Behind the trial it is hidden God’s blessing

Almost all people owe their return to God to a trial

Sadness is a bad thing. But behind this bad thing, behind the pain, behind the trial it is hidden God`s blessing, it is hidden the rebirth, the recreation of the man, of the family. Almost all people owe their return to God to a trial. It seems to them that everything goes well and they forget about God. But God takes their child. Then this is followed by lamentations and cries and pains and all the rest. After all this it comes the grace of God and it covers them and the men find peace, they approach the Church, they come to confession, they come to the priest. Due to their child they go to the church. The pain makes them seek, makes them pray for his peace and pay liturgies.

The heart which was callous before and did not receive a thing now is melted by pain and receives openly the words of God. Think about a man in the vigor of youth. Diplomas, praises, health, everything nice. But when he is smitten down by a disease he begins to think in a different way. `Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.` I may die. And what is the use of all these? A man may approach him and give him a book saying: `Read this book and see what it says! He hears a word of God but this time he listens to it carefully. The pain have already prepared his heart and made it ready to receive the word of God.

And in this way it is achieved the recreation of the man. After he recovers he wakes up from the bed of suffering and from now on he lives his life more carefully not living anymore with the pride and conceit he had had.

Sickness and sadness are by excellence the medicine of the divine care necessary for bringing him close to God and for enhancing his virtue.

Job was the kindest man on earth, but God wanted to make him much more kinder. And he was honored from the moment he was put to test. He was a kind, pious man but without the trial he suffered, Job would have never been known. But from the moment he was tried and he fought and struggled and he was rewarded and got rich his glory began and this stretched until our times. His example is brilliant and strengthens any man who faces a trial. If he who was a saint was put to test, we who are sinners will be put to test even more. And the result was that the trial sanctified him more gave him more years to live and blessed him with doubled fortunes than those he had lost becoming a bright example over the ages for every grieving man who should follow this example, have a support on it, find his relief and say:

`

`The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.` (Job 1, 21).

He bends his head and says: `The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. And if He took my child isn’t He who has given it to me? He took him. Where is my child? In heavn? But what is he doing there? He rests…

Behind every trial hides the will of God and the use that in those times he might have not seen he will see in the course of time.

There are many parables of this kind. As it would be that of saint Andronicus and Athanasia. These two were married. Andronicus was a goldsmith and he had plenty of riches. With a part of what he earned he sustained his family, another part he gave it to the poor and the third part of his earning he gave it without interest to the people who had no money. He had two blessed daughters. But one day both of them died because of a disease. They buried them both in the same time. Athanasia the poor woman cried inconsolably over the tomb of her two daughters. Andronicus was crying too but after a time he went home. Only poor Athanasia remained there crying near the tomb. `My children`, `my children`. It was almost sunset when all of a sudden she saw a monk who said to her:

`Why are you crying, sister?`

`How not to cry father? I buried both my children, my angels. I put them into tomb and me and my husband remained alone. We have no comfort.`

`Your children are in heaven with the angels. They are in the bliss and joy of God and you stand here and cry? And you are a Christian.

`My children live indeed? Are they angels?`

`Of course that your children are angels.`

After that Andronicus and Athanasia went to live in the monastery and they sanctified themselves.

Source: Starets Ephrem Philotheos, Spiritual advice for regaining spiritual health and for our salvation, Orthodoxos Kypseli Publishing, Thessaloniki.

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (V)

***

An old hermit said :
A brother obeys piously, without asking questions. Later he thinks, which destroys obedience. He examines through the eyes of logic.

***

Christodoulos, the hermit who was under the guidance of father Calinic who was full of vigilance used to tell us every time we visited his cell :

In our days it is absolutely necessary to try harder to reach patience. In the past the saints struggled hard for this virtue. We are not capable to equal their ascesis but at least we must struggle to have some patience, obedience and humbleness.

***

When we arrived in the Holy Mountain I thought I reached God. But after I met father Daniel, I realized how far was God of me – said A.Moraitidis, a writer who later became monk Andronicus, disciple of elder Daniel, who was so full of discernment.

***

In 1968, I went with elder Daniel, my companion of ascetic struggle, to Karulia, the most isolated part of Athos to see the wonderful hermit Zosimas who was making baskets. His disciple, father Seraphim, who knew a little Greek, was with him. He took us to their chapel, dedicated to saint George. In that desert we were offered three passages from the Holy Scripture as spiritual refreshments:

`

`I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. `(John 17, 6). Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1, 12). `and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.` (Matthew 28, 20).
Elder Seraphim told us :

`We are living in hard times. Antichrist will come soon. He will be of Jewish origin. We visited elder Andrew as well who was very poor and sick. He suffered of vertigo but he was very patient. Here are two things he told us:

`We must apply in practice the teachings of the Holy Scripture, not just to read them. In our prayers our mind and heart must be united. Abstinence is an essential condition for the pure prayer. Don’t judge your neighbor for anything. Show patience and obedience towards those who are younger than you. If you are 90 years old listen someone who is 18 years old. Elder Bartholomew received us gladly after much insistence. Here are some of his sayings: 

Every time we have tears during prayer we are in connection with God.

We resemble God by our virtues. The Jesus prayer unites us with Him.

Look how the things are, brothers:Alas, I lost the blessing of communal life!

Obedience leads to humbleness, sadness, tears, purification and enlightenment.

After he treated us with figs and rain water from his tank, he told us about the pious elder Isaac of Dionisiou and his virtues.

***

Not long ago I had a discussion with one of the elders of a skete about the patience and obedience of the mules used by the monks at carrying the heavy things on the abrupt and rocky paths of Athos.

These animals are good teachers for us, brothers, he said. They never cry and always wait patiently to obey, without opposing any resistance.

Another pious monk who took care of the animals of the monastery said: `The mules make their duty without complaining. They carry heavy burdens of wood on rainy and cold weather. If they are fed or not, they don’t complain. I was taught by these noble animals. I often cried while feeding them comparing my impoliteness with their amiability, my disobedience with their obedience.

