The Meaning of the Great Lent

It is obvious that most of the believers cannot attend daily the holy services from the Great Lent. They continue to go to the church on Sundays, but as we already know on the Sundays of the Great Lent the Holy Liturgy at least in its exterior aspects does not reflect the Lent and thus we can hardly feel the services of the Lent, the main means through which is transmitted to us the spirit of the Lent.

And since fasting is not reflected anymore in the culture we belong to, we don’t wonder anymore why today our way of understanding fasting is predominantly negative – talking about it as about a period when certain things like meat and fats, dances and entertainments are forbidden. The popular question – what are the things you give up for fasting? is an explicit expression of that common negative approach. In positive terms fasting is seen as the time when we have to make our annual duty to confess and commune (and this not later than the Palm Sunday as I read in a parish bulletin) Being accomplished this duty the rest of the fasting seems to lose all its positive meanings.

Thus it is obvious that here was developed a deep discrepancy between the spirit or the theory of fasting on one side thing which we tried to define on the base of the holy services from the Great Lent and on another side the popular way of understanding it which is often shared and supported not only by the laymen but also by the clergy. Because it is always easier to reduce something spiritual at something formal than to seek the spiritual side behind the formal aspect. We can say with exaggeration that although fasting is still kept it has lost much of its impact upon our life, it ceased to be our bath of repentance and renewal as it is considered by the liturgical and spiritual teaching of the Church.

But then can we rediscover it and turn it into a spiritual power in the daily reality of our life?

The answer at this question depends mainly and I would say exclusively on the fact whether we want or not to take fasting seriously. No matter how new and different are the conditions in which we are living today, no matter how real are the difficulties and obstacles raised by our modern world, none of these is an absolute obstacle, none of these makes fasting impossible. The origins of the gradual loss of the influence of fasting upon our lives are deeply rooted within us. The conscious or unconscious limitation of religion at a superfluous nominalism and symbolism is a way of avoiding or of figuring out the serious need for religion in our life, the need of religion for accomplishing duties and efforts. This limitation we must add is in a way specific for Orthodoxy.

The Western Christians, either Catholics or Protestants, when they face what they consider impossible they prefer t change the religion itself, they adapt it to new conditions and thus they make it more practical. For example I have recently seen how the Catholic Church reduces fasting at a minimum length then it removes it completely. We condemn with entitled indignation such an adaptation as a betrayal of the Christian tradition and as a stultification of the Christian faith.

And indeed it is the merit and the glory of Orthodoxy the fact that it does not adapt itself and doesn’t compromise itself with low standards that don’t make Christianity easy. It is for the glory of Orthodoxy and not for the glory of the Orthodox. We found not today or yesterday but long time ago a way to reconcile the exigencies for perfection of the Church with the human weaknesses and this not only without losing our reputation but with increased reasons for being self satisfied and having a clean conscience. The method consists in a symbolic accomplishment of these exigencies and the symbolic individualism penetrates today our entire religious life.

Thus for example we don’t even think to revise our cult and monastic rules – God forbids that! – and we continue to call an all night vigil a holy service of only an hour and we explain proudly that it is the same holy service the monks from the monastery of saint Sava celebrated in the 9th century. When we refer at fasting instead of the main questions – what is fasting? – we are satisfied with the symbolism of fasting.

In the church publications and bulletins they publish delicious recipes for fasting and a parish could even collect some extra money to popularize the delicious fasting meals. So many things are explained symbolically in our churches such as the interesting picturesque funny customs and traditions that represent something not much connecting us with God and the new life within Him but rather with the past and the customs of our ancestors therefore it becomes difficult to see behind this religious folklore the great importance of religion.

I’d like to emphasize the fact that these numerous customs don’t have anything wrong in themselves. When they appeared they meant the means and expressions of a society that took religion seriously. Those were not symbols but life. What happened was that as life changed upon the whole and became less influenced by religion, some customs survived as symbols of a way of life that doesn’t exist anymore. And it survived what was more picturesque and less difficult. Here the spiritual danger is that gradually some people begin to understand religion as a system of symbols and customs instead of perceiving these as a call to spiritual renewal and struggle.

