When you entered the church you should not see anything else

If we come in the house of God, we must come clothed in our spiritual clad.

Many times we stand in the church, we listen to the preach and the chants but our thoughts God knows where they fly! Sometimes you talk with others, you look at the way one person or another is dressed and this is not the purpose of our coming to the church.

When you entered the church you should not see anything else but the Savior and you should not hear anything else but the doxology to God. All the others are demonic temptations. Because the devil tries you in all places, even when we are in the church.

You come and say: God forgive me, God have mercy on me! God, I believe in You!

We come to the church drawn by a certain interest, maybe a superstition or a social convenience. Few are those who keep all the time their minds to the prayer, to the holy service, to what the priest does, to what is sung in the pew. Because we are always assailed by thoughts.

Father Gheorghe Calciu

Excerpt from ”Living Words”, Bonifaciu Publishing House, 2009, pg. 66

Source: ganduridinierusalim.com

 

How should we raise our children?

Here are three very precious pieces of advices from saints and great spiritual confessors about the way we should raise our children for being content of them when they grow up:

  • You cultivate in your children future citizens, soldiers, writers, men of letters, clerks, artists, industrialists. That’s good but do not ignore what is even better: do not neglect to make from them sons of the Church, to prepare some future citizens for heaven (Saint Philaret of Moscow)
  • Those who engrain in their children the right thinking about the greatness of God and about providence and then about virtue will become worthy of the divine rewards not only as parents but also as wonderful advisers and those who engrain in them the worshipping of many gods and passions will receive a reward as some men who sacrificed their children to the devils. (Saint Isidor Pelusiote)
  • Education must be first of all a religious one: through holy services, holy mysteries, prayer. The thing that’s always required above all is faith – and in order to engrain faith in your children it is necessary to live a Christian life yourselves. (Archpriest Valerian Krecetov)

Source: Cuvântul Ortodox

 

In your hands…

In saint John Maximovici’s book there is a dialogue between a beggar and a famous theologian. This theologian had asked for 8 years to bring in his way a man who could show him the safest path to the Kingdom of heaven. One day when he had reached the culmination of his prayer he heard a voice telling him: `Go to the church and at its entrance you will find the man you are seeking.`

Then that man left his prayer and ran to the church where he found an old beggar with ragged clothes and wounded knees.

`May you have a nice, happy morning, old man!` the theologian greeted him.

`I have never had any bad or unhappy morning`, the beggar answered.

Then the theologian said again:

`May God give you all goodness!`

`God has never given me anything that was not good.`

The theologian hearing the second strange answer asked him:

`What’s the matter with you, old man?` `I wish you to be happy and you answer something else.`

 `But I have never been unhappy.` `I live after the will of God and I have never complained for the yoke He gave me, I’ve always been content.`

`But where did you come from, old man?` the theologian asked him again.

`From God.`

`And where did you find Him?`

`Where I have left Him.` `In the good will.`

`Who are you, old man?` `And to what class do you belong?`

`It doesn’t matter who I am.`What matters the most is that I am content with my condition because king is the one who controls and overcomes himself.`

Then the theologian agreed that the path of the beggar was the safest and the only one that leads to heaven, which is to entrust yourself to the will of God.

The cup filled to its brim

A man who was overwhelmed by the worries of this age decided once to visit a holy hermit. He wanted to calm down a bit from the stress that was troubling him and went to ask advice from the elder.

He found him in a poor hut.

`Bless me, father`, he said greeting the hermit. `You know I’ve made such a long way till here.`

`Have a seat`, the elder said. `Let me pour you some tea!`

`I spent many years studying at foreign universities`…the man started to talk about himself.

`Let’s drink a tea first`, the hermit insisted.

`Now I am the manager of a great company`, the other one went on talking about himself.

`I think you’re going to like my tea`, the hermit said, going on filling the cup of his visitor.

`But father you’ve already filled it to the brim and now is pouring down over it.` `The tea is pouring down!` the visitor remarked annoyed.

`You are just like this cup filled to its brim!` the wise elder answered. `If you do not make even a little space, emptying some of what you carry inside yourself, blessed man, how could you let me put inside yourself a little from what I know?