***

The great hermit Daniel of Kartounakia corrected and calmed once a brother who was desperate because of the quarrels and upsetting happenings from the monastery. He said to the brother: `Endure the quarrels, son, nobody is perfect.`

***

A humble monk said :

`We asked Theotokos, who is the defender and protector of the Holy Mountain if she approved the building of roads in Athos, to be used by cars and motors and produce great noise in this monachal centre. Is it possible to ignore Theotokos and all her promises for the Holy Mountain?

***

A hermit from our times said :

In our days there is much flour to make dough for bread, but there is not enough yeast to make it swallow.

***

An Athonite word sounds like this :

Be cautious in bringing a stranger in your monastery as you would be in adopting a stray animal.

***

A brother asked elder Auxentius Grigorite whose life was divided between the Jesus prayer and the akathists to Theotokos:

`Tell me now when I be ordained, to what things should I focus my attention first?

Be humble and avoid quarrels.`

***

Elder Nikander from Konstamounitou was asked once:

`If we read the biographies of the pious saints and monks and we make our canon, why don’t we become like them?

When a worker who processes metals wants to apply an alloy on copper first he cleans the copper and then burns it into fire. Until the rust is not removed the alloy doesn’t stick on the copper. The same thing happens with us. We enter a monastery to become monks but we bring with us the rust from the world. Thus until we remove it the grace of God doesn’t make us shine.

***

The abbot from Konstamonitou, Modestsaid:
`Try not to look at the mistakes of the others.`

***

The Athonite monks usually say :

`It doesn’t matter the place where you live, but the way you live. This will save you.`

***

`Elder Gabriel, I have one wish in my heart: to come and stay in the Holy Mountain` said father Cyril to a famous hermit of Karoulia.

`Take heed to what I am saying to you. You can come here indeed but now as long as you live in the world go home, close the door of your house, draw the curtains, fast, read, pray and you will be in the Holy Mountain.`

***

`When he spoke his words were like fire and his face had a waxen bright color.`

This is the way a coeval of elder Nicephorus spoke about him.

Elder Nicephorus lived in Simonopetra Monastery. He said without cease the Jesus prayer and he accepted to be ordained only for being under obedience but he always prayed to be released of other duties of priesthood. His prayer was listened being released when he lost his sight.

***

Elder G was ruthless with the idle. He advised the monks to work in order to resemble the hermits from the old times. Some of them made baskets, others made bales in the field, others oil from seeds and others picked flowers for tea.

***

An elder said:
Our salvation doesn’t depend on chance but on assiduous toil. The Kingdom of God comes to those who have zeal.

 From the Athonite Patericon

About the virtue of spiritual thoughts IV

***

An elder said:
`The spiritual life of a monk begins when he detaches himself of all the visible and invisible things and is focused only on God.`

He also said:
`When I was in the world everybody called me `monk` so I said to myself: `If you are a monk what are you still doing in the world?`

***

The monk Mikhail of the Lavra, who was an orderly there was an example of devotion and dedication. He served the Holy Liturgy in all details. He worked everywhere and anytime. He was pale and had a bright, ascetic look.

***

The hermit Damaskinos from the monastery of Saint Basil told us once about a monk from Kavsokalivia who had lived long time ago. He neglected his canon (The Canon of the monk consists of 100-300 metanies and 6-12 rosary rows with the Jesus prayer daily) and the other spiritual duties. At the end of his idle life he got sick and when he was on his deathbed his soul did not want to leave his body for many days. This happened in 1935-1936

The doctor a monk with great discernment realized that it happened because he had been careless all his life. Then father Gregory, the confessor of the dying monk knelt down and prayed arduously full of mercy and love for the one who was under his guidance promising before God and men that he would complete the canon of the monk until its end. When he finished this prayer the monk reposed in peace.

***

A monk said :

In these days we try to obtain holiness with little effort.

And he said again:

The more we toil the more grace we will receive.

Then he added:

God can fill our hearts with so much happiness and love for Him that we could not receive it and we would run away from monasteries seeking isolation in a cave. And the laymen if they experienced such a bliss they could abandon their responsibilities, families and children and hide away of them.
That is why God Who is entirely Love does not fill us completely with His bliss.

***

An elder said :

In these days the men are so stressed that they won’t find true happiness in the worldly parties and entertainments. And he also said:

In our times tradition disappeared. Our only examples should be all the saints.

***

Another elder said:

If your spiritual father shows the signs of self denial accept all his counsels. If you cannot tell him everything, he cannot give you the advice which is suitable for you. The Lord says: `If a prophet was wrong, I did that, because your heart is not just.` Don’t be a hypocrite.


***

An elder said :

`I cannot describe to you, my son, what joy I felt every time when I suffered injustice from men. I felt I was sharing the injustice suffered by the Saviour.

***

There was once a monk in a monastery who was careless. Despite this fact, the abbot tolerated him, wishing his salvation saying that Theotokos would save him since he had never left her Garden. It was obvious that the hope of the abbot was based on the initial zeal and piety of the monk.

***

Working hard, father Ignatius from Dionisiou transformed the rocky slope of the mountain in a real garden. An orchard of fruitful olive trees. He was always carrying an ax at his belt and some tools in his bag and he cleared with enthusiasm the wooden area from the slope which was in front of the monastery. He grafted all the wild olive trees. Because of his care and zeal for the prosperity of his monastery he left after him this heritage. It is worth remembering that his hard work in the olive tree grove was always accompanied by a blessed humbleness and acts of mercy.

Carelessness can destroy the pious men! An awful thing! exclaimed an old wise

Hermit.

In the Monastery of Saint Paul I met an honorable Romanian hieromonk and confessor, father Makarios who said:

`Those who can pray with a pure heart are those who toil and participate at the Holy Sacraments.`

***

A pious monk gave the following advice :
`Love all the people but have no particular friendship relations with anyone.`

***

I know a father who never left his rosary down. He prayed without cease everywhere he went. God gave him an endless desire to pray.

