Sunday, February 25, 2018

Theology is the content of our prayers ( Elder Sophrony )

The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο]… Revelation reveals that “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). If He says, “I am” it means that He is a person. The word “I” has great significance. For it expresses the person. God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this. And we need to base ourselves on revelation, which the Lord never refuted…Theology is the content of our prayers. And an example of this theology is the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. 
The whole anaphora is theology and is expressed through prayer. But then theology comes as a state of being. John the Theologian, from an academic point of view, was not a theologian, he says things simply. His theology, however, is a state of being. Whatever he says becomes dogma for everyone. But the only study that enables us to sense what God is like, is the ascetic life according to the commandments of the Gospel. 
When our life is lived according to the will of God, then we understand that there cannot be a difference between the commandments and the mind of God Himself. When we think according to the commandments, then our mind gets used to thinking as God Himself thinks. And regarding theosis, they say: but what is theosis? With obedience to the abbot from the beginning, one’s will is cut off, then in obedience to the Gospel commandments one reaches this state. We do small things but the results must become great. 
Through obedience we enter into the life of divine Being. We have good descriptions of this in the writings of St. Nicodemus the Athonite. I have told others, as well, that when they learn things from the world, they are living in sin. They need to free themselves through asceticism. This is how I tried to make them understand the need for patience. 
Just as the Incarnation was a great kenotic act, where Christ God became man as one person and bore our sins patiently with humility and love. In following Him, we become true persons in Him and realize our life and fully live our freedom. It is here where personhood finds its greatest achievement: in putting on Christ and His indwelling in us by the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father. The very essence of our life must become constant personal encounter with Christ, and in this we become truly persons, truly free, truly loving. This is how personhood is understood in theosis. 
We fulfill our personhood in living in Christ and His dwelling within us, and inasmuch as He has perfected humanity, He raises us in freedom, in love, to the fulfillment of our humanity, as true persons in Him. 
Elder Sophrony 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fasting is an ordinance of the Church, obliging the Christian to observe it on specific days... ( Saint Nektarios of Egina )

Fasting is an ordinance of the Church, obliging the Christian to observe it on specific days. Concerning fasting, our Savior teaches: "When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father, Who seethe in secret, shall reward thee openly." 
From what the Savior teaches we learn 
(a) that fasting is pleasing to God, and 
(b) that he who fasts for the uplifting of his mind and heart towards God shall be rewarded by God, Who is a most liberal bestower of Divine gifts, for his devotion.

In the New Testament fasting is recommended as a means of preparing the mind and the heart for divine worship, for long prayer, for rising from the earthly, and for spiritualization.

Saint Nektarios of Egina

Monday, February 19, 2018

Great Lent begins...( St. John Chrysostom )

The value of fasting consists not in abstinence only from food, but in a relinquishment of sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meat is he who especially disparages it.

The change in our way of life during these blessed days will help us to gain holiness.

Therefore, we should let our soul rejoice during the fast.

St. John Chrysostom

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The heart naturally seeks happiness and the Devil gives a false direction to this tendency, ( St. John of Kronstadt )

If God had not been incarnate upon earth, if He had not made us godly, if He had not taught us in His Own person how to live, what to hope for and expect, if He had not pointed out to us another perfect and eternal life, if He had not suffered and died and risen from the dead, then we should still have had some reason to live, as we all now live, that is to mostly lead a carnal, earthly life.

But, now, we ought to meditate upon higher things, and count all earthly things but dung, for, everything earthly is nothing, in comparison with heavenly things.

Meanwhile, the Devil, the father of lies, in spite of the Savior’s teaching and His spirit, teaches us to attach ourselves to earthly goods, and forcibly nails our sensual heart to them.

The heart naturally seeks happiness and the Devil gives a false direction to this tendency, and allures it by earthly happiness, that is ,by riches, honors, splendor of dress, furniture, silver, equipages, gardens and various amusements.

St. John of Kronstadt

Monday, February 12, 2018

On the little things in Life ( St. John Maximovitch )

Many people believe that to live according to the faith and to fulfill the will of God is very difficult. Actually, it’s very easy. One needs only attend to details, to trifles, and try to avoid evil in the slightest and most trivial things. This is the simplest and surest way to enter the world of the spirit and draw near to God.

A man often thinks that the Creator demands great things of him, that the Gospel insists on complete self- sacrifice, the abolition of one’s personhood, etc., as a condition of faith. A man is so frightened by this that he begins to be afraid of becoming acquainted with God, of drawing near to God, and hides himself from God, not even wishing to look into God’s Word. “If I can’t do anything important for God, then I’d just better stay away from things spiritual, stop thinking about eternity, and live ‘in a normal way’.”

