Simple tips referring at our participation at the Holy Liturgy

We find the God our soul longs for and delight in Him in the Holy Liturgy celebrated in our holy churches. In the Holy Liturgy we, the baptized Christians, understand the mystery called Church and for it we call in the same way the place where we celebrate the Holy Liturgy.

Do not neglect my brothers to go to the church every Sunday. And if your village doesn’t have Holy Liturgy on Sundays because many of our villages don’t have priest, go for the Holy Liturgy in your neighboring village. Don’t miss the grace of the Holy Liturgy.

When you get in the church, make the sign of the Cross properly. Unfortunately we are in so much ignorance in what regards the divine things that we don’t even know how to make the sign of the Cross properly. Long time ago the children learnt in the first year a poem for making the sign of the Cross properly: To the forehead, to the stomach, to the right and to the left. We should make the sign of the Cross like this: with the three fingers of the right hand kept together (by them expressing our faith in the Holy Trinity) we should touch the forehead, expressing by this that there, above us is Christ, our Lord. From there He descended and was incarnated in the womb of the Theotokos and we show this by taking our hand down from the forehead to the stomach. And Christ will come again at His Second Coming. He will come and find an amalgamated mankind and He will do as the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on the right and on the left He will put the goats. When we put our hand on our right then on our left shoulder we express His Second Coming and our desire to be with Him, on the right, in His Kingdom.

After we get in the church, we make the sign of the Cross, as we said and we light a candle and kiss the icons.[1] If we think that before us many other Christians passed by them and kissed them we can consider this as kissing each other. Thus after we kiss the holy icons we go in a place, the men on the right and the women on the left and we attend carefully the Holy Liturgy. We take heed at what we see and what we hear. And all those which are said and done during the Holy Liturgy are so beautiful and pleasant.

Of course at the Holy Liturgy we pray as we want, we tell to God what we have in our hearts, but during the holy service we must pray with what is said and sung even if we don’t understand them. The words of the priest and of the psalter comprise all our faith. Our faith, my brothers has become psalmody and chant, has become holy representations and symbols.

The most important thing in the Holy Liturgy is the Holy Communion. In the Holy Liturgy everything is done for hearing in the end: With fear of God, and with faith and love, draw nigh.

 

With the fear of God born from the faith that what we commune is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ, that Body and Blood the Son of God took from the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God Maria when He incarnated in her holy womb. That’s why Theotokos is called `giver of the holy Body`. Yes, in reality Theotokos is the One who gives us the Eucharist. Thus we must commune with fear of God but with love as well. Love for all, even for our enemy who harmed us. Cause he didn’t want it and if he wanted it the tempter made him do it, the tempter who urges us as well to do so many wrong things. And in the same way we ask from God to forgive us for all our misdeeds done against His holy will, we should also forgive those done to us by the others. This means `with love` words said by the priest to those who come to commune. So my brothers, we must ask for forgiveness and forgive all before communing.

When you approach the Holy Eucharist  make the sign of the Cross then take the napkin and put it under the chin and open your mouth widely. Only after you commune and the priest takes the spoon out of your mouth you can wpe your lips with the napkin but no sooner. After you commune make the sign of the Cross again and let the others do the same.

With such a good preparation for the Holy Communion, my Christian brothers, Christ comes indeed in our hearts and we become `hristoforos` as saint Ignatius Theoforos says. With the grace of Christ within ourselves our life will be beautiful because we won’t live anymore with the wickedness which uglifies our life and makes a hell from it. The Holy Liturgy is heaven because at the Holy Liturgy we say: I saw the True Light. I received the heavenly Spirit.

With many blessings,

† Jeremiah Metropolitan of Gortina and Megalopolis

[1]  The holy icons of the Savior of the Theotokos or of the saints are kissed by touching the hands or feet with the lips – if the icon is big. By no means should be kissed their faces because this shows a lack of piety towards the divine persons.

Give primacy to the beauty of soul

The soul that marvels at the beauties of the material world shows that inside it lives the vain world; that’s why it is attracted by the creature and not by the Creator, by earth and not by God. It doesn’t matter if this earth is clean or has the mud of sin.

When the heart is attracted by the worldly beauties – even if they are not sinful, they don’t stop being vain – it feels the worldly joy of that moment, without having the divine comfort, the inner wings given by the spiritual joy. But when the man loves the spiritual beauty, then his soul is filled and beautified.

If the man and especially the monk knew his inner ugliness, wouldn’t care about the exterior beauties. The soul has inside itself so many stains, so many splotches and we worry about our clothes for instance? We wash our clothes, we iron them and we are clean but inside we are…better not ask about it! That’s why if someone saw what a dirtiness he has inside himself he wouldn’t be so concerned to remove the smallest stain from his clothes because these are much cleaner than his soul.

But if the man doesn’t care about the spiritual slag he has inside, then he is preoccupied to remove carefully the smallest exterior stain. But what he should do would be to turn his whole care towards his spiritual scour, towards the inner beauty, not towards the exterior one. It should be given primacy to the beauty of soul, to the spiritual beauty, not to the vain one, because the Lord said:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)

Pious Paissios the Athonite

 

God likes honest people! – word about confession of father Stephen from Lacu hermitage

Father, how does the sin work in the soul?

Some Fathers said that the sin has an paralyzing action. With each sin committed the devil gains ground in the soul of man. It is an invisible fight between the grace of God and sin. With each new sin the grace withdraws and the sin paralyzes the spiritual powers of man, especially his will and reason. You heard what Saint Apostle Paul said:

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do -this I keep on doing.Rom. 7:19.

The striving Christians are aware of this harmful action of sin and try at any cost and with any opportunity to cleanse themselves.

Elder Paissios says that by any sin you give rights to the devil, you open doors for him in your soul.

Abba Dorotheus speak about the house of soul and tells how to make the walls, then the roof and the windows; and we should put trellis at the windows: the control of the five senses, we should not allow the sin get inside. These are the trellis, not to allow the sin get in. Today many don’t understand anymore how important is the spiritual work in their daily life. Then the life of man becomes a kind of fight for fulfilling the biological needs, for providing a minimum comfort and wellbeing and nothing else. It is not this thing which should preoccupy each Christian, but his salvation.

