The shut window

Once a desperate man who was wandering over the hills which surrounded his native town met a shepherd who was tending his sheep. The shepherd saw that he had an inner trouble and asked him:

“What’s your trouble, my friend?”

“I am overwhelmed by loneliness.”

“I’m alone too, but feel no sadness at all”, the shepherd said.

“Maybe cause God is by your side”, the other one said ironically.

“You’re right”, the shepherd answered, ignoring his ironic tone. “Do you see our town?” “You see the houses, the windows?”

“Yes, I see them.”

“Then you shouldn’t despair”, the shepherd added. “The sun is only one but every window of the town, even the smallest and the most hidden one is bathing in sunlight each morning.” “You are rather despondent because your window remains shut close…”


The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

A simple man was traveling on a country road accompanied by a priest. While talking about various issues, the man expressed his bewilderment:

“Venerable father I can’t understand how it is possible that in the Holy Trinity are three persons who make one.” “ How can the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit be three united, undivided persons, but without mixing with each other?”

“My son”, the priest answered patiently, “there are many things which are above our sinful mind.” “But what you say it’s not that hard to understand.” “Let’s look at the sun for example!” “Let’s say that the fireball which has been there for ages is the Father.” “Then let’s say that the light which comes from the sun is the Son, Jesus Christ, who came in the world to enlighten our life and free us from sin.” “Then the heat which comes from the sun and warms us let’s say that’s the Holy Spirit who by His Love warms our souls frozen by our wickedness.” “You see my son that the sun with its light and heat are the same thing, however these three remain distinct when we speak about each and every one?” “It’s the same with the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the One and Same God that we, believers, worship.”

“The man like all the other creatures and things is created by God out of His boundless Love.”

“But the man is a mere creature and his wisdom or powers cannot be compared with those of God.” “However the proud men commit a sin by daring to believe that there is nothing above them and that sooner or later everything is within their reach.” “But the faithful man knows that only love can embrace everything, not the mind nor the power.”


Art as monument of the separation of man from God (II)

Archimandrite Savatie Bastovoi

When God was removed from the spiritual universe of man it occurred a natural disaster which violated the law of gravity.

In a society where the loss of the first edition of The Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire it is taught in schools as being an act of vandalism and prophet David is taught from the sculpture of Michelangelo  what was firstly affected – in our opinion – was the sense of reality. The personal alienation of the artist is projected gradually over the whole society and becomes a collective alienation. The postmodernist scribbles which ten years ago revolted every normal man today are on all the covers of the school notebooks and books or put as stickers on fridges. More than this, the wallpapers with such patterns, imitating the scribbled walls or fences from the cities decorate the rooms of the apartments.

On cars there are stickers which imitate a splash of paint dropped by mistake! Not to mention the clothes the youngsters and the retirees wear. Not long ago any youngster would have considered a shame to wear a ripped pair of trousers. Today he is tearing the trousers himself. Both women and men paint themselves like some clowns. A few years ago to go in the street with a sausage would have been considered an act of churlishness, today they go in the street even with their French fries and feel perfectly comfortable about it.

A total alienation takes place before our own eyes and with our own self. We live among billboards advertising pads for women and condoms. We watch admiringly how a woman is removing the hair from her legs or is drilling her cavities. We fell down in the dirt which the wife was ashamed to confess to her own husband. 20 years ago all these would have been scenes taken from French comedies, but today they are part of our lives. We brutified ourselves so much that we don’t know how to use our freedom anymore.

What kind of freedom is the man of nowadays talking about when he watches for ten hours a day movies where he is told when to laugh by a soundtrack with recorded roars of laughter? Where is the scale of values? Where are the ideals? Yes, the man escaped from the tyranny of religion! Art has won! It triumphed over religion! But it became in its turn a religion itself, a treacherous and tyrannical one. A religion of destruction. We live in a society tyrannized by art.

The artist seen as a hero who saves the soul chained by the religious dogmas is a product of the West, of the Catholic Italy. Renaissance did not appear in the Orthodox Greece for instance, the culture which suffered of anthropocentrism till Christianization as badly as the Roman culture. Orthodoxy has never persecuted culture, on the contrary, it used it in its preaches. Constantine the Great was a refined lover of culture and adorned his palace with the works of the artists from that epoch. If you read the word of St.Basil the Great for the young people about the way we could use the pagan writings you can understand that in the conditions of the canonical Church the soul doesn’t have anything to free itself from since it has been given the whole freedom in the world. In Orthodoxy there is no rejection, only selection.

