from the Holy Fathers, and which are far beyond the level at which we are today. It is a very unserious thing. There is also a lady, Catherine de Hueck Doherty (in fact, she was born in Russia and became a Roman Catholic), who writes books about Poustinia, the desert life, and Molchanie, the silent life, and all these things which she tries to put into life like you would have some fashion for a new candy. This, of course, is very unserious and is a very tragic sign of our times. These kind of exalted things are being used by people who have no idea of what they are about. For some people it is only a habit or a pastime; for others who take it seriously, it can be a great tragedy. They think they are leading some kind of exalted life and really they have not come to terms with their own problems inside of them.

Let me re-emphasize that both of these extremes are to be avoided—both worldliness and super-spirituality—but this does not mean that we should not have a realistic awareness of the legitimate demands which the world makes upon us, or that we should cease respecting and taking sound instruction from the great hesychast Fathers and using the Jesus prayer ourselves, according to our circumstances and capacity. It just has to be on our level, down to earth. The point is—and it is a point that is absolutely necessary for our survival as Orthodox Christians today—we must realize our situation as Orthodox Christians today; we must realize deeply what times we live in, how little we actually know and feel our Orthodoxy, how far we are not just from the saints of ancient times, but even from the ordinary Orthodox Christians of a hundred years or even a generation ago, and how much we must humble ourselves just to strive as Orthodox Christians today.

What We Can Do

More specifically, what can we do to gain this awareness, this realization, and how can we make it fruitful in our lives? I will try to answer this question in two parts: first, concerning our awareness of the world around us, which as never before in the history of Christianity has become our conscious enemy; and second, concerning our awareness of Orthodoxy, which, I am afraid, most of us know much less than we should, much less than we have to know if we wish to keep it.

First, since whether we wish it or not we are in the world (and its effects are felt strongly even in a remote place like our monastery here), we must face it and its temptations squarely and realistically, but without giving in to it; in particular, we must prepare our young people for the temptations facing them, and as it were inoculate them against these temptations. We must be aware that the world around us seldom helps and almost always hinders the upbringing of the child in the true Orthodox spirit. We must be ready every day to answer the influence of the world by the principles of a sound Christian upbringing.

This means that what a child learns at school must constantly be checked and corrected at home. We cannot assume that something he is going to learn at school is simply something that is profitable or secular and has nothing to do with his Orthodox upbringing. He may be taught useful skills and facts (although many schools in America today are failing miserably even at this; many school teachers tell us that all they can do is keep the children in good order in class without even teaching them anything), but even if he gets this much, he is also taught many wrong attitudes and philosophies. A child’s basic attitude towards and appreciation of literature, music, history, art, philosophy, even science, and of course life and religion—must come first of all not from school, for the school will give you all this mixed up with modern philosophy; it must come first from the home and Church, or else he is bound to be miseducated in today’s world, where public education is at best agnostic, and at worst openly atheistic or anti-religious. Of course, in the Soviet Union all this is forced upon the child, with no religion whatsoever and an active program of making the child an atheist.

Parents must know exactly what is being taught their children in education courses, which are almost universal today in American schools, and correct it at home, not only by a frank attitude to this subject (especially between fathers and sons—a very rare thing in American society), but also by a clear setting forth of the moral aspect of it which is totally absent in public education.

Parents must know just what kind of music their children are listening to, what is in the movies they see (listening and seeing together with them when necessary), what kind of language they are exposed to and what kind of language they use, and give the Christian attitude to all this.

Television—in households where there is not enough courage to throw it out the window—must be strictly controlled and supervised to avoid the poisonous effects of this machine which has become the leading educator of anti-Christian attitudes and ideas in the home itself, especially to the young.

I speak about the raising of children because this is where the world first strikes its blows at Orthodox Christians and forms them in its image; once wrong attitudes have been formed in a child, the task of giving him a Christian education becomes doubly difficult.

But it is not only children, it is all of us, who are facing the world which is trying to form us in anti-Christianity, by means of schools, television, movies, popular music, and all the other influences that pound in upon us, most of all in the big cities. We have to be aware that what is being pounded in upon us is all of one piece; it has a certain rhythm, a certain message to give us, this message of self-worship, of relaxing, of letting go, of enjoying yourself, of giving up any thought of the other world, in various forms, whether in music, or in movies, television, or what is being taught in schools, the way subjects are emphasized, the way the background is given, and everything else; there is one particular thing which is being given to us. It is actually an education in atheism. We have to fight back by knowing just what the world is trying to do to us, and by formulating and communicating our Orthodox Christian response to it.

Frankly, from observing the way Orthodox families in today’s world live and pass on their Orthodoxy, it would seem that this battle is more often lost than won. The percentage of Orthodox Christians who retain their Orthodox identity intact and are not changed into the image of today’s world, is small indeed.

Still, it is not necessary to view the world around us as all bad. In fact, for our survival as Orthodox Christians we have to be smart enough to use whatever is positive in the world for our own benefit. Here I will go into a few points where we can use something in the world which seems to have nothing to do directly with Orthodoxy in order to formulate our Orthodox world-view.

The child who has been exposed from his earliest years to good classical music, and has seen his soul being developed by it, will not be nearly as tempted by the crude rhythm and message of rock and other contemporary forms of pseudo-music as someone who has grown up without a musical education. Such a musical education, as several of the Optina elders have said, refines the soul and prepares it for the reception of spiritual impressions.

