Tuesday, April 30, 2019

St. Raphael helps a pregnant woman

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! 
Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, the Newly-revealed Wonderworkers of Christ - Commemorated April 9th and on Bright Tuesday St. Raphael helps a pregnant woman

I wanted to write to you of a miracle that St. Raphael worked for me. My name is Eleni X. from Alexandria, Hematheias. In November 2011, I learned from my gynecologist that I was pregnant with my second child. My doctor told me to return the next month, in other words, December to listen to the baby's heartbeat.

The time passed, and the day came that we were to do the ultrasound to hear the baby's heartbeat. We went to the doctor, and he puts the ultrasound on, and looks here and there, and nothing. The sac was larger than last time, but it was empty. Nothing was there. My husband and I froze. We heard the doctor tell us that he couldn't hear the baby's heartbeat, and he couldn't see any embryo. He called us into his office, and told us that we had to proceed with induction, so that there would not remain any products of conception, because there was a danger of causing sepsis and death. It was Tuesday when all of this took place. We set up the appointment for Friday (three days later). Those days, we were very saddened. I therefore called one of the fathers of the Brotherhood of St. Raphael, Ano Souli, Marathon, whom I met over the telephone, and who supported me with his good words, and with his blessings and prayers. Full of pain, I related to him everything that took place, and I entreated him to pray for me and for my child. He gave me courage and strength. He said that I shouldn't loose hope, but that I should have faith in God and His Saints. He said that he would pray for me, but that I must pray as well, and entreat St. Raphael to take up the situation, and that I should say to St. Raphael: "O saint Raphael, go ahead in front of me, and I will follow you!" This I did. Friday came, and we went to the doctor to do the procedure. We reached the doctor's office. The doctor was in the operating room, because he had a delivery. As soon as he finished, I would go have the procedure. I waited a short time together with my husband and a friend of ours.

The phone rang, and it was the doctor, who asked his employee if I had arrived yet, and told him that he was ready for the procedure. Then, the doctor said to wait because he wanted to see me first, because he wanted there to be no doubt [of no heartbeat] before the procedure. The doctor came down, and again put on the ultrasound.

My husband was sure that there was no baby, and so he was waiting outside. The doctor put on the machine, and what did he see!

My God, the little heart of the embryo was beating normally, and even I could see it!! The doctor lost it. He looked again 2-3 times. He went out perplexed to go look at his computer to see my history. (How could he know that St. Raphael's had his hand in the matter).

After a short time, he entered again to the ultrasound, and called my husband and told us that the procedure couldn't take place, because there was a little baby, and its little heart was beating normally. My joy was so great that it couldn't be described with words. We were so happy. We left the doctor and our first thought was to go with our friend to light a candle to St. Raphael.

We thanked St. Raphael from within our hearts for the miracle that he worked. He is my patron Saint, along with the Archangel Michael and our Panagia.

He helps us daily with his presence. I will thank him my whole life! I thank you for everything, my Saint Raphael!

Note: St. Raphael, other than being a protector of many sick people, is also a protector of pregnant women, as many women had experienced this, and he frequently appears himself in a dream, telling them to call upon him to protect them and those children that they are bearing, that they might be helped to have a good delivery.

Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life! Truly the Lord is risen!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Difference between Buddhist and Orthodox asceticism....( Elder Sophrony )

- For a Muslim to become a Christian, he must wait until he receives great Grace, so that he is prepared to be martyred for Christ. If he does not receive this Grace, let him wait.

- Someone passed sequentially through Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and black magic. In all these religions at the same time he did magic. As soon as he became Orthodox, he wanted to practice along with this magic, but he was unable to do it. From this he realized that magic is the foundation of all religions and that religions are dead, their leaders are dead, but Christ is the living God.

- For many years exorcisms must be read for those who came from doing magic. This is what the early Church did.

- Buddhism has some truths, but it has one human truth, which reaches to "zero", that is, with concentration-meditation man reaches the non-being from which we came from. It is an existential suicide. Christ leads us to theosis, to communion with the Triune God.

- Some say that Buddhism has nothing to do with demonism. However, those who speak thus know Buddhism only from books and speak theoretically. Action is different.