There is more toil and money spent on preparing fasting dishes or the Easter baskets than on fasting and taking part at the spiritual reality of Easter. This means that as long as the customs and traditions are not linked with the general religious view upon the world which created them in fact, the symbols are not taken seriously and the Church will remain estranged of life and has no power over it. Instead of representing symbolically our rich tradition we should start bringing this into our real life.

Then to take fasting seriously means to consider it first of all at the deepest level possible as a spiritual question in need for an answer, a decision, a plan, a continuous effort.

For this reason as we know it the weeks dedicated to the preparation for fasting were settled by the Church. This is the time of answers, of determination and of planning. And the best and easiest way is to follow the guidance of the Church – by meditating upon the five evangelical themes offered to us on the five Sundays of the period before the Lent: that of desire (Zacchaeus) of humbleness (the publican and the pharisee) of the return from exile (the prodigal son), of the judgment (The frightening judgment) and of the forgiveness (Adam’s expulsion from heaven).

These periscopes are not made only for being listened in the church. The idea is that they should be taken home to meditate upon them in the light of our own life, of our family situation, professional duties, preoccupations for material things, of our relationships with the fellow men beside us. If at this meditation is added the prayer of this period before Lent, `open the doors of repentance for me Life Giver` and psalm 137 – at the Babylon river…- we begin to understand what means to feel with the Church how a liturgical period revives a daily life.

Its is also the right time to read a religious book. The aim of this reading is not only to enrich our religious knowledge but first of all to purify our mind of everything fills it as a habit. It is incredible how crowded is our mind with all kinds of worries and interests, concerns and feelings and how little we can control this agglomeration.

By reading a religious book, by focusing our attention upon something quite different of the habitual content of our mind it is created a different mental and spiritual atmosphere. These are not recipes, there can be other ways of preparing ourselves for fasting.

What is important during this period before fasting is to regard it as if it were far and would get close to us or probably as if it were something sent to us by the Lord Jesus Christ as a chance for a change, for renewal and deepening and if we take seriously this future chance on the Sunday of Adam’s expulsion from heaven (of Forgiveness) when we leave our homes for Vespers we should be ready to assume even partially the words of the great prokeimenon that opens the Great Lent:

`Do not turn Your face from your servant; when I am in trouble hear me quickly…`

 Source: Alexander Schmemann – Postul Mare

The widow and the basket

Priest. Evelthontos Haralambios

In a village lived a very poor widow with her only son. To raise her child she worked for other people. Because she laid all her hopes in him she decided to do everything to help him study in school.

She went to the icon of Theotokos and falling on her knees before her she said:

`Holy Mother of God, help me the sinner to send my son to study in school.

And thus struggling with many privations and with many prayers the poor widow could help her son become a doctor.

One day with his diploma in his suitcase the doctor went to visit his mother who was already old and to thank her. His mother received him happily and she felt a great gratefulness for Theotokos who helped her see the dream of her life fulfilled.          

And the next day on Sunday the old woman went to wake up her son and told him:

`Wake up, my son, to go and thank to the Holy Mother of God for your achievement.`

But the doctor didn’t want to wake up and go to the church because he didn’t believe in his words and he considered these old-fashioned. His mother was terribly upset but she didn’t say anything. She went to the church alone where she cried painfully before the icon of Theotokos. When she returned home her son, the doctor asked her:

`Mother, what did you understand from the words which were said in the church being an illiterate?`

The old woman didn’t answer, she just went to her storeroom took a small basket and told him:

`My son, you didn’t listen to me in the morning to come with me to the church. May you be forgiven. But now I want you to fulfill one wish I have and please don’t refuse me. I want you to take this small basket and go with it to the river and bring me water in it.

