Marriage and Cross

Archimandrite Emilianos from Simonopetras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.familiaortodoxa.ro/

He sees everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

`Where is your brother?`

And that one answered:

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

Then God told him:

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

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

`You shall live on earth sighing and shuddering.`

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

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

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

False piety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaching the monastery the gate-keeper asked him:

`Where are you from, father?`

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Anthony The Great – About the attack of demons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Lives of the Saints–  Sihăstria.

Without a mentor, without a spiritual guide, without a confessor, nothing can be done

When I was young in the world I saw a movie which I remember and helped me at the beginning of my monachal life, in my first years when I put the foundation. It was a film about two boxers who were to have a fight. The trainer of the younger one before the fight said to his athlete:

`This technique implies sacrifices. You won`t drink, you won`t smoke, you won`t do immoral things, you won`t go with women, you won`t lose nights in order to be healthy and this will help you in the fight to win victory. If you don`t keep these you will fail.

But the young man didn`t keep all those rules and for this reason his trainer admonished him:

`You are not going well. It`s impossible to make any progress in this way. You afre losing your toil and I lose mine.`

That man opposed him and being a boxer hit his trainer so badly that he knocked the man to the floor.

But after a few days the moment of the fight came. He started the fight without his trainer beside him. The other one had an aid, he had his trainer who advised him and gave him strength. The fight began. The younger one was losing, he was always losing ground and the other one won. His trainer who was hidden behind was watching him and was saddened seeing his trainee losing even if he had been hit by him. He knew his moral was low and because of this reason he had no chance tom win. Anticipating that the end was coming he ran down and went near him in a break for rest and spoke to him quietly and advised him and gave him courage. That was it! His disciple stood up and fought right and in the last round he made his adversary knock-out.

This helped me very much when the devil gave me thoughts against my elder, I kept this inside me that without a mentor, without a spiritual father, without a guide nothing can be done. And I benefited hugely.

Obedience is the safest and most salvatory kind of life and from it there will spring joy, peace, childish simplicity, lack of malice. When I was practicing my obedience towards my elder I felt the people in a different way. I saw them with a purity of soul. Maybe I will be able to express it in words. Anywhere I went and anywhere I stayed even when I lied down in bed tears were flowing from my eyes because of the spiritual peace I felt. I had no thoughts, only joy and light in my soul.

My elder told me : `As long as you are obedient, the burden comes to me and you fly !`

When I made efforts to reach humbleness I could not put myself on the left side of the Judge, I only saw myself on His right. I asked my elder and he told me:

`Obedience takes you to the right side.`

And I said to myself : If only I died now as long as my Elder lives as long as I am obedient to him !` Trying to practice obedience, silence and prayer I acquired the prayer and peace of my Elder. This obedience with so many charismas we reach with a lot of toil when we want to follow our own will.

In Paterikon abba Minos says it so simply and exhaustively : Obedience in exchange for obedience. That one who listens to God is listened by Him.

And abba Isaiah says it even more clearly : It is impossible…Our own wills don`t allow our prayer to be listened. If we pray and we are not listened let us beware if we are not disobedient towards our Elder. It is not possible to receive grace from God all the time in the heart which doesn`t stop its desires and in the mind which doesn`t recollect itself from its wandering in vain.

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

The surgery was made by Elder Paisios in the morning

The story of Nikos Koulouri professo rat the Law University of the European University from Cyprus

In 2012 my student from the Law College of the DEuropean University from Cyprus, Stelios Kreuzos who is a journalist at PIK was diagnosed with water in his lungs and heart. He suffered for a year and a half being hospitalized for great periods of time in different hospitals.

In the end his physician recommended to him to have a surgery for taking out the liquid and for being released of his pains.

This intervention has a certain degree of risk as the surgeon said.

The day before the programmed day for the surgery my student got hospitalized. He felt a torturing agony waiting for the result of the intervention.

On that afternoon he was visited by one of his cousins who brought him a book about his starets (now the already canonized saint Paisios the Athonite) saying that its reading will help him to calm himself. Have into account that my students had only a superfluous  typiconal connection with God and with the Orthodox Faith until that day as most of us unfortunately have.