- Some say that meditation brings them a certain peace. Externally this appears good, but these people are possessed by conceit and this results in carnal warfare. Even if they leave Buddhism, they again have carnal warfare. This shows the satanism of this method.

- There is a difference between Buddhist and Orthodox asceticism. In Buddhism they try to make a disclaimer and they reach nirvana. They confuse a reflection with mystical vision. They see created light with their mind. This was best done with Plotinus, in Neo-Platonism. The Fathers know this, and we can call it the "cloud of unknowing", but they went beyond this and reached the vision of the uncreated Light. Then they experience that the Light comes from a Person and not from an idea, and they feel a personal relationship with God and, at the same time, there develops a great love for God and the whole world until martyrdom and "self-hatred".

Elder Sophrony

From I Knew A Man In Christ: The Life and Times of Elder Sophrony, the Hesychast and Theologian

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

There is Salvation Only in Christ

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14: 6).

Christ Is the Way

At a moment in mankind's history which had been determined by God and foretold by prophets, about 2000 years ago, in the ancient nation of Israel, the Saviour of the world was born - Jesus Christ, the Messiah Who had been foretold by the ancient prophets.

At His Incarnation a great and unfathomable mystery came to pass. In the one Person of the Son of God there were united two natures: His Divinity, Which was before all time, and the humanity Which He assumed, so as to become like us in every way.

Living among men, Jesus Christ taught them by His Words and His own example to believe correctly and to live righteously. His public ministry did not last long, only three and half years, but it was extraordinarily full. His every word and act reflected His infinite wisdom, love and moral perfection. He shone like a brilliant light that had come to us from the ideal world above, a Light Which enlightens, and will continue to enlighten, every person who seeks goodness.

The teachings of Jesus Christ contained everything that people needed to know in order to live rightly; however, man had become morally weakened, so much so that he was unable to attain spiritual renewal by his own efforts alone. Sin had grown its roots too deep in human nature; evil had acquired such immense strength in all aspects of human life that men could not throw off its yoke by their own unaided efforts.

Therefore, out of unfathomable compassion for us sinners, and moved by His immeasurable love, the Righteous One took upon Himself the sins of all men - the sins of each one of us - and on their account offered a redemptive sacrifice on the Cross. With His most pure Blood He washed away our guilt before God; by His Death He conquered our death. Then, descending into the depths of hell, He, as Almighty God, freed and led out the souls of all those who wished to return to God and to live rightly. He took away Satan's power over men and set the day of his final condemnation in fiery Gehenna.

Why was it necessary to have such a terrible sacrifice as the shameful and excruciatingly painful death on the Cross of Christ, the God-Man? Was there not any other way for God to bring about man's salvation? These are mysteries which we cannot comprehend. We only know that Christ's redemptive sufferings, together with His glorious Resurrection from the dead, contain a power by which we can be born again. Through this great power, which overcomes all obstacles, any sinner, no matter how deeply he has sunk in the mire of vice, can undergo a complete spiritual renewal; he can become a righteous person, and even a great saint.

Forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, where He now abides as the God-Man. He is the Head of the Church, and together with the Father and the Holy Spirit He governs the world. On the fiftieth day after His Resurrection, Jesus Christ sent down the Holy Spirit on His Apostles and disciples and founded the Church, to which He entrusted everything needed for the salvation of believers.

If the Son of God Himself undertook to perform such extraordinary acts, coming down to the earth, taking on Himself human nature, suffering and dying the shameful and exceedingly painful death of the Cross, it is clear that there cannot be any way to salvation other than that which is offered to us by Jesus Christ.

Thanks to all that our Lord Jesus Christ did, everyone is now able to be freed from sins, to throw off the burden of passions, to be spiritually renewed and to start to live rightly, with the help of His grace. Anyone who wishes can now attain eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. The devil cannot stop us, unless we fall away from Christ through our own carelessness or lack of seriousness.

Thus, thanks to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, immortality and the bliss of paradise are not the dream of poets or the fantasy of philosophers, but a reality accessible to all. Everyone who wishes can reach the kingdom of heaven by following the path indicated by the Saviour, and by imitating Him as much as possible. He is the ideal of moral perfection, the supreme criterion of truth, the infallible spiritual authority and the inexhaustible source of inspiration.

