How should we be on New Year’s Eve?

Priest Octavian Mosin: How nice it would be if on New Year’s Eve we were like some burning candles and radiated warmth and love, if we were awake, praying, all the more since this New Year’s Eve is during the night from Saturday to Sunday when we honor Christ’s Holy Resurrection.

There was a man…

An old woman was dragging her feet through the snow. She was lonely and forsaken. All the passers-by from the sidewalk turned their eyes away, so that they would forget that pains and troubles never cease, not even when we celebrate Christmas.

A young couple who was talking and laughing, having the hands full with  shopping bags and gifts paid no heed to the old woman. A mother with two children was hurrying towards the house of the grandmother and they ignored her as well. A priest passed by but having his mind at the heavenly things, didn’t notice her.

If they had noticed her, they would have seen that the old woman had no shoes in her feet. She was walking barefoot on the ice and through the snow and was holding her buttonless coat tightly with her hands around her neck. She wore a colored scarf on her head. She stopped in the station and waited for the bus. A gentleman who was holding an elegant bag in his hand was waiting in the station as well, but kept the distance. There was also a young woman who looked several times at the old woman’s feet but didn’t say anything.

The bus came and the old woman got in slowly and hardly. She sat on the side seat, right behind the driver. The gentleman and the young woman went quickly to the seats from the back of the bus. The man who was sitting next to the old woman turned on his seat and was playing with his fingers. Alzheimer, he thought. The driver seeing the bare feet of that old woman said: This district gets more and more impoverished. It would be better if they changed the route on the other side of the boulevard.

A small boy pointed towards the old woman:

“Look, mother, this old woman is barefoot.”

His mother got upset and slapped him over his hand.

“Don’t point your finger to people, Andrew!” “It’s not polite.”

“This one must have big children”, said a lady who was dressed with a fur coat. “Her children should be ashamed for leaving her go like this.” And bloated with pride because she took care of her mother. A teacher from the middle of the bus gathered more properly all the stuff that was at her feet.

“Don’t we pay enough taxes for being solved such situations?” she said to a friend who was near her.

“The right wing is guilty for this”, her friend replied. “They take from the poor and give to the rich.”

“No, the others are guilty for this”, said a white-haired gentleman. “With their social programs they make the citizens lazy and poor.”

“People should learn to save money”, said another one, who looked like an intellectual. “If this old woman had saved money when she was young, she wouldn’t have suffered now.”

And all these people were satisfied by the sharpness of their minds, which was able to make such a profound analysis. Only a merchant felt offended by the grumbling of his fellow citizens. He grabbed his wallet and took out a banknote from it which he put in the shivering hand of the old woman, after crossing the bus and told her:

“Take it and buy yourself some shoes.”

The old woman thanked him and that man returned to his place satisfied that he gave the alms.

A well dressed woman saw all these and started to pray silently: “God, I don’t have money but I’m addressing to You, because You have solutions for everything.” As You did long time ago when You made it rain manna from heaven, now You can give to this old woman everything she needs for the feast of Your birth.”

A young man got in the bus at the next stop. He was dressed in a thick jacket, he wore a brown muffler and a woolen cap which covered his ears. He had some headphones and was listening to some music. He was moving his body while listening to it. He went and sat down near the old woman. When he saw her bare feet he stopped moving his body. He froze. His eyes moved from the bare feet of the old woman to his own feet. He was wearing some new and expensive boots. He had saved money for buying them to impress his entourage. Then the young man bent and started to unlace his nice boots. He took them off, then his socks and kneeling down before the old woman said:

“Grannie, I see you are barefoot.” “I have some more pairs of boots.”

He lifted carefully and gently the frozen feet of the old woman, put on his socks then the boots. The old woman thanked him, being extremely touched.

In that moment the bus stopped again in a station. The young man got down and walked barefoot through the snow. The travelers gathered at the windows and saw him walking barefoot towards his home.

“Who is he?” someone asked.

“He must be a saint”, someone else answered.

