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

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Philotheos

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

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

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

`May it be blessed.`

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 [1] Matthew 26, 39.

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

God’s endless love and forgiveness for men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Luke 15, 1-7.

[2] Matthew 21, 32

[3] Luke 15, 4-7.

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

The contemplation of God is an endless heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

Mindfulness pill

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t know how it works

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

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

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

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

The secondary effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: theconversation.com

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

Counsels of some Elders and Confessors

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

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

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

was found, being in a state of absolute confusion.

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

About God’s providence Orthodox Catechism

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

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

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

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

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

Words and stories of elder Paisios XVIII

The monk should not justify himself not even when he is right, because justification makes a shelter for the demons from the human soul.

*

The elders from the past lived a very austere life and the Great Lent wa not easy. That’s why saint Theodor the Studite says: when the Lent is halved let’s gather some courage for the other half.

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The devil when there takes place a dialogue between him and the soul, he understands the thoughts, the answers of the soul. That’s why it seems that sometimes he answers the opposite. But he cannot understand our good thoughts.

*

The elder told to someone who visited him at Stomio that when he wanted to read the Paraklesis of Theotokos he read first a few troparions frm the Great canon which he had copied in a notebook. And this because he felt unworthy to pray to the Mother of God.

*

When a snake meets you, first it looks at you, studies you and if it sees that you have the grace of the Holy Spirit, comes near you, recognizes you as master, licks you and worships you because it feels the grace of the Holy Spirit. All the animals feel this. But if you don’t have the grace, it is afraid of you, is disgusted by you and runs away.

*

The Holy Mountain will flourish. There will appear hermits who will reach high spiritual levels. There will be good monks, the monasteries will be full. The human stuff from today is very good. And the generation to come will be of good stuff. Then there will come others who will be hurt by the world. And because they will experience everything and they won’t find peace anywhere they would want t become monks. But even they could improve if they will. (these were said in 1978)

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Abstention from the carnal passions make the man stronger. And if he has a a spiritual life he becomes spiritually strong.

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The vigil we, the monks, make is a refectory full of spiritual dishes.

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We should only say the Jesus prayer and let the dog bark (referring at the devil who brings us thoughts). He will leave us alone because he will say: I am not going to make a saint from this one too!.

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The monk should learn the practical theology, not the academic one.

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One prays to God to open his eyes to see spiritually and immediately after he opens an eye he begins to torture the others who don’t see. Not even God knows what to do. If he doesn’t see, he doesn’t endure. If he sees a little, he tortures the others.

*

Some time ago a young man came from Athens to become a monk. The love of his relatives didn’t let him find his peace. That’s why he returned to his home. But the longing for the monachal life brought him back to the Holy Mountain. This has repeated many times. In the end he decided that if his thought told him to go in the world to go by foot. And indeed he went by foot to Athens. And when he wanted to come back to the Holy Mountain he came in the same way. Kind God seeing his toil helped him. He remained in Athos became a monk and evolved.

*

Before the evil was little. A monk was better than the other. Few were reckless. And if there was a reckless one the others helped him. Now they cannot understand which one is the worldly thing and which one is monachal. Before good was good, Then the general atmosphere helped that. In our days it is needed a great discernment.

*

Few are the situations when something happens to be glorified the name of God, as it was the case with the blind from birth. In the other situations work the spiritual laws. The man draws away the grace of God. For instance he stands in the air with his mouth open. Then he prays to be cured. But when someone stands in the air and he is not aware of that, God helps him.

*

When someone chants psalms even if he doesn’t know the notes the other one who hears him understands if he chants for God or for the world.

*

Nothing happens if God doesn’t allow it. Even the devil asked permission for going in the pigs. The devil has no power when the man doesn’t give him rights. The devil is afraid of a man like this and if a demonized an sees one like this he feels anxiety. It is needed humbleness.

*

When somene has humbleness, he doesn’t irritate not even the proud. The selfish one feels bothered by the selfish. But he gets avail from the humble one because he has grace.

*

The humble one is betrayed by the Grace of God and he becomes loved by all. In order to receive grace it is needed to leave selfishness, pride, envy, vainglory. We need to humble ourselves to get rid of these. To humble ourselves we need to have obedience to cut our own will.