`Mother, how to bring you water in the basket? Have you lost your mind?`

`Go, my dear, and we`ll see what will be` said his mother.

Terribly shocked but not wanting to upset his mother more the doctor went to the river, he plunged the basket in the water and returned back home with it empty.

`Here`s your basket, mother. It`s exactly as you have given it to me. I did what you wanted. Do you see any water in it?`

`Thank you, my son for listening to me. But the basket is it the same way I gave it to you?`

`Yes, but now is wet, answered her son.

`You see, my son, that it’s not the same way I gave it to you? You took it dry and you brought it back wet. In the same way I go to the church as an illiterate and when I return I haven’t received its wisdom but I am refreshed by its grace and this has been keeping me alive for so long and with this grace I could keep you in school.“

Then the doctor humbled himself and understood that God

`God made foolish the wisdom of the world`[1]

`But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [2].

 Then he apologized to his mother and they went together to the church to thank to the Holy Mother of God

 [1] I Cor. 1, 20.                                                                          

[2] I Cor. 1, 27.

Chase away luck from your life !

It became a habit to wish `good luck!` in various moments of our life. We consider that a little bit of luck will bring us happiness in various forms:a flourishing financial situation, a very good job, an iron health, an advantage in general in comparison with the others. So one evening I approached this subject.

`Father, I think I am a lucky man.`

`You, a lucky man? But do you know what is luck?`

I didn’t expect this question. How not to know what it was.

`It is the element that pushes you before the others although it may be considered that you don’t deserve this thing, it makes you chief over some people who afre smarter than you, it helps you where you don’t expect it. Something of this kind.`

`Now that you gave me your explanation, I give you mine. I shall tell what elder Cleopas thought about what you call luck. Until the arrival of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the men had an idol for every sin: Mars was the god of war, Venera was the goddess of discord, Nemphis was the goddess of beauty, Afrodite was the goddess of debauchery, Moloch was the god of happiness or luck as we call it today. The statue of this last demon was carried in a chariot on two wheels made of copper or silver. Behind it was a copper oven and before it was a copper pan. It was lit a fire behind until the pan was ablaze. Then the pagan priest cried: Gave your babies to Luck to have luck. And thus many mothers went to the bottom of hell sacrificing their babies.

The babies were cut into pieces and put in that pan. There could enter tens of babies in the same time. The smell was horrible but however all these crazy mothers sacrificed their babies to Luck to have luck. Maybe they didn’t know his true identity but this didn’t save them of hell. Luck was the greatest demon because he took the greatest number of women to hell. And we the Christians when we meet we say `good luck` when we drink a glass of wine and this demon found his place even on the akathists of the believers. It`s strange that many don’t know who is this Luck but they mention him daily and invoke him asking for his help. When he asks for his payment, I am not sure they have with what to pay because there the money don’t go, but the soul goes instead as an exchange currency.

`Father, it may be a verbal habit, maybe it’s not that serious.`

`Listen, if a neighbor is near you and you call him on his name what do you think he turns to you?`

`I suppose so.`

`You see in this case things are almost in the same situation. When you call Luck in any situation he won’t wait to make his presence felt. As long as you lean on Luck you don’t lean on God. Listen to me carefully: there is no luck for Christians, there is only the orderliness of Theotokos. Speaking about the issue, many people wear amulets. They think these bring them luck and maybe that’s true now when we knoe what means Luck. Who seek Luck are subdued to him and all their life will be marked by this. The talismans are valued by superstitious people and they don’t bare grace, they are filled with a certain kind of energy which doesn’t come from God and has a limited life, consuming itself like a battery. The grace of God spring out from love, prayer, personal struggles, from repentance and regrets, from icons, from the holy relics, from the hand of the priest whom blesses, but in no case from talismans. The grace comes alone uncalled when you less expect it and leaves you when there is the slightest proof of pride. Where is grace, there is no room for superstitions and luck or talismans.

