Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Developing a Child's Conscience ( Saint Greogry of Nyssa )


 Key to the Orthodox way of Life is an active conscience. But for many, this sense we are given in our Baptism is lost or dulled by our separation from God. At a young age it is important to nurture a child's use of their conscience. How do you do this?

I knew a school principle who was very effective in maintaining discipline in an inner city school. There was an incident where boys were cutting up on the bus and in their zeal to be "smart" they mutilated one of the bus seats. The boys were identified by the supervising teacher, but she did not see them actually mutilate the seat. She sent them to the principal. Faced by the principal, the boys of course denied doing anything. What did the principal do? He began by explaining to them that they have a conscience. He told them that this is a quiet voice inside their heart that tells them right from wrong. And, if they had done anything wrong, later in the day or that night they would have a feeling coming from inside that they had done something wrong. He explained to them that once you get this feeling you want to get rid of it. He did not accuse, threaten or punish them, but told them to go home and that he would be there in the morning before the school bell rang to talk with them if they wanted to meet with him. That next morning the boys showed up in his office early and explained to him that their conscience was bothering them and that they could not even sleep very well that night. They then told him what they had done and asked for his to help to get rid of this bad feeling they had. He then led them in a discussion about how they could make up for the bad deed that had done.

He was teaching them about conscience and how to use it. This is the same task we all face with our children to help them develop a good Christian moral sense.
The biggest task for parents is to instruct their children in such a way that they do not force them to go against what they know is best for them out of rebellion. Like the principal, parents need to guide children in using their conscience so they develop a God oriented will and learn to recognize the work of God within themselves. When they learn to recognize their own sinfulness, then they can be introduced to the concept of repentance and eventually the sacrament of confession. A parent who is successful in this regard while become an open conduit for their repentance. A child will see their parents as the loving father of the story of the Prodigal son. Children will know that when they are honest with their conscience, their parents will always welcome them with gladness.

Paul points out that Christians have more than the law of the Jews. They have a law in the heart. He tells us that those "who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them" will be justified when that final judgment come. (Romans 2:12-16)

Saint Greogry of Nyssa tells us the following; 

What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the lustre of the precious stone.
On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonized in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behavior. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.
Its essential to lay a sound foundation in our children so they learn to trust in their conscience knowing that it's impulses come from God.

Man’s Union with God: Guiding the Nous in Theoria

The Prayer Stops, the Bodily Members Cease to Move, and Only the Nous Is in Theoria within an Extraordinary Light…

