Despair is something completely demonic

In 1928 in the Holy Mountain there was a monk who had come from Athens and lived ascetically in a cell from Kapsala. He hadn`t got out of the Holy Mountain for years. In this time his parents had died and only his sister lived. Once he went to Athens to see her. When the neighbors found out that a monk from the Holy Mountain had come there, they gathered together to listen some words of wisdom. And the monk spoke to them.

Among the people who were there it was a gentleman who long time ago when the monk had lived in the world was one of his schoolmates and a very close friend. They used to go together to catechesis. Of course this one was older too and the monk didn`t recognize him after so many years. When all the others had left this one remained and said:

`Father, my brother, don`t you recognize me?`

`I don`t know you.`

`I`m your friend, so and so.`

`What are you saying, my brother, is that you?`

He embraced him and kissed him with joy and emotion. Then that man said to the monk:

`Can I talk to you?`

`Of course, anything you want.`

Then listen. When I was here and we went together to the church to catechesis I was fine with you. You went to the Holy Mountain and I fell into a deep darkness. What haven`t I done? I`ve sunk everywhere…When my parents found out in what situation I was my mother died of grief. I didn`t go to her funerals. Then my father died too and I wasted all the fortune he had left me. I slept on benches and in the worst places where no one could ever imagine. And now I am a wreck. Could I be received in the Holy Mountain in my condition?`

`How not? Then for whom did Christ crucify Himself? For whom did He come on earth? For the sick and the sinners. If you are sick do come!`

`Won`t I dirty the Holy Mountain with my presence?`

`No, my brother, come along, we receive you.`

`When are you going to leave?`

`On that day.`

`I`m coming too.`

He took him to the Holy Mountain but because he didn`t have trust to leave him in another community he took him into his. He had a small task to fulfill and he struggled. But the sin causes death. He got sick of tuberculosis. Then tuberculosis was as it is cancer nowadays. We used to call it a holy disease because it prepared the man and gave him the passport for the afterlife. Therefore as this monk lived a life of privations it came the time to be made a monk.

`Geronda, he said, if you make me a monk, call me Manasseh. Cause as that one betrayed the people of God and led them to idolatry and sinned a lot before God, I sinned and for this reason I want to call me Manasseh.    

`Well, son, it will be as you wish.`

In this time his tuberculosis aggravated. When he saw that he couldn`t stand on his feet lied down in bed. There they went the monks and they read for him the Paraklesis of Theotokos, they read from the Psalter and the priest gave him the Holy Eucharist. One day when the monks were reading he cried:

`Fathers, stop, stop, don`t chant anymore. Don`t you hear the angels who sing: Blessed is the path you will walk on, brother for there was prepared a resting place for you. Don`t you hear the angels chanting?

And when he uttered the word `chanting` he closed his eyes leaving this life.

You see, my sons? This man lived such a sinful life I don`t want to give any details about it for not hurting your ears. And after one year of repentance the angels sang for him `blessed is the path…`That is why nobody should despair since despair always comes from the devil and never from God. We are fought by passions too but when despair appears let`s say: `It`s enough. We don`t listen to you, because Christ crucified Himself for us.`

We had another monk. This one young as he was fell into sins. But he stood up on his feet and made his canon, his prayers with the rosary. And his mind told him: You with so many misdeeds you have done how to make your canon? But this one got up and fulfilled his duties. This lasted for long years. He threw him into mistakes and he got up again. The devil was saying: `What`s wrong with this one? I cannot enslave him. Now I am going to attack him for the last time with a deadly blow.` He appeared before him and said:

`Aren`t you ashamed to make such a sin then get up dirty and make your canon and your prostrations? Aren`t you afraid of God?`

`Listen, said the monk. My cell is like a smithery. The blacksmith has the hammer and the anvil. He lifts the hammer and hits the anvil and does this so many times. It`s the same here. You give me a blow, I give you one. But on Jesus Who came and crucified Himself in the time of Pontius Pilate I swear that I will fight with you if you fight against me. I will fight against you till death. And in the end Jesus will win.

The devil seeing that the monk had never surrendered when facing despair immediately after he heard this answer said:

`Fine, I am leaving you. I stop fighting you for not giving you the chance to  receive rewards for the war I am fighting against you.

And in the end he left that monk and the poor man made his canon crying peacefully. At last he sanctified himself.

You understand? The devil knocked him down and he stood up again. The monk gave him a blow and the devil fell down. The devil didn`t defeat him and due to him the monk received divine rewards because he fought. And this war lasted for long years.

That is why the Christian should never despair but fight until death. Never leave your soul to the spirit of despair. Despair is something demonic. God will never allow the absolute perdition of the man, no matter what situation he might have, no matter how fallen he would be. Because God is always hope, joy, relief and courage. On the contrary the closeness to the devil brings despair, fear and all the rest. For this reason we will have to strive when it comes to strengthening our hope. Let us always hope that God will help us even in our falls. Of course this will not be obvious but due to different happenings He will reveal Himself and His care for our salvation.