Thus my student began to read the Book of the Pious. At a certain moment he arrives at the place where according to what was related by his biographer, the Pious asked from God `to give him a cancer to put him to test` impressed the student very much. The following words of the Pious touched him deeply: My Lord, every day of my heart is in your hands! Then my student  began to repeat these words of the pious while tears started to flow from his eyes. My student crying continuously and being extremely touched continued to say: `My Lord, every day of my heart is in your hands!`

It was an indirect but essential form of prayer to God for the success of intervention.

His wife hearing him got in the ward and she asked him frightened why he cried. She tried to comfort him telling him that the intervention will be successful and he asked her to leave him alone and go home to take care of their two children and sleep promising her that he would be fine. Thus my student remained alone in his ward continuing to repeat the words of Pious Paisios and cry.

At a certain moment at a late midnight hour my student noticed like in a vision the presence of a monk. Instinctively and without realizing completely the meaning of his words he addressed to the monk and told him: Geronda Paisios if you came here for me please help me so that my surgery will be successful. And he continued to repeat crying the words of the Pious: My Lord every day of my life is in your hands!` This lasted until 5.45 in the morning when it was scheduled the intervention when my student fell asleep. He remembered that hour because before falling asleep he looked at his watch.

At 7 am the nurse came and woke him up to prepare him for the surgery. But he noticed that all his clothes and bed sheets were wet. He asked the patient if he poured water on himself and he denied it saying that he didn’t know anything about that. Then  the nurse after helping him to change his clothes with some dry ones moved him in the next ward to make a last test to find the position and the precise amount of liquid from the lungs and heart the surgeon needed for the intervention.

The preparatory who was working with the measurement device after he made the measurement told the nurse to move the patient at another measurement device because the one he used was out of order many times and it didn’t show anything. So they moved him to another device which never had any fault and was of a high accuracy. And that one detected that there was no liquid found in the patients organs.

The preparatory went to the surgeon and related that fact to him. The surgeon was a faithful man and he knew from what was related by my student everything happened during night in his ward. Then the surgeon asked him: Can you tell me what happened?`

But to be completely sure go and bring the patient to the tomography with the note referring at the diagnosis of the position and amount of liquid from his body.

After the consultation was over the doctor who examined the results got in touch with the surgeon of my student and told him that it was made a mistake in the sending sheet and the patient was sent for another reason at the consultation. And this happened because from the consultation resulted that there was no trace of liquid in the patient’s body.`

The surgeon told to the nurse to bring the patient in his ward. There he visited him immediately and told him to take off his vest for surgery, put on his clothes and go home. When my student asked the surgeon surprised: Well doctor but what will happen with my surgery the surgeon answered: The surgery was made by Pious Paisios in the morning. These facts were related by my student who from day glorifies God and prays to Pious Paisios all the time.`

Source: Pious Paisios, (Testimonies, Teachings), Ed. Enomeni Romeosini, Tesalloniki 2015

The priest sometimes carries practically the burden of sins of the people. Sometimes he falls. Let us not judge him! Let us pray for him!

I`ve noticed lately a fury of the civil society against the clergymen but what`s more terrible is that the Orthodox Christians do the same thing. It shocks me that almost nobody, neither clerics, nor laymen, has any reaction of defense or at least a direct approach of the matter. I know I will open a Pandora`s box but if no one else does it what`s to be done?

We see sometimes, unwillingly, some negative cases of priests and we don`t go into any details, because there are others who take so much care to do this. And it is automatically created the impression that we are lost as a Church, because `if the priests are the way they are, what to ask from a layman? The Church lost ground

Stop! Let us be realistic! And when I say realistic, I don`t mean to be like the ostrich, who buries his head in the earth, but to see the things as they are, meaning to assume what it is true and what cannot be contested but to see as well the other things from the shadows.

At a priestly conference – and the details have no importance here – a very nice priest held a speech and at this chapter he said that he had met someone who was very angry on the priests and who told him, the priests are so and so, these priests are sinful etc.

