You should always be both guilty!

The metropolitan Paul of Sisanio and Siatista

What means a divorce? Our inability to love. This is the core reason. All the others are mere justifications. The failure in love. The wrong perception we had about marriage. Marriage is not a bed of roses…Study carefully the Marriage Service (the marriage mystery) for there are found all the elements and conditions you should  know about and thus you will reach the plenitude of your relationship.

The Church shows us the path from the very beginning: ”Blessed is the Kingdom of Father”…And in that moment the priest makes the sign of the cross with the Gospel. What does this mean? Three elementary things. My sons, do you know where you’re going? You are not heading to the unknown with the boat of hope, you have started your way towards the Kingdom of God. This is the true journey of matrimony. Who will be your guide on this journey? The Holy Gospel. And what is your journey? A cross. I tell the couples who marry:

”I don’t know if you understood, my children, but today you have to die.” ”Your selfishness must die.” ”You left your former homes and came here, then you leave this place and go to a new home.” ”Very nice.”” What do all these mean?” ”You have to forget about your former self, about what you’ve been  till now and by your coming here your beings will be united by the grace of God.”

See, at a certain moment I join their hands and tell them:

”Have you seen two keys joined by a ring?” ”No matter where they be, they are together.” ”They will be in our pocket, or they will be dropped on the way, or in the sea, but they will always be together, cause they are linked by a ring, a wedding ring.” ”If they get out of the ring it is very unlikely that they would still remain together.” ” But what’s the link?” ”The divine grace.” ”Put your hands, put both your hearts in God’s hand.” ” God does not grab us by force, but stretches His hand and if you willingly put your hands in His hand, He will join you in a perfect, holy union and in this way you will make your journey.”

When civil marriage was established I feasted. I said: ” I will finally get rid of the pain I feel  to officiate marriages between people who don’t know what they do.”” Go to the mayor or anywhere else you want, but not here.” ” Because this place is for those who know what they want and believe in what they do.” ” A divorce may have many excuses, but its true reasons are only a few.” How are two young people going to prepare for getting married? From the answer to this question you will be able to understand what’s going to follow. How well do they know each other? Or how deeply they ignore each other? I heard many times these words: ”It was not like this at the beginning.” But that’s exactly how it was, my child, only you didn’t see it. The engagement is not a frothy period when all we have to do is party all day long. It’s instead a period when people talk seriously about their future, see if they undertand each other, if they have the same goal in life, sometimes even in certain things that seem rather superfluous and easier.

Once I said to some young people who were friends: ”My children, it’s better to break up today than tomorrow.”

”But why?” they asked.

”Cause you have no connection with each other.” ”One of you has interests that are totally different and specialized and the other one has only – and the young people use this word today – rubble. After some time you will start to envy her and she will get tired of you. So don’t make mistakes!

Fortunately they understood in time. Cause it’s important to see the truth. ” I love you” and ”do you love me?” is so easy to say these words, but it’s difficult to live them. We learnt that love is incarnated. And if it’s not incarnated, if it’s not crucified, then it has no future.

Ultimately the divorce is a failure. But the question that’s risen is the following: How will we face a divorce? Do we learn from our mistakes? Did we understand how we got here? Are we aware that we failed? And we did not fail by mere chance, but we failed cause of some concrete, clear and visible reasons. Or do we think that only the other one is to blame? To the people who get married I make this wish: ”My children I wish you would learn in your life to be always guilty both of you.” ” Cause if you think that’s only one of you to blame, something goes wrong between you two.”

To marry means to accept the other one just as he/she is, cause I love him/her. To marry means to struggle, to strive for offering joy to the one I love. Thus there is a common journey of two people. The fact that the other one accepts me does not generate the immunity for my selfishness, as long as he/she accepts me as I am. He/she accepts you cause he/she loves you. But what about you? Do you love too? Then correct yourself. If you see that something bothers the other one, correct that thing. When I hear some people saying: ”That’s me, I’m not going to change”, I tell them: ”It would have been better if you hadn’t got married cause the one who loves, changes himself.” ”I won’t change” means ”I don’t love.” All the others are unnecessary.

 

The other eye

His mother had only one eye…He was ashamed with her and sometimes hated her. She worked as a cook at the kitchen of an institute. She made food for the students and professors for earning their living. Her son studied in that place too, but didn’t talk to her, for he didn’t want to be found out that he was her son.

The female students were leaving in a hurry when they saw her getting out of the kitchen for a while and said they couldn’t bear to see her, cause she gave them horrid chills…

The boy since childhood felt frustrated cause his mother looked the way she did. One day when he was in primary school, his mother dropped by during a break to see him. He felt very upset. How could she do this to me? he said to himself. He ignored her. He just looked at her contemptuously and was shuddering.

The next day one of his mates cried out: ”Eeh, your mother has only one eye!”

He wished he would rather have died than hear those words. He wanted to leave and never go back to school again. When he went home he told her: ”If everybody were supposed to laugh at me cause of you, you should better die!”

But his mother didn’t say anything to him…

”I didn’t care then what I said or how she felt, cause I was very nervous”, he confessed later on to a friend. ”I wanted to leave that house and stop having any connection with her anymore.” ” That’s why I studied hardly, aiming to go one day to a far away place for studies.” ”And I succeded, but she came too and got hired at the kitchen for students, in order to help me”…”Couldn’t she go somewhere else?”

Later her son got married. He bought a house, had children and was happy with his life, his kids, his wife and his job.

One day, after many years, his mother wanted to go and visit them. She had never seen her grandchildren. As soon as she showed up at the door, his children started laughing. Her boy was angry with her cause she came to him without warning him. And started to shout at her: ”How dare you come to my house and scare my children?” ”Get out!” ” Go away!”

