The awareness 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.

The life of Saint Sava the Vaopedine – The throwing into the abyss

The cunning had tried all the methods and exerted all his might but everything was as if he had written on water [1] as if he had combed the clouds [2] or as if he had darted the skies [3] meaning that he tried unsuccessfully. Therefore he ceased the fight completely. He was supposed to have done it long time before that, but he couldn`t. And that was understandable because how could he defeat the one who was made of flesh and ascended above it to heaven from where he, who was a spiritual creature, had fallen in such a miserable way?

For this he decided to war him one more time to throw a last anchor [4] as they express it : he gathered all his cunning powers and put in a line of combat his herds as if they were going to war. Before them satan himself was leading the way as if he were a general. He gave the start signal for the fight.

First the demons thought it was good to shake the cave with noises, cries and roars. They cried without shame threatening and cursing with thousands of offensive words the one who could not be touched or hurt. Then they told him shamelessly the following words:

`Why do you burn us ? Why do you always oppose resistance to our things? We couldn`t harm you at all. We can`t bear your strives, this tireless zeal you have against us. We can`t bear to hear about you. Even your name scares us. Stop this war against us. Let us all breathe a little taking a break from this war. If not better leave this world faster and go to your Beloved One and leave us to our affairs. The great Love you have for Him makes all our war against you be in vain. Choose one or another. Otherwise we will not stand it anymore and no matter what will happen we`ll do everything until we will push you away from this life even if you don`t want this.

The Saint remained unshaken by these words as if he were reposing with the righteous. He had known them for so long and had got used with them and with their attacks. That`s why he didn`t worry, he just stayed deepened in himself, praying to God with his usual peace and gentleness. He considered their incoherent noises and voices as being some baby cooings. Then  the demons grew wilder. They started to cry and roar wildly:

`Don`t you hear us ? Don`t you answer us anything? Do you ignore our questions?`

But Sava didn`t answer anything, he only turned his mind toward God and he began to chant the prophetic words :

`Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie.`[5].

Then the demons went crazy and couldn`t stand it any longer they pounced against him in this way: they gathered together and as one they kidnapped him with their killing hands and took him to a precipice from the neighborhood and they threw him in it with his head down

Abstruse are the judgments of God ! That precipice was so deep and frightening that if a man or an animal or anything else had fallen in it could not have remained alive. Probably in that difficult moment blessed Sava heard a mystically:

`For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.`[6].

And he not only heard the words but also saw them becoming real, experiencing the great miracle supernaturally. He did not fall with his head down in that deep abyss as the wretched had wanted, but fell on his feet remaining safe and sound. How great is the power of Christ who fulfills everything!

From there, from the bottom of the abyss the brave struggler gave way to a worship song of victory against the enemies and threw them all in the depths of perdition. From that moment on the demons didn`t dare to attack him anymore although until then they had had the permission to tempt him for reasons known only to the High Providence of God. In any case this was the end of the trials.

[1] Old proverb: write on water (CPG 1, p. 267).

[2] Old proverb: comb the clouds (CPG 2, p. 27).

[3] Old proverb: dart the skies (CPG 1, p. 46 and CPG 2, p.27). All these similar proverbs from above refer at those who try all their might for things which cannot be fulfilled.

[4] Old proverb (CPG 1, p. 256).

[5] Psalm 37, 12‑15.

[6] Psalm 90, 11‑12.

Excerpt from the book The life of Saint Sava the Vatopedine the fool  for Christ –  Evanghelismos Publishing

The life of Saint Sava Vatopedine – Divine Presence – What it is possible and what is impossible to be related

Divine presence – strengthening in the desert

Saint Sava spent three years in that cave. They spoke about him everywhere. All the people were full of admiration hearing about his life. But he didn`t bear such honors and praises from all which were increasing day by day. All these impeded him to live his monachal life so fond of peace.

From this reason one day he went out of the cave furtively without being seen by anyone and he left that place. He crossed Jordan river in a rush and entered the depth of the desert where nobody went.

There they say that wonderful Egyptian woman lived her life full of ascetical struggles who was met by Zosima. [1] And Sava made his shelter there too. With the same ardour as hers he took off his rags and advanced in the depths joyfully.

He could not find his peace at all being hurt by the sweet arrow of the Lord`s love. He meditated all the time with great love about the One who revealed to him. He couldn`t forget His sweet Light. Where are you living [2] and where is your dwelling place [3] he always asked Him. Show me Your glory, appear to me to see You [4] Give me the beauty of image, the great privilege of being adopted, give me Your Kingdom. You made me worthy beyond reason and with love for men to share this, Men Lover. These words he uttered in a whisper to the Heavenly Master while he crossed the endless space of the desert.