About the Divine Liturgy

Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gorgotina

The best and the holiest thing happening on earth, my Christian brothers, is the DIVINE LITURGY. The Son of God incarnated himself as man in the womb of Theotokos in order to give us the Divine Liturgy.  

          One night – oh, God what a blessed night was that one – on the night of Great Thursday, when Christ was having the Last Supper with his disciples He taught us the Divine Liturgy

  The Divine Liturgy is a Mystery of the Church. This Mystery contains all the greatness of our faith. What the Church means, my brothers, we experience and feel in the Divine Liturgy. Here in the Divine Liturgy we find and taste our God. If someone asks you what you have seen and received at the Divine Liturgy, tell him that nice troparion sung by the psalter as a final sealing of the Divine Liturgy:

We have seen the True Light! We have received the Heavenly Spirit! We have found the True Faith! Worshiping the Undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.

And indeed we receive the divine grace we need so much for being able to go forward and enhance spiritually at the Divine Liturgy. This is the `true light` and the `heavenly spirit` mentioned in that troparion. It is the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In the same time in the Divine Liturgy we find and experience the holy faith of our Fathers. That is why the troparion says: We have found the True Faith! What faith? The faith in our God, in the Holy Trinity, in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three persons, one God. That is why the troparion says : worshipping the Undivided Trinity. You see? The Divine Liturgy begins with:

`Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit`, words that are uttered by the priest and it ends again with the Holy Trinity, with the troparion sung by the psalter: worshipping the Undivided Trinity

A miracle takes places during the Divine Liturgy, my Christian brothers.

Today people ask for miracles to believe but they forget that the Divine Liturgy is the greatest miracle. Listen! In order to officiate the Divine Liturgy we need some leavened bread we call prosphora and some liturgical wine. You bring both these. Speaking about prosphoras, you, pious women take care that the flour you use for kneading the dough for prosphoras is made in such a way that the prosphora does not crumble. Because if it crumbles, when the priest puts the part of the Holy Body in the Holy Chalice it mixes so much with the Holy Blood that you cannot distinguish them anymore. Therefore try to find good flour for making the prosphoras.

But let us go back to our subject. So for the Divine Liturgy we need the prosphoras and the liturgical wine. Then in a moment, when the priest says: Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all, and for all at his prayer the great miracle takes place: the bread turns into the Body of Christ and the wine from the Holy Chalice turns into the blood of Christ. They still look like bread and wine but in reality they are the Body and Blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit comes at the prayer of the priest upon the two elements. He performs this great miracle: He changes the bread and the wine in the Body and the Blood of Christ. But listen to something else, my beloved Christian brothers: The priest prays to God to send first the Holy Spirit upon all the believers who are attending the Divine Liturgy and then to come upon the Holy Gifts, at the bread and wine and change them into the Body and Blood of Christ. Because the priest prays to God: Send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts set forth.

Pay attention to these `upon us`. To us. And just as it is true – and it is true indeed – that the Holy Spirit comes upon the bread and wine and changes them into the Body and Blood of Christ, it is also true that the Holy Spirit comes to the entire Synaxis of the Christian believers and fill them of Grace. Of course this happens in accordance with the openness of each soul. As the sunlight and the air come into a room depending on how much we open the windows.

But the most important thing at the Divine Liturgy, my brothers, is the fact that we participate at the Supper of God and partake of the most Precious and Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The whole liturgy is done so that the priest says in the end:

With fear of God, and with faith and love, draw nigh.

And the Christians come and take the Holy Eucharist but as the priest said: with fear of God, with the faith that they partake indeed with the Body and Blood of Christ – and not with bread and wine as some uncatechized people say – and they take the Holy Eucharist with love for all and not with enmity.

As long as the Liturgy is so great, so holy and divine, you ought not to be deprived of it. Some might say that in their village or parish there is no priest and the Divine Liturgy is not officiated. This is a painful truth because many villages are without a priest. Pray to Theotokos to send priests in your villages, to make the bells toll and to sanctify yourselves.

But even if in your village there is no priest, do not remain at home, go in the next village or to the closest monastery for the Divine Liturgy.

Do not remain at home without the Divine Liturgy, I beg you! The Divine Liturgy is so important and nonparticipation does such a great harm and deficiency that if it were officiated a Divine Liturgy at Patra (at a distance of 200 km) it would deserve to walk till there to take part at it and receive the grace of God.

