Translate

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. ( St. Silouan the Athonite )

The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. The soul that has learned of God's grace to pray, feels love and compassion for every created thing, and in particular for mankind, for whom the Lord suffered on the Cross, and His soul was heavy for every one of us.

St. Silouan the Athonite

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Why all the Fuss about Christmas?



The nature of the “Christmas Season,” which has unfortunately has become known as “the Holiday Season,” is now mostly devoid of Jesus Christ for which this celebratory season was originally created. But wait! What are all the parties and all the gifts piled up under the Christmas tree for? Be honest. In our celebrating have we not forgotten why we celebrate? This is supposed to be the time when we celebrate the Incarnation of God. Think about what we have forgotten and why is it so important to re-remember. Ask yourself, "Why is this spiritual event so significant for our salvation? What is the 'Season' really about?"

One may say that even the incarnation of God was not sufficient for the salvation of mankind. For today we can witness the gross neglect of Him even in this most holy period. But this is precisely why God chose to come as fully man. We seek happiness with many parties and expectations of gifts like ignorant children. We are like blind men wandering aimlessly in the city square looking for a lost coin. Blinded by our limitations and separation from God we are unable to see what it is that God expects of us so we can be reunited with him in Paradise.

The Incarnation is much more than a baby in a manger, kings bringing gifts, or some supernatural star in the sky. If we are blind and unable to see what it is that God expects of us, what can God do to help us over come this blindness? He can become like one of us and show us and ask us to follow Him. This is what He did. This why we should celebrate and give thanks. This we are in need of re-remembering.

The gift of the Son of God is a most merciful gift that God has given us. With it comes not only clarity about how to live, but the establishment of the Church to aid us in overcoming our blindness––even 2000 years after the historical event of His Incarnation. The Church gives us many aids for our spiritual healing. The Sacraments of His Church bring to us the powers of the Holy Spirit. The ascetic practices help us develop the self-control with the aid of the Holy Spirit so it can work freely through us, and the Scriptures that clarify how we are to follow Him. These were all given to us through the Church to aid us in becoming one with God, for eternal life in union with Him.

Saint Athanasius tells us the following about the nature of the Incarnation in his well know treatise On the Incarnation:
Whence, naturally, willing to profit men, He sojourns here as man, taking to Himself a body like the others, and from things of earth, that is by the works of His body [He teaches them], so that they who would not know Him from His Providence and rule over all things, may even from the works done by His actual body know the Word of God which is in the body, and through Him the Father…..
For as a kind teacher who cares for His disciples, if some of them cannot profit by higher subjects, comes down to their level, and teaches them at any rate by simpler courses; so also did the Word of God. As Paul also says: “For seeing (1 Corinthians 1:21) that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the word preached to save them that believe.” For seeing that men, having rejected the contemplation of God, and with their eyes downward, as though sunk in the deep, were seeking about for God in nature and in the world of sense, feigning gods for themselves of mortal men and demons; to this end the loving and general Savior of all, the Word of God, takes to Himself a body, and as Man walks among men and meets the senses of all men half-way , to the end, I say, that they who think that God is corporeal may from what the Lord effects by His body perceive the truth, and through Him recognize the Father.
 
God, the Creator of all creation, became fully human in the Incarnation, then voluntarily suffered and showed us the path to eternal life if we learn to live as he showed us. Then after He left this earth, He sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples and they established the Church for our healing. It was through God's arrival as fully human, while still remaining fully God, the Incarnation we are about to celebrate, that we are now able to know the way to eternal life.
Let's be joyful for the reason of the Incarnation and as the Christmas hymn proclaims:
"Today Christ is born in Bethlehem of the Virgin.
Today He who is without a beginning begins,
And the Word is made flesh.
The powers of Heaven rejoice,
The earth and her people are jubilant;
The Wise Men bring gifts to the Lord,
The shepherds marvel at the One who is born;
And we sing without ceasing:
"Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, (God's) good will toward men".

Let’s put Christ back into Christmas.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Second Beatitude - Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted ( Law of God )


Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The weeping about which the second beatitude speaks is first of all true tribulation of heart, and repentant tears for our sins, over our guilt before the merciful God (for example, the tears of the Apostle Peter after his renunciation).

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death, said the Apostle Paul (II Cor. 7:10).

Tribulation and tears coming from misfortunes which befall us can be spiritually beneficial. For example, the death of one of our close ones can result in beneficial tears, if the sorrow is permeated by faith and hope, patience and devotion to the will of God. Jesus Christ Himself wept over the death of Lazarus.

Even more so can tears and tribulation lead to blessedness when they are shed over the suffering of our unfortunate neighbor, if these sincere tears are accompanied by Christian deeds of love and mercy.

Worldly grief is grief without hope in God. It proceeds not from acknowledgment of one’s sins before God, but rather from disappointment in ambition, aspiration to power, desire for gain. Such sadness, characterized by despondency and despair, leads to spiritual death, which can also result in physical death, by suicide or simply weakness due to lack of will to live. An example of such grief is that of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ the Saviour. As a reward for mourning the Lord promises that they that mourn will be comforted. They will receive forgiveness of sins, and through this, internal peace. The mourners will receive eternal joy, eternal blessedness

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The First Beatitude ( Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven)



Blessed — joyful in the highest degree and pleasing to God; 
poor in spirit — humble, those who are conscious of their imperfections and unworthiness before God, and never think that they are better or more holy than others.

Spiritual lowliness is the conviction that our entire life and all our spiritual and physical blessings, such as life, health, strength, spiritual capability, knowledge, riches, and every good thing of life, all this is the gift of our Creator God. Without help from Heaven, it is impossible to acquire either material well-being or spiritual riches. All this is the gift of God.

Spiritual lowliness is called humility. Humility is the foundation of all Christian virtue, because it is the opposite of pride, and pride introduced all evil into the world. Due to pride the first among the angles became the Devil; the first people sinned, their descendants quarreled and went to war among themselves from pride. The first sin was pride (Ecclus. 10:15).

Without humility it is impossible to return to God. Nor are any of the other Christian virtues possible. Humility permits us to know ourselves, to correctly assess our worth and deficiencies. It acts beneficially in the fulfillment of our obligations to our neighbor, arouses arid strengthens in us faith in God, hope and love for Him. It attracts the mercy of God to us and also disposes people to us.

The Word of God says, A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise (Ps. 50:17). Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly (Prov. 3:34). Learn of me, instructs the Saviour, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. 11:29).

Physical misery or privation can result in the acquisition of much spiritual humility if this privation or need is accepted with good will, without a murmur. But physical privation does not always result in spiritual humility, it can lead to bitterness.

Even the wealthy can be spiritually humble if they understand that visible, material wealth is decadent and transitory, fleeting, and that it is no substitute for spiritual riches. They must understand the word of the Lord, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:26).

But Christian humility must be strictly distinguished from self-seeking self-abasement, such as fawning and flattery, which discredit human dignity.

It is necessary to strictly reject so-called "noble self-love" or "defense against affronts to one’s honor," which reflect prejudices, pernicious superstitions which were inherited from Roman paganism hostile to Christianity. The true Christian must decisively renounce these superstitions which resulted in the anti-Christian and shameful custom of the duel and revenge.

In reward for meekness of spirit, humility, the Lord Jesus Christ promises the Kingdom of Heaven, a life of eternal blessedness. Participation in the Kingdom of God for the humble begins here and now — by means of faith and hope in God; but the ultimate reward in all of its fullness will be seen in the future life.