The child who has been educated in good literature, drama, and poetry and has felt their effect in his own soul—that is, has really enjoyed them—, will not easily become an addict of the contemporary movies and television programs and cheap novels that devastate the soul and take it away from the Christian path.

The child who has learned to see beauty in classical painting and sculpture will not easily be drawn into the perversity of contemporary art or be attracted by the garish products of modern advertising and pornography.

The child who knows something of the history of the world, especially in Christian times, and how other people have lived and thought, what mistakes and pitfalls people have fallen into by departing from God and His commandments, and what glorious and influential lives they have lived when they were faithful to Him—will be discerning about the life and philosophy of our own times and will not be inclined to follow the first new philosophy or way of life he encounters. One of the basic problems facing the education of children today is that in the schools they are no longer given a sense of history. It is a dangerous and fatal thing to deprive a child of a sense of history. It means that he has no ability to take examples from the people who lived in the past. And actually, history constantly repeats itself. Once you see that, it becomes interesting how people have answered problems, how there have been people who have gone against God and what results came from that, and how people changed their lives and became exceptions and gave an example which is lived down to our own times. This sense of history is a very important thing which should be communicated to children.

In general, the person who is well acquainted with the best products of secular culture—which in the West almost always has definite religious and Christian overtones—has a much better chance of leading a normal, fruitful Orthodox life than someone who knows only the popular culture of today. One who is converted to Orthodoxy straight from “rock” culture, and in general anyone who thinks he can combine Orthodoxy with that kind of culture—has much suffering to go through and a difficult road in life before he can become a truly serious Orthodox Christian who is capable of handing on his faith to others. Without this suffering, without this awareness, Orthodox parents will raise their children to be devoured by the contemporary world. The world’s best culture, properly received, refines and develops the soul; today’s popular culture cripples and deforms the soul and hinders it from having a full and normal response to the message of Orthodoxy.

Therefore, in our battle against the spirit of this world, we can use the best things the world has to offer in order to go beyond them; everything good in the world, if we are only wise enough to see it, points to God, and to Orthodoxy, and we have to make use of it.

The Orthodox World-view

With such an attitude—a view of both the good things and the bad things in the world—it is possible for us to have and to fire an Orthodox world-view, that is, an Orthodox view on the whole of life, not just on narrow church subjects. There exists a false opinion, which unfortunately is all too widespread today, that it is enough to have an Orthodoxy that is limited to the church building and formal “Orthodox” activities, such as praying at certain times or making the sign of the Cross; in everything else, so this opinion goes, one can be like anyone else, participating in the life and culture of our times without any problem, as long as we don’t commit sin.

Anyone who has come to realize how deep Orthodoxy is, and how full is the commitment which is required of the serious Orthodox Christian, and likewise what totalitarian demands the contemporary world makes on us, will easily see how wrong this opinion is. One is Orthodox all the time every day, in every situation of life, or one is not really Orthodox at all. Our Orthodoxy is revealed not just in our strictly religious views, but in everything we do and say. Most of us are very unaware of the Christian, religious responsibility we have for the seemingly secular part of our lives. The person with a truly Orthodox world-view lives every part of his life as Orthodox.

Let us, therefore, ask here: How can we nourish and support this Orthodox world-view in our daily life?

The first and most obvious way is to be in constant contact with the sources of Christian nourishment, with everything that the Church gives us for our enlightenment and salvation: the Church services and Holy Mysteries, Holy Scripture, the Lives of Saints, the writings of the Holy Fathers. One must, of course, read books that are on one’s own level of understanding, and apply the Church’s teaching to one’s own circumstances in life; then they can be fruitful in guiding us and changing us in a Christian way.

But often these basic Christian sources do not have their full effect on us, or don’t really affect us at all, because we don’t have the right Christian attitude towards them and towards the Christian life they are supposed to inspire. Let me now say a word here about what our attitude should be if we are to obtain real benefit from them and if they are going to be for us the beginning of a truly Orthodox world-view.

First of all, Christian spiritual food, by its very nature, is something living and nourishing; if our attitude towards it is merely academic and bookish, we will fail to get the benefit it is meant to give. Therefore, if we read Orthodox books or are interested in Orthodoxy only to gain information—or show off our knowledge to others, we are missing the point; if we learn of the commandments of God and the law of His Church merely to be “correct” and to judge the “incorrectness” of others, we are missing the point. These things must not merely affect our ideas, but must directly touch our lives and change them. In any time of great crisis in human affairs—such as the critical times right in front of us in the free world—those who place their trust in outward knowledge, in laws and canons and correctness, will be unable to stand. The strong ones then will be those whose Orthodox education has given them a feel for what is truly Christian, those whose Orthodoxy is in the heart and is capable of touching other hearts.

Nothing is more tragic than to see someone who is raised in Orthodoxy, has a certain idea of the catechism, has read some Lives of Saints, has a general idea of what Orthodoxy stands for, understands some of the services, and then is unaware of what is going on around him. And he gives his children this life in two categories: one is the way most people live and the other way is how Orthodox live on Sundays and when they are reading some Orthodox text. When a child is raised like that he is most likely not going to take the Orthodox one; it is going to be a very small part of his life, because the contemporary life is too attractive, too many people are going for it, it is too much a part of reality today, unless he has been really taught how to approach it, how to guard himself against the bad effects of it and how to take advantage of the good things which are in the world.

