DO NOT BEGIN TO PRACTICE VIRTUE IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO FIGHT WITH THE ENEMY

When you want to begin a work which is pleasant to God, first prepare yourself for the temptations you will encounter and do not waver for a moment.

Because the enemy, when he sees someone starting a good salvatory work with a strong faith, has the habit to impede him with different frightening temptations to make his zeal weaken because of them and have no more desire to do anything pleasant to God. And this happens not because the enemy would have such a power – because if he had had it, nobody could have ever done any good deed – but because God allows it so, as we found from Job`s parable.

Therefore prepare yourself to defy boldly the temptations which impede the practice of virtues and only then this work of yours will be pleasant to God. But if you don`t prepare yourself to defy the temptations, do not begin to practice virtue.

Excerpt from About temptations, sorrows, pains and patience– Saint Isaac the Syrian the God inspired, Evanghelismos, 2012.

I BEG YOU ON MY KNEES: RECONCILE YOURSELF WITH GOD!

Priest Ioan Istrati

We`ve been witnessing for about two thousands years one of the greatest miracles of the Savior: the healing of the blind from birth. Meaning of a man who had never seen before, who didn`t know how it is to see, who could not conceptualize light. Because no word on earth can express the light of the sun or the beauty of a face or of a flower. There are people who became blind in time: they withdraw themselves in a universe of bright memories, deepening themselves in the flow of their mind seeking a sparkle of light. But a blind from birth is a prisoner of absolute darkness. He doesn`t even know  what darkness is because he had always lived in it and his life had always been a torment of the one who is forced to live in a world composed of light without ever seeing it. His eyes were good only for crying not for seeing

His empty eye holes proved the disfunction of the hurt human nature kidnapped by darkness, the man lying in his own suffering which became like the air he always breathes.

The most common basic principles of mankind were foreign to him: recognition, resemblance, approach, smile, gestures, the passing of the days and nights all was a tarnished endless darkness without any difference, an endless night humming his suffering.

In this darkness of the human nature, where any search means a fall, where any obstacle means a clash, The Savior comes to the human nature blinded by sin and death. The blind from birth was illiterate, beggar, pitiable, source of crying and reason for crying.

Once his being touches the Light of the world, the darkness fades away as a result of listening. The washing – as a typology of the baptism – becomes a chance to see. A new universe opens for the one who had died all his life. The light pained him in his eye sockets newly healed under God`s hands of light. And all the beauty of the world entered his soul in an instant so he became a profound theologian and teacher of the divine mysteries. The beggar becomes giver of mysteries.

The illiterate deepens himself into the teachings of the eternal Logos. The place of wounds heals by word. How bravely he defies the blind teachers of the Old Law. How he laughs at those who are groping seeking a truth in their own useless life, he the one who had cried all his lifetime. Seeing the useless flunder of the Pharisees the man who saw the heavenly world, still feeling the saliva of God on his eye sockets says a supreme truth: `

„ We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.  Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

God is not a list of commandments, a moral structure, an ideatic composure, a sum of values. He is not a billboard of holiness. He is the Worker, the Present One, The Healer, the Doctor of the Universe, the Person Who is beside us and inside us in our depths.

He creates the world permanently out of the nothingness of its own sufficiency, He opens all the time new value galaxies in the souls, He impregnates the world with immortality and deepens the uncreated truth of grace in the corruptible matter. The blind from birth found out that the work of God is not just an account of miracles, but a miracle of history which is manifested in the present, vivid and vibrant in the souls of those who see. In vain you come to the church if you do not change your life in the Church of the Heavenly One.

In vain you honor the saints if you do not become one of them. In vain you marvel if you don`t become yourself an absolute marvel of the giving love. It is too late for cheap excuses. Christ walks on the road.

The beggar touched by the kiss of God finds the fundamental truth of history: the eternity from it. God is near, His hands touch the eyes of those who believe, His mouth gives healing, His beloved face becomes my face in an eternal embrace. We all are beggars, begging for the Kingdom, poor wretched at the gates of light, waiting for the touch of the hands of the One Who created the skies and the earth.