Then his mother said quietly: ”Ah, sir, I am terribly sorry.” ” I guess they gave me the wrong address.” So she vanished and her grandchildren didn’t realize that she was their grandmother…

The years passed and one day the boy found in the mail box of his home a letter with an invitation for the gathering with his classmates from the primary school. The meeting was going to be held in the town where he had been born. He told his wife that he had to go on a business trip and went there. After the gathering with his classmates ended, he went out of curiosity to see the house where he had grown …The neighbours told him that his mother had just died. He did not shed a tear. Those people gave him a letter she had left for him. He opend it and read it.

Angels with a wing

One little girl got back home after a short visit at a neighbouring house, where a little girl of eight had just died tragically.

”Why did you go there?” her father asked her.

”I went to comfort her mother”, the little one answered.

”And how could you do it, being so small?”

”I fell in her arms and I cried with her.”

Love sees and notices. It ears in and listens carefully. Love means ”to attend with my entire being”. The one who loves discovers inside himself endless sources of comfort. We are angels with one wing only. That’s why we can fly just embraced.

How does trial become joy?

It often happens in our lives to get in the oven of trials and troubles. Either because of us, or because of the unrevealed mystery of God’s kindness Who let them occur out of oikonomia for our spiritual benefit. Saint Isaac the Syrian said: ”Trials are the honor soul receives from the magnificence of God.” Thus ”the strait and narrow path” is the path of the saints, the path they willingly walked for proving their ardent love for the most merciful God.

Therefore why the Christian of nowadays suffers, frets, fears and is sickened only at the thought of facing the temptations and tribulations of life? The spirit of our times characterized by easiness and fastness plays an important role.The spirit of self-love and of love for the body.

Ascertainment

Nowadays man strives with all his strength for diminishing as much as possible, if not to eliminate completely, the painstaking from his life. Facility and speed tends to become the goal in itself of our existence. This trend caused for the actual generations a drowsiness and idleness that starts from our physical powers and extends to the spiritual powers as well. Why hermits willingly torment their bodies with prostrations, services, fasting, sufferings and so many kinds of struggles. The body looks for its needs, but they strive with it and tame its demands – that for food by fasting, that for rest by ascesis, that for care with neglect. While the man of nowadays looks exactly for the opposites: facilities, rest, good living, good food, sleep and rebellion, the perfect relaxation of the body. It is important to mention that according to the teaching of the Church Fathers the body is our enemy’s best friend. It is the rope by which man is handled, the nest of passions. Thus someone rightly wonders: how is it possible for the modern spirit of idleness to get along with the hardships and the endurance of the afflictions and trials of  life in Christ, which is the prerequisite condition for fighting against passions. At this point many are deluding themselves, accepting the thought that tells them there is a conciliatory solution. The only solution is the urge the Lord himself gives us:  ”Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark, 8:34) Here God does not speak metaphorically and does not leave place for interpretations. These are thoughts and inducements of the Evil one, who tries to keep us in a state of physical and spiritual drowsiness that dominates us. But why is pain necessary in our life? Christ is love and happiness. Why does He allow hardships? Our Lord is an exquisite educator who know the dose and type of medicine necessary for our sick soul. He never let them exceed the limits of our powers, as long as He knows us better than we do ourselves. Because He knows the tumor of our selfishness and of our excessive love for the body, He uses with us as surgical methods the pain and affliction that are a bitter but strong antidote. Pain and affliction steel the soul, waking it from lethargy and strengthening it. They awaken the spiritual powers we have but ignore. Not a few are those who confess that in hardships came to know their limits. In the same time it happens something else mysteriously, without acknowledging it on the spot. We strengthen our faith in God’s providence and love. We learn not to trust in our selfish powers and resources. But we entrust everything to God and wipe out a lot of passions. Stress, fear, pride, vanity, love for material things and vanities, greed and all the others. We learn to love the highest virtue, humility. The Apostle of the gentiles said: ”If it behooves me to boast, I shall boast with my sufferings.” Thus, little by little, through afflictions and trials, we follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we sanctify ourselves, we purify ourselves of our passions. At the same time, when we acknowledge this beneficence, we learn to endure new and even willingly assumed physical and spiritual afflictions. Thus we understand the word that says: ”By your patient endurance you will gain your souls.”1 In this way the soul stops being tempted by evil and earnestly starts to seek for good. He opens widely its door so that its bridegroom may enter. Let the divine grace ”that heals all weaknesses and fills everything is  missing” enter your soul. For this reason saint Paisios said that for Christians trials mean joy. Through them is revealed God’s love for us and also our love for Him. Thus instead of  protesting, revolting and complaining even about the slightest eventuality of a trial, let us understand that behind it hides God’s love. In this way we will lift our cross with more ease, for we know it would be for our own good. Cause after storm comes the heavenly sun.

The risk

Therefore hit the enemy in the chest and withstand his attacks – any kind of temptations – with the firm belief in the boundless mercy of God, being armed with the weapons of prayer and watchfulness. In this way you will soon see the fear and  impotence of his wile. And you will receive the crown of victory from the Righteous Judge. This is the life of the Christian strugglers, the life in Christ, full of afflictions and trials, leading us to the purification of passions, to the union with Jesus Christ and to the entry in His heavenly Kingdom! Amen.

”Rejoice always, in everything give thanks, pray without ceasing!”

1Luke 21,19

 

The answer of a poor man

One day a rich man was walking down the street when all of a sudden he saw a poor old man who was sitting on the steps of a building. His clothes were dirty, he had no shoes in his feet but he had such a broad smile on his face…

He wanted to ask him something but changed his mind and went on walking. The next day the rich man saw again the poor one and he was as serene as before and had a happy smile on his face…The rich man could not understand why that man was so happy when he had nothing at all…So he went to him and asked:

”How can you smile when you are the way you are?” ”You seem very happy.”

