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.

Mother’s prayer power

Ana the prophetess, the mother of prophet Samuel, as we know from the Scripture, had no children. The other wife of her husband had many children. Being barren she suffered a lot and wished to have a child. The pain from her soul led her to the Temple of God to pray.

Being knelt in the Temple, she was crying bitterly and prayed to God. Because of her intense prayer and her complete devotion to God, she didn’t feel what happened around her, being entirely dedicated to prayer with her body and soul. Her tears flowed like a river, her heart burnt and her voice was crying painfully. The priest, Eli was in the Altar in the Holy of the Holies and the servant as well. The servant said to the priest of God:

`What’s happening with this drunk woman? Shall we take her out of the temple?`

`No, we won’t take her out, because her heart is suffering a terrible pain. Leave her there to shed her pain before God.

And we know that this prayer brought her a saint in her womb and she gave birth to Samuel, the prophet.

You see what kind of prayers are needed to receive an answer to our demands from God and especially when these are serious unsolvable matters?

So many problems of concern for us, familial, economical, problems related to the children cause a terrible agony to all the parents today because outside the house there are wolves and lions who lurk waiting to tear them.

So the agony of these people is great since we see that Satan catches them in his net, with his hook and takes them out of the sea. And in this way takes place this spiritual decay and death of the children. All these children need a lot of prayer.

We have of course many examples of mothers whose prayer saved their children as it was saint Monica. As you know saint Monica was the mother of saint Augustine. He, before sanctifying himself, was a debaucher , one of the greatest sinners. But this saint woman did not give up when she saw this great danger, the perdition of her son. She didn’t become weak when she saw him smearing himself without cease in debauchery, because her courage and faith were powerful. She prayed and cried a lot. And her pain brought him to repentance. Augustine repented. But later when he fell into heresy his mother fought another battle to bring him back to the Orthodox Faith. Arriving in Mediolan she went to saint Ambrosius and cried and moaned before him telling him everything her son had done. Seeing her tears, the pain from her soul and her faith he said:

`Woman, these tears you are crying won’t remain fruitless. Believe me that your son will change.`

And he changed indeed and he became saint Augustine who is now celebrated among the saints of the Church.

You see the great achievements of the mothers? They were not afraid, they did not despair when they saw their sons destroying themselves. They never left room for discouragement. This is a great evil. That is why we must strengthen the children and engrain the seed of righteous worshipping and never lose our courage because what we sow is never lost. The seed is engrained in their soul and even if now in their youth they don’t receive anything and speak against what they are told and they don’t come to the church and make certain mistakes, they have faith within themselves, inside themselves it is hidden a very beautiful person. Know that the seed will bear fruit. There will come a time when God will give a favorable wind, it will rain, the sun will rise and the seed will give a lot of fruit. If God calls them, as we expect to happen and they will become worthy to be martyrs then you will see that nothing was lost because Christ crucified Himself for the whole world and especially for the children who in the society of nowadays are in the greatest danger.

Not man is bad, but who is controlling the man

`They say that we are all born equal. I sincerely don’t believe that there are people  who are born bad and others who are born good.

But I think that life, the experiences he goes through may shape him in a way or another. I discussed many times with the father about the badness of the people and thus I understood that I thought badness belonged to the people and not to those who influenced them in a bigger or smaller extent.`

`Father, if someone offends you, what do you do?`

`I don’t do anything.`

`But what if he goes on and curses you? I suppose you must have a reaction.

`I have none.`

`That’s unbelievable, but what if he pushes you or uses other forms of physical violence?`

`I will not respond.`

`It’s impossible, there are natural human reactions of self defence, of rejection. The man hurt you and you can’t stay with your arms crossed.`

`Son, I want you to understand a simple thing, it’s not the man who is my enemy, but the demon who controls him. If I answer, I don’t solve anything and the demon rejoices. If I hurt the man he suffers and the demon doesn’t. On the contrary I may offer him a great joy which would sadden me.

