Can we acquire holiness today?

Monk Moses the Athonite

            All the saints of our Church are those who `fought the good fight and kept the faith.`

The saints are the winning strugglers and the brave confessors. Those who were sought by the Holy Spirit and filled with grace. Not simply those who are kind, meek, noble, smiling, moral, but those who are images of Christ. They are those who always remain united with Christ, who show Him to the world and guide the world to Him. The saints assure us that the Gospel is true and can be fulfilled in all times.

That is why we’ll be able too if we will and struggle to unite with Christ. The saints by receiving Christ without hesitation in their life, become christs, bearers of Christ like Him. Thus they confess Him, preach Him, show Him everywhere all the time. They cannot live without Christ. For them He is everything.

Sometimes we are given different opportunities to confess Christ too. Sometimes we do it gladly other times with difficulty and other times we don’t do it at all because of fear and shame.

The true Christian always confesses Christ without fear, because he lives in permanent repentance and humbleness. He feels he is weak but he entrust himself completely to Christ and is perfectly strengthened. He confesses Christ Who lives inside himself. Sometimes we find it hard to confess Christ even before the closest and most beloved person. Then according to the Gospel the enemies of a man are his won kinsfolk. It happens that our closest ones don’t understand us and we dn’t make any attempt to tell them discretely about Christ. Other times we choose the other extreme talking too much about Christ so we tire them, we oppress them and in the end they get sick of it and don’t want to hear about Christ anymore.We can’t constrain or threaten anyone to follow Christ, even if it were our closest one.

Christ is freedom and love. He calls, doesn’t demand or constrain. We are called to inspire people love for Christ. When the man is threatened by the powerful ties of his ego he suffers of selfishness, individualism, egotism and pride and he finds it hard to love the others or God. So he is unable to confess Him before people. Whoever doesn’t confess Him doesn’t love Him. And who doesn’t love Him condemns himself at a glacial loneliness that will begin in this life and will continue in eternity. The selfish, the one who loves only himself feels the love of God as a fire that he cannot bear, he doesn’t want it, it bothers him, it burns him.

Today there are Christians who love the saints, read their lives, go to their celebration days, light candles for them, make the sign of the cross before their icons, build churches in their honor, make iconostasis, icons, vigil lights, holy wafers for them There are also some Christians who don’t love the saints, I don’t mean the atheists, the unbelievers, but about those who are influenced by rationalism, by a modern intellectual theology that considers all these a popular sick untheological piety. Unfortunately a good part of the Christian world did not fully understand the great value of the saints in our life.

However the piety, respect and warmth of the believers who love the saints are not missing. You see houses full of icons, lit candles, censers and are glad of that. You see the simple old women talking with tears in their eyes about the wondrous presence of the saints in their lives and they put their trust in their intercessions and the intercession of the Theotokos for their salvation and for getting heaven. Lovers of saints are those who look for authentic saints for aid and spiritual benefit. They don’t imagine saints, they don’t follow the false saints who mock true holiness but worship the authentic pure holiness. The lovers of saints are the most exquisite part of the parish communities. Continuing tradition, they honor piously the commemorations of our saints, they aren’t influenced by the false saints and are not shaken in their faith because of the church follies. When they face difficult situations they endure bravely and hopefully.

The saints always remain humble because they have the firm belief that all good is given from above and it is not their victory. Thus the saints cannot be proud of their charismas since these are given by the Father of Lights. Our saints having the full awareness of their charismas attribute any honor and worship to God the Giver. Being praised by men they praise the Spring of all goods, the most kind God. And God the more He sees that the man humbles himself the more He blesses him and fills him with grace, because He gives grace to the humble. A spiritual person who uses the charisma for his own glory and benefit will surely lose it and will compromise himself in front of people that he blackmails. He will be from this life troubled confused and miserable and in the hereafter will know eternal hell.

My brothers, there is even in these hard times some hidden holiness. Not only in the life of insignificant unknown unseen monks from deserts and monasteries but also in the world. The wives who bear bravely their lecherous brutal alcoholic indifferent and good for nothing husbands, who don’t find escape in divorce but endure and hope, pray and try to give a good education to their children. This attitude of the mother teaches the children what is good, it is a good example for them and an urge to virtue. And they shall never forget this lesson their entire life.This brave attitude may even make the most violent husband change and for sure God will give her the crown of patience for this long lasting martyrdom sometimes even for a lifetime.We’ve met such heroines of faith who for long years had lived a terrible martyrdom in silence, patience, prayer, tears, humility, faith and hope in God. And won’t God fill of grace such beautiful souls?

