We must listen and honor our spiritual father as he fights for the salvation of his spiritual sons

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Philotheos

Now I will tell you something very personal from my life of novice lived near the Elder:

„I was in the desert and it was the feast of the Holy Spirit. Father Athanasios had brought us dry bread, tomatoes, grapes and many others. The Elder told us:

`Take your bags and go down to carry the things brought by father Athanasios because they will be eaten by mice.`

`May it be blessed.`

We went down to the seaside to load the things which were very heavy. I loaded the bag and started the climbing back. The sweat was flowing heavily and I felt my feet were numb. Only toil and pain.

Then satan started to drip poison in my heart. My mind told me: `See, your Elder sends you to carry. While he is not carrying anything he asked you who are sick to carry! He shouldn`t have sent you down on the seashore being sick. But on a day like that when all the monks from the monasteries rest in silence, staying in their cells and praying with the rosary and reading, we go to carry? We don`t care about any Sundays or feasts? What Elder is this one?`

My brothers were bigger and stronger and they didn`t mind that. But I was only a novice of 19 years old and for this reason he punished me as he liked.

Climbing with that burden on my back the devilish thoughts made that burden much m ore heavier. I had about 40 kilos on my back and the thoughts made it weigh 400. But with the Elder`s enlightenment and teaching I faced the trial and said against that: ` You are wrong thinking that way. Christ raised the Cross on His shoulders and they offended Him, they cursed Him, they pierced Him with nails and crucified Him but He did not comment against His Heavenly Father only said:

` My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will`[1].

Since this is the will of the Elder, let it be done. I want to change my flannel and wear a clean one, I will go to eat and sleep in my bed. Christ does not sleep on the Cross and I dare speak. I toil and show obedience. I am obedient till death. I don`t care about what day or work it is. The only thing I care about is obedience. Narrow and saddening path! I left my will in the world.

Today, you, tempter, killed me, but I will take my revenge on you! I will fix you down when I am up. I will tell everything to the Elder.

We got up exhausted. But I was not able to see the Elder because he was resting and I could not bother him. I ate bread and we were about to rest for the vigil. I said to myself: `I am going to give you something in advance. I took some sharp stones and put them on the floor I put a coat over them not to be seen and I sat down with the mantle I had since it was summertime. It hurt me and I felt bad and said: `Now sleep here to get your lesson. Christ suffered on the Cross and you want a mattress? Now willy-nilly you will suffer for these thoughts.

Then looking at the Crucified One I saw the snake who had come to bite me and make me judge my Elder, to humiliate him and stand against him. When I saw the Crucified One I killed the snake with His grace and with the prayer of the guardian angel and of the Elder. Afterwards I fell asleep. Of course my cell was a small cave where you could not stand up. I had a wooden cot and before me there was mud.

When I woke up for the vigil I had much joy in my soul. God saw my intention – of course it was something done by a novice – and showed me something which was beyond my powers. I saw myself in a field. On my right side there was Elder Joseph and on my left side was Elder Arsenios. He told us: `Constantine the Great will pass by. Kneel down before him and honor him. And we fell on our knees indeed. When I stood up to look at him and kiss his hand instead of the great Constantine I saw Christ as a small infant. He bent and kissed me. The joy I felt is indescribable.

I ran immediately to the Elder and told him what had happened: what the devil had told me and what I answered, what punishment I had and what I saw. And the Elder told me:

`After the struggle God gives His grace in a sensible way to assure you that He received your endeavor. This is the way He comforts His servants. But do not do such things again.`

Thus I got rid of the poison of the viper of that evil advice from the devil. Looking at Christ, the Crucified One, we face the attacks of the demons.

See how the devil tries to separate us from our Elder? My Elder told me how we should see our spiritual father: I did not come here to work for me, you came for the love of Christ. I am a man with my own weaknesses. Think, believe that the Elder holds the place of God`s representative. Everything you do for your Elder, you do for God, not for his sinful person, but for his worthiness. What does the command say? `Honor your father…`

If we have the command to listen and honor and respect our fleshly parents, then what are we supposed to do for our spiritual father who fights for the health of his spiritual sons!