`Then how to solve a situation of this kind?`

`The solution is simple. The humbleness someone proves in a dispute makes the demon to go away. The demon doesn’t stand humbleness. What’s the consequence? After the demon leaves and takes away with him all his temptations, the men will reconcile. `This is the truth. Humbleness is such an easy word but for any man it’s so hard to apply it.`

`It’s not hard as long as you associate humbleness with love. And if you consider the person who is in front of you as being God`s creation just as well as you are, if you consider him your brother you will forgive him. Not necessarily in words, but in your heart. Once forgiving him and being reconciled with yourself and aware that he is not the author of that blamable event but the forces of the darkness, you automatically change your disposition in what regards him. You give him some mitigating circumstances. And in your soul grow feelings like mercy, maybe even compassion.

`So what should I do afterwards?`

`You have no other choice than to pray for the soul of that man for being saved and for being forgiven for the wrong he had done. You can eventually mention his name in your akathist. You know the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ to forgive our enemies and `Love each other as I have loved you.

It’s quite clear, isn’t it? Verbal or physical violence are excluded. They don’t bring any solution. I hope you understood.

`I hope that too although it will be hard for me to apply what I learnt`

`But not impossible` said the father smiling.

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

Learn to say enough for today!

Worries are a real disaster for the spiritual life. They are the poison which destroys the man slowly. They destroy not only our spiritual life, but also our worldly life and our relationships with people. Have you noticed how the families of nowadays fall apart? And what’s the reason? `I have no time!` The father is immersed in his own thoughts. The mother meditates at a lot of problems too. How can these people communicate with each other?

You always hear: `Not now! I am busy!`

The child comes to speak with his mother:

`Mother, I want to tell you something.`

`Leave me now, don’t you see that I am busy.`

`But when aren’t you busy?`

And it’s very normal to ask her: `When aren’t you busy, when will you have time for me?`

Worries, just worries which destroy us. And in the end you remain with nothing left. The spiritual man must know the measure. Set your own measure. Learn to say: Enough. Enough for today! Don’t continue anymore, stop yourself. You came home, shut your phone, leave all your worries aside – now you are at home, give the due time and attention to your family, to yourself and to God.

Metropolitan Athanasios of de Limassol

Never compare your wife with another!

I remember the case of a woman who married a widower. He was a worthy man and she was glad they were together. There was only one thing that bothered her and for this reason she came to ask my advice.

`What happened in the moment we went out of the church after the wedding it was like his former wife came back to life and became a part of our relationship. Now I know how she cooked, how she looked, how she spoke, everything! I understand it must have been hard for him`, added the woman. But I don’t think that our relationship may work if we don’t take her out.`

Unfortunately they did not succeed. I regret to tell you that the poor man was never able to understand that you cannot conquer a woman comparing her and permanently relating her to the merits of another one.

This is true not only in this case. Former girlfriends, neighbors, the wives of some other men, a pretty secretary, movie stars or top models from the cover of the magazines no matter if they are lonely, widows or divorced, this is true for all. And for your mother as well.

One of the most common mistakes on this theme refers at the cases when the men are not able to consider their wives as their main priority, instead of their mothers.

I know you have a great admiration for your mother and this is very good. She cooks excellently, she keeps a large household, she is funny and in my opinion is an unique woman. But she is for me, because I am her husband, not for you. You have now a new priority, your own family and you should assure yourself that your wife knows she has the first place in your heart.

If I insist a lot upon this idea is because I have seen many men who have never been told or who have never understood that a woman cannot be remodeled in accordance with the qualities of another one.

Charlie W. Shedd, Letters to Philip.Counsels for a young married manEditura Bizantină, 2011, p. 88.

Life without God is unconceivable

Many times, being in pilgrimage in Athos I wondered what these people can feel who choose priesthood or monarchism leaving behind everything is of the world. Probably their reward is as big as their struggles; it is a great gift since when they choose this path they rarely turn back. And all these questions were to find their answers from a monk of the Holy Mountain. Everytime I had a dilemma or I asked an answer for a question which had tormented my soul for a long time, the fathers of the Holy Mountain answered to me with an infinite patience and seriousness and I thank them in this way.