Therefore, our attitude, beginning right now, must be down-to-earth and nominal. That is, it must be applied to the real circumstances of our life, not a product of fantasy and escapism and refusal to face the often unpleasant facts of the world around us. An Orthodoxy that is too exalted and too much in the clouds belongs in a hothouse and is incapable of helping us in our daily life, let alone saying anything for the salvation of those around us. Our world is quite cruel and wounds souls with its harshness; we need to respond first of all with down-to-earth Christian love and understanding, leaving accounts of hesychasm and advanced forms of prayer to those capable of receiving them.

So also, our attitude must be not self-centered but reaching out to those who are seeking for God and for a godly life. Nowadays, wherever there is a good-sized Orthodox community, the temptation is to make it into a society for self-congratulation and for taking delight in our Orthodox virtues and achievements: the beauty of our church buildings and furnishings, the splendor of our services, even the purity of our doctrine. But the true Christian life, even since the time of the Apostles, has always been inseparable from communicating it to others. An Orthodoxy that is alive by this very fact shines forth to others—and there is no need to open a “department of missions” to do this; the fire of true Christianity communicates itself without this. If our Orthodoxy is only something we keep for ourselves, and boast about it, then we are the dead burying the dead—which is precisely the state of many of our Orthodox parishes today, even those that have a large number of young people, if they are not going deeply into their Faith. It is not enough to say that the young people are going to church. We need to ask what they are getting in church, what they are taking away from church, and, if they are not making Orthodoxy a part of their whole life, then it really is not sufficient to say that they are going to church.

Likewise, our attitude must be loving and forgiving. There is a kind of hardness that has crept into Orthodox life today: “That man is a heretic; don’t go near him;” “that one is Orthodox, supposedly, but you can’t really be sure;” “that one there is obviously a spy.” No one will deny that the Church is surrounded by enemies today, or that there are some who stoop to taking advantage of our trust and confidence. But this is the way it has been since the time of the Apostles, and the Christian life has always been something of a risk in this practical way. But even if we are sometimes taken advantage of and do have to show some caution in this regard, still we cannot give up our basic attitude of love and trust without which we lose one of the very foundations of our Christian life. The world, which has no Christ, has to be mistrustful and cold, but Christians, on the contrary, have to be loving and open, or else we will lose the salt of Christ within us and become just like the world, good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot.

A little humility in looking at ourselves would help us to be more generous and forgiving of the faults of others. We love to judge others for the strangeness of their behavior; we call them “cuckoos” or “crazy converts.” It is true that we should beware of really unbalanced people who can do us great harm in the Church. But what serious Orthodox Christian today is not a little “crazy”? We don’t fit in with the ways of this world; if we do, in today’s world, we aren’t serious Christians. The true Christian today cannot be at home in the world; he cannot help but feel himself and be regarded by others as a little “crazy.” Just to keep alive the ideal of other-worldly Christianity today, or to get baptized as an adult, or to pray seriously, is enough to put you into a crazy house in the Soviet Union and in many other countries, and these countries are leading the way for the rest of the world to follow.

Therefore, let us not be afraid of being considered a little “crazy” by the world, and let us continue to practice the Christian love and forgiveness which the world can never understand, but which in its heart it needs and even craves.

Finally, our Christian attitude must be what, for want of a better word, I would call innocent. Today the world places a high value on sophistication, on being worldly-wise, on being a “professional.” Orthodoxy places no value on these qualities; they kill the Christian soul. And yet these qualities constantly creep into the Church and into our lives. How often one hears enthusiastic converts especially, express their desire of going to the great Orthodox centers, the cathedrals and monasteries where sometimes thousands of the faithful come together and everywhere the talk is of church matters, and one can feel how important Orthodoxy is, after all. That Orthodoxy is a small drop in the bucket when you look at the whole society, but in these great cathedrals and monasteries there are so many people that it seems as though it is really an important thing. And how often one sees these same people in a pitiful state after they have indulged their desire, returning from the “great Orthodox centers” sour and dissatisfied, filled with worldly church gossip and criticism, anxious above all to be “correct” and “proper” and worldly-wise about church politics. In a word, they have lost their innocence, their unworldliness, being led astray by their fascination with the worldly side of the Church’s life.

In various forms, this is a temptation to us all, and we must fight it by not allowing ourselves to overvalue the externals of the Church, but always returning to the “one thing needful”: Christ and the salvation of our souls from this wicked generation. We needn’t be ignorant of what goes on in the world and in the Church—in fact, for our own selves we have to know—but our knowledge must be practical and simple and single-minded, not sophisticated and worldly.


It is obvious to any Orthodox Christian who is aware of what is going on around him today, that the world is coming to its end. The signs of the times are so obvious that one might say that the world is crashing to its end.

What are some of these signs?

—The abnormality of the world. Never have such weird and unnatural manifestations and behavior been accepted as a matter of course as in our days. Just look at the world around you: what is in the newspapers, what kind of movies are being shown, what is on television, what it is that people think is interesting and amusing, what they laugh at; it is absolutely weird. And there are people who deliberately promote this, of course, for their own financial benefit, and because that is the fashion, because there is a perverse craving for this kind of thing.

—The wars and rumors of wars, each more cold and merciless than the preceding, and all overshadowed by the treat of the unthinkable universal nuclear war, which could be set off by the touch of a button.

