You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2010.

MATTHEW 10

32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.’ 36 “And ‘a man’s foes will be those of his own household.'”

WHOEVER DENIES ME BEFORE MEN, HIM I WILL ALSO DENY BEFORE MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN

by St. Cyprian of Carthage

   At last, dear brethren, peace has been restored to the Church and, though the pessimists thought it improbable and the pagans impossible, we have recovered our liberty … Was it something unheard-of that had hap­pened, something beyond expectation, that made men recklessly break their oath to Christ, as if a situation had arisen which they had not bargained for? Was it not foretold by the prophets before He came, and by His Apostles since? Were they not inspired by the Holy Spirit to predict that the just would always be oppressed and ill-treated by the Gentiles? .. Could a ser­vant of God stand there and speak – and renounce Christ, whereas it was the  world and the devil he had renounced before? .. .It is Christ who must not be left; it is giving up one’s salvation and one’s eternal home that must be feared …

   Let no man deceive himself, let none be misled. Only the Lord can grant mercy. Sins committed against Him can be cancelled by Him alone who bore our sins and suffered for us, by Him whom God delivered up for our sins. Man cannot be above God, nor can the servant by any indulgence of his own remit or condone the graver sort of crime committed against his Lord, for that would make the lapsed liable to this further charge, that he knows not the words of the prophet: ‘Cursed be the man that putteth his hope in man.’ It is our Lord we must pray to, it is Our Lord we must win over by our satisfaction; for He has said He will deny the man that denies Him, and He alone has received all power of judgment from His Father …

   But let none, my dear brethren, let none besmirch the fair name of the martyrs, let none rob them of the glory of their crown. The strength and parity of their faith stands unimpaired: nothing can be said or done against Christ by one whose whole hope and faith, whose whole strength and glory abides in Christ. ..

   A [lapsed] man who, in spite of his sin, also presumed secretly to join the rest in receiving of the sacrifice offered by the bishop, was unable to eat or even handle Our Lord’s sacred body; when he opened his hands, he found he was holding nothing but ashes. By this one example it was made manifest that Our Lord removes Himself from one who denies Him, and that what is received brings no blessing to the unworthy, since the Holy One has fled and the saving grace is turned to ashes …

   Let each one, I entreat you, brethren, confess his sin while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession can still be heard, while satisfaction and forgiveness granted through the priests are pleasing to God. Let us turn back to the Lord with our whole heart and, expressing our repentance in deep sorrow, implore God for His mercy. Let our souls bow before Him, let our sorrow be offered to Him in satisfaction, let our hopes ill rest in Him. He Himself has told us how to ask (Ref. Joel 2:12) … But those among you, my brothers, who are responsive to the fear of God and who despite your fall are conscious of your plight, let the sight of your sins move you to penance and sorrow; acknowledge how grievously your con­science reproaches you, open your soul to the realization of your crime, neither despairing of God’s mercy nor yet claiming instant pardon. While God, in His fatherly affection is ever forgiving and kind, in His majesty as Judge, He deserves our fear.

(St. Cyprian of Carthage. The Lapsed. Texts 1, 7,8,10,17,20,26,29,35.

B#41A pp.13, 18,19,20,27,30,34,36,40).

I DID NOT COME TO BRING PEACE BUT A SWORD

   How then did He enjoin them to pronounce peace on entering into each house? And again, how did the angels say, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace’? (Lk,2:14). And how did all the prophets also come to publish it for good tidings? Because this more than anything is peace: when the diseased is cut off, when the mutinous is removed. For thus it is pos­sible for Heaven to be united to earth … The war is not then the effect of His purpose, but of their temper. For His will indeed was that all should agree in the word of godliness; but because they fall to dissension, war arises … For this cause the prophet admonishes, saying, ‘Trust not in friends, do not have your hope in guides. Yes, beware even of the woman who lies in your bosom, as far as communicating anything to her.’ And remember, ‘A man’s enemies are the men that are in his own house’ (Micah 7:5,6).

(St. John Chrysostom. Homily XXXV on Matthew X, 1,2. B#54, pp. 232-233).