On my knees I am begging you: reconcile yourself with God!

BEFORE RETURNING UNDER EARTH, ALLOW US GOD TO RETURN TO YOU!

Priest Ioan Istrati

I am sad to see the attempts of some lukewarm priests to sweeten, to beautify and paint the dead who smells awfully.

This plague did not come out of God`s mercy, it is the infinite suffering of the Most Pure One, Who cries and leaves us in our outrageous sins, of people who killed God.

That is why we can`t stay one next to the other and we can`t embrace each other. Because we are to filled of the viruses of hate and malice.

The virus is only a material metaphor of the hell we built in our minds and which invades the world.

The plague is God`s tearful retreat out of a rapacious humanity which kills its babies – the flowers of eden – in the womb of their mothers, which builds the hell on earth by enormities of the killing pleasure.

The plague must kneel us down to cry to our Father we expelled from our hearts and minds, we cast out from our world, which without Him falls into death.

The plague must make us cry bitterly for our sins, to become kinder, at least before our death, to feel the huge pain of the poor, of the suffering, of the abused, of those destroyed by our huge callousness which sizes goods and souls.

If we don`t return on our knees to our Father, He loves us so endlessly that He will pass by us crying and we won`t ever see Him.

`Before returning under earth, allow us God to return to you.`

OUR FATHER

A man had many children but he was very upset because his offsprings quarreled behaving maliciously. And they went on doing this repeatedly, meaning there was always dissension between them. They caused such a great pain to their father who wanted to see them living peacefully and in harmony.

Do you want to tell you who are these brothers so cruel with the others? We are, the people. Aren`t we all the children the sons of the same Father, of the same God? Do we have good understanding among us? Do we love our neighbor as we should do? Doesn`t God feel pain when He sees that there is so much dissension between people, so many lies, thefts, wars, sins of all kinds? Why did God create us? He made us to love each other to take care of one another. And God rejoice for all the good Christians, for every man who lives a life without sin, in love and understanding with his fellowmen, God rejoices as a father rejoices for His children.

Loving one another, seeking the goodness of the others more than our own we become better and wiser. Only in this way we get closer to God , to His Love and Kindness in each moment.

`Love one another as I have loved you!` (The Holy Gospel)

Excerpt from the book The Most Beautiful Orthodox Parables and Stories  – Leon Magdan, Aramis Publishing House – Romanian Patriarchy, 1998.

THE WORLD AS AN EMMAUS

Priest Ioan Istrati

Probably the greatest periscope from the Gospels, which moves me to tears, is the parable of the journey to Emmaus.

Two disciples, Cleopas and Lucas are going to a village called Emmaus in the in the Sunday afternoon of the Lord`s Resurrection. They were burdened by the grief of losing their Master. They had seen the heavy Cross on which the Savior had died, they had felt the nails in their hearts, they were feeling in their nostrils the smell of blood, the tears which were flowing down from their eyes were burning them. They had felt the huge pain of the One who soothed the pains of the sick, they had heard the terrible blasphemies addressed to the One who had made the deaf to hear. They had seen helplessly how their Rabbi had given His soul, they had seen dying the One who had called the dead from their graves and had given them life. They were disconcerted, frightened, terrified. The Kingdom of life and love Jesus had preached in thousands of ways had fallen down on Golgotha. All the joy of the thousands of healings had sunk in the deep mud from the foot of the Cross.

With their heads down, the disciples were walking hardened by pain, with their minds at their dead Savior. Well, when you think about God, not only that He thinks about you, but He is present there, near you, you can touch Him, you can breath him as a life miracle. While they were talking with each other and sought explanations, Jesus Himself came up and walked with them.`

What kind of force bigger than this world kept their lids closed impeding them to burst into the tears of recognition of the One they were mourning.