The poor old man answered: ”I am indeed, good man.”

The rich man asked  him again: ”And why are you happy?” ”Have you got any money?”

”I don’t have a thing, good man.” ”Sometimes I get some food from the passers-by”, the poor man said.

”Have you got a home? A family?” the rich man asked.

”I haven’t got any home and any family at all.” ” I am free like a bird”, the poor man answered.

”Then surely you are hale and hearty”, the rich man said.

”No way, good man.” ” The cold of the night can’t bring me any good health…and I lost almost all my teeth”, the poor man said.

”Then I don’t understand…why are you happy?” ”The recipe of your happiness might prove useful to me.” ”I have everyhthing, but I am unhappy”, the rich man said.

”God does not give a person more trials than he could bear.” ”I accept what I am, where I am and what happens with my life.” ”I am grateful that I am alive and if it is necessary I face each trouble with endurance, patience and smiles.” ”I understand that God wants to put me to the test.” ”I haven’t got anything cause life is not about having something.” ”Life means to wake up in the morning and go further no matter what.”

Source: ganduridinierusalim.com

The monk and the woman

A huge but rather wronged theme. Wronged from both sides. A theme that won’t find its solution as long as it is regarded with rivalry.

There were monks, even more than we think, who saw the woman in her true dimensions, namely equal to man, even when she lived in sin. There were other monks who saw the woman in a negative way, because they projected unconsciously on her their own problems and forgot that the cause was not found in the woman but in themselves.

On the other hand there were women who collaborated with the monks, especially when the monks were in the city or they were bishops, women who rendered many services to the church. There were other women who didn’t do this. And finally there were cases of consecrate persons, on both sides, who created bonds by mutual tolerance.

All these from above, especially the negative examples of relationships between monks and women generated an analogous literature that was obviously written mainly by the monks. We could divide this literature in three categories: the rejection of woman, restraints towards her and finally her acceptance. The most widespread literature is that from the middle, the restraint towards woman.

The following example belongs to this category: ”Avoid meeting with a woman, if you want to live righteously and never allow them be bold in your presence. At the beginning they show respect, that is either true or fake, but later they dare everything shamelessly. At the first meeting they keep their eyes down, speak quietly, weep compassionately, behave decently, sigh deeply, ask questions about holiness and listen carefully. At the second meeting they raise their eyes a little. At the third they look shamelessly. If you smile, they will laugh out loud. They adorn themselves and lollygag around you, cast meaningful passionate glances at you. They raise their brows, flutter their eyelashes, they uncover their necks, bend their bodies, utter words that arouse passions, they clear their throat for enticing hearing till, by all these, they get into your soul.

MOMENTS FROM THE LIFE OF THE ELDERS

Source: ganduridinierusalim.com

How will we find inner peace?

”What good wind brings you here ?” the hermit asked the worshipper who insisted to see him.

”I want inner peace”, that man answered pensively.

The hermit took a small wooden stick and wrote on the ground: I want inner peace.

”See how easy it is! the hermit said and erased the word I.”First you erase the word I.” ” It is impossible for someone to find inner peace if he has perfect confidence in himself and thinks that he can find it by himself, estranged from God.” ” His ego will always feel insecure, threatened by all the people around him and thus he will always be afraid.” ” This will turn into selfishness in order to exercise control and thus will cast out God and His peace.”

With a second move he erased the word want.

”You have to erase the word want.” ” Want shows the desire, the need, the addiction.” ” When you run following your wishes, you will never find time to calm down and become happy.” ” It is known the influence of the mosquito. If there are ten mosquitoes in a room and you kill nine, the tenth won’t let you sleep.”

”No matter how many you will satisfy, there will always be left one that won’t let you sleep.”

Then the worshipper looked at the erased words and in that moment he experienced his first awakening. I and want disappeared and only inner peace was left.

Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus: What were the criteria of selection of the representative bishops for the upcoming Council? It is an unheard of situation!

An inquiry to the Holy Synod regarding the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council

10th of March 2016

          Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus wrote a letter to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece regarding the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council. The main assertions contained in the document were published on the website Agionoros.ru.

          His Eminence qualified the decision that each local Church would be represented at the Council by a number of only 24 hierarchs, as being an “unheard of decision so far” beyond any example over 2000 year of ecclesiastic history. He added that each Ecumenical Council was attended by “as many bishops as possible”. Sometimes the Churches sent representatives, but only in the case when the bishop due to one reason or other could not attend the Council.

          “According to the orthodox ecclesiology, each bishop that leads even the smallest eparchy, represents his flock and is a living member of the Universal Church”, added the Metropolitan in his letter. According to his opinion, “by not inviting all the bishops at the Pan-Orthodox Council it is denied the possibility of the whole Church to express on faith matters, “a fact that apparently the organizers of the Councils aim to.” His Eminence reminds that during the sessions of the so far Ecumenical Councils participated also representatives of the inferior clergy as well as laymen. “It would be an overstatement if we called this Council as a Pan-Orthodox Council which lacks the Orthodox aspect. It is obvious that by the decision regarding the representation in the Council, contrary to the Tradition, was avoided the possibility of some bishops to express against the decisions of the Council, that as a matter of fact might represent a reconsideration of the Tradition.”

          The metropolitan Seraphim calls “completely flimsy” the statement of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by which the Orthodox Church can consider the upcoming Council only “pan-orthodox” and not “ecumenical” due to the absence of the Roman-Catholic Church: “The depart of heretics from the Church does not affect at all its universal character.”

