The benefit of the parastases even for those who were thought dead

Word about the benefit of remembering the dead

A certain man from Cyprus was bought as a slave and taken to Persia where they put him in prison. Some men escaping from that place came to Cyprus and his parents asked them if they had seen him. And they told them that he had died. They even told them the day and month when he had died. `We had buried him with our hands` they said. But it was not that one they asked about, it was another one who looked like him.

So his parents made for him three diptyches per year at the holy liturgies as it is the custom. After four years that man who was in prison fled from Persia and returned to Cyprus. His parents told him: `We heard that you died and we made diptyches for you three times a year. And when he heard them saying this he asked them when they had done these. And they answered: `On Nativity, on Easter and on Pentecost.` Then he told them: `On these three days of the year someone dressed in white clothes like the sun came to me and freed me from my chains and from my prison and I was walking all day long and nobody recognized me. Then the next day I found myself again in chains.

 (Prologues, volume1, Bunavestire Publishing, p. 232)

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions V

***

An elder said:
`The spiritual life of a monk begins when he detaches himself of all the visible and invisible things and is focused only on God.`

He also said:
`When I was in the world everybody called me `monk` so I said to myself: `If you are a monk what are you still doing in the world?`

***

The monk Mikhail of the Lavra, who was an orderly there was an example of devotion and dedication. He served the Holy Liturgy in all details. He worked everywhere and anytime. He was pale and had a bright, ascetic look.

***

The hermit Damaskinos from the monastery of Saint Basil told us once about a monk from Kavsokalivia who had lived long time ago. He neglected his canon (The Canon of the monk consists of 100-300 metanies and 6-12 rosary rows with the Jesus prayer daily) and the other spiritual duties. At the end of his idle life he got sick and when he was on his deathbed his soul did not want to leave his body for many days. This happened in 1935-1936

The doctor a monk with great discernment realized that it happened because he had been careless all his life. Then father Gregory, the confessor of the dying monk knelt down and prayed arduously full of mercy and love for the one who was under his guidance promising before God and men that he would complete the canon of the monk until its end. When he finished this prayer the monk reposed in peace.

***

A monk said :

In these days we try to obtain holiness with little effort.

And he said again:

The more we toil the more grace we will receive.

Then he added:

God can fill our hearts with so much happiness and love for Him that we could not receive it and we would run away from monasteries seeking isolation in a cave. And the laymen if they experienced such a bliss they could abandon their responsibilities, families and children and hide away of them.
That is why God Who is entirely Love does not fill us completely with His bliss.

***

An elder said :

In these days the men are so stressed that they won’t find true happiness in the worldly parties and entertainments. And he also said:

In our times tradition disappeared. Our only examples should be all the saints.

***

Another elder said:

If your spiritual father shows the signs of self denial accept all his counsels. If you cannot tell him everything, he cannot give you the advice which is suitable for you. The Lord says: `If a prophet was wrong, I did that, because your heart is not just.` Don’t be a hypocrite.

***

An elder said :

`I cannot describe to you, my son, what joy I felt every time when I suffered injustice from men. I felt I was sharing the injustice suffered by the Saviour.

***

There was once a monk in a monastery who was careless. Despite this fact, the abbot tolerated him, wishing his salvation saying that Theotokos would save him since he had never left her Garden. It was obvious that the hope of the abbot was based on the initial zeal and piety of the monk.

***

Working hard, father Ignatius from Dionisiou transformed the rocky slope of the mountain in a real garden. An orchard of fruitful olive trees. He was always carrying an ax at his belt and some tools in his bag and he cleared with enthusiasm the wooden area from the slope which was in front of the monastery. He grafted all the wild olive trees. Because of his care and zeal for the prosperity of his monastery he left after him this heritage. It is worth remembering that his hard work in the olive tree grove was always accompanied by a blessed humbleness and acts of mercy.

Carelessness can destroy the pious men! An awful thing! exclaimed an old wise

Hermit.

In the Monastery of Saint Paul I met an honorable Romanian hieromonk and confessor, father Makarios who said:

`Those who can pray with a pure heart are those who toil and participate at the Holy Sacraments.`

***

A pious monk gave the following advice :
`Love all the people but have no particular friendship relations with anyone.`

***

I know a father who never left his rosary down. He prayed without cease everywhere he went. God gave him an endless desire to pray.

***

This is what S, the hieromonk with white beard said:

Long time ago there were 8000 monks in the Holy Mountain and despite all the difficulties which existed then, despite the hard work and the endless ascetic struggles, they had everything they needed. Now the young monks have even cars. Their anxiety and concern for material goods are like an epidemy. The more they have the greater is their trouble. It is a vicious circle. The cause of this thing is the sin which destroys both the body and the soul.

***

An elder said :

In our times the monks save their souls due to trials because there is no virtue (and by this he meant that there are no more great ascetic struggles like those of the saints and hermits of the yore) Those who can suffer the temptations of the devil will be like some of the fathers from the old times with the condition to endure till the end of their life. This means that patience without complaining is equal with the rule of prayer.

***

Another elder said :

The evil is everywhere and the darkness prevails. It is like a recently ploughed land with its upset black soil. And if you plant seeds in it they will germinate quickly and we will grasp the fruit when it comes the time of the harvest.

***

Father Joseph the hermit said :

`The main aim of the devil is to attack our faith. If the devil succeeds to make a person leave his faith then he turns that one in a traitor.

***

Elder Daniel and I had the same spiritual father. His name was Averky and he was like a second Paul the simpleton. He was from the hermitage of Saint John the Baptist. He had never left the Holy Mountain since he was a child when he was brought there hidden in a basket with onions – when Greece was under Turkish occupation.