Truly, He is our Way, Truth and Life! All other "great teachers" of mankind (such as Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, and including the founders of today's totalitarian cults) turn out to be poor parodies if they are set up in opposition to Christ, or if they are used in an effort to "correct" or "improve" what He said and did.

Christ Is the Truth

God the Father foreordained that men should find salvation through His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. All that Jesus Christ did and said is contained in the New Testament portion of the Bible, in what are called the Gospels, of which there are four. The Old Testament portion of the Bible contains the writings of the prophets who lived before the time of Christ. Their purpose was to prepare the human race to receive Christ as the Messiah, that is, the Saviour anointed by God. The books of the New Testament were written by the disciples of Christ, the Apostles, and set forth the teachings of Jesus Christ more fully and in greater detail.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, teaches that everything visible and invisible was created by God from nothing. First God made the invisible world of the angels (heaven), and then our visible or material world (earth). To crown His creation of the material world, God made man, adorning him with His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). The physical world was made by God not all at once, but in stages, which are called in the Bible "days." God did not make the world out of any necessity or need for it, but because of His all-good desire that other beings, created by Him, should enjoy the gift of life.

Being infinitely good, God made everything good, beautiful and pure. Just as the angels were, man was also predestined for eternal life and everlasting blessedness in a union of grace with His Creator. The Creator was pleased to honour man with His most precious gift, free will, in order that man might grow towards perfection in the moral life. By this gift God gave rational beings a dignity incomparably greater than the rest of irrational nature, but at the same time it was a test. Being a boundless ocean of love (1 John 4:8-12), God wanted us all to love Him with the purest and most selfless kind of love, as tender children love their caring father. It was His desire that we should run to Him because we ourselves wanted to do so, and that we should grow steadily towards perfection by imitating Him to the best of our ability.

In order for us to get to know Him more fully, God revealed to us that He is not simply Oneness (a monad), but Three-in-Oneness, or Trinity. This means that in God there is one divine nature or essence, but three free and rational Persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Who dwell in perfect harmony and love with one another. In the Deity, God the Father is the source of the divine nature which is common to all three; this is His hypostatic characteristic (what characterizes Him as a distinct Person). The Son was "begotten" from the Father before all time; the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father before all time; these are their hypostatic characteristics. The words "begotten" and "proceeds," however, do not carry any connotation of time. God was always the Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Since God is three in Persons, but One in essence, He desired that the human race which He created should also reflect His three-in-oneness to a certain degree. In other words, He desired men to live, not as isolated individuals, solitary "I's," but as "we," as an integral and cohesive society, held together by love, in which each one takes the joys or sorrows of his neighbour as his very own. This, of course, was the ideal intended by the Creator. This all-encompassing unity was not meant, however, to suppress the personalities of rational beings. On the contrary, just as in the Creator Himself each Person possesses His own personal qualities, which are beyond our comprehension, so too in human society each distinct person was meant to preserve his own individual and unique characteristics, his particular talents. This unity in multiplicity was the type of existence that man was called to live, first of all in family life, then in society and finally on the level of the whole human race.

As we have already said, sin did great damage to human nature. As a result, mankind was not only torn away from its Maker, but it was also broken into a multitude of individuals, who were mutually jealous and at odds. Jesus Christ intended to bring men back to the path of unity with their Maker and closeness with one another; therefore, He began His preaching with the good news, or glad tidings (which is the meaning of the Greek word Evangelion, or "Gospel"), that "the Kingdom of God is at hand." God is ready to forgive each one of us and to accept him as His son, on condition that a man believe in the Saviour Whom God has sent, accept His divine teachings and begin to live rightly. Everything that Jesus Christ did and said had the purpose of teaching people and inspiring them to start to live for God, for the good, for inner renewal. The kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ had to begin within believers, in hearts made new by love.

