The pigeon

One day when it was allowed to get out for fresh air, in the cold cage, while walking and praying I heard all of a sudden the voice of a pigeon. I looked upwards above the cage with the height of four meters but I couldn’t see anything. I continued my walk and prayer and I heard the same voice of pidgeon but when I looked again I still didn’t see anything. Suddenly I saw a feather falling at my feet.

I took it and put it in the book I had with me. I felt such a great joy that it seemed like flying! I glorified God! I became a different man, I wanted to cry: Thank you, my Lord! I felt like romping. I was feeling like a child.

`Thank you, my Lord, thank you that You continue to help me!`

But my joy ended when the bars of the cage opened, because the time for fresh air was over. Going back to my cell I felt changed. I think that if I had had a mirror, I would have seen myself very glad and bright, I was full of Christ’s  presence!

I lied down in the small metal cot and started the prayer. But all of a sudden I hear again that merry sound of the pigeon and when I turned around I noticed a white pigeon standing on the high peep hole of the cell. It was such a great joy that I cannot express it in writing. That pigeon stood there at the window till my last day of prison. When I went to the cage for fresh air I heard him, he was somewhere above. He was my companion. God, when I think about all these I don’t know how to thank you for the unspeakable joy You gave me of coming near You, of improving, of becoming a good Christian!… Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me!

Excerpt from the book Testimony of the religious conversion of a former convinct – Father Paisios my saint and teacher, Egumenița Publishing 2016

Thirst for God

A student complained one day to his teacher that he didn’t encounter God. The teacher answered:

`If you will say to yourself that you need Him, then you will meet God.`

The student didn’t understand the message and for this reason one day when they were in front of a river the teacher asked from his student to keep his head under water. When he got out of it the teacher asked him why he didn’t stay longer. Then the child said:

`Because I needed to breathe.`

`When you feel a need for God as powerful as the one you had to breathe then you will meet God` said the teacher.

The straightening of the blasphemer

A man who was a mime and was named Gaianos blasphemed the Most Holy Theotokos in the theatre without shame. For this reason she showed up to him and said: `What wrong did I do to you, man, that you offend me in front of so many people?` But that one did not improve his behavior at all and went on blaspheming her even more. Then the Most Holy Theotokos appeared again and said to him: `Please do not harm your soul because of me.`

But that man went on blaspheming her as before. Then she showed up for the third time and rebuked him: `Man, how did I wrong you that you don’t stop blaspheming and insulting me?` `Belive me that if you don’t come to your senses you will receive what you deserve for your foolishness.`

And since that one didn’t improve his behaviour and spoke even worse one day about noon Theotokos appeared again when he was lying down and without saying anything she marked with her fingers his legs and hands. And when he woke he found himself with the hands and legs cut and lying like a log. He related these to everyone and confessed he had received this for his blasphemies.

You see how are punished those who blaspheme the most pure Theotokos . And if they don’t receive here and now the punishment they deserve because patience is long enduring, in the age to come they will have no escape.

Source: Pious Teognost, The Thesaurus, Doxologia Publishing, Iasi, 2015

Love Christ’s Cross

What to do – I asked the starets among others – to love Christ? I thought he would tell me many things about mental prayer, prostrations, fast and many others but he simply told me: Love Christ’s Cross!

And really looking at Christ’s Cross we learn to receive gratefully all the suffering, troubles etc and regard them as nothing in comparison with what Christ suffered for us. One like this doesn’t pride himself and slowly he gets used to pray gratefully. Even if someone won’t reach fast the permanent prater of the heart – which is hard to accomplish – he still remains with the remembrance of Christ’s Cross deeply graved in his memory thing that helps at enhancing humility. Patience as we know it is a form of prayer. The starets considered equally important as a virtue the love of your enemies. And we learn to love our enemies only by following the Lord who forgave His crucifiers.