You were talking about the spiritual work. How should this be?

First to be done under the guidance of a confessor. He is the spiritual family doctor. It is as if you went to the drugstore and you’d take a medicine on the medical prescription from the doctor. You don’t take it as you like, cause it might kill you. The spiritual work means to fulfill what Christ puts in front of us, the evangelical commandments, the commandments of the Church – simple things. At the Judgment are not required impossible things, but simple ones:

 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’Mat. 25. Simple things regarding the relationship with yourself, with your neighbor, with God.

For instance if you get a physical disease the doctor gives you a diet, a kind of lent. The Church gives you a more efficient diet, which has value in the eternal life as well – not only for our earthly one. Usually the body gets sick because the soul gets sick. By sin the soul gets sick then the body gets sick too. This is the connection.

The therapeutical methods of the Church are clear: Fasting, Prayer, Confession, Eucharist, the going to church, patience, mercy in all our relationships with others, the ten commandment. The commandments of the Church are very simple things. If the man kept these, he would protect himself of evil and worked at the spiritual evolvement, as the Holy Fathers advise us. With the soul is the same as with a painter who paints in his workshop an icon and keeps it covered with a canvas until the reception and then everybody is amazed of its beauty. In this life we work at the beauty of of our soul in a hidden way, meaning under the covering of the body and then in the afterlife the image of our soul is shown to the entire world. This is the work to paint the image of God which lies inside us. And this addresses to everybody, be it layman, priest or even bishop.

The true happiness is given to us by the fight with sin

 

Some people have a reservation, they think they might lose something if they come to the life of the Church, which might draw them away of certain pleasures. They have the feeling that they might lose their happiness.

The mentality of the Christians of nowadays is completely changed. We call ourselves Christians when we are true followers of Christ. So we have to do what Christ did. Each disciple follows his master. `I belong to this or that…` But to whom we belong, the Christians of today? Some confessors use the expression – Christians only by name – and this is the way we became. Because we are called Christians, we say we belong to Christ but we don’t, because we don’t do what Christ commands us. Because we don’t have the conscience of carrying the Cross, of sharing the Cross and the Sufferings of the Savior anymore. And we see a different kind of Christianity. And this happens even with the Christian who goes to the church regularly and confesses and communes. His mentality is to see that everything is going well for him: his children to be healthy, his salary to be good, he doesn’t want to lack a thing, to be sick to suffer any loss – and ultimately to think that he can gain the Kingdom. Some may even gain it – we don’t know it, these are God’s judgments – but the problem is that the Christian doesn’t realize anymore that he belongs to Christ that by taking part at Christ’s life and sufferings you identify yourself with Him.

Many people write to us and say : `Father pray so God may help us !` I had a phone talk with a girl from Thessaloniki who is tormented by the devil. And I asked her: `Do you go to the church?` `I go.` `Do you fast?` `I didn’t think about it.` `Hold on, how’s that? Are you sick?` `No` But the Orthodox fast is essential. It’s a means leading to salvation, is essential for our spiritual headway.

The Savior doesn’t He say that this kind of demons does not go out except by prayer and fasting Mat. 17:21?

`Yes. `If you who are a Christian and go to the church and`…`Do you confess ?` `Not so much` So there’s the problem and the devil won’t let you free until you improve your ways.` She said `I will try`. But when she is saying this it means she does try that much! If she says: `Father, pray so that I may make a good beginning and from today I am going to do this` then you still have a hope that she starts to do what is right.`I will try.` This means a more or less remote future if she ever remembers that she has to do something.

In the Patericon an abba says : `The word was taken from the elders.` Why that? Because the disciples don’t ask questions anymore for applying this into practice only ask something formally saying: Let’s go to this one to see what he tells us.` Just like this to change the scenery. They are not aware that true happiness implies spiritual work – in this way are gained spiritual joy and peace. The freedom from sin not the acquirement of material riches. It’s obvious all the Saints tell us that true happiness is given to us by the fight with the sin. Once one of the nuns from Suroti asked elder Paissios: `Father, I have so many temptations. Can you give me a solution?` The elder said: ` Yes, I found it, I give you.` She was glad to learn the secret for getting rid of temptations. The elder said: `Fight with the temptations.` She was a bit discouraged. So we must be prepared for fight. There is no other choice! We are in a permanent war: the man is either going towards God or towards the devil. There is no middle way, there is nothing neutral. It’s either One or the other.

So we must go deeper and take things more seriously.

Of course. The Holy Fathers teach us that the entire work of the Christian is within himself. The Savior tells us: The Kingdom of God is within you.  Lc. 17:21.

Elder Sophrony Saharov said very nicely that the whole mankind is like a pyramida and at its top is Christ but this pyramid is upside down. To reach Christ you have to descend not to ascend: to go deep down the depths of humility. And the more you descend, the responsibility towards the others gets bigger. The Savior is at the top of the pyramid which is at the bottom, meaning He is in the depths of humility but He also bears the weight of  the sins of all. Here is the work: the descent into humility helps you become aware of the responsibility you have for your soul and for the souls of the others. Sure, the great Saints as Saint Silouan had reached the prayer for the whole world.

But we are not aware of that anymore. We are so superficial! This is supported by the media and all this demonic society which doesn’t help you evolve spiritually and doesn’t even let you maintain yourself on the moral waterline if not spiritual, which is higher.

 

Let us be Christians 24 hours a day

 

We are living in this world full of dirty commercials and pornography. How to keep ourselves away of it when we are in it? How to keep our soul in connection with God?

The young man of today won’t be judged as the young man from other times. As father Paisios says, then it was only one mad man and they kept him in the tower. But now there is only one wise man left and the madmen put him in the tower.

So much it changed the mentality and the spiritual condition of man. Despite this demonic condition of the world the Christian of nowadays must fulfill his duty, must be in connection with the Church. here lies the duty of the priest. Saint Moses the Athonite quoting the words of the psalmist Their sound has gone forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Ps. 18:4 referred at the meaning and the role of the priest in the parish. God doesn’t send the priest to the end of the world anymore only till the edge of his parish – but many don’t even accomplish this. Of course one is the role of the married priest in the world and another one is the role of the hieromonk in the monastery. The priest from the world is called to preach the Gospel all the time. And each one of them will receive his reward according to his work.

