Sunday, March 29, 2020

St. Nikephoros the Leper appears in midst of coronavirus

St. Nikephoros the Leper, who died in 1964, has appeared to certain faithful, saying that the Lord is with us during the coronavirus, and not to worry. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America writes:

"Already reports are coming in that the Archangel Michael has appeared to many people promising them his powerful help. Also, the newly-glorified Saint Nikephoros the Leper has appeared in Greece to a pious Orthodox serviceman and assured him that he will intercede for all who ask his prayers to be protected and healed from the Corona virus."

Father Ananias Kousteni relates the Saint's appearance to him in this video in Greek, HERE , reported in english HERE

Below are some selected hymns from the service of the Saint, the entire Paraklesis can be purchased HERE .

May St. Nikephoros intercede for us all.

Doxastikon of the Stichera in the Plagal of the Second Tone
The lover of piety, the fighter of the good fight, the cornerstone of patience, come let us honor the venerable Nikephoros together. For he passed through the fire and water of the scourge of leprosy, and passed on to joyous abundance. And in the furnace of trials you were shone to be bronze, shining more than gold, bestowing upon all souls the saving joy.

Doxastikon of the Aposticha in the Plagal of the First Tone
The heavenly ladder raised up through divine virtues, Nikephoros the heavenly-minded, who was reared well through the godly-wise instruction of the great teacher Anthimos. In struggles of righteousness, you were sanctified on the island of Chios in these latter years, and were shown forth unspeakably shining with sacred wonders for the whole church. With him [St. Anthimos], entreat Christ to make us also worthy of divine illumination in His Kingdom, as an incomparably compassionate Father.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Nikephoros the Venerable, through his struggles with leprosy, and his manliness in asceticism, astonished the Angels, for suffering as another Job, he endured, glorifying God, and now he is crowned with glory by Him, with wonders of discernment. Hail, O guide of monastics, hail, O covering of light, hail to you, from whose Relics pour forth joyous fragrance.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
As the bravest athlete of steadfastness, and the greatest diamond of patience, who was tried by the turmoil of affliction, and thus were glorified by God, let us honor Nikephoros the Leper, and crying out to him: hail, O namesake of victory.

You were shown steadfast in asceticism, O Nikephoros, and endured the pain of leprosy. And therefore in every manner you offered thanksgiving to Him, bringing forth praises from a clean heart, O God-bearer. Therefore we, inspired by your piety, in fervor cry out to you these words:
Hail, O strength of continence,
Hail, O Atlas of endurance.
Hail, you who endured the pain of the flesh with manliness,
Hail, you who came to know the beauty of the spirit in wisdom.
Hail, the type of the righteous, and diagram of monastics,
Hail, the guide of the faithful in divine virtues.
Hail, the pillar of light enlightening creation,
Hail, the lamp of the Church that gladdens souls.
Hail, the boast and beloved son of Crete,
Hail, the glory of Chios, and disciple of Anthimos.
Hail, you who through leprosy were purified more than gold,
Hail, you who kept faith towards Christ, your Bridegroom.
Hail, O namesake of victory.

On the fourth of this month (January), we commemorate our Righteous and God-bearing Father Nikephoros the Leper, who struggled with endurance on Chios in these latter years, and was made honorable in asceticism.

You wore the schema of Monks, O Nikephoros,
Becoming a type of ceaseless prayer.
On the fourth of January, the leprous flesh of Nikephoros was buried,
While his all-radiant soul passed to the heavens.

Doxastikon of the Praises in the Plagal of the First Tone

The most-sacred treasury of the All-Holy Spirit, more pure in virtues than snow, with Christ's meekness and humility of heart, the beloved friend, let us magnify Nikephoros. For in his soul he magnified the Lord, and chanted His sweet words by heart ceaselessly, becoming a mouth of consolation to all. Therefore, he was rightly honored by Christ, with the unspeakable fragrance of his Relics, ever gladdening those who venerate them, and who glorify his all-festal memory.