 [1] Matthew 26, 39.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

Contemplation of God is an endless Heaven

After all those said, as a small advice, we will have to force ourselves to be vigilant and strive or rather have a permanent care how we will stand up to communicate with God the Father. By divine meditation we understand that the man was created only to occupy his mind with God. After we do everything is needed for the body and for the cares of life, all the rest of our time should be spent thinking about God and the afterlife.

The contemplation of God is an endless heaven. Thousands of heavens can`t be compared with the contemplation of God. These holy and experienced monks like my elder, who approach God and communicate sensibly with Him, become some spiritual astronauts who take the material stuff up to the spiritual world and search the things as they are and know only God and nothing else. `Me and God and nothing else!`  From here on it opens an endless contemplation of God.

With such contemplations and perception of God how to perceive the elders the desert as a seclusion from people? Only by remembering that they might meet a man they grow sad. The desert was a comfort for them. Saint Silouan rested in silence and when he needed to go out he threw his kamelavkion on his face so that he would not see anything which could distract his mind from the contemplation of God.

`Why do you cover your face, father?` they asked him. Don`t you want to see us?`

`No, brother. What`s the use of seeing so many things around when God made Himself man for me?`

He said these wanting to give an answer to his brothers but those who have the experience of contemplations realize what he meant by these few words.

The enlightenment these men receive is so intense that the man doesn`t find his words to express what he feels. He feels his soul as a bride of God, adorned with divine clothes (as a worldly bride feels she is united with her groom) and that it is fulfilled his spiritual wedding with the Son of God and the soul`s reached ecstasy for this wedding is eternal. This nuptial bond lasts forever.

In another state he feels as a child of God who will inherit the eternal Father Whose beauty cannot be understood or described and he adorns himself from the richness of his Father. Some other times the soul feels such courage as if it would be ready to sweep away all the herds of demons. These of course are just words but in feeling there is something incomprehensible which cannot be compared with anything else.

Once in the Great Lent in the first days from the first week, while we were in the desert, because we had a hesychast way of living, separated from one another, I went out to pick up some greens. But I can`t describe or explain what happened to me. However, I will tell it for the glory of God! I found myself   in heavens, among angels and chants. It was a ravishment of the mind, something frightening. If this state had lasted more I would not have been able to stand more on my feet of such a great delight. This was something coming out from God`s mercy since I was not able to explain it. It was not something coming out of my endeavor. And from this poor relish and knowledge I can tell what will happen with the man when he saves his soul with God`s mercy and not because of his deeds. Since nobody has deeds worthy of salvation. I feel so unworthy and small that if God didn`t help, I would be completely naked, perfectly aware of my wretchedness. If only we knew what God has prepared for those men who struggle till the end, we would say: `God, give us some more patience!`

Let us ask God to give us this patience, this zeal, this power. But I who tell you these things have nothing from these charismas because I did not work for my God, as I had to. That`s why I am rightly deprived of His benevolence.

 May God make us worthy to shelter Him in our hearts and feel Him alive and True now and in His eternal Kingdom!

Excerpt from The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

Brancoveanu Saints

In the Holy Week from the year 1714 after the betrayal of some noblemen who slandered the Romanian ruler that he was plotting against the Turks, a great army sent by Ahmed the 3rd the sultan of the empire arrived in Bucharest and took prince Constantine and his sons and his sons in law and led them to Istanbul in the mourning of all the people of the city.

Bidding farewell,  Constantine said to the new ruler of the country and to his close-knit:

`If these misfortunes are from God for my sins may His will be done. But if they are the fruit of the human malice for my perdition may God forgive my enemies.`

 (…)

The confessors of Christ were led on the streets of the city dressed only in robes, barefoot, with their heads uncovered just like the villains.

At the place of the execution there was a big crowd gathered, the sultan, Ahmed the 3rd , his vizier and the ambassadors of the European powers.