On the Image of Christ

By Fr. Philotheos Faros in Eastern Orthodoxy in a Western Ethos published in the Word Magazine, May 1976

   It is amazing how Western Christianity distorted the scriptural image of Christ and presented him as condemning human aggression and as a sickening, soft, and effeminate man with rosy cheeks and blond wavy hair. It is deplorable that so many Orthodox are offended by the strong, powerful, dynamic, scriptural Christ of the Byzantine art although they are infatuated by this nauseating Western Christ. It is amazing how Western Christianity managed to visualize the fiery eyes of Christ which “looked around” at the Pharisees “with anger,” (Mark 3,5) as sweetish and wishy-washy, how it resolved to present as soft and effeminate, the powerful Christ who made “a whip of cords” and drove with it all the merchants “out of the temple” with their sheep and oxen, and “poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” (John 2, 13-16) It is amazing how Western Christianity managed to describe as quiet and soft-spoken Him who uttered the dreadful “woes” and called the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites,” “blind fools,” “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” “serpents” and “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23) and told his tempting disciples “Be gone Satan.” (Matthew 16, 23) It is inconceivable how Christ disintegrated to a eunuch prince of peace although he stated very emphatically, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and man’s foes will be those of his own household,” (Matthew 10, 34-36) Christ did promise peace but not a hypocritical external peace but a real inner peace. He said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14,27)

   

ON ALL SAINTS SUNDAY by Fr Andrew Phillips 

   (…) Today’s Feast is the result of all that has gone before it. The purpose of all the events in Christ’s life, from His Conception to the Resurrection and the Ascension and Pentecost is to make Saints. That is the purpose of the Church, to make people holy. Today’s Feast is the Feast of the identity of the Church, of Her sacred personality. For a Church that does not make Saints is not a Church, it is merely an institution which abuses the word ‘Church’.   What is a Saint? Firstly, we should understand that Saints are not born, they are made. We are all born potentially to become Saints. The only difference between ourselves who are not Saints and the Saints, is that they are people who are continually picking themselves up after sinning, continually repenting until they attain holiness, whereas we give up.   We should also say that there are two sorts of Saints – Confessors and Martyrs. Some Martyrs led very bad lives but then, when it came to the ultimate sacrifice, they found Faith in themselves, sufficient for them to prefer to confess Christ rather than live, and so sacrificed everything for Christ. We recognise their sacrifice and honour it. However, in our time, in our land, it would seem that we are not called to be Martyrs, but Confessors. What is a Confessor, how do we recognise a Confessor?

   First of all, we could ask people who live near the person whom we believe to be a Confessor. They would know that person’s way of life. But this would not be enough in itself. This would tell us only if the person were righteous or not. And holiness is more than righteousness. Holiness is that utter devotion to God, the confession of Christ before men, the taking up of one’s cross and following, to which Christ will bear witness before His Father in Heaven. It is never denying Christ. It is this devotion of which He speaks in today’s Gospel, which is above devotion to husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter. And we can be even more precise than this.   We have already said that the purpose of the Church is to make Saints. And the characteristics of the Saints are also those of the Church. At every Liturgy and at morning prayers we sing and read the Creed, in which we confess that we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These words which define the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, are also words that define the Saints.   The Saints are One because they are all together. We speak of the communion of the saints. And in today’s Gospel, our Lord speaks of those who have followed Him who will judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel seated on the Twelve Thrones around Him. The Saints are One, they are united.   The Saints are also obviously holy. The word Saint means holy.   The Saints are also Catholic. This word does not mean Roman Catholic. We mean ‘Catholic’ in the original sense of the word. ‘Catholic’ means the same in all places and at all times. Thus today, on this Feast of All Saints, we commemorate all the Saints of all countries and of all centuries and of all backgrounds. We recall Saints of all ages, of all nationalities, men, women and children, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick. They all confessed the same Orthodox Faith. The Saints are universal in time and space; they are ‘Catholic’.   Finally, the Saints are Apostolic, for they share in the same Faith and Tradition as the Apostles. (…)

The life of St. John (1690-1730), celebrated May 27

 

“But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27)

    One of the most popular saints among Greeks today is St. John the Russian whose incorrupt relics are the boast of the island of Euboia. The multitudes who visit his shrine are such that there is daily bus service to the shrine from Athens. Countless miracles flow from his relics and icons, and even now-when the spirit of the world is having such an oppressive effect on traditional Greek piety–icons of the Saint are often found in buses and in nearly all Orthodox homes. St. John was neither a celebrated hierarch, nor an eloquent theologian, but a simple young man who spent the better part of his life in a stable.

