About our hypocrite formalism

God makes many concessions in our life and He doesn’t take into account that we have sinful inclinations and most of us are just some big hypocrites, some formalists with a pretended piety. So I stay and wonder: with what kind of soul I will stand before God and what kind of concession can God make for me? Christ was taken up to heaven with his garment reddened by our faithlessness, with His suffering out of love for the fallen man…

But what about me? What shall I go with when I ascend to God? What holy and pure inclinations shall I have when I separate from my body? With the hypocrite formalism which was ingrained in us as a second nature?

It is enough if you look carefully around and notice how everything becomes secularized. What means secularization?

They usually say that secularization means to confiscate something, for instance the secularization of the church assets. But what means secularization of the mind, for example, of the mind in what relates to eternity, to the immortality of the soul? Secularization means in this respect a wrong idea about salvation.

We are made to accept sick and wrong ideas about salvation…We got quite used to repent physically. But in this case the body revolts itself. If we act driven by a wrong thought in our work for salvation, then what we get  is only disgust and boredom of repentance. The grace of God is not with us in our so-called exertion, because we have too many worldly thoughts in everything, too many sinful and bad wishes…In this way we lose the pure zeal after God.

But for God, being sinless, I think that was easy to be among wickedness and what kind of wickedness: among those who had in one hand the law and in the other one the misdeed. Caiaphas, Annas and all the Pharisees and scholars didn’t they know the law? Didn’t they know that Messiah was to come? They knew it very well, but what was their delusion? What we experience too nowadays: the outward formalism, this worldly hypocrisy, the abuse of wealth, richness, vainglory. All these were hidden and have been hiding till today behind a false piety. And what did it finally come out of this false piety? The crucifixion of the Savior. We hear Caiaphas saying: …”You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John, 11, 49-50). Instead of coming out of his mouth the holiness, it came out what was found in such people: the desire for revenge and the spirit of rebellion, the desire to get high dignities.

Today, maybe unconsciously, it is given the greatest importance exactly to this thing.Who realizes that it is not that easy to ingrain the virtues in the soul and it is required a right, Orthodox strive. God let Himself be crucified by the people who were supposed to have and practice holiness, but they showed only their sinfulness.

I remember the case of Martin Luther when he left Germany and went to Rome. He thought that in Rome was the heaven, meaning that in Rome was living Saint Peter’s successor and holiness had to be at a very high level. At that time the Catholics wanted to build St. Peter’s Cathedral and they started to propagate the indulgences, meaning that the more someone paid, the faster his sins were forgiven. For instance if you had killed someone (in the XVIth century the murders were quite spread in the West and not only there) then you had to give this number of money bags. Luther seeing this and being a rationalist (rationalist theology, not with the heart, but with a sick mind) said to himself: I shall go to our pope and tell him:”See what our priests are preaching.” And when he saw what happened in Rome he said:”When I was in Germany I said that in Rome is the heaven but now I say that if there is a hell, then Rome is at its gates!” Why was he saying this? Corruption, debauchery, misdeeds, simony were all rampant, but apparently they were all full of repentance.

And today let’s ask ourselves: what follows us? What do we have in our soul? What virtue was ingrained in me as a second nature and I practice it for my salvation? And then I see that what we do, we rather do it ostensibly, wanting to buy honors from people, to see that everybody speaks well about us and praises us… But where’s our hidden work for salvation then?

The Jewish people accepted and sought foreign laws, from the pagan peoples. Nowadays we too love the darkness more than the light. We won’t be pointing with the finger who but so many of us deny and neglect Orthodoxy and we seek examples and things unworthy to be followed, embracing all the religions of the world, accepting traditions, sinful desires against nature and even governmental laws legalizing passions that are actually named  as human rights. Why? Because we have a secularized mind, inclined too much towards the material world, we are too much willing to serve exclusively the body.

But how will we educate the generation of tomorrow? Despite all the poverty and discontent that make us complain daily we see that we strive to give everything  to our children: education, occupations, a better future, good housing, food etc. And we’ll make them be educated and rich and with dignities, but I’m afraid that we won’t be able to teach them the fear of God.

We don’t know how to enrich them in God because we are ourselves impassive  when it comes to follow and learn everything is holy. It is painful but we are hypocrites.

