Overcome evil with good, let yourself be wronged but do not do any wrong to anyone

There will come a time when a great storm will burst. They will insult us, they will slander us, they will judge us. But we must show patience, we must not say any bad word and we must forgive them from the heart and speak nicely to them and pray for these people. Overcome evil with good, let yourself be wronged, but don`t do any wrong to anyone. This is the law of the Gospel. When we face any temptation in this way who endures will surely receive great blessings from God. Every time the man hears bitter, poisonous words about him, in that moment those words hurt his head like some thorns and he wears enduringly a wreath of thorns. He feels pain in his heart and soul but Christ bears his crown of thorns and God will crown him with honor and glory. He will gain this wreath with his blood, but it is worth.

I will tell you the story of a soul who amazed me with her great nobleness. A few years ago, here in the Diaspora there was a woman who was left by her husband. Another person had come in their house, took her man and they went away. This woman came one day in the place where I was listening to the confessions of the believers and approached me very respectfully and lovingly. She knelt down and cried.

`Why are you crying my daughter? What`s happening with you?`

`You know father I am not crying for a sin of mine, I am crying so that my husband will be enlightened and repent because he made the mistake to leave with another woman and sinned before God. And he comes in my house with that woman and I receive them, I lay the table for them, they sleep then they leave. I kiss my husband I kiss that woman too, I make them gifts, I give them blessings and they leave. Then they come back.

`And why are you doing this, my daughter?`

`Christ says in the Gospel to love even our enemies, doesn`t He? This woman is for me the greatest enemy since she took my husband but I must love her. And since Christ asks from us to love our enemies and give all our being and love to them, this is what I do too. And I am crying for him to be enlightened by God and receive repentance. Please pray for him too, your holiness.

Can you appreciate the virtue of this woman? How can God not forgive this woman whatever she would have done?

And her tears were for nothing else but for the wreath which was given to her for this great victory of love. Here is an example of what kind of people are created by the application of the Gospel. And she is not fool at all, she is a very intelligent woman and a very strong person. A hidden heroine of the Gospel, not known to anyone.

While we the wretched ones, and I am the first of all, would have never done this. We might have cursed, slandered, hit, damn that man and that woman. And you see what a beautiful person the Gospel has created. This woman in the Day of the Judgment will judge another woman who had the same kind of trouble but who faced it differently. And she will not have any entitlement to say to God: `Since the wrong done to me was so big what else could I have done?` See what this woman has done. You could have done the same if you had followed the command of the Gospel.`

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

We have to draw away of those who harm us even if they are friends with us or if we needed them badly

1. From Patericon

 Abba Agathon said: `If I love someone very dearly but I realize that he makes me fall into mistake I move away of him.`

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 An elder said : It is necessary to run away of all those who commit wicked acts, even if they are our friends or relatives, if they have a sacerdotal or imperial rank. Because by getting rid of those who commit wicked acts we gain the friendship of God and courage before Him.

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The same said: It is of no use in getting attached of the evildoers in churches, market, in advice or any other matter but it is due to us to go away of those. Because all the evildoers deserve to be rejected and will know eternal damnation.

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An elder said : Do not dwell in a place where you see some men envying you. If you don’t do so, you don’t make any progress.

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A brother asked an elder : `If a brother  makes me fall into judgment, do you want me to bow to him? The elder said: `Bow to him but go away of him. Since we have abba Arsenios who says: `Have love for all but go away of all.`

2. of saint Ephrem the Syrian

Brothers we have to take heed at the evil advice. As two men dressed in shining clothes who were wandering through the fair once. One of them being careless stumbled and fell into mud staining his bright clothes. Being dominated by envy he tried to  push the other one in the mud too so that he would not be the only dirty one. The same thing happens with s many today: falling from virtue they struggle to impede the others so that they would not live alone in sin. They speak humbly and answer sweetly so that they can draw away those who listen to them from all temperance and push them in a pit like theirs. They don’t feel ashamed of committing evil deeds but urge their neighbor saying: `Why do you feel disgusted of us? Because we are sinners? But that one and that one the famous ones don’t they do the same? Don’t you know that’s not such a big deal? We fall and then we stand back again on our feet.