The talismans are used by people for filling compulsively the place where it should be grace, giving false impressions to their bearers. We should rather do everything we could for attracting grace leaving aside the talismans and the superstitions bringing luck but no grace. Since once being replaced grace we are subdued by the forces of darkness with small chances to free ourselves from the chains which lead to the perdition of our souls.`

`When I wished luck or I talked about it I have never thought about it as a potential demon. Now after everything we discussed I will be careful to what I say and I will tell others to avoid this sin. Thank you, father!

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

Being isolated from the world you make a fast progress in your spiritual evolution

In one of my journeys to the Holy Mountain in my quality of organizer of a group composed of 11 people, faced a difficulty meaning that where we hoped to find accommodation weren’t enough places. So three of us had to go to another hermitage. Being two united groups each one of them wanted to keep its men there. Although I could have said a word, I preferred not to interfere in the discussion leaving them free to do what they wanted. I looked carefully to see how they discussed, how they protected themselves, how they thought about themselves and nobody said from his personal initiative that he was willing to renounce at accommodation for the sake of someone else and go a little bit further to the other hermitage.

Thus I found myself one of the three who had to leave the hermitage. I thought it unjust for a while and I wanted to make objections but the holy place and the spiritual laws stopped me. Reaching the other hermitage I felt the need to speak with a monk who was on a visit there too about a similar case so that he could not make any connection with what had just happened.

I related to him my story which took place somewhere else with other persons involved. He listened to me carefully till the end then he answered to me by means of a parable.

`In order to tell you something very similar to this and make you fully understand the situation I will relate to you something from the life of the monks. One of the votes of the monks is that of poverty, meaning that the possession of goods is forbidden. From what you told me it’s nothing about possessions but about an attachment to a certain place.

The vote of poverty has at its base the isolation from the world and its temptations. Because being isolated from the world you make a fast progress in your spiritual evolution. It should be the same when it comes to the attachment of certain places. But I want to understand something clearly from you. What bothered that person? That he left a dear place or he was bothered by the attitude of the men?`

`Of course he was bothered by their attitude but the leaving of that dear place bothered him more. It was a place where he had got used to sleep, to eat and pray.`

`Good, now listen to what I am going to tell you. Some time ago a monk worked at his cell. He tried that hard with his spiritual confessor for long years. In the end they looked at it, it was wonderful and was shining of splendor. All the monks from that place admired it. After some time the spiritual confessor reposed and there came some other monks with other habits. Let’s say that because of their different view of the things or because of God`s will the young monk was asked to leave. `How to leave this place, thought the monk, when here is my home, I worked hard to build this cell, I built it stone by stone, I sculpted the altar and the chairs of the chapel, I put all my soul into it. Where to go? I don`t want to think about that.` Which shows that as long as you are still attached to the world you afre not yet attached to God. The situation you described to me about the grief of that person who didn’t remain where he would have like to stay represents nothing else than the barometer of the attachment of places and things. If he want to reach the shunning of passions than this is a good reason to practice it. But if he doesn’t know anything about such things he will continue to suffer for a while until he will naturally forget. Neither the monk from my short story was aware in the first moment that he had to separate himself of the material things and that was only a lesson for him. Only by separating yourself of the world and its possessions you become an experienced monk. So the man from your story should do the same, instead of suffering he should consider the incident a good reason for collectedness and comprehension of the situation. If you know him tell him this story.`

`Thank you, father, you have just done that yourself.`

Excerpt from the book Down to earth author Ionuț Riteș.

How do we pray ?

The man needs much patience to be able to spend time at the Holy Liturgy because it is not easy to stand still for two hours but you see to come to the church to attend the holy service Sunday after Sunday and even more than this is an experience similar with that of the people who were in prison. For these people the only possibility to survive was to deepen in their own self. They had no other place where to evade.

