Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
Father, how does the sin work in the soul?
Some Fathers said that the sin has an paralyzing action. With each sin committed the devil gains ground in the soul of man. It is an invisible fight between the grace of God and sin. With each new sin the grace withdraws and the sin paralyzes the spiritual powers of man, especially his will and reason. You heard what Saint Apostle Paul said:
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do -this I keep on doing.Rom. 7:19.
The striving Christians are aware of this harmful action of sin and try at any cost and with any opportunity to cleanse themselves.
Elder Paissios says that by any sin you give rights to the devil, you open doors for him in your soul.
Abba Dorotheus speak about the house of soul and tells how to make the walls, then the roof and the windows; and we should put trellis at the windows: the control of the five senses, we should not allow the sin get inside. These are the trellis, not to allow the sin get in. Today many don’t understand anymore how important is the spiritual work in their daily life. Then the life of man becomes a kind of fight for fulfilling the biological needs, for providing a minimum comfort and wellbeing and nothing else. It is not this thing which should preoccupy each Christian, but his salvation.
You were talking about the spiritual work. How should this be?
First to be done under the guidance of a confessor. He is the spiritual family doctor. It is as if you went to the drugstore and you’d take a medicine on the medical prescription from the doctor. You don’t take it as you like, cause it might kill you. The spiritual work means to fulfill what Christ puts in front of us, the evangelical commandments, the commandments of the Church – simple things. At the Judgment are not required impossible things, but simple ones:
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’Mat. 25. Simple things regarding the relationship with yourself, with your neighbor, with God.
For instance if you get a physical disease the doctor gives you a diet, a kind of lent. The Church gives you a more efficient diet, which has value in the eternal life as well – not only for our earthly one. Usually the body gets sick because the soul gets sick. By sin the soul gets sick then the body gets sick too. This is the connection.
The therapeutical methods of the Church are clear: Fasting, Prayer, Confession, Eucharist, the going to church, patience, mercy in all our relationships with others, the ten commandment. The commandments of the Church are very simple things. If the man kept these, he would protect himself of evil and worked at the spiritual evolvement, as the Holy Fathers advise us. With the soul is the same as with a painter who paints in his workshop an icon and keeps it covered with a canvas until the reception and then everybody is amazed of its beauty. In this life we work at the beauty of of our soul in a hidden way, meaning under the covering of the body and then in the afterlife the image of our soul is shown to the entire world. This is the work to paint the image of God which lies inside us. And this addresses to everybody, be it layman, priest or even bishop.
The true happiness is given to us by the fight with sin
Some people have a reservation, they think they might lose something if they come to the life of the Church, which might draw them away of certain pleasures. They have the feeling that they might lose their happiness.
The mentality of the Christians of nowadays is completely changed. We call ourselves Christians when we are true followers of Christ. So we have to do what Christ did. Each disciple follows his master. `I belong to this or that…` But to whom we belong, the Christians of today? Some confessors use the expression – Christians only by name – and this is the way we became. Because we are called Christians, we say we belong to Christ but we don’t, because we don’t do what Christ commands us. Because we don’t have the conscience of carrying the Cross, of sharing the Cross and the Sufferings of the Savior anymore. And we see a different kind of Christianity. And this happens even with the Christian who goes to the church regularly and confesses and communes. His mentality is to see that everything is going well for him: his children to be healthy, his salary to be good, he doesn’t want to lack a thing, to be sick to suffer any loss – and ultimately to think that he can gain the Kingdom. Some may even gain it – we don’t know it, these are God’s judgments – but the problem is that the Christian doesn’t realize anymore that he belongs to Christ that by taking part at Christ’s life and sufferings you identify yourself with Him.
Many people write to us and say : `Father pray so God may help us !` I had a phone talk with a girl from Thessaloniki who is tormented by the devil. And I asked her: `Do you go to the church?` `I go.` `Do you fast?` `I didn’t think about it.` `Hold on, how’s that? Are you sick?` `No` But the Orthodox fast is essential. It’s a means leading to salvation, is essential for our spiritual headway.
The Savior doesn’t He say that this kind of demons does not go out except by prayer and fasting Mat. 17:21?