Sometimes in the cobweb it`s caught a small fly and it starts buzzing. Then somebody hears it and goes to escape it. If it didn`t buzz the man wouldn`t go to escape it and help it to fly in the air. In the same way we,  if we fall we should buzz to be heard by God. What kind of buzzing will we be make?

`Lord Jesus Christ please forgive me. I sinned, Lord, please forgive me. Then we will fall again and then we will get back on our feet. How do the wrecked escape from the storm? The waves throw them to and fro but if they have patience and don`t despair they will find something to cling on. In the same way if we fall into despair and give up on our arms we sink and are eaten by the sharks.

xcerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

Worshipping idols and honoring icons

Sometimes there is a monk or another in the Holy Mountain who at first sight seems a mad man. He is atypical, jokes, makes grimaces, but soon you find out if you greet him that he may make you muse when he tells you things from your life.

This is what happened to me on one of my pilgrimages there. On one gorgeous afternoon I was at one of the cells from Lacu Hermitage with many monks among whom it was one who was special.

When I met him the first impression was very strong. First of all what shocked me was his rare humbleness. He kissed the hands of all people regardless of their age or social status. It didn`t matter that you were a monk or a simple pilgrim in the Holy Mountain. In thought he was crazy. However who knows him, knows that he is not crazy in the signification we give it to the word, but mad for Christ in the true meaning of it.

That father only plays the role of the fool in society, his method is to protect himself of praises and vainglory. When I arrived at the cell I saw that he took my hand by force bent and pressed his lips on it in an unfeigned kiss.

I was shocked and puzzled seeing that gesture but I understood that it was caused by the profound humbleness for the entire creation. I did not deserve such a considerarion for sure. So I replied that I was the one who was supposed to kiss his hand and I had no idea why he changed the roles. He smiled without answering me. I couldn`t stop thinking that he had a problem. But I understood soon that I was the one with problems.

Being seated around the table for having a snack the subjects of conversation came naturally. In this time the monk began to make small jokes which made all of us smile. And this is what he wanted to make us smile. He looked at me while I was wondering if he followed any treatment. In that moment he smiled and told me what I was thinking about him, that he was crazy.

Then  he surprised me talking about my personal and professional life, about things known only by me and never shared to the others. The other monks looked at me smiling faintly. All those present there knew him, except me. As I found out later, I was not the first person to whom he told what the person had done in his life or what he was supposed to do further on to improve it. 

Then I came to know indeed this beautiful father who wandered going on pilgrimages from place to place in the country and in the Holy Mountain without monachal robes but respecting the monachal votes and correcting the people by simple words but with a great meaning and importance.

I was curious to find out from his mouth what opinion he had about worshipping the Holy Icons. Wasn`t it a kind of worshipping idols which is forbidden by the Orthodox teaching? The question took his mask down. His face became serious with such a profound look I had rarely seen. He had turned into a speaker of God.

`If we regard dully what a man does in the church while he honors an icon making the sign of the cross before it and we don`t think we may say that he worships a sculpted image. But the icon across the ages was a myrrh gusher, it cried and shed blood, spoke or changed its initial position. There are tens of examples or maybe hundreds as you found out. The wonders of an icon can`t be made by a sculpted image. That is why it can`t be put any mark of equivalence between an icon and a sculpted image. Worshipping a sculpted image it reminds of worshipping idols. If you worship idols you do nothing else than putting them above God. This is called abandonment. The Holy Trinity, GTheotokos or the Saints are not idols. When we honor an icon we do not honor a sculpted image but the person who is represented by the icon. Although we make the sign of the cross before the icon in fact we worship in spirit and truth the person who is painted by the icon maker. Now you understand why honoring icons is not the same thing with worshipping a sculpted image as the sectarians believe? Their confusion is huge and they don`t make any effort to understand the things the way they are, the father ended his discourse shaking his head with regret.

Excerpt from the book Down to earth, complete edition, author Ionuț Riteș.

Let us assume the storms of our brothers in our prayers

With the storms of life we learn from the experience of prayer the great benefit, the escape. Without prayer we cannot defy the wilderness of the storm. The waves are always caused by troubles, sorrows, pains from the children, husbands, relatives, from the worries of earning what is necessary, from diseases, from demons or from our passions. In every moment we have a temptation and a small or big storm. Then we immediately need the remedy of prayer. Let us kneel down and raise our hands and beseech and pray and cry and God will answer to us from the skies. Let us not despair when the frightening waves of life threaten us. Everything is calmed down and quieted.

What does the captain do when he sees the storm? Do you think that he goes against it? NO, he stops the engine and leaves the ship to float on the waves. And when he sees the storm stops, he starts the engine again and goes further and thus the ship escapes from a wreck.

So when we see the storm we should stop the engine, quench the temptation, stop the danger by kneeling down. We shall kneel down, pray and immediately the sea will begin to calm itself. When we acquire this experience we will feel a great joy because we have found the remedy for facing, for fighting with, for stopping the troubles and pains of life.