They don’t feel ashamed of saying such things. Why? Because being fallen they don’t want to get up but as I said they become reasons for temptation, fall and decay like the bait in the hook of the devil. They try to cheat weak souls and draw them to the same perdition. That’s why keep yourself away of such people my beloved s that they won’t charm you with their soft words and tae you with them to the eternal flame.  

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A certain brother was giving an advice after God once to another brother.

By chance someone else passed by and the one who was giving his advice said to the passer by: `Look I advise my brother and he doesn’t want to listen to me.` The other one said: `He has to listen to you. Forgive me but from you even if he heard something bad and did that would be a joy. The first one said: `It’s not like this. If he doesn’t see if it is after God what I tell him he should not listen to me. And not only me, not even a prophet if he advises him against the will of God. Because the apostle says: `

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!![1] 

Who were those who stood against Susanna in Babylon ? Weren’t they old? And not only old but also judges and rulers of the people. And because they didn’t take heed at themselves they had such a shameful end. Their rank was of no avail for them.

Be careful and vigilant brother because the scheming f the enemy are numerous. If the enemy sees a brother who is zealous for the work of God he makes another brother come against him from the reckless ones to hurt him unjustly and uselessly to make the struggler become angry and keep in mind the evil, impeding him on the path of virtue and making him fall into malice. But if he sees that he endures the malice with long lasting patience and prays for the one who hurts him, he seeks to make him fall in another way: he tries to make him befriend one of the idle and reckless so that by such a friendship he may trouble his mind and mix in it pleasure and maybe little by little he may lead him to recklessness too. But whoever fear God will never love without divine wisdom. Since it is written:

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits impartial, not hypocritical.[2] 

3. of abba Isaiah

 Abba Isaiah said: If you want to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and crucify your old self together with Him you have to break any ties with those who take you down from the cross. And prepare yourself to endure despise and rest the heart of those who sadden you.

4. of saint Isaac the Syrian

The foolish and reckless friend is a disadvantageous treasury. But spending time with the wise is a spring of sweetness. The staying with the unwise is a break of the heart. It is preferable to live with beasts than with those who live in an evil way. 

Rather sit near an eagle than near the greedy. Better befriend a killer than the cantankerous. Better talk to the greedy pig because the trough of the pigs is better than the greedy mouth. Better sit among the leprous than among the proud.

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[1]   Ga. 1,8.

[2]   Iac. 3,17.

Excerpt from the book EVERGHETINOS – Ist edition 2007  Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. I, Theme 23 – Metropolis Press Publishing, Athens, Greece, 2007.

You don’t have anything more in common with him? Do you divorce?

If there is no reason acknowledged by the Church for divorce, only a spiritual mismatch (for example if a girl married a lieutenant then she began to believe in God and when he became colonel he remained only with his position and everything is dear to her is something he ignores) than that Christian woman will have to carry a heavy cross given by God.

She cannot say she doesn’t need that rude senseless man now that she has another life with nothing in common with her husband.

How she doesn’t have anything in common? But her responsibility for that man? Who else can take him to the Kingdom of Heaven?

And if she doesn’t sacrifice her life for making the seed of faith grow inside him, then who would do that?

Nobody has the right being a Christian to refuse such a responsibility.

Excerpt from priest Maxim Kozlov, Family – the last bastion. Answers for the questions of the young people, Sofia Publishing, Bucharest 2009, p.70.

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.

The power of love

They say that the power of love is a special, supernatural force beyond the human understanding which should and is capable of breaking down mountains, ideas, conceptions, obstacles and anyone who stands against it. But I think that the power of love is gentle. It is that force which makes you a better person without being aware of it. It gives you wings to fly high and beautifully. It gives you self confidence without falling into the extreme of arrogance, being pleasant and beneficial for the surrounding people. This is because if you have self confidence others will have confidence in you as well.

The power of love is invisible. It likes to be transparent, to act, to help, to express itself without revealing its identity. It likes to remain unknown, because love is humble. Its force won’t ever seek to assume its credits.