“I think he’s an angel”, another one said.

“Look, he has an aura  around his head”, another one exclaimed.

“It’s Christ”, the pious lady said.

But the small boy who had pointed towards the old woman said:

“No, mother.” “I saw him very well.”

Our confidence in God is severely put to test

Archimandrite Sophrony Saharov

The path of the Christian is in the following way: at the beginning the man is drawn to God by His grace. After he had been drawn to God it begins his long trial. The freedom of man and his confidence in God are harshly put to test. At the beginning the requests addressed to God, either small or big, even the requests that are barely expressed, are usually fulfilled by God in a swift and wonderful way.

But when it comes the period of trial then everything changes and it seems that the sky shuts itself and becomes deaf to all requests. Everything is achieved with difficulty in the life of the passionate Christian. The behavior of the other people towards him gets worse, they stop honoring him. What they accept at others, they don’t accept at him, his work is almost always paid less than it should, his body is easily exposed to diseases. Nature, people, everything turns against him.

Even if his natural charisms are not lower that the charisms of the others, he doesn’t find favourable conditions to use them. Beside these, he suffers many attacks from the demonic powers and the climax is the unbearable grief caused by the feeling that he is abandoned by God. Then his suffering (πάθος) reaches its peak because the man is hurt on all the levels of his existence.

Does God abandon him? Is this possible? Instead of experiencing that he is getting closer to God, he gets the feeling that God is infinite, inaccessible, far away, beyond the astral world and all the calls addressed to Him are lost in the immensity of the astral space. His soul intensifies its inner cry towards God but he still doesn’t see any help or heed. Then everything becomes burdensome. Everything is achieved with great painstaking. Life fills with pain and the man starts feeling that he is hit by God’s curse and anger. But when all these trials would have passed then he’ll see God’s miraculous care that protected him mindfully in all the aspects of his life.

The millennial experience which is taught from generation to generation says that when God sees the faith this man’s soul has for Him, as He saw Job’s faith, will guide him through abysses to heights which are not accessible to others.

The more powerful is the faith and confidence of that man in God, the highest is the degree of his trials and the fullness of his experience, which can reach a great extent.

Then he is clearly shown that he reached the limits which cannot be passed over by man.

What happens to the small babies when their parents have a row

The American scientists assert that the brains of the babies who hear the furious voices of their parents become vulnerable to stress and conflicts.

A new study claims that the parents who argue in front of their baby make him become sensitive to stress. Moreover, a study of the specialists from the University of Oregon revealed the fact that the babies react even in their sleep to the furious tone of their parents.

The brain of the babies has a high level of elasticity which allows them to learn fast how to respond to their environment and the people who around them. However, because the small babies are so receptive, severe stress like the abuse and maltreatment may prevent their cerebral development.

Using the functional magnetic resonance, the scientists analyzed the association between the cerebral functions of the babies and the sounds produced during the rows of their parents (a common stress source)

Previous studies, like that from 2005 found that the brain of the babies becomes more attentive when it hears irritated voices than when it hears a happy voice. Likewise other studies suggested that the conflicts between parents may lead to a decrease of the quality of sleep at babies, affecting their emotional state.

In a new study, 20 babies aged between six and twelve months were brought to a MRI lab at their habitual sleeping hour. The scientists exposed the babies to hearing an adult voice saying meaningless sentences on various tones expressing different moods (very angry, less angry, neutral and happy)

The results showed that even in their sleep the babies gave signs of cerebral activity depending on the tone of that voice, Alice Graham declared in the press release.

Moreover, the babies ‘parents filled in some forms referring at the level of conflict from their homes and the test results showed that the babies from families with intense conflicts reacted more strongly at annoyed voices and this fact may be noticed at the level of the hypothalamus, cingulated cortex, caudate nucleus and thalamus, zones associated with stress and emotional adjustment.

Childhood experiences may influence powerfully the answer of a person later in her life. The tests on animals showed that certain zones from the brain like the hypothalamus and cingulated cortex influence the impact of the early stress factors upon development and the actual research supports this fact.