`Yes. `If you who are a Christian and go to the church and`…`Do you confess ?` `Not so much` So there’s the problem and the devil won’t let you free until you improve your ways.` She said `I will try`. But when she is saying this it means she does try that much! If she says: `Father, pray so that I may make a good beginning and from today I am going to do this` then you still have a hope that she starts to do what is right.`I will try.` This means a more or less remote future if she ever remembers that she has to do something.
In the Patericon an abba says : `The word was taken from the elders.` Why that? Because the disciples don’t ask questions anymore for applying this into practice only ask something formally saying: Let’s go to this one to see what he tells us.` Just like this to change the scenery. They are not aware that true happiness implies spiritual work – in this way are gained spiritual joy and peace. The freedom from sin not the acquirement of material riches. It’s obvious all the Saints tell us that true happiness is given to us by the fight with the sin. Once one of the nuns from Suroti asked elder Paissios: `Father, I have so many temptations. Can you give me a solution?` The elder said: ` Yes, I found it, I give you.` She was glad to learn the secret for getting rid of temptations. The elder said: `Fight with the temptations.` She was a bit discouraged. So we must be prepared for fight. There is no other choice! We are in a permanent war: the man is either going towards God or towards the devil. There is no middle way, there is nothing neutral. It’s either One or the other.
So we must go deeper and take things more seriously.
Of course. The Holy Fathers teach us that the entire work of the Christian is within himself. The Savior tells us: The Kingdom of God is within you. Lc. 17:21.
Elder Sophrony Saharov said very nicely that the whole mankind is like a pyramida and at its top is Christ but this pyramid is upside down. To reach Christ you have to descend not to ascend: to go deep down the depths of humility. And the more you descend, the responsibility towards the others gets bigger. The Savior is at the top of the pyramid which is at the bottom, meaning He is in the depths of humility but He also bears the weight of the sins of all. Here is the work: the descent into humility helps you become aware of the responsibility you have for your soul and for the souls of the others. Sure, the great Saints as Saint Silouan had reached the prayer for the whole world.
But we are not aware of that anymore. We are so superficial! This is supported by the media and all this demonic society which doesn’t help you evolve spiritually and doesn’t even let you maintain yourself on the moral waterline if not spiritual, which is higher.
Let us be Christians 24 hours a day
We are living in this world full of dirty commercials and pornography. How to keep ourselves away of it when we are in it? How to keep our soul in connection with God?
The young man of today won’t be judged as the young man from other times. As father Paisios says, then it was only one mad man and they kept him in the tower. But now there is only one wise man left and the madmen put him in the tower.
So much it changed the mentality and the spiritual condition of man. Despite this demonic condition of the world the Christian of nowadays must fulfill his duty, must be in connection with the Church. here lies the duty of the priest. Saint Moses the Athonite quoting the words of the psalmist Their sound has gone forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Ps. 18:4 referred at the meaning and the role of the priest in the parish. God doesn’t send the priest to the end of the world anymore only till the edge of his parish – but many don’t even accomplish this. Of course one is the role of the married priest in the world and another one is the role of the hieromonk in the monastery. The priest from the world is called to preach the Gospel all the time. And each one of them will receive his reward according to his work.
But which would be the modalities to keep ourselves clean towards the world?
The sacraments of the Church especially Confession and Eucharist – of course accompanied by the ascesis everyone has to practice – fast, prayer and most of all the guard of senses. Many times the guard of senses is more efficient than fast or any other strife – a permanent guard.
The senses are five. The Holy Fathers call them `the windows through which the sin gets in the heart of man` The sin get in through the eyes, ears, taste, smell and touch. First the sin gets in through the eyes by the indecent look. According to the Holy Fathers the simple look is innocent and the insistent look is already ardent. That’s why guard is so necessary: the man should pay attention not to look. By opening the shutters from the windows and by allowing the sin to get in, the mind gets spoiled
You see ? God decided that the sin by deed cannot be done so easily because it needs certain conditions, but the sin by senses is done immediately. That’s why the Savior when He compares the prescriptions of the Old and of the New Testament says in the Gospel:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. cf. Mat. 5:28.