`When you become a priest or a monk, although there are some exceptions, the grace you receive is at the limit of your capacity to bear it. It is so great that the state of happiness reaches unconceivable borders. Tears flow alone, you reach  superconsciousness and regrets begin to flow even for the most insignificant ssins. You feel for real the presence of God, you understand His intentions, His plan, His actions. Faith is revealed to your power of understanding. You experience everything on your own skin, aware that everyone of your body cells recognizes its Creator. This state of happiness reaches the highest intensity so any worldly thing or social position seem insignificant to you in comparison with the indescribable joy given by the Divine Grace. It doesn’t last for long, being only the earnest of the eternal bliss of those who prove faith and love. The loss of grace comes very quickly having as cause mainly the judgment of your brother.

From a simple inappropriate word, the grace leaves you and the initial state is reinstalled. Who tasted from this grace, the state caused by its absence will keep him in a permanent state of nostalgia, of regret that he lost it, being aware that life without God revealed by the presence of grace is tedious and unconceivable. Whoever experienced and felt grace and then lost it feels within himself a great emptiness and the desire to regain it is ardent.

But when the grace is taken away from you there comes a fire trial. In the fire trial you suffer many pains, humilities, injustices, while you pray without cease, being helped but in a secret way, meaning that the presence of grace is not revealed yet. Practically the fire trial is the testing of your faith, without feeling God anymore. This trial lasts about 20 years but it may last even longer up to 30 years. These 20 years are a time of pains when you believe that you have been abandoned and you feel alone and you cry with all your might and you think you are not heard and you make great efforts for every achievement and at the end of each trial your love and faith in God must remain unchanged. Only in the end the lost grace will come back and then you will know how to treasure it so that it won’t leave you anymore.

Who resists to a trial like this will be called son of God for true. As long as we don’t have the grace of God to make our soul rejoice, we want to replace it by pleasure. And for this the people are ready to pay everything they have. They want big houses, strong cars, good food, beautiful women, power. Many people think that the state of happiness comes from opulence, luxury and pleasures. Others think that it comes from drinks and drugs. But these things cost, some of them quite a lot and for this many are disposed to make any compromise. Meaning that they are ready to do anything else but not to draw the grace of God by whose presence the state of happiness makes every pleasure fade. Moreover, this state of goodness is not reached by sin, only by an inner purification.

Just a few people from those of nowadays are ready to give up on the worldly pleasure for the divine pleasure. Once you give up on the worldly pleasures God will give you indescribable spiritual joys and charismas which are more soul-uplifting than all the pleasures of the world. All these try to compensate without any success the effect of man’s estrangement of God. Everytime we speak of our achievements we begin the sentence with `I did`, `I said`, `I began`. And what you mean by this is that you’ve done everything alone. Which is false. In fact you didn’t do anything alone. Without the help of God you don’t do and you don’t achieve anything, absolutely anything at all. And in the moment when you repeat `I`, you exclude God from equation. That’s why try at least for a period of time to take out of your vocabulary this pronoun, `I`. `I` is the expression of the proud man who considers himself responsible for everything he undertakes. And where is pride, there is no room for humbleness.

`Then how should we express ourselves?`

`Use `we` instead of `I` because you are never alone.

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

About patience

Maybe the greatest quality of a man who seeks God is patience !

When someone who was downcast came to elder Cleopa, he said: Patience! Patience! Patience!

Patience shows the humbleness of the man who says: God, I have patience and I wait to see Your will is done, not mine!

Many times I put myself in this situation of patience but I advise you to do the same. What I mean is that things must be done with patience! In everything you do, in everything you try, you think, patience is the key. The elders say this: when you want to do a thing, to take an important decision, something to change your life or when you are upset, angry with someone wait at least three days until you take a decision! Why? Because in these three days your fury and stubbornness vanish, your mind becomes clear and you see things in a different way.

More than this, I urge you that when peace is restores to make an agreement with your dear ones and say as follows: `When you see me angry, don’t mind me, because the words said when you are furious have no value! All of them are thrown loosely and carelessly! All of them are said out of revenge, anger, pride and devilish meaningless selfishness! All of them are a sign of helplessness and it would be better for you not to take any decisions under the influence of what I tell you when I am angry because nothing is true!

After the man stays and thinks he understands the scheming of the evil against him and he starts to feel sorry and apologize.

