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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

God loves man very much; He knows very well the problems of each one of us ( St. Paisios )

God loves man very much; He knows very well the problems of each one of us, and wishes to help us before we ask Him to do so. Since God is omnipotent, there are no difficulties which He cannot overcome, except one. 
The difficulty God faces, and I repeat, it is the only one, is that He “cannot” help us when our soul is not humble. God “feels sad” because, while He sees His creature suffer, He “cannot” offer any help. Whatever help He offers, it will harm the person because he lacks a humble mindset.

St. Paisios

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Importance of the Jesus Prayer ( St. Paisos )


Many ask why is this Jesus prayer so important. It is not as many eastern meditation practices teach to gain a state of bliss or some psychic experience. The purpose is to keep our soul connected with God so we can live according to His will.

Elder Paisos puts it this way,
The soul must be constantly ready and alert and always in contact with the spiritual headquarters, that is, God. Only then, it will feel secure, full of hope and joy.
When we learn to pray continually, we gain an sense of security because God is always with us to guide and help us no matter what situation we encounter. We are never left to rely solely our own thoughts and reason, but always have God at our side.

The Elder says,
The more we pray, the more secure we feel, on a spiritual basis, of course.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 79

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The awful stench of impure spirits ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )



Among other mysterious perceptions from the world of spirits, the saints also had perceptions of sweet fragrances from good spirits and foul stenches from impure spirits.

During every appearance of luminous, pure spirits, a life-giving and sweet fragrance wafted about; and during every appearance of dark and impure spirits, a suffocating, unbearable stench filled the air.

The saints were able to discern which passion possessed a man by the kind of stench he emanated. Thus it was that St. Euthymius the Great recognized the stench of the passion of adultery in the monk Emilian of the Lavra of St. Theoctistus. Going to Matins one morning, Euthymius passed by Emilian's cell and smelled the stench of the demon of adultery. Emilian had not committed any physical sin, but had adulterous thoughts that were being forced into his heart by the demon, and the saint already sensed it by its smell.

The power of this perception once revealed itself even more wondrously in St. Hilarion the Great. A certain avaricious miser had sent some of his vegetables to Hilarion. When they were brought to Hilarion for a meal, the saint said: "Take these away from here. I cannot stand the stench that comes from these vegetables! Do you not smell how they reek of avarice?" When the brethren were amazed by these words, Hilarion told them to take the vegetables to the oxen, and they would see that not even the oxen would eat them. Indeed, the oxen merely sniffed at them, and turned their heads away in disgust.


St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The devil is very crafty and is always on the lookout to ensnare us at a time of spiritual drowsiness... ( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )


We must pass our days with great caution. The devil is very crafty and is always on the lookout to ensnare us at a time of spiritual drowsiness and render us accountable to God and our conscience. May God abolish him so that he cannot harm us! But since He is just, He does not remove the free will of man. And this is why we and first of all, I,voluntarily follow the suggestions of the devil, and we sin.

Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Friday, January 25, 2019

THE WORLD’S FINAL CALL (102 pages) by Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyiannis

“The arrival of the beast is directly linked to Christ’s Second Coming (...). 
The fact that no one knows when Christ’s Second Coming will take place, means the same is true of the beast’s arrival. Even the beast himself does not know when he is to appear” (p. 39).

“The Apostle Paul says: “so that he (the beast) sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2:4). Which temple is the Apostle Paul referring to? (…) His headquarters may be in Rome, the former capital of the Roman Empire, or in Constantinople, the former capital of the Byzantine Empire. To conclude, we are unaware of which city the beast will choose to establish his control centre” (p. 49-50).

“The number 666 will not be placed on people’s foreheads or hands because this number uncovers or reveals the identity of the beast” (...) “And the fact that the mark will be given by the beast during the second stage of his reign means “now, before the arrival of the second stage of the beast’s revelation, its seal doesn’t exist” (p. 66-68).

“Then the world will be divided in two: Those who worship the beast and accept his “mark” and those who remain Christians” (...).“Christians will be the most despised beings on the earth. They will not dare walk in the streets! They will be mocked! People will refuse to give them food and they will be delivered to justice to be sentenced to death. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13) (p. 75-76).