We don’t know in the history of the Orthodox Church any Savonarola. We consider that such an ostentatious return to the motifs and ideals of the Roman art before Christianity, meaning to  anthropocentrism and eroticism with an obvious purpose of demythicization, as it was the art of the Renaissance it was possible in the context and it was caused by the dissipated life of the Catholic clergy of those times. First the demythicization had taken place within the so called church, by the violation of the virginity imposed to the priests (against the apostolic teaching) and by many other wrongdoings, like crimes, robberies, the sale of the indulgences, the papal infallibility etc. And the fact that Michelangelo paints naked biblical characters is of course a form of parodying the state of the Catholic Church. The nakedness is in fact that of the priests.

The artists attack without any scruples all the Christian ideals because they had seen the Catholic priests and cardinals had been doing the same. The artists revolt themselves but they don’t correct anything. Because they are in the same way themselves. They were wicked and they had been waiting for a good opportunity to unleash their own wickedness. And they found this occasion: the fight against lies.

Under the mask of nobleness they committed wickedness against the others but also against themselves. We should not forget that these artists of Rennaisance or later a Rousseau or a Diderot revolted themselves and sought to free themselves of the Catholic mentality. But we have appropriated their atheism wrongfully, cause of the ability of the atheist propaganda which endeavoured to present Christianity as an amalgam of the aberrations found in all confessions, confessions which the Orthodox Church strongly condemns.

We, the Orthodox try to free ourselves of what? Of our own freedom. Of God. We revolt against ourselves. If we read only a few pages of Orthodox dogmatic we’ll see that we defied ourselves without knowing and of course without wanting it.

The Orthodox dogmas formulate the noblest aspirations a man could have and express in a perfect form the logical thinking. When the blessed Augustin came to know the Church he got ashamed and said: “Thank you, God, for what I blasphemed was not Your Church only my wrong idea about it.”

 If the artist who is revolted against the Church dogmas reads these pages of dogmatic he finds that in Orthodoxy there is a dogma about the free will of man which cannot be violated not even by God. There is another dogma about the resemblance of man with God which implies among others that the man can create or recreate. What would then remain of his view about the tyranny of the dogmas? The dogma says: use your own free will, don’t let yourself be tyrannized by the ideas of one movement or another, don’t remain ignorant, free yourself! The man is afraid to find out that everything he had thought about God is false. That God might prove to be good. The man is afraid to go and meet the One he had aspersed before knowing Him. The man is proud, he is afraid to meet his Creator. Because he stole His clothes and went to the ball with them. He stole His name and took out money from the bank and signed affairs that don’t belong to him. The man made enormous debts and bragged that he is the lord. And now he has found out that the True Lord called him and he is terribly ashamed. He seeks reasons for refraining. He invents lies. He opposes and  asperses his Lord. Because he thinks that the Lord calls him to rebuke him. But the Lord calls him to make him His inheritor.

The artist revolts asking for his right to draw men on paper. But God calls us to recreate ourselves, to build a new being for ourselves. The artist asks for his right to imagine what is beyond the stars. God invites us to make us so powerful that we could move the sky and earth with our hands, as Elijah did. The artist asks for his freedom to drink plum brandy at an exhibition with some shrunken women and God invites him to talk with the angels. What’s bad in what God wants for us?

The world has become impoverished because of its artistic mentality. The modern man suffers of the syndrome of Midas, everything he touches becomes art. Life itself became an art, a  shoddy  kind of art. The man does not live a real life anymore, but a virtual one. He is tyrannized by ideas which estrange him from reality. He is haunted by these ideas, no matter how beautiful they would seem. Or maybe they are too beautiful, uselessly beautiful? Not even that much. As the beauty and value of gold became a curse for Midas art became a curse for us. As gold in itself has no beauty or usefulness, only by what it can be gained by it, being useful by convention, art is without any use. And as Midas would have given a mountain of gold for a glass of water, in the same way there will come a time when we would not be able to change the whole beauty of the world for a drink of living water brought to us by Christ (John 4, 10).