There the martyrs were forced to kneel down and Constantine, the great sufferer, encouraged his sons: `My sons, see, we`ve lost all our fortunes. Let us not lose our souls. Be brave, stay strong my dears and don`t pay any attention to death. Look at Christ, our Saviour, how many things He suffered for us and what a shameful death He had! Believe strongly in this and don`t give up on your Orthodox faith for this life or world! Remember what saint Paul, the Apostle says:

`Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

`For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. `No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.`

Now my dearest sons let us wash our sins with our blood.

 (…)

Thus were beheaded Ienachita Vacarescu, the treasurer, then the eldest son, Constantine, afterwards Stephen and Radu. And when it was the turn of the youngest one, Matthew who was only 12 years old and the executioner raised his sword to cut his head the boy was scared and cried and begged the sultan to forgive him because he was willing to become Muslim.

Then his father full of courage told him:

`There was no one of our family to deny his faith. If it is possible it is preferable to die a thousand times than deny your Orthodox faith for living a few years more here on earth. Then the child got strengthened and laying his head down to be cut said to the executioner: `I want to die as a Christian. Hit!`

There will be wars and many disorders, but do not have any fear

In the Gospel of Luke, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us beforehand everything is about to happen before that frightening day to prepare us so that we may not be led into error.

`Teacher,` they asked, `when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?`

 He replied: `Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.  When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.`

Then he said to them: `Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

He told them this parable: Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.  For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

[1].

`Heaven and earth will pass away but My words shall not pass away.` My words will remains, they will become reality, they will take place in the life of men as it is said here. `Many will come in My name claiming `I am He`. As we believe and expect that antichrist will say: `I am Christ, I am God. Come to me, I will give you everything. It is enough to believe in me and receive the seal of obedience towards me.` The Jews thought this antichrist was Messiah who was to come to reign over an Judaic kingdom. They will build their temple, they will make their state and all the rest.  `Do not go after them. When you hear about wars and commotions do not get alarmed` There will be wars and many commotions but don not be afraid, do not lose your courage, do not lessen your faith in Me.

Be steady in faith because there will be such terrible signs that because of the fear and expectation of what is to come the men will lose their faith, their courage, they will be constrained and because of such a big fear they will be almost dying. `And then they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in great power and glory.`

Therefore beware to yourself, so that you may not be found on this terrible frightening day in a sinful state, in drunkenness, enslaved by the multitude of worries of this life. Prepare yourself by confessing, cleansed and ready for such a great day when God will judge the world. This will come like a trap: it will be so unexpectedly that the people will be taken by surprise. Be vigilant and do not sleep! Be vigilant in your prayers, in your cogitations, in your current affairs, in your family life and everywhere permanently so that you won`t fall into sin and be worthy to stand on the right side of Christ, the Great Judge.

Saint Paul, the Apostle describes the glorious coming of Christ, our Lord. He says in one of his epistles that `the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.`[2]

Meaning that the voice of the Son of God will call first the reposed ones to come back to life from the dead. And when they are resurrected we will see them taken on clouds. The revived people will leave like the aerostats to go and stand on the right side of Christ.

Those who will be alive then will be taken on clouds and brought to greet the Lord in the skies. Those who will be taken on clouds to greet the Lord will be the saved ones, the righteous who will stand on His right.

[1] Luke 21, 7-36.

[2] 1 Thessalonians 4, 15-17.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

The separation of God means an eternal life in the most terrible torments

Satan, the great deluder, as a big schemer takes out of our mind this cogitation about hell, which is a remedy for the soul. It is a means of the divine Providence to teach us and lead us by divine fear to God and to strengthen our zeal for ascetic strive, to escape of hell. If we had known what a hell the sin brings we would have hated it, no matter what a heavenly pleasure might seem that it could bring to us.

The sin is a dirty thing which comes from the disgusting devil and he presents it to us as something pleasant and precious. And even if the man reaches the point when he is disgusted by sin and by himself after a while he wants it again. He is like the dog that after he vomits his stomach out comes back and eats what he had vomited. The sin is a poison which empoisons our soul and deprives us of the eternal life near God.