Today many are soaring to change things for better but they don’t see they should start the change from their own life. Some even pretend they are defenders and confessors of Orthodoxy and they don’t have such clean hands and they go against the evil with evil weapons , meaning that they fight against the one who controls them too. Man do you defend and confess the Truth? With what? What is your virtue? What passion did you defeat first? What is your level of purity, illumination and theosis?

We call ourselves Orthodox Christians…Let’s think what and who can people see in us? Blessed Jerome answers to this question in some very inspired words:”You should see in the Christian struggler more faces: a hermit, a father, an uncle – from whom you learnt how to practice what is holy…”

Protodeacon Ioan Munteanu

 

From the tradition of the Holy Mountain

An elder said: Today in the Holy Mountain there are many people, roads, modern things that didn’t exist before.

In those times there were footpaths and pavement and the monk walked to all the places they wanted to go. Those who had work made by themselves carried it on their backs to Karyes for selling it. Peace reigned everywhere. There were many monks and a few worshippers.

What has changed us is the increased number of worshippers and the modern worldly things. The word worshippers is not fit for nowadays. You usually find only a few worshippers and the rest are all tourists. They seemingly come for blessing, but because here things are cheap, they say to themselves, let’s go to the Holy Mountain.

Before in the Holy Mountain it was forbidden for the worshipper to enter with short sleeved or sleeveless shirts. They sent you out if you did not have long sleeves. The same thing happened if you had long hair. They went to the Holy Community and if someone had an inappropriate appearance, they sent him back with the next ship. Now even in front of the Protaton, in front of the Supervisory Committee (Hiera Epistasia) there are sleeveless laymen. Today the visitors don’t go to the Supervisory Committee and are not controlled.

Long time ago here at Karyes all the cells were dwelled by important elders. All the representatives lived at their mansions and at the Protaton the pews were filled by elders with white beards that inspired respect.

At that time the Supervisory Committee had power and order reigned everywhere. If there occurred any disorder we informed the Supervisory Committee and they acted immediately.

When I came to become a monk, fifty years ago, I had been having a year as a novice, but I hadn’t gone yet to the market from Karyes. At that time the novices and the young monks didn’t speak. They did their work and fulfilled their tasks in silence and they didn’t utter a word. How dared you talk then? While today you find talks everywhere. The monks of today don’t have anymore patience.

I remember that aforetime someone used to go to a monastery, to a cell. He tried then stayed. He didn’t leave, he stayed till the end. Of course they faced temptations, but they had patience. Today at the slightest temptation they leave. Then they take an abandoned cell, they roam the world and collect money, they repair it and they make their own life. But this is not monastic life.

Our days are short and we shall leave. But I don’t think the situation will change, it wouldn’t get back to what it was before. We are heading to something worse. You, the young monks, should be patient and obedient as much as you can, cause these things began to disappear from the monks of nowadays.

In 1961 in Karyes there was no car. Now their number increased and we lost our peace. We lost our piety and our spiritual life. Unfortunately now the love, the mercy and the justice of yore have disappeared.

There is no more authentic monastic spirit. Even if someone had a shortcoming, you noticed it. Today we hide and we pretend that we are saints.

A while ago the shops waited till the Holy Liturgy was over and then they opened till noon. In the afternoon they were close. This was a concession, it is mentioned in the Regulations of the Holy Mountain. At that time there were many workers in the forest and there were no cars to come and buy.

The workers came on Sunday at the Protaton, attended the Holy Liturgy and then they bought what they needed and went to their huts from the forest.

A while ago the young monks were not allowed by their starets to get out of their cells. Only on Sundays they went to the religious service from the Protaton and at the procession that was made with the icon Axion Estin. When there were the

feasts at the celebration of 1000 years from the foundation of the communal life in the Holy Mountain, the young monks didn’t get out of the cell.

This harshness towards the young monks was coming out of love, in order to protect them and teach them the monastic life, in order to make them get a good standing. Today we are shocked by the boldness of the young monks. A while ago at the liturgies we made at our cells, we didn’t speak at the supper we had at their end. The young monk must speak little, listen more and never express his opinion. But today it happens quite the contrary with the young monks.