My beloved little child and all the sisters in Christ according to rank, rejoice and be healthy in the Lord. I begin once more to speak into ears which desire and seek to hear. Ask, says our sweet Jesus, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you! (Mt 7:7). I honor your good intentions; I praise your zeal; I appreciate your love, and I emulate you.
So, listen to me once more.
First of all, the method of beginning your prayer that you mention, my child, is very good. With such thoughts you are able to keep your mind from wandering by thinking that the prayers of the elder and the eldress ascend like a pillar of fire and that they converse noetically with God. When the nous thinks and believes such things, it stops for a moment, the prayer is sweetened, and tears start to trickle. Then that grace which is found in beginners, which you mentioned, approaches and like a mother teaches her young how to walk. When she goes away and leaves them, they seek her. They cry, shout, and look for her. After a little while she comes back, only to withdraw once more. Again they cry and shout; again she returns. Until she rears us, there is no way for her to stay with us because our passions prevent her.
The passions are a hard material. Ural mountains! Thousands of feet high! Grace is like the sun. The sun rises, but the shadow of the mountains does not allow it to warm the entire noetic man. As soon as a beam finds him, he is immediately set on fire with joy. The rest of his soul, though, is still beneath the shadow of the passions, and the demons are able to act as soon as grace retracts. Many times they obstruct it as clouds obstruct the sun’s light, for the shadow of the passions raises steam that obscures the little beam of light just dawning. This steam is the thoughts of despair you wrote about. Cowardice, fear, impudence, profanities, and other such things wither the soul and deprive it of its boldness towards God.
Every thought that brings despair and heavy sorrow is from the devil. It is the steam of the passions, and you must expel it at once with hope in God, with confession to the eldress, and with the prayers of those older than you, by thinking that they are praying and entreating God for you.
A small sorrow mixed with joy, tears, and consolation in the soul is from the grace of God throughout our life, it guides us towards repentance whenever we err. A sin drives away boldness towards God, but repentance brings it back at once. Grace does not bring despair, but it continually brings to repentance a person who has fallen. On the other hand, the words of the demons bring despair at once; they blight him like hail falling upon delicate little leaves that have just sprouted.
Now pay attention to this little lesson of praxis: When you see grace acting and your soul rejoicing and tears falling effortlessly (because of the mercies that God has given you), if you are praying, be still. If you are standing, don’t move. If you are sitting, remain seated. If you are saying the prayer, keep saying it without any childish thoughts, and accept the rain of the Spirit for as long as it comes upon you. For even if it comes while you are working, if you get up to pray, it stops. It wants you to remain wherever it found you, so that you do not become its master. It wants to teach you never to trust in yourself, as long as you are in this life. The rainfall of grace of a single day provides enough water for the things planted in the soul for the entire period that grace leaves.
The grace of the priesthood is one thing, the grace of the great schema is another, the grace of the Mysteries is different, and the action of grace in ascesis is also different. They all spring from the same source, but each one differs from the other in eminence and glory. The grace of repentance, which acts in those who struggle, is a patristic inheritance. It is a divine transaction and exchange in which we give dust and receive heaven. We exchange matter for the Spirit. Every drop of sweat, every pain, every ascesis for God is an exchange: a loss of blood, and an influx of the Spirit. The magnitude of this grace depends on how much a person can contain, in proportion to how much his own vessel can hold. This grace of praxis is also called purifying grace.
Now then, illumination follows praxis. Illuminating grace is the second stage. That is, once a struggler has been trained well with the grace of praxis and has fallen and risen countless times, he is given the enlightenment of knowledge and clarity of the nous, which perceives the truth. He sees things as they are, without artifices and methods and human syllogisms. Everything stands naturally in its true state. However, many trials and painful changes are encountered before arriving at this point. But here he finds peace in his thoughts and rest from the temptations.
Illumination is followed by interruptions in the prayer and frequent theorias, rapture of the nous, cessation of the senses, stillness, profound silence of the bodily members, and union of God and man into one. This is the divine exchange in which, if one endures temptations and does not stop struggling along the way, one exchanges the material for the immaterial. Therefore, run behind the heavenly Bridegroom, deers of my Jesus. (cf Song of Solomon 1:4). Smell the noetic myrrh. Make your life, soul and body fragrant with chastity and virginity. I do not know of anything else that pleases our sweet Jesus and His All-pure Mother more than chastity and virginity. Whoever desires to enjoy their great love should see to it that he makes his soul and body pure and chaste. Thus will he receive every heavenly good.
Now, let me explain what the phrase interruption of the prayer means, when grace abounds in a person. The grace of praxis is likened to the radiance of the stars; whereas the grace of illumination is like the full moon; but the perfecting grace of theoria is like the midday sun traversing over the horizon; for the Fathers have divided the spiritual life into three categories.