Art should not run away of knowledge, as it happens in the modern art, which estranged from philosophy, from reason and builds itself a false language of emotions and feelings.

Art should not be hermetic or occult as some preach about it. It should be clear like the diamond and justify its right to exist by this fact. Generally no human activity should be against knowledge. Knowledge is the noblest aim we had been created for. The more you know, the more you love, said Da Vinci. And it starts from knowing yourself. Socrates knowing as much as he could before Christ realized that he didn’t have any knowledge. I know that I don’t know, here’s the beginning of wisdom, the path to humility. Because after we discover that there is no fullness of knowledge within us, we go to seek it where we have been told that we could find it – in God. And after we convince ourselves that God is Wisdom, we would bring Him in our hearts, as He had promised Himself. In this way we will be able to know ourselves since we are capable of deification. As temples where God loves to dwell, to fill us with power and immortality forevermore!

Even if he hanged himself…

A monk went to ask a abbot:

There are two monks. One of them stay in his cell in silence, fasting six days a week and he toils away. The other one is nursing a sick person. Which one of them pleases God more?

That one who is fasting six days a week, even if he hanged himself of his nostrils, would never be able to reach the virtue of the brother who is nursing the sick man.

We should exercise our mind to guard it of ignorance

By pious Nicodemus the Athonite

For this is required practice, which is the third thing that should be accomplished first with the mind and will. We have to protect our mind against ignorance, which is opposed to it , because it darkens it and impedes it from the knowledge of truth, which is its goal. That is why it is necessary to exercise it so that it becomes enlightened and pure and able to distinguish well what we need to purify our souls of passions and to adorn it with virtues.

We can acquire this brightness of mind in two ways. The first and the most useful is prayer, by means of which we ask the Holy Spirit to favour us by pouring his divine light within our hearts, thing which He will do if we truly seek God alone, if we do His holy will and if we subject all our deeds and thoughts to the judgment of our experienced spiritual fathers.

The second way is a permanent practice of a profound meditation and examination of things in order to know by means of this which are the good ones and which are the bad ones. Not as they are wrongly judged by senses and by the world but as they are judged by the right word and the Holy Spirit, meaning the truth of the Scriptures inspired by God and that of the wise spiritual fathers and teachers of our Church.

When this meditation and examination are made correctly and as it is required, they help us realize that we must consider as vain and false things all those that are loved and sought by the blind and rotten world. Meaning the pleasures, honors, the richness of the world which are nothing else than futility and death of soul. And the insults and dishonors brought to us by the world become reasons of true glory and the sorrows causes of joy. To forgive our enemies and do them good means magnanimity of soul and one of the greatest attributes of God. Since it is better for someone to despise the whole world than be its lord.

Joyful obedience is a nobler and braver deed than the great emperors’ acts of subjection and command.

The humble knowledge of our soul it is right to be considered more valuable than any other kind of knowledge. Since to defeat and kill our wills and cravings, no matter how small they might be, it is more worthy of praise than to conquer many citadels, to make some powerful armies run away or to perform miracles and revive the dead.


Water teaches us the right way of life

A saint from the Holy Mountain was asked by his disciples:

“You’ve been standing for so long on the river bank and looking at the water.” “What do you see here?”

The saint didn’t give any answer and he didn’t turn his eyes from the flow of the water. In the end he said:

“God teaches us how we must live, giving us the example of the water.” “The water brings life with itself wherever it flows and gives it to those who need it.” “It is kind and generous.” “It knows how to even the bumpy ground.” “It is just.” “Without hesitation, it falls from the roofs to the deepest depths.” “It is brave.” “Its surface is smooth but it can form high waves.” “It is wise. “It avoids the rocks and cliffs that are in its way.” “It knows how to endure.” “But its gentle power is at work day and night for pushing aside the obstacles.” “It is tenacious. No matter how many meanders it has to surpass, it never loses its track to its eternal aim, to the sea.” “It is aware of its aim.” “And no matter how dirty it becomes, it always tries to get clean.” “It has the power to renew itself.” “That’s why I look at the water.” “God teaches me by its example the right way of life.”

God forgive me when I complain!