After His glorious Resurrection from the dead, and shortly before His Ascension into heaven, Jesus Christ revealed that He will come to the earth again before the end of the world. This Second Coming of Christ will not be like the first, when He came in the form of an ordinary man, as the merciful and compassionate Saviour. He lived in poverty and meekly endured all the reproaches of sinners. Before the end of the world He will come in His heavenly glory, as the terrible and just Judge, surrounded by a multitude of angels and saints, and He will give each one the reward of his deeds. Immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ the worldwide miracle of the resurrection of the dead will take place at His almighty command. The bodies of all the people who have ever lived on the earth will rise up out of the dust in the twinkling of an eye and will be reunited with their souls. At that time every man will be restored in his bipartite nature, in which soul and body form a single human being.

Let us recall that man was created for eternal life. Death, in the sense of complete annihilation or reduction to non-being, simply does not exist. What we call death is only the temporary separation of the soul and the body. When the body loses its life-giving principle, which is the soul, the body decomposes into the elements of which it was made up. The soul, the very personality of man, in a fully conscious and aware state, crosses over into some sphere of existence which is unknown to us, where it remains until the day of Christ's Last Judgement. At His Second Coming Christ will resurrect us in our twofold nature.

With the Second Coming of Christ the history of the human race will come to an end. The earth and everything on it, matter and the whole cosmos, will be subjected to fiery flame. Yet this fiery furnace will not be the destruction of the material world, but rather its transfiguration, as if in a smelter that removes all impurities. The physical world will be transformed into "a new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-2).

Christ will pass judgement not only on men, but also on the devil and his demons. This judgement will decide the eternal fate of every rational creature. All who did not wish to respond to God's love with love, all who did evil and spread falsehood, will be condemned to fiery Gehenna. This will be a "second death," which will not be annihilation, but rather complete separation from God in unending and fruitless sufferings.

On the "new earth," under the "new heaven," in the "new Jerusalem," a new life will begin, the happy and endless life which God foreordained from all eternity for those who love Him. There will be that true salvation, for which each man thirsts, thought not always knowingly. The purpose for which God in His boundless love created us will finally be realized.

Christ is the Life

The goal, then, of our earthly life is to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. To reach it our loving Creator requires of us only that we respond to Him with the kind of sincere, pure and selfless love with which He loves us.

Such love is a spring which flows from this temporal life into the beauty of eternal life. The reason for man's life is to become more and more like God and to draw nearer and nearer to Him. The substance of our life should be the continuous upholding of everything in us that furthers nearness to God and rejection of everything that takes us away from Him.

How can the fire of such love and such striving be kindled in the soul? Once it is lit, how can it be guarded, so that it is not allowed to go out, but rather, as much as possible, it is turned into the flame of salvation, which burns up all impurity in the heart? Man cannot do this by his own power, no matter how sincerely he desires it. The winds and waves of the passions are too strong, and they come from sources hostile to man: the world which lies in sin, the flesh which loves sin and the devil, the originator of all evil.

For salvation, therefore, it is necessary to cling to Christ with all one's strength, to become one with Him. Then His divine power and His love will fill our souls. They will protect, sanctify and strengthen us; they will lead us on the sure but narrow path to eternal life. Christ speaks thus about the necessity of staying with Him: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches. The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine" (John 15:5). In other words, authentic spiritual life, which brings forth good fruit, is impossible unless one is united in the closest possible way with the Source of spiritual strength - Christ.

The Need for the Church

The mystery of the Church, the kingdom of God - a mystery which is great and wise, surpassing our understanding - was brought into being by Christ in the following way. First, when He was baptized by John in the Jordan, at the moment when the Holy Spirit came down and the voice of the Father was heard, He sanctified the nature of water. By this act the water of Baptism became a conduit of God's grace, which gives a man new birth. Christ taught that a man is spiritually born and becomes a member of the Church only by being "born of water and of the Spirit" in the sacrament of Baptism (John 3:5).

Just as a newborn infant requires nourishment in order to grow, so also one who is born anew in the mystery of Baptism requires spiritual nourishment, which the Lord gives us in the sacrament of Holy Communion, of which He says: "I am that bread of life. ... The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. ... Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. ... He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me" (John 6:48-57).

At His Mystical Supper, the evening before He suffered on the Cross, Christ Himself first changed bread into His true Flesh and wine into His true Blood and gave Them in communion to His disciples, thereby showing them how the Sacrament of Holy Communion should be observed.