Source: Medical Dailydescopera.ro

 

Saint Gabriel the Georgian : The spiritual confessor should pretend he is angry at least once a day

Elder Gabriel was a living example of kindness but when he noticed that someone distorted or counterfeited the meanings of the Orthodox faith his eyes darkened and he hit you like thunder with his word. On one of such occasions, one of his spiritual sons asked him:

“When we see you angry, are you really angered?”

“My heart is never touched by anger. It’s just an outer anger.”

But once he gave the impression that he had got really angry. He stood up and furiously exclaimed:

“You shouldn’t distort my words.” “I speak by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In that moment dark clouds covered the sky, the sun hid and everything forecast that it was going to rain. Those who were guilty for that understood, repented for their mistake and apologized. Then the elder smiled and the sun showed up again in the sky.

“Don’t distort my words!” You see, this has an influence even upon the weather! The spiritual father should pretend he is angry at least once a day.

Source: acvila30.ro

Selfless love

A starets sent his disciple to Egypt to bring a camel from there and carry their handicraft on it from their skete to Egypt. While the monk was bringing the camel, he met an elder who told him:

If I had known that you were going to Egypt, I would have told you to bring one for me too.

The disciple went to his starets and  told him what that elder had said to him. When the starets heard his words, said:

Take the camel, go with it to the elder and say: We’ve fixed our affairs. Take the camel and do your work. Go with him to Egypt and and after he would have finished his work, take the camel and bring it back here so that we could send our handicraft to Egypt.

The disciple did exactly as he had been told by his starets. After loading the elder’s handicraft on the camel, went with him to Egypt. Arriving there and downloading the camel, the disciple said to that elder:

Pray for me, abba!

But where are you going? the elder asked him.

To our skete, to take our handicraft and bring it here, the disciple answered with simplicity.

Then, the elder hearing these humbled himself and with tears in his eyes bowed towards the disciple saying:

May God forgive you, cause your love took my own fruit.

What are you doing on Christmas?

It’s such a simple and profound joy that You, Lord incarnated Yourself in man in a small and poor manger, on a Sunday morning.

And Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to You and bowed to the ground. And You were surrounded by a lot of angels and the three shepherds who had been announced by Archangel Gabriel had come to You . And miracles took place in the entire world and in the same hour in the cave water sprang from stone, in Rome it sprang out of the earth a spring of oil, on the sky three suns showed up and everyone marveled because Messiah had come.

Every year I am so often asked this question: What are you doing on Christmas?

I realize that looking back I knew the answer. It was the time for gatherings, one day spent with the friends, another one with the family. It was the time for gifts, that pleasure of wandering through stores in a rush with curious eyes, with Christmas carols aired from loudspeakers and ribbons on boxes. It was the time for dinners in the family, so many traditional dishes were waiting to be praised, an exhibition with a tasting, what sweet delights!

It was also the time for Christmas carols, for receiving the big and small carolers and for showing our gratitude and maybe even for joining them in their singing as when we were in our grandparents’ village and went caroling with our parents from house to house until nightfall. There were some years when there was much pain around the tables with less chairs, because of the parents who went abroad.

I knew the answer anyway. I had a program, in the long run that holidays fulfilled its aim, it was a disconnection from a too fast pace, a delight of the hearts, above the ordinary. However somewhere underneath, there was raising another timid and restless question, a question without answer: But what is Christmas in fact, where is all this joy coming from? And I stopped from everything, watching the glittering lights from the Christmas tree, surrounded by the scent of oranges, maybe in this way I might feel what Christmas truly is…

What about these people who don’t have any friends or relatives, who don’t have any home, any Christmas tree, what means Christmas for them ?

This year I don’t know what to do on Christmas. I have no more plans for celebration. I simply want to be there and enjoy the moment, because I found out that this is the only thing I have to do: to thank You, my Lord for coming into the world because this is how it starts the salvation of man!