Excerpt from the book From the ascetic and hesychast tradition of the Holy Mountain – Evanghelismos Publishing House, 2016

A hermit said…

A hermit said:

If you pay everything you owe in this life, then you are saved. If you receive even more, then you get an extra coin. If someone is beaten unjustly, then he gets a higher reward. Thus many times people who live a very good life face the worst of hardships. If God allows that, why does He do it?

Let me give you an easy example. There is a very good family. The man is very good, the woman is very good too and the children are all very good as well. They all go to the church and partake of the Holy Communion. All of a sudden, someone who is drunk or mad passes by them, hits the man and kills him. After that the people who are farther from God start to say: “Look!” “He was walking with the cross in his hand, that’s why it happened this to him.”

But this is an impudence. God allows that some people suffer without being guilty, so that the very insolent ones would say what the good thief said. What do we see at the two thieves? One of them reviled Christ by saying: “If you are the son of God, then get down from the Cross!” The other one says: “Don’t you fear God?” “We are punished justly.” “But this man has done nothing wrong.” “Don’t you fear God?”

This means God allows that some people suffer without being guilty, giving in this way to the insolent ones the opportunity to come to their senses. And those who suffer can be the most beloved sons of God.

I think that in heaven God won’t tell them: “Stay in this place.” He would rather say: “Choose the best place!” Do you understand? That’s the way it is. If we ask for our right, we lose everything. We lose our peace and we lose our reward.

 

The stonecutter who was not content with his life

There was once a stonecutter who was not content at all with himself and with his life. One day, passing by the house of a rich merchant, looked inside through the open door and was amazed by the wonderful things he saw and by the important guests.

“How honorable is this merchant!” he thought with envy and wished to become like him.

To his great amazement he changed unexpectedly into a merchant and enjoyed great luxury and power, but also the envy of those who were poorer than him.

After not very long time, an important dignitary passed on the road, carried by a litter and followed by a long suite of soldiers. All people, no matter how rich they were, bowed before him.

“How powerful is this dignitary!” he thought. I want to be like him too! And he immediately turned into a powerful dignitary, who was feared but also hated by everyone.

But summer came with its extremely hot days and the dignitary did not feel comfortable at all in his litter. He looked at the sun and thought:

“How powerful is the sun! “I want to be like him too!” And he immediately turned into a sun, shining over the whole world. He was adored and admired by people, but also cursed by the peasants, whose fields he burnt and by the workers who suffered from the heat at their work. But all of a sudden, a big, black cloud covered him, hindering him shine all over the earth.

“How powerful is this cloud!” he thought. “I’d like to be a cloud myself!” And he suddenly turned into a black, thick cloud, that flooded with its rain all the fields and villages and for this everybody cursed him. But he suddenly realized that he was hit by a stronger power, by the wind.

“How powerful is the wind!” he thought. “I want to be a wind myself.”

And he immediately turned into a wind and started to blow wildly and uprooted the trees and destroyed the roofs of the houses and for all these everybody cursed him. But he suddenly found himself in front of a huge cliff that did not move from its place, in spite of all the power of his blows.

“How powerful is this cliff!” he thought. “I want to be a cliff myself!” And he immediately turned into a huge, strong cliff, that was the steadiest thing on earth. But while standing there and enjoying the power he had, he heard the sound of a metallic tool above, on the surface and felt how his shape changed.

“What can be more powerful than me?” he wondered perplexedly.

But looking down he saw a stonecutter…

Translation from Greek by hieromonk Stefan Nutescu

A wonderful happening related by elder Cleopa

Elder Cleopa related us another hidden miracle that took place in the church of Sihastria monastery. In the winter of 1971 I was on duty at the holy altar. I arrived at the curch at 4 o’clock in the morning and I was making my prayers for the Holy Eucharist before the Holy Table. After not very long time a woman who had come to the monastery the night before  entered to pray. I didn’t know her.

She prayed in a whisper before all the icons and she prostrated herself all the time. She didn’t know there was someone else in the church, because, being winter time, it was very dark. Hearing that there was someone who prayed so fervently, I looked through the Holy Doors to see who it was. The woman was on her knees in the middle of the church, with her hands raised up in the air and she was saying from the bottom of her heart these words: God, don’t leave me! God don’t leave me!