So when grace abounds in a person and he knows all that we have written, he attains great simplicity; his nous expands and has great capacity. Just as you tasted that drop of grace when much joy and exultation came upon you, it comes again in the same manner when the nous remains in prayer. But much more comes, like a subtle breeze, like a mighty gust (Acts 2:2) of fragrant wind. It overflows throughout, the prayer, it stops; the bodily members cease to move, and only the nous is in theoria within an extraordinary light. A union of God and man occurs. Man is unable to distinguish himself. It is just like iron: before it is thrown into the fire it is called iron, but once it ignites and becomes red-hot, it is one with the fire. It is also like wax which melts when it approaches fire; it cannot remain in its natural state.
Only when the theoria has passed does he return to his former state. Whereas during theoria, he is not functioning in this world. He is totally united with God. He thinks that he has neither a body nor a hut. He is entirely rapt. Without a body he ascends to heaven! Truly great is this mystery, for one sees things that a human tongue cannot express.
When this theoria has passed, he has such a deep humility that he cries like a small child, wondering why the Lord gives him such blessings, since he himself does nothing. He then obtains so much awareness of who he is that if you were to ask him, he would say that he considers himself destitute and unworthy to exist in this life. And the more he thinks like this, the more he is given.
“It is enough!” he cries out to God, and grace abounds even more. He becomes the son of the King. And if you were to ask: “Whose are these things you like wearing?”
“My Lord’s,” he answers. “And the bread and food you eat?”
“My Lord’s,” he again answers. “The money you carry?”
“My Lord’s,” he says. “What do you have of your own?”
“Nothing. I am dirt, I am mud, I am dust. If you lift me up, I stand. If you throw me down, I fall. If you take me up, I fly. If you toss me, I hit myself on the ground. My nature is nothing.”
He never has enough of saying this. And what is this nothing? It is what existed before God created the heaven and the earth: nothing. This is the beginning of our existence. We come from clay; this is the raw material we are made of. And our power? It is the divine inbreathing, the breath of God.
So receive, o God, Lover of good desires and Creator of every good thing, receive the divine inbreathing which You breathed into our face, giving us thus a living spirit, and we shall decompose into clay once more.
Therefore, what hast you, o proud man, that you did not receive? Now if you received it, why do thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? (1Cor 4:7). Acknowledge, lowly soul, your Benefactor and be careful not to usurp things belonging to others, things of God, as your own accomplishments. Realize, wretched soul, your existence, be aware of your ancestry. Don’t forget that you are a foreigner here and that everything is foreign! Now, if God the sweet Benefactor gave you something, render it with a clear conscience, Your own from Your own.
If you have ascended to the heavens and seen the natures of the angels and heard the voices of the divine Powers, if you theologize and teach, if you have defeated the wiles of the demons, if you write and speak and do things, all are a gift of God.
So say to your Lord, “Receive, o my sweet zephyr, my Jesus, Your own from Your own!” And then oh, then, my soul! What things you will see when the treasures of God open and He says to You, Receive everything, my son, for you proved to be a faithful and good ruler! (Mt 25:21).
† † †
Some Terms that All Orthodox Should Know
By George Karras, “Orthodox Heritage” Editor.
The terms discussed below appear often in patristic texts and present a significant challenge to the understanding of our worldly intellect. The definitions presented constitute a general and very elementary explanation. They are derived from various Orthodox books, primarily “Orthodox Psychotherapy” by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos (published by Birth of Theotokos Monastery, Greece, 2005). It is a book that is strongly recommended for all those seeking to attain a greater understanding of these key terms.
Nous is the eye of the soul, which some Fathers also call the heart; it is the center of man and is where true (spiritual) knowledge is validated. Man’s soul is intelligent and noetic. God created man with a capacity to receive the Spirit and to attain knowledge of Himself; God did this by creating mankind with intelligence and noetic facilities.
Angels have intelligence and nous, whereas men have reason, nous and sensory perception. Furthermore, the soul of a man is created in the image of God. Since God is Trinitarian, mankind is Nous, Word and Spirit. The same is held true of the soul (or heart): it has nous, word and spirit. For those seeking to better understand this, a study of St. Gregory Palamas’ teaching that man is a representation of the Trinitarian mystery should be pursued.
Theoria is the vision of God and takes on a number of meanings that pertain to union with God (theo-) and holiness, the quintessential goals of Christianity (see the Philokalia). Theoria is the experience of the highest or absolute truth when one is in complete union with God. It is the penetration of the divine darkness or cloud of unknowing, beyond rational understanding. St. Gregory the Theologian says that theoria and praxis (the practice of faith, especially worship and the deeds of a virtuous life) are beneficial because theoria guides him to the holy of holies and restores him to his original nature; whereas praxis receives and serves Christ and tests love with actions. Thus, theoria is the vision of God and praxis is whatever deeds it takes to lead to this love.
Phronema is the understanding of Christian faith that guides the follower of Christ. It is a mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia). Attaining phronema is regarded as the first step toward theosis which is the state of glorification.
Theosis, meaning divinization (or deification, or to make divine) is the call to man to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in the resurrection.
The Holy Orthodox Fathers teach us that theoria is the source or means of growth toward union with God, praxis is the faith practiced along the way, and theosis is the overall path or journey. 