Father Averky asked both of us to be his disciples:

`I will die soon` he said, and who is going to light saint John’s candle?`

`Theotokos will send you someone` I said to him then I added jokingly: We are very difficult and you are severe (in fact he was meeker than a lamb)

I will make a list on a sheet of paper with the virtues and another one with the sins and without telling you anything I will show them to you.

What a blessed soul! He was blessed in two ways: first with simplicity and secondly with respect for the free will of the man.`

***

A few years ago father Gerasimus the Hymnographer for whom I had a great respect told me:

`Saint Gregory Palamas said that only one thing is impossible for God : to unite with an unclean person. This never happens..

***

A Greek ascetic was making brooms and he took them to the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon and gave them in exchange for dry bread. Thus by this toil he earned his daily bread

***

I met him in the last days of his life the charismatic father Simeon who had been under the spiritual guidance of elder Sava until the end of his life. Father Simeon related to us many things about this elder full of virtues and discernment and he also advised us:

`Be afraid of the sin and not of the devil because he has no power.`

 From the Athonite Patericon

Behind the trial it is hidden God’s blessing

Almost all people owe their return to God to a trial

Sadness is a bad thing. But behind this bad thing, behind the pain, behind the trial it is hidden God`s blessing, it is hidden the rebirth, the recreation of the man, of the family. Almost all people owe their return to God to a trial. It seems to them that everything goes well and they forget about God. But God takes their child. Then this is followed by lamentations and cries and pains and all the rest. After all this it comes the grace of God and it covers them and the men find peace, they approach the Church, they come to confession, they come to the priest. Due to their child they go to the church. The pain makes them seek, makes them pray for his peace and pay liturgies.

The heart which was callous before and did not receive a thing now is melted by pain and receives openly the words of God. Think about a man in the vigor of youth. Diplomas, praises, health, everything nice. But when he is smitten down by a disease he begins to think in a different way. `Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.` I may die. And what is the use of all these? A man may approach him and give him a book saying: `Read this book and see what it says! He hears a word of God but this time he listens to it carefully. The pain have already prepared his heart and made it ready to receive the word of God.

And in this way it is achieved the recreation of the man. After he recovers he wakes up from the bed of suffering and from now on he lives his life more carefully not living anymore with the pride and conceit he had had.

Sickness and sadness are by excellence the medicine of the divine care necessary for bringing him close to God and for enhancing his virtue.

Job was the kindest man on earth, but God wanted to make him much more kinder. And he was honored from the moment he was put to test. He was a kind, pious man but without the trial he suffered, Job would have never been known. But from the moment he was tried and he fought and struggled and he was rewarded and got rich his glory began and this stretched until our times. His example is brilliant and strengthens any man who faces a trial. If he who was a saint was put to test, we who are sinners will be put to test even more. And the result was that the trial sanctified him more gave him more years to live and blessed him with doubled fortunes than those he had lost becoming a bright example over the ages for every grieving man who should follow this example, have a support on it, find his relief and say:

`

`The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.` (Job 1, 21).

He bends his head and says: `The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. And if He took my child isn’t He who has given it to me? He took him. Where is my child? In heavn? But what is he doing there? He rests…

Behind every trial hides the will of God and the use that in those times he might have not seen he will see in the course of time.

There are many parables of this kind. As it would be that of saint Andronicus and Athanasia. These two were married. Andronicus was a goldsmith and he had plenty of riches. With a part of what he earned he sustained his family, another part he gave it to the poor and the third part of his earning he gave it without interest to the people who had no money. He had two blessed daughters. But one day both of them died because of a disease. They buried them both in the same time. Athanasia the poor woman cried inconsolably over the tomb of her two daughters. Andronicus was crying too but after a time he went home. Only poor Athanasia remained there crying near the tomb. `My children`, `my children`. It was almost sunset when all of a sudden she saw a monk who said to her:

`Why are you crying, sister?`

`How not to cry father? I buried both my children, my angels. I put them into tomb and me and my husband remained alone. We have no comfort.`

`Your children are in heaven with the angels. They are in the bliss and joy of God and you stand here and cry? And you are a Christian.

`My children live indeed? Are they angels?`

`Of course that your children are angels.`

After that Andronicus and Athanasia went to live in the monastery and they sanctified themselves.

Source: Starets Ephrem Philotheos, Spiritual advice for regaining spiritual health and for our salvation, Orthodoxos Kypseli Publishing, Thessaloniki.

Tell her that you love her!

Saint John Chrysostom

Tell her that you love her without fearing that she would ever delight herself or she would use in a bad way these words. For the shameless women who go with a man or another it is natural to get delighted when they hear such words. But a good girl will never boast. She will humble herself.

Show her that you like to spend much time with her, that you prefer to stay at home for her sake instead of meeting with your friends. Honor her more than you honor your friends, more than you honor your children. And love these ones for her sake. If she does something good praise her and admire her.

If she falls into a mistake advice her and correct her gently. Pray together. Go together to the church. If it happens to face poverty remind your wife that the holy apostles Peter and Paul who are above all the emperors and rich men spent their lives in hunger and thirst. Show her that no misfortune in life is terrifying unless we oppose God and His will.

The reward of humbleness

Archimandrite Ephrem Philotheos

There was once a pious hermit who lived an ascetic life in the desert. One of his close acquaintances who lived in the city and who was a spiritual man himself because he had got sick and was close to death wanted very much to see the pious monk and receive his blessing to go to the other world with better hopes. The hermit wanted to fulfill his wish because he loved him dearly but he didn’t want to go to the city during day because he was a famous ascetic and he would have received many honors and praises.