The power of love has the capacity to make the man discover his dreams and follow them. It challenges him to use his maximum potential for fulfilling his role on this earth.

And what’s the most important, the power of love will never suggest, will never tell you that it can destroy you, though if it aimed that it could do it. But it never aims to use its powers to destroy a man, only to lift him up.

The power of love gives you the energy to pass over any sickness, regardless of its nature, be it yours or of someone close to you. That’s because love doesn’t weaken, only strengthens.

The power of love will never make you feel small, incapable, ugly, weak, without value. That’s because love’s greatest quality is to make you feel strong through it, although love is the strong one. Anything else is not love and doesn’t have its power.

THE IDLE MAN ALWAYS FIND EXCUSES

The idle man finds excuses and says: `Outside is a lion, I could be killed in the road.` (Solomon`s Proverbs 22 : 13).

To justify his idleness, the idle man always complains about the difficulties and obstacles he meets in accomplishing his tasks, exaggerating their gravity.

If his neighbor upsets him, he will say that the whole village upsets him; if he notices a small trembling of the leaves, he will say that he doesn`t go to the field because the storm is ready to burst. If near his threshold there is a rabbit, he will say that outside is a lion who waits to snatch him. But he says this only because he doesn`t want to get out of the house and he wants to postpone work all the time.

Idleness is something unnatural for the man. Permanent activity is something innate for the human nature. The man always seeks to do something, to be always busy, to work, to build up. Idleness is the sure sign of the alteration of the human nature.

We can see clearly that idleness is a sin and a vice from the fact that the active man never envies the idle while the idle always envies the active; in the same way the sober man never envies the drunkard and the drunkard always envies the man who doesn`t like debauchery.
Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, eternal worker, save us from the dark and sinful passion of idleness which estranges us from the face You gave us, to resemble You, Lord of all. Inspire us with Your Holy Spirit, Who is forever working and giver of life and joy. For to You is due all praise and gratitude for ever. Amen

Excerpts from Prologues from Ohrid– Saint Nicholas Velimirovich, Egumeniţa Publishing.

THE FAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

The Orthodox Church celebrates on 29th of June the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the two pillars of our Church. Unlike the other periods of fasting, which have a fixed length, the fast dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul have a variable length from year to year, depending on the variable date of the Easter. Due to the major role these Holy Apostles of the Savior had in spreading Christianity, the Church settled a period of fast to prepare for their celebration, this meaning by a physical and spiritual renewal.

This period offers us the opportunity to meditate upon the mission these two great Apostles of the Church fulfilled for preaching the Evangel of Christ. The fast means abstinence, more prayer so that we may increase our good deeds and thing about the troubles of our neighbor and the Church may intensify its missionary activity following the missionary zeal of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and of the other Apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The length and the way of fasting

The beginning of the Fast of the Holy Apostles depends on the date of the Easter. It always starts on the Monday after the Sunday of All the Saints.

According to the Paschalion of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Fast of the Holy Apostles may vary between 28 days when the Easter is on the 4th of April till being annulled when the Easter is celebrated on the 1st of May. This happened in the years 1945 and 1956 when the Resurrection was celebrated on the 6th of May and the Holy Council decided to keep the fast in the three days before the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (the feast being before the Sunday of All the Saints, when it usually begins the fasting) The same situation was in 1983 (The Resurrection of the Lord was on the 8th of May) when the fast was only of two days. (June 27th and 28th )

The Fast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is an easy one. On every Saturday and Sunday it is allowed to consume fish, wine and oil. The teaching about fasts from the Big Horologion specifies that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday it is allowed to eat vegetables without oil and on Tuesdays and Thursdays to eat them with oil. It is allowed to eat fish on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday if then it is a celebration of a saint to whom it is dedicated a great doxology and it is marked with a black cross in the calendar and when a feast like this is on a Wednesday or Friday it is allowed to consume wine and oil.

It is also allowed to consume fish when it is celebrated the feast of the patronizing saint of a church. If the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is on a Wednesday or Thursday it is allowed to consume fish, wine and oil.