Source: An excerpt taken from the letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, from “Monastic Wisdom,” thirty-fifth letter (Florence, Arizona, St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1988).  

Τα Μυστικά της Ευχής...

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, ἐλέησόν με

Όλη η τέχνη είναι αυτή ακριβώς. Είτε περπατάς είτε κάθεσαι, είτε στέκεσαι, είτε εργάζεσαι, είτε βρίσκεσαι στην εκκλησία, άσε τη προσευχή αυτή να γλιστρήσει από τα χείλη σου “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησον με” με τη προσευχή αυτή στην καρδιά σου θα βρεις εσωτερική ειρήνη και γαλήνη σώματος και ψυχής.

(Άγιος Σεραφείμ του Σάρωφ)

Η ευχή του Ιησού είναι εργασία κοινή των αγγέλων και των ανθρώπων. Με την προσευχή αυτή οι άνθρωποι πλησιάζουν σύντομα την ζωή των αγγέλων. Η ευχή είναι η πηγή όλων των καλών έργων και αρετών και εξορίζει μακριά από τον άνθρωπο τα σκοτεινά πάθη. Σε σύντομο χρόνο κάνει τον άνθρωπο ικανό να αποκτήσει τη χάρη του Αγίου Πνεύματος. Απόκτησε την, και πριν πεθάνεις θα αποκτήσεις ψυχή Αγγελική. Η ευχή είναι θεϊκή αγαλλίαση. Κανένα άλλο πνευματικό όπλο δε μπορεί να αναχαιτίσει τόσο αποτελεσματικά τους δαίμονες. Τους κατακαίει όπως η φωτιά τα βάτα.

(Οσίου Παϊσίου Βελιτσκόφσκυ)

Λέγε ακατάπαυστα την ευχή “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με” με τη γλώσσα και με τον νου. Όταν η γλώσσα κουράζεται ας αρχίζει ο νους. Και πάλιν όταν ο νους βαρύνεται, η γλώσσα . Μόνον να μην παύεις. Λοιπόν όταν ευχόμενος κρατάει τον νου του να μην φαντάζεται τίποτα, αλλά προσέχει μόνον στα λόγια της ευχής.

(Γέρων Ιωσήφ)

Δια της ευχής “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με” θα κερδίσεις το παν. Δια της ευχής καθαρίζεται ο άνθρωπος, λαμπρύνεται, αγιάζεται. Η ευχή είναι το σωσίβιο της ψυχής και του σώματος. Η ευχή είναι η βάση της τελειότητας. Θα λεπτυνθείτε και θα πετάτε με την ευχή. Δεν υπάρχει άλλος τρόπος σωτηρίας, καθαρισμού και αγιασμού από την νοερά προσευχή. Αυτή γέμισε τον παράδεισο από άγιους ανθρώπους.

(Γέροντας Αμφιλόχιος)

Να λέγεις παιδί μου την ευχή, “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με” , ημέρα και νύχτα συνέχεια. Η ευχή θα τα φέρει όλα, η ευχή περιέχει τα πάντα: αίτηση, παράκληση, πίστη, ομολογία, θεολογία κλπ. Η ευχή να λέγεται χωρίς διακοπή. Η ευχή θα φέρει ολίγον κατ’ ολίγον ειρήνη, γλυκύτητα, χαρά, δάκρυα. Η ειρήνη και η γλυκύτης θα φέρουν περισσότερον ευχή, και η ευχή κατόπιν, περισσοτέραν ειρήνη και γλυκύτητα κ.ο.κ. θα έρθει στιγμή που αν θα σταματάς την ευχή, θα αισθάνεσαι άσχημα.