“Gold is purified by being subjected to fire, so will all the universe. It will be purified with fire from all the infection that was inflicted upon creation just after Adam’s fall, the Angel’s fall and the beast’s presence. That is, the whole universe will be annihilated by fire so that a new universe will be born” (p. 86).

“The Apostle Peter says that “look for new heavensand a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). Therefore, the Apostle suggests that on earth righteousness will reign, gloryfing the Lord. Which means that this "cohabitation" of Christ and righteousness (=Paradise) will be on the new earth! Who knows? “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5), Jesus said. (p. 89-90).

“In fact, humankind will be expecting unique and unprecedented things. And this is precisely the “objective” of our book. Hopefully, it will enlighten us and bring us closer to Christ. Amen.” (p. 7).

Publisher: Archangels Publications - www.ArchangelsBooks.com
E-mail: archangelspublications@gmail.com
Available in: www.archangelsbooks.com & www.amazon.com

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Two Different Kinds of Energy ( St. Gregory of Sinai )



In every beginner two forms of energy are at work, each affecting the heart in a distinct way. The first comes from grace, the second from delusion. St. Mark the Ascetic corroborates this when he says that there is a spiritual energy and a satanic energy, and that the beginner cannot distinguish between them. These energies in their turn generate three kinds of fervor, the first prompted by grace, the second by delusion or sin, and the third by an excess of blood. This last relates to what St. Thalassios the Libyan calls the body's temperament, the balance and concord of which can be achieved by appropriate self-control.


ON DIVINE ENERGY

The energy of grace is the power of spiritual fire that fills the heart with joy and gladness, warms and purifies the soul, temporarily stills our provocative thoughts, and for a time suspends the body's impulsions. The signs and fruits that testify to its authenticity are tears, contrition, humility, self-control, silence, patience, self-effacement and similar qualities, all of which constitute undeniable evidence of its presence. 


ON DELUSION

  The energy of delusion is the passion for sin, inflaming the soul with thoughts of sensual pleasure and arousing phrenetic desire in the body for intercourse with other bodies. According to St. Diadochos it is entirely amorphous and disordered, inducing a mindless joy, presumption and confusion, accompanied by a mood of ill-defined sterile levity, and fomenting above all the soul's appetitive power with its sensuality. It nourishes itself on pleasure, aided and abetted by the insatiable belly; for through the belly it not only impregnates and enkindles our whole bodily temperament but also acts upon and inflames the soul, drawing it to itself so that little by little the disposition to self-indulgence expels all grace from the person thus possessed. 

from The Philokalia: Volume IV, edited and translated by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), pp. 261 - 262.

Monday, January 14, 2019

“Man is half love, half struggle” ( Elder Justin Pârvu )





The newly departed servant of Christ,

Elder Justin (Pârvu) of Romania and his Words of Wisdom


Motto: “If we would be willing to descend into our selves to correct a bit this avalanche of wrongdoings, then our prayer will be heard, the world would be more at peace and our life would suit more the Lord’ liking.

We have become increasingly hostile towards each other by our own selfishness, we see no one but our selves… and when we reach this state of no longer caring for those near us, we encounter the greatest fall”.



Man’s freedom is at the measure of his genuine love


Freedom becomes precious only when it is lost. Or at least, this is how we think. All his life man seeks to be free, but does not appreciate the gift of his freedom until it is too late. Freedom is in our body but also in our heart. Freedom is in action but also in the mind and the intellect. Man is free by how genuinely he loves and is attached to the values of the faith.

We are free when we accept God’s plan for our life, and when we strive to achieve it. Being free does not mean lethargy and bliss, but the fulfillment of your human condition.

Freedom does not mean to do what I always wish, as many times by doing what I like I do the will of the devil. Freedom is at the measure of man discernment, and his capacity to choose between good and evil. Man must realize that only in Truth he can live freely and with so much confusion in this world, he should avoid deception. It was what Communists did not understand, that only on the Cross the human soul gains true freedom, that all their methods of torture and psychological pressure to re-educate us, have made more saints than slaves, have sanctified our land by the martyrs blood.

Freedom is hard to understand when one has not lived in those times [of persecution], and our Christians today barely reflect of this past.