Our Orthodoxy is extremely beautiful. It is so much embellished. That is why satan fights it through the heretics. But even if it is fought it strengthens itself and pushes its roots even deeper. We haven`t realized yet what means for the soul to be separated of God for eternity. And if it had been easy to be deprived by God it would have been a smaller evil. But unfortunately the separation of God means an eternal life in the most terrible torments. We have such a big burden when we get a demonic thought. There is something which torments us and that thing is exploited and intensified by the devil then he saddens us and torments us and brings us to despair and we lose our health and many others. And what is it in fact? A simple thought we cannot surpass. I don`t know if you have ever seen a demonized man. I heard that the tongue of a demonized woman can lengthen incredibly. Does this happen physiologically? No. It is done in a demonic way. And all the facial expression and in general all the look of a demonized woman, her whole spiritual and physical look is something frightening, pitiable.

And all these are something insignificant in comparison with a soul doomed for eternity to be away of God and who knows that he will never get out of the state of damnation. If the hypostatical state of a demon is so frightening here on earth where is God`s mercy and love then how big is the unhappiness of a soul who is surrounded by uncountable demons in an impenetrable darkness, in a state of coexistence with the demons who with all her malice torment us hopelessly, mercilessly in a state of complete seclusion, deprived by the slightest ray of light and divine presence. Here we are only saying words but the reality is unimaginable. The human mind cannot perceive the pain of the damnation.

And while we, the Orthodox believe these because they are dogmas of the Orthodox Church which tell us that the hell exists, today there are theologians who studied theology in universities and who believe in a wrong and anti-dogmatic way that the hell of the souls will be in their conscience and not in an active hypostatic way. This was of course a devilish invention caused by the following reason:

The devil saw that if the man becomes aware of and engrains deeply in his soul the remembrance of the torments of hell and what means the eternal separation of God in torments, the things take a different turn, because he begins to correct his conscience. That is why the devil wants to benumb the painful feeling of the existence of hell to lower fear which is a remedy against sin.

When I think the hell will be in the conscience, I`ll try – thinking and opening a way to sin – to convince myself to create a conscience which would not muse about what he has done or not according to the will of God, so that it would not hurt and I would not feel the eternal torment following this demonic invention. Thus here I will live in delight and when I go there with this conscience I will not suffer.

All these are told to be benumbed the fear of God and thus without any impediment to be able to commit any sin or to delight of all the earthly pleasures. But if it weren`t that way, then heaven would have to be only the man`s conscience and not in reality. But unfortunately or fortunately the things are quite different. All these are a devilish invention and trap to go to hell and lose our eternal life.

Saint John Chrysostom writes many things about the real hell in accordance with the dogma of the Orthodox Church. He was asked:

`Father, where is the bottomless pit of fire?`

And the saint with the golden mouth and mind answered:

`Don`t search where is the bottomless pit of fire, but take care to avoid it by a virtuous life and repentance. Since God is real and He doesn`t lie, He doesn`t cheat, God doesn`t let Himself be offended.

Everything He said in the Holy Gospel is reality. The hell is not a tale.

And an acknowledgement of this dogma of our untainted and most beautiful Orthodox Church it is the practical life and tradition of the ascetics. We see that the frightening hell exists indeed and it waits to receive in it all those who dishonor God and listen to the advice of the cunning demons.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

The embrace of the Theotokos

Monk Moses the Athonite

The Dormition of the Theotokos is again approaching. All the believers are preparing to celebrate this great feast of the Holy Mother of God.

The celebration is holy, wonderful, superb and moving. It is a wonderful, glorious, splendid celebration, much loved by people. The believers enjoy the feast although it is about the Dormition of the Theotokos, about the beloved one`s move to heaven. They rejoice because their protector, the Holy Mother of God and of people goes to heaven for praying without cease for the entire suffering mankind.