*

It is not necessary to give explanations. N matter if we make mistakes or not we should apologize. In this way we humble ourselves and receive grace. If we are slandered unfairly we should endure the injustice gladly to expiate a sin or another. When we were in the world didn’t we upset our parents, brothers and other people? How will these sin be expiated? Only with the confession and the prayer for absolution?

From the book `FROM THE ASCETIC AND HESYCHAST TRADITION OF THE HOLY MOUNTAIN` –  Evanghelismos Publishing, 2016.

THAT ONE WHO LEAVES THE WORLD MUST NOT MINGLE AT ALL IN WORLDLY AFFAIRS, EVEN IF THEY SEEM TO HAVE JUSTIFIED REASONS, HE SHOULD ONLY LEAVE THEM IN GOD’S CARE

1. From saint Anthony’s life

Once a magistrian from Rome came at the Sete, bringing the will of one of Arsenions’relatives. The elder took it in his hands and he would have torn it if the magistrian hadn’t stopped him falling at his knees and telling him that by tearing the document he would have been put in danger. Arsenios gave him back the will and said: `I died before him and I am not among the living anymore.

2. From Patericon

  • An elder said: The saints even if they toiled here took their share of rest. He said this because the saints were free of the worldly worries.
  • Abba Alonius said: `If the man doesn’t say in his heart `it’s only God and me in this world`, he won’t find peace.`
  • An elder said: `The monk who after he left the world dedicates himself to

the waste and toil of this wretched life, focusing on give and take is like a poor man lacking even the needed food and who not finding clothes to dress or food to eat indulges himself in sleep, because of his great idleness and he sees himself rich in his dream, without the soiled clothes, dressed in some bright ones. Then he wakes up happily and finds himself in the same poverty. In the same way the monk without vigilance, who wastes his days in worries, scorned by thoughts and exhausted by the demons who make fun of him and whisper to him that the waste and toil are for God and he will be rewarded for them. One like this in the moment when the soul is separated from the body finds himself poor, lacking all virtue. And only then he understands how many goods are given by vigilance and heed at oneself and how many punishments are caused by the waste in the worries of life.

  • Once the landlord of the region caught someone from abba Pimen’s village and all the monks came to the monk asking him to go and free that man. The elder said: `Leave me three days and then I come.` Then the elder prayed to God: `God, don’t give me this gift, because they won’t let me stay here anymore.` After three days he went to the governor and asked him to free that man. The governor said: `You intervene for a robber, abba?` And the elder was glad that his prayer was answered.

3. of abba Isaiah

  • Brother now that the man can grow in God only if he becomes without any worry for the things of this age. Two are the matters opposing to the soul: one from the outside focused on the works of this world for the rest of the body and another inner one, of the passions that is an impediment for virtues. The soul doesn’t see the inner one, of the passions, until frees itself of the outside one. That’s why the Lord said: `In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.` [2]

The outside matter fights us using our own will and the inner one fights us with the exterior deed. Thus our Lord knowing that the personal will is the one that reigns both commanded us to cut it. Because our mind is dead as long as the soul cares only for those from the outside and then the passions from the inside manifest themselves freely.

Thus if the soul cuts its wills then it hates the whole work and waste of this world. Then the mind wakes and stands boldly until it throws outside from its house the passions, taking heed at the soul without cease and guarding it not to go back to those that harmed it. The soul is like a young woman with a husband who when her husband goes to a foreign country becomes daring and shameless not taking care of her household anymore. But when her husband comes back she becomes fearful again, she renounces at her deeds and is preoccupied to please her husband. And he after he comes bac home takes care of everything the woman needs and protects her until she gives birth and raises his children. And they both become one heart, the soul is subordinated to the mind and the mind becomes head of the soul as the Apostle says: `The man is head for the woman.` This word is for those who became worthy to be one in God, not having any disagreement between themselves (between mind and soul) as the Lord taught in the Gospel saying: `If two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them.`

The Lord wants for those who belong to Him not be harmed by the visible matter or by the matter hidden in the soul or by all those He destroyed in His body when He made Himself man as He said: `Remain in Me as I also remain in you.` [4] First He wants us to remain in Him by deed so that He may remain in us by purity, meaning through the spiritual sight. It is impossible for the soul to enjoy the peace of the Son of God if it doesn’t have the image of the Emperor, as there is no merchant who receives or gives a coin without the image of the emperor. Because neither the money changer weights it, to evaluate it, nor the emperor puts it into his treasury. It is the same with the soul. If it doesn’t have the image of Jesus, the great emperor, the angels won’t rejoice with it and he will expel it saying: `How did you enter here without having My face that is as I said love?` And it is impossible to have love when the soul dividing itself seeks for God and loves the things of the world. Because as the bird cannot fly with a single wing or if it has something hanging on it,  the soul cannot grow in God if it is attached of something worldly. Those who love God from all their heart cannot be separated by anything in the world of His love according to the word of the Apostle: `Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.`