There exists at the entrance to the spiritual realm a “hypnosis of great deeds:” one must either do some big thing or do nothing. And so people do nothing at all for God or for their souls! It is very strange—the more a man is devoted to the little things of life, the less he wishes to be honest or pure or faithful to God in those same little things. And, moreover, each one must adopt a correct attitude toward little things if one wishes to come near to the kingdom of heaven.

Wishes to come near: In this is summed up all the difficulties of the religious life. Often one wishes to enter into the kingdom of heaven quite unexpectedly, in some miraculous and magical way, or, by right—through some kind of great feat. But neither the one nor the other is the right way to find the higher world. One does not enter God’s presence in some wondrous manner while remaining indifferent on earth to the needs of the kingdom of God and its bright eternity, nor can one purchase the treasures of the kingdom of God by some kind of eternal act, however great that act might be. Yet good deeds, holy deeds are necessary for one to grow into a higher life, a bright will, a good desire, a heavenly psychology, a heart that is both pure and fair.

A glass of water: Verily, verily I say unto you that whosoever offers one of the least of these but a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward. In this saying of the Lord is the highest expression of the smallness of the good. “A glass of water”—this is not much.

Communicating in good spirit: In every communication between people there must without fail be a good spirit: this spirit is Christ, openly manifest or hidden. “In the name of a disciple:” this is the first step in communicating with another person in the name of Jesus Christ Himself. Many people, not as yet knowing the Lord and the wondrous fellowship in His Name still have among themselves an unselfish, pure and human fellowship which brings them ever closer to the Spirit of Christ.

The lesser good is necessary: As a matter of fact, the lesser good is more necessary for mankind than the greater. People can get along with their lives without the greater good; without the lesser they cannot exist. Mankind perishes not from a lack of the greater good, but from an insufficiency of just this lesser good. The greater good is no more than a roof, erected on the brick walls of the lesser good.

The lesser, easier good was left on this earth for man by the Creator Himself, who took all the greater good upon Himself. Whosoever does the lesser, the same creates—and through him the Creator Himself creates—the greater good. Of our little good the Creator makes His Own great good. For as our Lord is the Creator who formed all things from nothingness, so is He more able to create the greater good from the lesser.

Through such lesser, easy work, done with the greatest simplicity, a man is accustomed to the good and begins to serve it with his whole heart, sincerely, and in this way enters into an atmosphere of good, lets down the roots of his life into new soil, the soil of the good. The roots of human life quickly accommodate themselves to this good earth, and soon cannot live without it... Thus is a man saved: from the small comes the great. “Faithful in little things” turns out to be “faithful in the greater.”

Our moral sense: Lay aside all theoretical considerations that it is forbidden to slaughter millions, women, children, and elderly; be content to manifest your moral sense by in no way killing the human dignity of your neighbor, neither by word, nor by innuendo, nor by gesture. Do not be angry over trifles against your brother vainly (Mt 5:22) or in the daily contacts of life speak untruth to your neighbor. These are trifles, small change, of no account; but just try to do this and you will see what comes of it.
Prayer: It is hard to pray at night. But try in the morning. If you can’t manage to pray at home than at least as you ride to your place of employment attempt with a clear head the “Our Father” and let the words of this short prayer resound in your heart. And at night commend yourself with complete sincerity into the hands of the Heavenly Father. This indeed is very easy.

And give, give a glass of cold water to everyone who has need of it; give a glass filled to the brim with simple human companionship to everyone that lack it, the very simplest companionship...

O wondrous path of little things, I sing thee a hymn! Surround yourselves, O people, gird up yourselves with little works of good— with a chain of little, simple, easy and good feelings which cost us naught, a chain of bright thoughts, words and deeds. Let us abandon the big and the difficult. That is for them that love it and not for us for whom the Lord in His Mercy, for us who have not yet learned to love the greater, has poured forth the lesser love everywhere, free as water and air.

Vol. 12, Issue 05-06 Orthodox - Heritage,

Friday, February 9, 2018

Everything that He does, He does for our benefit... ( Abba Dorotheus )

When we suffer something unpleasant from our best friend, we know that he did not do it intentionally and that he loves us. We must think likewise of God, Who created us, for our sake incarnated, and died for our sake having endured enormous suffering. We must remind ourselves that He does everything from His goodness and from His love for us. 
We may think that while our friend loves us, in not having sufficient good sense in order to do everything correctly, he therefore involuntarily hurt us. This cannot be said of God because He is the highest wisdom. He knows what is good for us and accordingly, directs everything for our benefit, even in the smallest things. It can also be said that although our friend loves us and is sufficiently sensible, he is powerless to help us. But this certainly cannot be said of God, because to Him everything is possible and nothing is difficult for Him. 
Consequently, we know that God loves us and shows clemency toward us, that He is eternally wise and omnipotent. Everything that He does, He does for our benefit, and we should accept it with gratitude as from a Benefactor, even though it may appear to be grievous.