A huge space, which could not be fully seen by the eyes where Sava walked naked. Only a rag covered his genitals. Without food, without water, he appeased his hunger with some wild greens growing here and there and his thirst with a few drops of water and this only very seldom. In those very dry deserts such greens grow very rarely. It was a terrible and amazing view even for the angels!

Struggling so hardly in that desert for the Kingdom of God the great ascetic reached once a very dry place. That place was so dry that he could not find any greens or water for 50 days, not even some moisture on the soil and it did not rain at all. Slowly his physical powers started to weaken and after a time he fell almost dead to the earth. As he related us later he suddenly saw while he was barely breathing an angel about whom he thought that came to take his soul.  Being in that state he lost all hope for life and he looked only for the one after this waiting for the angel.

But the angel of God came and stood near him full of brightness. But he did not come to take his soul, as the brave man thought, only to strengthen him, to give comfort to the exhausted, to transform in a wondrous way his body and soul for the better. In the same time a wonderful scent spread from above. An inexpressible freshness and light revived the ascetic who was fallen down to earth, spreading around in all that place.

Then the angel took Sava of his hand, made him stand up and recover and told him these nice words lovingly:

`Be brave, my friend! Take strength and don`t be afraid of anything anymore because I will always be by your side no matter where you will go. This is what God ordered me.

The angels has just finished his words when a divine light brighter than the one from before spread all over that place. In the middle of that light was Christ the Lord Himself as before. That inexpressible brightness and delight which sprang from that place, that inexpressible desire above all desires, which was the end of all desires indeed became in an instant everything for the ascetic: food and health and release from all the grief and fulfillment of all the needs.

The body transforms itself and experiences this blessed desire together with the soul in the same time. These are related by our God bearer Elders who experienced these too and transmitted them to us. `The soul` saint Maximus says `becomes god by communing with the divine Gracewhich sanctifies the body and the soul by communing the divinity according to his powers.[5]

What it is possible and what it is impossible to be said

 

After the angel strengthened enough the great witness of this divine vision, he disappeared and the vision vanished with him. And the ascetic, who was like the angels, being full of joy and inexpressible delight, continued to cross that remote and empty desert. Although he was with his body on earth, his mind wandered without cease through heaven and among the beauties which are found there. And he ascended as saint Paul, the Great Apostle who ascended until the third heaven and heard words unuttered by human tongues.[7] In the same way saint Sava became a partaker of a divine rapture above all senses and of the divine mysteries.

But he did not reveal everything he saw or heard. Most of them because they were completely unheard and inexpressible so he honored them by his silence like saint Paul, the Apostle.

I tell you briefly as I can what saint Sava told his friends and to the spiritually elevated and experienced people. I put God as judge of my word that I will not add anything to the truth nor will I alter anything willingly from the great philosophy of that man. But for the benefit of the weak we will make more comprehensible the high meaning. We will ponder rightly the words and time as wise Solomon says that `there is a time for everything` [8] And this is in perfect harmony with the one who philosophized so well saying: `measure is the best in everything.`[9]

[1] They speak about saint Mary the Egyptian who met pious Zosima and confessed, communed and reposed. She lived forty years of wonderful ascetical struggles after she had lived her life in debauchery. (see Saint Sophrony of Jerusalem, The Life of Pious Mary the Egyptian

[2] John 1, 39.

[3] The Song of Songs 1, 6.

[4] Exodus 33, 18, 13.

[5] Saint Maximus the Confessor, Capita teologica, Second hundred c.88Philocaly, vol. 2, Harisma Publishing, Bucharest, 1993, p. 211.

[6] Philipians 3, 20.

[7] II Corinthians 12, 2‑4.

[8] The Ecclesiast 3, 1.

[9] Old Apophthegm attributed to Cleobul (Diogene Laertios A, Book VI, § 93, Lipsia [Leipzig] 1833; CPG 2, p.80).

Excerpts from the book The Life of Saint Sava Vatopedine the fool for Christ Evanghelismos Publishing

The men are helpless before death – Saint Iustin Popovici

Saint Iustin Popovic

The men are helpless before death as the mosquitoes. For what thing do the men boast? For richness, knowledge, philosophy and culture? But all these are useless because we are enslaved by death. Every man is the slave of fear and death. Is it possible for a man to live this life joyfully? No, it is not possible. The man who will search himself deeply and will seriously think about death as the last halt of this life, one like this has no joy for this life, there is no delight for him in it. All the delights are a delusion if death is for me and for you the last halt in this world.