Come, O divine, Christ-loving multitude, let us adorn the friend of Christ, Nikephoros the Leper, with hymns of praise, as the perfect struggler of divine steadfastness.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Spiritual love is superior to the love between natural brothers and sisters (St. Paisios)

Spiritual love is superior to the love between natural brothers and sisters because one relates to another through Christ and not a common mother. Those who possess this pure (noble) love are full of kindness, because they have Christ inside them and the Godhead is depicted on their faces. Naturally, it is impossible for Christ’s love to enter within us unless we separate our self from our love, offer it to God and His images, and give ourselves to others without wanting them to commit themselves to us.

Those who suffer deeply for the salvation of the whole world and help in their own way (as strugglers) and humbly entrust themselves to the hands of God, feel the greatest joy in the world. Their life is a constant doxology, for they flutter about internally like angels, glorifying God day and night. Those, however, who neglect the salvation of their souls and try to find joy and rest in this vain life, are continually tortured and entangled in endless worldly machinery and live in hell in this life.

Those who have philotimo, because they move within the heavenly sphere of doxology, joyfully accept their trials as well as their blessings, and glorify God for them. Thus, they are continuously receiving God’s blessing from everything and are melting internally out of gratitude towards God, which they express in every spiritual way possible, like children of God.

Although the Good God gives us abundant blessings, acts always for our own good and has made everything to be of service to us and to be sacrificed for us, from plants to animals and birds, whether big or small, and even though God Himself sacrificed His life to redeem man, many of us remain indifferent and wound Him with our great ingratitude and insensitivity. And, all of this even though He has given us our conscience as an inheritance together with all His other blessings.

Conscience is the first law of God, which He deeply carved in the hearts of the First Created, and consequently, each one of us takes it as a "photocopy" from his parents when he is born. Those who have managed to sensitize their consciences through the daily study of themselves feel themselves estranged from this world; and, as a result, worldly people are dumfounded by their discerning behavior. Those, however, who do not examine their consciences are neither benefited by spiritual study nor by the advice of the Elders, nor are they even able to keep God’s commandments, since they quickly become insensitive.

Those who are sensitive and have philotimo, and who observe everything with precision, are usually wronged by the insensitive ones due to the constant concessions they make for them out of love. However, God’s love is always on their side. Oftentimes, they wrong themselves due to their hypersensitivity, overemphasizing their minor sins or bearing the burden of others’ faults; but once again, God comforts them with His heavenly kindness and, at the same time, strengthens them spiritually.

Those who wrong or wound sensitive people inwardly are not human.

Those who claim they are sensitive, loving, and discreet and endure the injustices of others, but say, "Let them receive theirs from God," are fooled by the deceiver without realizing it, since this is a way to curse politely. In this life everyone takes exams in order to pass on to eternal life, Paradise. It is my feeling that this polite curse is below the spiritual passing mark.

Those who wrong others wrong themselves eternally; those who joyfully accept the injustice of others are entitled to an eternal reward with interest.

Naturally, every person will be paid by the boss for whom he worked. Those who work for Christ shall receive a hundredfold now in this time and, in the world to come, eternal life (Mark 10:30); and those who work for the dark boss will receive darkness even now.

Those who work for Christ but are prideful pollute their virtues, just as fried eggs are contaminated when bird’s droppings fall on them. They then can only be thrown in the trash along with the frying pan.

All those, however, who work humbly, acquire virtues and share their hidden experiences out of humility and love, are the greatest benefactors, because they give spiritual charity and positively help souls which are weak and unsound in the Faith. Those who throw even their own selves to the world, out of love, after having driven out the world from within them, fly into Heaven and are not caught by the world.

Love with external poverty greatly assists in acquiring the inner poverty of the passions. These two kinds of poverty make man rich in God’s kindness.

Good people do not keep evil in their hearts, but neither do they keep their kindness to themselves. For this reason, they do not possess elegant things and are not moved by the world’s beauties. In this, their fervent faith in God as well as their great love is made manifest.