Thus he thought to go there during night when the people were asleep, to avoid honors. When he entered the city God sent two bright angels each one of them holding a burning torch in his hand, one standing on the right and the other one on the left and they lit the path followed by the pious elder. Then the people seeing that light and the angels gathered and showed him more honor and praise than he had imagined. And saint Isaac the Syrian says that if the man humbles in the depth of his soul, he sees the glory of God.

Excerpt from the book The art of salvation, which will be published by

Evanghelismos Publishing.

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (IV)

Priesthood is given as a manifestation of God`s love for mankind, said hieromonk Athanasios of Iveria. God loves us and makes us His priests. A ministrant priest lends his voice and hands to God for fulfilling His Holy Sacraments.

A priest is purified by God’s grace when he dresses in the holy priestly garments except for the case when he has a lack of morality, a revengeful attitude or a greediness for money. Those who toil for the word of God should be first prepared by ascesis.

Elder Avvakum the barefoot said to all the spiritual fathers: To give advice is a blessed thing because in that moment two minds meet in love and humbleness. He emphasized the fact that any advice should be given with great love, humbleness, leniency and peace and it doesn’t matter at what time of the day a person could come to ask for help. The monks should receive everyone with a smile so that the visitors would leave content and glorify God, he insisted.

***

An elder said :

`We should not put God in a difficult situation. He is full love. God doesn’t like to see us unhappy. What does He do then?

When we are given plenty of divine grace we boast with it. If we are not given this grace we are sad, unhappy, even desperate. Even after we try to make a good start, we tire. Even if we go on the sides, this may mean a good experience for us, because it is only for making us humble ourselves.

Sometimes God withdraws His grace from us. This is in fact the way in which a man humbles himself. When he is given back the divine grace the man sees that he evolved in what regards self knowledge and realizes that he cannot rely on himself and he needs God’s help. He is exactly like a baby. As soon as he is able to hold his mother’s hand he tries to walk. He makes big steps and believes that he does them well thinking that he does that on his own. If he continues, the child becomes dependent because if we keep his hand all the time he has a false confidence and then he falls to tumbling when in fact he expects to walk alone.

Sometimes the devil succeeds in using us to tempt our brother. When we pray to God to give us love then God may allow a brother to become sick and thus we have the opportunity to show our love when the sick brother asks for our help. The sick one may ask you: `Please bring me some tea, bring me this, bring me that…` In this way God tests your love and patience.

Sometimes God withdraws His grace from our hierarchs and then they speak harshly to us. In this way they put us to the test to see if we judge or not, when we previously asked to be given the virtue of not condemning anyone.

***

An elder from nowadays who was full of discernment was saying:

`We don’t speak in the name of freedom when we tell to the others that everything is allowed. This is enslavement. Someone can evolve only through temptations. Here is an example: we have a young tree and take care of it. We fix it with a thread of a stick. We don’t use wire because that would do it harm. We make a small enclosure around it. This is the only way to take care of it. Here is another case, of a small child. We restrict his freedom from his conception because he lives in the womb of his mother for nine months. After his birth he is wrapped in swaddles. When he grows a little we fix a small enclosure around him and so on. These restrictions are necessary until the child becomes older. Apparently he hasn’t freedom but without protection he could have died or stopped growing.

Elder Avvakum Lavriotis who was full of grace said :

Joy comes from someone’s bond and union with God. Mankind was created to be happy not sad. When you are glad of bad things you will surely pay for this pleasure you had. But the joy of God doesn’t ask any reward. For instance I who have nothing in this world cannot pay anything for the happiness I have. I am not the only one who affirms this truth. My brothers the monks who have nothing else except for God are full of joy. I emptied myself for the sake of Christ. I have nothing else but God and joy. Poverty is wonderful because it brings freedom. The man must empty himself to make place for Christ to enter his heart. When God is with me I have happiness. In each cave dwelled by a hermit you will find spiritual joy.

**

An old hermit said to a group of priests who visited him :

In order to have time for prayer somebody must not lose his time with the work which should be done by someone else.

For instance: a doctor will not do the dressing because an assistant can do this. The doctor takes care of more serious matters as it would be to examine a patient or to perform a surgical operation. If he loses his time with minor things he will not have time for the important ones and nobody will benefit of his medical knowledge. This thing applies to you as well. Pray for your believers and underline the names of those who are in greater needs than the others. It helps to know which is the particular problem of each person to pray better for each case in part.

***

An old hermit adviced a priest in the following way :

`Try as much as you can to perfect yourself and become a good priest. Then you will see that your parishioners will follow your example without telling them something else. Thus you will see that by toiling for your perfection you become a quiet example for the others.

***

The same hermit said :

We must gradually make the other one have good thoughts. Then everything will be all right. A person who hasn’t got good thoughts is under a demonic influence. We must turn on the right switch. When we have everything on the same wavelength we can benefit of obedience since the right switch is open. The young people who start their spiritual life must focus their attention towards the main causes of sin and they must always try to have good thoughts.

Once an old hermit went to town with some business and when he came back to  the skete the other brothers asked him what he had seen there. He answered that he didn’t see any man, only wild trees.

In our days the people want to become saints without any effort and some of them say:

`All the theological teachings must be passed through the patristic sieve.` In fact we ought to sift everything through the teachings of the holy fathers and throw away what means garbage. We must study following the guidance of the holy fathers. I will show you an example: we have three metals: copper, bronze and gold. These metals are of different quality. We have gold of 12 and of 24 carats. We choose that one which is of 24 carats. We need some cheap metal too but we should choose gold.