Law of God

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The demonic stronghold-The characteristics of pride


One of the foremost experts on the depths of the human spirit, St. Isaac the Syrian, says in his 41st homily: “The one who has come to a realization of his sin is higher than the one who raises the dead through prayer; whoever has been able to see his own self is higher than the one who has been granted the vision of angels.” It is for the purpose of self-knowledge that we will examine the matter we have stated in the title.

Pride, and egotism, and vanity, to which we can add - haughtiness, arrogance, conceit - are all different varieties of one basic manifestation - “turning towards oneself.” Out of all these words two have the most concrete meaning: vanity and pride; according to the “Ladder” they are like youth and man, seed and bread, beginning and end.




The symptoms of vanity, this initial sin: intolerance of criticism, a thirst for praise, a search for easy paths, constant orientation upon others - what will they say? how will it appear? what will they think? Vanity sees an approaching audience from afar and makes the wrathful - affectionate, the irresponsible - serious, the distracted - concentrated, gluttons - temperate, and so on - all of this while there are observers around..

The same orientation upon an audience explains the sin of self-justification, which often creeps unnoticeably even into our confession: “I am no more sinful than the rest…. only insignificant sins…. I have not killed anyone or stolen anything.”

The demon of vanity is overjoyed, says St. John of the Ladder, seeing our virtues increase: the more successes we have, the more food for vanity. “When I keep fast, I am vain; when I hide my spiritual labors - I am vain over my piety. If I dress pleasingly, I am vain, and if I put on old clothes, I become even vainer. If I begin to speak - I am consumed by vanity, if I keep silent - I become still vainer. No matter how you turn this prickly plant - it always has its thorns sticking upward.” As soon as a kind feeling or a sincere movement arises in a man’s heart, immediately there appears a vain backward look at oneself, and thus - these most precious movements of the soul disappear, melt like snow under the sun. They melt, which means they die; which means that because of vanity the best in us dies; thus we kill ourselves with vanity and we replace a real, simple and good life with phantoms.


Increasing vanity gives rise to pride.


Pride is supreme self-confidence, rejecting all that is not of itself, it is a source of rage, cruelty and malice, a refusal to accept God’s help, a “demonic stronghold.” It is an “iron curtain” between ourselves and God (Abba Pimen); it is an enmity towards God, the origin of all sin, it is present in every sin. Every sin constitutes a willing yielding of oneself to one’s vice, a conscious flouting of God’s law, an audacity against God, although “the one who is subject to pride is desperately in need of God, for no man can save such a one” (“The Ladder”).

Where does this vice came from? How does it begin? What does it feed on? Through what stages does it pass in its development? What are the characteristics by which one can recognize it?

The latter is particularly important, because a proud person usually does not see his sin. A wise elder once counseled one of his monastics to shun pride, but the latter, blinded by his intellect, replied: “Forgive me, father, but there is absolutely no pride in me.” The wise elder said to him: “There is no better proof of your pride, child, than such an answer!”

In any case, if a person finds it hard to ask forgiveness of others, if he is easily offended and mistrustful, if he is rancorous and judgmental of others, - all of these are undoubtedly signs of pride.

In the “Homily against pagans” of Saint Athanasius the Great there are the following words: “Men have fallen into self-desire, preferring to contemplate themselves rather than divinity.” This brief definition reveals the essence of pride: man, for whom until now the center and the object of desire was God, has turned away from Him, has fallen into “self-desire,” has come to love himself more than God, has preferred self-contemplation to divine contemplation.

In our life this turning towards “self-contemplation” and “self-desire” has become part of our nature and can often be seen in the mighty instinct for self-preservation, both in our earthly and our spiritual life.

Just as a cancerous growth often begins with a bruise or a continuous irritation of a certain spot, so the spiritual illness of pride often begins either with a sudden shock (for example, due to some calamity), or from a continuous massaging of one’s ego due to success, good fortune, the constant exhibition of one’s talents, etc.

Often you are dealing with a so-called “temperamental” individual, passionate, talented, easily fascinated. Such a person is like an erupting volcano, with his ceaseless activity preventing both God and men from getting near to him. He is full of himself, totally absorbed in himself, intoxicated with himself. He does not see or feel anything except his burning talent, from which he derives great enjoyment and satisfaction. One can hardly do anything with such people until they become played out, until the volcano becomes extinguished. Such is the danger of all talented and gifted people. Talent should be balanced by deep spirituality.

Otherwise, in reverse cases, in situations of great sorrow - there is the same result: the person becomes totally absorbed in his misfortune, in his eyes the surrounding world becomes dull and dark; he cannot think or speak of anything except his sorrow; he wallows in it, he finally holds onto it as the only thing left to him, as the only reason in life.

Often this turning towards oneself becomes developed in people who are quiet, submissive, taciturn, whose personal life had been suppressed from childhood, and this “suppressed subjectivity compensates itself by engendering a tendency towards egocentrism” (Jung, “Psychological types”) in the most diverse manifestations: quickness to take offence, mistrust, coquetry, seeking of attention, and even in the form of direct psychoses such as persecution mania, megalomania, etc.

Thus, a concentration upon oneself leads a person away from the world and from God; he becomes chipped off, so-to-speak, from the general tree trunk of world-outlook and turns into a shaving curled around an empty spot.


The progression of the spiritual illness



Let us try to outline the major stages of the development of pride, from slight self-satisfaction to extreme spiritual darkness and total destruction.

At first it is seen as frequent attention to oneself, almost normal, accompanied by a good mood bordering on flippancy. A person is satisfied with himself, laughs a lot, whistles, hums, snaps his fingers. He likes to appear original, to amuse others with paradox and wit; he exhibits unusual tastes, is capricious in food. He willingly gives advice and amicably interferes in the affairs of others; he unconsciously manifests his exclusive interest in himself with the following phrases (interrupting the conversation): “no, let me tell you,” or “no, I know a better story,” or “I have the habit of….,” or “I usually follow the rule of….”.

At the same time he is greatly dependent on the approval of others, depending on which he either blossoms or fades and becomes sour. In general, however, at this stage his mood remains fairly bright. This form of egocentrism is usually characteristic of youth, although it is sometimes seen in adults.

Such a person is lucky if at this stage he encounters serious concerns, especially for others (marriage, a family), a job, a project. Or if he becomes entranced with religious life and, attracted by the beauty of spiritual endeavour, realizes his spiritual poverty and becomes desirous of the aid of grace. If this does not occur, the illness progresses further.

There appears in him a sincere belief in his own superiority. Often this is expressed through irrepressible verbosity. What else is verbosity if not, on the one hand, an absence of modesty, and on the other hand - a delight in one’s own self? The egoistic nature of verbosity is not lessened by instances of discussion of serious topics; a proud person can easily prose on humility and silence, can glorify fasting, can debate on the merits of good works versus prayer.

Self-assurance quickly turns into a passion for ordering others around; such a person imposes his will upon others (but is intolerant of his own will being imposed upon), takes charge of others’ attention, time, efforts, becomes impudent and obnoxious. His affairs are important, the affairs of others are of little value. He tries to do everything, interferes in everything.

At this stage the proud person’s mood begins to spoil. In his aggressiveness he naturally meets with opposition and rebuffs; he becomes irritable, stubborn, peevish; he becomes certain that no one understands him, even his spiritual father; his conflicts with the world increase and the proud person makes a final choice: “I” against others (but not yet against God).