Another time I asked the starets:

`Why, abba, since I’ve already forgiven my enemy who harmed me a lot I still get thoughts against him? Do I still keep the evil in my mind?`

`No, said the starets. These thoughts are not yours in fact but the devil’s who doesn’t want us to feel any peace. Especially if he knows we have a sensitive conscience he fights with us in this way. Discernment is always needed.`

`For whom shall I pray first for me or for the others?` I asked the starets.

Another one would have answered without hesitation: `For the others, for sure` without understanding that we the laymen are helpless beings. However the starets told me:

`Of course that it is better for someone to pray for the others but if he can’t – never mind – he should pray for himself and his family then for the others.

In other words – it doesn’t matter – someone should pray for himself then pray fervently and from his heart fr the others. And then the day will come when God will give us to love our neighbor as we love ouserselves. It’s no use for someone to compel himself to achieve perfection as long as he is a spiritual infant. On the other hand the starets insists upon the prayer for our families because he gives great importance to the family and he thinks that by showing patience to your parents, by mutual love between husbands someone may reach a good spiritual progress.

`Abba, unfortunately when I see homeless people though I feel sorry for them I am not that much affected as if I were a homeless myself, I told him another time.`

`This is not something human, it’s something belonging to Christ, he answered with kindness.`

Then I remembered what saint Paissios wrote down somewhere: `For many years I loved Christ a lot, but for the other men I didn’t feel such kind of love. Until one day when Christ came and gave me His love for men and for the entire creation.And afterwards I was melted by love for anyone.` So we first have to grow our love for Christ and by it the Lord will give us to reach the full love for our neighbor, which is a divine gift. `But we have to ask Christ to allow us feel this`, he added

Once I told the starets that when I am offended by others I try to forgive them but I am upset by the offence.

`Don’t be upset at all`, he told me because this is not something human but a divine work. What matters the most is this: to try indeed to forgive the person who offended you and pray honestly to God for him. In other words `learn to forgive your enemy and don’t worry if you as a human being feel hurt. Christ will take care of all the rest.

What it was, it was, what it is, it is. What will be, will be.

It’s raining with paltry words, small talk…The people are not affected by what is happening to them but by what they understand of what it’s happening to them. You never give up on what you never had or on what you had and you still want maybe. We carry the living and the dead within us and give them power. There are persons who understand you at a glance and persons who won’t be able to do it even after thousands of words. The man in his complexity is made of plus and minus, of sun and clouds. We cannot take from the other only what makes us feel comfortable. Love implies everything, otherwise it is not love anymore…

You get down in the inner cellar of your being for bringing to light what you truly are. Are you staggering or falling at the first and slightest waft? Sometimes you are dying a several times in the same moment. There are moments in life when there are no sweet words to comfort your pain. I can only be beside you and cry with you…God doesn’t search you after the place where you are but after the cry of your heart. In the altar of your soul are dispatched the pains. Christ is never disgusted by us. Christ is not the bookkeeper of our life but our friend on the Way.

It is foolish to hate all the roses because you stung yourself in one. Not to believe in love because someone didn’t love you. To give up on your dreams because one didn’t come true. Sometimes it hurts me other times I find it so funny. You will wake up one morning and see the sun for the first time. Patience means to know that grass doesn’t grow faster if you pull it.

You can find what you are looking for only when you give up on seeking it desperately and have peace within yourself. True love catches you all of a sudden. And you have no idea why or what for.  It takes you by surprise. Pure love shows up when you don’t expect it. Love is not programmed. There are no guarantees in anything. Anything may break. Some things can be fixed back, others aren’t. And we change them or give up on them forever. The trash of some, the treasure of someone else. Neither leave them nor hold on them. There is one more day and we’ll see what will be.

There are mistakes that are paid on the outside and mistakes that are paid onn the inside all our life in silence and inner cry. Discreetly. The sky during storm wants to mend us. We are for the others what each one of us is within himself.

I build with love and gather any piece of heart torn or bent by those who didn’t learn to value its meaning.

Even if the hard walls of the souls of those who had built fortresses around themselves are cold love is still needed. Any wall has its crack where grass can grow or you can look through it and see inside. Life makes its way anywhere. It appears even in the stone wall. One day or one evening the shadow will vanish. And the last time will become the first time. Something tailored on the size of your soul is awaiting you.