***

This is what S, the hieromonk with white beard said:

Long time ago there were 8000 monks in the Holy Mountain and despite all the difficulties which existed then, despite the hard work and the endless ascetic struggles, they had everything they needed. Now the young monks have even cars. Their anxiety and concern for material goods are like an epidemy. The more they have the greater is their trouble. It is a vicious circle. The cause of this thing is the sin which destroys both the body and the soul.

***

An elder said :

In our times the monks save their souls due to trials because there is no virtue (and by this he meant that there are no more great ascetic struggles like those of the saints and hermits of the yore) Those who can suffer the temptations of the devil will be like some of the fathers from the old times with the condition to endure till the end of their life. This means that patience without complaining is equal with the rule of prayer.

***

Another elder said :

The evil is everywhere and the darkness prevails. It is like a recently ploughed land with its upset black soil. And if you plant seeds in it they will germinate quickly and we will grasp the fruit when it comes the time of the harvest.

***

Father Joseph the hermit said :

`The main aim of the devil is to attack our faith. If the devil succeeds to make a person leave his faith then he turns that one in a traitor.

***

Elder Daniel and I had the same spiritual father. His name was Averky and he was like a second Paul the simpleton. He was from the hermitage of Saint John the Baptist. He had never left the Holy Mountain since he was a child when he was brought there hidden in a basket with onions – when Greece was under Turkish occupation.

Father Averky asked both of us to be his disciples:

`I will die soon` he said, and who is going to light saint John’s candle?`

`Theotokos will send you someone` I said to him then I added jokingly: We are very difficult and you are severe (in fact he was meeker than a lamb)

I will make a list on a sheet of paper with the virtues and another one with the sins and without telling you anything I will show them to you.

What a blessed soul! He was blessed in two ways: first with simplicity and secondly with respect for the free will of the man.`

***

A few years ago father Gerasimus the Hymnographer for whom I had a great respect told me:

`Saint Gregory Palamas said that only one thing is impossible for God : to unite with an unclean person. This never happens.`

.

***

A Greek ascetic was making brooms and he took them to the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon and gave them in exchange for dry bread. Thus by this toil he earned his daily bread

***

I met him in the last days of his life the charismatic father Simeon who had been under the spiritual guidance of elder Sava until the end of his life. Father Simeon related to us many things about this elder full of virtues and discernment and he also advised us:

`Be afraid of the sin and not of the devil because he has no power.`

 From the Athonite Patericon

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (III)

Priesthood is given as a manifestation of God`s love for mankind, said hieromonk Athanasios of Iveria. God loves us and makes us His priests. A ministrant priest lends his voice and hands to God for fulfilling His Holy Sacraments.

A priest is purified by God’s grace when he dresses in the holy priestly garments except for the case when he has a lack of morality, a revengeful attitude or a greediness for money. Those who toil for the word of God should be first prepared by ascesis.

Elder Avvakum the barefoot said to all the spiritual fathers: To give advice is a blessed thing because in that moment two minds meet in love and humbleness. He emphasized the fact that any advice should be given with great love, humbleness, leniency and peace and it doesn’t matter at what time of the day a person could come to ask for help. The monks should receive everyone with a smile so that the visitors would leave content and glorify God, he insisted.

***

An elder said :

`We should not put God in a difficult situation. He is full love. God doesn’t like to see us unhappy. What does He do then?

When we are given plenty of divine grace we boast with it. If we are not given this grace we are sad, unhappy, even desperate. Even after we try to make a good start, we tire. Even if we go on the sides, this may mean a good experience for us, because it is only for making us humble ourselves.

Sometimes God withdraws His grace from us. This is in fact the way in which a man humbles himself. When he is given back the divine grace the man sees that he evolved in what regards self knowledge and realizes that he cannot rely on himself and he needs God’s help. He is exactly like a baby. As soon as he is able to hold his mother’s hand he tries to walk. He makes big steps and believes that he does them well thinking that he does that on his own. If he continues, the child becomes dependent because if we keep his hand all the time he has a false confidence and then he falls to tumbling when in fact he expects to walk alone.

Sometimes the devil succeeds in using us to tempt our brother. When we pray to God to give us love then God may allow a brother to become sick and thus we have the opportunity to show our love when the sick brother asks for our help. The sick one may ask you: `Please bring me some tea, bring me this, bring me that…` In this way God tests your love and patience.

Sometimes God withdraws His grace from our hierarchs and then they speak harshly to us. In this way they put us to the test to see if we judge or not, when we previously asked to be given the virtue of not condemning anyone.

***

An elder from nowadays who was full of discernment was saying:

`We don’t speak in the name of freedom when we tell to the others that everything is allowed. This is enslavement. Someone can evolve only through temptations. Here is an example: we have a young tree and take care of it. We fix it with a thread of a stick. We don’t use wire because that would do it harm. We make a small enclosure around it. This is the only way to take care of it. Here is another case, of a small child. We restrict his freedom from his conception because he lives in the womb of his mother for nine months. After his birth he is wrapped in swaddles. When he grows a little we fix a small enclosure around him and so on. These restrictions are necessary until the child becomes older. Apparently he hasn’t freedom but without protection he could have died or stopped growing.

Elder Avvakum Lavriotis who was full of grace said :

Joy comes from someone’s bond and union with God. Mankind was created to be happy not sad. When you are glad of bad things you will surely pay for this pleasure you had. But the joy of God doesn’t ask any reward. For instance I who have nothing in this world cannot pay anything for the happiness I have. I am not the only one who affirms this truth. My brothers the monks who have nothing else except for God are full of joy. I emptied myself for the sake of Christ. I have nothing else but God and joy. Poverty is wonderful because it brings freedom. The man must empty himself to make place for Christ to enter his heart. When God is with me I have happiness. In each cave dwelled by a hermit you will find spiritual joy.