(Γέροντας Εφραίμ Κατουνακιώτης)

Να λέτε την ευχή “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με” . Να τη λέτε μια-μια λέξη κατανοητά, καταληπτά. Να μην προχωρείτε στη δεύτερη λέξη, αν δεν καταλάβετε την πρώτη. Να τονίζεται περισσότερο το τελευταίο, δηλ. ελέησόν με. Θα σας έρθει τώρα στην αρχή ραθυμία και ύπνος και μετεωρισμός και αμέλεια αλλά εσείς γρήγορα να συνέρχεστε. “Όταν λέτε την ευχή, να θεωρείτε τον εαυτό σας τώρα στην αρχή, ότι είσθε στην κόλαση και να φωνάζετε κλαίοντας, ζητώντας το έλεος του Θεού. Μακριά από την απόγνωση, από την απελπισία και τα όμοια ταύτα. Κατά την ώρα της προσευχής να μην δέχεστε ούτε φαντασία, ούτε μορφή, ούτε εικόνα της Παναγίας και του Χριστού ή άλλου τινός Αγίου, ούτε και τις λέξεις της ευχής να βλέπετε νοερώς”.

(Γέροντας Εφραίμ Κατουνακιώτης)

Μάθετε να εργάζεσθε το κομποσκοινάκι. Το κομποσκοινάκι θα σας οδηγήσει εκεί που εσείς δεν γνωρίζετε σε ανώτερα επίπεδα θα σας οδηγήσει το κομποσκοινάκι. “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με” .
–Έχετε ένα πρόβλημα; “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με”
–Έχετε έναν πειρασμό με τον άλλον, με τον γείτονα σας, με τους φίλους σας κ.ο.κ. “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με”. Η ευχή θα σας δώσει τη λύση του προβλήματος σας λύσιν του αδιεξόδου όπου ευρίσκεστε. Το κομποσκοινάκι λοιπόν “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με”.

(Γέροντας Εφραίμ Κατουνακιώτης)

Όλοι οι Άγιοι Πατέρες φωνάζουν την πρώτη θέση στη ζωή του κάθε χριστιανού την κατέχει η προσευχή. Θέλεις να κάνεις κατάσταση; Προσεύχου. Θέλεις να σωθείς; Προσεύχου. Όλες οι προσευχές καλές και άγιες είναι, αλλά η νοερά προσευχή, είναι η βασίλισσα αυτών. “Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με”. Απ’ αυτήν τη μικρούλα αλλά παντοδύναμη προσευχή, ξεκίνησαν οι Άγιοι Πατέρες και έγιναν φωστήρες της εκκλησίας. Λέγε συνεχώς όσο μπορείς περισσότερες φορές την ημέρα και τη νύχτα αυτή την ευχούλα και αυτή θα σε διδάξει αυτά που θέλεις, αυτά που δεν γνωρίζεις. Βιάσου σ’ αυτήν την ευχούλα.

(Γέροντας Εφραίμ Κατουνακιώτης)

Η ευχή μας φέρνει κοντά στον Χριστό. Κάποτε μου ήρθε (να εξομολογηθεί) ένας μεγαλόσχημος . Μου είπε: Έχω φθάσει , Αββά σε απόγνωση. Δεν βλέπω καμιά αλλαγή στο καλύτερο. Πως θα βελτιωθώ; Πώς θα πεθάνω για την αμαρτία; Αισθάνομαι την πλήρη αδυναμία μου. Υπάρχει άραγε ελπίδα σωτηρίας;

Βεβαίως υπάρχει. Λέγε όσο πιο πολύ μπορείς την ευχή. Και άφησε τα πάντα στα χέρια του θεού. Και ποια η ωφέλεια από την ευχή όταν δε συμμετέχει ο νους και η καρδιά;

Τεράστια ωφέλεια. Είναι γνωστό ότι η «ευχή» έχει πολλές βαθμίδες: από την απλή προφορά των λέξεων της «ευχής» μέχρι την «ευχή» την θαυματουργική. Μα έστω και στην κατώτατη βαθμίδα να βρισκόμαστε και αυτό για μας είναι ψυχικά πολύ ωφέλιμο και σωτήριο. Από τον άνθρωπο που λέγει την «ευχή» φεύγουν οι δυνάμεις του εχθρού μας. Και ο άνθρωπος αυτός γρήγορα ή αργά οπωσδήποτε θα σωθεί.