`Tell me, man, how many of these priests you are talking about do you know or have you heard?`

`Many.`

`Let`s count them.`

`Well, it`s that one who did that thing…that one who was in the news and so on and after six or seven he didn`t know any more. So there are very strong exaggerations.

No matter what would be reporting things at the total number of priests the percentage of those with real problems is insignificant

Many times they don`t take into account many aspects. We see the news as it is but we don`t know how the priest reached that situation. We know he has made a mistake but can we know  the whole spiritual path which led him to do that thing?

We know that from a spiritual point of view the devil attacks the man gradually and many times he succeeds in making the man fall. But we don`t see neither the context, nor the stress, or the family problems, the temptations, the actions of the evil one which made him fall. But what`s more important we have no idea if after the fall he didn`t get back on his feet again. Didn`t it cross your mind the idea that maybe even the apparition in the media was the only way by which a priest could correct himself in a certain respect and God in His wisdom uses this situation for lifting his shepherd who has become a lost sheep?

Beside this aspect let us take into account that, no matter what, there is a good side of the matter when these unwanted things happen. Christ doesn`t He say that we are all a body, limbs one for another? (I Corinthians 12, 27)?

A healthy body when it becomes infected throws away the pus. For instance one who is sick of cancer has a hidden tumor and when this is found, many times it is already too late. Is it good so? The society punishes and eliminates the elements which are not in accordance with its rules for not being destroyed. The wound doesn`t have pus to kill the body only to cleanse it. Of course it hurts. It hurts us too when we see a member of the Church who doesn`t walk righteously especially if he is a priest since if you hurt your finger all your body suffers. So let us glorify God that things are the way they are.

In another order of ideas, how does it happen that some priests don`t behave like priests? It`s simple. At least when I was in the seminary there were some colleagues of mine who were there only because their parents wanted that. They didn`t like it but their parents wanted very much to see them priests and they may feel they are in the 7th sky when they have a child who becomes a priest. Some of them gave up when they entered the college others didn`t do that. They went there automatically not from the heart. If they graduated from a seminary, from a college of theology where else to go? And then of course they don`t fulfill the mission they assumed with all their heart.

Beware that the priests don`t grow up in trees ! You don`t make any nursery of priests in a sterile environment, you put only what`s good there and when they are ripe, you pick up the priests and send them to parishes

The priests grow up in normal families. They are born and educated as their mother and school educates them. So in the end the priests are what society is itself. Society gives the priests.

The way it is, this is how the priests are. Do you have a percentage of good people and there are others who are less good or worse? Then the same percentage is applied to the priests. If the society had had some more spiritually evolved men in other ages then the priests were that way too. Now in fact we are exactly as we see them, they are like us, they are some of us. They did not descend from heaven and they did not grow in trees.

Another decisive factor in creating the image and sometimes even the character of the priest is his wife. Even if you want an austere and modest life what do you do if your wife doesn`t share the same views with you? Now you all those who want to lapidate the priests what are you going to say now? Here it`s not a matter of saying simply Yes or No and nothing else. It`s a matter of family and the priest is one. The rest of the family members are common people. They may even go to divorce. Well, you may say that he chose her that way. But that`s false cause many times the people change in time. What to do when you want to buy a cheap car and she wants an expensive one when you don`t think it`s good to go on vacation to the fanciest restaurant and she wants that, even if with the price paid there means to make debts?

Many times the priest marry girls who later become doctors, judges, lawyers or I don`t know what else, with good salaries which allow them to afford an expensive life. Can you force your wife to live in an austere way only because you are a priest? But it`s not only about that. Why do we see only those who have money? I tell you that the media talk only about the exceptional cases. Why the press doesn`t speak about the multitude of priests who have a life of privations, the priests from the poor villages who are so many? I know personally a priest who has three children and who told me: `During the fast I eat only cheese and milk! I was dumbfounded. Then he added: this is all I have from people who gave me alms. I can`t afford to buy food for fasting.

How many people know that more than a half of the priests don`t have a house of their own, they live in the house of the parish which is temporary. Why nobody shows them on screen too?