If we were told that in Veria (at 770 km) appeared Theotokos we would walk till there to worship Her and receive Her blessing. But this thing happens at each Divine Liturgy.

Theotokos shows herself because the Divine Liturgy is offered to all, but especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, as you hear when the priest officiates the divine service.

Therefore, my beloved Christian brothers, when the bell tolls in your village for the Holy Liturgy you should feel as if Theotokos herself called you and waited to see you all there gathered in the Church. That no one be missing!

With many blessings,

† Jeremiah, Metropolitan of Gortina and Megalopa

 

I am tired

The phrase we say to ourselves and hear from the others around us as well – `I am tired` – seems to be true. However today there are so many facilities. That is why someone would expect that the man of nowadays could be more refreshed and would have more time.

The decrease of the bodily fatigue in comparison with what it was in the past when people had as main occupations agriculture and livestock generated an increased spiritual fatigue.

`I am tired` does not always show some inner fatigue. It shows that there is some discouragement, pain and instability within us. We lack peace, balance, safety.

Regardless of his age, the man needs the love of those around him, needs their affection and understanding. He needs to feel that they did not forsake him, that he means something for what he is and not for what he offers. Then, no matter how many chores he would have, he will have power and liveliness. His good spiritual condition overcomes the bodily fatigue, which becomes a `sweet fatigue`

Thus nice domestic, professional or social relationships are of an essential importance for our peace of mind. But spiritual peace is also important. And what I mean here is our bond with the Holy Spirit with our Lord and God.

The man as an image of God and the Christian as a son of God, adopted by the mystery of baptism, have an organic bond with Him. Sin perverts this bond and we lose our peace and balance. Then it appears the revolt, the distress, the inner tension, the fatigue. And because the man is a psychosomatic being the spiritual influences both soul and body.

Christ told us : Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.[1] His Word is true because it has been experienced by millions of people over the centuries.

`I am tired`, beyond the work conditions which cause much fatigue may also be a cry of the soul asking for compassion from those around him, understanding and love so that he won’t feel alone.

It might also be a warning send to ourselves about the fact that we should approach Christ by prayer and repentance, so that the weight which burdens our soul might leave. It is an SOS of our existence which, drowned by worries, searches God, the Only One Who really comforts it.

Of course if we don’t want to pass through the pain of repentance, pretending that what it is to blame is only the bodily fatigue, our life will pass without rest and joy. But the transition from our chaos to the light of Christ, regardless of the pain it might cause to us, it brings the foretaste of eternity by the peace that becomes renewal, revival, true life.

[1] Matthew 11, 28.

 

The discernment

Monk Moses the Athonite

The discernment distinguishes what is just, it chooses what is useful, it judges what is better, it avoids the extremes, it walks on the middle path. It searches the best solution, the best answer for the question that was asked. The discernment is absolutely compulsory for all, especially for those who teach, guide or advise.

There is no need for an excessive harshness or too much lenience. Inappropriate interventions, that are lacking discernment made the men become embittered and discouraged forever. When it comes to approaching the others  flares, superficiality and improvisations are of no use. The discernment comes from knowledge, experience, spiritual cultivation and maturity. It is a consequence of introspection, self-criticism, study and divine enlightenment. The discernment comforts and reposes souls. The lack of discernment hurts, tires and torments. The spiritual advisers have a great responsibility and they should avoid generating new problems by superficial guidance.

In the daily interpersonal relationships closeness, understanding, cooperation, nobleness, benevolence and spirit of sacrifice are mostly required.

If we constrain the young people, we don’t help them at all. Because they protest, they don’t listen and go away. Coercion, constraint, psychological pressure bring opposite results. Intolerant constraint is inhuman. Usually the humble man has discernment. The discernment draws the man away from the exaggerations that are dangerous for his spiritual life. The discernment draws its friends away from all kinds of delusions. It does not allow the illness to aggravate.

Saint John the Chrysostom says that in the spiritual preparation too much harshness, endless qualms and excessive rebukes and punishments hurt, tire and discourage. The discernment is called to solve not to aggravate a situation. Forgiveness, repentance and love overcome any sin. The polite and pleasant way is always useful. Good does not bring any good if it is not well done. We will help the people better by means of loving truth, love for our fellow men and benevolence. Each man has his own key, his own click. We should not stand against him like some investigators, judges, psychoanalysts and accusers.

