About the Church

Ascesis and worship

Orthodoxy is characterized by ascesis and worship in communion.

Early at the church

Go early to the church. The early service is officiated for the believers, not for unbelievers.

Participation at the holy service by delegate

Once a Christian woman told him:

“Father Epiphanios, I don’t go to the church when my husband goes.”

“Ah! Then don’t eat when he eats and don’t sleep when he sleeps! Are these things right? Everyone goes to the church for himself, not for someone else.”

About the Holy Eucharist

The Holy Eucharist is the mystery of Faith par excellence. At Christening we have water, of course holy water, but water. At the Holy Unction we have oil, of course holy oil, but oil. At the Holy Eucharist we see bread, we taste bread, but it is not bread. It is Body. We see wine, we taste wine, but it is not wine. It is Blood. It is the mystery of Faith par excellence because it awakens our spiritual senses.

The Holy Eucharist is a remedy, not a prize.

Injustices in the church

“Why even in the church are made injustices and wrongs and we don’t find perfection not even at the most devoted people to God?”

“So that we won’t put our trust in people and worldly things, but always turn our minds to God and heaven, where is our eternal homeland.”

It is indeed food and drink.

The Protestants say that we don’t have the Body and Blood of our Lord in the sacrament of the Divine Eucharist and that’s just a mere reminder of His Sacrifice.

At this the starets answered:

“As we know, the Body of the Lord from the Cross was not divided into small pieces and His bones were not broken. Therefore, as the Lord says according to the tradition of the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist: Take and eat, this is My Body which is broken for you.

If it were a simple remembrance, He would not have said: which is broken for you, meaning that it is divided in small pieces and at Crucifixion it did not happen such thing and they had to be reminded about that.

The ordination of women

Once his spiritual sons were worried about the news coming from Great Britain which said that the Anglicans started to ordinate women. And they asked him what might happen in the Orthodox Church if there would appear such ideas.

The starets with his well known humor answered:

“Why worry, my sons? The pious women, who would like to assume monasticism keep faithfully the traditions of Orthodoxy, while the feminists of Greece when hearing about the Church run panic-stricken. So, don’t worry. Orthodoxy is in no danger of ordinating impious women and even less of ordinating pious women.”

Excerpts from the book “Glimpses of life” by Archimandrite Epiphanios Teodoropoulos, Evanghelismos Publishing House

 

I’ve never said to God : Why me ?

Arthur Ashe, the famous tennis player who won three Grand SLAM trophies died of AIDS, because his blood had got infected during a heart surgery suffered in 1983. He received letters from his fans from all over the world. One of them wrote to him: “Why God chose such an awful disease?” Arthur Ashe answered: “There are more than 50 millions of children in the world who start learning tennis, 5 millions learn tennis, 500.000 learn professional tennis, 50.000 enter competitions, 5.000 go to the Grand Slam tournaments, 50 go to Wimbledon, 4 of them reach the semifinals and 2 are in the finals. When I was raising up a trophy I never said to God: Why me? That’s why even today I can’t ask God: Why me?

Happiness makes you sweet.

Trials make you strong.

Troubles make you human.

Failure keeps you humble and success gives you glow, but only Faith gives you the power to move forward…

Peace of soul

At a dinner, there was an atheist among the guests – a bad, faithless man, who asked at a certain moment the Christian next to him:

“How do you know that God forgave you for your sins or that He listens to your prayers, when in fact you don’t see anything from all these?”

peace-soul-2-isaac-sirul

“But you, how do you know that you have sugar in the tea you’re drinking now?”

“How do I know? I feel its taste.”

“So you know that you have sugar in your tea even if you don’t see it. In the same way I feel the love of God in my heart. My soul, burdened with sins feels relieved by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Liturgy, the Holy Confession, the prayers elevate my soul which finds its peace only in God. Love cannot be seen with the bodily eyes, only with the spiritual ones.”

“When we reached love, we reached God.” (Saint Isaac the Syrian)

 

You’re a heretic!

I saw a man standing near a bridge, ready to jump over it. So I yelled at him:

“Hold on!” “Don’t do it!”

That man turned towards mine having a tear in his eye. Then I noticed that he was wearing a cross. I got touched and I asked him:

“Are you Christian?”

“Yes!” he answered.