—The widespread natural disasters: earthquakes, and now volcanoes— the newest one forming not far from here near Yosemite Park in central California—which are already changing the world’s weather patterns.

—The increasing centralization of information on and power over the individual, represented in particular by the enormous new computer in Luxembourg, which has the capacity to keep a file of information on every man living; its code number is 666 and it is nicknamed “the beast” by those who work on it. To facilitate the working of such computers, the American government plans to begin in 1984 the issuance of Social Security checks to persons with a number (apparently including the code number 666) stamped on their right hand or forehead—precisely the condition which will prevail, according to the Apocalypse (ch. 13) during the reign of antichrist. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the first person to get himself stamped 666 is the antichrist, or the servant of antichrist, but once you are used to this, who will be able to resist? They will train you first and then they will make you bow down to him.

—Again, the multiplication of false Christs and false Antichrists. The latest candidate just this summer spent probably millions of dollars advertising his impending appearance on world television, promising to give at that time a “telepathic message” to all the world’s inhabitants. Quite apart from any occult powers that might be involved in such events, we already know well enough the opportunities for presenting subliminal messages by radio and especially by television, as well as the fact that this can be done by anyone with the technology for breaking into normal radio and television signals, no matter how many laws there might be against it.

—The truly weird response to the new movie everyone in America is talking about and seeing: “E.T.”, which has caused literally millions of seemingly normal people to express their affection and love for the hero, a “Saviour” from outer space who is quite obviously a demon—an obvious preparation for the worship of the coming Antichrist. (And incidentally, the movie editor of the official Greek Archdiocese newspaper in America, an Orthodox priest, has heartily recommended this movie to Orthodox people saying that it is a wonderful movie which can teach us about love, and everyone should go see it. There is quite a contrast between people who are trying to be aware of what is going on, and those who are simply led into the mood of the times.)

I could go on with details like this, but my purpose is not to frighten you, but to make you aware of what is happening around us. It is truly later than we think; the Apocalypse is now. And how tragic it is to see Christians, and above all Orthodox young people, with this incalculable tragedy hanging over their heads, who think they can continue what is called a “normal life” in these terrible times, participating fully in the whims of this silly, self-worshipping generation, totally unaware that the fool’s paradise we are living in is about to crash, completely unprepared for the desperate times that lie just ahead of us. There is no longer even a question of being a “good” or a “poor” Orthodox Christian; the question now is: will our Faith survive at all? With many, it will not survive; the coming Antichrist will be too attractive, too much in the spirit of the worldly things we now crave, for most men even to know that they have lost their Christianity by bowing down to him.

Still the call of Christ comes to us; let us begin to heed it. The clearest expression of this call today is coming from the enslaved atheist world, where there is real suffering for Christ and a seriousness of life which we are rapidly losing or have already lost. One Orthodox priest in Romania, Fr. George Calciu, is now near death in a communist prison for daring to challenge young seminarians and students to put off their blind allegiance to the spirit of the times and come forward to labor for Christ. After speaking of the emptiness of atheism, he tells today’s young people: “I call you to a much higher flight, to total abandonment, to an act of courage which defies reason. I call you to God. To the One that transcends the world so that you might know an infinite heaven of spiritual joy, the heaven which you presently grope for in your personal hell, and which you seek even while in a state of non-deliberate revolt….Jesus has always loved you, but now you have the choice to respond to His invitation. In responding, you are ordained to go and bear fruit that will remain. To be a prophet of Christ in the world in which you live. To love your neighbor as yourself and to make all men your friend. To proclaim by every action this unique and limitless love which has raised man from the level of a serf to that of a friend of God. To the prophets of this liberating love which delivers you from all constraint, returning to you your integrity as you offer yourself to God.”

Fr. George, speaking to young people who had little inspiration to serve Christ’s Church because they had accepted the worldly opinion (common also among us in the free world) that the Church is only a set of buildings or a worldly organization, calls them and us to a deeper awareness of Christ’s Church and of how our “formal membership” in it is not enough to save us.

“The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in Christ’s Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ’s Church when you cry out: “Lord, help me.” You are in Christ’s Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ’s Church when you pray: ‘Lord, forgive him.’ When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ’s Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail….Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ….Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: ‘Who is he?’ Rather say: ‘He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.”

With such a call in our hearts, let us begin really to belong to the Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church. Outward membership is not enough; something must move within us that makes us different from the world around us, even if that world calls itself “Christian” and even “Orthodox.” Let us keep and nourish those qualities of the true Orthodox world-view which I mentioned earlier: a living, normal attitude, loving and forgiving, not self-centered, preserving our innocence and unworldliness even with a full and humble awareness of our own sinfulness and the power of the worldly temptations around us. If we truly live this Orthodox world-view, our Faith will survive the shocks ahead of us and be a source of inspiration and salvation for those who will still be seeking Christ even amidst the shipwreck of humanity which has already begun today.

From The Orthodox Word, vol. 18, no. 4 (105), July-August 1982, pp. 160-176.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Christ often comes and knocks at your door and you invite him to sit in the living-room of your soul. ( St. Amphilochios Makris )

Christ often comes and knocks at your door and you invite him to sit in the living-room of your soul.
Then, absorbed in your own business you forget the Great Visitor. He waits for you to appear and
when you are too long in returning, he gets up and leaves. At other times, you are so busy that you
answer him from the window. You don't even have time to open the door.