They sought explanations. Beside them there was the Fire Who would enlighten them burning inside them the darkness of the fall. The humble stranger who walked beside them was the Master of ages, the infinite Master, the Spring of all the genial ideas from the universe, the boundless Library of Love, the eternal Logos of the Father, the Creator of galaxies

How much boundless gentleness, fondness, sensitiveness and fineness this Stranger has.

`What are you discussing together as you walk along and why are you sad?`

The endless mind of the universe knew their entire life and eternity, knew when they were going to die, knew all the whispers of their lives, He was saddened by their grief, the suffering of each soul of this world was burning Him

Cleopas said sadly: `Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?`

Yes indeed, amen, He is the Stranger Who came to those belonging to Him and His folks did not receive Him. His Kingdom is not from this world, He created every human soul, but nobody recognizes Him, although He was there, in the mystery of the womb of each mother, in the eyes full of astonishment of every unborn baby . He breathed breath of life in the mouth of every baby taken out of the baptismal prophetical waters of the uterus, in the first whimper of life.

Nobody knows Him anymore, although He gave unique mind and eyes and heart and personality to everyone. They look with indifference at the One Who loved them first.

He kissed their cerebral universe and sealed them with His Face in everyone of them. `He became like me to make me be able to receive Him and He took my look so that I would never turn my face away from Him.`(The Odes of Solomon)

Poor disciples… What an embarrassing account about the Death of the One Who crushed the hell overlaid with eternal fire. We only hoped He was the One to save Israel…

Before foolishness, the eternal Wisdom of God sparkles light:

How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

The greatest course of theology of all times! The eternal Master speaks about Himself. All the millions of books of the world say so much less in their nothingness than what is uttered by the eternal and sweet Mouth of Logos. Their narrow minds struggle to comprehend the great meanings of history explained by Eternity in person. The psalms, the prophecies, the chants of the Old Testament are approaching timidly and offer their meaning.

The greatest course of theology of all times.

But Emmaus is near. The village comes stealthily towards them, the suns and planets are spinning around the uncreated Center of Creation. Here comes the verse which pierces the heart.

`Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.`

It`s the whole tragedy of the ages, the billions of dead of history, all the infinite suffering of the beaten, tortured, spitted, crucified, killed God, murdered by the ones He loved till the end. It`s the huge discretion of the Creator refused by the humans who are worming on earth.

Do you know what would have happened if he had said politely: Fine, farewell? They would have lost their eternity. The Light of their life would have gone away crying and they would not have seen Him again. A moment of their life which was more important than life itself.

The greatest course of theology of all times is not enough to recognize the One Who gave you life. All the doctorates of history are not worth as much as a crumb from His Eucharistic Body which is the Whole Body.

But the disciples are kept captive by the astonishment to listen to God. Their hearts were burning when the Fire in person enlightened their beings with His Light. But the almighty hand helped them to see. And they insist that He entered with them. The day has gone. Darkness has fallen over history. The intelligence of the world was crushed by the eternal Wisdom. There took place the essential fact of the world: the Resurrection.

And in the house the humble guest becomes the Master for He breaks the bread, meaning He breaks Himself and He hides Himself in a wondrous way in the Bread becoming the miraculous Eucharist of history. And their eyes are opened and the universe of ideas they had devoured without digesting it gets an eternal meaning. And they recognize Him : the Stranger is closer than their own hearts, the Eucharist is the supreme test of recognition of God. They don`t watch Him anymore, they receive Him, they nourish themselves with His being, He becomes their inside, the depth of mystery and love of their lives. From here flows the bright miracle called the Gospel of Luke, gentle like a teardrop falling down from the eyes of a Baby Who is God.

It`s a late hour in the world. It`s evening in history. I beg you on my knees: come back to God!