    St. John was born in the south of Russia of pious Orthodox parents. He was still young when, in 1711, he took part in the battle against the Turks. Sharing the unhappy fate of many other Russian soldiers, the Saint was captured and sold as a slave to a Turkish cavalry commander from the village of Procopion near Caesarea in Asia Minor. Fanatic in their Moslem beliefs, the Turks inflicted cruel tortures upon their Christian slaves in trying to force them to renounce their faith. While some succumbed to this form of persuasion, many preferred to suffer death and a whole multitude of martyrs was thus added to the heavenly choir. In their misguided zeal the Turks would also kidnap the sons of Christians and raise them as fanatical Moslem soldiers. Procopion was the army-camp of these Christian-hating Janissaries and the new slave of the Turkish Agha became a target of their derisions. But neither their insults nor the beatings of his Turkish master were able to shake the faith of the pious Russian youth who confessed outright that he would sooner die than lose what he treasured above all–the holy Orthodox faith.

Picture 290

    St John of the Russian church, Greece, view from the back

The blessed John was assigned to work in the stable where he was also told to sleep. Recalling the lowly Bethlehem cave and The manger where the Saviour of the world first lay His head, the Saint rejoiced in his rude dwelling place. In his humility he regarded his dark corner of the stable as a little paradise where he could freely offer prayer and praise to the true God. The unshakable firmness of his faith, his patience, fortitude, and gentleness of spirit, gradually won the hearts of the Agha and his wife who offered the meek stable boy to sleep in a small room near the hayloft. John, however, preferred to remain in the stable where he could toil more assiduously in the ascetic life, bringing his body into subjection to the spirit according to the Apostle’s command. He ate very sparingly and spent long hours in prayer with the Psalms of David continually on his lips. Weekly he prepared himself to partake of the Most Holy Mysteries in a nearby church, for he knew that without the strength of Christ he was powerless to persevere on the path of the true Faith. At night he would secretly go and keep vigil in the narthex of the church. The Lord rewarded the labors of His faithful servant and through him bestowed blessings also upon his Turkish master who became one of the wealthy and powerful men of Procopion. The Agha understood the cause of his new prosperity and did not shrink from telling it to his fellow citizens.

    Once the Agha undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca, the city most sacred to the Moslems. While he was away, his wife invited friends and relatives to pray for the Agha’s safe return from such an arduous journey. As they were getting ready to eat. the mistress turned to John, who was serving at the table, and said, “How much pleasure your master would have, Gavan, if he were here now and ate this pilaff with us!” The pilaff, a common grain dish of the Middle East, was a favorite with the Agha. Wishing the best for his master and firmly believing in the almighty power of God, John asked for a plate full of pilaff from his mistress, saying that he would send it to his master in Mecca. The guests laughed but the mistress asked the cook to comply with the youth’s request, thinking that he would take it to some poor Christian family as was his custom.

Picture 274

    St John of the Russian church, inside view

Those who are familiar with the Gospel should not be astonished at what happened next, for did the Lord not say that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move mountains? Strong in his faith, the blessed one returned with the plate of pilaff to the stable and, as he was petitioning the Lord, in answer to his firm entreaty, the plate disappeared. What was the amazement of the entire household when the Agha finally returned from Mecca bringing with him the copper plate which had held the food. He had been equally astonished to discover the steaming plate of pilaff upon his return from the Mosque to the locked room where he was staying. Still greater was his confusion when he realized that the copper plate was engraved with his initials–just as all the vessels in his house. “For the sake of Allah, I cannot understand how it came even unto Mecca and who brought it!” When his wife told him of John’s request, they recognized the strange occurrence to be a miracle of God, and henceforth all considered John as a righteous man who had found favor with God.

    Once again the Agha and his wife tried to persuade the blessed one to change his dwelling place, but the Saint preferred to remain among the animals, willingly fulfilling his duties and continuing steadfast in his ascetic struggles.