Or let’s take the search on the Internet which has become an indispensable thing in the life of the young generation. Can you tell them not to watch TV or search on the Internet anymore? Who’s going to listen to you? Quite a few. But if at least they could control the situation themselves and they wouldn’t have become so addicted to the Internet as to control their life. And the best is to cut them all.
We are talking about guard but what can we do when in Tomania are sold 90.000.000 newspapers per month and most of the articles are only gossip, eroticism, lie, human decadence? 90.000.000! What guard can we talk about then? One thing is to pass every day by an indecent billboard and another is to buy daily a newspaper to look at the page with indecent photos.
The man is not aware anymore of what is good and what is a sin. And he opens the gates and lets all the dirt get inside. And he imagines that’s normal. Then he wants to get rid of all these but he doesn’t know how. When you show him the methods of the Church he refuses them from the start. There are some who ask insistently for prayer for them. You pray for them but their problem is not solved. God helps them by the Holy Liturgies we serve but they don’t commit themselves to change their life. Our Orthodoxy is a way of life and if you don’t appropriate this way of life, there is no way to solve your problems. This is a revealed way of life, brought by God from heaven, is your true nature, must become your permanent life. The Christian must be Christian 24 hours out of 24. As elder Paissios says: to deal with all the problems in accordance with the Gospel otherwise it comes the punishment from God.
Orthodoxy is the authentic way of life we must appropriate
Which are the good deeds we can do in our times?
Many times mercy and giving alms in money and victuals is understood as a good deed. This is a good material deed with its own role. It springs from your kind heart and comfort the pain of your neighbor. But you saw in the Acts of the Apostles: the men brought their possessions at the feet of the Apostles and waited to be fed, cared – they were humans after all. And who took care of them? When the Apostles saw that the community was growing – there were two, three thousands – and they had to leave the preaches and serve at the tables, they chose the deacons to serve at tables, meaning to do this good deed that we praise so much as being the only and the greatest one, the material mercy and they dedicated themselves to the preaching of the Word of God which is the greatest mercy and all the apostles, their followers, the priests, the monks, every Christian had it. By his baptism the Christian has the mission to preach and defend the Christian faith as a small apostle where he is. This is the greatest mercy because it refers directly at the eternal life.
Saint Ignatius said very nicely about the deeds of the debased nature – because there are many Protestants, Catholics and many others who give alms maybe more than most of the Orthodox people. Then why not to find their salvation? ask some people. But the Saint says clearly: Have you seen Cornelius the centurion who was a pagan. He was merciful, isn’t it? And at a certain moment he had this vision: Your prayers and alms reached God. So they were good. But they were not enough. Because he didn’t put them in connection with Christ. For this reason he was told : Go to Simon the straps maker and he will tell you what to do. So he didn’t stop at this kind of mercy. Because all the founders of religions have some good moral precepts: to be good, not to kill your neighbor, etc. But if you don’t put them in connection with Christ they don’t have any value.
The man who is pressed by the worries of the world is not able to understand how to put into practice Christ’s teaching…
Here is missing the catechetical education and the engagement in struggle. The problem of the Christian of our times is only survival. All people call us and write letters to us: Father pray for me to find a good job, to keep my job etc. But almost nobody asks us `How to cleanse of my sins? How to involve in the spiritual strife? Maybe one in a few years asks me about this.
But if he solved these, all the others would be solved as well…
Of course. The Word of the Gospel is true: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Mat. 6:33.
We don’t believe in the Gospel anymore! Saint Andrew the Cretan said: The Gospel doesn’t work anymore! Meaning that the Gospel has unfortunately become a dead letter. Saint Marcus the Hermit says about the holy baptism:
`It is an active sacrament as long as you apply the commandments.` Otherwise it remains only as a potential energy, you have it within yourself but is not active. When you follow the commandments little by little this energy is activated and it works. And you can even reach the measure to perform miracles.
Because in fact the call of the Christian is to be son of God…
Of course. But the late work of the enemy is to give another meaning to the religiosity of man, which he cannot take out of his soul, as father Staniloaie said. And then tries to give it another meaning, another religion than the true one. Orthodoxy has come from heaven, is the authentic way of life we must appropriate and in this way go beyond. Only a few live it. Orthodoxy is a practical work, not a philosophical speculation.
Recorded by Virgiliu Gheorghe