The great virtue of discernment is a great spiritual power. It is not the result of a sharp mind, of a bright intelligence and of study exclusively, but a gift from God, a charisma of the Holy Spirit. Those who have it do not chatter, do not get excited easily and they never get discouraged. The shepherd with discernment becomes an example for the others, he is a peacemaker, he indulges and endures. He lifts up those who fall, heals the sick ones, inspires virtue.

He knows what to say, when to say it, why to say it, how much to say and what he should not say. He tries to raise each soul, without putting unbearable burdens on the shoulders of the helpless ones. He doesn’t use psychological coercion or violence but helps with his humble example. Some think that they have to be serious all the time, without smiling at all, being excessively formalistic and cold. The kind smile, dosed humour, a warm gaze, the peaceful word and kindness help a lot.

The discernment without any superficial sentimentality or lamentations gives simplicity, manliness, temperance, kindness and a profound sense of measure.

The discernment offers peace, joy, light. It is incompatible with the exaggerated fanaticism, the guilty silence, the cowardly delays, the example without feeling. The discernment doesn’t reheat the food plate, but gives it to the poor, freeing the man of the reproof of his own consciousness. It leads the man to the sacrificial love. It changes him into a sheep from a wild beast and into a humble being from a proud one.

Some think that the spiritual education means to give easy and toilless prescriptions. They have a false impression thinking that spiritual guidance consists of an immediate magical solution. They want to solve everything immediately, without any personal cost or change. We’ll have to follow the middle path. We should move towards perfection by means of a tenacious struggle. By coercion we won’t obtain any happy results. Unfortunately in our times nervousness, superficiality, improvisation and lack of profoundness are those that reign. And thus there is no time for study, collectedness and determination to strive. The lack of discernment is obvious. The life of men is uncontrolled. The discernment will give grace and wisdom, will inspire and enlighten. So be it!

Words and stories of elder Paisios (VII)

Someone came and asked me: Shall I become a monk? He told me a few things and I realized he was not good for a monk. I told him not to do it. After a time he returned to the vagabond life. As long as you advised me not to become a monk, he said. Yes, son, but I did not tell you to become a vagabond.

To another one who asked me this, I said: You should become a monk. You are good for it. After a time he came back overcome by problems. Why did you tell me to become a monk? he asked.

*

It is very sad that some abbots have become managers of enterprises. They strive to do their business. But we did not come here for such things. We should not forget our purpose. I went to a monastery. There I saw the abbot wandering through the monastery to see if the works were well accomplished. Instead of praying for his spiritual sons, he is wasting his time with trifles.

*

If the visitors who come to a monastery have worldly claims, it would be better for them to go to a military base or a hospital. There they will find everything nice and in the right place. But in the Holy Mountain they should seek only spiritual life.

*

Many who left their monastery felt sorry afterwards and became unhappy.

*

In the desert at the beginning of the lent you first open the tomb then you start fasting. At the monastery it is made a concession. But here you keep the ascetic rules till death comes.

*

The poor people, who do not have what to eat, if they do not complain, they will have the same reward as the monks who live an ascetic life on Athon or in their cells. Because these practice ascesis by their own will and this eases very much their strife. If I do something for instance, I do it by my own will and this makes me not feeling its difficulty. While these unhappy creatures starve without willing it and they suffer a lot. That is why it might be possible that God would give them an even greater reward than that of the hermits.

*

If I could find a hole, a cave, I would have gone to hide in it, to enjoy my asceticism.

*

Some monks who gave up on the monastic robe then returned with repentance to the Holy Mountain and they had a peaceful end. These had a good intention when they came to the monastery, but they were not helped. Many suffered this. They come with a very good intention but they do not find anyone to advise and help them. Then they do what they do…But for these God sometimes uses a distracting method to bring them back to the Holy Mountain and they die in peace. It would have been an injustice of the divine providence if God had not brought these men back near Him. Because they had a good intention when they started and God does not forget this.

*

The biggest trial the others are facing is the best medicine for us. No matter what I would suffer myself, when I think how much these people suffer, I say Glory to God! I could have been paralyzed myself and incapable of moving. What would I have done then? Glory to God. Now I am like a king.