There is no man more intelligent than the merciful one who gives away earthly, perishable things and buys imperishable, heavenly things. Likewise, there is no greater fool in the world than the greedy one who gathers things continually and yet is deprived continually, finally buying hell with his collected savings. Those, naturally, who are lost in material things are totally lost, for they have also lost Christ.

Sadness and stress always dominate the person who is dominated by material things, for sometimes he fears that people will take away his possessions, and other times he is afraid they will take away his soul. The miser, whose hand has become numb from squeezing it too hard, has also constricted his heart and turned it into stone. In order to be cured, he must visit destitute people and sympathize with them, so he will be forced to slowly open up his hand. Consequently, his stony heart will soften and become humane, and thus the gates of Paradise will also open for him.

Kindness softens and opens up the heart, as oil opens a rusty lock.

Those who come close to people in pain, naturally draw near to God, because God is always by the side of His children who are in pain.

God spiritually strengthens His children who have philotimo, who help their fellow men carry their crosses, and He relieves them from their own crosses (trials).

Those who think about the heavy crosses of the righteous, never worry about their own small trials, for, although they have made more mistakes in their life, they suffer less than the righteous.

Those who suffer trials unjustly imitate Christ; and those who face hardships due to their sins are blessed, because they are forgiven their sins in this life.

Those who do not co-suffer with those in pain, suffer from a fatal spiritual illness: mercilessness. Those who are annoyed by the moaning of sick people and react angrily because they cannot concentrate, suffer from many spiritual illnesses.

Those who truly love and struggle correctly, can also endure with love, sacrifice themselves, and give rest to their neighbor, who is Christ.

Those who wish others to provide for them but offer nothing in return, are constantly asking things from God without giving anything to Him, not even their sins (by repentance). Such people are completely estranged from God and deliver themselves of their own accord into the hands of the manslayer (the devil). Because they have only cultivated love for their own selves, it follows that great anguish will then develop in them and that they will suffer hell, in part, already in this life.

Those who do not put themselves in the place of their suffering fellow man are deserted by God, experience a terrible fall, and learn to feel pain. Those, on the other hand, who feel compassion, care for other people, and ignore their own selves, are protected by God and are looked after both by God and by men.

When someone gives his heart to God, then the mind of this man is also seized by the love of God. He is indifferent towards worldly things and continually thinks about the Heavenly Father, and being divinely in love, he glorifies his Creator day and night like an angel.

Merely the thought of God’s benevolent acts is enough to make the heart of a person who has philotimo break; yet even more so, when he thinks of his numerous sins and the great mercy of God.

Those who struggle and sense their sinfulness as well as God’s loving-kindness and who trust in His great mercy, elevate their souls to Paradise with great confidence and little physical effort, if they have good intentions.

People who struggle hard, with much devotion, and have reached the angelic state to a certain extent and are nurtured with celestial honey, nevertheless offer nothing significant to God compared with what He has offered us. For they eat honey while offering Him wax. They eat sweet fruits and offer God tree resin with the censer. Therefore, we do nothing and offer nothing to God, compared with His great loving-kindness. For, while the Good God produces beautiful fruit with our rubbish or even with manure, in order to feed us, we wretched people turn beautiful fruit into manure.

As the kindness of God renders everything useful for a good purpose, so too must we, His creatures, make good use of everything in order to be benefited and benefit others.

Kind people naturally derive benefit even from their fellow men’s failings, for they use them as a strong brake on themselves in order to take care not to be derailed. But those who are deceitful, unfortunately, are not benefited, not even by other people’s virtues, because they interpret them with their wily lexicon, being darkened by the gloom of the manslayer. They spiritually wrong themselves and others, and are always upset and continually upset others with their spiritual darkness; whereas, actual cloudy weather causes sadness only to people who suffer from grief.

Kindness is one of God’s many qualities; therefore, it always spreads joy, drives away the clouds, and opens up hearts like the spring sunshine which makes the earth blossom. It even warms up snakes and takes them out of their cold holes so they, too, can enjoy God’s kindness.