The soul becomes dark and cold, becomes the abode of arrogance, contempt, anger, hate. The mind becomes obscured, the differentiation between good and evil becomes muddled, becomes replaced by the differentiation between “mine” and “not mine.” He escapes from all obedience, is intolerable to all segments of society; his purpose is to propagate his own views, to vanquish and shame others; he hungrily seeks fame, even notoriety, revenging himself upon the world for its lack of acknowledgment. If he is a monk - he leaves his monastery which has become intolerable to him, and seeks his own paths. Occasionally this force of self-assertion is directed towards material acquisition, a career, social and political activity; sometimes, if there is talent, it is directed towards creativity, and in such a case, through pushiness, the proud person can even achieve some measure of success. On these same grounds schisms and heresies are created.

Finally, at the last stage, the person separates from God. If previously he sinned out of mischief and mutiny, now he allows himself everything: sin no longer bothers him but becomes a habit; if he feels easy about anything at this stage, it is his easy relations with the demons and his easy access to dark paths. The state of the soul is dismal, hopeless, totally isolated, but at the same time there is a sincere conviction in the rightness of his path and a feeling of complete safety, despite the fact that he is being rushed on black wings to perdition.


In truth, such a state of mind does not differ greatly from madness.



At this stage the proud person lives in a state of total isolation. Look at how he talks, argues: he either does not hear at all what others say to him, or hears only that which coincides with his own views; if something is said to him contrary to his opinions, he becomes angry as though he were greatly offended, and viciously refutes everything. In those around him he sees only those qualities, which he himself had imposed upon them, so that even in his praises he remains proud, self-centered, impervious to objectivity.

Characteristically the most prevalent forms of psychological illness - megalomania and persecution mania - spring directly from “increased self-awareness” and are totally unthinkable in individuals who are humble, simple and self-sacrificing. Even psychiatrists believe that paranoia is based upon an exaggerated awareness of one’s own self, a hostile attitude towards others, a loss of normal ability for adaptation, an irrationality of beliefs. A classic paranoiac never criticizes himself, in his own eyes he is always right and he is sharply dissatisfied with the people around him and with the conditions of his life.

Here is a perfect illustration of the depth of St. John of the Ladder’s determination: “Pride is extreme poverty of the soul.”

A proud man suffers defeat on all fronts:

Psychologically - anguish, gloom, barrenness.

Morally - solitude, the drying up of love, anger.

Physiologically and pathologically - nervous illness and madness.

From a theological point of view - the death of the soul preceding physical death, the experience of hell while still in this life.

In conclusion it is natural to pose a question: how to struggle against this illness, how to oppose the destruction which threatens those who follow this path? The answer springs from the essence of the question: first of all - humility; then - obedience, in increments - to loved ones, to elders, to the laws of the world, to objective truth, to beauty, to all that is good within us and around us, obedience to the law of God, and finally - obedience to the Church, its rules, its commandments, its mystic sacraments. And to achieve this - follow that which stands at the beginning of the Christian path: “Whosoever wishes to follow Me, must renounce himself.”

Renounce himself…. and must continue renouncing himself every day; every day a person must take upon himself his cross - a cross of enduring affronts, placing oneself last, suffering sorrows and illnesses, silently accepting abuse, offering total and unconditional obedience - immediate, voluntary, joyous, fearless, constant obedience.

And then the path into the kingdom of peace and profoundest wisdom, which destroys all passions, shall become open to him.

Glory be to our God, Who opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble!



Protopriest Alezxander Elchaninov.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

How does a priest discourage the faithful from attending church through priestly indifference?


The tragedy of being a priest without Divine Grace

by Nikita Kafkiou

Mr. Kafkiou tells us: “The personal relationship of man with God is not a given, nor is it guaranteed to be stable, progressive or constant. A priest may start off in life with spiritual enthusiasm for his priestly calling. But after a few years, it is possible for him to feel completely removed from the Grace of God. Human weaknesses, the difficulties of married life, the uncertainties of daily life are able to knuckle under the most dedicated faithful priest. The only possible way for a priest to live a spiritual life is for him to accept his unworthiness and to submit his feelings to the love of Jesus Christ. If a priest cannot bring himself to bring before Jesus his pain and defeat, he will end up being completely lost. For a priest to find spiritual maturity he must realize that this journey is a one way street. If a priest does not progress spiritually he will be ripped to shreds. If the priest falls away from God because of his spiritual failures, he will become worldly. Instead of a liturgist he will end up being simply an actor.


A priest who is burdened by the darkness of his spiritual downfall no longer has the disposition or the burning desire to deal with liturgical details of Church life. In many of our Orthodox Churches on Sunday mornings and feast days the gathering of the faithful feels like they are attending a theatrical performance. During the celebration of Church services the faithful do not feel a sense of peace. Instead of charging up their spiritual batteries they experience psychosomatic turmoil. His emotional life is tortured and his spiritual being is scandalized.


In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to comment directly on certain acts and behavior of a spiritually burdened priest which upset sensitive and well-intentioned Church goers. I am listing fifteen contemporary ways with which our Church turns people off.


LITURGICAL MISCUES CAUSED BY AN INDIFFERENT PRIEST



1. Acoustics: 
(Please remember, once again, that the author of these statements is making them with tongue in cheek). 
 Turn up the volume on the PA system so that nobody feels comfortable and cannot feel a sense of compunction. Also place speakers outside the Church building in order to upset the neighbors. This will also allow Church goers listening to the service outside the Church not to find a sense of peace. Do not allow professional people install the PA system. The priest should be concerned that the final acoustical system should remind one of a gypsy who navigates our neighborhoods with his cart selling carpets and potatoes.


2. Lighting. 
The priest should make sure that the chandeliers are turned on for the services. And if for some reason the chandeliers are not lit make sure that you have a powerful floodlight that reminds people of a police searchlight during a police investigation. You should allow the cantors to have a bright light shining on their heads so that they can read their service books.


3. Sermon.  
Make sure you give the sermon before Holy Communion (before the invitation: “With the fear of God, with faith and with love draw near.” Make sure your sermon is long. It should avoid talking about real life issues and zero in on social, moral and political issues. You should also emphasize the moral downfall of contemporary society. You should offer moral advice to the congregation in an alarming way. Make sure that you express your exasperation with the prevalence of sin in our contemporary world. Emphasize the egocentric tendency of middle class people wanting to live the good life. While doing this you should also compare this way of life with the ascetics of the Church who live in the wilderness. Try to convince people in your sermon that the reason they are not progressing spiritually is because they are not trying hard enough. Make sure to speak with a loud voice—menacing voice so that the people will believe what you are saying.


4. Typikon—Rubrics. (The liturgical order of services).  
The priest should be indifferent to the liturgical order of services. The liturgical rubrics are not something foundational. Cut and paste the service the way you desire it to be. Do not read the Psalms and the readings from the Old Testament because the faithful do not understand this ancient language. Give directives to the cantors not to chant the whole of “Κύριε έκέκραξα» during the vesper service and also omit most of the odes in the matins service. Do things in a hurried and most convenient way for you.


5. Behavior.  
The priest should make sure that during the course of the services that he should navigate around the altar nervously. The priest should do everything with a sense of indifference and without feeling deeply what he is doing. When you face the congregation in the Royal Entrance or when you are about to incense the people make sure you check out who is in Church. You can also look upon the congregation with a sense of indifference.