The interior of the man is a whole universe. You can watch the sky for hours without getting bored and the inner self of the man is like the sky…it is so huge that the man who looks inside himself cannot get bored.

The only possibility of the man to stay at the Holy Liturgy is this: to deepen within himself. This journey within your soul protects you of the temptation of boredom and renunciation. In the moment when the man leaves his inner self he starts to get bored at the Liturgy, starts to be upset by what he sees around, to watch the others and disperse his thoughts.

A traveler is not bored because in front of his eyes so many other pictures, other horizons are displayed all the time, but for a man who stays for a few hours in one place, this temptation is very big and he cannot defeat it otherwise than by looking within himself. That’s why the holy service, the Liturgy is made very carefully, it’s like an invitation to deepen into your inner self.

There God hid a gate towards eternal life, a gate towards eternity and Christ Himself says this thing:

`The Kingdom of God is within yourself!`

Who deepens within himself, who opens this gate slowly, gains peace, forgiveness, love, defeats pain, sorrow, despair.

But we have within ourselves the sky, the Kingdom which cries within ourselves which works within ourselves but you see the civilization, the thoughts, the opinions censor the voice from the depth.

They don’t say in vain that it’s good to listen to your heart because the hearts always says the truth and if you get used to speak less and listen to it more you won’t seek answers for your questions at random anymore but as the Holy Fathers say you will find them within your heart and they will bring you inner peace.

There is much silence within ourselves but the man is afraid of this silence, it scares him. Try to stay more than half an hour with the lights off and the curtains drawn alone in the dark. We are not used to this thing, with this search, with this silence, because we are extremely caught by the world where we live, attracted by TV, phone, terribly fretful and this draws us away of the Kingdom of the encounter with the Absolute Being from us.

We are less and less attentive and very insensitive at everything is around us, at the people around us, we don’t care at all about the repercussions  of our actions.

Don’t think that I criticize you, that I judge you, this judgment is first of all regarding myself since I see that it’s more and more difficult to notice the man beside me, as Christ did with any man.

How many times God comes towards us and tells us and shows us to break this recklessness, this lack of spiritual sensitivity (Who has ears to hear, let him hear)

God doesn’t sleep, He is not on vacation, He only waits for everyone. We are those who are away of Him, we came to worship ourselves and our wishes.

The greatest obstacle, the greatest mountain the man must cross, says elder Sophrony Saharov, to reach his heart is his own ego!

Human sensitivity maybe depends of the man’s education and maybe this education forms him on the outside and maybe even on the inside a little but know that human sensitivity, the sensitivity of a human heart is the work of the Holy Spirit and the solution, the antidote is to fall on our knees and long after God as we long after peace, after rest, as the man in love longs after his beloved!

Sensitize your hearts by PRAYER !

Call and receive God!

Know that in the course of time the scientists made many studies on the man who prays and they concluded that a man who prays changes the frequency of the brain and gets one between watchfulness and sleep.

The prayer helps the body to calm itself, to balance itself, to in its inner peace. Pure prayer protects has a healing effect upon the mind and the whole body…

By praying the man gains the joy of the Holy Spirit…

Priest VISARION ALEXA

Love and physical relationships before marriage the anxiety from the soul of a young man in love

He doesn’t want to have sexual relations with this girl before marriage.

A young Christian falls in love with a girl and they begin to see each other often. Because the boy wants to follow the will of God and he doesn’t want to have sexual relations with this girl before marriage, he is decided not to get too close of her. But the cunning spirit gives him the following thought: `If you don’t have complete relations with your girlfriend you won’t show her that you love her. And if you don’t give yourself to her and she to you, you won’t show love to each other.`

Which will have to be the answer and the attitude of the young Christian at the temptation of this bad thought? In this case one of the following two possible choices will happen: the young man will neglect the command of God and will be convinced by the urge of the evil spirit. Meaning that either he will believe that only by having sexual relations they will be able to prove their authentic love before marriage or this young man remaining steady in keeping the command of God doesn’t sin before marriage and doesn’t fall into intercourse with his girlfriend.