Αναστήθηκα! Αναστέναξε ο Μεγαλόσχημος. Από δω και πέρα δεν πρόκειται πια να πέσω σε ακηδία και απόγνωση. Το λέγω λοιπόν και το επαναλαμβάνω: λέτε την «ευχή» .’Έστω και μόνο με το στόμα. Και ο Κύριος δεν θα σας αφήσει.
(Στάρετς Βαρσανούφιος της Όπτινα)

Δεν πρέπει να αφήνουμε την ευχή. Όταν μας δίνεται η ευκαιρία, να τη λέμε. Να μην τριγυρίζει ο νους μας στα μάταια. Με την ευχή ο νους αναπαύεται και αγάλλεται. Ο νους του ανθρώπου πρέπει να ασχολείται με την ευχή και να μην τρέχει στα μάταια.
(Γέροντας Παΐσιος)

Πρέπει συνεχώς αδιαλείπτως να λέμε την ευχή. Μέσα στη καρδιά μας και το νου μας πρέπει να μείνει μόνο το όνομα του Χριστού μας. Γιατί όταν εμείς αφήνουμε την προσευχή, την επικοινωνία μας με το Θεό, τότε ο διάβολος με λογισμούς αρχίζει και μας ζαλίζει και δεν ξέρουμε πλέον ούτε τι θέλουμε, ούτε τι λέμε, ούτε τι κάνουμε.
(Γέροντας Παΐσιος)

Να λέγωμεν συνεχώς την ευχήν, είτε με το νουν, είτε με το στόμα. Η ευχή, το παντοδύναμον όπλον δεν αφήνει την αμαρτία να εισέλθει. Ο διάβολος καίεται από το όνομα του Ιησού Χριστού, δια τούτο πασχίζει με κάθε τρόπον να σταματήσει 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)

Η κάτωθι σύντομος προσευχή είναι παντοδύναμο όπλο κάθε χριστιανού: «Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με» «Υπεραγία Θεοτόκε, σώσον ημάς».

Λέγε αδερφέ μου με τα χείλη και με την καρδιά σου συνεχώς τα σωτήρια αυτά λόγια, διότι φωτίζουν τον νου, γαληνεύουν την καρδιά, καίουν την αμαρτία, μαστίζουν και εκδιώκουν τους δαίμονας.

Το κομποσκοίνι δεν μπορεί και δεν πρέπει να είναι κάτι διακοσμητικό, ούτε κάτι που θα μας φέρει γούρι. Αντίθετα, χρειάζεται για να μας θυμίζει τη προσευχή και, σαν τέτοιο, είναι μια άγια και θεία παρουσία στη ζωή μας.

Συγκεκριμένα το κομποσκοίνι είναι φτιαγμένο για να κάνουμε την αδιάλειπτη προσευχή, αυτή που λέγεται αδιάκοπα, σύμφωνα με την προτροπή του απ. Παύλου «αδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε».

Φυσικά την «ευχή» αυτή μπορούμε να την λέμε και χωρίς κομποσκοίνι. Με το νου μας και μάλιστα όσο συχνότερα είναι δυνατό. Η προσευχή, που είναι η συνομιλία με το Θεό, μας χαρίζει ηρεμία, ψυχική γαλήνη και διώχνει το άγχος από τη ζωή μας.

Amazing Orthodox Church Snow Sculptures!

