Monday, April 27, 2015

Are Dreams Deceptive ( St. Paisios )

-Elder,I'm tormented by some unpleasant dreams...

-When you have a bad dream,never examine what you saw,how you saw it, or whether you're guilty or how much you may be at fault.The evil one,having failed to tempt you during the daytime,comes to you at night.Sometimes God permits the devil to tempt us in our sleep,so that we may see that the old self has not entirely died.Other times,the enemy approaches a person in his sleep and presents various dreams in order to upset him when he awakes.This is why you shouldn't pay any attention to them.Cross yourself and the pillow,place a cross and an icon on your pillow,and say the Jesus Prayer until you fall asleep.The more importance you attach to such dreams,the more the enemy will come to disturb you.This is something that happens to children,too, even though they are little angels.The enemy comes and scares them in their sleep,and they wake up frightened,running into their mother's arms.Often times,they are approached by Angels who make them smile in their sleep out of joy,or they may wake up from their great joy.As such,dreams brought about by temptations are an external influence of the enemy upon man while he's asleep.

-Elder,what about feeling a certain burden while you're sleeping?

-Sometimes this comes from a stressful situation that one has experienced during the day,or from various fears,various suspicions and so forth.Naturally,the little devil can take advantage of this,forming confusing combinations in order to make the person feel dizzy.Often we sleep so lightly that we may think that we are awake and praying for this unbearably heavy burden to go away.
Once in a while the devil may take the form of a human or of a saint and appear to someone in his sleep.Once he appeared in the form of Saint Arsenios to a sick man who was sleeping and told him,"I am Saint Arsenios;I have come to tell you that you will die.Do you hear me?You will die!"The man was frightened and horrified.A Saint never speaks to a sick person like that.And even if a sick person is about to die and a Saint appears to inform him about his death,he will do so gently and kindly:"God sees how much you are suffering here and this is why he has decided to take you out of this world.See that you prepare yourself."He will never say,"Do you hear me?You will die!"

-Elder,what happens when someone cries out in his sleep?

-It's good,he wakes up...Many dreams are due to worry.When someone is worrying over things or when he is very tired, these things are struggling inside him and he sees them in his dreams.It happens often to me,too;when I deal with various people and their problems during the day,such as unfairness and so on.I later find myself scolding the unjust ones in my sleep:"You godless man,have you no feelings?" and I wake up because of my yelling.

-Elder,can someone foresee something that will happen to him from the dreams he has?

-No,don't pay any attention to dreams.Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant,you are not to pay any attention to them,because there is the danger of being deluded.Ninety five percent of dreams are deceptive.This is why the Holy Fathers say that we should not pay any attention to them.Very few dreams are from God,but in order for someone to interpret even these,he must have purity and other prerequisites,much like Righteous Joseph and the Prophet Daniel in the bible,who both had the gift from God.Daniel said to Nabuchadnezzar,I will tell you what dream you had and what it means.But consider the spiritual maturity he had attained!He was in the den of lions.and they,even though they were hungry,did not hurt him.Habbakuk brought him food and Daniel said,"Has God remembered me?"If God didn't remember the Prophet Daniel in the lions den,whom would He remember?

-Elder,some people don't have any dreams.

-It is better that they don't!But by dreaming,of course,people spend no money for tickets or fuel!In our dreams we can see in an instant something that in reality would take hours,even days,because the concept of time is abolished.This is where one can understand the verse from he psalm:For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.

Beware of Visions

-Elder,What should we say when people come and tell us of visions or of saints they have seen?

-It is better to tell them to be cautious.This is safer,because not everyone can discern if a vision is from God or from the devil.Even if a vision is from God,one should not really accept it.After all,God is moved,in a sense,when He sees His creature not accepting the vision immediately,because this indicates humility.If indeed a Saint appeared in a vision,God would surely find another way to inform the soul and guide it to the desirable purpose.We must be careful and aware that it is possible for the devil to come,press the button and turn on the "television"...

There was a soul who had not received help from people,and for this reason she was entitled to divine help.God revealed something to her in order to help her.But then the devil put some thoughts in her head:"It seems that God has something more sublime in store for you,who knows?Otherwise,why would He have endowed you with that vision?"From the moment she believed this,the devil started his work and controlled her!But in the end,God had pity on her and helped her again.She had a vision and heard a voice telling her,"Write to Father Paisios and tell him all the visions you have seen."So she wrote me a letter relating all the visions she had had.The tempter,the devil,had really confused her.They were real visions;but they were all from the tempter.Of all the visions she had related,only the first and the last were from God.The last one was permitted by God to help her come to her senses and to be rid of the deception.In the end,the poor woman took heart what I told her,and she was freed.

Taken from ELDER PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS,Spiritual Counsels Vol3 "Spiritual Struggle"

Ο διάβολος φοβάται το κομποσχοίνι και την ευχή

Λόγια αγάπης από το γεροντικό του Αγίου Όρους…

Στην Σκήτη της Αγίας Άννας, ο Μοναχός Προκόπιος από την Καλύβα «Εισόδια της Θεοτόκου» είχε μεγάλη επιθυμία να μάθει μουσικά, για να δοξολογεί κι αυτός το Θεό, όπως και οι άλλοι αδελφοί.
Επειδή όμως ήταν λίγο παράφωνος αποφεύγανε οι Πατέρες να τον μάθουν μουσικά.
Ο αδελφός Προκόπιος είχε χάρισμα από το Θεό λάβει να λέει ακατάπαυστα την ευχή το «Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ υιέ του Θεού ελέησόν με τον αμαρτωλό» και στο αριστερό του χέρι κρατούσε πάντα το κομβοσχοίνι, το όποιο δεν αποχωριζόταν ποτέ.

Μια μέρα, ήταν πολύ λυπημένος, πού δεν μπορούσε να βρει κανένα για να τον μάθει μουσική και συλλογιζόμενος αυτό το πράγμα, από την πολύ του λύπη, είχε σταματήσει να λέει την ευχή.

Ξαφνικά παρουσιάζεται μπροστά του ένας σεβάσμιος, αλλά άγνωστος σ’ αυτόν γέροντας ο όποιος του είπε: «Αδελφέ Προκόπιε, τι έχεις κι είσαι τόσο λυπημένος; τι σε απασχολεί; Ο Προκόπιος του απάντησε: «τι να έχω γέροντα, να, θέλω κι εγώ να μάθω λίγα μουσικά και δε βρίσκεται κανένας να με μάθει, γιατί μου λένε πώς είμαι λίγο φάλτσος». Ο ασπρογένης γέροντας τότε του είπε: «Γι’ αυτό κάθεσαι και στενοχωριέσαι καημένε, εγώ θα σε μάθω μουσικά και θα σε κάνω να γίνεις ο καλύτερος ψάλτης του Αγίου Όρους, θα κελαηδάς σαν το καλύτερο αηδόνι, αλλά θέλω κι εσύ να μου κάνεις μια χάρη».

«Δηλαδή τι ζητάς από μένα, του είπε ο Προκόπιος, θέλεις να σε πληρώσω; Εγώ ότι θέλεις θα σου δώσω!». Τότε ο ασπρογένης του είπε: «Ή πληρωμή ή δική μου είναι να πετάξεις από τα χέρια σου αυτό που λέτε κομποσχοίνι και να πάψεις να λες αυτό πού λέτε ευχή και θα σε μάθω ‘γώ, ότι θέλεις».

Ο Μοναχός Προκόπιος άμα άκουσε αυτά κατάλαβε πως ο φαινόμενος δεν ήταν Μοναχός, άλλα ο παμπόνηρος Δαίμονας, που ήθελε να τον κάνει να σταματήσει την προσευχή, και αμέσως έκαμε το σταυρό του και είπε: «Ύπαγε οπίσω μου Σατανά παμπόνηρε, δε μου χρειάζονται τα μουσικά σου και οι πονηρές και οι καλοσύνες σου» κι ο Δαίμονας έγινε άφαντος.

Απ’ αυτό μαθαίναμε πόσο ο Διάβολος φοβάται το κομβοσχοίνι, για το οποίο καλά λένε οι Πατέρες ότι είναι το όπλο του χριστιανού κατά του Διαβόλου και την ευχή, η οποία καίει τον Δαίμονα. Ενώ τους ψάλτες δεν τους φοβάται τόσο και δεν τους υπολογίζει, γιατί, εύκολα με το ψάλσιμο αφαιρούνται από την προσευχή και πέφτουν στον εγωισμό και την υπερηφάνεια!