St. Amphilochios Makris

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saint Paisios on the Joy of the Resurrection

- Elder, I am struck by the courage of the Myrrhbearers.

- The Myrrhbearers had great trust in Christ, they were in a spiritual state, which is why they spared nothing. This is why they were worthy to hear from the Angel the joyous news of the Resurrection.

- Elder, how can we live the joy of the Resurrection?

- We should cultivate joyful mourning, in order for true joy to come to us. If we live Holy Week with reverence and solemnity, we will live with spiritual jubilation and divine joy the Holy Resurrection.

- Elder, is it natural to not feel much joy on the night of the Resurrection?

- Yes, it's natural. Because the feeling of sorrow is greater than the feeling of joy, we cannot in one day get over this condition of the soul. However, slowly-slowly, during Renewal Week, which is like one paschal day, the pain of Holy Week departs and the soul is filled with resurrection joy.

- Why, Elder, in some monasteries do they do a litany on the Second or Third day of Pascha?

- To scatter Paschal joy.

During Renewal Week everything is beat together - bells, simandra, and the heart pounds strongly with living the "It is the day of Resurrection...."

I pray that you always rejoice with spiritual jubilation, with continuous joy, and with an inner sweet excitement.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Comforting the Lord as He Weeps: On Palm Sunday

The Holy Gospel, my beloved brethren, says this in its account of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem: And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it (Luke 19:41).

People’s hearts are all the same. If someone is weeping, what do we do? We approach him, ask him what he is weeping about, and try to comfort him in some way. Sometimes one becomes so sorry for the person in distress that one feels ready to give up one’s soul, if only his grief would be made lighter. Let us now approach the Lord, too, and ask: “Lord, about what are You weeping?”

About what, in fact, was the Lord weeping on the great day of His Entry into Jerusalem? The Lord is everywhere present. Not only the human heart, but even his hidden thoughts, cannot be hidden from His omniscient eyes. And looking upon the people with His eyes – which are said in Scripture to be one hundred times brighter than the sun, foreknowing all the ends of the universe – He foresaw the end of Jerusalem. He knew what was in store for this venerable and ancient city. He knew the inconstancy of the people and crowds that would meet Him rapturously, but soon demand His crucifixion. He saw with His eyes the many crosses around Jerusalem, upon which His crucifiers would be crucified. He saw the horrors awaiting the city during the invasion of the Emperor Titus in 70 A.D. This is why He wept for Jerusalem, foreseeing the horrors and destruction of the city as He gazed upon it.

But the Gospel tells us that today, too, the Lord is weeping. Why, then, is the Lord now weeping? For now He is not on earth, but in the Heavenly Jerusalem. Instead of a donkey, He sits upon the flaming Cherubim; instead of the earthly Jerusalem, He abides in ineffable glory at the right hand of God; and instead of the modest suite of the Apostles, He is surrounded by a countless multitude of bodiless spirits and heavenly beings. Then about what is the Lord now weeping?

He is weeping over how we grieve Him; over how we frequently renounce Him by our terrible deeds; over how thousands of unfaithful people are now shamefully denying Him and mocking Him. He is weeping, too, over how our hearts have become hardened, over how we are losing the truth and cruelly offending Him Who by His Divine Blood redeemed the entire human race.

When the Lord entered Jerusalem, the multitude spread their garments and cut down branches from trees, waving them as the children cried out: Hosanna to the Son of David (Matthew 21:8-9). What can we now do for the Lord, when He is in Heaven, to comfort Him? Now we, too, can spread our garments under the feet of Christ. Upon reaching home, let us open our wretched storehouses and offer at least some spare pay to a needy person. This pay will be our garment cast before the Lord, upon which He will tread when He comes in glory – for, according to His words, that which we do for one of the least of the brethren, we do for Him.

We can also take palm branches into our hands, waving them to greet the Lord. We all see that martyrs are depicted on icons with palm branches. This is a symbol of the victory over the passions and the flesh, a symbol with which the Lord has crowned them. Let us try to defeat something ugly in ourselves. Our age is one of resentment and extreme self-love. Therefore, if we now feel offended by anyone, let us forgive him. Let us restrain ourselves, compelling the passion of self-love to subside. Now a wide wave of fleshly passions has overflowed into the world, and nearly seven-tenths of the world is under the power of Satan and has been seized by the sin of fornication. We need to defeat these passions; we need to refrain from them; we need to overcome the callousness that accompanies them with at least small good deeds. And if we will defeat these evil habits, replacing them with good deeds, we will raise a palm branch to Christ. The Gospel says that the multitude cried out: “Hosanna!” And we, too, can cry out to the Lord “Hosanna!” – but not with our mouths, but with our hearts and our entire lives. What does “Hosanna” mean? It is a praise glorifying God, as the Apostle Paul says: And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him (Colossians 3:17). Let us do the same, crying out “Hosanna!” with our entire lives.

In order to do this we must have two vigilant guardians: the memory of death and the continual remembrance of God, for it is written in Scripture: Seek ye Me, and ye shall live; Remember thy end, and thou shalt never do amiss (Amos 5:4; Ecclesiasticus 7:36).