Ill-tempered people are always strangled by thoughts, and with their frozen hearts they freeze and choke afflicted people who have come to them for consolation. Good-tempered people, on the other hand, with their spiritual (noble) love, being contrite with pain, strangle demons, liberate souls, and spread divine consolation to their fellow men.

Fervent spiritual love renders sensitive people more sensitive, and makes insolent ones more insolent.

An orphan, especially if it has lost its mother, and even if it is a little porcupine, must be embraced with pain and fervent love, so as to first feel warmth, take courage, and open up its heart.

The fervent love of Christ nourishes more than any other material food and gives many calories to the soul and body. Oftentimes, it even cures incurable diseases without medication and brings rest to souls.

Those who do not sacrifice their physical health for the love of Christ, scorning their bodily rest, will not find spiritual rest, either in this life or in the next, eternal life.

Those who, out of pure love, sacrifice even their own lives to protect their fellow men, imitate Christ. These people are, of course, the greatest heroes, because even death trembles before them, since they defy death out of love. Thus, they triumph with immortality, and, taking the key to eternity out from beneath the gravestone, they proceed freely to eternal blessedness.

It is preferable for a sensitive person to be himself killed once, out of love, in order to protect his fellow man, than to cop out or back out and be constantly slaughtered by his conscience for the rest of his life.

Sacrifice for our fellow man conceals our great love for Christ. Those who have good intentions to give alms, but have nothing and on this account are afflicted, give charity with the blood of their hearts.

Those who want to be martyred for the love of Christ when martyrdom is not an option, can manifest this love that burns within them through bodily asceticism for the sake of the souls of the reposed which are burning, so that these souls will find a little rest.

Indifferent and merciless people, who think only of their own selves, insensitively satisfying themselves, simultaneously fill their hearts with much anguish. Within them works the little worm of a troubled conscience, and they are tormented already in this life. Merciful people, on the other hand, since they are always filling others with love, are always filled with the love of God and His abundant blessings…

St. Paisios

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Yoga is incompatible with Christianity

“Yoga” is the ancient Sanskrit term for the physical practice used to develop Hindu spiritual disciplines. The word yoga means “yoke” or “spiritual union,” indicating the innate spiritual nature of the practice. Thousands of years old, yoga teachings are detailed in the Vedas, or sacred Indian texts. These teachings include polytheism (worshiping many gods and goddesses), monism (a belief that all things in the universe are one, without distinction), reincarnation, karma, idol worship, and the goal of realizing one’s own divine identity. Many of these teachings are also prevalent in Buddhism and the New Age Movement. Because these beliefs are incompatible with the teachings of Christ, embracing the practice of yoga is contrary to Christianity. Simply put, to practice yoga is to practice an important element of Hinduism and/or New Age beliefs. 
Most people in yoga fitness classes do not understand the roots and purpose of yoga and therefore do not understand all they are participating in. While we respect the freedom others have to observe their religious practices and beliefs, it is important for us to become aware of the truth, in order to avoid activities that are contrary to and at odds with the Christian faith. Let us take a look to see how Christianity and yoga are two conflicting opposites.There are two fundamental teachings of Christianity: i) There is one God, the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Who created the universe, and ii) The second Person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Son of God, became man—Jesus Christ—Who is God. Yoga is predicated upon the belief in many gods; that is, in many false gods; more correctly, in many evil spirits—which is idolatry.
Christians worship Jesus Christ as their God and Savior. Yoga offers worship to spirits and deities within the Hindu pantheism.Christians call upon the name of Jesus Christ to receive grace and blessings. Yoga calls upon the names of spirits and deities within the Hindu pantheism to seek demonic energy and power.Christianity teaches that God is the source of all good things: “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights” (James 1:17); furthermore, Christ taught us that without Him, we can do nothing: “For without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Yoga teaches that man himself has power hidden within himself, and that man himself is at the center of the universe.All this becomes apparent when we examine the various elements of yoga.
Chanting Mantras
 “A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of ‘creating transformation.’” Mantras are commonplace in yoga. Two of the most commonly know are Aum/Om and So’ham. The first sound invokes the name of a Hindu false god, while with the second phrase man professes himself to be God. Aum/Om: “The popular Aum chant is fully described in the Hindu scriptures and is synonymous with the Hindu Deity Ganesha.” Deepok Chopra, M.D. explains it this way: “The primordial vibration Om (or ‘aum’) is considered the most sacred sound in Hinduism and Buddhism ... People have used Om as a mantra since ancient times, chanting the sound or silently repeating it in meditation to expand their awareness of the divine. In the Yoga Sutras, the philosopher Patanjali states that the repetition of Om, along with a deep contemplation of its meaning, is a direct path to enlightenment ... The symbol is also incorporated into the design of all Hindu temples and family shrines. In the Western world, repeating Om at the beginning and end of yoga classes is common, and more and more people are using the sound as a mantra for meditation and sacred ceremonies.”So’ham: According to Yoga for Dummies, “The mantra so’ham” (pronounced so-hum) means ‘I am He,’ that is, ‘I am the universal Self.’ It is repeated in sync with breathing: so on inhaling, ham on exhaling.” 
Chanting in Sanskrit – 
Many yoga classes feature chanting at the beginning or ending of class. The chanting is done in the ancient language of Sanskrit, so most participants have no idea what they are saying. There are many chants, but portions of common chants offering worship to Hindu false gods are translated below:
  I bow to Lord Shiva, the peaceful one who is the embodiment of all that is cause by the universe.52. I bow to the lotus feet of the gurus, the awakening happiness of one’s own self revealed; beyond better, acting like the jungle physician; pacifying delusion, the poison of samsara ... to Pantanjali, I salute.
6Wikipedia, Mantra Classical Yoga Hindu Academy, Deepak Chpra M.D., What Does Ohm Really Mean?, George Feuerstein, PhD, Larry Payne, PhD, Yoga for Dummies, p. 3174 Yoga Journal, The Beginner’s Guide to Common Chants, Wikipeida, Astanga Vinyasa Yoga,