Γερόντισσα Μακρίνα: ”Η Ευχή”


Στήν ώρα τής διακονίας (εργασίας) μας, ή οτιδήποτε άλλο κάνουμε, αντί νά αργολογήσουμε, αντί νά συζητήσουμε, αντί να πούμε ιστορίες, αντί νά πούμε πνευματικά, καλύτερα είναι νά λέμε τήν “ευχή“. Γιατί μέσα καί στά πνευματικά ακόμη θά υπάρχει καί μία κατάκριση, ένα κουτσομπολιό, μία αργολογία, μία μεμψιμοιρία,, θά υπάρξουν αστεϊσμοί, διάφορα. Όταν μάς έρχεται διάθεσις γιά συζήτηση, όταν μάς πιάνει πλήξη, μάς πιάνει στενοχώρια, νά ξέρετε είναι γιατί δέν κυνηγάμε τήν “ευχή“. Νά τήν κυνηγήσουμε, όπως τήν κυνηγούσαν οί Πατέρες οί άγιοι, όπως τήν κυνήγησαν πνευματικοί άνθρωποι στόν κόσμο καί αισθάνθηκαν τήν Χάρι τού Θεού. Γιορτές καί Κυριακές πού έχουμε περισσότερο χρόνο νά λέμε τήν “ευχή” (Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με), νά τόν εκμεταλευώμαστε τόν χρόνο.

Γερόντισα Μακρίνα – Λόγια Καρδιάς, εκδόσεις Ιεράς Μονής Παναγίας οδηγήτριας Πορταριά Βόλου.

Avoid Cancer, Live Like A Monk

A Foolproof Anti-Cancer Diet... With Just One or Two Drawbacks

If you want to avoid cancer, live like a monk. That is the inescapable conclusion from research into one of the world’s most renowned monastic communities.

The austere regime of the 1,500 monks on Mount Athos, in northern Greece, begins with an hour’s pre-dawn prayers and is designed to protect their souls.

Their low-stress existence and simple diet (no meat, occasional fish, home-grown vegetables and fruit) may, however, also protect them from more worldly troubles.

The monks, who inhabit a peninsula from which women are banned, enjoy astonishingly low rates of cancer.

Since 1994, the monks have been regularly tested, and only 11 have developed prostate cancer, a rate less than one quarter of the international average. In one study, their rate of lung and bladder cancer was found to be zero.

Haris Aidonopoulos, a urologist at the University of Thessaloniki, said that the monks’ diet, which calls on them to avoid olive oil, dairy products and wine on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, helped to explain the statistics. “What seems to be the key is a diet that alternates between olive oil and nonolive oil days, and plenty of plant proteins,” he said. “It’s not only what we call the Mediterranean diet, but also eating the old-fashioned way. Small simple meals at regular intervals are very important.”

Meals on the peninsula, which the Prince of Wales has visited regularly and which can only be reached by boat, are ascetic and repetitive affairs that have changed little over the centuries, although there are variations between the 20 monasteries.

The monks sit in silence while, from a pulpit, passages from the Bible are read in Greek. They eat at speed – as soon as the Bible passage is over, the meal is officially completed.

The staples are fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice and soya dishes, and bread and olives. They grow much of what they eat themselves. Agioritiko red wine is made locally from mountain grapes. Dairy products are rare – female animals are banned from the autonomous semi-state.

Life on Athos has changed little over the past 1,043 years. Breakfast is hard bread and tea. Much of the day is taken up with chores – cleaning, cooking, tending to crops – followed by a supper, typically of lentils, fruit and salad, and evening prayers.

Some of the seaside monasteries specialise in catching octopus, a delicacy that is softened up by bashing on the rock. Fish also feeds the Athos cats, protected by the monks for their mouse-catching prowess. Of all domestic animals, only cats are exempt from the ban on females. Some of the monks live in hillside huts or cliff-side caves perched above the sea as satellites of the main establishments, perhaps the closest that modern Christianity gets to medieval hermits. They depend for their sustenance on handouts of bread and olives.

On holidays and feast days such as Christmas and Easter, when other Greeks are feasting on roast meat, the monks prefer fish, their only culinary luxury. Father Moses of the Koutloumousi monastery, one of the 20 organised cloisters scattered over the Athos peninsula, said: “We never eat meat. We produce most of the vegetables and fruit we consume. And we never forget that all year round, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we don’t use olive oil on our food.”

The olive-oil routine, which also applies to wine and dairy products, appears to have no religious significance, but is a way of eking out their supplies.

All the monks stick to the rigorous fasting periods of the Orthodox Church, in which a strict vegan diet is prescribed for weeks at a stretch.

Michalis Hourdakis, a dietician associated with Athens University, said: “This limited consumption of calories has been found to lengthen life. Meat has been associated with intestinal cancer, while fruit and vegetables help ward off prostate cancer.”

The lack of air pollution on Mount Athos as well as the monks’ hard work in the fields also played their part, the researchers said. There was no mention, however, of whether the absence of women had any effect on the monks’ renowned spiritual calm.

Salad days: Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday

Breakfast: Hard bread, tea
Lunch: Pasta or rice,vegetables, olive oil
Dinner: Lentils, fruit and salad, olive oil. Red wine

Monday, Wednesday and Friday: no olive oil

Holidays and feast days: Fish and seafood

Λέγε την ευχή ( Γέροντας Εφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης )

Λέγε την ευχή: αγιάζει το στόμα, αγιάζει ο αέρας, αγιάζει ο τόπος που λέγεται. Οι δαίμονες βάζουν χίλια εμπόδια δια να μην προσευχηθεί ο άνθρωπος, επειδή όλες οι παγίδες, όλα τα δίκτυα των δαιμόνων καταστρέφονται δια της προσευχής. 

Άπειρες φορές οι δαίμονες δια στόματος δαιμονισμένων ομολόγησαν ότι καίονται από την ενέργεια της ευχής.

Γέροντας Εφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης

Sunday, April 26, 2015

You missed my call this morning .........

I was looking at you when you woke up this morning. I was expecting you to tell me one or two things, thanking me for everything that was happening to you, asking for my assistance for whatever you were about to do today.

I realized that you were very busy trying to find what to wear for work. I was hoping that you would find a few moments to tell me ‘good morning’!

But you were very busy. To help you see that I was near you, I had created the colorful sky and the songs of the birds. What a pity! You didn’t even notice my presence, not even then.

I was looking at you being in a hurry for work and was again waiting for you. I suspected that because you were busy you didn’t have time to say a few words to Me, even then.

When you returned from work, I saw how tired you were and how stressed and sent you some rain to relieve you from the day’s stress. I thought that by making this favor to you, you would remember Me.

Instead, being tired, you swore at Me. I so much wished that you would have wanted to talk to Me.

Still the day was not over yet. You switched on the TV and watched your favorite program. I was waiting. Then you had dinner with your loved ones and once again you didn’t remember Me.

Seeing you so exhausted, I understood your need for silence and turned off the sky’s brilliance so you could get some rest, but I didn’t turn the sky into a dark pitch. I turned on innumerable stars for you. They were so beautiful… it’s a pity you didn’t see them… never mind!

Do you really realize that I am here for you; I have more patience that you can ever imagine. I want to demonstrate this, so that you tell those around you.I love you so much that I am putting up with you.

Any moment now, you will wake up again. All I can do is to love you and hope that today at least you will give me some of your time…

Your loving Father

The Lord of Infinite Love.

Evolution - Eξέλιξη

Δεν άφησε το δαίμονα να κάψει την εκκλησία

π.Νεκταρίου Αντωνοπούλου «Ταχύς εις βοήθειαν…»

Στον Ιερό Ναό των Αγίων Αποστόλων Πέτρου και Παύλου στα Γιαννιτσά την Κυριακή της Ορθοδοξίας 2008 συνέβη και το εξής περιστατικό :

«Το παρεκκλήσι του Αγίου Λουκά βρίσκεται στη νότια πλευρά του Ναού κι επικοινωνεί με μία πόρτα.

Την ώρα της θείας Λειτουργίας κά­ποιος ενορίτης προσκύνησε τα ιερά λείψανα του Αγίου Λουκά που βρί­σκονται στο παρεκκλήσι, έκανε μία υπόκλιση και κοίταξε μέσα από το κουρτινάκι στο Ιερό Βήμα.

Βλέπει τότε έκπληκτος μπροστά στην αγία Τράπεζα έναν Αρχιερέα ντυμένο την αρχιερατική του στολή, σκυφτό, με τα χέρια του λίγο υψωμένα σε στάση δέησης. Του έκανε εντύπωση πώς δεν κοιτούσε μπροστά, άλλα κάπως λοξά στραμμένος προς τον κυρίως ναό. Δεν είδε τη φυσιογνωμία του, αλλά σκέφτηκε «τί να ζητά εδώ αυτός ό Αρχιερέας;», την ώρα που οι υπόλοιποι κληρικοί λειτουργούσαν στον κυρίως Ναό. Περίμενε ως το τέλος της θείας Λειτουργίας, για να βγει από το Ιερό, αλλά προς έκπληξη του δεν βγήκε κανείς. Δεν υπήρχε άλλη πόρ­τα και ό άγνωστος αρχιερέας είχε γίνει άφαντος.