And the press needs news and seeks the sensational. It is nothing sensational if a priest shelters in his house a mother with her children taken from the streets, if he helps I don`t know how many poor, if he convinced I don`t know how many young people not to suicide themselves, if he reconciled families who were about to divorce, if he gave meaning to the life of someone with his words, if he convinced someone to give up on alcohol or drugs… if this or that. It`s sensational only if he committed something wrong.

Our Savior says if the life of a man were only a day he would fall into sin even in that situation. Why having such pretenses from a priest? Have you heard anyone who says he is without sins?

Then many people have no idea about the emotional and psychical stress and temptations a priest has to face. I don`t want to seem childish in thinking but if we were to compare a situation from a battle field when it is more likely to be lost the fight by the adversary? When the commander or the general falls. At chess you can take as many pieces you want but when you take the queen it doesn`t matter anymore who took more pieces. In the same way the devil knows that his greatest victory is when a spiritual shepherd falls. The loss is enormous for the flock. That is why the temptations are huge for a priest. Not all of them resist in the same way, there are some who fall. Important is to get up again and we know that God waits for us till the last moment of our life.

Talking about temptations I will relate to you something very personal, very real which happened to me.

I was a newly ordained deacon at the Metropolitan from Iasi and I didn`t know how to do my ministry properly. When the Holy Liturgy ends usually the deacon is the one who consumes the Holy Eucharist left in the chalice after the believers have communed.

While eating the Holy Ones I had some terrible thoughts with many images and uncontrollable temptations, like a storm attacking my psychic. I was quite devastated and I hardly found the power to call my spiritual confessor, with my mind and soul disturbed. The problem is that when you get temptations to sins you committed with your mind or in deed this is from your fault, from your sinful inclinations you haven`t stopped yet but then there were things I had never had in my mind, thoughts which had never had echo in me.

My confessor comforted me and told me: `These are the sins of the persons you mentioned and for whom you prayed at the Holy Liturgy. These persons are symbolically found in the pieces you consume beside the Flesh and Blood of Christ. For those who don`t know these are the crumbles of bread which during the Holy Liturgy are taken out from the prosphoron for those mentioned on that day at the holy service. They don`t compose and are not transformed into the Body of Christ, only represent us and those who are mentioned for being forgiven their sins by washing them with the Blood of Christ.

Thus I became aware that although Christ forgives the sins because the priest is co working with Him at the salvation of the man, He many times gives him to drink from the cup of pain of the cross of that man or those men Christ helps by His intercession as a priest.

That`s why we should not judge the priests. It`s easy to be a bystander and throw with the stone. I was in both situations, meaning that I was once a layman and now I am a priest. And now it is much more complicated.

Another example with which I`d like to end, although there are many things to say: at confession many times it happens to me to feel a stone in my back, a kind of claw which presses me psychically and even physically sometimes. When I get up it remains as a burden. Although other times I speak with the people for hours and this doesn`t happen. But when I listen to their confession it does. This goes away only at the Holy Liturgy after I commune.

Other times I get up after the confession feeling the temptation faced by other people since you hear them and can`t ignore them and I tell you it`s not easy at all. The priest sometimes practically carries the burden of sins of the people. And sometimes he even falls. Let us not judge him! Let us pray for him!

priest Mihai Marian Macuc

Article taken from the portal ortodoxiatinerilor.ro

Take care to put yourself in order first and only afterwards to speak about Christ

There are people who come to me and complain that they speak to their children, to their relatives and friends about God as I speak to them but they don`t listen. Once a lady came and complained for the same reason. And I answered her:

`My dear, in order to listen to you, you must first of all have faith and believe in Christ and only afterwards to speak to them about Him. Do you follow what Christ said? Do you love Him? Have you dedicated yourself with all your flesh and soul to Him? To speak about Christ you must struggle to get rid of your passions and sins. Are you doing this?`

`No, because I am human and I get angry and upset and I argue. When they slandered me unjustly I slandered them too. That`s human, mother, I am not God. He could endure everything, but I can`t. Look for instance last week my mother in law criticized me because I put less oil in the food. Was it necessary to say that in front of my husband? She should have rather said it to me confidentially. So I got annoyed and sent her away without the knowledge of my husband. She should learn not to speak that way anymore.