    He persevered in this manner of life until, after a few years, he became ill. Foreseeing his end, he called for a priest and asked to partake of the Holy Mysteries. Fearing the fanaticism of the Turks, the priest did not want to bring the Holy Mysteries openly to the stable, but receiving wisdom from above, he thought to hollow out an apple; lining the cavity with beeswax, he placed the Holy Mysteries inside and was thus able to safely bring Communion to the Saint. Upon receiving the immaculate Body and Blood of the Lord, the blessed one surrendered his holy soul into the hands of God Whom he loved so much. He reposed on the 27 of May, 1730, having spent some forty years in this temporal vale of sin and sorrow.

    The Saint was given a Christian burial by order of the Agha who, as a token of his love and great respect for the Saint, gave an expensive cloth to cover his relics. Three years later a light appeared over the tomb which was seen by many. At the same time, the Saint appeared in a dream to his father confessor revealing that it was the will of God that his relics be exhumed, for his body was incorrupt. Until 1924 the relics were kept in the church of St. George there in Procopion. When, however, the exchange of population took place between Greece and Turkey, and many of the Christian inhabitants of Procopion were resettled on the island of Euboia, the relics of their beloved St. John were also moved and were received with great acclaim and veneration by the Greeks who built a majestic temple in his honor there in the village of New Procopion. To this day, streams of pious Greek pilgrims make their way to this village on the island of Euboia, where the Saint answers the faith of their earnest petitions with his strong and quick intercession before the throne of God.

 (Based on a Life by Photios Kontoglou. The Orthodox Word, June-July, 1967) 

 

From the MIRACLES OF SAINT JOHN

The Saint performed many wonders even after his blessed repose. A descendent of the Agha told many of the following miracle: “My children would not live except for a short time, and would die while yet infants. Their unfortunate mother, after she had lost hope in the wisdom of medicine, fled without my knowledge to the relics of the slave John, so that be might grant her a little child which would not die while yet young, so that we also might rejoice to see it as a young man or even a young girl …. In truth the righteous John heard the supplication of my wife. God granted us a strong little boy whom we called, as you know, Kole Guvan Oglu (that is, “Son of the Slave John”), and he lives through the power of God and the prayers of John even until today.”

P1000486

Several times St. John has appeared in dreams and visions warning of impending dangers. Once he warned some Greek school children that the roof was about to fall; they had time enough to jump underneath their desks and when the roof fell, its beams came down upon the desks without striking even one of the children.

More recently we have heard about the miraculous healings of two severe cases of meningitis – one a 19 year old shepherd boy in southern Greece and the other a 3-year old boy in London.

Today a part of the right hand of St. John is enshrined in a special silver reliquary in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, where many people come to venerate it and to ask the prayers of this simple Confessor of the Christian faith, knowing that the Lord – Who resisteth the proud – hears speedily the prayers of the meek. 

In St. Savas Hospital for Cancer

In the big Athenian hospital of Saint Savas, a mother had been battling against the scourge of mankind – cancer – but in her case the illness proved invincible and the doctors told her children to take their mother home,

“Do not tire yourselves anymore by coming to the hospital to look after your mother!”, they told them, (The family was from the town of Kavala in northern Greece,) “There is no hope of her living, Take her home, for if she dies here you will have the bother of dealing with the hospital procedures and regulations,”

Her five children, who were gathered around their mother’s bed, began to weep on hearing the doctors’ final announcement. They wept, for it was their mother – the root of life – who was dying, and we all have only one mother in this life.

At that moment an unknown lady was passing the door of the hospital room where they were gathered, She saw the tragic scene and understood what was happening, “Is this your mother?” she asked the children, “Listen to me, do not go on like this. Above science and doctors there is God and His saints. Whatever was humanly possible you did. Recently, I went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint John the Russian at Prokopi, in Euboea, where his holy body is preserved entire, and I took a little oil from the oil-lamp hanging over the Saint’s relic with which to make the sign of the cross over someone whom I have ill here in this hospital, I will do the same for your mother, and God will provide,”

(How true it is that a few words, a little compassion, a little support, can greatly comfort and help one’s fellow man who is in distress or who is grieving. Even to sit silently next to someone who is suffering, gives them courage.)