The annual Vasaloppet China Ski Festival at Jingyuetan Park in Changchun, China takes place on January 2nd. It covers an area of 40,000 square meters with a total capacity of 70,000 cubic meters of snow. Through the hands of professionals, the snow is transformed into some of the most famous buildings in Europe. Among them is the amazing Russian-styled Orthodox Church at this years festival, which was still being worked on as of December 24th.

One of the most spectacular winter destinations in the world is Harbin, China (where the largest Orthodox Church in the Far East is located, named Saint Sophia Orthodox Church) on Sun Island for the Sun Island Snow and Ice Sculptures. It is one of the coldest destinations in China. The festival usually goes from mid-December till mid-January and attracts thousands of tourists. Below are photos of a church sculpture and the Church of Saint Sophia in Harbin.

Πρακτικές πνευματικές συμβουλές ( Γέρων Μακάριος της Όπτινα )

Ό,τι κι αν μας συμβούλευε ο γέροντας Μακάριος, πάντοτε τοποθετούσε την ταπείνωση στην πρώτη γραμμή των συμβουλών του. Από αυτήν την αρετή παρήγαγε όλες τις επόμενες αρετές που συναποτελούν το ήθος του αληθινού Χριστιανού. Αυτή είναι η ουσία των μαθημάτων, που ο γ. Μακάριος δίδαξε σε όλους, όσοι διψούσαν για τις εντολές και την καθοδήγησή του:

-να εξετάζεις τη συνείδησή σου,
-να πολεμάς συνεχώς με τα πάθη σου,
-να καθαρίζεις την ψυχή σου από τις αμαρτίες,
-να αγαπάς το Θεό εν απλότητι καρδίας,
-να πιστεύεις σ' αυτόν χωρίς υπολογισμούς,
-να έχεις ακατάπαυστα ενώπιόν σου το απεριόριστο έλεός του, και με όλη τη δύναμη της ψυχής σου να Τον δοξάζεις και να Τον ευλογείς σε όλες τις δυσάρεστες περιστάσεις της ζωής,
-να αναζητάς τη δική σου ενοχή, και να συγχωρείς κάθε παράπτωμα του διπλανού σου εναντίον σου, ούτως ώστε να αποσπάσεις το έλεος του Θεού για τις δικές σου αμαρτίες,
-να προσπαθείς να θεμελιώσεις μέσα σου την αγάπη για το διπλανό σου,
-να περισώζεις την ειρήνη και την ηρεμία στην οικογένεια και τους γνωστούς σου,
-να θυμάσαι πιο συχνά τις εντολές του Θεού και -να προσπαθείς να τις εκπληρώσεις, καθώς επίσης και τους κανόνες της Εκκλησίας,
όσο είναι δυνατόν, να πηγαίνεις για εξομολόγηση και να μετέχεις των Θείων Μυστηρίων αρκετές φορές το χρόνο,
-να τηρείς και τις τέσσερις περιόδους νηστείας, καθώς και τις Τετάρτες και τις Παρασκευές,
-να παρακολουθείς τις ακολουθίες και τη Θεία Λειτουργία σε κάθε εορτή,
-να λες πρωινές και βραδινές προσευχές και ακόμη μερικούς ψαλμούς κάθε μέρα, και, αν το επιτρέπει ο χρόνος, να διαβάζεις ένα κεφάλαιο από τα Ευαγγέλια και τις Επιστολές των Αποστόλων,
-να προσεύχεσαι κάθε πρωί και βράδυ για την ανάπαυση των κεκοιμημένων και τη σωτηρίου των ζωντανών. Αν, για οποιεσδήποτε συνθήκες, δεν μπορείς να εκπληρώσει αυτά τα καθήκοντα, τότε να επιτιμήσεις τον εαυτό σου ώστε να μετανοήσεις ειλικρινά, και να πάρεις σταθερή απόφαση να μην αποτύχεις ξανά στο μέλλον. Προσευχήσου ακόμη για εκείνους για τους οποίους έχεις κάποια κακή επιθυμία, γιατί αυτός είναι ο σιγουρότερος τρόπος για την εν χριστώ συμφιλίωση.

Γέρων Μακάριος της Όπτινα