Την ίδια μέρα το μεσημέρι, για άγνωστους ως σήμερα λόγους, στο Ναό εκδηλώθηκε πυρκαγιά στο δυτικό μέρος και σχεδόν το ένα τέταρτο του Ναού τυλίχτηκε στις φλόγες. Κάηκαν εικονοστάσια, παγκάρια, στα­σίδια, προσκυνητάρια, καρέκλες, κεριά, απόκερα κ.λπ. Στο ίδιο σημείο υπήρχε και προσκυνητάρι με εικόνα του Αγίου Λουκά, το όποιο κάηκε κι αυτό. Παραδόξως, μέσα από την όλη καταστροφή και μέσα στις στάχτες βρέθηκε άθικτη ή εικόνα του Αγίου Λουκά.

Λίγες μέρες αργότερα, σ’ ένα γειτονικό μοναστήρι, στον Άγιο Γεώρ­γιο Ανύδρου, 15 χιλιόμετρα βορείως των Γιαννιτσών, κάποιος κληρικός διάβαζε εξορκισμούς σε μια δαιμονισμένη. Δίπλα οι μοναχές της μονής προσεύχονταν σιωπηλά προς θεία βοήθεια της βασανισμένης αυτής ψυχής. Κάποια στιγμή το δαιμόνιο άρχισε να φωνάζει:

- Σταματήστε! Σταματήστε! Με καίτε, με καίτε! Σταματήστε! Αλλά… κι εγώ σας καίω. Εγώ έκαψα εκείνη την Εκκλησία του Πέτρου και Παύλου εκεί στα Γιαννιτσά. Κι αν δεν ήταν εκείνος ό… Λουκάς, θα την είχα κάψει ολόκληρη!»

Love of Christ is Love of the Church ( St. Porphyrios )

Christ created the Church on earth as His body with Him as the head. To love Christ is to love His Church. St. Porphyrios says the Church is “exactly the same as Paradise in heaven.” All souls are one in His Church.

 St. Porphyrios says

Love, worship of and craving for God, the union with Christ and with the Church is Paradise on earth. The services of the Church are the way we can express our love for Him and He His love for us.

He says,

The divine services of the Church are words in which we converse and speak to God with our worship and with our love. The hours spent closest to paradise are the hours spent in the church together with all our brethren when we celebrate the divine Liturgy, when we sin and when we receive Holy communion. How do we show our passion for Him? When we love Christ we enthusiastically observe the formal aspects of the church, the services, and are eager to participate in the sacraments especially the sacrament of Holy Communion. We enthusiastically come to church to express our love for our lover.

He says,

The divine services are a very great affair. The precondition is for everything to be done with eros, with interest and with a sincere disposition to worship Christ--not as a chore and not perfunctorily, but with eros and divine enthusiasm. Worship must spring from the whole soul and whole heart. What does this mean? Your only thought must be God… It is not something that is done under duress. You feel a spiritual delight and pleasure. It’s not like the homework a child does for school. It is like the passionate love between people, but higher and spiritual.

Above all, the sacrament of Holy Communion is an act of Divine Love. This is an act of joining in ecstatic union with Him.

Elder Ephriam of Arizona writes about the splendor of the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy, what a splendor indeed! Man has been honored by God in such a way that He Himself comes down to earth with His Angelic Orders every time there is a Liturgy, in order to nurture man with His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood! For He has given us everything. Is there anything physical or spiritual, perishable or everlasting, that has not been offered to us? None! Is there anything superior to His Most Holy Body and Blood, which is given to us on a daily basis? There is certainly not. God has enabled man, who is full of soil and dirt, to serve the Divine Liturgy. So priceless is the Divine Love that just a tiny drop exceeds any earthly, physical and secular love. The Orthodox faith is all about Love.

St. Porphyrios says,

Our religion is love, it is eros, it is enthusiasm, it is madness, it is longing for the divine. All these things are within us. Our soul demands that we attain them.

Reference: Wounded by Love, pp 90, 92, 165, 166

Saturday, April 25, 2015


The Sin of Smoking ( Elder Nektary of Optina )

I am continuing my mental battle with the vice of smoking, but it's still completely unsuccessful. I have to quit this filthy and stupid occupation; it is noticeably ruining my health — the gift of God — and that is a sin.

The ever-memorable Elder Ambrose once heard an admission from one of his spiritual daughters:

"Batiushka! I smoke and this is tormenting me!"

"Well," the Elder answered her, "this isn't a great misfortune, if you can quit."

"That's just the problem," she said, "I can't quit!"

"Then it's a sin," said the Elder, "and you've got to repent of it and leave off doing it."

I also have to leave off, but how do I do it? I'm consoled by the words of our Elders, who promised me freedom from this sin "when the time is right."

The late patron of Optina Monastery and spiritual friend of its great Elders, Archbishop Gregory of Kaluga, could not stand this vice among the clergy, but he was condescending towards laymen who smoked, and even towards his seminarians, before they joined the clerical staff. He categorically demanded from candidates who were preparing for ordination that they cease from this filthy habit, and he did not ordain those who smoked.

Our friend Fr. Nektary, to whom I often complained about my weakness, informed me of this. "After all," he consoled me, "you, your honor, are a layman — what's to be expected from you? But here..."

And he related the following to me:

"In the days of Archbishop Gregory, a spirit-bearing and monk-loving man, the following incident happened. A seminarian from Kaluga, who had graduated at the head of his class, and who, because of his exceptional giftedness was personally known to the Archbishop, had to prepare himself for ordination to one of the better positions in the diocese. He appeared before the Archbishop for a blessing and to set a date for the ordination. The hierarch received him with extreme affection, conversed amiably with him and, having shown fatherly kindness towards him, dismissed him, assigning a date for the ordination. However, when dismissing the candidate, he did not fail to ask him, 'Well, then, brother, do you smoke, or not?'

"'No, your Eminence,' replied the candidate, 'I don't go in for that.'

"'Well, good,' the Archbishop exclaimed joyfully, 'see what a fine fellow I've got! Well then, prepare yourself, and may the Lord bless you!'

"According to custom, the candidate bowed to the feet of the Archbishop. His frock coat flew open, and from his breast pocket cigarettes began to fall out onto the floor, one after the other.

"The Archbishop flared up in indignation. 'Who made you lie to me?' he exclaimed with great anger. 'To whom have you lied? When have you lied? When preparing to serve God in holiness and in truth?... Get out of here! There is no position for you, nor will there be one!...'

"And with that he drove the liar out of his sight.... So, your honor," added Fr. Nektary, looking at me with his always laughing, kind and affectionate gaze, "why be dejected that it's not the smell of athonite incense that comes out of your mouth? To whom are you obliged?... And, you know what?" — he exclaimed, and his face lit up with a kind smile. "You won't believe it — I myself barely avoided joining the ranks of smokers. This was back in my childhood, when I still lived at home, together with my mama.... In the whole wide world there were only the two of us, Mama and me, and there was also a cat that lived with us.... We were of a low station, and because of this we were poor: who needed people like us? Well, then, once my mama wasn't keeping an eye on me and I went ahead and borrowed some tobacco from some of my rich peers. They had no shortage of tobacco and they willingly treated everyone who wanted it. They rolled themselves a cigarette, smoked and smoked, and then stuck it in my mouth — 'Here, have a smoke!' Well, following them, I myself began to smoke. The first time I tried it I became dizzy, but I liked it all the same. Cigarette butt after cigarette butt, and I already began to get used to this mischief. I began to beg and then to borrow on credit, hoping somehow to pay it back. But what was I going to pay it back with, when my own mother lived, as they say, from bread to kvass, and there wasn't always plenty of bread.... Then my mama began to notice the smell of tobacco coming from me....

"'What's this, Kolya (my name in the world was Nicholas) — you haven't begun to smoke, have you?'

"'What do you mean, Mommy,' I would say, 'I hardly think so!'

"And I would quickly move aside, as if I were doing something. It went that way once, then another time, and then I got caught. Once I had barely managed to inhale some borrowed tobacco on the sly, when suddenly, there was Mama.

"'Were you just smoking?' she asked.

"Again I said, 'No, Mama.'