With a piece of cotton-wool, the unknown lady made the sign of the cross on the forehead of the sick woman, and left.

II is true that divine energy can be transferred not only directly but also through articles and substances used in worship, such as relics, and holy water and oil, for the Church has absolute belief In the therapeutic power of Christ. This humble way of transmitting the unsubstantial and uncreated energy of God to our bodies and our illnesses by making the sign of the cross over someone using blessed oil or water is described by the Fathers of the Church as the “highest cure and most befitting to God” (Saint John Chrysostom), It can be understood as a deep act of faith that someone should fee! unworthy to ask Christ Himself or one of His saints to come to their aid but who believes that His therapeutic power will be transmitted in this simple manner is not the essence of Christ transmitted through the simple elements of bread and wine?

Picture 277 

But let us return to our story,

A little while after the unknown lady had made the sign of the cross over the sick woman, she opened her eyes and, seeing that her children were weeping, nodded to one of them to come close to her” Her eldest daughter drew near and her mother whispered to her.

“Why are you crying, my child?”

“Mother, it has been so many days since you have been aware that we are here and have talked to us. And you ask why we are weeping, “Yes my child, but a little while ago a young soldier came and told me that his name was Saint John the Russian, and he made the sign of the cross on my forehead and told me that I will return to life,

And in spite of her incurable illness, the mother recovered and now lives with her children and grandchildren as ordained by God and His Saint.

(8th august 1978)

A Walking Stick

If you enter the church of Saint John the Russian you will see hanging before the shrine of the Saint, like a spoil of victory, a simple and poor gift: a walking stick. It belongs to Maria Siaka, an old lady from the village of Frenaro near Ammohostos in Cyprus. For eighteen years she had been a hunchback and bent so double that her face was but a short distance from the ground. On 11th August 1978 relatives of the old lady, together with some hundred Cypriots, brought her to the church of Saint John. They lifted her up to enable her to reverence the Saint’s holy and uncorrupted body. Looking at the blessed relic the old lady wept and beseeched Saint John to grant her a little divine help for the remainder of her life. Saint John saw the grandeur of her soul, her grief and also her deep faith. At that moment, before the eyes of everyone there, it seemed that an invisible arm seized her shoulders with tremendous power and slowly began to unfold her body. Her spine creaked and returned to its original form; the old lady stood upright.

Her fellow villagers wept, the bells of the church rang, prayers of thanksgiving were offered by all the Cypriots who could not hold back their tears. Anyone who has had the fortune to be present when a miracle occurs can understand these lines.

Finally, the voice of the old lady was heard: “What can I give you my young man, my Saint? I am poor”. I will give you my walking stick which I will not be needing for the rest of my life,”

The daily papers of Nicosia reported: “Maria Siaka, after her pilgrimage to the church of Saint John the Russian in Greece, can now, after nearly twenty years of being bent double and seeing only the ground, see the faces of her fellow villagers. Thanks to the miracle of the Saint she is restored and completely well.”

(August 11th 1978)

“Do you hate me, my Saint?”

Eight years have passed since the wedding of Mr Yiorgos K. and his wife Archondoula and all this time they have waited in the hope of having a child – but in vain. A deep and incurable sorrow afflicts them. How sad life seems when a woman cannot become a mother, and does not have children. To give courage to his wife, her husband bent close to her and said: “Be patient. It is God’s will. Nothing will be changed by tears and grieving. The purpose of marriage is not only to have children; above all it is to enable us to grow spiritually and to become one with God here on earth and in eternity.”

Mrs Archondoula continued to pray every day with all her heart and soul. From the time she was a little girl her mother had taught her to pray always because, as she used to tell her, “Strong people pray, and prayer arms people with patience and endurance during life’s difficulties.”

From her youth to the present day she had come innumerable times with her family here to the Saint. Many were the times she said to Saint John: “My great Saint John, I beg you, I beseech you, to intercede for me with God that I might be worthy of becoming a mother. By men and their science, for eight years now I have been given the answer that I am not going to become a mother, that I am not going to clasp a baby in my arms – my house will be empty and my heart full of grief. I will wait, my Saint, for an answer from heaven that God will grant me a child so that my house, my heart and my life will be full of joy and happiness. I will wait, my great Saint. “

It is the evening of December the 3rd, 1979. Mrs Archondoula, gloomy and tearful, is trying to concentrate on her prayers. But she is unable to: she is tired, she does not feel well and she has a bad feeling inside her – she wants to weep, to scream, to threaten. She turns to the icon shrine and on seeing the icon of Saint John bursts into tears. “What, after all, have I done to you, my Saint? Do you hate me? Why? Why does not God give me this happiness? My Saint, do you hate me?”