6. Vestments.  
During the Divine Liturgy the priest should wear vestments with bright colors and a lot of phony jewels. Make sure that you look spectacular. Understand how important you are and that you are truly the pride of the Church by the way you are vested.

7. Commentary. 
  During the highlights of the Divine Liturgy such as the Cherubic Hymn, the Consecration of the Holy Gifts or before dispensing Holy Communion, make sure to admonish the people about their proper conduct in Church. If a child cries, make sure you make it known to the mother in a stern way to either remove the child or keep it quiet.


8. The Cleanliness of the Icons.
  Do not bother with the cleanliness of the icons during Sunday services and for the feast days. Allow the accumulation of saliva and lipstick to remain on the protective glass of the icons so that the faithful will feel a sense of disgust while reverencing them.

9. Candles and Incense. 
Make sure that you offer only the cheapest candles you can purchase for the candle stand in the narthex. These candles look like soap. Also price them according to their size. The priest should stock only the cheapest incense money can buy. Place the kernels of incense on the charcoal shortly before you start to incense the altar and the icons. Do this so that by the time you come to incense the people the censer will be giving off only smoke without the fragrance of incense. Do not add any more kernels of incense while you are incensing.

10. Intoning the Petitions.
  When intoning the petitions shout them out in an inarticulate voice so that no one can understand what you are saying. Chant in such a way that you sound like someone singing in a night club. Forget that you are offering your prayers to God and make sure that you sound good to your audience and to yourself. When you read the prayers make sure you annunciate only the vowels and skip the consonants. It is important to say what you are chanting or reading not the way you are expressing them. Remember that no one cares and or understands what is being said. Project the intensity of your voice in a boisterous way believing that this will elicit spiritual compunction from the faithful.

11. During the Divine Liturgy.
  Make sure that you use wine that is of average quality. And fill the chalice with a lot of hot water so that the taste of the wine will be lost. While dispensing Holy Communion make sure the communion spoon contains very little consecrated wine (the Blood) and no consecrated bread (the Body). And while dispensing Holy Communion do not say the name of the communicant. Be very indifferent to the fact that you are holding in your hands God Himself. While serving the Divine Liturgy make quick and nervous movements. Dispense the Body and Blood of the Lord in a casual and indifferent way as if you are serving desert. Make sure that the Divine Liturgy continues to be chanted while you are dispensing Holy Communion so the faithful can hear “we have seen the true Light” even before they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. At the end of the Divine Liturgy dispense the antidoron (the pieces of altar bread) with both hands. While doing this the cantors should stop chanting so you can hear the chatter of the people in the Church. Make sure you avoid reading the prayer of thanksgiving while consuming the consecrated elements in the chalice before you leave the altar.

12. Beggars. 
 Make sure that on Sundays and Feast Days that you allow the beggars to stand at the very entrance to the Church. This allows the faithful to get a taste of poverty, misery, horror, lies and indignation. In this way, those who attend Church infrequently acquire a clear connection with God so that they can identify their attendance at Church with negative feelings.


13. Money.
 Make sure that you use every opportunity you get to ask the congregation for money. Place large containers in the narthex that clearly display how the money will be be used. Pass trays during the Divine Liturgy. Make sure that these trays are passed during the holiest moments of the Liturgy so that the faithful will give more money. Make sure that there are fees for weddings and baptisms. When the priest visits homes to perform the services of holy unction or blessing of water the priest should accept an honorarium without hesitation. You should believe that you are worthy of being compensated for these services that you offer. You should not forget that the majority of the faithful believe that priests are not money hungry.


14. Problematic Co-workers. 
The priest should make sure that he appoints self-centered and ill-tempered council members. Make them understand that they are the leaders. Impress upon them that they have special powers. Remind them to police the faithful in the Church. Now and then you, the priest, should have disagreements with the council members in front of the faithful.


15. Automobile. 
The priest should buy a very expensive automobile so that the faithful will be scandalized. You should make your choice of an automobile based on the argument that even Jesus did not walk around but used a beautiful donkey for transportation. With an automobile like this the faithful will be reminded of Palm Sunday and Jesus Christ.

16. Iconography. 
If there are any bare walls in Church, the priest should get bids from iconographers and fill these spaces with inexpensive icons. Make sure that these icons do not display a sense of creativity but they are simply copies of icons.


17. The Altar Bread.
 Place baskets of altar bread in the narthex of the Church. The pieces of bread should be large pieces and make sure that this bread is purchased by the faithful at a local bakery. If the priest does this he will not be burdened with handing out the bread himself. This will also allow him to avoid coming into personal contact with the faithful of the parish.

-Dear People,

I found this article on the Greek internet and it fascinated me about Church life in Greece and why people do not attend Church frequently in that country. It is fascinating to me because, as an Orthodox priest in America, I am always concerned about issues that keep our faithful from attending our Churches. It is very important to realize as you read about these issues that turn people off about attending Church that some of these issues do not apply here in America. As you read the article, those of you that live in the USA will know which are unique to Greece. As I translated the seventeen reasons that discourage our faithful from attending Church services, it is very evident that the person who wrote this article writes about these issues with tongue in cheek. Every one of the reasons that he writes about are written mockingly. In other words he wished that priests would not do the things that he writes about. As I read about the negative things that priests do in our Churches that make them uninviting to our faithful, I came to the conclusion that only by being totally committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can a priest avoid the pitfalls that destroy his calling. Mr. Kafkiou says that when a young priest loses his enthusiasm and idealism about the priesthood he most always ends up being nothing more than an actor. I pray that I will be able to get across to you the spirit of what this man is trying to say about the parish priest.


+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, June 24, 2014, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Postscript—after sharing this with my presbytera, she tells me that it is silly and that I not share it. Something within me says that I should share it.




Translated from the Greek by:

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, June 24, 2014,

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Time is Money ( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )

Time is the currency with which we acquire eternity. 
The ancients would say, “time is money.” 
Indeed, time is a currency of incalculable value. We do not need even one dollar to purchase eternity; all we need is one minute. 
How did the thief on the cross acquire Paradise? He did so with one minute. 
Actually, it took him less than a minute to confess Jesus Christ, to seek His mercy, and to utter with sincere repentance, “Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom.”
 This is why the Apostle Paul exclaims, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
 Behold, the greatest purchase of all time! 
Let us rush to acquire Paradise. 
We have the means. 
It will be the best investment of our life, because Paradise is forever.
Ioasaf, who went on to become a saint of our Orthodox Church, was the son of the King of India.  Saint Barlaam instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him. One of the many things Righteous Barlaam taught him was the following:
“In a certain land, the citizens had the custom of electing as their king a foreigner who would come to visit their city. The unsuspecting visitor would accept their offer because he was unaware of their customs and practices. They would crown the visitor and enthrone him king for a certain period of time, only to dethrone him a short time later, without a warning, and exile him to a desolate region. 
Since they never revealed to the stranger that within six months to a year they would strip him of his regal title and send him into exile, the visitor ruled the land assuming that he would reign forever, until the end of his life. The thought of exile would never even cross his mind, and,unmindfulof the citizens’intent to banish him, he never prepared for such a calamity.
During one such trip to the city by a particular visitor, a good and virtuous citizen who saw the foreigner approached him and told him in secret, “My fellow countrymen who dwell in this city are planning to make you a king. You should realize, however, that after a short period of time they will exile you. So, now when you become king and while you have all the goods accessible to you, see to it that you send food, provisions, and other useful items to that deserted region, so that when they banish you to that land you will have them there waiting for you, and youwill be able to live comfortably.” 
“Oh! Thank you very much for telling me,” replied the guest.Indeed, by following the advice of that good citizen, this man sent an abundance of provisions to the land of exile. And so, when the time came and the citizens banished him, he went their gladly and henceforth lived comfortably, because he had sent many goods there beforehand. 
 “Similarly,” explained St. Barlaam to Ioasaph, “Man comes into this present life, and, fooled by the world, he believes that he will reign and live many years; death, however, appears unexpectedly and sends him to eternity. 
 The Church, another good citizen, comes to advise man and points out to him, “Look, you are not going to be here very long. You will depart for the next life , which is eternal. 
Make sure, now that you are here and capable, to do good works and send them there to the next life. Thus, when you die and the world ejects you from the earth, you will find these items there. God will repay you thousand times over, and you will henceforth live joyfully.”
The time of our present life is the opportunity to sow. 
Eternity is the time of harvest.
 Tell me what you sow, and I will tell you what you will reap. 
Do you sow faith, love, and tears of effort and repentance?
 You will reap the joy of eternal Paradise. 
The Lord confirms this: 
“You shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life”(Mt. 19:29). 
St. Paul also emphasizes this in his epistle to the Corinthians:
 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Cor. 4:17).
Elder Ephraim of Arizona 
https://www.stnektariosmonastery.org/en/index.php 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ ( Saint Gregory Palamas )