`My dear, was it so important what she told you that you sent her away just like this all of a sudden? If you have such malice how do you expect to be listened when you speak about Christ? Do you know what they say for themselves? Take care

Take care to put yourself in order first and only afterwards to speak about Christ.

`Yes, this is what they tell me and I get upset because I believe in Christ.

`Yes, my love, but who believes in Christ doesn`t do what you do. When we believe in God, we try not to hurt Him and to do what He taught us and not what we like and only afterwards to speak about God. How can all these go together? Can we have two parents, God and the devil in the same time? It`s impossible. We`ll follow either one of them or the other. To follow God you must accept to do what He wants and not what you want. If you follow His will then you will not be upset anymore by what your mother in law or your mother or your husband or your neighbor says because the sons of God are noble and they don`t care about such insignificant things. Do you understand?`

`I understand but it`s very hard to do what you told me.`

`Then if it`s hard to live near Christ you have no right to speak about Him. Doesn`t your conscience rebuke you for what you`ve done?`

`It`s rebuking me.`

`Then why don`t you correct yourself in order to gain the love of our Christ and be happy near Him? Then He will put into your mouth His words and you will say them first to yourself and only afterwards to the others. And then be sure everybody will listen to you and they will receive Christ in their heart because you have become an example of kindness and love for Christ.

Excerpt from the book Listen to me! by nun Porphyria, published by Evanghelismos.

Far away from lie

We`ve spoken before about the methods recommended for cultivating the virtue of obedience in the hearts of the children and about the means which must be used for acquiring this. In what follows we`ll show how to inspire to the children the love for truth, how to teach them to value it and avoid lies. The need for truth and the love for it are deeply engrained in the man and in the child as well. The ancestral sin although it affected and weakened the sense for truth, could not destroy it completely. The call for truth remained embedded in the man. This vocation manifests itself in the child in that boundless desire to know everything. That is why the child asks questions about everything. And any answers from the grown-ups are accepted as being true. In his innocence the child doesn`t know what is lie or falsehood. Later he is ashamed and blushes not only when he tells a lie cause of a rush or recklessness but also when he hears the grown-ups lying. The love for truth is engrained in the souls of the children by God. But this natural call must be helped to develop and strengthen. This work appertains to the parents. How to succeed in fulfilling it? The first thing they have to do is to advise them from an early age. How to do this? There are three basic rules:

  1. Teach your children to love the truth thinking about God. The child must know that God Who is the eternal and unchanged Truth wants from us to tell the truth all the time. Only then the child will hate the lie when he understands that God hates it and condemns it. Only the love for truth based on faith and love for God will be capable to surpass any trial.

b) Behave with your children with simplicity and sincerity. Believe in their words if you are sure they don`t tell lies. Never ask them to swear to convince you of the truth of their words. If you have any doubts regarding the truth of their statements, don`t show it immediately. Try to ascertain yourselves that he told a lie. And if this thing happened, call him to you, look him in the eyes seriously but also lovingly and tell him the following words: `God asks us to tell the truth. He is Omniscient, knows even our most hidden thoughts and hates those who tell lies.` The child will blush in an instant. He will tell the truth and he won`t lie anymore.

c) Always show your children that you love and respect the truth. Be honest and straight in everything you do.

First of all honor the divine truth, the faith and law of God. Never be reckless or careless in what regards faith.

Never give your children the chance to hear expressions like the following: `it`s no need for someone to believe in God, it is enough to be an honest man.` By such statements which are heard quite often unfortunately, it is inspired a spirit of lie, the spirit of the cunning. If you express in front of your children such wrong and false concepts you will destroy in their heart any feeling of respect and love for the truth of faith and for any other truth. If it did not matter for God whether we had a wrong or correct idea in relation with Him and His Truth, or that we confess according to our judgment that Christian faith is  true or false, then why the man would care about truth in his daily life? If God accepts in the same way the one who confesses Him rightly and the one who denies Him or doubts Him, if there is no difference between the assertion of the truth or of the lie, then how is it explained the fact that the truth is given such a great importance in our daily life? And if those who say that there is no real faith revealed by God or in other words that God did not want to reveal to us the truth about the most important matters from life, if those were right, then how could we ask from people and therefore from children to tell the truth in all the minors matters of our daily life?