You see holiness has many sides. The men from the world will not be judged because they don’t pray more even if there are some who pray more than the monks. Saint John Chrysostom says: `The laymen will save themselves by mercy. This proves a humble soul that knows how to love. In our so wily and provoking time, whoever humbles himself restrains, purifies himself, is honest, sincere, right and just will find much reward in heaven.`

The more someone is grumbling, the more it destroys itself

`Father, what is the cause of grumbling and how can we get rid of it ?

`Man’s wretchedness causes it and is drawn away by doxology. Grumbling generates grumbling and doxology generates doxology. When someone doesn’t complain when he faces a trouble then the devil goes away to someone else who grumbles to make things worse for him.
The more someone grumbles, the worse he destroys himself
. Sometimes the devil distracts us and makes us be discontent by everything when we could be glad of everything spiritually by doxology receiving in this way God’s blessing.

I know someone from the Holy Mountain who when it rained if you told him it rained he said: ` `Yes it is always raining. We are going to be rotten away.` If the rain stopped and you said: `It didn’t rain that much` he started all over again: `But could you call that rain? The land will get dry.`

And you cannot say he is insane. He simply got used to complain. To be a sane man and think so foolishly!

Lamentations draw curse. It is as if the man would curse himself and after that would come the curse from God. In Epirus I knew two peasants. One of them had a family and had two plots of land but he always entrusted everything to God. He worked us much as he could without worrying. `I’ll do only as much as I can.` he said. Sometimes a part of the wheat sheaves were left in the field and rotted away because of the rain because he couldn’t gather them all and some others were blown away by the wind. But for everything happened he said: `Glory to You, God!` and everything went well for him. The other one had many lands, cows, etc and had no children but if you had asked him: `How is everything going?` he answered: `Leave me alone, don’t as me!` He never said: `Glory to God` but always complained. And sometimes one of his cows died or he suffered other damages. He had everything but had no avail.

That is why they say that doxology is something great. It depends on us to taste the blessings given by God. But how  to taste them if for example when God gives us bananas we think what good food a certain rich man eats? How many people eat only dry bread and they glorify God day and night and they are fed with divine sweetness! These people acquire a spiritual sensitivity and come to know the comforts given by God. But we don’t understand these because out heart hardened and nothing satisfies us anymore. We don’t understand that we find happiness in what is eternal not in what is futile.

Pious Paisios the Athonite

The dream of the caterpillar

A small caterpillar is going down to earth. Very close to her was a grasshopper. `Where are you going? Asked the grasshopper. Without stopping from her going the caterpillar answered: `I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was looking at the whole valley from the top of the high mountain. I liked what I saw in my dream and I decided to do this thing.`

Surprised, the grasshopper said while the caterpillar was going away: ` You must be crazy! How can you reach that place? You are only a caterpillar. For you a stone will be like a mountain, a small puddle like a sea and any tree trunk an insurmountable barrier.` But the small caterpillar was already far away and could not hear the grasshopper anymore. Its small legs didn’t stop from moving on. All of a sudden it heard the voice of a scarab: `Where are you going so determined?`

Already tired the caterpillar answered panting: `I had a dream and want to fulfill it, to climb the mountain and look at the whole world from there.`

The scarab could not stop from laughing, stopped at a certain moment and said: `Nt even me with such long legs would dare to do such an ambitious thing.` And laughed while the caterpillar continued its way.

In the same way the spider, the mole and the butterfly adviced our friend to give up. `You will never succeed!` they said but the caterpillar had something within itself that pushed it ahead. Already exhausted to death it decided to stop and rest and find with a last effort a shelter where to sleep.

`I’ll be better` the caterpillar said and died.

