The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (III)

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Filotheos

 

At the Holy Liturgy it is fulfilled this elevate and frightening Sacrament.

The Holy Table is like Golgotha where Christ was crucified and gave His spirit. Giving His spirit to God, His Father, in accordance with the human nature, He immediately destroyed the wall between God and man. The wall which separated man from God because of the sin of the forefathers fell down and what had been separated was reunited. Thus the Holy Trinity fulfilled this great sacrament, the reconciliation of the man with God. Look now at the amazing love and mercifulness of God for man! Look at God’s descent!

Each crumble which falls in the Holy Chalice is a soul that is mentioned before at Proscomidy and afterwards at the Holy Trinity. And when the deacon prepares the Holies, he places the Holy Body in the Holy Chalice and then arranges the crumbles which are put in the Chalice saying: `Wash, Lord, with Your Precious Blood the sins of those who were mentioned here.` Meaning that He erased completely the sins of those souls which were mentioned here through the holy mirids (crumbles) put by the priest in the Holy Chalice. Thus, this soul which is dropped in the Holy Chalice, in the Blood of Christ, is washed of his sins.

And when the Church mentions at the Holy Liturgy and prays for Theotokos and for the Saints and takes out a crumble for each one of them, does this mean that the Holy Mother of God and the Saints need the same thing as the ordinary men?

No, the crumbles which are taken out and dropped in the blood of Christ in the Holy Chalice in the honor and for the remembrance of the Most blessed, most honored, forever Virgin Mary, in the honor of John the Baptist, of the Holy Hierarchs, of the Saints celebrated on that day and of all the Saints, all these Saints come to commune from the boundless richness of God by the intercession of the Church. And if it is added more glory to the Saint and he approaches God more closely and feels more intensely His presence, the greater will be the aid given to the sinner when he is mentioned and it is taken out a crumble for his name and he receives forgiveness and comfort!

Long time ago in the Holy Mountain was a very famous hermit and confessor called Hilarion. He had a disciple called Sava. Because the starets was old and thought he was to leave this life soon, he decided to leave his disciple, monk Sava as his inheritor and leave the grace of priesthood and confession to him.

He descended to the monastery to which he belonged, received the blessing of the Synaxis of that Monastery  for priesthood and he called the hierarch to fulfill the ordination. And after the ordination he could even leave Athos. Because every new priest has the duty to serve the Liturgy for 40 days the hierarch said to the starets:

`Abba, I’ll give you some names to be mentioned by father Sava as long as he serves the 40 Liturgies.`

`Of course, your holiness, bring the names.`

After the bishop gave to the Elder those names, he told to his disciple, Sava:

`My son, Sava, take these names from the abbot and mention them among the others.`

Father Sava took them and mentioned them. One night when he was about to serve the Holy Liturgy, he went out of his cell, read his prayers and went to the chapel where he was waited by his starets to take the blessing for bowing before the holy icons before the Holy Liturgy.

While he was waiting in the pew he had a vision and when he came back to his senses, he said to the starets:

`Geronda, I saw something.`

`What did you see, my son?`

`It was like I was serving the Holy Liturgy: I was at the blessing of the Holy Gifts and before taking the Holy Eucharist I asked the sexton to give me the names from the bishop. And after I took the names, I put them near the Holy Chalice and took Holy Blood with the teaspoon and sprinkled over each name a drop which erased that name. And in this way all the names from that paper were erased. And when all of them were erased you came and I woke up. What could this mean, geronda?`

`It’s what we believe. Don’t we believe that the Blood of Christ forgives the souls of those who are mentioned at the Holy Liturgy? For every name we mention at the Holy Proscomidy and for the crumble which is put in the Holy Chalice the sins of those souls are erased. This is what happened here. God showed it to you to believe it and to give you the chance to mention more names, so that the souls may be helped in the afterworld

And from that moment on father Sava began to mention a lot of names for long hours at every Liturgy.

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

Word for those who leave the church causing schisms

Saint Luke of Crimea

Know this, remember it and do not join the heretics.

Do not go away of the Church, do not tear Jesus Christ’s kiton. Remember that Christ in His hierarchical prayer asked His Father saying: ` that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.`[1]. The Lord wants unity in His Church.