Body Positions to Channel Energy 
 There are specific hand, body, or eye positions in yoga called yoga mudras. Yogis believe that by forming these positions, one can direct the flow of energy. These positions are utilized by skilled yogis to induce alternate states of mind and consciousness. Through these positions, unfortunately, a person surrenders himself to and receives a seal from a demonic spirit. Whereas, Christians have surrendered themselves to Christ and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit through baptism (Eph. 4:30). An article in Yoga Journal explains,“Fingers and toes are charged with divine power, which, when intelligently accessed and properly applied, can intensify the transformative power of the practice...Symbolically, a mudra seals or ‘stamps’ the mark of the god or goddess on the practitioner much like a signet ring stamps an impression on soft wax, signaling her complete devotion and self-surrender... some texts claim, mudras confer magical powers on the practitioner, such as healing others’ illnesses (and maybe even exacting revenge on enemies) and assisting in the awakening of kundalini.” Kundalini Yoga is a particular type of yoga that aims to 7develop spiritual awareness by freeing the serpent power (kundalini) that is coiled in the base of the spine through exercises and meditation that draws it upward through the seven chakras (energy centers).
 The concept of chakra originates in Hindu texts and is in yogic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The Chakras are thought to be the seven main energy centers in the body that are located along the spine starting at the base and running upwards to the crown of the head. They believe the chakras can become blocked, and that by practicing poses that correspond to each chakra, you can release these blocks and clear the path to higher consciousness. It is also believed that with the healing of each chakra comes the gift of certain powers. This comes from the University of Metaphysical Sciences: “In addition to its connection to the body, the third eye chakra is also highly related to the spiritual realm. This chakra is said to be associated with the ability to experience and even see into other dimensions during meditation. When the third eye chakra is awakened during meditation, a number of abilities are said to open up including higher cognition, remote viewing, intuition, telekinesis and telepathy. Inasmuch, psychic powers are often said to be related to this chakra.”8 Richard Rosen, Seal the Deal, Yoga Journal, University of Metaphysical Sciences, Understanding the Third Eye,