"But where did I get 'no' from? I reeked of tobacco from way off. Mama didn't say a word to me then, but she gazed at me with such a sorrowful look that you could say that my whole soul was overturned within me. She went away from me somewhere to do the housework, and I hid in a secluded corner and began to weep inconsolably, that I had grieved Mama. And not only had I grieved her, I had deceived her and lied on top of that. I can't express how painful this was for me! The day passed, night came, and my mind sought for sleep. I lay in my bed and whimpered, lay and whimpered.... Mama heard it.

"'What is it, Kolya — you're not crying, are you?'

"'No, Mama.'

"'Why aren't you sleeping?'

"And with these words, Mama got up, lit the lamp and came over to me. My face was all wet with tears and my pillow was soaked....

"And what happened between us then!... We both had a good cry and were reconciled. Having a good cry with one so dear, how nicely we were reconciled!

"And thus ended my mischief with smoking."

Elder Nektary of Optina

Η Γραφή μας λέγει, οτι οι Άγγελοι πανυγηρίζουν στον ουρανό " για ένα αμαρτωλόν μετανοημένο".

Η ηγουμένη την είχε πάντοτε ως παράδειγμα και έλεγε στις νεώτερες: " Βλέπετε την χαριτωμένη αδελφής και οτι κάμνει, να κάμνετε και σεις". Δεν πέρασαν όμως πολλά χρόνια και από την πολύ άσκηση απέθανε., έφυγε από τούτον τον κόσμο η μοναχή αυτή.

Εις τα μοναστήρια υπάρχει η ευλογημένη συνήθεια, όταν αποθάνη μέλος της αδελφότητας να του κάνουν σαρανταλείτουργο, δια την ανάπαυση της ψυχής, που έφυγε από τον κόσμο αυτό. Έτσι λοιπόν και στο μοναστήρι αυτό έγινε σαρανταλείτουργο.

Και όταν ετελείωνε, την τελευταία βραδυά, η ηγουμένη βλέπει σε όραμα τη μοναχή, η οποία της είπε:
- Μητέρα μου, όσα μνημόσυνα και αν μου κάμετε, εγώ κολάστηκα, έχασα τη ψυχή μου.

- Παιδί μου, λέει η ηγουμένη, .... εάν εσύ κολάστηκες, ποιός θα σωθή; Αλοίμονο στον ταλαίπωρο άνθρωπον!!!

Απαντά η μοναχή:
- Εγώ προτού έλθω εις την ευλογημένη συνοδεία σας, εξαπατήθηκα από ένα νέο, ο οποίος μου υποσχέθηκε, οτι θα με έπερνε, αλλά το φοβερό ήταν οτι με κατέστησε έγκυο. Μετά δε απ' αυτό το φρικτό, φέρθηκε άνανδρα και με εγκατέλειψε την δυστυχισμένη. Τότε εγώ πάνω στην απελπισία μου έκανα έκτρωση, φόνο, σκώτοσα και έρριξα το παιδί, που είχα μέσα μου.

Γι' αυτά τα δύο ανόσια αμαρτήματα μου έκλαψα πικρά, μετανόησα, συχάθηκα τότε τον κόσμο και τα του κόσμου, γι' αυτό και αποφάσισα να γίνω μοναχή, να δώσω την καρδιά μου στον Χριστό και εκεί να θρηνώ τις αμαρτίες μου. Γι' αυτές τις αμαρτίες έκλαψα, γι' αυτές έκανα οτι έκανα, για τα οποία όλες σας με μακαρίζατε. Πλήν όμως δεν εξομολογήθηκα τα φρικτά αυτά αμαρτήματα σε ιερέα, απο ντροπή και γι' αυτό κολάσθηκα!

Ω! Θεέ μου! Τι φοβερόν! Βλέπεις παιδί μου, ούτε τα δάκρυα, ούτε οι μετάνοιες, ούτε οι αγρυπνίες, μηδέ η βασίλισσα των αρετών της Μοναχικής πολιτείας, η υπακοή λέγω, ούτε τίποτε άλλο από όσα καλά έκαμε, δεν την έσωσε - εφ όσον έλλειψε η καθαρά εξομολόγησης.

Δεν αρκεί να μετανοήση κανείς για τις πράξεις του και να σωθή, αλλά απαραιτήτωνς θα πρέπει και να εξομολογηθή τα αμαρτήματα για τα οποία μετανόησε.

Χιλιάδες, εκατομμύρια άνθρωποι με φοβερά ακατονόμαστα και παμπολλα αμαρτήματα, δια της μετάνοιας και καθαρής εξομολογήσεως σώθησαν και μάλιστα πολλοί απ' αυτούς, που απέδωσαν καρπούς μετανοίας άξιους, αγίασαν και τους αντιδόξασεν ο Θεός.

Όπως τον άγιο Κυπριανό τον άλλοτε μάγο, τον Μωυσή τον Αιθίοπα τον άλλοτε αρχιληστή, την οσία Μαρία την Αιγυπτία, Πελαγία, Ευδοκία, Μαρίαν του Αβραμίου, που ήσαν πρώτα γυναίκες "κοινές" του υποκόσμου και τόσοι άλλοι που διαβάζουμε στο Συναξαριστή.

Ενώ τόσοι, με πάμπολλα αμαρτήματα, ηγίασαν και εθαυματούργησαν διότι καθαρά εξομολογήθηκαν, η δυστυχισμένη εκείνη μοναχή, που αναφέρουμε προηγουμένως, για δύο αμαρτήματα εκολάσθη

Γι' αυτό μη ξεθαρρεύης λοιπόν αδελφέ μου και στηρίζης την ελπίδα σου στις ελεημοσύνες η σε οτι άλλο καλό και αν είναι αυτό και μη ελπίζης να σωθής, εάν δεν καθαρίσης τη ψυχή σου πρωτίστως, στο Μέγα Μυστήριο της εξομολογήσεως, σε ιερέα Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας και να τα πεις όλα, χωρίς ν' αφίσης τον παραμικρό λεκέ, που θα σκιάζη την αθάνατη ψυχή σου.

Τότε μόνο θα αισθανθής ανακούφιση και τότε μόνο θα δικαιωθής από τον Θεό, όταν τα εξομολογηθής όλα.

Μη διστάζης, εάν είναι πολλά και φοβερά - όσα περισσότερα και μεγαλύτερα είναι τόσο μεγαλύτερη χαρά θα δώσης στον Θεό και στους Αγγέλους.

Η Γραφή μας λέγει, οτι οι Άγγελοι πανυγηρίζουν στον ουρανό " για ένα αμαρτωλόν μετανοημένο".


Friday, April 24, 2015

Blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi: His 63 Year Monastic Life on Mount Athos in Pictures (1946-2009)

From the Cave of Saint Anne to the Monastery of Vatopaidi

These pictures are from the photographic archives of the Monastery of Vatopaidi which they have offered now to those who honor the Elder.

The Elder came to Mount Athos in 1946 from Cyprus to the Skete of Saint Anne to be with Elder Joseph the Hesychast. This photo was found in his passport.

This is the Church of the Sacred Forerunner John the Baptist belonging to the Brotherhood of the Elder Joseph the Hesychast and where Elder Joseph lived.

The Brotherhood of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Behind the Elder Joseph the Hesychast's right shoulder is Elder Joseph. Noteworthy also is Elder Ephraim of Philotheou (now America) who is second from the far right of the seated Elder.

The cell of the Annunciation at New Skete where the Brotherhood lived until the death of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

Elder Joseph at New Skete a few years after the passing of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

This was taken in 1982 at the Sacred Monastery of Koutloumousiou where the Elder lived for a short time with his own Brotherhood. Depicted is Elder Paisios, Hieromonk Athanasios (now Metropolitan of Limassol) and he who is now Monk Niphon before entering the monastic life.

The cell of the Annunciation at New Skete as it was built for the needs of Elder Joseph's Brotherhood, until the year they left for the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi.

Below are a few photos from the Elders daily life at New Skete.

The donkeys of the Elder, whom he named Kitsos and Kastanis.


In the Kitchen

Though he was the Elder of his Brotherhood, the Elder did not consider himself above everyone and worked just as hard as they did. Here he is shown resting from work.

With Papa-Haralambos at New Skete, who was then (1986) Abbot of the Monastery of Dionysiou.

The Elder in prayer on the grounds of the cell at New Skete.

The inside of Elder Joseph's cell at New Skete.

The Elder at his desk where he spent much time responding to letters and writing his books.

The Elder with the two hieromonks of his Brotherhood (in 1985) Athanasios (Metropolitan of Limassol) and Ephraim (Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi).

The last photograph at New Skete on Pascha of 1987 before his departure for the Monastery of Vatopaidi.

The Elder deep in thought in the first years at Vatopaidi Monastery, wich were difficult years.