The important decisions are taken sitting at the table, calmly, peacefully or going for a walk in the park…not when you are angry! When you are angry the devil tries will all his might to  overturn you and those around you.

The saints are for us the Christian Orthodox examples of patience, humbleness, fulfillment of the will of God and the thought about death, the elders said, is the best teacher for the man…when you think of it, you stand with your feet on the ground and say:

`Why be angry, why be ambitious, why thinking about my rightness, why be angry with someone when I turn to dust and ash anyway? What matters my rightness?  How many people had their rightness before me and now they are all only bare bones.

You see most of the times for us life in God means this:

`Father things don’t go so well, I think that God doesn’t love me! Or `Father, I came to make a donation for the church because everything has gone perfectly well for me!` as if God were a businessman who invests with him in his business and brings him profit.

But it’s hard not to do this: when everything goes well to think that God is with you and when everything breaks down to say to yourself that God doesn’t love you anymore, but it’s not about this, it’s about what’s in you.

I give you two examples:

Saint Anthony the Great lived for 20 years in reclusion in a cell without windows, only with a door and a small peep hole from where he received every day a loaf of bread and a cup of water. Do you know how he looked when he got out of that cell? With rosy cheeks and happy, because the time spent with God gives you some spiritual sensations you will never find anywhere else!

Another saint is saint John of Kronstadt.

A married priest, a man living in the world, who is the second great saint from Russia after saint Seraphim of Sarov.

They say that saint John of Kronstadt wore luxurious clothes and when he went out of his house he went in a very beautiful carriage and although he lived in all that luxury he was a saint, he made miracles, he healed especially psychic diseases. He lived very aristocratically but you see his heart was never attached to those things. He lived among these riches but they did not enslave him.

Not richness gives you happiness but your spiritual disposition, your relationship with God. You can have a lot of money and live a life surrounded by riches, travels, parties but these don’t make you spiritually rich.

God gave such a grace to saint John of Kronstadt that he served the Holy Liturgy every day and before he did that he used to stay for an hour or even more in front of the Holy Table and he did not stand up and did not begin the Liturgy until he got tears of repentance crying with those tears the sins of a day. For his repentance and for his inner pain God gave him a great power, because God is not impeded by sight as the man. God doesn’t judge the man after his look, after his clothes, after the car he drives or the house where he lives only after the purity of his heart.

Don’t judge the man after what you see, try to believe that in the man who is near you dwells the Good God, no matter how fat or thin, how sinful would be that man!

If you understand this thing the grace of God will descend upon you and brings peace and what’s the most important thing of all, brings so much power in you that many other people will hold on you due to the gifts God will give you.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov says this thing: `Who saves his soul, saves many other tens or hundreds of people.`

Make a basic experiment: go home sad and upset and you will see that all your family will be filled with sadness. Be glad, merry and full of life and you will see that those around you will be contaminated by these.

It is the same with the grace of God, it is contagious. When you gain it when you gain peace, tens of people gain it too. When you bless and embrace those who curse you, all the people around you are amazed by your joy. The man who has inner peace is not disturbed anymore and doesn’t disturb those around him.

There are fundamental things which you have felt many times yourself, which we experience and feel every day, but maybe you could not understand them and make connection between them.

This is how God works in the man, this is how peace descends and contaminates all people, this is how it is shared from man to man and I have a great joy as a priest when I see that the grace of the Holy Liturgy, its joy is communed by so many people.

Disorder, commotion are signs that you haven’t understood yet, that you did not commune with vigilance and the grace of God has not dwelled in you yet, you are still a worldly man, a man made of flesh and bones, a helpless man

Ask, endure because God does not allow without a reason to be flooded by the bitter water of this life! Open your heart and wait to see why God allows for you to suffer so many troubles or even to bear a man you consider as a nail in your life.

Love, humbleness, the acceptance of the will of God (`God, You allow everything to happen, You brought everything to me, happenings, people, so that everything would work for my salvation, for discovering my own self. I receive everything waiting to see the path You open before me…all these are salvatory.