Then I saw a pale, yellow light around her head and got frightened. Then the woman bowed with her face down to the ground and started to pray in secret, speechlessly. The ray of light above her grew bigger and was getting higher around her head. After some time the light faded away slowly and the woman got up and went out of the church. She was a country woman. See then who has the gift of prayer! See who surpasses so many! I was busy with the Proscomidy and because of the great emotion I started to cry with the holy copy in my hand.

Only God knows how many chosen people He has in this world!

Source: Archimandrite Ioanichie Balan. The life and ascetic struggles of the archimandrite Cleopa Ilie, The Publishing House of the Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bucovina, Iasi, 1999

Your house can be a monastery too, if you want it

Pious Porphyrios Kavsokalivite

I’ve been tantalized for a long time by the thought of becoming a monk, for devoting myself completely to God, but I got married and with the children I begot I tied myself and cannot do anything good for God.

With these thoughts and some others in my mind I went one day to the starets, and he, after I confessed him the several sins I had committed, cause sins are all I did and do, said, without telling him anything about the thought that tantalized me:

“Now leave and don’t think about this anymore!” “Forget about it, it’s not for you!” “Your house can be a monastery too, if you want it.” “There’s no difference from it.” “But you should only do what I tell you.” “It’s not the place that makes the monastery, but the way you live.” “Go and pray and have patience in everything!”

Some brothers from a monastery asked the starets if they could progress spiritually in the world or if it were more useful for their souls to go to the Holy Mountain, that’s an ideal place for mollification. And he told them:

“If someone is in Omonia and has his mind alert it’s like he’d be in the Holy Mountain.” “And if someone is in the Holy Mountain and doesn’t have his mind alert, it’s like he’d be in Omonia1.”

1 Square in the center of Athens

 

The silence after the storm

”Sir, I am very confused by all these talks I hear daily about the existence of God.” ”What is your opinion?” a student asked his teacher.

”Have you ever seen a bee?” he answered. ”Have you ever heard its humming?” ”When it finds the nectar of flowers, sips it with all its power, stopping from its humming.” ”Do you see this vessel  in front of me?” ”I’m going to fill it with water.” ”Listen to the sound made by the water while filling it.” ”It will stop when the vessel is filled to the brim and then it pours out.” ”Have you seen how anxious is the baby who’s crying when he is hungry and he is looking for his mother’s breast?” ”And right after he finds it, he calms down, he rests and when he is full, falls asleep in her arms?”

”The same thing happens with the people.” ”The more ardent is their quest for God, the louder is the noise they make.” ”But when they find Him, they adore Him in silence”…

It’s me or the others?

A journalist relates an incident happening to one of his friends who accompanied him  to the newspaper kiosk. His friend greeted the newsagent politely, but that one had an impolite and tough attitude. His friend bought the newspaper he wanted, wished him a ”Happy weekend!” and left. When the two friends were at a distance, the journalist asked the other:”Does he always behave like this with you?”

”Unfortunately he always behaves in this way.”

”And you always treat him friendly and politely?”

”Yes, I always try to be like this.”

”Why are you so polite when he is so rude with you?”

”Because I don’t want him to decide in my place

I love you!

A student was sitting in the coffee shop from the campus and was studying when he saw two old people approaching and taking seats at a close table. One of them started to speak about his wife. When he finished, he asked the other to tell him about his wife. Read the answer as related by the student:

“I was 21 years old when I met her. Immediately after I saw her entering the hall, I understood. I didn’t need to ask who she was. This is my wife, I said to myself. All the others are mere details.

This woman was so special. I was at work for 12 hours every day and when I returned home, I always found food waiting for me on the table. When the children went to sleep, we were so tired that we went straight to bed and we were holding each other tightly till we fell asleep.  These were the very few moments of the day when I felt her close, even for such a short time. These few moments gave me the power to continue my work in order to provide a better future for my children. I used to tell her that as long as she was there, to hold her in my arms, I would always be happy. She was the queen of my life. She helped me become the man I am today, polite with everybody and a good father. You can ask my children about this. Some people know how to make it. Know how to make you be a real man.

But one day she got sick. At first I didn’t worry. Besides, we all get sick at a certain moment. But the doctors seemed sure that it wasn’t something easy. They seemed to worry and as it was proven later, they were right.