Thus, let us offer our pay as garments to the Lord and our victory over the passions as palm branches, keeping hold of the memory of death and the memory of God, and crying out to Him with our entire lives: “Hosanna!” And then we will comfort the Lord and our souls shall live unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Translated from the Russian.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

How Saints Endured the Pain of Suffering and Martyrdom ( St. Paisios )

In the past, people were so brave! In the Monastery of the Flavians in Asia Minor, the Turks had captured a man and slaughtered him. Then they told his wife, 'Either you deny Christ, or we will kill your children too.' And she replied, 'My husband is now with Christ, and I entrust my children to Christ and I will not renounce Christ.' What bravery! If Christ is not in us, how can there be such bravery? Today, people without Christ are building their home on rubble...

What love the holy Martyrs had for Christ, what bravery! ... [For example,] St. Gideon the Karakallenos (+1818) -- what amazing forbearance he had! To his executioners he said, 'Take my hand, take my leg, take my nose.' In short, take everything! Incredible! But for a man to reach that point, he must not love himself, he must love God. 
A mother runs into a fire to save her child. She doesn't feel any pain, because her love is stronger than the burning of the fire. Her love for her child masks the pain. So you can imagine how much more the love for Christ can mask the pain of martyrdom!...

For the Saint approaching martyrdom, the love for Christ is stronger than the pain; it neutralizes it. The Martyrs felt the executioner's sword to be sweeter than the bow of a violin. When the love of Christ really blossoms, then martyrdom becomes a festival; fire refreshes better than a bath, because the burning feeling is dispelled by the burning of divine love. A flaying becomes a caress...

Divine eros takes hold of the heart, takes hold of the mind, and man goes 'mad'. He does not feel the pain of anything else, because his mind is on Christ; and his heart is overflowing with joy. So many Saints went to their martyrdom and felt such joy, one would think they were going to a festival!...

If one does not start sacrificing something now, like giving up some desire or selfishness, how will he ever be able to sacrifice his life at a given time? If, even now, he thinks of the labor, and tries to avoid working a little harder than the next person, how will he ever attain the state of risking his own life to save another's? ... When there is no spirit of sacrifice, everyone looks only to save himself...

These years are like a pressure-cooker that is boiling and whistling. It takes endurance, bravery and manliness. If something should happen, be sure not to leave yourselves completely unprepared. Be prepared from now to face any potential difficulty. What did Christ say? Didn't He say, 'Be ye ready?' (Luke 12:40)...

Living in such difficult times as today, gives us one more reason to be all the more prepared. It is not only sudden death that we may encounter; there are other dangers as well. Therefore, dispel the spirit of ease and comfort for ourselves. Let the spirit of philotimo prevail. May you always have the spirit of sacrifice...

A woman, who had everything, once told me that having children is a dizzy bother. She couldn't be bothered to be a mother! When a mother thinks like that, she becomes useless; for mothers, after all, are suppose to love naturally... When a person has a sense of sacrifice, he does not complain, he is not lazy; he rejoices. That is the key: to have a spirit of sacrifice...

Oh, what joy it brings! Nowadays people don't savor this joy of sacrifice, and this is why they are tormented. They have no ideals in them; they are too bored to live. A generous heart and self-denial are what drives us. Without this force, we are tormented...

The miracle happens when someone can be compassionate and feel the other's pain. It is this very pain that moves God and brings about the miracle. For there is nothing else that moves God as much as a noble and sacrificial spirit. But now, in our time, this kind of nobility is rare, because self-love and self-restraint have entered the picture. Seldom does someone say, 'Let me give my turn, my place, to someone else, and it's alright if I am delayed.'...

The good is good, only when the one who does it sacrifices something from himself , some sleep, some rest and so on. That is why Christ said [of the widow], 'But she, out of her need, hath cast in all the living that she had.' When I am at ease and do some good, it does not have the same value. But when I am tired and some one asks me, let's say, for directions and I do it, then it has value...

Can you imagine what joy is experienced by the one who sacrifices himself? One cannot even express the joy he feels. Sublime joy emanates from sacrifice. Only when we sacrifice ourselves can we be related to Christ, for Christ is sacrifice. Man can live in Paradise from here and now, or he can live in Hell. Whoever does good is overjoyed, for he is rewarded with divine consolation. Whoever does evil, suffers.

St. Paisios

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Saint Nikephoros the Leper appears in Bulgaria and gives the cure for Coronavirus

“…… I learned from the internet that the journalist Angel Bonchev was preparing a book about the unknown for us Saint Nikephoros the Leper, at a critical moment when the world was covered by the coronavirus pandemic and thousands died, killed by this new plague.

I called him on the phone and he briefly told me about his suffering life and the heavy cross that had been given to him. I was very anxious and disturbed in the weeks before by all that was heard on the media, but at that moment I felt comforted, especially when I learned that St. Nikephoros had appeared to a man in Greece to inspire courage and a willingness to help people against this evil.

Since up to this point I did not have much information about his life, akathist, prayers, I was comforted by the little I already knew and told myself that the saint would help, I had faith that he would be with us, I felt close to him. I cried all night, praying to him, thinking about what was happening in the world and the cases of infected people that were growing every day in Bulgaria.
Saint Nikephoros the Leper: The first night

At 4 o’clock that night I fell asleep. In my dream, he visited me – Saint Nikephoros the Leper. I recognized him immediately. I saw him in his black dew, standing up, holding a golden cross in his right hand. He addressed me with the words: “Warn all Christians to pray to me, but repeatedly. Let them also read the services. There is a cure and this is the Holy Communion. There’s also a herb to drink, it’s thyme, it kills viruses. And in any case, be sure to visit the house of God at this difficult time, because there is no contagion there and no one can be infected. ” It was the first night. 