It is past midnight and someone is climbing the stairs of their house. The couple wakes up. “Do not say anything”, whispers the husband. “It’ll be one of our employees who has mistaken the time and has come to get the keys to the office. Do not talk and he will leave.”

There is a knock at the door of their room, then the door opens.

A glow in the darkness delineates the figure of Saint John. “Archondoula, what was that you said in your prayers tonight? Saints do not hate anybody. It is not God’s will for you to have a baby yet. Another two years will go by and then this happiness will be granted to you.” The light then vanished and the voice of the Saint faded.

Two years went by and the joy of God came abundantly with the first child, and then with a second and a third. The sweet voices of the children filled the house and the hearts of their parents.

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34: 17)

Holy Week, Easter 1980

It was the afternoon of Palm Sunday.

“Father, my wife and I have come here to follow and celebrate with you the services of Holy Week, the Passion of our Lord. We both want to confess and if we are worthy to receive Holy Communion. But before you hear us privately we would like to tell you about our personal time of trials.

“For six months now there has been no sign of our daughter. She is in her third year at law school at Thessaloniki. Six months ago she telephoned us to say that she was moving into a new house and that she would call us again to give us her new address.

“As soon as she put the phone down, my wife and I decided to leave for Thessaloniki to find her – we live in a small town in the province of Corinth. The owners of the house where she had been staying did not hide anything from us. Our daughter had left eight days ago and they thought it likely she was being sought by the narcotics division of the police. Lately, she had been returning to the house at dawn and sleeping all day. A lecturer at the university who was a friend of ours cast us into a state of agony and fear with just one sentence: ‘You must find your daughter at any cost,’ he said, ‘she must be in great danger.’ We searched for her, but in vain.

“Two months later she telephoned her mother, and using a vulgar language our daughter had never used before threatened her, saying that we should not try to find her again and that she was finished with us. She did not want to know us and university was a waste of time – there were be~ter things in life.

“For six months now, Father, we have abandonded everything else and used all possible means to find her. She’s vanished into thin air, or she’s gone abroad, or the drugs have killed her and her body’s been disposed of. The Security Police of Thessaloniki told us that this year more than two hundred girls are missing in Greece and most of them will never be found.

“Under no circumstances could we stay at home this Easter. We went to Thessaloniki again and were sickened to the depths by the filthy things we saw at those clubs where we were trying to find her. We returned home but could not bear to stay there. We were at a complete loss as to what to do. You see, we do not have any other children, we are alone in the world. Our last hope is Saint John whom you serve here. All Greece knows about his miracles. We decided to spend Holy Week near him, without eating, and to beseech him with all our strength, all our heart and soul, and with tears, to save our child.”

On Holy Saturday they heard the words of the troparion: “Before the mystery of God let everyone be silent and stand with fear and trembling. “

“Father, we’ll be going home tonight, Holy Saturday. We thought to attend the resurrection service in the church of our small village.”

They left. But they left with a secret hope inside them, and there was joy written allover their faces.

On the afternoon of Easter Sunday all the bells of the church of Saint John were ringing for the Service of Love. I was wearing my festal priestly robes and holding the resurrectional candle and was about to start celebrating the service when I noticed through the half-opened south door of the sanctuary the couple coming towards me with a young woman.

“Father, Father, this is our daughter. Look, this is our Effie, our beloved girl. We found her in our home. She was waiting for us, Father. How can we thank the great Saint? Oh God, God, glory be to You and Your Saint.”

“Share in your parents’ joy, Effie. I am very joyful too to see you here at Saint John’s.”