  • The same abba said: Do not wish to be asked for advice or word about the present age, nor trust the one who asks you to give him answer. Have all the time your hearing focused on the thoughts that speak within yourself and pray to God to give you discernment to know which one to listen. Because those who deal with the vain things forget about the fight against the devil.

4. of Abba Mark

The Scripture says: No soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs. Because the one who wants to defeat passions as long as he is entangled in the worldly matters is like the one who quenches a fire using straws. When the devil finds the man preoccupied by the physical things beyond his necessity he steals as a prey the fruit of knowledge. Then as if he beheaded him, he destroys his faith in God.

5. of saint Diadochus [of Photice]

The soul which did not free itself of the worldly worries would neither love God for real nor be disgusted by the devil as it should. Since the worry of life is like a burdening cover. That’s why in the middle of worries, the mind cannot know its power to think about them in order to examine and decide accordingly. All these teach us that the retreat from the world is useful.

There are very few who know in detail all their mistakes and whose mind is never distracted from the prayer to God. Our physical eyes when they are healthy can see everything even the mosquitoes and the insects that fly in the air. But when they are affected by a disorder or a cataract if something comes across their way they see that hazily and they are not able to distinguish the small things with their sight. It is the same with the soul: if  the blur of the spiritual sight coming from the attachment to the world is diminished by prayer and it sees its most insignificant mistakes as very big then it will spring many tears in great thankfulness. Because the righteous will confess Your name. But if it remains attached to the spirit of the world, even if it committed a murder or something deserving a great punishment the soul hardly feels it. And in what regards the other sins it cannot notice anything on the contrary many times considers them great deeds. For this reason speaking warmly about them is possessed by callousness.

6. of saint Barsanuphius

A brother asked an Elder : `If I hear that someone is fought by the devil or is sick I empathize with him somehow, so tell me, Father, this empathy is good or is it from the devils who try to distract me from the heed at my own sins? Then am I obliged to pray for my brother even if I am in a greater danger and in greater sins? And if he asks this from me or asks me to tell about him to one of the Elders, what will I do? When someone who is possessed by passions prays for his neighbor, doesn’t he learn from this how to love?`

The elder answered: `The elders taught the novices that nobody should leave their own dead and go to cry for another. Since only the virtuous can empathize with their neighbor. And for the novice to empathize with another is a mocking of the devils. Because he judges mindlessly the people and the things as well and has no straight reasonabless. For this reason many times the good and useful ones seem to him bad and useless. And even if in his heart he ever mentions any of those who are helpless or suffer a grief or he is told about that one by someone else then he should say: May God have mercy on me and on him as well.` He should not ask any of the Elders to pray for someone, cause this would mean to use his own will.

But if he still wants to do something he should only say to his Elder: This one is upset. ` And the Elder hearing that will pray for sure for the one who suffers spiritually. But if someone asks you to tell your Elder about him, tell him, since it is a request. And say praying: `God forgive us`, or ` Cover us in this`. To empathize with someone else for the love of God is something you haven’t acquired yet nor have you reached that level. When you are troubled by a thought about someone then as an Elder and you will find what you are due to do.

7. From Patericon

  • A brother said to abba Cronius: `Father, tell me a word, how to save my soul? And the Elder told him: `When Elishah came to the Samaritan woman found her having nothing to do with anyone and she gave birth due to the coming of Elishah. The brother asked: `What means this word?` And the elder said: `The landlord of the region wanted once to see abba Pimen but the elder didn’t receive guests. Than that one finding a reason caught the son of the elder’s sister and threw him in jail as he had been an evil doer saying: `If the Elder comes and ass me to free him, I do it. Abba Pimen’s sister came to the gate of the cell crying but he didn’t give her any answer. She accused him: Heart of stone! Have mercy on me because he is my only child.` And he sent someone to tell her: `Pimen did not beget sons.` And the woman not succeeding in anything left. The soul if it has vigilance collecting itself from dissipation renounces at its will and then the Spirit of God comes to him and it may beget. Otherwise is sterile. Hearing the ruler sent word to the Elder: `With a single word from you if you request I free him.` And the elder said: `Searach about him according to the law. If he deserves to die, let him die. If not, do as you wish!`