The thirst for God and the love for all people


The thirst for God directs us towards the love of our neighbor and vice versa. So great is the power of love that one who reaches a genuine love for all people denying oneself, receives the gift of healing.

This is the true “follower” of Christ! Such man loves with the love of Christ all those fallen, thus partakes in Christ’ mission on earth and save himself.


Man is half love, half struggle

(Excerpt from an interview given by the Elder Justin in 2007)

Q: – Father Justin, from your experience of “burying yourself in man suffering”, what do you think, does man need: to be understood or to be loved?

Elder Justin: – Man needs to be loved. But to love him, you must first understand him. If you see him fallen down, then you must give him your hand. The love of neighbor is one’ measure of the love for God. If you cannot love the one near you, if you do not help him, you cannot say you love God.

The love of neighbor is the first step towards salvation, on this step one must labor until he reaches the greatest love for God.




Q: – During the communist regime, we have been [spiritually] poised by the slogan “new man”. Do you think we ended up with this “new man”?

Elder Justin: – You mean, in a materialistic sense? Maybe how the communists had imagine a man freed from the “bondage” of faith and of the Holy Spirit…! But a new man purified and renewed… not so.

But I want to speak more of the new man reborn in Christ, a man that’s quite rare in our present times. The renewal of man and of the world can happen only through the Resurrection of Christ, in its profound meaning. This is the new man, whom every mother preparing to bring babies into the world, must dream of modeling.

Q: – Einstein once said that “the progress made by man, compared with the development of his character, is enough to terrify …”

Elder Justin: - Yes… for a soul that’s at peace with itself can fit the whole world within; while in the soul that’s bitter, soured and distressed, nothing can enter…

Q: – How do you think man should be?

Elder Justin: - Man is – or should be! – Half love and half sacrifice, struggling to keep love undefiled.

Q: – A great thinker of the last century, Carl Gustav Jung said: “For a young man is almost a sin or at least a risk to be too much preoccupied with himself, while for the elder man, it is a duty and a necessity to commit to a more serious self study.” How do you see this?

Elder Justin: - At the end of this search man must find God. God made man in His own image, and God dwells in everyone. Young or old, man must clean up the inside of his being, for no one knows when the end comes…

Q: – Someone said that “in an empty mind, the devil finds shelter”…

Elder Justin: - He is speaking of the man who has the basket always full, for he cares for the wheat needed to be milled. And this wheat is our constant cry to God: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, save us.” If the enemy finds our mind wandering in useless things, he will enter and find shelter directing it at his pleasure (…)

Q: – Is there a question that man is rendered to never find the answer in this life?

Elder Justin: - It depends on what someone wants to know. Man has all the answers within himself. About his birth, his life and the meaning of his salvation. But if he wants to find answers to meaningless questions, then he will be constantly miserable. If he seeks answers to questions related to his faith, his purpose in life, he will find happiness.






Q:- Is doubting a sin for the Christian?

Elder Justin: - Yes, but there are “permitted” doubts. A doubt that you’re still alive after a fervent prayer, when your whole being had burned in prayer… This kind of doubt is allowed.

Q: – Father, what is humility?

Elder Justin: - Humility is a fair self-assessment of our human dimensions in relation to the [universe] infinite. Humility accompanied by patience move mounts, that’s how powerful can become for any Christian…

Q: – What is Golgotha [Calvary] for today’ Christian?

Elder Justin: – Man’ unbelief makes every day into a Golgotha.

Q: – Man today is more skeptical than fifty years ago? What can you say to encourage him to go forward, to cope with the trials of life?

Elder Justin: – Our modern man puts too much heart into trifles and details, is assaulted by a lot of false things and does not know how to choose. If you choose wisely, things will become easy and the life beautiful. If you choose wrongly, you are struggling. If you doubt that you have chosen well, your heart is also troubled. Our contemporary man has become too materialistic, a subject to the new tyrant: money. Everywhere we look, we hear that money is everything, the master of this world. He, who makes money his master, makes himself a servant to the devil.

Today, many dramas arouse not from differences in ideas, but from the battle with money, with all that is material. Man bought by it losses his faith and his values and becomes a mare currency.