But which would be  the modalities to keep ourselves clean towards the world?

The sacraments of the Church especially Confession and Eucharist – of course accompanied by the ascesis everyone has to practice – fast, prayer and most of all the guard of senses. Many times the guard of senses is more efficient than fast or any other strife – a permanent guard.

The senses are five. The Holy Fathers call them `the windows through which the sin gets in the heart of man` The sin get in through the eyes, ears, taste, smell and touch. First the sin gets in through the eyes by the indecent look. According to the Holy Fathers the simple look is innocent and the insistent look is already ardent. That’s why guard is so necessary: the man should pay attention not to look. By opening the shutters from the windows and by allowing the sin to get in, the mind gets spoiled

You see ? God decided that the sin by deed cannot be done so easily because it needs certain conditions, but the sin by senses is done immediately. That’s why the Savior when He compares the prescriptions of the Old and of the New Testament says in the Gospel:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. cf. Mat. 5:28.

Or let’s take the search on the Internet which has become an indispensable thing in the life of the young generation. Can you tell them not to watch TV or search on the Internet anymore? Who’s going to listen to you? Quite a few. But if at least they could control the situation themselves and they wouldn’t have become so addicted to the Internet as to control their life. And the best is to cut them all.

We are talking about guard but what can we do when in Tomania are sold 90.000.000 newspapers per month and most of the articles are only gossip, eroticism, lie, human decadence? 90.000.000! What guard can we talk about then? One thing is to pass every day by an indecent billboard and another is to buy daily a newspaper to look at the page with indecent photos.

The man is not aware anymore of what is good and what is a sin. And he opens the gates and lets all the dirt get inside. And he imagines that’s normal. Then he wants to get rid of all these but he doesn’t know how. When you show him the methods of the Church he refuses them from the start. There are some who ask insistently for prayer for them. You pray for them but their problem is not solved. God helps them by the Holy Liturgies we serve but they don’t commit themselves to change their life. Our Orthodoxy is a way of life and if you don’t appropriate this way of life, there is no way to solve your problems. This is a revealed way of life, brought by God from heaven, is your true nature, must become your permanent life. The Christian must be Christian 24 hours out of 24. As elder Paissios says: to deal with all the problems in accordance with the Gospel otherwise it comes the punishment from God.

Orthodoxy is the authentic way of life we must appropriate

Which are the good deeds we can do in our times?

Many times mercy and giving alms in money and victuals is understood as a good deed. This is a good material deed with its own role. It springs from your kind heart and comfort the pain of your neighbor. But you saw in the Acts of the Apostles: the men brought their possessions at the feet of the Apostles and waited to be fed, cared – they were humans after all. And who took care of them? When the Apostles saw that the community was growing – there were two, three thousands – and they had to leave the preaches and serve at the tables, they chose the deacons to serve at tables, meaning to do this good deed that we praise so much as being the only and the greatest one, the material mercy and they dedicated themselves to the preaching of the Word of God which is the greatest mercy and all the apostles, their followers, the priests, the monks, every Christian had it. By his baptism the Christian has the mission to preach and defend the Christian faith as a small apostle where he is. This is the greatest mercy because it refers directly at the eternal life.

Saint Ignatius said very nicely about the deeds of the debased nature – because there are many Protestants, Catholics and many others who give alms maybe more than most of the Orthodox people. Then why not to find their salvation? ask some people. But the Saint says clearly: Have you seen Cornelius the centurion who was a pagan. He was merciful, isn’t it? And at a certain moment he had this vision: Your prayers and alms reached God. So they were good. But they were not enough. Because he didn’t put them in connection with Christ. For this reason he was told : Go to Simon the straps maker and he will tell you what to do. So he didn’t stop at this kind of mercy. Because all the founders of religions have some good moral precepts: to be good, not to kill your neighbor, etc. But if you don’t put them in connection with Christ they don’t have any value.

The man who is pressed by the worries of the world is not able to understand how to put into practice Christ’s teaching…

Here is missing the catechetical education and the engagement in struggle. The problem of the Christian of our times is only survival. All people call us and write letters to us: Father pray for me to find a good job, to keep my job etc. But almost nobody asks us `How to cleanse of my sins? How to involve in the spiritual strife? Maybe one in a few years asks me about this.

But if he solved these, all the others would be solved as well…

Of course. The Word of the Gospel is true: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Mat. 6:33.

We don’t believe in the Gospel anymore! Saint Andrew the Cretan said: The Gospel doesn’t work anymore! Meaning that the Gospel has unfortunately become a dead letter. Saint Marcus the Hermit says about the holy baptism:

`It is an active sacrament as long as you apply the commandments.` Otherwise it remains only as a potential energy, you have it within yourself but is not active. When you follow the commandments little by little this energy is activated and it works. And you can even reach the measure to perform miracles.

Because in fact the call of the Christian is to be son of God…

Of course. But the late work of the enemy is to give another meaning to the religiosity of man, which he cannot take out of his soul, as father Staniloaie said. And then tries to give it another meaning, another religion than the true one. Orthodoxy has come from heaven, is the authentic way of life we must appropriate and in this way go beyond. Only a few live it. Orthodoxy is a practical work, not a philosophical speculation.

Recorded by Virgiliu Gheorghe

The worldly spirit in monachism

`Father, many people tell us: Here you’re living like in heaven.`

`Pray not to lose the other heaven. I would have preferred to see the laymen impressed by your spiritual progress, without being aware of that yourself and without making a purpose from it – this being reached by itself, naturally, inwardly. Try not to lose yourself in useless things so that you won’t lose Christ. Try as much as you can to gain monastic consciousness. Live spiritually as true nuns and do not forget Christ so that He may remember you as well. My purpose is not to upset you but to help you, tu support you, try to discern the worldly spirit – when this pervades monarchism it upsets Christ Himself – and get rid of it as being a foreign spirit.