We can save our souls in the place where God places us…you are a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, a professor, an economist, a politician, an IT specialist, a doctor, a priest, do what you have to do, because everything you do, you do before of God! All the contracts you sign, you sign them with God before everything else, not with the pen, but with the commitment of your soul!

Priest Visarion Alexa

A talk with H.M.P, spiritual son of pious Porphyrios for fifteen years

To be for fifteen years `at the feet` – to use a suggestive expression – of a kind of Elder who appears in the Church once in two hundred years, it is a great blessing from God. But even for us it is a blessing to find out, even if only partially, some of the numerous happenings mr. H.M.P, spiritual son of pious Porphyrios collected in his memory for fifteen years.

We use only his initials because of his wish to remain anonymous due to spiritual reasons. We respect his choice and we thank him from the heart for the memories he decided to share with us.

H.M.P.: Father Porphirios was a short man, with blue eyes, very joyous and with a nice smile. He was a person in whose presence you felt so good that you could ask him any question. He admitted that he had the gift of clairvoyance. One day he told me: `God gave me this gift to make me a kinder person.` Being at a very high spiritual level, he felt deeply his sinfulness, thing which happens with all the saints.

He was visited by university professors who realized immediately what kind of man he was. They stayed and listened to him as the students listen to their teacher. I witnessed such meetings when I accompanied some academicians and professors to father Porphyrios. Although he studied for only four years in school, he attracted famous intellectuals and sometimes he even corrected them if they made a mistake and they had a great respect for him.

 Once talking about holiness he said:

`There are three degrees of holiness. On the first level is the saint who after he prays for a quarter of an hour is visited by the holy grace. At the more advanced saints, the grace comes immediately after they raise their hands for prayer. And there is one more kind of saints – those who have the grace dwelling in them permanently.

Another time speaking to me about holiness, he told me that the saint is that man who doesn’t do sins and prays day and night with his arms raised in the air to God being able to have a radical influence in certain situations. For a better understanding he gave me the following example:

`Imagine a city with five hundred people who live in sin. In a monastery there is a monk who raises his pure hands to God and prays to Him not to punish those men who had sinned. I can assure you that for the sake of this hermit God does not punish 500.000 people.

K.I.: What you are telling us is amazing.

H.M.P.: He also told me: `Know that nothing is impossible for the saints of God. They can ask something from the Creator and receive what they wanted. The power of the saints is great.`

It is something special the fact that pious Porphyrios communicated with the other world.

K.I.: With the triumphant Church.
H.M.P.: Yes. I’ll tell you something which impressed me extraordinarily.
Once I visited elder Porphyrios with one relative of mine to tell him about the death of another relative of ours one week before that and about the death of someone else from our family who died at less than 48 hours before our arrival. So we asked elder Porphyrios to pray for the souls of those two persons without giving him any information about them.

Four days later we went back to elder Porphyrios who told us:

`You told me to pray for this woman.`

`Yes, father.`

`Was she a nun?`

`Yes.`

`Did you tell me this?`

`No`.

`This nun had been married before. She became a nun after her husband died. And her husband was a good man. But one thing is to be a monk and another one to be a layman. But for the second person you told me about we must pray.

K.I.: Amazing! The father saw the souls of those persons and saw in what condition they were. This thing proves that he saw not only what happens in this world but also in the other.

H.M.P.: Once I took a monk from the Holy Mountain to elder Porphyrios with my car. Their conversation which I attended myself was about prayer. The monk asked elder Porphyrios how we should pray. And the elder asked that monk how he prayed. The monk answered: `Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me the sinner.` He asked me how I prayed.

`I pray in the same way`, I said.

Then the father said:

`When I pray and I say these words I add a slight hue. I utter the words one by one, I pronounce them slowly and I stress the words `have mercy on me`. Why? Because Christ is a person too. And when you speak with him, you must be aware that you don’t speak in vain, to an abstract being or situation. You are speaking to Christ Who listens to you.

And he added:

`When you speak with your father you don’t cry for instance: `Give me this sum of money.` Because he won’t like the way you address to him and he will tell you:

`Why are you speaking to me on this tone?`

But if the son tells him: `Please, father, give me this sum of money because I need it` his father will tell him: `Why giving you only this much? Since you are a good child I will give you five times more.