That is why it is necessary to kneel down every morning and evening or anytime we need and pray to God. By praying to Him we will receive His help, His grace, the guardian angel will always be beside us, protecting our soul and body. The dangers are of both kinds: spiritual, not to sin and physical, to avoid a danger. In their daily life, in wars and everywhere the men of God experienced this thing and acquired a redeeming experience.

What did Christ do when He had to face that great struggle from Golgotha? When he Had to lift His Cross and climb on Golgotha and be crucified, what did He do? H knelt down and his agony turned into sweat. Our own life is a Golgotha too. Let us kneel down and say: My Lord if I must face this trial please help me! And because of my helplessness it will kill me, please escape me! And with this weapon of the prayer we will fight with the storm of the sea.

When the prophet says, `when the sea is raging I run to Your shore, I receive Your help and I escape`, he refers at prayer.

As we said in our previous homily from yesterday in our prayer we should assume the storms of our brothers as well not only ours.

Let us pray so that they may be helped by God, cause when we pray for our brothers, God helps us too. Let us pray for ourselves and for our neighbor as well. Let us pray without cease according to the word of saint Paul, the Apostle:

pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances [1]; let us thank Him both in trials and when He sends us His blessing.

Saint abba Isaac the Syrian says: Remember God in time of peace so that He may remember you in time of trial. Do not forget Him when He gives you a soothing or different blessings because of you don`t forget Him then, He won`t forget you when the trials and dangers will take you down. He will help you because He will remember you.

Now that we learnt the prayer is the only means of escape from any danger from our life let us take care of it with all the power of our soul. The devil comes and says: Leave it now. You are tired and you cannot pray. Leave it until later.` The  we must say: `No, now I will kneel down to pray. I won`t say many things. I will say a few words to God and make five prostrations. And by doing so he receives God`s blessing and we will do a little bit more and thus the prayer grows and we benefit.

I pray humbly for you every day and I beg you to pray for me too because everyone of us has his fight. And since we all have trouble in our life our prayers must meet and we must help each other.
May the most Kind God and our Lady the Theotokos make us be worthy to meet again in good health and with God`s blessing. And when God wills to receive us in heaven, may He receive us all, so that nobody will miss the celebration of that great day of eternal Easter. Amen.

[1] I Tessalonians 5, 17.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation, Evanghelismos Publishing.

The awereness about death is a good thing

The world we live in is simmering with information which are bombarding us ceaselessly. It is more and more difficult for us to understand what is true, what is important for our life, for a more and more alert and superficial life, focused on the material side of daily survival. From this informational race are not missing of course the temptations related to the prediction of the future. The idea of finding out aspects from the coming or further future is extremely tempting when it appears in a difficult moment or out of a curiosity which cannot be controlled.

`Father, how can some people know the future ignoring the fact that they are specialized in divinatory arts?`

`Let’s take for example the prediction of the future in cards. They are some mere drawn pieces of board, do you think they have any intelligence of their own?`

`Of course not`.

`This means that someone from the invisible world arranges the cards.`

`It seems so. But there are some people who don’t ask for money for something like this. But there is no need because there the exchange currency is not money but the soul. You can`t imagine that the demon stays all your life to arrange your cards and he won`t ask for his payment. And here we don`t refer only at cards. The same rules apply for all these so called divinatory arts. Those who practice this thing may not know to whom they ask help. If they knew that the demons are behind this act maybe they would give up on it. The help invoked in these occult ways comes without doubt but the final payment is a cruel one because the soul is priceless. You would give all the fortunes in the world to retrieve your soul but it might not be possible anymore.`

`And then what is to be done?`

`Who does something like this should throw the cards in the fire, confess and give up for ever at such habits. Anyway the demons cannot prophesy. They don`t know the truth. But they know the situation and having no limit in what regards movement in place, they can find out things faster than you warning you about a certain situation. This is all they can do. On the basis of an experience of thousands years of fight against man they may anticipate some things but not knowing the future for sure the rate of their errors is big. And of course is the same about those who involved in all kinds of forms of prediction of the future. For what they do the people don`t use the term certitude but probable future. If God had wanted He would have created us from steam not from what we are. He could have given us any kind of freedom of movement, of understanding, of finding out what will happen in the future, unlimited qualities. But He wanted to create us the way we are and this was for our protection, for our own good. Let me give you some easy examples. We have a limited sight. Some people after using drugs or practicing some exercises widen their sphere received when they were born. But wherever they look instead of seeing special things they see only horrible things because the astral as they call it is full of demons. That is why we are protected. So they are deluded by what they see. Some have a special hearing and they say is clear  and audition. They hear more than a normal person. But beside what a normal person hears this one hears other things which frighten him. We are not prepared yet to hear horrible things. The demon is so ugly that if we saw him we would lose our conscience and we could die. It`s no use to speak about the voice of a demon, you heard recordings with possessed people. And now the people who are discontent about the gift of life as they received it try to access the future risking the salvation of their souls for obtaining some information which in fact may not help them at all. Or they do this thing from the desire to be apart of the others, more evolved as they like to think about themselves.`