It’s such a simple and profound joy that You, Lord incarnated Yourself in man in a small and poor manger, on a Sunday morning.

And Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to You and bowed to the ground. And You were surrounded by a lot of angels and the three shepherds who were announced by Archangel Gabriel had come to You . And miracles took place in the entire world and in the same hour in the cave water sprang from stone, in Rome it sprang out of the earth a spring of oil, on the sky showed up three suns and everyone marveled because Messiah had come.

It is the joy of salvation, it is the beginning of the sacrifice on the Cross, it is a Sunday  resembling that of the Resurrection, and this is the one I want to share with you for this is Christmas.

And there would be something else. I found that among the first people who celebrated Your Birth there were some who died burnt in a church from Nicomidia. It happened in the third century, in the time of the pagan emperors Diocletian and Maximian, when the Christians were persecuted. On the same note, later Oliver Cromwell, who was a military and political leader, banned Christmas, considering it a pagan tradition. The English Parliament announced its official decision in 1644. While I, we have the whole freedom in the world to celebrate Christmas! I don’t live in a country where faith and the joy, the great gift of praying are banned. There are no soldiers around the churches with burning torches and I don’t need to hide, to say in a whisper where I am going. So I am going to thank you my Lord and to sing and to write for you who love Christmas and for you who maybe haven’t known it yet that we wouldn’t have existed if Christ hadn’t been born and if He hadn’t taught us how to be.

Source: doxologia.ro

 

For those who say they cannot find their salvation in the world

Saint John  Chrysostom

If we don’t fulfill God’s will the place doesn’t save us. Each one of us is saved by his mind which is voluntarily seeking God. There is no avail from a high-ranking position, nor from a holy place for the one who doesn’t fulfill God’s command. What other position is it higher than Adam’s immortal dominion and what other place is it more beautiful than heaven from where Adam was banished after he had violated God’s commandment?

And contrariwise, what is more disgraceful than trash, where Job sat and kept God’s commandment and gained a place for himself in heaven? And Saul owning a kingdom and living in great palaces lost this life and didn’t conquer his afterlife either. And Lot, being in Sodoma, in the middle of a lawless people, fulfilling God’s commandments saved his soul and got his wreath together with the saints. And if someone said that he couldn’t find his salvation in the world, with wife and children, one like that foolishly cheats himself since God receives us no matter where we’d live if we fulfill His commandments. The place doesn’t save us, nor it condemns us, we are saved or condemned by our own deeds.

Thus, even if we live in the world, my brothers, we shouldn’t despair, even if we have sinned, we have to run to God and repent and be kindhearted and generous with the poor and helpless from our fortunes. For people like these God gave you  your fortune and fortune was not born together with anyone of us. That’s why you should give alms voluntarily since it is very beneficial for your soul to give alms with your own hand. And you shouldn’t have witnesses when you give alms. Don’t neglect your close relatives. First you should take care of those from your own house then of the other relatives so that they won’t miss anything and then give alms to the other people. It is hypocrisy to give alms to the poor strangers and leave those from your family to be naked, barefoot and hungry. How do you say that you take care of their souls when you neglect their physical needs? How could you make them have fear of God, when they are distressed because of their physical shortages? Oh, what a great ignorance and what a wicked heart!

Didn’t you hear the Scripture saying: Happy is the one who is merciful with the souls of his servants and doesn’t leave his family live in deprivation.

If you upset your own kinsfolk and you are merciful with the others, God will say to you: You, hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Therefore, hearing these you should show mercy to your own kinsfolk and take care of their food so that you can make God be merciful towards yourself.

Praised be God forever!

The parents who neglected the education of their children are harshly punished

Even if our personal life is orderly, if we neglect the salvation of our children, we’ll be severely punished. I’ll tell you only a word about this, not mine, but one taken from the Holy Scriptures.

There was once a Judean priest, Eli, a humble and lenient man, but who made God become enemy for him and his children because he had compassion for his sons even when it was not necessary and he lost his salvation and his son’s salvation.