THE FIG TREE AND THE MYSTERY OF DEATH – MEDITATION ON THE HOLY MONDAY

Priest Ioan Istrati

The Matins Service from the Holy Monday of the week of the holy sufferings of our Savior Jesus Christ is held on Sunday evening at the beginning of the liturgical day. The cult`s texts of this Matins gravitate around the cursing of the fruitless fig tree by Christ who was on his way and hungry for the fruit bearing of the world. It`s an apparently inexplicable gesture, of a strange harshness, so different of the gentleness of the One with endless love.

More explicitly Christ passes by a fig tree who was completely fruitless because the time of fruition had not come yet. Then the Savior got angry and cursed the fig tree:

`Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.`

This terrible gesture of God towards His creation is one of a frightening deepness for us, the people of the world.

God doesn`t want  us to include Him in our routine schedule of once in a week, month or year, He doesn`t want us to bear fruit only when the time of fruition comes but all the time like the trees of heaven from Apocalypse or like those from the Shepherd of Herma, which bloomed and bore fruits without cease.

The human being is not a different species, set up to give fruit at a certain time, but the jug where it was poured the entire Love of God pierced by the nails of the Cross.

Humanity is not an evolved species, but an earthly form of life with a heavenly calling.

The human sight is not only the most penetrating from the whole creation, but God Himself looked beyond His tears with his human eyes.

The man is not only a receptacle of grace in small successive doses but the Chalice of Light where is poured the Blood of God given to the world through Eucharist.

Christ doesn`t want us to listen to the cosmic rhythm of times, but to be moved by His everlastingness, givers and receivers of God till the end

His Love is not only spatial, but fills the universe of uncreated light, His sacrifice is not only temporal, but eternal in its saving effectiveness, taking out of hell the deceased, enlightening the present and giving meaning and life to this universe.

We are the fig trees on the path of the Cross, waiting for a lifetime for God to approach us and ask us for fruit, lifting His hand towards us, hungry for our love.

We must prepare ourselves for this moment our entire life. The moment of our encounter with Christ of the Cross and Resurrection is our earthly death. Then it is asked from us the fruitage gathered by us as long as we stayed in the light of the Sun of Justice and drank from the of this world. Death doesn`t come at pre-determined times, it can`t be programmed, postponed or canceled. It is more certain than anything else on earth and asks for our inner fruit bearing, hidden among the branches of the heart.

We urgently need to nourish ourselves with God through Holy Communion, for being able to feed Him with our figs in the moment when we return to Him.

In this perspective we see why the atmosphere of the Matins from the Holy Week is one of profound, touching suffering together with Christ Who goes voluntarily on the path of the Cross, of Death and Resurrection. In the netting of tears surrounding the Lamb Who prepares for His Sacrifice, we feel as small parts of His Body this pain beyond nature and beyond world. It is the fierce pain caused not by the anticipation of the nails, the spear and beatings.

Christ cries furtively not for the lashings He will endure, not for the nails which would pierce His hands and feet. Not the heaviness of the Cross makes Him sigh deeply. It`s something harder and much more terrible which burdens Him. It`s the awareness of the fact that millions of people will refuse Him forever and will scoff His saving Cross, throwing at the edge of the being His divine blood, poured out of too much Love for mankind.

The hell created in our minds and hearts through sins is much more dreadful than any lash. The Cross Christ carries till the end of this world is our indifference, our own voluntary estrangement of the One Who loves us since an eternity, the blasphemy we bring to His tears of blood from Gethsemane.

There`s nothing more terrible tan the scoffing and the rejection coming from those for whom You are ready to die, being without sin. Christ took our sins on the Cross and carried them through blood to the Throne of Trinity for sinking them in the endless ocean of His divinity.

But the men for whom He died, many of them refused to see Him resurrected, cursed the light which pervaded the whole universe, turned their backs to the One Who was pierced for their sins.

It is the time for inner fruit bearing by prayer and tears. Any moment wasted by us never returns. Christ passes by us saddened, tearful, hungry for our love and we are so close to gather our branches like wings and watch Him passing by with indifference, unfeeling His pain. He loves us so much that He will never force our freedom compelling us to step in His Light.

He will pass by us crying and we will never see Him.