8. of saint Ephrem the Syrian

  • The monk who entangles in the affairs of the world and turns his thought towards the worry for the things of the world is like one who cuts himself into pieces.
  • The monk who waits the inheritance from his parents after he left the world and became a mon would fall into temptation. But the one who seeks for the Lord will be saved. Don’t say: If I grow old where will I find my food? We are not allowed to worry for tomorrow and you worry by now for the senectute ? Let us see the kingdom of God and His justice and all these shall be added to us; since the One who promise dis no liar. If we don’t seek these first it is obvious that we don’t strive for them. Leave your worry to God and He shall feed you. If God will increase something in your hands take care of that cause you will have to give answer to the One who gave it to you.

9. of saint Barsanuphius

A brother who lived in a monastery asked an elder saying : `A wronged  widow sent me word asking me to write to the governor to help her. I have two things about these. One of them tells me: You came here to die to the world and if you don’t write to her you disregard the command that asks us to help those in need. `Tell me, father, what to do?`

The elder said: If you had been dead and a wronged widow came to you, could you help her? Obviously not. If you help this one there will come another one asking the same thing and then you will disobey the command. The dead doesn’t care of anything like these. And even if they grumble against you, you will not be harmed at all.

_____________________

[1]   Magistrian – public clerck in the service of the magistrate, dignitary of the royal court.

[2]   Cf. Lc. 14,33.

[3]    in Greek the noun `soul` is of female gender while `mind` is of masculine gender, fact that makes clearer the following comparison.

[4]   In. 15,4.

[5]   Rm. 8,35-39.

[6]  in the text: „Domestic” (gr. Δομέστικος) = high rank dignitary

Excerpt from the book EVERGHETINOS – the first edition 2007  Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. I, Theme 24. Metropolis Press Publishing, Athens, Greece, 2007.

We must confess our thoughts

We must confess our thoughts to the SPIRITUAL fathers with the greatest discernment and not to EVERYONE at random. HOW TO CONFESS AND ASK QUESTIONS, WITH WHAT KIND OF FAITH TO RECEIVE THE ANSWERS OF THE FATHERS and how to COLLABORATE WITH THEM

1. From Patericon

Two brothers who lived in different places met once. One of them said to the other one : `I want to go to abba Zenon to confess him a thought.` `I want the same` said the other one. So they went together. Each one of them too the abba aside and confessed his thoughts. One f them, when he confessed nelt down at the feet of the Elder begging him with tears in his eyes to pray for him. And the Elder said to him: Go, do not give up, do not slander anyone and do not neglect your prayer. So he left and was healed. The other one after he confessed his thought to the Elder added recklessly: `Pray for me`; he did not ask it with painful heart.

After some time the two brothers met by chance. One of them said to the other: When we went to the Elder did you confess the thought you wanted to tell him about?` `Yes`, answered the other one. Then the first one asked: `Did you get any benefit from confessing?` And the brother answered:`Yes. With the Elder’s prayers God healed me.` The other one said:           I confessed but I did not feel any healing.` `And how did you ask the Elder?`asked the one who had benefited. I told him: `Pray for me because I have this thought.` Then his brother said: ` When I confessed, I washed his feet with my tears asking him to pray for me. And for his prayers God healed me.`

The Elder related to us all these to teach us that who asks the prayers of one of the Elders for his thoughts, must do that painfully, from all his heart, as if he asked it from God and then he got healed. That one who confesses recklessly or tempting not only finds no benefit but he is also doomed.

*

An Elder said: Once someone who had fallen into a big sin felt his heart pierced by repentance and went to confess to an Elder. He did not confess to that one the deed only the thought: «I got a thought of this kind. Can I save my soul?» That Elder did not have enough discernment and answered:«You lost your soul!» When the brother heard this he said to himself: «If I lost my soul I should go into the world». Leaving he decided to go to abba Silouan who was a man with a great discernment and confess him that thought. So he arrived at him and didn’t confess him the deed only the thought as he had done with the other Elder. Abba Silouan opened his mouth and began to quote from the Holy Scriptures saying that there is no damnation for those who just think about the evil. Hearing that the brother got courage and trust and confessed the deed. The Elder hearing about the deed healed his soul as a good doctor with remedies from the divine Scriptures telling him that there is repentance for those who return consciously toward God. After that my abba went to this Elder who related the story about that brother and said: `Look how that one who despaired and was ready to go in the world now is like a star among the brothers.`

We related all these to see that is not a small danger for someone to confess his thoughts to some men lacking discernment.