All the creatures from the valley passed by to see the dead caterpillar. There lied the maddest creature of all. Its tomb seemed to them a monument of absurdity. It was a refuge good for someone who had tried to achieve an impossible dream.One morning when the sun was shining unusually brightly all the animals gathered around that tomb which had become a warning for the bold. And suddenly they got stunned. That hard crust started to crack and they saw amazed some eyes and some antlers which could not belong t the caterpillar they thought was dead. Slowly to give them time to come back to their senses that amazing creature showed out its beautiful wings looking like rainbow – it was a butterfly.

They didn’t say anything else. They all know what the butterfly intended to do – to fly to the high mountain and achieve its dream, the dream it lived for the dreamd it died for and the dream it came back to life for. All of them had been wrong.

God created us to achieve a dream, to live for it, to try and achieve it, to risk our life for it and if we see we can’t do it maybe we need to stop and change our life radically. Then in another way with other possibilities and with the grace of God we will succeed. Only looking for the impossible the men found and reached the possible and those who limited themselves at what was obviously possible did not go further.

The crisis and autocriticism

Monk Moses the Athonite

            Saint Athanassios the Great says: `Although human mind was created by God to contemplate His Beauty and be enlighetened by the divine brightness, after the fall it fiercely turned against creation. Thus the men instead of having their mind turned towards God, got attached to creatures, worshipping them instead of worshipping God.

Many ask us what to do in the actual crisis. Saint Athanassios the Great tells us briefly how we reached this situation. Prophet David, in his beautiful psalms insists: Turn from evil and do good.`

The present times are not for easy and improvised words. There is no time to lose. As we wrote, the crisis should lead us to self-criticism, to reflection and authentic repentance. In order to make sweetness come out from bitterness.

The blind elder from Colciu, hieromonk Dionysios from Calciu said: `Because God loves us, He gives us these gifts. That is why we shoul always thank Him when He gives us a cross. And this is the Cross of Christ. Glory to God!` And he adds: `We must have hope. The pastors of the Church must give hope to the world and tell the people that we should always find our escape in God. God will help us in everything. Let us be faithful, let us have no doubts`

The Romanian hieromonk Petronius Prodromite said: `Wickedness draws the man in many directions, changes him, leads him astray. Then the man finds hard to get interested in the spiritual matters, is always under stress and becomes a slave of this awful inner mood..Today the spiritual men and many people have begun to have certain spiritual quests and anxieties. But when the man faces spiritually these things, he feels well on the outside and on the inside as well. He doesn’t feel broken down but he is aware of himself. Isn’t it so, the Fathers don’t they say so?`

The blessed monk Marcelus from Karakalu depicts quite accurately our issue: `Nowadays our life got poor because we cannot pray. Meaning that we don’t have any communion with God. And if you don’t have any communion with God, you are in communion with the world, through the media. And when you get your information through these you tear yourself apart of God. That is why we have a poor spirituality. The world got poor because it doesn’t know to pray. If you don’t talk with God – the Father, then you are poor inwardly, uncomforted, because you desire the worldly joys. But whoever has the joy and peace of God inside himself, doesn’t want anything else anymore.`

Is this hard to understand? Isn’t it perfectly true? The lack of communion with God is the greatest poverty.

The only true joy is the communion of the man with God. But we are not saddened by this lack, only when our monthly wage decreases. Only Christ gives true joy. All the other joys are false, elusory, only trying to fill the inner emptiness. With Christ the relationships between men become more lenient, the passions are ugly, the virtues adorn and beautify the soul.

There are needed divine strengthening, inner power and personal strife in order to reject the evil. The more someone estranges from God, the more nervous and irritated he becomes, he gets fond of the earthly things and worships them. Sometimes not even the voice of his conscience is on his taste and he makes it shut up. Thus the man lives a hell but he doesn’t want to give up on it.

He thinks that he will be released only with medicine for psychiatric ailments and he doesn’t confess, accepting to live in sin. Because of this confusion the passions of malice, envy, revenge and debauchery multiply. Only Christ can give patience, humility, joy, peace and love in the heart of the true Christian.

Then he looks rather inside himself than around himself. He is severe with himself and tolerant with the others. If the man now reaches that, then the crisis judged him and promoted him. It led him to the nice self criticism, to the self-knowledge and the knowledge of the others, by compassion for the neighbor, by assuming a sane and humble way of thinking and a spiritual simplicity, austerity and moderation.