Today I saw in the bus a beautiful girl with golden hair. I envied her. She seemed so happy…And I wished I could be as beautiful as her. When she stood up to get down from the bus I saw that she was limping…she had one leg and was walking with a crutch. But as she walked I saw an angelic smile on her face!

God forgive me when I complain, cause I have two legs. The whole world is mine…

I stopped to buy some candy. The child who sold them was so happy. We talked and I saw that he was very glad. It had no importance that I was late for work.

“Thank you.” “You are so kind.” “I like to talk with people like you.” “You see, I am blind.”

God forgive me when I complain cause I have two eyes. The whole world is mine…

Later as I was walking down the road I saw a child with blue eyes. He was standing and looking at me, but his gaze was rapidly changing. He didn’t know what to do. I stopped and said: “Why don’t you go and play?”

The child continued to look at me without saying anything and then I understood that he couldn’t hear.

God forgive me when I complain, cause I hear. The whole world is mine…

I have legs that take me wherever I want to go, eyes to see the sunset with them, ears with which I hear everything.

God forgive me when I complain. I am really blessed!

Christ and the Holy Mother of God don’t punish, they love…

We often hear someone saying:” I did this bad thing and the Holy Mother of God punished me.” Another one says: “I did this bad thing and Christ punished me or the saint punished me.”

How wrong we are, my sons! How big is this mistake!

The Holy Mother of God, Christ and the saints don’t punish anybody.

I tell you the truth, that’s the way it is. Why? Because they cannot punish anyone, my sons.

Their work is full of pure love. And love can do no harm. Why? Because it simply cannot do it. If it harmed, then it wasn’t love. Because it is pure love it cannot do any harm.

What happens when we commit a wrongdoing and we experience an unpleasant incident which we understand as being a punishment from Christ and His Holy Mother?

Have you heard the expression “this one was taken up by the devil?” Something similar happens in this case as well. As long as we are in harmony with the love of our Lord, we have this love as our shield and the evil one cannot tempt us. He cannot do us any harm except for a few barks from time to time. And sometimes even these barks are just illusions of our minds and have no connection with the evil one.

But when we commit a serious sin – especially when this sin has destructive consequences for our neighbor – or we blaspheme God and the Holy Mother of God, then we lose the harmony of Christ’s love, the shield which protects us falls from our hands and remaining without protection we become prey in the hands of the evil one, who grabs us gladly to destroy us, thing which pleases him a lot. And instead of understanding what is happening and instead of running  tearfully to mend what we can mend and find again our protection in the love of our Lord we say that we were punished by the Holy Mother of God or by Christ. And the evil one makes such a great fun of all this.

No, my sons, Christ and His Holy Mother and the saints of God don’t punish, they love…And they grieve when they see us suffering. We open the gate and get out of the divine protection.

By confession, sincere repentance and the priest’s blessing we can be again in harmony with the love of our Lord. And be protected…

May our Good Lord and the Holy Mother of God protect you of all evil!

Father John

Art as monument of the separation of man from God (I)

Archimandrite Savatie Bastovoi

Art is what man understood from his separation of God. It is the drama of our separation and solitariness. Solitariness is a central theme in art and besides that art cannot even be conceived without it. But solitariness means death. Eminescu captures brilliantly the genesis of art:

I little thought that I would learn to die/Forever young, wrapped in my cloak,

Lifting my forehead to the star of solitude.

Here’s Adam’s screaming and whining after he had fallen from Eden: I little thought that I would learn to die. He is shocked by death. That’s art: the attitude of rejecting death, of being revolted by it, of suffering because of it. But there is also the consolation without escape, the passive learning to die. The man has just learnt to die and he has already forgotten the place of God. He raises his forehead towards the star of solitude.

We assume that this raising of the forehead is art. The forehead as a symbol of wisdom and power does not feed itself anymore from God but from its own being. The star of solitude it’s rather an infinite projection of our personal loneliness, an absolutization of our loneliness, which becomes the centre of a desperate and docile universe. This new star, singular and personalized, eliminates by its importance, all the other stars, becoming for our character the single landmark in the entire universe, the only light. I raised my forehead towards the star of solitude. Not the eyes, the forehead! The man is groping after light with his forehead ahead. His eyes are so much blinded that he doesn’t remember of them anymore. He does not give himself any chance to recover them. We could even imagine his eye sockets closed. That’s why he is raising his forehead. Here’s art.