From that time on, the sacrament of Holy Communion has been celebrated at a divine service, called the Liturgy. Believers receive the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ and are thereby united with Him, and not in a purely abstract or mystical sense, but really and truly! The whole being of a man, spiritual and physical, partakes of the spiritual and physical life of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Love opens a path to spiritual closeness; moreover, in Holy Communion, while people are united with Christ, they are united with one another at the same time, and in Christ they become a single whole, a living organism, called the Church. This is why the Apostle Paul called the Church the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24).

Just as the Incarnation of the Son of God was accomplished by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary, so also the Church was founded on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus Christ sent from the Father to the Apostles on the fiftieth day after His Resurrection. Since that day the Holy Spirit has remained with the Church constantly, giving it life, illuminating it and cultivating it as a single living organism of the Body of Christ, consisting of many "members," faithful Christians.

There is something which must not be forgotten, especially in our times when Christianity is being split up into more and more churches and "jurisdictions." Man is called to be saved not by a mere mental acknowledgement of the truth of Christianity, and not merely by his own best efforts, but by belonging organically to the living body of the Church. Only in the Church, in this mystical Body of Christ, does the believer find correct spiritual guidance and the strength necessary for an authentically Christian life.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Christianity is a religion of revelation. ( St. Nektarios of Aegina )

Christianity is a religion of revelation.
 The Divine reveals its glory only to those who have been perfected through virtue. Christianity teaches perfection through virtue and demands that its followers become holy and perfect. It disapproves of and opposes those who are under the influence of the imagination. 
 He who is truly perfect in virtue becomes through Divine help outside the flesh and the world, and truly enters another, spiritual world; not, however, through the imagination, but through the effulgence of Divine grace. 
Without grace, without revelation, no man, even the most virtuous, can transcend the flesh and the world.

St. Nektarios of Aegina

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Demons and the Power of the Cross ( St. Paisios )

  Elder Paisios was asked the following regarding demons (called "tagalakia" by some Greeks) and the power of the Cross:

- Elder, my thoughts tell me that the devil, especially nowadays, has a lot of power.

- The devil has evil and hatred, not power. The love of God is all-powerful. Satan tries to appear all-powerful, but he does not succeed. He seems strong, but he is completely weak. Many of his destructive plans are spoiled before they even begin to be manifested. Would a very good father allow some punks to hit his children?

- Elder, I'm afraid of tagalakia(Demons).

- What is there to fear? Tagalakia have no power. Christ is all-powerful. Temptation is rotten to the core. Don't you wear a Cross? The devil's weapons are weak. Christ has armed us with His Cross. Only when we discard our spiritual weapons, then the enemy has power. An Orthodox priest showed a small Cross to a magician, which made the demon he invoked through his magic tremble.

- Why is he so afraid of the Cross?

- Because when Christ accepted the beatings, the slaps and the blows, the kingdom and power of the devil was crushed. By which way did Christ conquer? "With the rod the rule of the devil was crushed," says a Saint. That is, with the last blow of the rod to His head, then the power of the devil was crushed. Patience is the spiritual defense and humility is the greatest weapon against the devil. The greatest balm of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is that the devil was crushed. After the Crucifixion of Christ he is like a snake with its poison removed or a dog with its teeth removed. The poison of the devil has been removed, the teeth of the dogs, the demons, have been removed, and now that they are disarmed we are armed with the Cross. The demons can do nothing, nothing, to those who have been formed by God when we do not give them the right. They only cause a commotion because they have no power.

One time I was in the Cell of the Honorable Cross, and I had a very beautiful vigil. During the night many demons had collected on the ceiling. At first they were beating heavy and making noise, as if they were dragging large tree trunks. I made the sign of the Cross towards the ceiling and chanted: "We venerate Your Cross Master...." When I finished, the dragging of the logs continued. "Now," I said, "we will form two choirs. In one you will do the dragging above and I will do the other below." When I began, they stopped. First I chanted "We venerate Your Cross...", then "Lord, Your Cross you gave to us as a weapon against the devil...." I had the most pleasant night chanting and, when I stopped for a bit, they continued the entertainment! Every time they present a different work.

- When you chanted the first time, they didn't leave?