Unfortunately the worldly spirit crept in many monasteries because some spiritual fathers of our times lead monarchism on a mundane path and they don’t guide the souls in the patristic spirit of Grace. I see an antipatristic spirit which prevails today in monasteries. They do not receive the good, the patristic, they do not live patristically, but levelling the spiritual heights in the name of obedience, of cutting self will and doing their profane wills they enjoy. In this way they do not progress, because they took with them the temptation, the profane spirit. We don’t have the right to explain the commandments of God as we like, nor do we have the right to present monachism as we like either. There is something else when we confess our weaknesses and ask humbly for the mercy of God. The worst thing in my opinion is the fact that some consider this profane spirit as a kind of progress. While they should perceive it as a fall and spit it out so that they may purify themselves spiritually and let the Holy Spirit come in quickly. The Holy Spirit is the One who sanctifies, announces and supports souls.

There are some who say : We have to show our civilization. What civilization are we showing? The profane one? We, the monks have to show our spiritual civilization, our spiritual progress. But where is our spiritual progress? We should not outrun the laymen in profane flourishing. This worldly progress torments the laymen and doesn’t it do it the same even more to the monks? We should have progressed so much spiritually that the laymen wanted to do  something themselves. If we do what a spiritual layman does this doesn’t help us either, cause we have the example of a spiritual layman. The monk doesn’t have as purpose to show a worldly evolution. This is an offense for the monarchism. The monk who thinks in a worldly manner is obvious that he didn’t find the right path. Although he started for Christ now his soul goes towards the world. The worldly evolution when it is considered progress leads the monarchism to spiritual decay.

How many things are being lost in monachism as they are lost in the world : honesty, respect which are backward. That’s why it hurts me and I feel like choking. I feel like going away in the mountains. Someone who has never lived anything higher isn’t that upset for the spiritual life he s living in his own way. But for another one who is forced to live in this way do you know what torment it is?

If Christ had considered me worthy of living monastically as I wished and I had died young, I would have considered it that I died in the front line. It is worth dying now, confessing, making a sacrifice, only for not being blasphemed the Holy Fathers.

Don’t we think a little at the Holy Fathers we are reading all the time, where they lived and how they lived? God said The foxes have dens but the Son of Man doesn’t have any place where to put His head. Terrible! And see how some tried to imitate Christ in caves. They felt Christ’s joy because they followed Him in everything. All their desire was there. The Holy Fathers made from the desert a spiritual delight but today we are making a profane party. Christ’s Church goes in the desert to find salvation and we are making a profane party from the desert so that people may be misled and find no avail and then have nothing to hold on. This is the great danger I see in these hard times we are living. Although for this reason we should live now more austerely to gain divine powers, unfortunately we change because of the mundane spirit and get weakened. Meaning that we chase away the spirit and it’s left only the carrion.

Today there are monks who live monarchism only on the outside. They don’t smoke, they live simply, read the Philocaly, quote from the Holy fathers. As those from the world who didn’t say lies, made the sign of the Cross, went to the church and when they grew up took heed at their moral way of living and thought that this is all the same things happen in certain monasteries and they laymen are drawn there. But when they come to know them they see they don’t differ from the laymen because they keep the profane spirit. If they had smoked, if they had read newspapers, talked about politics they would have avoided them as being like the laymen and the monarchism wouldn’t have been damaged.

When monarchism weakens spiritually then what will be the avail of the layman? The alcohol if we leave the bottle uncorked it loses all its strength. It doesn’t even kill microbes or light up flames. And if you put it in the lamp it burns the wick. In the same way the monk if he doesn’t take heed he draws away the divine grace and what’s left to him is only the schema. He is like the alcohol which lost its strength. He cannot burn the devil anymore. The light of the monks are the angels and the light of the laymen are the monks. Afterwards there is no more light. Do you know how much damage does the profane way of thinking?

If the spirituality is lost from monachism, then there is nothing left. Cause if the salt is altered it won’t be good not even as a fertilizer. The rubbish is good as fertilizer while the salt it is not. If you put it at the root of a plant it will burn it. Today we are in an epoch when monarchism must shine. In this rottenness there is a need for salt. If the monasteries don’t have a profane way of thinking but a spiritual condition, then this will be their offering for the society. They won’t need to speak or do anything else cause they will speak by their own life. This is what the world needs today.

Did you see where went the Catholics? I remember that a few years ago when I was at Stomiu Monastery in Konitsa somebody brought me a sheet of newspaper where it was written: `Three hundred nuns protested – why not to see a movie at the cinema? Why not to have their robes till the knee not till their toes? I was so much affected when I read this that I said – Why become nuns then? And then they wrote that all the nuns left their robes. But in the way they were thinking they had left them long before it. Once I saw a Catholic nun  who did not differ from a lay woman. She was doing apparently a missionary work and she was completely, as some of the most modern girls. We shouldn’t allow this European spirit – we shouldn’t reach till there.

`Father it seems hard for me to give up on the wordly way of thinking.

`It’s not hard – it’s needed vigilance. Think about what great Arsenios was saying `why did you withdraw?` We forget why we came to the monastery. We all start more or less well but we don’t end well because we forget why we came to the monastery.

`Father, you said that the worldly spirit creeps in monachism and the spiritual zeal is lost. Will the true spirit of monachism be preserved?`

`There is a storm. But God won’t allow it.`

`Father, my mind wonders: Are there any communal monachal lives which to have a spiritual journey?`

`That’s the last straw, not to find these anymore!` The Theotokos would have took us all to the prison. There are monks who live a very spiritual life, very quietly.

There are virtuous souls in any monastery, in any metropolitan church. They are those who persuade God and for them He still bears us.

 

If…

People change all the time. The expectations we have from the others are those which exhaust our peace.

It would be good if we understood that there are people who don’t want to offer. Neither thought, nor word or emotion. You are free but you don’t allow yourself to that. You still think that one of your laces is loose and you want to tie it. And you stay tied up on your own loop. But there are shoes without any laces. Or maybe it’s a time when you can walk barefoot. Give up on what it was and beware of what is going to be. You crouch yourself in front of the other or on his mat. It is not too late in you. True love cannot be controlled. You love and that’s all. From mistakes you learn, not from theories. We insist when is black or grey until it turns to white. On the inside or on the outside. We look at each other and we understand what we need without words.