`I have never thought about these things in the way you presented them to me.`

`However I can show you the future but you have to come with me.`

`Father, I hope you don`t have such qualities, I hope your charge is not the soul.`

I did not receive any answer to my comment. We left the cell where we were located on the mountainside. It was dark night and I followed the father closely because he knew the way, which was very difficult to walk on. The strange noises of the wild animals us all along our way increasing my fear. But I was also very eager to see what was going to happen. What could the father want to show me? Some minutes before that he had explained to me the hard sin of accessing a world which is forbidden to us for our own good. If he invites me to show me the future this thing doesn`t come in contradiction with what I learnt?` I was to find the answer after some more minutes we needed to walk the distance till what it seemed in the darkness to be a small church.`

`I hope you are not fearful`, the father inquired me careful to see if I could face the situation. He felt I hardly controlled my emotion. In this mood he led me behind the church where he opened a small door which led to a room under the church.`

`Come in`, he said firmly. I followed his urge and stepped in, into complete darkness and a piercing coldness which almost paralyzed me. I heard the steps of the father who was close to me, I felt his breath. Before starting to ask for explanations he lit a candle. The yellowish light cut the darkness and revealed hundreds of skulls which seemed to stare at me. We were in the ossuary of the monastery. Then I understood. This is the future for sure. It`s my future and the future of all the men on the earth.

`As you see, the father said, this is the certain future, not the one imagined by wizards. If you came here daily and see those who passed on earth before you, you would become aware permanently that life is limited and finishes quickly, too quickly to quarrel since you might not have time enough for reconciliation. The awareness of death is a good thing. It doesn`t let you go wrong, it reconciles you with the people, it stops you from sin especially because you don`t know when it comes the end. And then you don`t allow yourself to make mistakes anymore. You don`t deviate anymore from the path of salvation.

I thanked the father for the lesson he has given to me. Any other word would have been useless. I fell asleep that night thoughtful, with the image of the pairs of empty and dark eye sockets lit for some moments by the candle. A testimony of our transitoriness on earth.

Excerpt from the book Down to earth, author Ionuț Riteș.

We must listen and honor our spiritual father as fights for the salvation of his spiritual sons

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Philotheos

Now I will tell you something very personal from my life of novice lived near the Elder:

„I was in the desert and it was the feast of the Holy Spirit. Father Athanasios had brought us dry bread, tomatoes, grapes and many others. The Elder told us:

`Take your bags and go down to carry the things brought by father Athanasios because they will be eaten by mice.`

`May it be blessed.`

We went down to the seaside to load the things which were very heavy. I loaded the bag and started the climbing back. The sweat was flowing heavily and I felt my feet were numb. Only toil and pain.

Then satan started to drip poison in my heart. My mind told me: `See, your Elder sends you to carry. While he is not carrying anything he asked you who are sick to carry! He shouldn`t have sent you down on the seashore being sick. But on a day like that when all the monks from the monasteries rest in silence, staying in their cells and praying with the rosary and reading, we go to carry? We don`t care about any Sundays or feasts? What Elder is this one?`

My brothers were bigger and stronger and they didn`t mind that. But I was only a novice of 19 years old and for this reason he punished me as he liked.

Climbing with that burden on my back the devilish thoughts made that burden much m ore heavier. I had about 40 kilos on my back and the thoughts made it weigh 400. But with the Elder`s enlightenment and teaching I faced the trial and said against that: ` You are wrong thinking that way. Christ raised the Cross on His shoulders and they offended Him, they cursed Him, they pierced Him with nails and crucified Him but He did not comment against His Heavenly Father only said:

` My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will`[1].

Since this is the will of the Elder, let it be done. I want to change my flannel and wear a clean one, I will go to eat and sleep in my bed. Christ does not sleep on the Cross and I dare speak. I toil and show obedience. I am obedient till death. I don`t care about what day or work it is. The only thing I care about is obedience. Narrow and saddening path! I left my will in the world.

Today, you, tempter, killed me, but I will take my revenge on you! I will fix you down when I am up. I will tell everything to the Elder.

We got up exhausted. But I was not able to see the Elder because he was resting and I could not bother him. I ate bread and we were about to rest for the vigil. I said to myself: `I am going to give you something in advance. I took some sharp stones and put them on the floor I put a coat over them not to be seen and I sat down with the mantle I had since it was summertime. It hurt me and I felt bad and said: `Now sleep here to get your lesson. Christ suffered on the Cross and you want a mattress? Now willy-nilly you will suffer for these thoughts.

Then looking at the Crucified One I saw the snake who had come to bite me and make me judge my Elder, to humiliate him and stand against him. When I saw the Crucified One I killed the snake with His grace and with the prayer of the guardian angel and of the Elder. Afterwards I fell asleep. Of course my cell was a small cave where you could not stand up. I had a wooden cot and before me there was mud.