One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ (Ex. 20:8): that which is called the Lord’s day, because it is consecrated to the Lord, who on that day arose from the dead, disclosing and giving prior assurance of the general resurrection, when every earthly activity will come to an end. And you must not engage in any worldly activity that is not essential; and you must allow those who are under your authority and those who live with you to rest, so that together you may all glorify Him who redeemed us through His death and who arose from the dead and resurrected our human nature with Himself…

On this day you should go to the temple of God and attend the services held there and with sincere faith and a clean conscience you should receive the holy body and blood of Christ.

Saint Gregory Palamas

Friday, November 8, 2019

The soul cannot have peace unless it prays for the enemies. ( Saint Silouan the Athonite )

The soul cannot have peace unless it prays for the enemies. 
The soul taught by the grace of God to pray, to love and to be sorry for all creation, and above all to the man for whom (the Lord) fell on the cross and was in deep pain for all of us.

Saint Silouan the Athonite

Sunday, November 3, 2019

St. Theodota and the Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian...



Saint Theodota was the mother of Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia. They were all natives of Asia Minor. Her pagan husband died while her children were still quite small, but she raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.


The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian and their mother St Theodota were natives of Asia Minor (some sources say Mesopotamia). Their pagan father died while they were still quite small children. Their mother raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.

Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people’s illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer. They even treated animals. With fervent love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services. They strictly observed the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Freely have you received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8). The fame of Sts Cosmas and Damian spread throughout all the surrounding region, and people called them unmercenary physicians.

Once, the saints were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whom all the doctors had refused to treat because of her seemingly hopeless condition. Through faith and through the fervent prayer of the holy brothers, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia got up from her bed perfectly healthy and giving praise to God. In gratitude for being healed and wishing to give them a small gift, Palladia went quietly to Damian. She presented him with three eggs and said, “Take this small gift in the Name of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hearing the Name of the Holy Trinity, the unmercenary one did not dare to refuse.

When St Cosmas learned what had happened, became very sad, for he thought that his brother had broken their strict vow. On his deathbed he gave instructions that his brother should not be buried beside him. St Damian also died shortly afterward, and everyone wondered where St Damian’s grave should be. But through the will of God a miracle occurred. A camel, which the saints had treated for its wildness, spoke with a human voice saying that they should have no doubts about whether to place Damian beside Cosmas, because Damian did not accept the eggs from the woman as payment, but out of respect for the Name of God. The venerable relics of the holy brothers were buried together at Thereman (Mesopotamia).

Many miracles were worked after the death of the holy unmercenaries. There lived at Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a certain man by the name of Malchus. One day he went on a journey, leaving his wife all alone for what would be a long time. He prayerfully entrusted her to the heavenly protection of the holy brothers. But the Enemy of the race of mankind took on the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends, and planned to kill the woman. A certain time went by, and this man went to her at home and said that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. The woman believed him and went along. He led her to a solitary place intending to kill her. The woman, seeing that disaster threatened her, called upon God with deep faith.

Two fiercesome men then appeared, and the devil let go of the woman and fled, falling off a cliff. The two men led the woman home. At her own home, bowing to them deeply she asked, “ My rescuers, to whom I shall be grateful to the end of my days, what are your names?”

They replied, “We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian,” and became invisible. The woman with trembling and with joy told everyone about what had happened to her. Glorifying God, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers and tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. And from that time the holy brothers were venerated as protectors of the holiness and inviolability of Christian marriage, and as givers of harmony to conjugal life.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In this world there are two kinds of love: one that takes and one that gives. ( Mother Maria Skobtsova )