You throw yourself in the sacred fire of life, you raise yourself up over the smoke of the burnt embers in your lessons. As you managed to pass over today you’ll pass over tomorrow. Rediscover values. Find the meaning of life, all the rest all details. We are pilgrims in this world on our way to the eternal citadel. There’s an invitation to calm, to hygiene of thoughts, to faith in God Who takes care of all. Live the present moment. Time, dedication, support. Get out of the box and away from the solutions of the others. Cut out the solutions which are suitable for your soul, drawn on the cardboard of your experiences.

Love grows from love not from the back turned to someone. Sometimes `a too early` may spoil everything. And it is the same with a `too late` which may nurture a  vanity. Be patient until you are ripe. And when you receive your lesson, don’t get upset. You’ll understand the message later. Let it go. Learn to go further. Life is more beautiful if you look at it from the right angle. There is no recipe of happiness. Your happiness is a smile, hers is a flower, his is a handshake, mine is a word and so on. The emotion is the same, the garment is different. What have you done for yourself, for your soul today? Do your ways take you to Christ? God puts in the bag but we need to keep it open.

My life is the encounter between my boat and the ocean of life. Disappointment and bitterness don’t overwhelm us. Failure hurts but it is not a paralyzing factor to make you unable to go on. The mistake is a temporary detour, not a blind alley. It is a teacher, not a sexton. It is a delay, not a defeat. The tears take away the pains away from distress. Some cry later, others cry earlier. But anyway we all cry. All drams have their price.  The course of life, long, troubled and colorful carry with it the message of love. A childish love in the heart of a man or a woman. You will fell its fragrance until the last day…

The joy of  man is the man. Sometimes the men want to see you crying so that by seeing yours they can make theirs seem easier. But many forget that the smile of tomorrow bears behind it the tear from yesterday…There where tears flowed, life sprang.

Good luck at the exams from the school of life! Everyone’s life is a prayer…

All the moments of life are unique. Important moments that put you to the test. Moments that made you what you are. Moments when life passes before your eyes. You can never know what expects you in the future. Not even for a moment. Ans when you know it, something changes. If something gets dirty, something else gets cleaned. If something disappears, something else shows up. If something decreases, something else increases. If something dies something else is comes to life…

We are born so that we won’t die anymore. Man, your name means Love! Have faith! Radiate! Rejoice! Smile! Ask love and it will tell you what to do. Live free in your mind at heart close to God! You won’t regret! There was a time when the sound didn’t exist, but silence always existed…

Hieromonk Hrisostom Filipescu

 

Don’t clad yourself only in leaves

My beloved son in God, born from the divine Spirit, I am glad if you are glad !

All the heavenly powers, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels, all apostles and prophets, martyrs and righteous and our most holy Theotokos, Empress and Lady of all rejoice.

Today you made my soul rejoice with those said by means of paper and ink. I will be so glad and rejoice if you will show till the end those you are writing about today because the war of the enemy begins after three-four years. Then the grace withdraws for trial and the torch is extinguished.

And the nice things from now – which are nice indeed – then you will see them ugly, black and dark. That’s why don’t take as temptations what is happening now to you since someone else protects you. And because you are asking for an advice from me, the humble, my beloved son, listen:

Do not clad yourself only in leaves but stretch your roots deep down to find the springs as the sycamores do so that you may always have water and always have the shoots sprouting. And when drought comes to you may you not suffer any change as long as you have found a special spring. And when the torch you have now is extinguished, you have another one lit by your deeds and you won’t suffer at all because of darkness. And the way you can gain these is the following:

First of all the absolute obedience towards all. Humility grows from it. And the sign of humility is shown by the plentiful tears which in three four years flow like a spring. From them it is born the ceaseless prayer, the so-called mental prayer which makes tears flow immediately after you say: My most sweet Jesus! Or when you say Theotokos! And you can’t control yourself anymore. Then from tears is born an absolute peace.

Once a brother wanted to refrain his tears, because they started to flow down and someone knocked at the door but he couldn’t stop them until they stopped by themselves. So much power they have.

Thus if you gain these, you won’t be afraid that you might suffer a change, because you become a man with a different nature.

But it is not the nature that changes, only its attributes are changed by Grace through the divine energies of God.

The so-called typical ways must comprise the essence as the leaves of the trees hide the fruits. The psalmody should be done humbly. The mind should pay attention to the meaning of the troparion. The thought should find delight in the meaning given by the mind and to raise itself to its contemplation. The reading should be attentively done as well. So by means of all these the soul evolves, grows. Thus the old man dies, is erased and it is renewed the new one. And it increases the love of Christ. And the earthly things don’t satisfy him anymore, he only longs after the heavenly ones.

In what regards the body, it must strive with all its might so that it may always be dominated by spirit. Don’t ever have compassion for it at all. And either if you work or eat, don’t ever stop your prayer.

In all your prayers the mind must follow and understand what you say in your prayer and what you speak. Because if you don’t understand what you say, how will you understand with God so that He may give you what you ask for?

If you take this into account i twill be good for you. You will free yourself forever and you will make me glad. And if you don’t listen because of your recklessness, you will upset many.

 

Her face shone

It was the day before the Epiphany from 2000 when it is blessed the high holy water. In Piliuri, a village from the Northern Epyr  (Albania), the priest gets down from the car which transports him and gets ready to bless the houses. They drove for an hour and 15 minutes for reaching that place. That village was hidden in some beautiful mountains but the road till there is steep and dangerous. The car tried to get out of the mud made by the rain. The priest was new in the village and he had been ordained only two months before. He had come from Greece with three students to help him at the choir and carry the necessary stuff for the officiation of the holy service in the neighbouring villages and anywhere else it was needed.

Their first visit was at the church which was at the entrance in the village. The atheist regime turned it into a `house of the people`then in a storehouse. It was a painful sight. The steps were full of weeds and the door locked. There was no sign of life. It seemed deserted and derelict as if to be destroyed all traces left by the atheists. The children ran to knock at the doors of the houses to announce the arrival of the new priest. After a while all the villagers gathered up. The women told to each other the great news:

`For the first time after so many years a priest has come to bless us !