“Are you Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant?”

“Orthodox.”

I insisted and he came closer.

“Are you Romanian or Greek Orthodox?”

“Romanian Orthodox.”

“Me too!” “Are you a Romanian Orthodox pro or against ecumenism?”

“A Romanian Orthodox against ecumenism.”

“Ah, like me.” “But are you a Romanian Orthodox against ecumenism following the new calendar or the old calendar?”

“Following the new calendar.”

“Very good!” “Are you Romanian Orthodox against ecumenism, following the new calendar and pro or against the Synod from Crete?”

“Against the Synod from Crete.”

”Amazing!” ”Just like me!” ”Tell me do you agree with the hierarchs who signed at the Synod from Crete?”

”No, I don’t agree with the hierarchs who signed at the Synod from Crete!”

”Fantastic! ”I don’t agree with the hierarchs who signed at the Synod from Crete either!” ”But tell me, do you consider the Synod from Crete as being heretical?”

”No, I don’t consider it heretical.”

”How’s that?” ”You don’t consider the Synod from Crete heretical?” ”And you don’t consider the hierarchs who signed as being heretics either?”

”No, I don’t consider them heretics either.”

”You’re a heretic!”

And I immediately pushed him over the bridge…

Updated adaptation after a joke signed by John Gfoeller

How much is a miracle?

A little girl took her money box and emptied it of its content. She counted thrice the money she had for not making any mistake. She had one dollar and eleven cents. She took the money and went to the pharmacy from the neighborhood.

Right then the pharmacist was talking with a well dressed man and didn’t pay any attention to the child. The little girl made some noise with her feet, but nothing happened. Then she took a coin and started to rattle it on the table.

“What do you want?” the pharmacist asked her a bit annoyed. “Don’t you see that I’m talking with my brother I haven’t seen for so long?”

Then the girl said:

“I want to tell you about my brother, who is very sick and for whom I want to buy a miracle.”

“Sorry, but we don’t sell miracles”, the pharmacist answered.

“You know, my brother has something in his head that’s growing and dad said that only a miracle might help us.” “So how much is a miracle to buy it?” “I have money”…

The brother of that pharmacist, who had been listening their dialogue with interest, asked the girl what kind of miracle her brother needed.

“I don’t know”, the little girl answered with tears in her eyes. “What I know is that he needs surgery and dad has no money for that.” “That’s why I want to pay it myself, with my own money.”

When she was asked t how much money she had, the girl said:

“One dollar and eleven cents.” “And if it is needed more, I’ll find it.”

“What a coincidence”, said the well dressed man, smiling. :”It’s right the value of a miracle for your little brother.” “One dollar and eleven cents.” He took the money then took the girl by the hand and said:

“Let’s go together to your house to see your brother and your parents and to make the miracle”…

The well dressed man was doctor Carlton Armstrong, the famous neurosurgeon.

The surgery went very well and the little brother went back home completely recovered.

“The surgery was a real miracle”, whispered the mother. “How much could have cost?”

The girl was smiling. She knew so well how much a miracle was: one dollar and eleven cents and the faith of a small child…

The pain was eased by Christ

Nun Porphyria

Death is sure for all, for rich and poor, for nobles and slaves alike. It is the most painful thing from our life, because it puts an end to everything: to everything we asked, to everything we did, to everything we studied, to everything we gained in our life. No matter how high we’d get or how much fame we’d receive, everything ends when facing death.

Is it so? Of course it is not. This happens only with those who didn’t believe in the eternal Kingdom of God. For the man without faith even the mere thought about death means a real tragedy. But for the man who is close to God, death is only a passage from the temporal life to the hereafter. I’ll tell you the story of a rare mother who lost her child in an accident. Three years ago I met a lady whose greatness of soul and strong faith in God impressed me very much. This mother lost her elder son in an accident. But her steady faith in God was an aid in her unbearable pain. Her son was 28 y.o. One day, when he was going back from work on his usual way, he saw a car coming from the opposite side at a very high speed. The driver lost the control of his car and struck him dead, while he got seriously injured himself. You can imagine how big the pain of this mother was! She was waiting for her son to come back alive from work and they brought him dead to her. When she saw him, her heart broke in thousands of pieces, as the lifeless body of her son. Seeing him, she took him in her arms and said: “My love, my child! My pain is absolutely unbearable!  But you were not my child, my son…You are His Son! He blessed me to give birth to you and to raise you. Our God is your Father, our Father! My son, my beloved son, farewell! I wish you meet our God and Father where you go.” Saying these words her eyes filled with tears. I embraced her. My emotion was big. There was this Christian woman who, despite her indescribable pain, confessed in deed and word her faith and love for God. Tears fell down from my eyes…This sweet mother continued to tell me her pain but also her joy.