Who brought death in this world? What else but the sin? Unfortunately, the man has this shameful role of this life, of bringing the sin, the death and the devil in this world. Neither the tigers nor the foxes committed this only the man. For this reason the man is a creature who is shamed before all the animals, birds and plants. The man must be ashamed and ask apologies from every bird because he brought death in this world. He brought death to the birds, animals and plants.

Everything is subject to decay and die. But until when? Until the Resurrection of the dead when the Lord shall judge the world and when instead of the old earth there will be a new one and everything will become immortal. And we don`t have any idea how all this will be done, we can`t even comprehend it with our mind. This is the good news of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

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.

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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Humbleness means freedom

God doesn`t look at the face, He doesn`t love some people more and others less, He loves us all the same. But we, the people, love God in a different way. One loves Him more, another one a little and another one doesn`t love him at all. Thus the measurable love doesn`t apply to God but to the man.

Let`s assume that a man tries to live without God. What will he achieve? He will live biologically. He may achieve many things. He may get a very high social position, he may gain a lot of money. One thing is for sure: he will never be able to find his balance. He will find this only near Christ, because we are created to find our peace only near Him.

God is within man`s nature. No matter what we do, it`s impossible to take Him out of our nature. It is an ontological presence belonging to our own being. Of course on the path of our life there are many things aiming to break this bond we have with Him. The numerous attractions aim to enslave our hearts and detach it of God and attach it to something else. This something else is for sure the sin, the despair, the grumbling and in the end the death of our soul. And we like some blind follow the path leading to the bed of Procustes. It stays in our power to save not only our dignity but especially our soul.

Today the people don`t repent for their sins or mistakes, because they don`t want to humble themselves. They think that humbleness means the humiliation of their personality.

But this is not humbleness. Humbleness means freedom. Humbleness means: I am freed of my passions, of my sins, of my complexes, of my wretchedness, of my selfishness. If they humble themselves for real, they will see the divine Grace, they will see God  in person. A Father of the Church said: `The higher you get, the easier you glide.` When someone feels that he is down for the love of God and humbles himself, then God comes and elevates him. On the contrary, the man who boasts himself, who increases his selfishness and self-confidence, will surely fall.

The man who humbles himself means he doesn`t seek obsessively primacies and honors, only lets himself in the care of God and even if he acquires something in the world, he doesn`t consider this as being his own achievement or smartness nor does he think he has become a great personality, only believes that all the things he has achieved are blessings and gifts from God. He has gained them only with the grace, mercy and lenience of God.

Nowadays the people need a good shaking to understand their mistakes, sins, to repent and humble themselves.

The path of Christ taught us the expression of the perfect humbleness. But there is no man capable to reach that level. But one day we, all the people, will reach the edge of our life. If we don`t reach that point during our life we`ll reach that in the moment we die.

The devil controls this world in a very powerful way, because we give him rights. What is bad is that this impedes the divine intervention, because there is no repentance and humbleness. If it existed, our life would be better. The man would not be overwhelmed by despair, but he would have dedicated himself to creation.

I wish from the heart for all of us to achieve humbleness in order to find the freedom of our soul in the end and live the true joy of life!

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

Be wise like snakes and meek like doves

The discussion about the struggle with our own demons and with the evil from the world as well was reopened in a short time after I had thought we had clarified this aspect. But the subject was approached again and as the father made me get used to, it reached a way which took off a veil from the eyes of my soul. Thus I understood the meaning of true freedom and the power the vices have upon our souls.

Our Lord Jesus Christ told us: `Be wise like the snakes and meek like the doves`

`It’s true, father and I must admit that I understand the idea of wisdom but I don’t understand quite well that part about freedom.`

`Let’s see then. Do you consider yourself a free person?`

`Depends from what point of view we speak. If I take into account the financial aspect, I have installments at the bank, then I am caught in a system I honor with my presence at my job. At these are added the responsibilities, the duties I have in the family. If I add all these I could not say that I am free.`

`But what about the convicts, are they free?`

`No, not even as I am.`

`You see there are many who are in jail and they are freer than you. There are plenty of examples of people who freed themselves in the meaning discussed by us now and I refer at the saints from the communist jails.

I begin to understand what you mean.