Yoga poses are often sequenced to unblock the chakras, and meditation on the chakras in yoga class is commonplace. There are many dangers associated with kundalini rising through the chakras, including psychological disturbances. Numerous websites, written by those who have experienced kundalini rising, are devoted to describing the dangers of this practice.
Yoga Meditation   
Yoga uses various meditation techniques to access magical and demonic powers from evil spirits. The Transcendental Meditation technique is based on the ancient Vedic tradition of enlightenment in India. It is believed that, through yoga meditation, one can open the chakras that lead into yogic powers (siddhis). According to traditional sources, the five siddhis of yoga and meditation are:
Knowing the past, present and future. Tolerance of heat, cold and other dualities. Knowing the minds of others. Checking the influence of fire, sun, water, and poison. Remaining unconquered by others There are also other powers that can be achieved. “These powers include items such as clairvoyance, levitation, bi-location, becoming as small as an atom, materialization, having access to memories from past lives, etc.” The desire for such powers is contrary to the teaching and spirit of Christ and the Gospel, which instructs us to humble ourselves and to keep God’s commandments.
Announcement by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece
“Yoga constitutes a fundamental principal of Hinduism, it contains a diversity of beliefs, branches, applications, and inclinations, and it does not constitute a simple form of exercise; consequently, it is completely incompatible with our Christian Orthodox Faith and has no place in the life of Christians.”

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Do not envy sinful people - Salvation of Sinners

Animals, such as cows, that are raised in order to be slaughtered and butchered are allowed to graze and eat freely, and they are fed to be fattened. Conversely, animals that will be used for work or provide some service to man are trained, disciplined, and kept an a strict diet. This is what God does as well. He allows malicious people in this present life to grow fat as they indulge in carnal pleasures and sinful enjoyments because
such unfortunate people will finally end up in eternal Hell.

On the contrary, He tests and disciplines virtuous and righteous people in order to keep them in His heavenly mansion forever. Fruit-bearing trees that yield a crop and produce a bountiful harvest are pruned, they are sprayed with pesticides, and have
heavy weights attached to the end of their branches, which bend and pull the branches
downward. All these harsh measures, however,
are conducive to the tree bringing forth fruit.

Conversely, trees that do not produce fruit and are of no value to man are neither pruned nor clipped like fruit-bearing trees. However, once such trees grow and reach maturity, they are cut down,
completely uprooted from the ground, and subsequently used as firewood. This is what happens with man in this world as well. Virtuous people who produce useful and good works receive sorrows and lashes, whereas the
Righteous Judge does not punish evil and sinful people here because He is waiting to consume them eventually in the fire of Hell.

The prosperity and good fortune of ungodly people is actually a severe misfortune! For when such people observe nothing bad happening to them and that they are not punished in any way, they shamelessly and impudently proceed to carry out even greater sins and worse crimes. 

Furthermore, when such a person remains
undisciplined, it is a sign that he will be punished and condemned, because the enemy does not disturb or assault his own friends. Thus it is apparent, just as we have illustrated above, that the more God loves someone, the more He allows one
temporarily, and for the time being, to experience discipline that is beneficial and ultimately life, saving for the soul.

from The Salvation of Sinners

Monday, March 2, 2020

What is the path into the Kingdom of Heaven ( Saint Innocent Bishop of Alaska )

The road into the Kingdom of Heaven was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was the first one who traveled it. The Bible teaches that only he who follows Jesus can reach His Kingdom. But how can one follow Him? Hear what our Savior says about this: Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mark 8:34).

The words whoever desires mean that Christ does not compel anyone to follow Him. He has no need of the unwilling ones, but He desires that each person freely follow Him. Consequently, only those who willingly choose the Savior’s path reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christian! Your salvation or perdition is entirely in your own hands. In His unspeakable wisdom and love, the Lord has given you freedom to chose what you wish, and He does not force you to do anything against your will. Therefore, if you truly wish to follow Jesus Christ, He will show you the way into the Kingdom of Heaven and will help you along each step. If you do not wish to follow Him, it is your decision. But take care not to disdain the grace of God! Pitying you, Jesus Christ knocks for a long time at the door of your heart, waiting for your decision to save yourself. But woe to you if He, tiring of waiting, turns His face away from you, as a hopeless son or daughter of perdition. Then no one, neither the most powerful and influential person, nor all the angels in heaven, will be able to help you!