**

A monk who lived in the hermitage of Holy Trinity from Saint Anna’s skete was tempted by the demon of idleness until he almost fell into despair. One day in his despair he said:

`I will climb the hill till the top, I will sit on the highest rock and will swing my legs waiting for the time to pass by.

It was in the day before the feast of Saint John the Baptist, Dionisiou Monastery being dedicated to this saint. He climbed on the peak of a rock, sat down there and started to swing his legs while saying the Jesus prayer but not all the time of course, only from time to time since he was possessed by demonic idleness. While he was sitting in that idle position a legion of demons passed by going to Dionisiou Monastery to tempt the monks from that place. One of the demons said to the others: `I’ll make fun of that half dead body dressed in black who sits down there.`

`Don’t go, he will burn you` said the other demons. But that demon went anyway and showed up as a novice and said:

`What are you doing here?`

`Not much` said the young monk. I am idle and I am not able to offer anything to my God except for sitting and swinging my legs. Hearing those humble words the demon left him immediately and went back to join his group. This story isn related by the elders who advice the novices who have difficulties to follow their rule of obedience.

***

An old hermit said:

`Someone’s mind and heart cannot be cleaned as long as they are focused on the world and its problems.`

***

A hermit from Katounakia whose name was Raphael always repeated for himself:

Everything is on earth is ephemeral but everything is above is for eternity.

***

An elder said:
`The world is for the monk as a coalman (meaning that it soils the soul as a coalman)

***

Another elder said:
`If monachism flourishes in our days it means that God prepares something special for the world. The whole world is in a crisis. The people are hungry after spiritual things.

***

An elder said to his disciples:
When we come to the monastery to become monks we must leave the world behind us with its habits, comfort and luxury.

From the Athonite Patericon

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (III)

***

The elders from the Holy Mountain say:
Salvation is not given by the place but by the way you live.

***

An elder said :

We should rather be happy than sad when the people treat us badly, unjustly. We must not try to be believed by people even if we are right. Since God is right and we force ourselves only for the life to come, it has no meaning to try to make ourselves be understood by the others or treated well or be recognized for our value and not to be mistreated and so on. If we follow this path in life we will realize that the path we are crossing now doesn’t lead us to heaven.

***

A simple and uneducated hermit told me :

Those who are too smart are quickly caught in Satan’s net because they are full of selfishness, my blessed father. They are like the crabs caught in fishing net.

***

Some time ago I met a monk from a monastery who spoke in a very expressive way. He spoke about the fear of God, about piety and about human logic. I had never met in my life someone to express himself so vividly. His words were like a spring of sprinkling water. His speaking was accurate, pure, ardent and accompanied by wonderful spontaneous gestures. He said things like the following ones:

Who is full of respect has fear of God. Who has fear of God is humble. God protects the humble. Only the humble one has a logical thinking. The arrogant one cannot think logically. And who doesn’t take care of his soul becomes either brutal or a beast or filled of self deceit.

***

What is monachism ?

`It’s  hard work.` answered an experienced monk.

`Indeed` answered a hermit from our days to a new follower of Christ. If you want to succeed in your monachal call I tell you only one thing, brother: To be sure that you love physical work.`

***

The great hermit and confessor Hariton (I wrote a biography of this wonderful hermit from the Holy Mountain) every time he received a visitor thing which he did with great love and kindness, used to say:

`In that time Christ began to work and speak.`

The father avoided the useless talk and gossip considering them as causes of many diseases.

***

A pious monk from the New Skete said :

On every Easter when we say `Christ is Resurrected` we remember the cry of the angel before the empty tomb of Christ. Those who leave the church right after they sing `Christ is resurrected` are not Christians. Only those who remain at the Holy Liturgy are Christians.

***

Father Gregory from Xenophontos Monastery, a monk who is over 100 years old told us:

`When we were novices we asked our father confessor to read us a prayer in the church for our habit to prattle.

***

He also said

A monk without a rule of obedience is not a real monk.

***

The monks who live an idiorrhythmic life (in this kind of living every monk lives on his own, having his own rules of work, fasting and prayer and usually he is not under the guidance of any Elder; unlike this in the cenobitic monasticism the monks follow a common rule of living and are all guided by the same spiritual father ) cannot be corrected, used to say pious father Teophilos Lavriotis wanting to show us all the deficiencies of such monasteries.

***

The wonderful monk Theophilactus of Kavsokalyvia said to a young novice :

`If you want to become a good monk, remember all your life this thing: Be thankful to God because you were deprived of all your personal belongings you could have expected. Use a wooden bed where to sleep and on Easter eat a sardine with some greens and a spoon of oil. A monk has no right in this life to be free. How many were destroyed by the devil because of the desire to have personal belongings!

***

An elder said :

The more spiritualized a  person is the less belongings he wants in this life.

***

I asked a father how many years he had stayed in the Holy Mountain and he said:

`I’ve been here for many years but I haven’t evolved at all. The jackals who live in the desert remain jackals forever.

***

An old hermit said :

A man with fear of God respects everyone. My spiritual father bowed with respect even before the most insignificant and unworthy man.

***

An elder said :

The men estranged themselves of their spiritual fathers and they lost themselves in all kinds of thoughts and irrational passions and they end by making confessions to a psychiatrist who gives them pastilles to make them forget about their problems. Shortly after that the same kind of problems reappear on surface and everything repeats itself. If a person takes care of his inner state he can sleep like a baby and has no need of pastilles or anything else.