          Metropolitan Seraphim disagrees with the principle “A single vote for each local Church”. “In his opinion each bishop who attended the Council ought to have the right to vote.”

          The Metropolitan of Piraeus analysis and criticizes the document project entitled “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world”, adopted during the V pre-synodal Conference from Chambesy, 10-17 October 2015.

          “This text does not mention anything about the heresies and deceptions as if they fled from the ecclesiastical history after the 8th century.” The Pan-Orthodox Council does not follow a similar principle with the Ecumenical Councils so far, that analyzed and condemned different wanderings, writes the bishop in his message.

          The 22nd paragraph of the document is also criticized by the Metropolitan Seraphim: “The Orthodox Church believes that any attempts to shatter Church unity, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretense of preserving or defending true Orthodoxy, must be condemned. As evidenced by the whole life of the Orthodox Church, the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is only possible thanks to the conciliar structure which since ancient times has been the strong and final criterion in matters of faith for the Church.”

          According to the bishop’s opinion, the respective stipulations give the impression that the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council seeks for a “pre-determination for the infallibility of its decisions.” The statement “the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is only possible thanks to the conciliar structure which since ancient times has been for the Church the strong and final criterion in matters of faith” is not in agreement with the historical fact that within the Orthodox Church the final criteria of faith is the dogmatic consciousness of the Church members. Therefore the legitimacy of some organized council desired to be ecumenical was not acknowledged.

          Metropolitan Seraphim expresses his disagreement with the decision of the archbishops to invite Catholics, Monophysites and Protestant observers to the Pan-Orthodox Council: In the whole ecclesiastical history of 2000 years no non-orthodox ‘observer’ has ever participated to any local or ecumenical councils.” “This practice characterized only the first and second Council of the Catholic Church from Vatican”, asserted Metropolitan Seraphim and stated: “Is it possible for a Pan-Orthodox Council to adopt papist practices as model?” Metropolitan Seraphim reminds that in the past heretics were indeed invited to the Ecumenical Councils, not as ‘observers’ but as ‘litigants’ in order to call them for repentance. If they persisted in their wandering, they were anathematized from the Church and casted out from the sessions of the Council. In his opinion, the presence of the non-orthodox at the Pan-Orthodox Councils “legitimatizes the heresies, undermining the entire authority of the Council.”

Source: http://www.atitudini.com/2016/03/mitropolitul-serafim-de-pireu-dupa-ce-criterii-au-fost-selectati-episcopii-ce-merg-la-sinod-este-o-inovatie-nemaivazuta-pana-in-prezent/

 

 

THE LETTER OF METROPOLITAN ATHANASIOS OF LIMASSOL TO THE HOLY COUNCIL OF CYPRUS REGARDING THE PROPOSED DOCUMENT FOR THE UPCOMING PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL “THE RELATIONS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD”

Your Eminence and Holy Fathers,

          I received the texts that were evaluated as decisions within different pre-council conferences that have taken place lately for the preparation of the Holy Great Council of the Orthodox Church and that officially supports the subjects of the texts that will be handed over to the upcoming Holy Great Council for approval. I thank you very much for sending these to me.

          Since, in agreement with the regulations sent to us regarding the organization and operation of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, and in particular article 12, paragraphs 2 and 3, indicate that we are entitled first to express our views at our local Synod, I, having examined my conscience, humbly submit to the Holy and Sacred Synod of our holy Church my views and opinions regarding the following matters.

          In his letter, His Eminence Athanasios speaks about the text of the 5th Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held in Chambesy in October entitled “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world,” stating the following:

“I am in total agreement with the first three articles of the text. However, at article 4 onwards, I have made the following observations: “The Orthodox Church has always prayed ‘for the union of all’ – I believe this to mean the return to and union with it of all those who broke up with it and distanced themselves from it, of heretics and schismatics, once they have given up to their heresy and schism and flee from those things with repentance and are integrated and joined – united – with the Orthodox Church in accordance with the teachings of the sacred canons. The Orthodox Church of Christ has never lost the “unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit” and does not accept the theory of the restoration of the unity of those ‘who believe in Christ,’ because it believes that the unity of those who believe in Christ already exists in the unity of all of its baptized children, between themselves and with Christ, in its right faith, where no heretics or schismatics are present, for which reason the church prays for their return to Orthodoxy in repentance.

I believe that what is stated in article 5 regarding ‘the lost unity of Christians’ is incorrect, because the Church as God’s people, united among themselves and with the Head of the Church which is Christ, has never lost this unity and therefore is not in need of rediscovering or seeking it, because it always was, is, and will be just as the Church of Christ has never ceased and will never cease to exist.

          It happened that groups, peoples or individuals left the body of the Church and the Church prays, and is required to try through mission that they all return in repentance to the Orthodox Church via the canonical route. In other words, there do not exist other Churches, only heresies and schisms, should we wish to be more precise in our definitions. The expression ‘towards the restoration of the Christian unity’ is incorrect because the unity of Christians – the members of the Church of Christ – has never been broken, as long as they remain united with the Church. The separation and flight from the Church have unfortunately happened numerous times due to heresies and schisms, but there has never been a loss of the internal unity of the Church.

          I question why the text contains multiple references to ‘Churches’ and ‘Confessions’? What difference and which element allow us to call some ‘Churches’ and others ‘Confessions’? Which is a Church and which a heresy and which a schismatic group or confession? We confess one Church and that all the others are schisms and heresies. I maintain that giving the title ‘Church’ to heretical or schismatic communities is entirely incorrect from a theological, dogmatic and canonical perspective because the Church of Christ is one, as also stated in Article 1, and we cannot refer to a heretical or schismatic community or group outside the Orthodox Church as ‘Church’.

