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