Is there any duplicate for the key of the heart? Love never forgets…

Good morning sweet feeling!

hieromonk Hrisostom Filipescu

The worldly spirit is a disease

Today the main thing is not to shape ourselves after this worldly spirit. It is martyrdom. We should do our best to avoid being drawn by this trend and led on this path. The smart fish don’t let themselves be caught by hooks.

They see the bait, they understand it’s a bait, go away and escape while the others see the bait, they rush up there to eat and they are caught. In the same way the world has its bait and catches the people. They are attracted by the worldly spirit and are caught by it.

The worldly spirit is a disease. Let us avoid the worldly manner of thinking in the same way we try to avoid a disease, no matter where we find it. Let us estrange ourselves of the spirit of worldly progress in order to advance spiritually, recover our spiritual health and rejoice angelically.

Pious Paissios the Athonite

The mystery of love

Love begins when there’s a man in front of me and I see his depths, his essence. Of course when I say `I see` this doesn’t mean `I fathom with my mind` or `see with my eyes` only I deepen that with my entire being. If we could make a comparison we could say in the same way that I deepen for instance the beauty of music, of nature, of a work of art, when I stand before it amazed, mute, not doing anything else but perceiving what is there, without being able to express this in other words than: God! How wonderful it is!`

The mystery of love for man begins when we look at him without any desire to possess him, without the desire to control or dominate him, without any desire to use his gifts or personality only to look at him and be amazed of the beauty that’s revealing to us.

When I am face to face with a man I see with the eyes of love, not with the eyes of indifference or hate, only with the eyes of love, then I commune with him, between us begins something common, a common life.

The perception of man takes place at a depth that’s beyond words, beyond emotions. A believer would say: When I see the man in this light, in the light of pure love, I see in him the image of God, an icon.

Once a man saw another one not only with his eyes, but also with a certain insight of the heart and mind. And that man who was one from the crowd becomes unique. He appears then with a new beauty, a new profoundness, a new significance.

A vision like this may last for years even for a lifetime. But sometimes, after time passes, the vision fades away (as it happens with the sun that vanishes from the window and the brightness of the house fades)

And then in that moment faith comes on the stage – here’s in what meaning: faith as confidence that what was seen once and now it became invisible is still there without any doubt. We all live by this faith more or less.

Talking about marriage, about the relationships between husband and wife I said that beside love, meaning the tender passionate smooth attraction a man feels for another, these relationships also need faith.

At the beginning of the engagement service we pray that God may send to those who are ready to wed not only a perfect mutual love, peace and His help but also a communion of thought and a strong faith.

One of the holy fathers of the Church said that the world cannot exist without mysteries, meaning that certain conditions, certain relationships between people would be supernatural, heavenly, splendid; and the same elder goes on saying that marriage as an union of two people in a disunited world represents such a mystery, of wonder that overshadows all the natural relationships between men, all the natural conditions.

How often it happens to the one who loves to hear : `What did you find at him /her? And that person gives the absolutely hallucinating answer: `Don’t you see how wonderful she/he is?` And it turns out that is true, that person is wonderful because anyone who is in love sees the beauty and who doesn’t love is indifferent or hates, seeing only the flaws. We should not forget this thing. It is extremely important to remember that love is realistic till its end, it covers the man entirely and it sees deeply, but instead of condemning, instead of denying the man, it cries for his mutilation and is ready to give its own life so that everything is sick, everything is broken to be healed.

This is what is called the attitude of entire wisdom towards man, this is the true principle of love, the first true vision.

Love is a deep pain and suffering because the man is imperfect but it is in the same time wonderment because he is so amazing, so unrepeatably beautiful. And if you look at least once at a man in this way you can love him despite everything is conspicuous for the others.

We’ve already said that love is a contemplative state when the man looking at someone else sees in that person beyond his/her exterior features, despite his voice and anything else a certain depth that represents for him an icon, a kind of beauty. This beauty was in part harmed by life, by the past, by circumstances but it’s still there and only that beauty has significance in that man – although what’s harmed must be taken into account as well.