K.I.: This example is very good.

H.M.P.: Elder Porphyrios always made a connection between the spiritual struggle and the problem of gluttony. He said that if the man succeeds to eat with moderation in a rational way, God compensates his flaws. He also said that the devil could take the man out of heaven because of gluttony and now God summons the man to fight to take back the kingdom he lost saying:

`Struggle with him to take back the power he took away from you.`

`Then I told him: So the struggle against gluttony is extremely important. And he answered in the following way:

`This struggle is so important for the spiritual evolution that the Fathers of our Church when they prepared their food used to pour over that a glass of bitter juice so that they would not feel any pleasure in tasting it.`

`And what comes out of this?`

`What comes out of this? Let me explain it to you: when the man struggles in this way he doesn’t have the time to raise his hands in the air and the grace of God descends over him.

K.I.: But there is another chapter which refers at the majority of the people and this is family life with its numerous problems and difficulties. From my own experience I know the fact that elder Porphyrios was very fond of maintaining some correct relationships between husbands and he was also fond of the holy institution of family. His constant care was focused on the raising of the children in a healthy atmosphere, full of peace and love.

H.M.P.: You are perfectly right. Elder Porphyrios was especially concerned about the relationships between husbands and between parents and children. When he was visited by a married man who didn’t have a very good wife or by a married woman who didn’t have such a good husband and in both cases these people bore their crosses with patience, he called them saints.

Once he was visited by a married man who was not a good husband but who was raising a church. He said to the father:

`Father, I am raising a beautiful church.`

`Why are you raising this small church, my blessed son, after you destroyed the big one which is your family?`

K.I.: `How nicely he said it`…
H.M.P.: `He always said to the parents to avoid quarrelling in front of their children because the children when they hear their parents quarrelling feel that their house falls on them.`

K.I.: `It’s true.`
H.M.P.: `He said this : `The children must grow with both parents and the father must not be very tough. And if he ever has to punish the child, he has to do it carefully and moderately so that he would not traumatize the child.

Once he related to us the following story: `One day I took a lot of candies and I went to an orphanage. I gave the candies to the orphans and their souls were hungry and inhibited so they could not smile. I left that place and went to take the bus. When I got in the bus I saw some passengers had an argument: `Go away from this place. Go and sit there! Don’t stretch your legs` They shouted at each other and cursed each other. Then I thought: `Those children are orphans of their earthly father and these are orphans of their Heavenly One.

And elder Porphyrios continued :
`Because the men are orphans of God Who is joy they don’t know what to do and they get mad. But if the man comes back on the path of God and of the Church and begins to know his heavenly Father then he doesn’t behave like an orphan anymore and is full of joy all the time.

What is stress if not this condition of an orphan who misses his heavenly Father?

Once he told me:

`You are a pious man and you want to impose your piousness and faith to those around you. But do you think that you will obtain something in this way? You act in a wrong way because the man has the tendency to oppose resistance. You say something to someone and he doesn’t do that thing because you told him to do it. But if he sees you doing a good thing maybe he will do it too because he will think: `If this man does this I will do the same.` But if you pray all the time to Christ and say to Him: `Lord Jesus Christ, please enlighten and guide that man`, then He will begin to send good thoughts to him. Everytime you say for instance: `God have mercy on my child`, your child receives a good thought from Christ. And the more you pray, the more good thoughts your child will receive. And if now your child is like an unripe orange, little by little he will become mature and will be as you want him to be. I tell you from my own experience that this is the best way for a man to solve his problems regardless of their nature. The other methods the men use from instinct fail most of the times.

K.I.: `I suppose you know a certain happenstance which sustains the words of elder Porhyrios.`

H.M.P.: `Yes. I asked him myself to give me different examples for a better understanding of his words. In relation with what I said before he told me about the case of a couple whose daughter estranged from the path of God. The behavior and the way of life of that girl generated such a situation that her father was mad. He was furious because of her and he wanted to kill her and many other things of this kind. Kin the end he accepted to go with his wife to elder Porphyrios.