*

Our monachal life must be a ceaseless doxology brought to God.

*

When God announces the man beforehand, he should take heed. Cause if the man remains careless and changes in worse, then God changes Himself too. The end of the thing God predicted depends on the man too.

*

You should live your grief as if it did not exist.

*

When I was at the monastery (Esfigmenu), I said to a spiritual confessor that I wanted to go to the desert and he told me: Now you need humility. You should go first to a monastery to acquire a name of a monk of monastery.

*

Today there are many who come to become monks, but there is no leaven. We have deviated from tradition. We do not strive to be like the saints. We must compare ourselves with the saints. We must not look at those who have great passions and compare ourselves with them.

*

The harder you struggle, the greater joy and grace you shall receive from God.

*

When God gives His love to a man, this one cannot bear it and falls down. Then he does not ask for anything else. He wants only to leave everything and hide himself in a cave.

*

We must know that the attack that came by a demonic work it is in a way the gift of God for the one who sinned so that he would repent, humble himself and find his salvation. But when there is a hardening of soul and a lack of repentance then he is not fought anymore by the devil, because God sees his complete hardening.

*

Some time ago I said the Jesus prayer, I slept and the prayer went on. I woke up and the prayer did not cease. Now I am living the problems of the world.

*

Today many interested young people come. They are not curious, they seek an example. That is why we should be in the way God wants us to be so that the people who come to us can have a benefit, otherwise we shall have to answer for those who come to us and get hurt or do not find any use.

From the book From the Ascetic and Hesychast Tradition of the Holy Mountain –Evanghelismos Publishing, 2016.

 

Elder Ephrem Philoteos – Spiritual advice

No toil, suffering or temptation, my blessed son, can compare with that happy life. Thousands of lives if we had had and if we had sacrificed all of them, we would not have done anything worthy in comparison with the future glory, which our Lord, Jesus Christ, by His venerable and life giving blood, wants to share with us. That is why apostle Paul says: Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.[1]

Think also about this: the man fades like the flower and passes like the dream. And again at the sound of the trumpet the earth will shake and all the dead shall rise to meet Christ. When the gate of the future time shall open and this world will perish, then our nature will be reestablished in its initial state. The Lord will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.[2] Because our nature sighs and together suffers eagerly waiting the glorious apparition of the sons of God. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. [3]

Incomparable is the greatness of man whom God raises up at such a height and glory!

And we, the sinful and the lustful ones, remain indifferent towards this great richness and have such mundane thoughts. This body which is dust and stink to be considered worthy to become like the glory of God, to become angelic! The men are material in comparison with the angels who are spiritual beings. But angels in comparison with God have a certain corporality. They are not completely immaterial, like God who is pure immaterial Light. Then men will become angelic and it will be realized the unification of the Church’s fullness, namely of the believers with Christ. With how much fatherly love our Lord says: Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.[4]

Does the worldly wealth resemble these words of God? May we be there where our Lord is! Where the angels tremble and do not dare to draw near! Oh endless wisdom and richness of God!

Excerpt from Fatherly advice of Elder Ephrem Philoteos.

[1] Romans 8,18.

[2] Philippians 3,21.

[3] Romans 8, 19.

[4] John 17,24.

 

The basket with grapes

A poor woman was passing once by a vineyard full of grapes.

`How I wished I had a bunch of these grapes!`

 On that moment the owner of the vineyard showed up. After greeting her he asked her:

 `Madam would you like a bunch of grapes?`

And after she said yes, he went into the vineyard to cut some bunches. And the woman stood there waiting for him. But the minutes passed on and the landlord did not come back. At last she got tired of waiting, thinking that he had forgotten about her and she was about to leave.

But right then the landlord came back with a basket full of fine grapes and said smiling:

`Forgive me for coming back so late.` I only wanted to choose some of the finest grapes for you.`

Many times we ask something from God in our prayer. But if we do not receive an answer immediately we think that God forgot us. However after a while the answer comes, full of such an abundance and so many blessings we could never have imagined. And we feel so ashamed because of the lessening of our faith.

God comes late because He wants to fill the basket with His blessings, before offering it to our soul that asked only for a bunch.