Abba Dorotheus 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Love the Word of God.. ( Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk )

Love the Word of God, that is the Scriptures, handed down to us by the prophets and apostles, as God Himself. For the word of God is the word of God's mouth. If you love God, then without fail you will love the word of God also. For the word of God is God's epistle or letter to us unworthy ones, and is His supreme gift to us for the sake of our salvation. 
If you love the Sender, then also love the letter which is sent from Him to you. For the word of God is given by God to me, to you, and to everyone, so that everyone who desires to be saved may receive salvation through it.

Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Faith is the door to mysteries...( Saint Isaac The Syrian )

What the bodily eyes are to sensory objects,the same is faith to the eyes of the understanding that gaze at hidden treasures.Even as we have two bodily eyes,we possess two eyes of the soul,as the Fathers say;yet both have not the same operation with respect to divine vision.With one we see the hidden Glory of God which is concealed in the natures of things;that is to say,we behold His power,His wisdom, and His eternal providence for us,which we understand from the magnitude of His governance on our behalf.With this same eye we also behold the heavenly orders of our fellow servants.With the other,we behold the glory of His Holy nature.When God is pleased to admit us to spiritual mysteries,He opens wide the sea of faith in our minds.

Repentance is given to the sons of men as grace after grace,for repentance is a second regeneration by God.That of which we have received an earnest by baptism, we receive as a gift by means of repentance.Repentance is the door of mercy, opened to those who seek it.By this door we enter into the mercy of God, and apart from this entrance we shall not find mercy.'For all have sinned',according to divine Scripture,'being justified freely by His grace.

'Repentance is the second grace and is begotten in the heart by faith and fear.

Fear is the paternal rod that guides our way until we reach the spiritual paradise of good things;and when we have attained thereto,it leaves us and turns back.

Paradise is the love of God,wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness,and there the blessed Paul partook of supernatural nourishment.When he tasted there of the tree of life,he cried out,saying,'eye that hath not seen,nor ear heard,neither have entered into the heart of man,the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him'.Adam was barred from this tree through the devil's counsel.

The tree of life is the love of God from which Adam fell away,and thereafter he saw joy no longer,and he toiled and labored in the land of thorns.Even though they make their way in righteousness,those who are bereft of the love of God eat in their work the bread of sweat,which the first-created man was commanded to eat after his fall.

Until we find love,our labor is in the land of thorns,and in the midst of thorns we both sow and reap,even if our seed is the seed of righteousness,and in every hour we are pricked by the thorns,and however much we render ourselves righteous,we live by the sweat of our brow.

But when we find love,we partake of heavenly bread and are made strong without labor and toil.The heavenly bread is Christ,Who came down from Heaven and gave life to the world.This is the nourishment of the angels.

The man who has found love eats and drinks Christ every day and hour and hereby is made immortal.;He that eateth of this bread,;He says,;which i will give him,shall not see death unto eternity.'Blessed is he who eats the bread of love,which is Jesus!He who eats of love eats Christ,the God over all,as John bears witness,saying,'God is love.'

Wherefore,the man who lives in love reaps life from God,and while yet in this world,he even now breathes the air of the resurrection;in this air the righteous will delight in the resurrection.

Love is the kingdom,whereof the Lord mystically promised His disciples to eat in his Kingdom.For when we hear Him say,'Ye shall eat and drink at the table of My Kingdom,;what do we suppose we shall eat,if not love?Love is sufficient to nourish a man instead of food and drink.

This is the wine that 'maketh glad the heart of man.'Blessed is he who drinks of this wine!Profligates have drunk this wine and felt shame;sinners have drunk it and have forgotten the pathways of stumbling;drunkards have drunk this wine and become fasters,the rich have drunk it and desired poverty;the poor have drunk it and been made rich with hope;the sick have drunk it and become strong;the unlearned have taken it and been made wise.

As it is not possible to cross over the great ocean without a ship,so no one can attain to love without fear.This fetid sea,which lies between us and the noetic paradise,we can cross with the boat of repentance, whose oarsmen are those of fear.

But if the oarsmen of fear do not pilot this barque of repentance wherewith we cross over the sea of this world to God,we shall be drowned in the fetid sea.Repentance is the ship,and fear is the pilot;love is the divine haven.

Thus fear sets us in the ship of repentance,transports us over the foul sea of this life(that is,of the world),and guides us to the divine port,which is love.

Hither proceed all that labor and are afflicted and heavy laden in repentance.When we attain love,we attain to God.Our way is ended and we have passed unto the isle that lies beyond the world,where is the Father,and the Son,and the Holy Spirit,to Whom be glory and dominion,and may He make us worthy of His glory and His love through the fear of Him.Amen.

Saint Isaac the Syrian