But the gradual withdrawal of grace will be substituted by a demonic influence. In the first case the young man will suffer a fall. While in the second he will gain a virtue. In the best situation the person in cause will not lose his health and the joy of his soul which originate in the grace of God, neither the chance to love for real.

Choosing what’s wrong, the young man in love will lose the joy of his soul and he will have only a physical joy. Because he sins, the grace of God he has from the Holy Baptism will decrease within himself without his notice, because of his lack of experience. The withdrawal of grace will be gradually replaced by a demonic influence, because the physical sin will begin to have roots and once the physical sin is committed the devil begins to have certain rights against the man. Thus the inexperienced young man will start to lose even his physical pleasure. But there will take place another thing. Love will be destroyed because the thriving of love depends of the grace of God as well. In this way he will draw his self far away of reaching true love.

This young man will be able to reach true love only after repentance and the consolidation of his relationship with God. This strengthening of his relationship with the divinity takes place by his repentances, by following the commandments of God and by the participation at the hidden life of the Church.

Source: doxologia.ro

The separation of God means an eternal life in the most terrible torments

Satan, the great deluder, as a big schemer takes out of our mind this cogitation about hell, which is a remedy for the soul. It is a means of the divine Providence to teach us and lead us by divine fear to God and to strengthen our zeal for ascetic strive, to escape of hell. If we had known what a hell the sin brings we would have hated it, no matter what a heavenly pleasure might seem that it could bring to us.

The sin is a dirty thing which comes from the disgusting devil and he presents it to us as something pleasant and precious. And even if the man reaches the point when he is disgusted by sin and by himself after a while he wants it again. He is like the dog that after he vomits his stomach out comes back and eats what he had vomited. The sin is a poison which empoisons our soul and deprives us of the eternal life near God.

Our Orthodoxy is extremely beautiful. It is so much embellished. That is why satan fights it through the heretics. But even if it is fought it strengthens itself and pushes its roots even deeper. We haven`t realized yet what means for the soul to be separated of God for eternity. And if it had been easy to be deprived by God it would have been a smaller evil. But unfortunately the separation of God means an eternal life in the most terrible torments. We have such a big burden when we get a demonic thought. There is something which torments us and that thing is exploited and intensified by the devil then he saddens us and torments us and brings us to despair and we lose our health and many others. And what is it in fact? A simple thought we cannot surpass. I don`t know if you have ever seen a demonized man. I heard that the tongue of a demonized woman can lengthen incredibly. Does this happen physiologically? No. It is done in a demonic way. And all the facial expression and in general all the look of a demonized woman, her whole spiritual and physical look is something frightening, pitiable.

And all these are something insignificant in comparison with a soul doomed for eternity to be away of God and who knows that he will never get out of the state of damnation. If the hypostatical state of a demon is so frightening here on earth where is God`s mercy and love then how big is the unhappiness of a soul who is surrounded by uncountable demons in an impenetrable darkness, in a state of coexistence with the demons who with all her malice torment us hopelessly, mercilessly in a state of complete seclusion, deprived by the slightest ray of light and divine presence. Here we are only saying words but the reality is unimaginable. The human mind cannot perceive the pain of the damnation.

And while we, the Orthodox believe these because they are dogmas of the Orthodox Church which tell us that the hell exists, today there are theologians who studied theology in universities and who believe in a wrong and anti-dogmatic way that the hell of the souls will be in their conscience and not in an active hypostatic way. This was of course a devilish invention caused by the following reason:

The devil saw that if the man becomes aware of and engrains deeply in his soul the remembrance of the torments of hell and what means the eternal separation of God in torments, the things take a different turn, because he begins to correct his conscience. That is why the devil wants to benumb the painful feeling of the existence of hell to lower fear which is a remedy against sin.

