Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life! ( St. John Maximovitch )

Repentance is expressed by the Greek word, metanoia. In the literal sense, this means a change of mind. In other words, repentance is a change of one's disposition, one's way of thinking; a change of one's inner self. Repentance is a reconsideration of one's views, an alteration of one's life.

How can this come about? In the same way that a dark room into which a man enters is illumined by the rays of the sun. Looking around the room in the dark, he can make out certain things, but there is a great deal he does not see and does not even suspect is there. Many things are perceived quite differently from what they actually are. He has to move carefully, not knowing what obstacles he might encounter. When, however, the room becomes bright, he can see things clearly and move about freely.

The same thing happens in spiritual life.

When we are immersed in sins, and our mind is occupied solely with worldly cares, we do not notice the state of our soul. We are indifferent to who we are inwardly, and we persist along a false path without being aware of it.

But then a ray of God's Light penetrates our soul. And what filth we see in ourselves! How much untruth, how much falsehood! How hideous many of our actions prove to be, which we fancied to be so wonderful. And it becomes clear to us which is the true path.

If we then recognize our spiritual nothingness, our sinfulness, and earnestly desire our amendment - we are near to salvation. From the depths of our soul we shall cry out to God: "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy according to Thy Great mercy!" "Forgive me and save me!" "Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother!"

As Great Lent begins, let us hasten to forgive each other all hurts and offenses. May we always hear the words of the Gospel for Forgiveness Sunday: If ye forgive men their debts, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their debts, neither will your Father forgive your debts (Matt. 6:14-15).

St. John Maximovitch

Some Recent Miracles of St. John Maximovich

Archbishop John's abundant miracles both before and after his death testify to his love for the people. People in America, Europe, and the other places of his pastoral labors have long known of the power of his heavenly intercessions. And now, with the publication of Blessed John the Wonderworker and other books and articles about him in the Russian language, the people of Russia are beginning to know, too, and have already experienced healings through his prayers, as the following accounts testify.

1) Valentina A. is a member of our parish which is dedicated to the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Having read the book on the healings and life of St. John of San Francisco (Blessed John the Wonderworker), she came to me after church services and asked for oil from the lampada in the sepulchre of Archbishop John, as her daughter was seriously sick. Valentina A. recounted that her daughter, an architect by profession, had a swelling in her breast. It grew and the daughter turned to a doctor for help. The diagnosis was a frightful one, cancer of the breast. I had Unction served over the daughter and later gave her cotton saturated with oil from Archbishop John’s lampada. She anointed the ailing spot several times by making the Sign of the Cross. The doctors insisted on surgery, but when she came to the hospital for observation, the doctors and the sick woman herself were amazed: the swelling had disappeared and there remained only a scar. (1994)

2) Our altar boy, Oleg S., asked me after church services to anoint his hand. There was a swelling on it the size of a chicken egg. I anointed him with the oil of Archbishop John in a cross-like form in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the acolyte left for home. After a week, I asked Oleg about his hand. He said he himself did not even notice when that swelling had disappeared. (1995)

3) Some time later, after Divine Liturgy, a Moleben was served with a Blessing of the Water. At the end of the Moleben, I anointed all communicants with the oil of St. John Maximovitch. I also anointed Olga. After a week, she was again at services and stood weeping. I asked her why she was weeping and all she could say was that everything was fine. Her husband, a military man, later came to me and told me that her leg had developed some infected growths. These growths had rapidly become ulcerous and had begun to multiply. The sight was awful. She turned to doctors but they simply shrugged their shoulders and could say nothing concrete. They gave her various creams but these did not help her.