The schismatics, who find mistakes in the teachings of the Church estrange themselves of it and they think they would find salvation in the heretical groups.

But do you know what the great saints said about those who tear Christ’s kiton?

Saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage said that the people who estrange themselves of the church and have no more communion with it, even if they became martyrs, they could not wash away their sin not even with their blood, because this serious sin of schism in the Church cannot be washed away not even by blood. Saint Ignatius the Godbearer said that whoever causes a schism in the Church will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But all the heretics are advocates of the schism.

While the Apostle says : `

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.`[2].

And in another one of his epistles he says :

As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!`[3].

And the heretics don’t preach what is preached by the Orthodox Church which gave spiritual birth to us.

Remember the word of our Lord Jesus Christ Who said to His Apostles and by them to us their followers:

`Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.`[4].

Terrible are these words of the Lord ! Remember them all the time. Do not forget about this day either, about this day of victory of the Orthodox Faith. This Faith was defined for ever at the 7th Ecumenical Council which strengthened Orthodoxy and condemned the heresies and schisms.

Since then when it took placed the 7th Ecumenical Council have passed more than 1000 years and there were no more Ecumenical Councils. Why? Because of political reasons. There was no more possibility to organize them. But let us not be sad that they did not organize any others and neither nowadays do they organize any. Those seven we have discussed all the issues and solved all the problems the Church had with the heresies and they strengthened the Orthodox Church.

You will say that today we have new heresies and schisms. Yes, you are right.

But we must know that these heresies don’t say anything new, only repeat what the former heretics said. And all these heresies were anathematized by the 7th Ecumenical Council. That’s why the decisions of the seven Ecumenical Councils are enough for us, especially those of the 7th.

[1] John 17, 21.

[2] Romans 16, 17.

[3] Galatians 1, 9.

[4] Luke 10, 16.

Have you ever experinced what in christian words is called `Divine Love`(Divine Eros`)?

The old monk stood up, went to the open window of the balcony and raised his eyes to the starry sky. Outside an unspeakable silence reigned in the night. The group was covered by a deep silence. After a while the Elder went back to his place, thoughtful and divinely changed and he said in a trembling voice:

`Brother theologian, have you ever tried what in Christian terms is called `divine love` (divine eros?)

`To be honest, holy father, I haven’t, answered the theologian.

`Do you realize that because of this confession of yours you are incompetent in what regards a theme which cannot be approached only rationally?`

`How to approach it then if not rationally?` asked the theologian.

`I did not say that it can’t be approached rationally, answered the Elder, only that it cannot be approached only rationally.`

`And how else could we approach it? added the theologian.

`With the heart` answered the Elder.

`You mean with love?` said the theologian.

`Not in an abstract way with love, said the Elder, with the logic of love. With the divine love of the heart and with the `mind of Christ.` (I Cor. 2, 16).

But how to reconcile, my venerable father, the logic of love, the `divine love` and `the mind of Christ with egocentrism? asked the theologian.

`It depends how someone understands egocentrism` said the Elder. This is a term with multiple interpretations…`

`In the afternoon father Chrysostom said that in its depth Christianity is egocentric` remarked the theologian. And I wonder how did Christ preach love which is social and in the same time egocentrism which means love only for ourselves?`

`This is a misinterpretation of my words and allow me to intervene, said Chrysostom, the monk. Didn’t you understand, my dear friend, that by the word `egocentrism` I wanted to define the course of the Christian soul. If you had asked me what I understood by this word I would have sustained that before manifesting our love for each other, it is necessary first to love ourselves in the meaning that we should first become Christians and then focus our attention towards our neighbor.

It would be a mere aberration if I suffered of a hard disease and I recommended to one who were less sick than me to heal himself because – this is how my action should be justified – it’s bad if someone is sick.

In other words, I am dominated by irrational passions and have `seven demons` (Luke 8,2) and I say to my brother: `brother, you are dominated by evil, free yourself.` Then on the right word I would hear : `doctor, heal yourself` (Luke 4, 23). Except for the case when by love for each other in Christianity it would be understood the giving of some crumbles and the deeds are done only for economic reasons when…But maybe you make the following very rational objection: Because we are not freed of passions we should give up on our small philanthropy we practice? No. Pious is that one who in his circle makes his duty and does good deeds. Philanthropy is the greatest virtue and we should not forget about it.