Source: Metropolitan Anthony of Suroj, The mystery of love

Why does God let the devil war us?

Saint Maximus the Confessor enumerates five reasons why God lets the devil war the people:

The first reason is to learn how to distinguish virtue from wickedness during this war.

The second reason is to `constrain` us somehow to stick fast to virtue with all our heart and firmly.

The third reason is to make us not to pride ourselves when our virtue grows but become aware due to this spiritual struggle that any growth is a gift from God.

The fourth reason is to humble ourselves and make us be aware of, hate, confess and leave our sins which became cause of temptations.

The fifth reason is to make us remember our own helplessness and the power of God when by making progress in our spiritual struggle we become worthy to reach a certain virtue.

In the five reasons from above it shows the love of God for man. We should not forget that sorrows and temptations are the gifts of God’s love for man because during these trials we can – if we want – meet Christ Who suffered and was crucified for us and He will revive us into eternity.

At last the devil by all his plots and intrigues against us destroys himself and the divine love for men wins. In the same way the trap of the Cross put by the devil to Christ became in the end destruction of the devil and victory of Christ (for this reason the Cross is since then the most terrible weapon against the devil)any trap the devil sets against us may become a defeat of the devil and a cause of our salvation. Only with a condition: to face any temptation by cutting our own will (our selfishness) and by listening unconditionally the will of God.

Source: Diahronikes Litrotikes Alithies

Words and stories of elder Paisios (ΧVII)

What we need are enlightment and spiritual experiences.

*

The main thing is that someone should become correct free willingly. It doesn’t matter if someone becomes a lamp in the city or a lighthouse on the rocks. Important is to give light.

*

In order to reach spiritual progress someone has to find mitiganting circumstances for his neighbor, even for the devil. He shouldn’t justify himself or throw responsibility on the shoulders of the others.

*

I don’t interrupt the other one in a discussion if he doesn’t say any blasphemies or stupidities.

*

If you want to make a spiritual monk become worthless is enough to make him get tangled in the administrative matters.

*

The starets said to a minister : `Don’t give money to the Holy Mountain because the monks will leave their spiritual occupations and will busy themselves with buildings.

*

The starets didn’t approve the fact that a certain Catholic monk after being baptized in the Orthodox Church wanted to marry. `Since you promised your virginity not to Buddha or Mohamed but to Christ you can’t marry anymore.`

*

When the starets left the hermitage of the Holy Cross and looked for a more peaceful place one of his disciples proposed to him to go together the starets and the monks who were close to him to an abandoned hermitage. But he didn’t agree and said: If only one of us had a proud thought that we’d be the wisest monks of the Holy Mountain and then it would be all over! The tempter would destroy us.

*

The bones of an elder from Povata after his exhumation were yellow and spread scent. His disciple confessed very humbly: `I made him become holy. Whenever he had sent me somewhere I said: Go yourself and I never listened to him. I hit him many times and he endured everything.`

*

Two hermits went once to the celebration day of Monastery of Iviron. After an all night vigil at the refectory they were served with fish and chickpeas because it was Friday. One of the two hermits said: `I’ll eat fish in the honor of Theotokos.` The other one said: `I’ll eat chickpeas in her honour.` After supper they took their bags and went back to their hermitage. They were wondering who was the one that pleased Theotokos? On their way they stopped for a while to rest. One of them fell asleep and saw Theotokos saying to the one who had eaten fish: `Thank you.` And to him who had eaten chickpeas she said: `I owe you.` Because this one made a small sacrifice.

*

At Cutlumush skete I had known many elders who had reached great spiritual heights. I haven’t met such elders on the other side of the mountain.

*

The starets said to a monk who wanted to refrain from washing himself : The elders who refrained themselves from washing were alone in the desert, they fasted and didn’t smell. But you are not alone and you eat. Why the men must smell your sweat?