**

An old hermit said to a group of priests who visited him :

In order to have time for prayer somebody must not lose his time with the work which should be done by someone else.

For instance: a doctor will not do the dressing because an assistant can do this. The doctor takes care of more serious matters as it would be to examine a patient or to perform a surgical operation. If he loses his time with minor things he will not have time for the important ones and nobody will benefit of his medical knowledge. This thing applies to you as well. Pray for your believers and underline the names of those who are in greater needs than the others. It helps to know which is the particular problem of each person to pray better for each case in part.

***

An old hermit adviced a priest in the following way :

`Try as much as you can to perfect yourself and become a good priest. Then you will see that your parishioners will follow your example without telling them something else. Thus you will see that by toiling for your perfection you become a quiet example for the others.


***

The same hermit said :

We must gradually make the other one have good thoughts. Then everything will be all right. A person who hasn’t got good thoughts is under a demonic influence. We must turn on the right switch. When we have everything on the same wavelength we can benefit of obedience since the right switch is open. The young people who start their spiritual life must focus their attention towards the main causes of sin and they must always try to have good thoughts.

Once an old hermit went to town with some business and when he came back to  the skete the other brothers asked him what he had seen there. He answered that he didn’t see any man, only wild trees.

In our days the people want to become saints without any effort and some of them say:

`All the theological teachings must be passed through the patristic sieve.` In fact we ought to sift everything through the teachings of the holy fathers and throw away what means garbage. We must study following the guidance of the holy fathers. I will show you an example: we have three metals: copper, bronze and gold. These metals are of different quality. We have gold of 12 and of 24 carats. We choose that one which is of 24 carats. We need some cheap metal too but we should choose gold.

**

A monk who lived in the hermitage of Holy Trinity from Saint Anna’s skete was tempted by the demon of idleness until he almost fell into despair. One day in his despair he said:

`I will climb the hill till the top, I will sit on the highest rock and will swing my legs waiting for the time to pass by.

It was in the day before the feast of Saint John the Baptist, Dionisiou Monastery being dedicated to this saint. He climbed on the peak of a rock, sat down there and started to swing his legs while saying the Jesus prayer but not all the time of course, only from time to time since he was possessed by demonic idleness. While he was sitting in that idle position a legion of demons passed by going to Dionisiou Monastery to tempt the monks from that place. One of the demons said to the others: `I’ll make fun of that half dead body dressed in black who sits down there.`

`Don’t go, he will burn you` said the other demons. But that demon went anyway and showed up as a novice and said:

`What are you doing here?`

`Not much` said the young monk. I am idle and I am not able to offer anything to my God except for sitting and swinging my legs. Hearing those humble words the demon left him immediately and went back to join his group. This story isn related by the elders who advice the novices who have difficulties to follow their rule of obedience.

***

An old hermit said:

`Someone’s mind and heart cannot be cleaned as long as they are focused on the world and its problems.`

***

A hermit from Katounakia whose name was Raphael always repeated for himself:

Everything is on earth is ephemeral but everything is above is for eternity.

***

An elder said:
`The world is for the monk as a coalman (meaning that it soils the soul as a coalman)

***

Another elder said:
`If monachism flourishes in our days it means that God prepares something special for the world. The whole world is in a crisis. The people are hungry after spiritual things.

***

An elder said to his disciples:
When we come to the monastery to become monks we must leave the world behind us with its habits, comfort and luxury.

From the Athonite Patericon

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (II)

The elders from the Holy Mountain say:
Salvation is not given by the place but by the way you live.

***

An elder said :

We should rather be happy than sad when the people treat us badly, unjustly. We must not try to be believed by people even if we are right. Since God is right and we force ourselves only for the life to come, it has no meaning to try to make ourselves be understood by the others or treated well or be recognized for our value and not to be mistreated and so on. If we follow this path in life we will realize that the path we are crossing now doesn’t lead us to heaven.

***

A simple and uneducated hermit told me :

Those who are too smart are quickly caught in Satan’s net because they are full of selfishness, my blessed father. They are like the crabs caught in fishing net.

***

Some time ago I met a monk from a monastery who spoke in a very expressive way. He spoke about the fear of God, about piety and about human logic. I had never met in my life someone to express himself so vividly. His words were like a spring of sprinkling water. His speaking was accurate, pure, ardent and accompanied by wonderful spontaneous gestures. He said things like the following ones:

Who is full of respect has fear of God. Who has fear of God is humble. God protects the humble. Only the humble one has a logical thinking. The arrogant one cannot think logically. And who doesn’t take care of his soul becomes either brutal or a beast or filled of self deceit.

***

What is monachism ?

`It’s  hard work.` answered an experienced monk.

`Indeed` answered a hermit from our days to a new follower of Christ. If you want to succeed in your monachal call I tell you only one thing, brother: To be sure that you love physical work.`

***

The great hermit and confessor Hariton (I wrote a biography of this wonderful hermit from the Holy Mountain) every time he received a visitor thing which he did with great love and kindness, used to say:

`In that time Christ began to work and speak.`

The father avoided the useless talk and gossip considering them as causes of many diseases.

***

A pious monk from the New Skete said :

On every Easter when we say `Christ is Resurrected` we remember the cry of the angel before the empty tomb of Christ. Those who leave the church right after they sing `Christ is resurrected` are not Christians. Only those who remain at the Holy Liturgy are Christians.

***

Father Gregory from Xenophontos Monastery, a monk who is over 100 years old told us:

`When we were novices we asked our father confessor to read us a prayer in the church for our habit to prattle.

***

He also said

A monk without a rule of obedience is not a real monk.

***

The monks who live an idiorrhythmic life (in this kind of living every monk lives on his own, having his own rules of work, fasting and prayer and usually he is not under the guidance of any Elder; unlike this in the cenobitic monasticism the monks follow a common rule of living and are all guided by the same spiritual father ) cannot be corrected, used to say pious father Teophilos Lavriotis wanting to show us all the deficiencies of such monasteries.