May of 1988. In front of the gate of Vatopaidi Monastery with Elder Ephraim Katounakioti and Elder Ephraim who was then Abbot of Philotheou (now in Arizona).

The first Pascha at Vatopaidi Monastery in 1989. The Elder looks astonished from when the visitors lit loud fireworks during the "Christ is Risen".

Cheesefare Sunday - March 1990. The installation of Elder Ephraim as Abbot of the Monastery of Vatopaidi.

Sunday of the Myrrhbearers - April 1990. Day of the enthronement of Abbot Ephraim. Visible in this photo also is Blessed Theoklitos Dionysatis.

After the enthronement refreshments were served in the synodikon of the Monastery. Visible also is the Governor of Mount Athos Mr. Loulis, the Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos (then Metropolitan of Dimitriados), the Abbot of Stavrovouniou Monastery in Cyprus, Abbot Ephraim and Elder Joseph.

September 1991. The visit to the Vatopaidi Monastery of Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios.

The cell in which the Elder lived at Vatopaidi and died.

One of the last photos of the Elder during Pascha 2009, his last Pascha.

"We believe in the resurrection of the dead."

Παναγίτσα μου, ένα κεράκι για σένα.....

Jesus Prayer in Different Languages

Arabic: Ayyuha-r-Rabbu Yasū` al-Masīħ, Ibnu-l-Lāh, irħamnī ana-l-khāti’ (ana-l-khāti’a if prayed by a female).
Bulgarian: Господи Иисусе Христе, Сине Божий, помилвай мен грешника.
Church Slavonic: Господи Ісусе Христе Сыне Божїй помилѹй мѧ грѣшнаго. (грѣшнѹю if prayed by a female)
Czech: Pane Ježíši Kriste, Syne Boží, smiluj se nade mnou hříšným.
Dutch: Heer Jezus Christus, Zoon van God, ontferm U over mij, zondaar.
Finnish: Herra Jeesus Kristus, Jumalan Poika, armahda minua syntistä.
Georgian: უფალო იესუ ქრისტე, ძეო ღმრთისაო, შემიწყალე მე ცოდვილი.
German: Herr Jesus Christus, Sohn Gottes, erbarme dich meiner, eines Sünders. (einer Sünderin if prayed by a female)
Greek: Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλόν (τὴν ἁμαρτωλόν if prayed by a female)
Latin: Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei, miserere mei, peccatoris. (peccatricis if prayed by a female)
Maltese: Mulej Ġesù Kristu, Iben ta’ Alla l-ħaj, ikollok ħniena minni, midneb.
Norwegian: Herre Jesus Kristus, forbarm deg over meg.
Polish: Panie Jezu Chryste, Synu Boga, zmiłuj się nade mną, grzesznikiem.
Romanian: Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, Fiul lui Dumnezeu, miluieşte-mă pe mine păcătosul. (păcătoasa if prayed by a female)
Russian: Господи Иисусе Христе, Сыне Божий, помилуй мя грешнаго.(грешную if prayed by a female)
Variants: Господи, помилуй (The shortest form).
Serbian: Господе Исусе Христе, Сине Божји, помилуј ме грешног. / Gospode Isuse Hriste, Sine Božiji, pomiluj me grešnog.
Slovak: Pane Ježišu Kriste, Synu Boží, zmiluj sa nado mnou hriešnym.
Spanish: Señor Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios, ten piedad de mi, que soy un pecador.
Ukrainian: Господи Ісусе Христе, Сину Божий, помилуй мене грішного. (грішну if prayed by a female)/Господи, помилуй (The shortest form).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Searching for the Truth .....


The problem of where the truth lies has occupied mankind down through the ages; it is a problem that is always contemporary and of its very nature leads man to seek an answer. The Philosophers, especially the ancient Greeks, posed the question: "What is the truth?" and most men have searched for it rationally. Some said that truth is an Idea, a "principle of all things", the "prime mover unmoved" and called it God.

But this "God", the God of the philosophers, cannot redeem. He touches only man's rational faculty, and not man as a whole; no one can come into personal commu­nion with him since he is not a person, but something impersonal; an universal Mind that acts blindly, or is so distant and so transcendental that he has no interest in man or in the world.

There can be no doubt that anyone with a good disposition, upon observing creation and using his human potential, can discover evidence of God's existence. However, he will discover only the concept of God, but not God Himself, salvific truth.

Others, down through the ages, have created world idols and a multitude of deities. They established "divine" laws and rules and created systems of worship of human provenance. All these, however, are simply expressions of man himself; they do not transcend the created realm, created reality; they do not, in other words, reveal the one true God Who transcends the created world.

Again, still others believe that man is by nature God. It remains simply for him to understand "his true self; nothing need change save his stance vis-a-vis his God-self, rejecting any thought that might differentiate him from his own divinity and recognize the existence of a God outside and beyond him.

In the final analysis, such an approach to God cannot satisfy man. It leads to an infinite loneliness which is contrary to human nature. By nature, man seeks warmth, love, communion with others and not only with himself; Without these things, he cannot exist. That is why he continuously seeks them. He is not satisfied with man-made concepts concerning God. He desires to rise above created reality, above creation and seek the meaning of life in communion with the uncreated and eternal God.

Οι τρεις τάξεις τής Χάριτος ( Γέρoντος Ιωσήφ τού Ησυχαστή )

Σε τρεις τάξεις διαιρείται η χάρις: Καθαρτική, φωτιστική, τελειωτική. Σε τρεις και η ζωή μας: Κατά φύσιν, υπέρ φύσιν, παρά φύσιν. Σε αυτές τις τρεις τάξεις ανέρχεται και κατέρχεται. Τρία είναι και τα μεγάλα χαρίσματα, που λαμβάνει: Θεωρία, αγάπη, απάθεια.

Λοιπόν στην «πράξιν» συνεργεί χάρις καθαρτική, η οποία βοηθά στην κάθαρση. Και κάθε ένας, που μετανόησε, η χάρις είναι που τον προτρέπει στη μετάνοια.

Και όσα κάνει της χάριτος είναι, αν και δεν το γνωρίζει αυτός που την έχει, όμως αυτή τον τροφοδοτεί και τον οδηγεί. Και ανάλογα με την προκοπή του, ανέρχεται ή κατέρχεται ή μένει στην ιδία κατάσταση.

Εάν έχει ζήλο και αυταπάρνηση ανεβαίνει σε θεωρία, την οποία διαδέχεται φωτισμός θείας γνώσεως και λίγη απάθεια. Εάν ψυχρανθεί ο ζήλος, η προθυμία, τότε συστέλλεται και η ενέργεια της χάριτος,

Γι’ αυτόν που λες ότι γνωρίζει να προσεύχεται, είναι εκείνος που γνωρίζει τι εύχεται και τι ζητά από τον Θεό. Αυτός που γνωρίζει να προσεύχεται δεν βαττολογεί, δεν ζητά περιττά· αλλά γνωρίζει τον τόπο, τον τρόπο και τον καιρό και ζητά τα αρμόδια και ωφέλιμα της ψυχής του. Επικοινωνεί νοερά με το Χριστόν. Τον πιάνει και τον κατέχει και «δεν θα σε αφήσω, λέγει, εις τον αιώνα».

Εκείνος που προσεύχεται ζητά την άφεση των αμαρτιών, ζητά το έλεος του Κυρίου. Εάν ζητά και μεγάλα, όχι στον κατάλληλο καιρό, δεν του τα δίδει ο Κύριος. Διότι ο Θεός τα δίνει με τάξη.

Και, αν εσύ τον “κουράζεις” ζητώντας, αφήνει το πνεύμα της πλάνης και προσποιείται τη χάρη και σε πλανά, δείχνοντάς σου άλλα αντί άλλων. Γι’ αυτό δεν είναι ωφέλιμο να ζητά κανείς τα υπέρμετρα. Αλλά, και αν εισακουσθεί προ του καθαρισμού, όταν δεν είναι στην τάξη, γίνονται φίδια και βλάπτουν.

Συ έχε μετάνοια καθαρή, κάνε σε όλους υπακοή, και μόνη της η χάρη θα έλθει χωρίς εσύ να το ζητάς.

Ο άνθρωπος σαν βρέφος που ψελλίζει ζητά από τον Θεό το θέλημά του το άγιο. Ο Θεός, σαν Πατέρας υπεράγαθος, του δίδει τη χάρη, αλλά του δίδει και πειρασμούς, Εάν υπομένει αγόγγυστα τους πειρασμούς λαμβάνει προσθήκη της χάριτος. Όση περισσότερη χάρη λαμβάνει, τόσο αυξάνονται και οι πειρασμοί.