Alter Holy Communion, Alga had been anointed with the oil of St. John. At home she sprinkled her legs with holy water and went to bed. In the morning, she saw no ulcers at all on her legs. Therefore, at the next church service, Olga wept from gratitude and was too emotional to tell us by herself. June, 1995)

4) Another parishioner of mine, Nadezhda, told me that her son Michael caught a severe cold and had a convulsive cough which only grew worse. She began to treat him with various medications. In the evening he would begin to fall asleep but the cough continued to torment him. Each minute he would be racked by this cough. His mother, a professional medical worker, was very frightened because at one time he had been rushed to the hospital by ambulance with these same symptoms. At this time, Nadezhda was reading the book on St. John Maximovitch and his miraculous healings. The mother began to pray, asking help from St. John, that he would heal her son. Having prayed, she came over to her sleeping son, crossed him and turned him on the other side. Some time later, the cough stopped and the boy quietly slept until morning. She no longer gave him any medication, only some holy water. For several days, her son would occasionally cough, but the convulsive fits did not return, and he became quite well. The mother was very thankful to Archbishop John for the healing of her son and continues to pray to him with gratitude. (April, 1995)

Hieromonk Cyril Osipov

Astrakhan, Russia

Prayer Rope οr Design Bracelet, which is it ?

Many of the Orthodox Christians piously wear at their hands a "bracelet" made of wool knots or wooden beads. Fewer however know its true significance. The first thing we should stress is that it is not a piece of jewelry but an actual prayer rope. Its purpose is not just as decoration or to show others we are Orthodox, as many believe, but to be used as an aid in accomplishing our daily prayers.

The use of the prayer ropes is ancient in itself, going back to the origins of Christian monasticism. The prayer rope, creation attributed to Saint Pachomius in the fourth century, was intended as an aid for monks that could not read to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations in their cells. The use of the rope made it possible to pray the Jesus Prayer unceasingly, whether inside the cell or out, in accordance with Saint Paul's injunction to "Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17).
The method of tying the prayer rope also goes back to the fathers of monasticism. Saint Anthony the Great it is said to have started by tying a leather rope with a simple knot for every time he prayed Kyrie Eleison ("Lord have Mercy"), but the Devil would come and untie the knots to throw off his count. He then devised a way--inspired by a vision he had of the Theotokos--of tying the knots so that the knots themselves would constantly make the sign of the cross. This is why prayer ropes today are still tied using knots that each contain seven little crosses being tied over and over. The Devil could not untie it because the Devil is vanquished by the Sign of the Cross.
The prayer ropes are not to be confused with worry beads used as a pass-timer or calming device. The prayer ropes are to be used only in prayer. They come in various shapes and sizes but always they have a fixed number of knots or beads. This can be 33 (for the normal "bracelets") or 40, 50, 100, 200, 300, etc. for the longer ropes.

The use of the Jesus prayer with prostrations is sanctioned by our Church, which directs that one can (in cases of need) replace the common worship services with a definite number of prostrations and the Jesus Prayer (which would be difficult to carry out without the rope). Here is a guide we find at the end of some Psalter books.

Instead of the entire Psalter: 6000 Jesus Prayers
One kathisma: 300 prayers; for each stasis: 100
Midnight Service: 600
Matins: 1500
Vespers: 600
Great Compline: 700
Small Compline: 400
An Akathist to the Blessed Theotokos: 500
All those who are zealous for their salvation are invited to this unceasing remembrance of the saving name of Jesus, both laymen and monastics, for the spirit of life in Christ is one and the same for both. Many of our spiritual elders, men of prayer, ascetics and directors in faith and piety, down to the most recent time have recommended the use of the prayer rope to laymen and at times have even given them their own prayer ropes as a blessing.
For this reason we also recommend to the lay people today to properly use the prayer ropes around their hands to pray wherever they are, at home, at work, or driving, with a simple prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me the sinner" or simply "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me".

Πῶς διαλύονται οἱ σχεδιασμοί τῶν δαιμόνων ( Ἱερομόναχος Σάββας Ἁγιορείτης )

Οἱ σχεδιασμοί τοῦ διαβόλου καί ὅλων τῶν δαιμόνων καί μάλιστα τῶν Ἀρχηγῶν τους γιά τήν αἰώνια καταστροφή-κόλαση τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καταλύθηκαν καί ματαιώθηκαν ἀπό τό ἀπολυτρωτικό ἔργο τοῦ Χριστοῦ μας.