“Father, I survived. This week I hovered between life and death. I had chosen death but an invisible power, after a superhuman struggle that went on inside me, literally snatched me from the hell-hole of that death and brought me to life, to my house, here. I will sing, Father, I too will sing ‘Christ is risen from the dead’,”

Effie dissolved into tears and her father clasped her shaking body in his arms,

The Service of Love was delayed twenty minutes and people were waiting, but in fact the Service of Love had already begun with Effie’s resurrection.

” .. and let us cry and shout, arise, 0 Lord, You who resurrect the fallen” (Collect of Easter Sunday).

 (Miracles are taken from the book “Life and Recent Miracles of Saint John the Russian” by Archpriest Ioannis Vernezos, the Holy Shrine of St John the Russian, Prokopi, Euboea, Greece, 1999).

 

Troparion

He that hath called thee from earth unto the heavenly abodes doth even after thy death keep thy body unharmed, O righteous one; for thou wast carried off as a prisoner into Asia wherein also, O John, thou didst win Christ as thy friend. Wherefore do thou beseech him that our souls be saved.

Kontakion

The holy memory, O righteous father, of thine illustrious contests hath come today gladdening the souls of those who venerate thee with reverence and faith, O John.

(Troparion of St John, in Romanian)

(The photos in this post are taken from the beautiful church of St John in Eubola, Greece. The church bared witness to the greatest miracle of Orthodoxy, the holy relics of the saints. The uncorupted body of St John lays in peace for over 200 year in the church).

 

 

 

By Father Dumitru Staniloae

(in “Orthodox Spirituality” @St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press)

 

   Orthodox spirituality has as its goal the deification of man and his union with God, without being merged with Him. It has as a basic con­viction the existence of a personal God, who is the supreme source of radiating love. He prizes man and doesn’t want to confuse him with Himself, but maintains and raises him to an eternal dialogue of love.

   Such a spirituality has no place where an evolutionary progress of man, connected to a divinity conceived as an impersonal essence, is affirmed. This progress can have no result other than man’s disappearance in the impersonal divinity.

   But the personal God, and thus the supreme source of love, can’t be conceived of as a single person, but as a community of persons in a per­fect unity. You see then why the Christian teaching of a Trinity of Persons in a unity of essence is the only one which can constitute the basis of a perfect spirituality for man, understood as a full communion with God in love, without his being lost in it.

   A Roman Catholic theologian, Georg Koepgen has best described the Trinitarian basis of Christian spirituality. [All the references in this chapter to Georg Koepgen are taken from the Introduction to his book, Die Gnosis des Christentums, 1st ed. (Salzburg, 1939)]. At the same time he says that this spirituality has been most faithfully preserved in the Eastern Church, because she alone has kept in the most unchanged way the bib­lical teaching about the Holy Trinity and its central place in Christian piety. He establishes that, in religions which unilaterally accentuate monotheism, such a spirituality has no place; and in those with a panthe­istic tendency, even if the divinity is manifested in a plurality of gods as expressions of the forces of nature, we find a false spirituality, or an illu­sory perfection, in other words, one which leads basically to man’s meltdown in the so-called divinity.

   On the other hand, man’s personal spiritual perfection, by eternal unconfused union with God can’t take place except where an eternal eschatology of man, in blessed union with God, is believed in. But such an eschatology is the result of the Trinitarian God.

   Man’s union with God for eternity, however, is guaranteed and me­diated only where one of the divine persons takes flesh as a man for eternity, thus showing the eternal love of God for man as man. Koep­gen considers that Orthodoxy has maintained the spirituality proper to the Christianity revealed in Christ; it has kept the mystery of the Trini­tarian community of persons in God, unweakened by a rationalistic philosophy which, accentuating the unity of God has emphasized His essence. We can add that precisely because of this rational stress on the one essence of God, which tries to avoid its paradoxical combination with the Trinity of Persons, the doctrine of the “Filioque” resulted. Ac­cording to this teaching the Spirit proceeds from what the Father and the Son have in common, that is from the divine essence; and so the essence is considered to be the cause of the persons, which actually leads to an impersonal god, to a pantheist one.