And they were saying these with tears in their eyes. Some women put carpets at the entrance of their houses and others cut the most beautiful flowers from their gardens for welcoming the priest. They all waited at the gates. Even the dogs shared the joy of their masters, cause their barking was different now, full of joy.

At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, echoed in the whole village. The clothes of the priest became full of mud. The shoes of the students got dirty with mud but despite this they were all glad.

Three hours passed until he blessed all the houses. Only a house was left which was at the far end of the village. Some offered themselves to go and bring holy water in that house saying that the priest was tired. But the two women, an old woman and her daughter were waiting for him. When the priest arrived they kissed the Cross with love and piety. They led the priest and his companions through all the rooms of the house. In one of these there was a young girl who lied in bed.

`Father, this is my niece…She is 18. She’s a very good child. She is facing a hardship but God is great.`

The mother was near her and was sobbing quietly. Both women wanted to tell something to the priest but they hesitated.

`We’d like to ask you for something, father. The girl you sprinkled with holy water is cripple, quadriplegic. She was baptized three years ago. Since then she has been severely fasting and she doesn’t eat any meat. On Wednesdays and Fridays she doesn’t eat with oil. She is praying and has been waiting for a priest to come and confess her. We thought maybe you could let her commune tomorrow.`

`Tomorrow is the Epiphany…it is a great day. There will be a lot of people. They will commune then we will throw the cross in the sea. You understand that we are going to be quite late.`

`It doesn’t matter, father. We’ll wait as much as necessary. When our girl finds out she’ll start fasting and she won’t even drink water. This is her great desire. So what do you say?`

The next day the same car with the same men was going to the village. Nobody talked on the way. They walked quite a lot till they reached that house. In front there was someone going with a burning candle. On the lateral staircase of the house the two women were crying of joy bowing down for showing their gratefulness. They both made the sign of the cross and led the priest in the room of the girl.

The servant of God …partakes of the precious and holy Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ unto the remission of her sins and life everlasting.

But the priest stopped before giving the Holy Eucharist to the girl. Something was happening. He closed his eyes and opened them back as if something was troubling him. After he dropped the spoon in the holy chalice he rubbed his eyes which had become dim. He asked himself what was going on. Elephteria’s eyes who looked at the holy chalice were shining. They were shining so brightly that the priest amazed could not see her face well. A very bright light becoming more and more intense was spreading slowly in the whole room. He was feeling that the light was surrounding him and he felt its warmth. He got scared. That light didn’t have the color of a flame, it was white, intense and delicate but not dazzling. It was so powerful that the priest couldn’t see the girl’s face and mouth.

Being overwhelmed by amazement and trying to keep his hands from trembling the priest gave the Holy Eucharist to the girl keeping in his mind the image of her face. He realized that he was giving her the Eucharist only when the spoon touched her teeth.

`Thank you, father!` he heard the voice of the girl.

Then the priest wanted to consume what was left in the holy chalice in the room where was the iconostasis of the family but it was impossible. He said good bye to his hostesses quietly and showed obviously to the students who helped him that they had to go. Then they asked him to stay there overnight, but the priest did not seem to hear them. He was holding the Holy Chalice in his right hand and was heading quickly towards the forest which was near the house. His body was crossed by creeps. He stood and thought about what happened then consumed quickly the Holy Eucharist.

`Father, are you feeling all right ?` the students asked him.
`Yes. Let’s go cause we are late.`

 

Worldly desires

Double unhappiness awaits all those who don’t refrain their hearts from material desires which are not absolutely necessary – nor does it fit anything relating to the sexual desires – and who don’t gather their mind in their heart to offer them both to God.`

`Father is it always bad to have desires?`

`No, the desire of the heart is not bad in itself. Only when the things, even if they are not sinful – take pieces from my heart weakening my love for Christ. This desire is bad because the enemy cuts my love from Christ. When I want a precious thing, a book for example, and this takes a piece of my heart, then that’s bad. Why would a book take a part of my heart? Will I desire to have the book or Christ? No desire, no matter how good it may seem, is better than the one we have for Christ and Theotokos. When I give my heart to God could it be possible that God wouldn’t give Himself entirely to me? God asks for man’s heart. Give my your heart, my son! If the man gives Him his heart then God will give him anything he desires, only if it isn’t harmful for him. Only when the heart gives itself to Christ it is not wasted and only in Christ you find the rich bond of the divine love in this life and in the afterlife the divine joy.

We have to avoid the worldly things so that they won’t steal our hearts and use only the simple things for our necessities. We have to take care  they are durable. If I want to use a nice thing it means I want to give my whole heart to beauty and there is nothing left for God. You pass by a beautiful house made of marble, with sculptures. You admire the stones, the bricks and leave your heart there.

Or you see in a shop some nice frames for your glasses and you want them. If you don’t buy them you leave your heart in the shop. If you buy them you hang your heart on the frames you are wearing. Especially the women are easily enticed. Few are those who don’t give their hearts for vanities. I mean the devil steals the richness of their hearts with all the colorful, bright worldly stuffs. One needs a plate? She will look for a plate with flowers. As if the food got sour if the plate didn’t have any flowers.

Some faithful women are moved by apparently serious things, for instance by an eagle with two heads. Afterwards they ask you: `Why aren’t we moved by the spiritual things?` How to be moved when your heart is scattered in cupboards, among plates? You don’t have a heart, only flesh and inside that it beats mechanically its tick-tack like the clock, only to be able to walk. Because a bit of your heart goes to a thing, a bit to another and there is nothing left for Christ.`

`Father, does it mean that these simple desires are sinful ?`

`These desires, no matter how sinless they might be are worse than the sinful ones. Because a sinful desire will shake the man somehow and some day his conscience reproves him for that and then he will try to go back and he will repent saying: `I was wrong, my Lord. While these apparently good desires don’t give him any uneasiness. He thinks he goes well. `I love what’s good, I love what’s beautiful. God made them all beautiful` he says Yes, but his love doesn’t go to the Creator, goes to the creations. That’s why is good to cut any desire. When someone does something for Christ and sacrifices what he loves, doing what he doesn’t enjoy, no matter how good would be what he likes, then God gives him much rest.