          At no point does this text state that the only way that leads to union with the Church is solely the repentant return of heretics and schismatics to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, which according to Article 1 is our Orthodox Church. The reference to the ‘understanding of the tradition of the ancient Church’ gives the impression that there is an ontological difference between the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the genuine continuation of the same until the present day, namely our Orthodox Church. We believe that there is absolutely no difference between the Church of the 21st century and the Church of the 1st century, because one of the attributes of the Church is the fact we also confess in the Symbol of Faith, namely that it is Apostolic.

The Bishop subsequently underlines that in Article 12, the impression is given that the Orthodox are looking to restore the right faith and unity, giving cause for an unacceptable view.

          Article 12 states that the common purpose of the theological dialogues is ‘the final restoration of the unity in right faith and love’. This gives the impression that we Orthodox are seeking our restoration to correct faith and the unity of love, as if we had lost the right faith and are seeking to discover it through the theological dialogues with the heterodox. I maintain that this theory is theologically unacceptable for us all.

          The reference of the text to theWorld Council of Churches’ [WCC] gives me the opportunity to make a complaint against occasional syncretistic events which took place therein, but also against its title, since it regards the Orthodox Church as ‘one of the Churches’ or a branch of the one Church which seeks and strives for Her realisation at the World Council of Churches. For us, however, the Church of Christ is one and unique, as we confess in the Symbol of Faith.

          The view that the preservation of the genuine Orthodox faith is guaranteed only through the synodal system as the only ‘competent and final authority on matters of faith’ [art 22] is exaggerated and ignores the truth that many synods throughout Church history taught and exposed incorrect and heretical doctrines, and it was the faithful people who rejected them and preserved the Orthodox faith and championed the Orthodox Confession. Neither a synod without the faithful people, the fullness of the Church, nor the people without the synod of Bishops, is able to regard themselves as the Body of Christ and Church of Christ and to correctly express the experience and doctrine of the Church.

 I understood your Eminence and Holy Synodal brethrens that the use of hard or insulting language cannot be made in ecclesiastical encyclicals of this kind, nor do I think anyone desires the use of that form of expression. However, the truth must be expressed with precision and clarity, though naturally with pastoral discernment and genuine love towards all. We owe it also to our brothers who find themselves in heresy or schism to be entirely honest with them, and with love and pain to pray and do everything possible to bring about their return to the Church of Christ.”

          I humbly maintain that texts of such importance and prestige as those of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church must be very carefully formulated with theological and canonical precision in order that these ambiguities or untested theological terms do not also give rise to incorrect expressions which could lead to misconceptions and distortions of the correct attitude of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, for a Synod to be valid and canonical, it must not depart in any way from the spirit and teaching of the Holy Synods that preceded it, the teaching of the Holy Fathers and Holy Scriptures, and it must be free from any ambiguity in the precise expression of the correct faith.

          Never did the holy Fathers nor ever in the holy canons or rulings of the sacred Ecumenical or Local Synods, are heretical or schismatic groups referred to as churches. If the heretics are indeed churches, where is the single One Church of Christ and the Apostles?

          I humbly express my disagreement with the fact that the practice of all Sacred Synods until the present of allowing each bishop a vote is abolished. There had never been before a system of ‘one Church, one vote,’ which renders the members of the Holy and Great Synod, with the exception of the primates, mere decorative items by refusing them the right to vote.

          I do have some other unclarities and objections regarding some other articles from the texts but I do not want to insist that much on this matter and I refer only to the issues that I consider to be the most important and on which I express my disagreement, point of view and faith.

          I do not want to upset anyone with what I wrote, nor do I want to be seen to be teaching the judgment of my brothers and fathers in Christ. I simply feel the need to express what my conscience asks from me.

          I request my opinions to be taken into consideration by the Holy Council.

         

          Asking for your holy prayers for me, I remain your least brethren in Christ,

          + Athanasie de Limassol

The Saints of the Holy Mountain

If it is true that there are places in the world of such a beauty and irradiance that they can infuse man with enthusiasm and veneration and can lead him to spiritual revival, then certainly the Holy Mountain holds a prominent position among them.

The Holy Mountain is embellished of course with all the beauties of nature that the grace of God generously bestowed upon it like on another heaven. It is also adorned with the beautiful holy monasteries and hermitages with their gorgeous architecture, perfectly adapted to the natural environment and with very precious holy relics and other religious objects that are treasured here. All these embellish it making it look like another heaven with their splendor.

Even more than with these, the Garden of the Theotokos – this is how the faithful Greek people call the Holy Mountain – is proud, exults, is enlightened and is honored by the virtuous men and saints who practiced asceticism there in different times.  For its saints! Because since the early years of the Athonite history, ascetics, wonderful holy fathers shone in this place with the help of God and the protection of the Holy Virgin and their memory is eternal. All these blessed men, like other athletes, spent their life here, in uncountable labors and hardships and having this Holy Mountain as a ladder they rose to heaven.

The vivid presence of the Mother of God who is the protector of the Holy Mountain and the ascetic struggles of the remarkable holy men make of each part of Athos a place of theophany. The modern pilgrim who travels in the Holy Mountain and gets acquainted with the place and its history feels this thing and senses the presence of God at each step he takes.

At this point I would like to thank the organizers of today’s event which takes place within Philokalia, the international festival of sacred art. I thank them for the opportunity they offered me to come here from the remote Athos bringing on the blessed land of Romania  the blessing of the Mother of God and the Athonite fathers and to speak to such a distinguished and philocalic public. I hope – with the prayers of the reverent fathers – this conference would become an useful companion in this spiritual search of each one of us.