2. of saint Ephrem the Syrian

If someone confesses his thoughts to you beware brother not to be upset while he is speaking by the same thoughts especially if the eye of your mind is still slightly sick. Because then you will be like the helmsman in the middle of the vortex. But hearing the beginning of his account you must understand the other details and comfort the troubled man with the words of the Holy Fathers or with those experienced by ourselves. Since it is not in the will of God to fall one by means of another because He wants the salvation of us all.

And you beloved do not confess your thoughts to anyone, only to those whom you tried to see if they have spiritual experience, not paying attention to the exterior look or the whiteness of the hair. Because many according to the Apostle have a form of godliness but deny its power. [1]. And the Saviour said: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.[2].

Therefore we must not look at the exterior appearance because the scheming of the enemy are numerous but we should take heed at the way of thinking of everyone. And do not hide your thoughts of those whom you see having the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that the enemy could not nestle within you finding you hiding and draw you slowly to perdition.

Beware brother not to despise your brother in your heart hearing his sins because he committed such deeds. But marvel at his change and open confession. Because to confess your mistakes voluntarily to some spiritual men is a sign of improvement of your life, of fear of God, of humble spirit and of faith.

It is rather right to appreciate your brother for that and comfort him humbly as it is written, watching yourselves, or you also may be tempted.[3]. Since God says through Ezekiel: Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation.[4].

3. of abba Isaiah

If you ask an elder about a thought and you know he is trustworthy to keep your word, confess openly your thought to him. But if some men tell you about thoughts that struggle you too, do not wish to listen to them, so that you won’t have any war. If a brother confides in you and confesses his mistake do not tell anyone about that because it will be deadly for you. If you ask the elders about your thoughts, do not ask after you committed the deed but confess what struggles you now. Do not be hypocritical saying other things instead of the true one or as if they were committed by someone else. Otherwise you fool yourself not the elders you question.

When you as the elders about your war do not listen more of the thoughts which speak within yourself than of the elders, but pray first to God saying: `have mercy on me and give what You will to the elders to tell me.` And what the elders tell you do with faith and God will give you peace. If you are helpless in passions avoid letting anyone speak to you about the passions of his thoughts as to a person of trust. Since this thing is perdition for your soul. Do not confess your thoughts to everyone for not being a cause of stumbling for your elders and for being covered by the grace of God.

4. of saint John Casian

Visiting the holy elders who lived at the Skete, I went to abba Moses, a very virtuous man gifted with divine wisdom. Arriving there after other useful words for the soul I asked him about the confession of the thoughts and about what we should do. Many times, I said, some of the elders, when they hear the thoughts of the brothers, do not heal them and they also condemn them, bringing them to despair. And this thing becomes a reason for a harmful shame and fear. We know something like this happened in the land of Syria. A certain brother confessed his thoughts to one of the elders from there with all simplicity and sincerity opening his heart completely without any shame. But the elder when he heard that started to get angry on the brother condemning him for such sinful thoughts. Thus many hearing about that were ashamed to confess their thoughts to the elders.

Abba Moses answered: `It is good sons not to hide our thoughts of the elders but confess them openly and sincerely. And we should not follow our own judgment but obey without hesitation those things they consider as good.

But we should not confess the secrets of our heart to everyone at random, only to the elders with high spiritual life and discernment who are acknowledged by many and are advanced not only in age. Because many who confessed their thoughts taking into account only the age and the exterior appearance  of those who listened to them because of those men’s inability instead of being healed fell into despair.

*

There was once a very zealous brother who being fought by the demon of fornication came to an elder and confessed his thoughts. When that one heard them being unexperienced got angry on that brother calling him  a wretch and considering him unworthy of the monachal order because he had received such thoughts. Hearing these words the brother being desperate left his place and went into the world. By God’s care he met abba Apollo the most experienced among the elders. That one seeing him troubled and upset asked him: `What’s the reason of your trouble, brother?` That one because of his great despair could not answer anything in the beginning. Then because the elder did not stop asking him to confess the reason of that overwhelming sadness began to tell him what happened to him: I am fought by thoughts of fornication and I went to confess them to that elder and according to his word there is no hope for me to save my soul. Thus falling into despair I am going into the world.