Q: – How do you define the word happiness? … What advice would you give to Christians who come to you and say they are unhappy?

Elder Justin – Happiness is when you meet with the love of Christ humbly in prayer.

People understand happiness differently. Some who want much may not get it, and feel unhappy. While others may desire less, receive it and are content….



Q: – So happiness is at the measure of man…

Elder Justin: – Happiness is the faith that dwells in us. We have seen people that have many riches, great social positions and they’re still unhappy, because they lock faith!

Q” – There is a story in the Egyptian Paterikon: it happened that a wise elder once sat at the table with several brothers; as they were eating, the elder saw in the spirit how some ate honey, others bread, and some others dung. And the elder marveled and prayed to God, saying, “Lord, reveal to me this secret, how is that the same food is on the table before all, but they seem to eat different food.” And a voice came, saying, “They who eat honey are those who with fear, trembling and spiritual joy sit at the table and pray unceasingly so their prayers go up to God as incense. Those that eat bread give thanks to God for the food, and they who eat dung, are those who complain: “this is good, this is rotten”….

Elder Justin: – Yes, gratitude for what one has received is after all, a measure of man’ faith.


We need to pray with our hearts



• We must honored with much gratitude the sacrificial love of our martyrs.

• It is very important to know how to pray. And often, we monks in monasteries do not pray, but we just seem to be praying. It’s not enough to go to church and to sit there like you did your duty or obligation. We must insist on inner prayer. In vain we say many prayers with our mouth or our mind, if we do not sail deeply, if we do not live what we pray.

• In our times, even the laity need to deepen the Jesus prayer, as it will become our only salvation – prayer into the heart; the heart is the root of all passions and there we must labor. In the past we were able to go by in a more easy – superficial way, but for the times awaiting us, this will not be enough. If we will not have the prayer rotted in our hearts, we will not resist the psychological persecution awaiting us, because soon they will come with [hidden] methods to re-educate our minds. (the elder had the gift of prophesy/ clairvoyance, tr. note).

• Today I find that indifference [acedia] is the hardest sin. Our hearts no longer move in prayer, we have no tears of repentance. There will come a time when only those who feel the grace of the Spirit will be able to distinguish good from evil, for on its own, the human mind cannot discern. There will be times of great confusion and only the Holy Spirit can save us.

So, pray my beloved, pray so you may not enter into [temptation] deception! For only through prayer we can receive God’s grace. If we do not pray and continue in laziness and carelessness, then it is possible to lose the instinct of repentance. God forbid that we may not lose conscious!


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Never ask: “Why has this happened to me” ... ( Gerontissa Gabriela )


Never ask: “Why has this happened to me”. ‘When you see somebody suffering from gangrene or cancer or blindness, never say: “Why has this happened to him”‘ Instead, pray God to grant you the vision of the other shore… Then, like the Angels, you will be able to see things as they really are: Everything in God’s plan. EVERYTHING. 

Gerontissa Gabriela 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Theophany - More than Blessing of Waters

  On January 6th we celebrate the Theophany, the full manifestation of God, the Holy Trinity revealed to us. Too often we only think about this as the time when we get Holy Water from the Church or when the Priest comes to bless our homes, but the significance of this event is so much more.
We are fortunate to have commentary from the second century by St Hippolytus [a.d. 170–236.] who was the disciple of Irenæus. We often raise the question, "Why did Jesus have to be baptized if He was sinless?" He explains why John, who resisted baptizing Jesus because he felt unworthy and inferior to Him thinking that he should be baptized by Jesus, baptized Him who was God Himself.
Hyppolytus shows how Christ comforted John,
And what saith the Lord to him? “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matt 3:15) “Suffer it to be so now,” John; thou art not wiser than I. Thou seest as man; I foreknow as God. It becomes me to do this first, and thus to teach. I engage in nothing unbecoming, for I am invested with honour. Dost thou marvel, O John, that I am not come in my dignity? The purple robe of kings suits not one in private station, but military splendour suits a king: am I come to a prince, and not to a friend? “Suffer it to be so now for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness:” I am the Fulfiller of the law; I seek to leave nothing wanting to its whole fulfilment, that so after me Paul may exclaim, “Christ is the fulfilling of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom 10:4) “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Saint Hyppolytus tells us why Jesus was baptized, speaking from viewpoint of Jesus,