When I woke up for the vigil I had much joy in my soul. God saw my intention – of course it was something done by a novice – and showed me somethingwhich was beyond my powers. I saw myself in a field. On my right side there was Elder Joseph and on my left side was Elder Arsenios. He told us: `Constantine the Great will pass by. Kneel down before him and honor him. And we fell on our knees indeed. When I stood up to look at him and kiss his hand instead of the great Constantine I saw Christ as a small infant. He bent and kissed me. The joy I felt is indescribable.

I ran immediately to the Elder and told him what had happened: what the devil had told me and what I answered, what punishment I had and what I saw. And the Elder told me:

`After the struggle God gives His grace in a sensible way to assure you that He received your endeavor. This is the way He comforts His servants. But do not do such things again.`

Thus I got rid of the poison of the viper of that evil advice from the devil. Looking at Christ, the Crucified One, we face the attacks of the demons.

See how the devil tries to separate us from our Elder? My Elder told me how we should see our spiritual father: I did not come here to work for me, you came for the love of Christ. I am a man with my own weaknesses. Think, believe that the Elder holds the place of God`s representative. Everything you do for your Elder, you do for God, not for his sinful person, but for his worthiness. What does the command say? `Honor your father…`

If we have the command to listen and honor and respect our fleshly parents, then what are we supposed to do for our spiritual father who fights for the health of his spiritual sons!

 [1] Matthew 26, 39.

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

God’s endless love and forgiveness for men

The Holy Gospel is by excellence God`s Book, which shows very clearly to all of us, to all the people, what is His will. Christ is the One Who speaks to us Himself with His Mouth bringing light and peace in our life. We`ll read the periscope of the Holy Gospel and explain the Word of Christ:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

 Then Jesus told them this parable: `Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.`[1].

We see here that they approached Christ. Sinful men, publicans, prostitutes touched Him and ate with Him. And Christ received them with all His divine love and humbleness. But the Pharisees having selfishness and pride misinterpreted this. They considered very wrong the fact that He allowed the men whose life was sinful to approach Him and touch Him. But in this periscope our Lord and Teacher tells them they had no love, no humbleness, hating men and despising their neighbor and even if they were sinful themselves they considered themselves righteous.

We see Christ`s love spreading and welcoming joyfully all the sinners and saying:

`The publicans and prostitutes overtake you in their walking towards the Kingdom of God.`[2]

He wanted to emphasize that those about whom the Pharisees had such an impression and judged them would be the first ones to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. This kindness of Christ gives so much courage and hope! Who can state after these that he is sinful and God doesn`t forgive him and receive him?

And the evangelical periscope continues the story about the lost sheep.

`Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.` [3]

The man who had one hundred sheep and had lost one went far away crossing mountains and valleys, leaving behind the 99 sheep to find the lost one. And when he found it, he took it on his shoulders and brought it back to the flock having a great joy that he saved the lost sheep from the mouth of the wolf. He doesn`t have the same great joy for the sheep which are in the stable as for the one he had saved. In the same way God has a great joy and the Angels from the skies rejoice with Him for every lost soul who has found through repentance the path to salvation.

We are sinful. Let`s suppose our life lasts one thousand years and we live them in debauchery. We live the life of a robber, full of sins, filthiness and injustices. However if at the end of this life, in the very last moment we repent and ask for forgiveness, do you think God will tell us: `You`ve come now? You came back after you neglected Me? Go away, I don`t receive you ? ` God doesn`t do this at all, only asks from the sinful man when he comes back to remain steady in his return and repentance.

We all, from the highest in rank to the lowest one commit sins and are guilty before God. Each one of us sins in his way and offends God. No one makes exception. And here comes His wonderful mercy and covers everything. He doesn`t ask for anything else, only calls us: `Come back. Come back into the stable, go inside without looking back to what you owe me. Come to your senses, change your life, do not despair, do not lose your courage! The law of God`s love says that when a man repents there is no more debt, everything is erased because there is no sin to surpass the ocean of His forgiveness and greatness. Here lies His Splendor and Beauty! One of the beauties of God is this endless forgiveness He grants to the people.

[1] Luke 15, 1-7.

[2] Matthew 21, 32

[3] Luke 15, 4-7.

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

The contemplation of God is an endless heaven

After all those said, as a small advice, we will have to force ourselves to be vigilant and strive or rather have a permanent care how we will stand up to communicate with God the Father. By divine meditation we understand that the man was created only to occupy his mind with God. After we do everything is needed for the body and for the cares of life, all the rest of our time should be spent thinking about God and the afterlife.

The contemplation of God is an endless heaven. Thousands of heavens can`t be compared with the contemplation of God. These holy and experienced monks like my elder, who approach God and communicate sensibly with Him, become some spiritual astronauts who take the material stuff up to the spiritual world and search the things as they are and know only God and nothing else. `Me and God and nothing else!`  From here on it opens an endless contemplation of God.

