Thursday, February 27, 2020

What is the difference between desire and thought? ( Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi )

  Desire is the mood we have to do something, to ask for something is a movement of the heart, while thought moves in the area of the intellect.

First we desire and after this desire it is expressed internally through thoughts. Desire is the beginning, the root. By cutting off sinful desires we are essentially freeing ourselves from sinful thoughts.

This is why our Lord emphasized: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman with desire has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). He wanted to cut off the root of the passions.

Saint Gregory Palamas says that the intellect of the believer who struggles in prayer is easily purified of thoughts, just like the heart of a person (which is the power that produces thoughts), cannot be purified unless all the other powers of the soul, the appetitive and spirited, are purified.

Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi

Monday, February 24, 2020

God allows temptations so that they might rouse us to remember Him.( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )

God allows temptations so that they might rouse us to remember Him. When we call upon Him, He acts as though He does not hear us so that we multiply our supplications and cry out His holy name, in fear of the various passions.

Then, through the pain of the entreaties, our heart is sanctified, and through experience we learn the weakness of our lame nature. Thus we realize in
practice that without God's help we are not able to do anything.

If there were no temptations, pride and other passions would have turned us into other lucifers. But our good Father, God, allows afflictions
to come upon us so that we may be guarded by humility, which will lighten
the burden of our sins.

Counsels from the Holy Mountain, Elder Ephraim +

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Struggle with Bad Thoughts ( St. Paisios )

Nowadays people are losing their mind and do not understand what they do, the ground has slipped from under their feet. This happens because no one wants to control themselves, everyone wants to live to live uncontrollably, according to his own will. But this leads to total catastrophe, because, yes, God granted man the freedom to do what he wants, but He also gave him reasoning, so that he could understand his limitations and the boundary between the correct and the incorrect. When man acts presumptuously, without taking into account his infirmity, then he makes mistakes. Many people want to understand everything with the help of human logic, and they reject anything that their mind does not understand. Instead of being guided by faith and Divine grace, they are guided by their physical mind, and because of this, their social life fails. This is a terrible thing!"
Therefore, I advise people, who come to me for advice:
to realize their estrangement from God;
to repent it, and
to confess humbly

"…It is tragic that today, more than ever, people accept demonic suggestions and become demonized. They can free themselves of these suggestions only by following the advice, that I mentioned above."

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Dialogue With St. Paisios as He Faces Death

After spending time with my Father who at 98 is coming to terms with his mortality, I began to wonder how some of our Church Fathers would provide counsel in such situations. I found this account of Elder Paisios as He faced terminal cancer.

–– Geronda, the final diagnosis has been made. Your tumor is cancerous and it's aggressive.

–– Bring me a handkerchief so that I may dance to the song: "I bid farewell to you, O poor world!" I have never danced in my life, but now I will dance for joy as my death approaches. 

–– Geronda, the doctor said that first he wants to use radiation to shrink the tumor and then do surgery. 

–– I understand! First the air force will bombard the enemy, and then the attack will begin! I'll go up then and bring you news! Some people, even the elderly, when told by the doctor, "You will die," or "You have a fifty percent chance of surviving" get very distressed. They want to live. And then what? I wonder! Now, if someone is young, well , this is justifiable, but if someone is old and is still desperately trying to hang on, well, this I just don't understand. Of course, it's quite different if someone wants to undergo therapy in order to manage pain. He's not interested in extending life; he only wants to make the pain somewhat more bearable so that he can take care of himself until he dies –– this does make sense.
–– Geronda, we are praying that God may give you an extension on your life. 

–– Why? Doesn't the Psalmist say, "The days of our years are threescore years and ten?" 

–– But the Psalmist adds the following, "And if by reason of strength they be foreshore years..." 

–– Yes, but he adds the following, "Yet is their strength labor and sorrow," in which case it is better to have the peace of the other life. 

–– Geronda, can someone, out of humility, feel spiritually unprepared for the other life and wish to live longer in order to get prepared? 

–– This is a good thing, but how can he know that, even if he does live longer, he won't become spiritually worse? 

–– Geronda, when can we say that a person is reconciled with death? 