Baptize me, John, in order that no one may despise baptism. I am baptized by thee, the servant, that no one among kings or dignitaries may scorn to be baptized by the hand of a poor priest. Suffer me to go down into the Jordan, in order that they may hear my Father’s testimony, and recognise the power of the Son. “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then at length John suffers Him. “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and the heavens were opened unto Him; and, lo, the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and rested upon Him. And a voice (came) from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:16-17) Jesus wanted to emphasize the role of the priest in baptizing those who chose to follow Him. He wanted all to hear the testimony of the Father so others would accept Him as His Son as this was the time He began His public ministry.
Saint Hyppolytus continues uplifting our sight even higher,
Do you see, beloved, how many and how great blessings we would have lost, if the Lord had yielded to the exhortation of John, and declined baptism? For the heavens were shut before this; the region above was inaccessible. We would in that case descend to the lower parts, but we would not ascend to the upper. But was it only that the Lord was baptized? He also renewed the old man, and committed to him again the sceptre of adoption. For straightway “the heavens were opened to Him.” A reconciliation took place of the visible with the invisible; the celestial orders were filled with joy; the diseases of earth were healed; secret things were made known; those at enmity were restored to amity. For you have heard the word of the evangelist, saying, “The heavens were opened to Him,” on account of three wonders. For when Christ the Bridegroom was baptized, it was meet that the bridal-chamber of heaven should open its brilliant gates. And in like manner also, when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice spread everywhere, it was meet that “the gates of heaven should be lifted up.” (Ps 24: 7) “And, lo, the heavens were opened to Him; and a voice was heard, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Most significantly we see in this event that the heavens are opened for all mankind who follow Him and join with Him through Baptism to become His adopted children. Christ shows us that we begin our Journey with Him through baptism. This is a Holy Sacrament where heavens are opened and we join with The Holy Trinity to be transformed, born again, so we can become like Him and have eternal life in His kingdom as one of His children.


Christ’s baptism in the Jordan was A “theophany,” in that the world was granted a revelation of the Holy Trinity. The Father testified from on high to the divine Sonship of Jesus; the Son received His Father’s testimony; and the Spirit was seen in the form of a dove, descending from the Father and resting upon the Son.
In the hymn of the Feast we sing, “Christ has appeared and enlightened the world.” Thus, January 6 is also known as the Feast of Lights. The Church celebrates on this day the illumination of the world by the light of Christ.


Reference: Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 5, Hyppolytus, Discourse on Holy Theophany

Monday, December 31, 2018

Humbleness is the key to keep the Grace ( Fr. Raphael Noica of Essex )



Monasticism is like living something from the age that shall come, in which, as the Savior says: “They neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the Angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). We [monks] are not like the angels, yet life has a tendency towards that, and when you receive the call [to monasticism], you don’t know what hit you, because in this [human] nature you don’t have any confirmation. So then, of course, you need someone to validate or invalidate your call. Because if you don’t [do this], you will suddenly find – or you will start to think: I’ll go to madhouse with my calls!

So, the Spiritual Father can validate or invalidate this thing on some level, but even this level is quite difficult to be defined. The essential line is this: I’m the only one who knows if I am for monasticism or not. Nobody else [would]! And the Spiritual Father can validate or invalidate, but he can’t… Father Sophrony [Sakharov] had [in Paris] Fr. [Sergius] Bulgakov as Spiritual Father and when he confessed to him that he would like to go in Mount Athos to became a monk, his Spiritual Father replied to him with a French saying: “The best is the enemy of the good”. Father Sophrony considered this word of his Spiritual Father, but he didn’t accept it – finally he went to Mount Athos and became a monk.



I got you here to a very difficult matter, to a thinking in which we all must assume our responsibility before God, before eternity – and not only in patterns in which we entered, but yet in a spirit of responsibility and obedience. And I say again: monasticism exists only in the intimate dialogue of every soul with God our Creator. So, I am deeply touched by the love of that sister for her own monasticism and for you; she thinks if she was fulfilled [in monasticism], you will be fulfilled too. But if this [call] isn’t from God – not for her reasons (they have some value, but they’re relative) – the most important thing, the absolute thing is to find into God: is this my way, or not? And: are really the hardships I endure a sign that I’m not on the right path, or they are some obstacle that needs to be overcome – all of these, through prayer…

Question: What prayers do I need to make, for me to find out?

