Marriage and Cross

Archimandrite Emilianos from Simonopetras

Life doesn`t mean partying as some people believe who marry and afterwards they fall from the skies to the earth. The wedding is a waste sea and you don`t know what may appear in your way. You marry the person you chose with fear and emotion, with great care and attention and after a year or two, after five years you realize that person made fun of you.

It is a wrong conception to believe that the wedding is the path whare we should seek our happiness, the refuse of our Cross. Joy in the marriage is when the man and woman cooperate and go further towards the ascents of life.

`Didn`t you suffer? Didn`t you love? Says a poet. Only the one who suffers can love for real. That is why suffering is a key element in a marriage.

The wedding says an ancient philosopher and poet is a world beautified by hope and hardened by hardships.

As the steel is hardened in the fire this is how the man steels himself in the fire of hardships. When you look at the marriage from outside everything seems only milk and honey to you and everything is smiling at you. But when you get closer you see how many difficult moments it hides.

`It is not good for the man to be alone` says God. For this reason, He put beside him a companion, a help for the hardships of life, especially for the struggles of faith, because for keeping faith you must suffer a lot. God sends His grace to all the people but only when we are disposed to endure and suffer. Some people when they face hardships run away. They forget about God and Church. But the faith, God the Church are not a shirt we take off when we sweat.

Therefore the marriage is a journey which is crossed by hardships and joys. When the hardships seem unbearable to you, remember that God is with you. He will lift your cross. He will crown you.

from „Aghios Minas”, the publication of the metropolitan of Kastoria, nr. 41/2009.


He sees everything

Once upon a time there was a father who had two sons. The kids were good brothers born by the same mother. One was elder and the other one younger. The elder one was an agriculturist and the younger one was a shepherd. The younger one took his flocks through valleys and pastures to graze. The elder one sowed cereals and planted trees.

One day they wanted to worship God and bring Him oblations. The shepherd took what he had the best in his flock and offered to God. Because the younger brother, the shepherd had brought to God what he had the best a fire came down from the skies and burnt the offerings and placed them on the heavenly altar.

The elder brother didn`t do the same. He put in his barns the best harvest and brought to God what he had worse. God didn`t accept them, He turned His face from them and let them stay unburnt by His fire on earth while He had accepted his younger brother`s offering with joy.

The elder brother saddened because God had despised him and he was considered lower than his younger brother and he was walking with a dark face. God asked him:

`Why are you angry? Didn`t you know that you were bringing your offerings to God? Why didn`t you honor me as you should have? What could you blame me for? Why didn`t you bring me the best fruitage of your harvest? And the elder brother having no answer for that didn`t utter a word, he remained silent.

Then seeing his younger brother, the elder one told him:

`Let us go in the field. `  And after drawing him there with mischivious thoughts, he killed him thinking that God couldn`t have known about his deed. But God came to him and asked him:

`Where is your brother?`

And that one answered:

`I don`t know, am I the guardian of my brother?`

Then God told him:

`Look, the blood of your brother cries from the earth towards Me.`

What happened afterwards? God took the younger brother to His heavens, the one who had died here on earth but is still living there in heavens even today. And he left the elder brother who had killer him to live here on earth for long years having as his companions fear and fright, suffering uncountable troubles and torments and being punished every day. God told the elder brother this:

`You shall live on earth sighing and shuddering.`

As you live here being afraid of your teacher and not knowing if he beats you or not this is how the elder brother lived, having fear in his soul all the time because his bond with God was not the same anymore.

You see what a bad thing is to kill your brother? You see how bad is to hide yourself from God? Because He sees everything, even what is done in hiding.

Excerpt from Parents, children and their raising– Saint John Chrysostom, Panaghia Publishing.

False piety

The one who has much faith and piety nourishes himself from something higher, more spiritual which can`t be described. But there are some people who have a false, a hollow piety. The people of this kind say dryly:

`Now because I am inside the church I must stay carefully, I must not move, I must bow my head, I must make the sign of the cross in this way.

Some people may stagger in their faith but they stand up during the entire Vigil.