Γράφει ὁ Ἅγιος Νικόδημος στήν εἰσαγωγή του στή Φιλοκαλία : «Εὐδόκησε ὁ ἴδιος ὁ Θεαρχικώτατος Λόγος τοῦ Πατρός στίς ἔσχατες ἀπό τίς ἡμέρες ἐξ αἰτίας τοῦ σπλαχνικοῦ [Του] ἐλέους, νά ἀθετήσῃ τίς ἀποφάσεις τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ σκότους [τῶν δαιμόνων], καί νά περατώσῃ καί νά προωθήσῃ σέ ἔργο τήν ἀρχαία μαζί καί ἀληθινή ἀπόφασι, τήν ὁποία ὅρισε».

Ἡ πρό πάντων τῶν αἰώνων ἀπόφαση τῆς Ἁγίας Τριάδος ἦταν ὁ ἄνθρωπος νά θεωθεῖ. Αὐτή ἡ προαιώνια ἀπόφαση τοῦ Θεοῦ ἔπρεπε νά ἐκπληρωθεῖ ὁπωσδήποτε. Καί πράγματι ἐκπληρώθηκε διά τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ Ὁποῖος συνέπηξε στή γῆ τό «ἐργαστήριο τῆς θεώσεως» τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τήν Ἐκκλησία Του.

Ἡ ἁγία μας Ὀρθόδοξη Ἐκκλησία ὡς σῶμα Χριστοῦ μέ κεφαλή Της τόν Ἴδιο, εἶναι αὐτή πού ἀφ’ ἑνός πραγματοποιεῖ τήν ἀρχική ἀπόφαση τοῦ Θεοῦ γιά τήν θέωση τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καί ἀφ’ ἑτέρου καταλύει τά ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου.
Εἶναι Αὐτή πού διά τοῦ ἔργου της ἀκύρωσε καί συνεχίζει νά ἀκυρώνει τίς ἀποφάσεις καί τά σχέδιά του.
Ὡς «κοινωνία θεώσεως» πού εἶναι, ὁδηγεῖ διά τῶν Ἁγίων Μυστηρίων, τῶν Ἱερῶν Κανόνων καί τῆς ὅλης θεραπευτικῆς Της τά μέλη της στήν σωτηρία-θέωση.

Ὅταν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ζεῖ ἐκκλησιαστικά, εὐχαριστιακά ὅταν μετέχει στήν Θεία Λειτουργία καί Θεία Κοινωνία , ὅταν τελεῖ τήν ἀδιάλειπτη ἐν πνεύματι λατρεία στήν καρδία του μέ τήν ἀδιάλειπτη προσευχή, αὐτός μέ τήν Θεία Χάρη καταλύει τά ἔργα, τίς πλεκτάνες καί τίς παγίδες τοῦ διαβόλου.

Γιά τοῦτο καί εἶναι ὠφελιμότατο ὁ χριστιανός ὅσο γίνεται συχνότερα νά μετέχει στή Θεία Λειτουργία καί Θεία Κοινωνία μέ τήν ἄδεια τοῦ Πνευματικοῦ του ὁδηγοῦ.
Εἶναι ἐπίσης ἀπαραίτητο νά διατηρεῖ «ἄληστο» τήν μνήμη τοῦ ζωοποιοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ μέ τήν ἀδιάλειπτη ἐπίκλησή: «Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ ἐλέησόν με».
Ἔτσι παραμένει σέ συνεχή κοινωνία μέ τόν ζωοδότη Χριστό τόν καταλύσαντα τήν δύναμην τοῦ ἐχθροῦ καί τίς ἀνθρωποκτόνες ἀποφάσεις-σχέδιά του.


Ἱερομόναχος Σάββας Ἁγιορείτης