Fr. Raphael: Begin [to pray] with this question. Put it before God – any prayer. Ask Him: “O, Lord, how should I pray? What do You expect of me?” Any thought you have – just add to it “Lord!”; add to your thinking a bit of “Lord!”, add [Him] to all your thoughts. This way, if you add a bit of “Lord!”, instead of you thinking like an engine which runs for nothing, your thinking will become prayer, and the engine will start to move the wheels.

Question: Is it possible to have matrimony, and also holiness and Jesus’ Prayer?

Fr. Raphael: The holiness is the nature of the man, the one that we should acquire in this ephemerality, and it isn’t something special for man – I mean it’s something different from transient, for biological life. The holiness is the nature that’s eternal in God, so it’s the nature of man. And either in matrimony, either in monasticism, either in other ways – if they are – the man always seeks the holiness. But we transformed the sanctity into a pattern; we made from it a false image; we put the Saints onto a pedestal which is very high and distant from us, and we look at them with a reversed binocular, to make it even more distant – and afterwards we are wondering why we don’t get there.

Question: And how do we escape from these patterns?

Fr. Raphael: O, may Lord deliver you! You may have a little too much confidence in your youth. [You have to keep] always before your eyes the fact that God is a God of Love and, from there, [you have] to seek and to examine why [is happening] anything that hurts you…

I don’t like what I heard – Why? Because I’m a sinner, or because that word isn’t right.

And for the rest, I say again: May God guide you! The path [together] with God is the path of freedom. The freedom is, of course, dangerous – but I also got this image, when I was afraid to soar. I said to myself: But, if I won’t go… – let’s say we’re travelling to the Jerusalem above – if we won’t go on road because we’re afraid that something may happen to us on the way there, we’ll know only one thing for sure: we will remain here. If we’ll go, fine, maybe we won’t get there (which is not the case [when we are] together with God), but if we think [like] “Maybe we’ll get there, maybe we won’t get there”, we still have in our imagination 50% and 50%. If I stay, [if I remain], I have a 100% certitude I won’t get there!

I want, with all these, to give you a bit of courage. But with God, as long we stick to God, is impossible not to get there, as Christ said: “My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). And He added immediately: “My Father is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29). I emphasize this “no one is able”! Yet man is gifted with such a great Divine freedom, that in my freedom I don’t have my Salvation guaranteed – God didn’t put me in a concrete box. I have a frightful freedom, but this doesn’t mean God can’t support me until the end. I can’t express myself here more concrete, more correct, less clumsy, because we are at some boundaries where the human reason isn’t applicable anymore. We have for the one side absolute certainty that we will get there, because Christ said “no one is able to pluck them”, and for the other side my freedom, which could separate me from God in any moment; but if I add “God forbid!”, I can’t get separated.

There is one more thing: when we begin to see Who is the God of Love, Who is also Almighty, you’ll begin to see that you can’t get lost with this God – it’s impossible! [It is] when you see that our fallen nature is so evil, that everything God does for our Salvation we undo for our perdition, [that] you can’t save yourself in no way. We live, as a Serbian woman said many years ago, [thinking]: “I am tormented in Orthodoxy by this incertitude: that I may be saved, or I may be not. I would rather be like Protestants, who are sure that they are already saved!”

But something in her words “scratched” me and, after some time, I realized that we Orthodox aren’t living in incertitude, but into a double certitude. As I see myself, it’s impossible to save myself. Look, Christ spilled His blood for the Hebrew people and for the entire world, and the Jews called “His blood [to be] on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25) as a curse. So, how can be saved such a man, even with the almighty love of God? And yet, when you see that God Christ, with divine power, divine word, tried to put off that curse, saying to the women of Jerusalem: “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:28) – meaning “weep for those upon you called some minutes ago My blood, as a curse, and I spill it for Salvation.” [We have] such a God, Who even then doesn’t get offended!… And [Who], when they put nails through His hands, says: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); [Who], when He was dying by our hands, gives for our Salvation His body, broken by us; gives His blood, spilled by us – only if we want to. Well, with such a God, Who defeated even the Hell when He got there, making a path up to the staying to the right of Father – with such a God, how could you get lost?!