With such contemplations and perception of God how to perceive the elders the desert as a seclusion from people? Only by remembering that they might meet a man they grow sad. The desert was a comfort for them. Saint Silouan rested in silence and when he needed to go out he threw his kamelavkion on his face so that he would not see anything which could distract his mind from the contemplation of God.

`Why do you cover your face, father?` they asked him. Don`t you want to see us?`

`No, brother. What`s the use of seeing so many things around when God made Himself man for me?`

He said these wanting to give an answer to his brothers but those who have the experience of contemplations realize what he meant by these few words.

The enlightenment these men receive is so intense that the man doesn`t find his words to express what he feels. He feels his soul as a bride of God, adorned with divine clothes (as a worldly bride feels she is united with her groom) and that it is fulfilled his spiritual wedding with the Son of God and the soul`s reached ecstasy for this wedding is eternal. This nuptial bond lasts forever.

In another state he feels as a child of God who will inherit the eternal Father Whose beauty cannot be understood or described and he adorns himself from the richness of his Father. Some other times the soul feels such courage as if it would be ready to sweep away all the herds of demons. These of course are just words but in feeling there is something incomprehensible which cannot be compared with anything else.

Once in the Great Lent in the first days from the first week, while we were in the desert, because we had a hesychast way of living, separated from one another, I went out to pick up some greens. But I can`t describe or explain what happened to me. However, I will tell it for the glory of God! I found myself   in heavens, among angels and chants. It was a ravishment of the mind, something frightening. If this state had lasted more I would not have been able to stand more on my feet of such a great delight. This was something coming out from God`s mercy since I was not able to explain it. It was not something coming out of my endeavor. And from this poor relish and knowledge I can tell what will happen with the man when he saves his soul with God`s mercy and not because of his deeds. Since nobody has deeds worthy of salvation. I feel so unworthy and small that if God didn`t help, I would be completely naked, perfectly aware of my wretchedness. If only we knew what God has prepared for those men who struggle till the end, we would say: `God, give us some more patience!`

Let us ask God to give us this patience, this zeal, this power. But I who tell you these things have nothing from these charismas because I did not work for my God, as I had to. That`s why I am rightly deprived of His benevolence.

 May God make us worthy to shelter Him in our hearts and feel Him alive and True now and in His eternal Kingdom!

Excerpt from The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

Mindfulness pill

Mindfulness (meditation in a conscious state of mind) lost its Buddhist roots and it might be harmful for you.

Mindfulness is on fashion as psychological aid. Recent reports of the latest discoveries suggest that the cognitive therapy based on mindfulness is as effective as the antidepressants used for preventing the relapse of the recurrent depression.

While the authors of the respective study interpreted the results in a less bright light saying that (in opposition with their hypothesis) mindfulness is not more effective than medication, many others declare in the media that mindfulness would be superior to this.

Mindfulness is a technique of meditation coming from Buddhism through which the individual tries to watch his present thoughts, sensations and feelings, without analyzing them. The aim is to create a state of pure awakening of the conscience.

What it was before a means for spiritual exploration was transformed into a panacea of the modern times – a therapy – of all the common human problems, from stress, to anxiety and depression. If we take daily this `natural pill`  we become open to numerous benefices without any side effects in comparison with the chemical pills like the antidepressants which have well known side effects we are all aware of.

We don’t know how it works

Mindfulness was put at our disposal and we buy it as it is. However numerous studies suggest that this causes many types of obvious psychological and biological effects. Despite the idea which is generally spread that science has proved how meditation can change our life, this is a myth. Studying the literature of the last 45 years regarding the science of meditation, we realize surprised that we don’t make anhy progress in what regards the way meditation works or who benefits more or less from it. The few meta analysis available presents reduced proofs that meditation would be beneficial reducing anxiety and increasing positive emotions. However it is less clear how powerful and how long lasting are these changes – do they work better than physical relaxation for example? Are they only a kind of placebo? The proofs regarding this issue are contradictory and nonconclusive.

The cognitive therapy based on mindfulness is a group therapy which lasts eight weeks and combine cognitive education with mindfulness techniques. This therapy was purposefully conceived for the treatment of the persons suffering from depression for preventing recurrence.

Beside the weekly group sessions, the participants are encouraged to practice daily at home mindfulness meditation (consciously) during the entire course of the therapy. This kind of therapy is more and more popular, being recently demanded to be applied in the national health system.

However we cannot be sure what’s the active ingredient of this kind of therapy. Is it the meditation itself which causes the positive effects or this has more to do with the learning to make a step behind and become aware of our feelings and thoughts within a support group. And why does it work only in certain cases?

The secondary effects

Mindfulness is present as a tehnique which has a multitude of positive effects – and only positive. It is easy to understand why it is so spread this myth. Ultimately staying still and focusing on breathing or on becoming  aware of the flow of thoughts and feelings it seems a rather inoffensive activity with a very low potential to cause something bad.

But considering that many of us stay sometimes alone with our thoughts it is not hard to understand that in certain cases would bring on surface hard thoughts and emotions – which we could face or not. However the scholars who studied this kind of meditation, mass media or the mentioned training courses rarely speak about the potential of the emotional and psychological disorders.