`Father, are they worried because of something are they seeking anything and that is why they do this?`

`They have something inside themselves. These are good but somebody should feel them in his soul not only to do them outwardly. One thing is to take out your hat when you get in the church out of piety and another thing is to take it out because you want to cool off your head. Our piety is shown in the way we commune, in the way we take the wafers.

`Father, can someone be irritated by the way someone else expresses his piety?`

`Listen, when someone makes a big sign of the cross but he does that simply and humbly he doesn`t bother the other one. But if he looks around to see if the others watch him and he makes the sign of the cross repeatedly then the others will start to laugh at him.

`Or when somebody passes by a church and looks around to see if there are any people in that place or he waits patiently till some people show up and afterwards he starts making the sign of the cross many times and prostrates himself many times, then they are right to laugh at him. You see the worldly spirit is disliked. The true piety when it exists it shows out alone. The decent man without true piety becomes indecent.

[1] Rom. 13, 13; I Cor. 14, 40; I Tes. 4, 12.

Excerpt from Spiritual awakening – Pious Paisios the Athonite,  2012.

Before you, God, a thousands years are like the day of yesterday

To realize how inexpressible is the spiritual glory and joy of those who reached heaven by our Kind God`s grace and mercy, I`ll relate to you a short story.

In a monastic community there was a very pious and highly spiritualized monk who was accomplishing all the good deeds permanently and who when hearing this verse of David, the prophet `One thousand years before You, God, are like the day of yesterday which passed` started to think about it being unable to understand it. Because in that monastery there was no erudite scholar he could have asked about these words he prayed fervently to God to reveal to him the meaning of this verse.

After praying a long time God, Who fulfills the will of those who fear Him, listened to his prayer and one day, after it was read the service of the Matins and all the brothers went to their cells, he remained in the church and prayed as usual. Then he saw a very beautiful eagle flying through the church and coming closer to him. The monk was very glad to see such a beauty and wanted to catch him. But the eagle flew away of him and the monk ran after him. Following this eagle he went out of the church then out of the monastery and he came to a forest from the neighborhood.

There the eagle started to sing such a beautiful and sweet song that the monk was amazed by the sweetness of that song and thought happily about the sweet chanting from heavens. Being attracted by the beauty of that singing by the grace of God he received such a power and will that he felt no more fatigue or any other physical need. Then he changed so he was feeling as if he was in heaven.

Thus he listened to this angelic singing for three hundred years. After this singing ended the angel, for the eagle was an angel, flew into the skies and the monk returned to the monastery thinking he was out only for an hour.

Reaching the monastery the gate-keeper asked him:

`Where are you from, father?`

He was surprised he didn`t know him and said:

`I am the tailor called so and so, don`t you re cognize me?`

The gate keeper thought he was out of his mind and told him:

`I`ve never seen you in this monastery.`

The monk terrified told the gate keeper all the rules of that community as well as the names of all the brothers. After the gate keeper listened to him, took him to the abbot and related to him everything he had heard.

The abbot gathered all the monks before him but this one didn`t recognize any of them. Then he told them fearfully:

`I`m surprised and don`t understand a thing, brothers, how could this change have been done in an hour while I was out and I can`t recognize any of you nor you can recognize me. God is my witness that only an hour passed since I went out from the monastery, after we read the Matins and we had that abbot and those brothers and elders. The abbot searching the archives where were written the names of all the brothers saw that 300 years had passed since then.

Then they began to ask the monk what kind of man he was and what good deeds he had done to understand how he had become worthy of such a grace from God. And he answered:

`I don`t know any other good deed at me except that I always listened my superiors and had love for my brothers, I never upset any of them and I especially had a great love and piety for our Most Holy and Pure Theotokos and I read her hymns every day.

Then he told them everything in detail and the story with the eagle as well. When he finished his story the listeners understood the mystery and the cried of joy and kissed him looking at him as to an angel not to a man because his words seemed divine as well not human. After that the abbot said:

`Father, glorify God, because He considered you worthy to witness such a wondrous miracle nobody else had ever seen in this vain and ephemeral world and because you understood a part of that heavenly sweet singing and joy. Know that you have been living that miracle for 300 years and this seemed to you an hour. Such a joy and merriment must feel the saints in heaven partaking that blessed delight of the Holy Trinity so one thousand years for them is like a passing day, according to the words of David, the prophet.