In this world there are two kinds of love: one that takes and one that gives. This is common to all types of love -- not only love for man. One can love a friend, one's family, children, scholarship, art, the motherland, one's own ideas, oneself -- and even God -- from either of these two points of view. Even those forms of love which by common consent are the highest can exhibit this dual character.
Take, for example, maternal love. A mother can often forget herself, sacrifice herself for her children. Yet this does not as yet warrant recognition as Christian love for her children. One needs to ask the question: what is it that she loves in them? She may love her own reflection, her second youth, an expansion of her own "I" into other "I"s which become separated from the rest of the world as "we." She may love in them her own flesh that she sees in them, the traits of her own character, the reflections of her own tastes, the continuation of her family. Then it becomes unclear where is the fundamental difference between an egotistical love of self and a seemingly sacrificial love of one's children, between "I" and "we." All this amounts to a passionate love of one's own which blinds one's vision, forcing one to ignore the rest of the world -- what is not one's own.
Such a mother will imagine that the merit of her own child is not comparable with the merit of other children, that his mishaps and illnesses are more severe than those of others, and, finally, that at times the well-being and success of other children can be sacrificed for the sake of the well-being and success of her own. She will think that the whole world (herself included) is called to serve her child, to feed him, quench his thirst, train him, make smooth all paths before him, deflect all obstacles and all rivals. This is a kind of passion-filled maternal love. Only that maternal love is truly Christian which sees in the child a true image of God, which is inherent not only in him but in all people, but given to her in trust, as her responsibility, as something she must develop and strengthen in him in preparation for the unavoidable life of sacrifice along the Christian path, for that cross-bearing challenge which faces every Christian. Only such a mother loves her child with truly Christian love. With this kind of love she will be more aware of other children's misfortunes, she will be more attentive toward them when they are neglected. As the result of the presence of Christian love in her heart her relationship with the rest of humanity will be a relationship in Christ. This is, of course, a very poignant example.
There can be no doubt but that love for anything that exists is divided into these two types. One may passionately love one's motherland, working to make sure that it develops gloriously and victoriously, overcoming and destroying all its enemies. Or one can love it in a Christian manner, working to see that the face of Christ's truth is revealed more and more clearly within it. One can passionately love knowledge and art, seeking to express oneself, to flaunt oneself in them. Or one can love them while remaining conscious of one's service through them, of one's responsibility for the exercise of God's gifts in these spheres.
One can also love the idea of one's own life simply because it is one's own -- and enviously and jealously set it over against all other ideas. Or one can see in it too a gift granted to one by God for the service of his eternal truth during the time of one's path on earth. One can love life itself both passionately and sacrificially. One can even relate to death in two different ways. And one can direct two kinds of love toward God. One of these will look on him as the heavenly protector of "my" or "our" earthly passions and desires. Another kind of love, however, will humbly and sacrificially offer one's tiny human soul into his hands. And apart from their name -- love -- and apart from their outward appearance, these two forms of love will have nothing in common.
In the light of such Christian love, what should man's ascetic effort be? What is that true asceticism whose existence is inescapably presupposed by the very presence of spiritual life? Its criterion is self-denying love for God and for one's fellow man. But an asceticism which puts one's own soul at the center of everything, which looks for its salvation, fencing it off from the world, and within its own narrow limits comes close to spiritual self-centeredness and a fear of dissipating, of wasting one's energies, even though it be through love -- this is not Christian asceticism.
What is the criterion that can be used to define and measure the various pathways of human life? What are their prototypes, their primary symbols, their boundaries? It is the path of Godmanhood, Christ's path upon earth. The Word became flesh, God became incarnate, born in a stable in Bethlehem. This alone should be fully sufficient for us to speak of the limitless, sacrificial, self-abnegating and self-humbling love of Christ. Everything else is present in this. The Son of Man lowered the whole of himself -- the whole of his divinity, his whole divine nature and his whole divine hypostasis -- beneath the vaults of that cave in Bethlehem. There are not two Gods, nor are there two Christs: one who abides in blessedness within the bosom of the Holy Trinity and another who took on the form of a servant. The Only-begotten Son of God, the Logos, has become Man, lowering himself to the level of mankind. The path of his later life -- the preaching, the miracles, the prophesies, the healings, the enduring of hunger and thirst, right through his trial before Pilate, the way of the cross and on to Golgotha and death -- all this is the path of his humiliated humanity, and together with him the path of God's condescension to humanity.
What was Christ's love like? Did it withhold anything? Did it observe or measure its own spiritual gifts? What did it regret? Where was it ever stingy? Christ's humanity was spit upon, struck, crucified. Christ's divinity was incarnate fully and to the end in his spit-upon, battered, humiliated and crucified humanity. The Cross -- an instrument of shameful death -- has become for the world a symbol of self-denying love. And at no time nor place -- neither from Bethlehem to Golgotha, neither in sermons nor parables, nor in the miracles he performed -- did Christ ever give any occasion to think that he did not sacrifice himself wholly and entirely for the salvation of the world, that there was in him something held back, some "holy of holies" which he did not want to offer or should not have offered.
He offered his own "holy of holies," his own divinity, for the sins of the world, and this is precisely wherein lies his divine and perfect love in all its fullness.
This is the only conclusion we can come to from the whole of Christ's earthly ministry. But can it be that the power of divine love is such because God, though offering himself, still remains God, that is, does not empty himself, does not perish in this dreadful sacrificial self-emptying?
Human love cannot be completely defined in terms of the laws of divine love, because along this path a man can lay himself waste and lose sight of what is essential: the salvation of his soul.
But here one need only pay attention to what Christ taught us. He said: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross." Self-denial is of the essence, and without it no one can follow him, without it there is no Christianity. Keep nothing for yourself. Lay aside not only material wealth but spiritual wealth as well, changing everything into Christ's love, taking it up as your cross. He also spoke -- not about himself and not about his perfect love, but about the love which human imperfection can assume -- "Greater love has no man than he who lays down his soul (AV, RSV: life) for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). How miserly and greedy it is to understand the word "soul" here as "life." Christ is speaking here precisely about the soul, about surrendering one's inner world, about utter and unconditional self-sacrifice as the supreme example of the love that is obligatory for Christians. Here again there is no room for looking after one's own spiritual treasures. Here everything is given up.
Christ's disciples followed in his path. This is made quite clear in an almost paradoxical expression of the Apostle Paul: "I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren" (Rom. 9:3). And he said this, having stated: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). For him such an estrangement from Christ is an estrangement from life not only in the transient, worldly sense of the word, but from the eternal and incorruptible life of the age to come.
These examples suffice to let us know where Christianity leads us. Here love truly does not seek its own, even if this be the salvation of one's own soul. Such love takes everything from us, deprives us of everything, almost as if it were devastating us. And where does it lead? To spiritual poverty. In the Beatitudes we are promised blessedness in return for being poor in spirit. This precept is so far removed from human understanding that some people attempt to read the word "spirit" as a later interpolation and explain these words as a call for material poverty and a rejection of earthly riches, while others almost slip into fanaticism, taking this as a call for intellectual poverty, the rejection of thought and of any kind of intellectual content. Yet how simply and clearly these words can be interpreted in the context of other evangelical texts. The person who is poor in spirit is the one who lays down his soul for his friends, offering this spirit out of love, not withholding his spiritual treasures.
Here the spiritual significance of the monastic vow of renunciation becomes evident. Of course it does not refer just to material renunciation or a basic absence of avarice. Here it is a question of spiritual renunciation.
What is the opposite of this? What vices correspond to the virtue of renunciation? There are two of them, and in real life they are frequently confused: stinginess and greed. One can be greedy but at the same time not be stingy, and even extravagant. One can also be stingy but not have a greedy desire to possess what is not one's own. Both are equally unacceptable. And if it is unacceptable in the material world, it is even less acceptable in the spiritual realm.
Renunciation teaches us not only that we should not greedily seek advantage for our soul, but that we must not be stingy with our soul, that we should squander our soul in love, that we should achieve spiritual nakedness, that spiritually we should be stripped bare. There should be nothing so sacred or valuable that we would not be ready to give it up in the name of Christ's love to those who have need of it.