Living in the desert doesn’t solve anything unless I annihilated all my irrational passions. Or in other words that place is not a desert when I adapt it according to myself instead of adapting myself to living in a desert place.

***

An elder said :

God doesn’t predestine but He knows beforehand.

***

An elder said:

`When you tell your opinion to the others do it in such a way that they may benefit of it. If gossip is what results from it, then do it only with God. Nobody tires when speaking to Him, because the prayer is restful. Many times we pray for someone who is sick. And others pray for him as well but despite it that person dies. Those who prayed for him wonder why God didn’t listen to their prayers. They don’t realize that God listened to their prayers but He knows what’s better. We don’t know which would have been the end of that person if he had lived. We must be thankful to God for everything.

***

An old monk said :

For the monks the precipices become palaces and the sky above them is their roof. The earth is their mattress and the nuts and greens their food. The wild beasts are their neighbors and the caves become royal rooms.

`Father is it difficult to become a monk?` we asked a wise elder.

`It’s not difficult. When you have forgotten yourself completely then you realize this is the lightest burden to carry.

***

An elder said :

If someone wants to get help he must have his ears wide open to be able to receive the signals from another person. When someone’s heart is not receptive then he should first pray to God to open it so that the word of God can be received.

Bring near these people who are estranged of God in a simple way with true humbleness and love. Pretend not to notice many of their flaws and correct what is absolutely necessary because the people are bored and burdened by life and they don’t like to be corrected by somebody else, no matter how well-meaning that one would be.

From the Athonite Patericon

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (II)

The renowned hesychast and spiritual father, elder Gregory lived at Saint Anna’s skete before father Sava. He lived in a ceaseless prayer and silence. He spoke only when it was necessary and everyone marveled at his divine gift of inspired speech. He became the supporter and upholder of the monks, hermits and pilgrims.

Due to the discernment of this wise elder, captain Gheorgaki, the chief of a band of robbers was guided to repentance. For reaching this thing the elder used an admirable trick. He pretended he was guilty of many crimes too and these were even bigger than those of the robber. By means of this trick he earned the trust of the fierce robber And thus he tamed he him and made him change his heart almost completely. He also promised to the robber to give him the Holy Eucharist every day with one condition: to keep a fasting of 40 days together. And Gheorgaki agreed.

However elder Gregory did not give him the Holy Eucharist, only common bread and wine  until the forty days of repentance passed. Then he gave him the real Eucharist.

Elder Gabriel, the abbot of Dionisiou Monastery related me the following:

More than 50 years ago, around Karyes (in Kutlumus skete) lived a very simple elder who hadn’t studied much in school but had a purified mind attached to Christ’s teaching. His  obedience was to knit socks for the civilian guards of the Holy Mountain and for the highlanders from Rumelia and Epirus. When he came at the Sunday fair from Karyes to sell his products, he stood under the portico of the cemetery near the road keeping in his right hand the rosary and in his left hand the goods for sale. He uttered without cease the Jesus prayer: `Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner`, with his eyes on the ground. If someone teased him saying: `Lift your head and seek customers`, he answered `As long as they see me it’s not necessary to seek them.`

This man had such discernment that at the confession he realized the major problem of the person who confessed and gave him advice for improving.

Hearing about him Joachim the 3rd the Ecumenical Patriarch who was at that time at Athos went to Karyes to meet him. He went to the elder and asked him to go together in the afternoon in a cell to confess.

`My cell is too small, your holiness to receive a Patriarch, answered the elder.`

  `It doesn’t matter if it is small`, answered the Patriarch.

`But it’s too low to enter, your holiness.`

`I’ll bend myself to enter`, insisted the Patriarch.

`Unfortunately you don’t bend your head, said the elder. If you had done this you would have been Patriarch even now.

He meant that the Patriarch was arrogant and had an attitude that was not inclined to give up.

Many times the Patriarch said about this incident:

`As long as I live I will not forget the discussion with that elder, a simple man but with a great discernment.

***

A monk came to the same spiritual father to complain about the young novice who served him obediently and who although had only to make his usual prayers and everything was easy for him, not being burdened by much work, was overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, being in danger of falling into a spiritual confusion because of depression. The elder who was responsible for him came to elder Gabriel to advise him how to help the young novice.

`Marry him`, answered elder Gabriel.

Hearing that the elder was stunned and looked at him puzzled, not believing his own ears.

`Get him to work`said elder Gabriel. The young men can be humbled and silenced by regular work. For a monk the prayer alone without work is like work without prayer. Marry him with his work.`

***

Every time there are temptations and troubles the crown of victory is shown too, said elder Gregory to hieromonk Joachim Spetsieris. And he added:
`If there were a monastery only with angels and you were a monk in that monastery you wouldn’t have saved your soul, because nobody would have upset you and you would have had an easy life. The following verse fits in this situation:

 «You received the good ones in your life»23 (These are the words Abraham says to the rich man who went to hell and they are found at Luke16, 20–25).
Once hieromonk Joachim Spetsieres said to elder Gregory:
` Father, I am losing the struggle with the carnal temptations. I cannot rest during day nor during night!`

`Do not despair. This is a sign that your salvation is close. Do not be afraid, our Christ does not let us be tempted more than we can endure. And soon after he blessed him, he was released of that temptation.

***

An elder said that Hagi Gheorghe, who was at first a novice, understood the monks under obedience. He took care to help them improve and advised them with discernment.