That is why it is extremely important to nourish in ourselves the desire and resolve to follow the path of salvation. To make this desire grow in us and strengthen our resolve, we must learn where the path Christ showed us leads and how to follow it. These questions are of such extreme importance we will discuss them in detail.

1. First of all, a Christian must thoroughly study the foundations of the Christian faith. To that end, you must read and reread the Holy Scriptures on a regular basis, especially the books of the New Testament. You must not only learn their contents but also develop an interest in their origin, who wrote them and when, how they were preserved and have been handed down to us, and why they are called Divine and Sacred. You must study the Holy Books with simplicity of heart, without prejudice or excessive inquisitiveness, not trying to discover hidden mysteries but trying to learn that which leads us to self-improvement. Certainly all that is necessary for us to know for our salvation is revealed quite clearly and in detail in the Scriptures.

It is important also to study our God-given faith in detail, since he who is indifferent toward truth is in danger of becoming easy prey for false teachers. It is so sad that many Orthodox Christians perish simply because of their disregard for Christ’s teachings. Having access to the light, they wander in the dark.

The studying of the faith should conform to your aptitudes and knowledge. For instance, for the serious student, in addition to studying the Scriptures, it is also useful to become familiar with the works of the Church Fathers and with the historical and theological books written by other Orthodox authors. These books will help you to comprehend your faith more deeply, which in turn will give you an opportunity to strengthen others in the Orthodox faith, to whom these books are unavailable.

2. When you become convinced that our Orthodox faith is based on Holy Scriptures and is not invented by people and that the Holy Scriptures contain the true word of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit through prophets and apostles — accept it with all your trusting heart. Believe the Holy Scriptures without doubt or philosophizing, pushing aside all heretical explanations. If you humbly accept Christ’s truth, then your faith will become strong and will lead you to salvation.

3. Finally, try to nourish a diligence in yourself to follow that which is taught by the Holy Scriptures. But if you do not have such diligence, fall down before the Savior and with a sincere prayer ask Him to send you a zealous wish to live according to His commandments. Then, when the grace of God starts leading you toward salvation, follow it, valiantly repelling the snares of the devil, who will attempt to detract you from Christ’s path.

To illustrate what was just said about the path into the Kingdom of Heaven, let’s assume that unexpectedly you became the sole heir of a rich relative. This relative, before dying, willed his magnificent mansion on the top of a picturesque mountain to you. Loving solitude, he had not built any roads but reached his mansion by a trail. In order to help you take possession of the property, he left you a map of the mountain, indicating the correct trail on it. The mountain has many other trails, none of which reached the mansion; some lead to a dead end, and others to a steep cliff. Therefore, in order to reach your mansion, you have to take the trail indicated by your loving relative.

Prudence would suggest that, before undertaking such a trip, you should carefully study the map of the mountain, obtaining all the necessary supplies for the climb and being prepared to spend the night on the mountain, if necessary. It would be good to ask a ranger about landmarks on the mountain and how best to avoid losing your way or straying from the correct trail. Certainly, being a person with common sense, you would make all necessary preparations before setting off on this new trail.

Similarly, to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, we should determine which path leads to it, how not to falter, what we must beware of, etc. Our map is the Holy Scriptures and other Orthodox books; the rangers are the pastors of the Church, whose duty it is to help the faithful on their way toward Paradise. The provisions are the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, which reinforce our spiritual strength. Sometimes the path leading to Paradise may become narrow, steep and overgrown with bushes, whereas other paths may seem wider and easier to travel. It is very important not to stray from the correct path. The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles repeatedly warned that there is but one path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven, the one given in the Gospel. All others, especially the wide and comfortable ones, lead to perdition.
Saint Innocent Bishop of Alaska