When I think the hell will be in the conscience, I`ll try – thinking and opening a way to sin – to convince myself to create a conscience which would not muse about what he has done or not according to the will of God, so that it would not hurt and I would not feel the eternal torment following this demonic invention. Thus here I will live in delight and when I go there with this conscience I will not suffer.

All these are told to be benumbed the fear of God and thus without any impediment to be able to commit any sin or to delight of all the earthly pleasures. But if it weren`t that way, then heaven would have to be only the man`s conscience and not in reality. But unfortunately or fortunately the things are quite different. All these are a devilish invention and trap to go to hell and lose our eternal life.

Saint John Chrysostom writes many things about the real hell in accordance with the dogma of the Orthodox Church. He was asked:

`Father, where is the bottomless pit of fire?`

And the saint with the golden mouth and mind answered:

`Don`t search where is the bottomless pit of fire, but take care to avoid it by a virtuous life and repentance. Since God is real and He doesn`t lie, He doesn`t cheat, God doesn`t let Himself be offended.

Everything He said in the Holy Gospel is reality. The hell is not a tale.

And an acknowledgement of this dogma of our untainted and most beautiful Orthodox Church it is the practical life and tradition of the ascetics. We see that the frightening hell exists indeed and it waits to receive in it all those who dishonor God and listen to the advice of the cunning demons.

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

There will be wars and many disorders, but do not have any fear

In the Gospel of Luke, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us beforehand everything is about to happen before that frightening day to prepare us so that we may not be led into error.

`Teacher,` they asked, `when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?`

 He replied: `Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.`

Then he said to them: `Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me.But not a hair of your head will perish.Stand firm, and you will win life.

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

He told them this parable: Look at the fig tree and all the trees.When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

[1].

`Heaven and earth will pass away but My words shall not pass away.` My words will remains, they will become reality, they will take place in the life of men as it is said here. `Many will come in My name claiming `I am He`. As we believe and expect that antichrist will say: `I am Christ, I am God. Come to me, I will give you everything. It is enough to believe in me and receive the seal of obedience towards me.` The Jews thought this antichrist was Messiah who was to come to reign over an Judaic kingdom. They will build their temple, they will make their state and all the rest.  `Do not go after them. When you hear about wars and commotions do not get alarmed` There will be wars and many commotions but don not be afraid, do not lose your courage, do not lessen your faith in Me.

Be steady in faith because there will be such terrible signs that because of the fear and expectation of what is to come the men will lose their faith, their courage, they will be constrained and because of such a big fear they will be almost dying. `And then they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in great power and glory.`

Therefore beware to yourself, so that you may not be found on this terrible frightening day in a sinful state, in drunkenness, enslaved by the multitude of worries of this life. Prepare yourself by confessing, cleansed and ready for such a great day when God will judge the world. This will come like a trap: it will be so unexpectedly that the people will be taken by surprise. Be vigilant and do not sleep! Be vigilant in your prayers, in your cogitations, in your current affairs, in your family life and everywhere permanently so that you won`t fall into sin and be worthy to stand on the right side of Christ, the Great Judge.

Saint Paul, the Apostle describes the glorious coming of Christ, our Lord. He says in one of his epistles that `the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.`[2]

Meaning that the voice of the Son of God will call first the reposed ones to come back to life from the dead. And when they are resurrected we will see them taken on clouds. The revived people will leave like the aerostats to go and stand on the right side of Christ.

Those who will be alive then will be taken on clouds and brought to greet the Lord in the skies. Those who will be taken on clouds to greet the Lord will be the saved ones, the righteous who will stand on His right.

[1] Luke 21, 7-36.

[2] 1 Thessalonians 4, 15-17.

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

Humbleness means freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divine presence – strengthening in the desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] John 1, 39.

[3] The Song of Songs 1, 6.

[4] Exodus 33, 18, 13.

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

[6] Philipians 3, 20.

[7] II Corinthians 12, 2‑4.

[8] The Ecclesiast 3, 1.

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

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