Therefore parents if you want your children to love the human truth, teach them first to have a high respect for the divine truth. Do not allow recklessness or carelessness towards our Orthodox faith and Church enter your hearts. The children if they notice that you treat superfluously the truths of the Christian faith and the canons of the Church or if they notice that you are false in what regards Christian life they will adopt the same behavior and they won`t believe in what you say anymore. Be for your children an example of love for the Christian truth and faith. And inspire them this love. Only in this way they will love the truth. But be honest and sincere in all the other matters. Avoid lies and falsehood. Because if they notice you cheat the others in a way or another, or that you use cunning and hypocrisy and you are not sincere in your relationships, for example you pretend you are friend with someone and after that person leaves you begin to criticize him and condemn him , you can be sure that your children will adopt the same behavior with you and with the others.

If you want to see them growing up with love for truth, sincerity and honesty, try first of all to distinguish yourself when it comes to show faith or in general in all your behavior, avoiding lie, hypocrisy, servitude, cunning. Be sincere, straight, respectable and credible in all your manifestations. By cultivating on one side in the hearts of your children the respect and love for truth, on the other side you must also struggle with yourself with all your might against lie. Teach your children from a very young age to hate lies and become aware of the fact that God is the Truth and any lie is a sin. The children should avoid lies, not because they would be punished or discovered but because God condemns it and hates it. Show to your children by the help of the words found in the Holy Scripture how much it is hated any lie in the eyes of the True and Just God:

 `Lying is an abominable habit, the liar’s disgrace lasts for ever.` (Sirach 20,27).

Teach them that the lie is inspired by the devil and for this reason God says that `the devil is a liar and father of the lie.` (John 8, 44)

Therefore the children who tell lies imitate satan and resemble him. Do not ignore the slightest lie of your children. If the child committed a mistake for the first time and he confessed it forgive him immediately or if the mistake is big, punish him gently. In the same time explain to him that you forgave him or that you punished him more gently only because he had the courage to confess his deed immediately. But this should not become a rule because there may take place a double damage. First the child could begin to be reckless in what regards his mistakes. And in the second situation he might get used to say the truth only when he expects a benefit and he would not be ashamed to hide the truth when he considers that his confession would bring him a punishment.

In the case the child committed a mistake and tried to lie he must be punished twice – explaining to him in the meanwhile – first for the mistake and secondly for the lie. In the case the child out of revenge or malice made someone else guilty for his own guilt an elder or a smaller brother, he must be punished and forced to confess his lie in front of everybody. This is what Christian moral says. Never try to cheat or lie the children. And don`t allow the people around you to do this either. Many times the parents for comforting a whining baby scare him with various false things or promise him things they never give him. How big is the damage of all this! The child understands very quickly that he was deceived. His trust in the words of his parents will be shaken and the feeling of valuing the truth is weakened. Do not create any situations in which your children being scared would be tempted to lie to escape of beating. If for instance he made a mistake, he broke something and you shout furiously and go to him with your hand raised saying: `You did this? You`ll see what you get for this!` It`s almost sure that in such a situation the child will be tempted to say a lie, to escape of beating. What to say about those parents who smile and are proud of their child or praise him for the witty lies he invents. Or how to call those people who urge their children to tell lies, teaching them how to fool their educators or other people for not being punished in a difficult situation? Such parents are real examples of corruption for their children. These children won`t only tell lies but will also curse or steal or do any wrong. Let us understand it very straightly that who doesn`t consider lie as a sin will be able later to steal or cheat. Who is dishonest in his words, will be dishonest in his deeds as well.

So in this way I explained to you, parents, how to cultivate in the souls of your children the respect and love for the truth and the disgust for lies. Let us always remember the rules mentioned above and apply them consciously.