Οι δαίμονες, όταν πλησιάζουν, για να σε πολεμήσουν, δεν πηγαίνουν εκεί που εσύ εύκολα θα τους νικήσεις, αλλά δοκιμάζουν, πού έχεις αδυναμία. Εκεί που εσύ δεν τους περιμένεις, εκεί πολιορκούν το κάστρο. Και, όταν βρουν ψυχή ασθενική και μέρος αδύνατο, πάντα εκεί νικούν και τον κάνουν υπεύθυνο για την ήττα του.

Ζητάς χάρη από τον Θεό; Αντί χάριτος σου αφήνει πειρασμό. Δεν αντέχεις τον πόλεμο, πέφτεις; Δεν σου δίνεται προσθήκη της χάριτος. Πάλι ζητάς; Πάλι ο πειρασμός. Πάλι ήττα; Πάλι στέρηση εφ’ όρου ζωής.

Πρέπει λοιπόν να βγεις νικητής. Άντεξε τον πειρασμό μέχρι θανάτου. Πέσε πτώμα στη μάχη, φωνάζοντας κάτω παράλυτος: «Δεν θα σε αφήσω, γλυκύτατε Ιησού! Ούτε θα σε εγκαταλείψω! Αχώριστος θα μείνω στον αιώνα, και για την αγάπην Σου ξεψυχώ στη μάχη». Και ξαφνικά εμφανίζεται στη μάχη και φωνάζει δυνατά: «Εδώ είμαι! Μάζεψε όλες τις δυνάμεις σου και ακολούθησέ με!

Συ δε γεμίζεις όλος φως και χαρά: Αλλοίμονο σε μένα τον δυστυχή! Αλλοίμονο σε μένα τον πονηρό και αχρείο! Προηγουμένως άκουα για σένα, τώρα δε σε είδαν οι οφθαλμοί μου· γι’ αυτό και κατηγόρησα τον εαυτόν μου, τον θεώρησα δε χώμα και στάχτη».

Τότε γεμίζεις από θεία αγάπη. Και φλέγεται η ψυχή σου σαν του Κλεόπα. Και σε καιρό πειρασμού δεν καταλείπεις πλέον τη μάχη, αλλά υπομένεις τις θλίψεις σκεπτόμενος- ότι όπως πέρασε ο ένας πειρασμός και ο άλλος, έτσι θα περάσει και αυτός.

Όταν όμως δειλιάζεις και γογγύζεις και δεν υπομένεις τους πειρασμούς, τότε, αντί να νικάς πρέπει διαρκώς να μετανοείς· για τα σφάλματα της ημέρας, για την αμέλεια της νύκτας. Και, αντί να αυξάνεται η χάρις, μεγαλώνεις τις θλίψεις σου.

Γι’ αυτό μη δειλιάζεις μη φοβάσαι τους πειρασμούς. Και αν πέσεις πολλές φορές, σήκω. Μη χάνεις τη ψυχραιμία σου. Μην απογοητεύεσαι. Σύννεφα είναι και θα περάσουν.

Και όταν, με τη βοήθεια της χάριτος που σε καθαρίζει από όλα τα πάθη, περάσεις όλα αυτά που λέγονται «πράξις», τότε γεύεται ο νους φωτισμό και κινείται σε θεωρία.

Και πρώτη θεωρία είναι των όντων:

Πως όλα τα δημιούργησε για τον άνθρωπον ο Θεός, και αυτούς ακόμη τους Αγγέλους για να τον υπηρετούν. Πόσην αξία, πόσο μεγαλείο, τι μεγάλο προορισμό έχει ο άνθρωπος – αυτή η πνοή του Θεού! Όχι για να ζήσει εδώ τις λίγες ημέρες της εξορίας του, αλλά να ζήσει αιώνια με τον Πλάστη του. Να βλέπει τους θείους Αγγέλους.

Να ακούει την άρρητη μελωδία τους. Τί χαρά! Τί μεγαλείο! Μόλις τελειώνει αυτή η ζωή μας και κλείνουν τα μάτια, αμέσως ανοίγουν τα άλλα και αρχίζει η νέα ζωή. Η αληθινή χαρά, που πλέον τέλος δεν έχει.

Αυτά σκεπτόμενος βυθίζεται ο νους σε μία ειρήνη και γαλήνη, που απλώνεται σε όλο το σώμα, και ξεχνά τελείως ότι υπάρχει σ’ αυτή τη ζωή.

Τέτοιες θεωρίες διαδέχονται η μία την άλλη. Όχι να πλάθει φαντασίες με το νου του, αλλά η κατάσταση είναι τέτοια – ενέργεια χάριτος, που φέρνει νοήματα και ασχολείται ο νους στη θεωρία. Δεν τα πλάθει ο άνθρωπος· μόνα τους έρχονται και αρπάζουν το νου στη θεωρία. Και τότε απλώνεται ο νους και γίνεται διαφορετικός. Φωτίζεται.

Είναι όλα ανοικτά σ’ αυτόν. Γεμίζει σοφία, και σαν υιός κατέχει τα του Πατρός του. Ξέρει ότι είναι μηδέν, πηλός, αλλά και υιός Βασιλέως. Δεν έχει τίποτε, άλλα όλα τα έχει. Γεμίζει θεολογία.

Φωνάζει αχόρταστα, με πλήρη επίγνωση, ομολογώντας ότι η ύπαρξή του είναι μηδέν. Η καταγωγή του είναι ο πηλός· η δε ζωτική δύναμή του, η πνοή τού Θεού – ή ψυχή του. Αμέσως πετά η ψυχή στον ουρανό! – Είμαι το εμφύσημα, η πνοή του Θεού! Όλα διεσώθησαν, έμειναν στη γη, απ’ όπου και ελήφθησαν! Είμαι Βασιλέως αιωνίου υιός! Είμαι θεός κατά χάρη! Είμαι αθάνατος και αιώνιος! Είμαι, μετά μία στιγμή, κοντά στον ουράνιο Πατέρα μου!

Αυτός είναι ο αληθινός προορισμός του ανθρώπου· γι’ αυτό πλάσθηκε, και οφείλει να έλθει απ’ όπου ήλθε. Τέτοιου είδους είναι οι θεωρίες, με τις οποίες ασχολείται ο πνευματικός άνθρωπος. Και περιμένει την ώρα που θα αφήσει το χώμα και θα πετάξει η ψυχή στα ουράνια.

Έχε θάρρος λοιπόν, παιδί μου, και με αυτή την ελπίδα υπόμενε κάθε πόνο και θλίψη. Αφού μετά από λίγο θα αξιωθούμε να απολαύσουμε αυτά. Για όλους μας είναι τα ίδια. Όλοι είμαστε παιδιά του Θεού. Αυτόν φωνάζουμε ημέρα και νύκτα και την γλυκειά μας Μανούλα, τη Δέσποινα του Παντός, την οποίαν όποιος παρακαλεί, δεν τον αφήνει ποτέ.

Γέρoντος Ιωσήφ τού Ησυχαστή

Πηγή: «Έκφρασις Μοναχικής εμπειρίας», Επιστ. Ι΄, εκδ. Ι. Μ. Φιλοθέου, σ. 84-88. Aπόσπασμα σε νεοελληνική απόδοση.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How The Lord Chose His Twelve Apostles ( St. Cyril of Alexandria )

"And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve, whom He also named apostles." (Lk 6: 13)

Choosing the Twelve Apostles

Our Lord Jesus Christ spent the night in prayer, conversing with His Father and God in heaven in a way indescribable and beyond our powers of understanding, a way which is solely known to Himself. He thus makes Himself an example to us of that which is necessary for salvation, for He taught us in what way we too may rightly and blamelessly offer our prayers. He then came down from the mountain, and appointed those who were to be the world’s teachers, according to the words He spoke, "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5: 14) Of this appointment of the holy Apostles, the blessed David also makes mention addressing himself, as it were to Christ, "You shall make them princes in all the earth; I will make Your name to be remembered in every generation." (Ps. 45:16) For truly, while they were in the body, they make mention of the glory of Christ, telling His mystery both in cities and villages. Now that they have been called to the mansions that are above, they still converse with us about Him, by the most wise history which they have written concerning Him.