***

The wonderful monk Theophilactus of Kavsokalyvia said to a young novice :

`If you want to become a good monk, remember all your life this thing: Be thankful to God because you were deprived of all your personal belongings you could have expected. Use a wooden bed where to sleep and on Easter eat a sardine with some greens and a spoon of oil. A monk has no right in this life to be free. How many were destroyed by the devil because of the desire to have personal belongings!

***

An elder said :

The more spiritualized a  person is the less belongings he wants in this life.

***

I asked a father how many years he had stayed in the Holy Mountain and he said:

`I’ve been here for many years but I haven’t evolved at all. The jackals who live in the desert remain jackals forever.

***

An old hermit said :

A man with fear of God respects everyone. My spiritual father bowed with respect even before the most insignificant and unworthy man.

***

An elder said :

The men estranged themselves of their spiritual fathers and they lost themselves in all kinds of thoughts and irrational passions and they end by making confessions to a psychiatrist who gives them pastilles to make them forget about their problems. Shortly after that the same kind of problems reappear on surface and everything repeats itself. If a person takes care of his inner state he can sleep like a baby and has no need of pastilles or anything else.

Living in the desert doesn’t solve anything unless I annihilated all my irrational passions. Or in other words that place is not a desert when I adapt it according to myself instead of adapting myself to living in a desert place.

***

An elder said :

God doesn’t predestine but He knows beforehand.

***

An elder said:

`When you tell your opinion to the others do it in such a way that they may benefit of it. If gossip is what results from it, then do it only with God. Nobody tires when speaking to Him, because the prayer is restful. Many times we pray for someone who is sick. And others pray for him as well but despite it that person dies. Those who prayed for him wonder why God didn’t listen to their prayers. They don’t realize that God listened to their prayers but He knows what’s better. We don’t know which would have been the end of that person if he had lived. We must be thankful to God for everything.

***

An old monk said :

For the monks the precipices become palaces and the sky above them is their roof. The earth is their mattress and the nuts and greens their food. The wild beasts are their neighbors and the caves become royal rooms.

`Father is it difficult to become a monk?` we asked a wise elder.

`It’s not difficult. When you have forgotten yourself completely then you realize this is the lightest burden to carry.

***

An elder said :

If someone wants to get help he must have his ears wide open to be able to receive the signals from another person. When someone’s heart is not receptive then he should first pray to God to open it so that the word of God can be received.

Bring near these people who are estranged of God in a simple way with true humbleness and love. Pretend not to notice many of their flaws and correct what is absolutely necessary because the people are bored and burdened by life and they don’t like to be corrected by somebody else, no matter how well-meaning that one would be.

From the Athonite Patericon

About the quality of the spiritual thoughts and dispositions (I)

The renowned hesychast and spiritual father, elder Gregory lived at Saint Anna’s skete before father Sava. He lived in a ceaseless prayer and silence. He spoke only when it was necessary and everyone marveled at his divine gift of inspired speech. He became the supporter and upholder of the monks, hermits and pilgrims.

Due to the discernment of this wise elder, captain Gheorgaki, the chief of a band of robbers was guided to repentance. For reaching this thing the elder used an admirable trick. He pretended he was guilty of many crimes too and these were even bigger than those of the robber. By means of this trick he earned the trust of the fierce robber And thus he tamed he him and made him change his heart almost completely. He also promised to the robber to give him the Holy Eucharist every day with one condition: to keep a fasting of 40 days together. And Gheorgaki agreed.

However elder Gregory did not give him the Holy Eucharist, only common bread and wine  until the forty days of repentance passed. Then he gave him the real Eucharist.

Elder Gabriel, the abbot of Dionisiou Monastery related me the following:

More than 50 years ago, around Karyes (in Kutlumus skete) lived a very simple elder who hadn’t studied much in school but had a purified mind attached to Christ’s teaching. His  obedience was to knit socks for the civilian guards of the Holy Mountain and for the highlanders from Rumelia and Epirus. When he came at the Sunday fair from Karyes to sell his products, he stood under the portico of the cemetery near the road keeping in his right hand the rosary and in his left hand the goods for sale. He uttered without cease the Jesus prayer: `Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner`, with his eyes on the ground. If someone teased him saying: `Lift your head and seek customers`, he answered `As long as they see me it’s not necessary to seek them.`

This man had such discernment that at the confession he realized the major problem of the person who confessed and gave him advice for improving.

Hearing about him Joachim the 3rd the Ecumenical Patriarch who was at that time at Athos went to Karyes to meet him. He went to the elder and asked him to go together in the afternoon in a cell to confess.

`My cell is too small, your holiness to receive a Patriarch, answered the elder.`

  `It doesn’t matter if it is small`, answered the Patriarch.

`But it’s too low to enter, your holiness.`

`I’ll bend myself to enter`, insisted the Patriarch.

`Unfortunately you don’t bend your head, said the elder. If you had done this you would have been Patriarch even now.

He meant that the Patriarch was arrogant and had an attitude that was not inclined to give up.

Many times the Patriarch said about this incident:

`As long as I live I will not forget the discussion with that elder, a simple man but with a great discernment.

***

A monk came to the same spiritual father to complain about the young novice who served him obediently and who although had only to make his usual prayers and everything was easy for him, not being burdened by much work, was overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, being in danger of falling into a spiritual confusion because of depression. The elder who was responsible for him came to elder Gabriel to advise him how to help the young novice.

`Marry him`, answered elder Gabriel.

Hearing that the elder was stunned and looked at him puzzled, not believing his own ears.