The heart before it cleanses has worldly desires and finds enjoyment in them. But when it cleanses up it will be disgusted by the worldly joys. From that moment on its joys will be spiritual. Only in this way the heart will be cleansed, when it gets disgusted by the worldly desires. Before that it is attracted by them. But you see, we don’t want to upset the old man lying inside us, we want to please him. But then how are we going to become followers of Christ?`

`Father, when I find it hard to cut a desire, I have to go on striving?`

`Yes, even if your hearts saddens because you don’t do what pleases it, you shouldn’t listen to it. Because if you listen to it you will feel a worldly joy then a worldly anxiety. And if you don’t listen to your heart and your hearts gets upset because you didn’t do what it pleases it and you will be glad of that, then the grace of God will come over you. Cause this is the aim: to gain the divine grace. And for gaining the divine grace we have to cut all our desires even if they were good. We have to cut our own will. Then the man humbles himself and when he humbles himself the divine grace will come to him. When the heart will have a worldly discontent, it will have a spiritual joy. As much as one can, should learn to avoid the worldly comfort and have an inner spiritual work so that he may gain divine comfort.

Pious Paissios the Athonite

 

What to do if you are ashamed to confess a sin?

You will find the answer to this question in any handbook about confession, but I think it won’t be the healing one

I’m sure that’s why you are looking for an answer, another answer than the one, I have no doubt about it, you already know but which is of no use to you in your actual condition. Because of this I won’t rebuke you as usual: `This shame is from the devil, you must overcome it and confess your sin!`

Antonius, Bishop of Suroj remembered tenderly an incident from his adolescence which changed his life. I confess that the same happening had the same effect upon my life. Once after the holy service was ended, the young man approached to be anointed by the priest who gave him the impression that he was drunk. However from a false politeness he tried to kiss his hand and the priest withdrew it abashed, excusing himself for his condition.

After the people have scattered the young man moved by the gesture of the priest went to him to apologize. The priest was so upset that he was almost crying. And told to the young man that he was upset he was that way but he couldn’t bear it anymore, because his wife and child had just died in an accident.

Then the future bishop of Suroj had the following simple but fundamental revelation. He understood that one thing is to read in the Bible about Job’s patience and give him as an example to the others when you see them upset and another one is to experience on your own such a big trouble.

The authentic Christian life begins with the understanding of this simple thing. We should understand that we cannot always fulfill the good counsels of the Holy Fathers and even of the Savior.

We don’t always have the needed power, courage and merely will. But despite these, we shouldn’t forget that even then, either we are tempted and even possessed by devils or by our natural tendencies, we are still Christians. Some smitten Christians, but still Christians,

We should understand that the life of the Christian is not consisting only of victories and accomplishments but maybe more from defeats, but some defeats endured with courage.

For us as Christians a defeat endured with courage is greater than a victory gained meanly, meaning proudly. A victory like this can very easily throw you out of the battle field. Meaning in our case that if someone confesses his sins with too much ease may wonder why is it happening this to him? Isn’t it because they don’t seem that serious to him? Isn’t it because he has lost the spirit of true repentance?

Yes, your sin may be an abortion, incest, homosexuality, necrophilia or crime. But you should know that there are people who confess such sins almost with serenity and somewhere else in a remote monastery there is a monk who cries bitterly because he had eaten an apple from a tree without any blessing. In the Patericon we have the case of a monk who was tormented by the fact that he was working in the kitchen of the monastery and ate from the butter pot.

So in my opinion the shame we feel when we have to confess a sin might depend not so much on the gravity of that sin but on the intensity of our repentance. For not allowing us to reach such a courageous repentance, so well-pleasing to God, the devil fights against us and intensifies our anxiety, increasing not only our shame but also our despair.

But what means to declare yourself defeated? Is it the fact that you can’t confess a certain sin to the priest? No. Not yet. This is just a blow, a blow naturally implied by any fight. But that’s not a defeat, it is still a scuffle. Defeat is when we begin to run away not only from the priest but even from Christ, when you come to the conclusion that it is not just the priest who cannot understand you, but even Christ cannot do it, even Christ cannot forgive you.

I said that this shame may rather appear because of the intensity of our repentance than because of the gravity of our sin. And it would be sad to miss the chance to be crowned in accordance with our struggle. But the crown is placed higher than we are and imagine that we don’t have anything to help us reach it: not a chair, nor a stone or a snag. Everything we have at our disposal is our sin and we have to step on it as if we were stepping on a staircase to reach the crown.

Thus if you cannot confess that to the priest where you usually make your confession, go and tell it to an unknown priest, go in a foreign town, in a foreign country where nobody knows you and tell it to the first priest who comes in your way, only confess it once and for all.

If you lost your trust in priests, cause you might fall into this temptation as well, say it to a man of trust. If don’t have such a man, say it straightly to God, say it to Him without cease. In fact I’m sure that the memory of that sin haunts you, but say it openly, hopefully, not running away from God.

Take the case of Peter and Judas. Judas felt an intense repentance, ran away and threw the money taken for blood. Judas in contrast to Peter confessed that Christ’s blood was pure, meaning practically that he defied the decision of the Jews, that he defied the whole Temple who condemned Christ to death.

Peter didn’t have the power to do this, not even in front of a simple woman who told him that she had seen him with the apostles. Peter denied Christ by oath, while Judas confessed without fear that he was not guilty and not only before a simple woman, who couldn’t do anything to him, but in front of the law makers of the Jews, who could send him to death.

But despite this fact his great repentance was of no avail to him because Judas although he repented ran from God, didn’t dare to confess before Him.

Judas who had the courage to confess in front of the people didn’t have the courage to confess in front of God and Peter, although he was frightened and ashamed of people, when time came confessed to God.

What was Peter’s confession? Did he say: `God, I sinned betraying You, please forgive me?` No. Peter confessed in a different way, which surprises us. Peter said:

`God, You know all, You know that I love You.` You should repeat the same, even if you don’t believe it either. Say it even if it is a lie, but wish it were a truth. It might even be a truth, a truth only a few from us can reach but we all long for it. Cry and repeat this lie to God, tell Him straightly: `God, You know all, You know that I love You!`

God knows our sin. He knows it before we had been born. But He didn’t prevent our birth. Doesn’t this prove God’s trust in us, doesn’t this show the great hope He put in us? Why disappoint such a wonderful man like God?