“After I buried my son I didn’t receive anyone in the house for condolences. My soul was bleeding many times because of the unbearable pain that God took my child. I didn’t have the time to enjoy enough having him, to see him married and to enjoy having the grandchildren he would have given to me.”

“Do you have any other children?”

“Yes, I have another boy, younger than this one.”

“At least you have a comfort.”

“Holy mother, a mother always suffers for the child she loses, no matter how many children she would have.”

“You’re right.”

All of a sudden a question came into my mind and I dared ask it:

“Kind mother, did your heart feel any weight in your relation with God for this great sorrow?”

“No, no, never! The children are His! I don’t have any reason to complain for anything. Everything He sends me is welcome. What I pray for is to give me the strength to endure the pain. He knows better what must happen.”

“My dear, I admire you for your love for God!”

“Holy mother, in my life, above my children I have God. From that day what I’ve done was to pray continuously. I pray day and night for the salvation of his soul. I buried the boy on a Thursday. On Sunday I went as usual to pray. I asked God to keep him close to Him and to sweeten the pain from my soul. And God be praised, He gave me much patience and strength to endure.”

“I am so glad for what I hear and that despite your grief, you didn’t abandon God.”

Holy mother, how could I leave God for taking his son? I go to the church every Sunday. I never miss the sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, or the confession. Tomorrow He might take my other son or He could take me. Aren’t we His children? Will I complain to our Father? Who am I to do so?”

“When did he die?”

“Eight years ago. In a few days we’ll make funeral feast for him. Will you come?”

“Of course I’ll come.”

“You know, I have a small discontent”, she said demurely.

“And what’s that?”

“So many years have passed since he left and he hasn’t come at least once to see him. I speak to him, of course, as if he were in the house, not as if he’d be gone.”

“Listen what you have to do: when you prepare the wheat and nut sweet offering for the funeral feast ask him to make it together and he will come.”

“Ah, would it happen? I’ll do it. I haven’t thought about it”, this wonderful mother told me.

Wanting to see more of her great faith I dared ask her an indiscreet question:

“Did you go to the insurance company? Did you ask for compensation?”

“What are you saying, holy mother? Do you think that the accident happened without the permission of God? Did you think that the other man caused it? As long as he was seriously injured, but thanks God he is alive! How could we ask money for this?”

Excerpt from the book Listen to me! which is going to be released soon at Evanghelismos Publishing House

My thinking is very simple

I am already old but in my childhood I experienced the feelings of peace and light. Since the Russian Japanese war (1904-1905) till today I’ve seen mankind involved in fratricide wars and there is no light yet at the horizon. On the contrary, the sky was covered by black clouds as never before, ready to cause an apocalyptic storm… And I, when witnessing this terrible situation in my childhood, was ready to get out in the streets and in the markets with a lit lantern, like Diogenes, in search of a man…But seeing Christ, I rejoiced in this wonderful discovery and I could never forget this historical fact of our world. In reality only He, Christ, is a complete man. We all cross our earthly exile with the call to become like Him.

The man begins to exist in reality from the moment when he becomes aware that he is a son of the Eternal Father and utters the Lord’s prayer with this awareness. We haven’t fully realized yet this value of the man and for this reason we avoid the path of our formation, of our growth in the Holy Spirit. Without Christ is impossible to entitle mankind. In this way, Christ, Man and God in the same time, entitles God in front of the world, showing to the people the boundless love of the Father, but He also entitles the man before God, showing to the Heavenly Father the authentic face of man.

But this entitlement is not juridical, as many Christians tend to believe, but of a different nature. After so many years of an almost ceaseless mutual extermination of the men on earth, they all justify themselves continously and it is impossible to expect these people have the courage to look at the height of heaven and to call God their Father.