- No. Once I was done, they began. Yes, both choirs had to complete the vigil! It was a beautiful vigil! I chanted with longing! I had good days!

- Elder, what does the devil look like?

- You know how "beautiful" he is? Something else! If only you could see him! And how the love of God does not allow people to see the devil! O, the majority would die from their fear! Imagine if they saw him act, if they saw the "sweetness" of his form! Again, some would be greatly entertained. You know what kind of entertainment? How do they call it? Cinema? For anyone to see such work, they would have to pay a lot of money, but even then they would not be able to see him.

- Does he have a horn, a tail?

- Yes, all the accessories.

- Elder, did the demons become so ugly when they fell and the angels became demons?

- Well, of course! Even now it's as if lightning struck them. If lightning strikes a tree, will not the tree immediately become a black stump? They are the same way, as if they've been struck by lighting. At one time I told the tagalakia: "Come so I can see you, that I may not fall into your hands. Now that I am looking at you, your appearance shows how evil you are. If I fall into your hands, what evil I will suffer!"
St. Paisios

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Orthodox Spirituality & the Technological Revolution ( Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetras )

From The Authentic Seal: Spiritual Instruction and Discourses by Archimandrite Aimilianos, Former Abbot of the Holy Monastery of SimonoPetras, Mount Athos, Greece
A great deal is made nowadays of “the technological revolution”, as seen from both sides, those in favour and those who are very much against.In the realm of Orthodox theology, however, is there really any essential difference between the age-old problem of technology and today’s reality?We could, of course, talk about the last century with the industrial revolution and all its consequences- social, political, moral, religious and so on.When people speak of a new era in the history of mankind, of the third, technological revolution, are they not perhaps exaggerating the extent of the undoubted change in the conditions under which we live? Would it not be more realistic, instead of talking about a revolution, to recognize a process which began long before the industrial revolution and reached its culmination in the developments and consequences there of?

The basic feature which is new, however, in modern technology, is that it has turned everything on its head. While in former times people attempted to use science to improve their dominion over nature, it has now infiltrated into the very innermost laws of nature, with results likely to prove positive but also with terrible and limitless opportunities for intervention in these laws themselves. And where might this inversion bring us? To the further extension of these opportunities or to voluntary restrictions to ensure the sovereignty, dignity and survival of nature?

For this reason, the problem is not, in essence, , that of the relationship between Man and Nature, but rather that of our felicity in choosing among what might be infinite possibilities, so that we do not fall victim to the works of our hands. Why mention this? Because with justification we recall the words of Job: “She has hardened herself against her young, as though not bereaving herself, she has laboured in vain without fear” (Job 39:16). In other words, our era acts with harshness and indifference towards its children, as if they were not its own. And its indiscriminate and foolhardy attitude reduces every attempt and effort to naught, and, in the end, misfires.

Finally, it is not our function to note the revolutionary changes, but rather to point out to our contemporaries the true purpose of technology and to propose Orthodox theological and moral criteria.

Let us now see when technology begins.

A. Anthropology and Technology

Adam in Paradise was “naked in simplicity and artless in life” (Gregory the Theologian, PG 36, 632C), unclad and without “art”. His call, his essential occupation was contemplation, gazing upon God, sought and found in supervision of the tree of knowledge. Which is why He made Man “a farmer of immortal plants” (ibid.), so that through agriculture in Eden, he would be constantly occupied with God.

Technology, therefore, makes its appearance after the Fall.

Adam’s first-born son (Gen. 4:1-26), Cain, was a farmer; Abel was a shepherd; both of them, therefore, bound up with nature.

The third son, Enoch, became a mason and a builder of cities. Of the other descendants, Jobel founded the nomadic way of life. His brother, Jubal was the inventor of stringed instruments with the psaltery and harp. Thobel was a smith, forging iron and copper.

Finally, the son of God-fearing Seth, Enos, loyal to the name of God, set up the first public congregation, thus instituting the worship of God, so that all these technologist descendants of Adam could find both a place and means of gazing upon God and could work wherever they went, until they achieved dominion over the earth.