Listen to what he is told by God, not directly, because he had lost the honor to talk to God. God considered him an ordinary slave, who had committed a great sin and because of this He announced him about the misfortunes which were about to happen to him (so big was His anger)

Listen to what He tells to Samuel. Eli found that his sons blasphemed God and he didn’t rebuke them well for that. He rebuked them but not in the way he should have done it and God did not take into account that rebuke. That’s why He banished him from His face, because he hadn’t showed the due severity.

No matter how much we’d care about our children that is not enough. What we do cannot be considered as care for them, as Eli failed to restrain his sons. God admonished Eli for the sin of his sons and punished him severely being extremely angered and saying: “So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.” (I Samuel 3, 14)

You see what a terrible punishment, sprung from an irreconcilable pain for an unforgivable sin? God told him that his entire house had to die, because there was no remedy for the offence they brought to Him.

However, except for his go-by towards the sin of his sons, God did not find any other guilt at his old priest Eli, because he was a very good man indeed. We have to take heed to someone’s virtuous life and praise it not only in the common circumstances but especially in the toughest moments.

First when he heard God’s words and saw the punishment approaching, Eli did not lose his courage and didn’t get upset and didn’t say what many would often say: Am I the master of the will and decisions of the others? I should be judged for my own sins, not for the sins of my sons, who are mature and should answer for their own deeds themselves. Eli didn’t say and didn’t think anything of this kind, but as an obedient and grateful servant who knows one thing, that we should receive without protesting everything is sent to us by God, even the unpleasant or unbearable things, said these wise words: He is the Lord. Let Him do what is good in His eyes. (I Samuel 3.18)

There are some more others examples referring at Eli’s life where we see how virtuous he was. During the battle with the Philistines someone brought him the news that his wild and wretched sons were killed in that fight. He listened to that unruffled. But when the messenger told him about the ark of God which had been captured, the old priest, overwhelmed by the dizziness and pain caused by this news, fell down from his chair on his back, near the gate and broke his spinal cord, being old and heavy. He had led Israel for forty years. (see I Samuel 4, 18)

If nothing could save this old, prominent man, who led the Jews for 40 years, this man who lived in a period when God was more lenient than today and he died in a pitiful way, because he hadn’t behaved with severity with his sons (since the sin that he failed to be a good parent erased as a huge and wild wave everything was good about him, all his good deeds and his whole life lived in virtue) then what punishment expects us, who live in a time when we are required to have even more virtue than that?

It’s about us, who are unable to educate our children properly and who consider as our enemies those who try to do this and we fight against them, being worse than some pagans with our own children. If the callosity of their hearts led the Jews to their slavery, ruin and perdition, to the enslavement of their country and to physical pains, you make your own souls be enslaved and give them tied to the cruel and cunning devils and to their passions. Since you don’t give your children any spiritual advice and don’t let the others to do that, then you don’t do anything else than what the Jews did during Eli’s time.

Saint John Chrysostom

 

Saint Nicholas miraculously saves a Chinese

In Harbin [1], before the Chinese came to power, in the train station there had been an icon with Saint Nicholas left by the Russian refugees. It was worshipped even by the Chinese.

One day a soaking wet Chinese man came to the station, knelt down before the icon, thanking to Saint Nicholas in his native tongue. One day, during winter, he tried to cross the river Shangri La. This river passes through Harbin and in winter it freezes.

As he was hurriedly walking, the ice broke and he fell down in the water. While sinking he remembered the icon and cried: “Old man from the station please help me!”

Then he lost his consciousness and sank. Death seemed sure for him. The only thing he remembers is that all of a sudden he found himself on the river bank and his body was almost frozen. Then he ran as fast as he could to the train station and knelt down before the icon, thanking to Saint Nicholas for his miraculous intervention.

[1] Harbin is the capital of the Northern province of China Heilongjiang. The city grew at the end of the 19th century with an influx of Russian engineers who built the Eastern joint of the Trans Siberian railroad.