`Get him to work`said elder Gabriel. The young men can be humbled and silenced by regular work. For a monk the prayer alone without work is like work without prayer. Marry him with his work.`

***

Every time there are temptations and troubles the crown of victory is shown too, said elder Gregory to hieromonk Joachim Spetsieris. And he added:
`If there were a monastery only with angels and you were a monk in that monastery you wouldn’t have saved your soul, because nobody would have upset you and you would have had an easy life. The following verse fits in this situation:

 «You received the good ones in your life»23 (These are the words Abraham says to the rich man who went to hell and they are found at Luke16, 20–25).
Once hieromonk Joachim Spetsieres said to elder Gregory:
` Father, I am losing the struggle with the carnal temptations. I cannot rest during day nor during night!`

`Do not despair. This is a sign that your salvation is close. Do not be afraid, our Christ does not let us be tempted more than we can endure. And soon after he blessed him, he was released of that temptation.

***

An elder said that Hagi Gheorghe, who was at first a novice, understood the monks under obedience. He took care to help them improve and advised them with discernment.

***

An elder said :
`If you pay all your debts in this life you can be saved. But if you are hit in the head many times you will receive something more. For the people who are beaten unjustly there is a reward. This means that God allows those who have a good life to be severely hit. Why is it so? Let me give you an example.

There is a happy family where all of them are good people: the mother, the father and the children. They go to the church and take the Holy Eucharist regularly. All of a sudden a drunkard or a madman kills the good father without any reason. Because of this many of those who are far from God will say: `Look at him. You see? He went to the church and look what happened to him.`

`What an insolence! God permits the suffering of the innocent for giving a second chance to the unrepentant so that they may be led on the path of repentance seeing the suffering of the innocent and thus to be like the good robber who was crucified on the right side of Christ.

What do we notice at the two robbers between whom Christ was crucified ? One of them defamed Him saying:

`If you are Christ, save Yourself and save us.`

But the other one rebuked him saying:

`Aren’t you afraid of God since you are under the same punishment? We receive what is right for us according to our deeds but this One did no harm.`(Luke 23, 39–41).
For this reason God allows the suffering of some innocent people, to be of use for the rebels, even if those who suffer are truly loved by God. I think that God will say in heaven: `Here, this place is for you or you can chose the one you like!`

Do you understand? It is just like this. If we ask justifications for what happens to us we can lose everything. We lose our peace of mind and reward.

***

One of the most enlightened elders of the Holy Mountain, who had a great discernment, was elder Daniel, who built for the Athonite monks a holy hermitage in the desert place of Katounakia. There the monks who were under his rule were called «Daniels» – because of the special charismatic personality of their Elder.
He became famous as a wise spiritual adviser of numerous monks from their community, of hermits and laymen for his virtues and education coming from experience. Inspired by the Holy Spirit he was capable to discern any trap coming from the right side (temptations coming from the right side: it is an expression found in the Orthodox monarchism and which refers at all the scheming of the evil one to cheat someone and make him believe that he has virtues he doesn’t have) because of the evil spirits in the struggle fought by Satan. These temptations from the right side include all the actions of a person which show false virtues, exaggerations, delusions, things done without blessing, self praise and vainglory. All these lead to a demonic pride.

One of these brothers who was deluded by Satan was father Damaskinos the Konstamonite. He thought he could be a recluse like one of the great hermits but without asking for a blessing from his elder. He decided not to go out of the monastery. He went out of his cell only for going to the church and to the refectory and he fulfilled his duties. He spent 10 years thinking that he was a recluse but full of pride. In the meanwhile because of the fact that he believed he was virtuous his praised increased and the contempt of the others as well and also the slanders, the rows and disagreements with the other monks. Because he did not correct his behavior the elder sent after elder Daniel who came heartily always glad to help.

Elder Daniel, so full of discernment called the misled Damaskinos and with his usual kindness  talked with him and he slowly made him come to his senses and have repentance. Elder Daniel used examples from the Old and the New Testament, from Moses and the Israelites and from the Holy Fathers and said to him: `Brother, beware from now on not to trust in yourself and in your thoughts but repeat that wise word f abba Dorotheus: `Cursed be your thoughts and the knowledge by your own self.`

I recommend an endless spiritual joy in your heart since this shows the fact that you have Christ in your heart and your breath

The devil has this big aim: to separate us of God. It won’t be easy for him to do it directly, because many Christians who felt the power of faith in their hearts were rewarded in this way, knowing that the man is created by God and only for God and they cannot be separated of him.

Satan, who has no moment of peace thinks indirectly that he could separate the man of his Creator. He struggles by all means to make the man fall into all kinds of sins and if he succeeds it doesn’t mean that he reached his aim, but he gives him a great sadness which makes him feel lost as if there were no forgiveness left for him, losing his own courage and separating himself of God and thus the enemy reaches his purpose.

You must not bend your head and give up regardless of the sin you made or how that would be. Continue to confess your merciful Lord since no misfortune means a thing if you have an unshaken faith. Do not be discouraged by any means. Satan and maybe your weakness deluded you but you didn’t give your heart to him and you didn’t erase the name of God from it. No matter how sinful you would be God is indeed most loving and because you confess Him He is merciful and forgiving.

He will seek for you, He will find you, He will embrace you, He will take you on His shoulders, He will carry you to the sheepfold and will love you more than He loves other sheep because you in fact did not leave him. This is a great spiritual position and the great falls from your life remain simple accidents.

I recommend you to have an endless spiritual joy in your heart since this shows that you have Christ in your heart and your breath. Your heart will always vibrate a wordless prayer. So have self control and peaceful joy even if you soiled yourself, not paying any attention to any discouraging sadness, which comes only from the devil.

The grace of God does not come where is sadness because you don’t know what to do with such riches and waste them. And due to prudence, this grace doesn’t reign over you, it  comes  only where is spiritual peace, where our being turns this great reaction device , this grace of God with your decisions to move, to fulfill yourself to reach the measure of the perfect man, for not saying to become a god through grace.