Hearing these the monk understood the truth and glorified God and shed tears of joy then he asked to partake the Flesh and Blood of the Lord. After he did that he said very piously: `Now free your servant, Lord…and he immediately gave his soul in the hands of God.

Excerpt from Ascent to Resurrection– Archimandrite Cleopa Ilie, the publishing house of the Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bucovina, Iași, 1992.

Saint Anthony The Great – About the attack of demons

The attack of the demons is terrible, with noises, roaring and yells as if it were an attack of certain unpunished youngsters or robbers who cause  fear to the soul,  disorder and commotion of the thoughts, sadness, tediousness for the hermits, idleness, the remembrance of the relatives and the fear of death and from here it derives the desire for what`s evil, the lack of desire for good deeds and the fickleness of the habits.

So when someone of you sees this you will be afraid. But if the fear is taken off from you and it were replaced by an inexpressible joy and merriment, bravery, undisturbed thoughts and all the others as I said before, bravery and love for God, then dare and pray because the joy and the peace of the soul show the holiness of the one who is present. Abraham in the same way when he saw God he rejoiced; John when he heard the voice of the Theotokos, rejoiced.

When there is commotion and noise from the outside, worldly illusions, fear of death, know that is an attack of the demons. And this be a sign for you. When the souls of some of you are afraid know there is an attack of the demons. Since the demons don`t draw away the fear of such things, as great archangel Gabriel did with Mary and Zachariah and as Jesus did at his tomb with the women. When they see them being afraid they create more hallucinations to frighten them more and attacking them, they shame them saying: `worship us`

This is how they fooled the Greeks since this is how they worshipped their idols with false names. But we weren`t let by God to be deceived by the devil. Because when such illusions were perfomed before Him He rebuked the devil and told him: `Get behind me Satan!` For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.`

So the cunning is even more defamed by us: because God did these for us so that the devils hearing from us such words to overturn for God Who rebuked them for this. Then we should not be proud that we take the demons out or that we heal or marvel at the one who takes out the demons or defame the one who doesn`t do this, only learn the asceticism of every one and to desire it and follow it or correct it. Because making signs doesn`t appertain to us but to our Savior.

That is why He told His disciples:` don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven` To have your names written in heavens is the testimony of the good deed and of your life. To take out the demons is the gift of the Savior Who gave it. For this reason to those who swaggered not with their good deeds but with the signs they made and said: `God, didn`t we take out the demons with Your name and with Your name we made great things? The Lord answered to them: `Amen I say to you, I do not know you. Because God knows the paths of the unbelievers. But we should pray to receive the gift of distinguishing the spirits since as it is written, we should not believe any spirit.

Thus I wanted to remain silent and say nothing about me and content yourself only with these. But do not think that I am saying these in vain, believe instead that I relate these wisely and truly. For this although I made myself a man without mind, but God who hears me know the purity of my heart, not for me, but for your sake and progress I tell you about the cunnings of the demons I witnessed.

How many times the devils told me I am blessed and I cursed them in the name of God. How many times they told me about the water of the Nile and I told them: `And why do you care about that?`

Once they came frightening me and surrounded me like some armed soldiers with horses. Another time they filled my house with beasts and crawlers and I was chanting:

`These are in chariots and with horses and we in the name of our Lord God we will take pride. And by prayer they fell down.

Once they came by dark with hallucinations of light and said:

`We came to bring you light, Anthony.` And I closing my eyes was praying and the light of the evil spirits went off. After some months they came speaking and chanting from the Scriptures and I as a deaf man did not hear them. Once they shook the monastery and I was praying to remain unshaken in my mind.

Afterwards they came clapping their hands and whistling and dancing and I was praying fervently and chanting and they started to cry and sigh as if they were tired off. Then I gave glory to God Who vanished away and destroyed their daring and madness. Another time the devil showed up in a hallucination very high and dared to say: `I am the power of God, the providence. What do you want me to give you?` Then I spat the devil saying the name of Christ and wanted to beat the devil. I even had the impression that I had beaten him.