THE ENCOUNTER OF THE SAVIOR WITH THE SAMARITAN WOMAN IS THE SUPREME EXAMPLE OF A LIFE LESSON GIVEN BY GOD TO THE MAN

Priest Ioan Istrati

Midday, unbearable heat, the Son of God, exhausted of the journey and a woman gone unexpectedly at high noon to take out water.

Maybe because of shame or for another reason, she did not go in the morning like all the Samaritan  women to the spring but at high noon, when the earth is like an oven.

On one side, God, the One Who thoroughly knows the souls, having the soul of the Samaritan woman in His hand, watching with His piercing loving eyes the thousands of generations of suffering, abandonment and hope who were before that woman and all her apostolic future of sacrifice, joy and testimony.

When Christ wants to give the divine grace, to open the springs of the being to the pouring of light, when He sees the infinite desire of the man towards what`s uncreated,  He demands what He gives. He divinely reverses the roles. The spring of life becomes thirst for the beloved one. The giver of food to the whole universe is hungry for the love of men.

The One Who keeps in His hands safely the whole mankind desires to bend His head in the heart of the man who is a God bearing being. The spring of the eternal joy cries at the tomb of Lazarus. The hypostatic wisdom of Trinity asks questions about the events from Jerusalem. The eternal bread of all ages demands bread to eat from His creature.

This inversion of values comes from His endless humbleness which paradoxically unites the earth with the skies, the created with the uncreated, the man with God. Christ understands the human pains, not watching them from afar, from the condescension of an overruling sky, but feeling them and crying for the loss of the men whom He loved. In His Incarnation, Christ crushes His heart and enters the abyss of pain of mankind, He experiences in His love the abandonment of the man by God or better said the abandonment of the God by man: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

More than this: Christ not only feels the pains of the world, but He finds Himself in every poor, in every wretched man, in every suffering man of this world expanding divinely His healing being in all the oppressed of this earth:

`Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Each tear shed on earth flows through the eyes of Christ, falls on the cheeks of God and turns into a spring of light and comfort for those who are burdened by the yoke of this death.

BITTER CHERRY JAM

Priest Ioan Istrati

It was 10 years ago. I was a priest at the church Talpalari from Iași.

A very distinguished lady living very close to the church called me to her house. Her mother, of 80 years old, was in a comma, she hadn`t eaten or drunk anything for four days.

They had called the doctor who confirmed that all her organs were in collapse. `We`re waiting the end`, said the doctor. That lady had a plane ticket to go to her daughter in Canada so she was terribly concerned.

Either she left and the old woman died without her or she lost the plane tickets and could not leave anymore.

She told me:`Father, do something.`

I: My lady, we don`t pray for the people to die we pray for them to recover.`

`Yes, father, but I heard there are prayers for the release of the soul peacefully.`

We got in the wonderful villa from downtown Iasi. The old woman in a deep comma, with blank eyes and open mouth. I thought she had died. I noticed in the end a slight touch of breath from the moving of her chest.

I put my stole. I knew her faithful so I read the absolution prayer and communed her with the Body of Christ. Then I said the prayers for health, the release prayers, all of them.

Afterwards the lady told me: `Father, stay for a couple of minutes to eat some bitter cherry jam. It`s my favourite. We sat at 3 meters distance of the old woman and ate.

All of a sudden we heard: `You`re eating jam there and you don`t give to me? The old woman raised her head.

Her daughter googled her eyes and fainted falling down like a tree. I caught her. I sprinkled water from the glass over her. She recovered. But the old woman said: `Come with that jam because my mouth is watering after it.

We gave her jam making the sign of the cross.

`But don`t you have some meat cause I`m dying of hunger after four days of fast.`

The lady went and brought a plate with schnitzels. The old woman gulped happily.

`Father, when you gave me the Eucharist I felt like a fire in all my body like a spark moving through my veins and a great power.`

A tear fell down from my eye out of amazement. My hand was shaking on the tea spoon.