If it creates this state of mind of unrest, of sadness, the devil makes there his nest and hatches his eggs. You cannot love anymore, you cannot see clearly the future with the intelligence given to you by God, you are not able of that anymore, because you are sad, meaning that you are not capable of anything anymore, this being a demonic state of mind. When you are sad, think of that: Here must be a demon. And do not accept that.

Especially do not be discourage. Here lies the subtle fight of our holy Patericons and a great mystery of our spiritual life of raising up, of not staying under the heavy stone of the fall. I tell you a big word, in the spiritual order there is no fall anymore only raising.

No misfortune matters and nothing is lost as long as your faith remains alive as long as the head raises again and the soul does not renounce.

Father Arsenie Papacioc – About the demonic sadness

Nil The Athonite, the myrrh streamer (+1651) Prophetic and salvatory words

The men who will live in the 8th millennium  (7500 from the Creation of the world), will live in wickedness and debauchery. Then there will be great disorder and they will fight permanently, without reaching any agreement.

Then it will take place the 8th Ecumenical Council and the people will have some peace then they will be again drawn to cunning things, to damnation and they will not know the sacrament of marriage, but they will go to perdition and they will live in debauchery worse than Sodom and Gomorrah and many other evil things will take place. And the greater will be the sins, the more painful will be the misfortunes which will affect them. They will be convinced that the person who does the evil is good and the greedier will be the people the more misfortunes will come into the world. The love for money is an insatiable passion. The greed is the guide to perdition and  the renouncement at the worldly things is the guide to salvation. Are you greedy? You will lose your salvation, because the salvation of man is in danger to be lost because of greed.

This debauchery will bring sadness into the world and happiness will disappear. This will bring discord into the world, in the society. Greed is the throne of antichrist. Greed brought the lie into the world and the people are attracted by lie and unlawfulness, committing injustice. Truth will disappear and the people will find delight in lie. The truth is the incarnated oikonomia of Christ and the preaching of the Evangel. The lie comes from antichrist and his kingdom who aims to bring unhappiness and perdition to the whole world. And although the prophets speak about the coming of the Lord, greed will darken the mind of men for making them careless about their salvation, because of the many worries they will have.

Salvation will work only for those who won’t let themselves be drawn in the work of antichrist. Because the work of antichrist is the worldly worry and the gathering of fortunes. And today the men are focused on gathering fortunes and numerous worries and they were condemned to perdition by abduction, betrayal, lie, greed, pride, callous heart and love for money.

When the world lacks the grace of the Holy Spirit, it will be affected of all misfortunes.  

First the world will lack love, harmony and wisdom. Then every country will be ravaged and its rulers will perish and the Church of Christ will lack bishops, parsons and spiritual confessors.

After this calamity the unclean will be born from the womb of uncleanness and will make signs and miracles by demonic fancies, pretending in front of the world that he is gentle and humble when he is with hardened heart and wild mind. The antichrist will feed himself by stirring the world.

The stirring of the world will be the judgmental tendencies, the unforgiveness, hate, enmity, greed, adultery, debauchery, the loss of faith and the pride. These will feed antichrist and he will be the ruler of the land and of the world. He will control the senses of man and everybody will believe in him, because he will be ruler and emperor and will lead everyone t perdition. And whoever will be on the path to perdition will have the impression that he works for his salvation.

Then the Evangel of the Church will be disregarded, because perdition will bring great unhappiness in the world and there will be made great signs and miracles. It will be a great famine and the men will not appease their hunger anymore, because they will eat seven times more than now and they will still be hungry and everywhere will be great suffering…

Then many of those who were sealed with the seal of antichrist would die on the roads and their heart would be weakened more and being unable to starve they would rush to eat the dead and on his seal would be written: `you are mine, yes, I am willingly yours, not by force` and alas to those who would receive this seal. Then there will be a great commotion in the world and God, seeing their unrest, will order the sea to become hot again as at the beginning and when antichrist sits on his cursed throne, the water will boil like in a pot and the plants and the trees from the earth will dry because of the heat of the sea and the springs will dry out and the animals and birds will die. Then the day will become as the hour, the week as the day, the month as the week, because the cunnings of the man will make everything pass quickly, for ending faster the time announced by God…

Then prophet Elijah and the righteous Enoch will come to preach. That one who will be patient and will not receive the seal of antichrist will be saved and God will take him to heaven. It is enough not to receive the seal and make the sign of the cross because the sign of the cross saves the man of the torments from hell while the seal of the antichrist condemn him to them. And if they are hungry they should not ask for food, but be patient and God seeing their patience will send help from above.

The wretched offsprings of antichrist are debauchery, adultery, crime, abduction, theft, injustice, lie, tyranny, the trade with people…that wicked will be the human nature and they will work their cunning worse than the demons and antichrist seeing that the human nature becomes worse than those of the demons, will rejoice.

The wrath of God comes to punish those who commit misdeeds.

Aboout the coming of antichrist and the men from the end times.

Around the year 1900, the world will become unrecognizable.

When the time of antichrist approaches shamelessness and wickedness will multiply hundredfold. Then the world will be unrecognizable.

The look of people will change and there will be no distinction between men and women because of their indecent clothes and hair.

The men will become wild because of the deceit of the antichrist.

There will be no respect for the parents and for the old people.

Love will be missing and the priests of the Christians will be fond of vainglory, not distinguishing the right path from the wrong one.

Then the customs and the traditions of the Christians and of the Church will change.

The men will not have temperance and thriftlessness will prevail.

The lie and the love of money will reach their climax and all the people will seek to enrich themselves.

Debauchery, adultery, thefts and crimes will be prevailing in those times and because of the sin of shamelessness the people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit which they received at their baptism and of the qualms of their conscience.

The churches of God will be deprived of pious priests and the Christians living in those days in the world will be unfortunate and faithless because they will have no enlightenment. Then they will leave the world going to holy places of refuge to find peace in their troubles and everywhere they will face obstacles and troubles. All these will happen because antichrist will reign over everything and will become the ruler of the world, making false signs and miracles and will give a cunning intelligence to the poor men who will speak with one another from one corner of the earth to the other. Then the men will fly in the air like the birds and they will cross the depths of the sea like the fish.