Hearing those elder Apollo comforted him a lot and gave him advice saying: Do not be surprised my son and do not despair because I at this very old age am terribly fought by these thoughts. Do not despair, being overwhelmed by lust because this is healed not with a human effort but with Christ’s love for men. Just make me the joy of going back to your cell.` And the brother did that and after sending him back to his cell abba Apollo went to that elder who drew away the brother with hi severity and standing in front of his cell prayed with tears saying: `God, You Who do everything for our benefit and Who allow temptations to try us for our profit, please listen to me and give to this elder the war that fought the brother, to let him know at senescence by trial  what he hasn’t learnt for so long: that we must suffer with those who are fought.   

When he finished the prayer he saw near the cell a moor throwing arrows towards the elder. And the elder jumped and started to go around as if being drunk. Not being able to endure that for a long time he got out of the cell and went on the same way as the young monk back to the world.

Abba Apollo saw him leaving and understanding what happened, went on another path and he reached him coming into his way and saying: `What is the reason of such a great commotion that possesses you?` The elder understanding that the saint knew what he had, did not say a thing, being ashamed. Then abba Apollo said: `Go back to your cell and knowing your weakness from now on consider yourself either unknown by the devil or ignored by him and know that’s the reason why you were not worthy to fight against him.

Because you could not stand his attacks not even for a day. This thing happened to you because when you received a younger brother who was fought by the enemy instead of strengthening him for battle you threw him into despair not thinking at the wise command which says: Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. [5]; or at the word of the Savior Who tells us not to break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick[6]. Because nobody can endure the scheming of the enemy, nor appaise the fire of nature, if the grace of God would not protect the weak human. Thus after this saving oikonomia was given to us let us pray together to God so that He may take away from you the trouble He allowed to affect you.

 For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. He humbles and raises, kill and gives life, sends to hell and raises back[7]». After saying all these and prayed he got rid of his struggle. And the saint advised him to ask from God word of wisdom to know when to speak.[8].

We learn from what was related that there is no other safe way of salvation than to confess our thoughts to our Elders who have discernment and let ourselves be guided by them to virtue, not following our will or judgment. If someone encounters one or more simple elders with less experience he should not hide his thoughts for this reason and not confess them to the experienced ones. He should not lose trust in all f them because of the unexperienced ones avoiding all the elders, but it happens with the doctors he should first try to see how experienced they are and then show them the wounds of his soul. And he should not refuse their remedies, but receive them  gratefully, even if they cause him pain for a while.

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[1]   2 Tim. 3,5.

[2]   Mt. 7,15-16.

[3]   Ga. 6,1.

[4]   Iz. 33,12.

[5]   Pr. 24,11.

[6]   . Mt. 12,24.

[7]   Job 5 18

[8]   Is. 50,4.

Excerpt from EVERGETINOS – first edition 2007  Great Holy Monastery  Vatoped vol. I, Theme 21 – Metropolis Press Publishing, Athens, Greece, 2007.

About the salvation of the pagans and the unbaptized babies

Nobody saves his soul without Christ ! But answer: what significance has this for God, Who crucified Himself for us and seeks the lost sheep, saying so calmly: I don’t want to hear about unbaptized children and pagans. I don’t care about them, about their suffering. I don’t let them come to Me nor that one who lives in the jungles of the Amazon and didn’t know Me and My path even if he had a good conscience like Melhchisedec. Do I give joy and love to those who knew me clearly and served me sacrificingly, fulfilling My commands? Such a severe Christianity are you preaching? Then I do not understand anything from the love for mankind.

I begin with a small protest: you should not put in the mouth of the divine love, not even jokingly the words: `I do not care about their pains.` The arrow is poiting towards me but in fact you offend Christ. What it is habitual for a journalist is not normal for a man who wants to solve a serious theological problem. I try to answer to you. Saint Gregory the Theologian in the preaches from the Epiphany speaks about the fact that the pagans and the unbaptized babies will not be punished or glorified.