***

An elder said :
`If you pay all your debts in this life you can be saved. But if you are hit in the head many times you will receive something more. For the people who are beaten unjustly there is a reward. This means that God allows those who have a good life to be severely hit. Why is it so? Let me give you an example.

There is a happy family where all of them are good people: the mother, the father and the children. They go to the church and take the Holy Eucharist regularly. All of a sudden a drunkard or a madman kills the good father without any reason. Because of this many of those who are far from God will say: `Look at him. You see? He went to the church and look what happened to him.`

`What an insolence! God permits the suffering of the innocent for giving a second chance to the unrepentant so that they may be led on the path of repentance seeing the suffering of the innocent and thus to be like the good robber who was crucified on the right side of Christ.

What do we notice at the two robbers between whom Christ was crucified ? One of them defamed Him saying:

`If you are Christ, save Yourself and save us.`

But the other one rebuked him saying:

`Aren’t you afraid of God since you are under the same punishment? We receive what is right for us according to our deeds but this One did no harm.`(Luke 23, 39–41).
For this reason God allows the suffering of some innocent people, to be of use for the rebels, even if those who suffer are truly loved by God. I think that God will say in heaven: `Here, this place is for you or you can chose the one you like!`

Do you understand? It is just like this. If we ask justifications for what happens to us we can lose everything. We lose our peace of mind and reward.

***

One of the most enlightened elders of the Holy Mountain, who had a great discernment, was elder Daniel, who built for the Athonite monks a holy hermitage in the desert place of Katounakia. There the monks who were under his rule were called «Daniels» – because of the special charismatic personality of their Elder.
He became famous as a wise spiritual adviser of numerous monks from their community, of hermits and laymen for his virtues and education coming from experience. Inspired by the Holy Spirit he was capable to discern any trap coming from the right side (temptations coming from the right side: it is an expression found in the Orthodox monarchism and which refers at all the scheming of the evil one to cheat someone and make him believe that he has virtues he doesn’t have) because of the evil spirits in the struggle fought by Satan. These temptations from the right side include all the actions of a person which show false virtues, exaggerations, delusions, things done without blessing, self praise and vainglory. All these lead to a demonic pride.

One of these brothers who was deluded by Satan was father Damaskinos the Konstamonite. He thought he could be a recluse like one of the great hermits but without asking for a blessing from his elder. He decided not to go out of the monastery. He went out of his cell only for going to the church and to the refectory and he fulfilled his duties. He spent 10 years thinking that he was a recluse but full of pride. In the meanwhile because of the fact that he believed he was virtuous his praised increased and the contempt of the others as well and also the slanders, the rows and disagreements with the other monks. Because he did not correct his behavior the elder sent after elder Daniel who came heartily always glad to help.

Elder Daniel, so full of discernment called the misled Damaskinos and with his usual kindness  talked with him and he slowly made him come to his senses and have repentance. Elder Daniel used examples from the Old and the New Testament, from Moses and the Israelites and from the Holy Fathers and said to him: `Brother, beware from now on not to trust in yourself and in your thoughts but repeat that wise word f abba Dorotheus: `Cursed be your thoughts and the knowledge by your own self.`

From the Athonite Patericon

About the virtue of spiritual thoughts and dispositions (I)

***

An elder said:
`The spiritual life of a monk begins when he detaches himself of all the visible and invisible things and is focused only on God.`

He also said:
`When I was in the world everybody called me `monk` so I said to myself: `If you are a monk what are you still doing in the world?`

***

The monk Mikhail of the Lavra, who was an orderly there was an example of devotion and dedication. He served the Holy Liturgy in all details. He worked everywhere and anytime. He was pale and had a bright, ascetic look.

***

The hermit Damaskinos from the monastery of Saint Basil told us once about a monk from Kavsokalivia who had lived long time ago. He neglected his canon (The Canon of the monk consists of 100-300 metanies and 6-12 rosary rows with the Jesus prayer daily) and the other spiritual duties. At the end of his idle life he got sick and when he was on his deathbed his soul did not want to leave his body for many days. This happened in 1935-1936

The doctor a monk with great discernment realized that it happened because he had been careless all his life. Then father Gregory, the confessor of the dying monk knelt down and prayed arduously full of mercy and love for the one who was under his guidance promising before God and men that he would complete the canon of the monk until its end. When he finished this prayer the monk reposed in peace.

***

A monk said :

In these days we try to obtain holiness with little effort.

And he said again:

The more we toil the more grace we will receive.

Then he added:

God can fill our hearts with so much happiness and love for Him that we could not receive it and we would run away from monasteries seeking isolation in a cave. And the laymen if they experienced such a bliss they could abandon their responsibilities, families and children and hide away of them.
That is why God Who is entirely Love does not fill us completely with His bliss.

***

An elder said :

In these days the men are so stressed that they won’t find true happiness in the worldly parties and entertainments. And he also said:

In our times tradition disappeared. Our only examples should be all the saints.

***

Another elder said:

If your spiritual father shows the signs of self denial accept all his counsels. If you cannot tell him everything, he cannot give you the advice which is suitable for you. The Lord says: `If a prophet was wrong, I did that, because your heart is not just.` Don’t be a hypocrite.

***

An elder said :

`I cannot describe to you, my son, what joy I felt every time when I suffered injustice from men. I felt I was sharing the injustice suffered by the Saviour.

***

There was once a monk in a monastery who was careless. Despite this fact, the abbot tolerated him, wishing his salvation saying that Theotokos would save him since he had never left her Garden. It was obvious that the hope of the abbot was based on the initial zeal and piety of the monk.