Thus we come to a significant point. Buddhist meditation was not invented to make us happier but to change our feeling of self awareness and of perceiving the world in a radical way. Taking into account this thing it is not surprising the fact that some people will experience negative feelings like dissociation, anxiety and depression. However as it is mentioned with small letters in the prescriptions of the drugs in the case of certain persons these secondary effects are not what the inventors of these pills want to promote.

In the case of some people penicillin  may save their life. In other cases this may cause a harmful reaction. The fact that your friend or family react at a certain pill in a way it doesn’t mean that you will feel the same effects. The same thing is true for mindfulness: for some it may be efficient or it may not have any effect but for others it may have harmful effects.

Mindfulness was torn from its roots, emptied of its ethical and spiritual connotations and it was sold to us as a therapeutical mean. Although this thing cannot negate its technical power for changing our conscience status having implications at the level of mental sanity, it limitates without doubt its naturalness and potential – as it was initially intended.

Many Buddhists disapprove the use of mindfulness in purposes which are different from what they meant it to be – to gain emptiness and free the spirit of any attachment. As has recently said Giles Coren, this technique was turned into a McMindfulness, which strengthens only the selfish tendencies of man.

The idea that each one of us is unique represents the basis for the individual therapy.But because f the approaches based on mindfulness, it remains very little space for someone’s individuality in part because it is a group practice but  also because there has never existed any serious attempt to discover why there are different reactions in what regards this meditation technique.

So if you apply it – as it is the case with any other pill we take – beware. Don’t use it blindly!

Source: theconversation.com

NOTE: THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY THE HETERODOX BUT EVEN  THEY WARNED US AGAINST THE USE OF THIS PRACTICE. THEREFORE ALL THOSE WHO SWALLOW THIS MINDFULNESS PILL SHOULD BEWARE!

Counsels of some Elders and Confessors

The vision of pious Pachomius to Theodor about the truth of the Church and the aberration of the heresies

When I chose the monachal life I was in a state of unrest. I was called either by the disciples of Meletius of Lycopolis or by those of Marcion to join them and accept their teaching.

I found that there were more other heresies and each one of them sustained that it held the truth. I prayed to God with tears in my eyes to show me where the truth

was found, being in a state of absolute confusion.

While I was praying I went into ecstasy and I saw the whole creation below the sky as if it were night and I heard from many places voices that were saying: `Here is the truth.` And I saw many following each voice and being led into the darkness one by one. Only in the Eastern side of the world was seen a torch on the heights that was shining like a star. From there I heard a voice which said to me: `Do not let yourself be deluded by those who draw the men in the dark, but follow this light because here lies the truth.` And immediately it was heard another voice which said: `This torch you see shining like a star will shine for you one day brighter than the sun. It is the annunciation of the Gospel of Christ, preached in His Holy Church where you were baptized. Christ is the One Who calls, in the person of Athanasios the bishop of the Church of Alexandria. The other voices from the dark are those of the heresies, each one of them having as master a demon who calls and deludes many men. Thus seeing many running towards the bright torch, I gave glory to God.

After ignoring those who wanted to delude me, I stayed with the man of God Pachomius who followed the saints until an angel of God appeared to me and said: `

`Warm up those who come to you with the fire lit for you by God` And under his guidance I founded with the help of God these monasteries. Know that Athanasios bishop of the Church of Alexandria is enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

***

Saint Pachomius said to the monks of the monastery that the Holy Spirit announced him about Athanasios, the bishop, the following: `I raised him as a pillar and a torch of the Church.` Many troubles and slanders from people await him because of his righteous faith in Christ, but he will defeat all temptations and receiving in the end power from Him, will preach the truth of the Gospel in the Churches.`

 (From the book `Life in the first communal monastery”, Armos Publishing, Athens1991)

***

Saint Ioannikios the Great (sec. al IX-lea), to the emperor Teophilos the Icomach: That one who does not show the due honor to the icons of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints will not be received in the Kingdom of God, even if he lived a pure life. As those who dishonor and disregard your images are not your friends and they will be severely punished, those who hold in derision the icons of Jesus Christ instead of reigning with Him will be thrown in the eternal fire.

***

Saint Peter (IXth century) when he felt that he was close to death, advised his disciples the following:

`Run tirelessly in the arena of spiritual life if you want to receive the reward. Annihilate your passions. Do not use earthly things and do not get attached to them but remain far away of them, sheltering yourselves under the wings of divine hope. Hate the pleasures of life and become enemies of gorging. Only in this way you will be able to delight yourselves of spiritual joys, the only true ones and you will taste the unspeakable and amazing sweetness of the beauty of Jesus. Be steady as rocks in the true faith and avoid any connection with the heretics. If there will be persecutions against you, receive them gladly, since Jesus said: `Blessed are the persecuted ones…` Farewell, my dear sons, be strong in God to whom I entrust you.`

***

Saint Metodius suffered for the faith. A messenger of the emperor came from time to time to ask him if he accepted to throw the icons, for being released from the cave where he was. The saint answered to him:

`I am ready to endure death a thousand times rather than denying my faith about the Corss and the icon  of my Saviour and Lord.`

He remained for eight years in that dark prison. The emperor Michael when being close to death released all the prisoners from jails and allowed saint Metodius to see freedom. He was only skin and bones.