The elder said to the father:
`Don’t you understand what’s going on here? The devil is on the back of your daughter. Now he does what he wants from her and leads her wherever he wants. Nothing good comes out if you behave in this way with her. It is necessary to pray. You and your wife must begin to pray together for your daughter and stop rebuking her. When she comes back home late as she usually does tell her:

The food is in the fridge. Go and eat.` Then your daughter will have a shock and will think: `Where does this politeness come from at my barbarian parents?

You, in the meantime, don’t stop praying. And know that your daughter will break her relation with the person who leads her to bad things. And when she comes to you and tells you that she broke off her relation with those friends, tell her:

`Very well, you’ve done a good thing.` But pretend you don’t care much about that as if you told her: `We don’t know anything about this situation. You know better.`

And this is what happened indeed. One day their daughter told her parents that she had broken off her relationship with her friends. From that moment on she went on the right path and she was saved.

K.I.: This is how with the grace of the Holy Spirit, elder Porphyrios could help the people and lead them to salvation.

H.M.P.: In what regards the gift of clairvoyance I will tell you a story about a captain of a military ship I met very often at the elder and with whom he became very good friends.

Once after this captain hadn’t visited elder Porphyrios for a long time he finally went to him and told him he had been on a mission and they landed in a secret place and nobody knew where they were. Then elder Porphyrios said:

`Let me ask you something: there where you stayed hidden, when you looked to the top of the hill didn’t you see there a small church?`

The captain was amazed seeing that nothing remained hidden for the Holy Spirit.

Another time an acquaintance of mine who was in an European town called the elder and asked his advice about a problem he was facing. Then the elder said:

`I see you in this moment. There where you are is the sea and the place is surrounded by small blocks of flats. Among those blocks there is a high one and behind that is a high mountain.

K.I.: For someone who didn’t know elder Porphyrios it’s hard to believe such a thing.

H.M.P.: Once someone called him from a mountain region of Cyprus. While talking the gentleman told the elder that on the same day he had gone on a trip to a small church beside a river. Then they had the following dialogue:

`Very well. Look to the West, high, on the mountain. What’s that thing which is surrounded by a wall?`

`Do you refer at the church of saint George?`

`Yes. Very well. Now let’s follow the path which goes from this church and what beauty do we see on the right side?

`Are you talking about the church of saint Paraskevi?`

`Yes.`

K.I.: ”I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15, 5).

The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (III)

Αrchimandrite Ephrem Filotheos

 

At the Holy Liturgy it is fulfilled this elevate and frightening Sacrament.

The Holy Table is like Golgotha where Christ was crucified and gave His spirit. Giving His spirit to God, His Father, in accordance with the human nature, He immediately destroyed the wall between God and man. The wall which separated man from God because of the sin of the forefathers fell down and what had been separated was reunited. Thus the Holy Trinity fulfilled this great sacrament, the reconciliation of the man with God. Look now at the amazing love and mercifulness of God for man! Look at God’s descent!

Each crumble which falls in the Holy Chalice is a soul that is mentioned before at Proscomidy and afterwards at the Holy Trinity. And when the deacon prepares the Holies, he places the Holy Body in the Holy Chalice and then arranges the crumbles which are put in the Chalice saying: `Wash, Lord, with Your Precious Blood the sins of those who were mentioned here.` Meaning that He erased completely the sins of those souls which were mentioned here through the holy mirids (crumbles) put by the priest in the Holy Chalice. Thus, this soul which is dropped in the Holy Chalice, in the Blood of Christ, is washed of his sins.

And when the Church mentions at the Holy Liturgy and prays for Theotokos and for the Saints and takes out a crumble for each one of them, does this mean that the Holy Mother of God and the Saints need the same thing as the ordinary men?

No, the crumbles which are taken out and dropped in the blood of Christ in the Holy Chalice in the honor and for the remembrance of the Most blessed, most honored, forever Virgin Mary, in the honor of John the Baptist, of the Holy Hierarchs, of the Saints celebrated on that day and of all the Saints, all these Saints come to commune from the boundless richness of God by the intercession of the Church. And if it is added more glory to the Saint and he approaches God more closely and feels more intensely His presence, the greater will be the aid given to the sinner when he is mentioned and it is taken out a crumble for his name and he receives forgiveness and comfort!