This expression seems contradictory. Joy at the funerals? It is about sadness which brings joy and about joy mixed with sadness, terms which are used in the ascetic and niptic literature. The mourning chants become joy. The funerals become a feast. At first sight it seems strange but if we go deeper we will notice that it is all about a divine energy, about a wondrous event. The Son of the eternal Virgin Mary defeated death by His death. The mourning, sad tears turned into tears of joy, of merriment, of delight and hope.

The Most Holy Mother of God encourage her friends, gives them beautiful thoughts, an optimistic thinking, a sweet comfort. The Theotokos moves to a better, to a higher and more beautiful life.

I would have been impossible for the Most Pure Mother of Emanuel, who gave birth to Christ, the giver of Light, the Sun of Justice, the Morning Star, to be swallowed by the dark hell in its prison.

Thus her death became a life and light giving spring. The believers who honor piously the miracle making icons of the Theotokos receive grace and joy, courage and comfort, strengthening and power. The tears of the believers are coming from their hearts, are sweet tears of joy, of thankfulness and gratefulness, of comfort and ardent prayer.

Our people love the Holy Mother of God very much. The sad exceptions exist everywhere and they will always exist.

The humble and blessed worshipers of the icons of the Theotokos express before her their pain and problems, their demands and difficulties.

The pained Mother of God receives them all, listens to them, comforts them, wipes away their sweat and tears, embraces and encourages them. The Most Holy suffered a lot and she knows to empathize, to give help and pray without cease. Monasteries, churches, chapels, worshiping places remind of her grace. Numerous are the offerings accompanying the demands and rich are the gifts of thankfulness. The icons are imbued in the tears of the pious worshipers. Sometimes the icons cry and with it the Intercessor of all the believers. Each one of her icons has a special story and name.

The face of the Holy Mother of God is always pious, serious, quiet, serene and devout. But she speaks as well by her abundant grace, by her purity, by her humbleness. In her holy face hides a wonderful ethos. She gives joy without smiling and joking, she preaches without words by her living example, she teaches by her beautiful life. She gives what she has: love, obedience and kindness. The believer has the impression that the icon tells him personally something. He feels that within himself is awakened the forgotten innocence, the childish simplicity, the patience in suffering. It is another way of living which nourished many generations in times of great difficulties. On today`s feast may the Holy Mother of God embrace all her worshippers so that they won`t tire and despair.

I hope I will always repent with the help of your grace to sweeten your heart saddened by me

As I have told you before I consider that it is of my duty as a father to teach you the method and the rule of vigil so that this may be spiritually fruitful. I will read to you what I wrote and this will help you make an idea about it:

Blessed be the Name of our Kind God !

Today I`ve tried to communicate with the invisible God by forgetting everything is created, everything material, felt and thought. I wanted, I longed that this endeavor may be blessed by the Creator of everything. Everything vanished, everything was forgotten as if it had never existed.

I got in the zone, on the trajectory of the invisible, of the impenetrable. The soul, the heart always had the prayer as a helm, as a compass and as a vigilant and protecting power.

Oh, the mind sees and comes to know so many things when it is in the atmosphere and at this height of God! Peace, silence…The sweet abundant tears and the confession of the heart show that the mind is on the right path. Up there above what amazes it is the greatness of God! Due to the amazement caused by the revelations relating to the knowledge of God the words are lost and the mind remains speechless marveling at God Who is beyond any power of understanding. God is the good cause of everything but peerlessly above everything. Someone may say a few or more words but it is never possible for the man to understand God with his mind. However He is not hidden, He reveals Himself to those who despise the impure ones, who rise above the pure ones, which surpass the height of holiness.

I think about Moses. First he purified himself and purified the people and afterwards he heard the echoing trumpets, he saw the dazzling lights, he entered the cloud of the unknown which is above any brightness and his face was so much brightened that his people couldn`t look at him because of his brightness and for this reason he had to cover his face with a veil.

But the hermits…with the new grace they always found themselves with their prayer in the atmosphere of God.

These are the high contemplations which overwhelm the mind and subdue the human intellect.

There I made a pause. I stood up and went to the window for a physical and mental change.