So, we have two certitudes: with me, salvation is totally impossible, and this is part of my confession. But, if I confess this, I also confess God – it is impossible to be lost with God. And, between these two impossibilities, I think God’s impossibility must triumph. It’s enough just to cling and stay, not to despair until the end because of enemy’s assaults – and [finally] God will drew me into his fishing net.

Question: How can we know if we have Grace after Liturgy?

Fr. Raphael: Notice one thing: when we are in Grace, we feel that everything is beautiful, that everything can’t have something else but a happy end. When we lose the Grace, we feel the darkness is so great, that we’ll never get out of it. Notice this is the characteristic of that condition. There is not and cannot be tragedy in God, however tragic our life may be. But those things of Hell and of falsehood are as any things of Hell – the work of falsehood wants us to despair. This is one thing, and I emphasize these effects for you to notice.

The second thing is we put very much emphasis on the preparation before Communion, for us to be, supposedly, worthy of commune. I say “supposedly” because we remain unworthy. Our worthiness is Christ. [Yet I see] we don’t understand well the need to find how to keep Communions’ Grace after Communion. In a way, this thing is more important than the preparation; this preparation before Communion is not for us to be worthy. This preparation is to prepare the soil of our soul. […] The most important thing is how to keep that Grace.

In this matter, I say to you, if you look to all the Philokalic Fathers, humbleness is the key. But what is humbleness? Because, beyond a certain pattern, we don’t know what humbleness is. For one thing, humbleness is spiritual realism. If I am the greatest sinner, then may God grant me the power to see I am the greatest sinner amongst people! This is a divine vision, that doesn’t belong to human reason, neither to comparison with the others. [Humbleness] belongs to a spiritual way of seeing things, a realist one. This is not a mannerism, but spiritual realism.

Secondly, Father Sophrony [Sakharov] defined humbleness as that quality of divine love which gives itself to the loved one without returning upon itself. This “without returning upon itself” means the humble one doesn’t consider upon himself, but seeks towards his loved one. Yet humbleness doesn’t mean just humiliation and carelessness for humiliation, but also care for the fulfillment of the loved one. Why? Because it lives through the loved one. It seeks into the loved one, it empties itself into the loved one, for it to receive in its emptied ego the loved one – for the loved one to rest into it, and for it to rest into the loved one. And that, in our [ecclesiastic] language, is called “perichoresis” – Father Sophrony used to called this “the pharmaceutical language of modern theology” [Fr. Raphael smiles], but [it is] a word which is the essence of eternal love.

On the other hand, I think a second definition will give you a better understanding of what we need to seek. Humbleness isn’t a thing by itself, it belongs to love. Father Sophrony said to me one day: “You think that what Saint Silouan said were great things, but know this: the only great thing is humbleness, because the pride prevents love.” Pride dwells in itself, and then, if I live in myself, neither of you will have place [here], nor God. But if I learn to empty myself, to give myself with the aim that God and whole humanity will have place [in me], then every person become a bearer of God and of the entire Universe. This is humbleness.

And then, [following] these paths, we’ll find both the justification to draw near the Holy Communion – [or] the worthiness, if you prefer, because the worthiness is not ours: then Christ will partake with us His worthiness. And, living in this spirit, we’ll be able to keep the Grace we receive in Communion.

Question: And, yet, how can we keep the Grace?…

Fr. Raphael: Well, by persisting on this path of humbleness. I mean, there are many things to say, but I say again – you will find your way through God, [together] with your Spiritual Father, each of you. The general path is the humbleness. Humbleness is the key to keep the Grace.

Question: And what if we don’t know what [humbleness] is, and we ask Lord to give us [humbleness]?

Fr. Raphael: [Then] Lord shall give it to you, so ask it from Lord – speaking of correct understanding…

Transcript from a conversation with youth of Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students, Bucharest, 14 March 2002
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