Through the blessings of God and wearisome toil, the gradual appearance of technology from agriculture through to industrialization thus provides Man with the opportunity to retain his position as lord over nature, despite the ancestral Fall. Technology is occasioned by Man’s powers of reason and is a way of compensating for his weakness, as against animals, which have sufficient strength to survive, as against the forces of nature, the necessities of life (Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 140D-144AB) and so on.

We might mention here that for the ancients and for Scripture, no distinction was made between art and artifacts (technology), which, if they corresponded to the needs of our nature, could hardly be foreign or hostile to “beauty”. Art precedes mechanics, being of greater necessity, while technology developed, not to serve the highest concerns of Man, but with the aim of greater production and profit.

In the course of its development, then, if Man is to live as overlord, technology in general must remain discreetly within a certain logical framework. It should not be an end in itself, but rather a disposition, a means to an end, and a conduit into the innermost laws and elements, not only of the earth, but of that which is above the earth. Because, according to Gregory of Nyssa, people have “an upright bearing, stretch up towards heaven and look upwards. In the beginning, these things and their regal worth are noted” (op. Cit.. PG 44, 140D-144AB).

B. Control Over Technology

The automation of the industrial age and, particularly, the information technology of the post-industrial age, together with the ecological crisis, pose a single question: Why should we be served by modern technology, which is a gluttonous idol of worship, a machine beyond our control? Why should the whole of our society be organized technologically, simply to feed the machine? A distinguished Russian hierarch (Filaret, Metropolitan of Minsk), for example, has revealed that the entire production of the enormous iron mines was put to no other purpose than to make new mining equipment for the same mines!

It is natural that the rapid progress in nuclear physics and in genetics should open up new scientific horizons, but also create problems and dangers for the human race, so it is obvious that there is an imperative need for moral intervention in the field of technology. What is worrying is the absurd and “carefree” optimism of many scientists and political agencies. According to them, technological development contains within itself the solution to the problems which it causes, and hence it ought not to be trammeled, so that “technical solutions” to the various problems can arise. For example, who can exercise control in an ideological regime, when they are deliberately seeking to create a type of technological man? The saying of Saint Paul applies here: “Let do us do evil, that good may come” (Rom. 3:8).

There are also those, on the other hand, who, using historical arguments and invoking our inability to predict the way in which inventions will evolve in future, reject all moral intervention.

Technology per se is not, of course, harmful, being the fruit of the reasoning and intellect of Man, who was formed in the image of God. But when, unrestrained and unbridled, it rushes headlong towards its destination, then it becomes Luciferous, though not bearing light but rather pitch darkness. The danger for us is the absence of accountability in the way in which technology is administered and exploited, a way which has as its aim the stifling domination of human life and the solution of problems by technical means, regardless of moral and metaphysical principles.

Finally, however, let us hear the voice of our Orthodox Tradition.

C. The Position of the Church Regarding This Particular Problem

The Church of Christ retains in unadulterated form the Orthodox Tradition, a real, unique force, on which it draws from its life and experience, as well as from a never-failing spring of asceticism and the voice of its treasury of monastic tradition, which is always profound and vital.

Monastic tradition can give applicable criteria of behaviour to the members of the Church as regards technology. The Church and monasticism are not hostilely disposed towards technological progress. On the contrary, monks over the centuries have proved to be powerful agents of scientific and technical invention.

In the Medieval West, the monks restored civilization, which had been destroyed in the barbarian invasions. The monasteries became focal points for the natural sciences, where mathematics, zoology, chemistry, medicine, and so on developed. The most important inventions of the monasteries formed the basis of industry. Likewise, through their reclamation of large tracts of land, the monks created the opportunity for agricultural development.

So that there would be no need for monks to miss services, our own saint Athanasios the Athonite built — on the Holy Mountain — a mechanical kneading device, which was driven by bullocks. This instrument, says the Life of the saint, “was the best, both in terms of attractiveness and art of manufacture” (Life of Blessed Athanasios on Athos, I, 179, Noret, p. 86, 1, 46). The same was true throughout the lands where Orthodox monasteries were established.

The Orthodox monastery always lived as an eschatological reality and a fore-taste of the Kingdom of Heaven, and was therefore also a model for an organized society with a way of life faithful to the Gospel, embracing human dignity, freedom and service to one’s fellows.