But if we judge that in the Orthodox framework, said Chrysostom, the monk, any philanthropy which is manifested without any sure holy motivations, it is accepted with the condition to be related to the awareness of the personal sinfulness. This is for not being devoid of the conscience that philanthropy does not mean Christianity alone and we must not dogmatize the fact that only the exterior forms of goodness represent an application of the command of loving our neighbor when they are only a distinctive sign of that, of an uncertain authenticity. In any case we must not forget the pedagogical character of the commands. Then how much time someone needs to heal himself how many sweats and ascetic strives he needs to free himself of passions this is another issue which can be studied by someone in the writings of our Holy Fathers. I have finished…

`Such a little value you attribute, father Chrysostom, to the so much praised philanthropy, said the theologian and you undervalue in such a way the work of preaching of Christianity through which people save themselves from the evils of all kinds?`

`I don’t want to say the same. I repeat that these deeds have a relative value. To understand me better it is enough to tell you that saint Isaac the Syrian says it’s much more preferable to free ourselves of passions than to turn all the peoples from their roving. `Because it is better if you free yourself from the ties of the sin than to free other slaves from slavery. It’s better for you to have peace in your soul and be in harmony with the trinity from yourself, that of the flesh, the soul and the spirit than to make peace with your teaching between some separated men. Because saint Gregory says: `it is good if someone preaches about God but it is better than this if he purifies himself for God.`

All the hermits taught in this spirit. Is this teaching egocentric or not? It is recommended first the purification and the acquirement of love and only afterwards to show ourselves as philanthropists, teachers, pastors, preachers, catechists. Saint Jacob doesn’t he understand the same thing when saying: `Not many of you should be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we, who teach will be judged more strictly.`(Jacob 3,1)

We don’t underestimate the value of any useful activity for society but in the meantime we must not judge the unseen struggles of the monks according to some worldly criteria. Each form of life is valued in its inner space.`

`Then there are two measures and weights in Christianity, father Chrysostom?` said the theologian.

`Not only two, answered the monk, `but as many are the men that many measures God uses for weighing their good and bad deeds. Struggling to reach perfection in the limits specific to their institution, the monks will not be judged because they did not make philanthropic deeds but whether they freed their souls of passions. And in order to understand how much superior is the purification of passions than any form of philanthropy, I will tell you only this: that who purifies himself gains all the virtues and with their power he applies the evangelical commands without being dominated by vainglory.

While that one who doesn’t take care to purify himself and recklessly puts his hopes in the absolute value of some philanthropic deeds he makes, he does philanthropic or didactic activities but he continues to wear the rags of his fatal passions. Do the good and you will be rewarded. But do not compare this good with the excellent work of the monk. Do not compare different categories. Remember of the poor widow from the Gospel (Mark 12, 41). If she was happy for two coins why would she be deprived of that honor if she had the same merciful disposition but she did not have those two coins? Dear theologian, renounce at the preconceived idea that the deeds correct the man regardless of his inner disposition…

Theoclitus of Dionisiou

Excerpt from Dialogues in Athos, Vol. I, Athonite Monachism, Deisis Publishing, The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Alba Iulia, 1994, pag. 95-99

`I am the Truth`

The mystery of the truth does not consist in things, ideas, symbols, but in the Person and this is the theanthropic Person of our Lord Jesus Christ: `I am the Truth`, absolute Truth, never changed, always being one, in perfect fullness, always one, yesterday and today and forevermore. A truth always unchanged by times, always infinite, always eternal even in the mortals. Many other different truths derive from it like the sun rays and they are eternal as well. All the dogmatic truths consist in reality in a single truth: Jesus Christ Theanthropos. All these lead to Him…

The eternal dogmatic truths are neither some abstract terms nor the result of thoughts or logical hypotheses but some real events and experiences, since they appeared, they were discovered, they were heard, they took place in time and space among us, the men. For instance, the dogma about the Holy Trinity is an eternal truth obviously shown in the world through multiple apparitions, teophanies and experiences from the Old and New Testament.

The dogma about Christ the Theanthropos is based on the historical reality about Jesus Christ of Nazareth and the dogma of Resurrection is based on the event of the Resurrection of Christ. What is true for these is true for all the dogmas because all of them – from the first till the last one – are based on an obvious and indubitable historical reality.