Second night
The next night, he came again and said this time that many Christians, and not only, had prayed to him because he had also spread through social networks about his appearance in Greece. He also told me to tell to my son to pray to him, but not only once, as he had once said to him, – that is not enough. “Many times,” the saint repeated. The next day I asked my child, “How many times have you prayed to St. Nikephoros?” And he replied that only once in the morning. I explained to him that it was not enough.

The third night
The third night I saw him again. But this time, the most important thing I understood was that Bulgaria would be protected from the virus. I turned to him with the question: “Will all of Bulgaria be preserved?” He said to me, “Yes!” At that moment I saw our country as a map, and he stood over it, over Southern Bulgaria, and more precisely somewhere over Plovdiv. And he said, “Ring the bells, ring the bells, ring the bells!” I asked, “Are there bells in the Diocese of Plovdiv?” “Yes!” He said very briefly and affirmatively. Then he ascended to heaven, and with his golden cross in his hand he blessed from above. From the very cross a light came down and illuminated the whole country. The last thing he said was, “It will pass!”

After all this, a tremendous change occurred in me – the reassurance and strength that Saint Nikephoros the Leper Coronavirus Miracle Worker breathed into me, in the face of the panic that has engulfed everyone in the world and in our country … “

Based on a testimony from Bulgaria

In the photo a monk with the icon of the saint of his name: Saint Nikephoros the Leper. Vatopedi monastery, Mount Athos.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Why Demons Attack Us ( St. Maximos the Confessor )

There are said to be five reasons why God allows us to be assailed by demons. The first is so that, by attacking and counterattacking, we should learn to discriminate between virtue and vice. The second is so that, having acquired virtue through conflict and toil, we should keep it secure and immutable.

The third is so that, when making progress in virtue, we should not become haughty but learn humility. The fourth is so that, having gained some experience of evil, we should ‘hate it with perfect hatred’ (cf. Ps. 139:22). The fifth and most important is so that, having achieved dispassion, we should forget neither our own weakness nor the power of Him who has helped us.

"Four Hundred Texts on Love". Second Century. From Philokalia, Vol. 2.

St. Maximos the Confessor

Sunday, March 15, 2020

33 intercessions to pray using a prayer rope

1) Be mindful, O Lord, for the peace of the world!

2) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our Church and our Orthodoxy.

3) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our Bishop and his clergy.

4) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on all Orthodox clergy and laity in every land.

5) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our spiritual father and his community.

6) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our country and on our armed forces.

7) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the civil authorities.

8) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who hate us, on those who love us, and those who pray for us.

9) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our parents, our sponsors, and our teachers.

10) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our brethren and relatives, according to the flesh and spiritual.

11) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the elderly and the monastics.

12) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on infants, the defenseless, and the powerless.

13) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the youth in schools.

14) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the adolescent and our youth.

15) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the drug-addicted, alcoholics, and smokers.

16) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the marriages of Orthodox families.

17) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our sisters who are pregnant.

18) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the widows and orphans.

19) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our brothers and sisters who are martially separated and tempted.

20) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the weak in soul and body.

21) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who do works of mercy and labor in the holy monasteries and parishes.

22) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the pious pilgrims of monasteries and churches.

23) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who journey by sea, by land, or by air, those who are imprisoned and the despairing.

24) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the poor and our brethren who are afflicted.

25) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our judges and elected representatives.

26) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who are deceived and blaspheme our Orthodoxy.

27) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and grant peaceful seasons.

28) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from sickness, wrath, and danger, and enlighten our physicians and nurses.

29) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from poverty, danger, and misfortune.

30) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from heat, fire, and earthquake.

31) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from flood, drowning, and frost.

32) O Lord Jesus Christ, grant rest also to the souls of our fathers, mothers, brethren, relatives, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

33) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Τhe Desire for Heaven..( Saint Gregory of Nyssa)

But so as not to fatigue your mind in vain by gazing out over the infinite, we’ll desist from poring over the nature of God Who lies beyond, because it’s impossible to understand Him. From what we’ve looked at, we’ve formed some sort of notion of His greatness, but all we’ve really gained is the knowledge that we’re unable to understand much else. And the more superior we believe the nature of God to be to our knowledge, the greater our sorrow is, because the summum bonum, from which we’ve been separated, is so great, and is such that we can’t bear any real knowledge of Him.

And yet, sometimes we find ourselves in such close communion with God that it defies any attempt at explanation. And this God, Who’s beyond our comprehension, is so profoundly entrenched in our nature that we can actually be transformed in accordance with the original image, so that we seem to be new persons because of the absolute likeness. Because, whatever we think now about God, all of it was – once upon a time – inside people. People once enjoyed incorruption and blessedness and composure and freedom. They didn’t know sorrow or the cares of life. They were closer to God and saw Him with a clear and free intellect, unhindered by any intermediate impediment. In short, all of this suggests to us the reason for the creation of the world, when it says that people were made in the image of God, that they lived in paradise and enjoyed the trees planted there. The fruit of these trees was life, knowledge and so on.

If we had all that, how is it possible not to mourn the disaster that befell us, when you compare and contrast the blessedness we knew then and today’s misery. We who were elevated have been humbled; we who were made in the image of the heavenly, have become dust; we who were destined to become royalty, are slaves; we who were created immortal have been destroyed by death; we who enjoyed the delights of paradise have been transported to this afflicted and wearisome place.