And there I saw the shining moon, the stars scattered in the sky, everything was grace and beauty. I watched them over and over again and I could not get tired of it. How many things they tell about God. When the stars were created the angels out of their great joy and amazement for the wisdom and power of God cried loudly it says somewhere at Job. I think about their weight, about their volume, as solid bodies, at their wonderful and amazing ministry. Millions of celestial bodies stand in a vacuum with the power and Providence of God. All the stars with their beauty and grace are proud, speak aloud about the most obvious and most brilliant existence of God.

Now my thoughts go towards the man. The man, God`s most refined creature, God`s breath, is born in this world and he slowly dies one day physically not being able to remain alive. His imagination makes him swallow like a balloon which cause of a disease as if prickled by a needle, explodes and is vanished. He has no command over himself and he is led without understanding that by another will and he behaves unwillingly absolutely helpless to oppose. But what are you man to be proud thinking great things about yourself. Here an invisible microbe attacks you and you immediately lose your good disposition, you get sick and die. Mortal man you see death coming and know you are going to another country and you obey that without saying a word against it. Could you oppose and get rid of what happens in that frightening moment? No way! Helplessness and despair!

But despite this unshaken reality the wretched man in his anger blasphemes His Creator and God for insignificant things and becomes loathing and deplorable. God sees him, listens to him as a loving Father, endures him and continues to love him and take care of him. `Oh, the depth of richness of God`s love! I praise You my Father that You always prove Yourself great and lovable.

The break refreshed my soul and since I see that I have some more time I continue my vigil. I sat down on the earth and continued my prayer which refreshed me with the bright knowledge of God. I was amazed by the benefit of the vigil. And another time during the vigil I said:

`How many thanks I owe you my Lord because you made me worthy to speak with You waking up in the night in this peaceful atmosphere to have such holy encounters. Today my Kind Father I thank You more than any other time because You drew my attention to my callousness.

Searching my soul thoroughly I confess that it was perfectly useful to me, I don`t even have the right idea about how much it was. I believed in You formally and confessed You and felt You. That is why I have such a burdened path.

Oh my Lord and my sweet Father how much I ignored You in these long years! And how patient You were with me. How much You tolerated me. Why would I sadden You with my formalism, when I am the most humble of all creatures. I am amazed of Your boundless love! How didn`t You become disgusted of me and loved me when I didn`t love You and didn`t feel you faithfully my Father? You are by excellence my Father, my Creator, not my parents. They were only the organs of Your will. You made me man, You brought me to life, You take care of me in a wondrous way. Everything You made in the world You created for my happiness. I live and I move and I exist due to Your loving will. Everything depends on You. But it`s not only about the earthly ones which You give me abundantly, You have also prepared in heavens `What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard and what no human mind has conceived`[1].

But what could I say about Your Incarnation, about Your death on the Cross and about the divine communion of Your Flesh and Blood and about all Your Love which is incomprehensible for my mind? Shame covered my face remembering these. I fell into Your arms thoughtfully and cried. I shed tears of repentance asking to be forgiven for my heathen heart. I hope to repent permanently with the help of Your grace to sweeten Your heart saddened by me. If all these are done I think the heart of God the Father will open and will reward mine with divine kindness and love. My Lord I thank you for everything!

Bless me again to come back…And may the prayers of my elder – who is worthy of all the heavenly blessings – reach me and save me of the eternal spiritual death. I thank You my Lord. May the Name of the Triune God be blessed forever and ever!

[1] 1 Corinthians 2, 9.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Editura Evanghelismos.

The difficult years are approaching…

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Philotheos

The difficult years are approaching. When we see wars and earthquakes and different other events it means the time is near. We expect to see many thing happening. According to the prophecies of the Saints in the times of the end great events will take place. And the word of God and the words of the Saints are the truth. The struggle we expect to fight is for the faith in God, for the humanness of Jesus as long as we believe that Christ is God and made Himself man and descended on earth to free us and draw away the darkness of faithless and the lack of god. And we as some soldiers of Christ since we are the army of Christ have the duty to prepare and arm ourselves. When a state notices that another state prepares an attack, begins to prepare its defence and counterattack. This is what we should do too. And the preparedness is known.