If the man studies objectively the meaning and the content of the dogmas of the New Testament he will find that all of them are   some divine theanthropic events, taking place within the boundaries of time and space.

The men may not understand these things, but it’s not possible to have doubts about them. Those who fight with God deny the events indeed even if they see them with their own eyes. A classic example for this are the Pharisees mentioned in the Gospel as a model of all the Pharisees from all times. They deny the events because they are true events, because they don’t want them to be so and they try with all their might to turn them into hypotheses, fancies and legends.

Dogmatics is a sort of mosaic. It orders the eternal dogmatic truths in accordance with their attributes, it harmonizes them according to the light they spread, in order to compose the Person of Christ in this way in the mosaic of the eternal truths, the Person of the Creator of the whole revelation from the Old and New Testament. The dogmatic truths are all of them divine, endless, infinite and eternal, because they originate in the endless, infinite and eternal God.

The men don’t have inside themselves the strength and power to create eternal infinite truths. They receive those already created by God.

Their creativity consists from this point of view in the following: to accept the eternal dogmatic truths about faith and about the gracious evangelical asceticism and to apply them in their lives, in their thoughts and feelings. And in this way to reach holiness and perfection. From this point of view the saints experience the living in flesh of the eternal dogmatic truths and thus they are their preachers and confessors.

Belgrad, 1932, Hieromonk Iustin Popovici

The teaching about heaven and hell

In some of its details or even in its fundamental elements, eschatology knew in the history of the Christian thinking some divergent opinions which did nothing else than lead to the more clear affirmation and formulation of the Christian teaching.

The Teaching of the Holy Scripture about heaven and hell

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew (chapter XXV) is given the teaching of the Savior about the Last Judgment.

The characteristic element of this judgment is the division in two of those who are present, division which is motivated by the deeds of each one of them. Some of them will be on the right and to those the Savior will say: `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. `And to those from the left he will say: `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.` And he ends: `Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.` (Matthew 25, 46).

About the bliss from heaven, saint Paul the Apostle says conclusively: `

`What no eye has seen,    what no ear has heard and what no human mind has conceived—    the things God has prepared for those who love him` (I Cor. II, 9).

The sinners will suffer in the eternal fire (Matthew 25, 41 ; 9, 43, 45 ; Mark 9, 44, 48 , Luke III, 17 ; 26I, 24), will be taken away from God (Luke 13, 27 ; II Tes. I, 8-9), will be thrown in a place where will be dark, will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8, 22 ; 25, 30 ; 13, 50, Luke 13, 28), where the fire will not be quenched and their worm will not die  (Mark 9, 44).

Both the rewards and the punishments although they will be eternal, will be given in amounts in accordance with the deeds from the earthly life. (Luke 12, 47-48 ,Matthew 26, 27 ; 22, 11-14 ; Apoc. 16, 6 ,13, 10).

The Holy Scripture presents very explicit texts regarding the condition of the believers after the Last Judgment. In what regards the condition after the particular judgment the parable of the unmerciful rich man of poor Lazarus  (Luke 26, 19-31) show that the rich man went immediately after his death in hell while Lazarus went by Abraham’s side, between these two places being an impassable precipice.

It is clear enough that after the particular judgment the souls go in heaven or hell where they wait the resurrection and the universal judgment.

At the question whether after the particular judgment the situation of those who passed in the afterlife may be changed the Holy Scripture answers by some texts which may be interpreted in the sense of change as it is for instance at Matthew 12, 31-32 and I Peter III, 19-20 ; IV, 6.

The Holy Fathers and the practice of the Church give the best interpretations

to these texts in the meaning that there is a possibility of change due to the prayers of the Church and the liturgical sacrifice.

The Holy Scripture does not make any reference at any possibility of change after the universal judgment. That judgment seals for eternity the fate of those who are judged and there is no more possibility of a change.

Source: crestinortodox.ro

The attitude of Saint John of Kronstadt regarding the unorthodox confessions

Saint John of Kronstadt, a Russian priest, confessor and zealous preacher of the Gospel, lived at the end of the 19th –beginning of the 20th century. He was a clairvoyant and wonder maker.