Given this, the holy Fathers subjected technology in the monastery to two criteria, as Basil the Great characteristically remarks concerning work and the choice of technical applications.

a) Restraint

With this criterion in mind, those technical applications are chosen which preserve “the peace and tranquility” of monastery life, so that both undue care and torturing effort are avoided. Let us have as our aim “moderation and simplicity”. For Basil the Great, technology is “necessary in itself to life and provides many facilities” (PG 31, 1017B), provided the unity of the life of the brotherhood is preserved, undistracted and devoted to the Lord.

In general terms, our watchword should be: “Let the common aim be the meeting of a need” (PG 31, 968B). And Saint Peter the Damascan adds: “For everything which does not serve a pressing need, becomes an obstacle to those who would be saved; everything, that is. which does not contribute to the salvation of the soul or to the life of the body” (Philokalia, vol. III, p. 69, 11. 32-34).

These principles are certainly not for monasteries alone. They could be guidelines for control over technology, unless we want to be exterminated.

b) Spiritual Vigilance

The most dreadful enemy created by post-industrial culture, the culture of information technology and the image, is cunning distraction. Swamped by millions of images and a host of different situations on television and in the media in general, people lose their peace of mind, their self-control, their powers of contemplation and reflection and turn outwards, becoming strangers to themselves, in a word mindless, impervious to the dictates of their intelligence. If people, especially children, watch television for 35 hours a week, as they do according to statistics, then are not their minds and hearts threatened by Scylla and Charabdis, are they not between the devil and the deep blue sea? (Homer, Odyssey, XII, 85)

The majority of the faithful of the Church confess that they do not manage to pray, to concentrate and cast off the cares of the world and the storms of spirit and soul which are to the detriment of sobriety, inner balance, enjoyable work, family tranquility and a constructive social life. The world of the industrial image degenerates into real idolatry.

The teachings of the Fathers concerning spiritual vigilance arms people so that they can stave off the disastrous effects of the technological society. “For the weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4), according to the Apostle Paul. Spiritual vigilance is a protection for everyone “containing everything good in this age and the next” (cf. Hesychius the Elder, PG 93, 1481A) and “the road leading to the kingdom, that us and that of the future” (Philotheos the Sinaite, Philokalia, vol. II, p. 275). Spiritual vigilance is not the prerogative only of those engaged actively in contemplation. It is for all those who are conscientiously “dealing with this world as though they had no dealings with it” (1 Cor. 7:31).

In the industrial era, people became consumers and slaves to things produced. In post-industrial society, they are also becoming consumers and slaves to images and information, which fill their lives.

Restraint and spiritual vigilance are, for all those who come into the world, a weapon made ready from the experience of the monastic life and Orthodox Tradition in general, one which abolishes the servitude of humanity and preserves our health and sovereignty as children of God.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Why do we judge our neighbors? ( St.Seraphim of Sarov )

Why do we judge our neighbors? 
Because we are not trying to get to know ourselves. Someone busy trying to understand himself has no time to notice the shortcomings of others. 
Judge yourself , and you will stop judging others. Judge a poor deed, but do not judge the doer. It is necessary to consider yourself the most sinful of all, and to forgive your neighbor every poor deed.
One must hate only the devil, who tempted him. It can happen that someone might appear to be doing something bad to us, but in reality, because of the doer's good intentions, it is a good deed. Besides, the door of penitence is always open, and it is not known who will enter it sooner , you, "the judge," or the one judged by you.

St.Seraphim of Sarov

Monday, April 1, 2019

He who does not know himself does not know God... ( St. Nektarios of Aegina )

He who does not know himself does not know God, either. And he who does not know God does not know the truth and the nature of things in general... He who does not know himself continually sins against God and continually moves farther away from Him. He who does not know the nature of things and what they truly are in themselves is powerless to evaluate them according to their worth and to discriminate between the mean and the precious, the worthless and the valuable. 
Wherefore, such a person wears himself out in the pursuit of vain and trivial things, and is unconcerned about and indifferent to the things that are eternal and most precious.

Man ought to will to know himself, to know God, and to understand the nature of things as they are in themselves, and this becomes an image and likeness of God.

St. Nektarios of Aegina