We should believe first of all that if we have faith and humbleness we will attract Grace and this great power of Christ to confess. We should never think or dare to believe that this power belongs to us. We will say: `I am weak, unworthy, sinful, I am a nothing, a zero, I am the most wretched man.` Only humbleness will attract the power of Christ and he will defeat.

Since where Christ gives His supernatural power, there are accomplished supernatural things. Don’t ever believe that by our own personal human powers we will be able to face any scheming or intervention of the devil and of his accomplices. Never.

The man is helpless, he has no power to face these dangers without the power of God. Let us believe that when God will call us to make this confession, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out, so that you can endure it.[1]

And when we will accept to make this confession humbly, we will receive grace from God to defeat the cunning and be rewarded.

So we should continue to correct our life, to make it be Orthodox in what regards the virtues and strives in order to feel, taste and believe in God for true. When we believe that Christ during the martyrdom of the saints made miracles with them and strengthened them in their struggle, we will feel His true presence within ourselves as the martyrs did. We see that during the martyrdoms of the saints, the martyrs and the hermits were visited by the divine grace, had divine revelations, experienced interventions of the grace these without being noticed by the others. And thus they received power. And these helped them endure the pain of the torments and they reposed in God.

 

Saint Paul the Apostle says in one of his Epistles:

 `who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength`[2]

And they suffered so many others. By their faith the martyrs accomplished all these great deeds and they suffered so many other things. They stood against the emperors, tyrants, against torments, against fire and other dangers but they defeated and they were rewarded and sanctified themselves.

But we say: `Since we don’t see now any virtue and have only the deep darkness of sin and faithlessness especially in these countries where we are invaded by all faiths and races, the Satanists who have great influence and so many other confessions and heresies, how to appear the saints nowadays?

Since all virtue is missing, since we don’t have any more hermits as in the days of yore who sanctified themselves and the deserts as long as the faith will be shaken to its foundations, who will be the saints of the last times?

However, the saints will never be missing. The Church will give saints till the Second Coming. And because these years are very near and we wait to make this great confession, we have the duty to prepare ourselves and strengthen our children all the time even with a few words we know and strengthen them in the Orthodox Faith and in confession. That one who will be worthy to make this confession of faith in the years to come, which will be the last and the most exalted, this martyr will be ten times brighter in the Kingdom of heaven than the martyrs from the old times who are celebrated by our Church. Let us hope that we too by the grace of God will be worthy of this confession in the times of the end. Amen.

[1] I Corinthians 10, 13.

[2] Hebrews 11, 33-40.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation to be published by Evanghelismos.

 

Love and physical relationships before marriage, the anxiety from the soul of a young man in love

He doesn’t want to have sexual relations with this girl before marriage.

A young Christian falls in love with a girl and they begin to see each other often. Because the boy wants to follow the will of God and he doesn’t want to have sexual relations with this girl before marriage, he is decided not to get too close of her. But the cunning spirit gives him the following thought: `If you don’t have complete relations with your girlfriend you won’t show her that you love her. And if you don’t give yourself to her and she to you, you won’t show love to each other.`

Which will have to be the answer and the attitude of the young Christian at the temptation of this bad thought? In this case one of the following two possible choices will happen: the young man will neglect the command of God and will be convinced by the urge of the evil spirit. Meaning that either he will believe that only by having sexual relations they will be able to prove their authentic love before marriage or this young man remaining steady in keeping the command of God doesn’t sin before marriage and doesn’t fall into intercourse with his girlfriend.

But the gradual withdrawal of grace will be substituted by a demonic influence. In the first case the young man will suffer a fall. While in the second he will gain a virtue. In the best situation the person in cause will not lose his health and the joy of his soul which originate in the grace of God, neither the chance to love for real.