When they told us the bad news, my wife asked me if I wanted to marry with another woman after she died. She was feeling anxious… She didn’t want me to remain alone and grieve. But I had no intention of being with another woman. I found that unacceptable. When I told her, she looked at me and said: I know you well. You are the kind of man who needs a woman beside him. You could never enjoy life being alone. But I denied that again and again…

A year after she had got sick, everything changed in our house. I didn’t find anymore food on the table when I came back from work. My wife spent all her day in bed and she waited for me to come in the evening and carry her to the table. She was sitting on a chair and she looked at me with her big, green eyes while I was cooking something for our dinner. She was giving me instructions and rebuked me if I was doing something wrong, if I added more salt than it was necessary. These were the happiest moments of my life! We were glad we could see each other.

In the days when she felt bad, she couldn’t eat alone and I was feeding her. She didn’t want this…she cried and asked me to forgive her. I rebuked her, cause she knew that no matter what happened I was beside her. She was my woman and I was her man…Till the end…

Little by little things got worse. She reached that stage when she was unable to do anything alone and she had to take her medication at every four hours. I quitted my job so that I could be with her all the time and help her. I fed her, put her in bed and lied down beside her, holding her in my arms…like before. Those were the most beautiful moments of my life…

It took her two years to be overpowered by her sickness. But in the end the sickness overpowered her. I saw it approaching. And she saw it too. We both knew she would never recover. It was like one day I was holding her in my arms and the next day she was gone. At the beginning I felt completely devastated because of this, but then I figured out it was better this way. It was no need to take anymore of that terrible medication or to eat my disgusting dishes.

Now she is better. Only I don’t know what to do without her. I don’t know what to do with her things, with her clothes. I can’t throw them away. I don’t want to do this. All her clothes are still in the wardrobe and her pictures are everywhere. Her side of bed is right as she left it. I want to believe that she’s still here. My daughters tell me to sell the house and move to another, but I spent all my life in this house with her. It’s still our home, at least as long as I live in it.”

For a couple of minutes it was silence. The student had never heard anyone talking about someone else with such respect. It was obvious he truly loved his wife and this was not going to change so easily. The other old man broke the silence: “I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to take care of her all day.” “To give everything for her.” Then the old widow smiled and said: “It wasn’t hard at all.” “It was a privilege for me to be able to take care of her.” “She was the woman of my life and I would have done it for ever, if it had been necessary.” “She was and will always be my queen.” “I only miss so much her embrace…”

 

How can I find Christ?

A child asked his mother:

”Mother, I want to meet Christ and I don’t know where I can find Him.”

His mother, surprised, told him: ”My son, I don’t know.” ”Go and ask your father.”

The child went to his father and asked him: ”Father, tell me please, where can I find Christ?”

His father, even more surprised and unwitting by nature gave him a kind answer, telling him that he didn’t know and sent him to his grandmother to ask her. His grandmother sent him to an old man from the village who sent him to another old man and that one in the end sent him to the abbot of the monastery from the hill.

”Father, I came to tell me: how can I meet Christ?”

”You want to find out how to meet Christ…stay here for a while, take the broom and clean well the place and I shall tell you.”

The child remained in obedience for a month, 6 months…2 years, cleaning the place and waiting for the answer of that monk. Until one day when the child – who has already grown up – after the Holy Liturgy, praying to Christ with great love and seeing Him on the cross and the monks eating in peace, started thinking…

”The monks after the Holy Liturgy go and drink and eat and close the church, and poor Christ remains here on the cross, without any food, without any water, thirsty…I should better go and bring Him some water and prepare some food for Him.

And he went, took water and food and came in the church and brought them to Christ with great love…and then Christ descended from the cross and sat beside him and dined with him.

After a few days the abbot asked him:

”My child, what do you do in the church at night, after we go to bed, with all the candles lit and with the food?

”I meet with Christ, father.”

The monk marveled and made the sign of the cross then asked him:

”How is that?”

”I bring Him food to eat and water to drink and He descends from the cross and sits beside me and dines with me.”

Explanatory note:

”Cleaning the place” – The Holy Sacrament of Confession

”The child remained in obedience” – obedience towards the confessor and the fulfillment of the canon of repentance

”And he went and took water and food and came to the church and brought them to Christ with great love” – mercy, the path to the salvation of our souls

Source: ortodoxiatinerilor.ro