His occupation was to serve the suffering people daily. His great love for Christ obliged him to confess the truth about the saving Orthodoxy and about sects and heresies which cannot ensure salvation.

We must belong to Christ’s Church whose head is the Almighty king, the conqueror of hell Jesus Christ. His Kingdom is the Church, which is represented by the communion of the saints who moved to heaven and of the Orthodox Christians who struggle on earth against the principalities, powers and rulers of this age…

The unorthodox, even if they are a great community, cannot enroll themselves in this war. If they don’t have Christ as a head, they cannot do anything against these terrible schemers and enemies who are permanently awake and master perfectly the science of their war.

The Orthodox Christian has a powerful support in this fight: first of all from God and His saints who defeated the enemies with the power of Christ’s grace and then from the Orthodox Church from earth, from its pastors and teachers, from the Sacraments and from the common prayer.

Christ’s Church to whom with God’s mercy we belong as well is such an aid in the fight of the Christian against the visible and invisible enemies.

The Church is the only Body whose Head is our Lord Jesus Christ in person and whose soul is the Holy Spirit Who gives life, enlightens, purifies and strengthens all the limbs of this great body which struggles on earth.

The true Church remains united and is the only one which is redeeming. This is the Eastern Orthodox Church.

No other Christian confession apart from Orthodoxy can help the Christian reach  perfection in his Christian life and fulfill his purification of sins, leading him to incorruptibility, since all the other religions sustain injustice as truth (Romans 1, 18). They mixed superstition and lie with the truth and they don’t have those means given by God for purification, for sanctification, for rebirth and renewal which belong to the Orthodox Church.

Each fall according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers begins by pride: the man disregards a command and then he sins in deed. This is what happened with the schism of the Westerners. Before that the pope and the Catholics became so proud and haughty that they dared to judge Christ in person, the Wisdom of God, the Heavenly Teacher. Their pride reached such a degree that they changed some of His words, commands and orders. Christ says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father while the Catholics, the Lutherans and Anglicans say that He proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

Separating themselves from the Tradition of the Holy Spirit, losing the inner criterion of truth and the synodal principle of the Church, the Catholics, because they needed a new kind of power, invented a new power to teach the Creed: the infallible pope of Rome, the representative of Christ on earth.

`And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.` (Matthew 28, 20). The Lord in person is permanently present in His Church. Then why would a pope representative be needed?

As a main heresy, Catholicism tries to include in its theological system texts from the Holy Scripture interpreting them outside the Holy Tradition which they don’t have.

The main point of pride of the papists and of their false dogmas in administration and moral teaching is the papal primacy, the false, incorrect interpretation of the word of the Savior:

And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16, 18).

We must understand that the foundation stone is Jesus Christ in person: `And the rock was Christ.` (I Corinthians 10,4)

The pope and the papists converting all Catholics to heresy made this be incorrigible, because the pope despite his mistakes is recognized as being without mistake by the Catholic Church and it is impossible to be corrected by someone who has divergent beliefs.

Is it possible for someone to unite something which cannot be united, the lie with the truth?

The Catholics by the fact that they recognize the pope as head of their Church lost the real Head of the Church – Christ – and they remained without Head. The whole history of papacy attests the fact that the Catholics have no Head. The Lutherans separated themselves and they remained without a Head as well, the Anglicans did the same. They don’t have the Church…and Belial fights them with his power and scheming and keeps them in delusion and perdition. A lot of men perish in atheism and vice.

We received from God the `mina` of Orthodoxy for God’s glory and for our salvation. How do we use and multiply this `mina` ? Do we thank to the Lord? What is the nature of our repentance? What good deeds do we do?

`All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good,
not even one.`
(Psalm 13, 3).

(Excerpts from the article of A. Vladimirov published in the review `Cerkovnaia Zizn”` voi 1-2, 1994)

 

Catholicism is in heresy

`Catholicism is in heresy`

We have the duty more than ever not to accept the union with the Catholics and not to call the Catholic Church `sister church` or the pope `canonic bishop of Rome`, or to call the Church of Rome `canonic`, `follower of the Apostles`, `having canonic sacraments, as long as they preach filioque, the papal infallibility, the created grace and the other heresies we will never consider as insignificant but as differences which change the incorrigible theanthropic character of the Church and represent a blasphemy.