How did the man adorn the star of his solitude? What’s that thing so worthy to live for it? We say that it worths living only for the things it worths dying. We’ll see that for the artist this thing is not an aim, only a method. The chaos and death make the aim lose its importance and meaning. The absurd invades our existence, without escape. The 20-th century is the century of the absurd, that’s well known from Camus, Sartre, till the absurd of Eugene Ionescu.

But before being given a name, the absurd had been abounding in the whole art of the world, starting with the epic of Gilgamesh till Romeo and Juliet or other masterpieces from where God is missing. And from this point of view men were right. Since the absence of God can be only absurd.

Death is the guillotine which evens all our aspirations, the noble and the mean ones, without any distinction.

The only thing that differentiates us is what we leave behind. The difference between the religious man and the disbeliever is that the first lives for ensuring himself a future – eternity, and the second for ensuring himself a past, a vain glory. The life of the disbeliever gravitates around the fear of anonymity. The fear of anonymity is what makes the disbeliever create.

The disbeliever says: give back to me my own self. The believer says:  give back to You my own self.

That’s why the believer cannot be an artist. For him the aim – the meeting with God – cancels the method, namely the art. The disbeliever has no aim and for this reason what is a method for the believer for him becomes an aim. He gets stuck in the method like in a spider web, a spider web that he made himself and due to this fact he does not realize the danger. Art for the sake of art is the incapacity to see further, to see God. It is the immobility in his own self. The whole history of art is nothing else than a parade of some people with psychological complexes. A parade of helplessness. An assault of the winter palace of our conscience. A revolution which forces our conscience to admit all those complexes as something special and worthy to be taken into consideration. In his writing about art, Freud calls the artists mad men on stage. Because there it takes place a download of the complexes, an elementary release of these infirmities. The joy the spectators experience at a show is due to their identification with that artist and to their co participation at some feelings and scenes which normally would embarrass him. When Freud made his assumptions regarding this issue to have sexual intercourse on the kitchen table or in the tram station it was not an act of emancipation but a shameful deed. Art is the phenomenon which transforms complexes through a process of ennobling them till idealization.

After three millennia of history of culture the man has nothing more to say to the world. He gravitates around this boulder, named history of culture and sees that in fact it is much smaller than he expected. It is like a cheese colander which, after all the whey had poured out, it became very small, changing the plans of those who gathered around it to eat it. And the man tries to extract from this boulder meaning to increase its value. Thus art critics and theorists appear. What for? For writing tomes to convince you that Barbu’s rhymes  at the precipice of Uvedenrod/ many overweight, musical gastropods might hide meanings which the human thought cannot even  comprehend? And that the pelican of Urmuz is such a brilliant poetical expression that it deserves to open a new poetic age? Which has already been opened! But these trifles are not even the whey from which could be obtained a handful of cheese and – do forgive me – this might be possible only after the shepherd introduces his hand in the milk and throws this away.

Appointment with death

An old Arabic tale tells us the sad story of the janissary of the sultan from Baghdad. One day the young janissary threw himself full of sadness at the feet of his master, who loved him dearly, asking him to borrow him his wonderful horse that ran as if flying, so fast he was.

”Why?” the sultan asked him.

”I saw death in the garden and she beckoned me.” ”With your horse I will be able to run to Bassra and hide in the fair from that place.” ”In this way death won’t reach me.”

The sultan gave him his horse and the janissary left galloping at highest speed.

The sultan went down in the garden and saw death standing there waiting.

”Why did you threaten my janissary?” he asked her.

”But I did not threaten him at all”, the death answered.

”I just raised my arm, surprised.” ”I wondered: How could he be here when I have appointment with him in five hours in the fair from Bassra.

Sometimes we truly believe that we could fool death, running here and there. Many times the man behaves childishly when confronted with death and the fear to shake hands with eternity reveals his nothingness and helplessness. How many people seem so brave when they are healthy and everything goes well in their lives, they are like flying dragons in the heights of the sky and show off their bravery. But when an event of their life makes them face death, they prove their total cowardice and lack of courage.

For the true Christians death is only a passing to the eternal bliss.