On the whole length of this fast, as it is the case with all the other fasts from the liturgical year, it is not allowed to organize marriage ceremonies, because the periods of fasting are not compatible with the parties and merriments which usually accompany these.

By keeping this fast we also honor the gifts of the Holy Spirit Who descended over the Holy Apostles at Pentecost, that’s why this fast was called in the old times the Fast of the Pentecost.

May the Holy Fast be useful to you!

Source: basilica.ro

Fasting is the doctor of our souls

The man with fear of God doesn’t disregard the law of fasting. I am going to talk to you about this issue, because the cunning devil, who hates all good goes to each Christian and tying him in an invisible way with idleness and languor makes him disregard the holy fasting that brings so many spiritual benefits and contributes at our salvation. That’s why I beg you not to listen to the enemy of our salvation and not to let yourself be subdued by the passion of gluttony or return to the bad habits from the past.

It humbles the body of a man. It stops the anger of another one. It draws away someone else’s sleep. It engrains in someone the desire to do good deeds. It purifies someone’s mind and frees it of sly thoughts. It silences somebody’s free untamed tongue so that he won’t say useless shameless words. It impedes someone’s sight to see and seek useless and harmful things.

Fasting slowly thins the thick layer of the sin that cover the soul and chases away darkness as the sun chases away mist, purifies our spiritual eyes and reveals to us the Sun of justice, Jesus Christ.

 (Saint Simeon The New TheologianThe essence of the fathers’wisdom, Egumenița Publishing, pp. 97-98)

Pray and do not fear a thing

For pleasing God you don’t have to do anything else but love – `love and do whatever you want` says blessed Augustine – cause who loves for real cannot and does not want to do anything that may not please the beloved one…but since the prayer is nothing else than the overflow and work of love then it can be justly said about it the same thing: for salvation there is nothing else you need than ceaseless prayer. Pray and do whatever you want, you will reach the aim of prayer, you will acquire enlightenment.

1. Pray and think whatever you want and your thoughts will be purified by prayer. The prayer will enlighten your mind, will drive away and silence the shameless thoughts. Saint Gregory of Sinai states this as well: If you wanr – he says – to chase away your thoughts and purify your mind, then chase them away with the prayer, because there is nothing else which can stop the thoughts than the prayer. Seek to defeat the enemies behind the thoughts by the name of Jesus. You won’t find any other weapon like this one. Saint John Climacus says in this respect the same thing:

2. Pray and do whatever you like and your deeds will please God and fr your they will be useful and salvatory.

Frequent prayer even when it doesn’t take into account the request you make, will not remain fruitless (Mark the Hermit) because in itself it is found a power full of grace. `Holy is His Name and anybody who calls the Name of the Lord will be saved.` Thus for example the one who hs prayed for a long time without feeling any improvement in his sinful life, received in the end by his prayer, a wisdom and an inclination to repentance.

3. Pray and do not try too hard to defeat your passions by your own powers. The prayer will destroy them within you: `Since greater is he that is in youthan he that is in the world.` says the Holy Scripture and Saint John the Carpathian teaches us that if you don’t have the gift of refraining yourself you should not be sad but know that God asks from you zeal in prayer and the prayer will bring your salvation. The elder from the Patericon – who by falling defetead, meaning that falling into sin he did not despair but returned to prayer to God and afterwards he stood up – serves as a relevant example.

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4. Pray and do not fear a thing, do not be afraid of misfortunes, of disasters, because the prayer will protect you, will drive them away.

Remember Peter, with his weaker faith, when he was drowning, remember saint Paul who was praying in the prison and many other similar cases. All these happenings show the power, the overarching extent of the prayer made in the name of Jesus Christ.

 5. Pray anyhow, only do it permanently and do not worry about anything. Be merry and with peaceful spirit because the prayer will put everything in order and will bring you wisdom. Remember that saint John Chrysostom and Mark the Hermit speak about the power of the prayer. The first one says that:

`The prayer even when it is made by us who are full of sins purifies us immediately` and the second one speaks in this way:

 `It is in our power to pray in a certain way, but to pray with purity is a gift from God.` Thus sacrifice for God what stays in your power, at first bring at least a quantity, meaning as many prayers as possible and the power of God will strengthen your weakness, the prayer becoming a natural habit and it will be a pure, bright, ardent prayer as it should be.