*

He said about the communities that lived in the idiorhythmic monasteries: We shall help the monks from the idiorhythmic monasteries with our monasticism and not with repair and administrative works.

*

To a certain novice who didn’t pay any heed to his thoughts and received carnal thoughts he said that he was not good as a monk and sent him in the world to marry.

*

At the hermitage of the Holy Trinity belonging to Stavronikita Monastery lived a confessor with a holy life. Once two monks called him to go to a hermitage from Karyes to receive the confession of a monk who was going to die. The priest told them to go there before him and he was going to come after them. But when the two men reached the cell of that monk who was about to die they found there the priest and got scared.[1].

*

The starets must have spiritual experience. But when nobody has this experience he makes experiments on himself and if he has disciples with them as well. The Holy Fathers tried on themselves the different spiritual therapies and due to their experience we have today an entire pharmacy.

*

Hidden pride is hardly found. But who has it sees that he has no inner peace. When someone has a sick mind and prides himself God gives him joy and comfort while the one with hidden  pride doesn’t feel any inner peace or comfort. After the spiritual diagnosis is given it is necessary that he doesn’t receive any more praises and get rid of any high opinion about himself. If you receive a praise for a virtue you have it is half of a sin. But if you don’t have it then it is a sin and a half. The man has nothing good of himself. Any good belongs to God. Someone may rest his thought but he can’t rest his conscience unless is not `cracked.`

*

All ascetic strains must be accompanied by an inner spiritual work and be made for the love of Christ.

[1] They refer at the virtuous confessor, the Russian priest Arsenios. The oral tradition related by the starets was certified by the publication of his life. See Anthony the hieromonk Pages of Patericon, Christiana Publishing, 2003, p.63.

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

The worldly spirit in spiritual life

`Father, you say very often : that man sees with an European lens and not with an Eastern spirit. What do you mean by this?

`I mean that he looks with an European eye, with European logic, without faith, only humanly.`

`And what’s the Eastern spirit?`

`The dawn of dawns and those who are in the darkness and in shadow…`

`Meaning what?`

`When I say that the man caught the Eastern spirit and left the European one I mean that he gave up on logic, on rationalism and caught simplicity and piety, because this is the Orthodox spirit that pleases Christ: simplicity and piety. Today simplicity – the holy simplicity that offers rest to the soul – is missing even at spiritual men. If someone doesn’t renounce at the worldly spirit and doesn’t move with simplicity – meaning that he shouldn’t think the others would see him or  they’d say something about him when he does something – someone like this cannot be in communion with God, with the saints. For reaching this he has to move in a spiritual space. The more someone moves with simplicity, especially in a community, the more rounded he will be, because his bumps disappear. And if doesn’t do like this, he’ll become false. That’s why we should throw the worldly mask to become angels.

Do you know what do the worldly men do and what do the spiritual men do? The worldly men seek to have their yard cleaned. They are not interested if their house is full of trash, they sweep their yard and throw their thrash in the house. They say to themselves: The men look at the yard, they don’t see what’s in the house.` Meaning that they think they can have trash in their house, but they shouldn’t have outside! They are interested only in being praised by the others. While the spiritual men seek to have cleanness inside their houses. They don’t care what the world will say because Christ dwells in their house, in their heart, not in the yard.

Many times even some spiritual men move on the surface, worldly and to be more specific pharisaically. These men don’t think how to go to heaven, near God, only how to appear as good here. They renounce at all the spiritual joys, although they could have lived in heaven from here. Thus they remain some worldly men. They try to live a spiritual life in a worldly way. But they are empty inside. There is no God inside themselves.

Unfortunately the worldly spirit influenced the spiritual men a lot. If the spiritual men work and think in a worldly manner, what to do with the laymen then? I told to some people to help the children who are addicted to drugs and they answered me: `If we make a foundation for drugged persons this won’t bring us any income. That’s why we’ll make a care home for the old.` I don’t mean there is no need for care homes. But if we begin in this way these won’t be charity foundations but some things prone to shipwreck. They don’t understand that worldly happiness is spiritual unhappiness.

Pious Paisios the Athonite