The freedom we are talking about doesn’t mean financial independence to give you the chance to travel anywhere in this world, but at the freedom obtained as a result of the struggle with our own temptations and irrational passions.

`Father here are included as well the addiction of different habits as a form of enclosing our own freedom?`

`Certainly. We can give a classic example well known by everyone and I refer at drugs. Here are included all the things which cause us an addiction and weaken our will: nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana. The addiction of these drugs is directly proportional with the degree of intoxication. But we find many other examples as harmful as these, like those which cause great losses to the families with such an addict. The tasteful victuals can create addiction too and there are many others it’s not necessary to mention. You understand what I mean anyway. Who is addicted to such habits is a man enslaved by his own vices. And to gain our freedom we must struggle with our own passions, with our own inner wishes until we defeat them. This is the idea of freedom. To run away of temptations, vices or other addictions. It doesn’t matter if you have a very hard job or a family for whom you must assume certain responsabilities, since you understood the idea of freedom in a wrong way.

Freedom refers at what may dominate us, may impede us to move forward or pushes us down. These are the things which must be eliminated completely, cut from the root. This thing means in fact spiritual struggle. You must be concerned of this. This is the meaning of your life. Without this struggle where to make steps forward, everything else is mere theory and Orthodoxy has a practical part: the struggle with the personal passions until their defeat. Everything resumes at a single word: the elimination of all the irrational passions.

But there is still something I don’t understand. If everything was given to us why not to use them? Is it wrong to use them? Why be so radical?

`There is nothing forbidden from what exists, everything was created for the man, for his welfare. That’s true. But there is something which you will notice if you look at your inner self carefully. Everything was given to us must be used moderately, with love and gratefulness for the One Who gave them to us. We must live a balanced life without excesses. Have you ever exaggerated with anything?

`With something? With everything. The confession guide you gave me is incomplete. I have something more to add to it.

And how do you interpret this?

That I am a passionate person, full of vices and addictions.

If we were balanced people even if we had everything at our discretion we wouldn’t reach any extreme situations, exaggerations and enslavement by a vice. But the centre of our balance was lost. Better said, we decentred it. And this is because we don’t live a righteous spiritual life. The spiritual struggle is a sport just like any sport, with distinct rules. If you break them you are punished, if you break them badly you are severely punished. We break the rules of the game severely many times and for this reason we are punished accordingly and we come to lose all our control. Especially the control on our life. And when you realize you don’t have control anymore it may be too late. The body says: I want to drink, so you give it to drink, many times in excess. I want to eat much, very much, so you give it as much as it demands. Not to mention other demands, some of them shameful, you fulfill for its sake. The body leads you, it is your master instead of being you its master. It took control over you and you became its slave. You will release yourself only when it won’t do what it wants from you. Look at the smokers. Many of them say:

I give up when I want. But when they try they find there is a force which dominates them, over their powers. Then you realize that someone else is the leader. If you give the freedom of your body someone else takes control over it immediately. The normal question is who takes control?

I don’t know who. The demons?

Yes, this is the answer and we aren’t afraid to say it straightly. In the moment you intend to take back what belongs to you someone else puts you on the top of his list of enemies. In consequence there are bigger temptations and if you are not prepared you fall immediately. You in fact don’t struggle with a passion or an addiction but with a demon who took control on that area. That’s why is terribly hard to win that fight. But it’s not impossible. You give up on alcohol, you are tempted by anger or debauchery. They don’t leave you. They catch youy from where they can. There starts another struggle. And so on till the end. That’s why we can say that the struggle with a passion is a struggle for regaining freedom. From the outside is an inner struggle but in fact is a struggle with an invisible adversary, who is terribly strong and who will attack you until you die. Only when we reach the shunning of passions we can speak about freedom, only then you can say that you are a free man. Once the demon leaves he takes the passion with him so you will be freed of it. In other words you won’t suffer of that passion anymore. You will know that a passion left you when after you gave up on it you look at it with disgust and reject it and it doesn’t attract you anymore. This is the true freedom our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about. When you win the fight the skies are opened.

From what you say I understand that is a long, hard and tiresome struggle.

You better begin it, live taking as models those who succeeded to do this, and I refer at the Holy Fathers, armed with faith in your soul beyond absurd and you will succeed. Orthodoxy is living ardently. The theory is good but you must start the practice. Don’t stand on the edge of the ground, enter the game. There is someone who can pray for you not to fall.

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

We must listen and honor our spiritual father as he 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 something which 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.

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.