Nowadays the brutalization of people took terrible proportions. The fall from the authentic Christian faith became a general phenomenon. The word which describes our times is apostasy. I’m afraid that only the multiplication of the misfortunes may lead people to those sufferings which will prove to be of an extreme importance and which will awaken in them the capability to perceive their primordial nature, that one in the image of God. Then peace will reign on earth. But as long as people continue to be as the wild beasts, we should not expect peace on earth. All the attempts, diplomatic or of any other kind, to prevent the disaster of war, are in vain. First it is necessary to take place the spiritual rebirth of man, the humanization of the beasts of this world.

You understand that what I write are only some small hints, some small pieces of the whole image appearing in my mind, especially during the Liturgy, this eternal sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. Of course I’d like to discuss with you for hours about these vital issues, but we haven’t had this opportunity these days.

Archimandrite Sophrony Letters from Russia, The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Essex, pages 133-136

Prayer and deed

A monk went to one of the elders in the Lavra located above Jericho and asked him:

“How are you living, father?”

“Badly”, answered the old man.

The other monk asked him: “Why are you living badly, father?”

And the elder said: “See, I’ve been standing before God for thirty years and I’ve been praying every day and in my prayer I sometimes cursed myself saying to God: Don’t have mercy on those who make wrongdoings and cursed are those who wander from your commandments and I always deviate from them and I make wrongdoings. Other times I say to God: You will condemn to perdition all those who lie and I always lie and thinking evil things in my heart, I say to God that my thoughts are always before You and not fasting at all, I say: my knees give way from fasting. And if I don’t forgive my brother I say to God: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins! And being preoccupied only about my food, I say: I forget to eat my bread. And sleeping till the morning, I say: I wake at midnight to pray to You. Having no humility I say: I am tired of crying inside myself or my tears have been my food day and night. And being full of pride and idleness, I ridicule myself and say: See my humility and my toil and forgive my sins! Not being prepared I say: my heart is ready, oh, Lord! In brief, all my prayers become a reproach and a reason to feel ashamed.”

The other monk said: “I think, father, that David said this about himself.”

 And the elder sighed and said: “What are you saying, brother?” “If we don’t keep the words we say before God, we shall go to perdition.”

God and you…

Reality and the people around us strike us hard. The kick is the challenge which helps us see our own weakness and change ourselves. The more we protest, the more we estrange from the Truth. The more we forgive and we change ourselves, the closer we get to Him. If in the hard moments we don’t love the person who hurts us, we know neither ourselves nor God. Fortunately, God always knows you, loves you and forgives you.

The wise advice

Once there was a wise king who was looking for a sage and devoted adviser to help him in his activities and especially in the judgments he made for people.

Therefore he called before him five of his best and most reliable people, from which to choose the most faithful. He opened a golden box and took out from it five big, refulgent diamonds and told them:

”The one who gives me the most precious advice will receive a diamond as a reward.”

And the first one rushed to say:

”What advice could we give you, your grace?” ”We are some worms and your grace is so dignified, you are life itself, you are the treasury yourself with the power you have.”

The king thanked him for his words and gave him the first diamond. Then it came the turn of the second one who wove a nice word of praise for the king and for this he got the second diamond. The third and the fourth did the same and they received their diamonds too. It was left only one more diamond in the box. The king took it out and keeping it in his hand addressed the fifth:

”It came your turn now to get the last diamond.” ”I am listening to you.”

Then that man stood respectfully before the king, made a curtsey and said:

”Your grace, you are very powerful and have big wealth but these were given to you by God so that you would prove worthy of ruling your people.” ”For this reason, I, your servant, advice you to use all the gifts you have and all your riches lovingly and justly for the good of your people.” ”This is the advice I give you.”

Then the king put the diamond back in the box and said:

”Because you expressed your opinion without any fear or flattery I will give you something more precious than the diamond.” ”You will have my trust and you will be my first counselor to advise me how to rule my people reputably all the time.”

The next morning the other four counselors came before the king and they were pale because of their disappointment. They scarcely mumbled:

”Your grace, there must have been made a mistake, because the diamonds are fake.” ”We went and checked them.” ”They are some plain stones that are shining”, they said, falling down at his feet and trying to contain their anger.

”But you offered me false words”, the king answered them sharply. ”Only false diamonds match false flattery.” ”Go away from here!”