Long time ago in the Holy Mountain was a very famous hermit and confessor called Hilarion. He had a disciple called Sava. Because the starets was old and thought he was to leave this life soon, he decided to leave his disciple, monk Sava as his inheritor and leave the grace of priesthood and confession to him.

He descended to the monastery to which he belonged, received the blessing of the Synaxis of that Monastery  for priesthood and he called the hierarch to fulfill the ordination. And after the ordination he could even leave Athos. Because every new priest has the duty to serve the Liturgy for 40 days the hierarch said to the starets:

`Abba, I’ll give you some names to be mentioned by father Sava as long as he serves the 40 Liturgies.`

`Of course, your holiness, bring the names.`

After the bishop gave to the Elder those names, he told to his disciple, Sava:

`My son, Sava, take these names from the abbot and mention them among the others.`

Father Sava took them and mentioned them. One night when he was about to serve the Holy Liturgy, he went out of his cell, read his prayers and went to the chapel where he was waited by his starets to take the blessing for bowing before the holy icons before the Holy Liturgy.

While he was waiting in the pew he had a vision and when he came back to his senses, he said to the starets:

`Geronda, I saw something.`

`What did you see, my son?`

`It was like I was serving the Holy Liturgy: I was at the blessing of the Holy Gifts and before taking the Holy Eucharist I asked the sexton to give me the names from the bishop. And after I took the names, I put them near the Holy Chalice and took Holy Blood with the teaspoon and sprinkled over each name a drop which erased that name. And in this way all the names from that paper were erased. And when all of them were erased you came and I woke up. What could this mean, geronda?`

`It’s what we believe. Don’t we believe that the Blood of Christ forgives the souls of those who are mentioned at the Holy Liturgy? For every name we mention at the Holy Proscomidy and for the crumble which is put in the Holy Chalice the sins of those souls are erased. This is what happened here. God showed it to you to believe it and to give you the chance to mention more names, so that the souls may be helped in the afterworld

And from that moment on father Sava began to mention a lot of names for long hours at every Liturgy.

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

Word for those who leave the church causing schisms

Saint Luke of Crimea

Know this, remember it and do not join the heretics.

Do not go away of the Church, do not tear Jesus Christ’s kiton. Remember that Christ in His hierarchical prayer asked His Father saying: ` that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.`[1]. The Lord wants unity in His Church.

The schismatics, who find mistakes in the teachings of the Church estrange themselves of it and they think they would find salvation in the heretical groups.

But do you know what the great saints said about those who tear Christ’s kiton?

Saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage said that the people who estrange themselves of the church and have no more communion with it, even if they became martyrs, they could not wash away their sin not even with their blood, because this serious sin of schism in the Church cannot be washed away not even by blood. Saint Ignatius the Godbearer said that whoever causes a schism in the Church will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But all the heretics are advocates of the schism.

While the Apostle says : `

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.`[2].

And in another one of his epistles he says :

As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!`[3].

And the heretics don’t preach what is preached by the Orthodox Church which gave spiritual birth to us.

Remember the word of our Lord Jesus Christ Who said to His Apostles and by them to us their followers:

`Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.`[4].

Terrible are these words of the Lord ! Remember them all the time. Do not forget about this day either, about this day of victory of the Orthodox Faith. This Faith was defined for ever at the 7th Ecumenical Council which strengthened Orthodoxy and condemned the heresies and schisms.

Since then when it took placed the 7th Ecumenical Council have passed more than 1000 years and there were no more Ecumenical Councils. Why? Because of political reasons. There was no more possibility to organize them. But let us not be sad that they did not organize any others and neither nowadays do they organize any. Those seven we have discussed all the issues and solved all the problems the Church had with the heresies and they strengthened the Orthodox Church.

You will say that today we have new heresies and schisms. Yes, you are right.

But we must know that these heresies don’t say anything new, only repeat what the former heretics said. And all these heresies were anathematized by the 7th Ecumenical Council. That’s why the decisions of the seven Ecumenical Councils are enough for us, especially those of the 7th.

[1] John 17, 21.

[2] Romans 16, 17.

[3] Galatians 1, 9.

[4] Luke 10, 16.