Apostle Paul writes about the pagans who knew Christ that they will be judged according to the law of their conscience; they will not be defended, but judged this meaning that they will be prepared a place depending on their deeds. It is nto possible to receive the grace of God after death, when the human personality is destroyed as a spiritual-physical unity and it remains only a part of it, the soul  crushed by the original sin and the personal sins, unpurified by baptism. God’s love does not save the unilateral man, it must be perceived through the love with which the man answers. But the relationship with God is an interaction between the divine and the human will. The grace seeks the soul thirsty after him and who obeys him. In the earthly life the man grows as a moral-spiritual person. In an opposite case, this life would be absurd. You are puzzled why the divine love does not save the whole world. I think that the question `why God does not give salvation to the pagans?` is incorrectly asked. God gives what the man can receive. More than this, God wants the salvation of the man more than he does himself. But God gave moral autonomy to the man and He cannot save him without his participation. Otherwise the man would be deprived of his free will, meaning that he would be destroyed and turned into a biological robot.

We are puzzled why God left a part of mankind in ignorance about Christianity. Christianity was spread but rejected and in certain regions destroyed through fire and sword.

If on the shores of the Amazon or in the middle of Africa were at least one man capable to adopt Christianity and fulfill the command of the Gospel, then the Lord would send there preachers or would find a modality to bring them to Christianity. But the situation is more tragical when the man passes by Christ and he closes his eyes intentionally. In my childhood I read a story with a similar content. A Jew who lived in Jerusalem got a toothache all of a sudden. Any solution he tried was of no use. The pain did not stop. But then the Jew heard noise in the street and he looked on the window: Christ was taken to crucifixion. But the Jew was not interested at all in anything about Messiah or the crime that was about to be committed. He was worried only about his sick teeth. Then he remembered that Christ made miracles and he asked to be healed by him. His toothache stopped but the Jew forgot about Christ immediately and he began his usual chores. He did not need Christ anymore. How many Christians cannot see themselves in this Jew if they look with sincerity in their hearts? Now many speak about the divine love but do they need it? Did they seek this love, were they tormented by its crucial problems about the meaning of life, were they captivated by the face of Christ, by its beauty? No. Many understand God’s love as a solidarity He has with the sinner, they understand His love as an opportunity to sin and be with Him in the same time. More exactly as an opportunity of not being with God but of using His gifts.

The men don’t think about what means salvation in its Christian significance. For some salvation means only a wonderful place in a space where the man will leave after death. But salvation mean resemblance with God, the gaining of the divine grace which begins on earth and is continued in eternity, is the face of Christ which enlightens everything brighter and clearer in the soul of the man, is the ascent from darkness to light, is the transfiguration of the human nature, which becomes more spiritual and capable to embrace the divine perfection. For the Christian, salvation mean Christ Himself. It is not possible a salvation like this without expiation, without the sacrifice from Golgotha and without sanctification through the Holy Spirit. But doesn’t this mean that all those who don’t know Christ will go in the torments of the hell, regardless to their deeds? No! The hell and the bottomless pit don’t mean the same thing. Although you invented the pagan from the Amazon who is more righteous than Melchisedec, to the pagan who in the limits of his tribal habits and conceptions proves compassion and kindness, according to the inner voice of the conscience every man has, although on different levels, will be given a life after death according to his deeds, not in the glory but nor in labors. Salvation is given by the blood of Christ, the punishment is given by the personal sins, but the virtuous man who does not know God will not be deprived of His mercy. They say that for the good deeds God will reward those who don’t know Him but He cannot give Himself. In the Middle Age sometimes hell was symbolically represented in the form of some concentrical circles: the center, where were Satan and the worst sinners was called Tartarus, in the surroundings were the kinder sinners and the unbaptized babies. There were no torments nor any bliss. In what regards the torment of the sinners and of the evildoers they are tormented in the proper meaning of this word, not by God but by their sin, which represents a destructive power on earth and a false kind of living and after death a permanent resemblance with the demon. But before being concerned about the pagans from the shores of the Amazon let us look at ourselves. God reveals His love to us, the Christians, but do we receive it, did we settle as aim of our life to gain grace, do we sacrifice anything for the divine love about which we enjoy to speak?  Maybe at the Last Judgment those who don’t know God will denounce for their inner apostasy the minimalist Christians who lost the gift they were given. The soul which loves the sin longs after that one who tempts him wih false hopes. From this reason there appeared heresies about the salvation of the entire mankind in the old times as well as nowadays among these being an apocryphal writing about the baptism in hell.

Archimandrite Rafail Karelin – Answers at the dilemmas of nowadays