–– When Christ lives inside him, then death is a joy. But one must not rejoice in dying just because he has become tired of this life. When you rejoice in death, in the proper sense, death goes away to find someone who's scared! When you want to die, you don't. Whoever lives the easy life is afraid of death because he is pleased with worldly life and doesn't want to die. If people talk to him about death, he reacts with denial: "Get away from here!" However, whoever is suffering, whoever is in pain, sees death as a release and says, "What a pity, Charon has not yet come to take me... He must have been held up!"
Few are the people who welcome death. Most people have unfinished business and don't want to die. But the Good God provides for each person to die when he is fully matured. In any case, a spiritual person, whether young or old, should be happy to live and be happy to die, but should never pursue death, for this is suicide.
For a person who is dead to worldly matters and has been spiritually resurrected, there is never any agony, fear or anxiety, for he awaits death with joy because he will be with Christ and delight in His presence. But he also rejoices in being alive, again because he is united with Christ even now and experiences a portion of the joy of Paradise here on earth and wonders whether there is a higher joy in Paradise than the one he feels on earth. Such people struggle with philotimo* and self-denial; and because they place death before themselves and remember it every single day, they prepare more spiritually, struggling daringly, and defeating vanity.
* A way of life expressed through acts of generosity and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.

Reference: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Councils IV: Family Life, pp 274-276.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

A mother's letter to her unborn child

I write this letter to my unborn child from the depths of my soul.

You’ve entered my womb and made my life complete and whole.

I never thought I would be chosen for such an awesome task.

It is a greater blessing than what I ever could ask.

I can almost imagine you in my mind.

Beautiful, Happy, Bouncing, flashing a smile so kind.

Feeling you flutter is a sensation like no other.

It does wonders for the joy of this soon-to-be-mother!

You create a glow in me I never knew I would see.

It is true happiness that sets me on cloud nine manifested deep inside of me!

You’re my baby, my child, my heart, and my wonder.

I pray we create a bond that no one can put asunder.

You’re a designers’ original! A creation from the King!

I can hardly wait for you to enter the world and see the joy you bring.

Sweet baby of mine, you’re a magnificent gift from above.

Living proof of how your father and I have shared our love.

I hope you have your fathers’ eyes

Then you will go into the world able to look at all things wise.

I hope you inherit my ability to plan.

With that you will be able to face all things in life as a strong woman or man.

I hope you receive from your father his selfless ways.

For this the Heavenly Father will bless you, as he did him, all of your days.

I hope you learn from me, spirit and let no one take it.

Believe me you will need it in life, and many will try to break it.

But with that spirit you must have your father’s center.

With that you will be cautious of any door you enter.

I want you to have my curiosity.

There’s nothing wrong with questions you may blurt!

But receive your fathers’ discernment,

so you’ll know when to let go before getting hurt.

Have my big heart; know what emotions are and how to be real.

Share your fathers’ strength so you can handle what you feel.

Share my sense of humor! Laugh a lot it helps you through life.

Share your fathers’ sense of duty. Know how to be serious and take strife.

I’m emotional so I tell you its okay to blubber once and a while like your Mom.

But learn to develop what your father has; an excellent sense of calm.

But most of all the things I wish for your father and I to share.

I wish we teach you to love, respect, strength of mind, and to care.

These are my feelings, wishes and hopes for you.

You make my heart and soul sing!

I welcome you to the world and thank you for the joy,

my little queen or king.

Thank you God for this blessing .....

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Let us mirror ourselves in others ( St. Paisios )

A person can see himself better when he mirrors himself in others.God has granted each and everyone of us the virtue or gift that we each need for our particular progress,regardless whether it is actually used or not.If the gift is used,one can achieve perfection.The failings and defects also are ours; whether we acquire them from our own neglect or inherit them from our parents,each one of us must undertake the necessary struggle to be released from them.
Until we uproot our defects,we should mirror ourselves in the defects of others and examine where we stand.For other people are a mirror in which we see ourselves.For example,if we see a certain failing in another person,we should immediately say,"Let me see,could I possibly have this same defect also?"And when we see that we have it,then we can struggle to cast it out.

-But,Elder,if my thought tells me that I don't have this same defect,what should I say to myself ?

-You should say,"I have other more serious defects;this failing is very small compared to my own."For even if your failings and defects are sometimes smaller,you may bear greater responsibility for them.
By examining ourselves in this manner,we can see that we have greater defects than the next person.Then we can also take notice of the virtues of others."Let me see,do I have this virtue?No,I don't.Look at how far I still am from where I should be!"One who works this way stands to benefit from all things,changes for the better and achieves perfection.Such a person benefits from the Saints,from those who struggle,even from worldly people.
On seeing a worldly person who is selfless and sacrifices himself,one can be motivated to say,"do I have such philotimo? No,I don't,and I'm supposed to be a spiritual person!"And so he tries to imitate even the worldly person in whatever he sees in him.
Each one of us has a great deal of spiritual work to do.
Our Benevolent God wisely provides everything for our good.