The communal monasteries, the hermitages, the recluse cells, the huts, the graveyards, caves and places of ascesis that hang in  remote and inaccessible places are quiet witnesses of the blessed, angelic lives of the pious Athonite elders and for us, the young ones, monks and worshippers a permanent invitation to follow their example.

In the Holy Mountain  more than four hundred saints lived from the IXth century until today. There are of course many other saints unknown to us who pleased God and were honored by Him. The Holy Mountain is maybe the only place in the world where nobody was born but it was and by the help of the divine grace still remains a place where thousands of people were reborn in Christ.

The Saints of our Church may be purposefully honored in a certain place but they belong to the pleroma of the entire Church.

And we know very well that on the Orthodox land of Romania many Athonite saints are extremely honored by the believers.

What Romanian doesn’t know about saint Athanasios the Athonite, saint Gregory Palamas, saint Niphon, the patriarch of Constantinople, saint Nicodemus the Athonite? Who did not benefit of the wisdom and teaching of our contemporary saints, elder Paisios the Athonite and elder Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite? Or who’s the Romanian that doesn’t know about saint Paisios Velicicovski (+1794) who after spending a part of his life in the Holy Mountain lived in Romania, in Iasi and in the monasteries Neamt and Dragomirna bringing here the spirit of the Athonite monarchism and of the Philokalia.

Saint Paisios and his disciples made for the Romanian people elaborated translations of the Greek fathers of the Church. It is significant the fact that only after ten years from the publication of the first edition of Philokalia in Greek in 1793, we have its first translation in Slavonic, language in which were written then the religious texts in Romania.This work was republished several times and aroused a high interest for the hermit fathers of the Church in Romania and other Balkanic countries.

In accordance with the sources, we have Romanian monachal presence in the Holy Mountain even from the XIth century. From the fall of the Byzantine Empire and afterwards rulers from Valachia, knowing the spiritual benefit your country would get from the contact with the Holy Mountain, offered many gifts, consecrated metochions and proved to be founders of many Athonite monasteries, contributing to their restoration. At the same time, Hariton (+1381) one of the first metropolitans of Valachia, who established the groundwork for the organization of the Romanian church was Athonite.

One of the most honored Athonite saints in Romania is saint Nicodemus the Hesychast, of Greek-Serbian descent, founder of Tismana monastery. St. Nicodemus came in Valachia from the Holy Mountain around 1360. He was a transmitter of holy irradiance and contributed to the revival of monarchism in the Romanian countries for he with the help of his disciples founded and organized in Romania monasteries after the model and order from the Holy Mountain. Tismana monastery is the oldest monastery that was preserved in Romania and it became among others a famous centre for calligraphy and replication of manuscripts.

Ending this brief paranthesis referring at the Athonite saints who are in close relation with your blessed country and who left a valuable and everlasting legacy and who continue to pray for us all, we shall refer at saint Niphon the IInd, the patriarch of Constantinople (+1508), this illustrious illuminator of the Romanian land. Saint Niphon, Athonite monk from Dionisiou Monastery contributed decisively at the reorganization of the Romanian Church and at the defense of Orthodoxy, while giving a new impetus to the spiritual  life. A part of his holy relics are kept at Curtea de Arges, where thousands of believers come every year for honoring his memory.

Ultimately the spiritual benefit gained by the Romanian people from the work of the Romanian Athonite saints Gheorghe from Cernica (+1806), Antipa from Caldarusani (+1882) and the new martyr Pachomius (+1810) was great.

My beloved brothers in Christ!

The Athonite saints coming from all Orthodox peoples devoted themselves completely to God.

By means of their various ascetic struggles, they purified themselves of passions and became noble vessels, worthy to receive the divine charisms. And afterwards they became brilliant successors of the true Orthodox monastic tradition.

At the end of the XVIIIth century st.Nicodemus the Athonite, that was the first who wrote the Holy service of the Athonite saints as well as the word of praise about them remark that the Athonite saints have shown themselves to all of us who live in the Holy Mountain but also to all the Orthodox people, permanent benefactors, defenders and guardians not only by their words but also by their deeds. Not only with their soul, but also with their body, not just while being alive on earth, but also after their death.

The Holy Mountain was named so from its saints. According to st. Nicodemus the Athonite the Holy Mountain means ”place of holiness, place of purity.” Place that was treaded by so many holy feet. Place where the ground was watered by the blood, ascetic sweat and tears of the hundreds and thousands of pious elders. The Holy Mountain is a place of virtue and holiness.

The way to apotheosis, the cultivation of the Orthodox spirituality and its acquisition through ascetic struggles represented and continues to represent, with the grace of God, the strongest support of life on the Holy Mountain.

In this land of repentance and laboratory of godliness countless saints, videlicet friends of God, who illuminate with the sweet rays of their lives and miracles the crowd of the believers, were led over the centuries on the paths of salvation.

According to the Orthodox tradition the best suited for talking about saints and holiness are the saints themselves. They can understand and interpret correctly in the light of their own experience of sanctity, the deeds and teachings of those holy persons who had as main aim they accomplished – to please God and unite with Him.

My humble self who does not have their holiness and spiritual feeling and who, by the grace of the Lord and the maternal love of the Holy Mother of God, lives in the same holy places with hallowed Athonite persons, can only outline broadly, by reflection and guess, some of the rich charisms – fruits of their ascetic struggles and of their bright teachings. As elder Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite, one of the latest personalities from the golden chain of pious Athonites, said: ”Indeed these must be experienced by man for understanding them…Only the one who experiences this state, lives it and feels it.”