***

Working hard, father Ignatius from Dionisiou transformed the rocky slope of the mountain in a real garden. An orchard of fruitful olive trees. He was always carrying an ax at his belt and some tools in his bag and he cleared with enthusiasm the wooden area from the slope which was in front of the monastery. He grafted all the wild olive trees. Because of his care and zeal for the prosperity of his monastery he left after him this heritage. It is worth remembering that his hard work in the olive tree grove was always accompanied by a blessed humbleness and acts of mercy.

Carelessness can destroy the pious men! An awful thing! exclaimed an old wise

Hermit.

In the Monastery of Saint Paul I met an honorable Romanian hieromonk and confessor, father Makarios who said:

`Those who can pray with a pure heart are those who toil and participate at the Holy Sacraments.`

***

A pious monk gave the following advice :
`Love all the people but have no particular friendship relations with anyone.`

***

I know a father who never left his rosary down. He prayed without cease everywhere he went. God gave him an endless desire to pray.

***

This is what S, the hieromonk with white beard said:

Long time ago there were 8000 monks in the Holy Mountain and despite all the difficulties which existed then, despite the hard work and the endless ascetic struggles, they had everything they needed. Now the young monks have even cars. Their anxiety and concern for material goods are like an epidemy. The more they have the greater is their trouble. It is a vicious circle. The cause of this thing is the sin which destroys both the body and the soul.

***

An elder said :

In our times the monks save their souls due to trials because there is no virtue (and by this he meant that there are no more great ascetic struggles like those of the saints and hermits of the yore) Those who can suffer the temptations of the devil will be like some of the fathers from the old times with the condition to endure till the end of their life. This means that patience without complaining is equal with the rule of prayer.

***

Another elder said :

The evil is everywhere and the darkness prevails. It is like a recently ploughed land with its upset black soil. And if you plant seeds in it they will germinate quickly and we will grasp the fruit when it comes the time of the harvest.

***

Father Joseph the hermit said :

`The main aim of the devil is to attack our faith. If the devil succeeds to make a person leave his faith then he turns that one in a traitor.

***

Elder Daniel and I had the same spiritual father. His name was Averky and he was like a second Paul the simpleton. He was from the hermitage of Saint John the Baptist. He had never left the Holy Mountain since he was a child when he was brought there hidden in a basket with onions – when Greece was under Turkish occupation.

Father Averky asked both of us to be his disciples:

`I will die soon` he said, and who is going to light saint John’s candle?`

`Theotokos will send you someone` I said to him then I added jokingly: We are very difficult and you are severe (in fact he was meeker than a lamb)

I will make a list on a sheet of paper with the virtues and another one with the sins and without telling you anything I will show them to you.

What a blessed soul! He was blessed in two ways: first with simplicity and secondly with respect for the free will of the man.`

***

A few years ago father Gerasimus the Hymnographer for whom I had a great respect told me:

`Saint Gregory Palamas said that only one thing is impossible for God : to unite with an unclean person. This never happens.`

.

***

A Greek ascetic was making brooms and he took them to the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon and gave them in exchange for dry bread. Thus by this toil he earned his daily bread

***

I met him in the last days of his life the charismatic father Simeon who had been under the spiritual guidance of elder Sava until the end of his life. Father Simeon related to us many things about this elder full of virtues and discernment and he also advised us:

`Be afraid of the sin and not of the devil because he has no power.`

 From the Athonite Patericon

God’s boundless love for us

To speak about love means to speak about God and this thing has no limits, God being endless. Most of the religions value love, compassion and empathy. Christian religion is called the religion of love for people, because many are the attributes specific to Christianity but more and stronger than anything else are mutual love and peace. (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 31, 1, at Hebrews). Christianity considers love as having its roots in the essence of God. Saint John the Evangelist, the theologian of the divine love, expresses the plenitude of God’s being by the word of love: `God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.` (I John, 4, 16).

God is love in His essence not only in relation with the man but with the whole world. He is love by His overflowing over the world but He was love before the creation of the world as well. Love implies two or more persons who love each other. God is a Trinity of Persons who love each other, communicate with each other and commune one from another. Through Christ we learnt that God is love, that God is our loving Father and we are His sons.

God – the lover of mankind

In the prayers and services of the Orthodox Church one of the most significant divine names for glorifying God is lover of mankind. The ritual of the Liturgy and of the sacraments, of the hierurgies and praises, the whole Orthodox cult comprises a multitude of texts by which is invoked  the love for the mankind of God, the lover of mankind. God remains in a transcendence inaccessible to the man as a being, since nobody has ever seen God (John 1, 18; 4, 12). However, He revelates Himself, He manifests in relation with the world He created and sustains it alive by His energies. The grace of love for the mankind has been lucrative in the whole history of the fall and of the salvation, since what is that which God has not done to be loved by us? What means hasn’t He used? What has He ignored? We offended God when He has never done anything wrong to us, on the contrary He has done us good, giving us plenty of blessings…Let us think how many times we offend Him even after all this plenty of blessings and He still comforts us, how many times we run away of Him and He doesn’t neglect us but comes in our way and draws us towards Him. If we meditate about all these, we will surely be able to light within ourselves that longing and love for Him. (Saint John the Chrysostom, Commentaries and explanation of the Epistle to the Romans). That is why, in another place, the same Holy Father urges us in the following way: `God offered us many ways of salvation; let us not disregard them` (Homilies at the Acts XXI, 4).