With a pale face, broken chin, without teeth and bald head, he looked like a skeleton. But his soul was not discouraged, his strength remained unaltered and the apostolic flame shone within him more brightly than ever.

He used immediately the freedom and the power of speech given by God for preaching the steadiness of the Orthodox Faith. He went either to hermits and monks  or to state clerks, in the houses of patricians and proconsuls, supporting some of them, converting others on the path of duty, reviving souls and exalting crowds.

After he dedicated himself to preaching in the city with all his might, he crossed Propontida and went to the episcopate from Kios and on the mountain from its neighbourhood he founded the monastery Elegmon.

He led his zealous community for a few years and prepared striving monks for the fights to come when emperor Theophilus began in his 4th year of rule the bloodiest persecution.

Saint Metodius blamed him that he was one of the greatest enemies of true faith and a stubborn fighter against the holy icons.

Teophilus called him at Constantinople and invited him to the palace: When will you stop troubling the Church and the kingdom with your admonishments about such an insignificant problem like that of the icons? Aren’t you that one who went to Rome to persuade the pope to involve in this dispute and didn’t you bring him dogmatic books where is found the new Creed?`

If the problem of the icons is unsignificant and it doesn’t deserve to be discussed, said the saint, why you ruler of the Roman empire don’t you destroy the pictures with your image as you destroy those with the image of Christ ? Why don’t you accept to be dishonored and debased as you dishonor and debase Jesus Christ? I see that on the contrary the pictures with your image increase and you are pleased to see that they are honored everywhere.

Teophilus did not tolerate this opposition, because Metodius had strong reasons. He ordered to be given to him six hundred rod blows on the naked shoulders and chest of this saint confessor of faith.

Saint Metodius, bathed in his own blood, seemed as deaad. His body by the emperor’s order was thrown through a hole in the cellars of the palace.

During night, some brave Christians succeeded to take him out of there. Taking care of him brought him back to life and they in time they healed him completely. But they paid a great price for their courageous deed. When Teophilus heard that the saint was alive he confiscated the houses and fortunes of those who had saved him.

***

Emperor Theodosius was once attracted by the Arians to their heresy and he supported them. But Amphilochius, bishop of Rome schemed against him in the following way. Theodosius named his son Arcadius as Caesar, as emperor.

Thus the servants honored both of them father and son as emperors. Once Amphilochius presenting himself to the two emperors greeted only Theodosius according to his rank.

The emperor got angry and admonished Amphilochius saying: `Don’t you know that my son is emperor too?`

Then the bishop turned towards Arcadius, blessed him and was about to leave.

Theodosius full of anger, addressing to Amphilochius, asked him if that was the appropriate greeting due to be given to an emperor. Then turning towards the emperor he said:

`Emperor, did you anger because I did not show the due respect to your son? Think how angry must be God with you for supporting in your kingdom those who blaspheme His Son and do not consider Him equal in importance with the Father?`

About God’s providence Orthodox Catechism

129. After the creation of the world, does God take care of it?

God takes care of the world. This work by which God takes care of the world is called pronie or providence. Through providence, God preserves the world in its totality, and every thing and being, He protects and directs them towards good purposes. The Providence sustains any good work. It produced the prophecy in the Old Testament and the plan of salvation.

It is shown in all the things of the world, from the smallest to the greatest ones, that God knows and cares for, as the Savior Himself says to us: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew VI, 26). “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground outside your Father’s care.”(Matthew X, 29). “God,” says St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, “not only has brought to light the creation, but after he has brought it, he cares for it. If you say Angels, Archangels, the highest powers, if you say all the seen and unseen, all of them enjoy His providence. Without this work, they go, drain and perish. And CLEMENT the Alexandrin says, “The appearance, the order and the mastery of seen things show us the divine providence.”

Through providence, God not only preserves, but also leads the world, that will receive a change for the better. St. EFREM SIRUL writes about providence “I saw houses and I thought of the housekeeper. I saw the world and I understood the providence. I saw a ship sinking without its shipmaster. I have seen the people’s deeds not doing anything without God, who leads them. I have seen different cities and republics in their constitution, and I have understood that everything exists through God’s order. The flock is of the shepherd, and the growth of everything on earth is from God.”

Through providence, God stops the evil and turns it into good, as the confession of DOSOPHTEI says: “The evil ones are known and allowed beforehand by God, but they don’t take care of them, for they have not done them. But once they happen, they are aimed to something useful by His endless kindness, and without being done by Him, are getting pushed for the better as much as possible.” God keeps and leads the world, working together with creatures’ powers, not without them.