6. Then in the end I tell you that if when you are awake your time is filled with prayer then naturally you won’t have time for sinful deeds or dirty thoughts.

You see how many profoundideas derive from this wise word: `love and do whatever you want`. Pray and do whatever you want! How joyful and comforting are those said above for a sinner full of weaknesses, for that one who is bent by the burden of the passions which struggle him.

The prayer, that is everything! It is given to us as an overarching means which leads to the salvation and perfection of our soul. This is the truth. But the name of prayer is connected with its condition: `pray without cease`, commands the word of the Lord. Thus the prayer will show its entire lucrative power and fruit only when it is said permanently, without cease, since the frequent repetition of the prayer depends on our free will while its purity is a gift from God.

Source: The world of faith

THOSE WHO DIE BRAVELY DON`T DIE

I remember that in the army all the soldiers had a single purpose. I was struggling but there was sacrifice made by others us well, and it did not matter if they believed or not in the afterlife. Why to die the other one? He is a family man, they said and they went in a dangerous mission. The sacrifice these men made was even more precious than the sacrifice made by a believer. Because the believer believed in divine justice, in divine reward while those men didn`t know the sacrifice they made was not lost and they were to receive a reward for it in the afterlife.

During the German occupation, in the times of Dabachi [1], the Italians arrested many young Greek officers, they took them on a ship and drowned them. After that the first men they caught, they tortured to tell them who were those who had guns. There you should have seen what sacrifice some laymen made! In Konitsa, near our house, in the place where now the built the Church of Saint Kosma the Etolian, before that it was a mosque. They closed them in the mosque and they beat them with a lash all night long and that lash had at its ends balls with thorns or with raw wires and at their ends they put pieces of lead. And this steel wire ripped off the skin. And for not being heard the cries of those tortured men the sang and played music. From that it came out the saying `beating with music`. They hung them with their heads down and the poor men were spewing blood on their mouths, but they didn`t speak because they thought: `If we confess – because they knew who had guns – then afterwards they would beat everyone to confess.` That is why the first ones said: `Let us die to prove them the others don`t have any guns.` There were others who confessed for some amounts of flour that for instance someone had two guns. The people starved and they betrayed each other for money. Then some Italians from a battalion made of abandoned children showed their hate like some barbarians. They were taking small children and they put them on the heated stove and they let them there to burn. And they did this to make their parents confess if they or other people had guns. `No, I don`t have` the grown-ups said and those men burnt their kids. What I means is that, although they were laymen, they preferred to die so that the others would not be beaten or killed. They saved many people in this way. Thanks to those brave men our people survived.

Those who die bravely, don`t die. If there is no heroism, nothing can be done. And you should know that who is faithful is brave too. Makryanis [2], the poor man, how much he suffered! And in what times.

`My eyes were exhaling smoke` it is written somewhere, father.

`Yes, his eyes were exhaling smoke. Because of the tension and worry he had, his eyes seemed to exhale hot steam. He was in that situation and he sacrificed himself out of love and pain.

He didn`t think of himself and he never took himself into account. He was not afraid they would kill him when he fought for his homeland. Makryanis had some divine experiences. If he had become a monk, I think he would have reached a level close to that of saint Anthony the Great. He was making 3000 prostrations every night and besides that he was hurt. His wounds opened and his guts came out and he put them back inside. Three of my prostrations equal one of his. He watered the earth with his tears. If we had been in his place, we would have gone to the hospital to take care of us. The laymen will judge us.

[1] Dabachi Constantinos, national hero, colonel in infantry during the Second World War. He died in 1943.

[2] Makryanis Ianis (1797-1864). He was one of the leaders of the Revolution from 1821. He was arrested in 1852 and in 1854 he was released from prison. Sick he spent most of his time in the house or in a cave from the neighborhood he had filled with icons. He died on 27th of April 1864.

Excerpt from Spiritual Awakening– Pious Paisios the Athonite, Evanghelismos, 2012.