 (Excerpts from the epistle of the Athonite Community to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomeus, 8.12.1993)

There are many signs which create the impression that the Catholics prepare an uniate type of union. Have the Orthodox who are rushing in this dialogue noticed this thing?

The Holy Mountain stated that they do not accept such things and with the grace of God they remain loyal as the Orthodox people of the Lord to the faith of the Holy Apostles and Fathers from the love they have as well for those belonging to another faith who are very much helped when the Orthodox, by their steady attitude show how big is the spiritual disease of those people and how they could heal themselves.

The failed attempts of union which took place in the past should teach us that a definitive union in accordance with the will of God in the Truth of the Church implies a lot of preparation and a single path to follow, the one towards Orthodoxy.

Union in the Truth

As Athonite monks and Orthodox Christians we are affected by the fact that the Christians separated and we pray to the Lord to unite all the Christians in one holy, catholic Orthodox Church.

 But we want a union made without compromises and concessions related to faith, without the hiding of the Truth, diplomatic schemes as they proceed in our days.

A union which will not be based on the Truth and Tradition of the Church will be ephemeral and will cause many schisms and pain in the Church of God.

We sincerely and painfully regret when we see that in their attempts of union, the Orthodox leaders don’t take into account seriously the Tradition of our Church and ignore our God bearing Fathers and the holy councils.

We confess with all the Holy Fathers that only the Orthodox Church is the true and unstraying Church of God, the only one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

The theory of some Orthodox leaders that all the Christians (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestants) form one holy, catholic and apostolic Church is deluding and change the whole Orthodox theology, the entire teaching of our God Bearing Fathers and of the Holy Canons.

 (`Saint Gregory` Review)

Personal prayer (III)

  1. But does the chanted prayer have any value?

The chanted prayer is very powerful. When we are deeply moved we express our feeling by chant. The religious chant is a wonderful prayer. It helps the mind to fly to God. That’s why saint Paul, the Holy Apostle urges the Colossians to get used and gain wisdom by singing psalms and praises and religious chants

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. `(Col. 3, 16).

The chanted prayer was cultivated by king David (+1015 b.c.), by the Savior and the Apostles (Matthew 26, 30; Mark 14, 26), by saint John Chrysostom (+ 407), by saint Ambrosius of Mediolan (+397), by saint Nikita from Remesiana (+c. 420) and by other Holy Fathers and great scholars of the Church.

  1. Of how many kinds is the prayer after its content ?

After its content the prayer is of three kinds : 1.The prayer which has as aim to praise God; 2.to thank God and 3.to request from Him what is in accordance with His will: `We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You and we pray to You, Lord, our God!`

1.The prayer of praise is the one through which we bless, praising the Lord our God for His incomparable greatness, for His eternal glory, as the psalmist says: `Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.(Psalm 145, 2)

The traveler in foreign lands marvels and praises the beautiful places he sees in his way but how far is the beauty of the visible world of the beauty of God!

The angels seeing directly His endless glory, praise Him and bless Him singing: `Holy, Holy, Holy!` (Isaiah 6,3) as they had sung praises to the Savior – child just born in Betlehem (Luke 2,14)

The angels see God face to face, stunned by amazement and their prayers become a ceaseless song of praise. To sing praises to God is occupation of the dwellers of heaven (Apocalypse 4, 8-11); but even we on earth, knowing God’s glory from His creation and also from His revelation, have the duty to praise God in our prayers first. For this reason the Church praises God all the time. Its chants: Trisagion…`Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth`, the big and small Doxology, `We praise You…`as well as the different doxologies served on various occasions are full of praises to God. A song of praise is the chant dedicated to Theotokos as well: `My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior` (Luke 1, 46).

  1. The prayer of thanks is the on through which we show that we remember gratefully and lovingly all the blessings received from God. The following words of saint Paul, the Apostle show that God asks us to be thankful to Him for all the blessings: ` Pray continually,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.` (I Tes. 5, 17-18).

Noah`s prayer when they got out of the Ark was a prayer of thanks (Genesis 8,19) that one of the old people of Israel at their exit from Egypt was one of thanks too  (Exodus 15,1-21). But many times God stops His blessings for those who don’t know how to value them and they never thank Him. For this, instead of blessings we receive troubles.