Gifts given to the Apostles

Indeed, those who were appointed priests according to the law of Moses, even Aaron and his company, were made beautiful to the senses by vestments suitable to their priestly dignity. But the divine disciples, being adorned with spiritual gifts, had entrusted to them the ministry of the Gospel oracles. For it was said to them, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons." (Matt. 10:8) Being thus invested with Christ’s power, they filled the whole world with astonishment. But notice the extreme moderation of the Evangelist. He does not simply say that the holy Apostles were appointed, but rather, by introducing the record of these chief ones each by name, takes care that no one should venture to enroll himself in the company of those that were chosen. For as Paul said, "No man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God." (Heb. 5: 4) Though the holy Apostles were called by name to this great and splendid dignity, yet from time to time, some men have gone to such a pitch of madness and audacity, as even to name themselves Apostles of Christ, and to seize an honor not granted unto them. Of these the divine disciples made mention, for they said, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder; for Satan even transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness." (2 Cor. 11: 13-14) However, we neither acknowledge nor will receive any one, except those only so named in the Evangelic writings, and also the one who was appointed after them, the most wise Paul. The Savior Himself bore witness to him saying, "He is a vessel of Mine, to bear My name before all the gentiles." (Acts 9: 15)

Symbols of the Holy Apostles

The law pointed them out before in type, and the prophets also proclaimed them. As for instance, it is written in the Mosaic record, "And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes with it; and you shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial." (Lev. 24: 5-6) Who else can be the bread that came down form heaven and gives life to the world, except Christ, the Savior of the universe? In a similar manner the blessed disciples also are named loaves. Having been made partakers of Him, Who nourishes us unto life eternal, they also nourish by their own writings those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. As the Savior is the true light, He also called His disciples, "You are the light of the world."(Matt. 5: 14) Also being Himself the bread of life, He has bestowed upon His disciples to be ranked as loaves. Please, observe the marvelous art of the law: for you shall put, it says, upon the loaves of frankincense and salt. Now the frankincense is the symbol of a sweet odor; and the salt that of understanding and good sense. Both of them existed in the highest degree in the holy Apostles. Their life was one of a sweet savor, as they also said, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ." (2 Cor. 2: 15) More over, they were also full of understanding, so that the prophet David sang of them in the Psalms, "There is Benjamin, their leader, the princes of Judah and their company, the princes of Zebulun and the princes of Naphtali." (Ps.68: 27) The blessed disciples were chosen out of almost every tribe of Israel, and were the bearers of light to the world, holding up the word of life. Indeed, the wonder is that the sages of the Greeks possessed eloquent speech, and an admirable beauty of language, but the disciples of our Savior were mere artificers (skilled craftsmen), boatmen, and fishermen, having no boast of words and no fluency of picked phrases. In expression they were indeed simple men, but rich in knowledge. The literature of the Greeks, with it eloquent phrases, is silent, while the power of the Evangelic preaching has possession of the world. God also make mention of them by the voice of Jeremiah, say of the enemy of all, Satan, "Woe to him who increases. What is not his-how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges? Will not you creditors rise up suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their booty." (Hab. 2: 6-7) Satan gathered unto him all the inhabitants of the earth, though they were not his, and had caused them to be his worshippers, making his collar heavy. But those who were to plunder his goods woke up; for the net of the apostolic teaching caught all those that were in error, and brought back unto God the whole world.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Ὁ Ἅγιος Μακάριος ὁ Μέγας καί ὁ πατήρ Σεραφείμ Ρόουζ


Ο π. Σεραφείμ Ρόουζ μην ξεχνώντας ποτέ την ανάγκη να «βιάζει τον εαυτό τον στη χριστιανική πνευματική ζωή, έζησε σύμφωνα με τα ακόλουθα λόγια του αγίου Μακαρίου του Μεγάλου, τα όποια είχε ως οδηγό στην καθημερινή πνευματική του πράξη: «Ένας άνθρωπος, ερχόμενος προς τον Κύριο, πρέπει να βιάσει τον εαυτό του σε ότι είναι καλό,

ακόμη και αν αυτό έρχεται σε αντίθεση με την κλίση της καρδιάς του, προσμένοντας συνεχώς τον έλεός Του με βέβαιη πίστη. Να πιέζει τον εαυτό του στην αγάπη όταν δεν έχει αγάπη, να είναι πράος όταν δεν έχει πραότητα, να είναι οικτίρμων και φιλεύσπλαχνος, να επιζητά την ταπείνωση και όταν καταφρονείται να τον υπομένει καρτερικά... Να βιάζει τον εαυτό του στην προσευχή όταν δεν έχει πνευματική προσευχή. Έτσι, ό Θεός, σε εκείνον πού προσπαθεί και βιάζει τον εαυτό του, σε αντίθεση με αυτόν πού έχει απρόθυμη καρδιά, παρέχει την αληθινή προσευχή τού Πνεύματος, αληθινή αγάπη, πραότητα, φιλευσπλαχνία (Κολ. | 3:12), αληθινή ευγένεια και, με ένα λόγο, τον γεμίζει με πνευματικούς καρπούς».


Can Prayer Help relieve Headaches

While there is no research on the use of the Jesus Prayer and relief from headaches there is some research from those who meditate.

Meditation has been shown to help offset the symptoms of chronic pain, including headaches. One study showed that 72 percent of patients with chronic pain who underwent meditation training, reported significant reductions in their level of pain. In another study, patients who practiced meditation experienced fewer migraine headaches, enhanced their pain tolerance, and reported a greater sense of well-being.The Jesus Prayer is quite different than meditation as it is an prayer in communication with God. But there are many similarities to the regular practice of this prayer that are similar to meditation. The Jesus prayer should be much more effective than meditation as it does call on God for His mercy.

The regular practice of the Jesus prayer requires at least 15 minutes per day where you can set aside all daily cares and quietly in your mind repeat the prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me." One will find that this is not an easy task as our minds are very active and we will observe many distracting thoughts while we try to pray in this way. Gradually as we keep up a daily practice we will gain in our ability to concentrate on the words of the prayer. As we gain in this way, our mind becomes quiet, our body relaxes, and our heart opens to God. This opening then allow His grace to flow through us bringing any healing power as God wills for us.

With the practice, when we feel a headache coming on, we can stop for a few minutes and repeat this prayer until the pain subsides. We don't have to wait for the actual headache to intervene with a prayer. Here are some symptoms that are known to be precursors to and headache: Fatigue, mood changes, food cravings, loss of appetite, yawning, increased urination, and muscle stiffness. We can observe our own situation and learn to recognize these warning signs. There are also some common triggers that can be avoided. They are: Caffeine, chocolate, aged cheese, red wine, hormonal changes, stress, and too much or to little sleep.

The power in this prayer comes from the name, "Jesus". Its practice requires humility realizing that we cannot control everything in this world, including our aches and pains. Its practice is both a worship of God and a discipline with similarities to many meditation techniques. It is not an easy practice and takes patience and endurance. Research has shown that it actually causes a change in neurological networks of our brain. One must first have faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Great martyr, Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George

The Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father was martyred for Christ when George was still a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, moved there with her son and raised him in strict piety.

When he became a man, St George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander.

The pagan emperor, who did much for the restoration of Roman might, was clearly concerned with the danger presented to pagan civilization by the triumph of the Crucified Savior, and intensified his persecution against the Christians in the final years of his reign. Following the advice of the Senate at Nicomedia, Diocletian gave all his governors full freedom in their court proceedings against Christians, and he promised them his full support.

St George, when he heard the decision of the emperor, distributed all his wealth to the poor, freed his servants, and then appeared in the Senate. The brave soldier of Christ spoke out openly against the emperor’s designs. He confessed himself a Christian, and appealed to all to acknowledge Christ: “I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting in Him, I have come among you voluntarily, to bear witness concerning the Truth.”

“What is Truth?” one of the dignitaries asked, echoing the question of Pontius Pilate. The saint replied, “Christ Himself, Whom you persecuted, is Truth.”

Stunned by the bold speech of the valiant warrior, the emperor, who had loved and promoted George, attempted to persuade him not to throw away his youth and glory and honors, but rather to offer sacrifice to the gods as was the Roman custom. The confessor replied, “Nothing in this inconstant life can weaken my resolve to serve God.”

Then by order of the enraged emperor the armed guards began to push St George out of the assembly hall with their spears, and they then led him off to prison. But the deadly steel became soft and it bent, just as the spears touched the saint’s body, and it caused him no harm. In prison they put the martyr’s feet in stocks and placed a heavy stone on his chest.

The next day at the interrogation, powerless but firm of spirit, St George again answered the emperor, “You will grow tired of tormenting me sooner than I will tire of being tormented by you.” Then Diocletian gave orders to subject St George to some very intense tortures. They tied the Great Martyr to a wheel, beneath which were boards pierced with sharp pieces of iron. As the wheel turned, the sharp edges slashed the saint’s naked body.

At first the sufferer loudly cried out to the Lord, but soon he quieted down, and did not utter even a single groan. Diocletian decided that the tortured one was already dead, and he gave orders to remove the battered body from the wheel, and then went to a pagan temple to offer thanks.

At this very moment it got dark, thunder boomed, and a voice was heard: “Fear not, George, for I am with you.” Then a wondrous light shone, and at the wheel an angel of the Lord appeared in the form of a radiant youth. He placed his hand upon the martyr, saying to him, “Rejoice!” St George stood up healed.