Choosing what’s wrong, the young man in love will lose the joy of his soul and he will have only a physical joy. Because he sins, the grace of God he has from the Holy Baptism will decrease within himself without his notice, because of his lack of experience. The withdrawal of grace will be gradually replaced by a demonic influence, because the physical sin will begin to have roots and once the physical sin is committed the devil begins to have certain rights against the man. Thus the inexperienced young man will start to lose even his physical pleasure. But there will take place another thing. Love will be destroyed because the thriving of love depends of the grace of God as well. In this way he will draw his self far away of reaching true love.

This young man will be able to reach true love only after repentance and the consolidation of his relationship with God. This strengthening of his relationship with the divinity takes place by his repentances, by following the commandments of God and by the participation at the hidden life of the Church.

Source: doxologia.ro

How do we pray?

The man needs much patience to be able to spend time at the Holy Liturgy because it is not easy to stand still for two hours but you see to come to the church to attend the holy service Sunday after Sunday and even more than this is an experience similar with that of the people who were in prison. For these people the only possibility to survive was to deepen in their own self. They had no other place where to evade.

The interior of the man is a whole universe. You can watch the sky for hours without getting bored and the inner self of the man is like the sky…it is so huge that the man who looks inside himself cannot get bored.

The only possibility of the man to stay at the Holy Liturgy is this: to deepen within himself. This journey within your soul protects you of the temptation of boredom and renunciation. In the moment when the man leaves his inner self he starts to get bored at the Liturgy, starts to be upset by what he sees around, to watch the others and disperse his thoughts.

A traveler is not bored because in front of his eyes so many other pictures, other horizons are displayed all the time, but for a man who stays for a few hours in one place, this temptation is very big and he cannot defeat it otherwise than by looking within himself. That’s why the holy service, the Liturgy is made very carefully, it’s like an invitation to deepen into your inner self.

There God hid a gate towards eternal life, a gate towards eternity and Christ Himself says this thing:

`The Kingdom of God is within yourself!`

Who deepens within himself, who opens this gate slowly, gains peace, forgiveness, love, defeats pain, sorrow, despair.

But we have within ourselves the sky, the Kingdom which cries within ourselves which works within ourselves but you see the civilization, the thoughts, the opinions censor the voice from the depth.

They don’t say in vain that it’s good to listen to your heart because the hearts always says the truth and if you get used to speak less and listen to it more you won’t seek answers for your questions at random anymore but as the Holy Fathers say you will find them within your heart and they will bring you inner peace.

There is much silence within ourselves but the man is afraid of this silence, it scares him. Try to stay more than half an hour with the lights off and the curtains drawn alone in the dark. We are not used to this thing, with this search, with this silence, because we are extremely caught by the world where we live, attracted by TV, phone, terribly fretful and this draws us away of the Kingdom of the encounter with the Absolute Being from us.

We are less and less attentive and very insensitive at everything is around us, at the people around us, we don’t care at all about the repercussions  of our actions.

Don’t think that I criticize you, that I judge you, this judgment is first of all regarding myself since I see that it’s more and more difficult to notice the man beside me, as Christ did with any man.

How many times God comes towards us and tells us and shows us to break this recklessness, this lack of spiritual sensitivity (Who has ears to hear, let him hear)

God doesn’t sleep, He is not on vacation, He only waits for everyone. We are those who are away of Him, we came to worship ourselves and our wishes.

The greatest obstacle, the greatest mountain the man must cross, says elder Sophrony Saharov, to reach his heart is his own ego!

Human sensitivity maybe depends of the man’s education and maybe this education forms him on the outside and maybe even on the inside a little but know that human sensitivity, the sensitivity of a human heart is the work of the Holy Spirit and the solution, the antidote is to fall on our knees and long after God as we long after peace, after rest, as the man in love longs after his beloved!

Sensitize your hearts by PRAYER !

Call and receive God!

Know that in the course of time the scientists made many studies on the man who prays and they concluded that a man who prays changes the frequency of the brain and gets one between watchfulness and sleep.

The prayer helps the body to calm itself, to balance itself, to in its inner peace. Pure prayer protects has a healing effect upon the mind and the whole body…

By praying the man gains the joy of the Holy Spirit…

Priest VISARION ALEXA