Spiritual renunciation is the way of the holy fool. It is folly, foolishness in Christ. It is the opposite of the wisdom of this age. It is the blessedness of those who are poor in spirit. It is the outer limit of love, the sacrifice of one's own soul. It is separation from Christ in the name of one's brothers. It is the denial of oneself. And this is the true Christian path which is taught us by every word and every phrase of the Gospels.
Why is it that the wisdom of this world not only opposes this commandment of Christ but simply fails to understand it? Because the world has at all times lived by accommodating itself to the laws of material nature and is inclined to carry these laws over into the realm of spiritual nature. According to the laws of matter, I must accept that if I give away a piece of bread, then I became poorer by one piece of bread. If I give away a certain sum of money, then I have reduced my funds by that amount. Extending this law, the world thinks that if I give my love, I am impoverished by that amount of love, and if I give up my soul, then I am utterly ruined, for there is nothing left of me to save.
In this area, however, the laws of spiritual life are the exact opposite of the laws of the material world. According to spiritual law, every spiritual treasure given away not only returns to the giver like a whole and unbroken ruble given to a beggar, but it grows and becomes more valuable. He who gives, acquires, and he who becomes poor, becomes rich. We give away our human riches and in return we receive much greater gifts from God, while he who gives away his human soul, receives in return eternal bliss, the divine gift of possessing the Kingdom of heaven. How does he receive that gift? By absenting himself from Christ in an act of the uttermost self-renunciation and love, he offers himself to others. If this is indeed an act of Christian love, if this self-renunciation is genuine, then he meets Christ himself face to face in the one to whom he offers himself. And in communion with him he communes with Christ himself. That from which he absented himself he obtains anew, in love, and in a true communion with God. Thus the mystery of union with man becomes the mystery of union with God. What was given away returns, for the love which is poured out never diminishes the source of that love, for the source of love in our hearts is Love itself. It is Christ.
We are not speaking here about good deeds, nor about that love which measures and parcels out its various possibilities, which gives away the interest but keeps hold of the capital. Here we are speaking about a genuine draining of self, in partial imitation of Christ's self-emptying of himself when he became incarnate in mankind. In the same way we must empty ourselves completely, becoming incarnate, so to speak, in another human soul, offering to it the full strength of the divine image which is contained within ourselves.
This it is -- and only this -- which was rejected by the wisdom of this world, as being a kind of violation of its laws. It is this that made the Cross a symbol of divine love: foolishness for the Greeks and a stumbling block for the Jews, though for us it is the only path to salvation. There is not, nor can there be, any doubt but that in giving ourselves to another in love -- to the poor, the sick, the prisoner -- we will encounter in him Christ himself, face to face. He told us about this himself when he spoke of the Last Judgement: how he will call some to eternal life because they showed him love in the person of each unfortunate and miserable individual, while others he will send away from himself because their hearts were without love, because they did not help him in the person of his suffering human brethren in whom he revealed himself to them. If we harbor doubts about this on the basis of our unsuccessful everyday experience, then we ourselves are the only reason for these doubts: our loveless hearts, our stingy souls, our ineffective will, our lack of faith in Christ's help. One must really be a fool for Christ in order to travel this path to its end -- and at its end, again and again, encounter Christ. This alone is our all-consuming Christian calling.
And this, I believe, is the evangelical way of piety. It would be incorrect, however, to think that this has been revealed to us once and for all in the four Gospels and clarified in the Epistles. It is continually being revealed and is a constant presence in the world. It is also continually being accomplished in the world, and the form of its accomplishment is the Eucharist, the Church's most valuable treasure, its primary activity in the world. The Eucharist is the mystery of sacrificial love. Therein lies its whole meaning, all its symbolism, all its power. In it Christ again and again is voluntarily slain for the sins of the world. Again and again the sins of the world are raised by him upon the Cross. And he gives himself -- his Body and Blood -- for the salvation of the world. By offering himself as food for the world, by giving to the world communion in his Body and Blood, Christ not only saves the world by his sacrifice, but makes each person himself a "christ," and unites him to his own self-sacrificing love for the world. He takes flesh from the world, he deifies this human flesh, he gives it up for the salvation of the world and then unites the world again to this sacrificed flesh -- both for its salvation and for its participation in this sacrificial offering. Along with himself -- in himself -- Christ offers the world as well as a sacrifice for the expiation of our sins, as if demanding from the world this sacrifice of love as the only path toward union with him, that is, for salvation. He raises the world as well upon the Cross, making it a participant in his death and in his glory.
How profound is the resonance of these words of the Eucharist: "Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee, on behalf of all and for all." The Eucharist here is the Gospel in action. It is the eternally existing and eternally accomplished sacrifice of Christ and of Christ-like human beings for the sins of the world. Through it earthly flesh is deified and having been deified enters into communion again with earthly flesh. In this sense the Eucharist is true communion with the divine. And is it not strange that in it the path to communion with the divine is so closely bound up with our communion with each other. It assumes consent to the exclamation: "Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided."
The Eucharist needs the flesh of this world as the "matter" of the mystery. It reveals to us Christ's sacrifice as a sacrifice on behalf of mankind, that is, as his union with mankind. It makes us into "christs," repeating again and again the great mystery of God meeting man, again and again making God incarnate in human flesh. And all this is accomplished in the name of sacrificial love for mankind.
But if at the center of the Church's life there is this sacrificial, self-giving eucharistic love, then where are the Church's boundaries, where is the periphery of this center? Here it is possible to speak of the whole of Christianity as an eternal offering of the Divine Liturgy beyond church walls. What does this mean? It means that we must offer the bloodless sacrifice, the sacrifice of self-surrendering love not only in a specific place, upon the altar of a particular temple; the whole world becomes the single altar of a single temple, and for this universal Liturgy we must offer our hearts, like bread and wine, in order that they may be transubstantiated into Christ's love, that he may be born in them, that they may become "Godmanhood" hearts, and that he may give these hearts of ours as food for the world, that he may bring the whole world into communion with these hearts of ours that have been offered up, so that in this way we may be one with him, not so that we should live anew but so that Christ should live in us, becoming incarnate in our flesh, offering our flesh upon the Cross of Golgotha, resurrecting our flesh, offering it as a sacrifice of love for the sins of the world, receiving it from us as a sacrifice of love to himself. Then truly in all ways Christ will be in all.
Here we see the measurelessness of Christian love. Here is the only path toward becoming Christ, the only path which the Gospel reveals to us. What does all this mean in a worldly, concrete sense? How can this be manifested in each human encounter, so that each encounter may be a real and genuine communion with God through communion with man? It implies that each time one must give up one's soul to Christ in order that he may offer it as a sacrifice for the salvation of that particular individual. It means uniting oneself with that person in the sacrifice of Christ, in flesh of Christ. This is the only injunction we have received through Christ's preaching of the Gospel, corroborated each day in the celebration of the Eucharist. Such is the only true path a Christian can follow. In the light of this path all others grow dim and hazy. One must not, however, judge those who follow other conventional, non-sacrificial paths, paths which do not require that one offer up oneself, paths which do not reveal the whole mystery of love. Nor, on the other hand, is it permitted to be silent about them. Perhaps in the past it was possible, but not today.
Such terrible times are coming. The world is so exhausted from its scabs and its sores. It so cries out to Christianity in the secret depths of its soul. But at the same time it is so far removed from Christianity that Christianity cannot, should not even dare to show a distorted, diminished, darkened image of itself. Christianity should singe the world with the fire of Christian love. Christianity should ascend the Cross on behalf of the world. It should incarnate Christ himself in the world. Even if this Cross, eternally raised again and again on high, be foolishness for our new Greeks and a stumbling block for our new Jews, for us it will still be "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24).
We who are called to be poor in spirit, to be fools for Christ, who are called to persecution and abuse -- we know that this is the only calling given to us by the persecuted, abused, disdained and humiliated Christ. And we not only believe in the Promised Land and the blessedness to come: now, at this very moment, in the midst of this cheerless and despairing world, we already taste this blessedness whenever, with God's help and at God's command, we deny ourselves, whenever we have the strength to offer our soul for our neighbors, whenever in love we do not seek our own.