The motivation of the Athonite hermits to subject their bodies willingly to tribulations and different privations is not hate against flesh and material life, but the richer life that springs out of Christ’s love, when this works and lights up the heart. They wished to crucify themselves for the world and to kill their passions completely, to bury themselves in the tomb of humbleness and to revive with Christ through passionlessness.

With their bodies they worked and served their brothers and with their mind and heart talked ceaselessly with God, through prayer. Ravished in ecstasies and contemplations of the glory of God, they foretasted here the relishes that should delight those who love God.

On the Holy Mountain is preserved the uncreated flame of the church life. And the holy Athonite personalities represent one of the manifestations of this pure, divine light and another testimony of the divine grace: of the Athonite life and experience nowadays.

These heroes of volition have set faith as steadfast foundation of their salvation. Everything, from their divine experiences full of grace to their revealing foresights and prophecies as well as their pious teachings, testifies the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit in these holy personalities of the Athonite elders, who wrote by their lives a new Patericon, proving the truth, the actuality of the stories and descriptions from Sinaxars.

They by living in the holy cloud of God themselves, were able to lead others to the heavenly Jerusalem, to teach them the mental prayer, to offer them guidance in spiritual life, to strengthen them in trials and temptations. Many of these enhanced elders helped not only a lot of Athonite monks with whom they lived, but also the people of God, transmitting them the ethos of the Athonite spirituality and showing them the freedom of the age to come.

Through their word full of divine experience, they touched the thirsty souls, they united the enlightened word with vivid feeling and transferred theology from the sphere of thought in that of personal life. They inspired in faith countless people, otherwise lost. They soothed hopeless souls, they enlightened with their wisdom and grace the crowd of truth seekers. Others, like the blessed elder Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite spread from their own inner self the light and joy of Resurrection they experienced and received from the Athonite life and praxis. They gained powers from the inexhaustible Athonite springs for a few years and transformed themselves in universal reformers of the spiritual life in Christ.

The Athonite enhanced elders of the past century continued the bimillenary tradition of the Holy Mountain and they set themselves in the golden chain of the pious fathers.Actually the Athonite time may be contemporary only with eternity.

The truly impressive personality so rich in charisms of our elder Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite was cultivated in a place where spiritual tradition remained alive till nowadays. From the first dwellers of the old Athos till the latest enhanced elders, they all make a spiritual family, where everything is in common: the ascetic thought, the spiritual accomplishments and charisms. Actually the feeling of historical continuity of the Athonite tradition represents the cornerstone for the spiritual itinerary of the Holy Mountain.

On the other hand from the life of the contemporary Athonite elders emerges the continuity of the Athonite tradition. These hermits with the authenticity of their simplicity and of their ascetic life permanently restate the mystery of faith and testify the presence of God in our world, confirming the possibility we all have to be in communion with God and to share eternity. The life of many people who knew saints and other enhanced Athonite elders and were in contact with them, changed radically, for their presence was determined and sealed their existence. The Athonite saints and other holy personalities of the Holy Mountain were true spiritual fathers, reached a high spiritual level and for this reason they could act as teachers and counselors in family matters, in a certain way.

The pedagogy they applied, based on the ministry of spiritual fatherhood was no other than the pedagogy of the church fathers, which is preserved till nowadays, through the hesychast and philocalic tradition of our Church.

According to saint Simeon the New Theologian, the spiritual father is the vivid presence of Christ. He is the perfect one, the man reborn in Christ. He is a reverberator of the divine light in our world. We could say that he is the absolute teacher. Such models of teachers, of advisers for the youth and old people as well, through their word, were and continue to be, by the grace of God, the Athonite saints and other holy Athonite personalities. Men of complete love, of sacrificial love, of inner spiritual perfection and of holiness.

Saint Athanasios the Athonite is considered the founder of the Athonite monasticism from the building of the Great Lavra (year 963). The following fact expresses the ascetic character of saint Athanasios’pedagogy.

Once the demons urged an idle monk to kill the saint. And that man got out heading for the starets’cell with the knife in his hand. When he opened his door and the saint embraced him friendly then the ungrateful disciple, with killing thoughts, let the knife fall down from his hand, knelt down and confessed his intention. Saint Athanasios forgave him immediately. And didn’t stop just at this, but from that moment he showed even more love to that monk. The voluntary humility is a mark of the authentic life in Christ and spring of immortality. The pious freed of his own self, deepening in the bottomless divine grace from where he gained love for his potential killer. In the effort of becoming a model for his disciples, saint Athanasios took care of the needs of all the monks from his monastery and especially of the sick ones, whom he personally served.

By spiritual guidance, namely in a mystagogical and spiritual way, the holy personalities of Athos contributed at their own birth and rebirth being in contact with these spiritual fathers.

They did not teach proposing abstract moral rules. They mainly guided the others within a very close personal relationship. They loved man right as he was, with his weaknesses and flaws. In the same time they acted with pedagogical caution and with psychological vision, using flexible pedagogical methods.

They taught not only by their word, but by their silence as well and very often by their simple presence. For instance, in the Life of the pious Acacius the Kavsokalivite (+1730), a great Athonite saint of the XVIIIth century is told that among his numerous charisms, he had a pacifying spirit in such a degree that even those who were possessed by revengeful thoughts when they saw him, his face so full of grace calmed their evil thoughts.

Remembering in all these years the honored person of elder Paisios the Athonite (+1994) and his bright counsels and teachings that were dripping balm in the hearts of all who had more or less the blessing to meet him, I got the feeling that everything he suffered patiently in his ascetic life, meaning: privations, pains, temptations, exhausting travels, derangements and fatigue from the countless pilgrims and in the end terrible illnesses, he all suffered out of love for God and man. And in the monasteries where he served, inside and outside the Holy Mountain and while he lived in solitude, his life was a continuous ministration of love. A boundless love, so sincere and resulting from the deification of his soul  that soothed all who tasted it. Even in the period before his pious end, though cause of his terrible illness, had excruciating pains, he sacrificing himself for his brothers, served with self-denial and self-sacrifice all those who ran to him for help.