We’ve exchanged the ambience of freedom from the passions for this tedious and mortal life. We, who were once free and autonomous, are now dominated by so many and such varied evils that it’s not easy even to number our vicissitudes. Because each of the passions we have within us, when it becomes dominant, takes control of the person who’s subject to it. And just like any tyrant, when it captures the citadel of the soul, it exploits the occupants with the things that should be subject to them: each passion uses our very thoughts to our detriment, in order to benefit from them.

In this way, anger, fear, cowardice, audacity, excessive sorrow or joy, hatred, contentiousness, callousness, harshness, envy, flattery, resentment, heartlessness, and all the passions, which are all ranged in antipathy towards us, are simply an enumeration of some of the tyrants and oppressors who subjugate our souls as captives. And if you think about the bodily tribulations which have become part and parcel of our very nature, meaning the many and varied forms of illness we suffer from and yet which, initially, we had no experience of, you’ll weep all the more at seeing woe where there was once weal and at comparing what is bad with what is so much better.

It appears that this is what the Lord is teaching when He praises mourning, that is that the soul looks to the real good and doesn’t wallow in the essential falseness of this life. Because, if you look carefully at things the way they really are, how can you live without tears? In the same way, if you don’t – and are absorbed in the pleasures of life- how can you understand that you’re actually floundering in a pernicious morass and are in no better state than dumb animals? The way their bodies have been formed is miserable. What could be worse than being deprived of reason?

They’ve got no idea of their distressed condition, yet their lives go on, with some sort of pleasure. A horse, for example, will whinny when it’s pleased, and a bull will paw the ground and send up dust; a pig raises the hairs on its back and dogs play; calves gambol. You can see in each of the animals how they express their pleasure by certain signs. If these animals had any understanding of the value of reason, they wouldn’t spend their dumb, miserable lives in sensual pleasure. The same is true of those people who have no cognizance of the good things of which our nature’s been deprived. For them, enjoyment of the present life means sensual pleasure.

True Beauty

What words can describe the magnitude of the damage done by the failure of the effort to know God? What more can your intellect conceive of? How can you manifest and describe the ineffable in words, and that which is beyond conception by the intellect? But if the eye of your intellect is so well cleansed that you can somehow see what Christ promises in the Beatitudes, you’ll scorn all human discourse, because it’s unable to express what you think. But if you’re still bound to the bodily passions and have the eyes of your soul closed, as though from illness, because of your impassioned condition, then the whole power of rhetoric is of no avail, for that very reason. It’s the same for those who are insensitive, whether you play down or overstress the wonders of words.

In the same way, describing a shaft of sunlight in words is neither use nor ornament to somebody who’s been blind from birth, because you cannot convey the brightness of a ray through the hearing. In a somewhat similar manner, you have to have special eyes adjusted to the spiritual and true light in order to see this beauty. If, by divine dispensation and in an inexplicable manner, you’ve seen this, you preserve the wonder deep in your consciousness. But those who haven’t seen it can’t even begin to comprehend the damage to those who’ve been deprived of it.

How can you describe to them the good they’re missing out on? How can you show anybody something which is beyond expression? We don’t know any special words that would do justice to that beauty. There’s nothing in creation that we can use as a reference. And comparisons wouldn’t do it justice either. How can you compare a small spark with the sun? Or a drop of water with the boundless oceans? Because the ratio between a drop and the enormous masses of waters in the deeps, or a little spark and the great rays of the sun, is retained with regard to everything we view as good when seen in relation to the beauty that is to be perceived around the first good, and beyond and above any other good.

So how can we present the magnitude of this catastrophe to those who have suffered it? I think David expresses this inability very well. On one occasion he was caught up in his mind with the power of the Holy Spirit and, as if transcending his self, in this state of blessed ecstasy, he saw this indescribable and unimaginable beauty. He saw what is possible for a person to see if they’re relieved of their corporeal impedimenta and are able to enter, through the intellect, into contemplation of conceptual and bodiless things. And since he wanted to say something commensurate to what he’d seen, he let out this great cry, which everyone repeats: “All people are liars” (Ps. 115, 2).

Now this, as I understand it, means that anyone who tries to interpret the indescribable light by using words, is really a liar. Not because they hate the truth, but because they’re unable to describe it. Because with visible beauty, such as we have in our lives on earth, whether in inanimate objects or animate beings with dazzling colours, we have the potential to admire them and accept them and to tell others about them, painting their description in words, like an image of their beauty. But how can words reveal something, the original of which is beyond understanding, when there’s no means of description? We can’t talk about colour, or shape, size or even harmony of form or any other such irrelevance in general. How can you perceive something through the things that can be understood by the senses alone, when it’s so far away, and is shapeless, unformed and foreign to the very idea of size and to all the things that are manifest in and around materials and the senses.

But just because it appears to be beyond our powers of comprehension is no reason to despair that our desire will be forever unrequited. On the contrary, however much greater and more sublime the thing we desire is shown to be, the more it’s necessary to elevate our intellect and to bring it up to the mark of our desideratum, so that we’re not excluded from communion with God. Because there’s a great danger that we’ll stop thinking about Him completely, precisely because He’s so sublime and so far beyond description, since we can’t base our knowledge of Him on any of the things we know.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa