The humility of the most Holy Mother of God

The Holy Mother of God had humility. She was not an ordinary person. She was a descendant of the emperor and prophet David, who was highly revered by the Jews. And – as we would say nowadays – all the doors were wide open for her. But she preferred not to stand out. And she continued to stay in the shade not only in the difficult moments of the sufferings on the Cross of her Son, but also in the moments of grace of the Resurrection and Pentecost. And this it shows in the gospels, which never speak about her role in the early Church. She is the greatest human being from the entire mankind!

The humble thinking is a virtue that we, who consider ourselves churchmen and who look at the others with a certain superiority, might be missing it even more.

We are so pleased to see people talking about us and very often the self-conceit turns on the red light. But we like the praises from people, we like popularity, applauses. And the devil understood this thing quite well and swells up our selfishness as if it were a balloon.

So we boast with our diplomas, our qualities, our good deeds and…our virtues. But the question is: someone who seeks and enjoys the appreciation of the world, what else could expect from God, who said: ”To whom will I look if not to him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at My word?” ”To whom will I give My grace if not to the humble and peaceful one, who fulfills his duty without boasting and obeys and fulfills My will?”

In an age full of pride, that is destroying communication through the walls it is raising, the humble thinking is the only solution.

 

The squid boxes

Elder Raphael, who lived near saint Ephrem’s cell, at the time of Vespers and of other church services had the habit to beat some empty squid boxes he had hung on a piece of wood instead of beating a semantron, as they use to do at monasteries.

Once, while he was beating his boxes, a monk from the neighborhood was climbing on a path near that place. But when he heard that noise he said aloud: “But what happened with this one?” “Did he lose his mind?”

Starets Ephrem, who was on a nearby terrace and was digging the land, heard these words of criticism. Later he said: “I saw in spirit that the soul  of this brother had fallen.” “And I was astonished by the destructive power of damnation.”

 

To that one who complains that God doesn’t listen to him

Saint Nikolai Velimirovici

 

You complain that God doesn’t listen to your prayers. You prayed to God in so many hardships and He didn’t save you! How it happened that He didn’t save you but it was you who survived to these hardships and not them that survived to you? But let me ask you a question: do you listen to God? In both Testaments, the Old and the New one, the Most High God promised to listen to people if people listened to Him. Do you listen to God when you want to be heard by Him? Do you fulfill God’s commandments and do you keep His ordinances? If you don’t do this, your claim to be heard and listened by Him is odd.

God descended to earth and washed the feet of those who love Him. How much He rejoices to listen to His obedient children. The Creator listened to Moses, Abraham and Jacob in everything they asked Him.

And by natural and supernatural works He showered His mercy over those who fulfill His Law. If He didn’t want to listen to my prayers or to yours this happens either because we didn’t want to obey His commandments from His Law, or because our prayers were not as they should have been.

God spoke through Isaiah to the disobedient people: Even when you offer many prayers, I’m not listening and a little further: If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.(Isaiah 1, 15-19)

So God listen to us when we are obedient and He doesn’t listen to us when we are disobedient. He doesn’t listen when we ask for something harmful or meaningless. The apostles Jacob and John asked God once to bring fire from the skies over the village where they didn’t want to offer them housing. But Jesus turned and rebuked them.(Luke 9, 55)

Not only He didn’t listen to their request, but rebuked them. Think if your prayers were worthy of man and worthy of God.

Something more. Why do you pray to God only in hardships? By doing this you only humiliate yourself and offend God.

Our Creator asks from us to feel continually that we are before Him and to have ceaseless communion with Him through prayer. Pray without ceasing!

If you pray to God only when a misfortune strikes you, you make an ordinary beggar of yourself and you offend God, because you call Him as if you called a fireman when your house is on fire. Christ allowed us to call His Father our Father. What is sweeter than this? And what is sweeter for the children than being in front of their parents?

Therefore let’s strive without cease to stand before our Heavenly Father with our heart, thoughts and prayers. Our prayers in times of prosperity and joy are like a spiritual asset, which is more beneficial for us in times of need and distress than the momentary prayer made when facing days of vicissitudes.

Peace to you from God!

 

Once a pious priest…

Once a pious priest served the divine liturgy on the feast of saint Demetrius, for whom he had special veneration. But since it was in the middle of the week, there were just a few Christians in the church.

The liturgy went on and reached the moment when the holy gifts were to be sanctified. Yours from Your very Yours, he bent his head and read the prayer: We offer to You this spiritual worship. Then he straightened himself and said: Make this bread the precious body of Your Christ. And what is in this cup the precious blood of Your Christ. Amen, amen, amen. In that moment a frightening lightning come out of nowhere…probably from the apse of the Holy Altar. Or maybe from the church steeple? From God the Almighty. He had no idea, he didn’t realize.

What he saw and felt was that the lightning came and struck the Holy Table and split it in two, but without touching the Holy Gifts…Then he got stunned and speechless. In great astonishment and holy fear saw that everything around him was bathed in the undying light of the eternal sun of the triune Godhead. He could not describe to me the unprecedented feelings that overwhelmed him. What kind of divine lightning was that? And what did it aim to show, to seal, to reveal? And then, in spite of his inner stupor, he cried from inside, but that cry came out without being heard: Lord, You are the true God, the Savior of the world! We praise You and bless You, he was saying and the protopsalter continued the prayer, but how could that blessed priest collect himself? In the end he entered the Holy Altar to see what was going on. And in the prayers of the protopsalter everything went back to normal again. The priest raised himself, he took the censer alone,  put incense and said trembling: Especially for the most holy, pure… and all the rest.

After this shocking incident, for some time, if he didn’t have any child at the altar, the priest went out of the holy doors and said out loudly: “Hey, you, kind man, come here in the Holy Altar!” “Stand by me and kneel down!” He was overwhelmed, as he discovered himself, by a holy fear that such frightening things could happen again and he as a sinful man made of dust could not bear to live them once again.

The parable of the pencil

A boy was watching his grandfather writing a letter. At one point he asked:

“Are you writing a story about what we’ve done?” “Or is it a story about me?”
His grandfather stopped writing his letter, smiled and said to his grandson:
“I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using.” “I’d like you to be like this pencil when you grow up.”

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special.
“But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!”

“That depends on how you look at things.” “It has five qualities which, if we manage to keep, will make us always be at peace with the world.”

“First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding our steps.” “We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.”
“Second quality: every now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener.” “That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, it’s much sharper.” “So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.”
“Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes.” “This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; what it matters is that we should keep our way straight.”
“Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside.” “So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.”
“Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark.” “In the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be aware of your every deed”.

 

 

The healing of depression

Depression (from the Latin word depressio – constriction, pressure) is the downcast frame of mind, followed by drowsiness, asthenia, a pessimistic assessment of the events. This suffering is known by mankind from ancient times, since the fall from heaven of the first man.

According to a study made in 1983, it was estimated that there are over 100 millions people afftected by depression in the world. Actually their number has significantly increased.

Most often the depressive disorders are found at the alcohol and the drug addicts but beside these there are many other negative aspects like divorces, quarrels, conflicts, etc.

Many argue that their despondency and gloominess are caused by the life requirements of nowadays, which exceed the powers of man. The conflict between claims and reality leaves grief, bitterness and sorrow in the soul and that is why nowadays we see an increasing number of people suffering of this disease.

Almost every day we hear about cases of suicide, not only among adults, but also among teens.Adolescence is a very vulnerable period when the difficult situations are perceived as insurmountable problems.

The failures at school, the absence of the parents, the death of a dear person may cause unmanageable emotional dispositions to the teenagers. Some of them don’t find any meaning in their life and then resort to gestures that are abstruse for their beloved ones.

Science has a complex knowledge about the emergence of the depressive disorders, but the scientists ignore the spiritual cause which generates the emergence of depression, namely the defilement of the soul – the sin. The holy fathers and the whole Orthodoxy speak about the destructive effect of sin upon the soul.

In the fundamentals relating at the social conception of the Russian Orthodox Church and adopted at the Jubilee Synod of Bishops (Moscow, 13th-16th of August 2000) is stated: “The Church regards the mental diseases as one of the general harmful manifestations of sin towards human nature.”

For this reason there must be made a clear difference between a natural disease and the diseases caused by evil work.

Depression affects mainly those who cast aside the heavenly things and cleft strongly to the earthly ones, according to the Holy Fathers, due to the fact that sadness appears when the passion has not been satisfied. For instance when the man didn’t receive the money he expected, when he suffered a failure in love, when his career gets stuck, without any perspective of promotion, etc. In such moments the man, becomes mad and rejects any good advice, avoids people, considering them guilty for his condition and getting to the core of his problem, is unable to see that his suffering lies inside himself.

Most often these people don’t seek their shelter in the Church, in the sacraments given by the triune God, but in various practices that are foreign to the Orthodox spirit: meditation, massage, yoga, shopping, psychotherapy sessions (in the past the role of the psychologist was held only by the priest).

The true remedy for all diseases is Christ and the faith in Him, but these days the people confide in various TV programmes, listen to the advice of  celebrities, search in the media, in the newspapers, brochures, blogs, follow desperately the tips of the nutritionists, psychologists, but forget or maybe they don’t even know, that all these are hollow and blind, because of the mute and deaf spirits that inspire them. The only right path to the healing of depression, idleness and sadness is the true Orthodox faith, the straightening of the human life in accordance with the commandments of God.

The most important thing for the man is to understand that the cause of his sickness is his sin, to hate the devilish sins of pride, vanity, anger, fornication, lie and to return to God.

Parents, pay great heed to your life and to the life of your children.

Forget about the pretenses that are not fulfilled in this life, but spend time with your children.

The child learns from a small age from his parents and today, very often the children see their parents are not available at all for them and start feeling they are not protected and they cannot trust them.

In fact what matters is not the number of hours, but the quality of the time spent together.

What counts the most for the child who is in school and becomes aggressive or on the contrary, very secluded, is to talk with him and also to listen to him. During the teenage years the main issue of concern is the anxiety of performance: the fear of bad school results that can lead to depression.

For each Christian is necessary to participate (not to attend passively) at the holy services of the Church, to read from a small age the Gospel and the patristic literature. Even by a single word of prayer or by the sign of the cross the soul can be saved by the power of God.

Let’s always remember Apostle Paul’s words: Rejoice always. Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5, 16-18).

The only right path to the healing of depression is the straightening of your life in accordance with the commandments of God.

Protodeacon Valeriu Balan

33 « reasons » for not going to the church (III)

The fourth reason : I don’t go to the church just because it’s on fashion.

 

Not long time ago, a young woman who was a jurist said: “I don’t want to be baptized just because it’s on fashion.”

“Then why are you wearing tight trousers?” “Hasn’t it become a fashion lately?” I had to ask her. “What people have been doing in our Church for more than a thousand years do you think it’s something evanescent and and volatile?” “You are a jurist, your profession is based on logic.” “And as you see this stops working in spiritual matters.” “Why?” “Because in life there is a fierce spiritual struggle for every soul, for the thoughts of every person.” “And we must make an effort to escape from this captivity of thoughts and gain our freedom and reach God.”

Some people say that if the multiplication table had reached the spiritual sphere, there would have been controversies about the fact that two times two is four.

It would have been really wonderful if it had been fashionable to believe in God, to work honestly, to respect the elder people, to defend your homeland, to be loyal to your husband/wife…It would be better if this fashion didn’t change from season to season. What’s wrong about such a fashion?

But even then the devil would teach someone to say: “I am cheating my husband because it has become a fashion to keep your loyalty towards your husband.”

 

33 « reasons » for not going to the church (II)

The second method: I have God in my soul.

Therefore you should not go to the church, because God is anyway in your soul. But this thing is not true!

If God were in our soul for real, then we would have wished to go in that place where everything speaks about God, where His name is glorified, where are His icons, where is found His special presence, His grace. Then we would have tried to live as God commands us to live. And this is His will that we go to the church.

The unseen enemy is very crafty, much craftier than us. He gives us this thought: You have God in your soul! But in fact, it wasn’t God who entered our soul, but our own thought about God and together with it entered the evil one. Like a wolf in a sheepskin. And he flatters us.

But in reality we have so many things in our soul: damnation, irritation and black thoughts – only God is not there.

How to get rid of all these? How to fight with the thoughts of the evil? Only with the help of God.

The man alone cannot fight at all with his seemingly own thoughts, even if he wished that very much.

This thing confirms once again that in reality these thoughts are not ours, but our enemy’s.

Pious Ambrose, the starets from Optina, when receiving devilish thoughts made the sign of the cross and said: “I don’t want it.”

We shouldn’t pay any attention to them. Nor should we hesitate, but reject them immediately. We should say the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. And they will go away.

The Church teaches us that the devil fears especially the sign of the cross, the great holy water and the Body and Blood of Christ that we commune with in the church.

During the Holy Liturgy, in the church it takes place His greatest miracle that is a mystery even for the angels. The Lord Himself gave it to us for our salvation. During the common prayer of the priests and parishioners, over the bread and wine especially prepared in the altar, descends the Holy Spirit and these become the true Body and Blood of Christ. After their appearance and taste, they remain bread and wine, but in reality it is the Lord Himself. The people who commune with the Holy sacraments of Christ know from their own experience that they receive a great sanctifying power, which heals the soul and the body.

That’s why we go to the church in the first place and we partake of the Holy Eucharist so that God may enter for real on our lips, in our body and soul.

The Lord said: He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in me and I in him. (John, 6:56).

Saint Seraphim of Sarov, the great confessor of the Russian land, said: Whoever partakes of the Holy Communion will be saved. And whoever doesn’t do it, I doubt he will make it.

Any baptized person should approach regularly the holy sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. Since we wash ourselves regularly – cleansing our body, it is also necessary to cleanse our soul. The church is even named in this way: spiritual bath.

The third method: I haven’t ripened yet.

Grow up – the devil says. But take your time, get ripened in as much time as possible. Only don’t do anything for this ripening. Don’t read the Gospel, the Law of God, or the writings of the Holy Fathers. Don’t go to the church, don’t ask the priests about anything, even if they are appointed by God to aid the people in their spiritual life. Using this method, the evil likes so much to prevent them baptize and wed.

I haven’t reached to this yet.

For reaching there, you’ve got to go first. So get going.

Where to go?

To the church, of course.

 

33 « reasons » for not going to the church (I)

Everything depends on our sincerity

Do you know, dear friend, that every time when on a Sunday or on a holy day you don’t go to the church, you take a very important decision, maybe the most important one from your life? And this refers not only at your earthly life, but also at the eternal life of your soul. And this awaits us all. And it could begin very soon – maybe even from today –

You are a baptized person. Glory to God! But if someone is baptized, this does not mean that he has a special place reserved in heaven. Such a view is not Orthodox, but heretical. Because it also matters how the man lives his life.

So, why don’t you go to the church? What kinds of thoughts estrange you from the church? Since thoughts are what estranges you from it.

It seems that are your thoughts because there are in your mind. But it’s not like this.

We say: A thought came into my mind. And thoughts come indeed. They come from somewhere. There are thoughts from God and there are other thoughts from the devil. All of them come into our mind and we say: I have got a thought.

How can you find out what thought is from God and what thought is from the devil?

See to what deeds you are led by this thoughts, in what direction they drive you: towards the church or on the contrary, they drive you away from it? They drive you towards prayer, fasting, repentance, confession, Holy Communion, holy marriage (if you are married), patience, forgiveness, good deeds – or they drive you away from all these, under any pretext, even the most plausible one.

See what kind of feelings, what kind of spiritual disposition these thoughts bring you. If they are thoughts of peace, love, humility, serenity, collectedness – then they might come from God. But if they bring you anger, pride, fear, sadness, despair – they are from the devil.

Any thoughts against the Orthodox Faith, against God, against the Church of Christ, against prayer and fasting – they are from the devil.

There is a set of methods-frequent thoughts by means of which the unseen enemy tries to prevent the man’s approach to God.

The first method (I): But I go to the church.

This is what people say sometimes when they come to have their Easter cake blessed, to renew their supplies of high holy water, to attend a baptism service, to accompany the dead on his last journey. And it’s enough. They consider they go to the church. But the Church itself does not consider the same.

God gave us the commandment: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God.” (Exodus 20, 8-11)

The seventh day is Sunday.

Christ’s resurrection is the foundation of our faith. Only due to the fact that the Savior suffered for us on the Cross and rose from the dead, we, the baptized people, have the hope of salvation.

Do you know, dear brother, that there is a canon of the Holy Fathers which states that in the case a Christian doesn’t go to the church to attend the holy service for three consecutive Sundays, he may be excommunicated (separated from the Church)? But in fact he is the one who separates himself from the Church.

This is an obvious thing.

If on Sundays you always have other things to do, with no connection with the church, this means that the main goal of your life is not yet in the Church, but somewhere in the world, with its own aims and values, which are extraneous to the purpose of our salvation.

All the living things grow gradually and steadily. And our soul lives not only sometimes, but permanently. And it always needs nourishment and purification. Our soul nurtures itself with the grace of the Holy Spirit that is given us in the first place in an Orthodox church. Then we experience a spiritual life and growth.

At work we go without wondering: shall I go or not? On a workday our alarm clock wakes us up early and we rush out in order to arrive there in time. If we went there a few times a year, then could we say that we go to work? And how much would we earn? And we do all these mainly for the body. But the man means in the first place his soul.

If the students between the almost uninterrupted holidays sometimes went to school, what would they learn?

The Church means both work and learning. And like any other process of work or learning, it requires time, diligence and perseverance. Then you will obtain true benefits.

 

The real joy

The worldly joys are material joys.

The pious Paisios of the Holy Mountain

“Father, the secular people say they feel an emptiness in their soul, even if they have all the goodies in the world.”

“The true, pure joy can be found only near Christ.” “If you unite yourself with Him through prayer, you will see your soul is rewarded.” “The secular people seek joy in entertainments.” “The spiritual people seek it in theological discussions, in preaches, etc.” “But when all these are over they find themselves in an emptiness and wonder what they will do further on.”

“If their activities are sinful or neutral, it’s just the same.” “Why don’t they better go to sleep, so that they would be more prepared for the work of the next day?”

“What you gain by fulfilling the worldly desires of the heart is only stress, not spiritual joy.” “The worldly joy brings stress even to the spiritual people.” “The worldly joy is not permanent, it’s not a real joy, it’s a temporary one, of that moment.”

“And this is a material joy, not a spiritual one.” “And the worldly joys don’t fill the human soul, they rather fill it with ballast.” “When we experience spiritual joy we don’t want any material joy anymore.” “I will be satiated when Your glory is manifested.” “The worldly joy doesn’t bring any peace to the spiritual man, but weariness.” “Let a spiritual man stay in a worldly house and you will see that he doesn’t rest.” “Even if the worldly man thinks that he rests, it’s not like this at all, he only suffers.” “He seems to be glad, but inside himself he is not content, but tormented.”