In his rich teaching which refers in detail at all the themes of life in Christ and which awakens us spiritually, we see the elder talking with pain and love about us all.

From the pantheon of virtues, love – distinct among the others – seems to enliven the entire life and teaching of elder Paisios. He told his listeners, emphasizing the power of love: ”For we do not know what awaits us, cultivate love as much as you can. This is the most important thing of all: to have among yourselves true, brotherly love, not false love. Every time when there is good concern, compassion, love, things are done right. Kindness and love mean power.”

One of the best ways to express our love is to pray for others. This truth and its value are highlighted by the elder: ”The prayer uttered from the heart helps not only the others but ourselves as well, for it supports the apparition of inner kindness. When we try to walk in someone else’s shoes love, pain, humility, gratefulness for God with ceaseless doxology come out naturally and then our prayer for our neighbor is welcomed by God and helps him.

At the question about the way in which he understood when someone else got a benefit from his prayer, he answered: ”He is announced by the divine comfort he feels inside after the painful heartly prayer he had made. But first you should make from the pain of the other your own pain and then pray from the heart. Love is a divine virtue and announces you.” Love is the condition for reaching the aimed result from searching the mistakes of the other and this fact is highlighted by elder Paisios: ”When we explore someone out of love, either he becomes aware of our love or not, a change takes place in his heart, for we are driven by pure love. While the search made without love and empathy makes a beast of the other one, for our malice strikes his selfishness. When we tolerate the other out of love, he feels it.”

Sacrifice for our brother is imitation of Christ. ”Learn to rejoice when you give to others”, the blessed father said and stated as follows: ”These people who give themselves without taking themselves into account will judge us after tomorrow.”

Christ himself is moved when we love our brother more than we love ourselves and fills us with divine joy. You see the One who did not limit himself to the syntagma ” love your neighbor the way you love yourself”, but sacrificed himself for man. And he adds: ”It is not possible for the love of Christ to come inside ourselves if we do not eliminate our self from our love and we do not offer ourselves to God and to our brothers, without expecting to get anything in return from the others. Insisting upon the sacrificing self-abnegation as an expression of perfect love the elder advices us: ”The sacrifice for our brother implies to have a great love for Christ. All those who have the disponibility for being generous but do not have anything and suffer from this reason, give alms with the blood of their hearts.” And for strengthening those who cultivate the empress of virtues, he adds: ”The generous ones, for they always feed the others with love, are always fed by the love of God and his plentiful blessings.”

One of the contemporary Athonite elders who was one of the most significant spiritual presences of the past century is the elder Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite (+1991), already known in the entire Orthodox world. We witness an extraordinary phenomenon of divine life and call.

He remained in the memory of people as a spiritual confessor full of discernment. In this way he could help in various ways, by various means. He considered each man as an unique and unrepeatable personality, respecting everyone’s distinct features as well as their personal freedom. He listened carefully, patiently, with condescension their problems. He became receiver of their troubles. He answered kindly to their various questions. He adviced and supported the weak ones. He did not get upset because of the annoying presence of certain spiritual sons or because of their indiscretions and exasperating attitudes.

He accepted his fellow just as he was, with his weaknesses and the peculiarities of his behaviour. He never tried to make them be imitations of himself. He was not interested in the exterior look of people, especially of the young ones.

He looked deep inside their souls for he knew that if it was made order in their inner world, the exterior aspects would be put in order as well.  Because he knew about the tragedy of nowadays regarding the lack of love which causes loneliness, sadness, insecurity, stress and fears.

Elder Porphyrios said: ”What you want to tell your children say it in your prayers. The children do not listen with their ears. Only when the divine grace comes and enlightens them they listen to what we want to tell them. When you want to tell something to your children, tell it to Virgin Mary and she will work. This prayer of yours will become a strong blow, a spiritual comfort that will sooth, embrace and draw the children near.”

My beloved brothers in Christ!

The high spiritual life of the Athonite elders, always incentive, vivid and full of vigor breaks the weir of time, surpasses the unabated historical storms and the human ventures for echoing as a spiritual alarm for the restless, blurry and noisy present.

Contemporary man dominated by the digital technology and the scientific discoveries of historical importance learnt how to handle the machines, but did not learn how to handle himself. He does not succeed to live uninfluenced by the dissolving syndromes which enslave the entire creation. He is smashed by huge ideologies.

The sanctified path crossed by the Athonite saints and enhanced elders for meeting Christ may enlighten our future and inspire us to fill our lives with the ”good fight” in the ”trenches” of the divine grace, which is the insatiable love, as saint Silouan the Athonite says.

The way and the modality for the deification and salvation of man is eternal and safe: is the path of the saints! The sanctified Athonite personalities of the past and of nowadays, from the pious Peter the Athonite, the first inhabitant of Athos till our contemporary elders Paisios the Athonite and Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite, reached the beloved place where we were all called to live.

And because we are facing hard times when the economic crisis mills our society I’d like to end with an optimistic message, I’d like to believe is addressed to my listeners.

As Dostoievski said: ”beauty will save the world.” The beauty of soul will save the world, even if around us everything seems to fall apart in our times. But we must not lose our courage. We should get back into our soul for uniting it with God and from inside this unity and concentration we would be able, by the help of God, to cross safely the stormy sea of our life.

Thank you very much! Christ is risen!

Lecture held at Arad, on May 25, 2013, with the occasion of the festival Philokalia.

Source: pemptousia.ro