Every year the old woman calls me on my birthday inviting me to go and eat a bitter cherry jam

What a miracle of the universe is Christ the Eucharistic, what life, what light, what power, humbling Himself within us out of His endless love.

BY LOVE WE ARE SEATED IN THE HANDS OF GOD, BUT WHEN WE CHOOSE TO HATE, TO BE GRUMPY, DIFFICULT AND MISCHIEVIOUS WE ARE IN SOMEONE ELSE`S HANDS

His High Holiness Ignatie (Bishop of Huși)

«  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.I and the Father are one.”Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him». (John 10, 27-31)

How many of us have the vivid conscience of the fact that we are in the hands of God the Father?

The Gospel tells us that if we are in the hands of God the Father, no one could harm us and we could not lose our faith or quality of sons of God. Unfortunately, maybe we don`t know what means to be in the hands of God, to have the certainty that no one cantake us away from there.

Staying in the hands of God means according to the Gospel to become witnesses of the crucified Love of Christ.

He tells us Himself in the Gospel that the proof of being His disciples is to love each other. Only in this way we can be in the hands of God the Father.

Christ when He was on the cross, when He sacrificed Himself out of His absolute love for us, gave His soul in the hands of God the Father. Only in this way God receives us in His hands, if we have love for each other.

Without this love, we can`t stay in the hands of God. And if we are not in the hands of God, we can be kidnapped in amy moment. The devil can steal from us the sparkle of faith we have. We become disconcerted and we give up easily. We revolt against God, we don`t understand the meaning of the trials when they come over us. In this way we estrange ourselves and lose the warmth of faith in God.

The scholars and pharisees were ready to throw with stones in Christ because He confessed that He is the Son of God.

After such an attempt to throw with stones in Him, Christ tells them: `

«If you see that I don`t do the works of God, then do not believe in Me.

But if you see that I do the works of God the Father, even if you don`t believe in Me, believe in these works. In this way you will discover Who is in these.`

Everything we do in the Church, to serve the Liturgy, say the prayers, all these are the works of God by which He makes His presence felt in our life.

If there are moments when we don`t believe in Christ, at least let us believe in these works of God the Father.

In this way we will feel the presence of the Holy Trinity in our life. Let us try as much as we can to reach the awareness that by love we are seated in the hands of God. When we don`t love, when we choose to hate, to be grumpy, difficult and mischievous we are not in the hands of God anymore. Then we are in someone else`s hands.

Source: http://episcopiahusilor.ro

The heat of fire

During confession a young man asked his spiritual father:

`Father, I feel my soul is burdened by sins. How can I be again in peace, when I know I wronged?

`Son, the man must never lose his hope. Even if we sinned, God will forgive our mistakes but with a condition: to repent. To repent sincerely from the bottom of our soul. I`ll  give you an example. Outside is a freezing winter, the frost is terrible. Go and bring me  an icicle.

When the young man came back keeping the icicle in his hand, the priest took it and threw it into the stove, where the icicle started to melt immediately.

Did you see the ice you brought from outside? It was like that from the beginning of winter and  it would have remained the same no matter how long it had stayed in the frost. But if you brought it inside you see how it started to melt? It became again a pure and useful water. When it was frozen it was good of nothing.

It is the same with the soul when it freezes from so many sins. But if you repent sincerely, the warmth of your prayer and the grace of God melt everything is bad and bring you life and peace in your soul.

Look at the trees from outside, the priest said again. They are frozen from frost but in spring the sun will warm them and they will get back to life again.

In the same way you should have patience and trust in the kindness and mercy of God and repent from the bottom of your soul because as the warmth of the fire melts the ice, the sincere repentance heals the soul which is sick because of sins.

`The confession of the evil deeds is the beginning of the good deeds.`

 (Blessed Augustin)

Excerpt from The most beautiful Orthodox parables and stories  – author Leon Magdan, Aramis  Publishing– Romanian Patriarchy, 1998.