When the soldiers led him to the pagan temple where the emperor was, the emperor could not believe his own eyes and he thought that he saw before him some other man or even a ghost. In confusion and in terror the pagans looked St George over carefully, and they became convinced that a miracle had occurred. Many then came to believe in the Life-Creating God of the Christians.

Two illustrious officials, Sts Anatolius and Protoleon, who were secretly Christians, openly confessed Christ. Immediately, without a trial, they were beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor. Also present in the pagan temple was Empress Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian, and she also knew the truth. She was on the point of glorifying Christ, but one of the servants of the emperor took her and led her off to the palace.

The emperor became even more furious. He had not lost all hope of influencing St George, so he gave him over to new and fiercesome torments. After throwing him into a deep pit, they covered it over with lime. Three days later they dug him out, but found him cheerful and unharmed. They shod the saint in iron sandals with red-hot nails, and then drove him back to the prison with whips. In the morning, when they led him back to the interrogation, cheerful and with healed feet, the emperor asked if he liked his shoes. The saint said that the sandals had been just his size. Then they beat him with ox thongs until pieces of his flesh came off and his blood soaked the ground, but the brave sufferer, strengthened by the power of God, remained unyielding.

The emperor concluded that the saint was being helped by magic, so he summoned the sorcerer Athanasius to deprive the saint of his miraculous powers, or else poison him. The sorcerer gave St George two goblets containing drugs. One of them would have quieted him, and the other would kill him. The drugs had no effect, and the saint continued to denounce the pagan superstitions and glorify God as before.

When the emperor asked what sort of power was helping him, St George said, “Do not imagine that it is any human learning which keeps me from being harmed by these torments. I am saved only by calling upon Christ and His Power. Whoever believes in Him has no regard for tortures and is able to do the things that Christ did” (John 14:12). Diocletian asked what sort of things Christ had done. The Martyr replied, “He gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the lame, gave hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, and raised the dead.”

Knowing that they had never been able to resurrect the dead through sorcery, nor by any of the gods known to him, and wanting to test the saint, the emperor commanded him to raise up a dead person before his eyes. The saint retorted, “You wish to tempt me, but my God will work this sign for the salvation of the people who shall see the power of Christ.”

When they led St George down to the graveyard, he cried out, “O Lord! Show to those here present, that You are the only God in all the world. Let them know You as the Almighty Lord.” Then the earth quaked, a grave opened, the dead one emerged from it alive. Having seen with their own eyes the Power of Christ, the people wept and glorified the true God.

The sorcerer Athanasius, falling down at the feet of St George, confessed Christ as the All-Powerful God and asked forgiveness for his sins, committed in ignorance. The obdurate emperor in his impiety thought otherwise. In a rage he commanded both t Athanasius and the man raised from the dead to be beheaded, and he had St George again locked up in prison.

The people, weighed down with their infirmities, began to visit the prison and they there received healing and help from the saint. A certain farmer named Glycerius, whose ox had collapsed, also visited him. The saint consoled him and assured him that God would restore his ox to life. When he saw the ox alive, the farmer began to glorify the God of the Christians throughout all the city. By order of the emperor, St Glycerius was arrested and beheaded.

The exploits and the miracles of the Great Martyr George had increased the number of the Christians, therefore Diocletian made a final attempt to compel the saint to offer sacrifice to the idols. They set up a court at the pagan temple of Apollo. On the final night the holy martyr prayed fervently, and as he slept, he saw the Lord, Who raised him up with His hand, and embraced him. The Savior placed a crown on St George’s head and said, “Fear not, but have courage, and you will soon come to Me and receive what has been prepared for you.”

In the morning, the emperor offered to make St George his co-administrator, second only to himself. The holy martyr with a feigned willingness answered, “Caesar, you should have shown me this mercy from the very beginning, instead of torturing me. Let us go now to the temple and see the gods you worship.”

Diocletian believed that the martyr was accepting his offer, and he followed him to the pagan temple with his retinue and all the people. Everyone was certain that St George would offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint went up to the idol, made the Sign of the Cross and addressed it as if it were alive: “Are you the one who wants to receive from me sacrifice befitting God?”

The demon inhabiting the idol cried out, “I am not a god and none of those like me is a god, either. The only God is He Whom you preach. We are fallen angels, and we deceive people because we are jealous.”

St George cried out, “How dare you remain here, when I, the servant of the true God, have entered?” Then noises and wailing were heard from the idols, and they fell to the ground and were shattered.

There was general confusion. In a frenzy, pagan priests and many of the crowd seized the holy martyr, tied him up, and began to beat him. They also called for his immediate execution.

The holy empress Alexandra tried to reach him. Pushing her way through the crowd, she cried out, “O God of George, help me, for You Alone are All-Powerful.” At the feet of the Great Martyr the holy empress confessed Christ, Who had humiliated the idols and those who worshipped them.

Diocletian immediately pronounced the death sentence on the Great Martyr George and the holy Empress Alexandra, who followed St George to execution without resisting. Along the way she felt faint and slumped against a wall. There she surrendered her soul to God.

St George gave thanks to God and prayed that he would also end his life in a worthy manner. At the place of execution the saint prayed that the Lord would forgive the torturers who acted in ignorance, and that He would lead them to the knowledge of Truth. Calmly and bravely, the holy Great Martyr George bent his neck beneath the sword, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.

The pagan era was coming to an end, and Christianity was about to triumph. Within ten years, St Constantine (May 21) would issue the Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom to Christians.

Of the many miracles worked by the holy Great Martyr George, the most famous are depicted in iconography. In the saint’s native city of Beirut were many idol-worshippers. Outside the city, near Mount Lebanon, was a large lake, inhabited by an enormous dragon-like serpent. Coming out of the lake, it devoured people, and there was nothing anyone could do, since the breath from its nostrils poisoned the very air.

On the advice of the demons inhabiting the idols, the local ruler came to a decision. Each day the people would draw lots to feed their own children to the serpent, and he promised to sacrifice his only daughter when his turn came. That time did come, and the ruler dressed her in her finest attire, then sent her off to the lake. The girl wept bitterly, awaiting her death. Unexpectedly for her, St George rode up on his horse with spear in hand. The girl implored him not to leave her, lest she perish.

The saint signed himself with the Sign of the Cross. He rushed at the serpent saying, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” St George pierced the throat of the serpent with his spear and trampled it with his horse. Then he told the girl to bind the serpent with her sash, and lead it into the city like a dog on a leash.

The people fled in terror, but the saint halted them with the words: “Don’t be afraid, but trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in Him, since it is He Who sent me to save you.” Then the saint killed the serpent with a sword, and the people burned it outside the city. Twenty-five thousand men, not counting women and children, were then baptized. Later, a church was built and dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos and the Great Martyr George.

St George went on to become a talented officer and to amaze the world by his military exploits. He died before he was thirty years old. He is known as Victory Bearer, not only for his military achievements, but for successfully enduring martyrdom. As we know, the martyrs are commemorated in the dismissal at the end of Church services as “the holy, right victorious martyr....”

St George was the patron saint and protector of several of the great builders of the Russian state. St Vladimir’s son, Yaroslav the Wise (in holy Baptism George), advanced the veneration of the saint in the Russian Church. He built the city of Yuriev [i.e., “of Yurii.” “Yurii” is the diminutive of “George”, as “Ivan” is of “John”], he also founded the Yuriev monastery at Novgorod, and he built a church of St George the Victory Bearer at Kiev.

The day of the consecration of St George’s Church in Kiev, November 26, 1051 by St Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, has entered into the liturgical treasury of the Church as a special church feastday. Yuriev Day is beloved by the Russian people as an “autumn Feast of St George.”

The name of St George was also borne by the founder of Moscow, Yurii Dolgoruky (+ 1157), who was the builder of many churches dedicated to St George, and the builder of the city of Yuriev-Polsk. In the year 1238 the heroic fight of the Russian nation against the Mongol Horde was led by the Great Prince Yurii (George) Vsevolodovich of Vladimir (February 4), who fell at the Battle at the Sita River. His memory, like that of Igor the Brave, and defender of his land, was celebrated in Russian spiritual poems and ballads.

The first Great Prince of Moscow, when Moscow had become the center of the Russian Land, was Yurii Danilovich (+ 1325), the son of St Daniel of Moscow, and grandson of St Alexander Nevsky. From that time St George the Victory Bearer, depicted as a horseman slaying the serpent, appeared on Moscow’s coat of arms, and became an emblem of the Russian state. This has strengthened Russia’s connections with Christian nations, and especially with Iberia (Georgia, the Land of St George).