Taken From Mother Maria Skobtsova"Types of Religious Lives"

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lay People and the Prayer of the Heart ( St. Ephraim of Katounakia )


To a layman who asked about Noetic Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me), 
St. Ephraim of Katounakia had this to say:

Set aside half an hour out of the twenty-four to say the Prayer. Whenever you are able; but the evening is best. Say it without using the prayer rope - in supplication, pleading, and with tears. 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' Cultivate this, and you'll see what fruit it brings. From half an hour, it will become an hour. And guard this hour. Whether the phone is ringing, or you have this task you need to do now, or you're sleepy, or some blasphemy is confronting you. Nothing. Turn off the phone. Finish your tasks. Do this half hour and you'll see. You've planted a little tree, and tomorrow or the day after it will bear fruit. St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil both began like this and became luminaries for the whole world. St. Symeon the New Theologian had experiences of the Uncreated Light while still a layman. He was a layman. How many laymen appear as such exteriorly, but deep down are monastics!
St. Ephraim of Katounakia

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Christian Virtues ( Elder Cleopa )



Q. What teachings and spiritual counsels do you give to the faithful, to confirm them in the three theological virtues – in faith, in hope and in charity – which are the foundation of our salvation?

A. I AM a simple man, and unlearned, and I am not equal to the task of giving particular teachings on the three theological virtues. That I leave to theologians, who can understand them and explain them to their listeners.

Here it is necessary to deal with a theology of the many and the unlearned, who still do not know the “I believe” and the “Our Father”, nor the Trisagion. In my weak powers and understanding regarding matters beneficial for salvation, first, I recall the minds of the faithful to the fear of God, which teaches man to flee from evil (Prov 1:7, 9, 10).

We know from the Holy Fathers that wisdom has two ends. The lower end is the fear of God, and the upper end is the love of God, which is “the bond of perfection”. Beginning from the fear of God, I urge the faithful to the fear of death and of judgment. Then I recall their minds to the torments of punishment, to the glory of paradise, to compassionate mercy, to the upbringing of children in the fear and trials of the Lord, to sincerity and frequent confession and to the abandonment of sin, which is the true repentance.

As for the married, I urge them to a pure family life, counselling them to abandon the heavy sin of child-murder [i.e. abortion] and any attempts whatsoever to prevent conception. I urge them to abandon quarrelsomeness, fault-finding, anger, drunkenness and hatred, and I urge them to be reconciled before the sun has set.


Elder Cleopa

Saturday, October 12, 2019

True Christianity Is a Struggle..( Archbishop Averky )


 
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Mk 8:34).
The Great Fast is a season of repentance; and repentance is that struggle to contend against sinful passions and lusts which is so difficult for man that the Lord, the Judge of the contest Himself, likened it to the bearing of a cross. We are vividly reminded of this at the very midpoint of the Great Fast, on the Sunday of the Adoration of the Cross. Just as the Lord bore the Cross for the sake of our salvation, so each of us must bear “his cross” in order to attain the salvation prepared for us by the Lord.

Without the cross, without struggle, there can be no salvation! This is what true Christianity teaches. The teaching on struggle, on the bearing of the cross, runs like a scarlet thread through all the Sacred Scriptures and all of the history of the Church; and the lives of those holy ones who were pleasing unto God, the spiritual athletes of Christian piety, clearly bear witness to this. The Great Fast is merely an annually repeated exercise in the bearing of one’s cross in this life, an exercise in spiritual struggle inseparably bound up with the entire life of the true Christian.

But now, in the twentieth century of the Christian era, “wise men” have appeared—“neo-Christians,” as some of them refer to themselves—who do not wish to hear of this. They preach a new sort of saccharine, sentimental, rosy-hued neo-Christian love and the unrestricted enjoyment of all the delights of this transitory earthly life. They totally ignore the innumerable passages in Holy Writ which forcefully and eloquently speak of spiritual struggles, of emulating Christ the Savior in crucifying oneself, of the many sorrows which await the Christian in this life, beginning with the words which Christ the Savior Himself addressed to His disciples at the Mystical Supper: In the world ye shall have tribulation. (Jn 16:33). And this is because, as the Lord Himself explained, true Christians are not of the world (Jn 15:19), since the whole world lieth in wickedness (I Jn 5:19). This is why Christians must not love this world and the things that are in the world (I Jn 2:15); the friendship of the world is enmity with God, and whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (Jas 4:4).

These modern “wise men” somehow fail to see that the Word of God nowhere promises Christians full spiritual satisfaction and paradisical blessedness in this earthly life. Quite the contrary; it emphasizes that life on earth will move further and further away from the Law of God; that, in respect to morality, men will fall lower and lower (II Tim 3:1-5); that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (II Tim 3:12-13); and that, finally, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up. (II Pet 3:10). But there will appear new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (II Pet 3:13)—a wondrous New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven (Rev 21:2), which was shown to John, the beholder of mysteries, during the revelation accorded him.

All of this is not to the liking of the “neo-Christians.” They want blessedness here in this world, burdened with its multitude of sins and iniquities; and they await this blessedness with impatience. They consider one of the surest ways of attaining it to be the “ecumenical movement,” the union and unification of all peoples in one new “church” which will comprise not only Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also Jews, Moslems and pagans, each retaining his own convictions and errors. This imaginary “Christian” love, in the name of the future blessedness of men on earth, cannot but trample upon the Truth.

The destruction of this earth with everything on it, although clearly foretold by the Word of God, is considered by them to be something indescribably horrible, as though it were not consistent with the omnipotence of God and, apparently, quite undesirable. They reluctantly admit the destruction of earth (for how can one not accept something prophesied in the Word of God?), but with the condition that it will take place in the far, far distant, mist-enshrouded future, not centuries, but millions of years from now.

What is the reason for this? One might say, because they are weak of faith, or lacking entirely in faith in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. For them everything is in this earthly life, and when it ends for them, everything does.

In a few of its points—especially in the expectation of the blessed life in this world—such a frame of mind closely resembles the widespread heresy of the first centuries of Christianity called “chiliasm.” This is the expectation of a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth; therefore the modern manifestation of this heresy may be termed “neo-chiliasm.”

One should be aware and keep in mind that chiliasm was condemned by the Second Ecumenical Council in the year 381; and therefore to believe in it now in the twentieth century, even in part, is quite unforgivable. Besides which, this contemporary “neo-chiliasm” is far worse than the ancient chiliastic heresy in that at its basis indubitably lies a disbelief in the life of the age to come and the passionate desire to attain blessedness here on earth, using all the improvements and achievements of the material progress of our times.

This false teaching wreaks terrible harm, lulling to sleep the spiritual vigilance of the faithful and suggesting to them that the end of the world is far away (if in fact there will be an end?), and therefore there is no particular need to watch and pray, to which Christ the Savior constantly called His followers (cf. Mt 26:41), since everything in the world is gradually getting better and better, spiritual progress keeping step with materialism. And the terrible phenomena which we observe at the present time are all temporary; all has happened before, and all will ultimately pass away, and an extraordinary flourishing of Christianity will replace it, in which, of course, the ecumenists will occupy the principal and honored places.

Thus, everything is fine! It is not necessary to labor over oneself, and no spiritual struggle is required; the fasts may be abolished. Everything will get better all by itself, until the Kingdom of God is finally established on earth with universal earthly satisfaction and blessedness.

Brethren! Is it not clear where the ultimate source of this alluring false teaching is found? Who suggests all these thoughts to contemporary Christians with the purpose of overthrowing all of Christianity? As an infectious plague, as fire, must we fear this “neo-chiliasm” which is so profoundly contrary to the teaching of the Word of God, the teaching of the Holy Fathers and all of the centuries-old teachings of our Holy Church, by which many, many thousands of the righteous have been saved.

Without spiritual struggle there is not, and cannot be true Christianity! Therefore, our path does not lie with all the modern movements, nor with ecumenists, nor with the new-chiliasts.

Our faith is the faith of the holy ascetics, the apostolic faith, the faith of the Fathers, the Orthodox Faith which, hath made the whole world steadfast (from the service for the Sunday of Orthodoxy). This faith and only this faith will we firmly adhere to in these evil days in which we now live. Amen.