The Incarnation of the Son – the revelation of the love of the Holy Trinity

In their works, the Fathers of the Church made many references at Christ’s ineffable descent for us, for making us partakers of His divinity. In the patristic literature it was especially emphasized the Incarnation of the Son of God, seeing in this the modality through which the human nature may participate at the divine glory. The Incarnation of the Word, meaning His descent among the beings He had created and the complete assumption of the human condition represents the central moment of history. The Incarnation of the Son means the Revelation of the triune love: `God’s love was manifested by the fact that God sent in the world His only Son, so that we may live through Him. (I John 4, 9). The whole Holy Trinity participates at the Incarnation of Christ the Lord: in the essence of the Son, Who accomplished the mystery of our salvation by His Incarnation was present the Father in His essence, not incarnating Himself, but willing the Incarnation of the Son. And in the essence of the Son was present the Holy Spirit in His essence, not incarnating but collaborating with the Son and the ineffable Incarnation for us (Saint Maximus the Confessor, Answers to Talasius, answer 60, in Filocaly…vol.III) saint Maximus confirming and reinforcing the word of saint Paul who says that `God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.` (II Cor. 5, 19).

God’s love precedes man’s love

Christ remains forever the eternal lover: more loving than any other friend, more righteous than any master, more comforting than any father, belonging more to us than any of our limbs, more beneficial for us than our heart.` Our duty consists in answering to Him with our love and in answering to all the people with the power of love given by Him. Saint Simeon the New Theologian says in this respect: `God always wants to reveal and show His love for us so that we, by understanding and respecting His great kindness, may wish to love Him.` (Saint Simeon the New Theologian, Moral speeches, word 10, in Philocaly…, vol. VI).

If He hadn’t touched us with His love in the bottom of our hearts, we wouldn’t have sought Him. What Christ requires from us is to understand how much He loves us because this understanding is the beginning of the love for Him and of His dwelling within ourselves: Did you begin to love God? God began to dwell within you. Love the One Who began to dwell within you so that your perfect Dweller may perfect you.` (blessed Augustine, Comment at I John P.L., XXXV, col. 2043). Thus we love Him because we were loved by Him first and thus united with Him through love we receive His love for us which is infinite. We who felt loved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit become more loving. We who felt forgiven under thr guidance of the Holy Spirit become more forgiving. We who felt sought under the guidance of the Holy Spirit became more honest. We who felt healed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit become healers of the others.

As `the Son of God became man for us, showing that God is not far from us, since He values the man that much that He makes Himself man.` (pr. Stăniloae, quoted workd), let us sanctify ourselves for Him and answer with love to His Love and give ourselves wholly for receiving Him wholly, Christ wishing to continue His Incarnation within everyone of us. Referring at the prompt, positive answer the man has to give to God-Love, a Christian writer from the first centuries writes: `You gave Your heart, God to Your believers. You offered us Your friendship not because You needed us but because we always need You…He made Himself like me so that I may receive Him. He made Himself human like me so that I may cloth myself with Him. And I was not frightened by Him when I saw Him because He was merciful with me. He became like me to understand Him. He took a face like mine so that I may never turn my face from Him.` (Odes of Solomon – Christian prayers from Ist-IInd centuries, p. 169).

By Incarnation, the Son of God became our brother 

Christ incarnated Himself to sanctify the human nature and to offer it the chance of deification. Saint Athanasius resumed this dogma as follows: `God made Himself man so that the man may become God.`(De incarnatione Verbi, 54), dogma which represents a synthesis of the Orthodoxy. We find this idea in the whole patristic literature. He became Son of man to make the men sons of God by grace. So Christ partook in everything belonged to us so that we may partake in what belongs to Him. This is Christ’s great love, that He loves us and He doesn’t want anything in change for this. How wonderful is the mystery of love! It makes God man and the man God. By Incarnation the Son of God became our brother and His Father became our Father.

The Incarnation became truth and certitude even for the simple man who intuited that it is the only salvatory truth, the only chance of the man offered due to the great Love of God. A story from the Limonarium by John Moshu, from the end of the 6th century is very illustrative in this respect. It relates that once a murderer being condemned to be beheaded, there was a monk who came behind him and who wanted to behead him. While going on his way seeing the monk coming after him said: `Don’t you have a cell, abba or anything else to do?` `I have a cell and work to do for sure.` `Then why don’t you stay in your cell to cry for your sins?` ` You are right, brother, says the monk, I do not care much about my salvation. That’s why I come to see how you die, so that in this way I may reach repentance.` `Go, abba. Sit in your cell and than God who saved us. Since the Lord Incarnated Himself and died for us, the man doesn’t die of eternal death.`(John Moshu, Limonarium, cap. 71).

God descends among men, became one like them, suffers and sacrifices Himself in their place. If in other religions the man is the one who sacrifices himself and God the One who receives that, in Christianity the one who sacrifices himself is mostly God, the man being mostly the receiver. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the love of God which ensures the victory of the human being, is the firstfruits of our resurrection. This is true love as it was understood by Gabriel Marcel in his famous saying: `To tell someone that you love him means to say: `you will never die` Referring at the plenitude of blessings showed by Christ by His Incarnation, Sacrifice and Resurrection, Peter the Damascene says: `What will we give in change to God for everything He gave us? For us God came among men. For the decayed nature The Word Incarnated Himself and dwelt within ourselves.God the Good Doer came to the ungrateful. The Redeemer came to the enslaved. The Sun of Justice came to those who sat in the dark. The One without passions went on the cross. The Light went in hell, the Life in death, the resurrection for the fallen ones. We shall praise Him: Glory to You, our Lord!`

Source: ziarullumina.ro