  1. The prayer of request is the one through which we ask from God everything we need in our life or the one through which we ask Him to forgive our sins to save us of punishment and to pour over us, over our soul and body His Holy Grace`318.

God wants us to ask from Him everything we need, because without prayer He doesn’t give anything (Jacob 4, 2).

God wants from us to pray persistently, saint Gregory the Great says that He wants us not only to pray to Him but to urge Him. Of course God knows all our needs (Matthew 6,32) and He could  fulfill them without asking Him. But He wants us to ask Him, so that we would not consider He owes us any of His blessings, but appreciate them as acts of beneficence and be grateful from the bottom of our hearts, with humbleness and love. The prayer of the Savior from the Garden of Gethsemane and from the Cross, of the archdeacon and saint martyr Stephen when he was lapidated (Acts 7,59), of the Christians who prayed for the release of saint Paul, the Apostle from the prison (Acts 12,5), of the Holy Apostles in the ship surrounded by storm (Matthew 8, 25) and there are many other examples of prayers of request.

Beside those from above there is the prayer of king David: `Have mercy upon me, of God…`(Psalm 51) which is the prayer for the absolution of sins, the prayer about God’s mercy, the prayer of repentance. This psalm is said at confession too.

  1. Which are the benefits of the prayer?

Through prayer we can obtain everything from God, but He doesn’t always or immediately fulfill our prayers.

Blessed Augustine says that the prayer is `the key of the treasury of divine gifts`, since you can receive all goods from God through prayer and the Savior promises this when He says: `If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer`(Matthew 21, 22) and again: `ask and it will be given to you.` (Matthew 7, 7) Thus when we are in trouble we should run to God for help, since He will help us as He helped the Holy Apostles during the storm (Luke 8, 24) That’s why anyone who is obdurate and doesn’t want to pray to God in time of danger has no right to complain.

God doesn’t always or immediately fulfill our prayer. Monica, the mother of saint Augustine prayed for 18 years to God for the return of her son to Christ. Many times God waits to be entreated so that our prayer may be purposefully made, giving us the opportunity to honor the gifts as it’s due.

Thus if we really want to have our prayers answered, we should pray with much more persistence and warmth when God delays the fulfillment of our request. This is what the blind man from Jericho did:   the more Christ pretended He did not hear his prayer, the louder he cried: `Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.`(Luke 18, 38).

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (II)

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Filotheos

Christ ended this life and left the earth at the age of 33 years old, by death on the Cross. But He gave to His Apostles the Holy Sacrament of Eucharist during the Last Supper. Meaning that He left us beside His presence which is alive in us, His Flesh and Blood as a spiritual nourishment.

His Blood is abundantly and permanently shed on every Holy Table. There sacrificed, Christ not only forgives the sins of the people but He also becomes nourishment and drink for each believer who becomes worthy of the Holy Eucharist.

So big is His care for us that while being on earth as well as after ascending from this life to heaven with His Body, He left us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist so that all those who believe in Him, His disciples, may commune with Him to share His life.

`Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, remains in Me and I in him.`

And this happens every time we commune. If we don’t receive material food the body begins to weaken, to lose its powers and fall to bed, becoming a heap of microbes and diseases. With our souls it happens the same. The Christian who doesn’t receive within himself the Holy Eucharist from the Holy Chalice, who doesn’t eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and who doesn’t drink His Blood doesn’t feed his soul properly and this begins to weaken, the spiritual microbes threaten his spiritual health. It is visible the fact that he doesn’t have life in himself. What life he doesn’t have? A life in Christ. Thus he is dead in Christ.

Many people communed – with God’s allowance – with real meat. They felt in their mouth the taste of raw meat. God allows this to prove them that they receive indeed His Flesh and Blood. It’s not insignificant at all this granting from Christ when we always sin.

As you know in the monastery we officiate daily the Holy Liturgy. Because we have chapels and priests we officiate from one to four liturgies daily. The priests go to the chapels (because we have many chapels in the monastery) and we officiate the Liturgy so that we won’t remain without it and we read the dyptiches.