Doing all these, the poor men will live in comfort not knowing that these are the deceits of the antichrist. And the cunning will make possible such a development of the science that the people will be deluded and they won’t believe in the existence of the Triune God

 (from the book `Evangelical garden`, Holy Monastery Stavrovounios, Cyprus)

An orthodox opinion and confession – Saint Iustin Popovici Contemporary Heresies

An orthodox opinion and confession (First part)

Devoted fathers,

The position against heretics – and all heretics are non-Orthodox – has been clarified by the Church of Christ once and for all through the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, that is, through the Holy Tradition, unique and unchangeable. This position says that the Orthodox are forbidden to pray together with the heretics or to communicate liturgical with them. For “what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (II Corinthians 6: 14-15). Canon 45 of the Holy Apostles ordains: “Let the bishop, the presbyter, or the deacon who has only prayed with heretics, be excommunicated: but if he has permitted them to perform any clerical office, let him be deposed.” (The same is the order by the apostles’ 46 and 65 canons and the canon 35 of the Synod of Laodicea).

This canon of the Holy Apostles does not show exactly which prayer or ministry is forbidden to do with heretics, but forbids in general any prayer made with the heretics. At common ecumenical prayers, even more serious things are done. Canon 32 of the Synod of Laodicea states: “It is unlawful to receive the eulogiæ of heretics, for they are rather άλογίαι (follies) than eulogiæ (blessings). At ecumenical assemblies and prayers in common, it happens that heretics Bishops and Catholic priests, Protestant pastors, even women do blessings.

These canons of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers and many others are valid not only for the ancient times but continue to be perfectly valid today too, for all the contemporary Orthodox Christians. They are undoubtedly valid for strengthening our position against Catholics and Protestants, since Catholicism is a multiple heresy, and what to say more about Protestantism? Better not discuss it. Already Saint Sava in his era, seven centuries and a half ago, called Catholicism “Latin heresy.” And how many dogmas he has ordained and commanded the “infallible” pope! There is no doubt that Catholicism is a heresy if we consider only the dogma of papal infallibility.

And the Second Vatican Council not only did not change this monstrous heresy, but validated it (See “Constitution of Ecclesia”, of Vatican Council II).

That being said, if we are Orthodox and want to remain Orthodox, we are also obliged to maintain the position of Saint Sava, of Saint Mark of Ephesus, of Saint Cosmas Ethel, of St. John of Kronstadt and the other Holy Confessors of the Orthodox Church, against the Catholics and Protestants, because neither of them believe in the two basic dogmas of Christianity: in the Holy Trinity and in the Church.

The Holy Apostle’s gospel speaks the truth: “… to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). The theanthropic faith is “the faith of truth.” The essence of this belief is the Truth, it is the only Truth, that is the theanthropic Christ, and the theanthropic love is “the love of the truth” (II Thessalonians 2: 10). The essence of this love is the All the Truth, that is the theanthropic Christ. This faith and love are the heart and the conscience of the Orthodox Church. These have always been preserved immaculate and unchanged only through Orthodoxy, for which the Orthodox Christians are called to testify without fear of the West, of its false faith, and its false love.

Holy Celie Monastery

Unworthy Archimandrite Justin

[1] This word was sent by Father Justin to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Serbia, on November 13/26, 1974.

The holy canons are inspired by God

It is unacceptable and is rejected any division into main and secondary canons. Either we receive them all or not. The distinction comes from the cunning one. We must keep all of them strictly, otherwise we are not Orthodox anymore. The holy canons are inspired by God and nobody can change them.

 (Nicholas, patriarch of Alexandria, Orthodox press, 15-9-1972)

  • There is no holy canon, no canonic stipulation, the long history of the Church has no such example where the Church accepted the sacraments of those belonging to another confession.

 (Archimandrite Ieronim Kotonis, The problems of the ecclesiastical oikonomia, p.200)

  • Those who changed the true teaching do not have within themselves the Law of God, they do not have the faith in the Father and the Son, they do not have the life and salvation.

(Saint Cyprian)

  • Anything opposes the truth, even if it is a tradition or an old custom, is a heresy.
  • Any teaching opposing the truth taught by the Church, by the Apostles, by Christ and God must be considered mistaken.

(Tertulian)

  • We believe in everything was taught by the Apostles, because the Apostles at their turn were taught by Christ and Christ was taught by the Father.
  • Orthodoxy is that unique Church which as a faithful guardian of the evangelical faith did not change a thing from what it constitutes it, nor did it remove or add anything.
  • Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers are the straight unique guides of the Truth and of the teachings of the Church, not the innovators, be they popes, patriarchs or archbishops.
  • Woe to those who profane the Holy Faith with heresies or to those who accept the heresies.

(Saint Ephrem the Syrian)

  • Let us guard ourselves with all our might so that we would not accept the communion of the heretics or give it to them, for not becoming partakers of the heresies and damnation.

(Saint John the Damascene, PG 94, 1149…)

  • …if you accept the Catholics, Christ will mean nothing for you.

(Saint Job the Confessor)

  • Remain steady and firm.
  • As it is not possible to build a house without foundations or to cultivate a plant which has no roots in the ground, in the same way without the confession of faith we will have no avail. That one who does not confess the truth of faith in Christ is far from God and Christ will repudiate him. For this reason brothers remain faithful, be brave, steady and firm in word and deed.

 (Saint Simeon of Thessaloniki, Theological Works, Thessaloniki, 1981, p.112)

  • Weren’t you taught that in hard times every Christian is responsible for Christianity in  its assembly? That every member of the Orthodox Church is responsible for the entire Church? That today the Church has enemies and is persecuted from the outside and the inside as well?

(The answer given by saint John Maximovici, †1966, to a spiritual son about an article he had written)