The same bishop, in a preach On Nativity which I know it wasn’t translated in Romanian, proposes a discussion, not so much about the faith of the man in God, this being so often discussed, but about God’s faith in the man.

The bishop retells a story of not so much literary value but with a great spiritual depth.

The author imagines the council of the Holy Tgrinity at the creation of man. od, the Father would have said : Let’s make man in our image after our likeness.`

`But this man is going to fall` said the Holy Spirit. `And You, Son will have to die for him.`

`Shall we make him or not?` asked the Father.

`Let’s make him`, said the Son.

Here is the trust God put in the man. To this God we confess, of Him we are ashamed, this is the One we love.

If you can’t confess yet your sin to the priest, do not despair, tell it to God. And add to that sin all the reasons why you can’t confess it. Tell to God all the things the way they are, simply. Do not separate yourself from God.

You can tell Him that He is not right with you, even that He is guilty for your sin, you can slander the whole earth before Him, all the priests and bishops, but confess everything before Him and do not rest until you get an answer from Him. Maybe suddenly you realize that what you tell Him is a lie, or maybe you don’t. But know that He will understand you anything you might tell Him. And calm yourself.

You can tell everything to Him so that you won’t burst in front of people. But refrain from slandering the priests or any other man before people until you find your peace.

You can accuse all people before God, cause He will understand you. He knows everything. And don’t ever forget that no matter how desperate or revolted you would be that everything is a temporary temptation you must defeat.

There will come the time when you confess it to the priest, before God but with a witness. It won’t seem that hard to you, he is a man himself, troubled by thoughts just as you are, because as saint apostle Paul says `all men cry and moan with unheard sobs waiting for the adoption.`

Think that it is only an insignificant sin, a small one. That life might throw you from now on in greater sins so that what troubles you now might seem some mere trifles in comparison with that. And if you can’t confess this one, what will you do with those?

„Take courage, I have conquered the world” – Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi

The Schism

Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis from Aegina

Schism, word which saddens our ear, word showing the denial of a sister Church, the separation of the brothers belonging to a sister Church and the row of unpleasant consequences following after it. What may be the reasons that caused the schism between the two Churches, the Eastern and the Western one which has been keeping separated for 12 centuries the brothers of the same blood? How great may be their significance that for centuries they remained relentless? Isn’t it possible their reconciliation and unification? We shall try to answer to all these three questions coming from both sides by this study, studying the matter from the historical point of view.

The causes of the schism pointed out by each one of the two churches are denied by the other: on one side the Western Church presents as a cause of the schism the arrogance of the Eastern Church which denies the primate of the pope in the Church in the way the Western Church understands it, as it follows:

  1. a) the establishment of the apostolic primate in the person of the most blessed Peter (of apostolic primates in beato Petro institutione).
    b) the continuity of the primate at the Roman pontiffs (of perpetuation primatus Petri Romani Pontificis).
    c) the nature and essence of the primate of the Roman pontiff (de vi et ratione primatus Romani Pontificis).
    d) the principle of infallibility of the Roman pontiff (de Romani Pontificis infailibili magisterio).
    These conceptions about Peter’s primate developed and were formulated and officially proclaimed. The dogmatic commission from Rome constituted by the pope before the convocation of what the Westerners called as the Ecumenical Council from 1870 gave to the members of the Council on 12th of July 1870 a schematic document with the title:

«The first dogmatic constitution about the Church of Christ » (Constitutio dogmatica prima de ecclesia Christi), where were enclosed the four previously mentioned points.

On another hand, the Eastern Church emphasizes as most important causes of the schism:

  1. a) the arrogant anti canonical claims referring at the primate of the popes of Rome contravening to the spirit of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church as it is formulated in the Holy Scripture defended and preserved by the seven Holy Ecumenical Councils.
  2. b) the innovations inserted by which the Roman Church moved away from the Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church
  3. c) the infringement of the authority of the Holy Councils, the only ones who can hold the truth in the Church

Thus the causes of the separation as pointed out by the Western Church are four and those stressed by the Eastern Church are three. In order to reconciliate and unite it is needed to eliminate the causes but in this it lies the importance of the matter, because each one of the two Churches considers that the truth is on its side, pretending submission from the other and proposing as a condition of their unification, the acceptance of the papal primate  as it is stated in its four points in what relates to the demands of the Western Church and in what relates to the Eastern Church on the other hand, brotherly equality „Primus inter pares” and right faith in accordance with the canons of the Ecumenical Councils which have infallibility.

The terms of the unification are of such a nature that make the aimed unification impossible, because there is no point of agreement between these, each one asking from the other no more and no less than to negate its own identity, its fundamental principles on which is founded the whole institution of the Church: because according to their views, the Western Church on one hand is founded on the papal primate and the Eastern Church on the other hand on the Ecumenical Councils. That is why the terms proposed by both parties for their unification become unacceptable because they destroy from foundations each Church and from here derive the concessions made by both parties which don’t lead to any result.

The primacy of honor granted to the pope by the Eastern Church is a useless concession because it lacks the power which can maintain the edifice of the Western Church. The concessions granted by the pope to the Eastern Church, to remain faithful to its own dogmas, customs and traditions are considered by the Eastern Church as being legitimate and based on the canons of the Church, reason which makes it persist on them and demand from the pope and the entire Western Church to think in the same way it does and expects that the pope and the whole Western Church should come back within it, renouncing at the life from before and approaching it with repentance.

Thus these apparent concessions have no meaning, are as if they didn’t exist: and in order to make possible the unification these concessions must suppress the main causes of the separation: these concessions will be meaningful when the pope renounces at what belongs to him and not when he tolerates the good traditions of the Church. As long as the main causes of the separation will remain as they are each one of the Churches will remain in what it is theirs and the unification is impossible.   In order to be possible, the unification  must be founded on the same principles, otherwise any effort is fruitless.

Excerpt from the book of saint Nektarios of Aegina – Why the pope and his followers separated from the Church of Christ, Evanghelismos Publishing, 2011.