Thus immediately the high one vanished with all his companions for the name of Christ. Once while I was fasting the cunning came as a monk having with him bread and he advised me saying:

`Eat and end up your numerous struggles, you are human and you will weaken yourself` But I understanding his cunning woke up to pray for him and being unable to bear that vanished. He went out on the door like a smoke disappearing. How many times in the desert he showed me illusions of gold to make me touch it and seek for him. But I prayed against him and he vanished. Many times he crushed me in beatings and I was saying: Nothing will separate me of the love of Christ. And afterwards they ran away even more. And it was not me who made them vanish but the Lord Who says: `I saw Satan as a lightning falling from the skies.

And I my sons remembering the words of the apostle put these into my mind so that you may learn not to get angry in the desert or be afraid of the hallucinations induced by the devil and his servants. Because I made a fool out of myself telling you and receive this for strengthening you and encouraging you and believe me I don`t lie.

Once somebody in the monastery knowcked at my door and when I went out I saw someone who was extremely tall. Asking him: who are you, he answered: `I am Satan. I said to him then: `What are you looking for then? He said: `why the monks and the other Christians blemish me/ Why do they curse me all the time?

Then I said to him: `But why do you disturb them?` He said: `It`s not me who disturbs them, they disturb themselves, I am weakened. Didn`t you read that the swords of the enemy vanished and his citadels were destroyed? I don`t find any place for myself in the desert or city, everywhere there are Christians. Even this desert is filled with monks. So they should guard themselves and not to curse me in vain

Then marveling at the gift of God I said to him:

`Being all the time a liar and never saying the truth now even not willing it you said the truth: because Christ after His coming made you impotent and destroying you He chased you away.` And he hearing the name of the Savior and not bearing that vanished. Thus since the devil himself confesses that he can`t do anything, we have the duty to defame him and his servants.

See as the enemy with his dogs has so many cunning schemes and we learning about their impotence are able to defame them in this way. Let us do not weaken in our spirit or think about fear or imagine ourselves any fear by saying: we should not allow to be capsized by the devil when he comes and if he comes without warning let us be undisturbed. We should never think about such things nor saddened ourselves as if we perished. We should even more dare and rejoice all the time as some who have found salvation and think in our souls that God is with us and He defeated them and shamed them. Let us always think if God is with us our enemies can`t do anything to us. Because when they come as they find us this is how they approach us and after the thoughts they find inside us they bring the deceits.

Thus, if they find us being afraid and disturbed they immediately get in and frighten us like some robbers who find an unguarded place. If they see us being afraid they make that fright even greater with their hallucinations and frightening. Then by these the wretched soul is tormented

If we are found rejoicing and thinking about God and that everything is in His hand and the devil nothing can do against the Christians knowing that he can`t rule over anyone of us then when they see the soul strengthened with such thoughts they go away ashamed. Thus the enemy seeing Job tormented went to him and when he found Judas lacking these, he enslaved him.

For this reason if we want to defame our enemy for ever let us think about the things of God so that the soul may rejoice for ever hopingly. Then we shall see the schemes of the devils as some smoke and we shall see them running away not chasing us away. Because as I said before they are fearful cowards waiting the fire prepared for them. Have even this sign for not being afraid before them when there is any hallucination appearing, so that you shall not fall frightened, but dare and ask first: What is it? Who are you and where are you coming from?`

And if there is an apparition of the saints this will be proven to you and your fear will turn into joy and if there is a devilish apparition this will immediately be weakened seeing your mind strengthened. Cause it is a sign of being undisturbed to ask: Who are you and where are you coming from?` Asking this Jesus of Navi became learnt and the enemy didn`t hide from Daniel who asked him this.

Everybody was glad hearing Anthony saying these. And in some grew the gift of the good deeds and from others vanished their weakness and pride. All of them defamed the haunting of the demons marveling at the gift given to Anthony by God to distinguish the spirits.

Excerpt from The Lives of the Saints–  Sihăstria.