A young monk came to two liturgies at the Chapel of the Holy Archangels. After the Great Entrance as we know we close the Holy Doors. The iconostasis is high so nothing can be seen from what is done inside, especially during the Holy Liturgy. This monk was outside and he was praying like all the other young monks. One day he got courage and told me:

`Geronda, may I tell you something?`

`I am listening.`

`At these two liturgies I attended in the chapel when you officiated the holy service and I was in the pew with the head bent although I was outside the altar and nothing was visible I could see what happened inside.`

`And what did you see inside?`

`What I saw? I saw that your holiness put on the holy disc a small lamb and stabbed him. At the second liturgy you put a small baby, Christ, on the Holy Table. What was that geronda? Has this happened because of my sins?`

`My son, That is Christ. He becomes Flesh and Blood. It’s Christ’s love. God opened the eyes of your soul to see in a mystic way and to believe completely. Maybe you had a doubt in your soul. Don’t we read in the books about the different visions the Holy Fathers had during the Holy Liturgy. Exactly this is what happened at the Holy Eucharist.`

The prayer is the man’s dialogue with God

The Most Pure and Most Holy Spirit may enlighten my darkness to tell you a few words about the most beautiful virtue of prayer and of soul`s purity.

And as saint Dyonisios Areopagite says, God is above spirit. Thus due to His nature, God is so huge, so widely spread all over everything that the man can be with Him in any moment and with the spirit of faith can see Him and speak with Him. No other person is so close to us all the time as it is God.

It’s such a great honor for a man to have the privilege, to be considered worthy to speak with a man of a great rank here on earth and for this he considers himself important because he has this connection, this friendship relation. But God is above all people and angels. And we all have this privilege to speak with Him and see Him through the eyes of faith.

All the hymnography of our Church, all the troparions and praises are prayers. But more important than these is this small prayer called the prayer of the mind and which comprises these words: `Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me!` With this small prayer we can communicate with God without cease. This is what saint Paul, the Apostle tells us to do: Pray without cease, give thanks for everything. [1] This is the will of God.

The hermits of the first Christian centuries lived in caves and deserts in very remote places of the earth. In those times there were no printed books like nowdays so they had nothing to read. But what did they do day and night in the desert? They had the University of the Universe, of the whole creation. From creation they raised their mind to the contemplation of the Creator of everything, God. A hermit was making a walk one day and he saw a very beautiful flower. He hit it and said: `Don’t shout so loud!` By this he wanted to say that this flower was speaking a lot about the wisdom of God. Thus if such a small flower was so wonderfully created the more wonderful is God the Creator of everything!

The Holy Fathers said that all the creatures speak each one with its own voice. But in order to reach this stage, to listen to the voice of all creatures of the earth, the man must purify his whole soul, mind and heart by spiritual and physical struggle.

Great Arsenios knew a lot about the science of the world and he was a great philosopher. But afterwards he went in the desert and secluded himself and lived a very austere life to purify his heart. He did not speak with people and did not see anyone. And this man who had been very wise in the world by his personal struggle and seclusion received the philosophy of the Spirit which is far more greater and more precious in spiritual terms than the worldly one. They say that he used to raise his hands in prayer at sunset and left them down at sunrise when the sun touched his cheek with its rays. He kept his hands raised up all night long. But how could they stay up like this? Naturally it would be extremely hard. But by the help of God everything is possible to achieve. His entire heart and mind were in rapture, in contemplation in the Holy Spirit and he was initiated in the heavenly mysteries. He communicated directly with God.

From this we understand that in order to be perfectly united with God someone needs to separate himself of the rest of the people and of the worldly worries and in the spirit of silencing his mind to be able through prayer to talk with the Spring of all happiness, God. The mind of the man is the one which leads the whole activity of his spirit. If the mind purifies itself of dirty thoughts which defile it then in time the heart will be purified too.

`Blessed are the pure in their hearts for they shall see God`[2]. And since God is not anthropomorphous to be seen with physical eyes by someone, He makes Himself known in the heart of the man, in a secret inexpressible way when the heart is purified. When the Christian prays correctly with unspread mind, meaning that his mind is humbly focused on the words of the prayer, he begins to feel the fruit of the prayer. And the fruit of such a humble prayer means that the man gets humbleness or tears or repentance or a great joy and love for God.

[1] I Tessalonians 5, 18.

[2] Matthew 5, 8.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation to appear at Evanghelismos.