But let’s give the floor to Koepgen:

   Mysticism always has a single goal: man’s deification and union with God, without man’s fusion with Him. And this can’t be understood except by the Trinitarian idea of God. In Christianity the whole is oriented of necessity toward future perfection …. The Church is blamed because it recognizes mysticism, and is also condemned without mercy when it crosses the border into pantheism. But how can mysticism be recognized, if pantheism is rejected? Note our an­swer: Christian mysticism isn’t based on man’s predisposition, which pushes him into a fusion with the divinity, into a pantheist life of un­ion with it, but it is the actualization of the incarnation of God in the believer. Between the Christian concept of God and the non­-Christian, there is a fundamental distinction: Christianity is based on the Trinitarian God [therefore irreducible and eternally personal, or a personal community], not on a philosophical concept of an abso­lute spirit [and as such so impersonal]. It’s noteworthy that Catholic theology too works almost exclusively with the philosophical con­cept of God, by which it avoids referring directly to the Trinity [of persons].

    The God of the New Testament and of the holy Eastern Fathers is living and irreducibly three in one. The God of scholastic philosophy is impregnated with Aristotelianism or confused with a generally pantheis­tic one. We would say that the failure of scholastic theologians to make this distinction has led them to use the same name of mysticism to ex­press the union of the Christian with God, a term also employed by pantheist philosophy. So Protestant theologians heap reproach on the notion of mysticism.

   Orthodoxy has preferred, especially in the period of the holy Fathers and in the writings of the great saints who experienced union with God, to use the terms “life in Christ,” “life in the Spirit,” “the spiritual life,” and “‘the life in God,” to describe the life of the Christian in union with God regardless of the level of this life. Orthodoxy has followed the ex­ample of St. Paul the Apostle (Galatians 3:28; 3:20; 2 Corinthians 4: 11; 1 Corinthians 7:8; 6:19; 3:16; 2:12; Romans 8:15; 8:9-10; Ephesians 3:16­-17; Colossians 3:3; John 14: 23; 1 John 3:24, etc.)

But Koepgen continues:

   God and divinity aren’t the same thing. When the mystic [the spiri­tual person] speaks of God, he doesn’t mean a metaphysical divinity (ens a se), but he thinks of God in trinity, who has united in a com­pletely incomprehensible way with men and has saved them. [If Christianity has as its basis faith in the Holy Trinity, spirituality is a part of its very being.] Mysticism [the life in relationship with God, the life which has God in itself, in different degrees, we would say], isn’t an appendix annexed later by Christianity, which is offered as a new possibility to some specially endowed souls; it belongs to the very act of faith” [which is an act of entering into a relationship with God, but which can be developed by the purification from the pas­sions, we would say.]  

      Due to its rational philosophic conception of God, which introduces a distance between God and man, “the connection of Catholic theology with mysticism [with spirituality, we would say] is very unclear.” Orthodox teaching, however, remains faithful to the New Testa­ment: It doesn’t rationalize the mystery of God in Trinity. It bases itself on the experience of God who communicates Himself to us through love, in the Spirit, by uncreated energies. It neither holds God at a dis­tance from us as in the rationalist monotheistic religions (Judaism and Islam) nor does it bring us into fusion with Him, as in the pantheist and philosophic religions which recognize as the one reality an essence of one kind or another.

   As an example of a false or seductive spirituality, or a mysticism proper to pantheist philosophy, which doesn’t promise human nature anything but fusion with an impersonal divinity, Koepgen gives the fol­lowing quotation from Plotinus:

   He [the mystic] doesn’t see two, and the seer [contemplative] doesn’t distinguish two, nor represent two to himself, but he becomes an­other and is no longer himself; and arriving there he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to the one there, and is one with him. The central point is united to the central point.”46 [And Koep­gen commenting on this passage says:] Plotinus shows us here the essence of neo-Platonic mysticism, the basis of which is incontest­able, because the essence of God is conceived as pure idea and is put on the same level with the categories of the human spirit and in relationship with him.

Further on Koepgen cites St. Simeon the New Theologian, who keeps the spiritual person distinct in the act of seeing (contemplating) the Holy  Trinity:

   What lips could describe what has happened to me and what hap­pens everyday? Even at night and in the midst of darkness I see, trembling, Christ opening heaven for me and I behold how He him­self beholds me from there and He sees me here below together with the Father and with the Spirit in the thrice holy light. Because I his is one and nevertheless it is found to be in three. And the light is one and the same nevertheless in three images, although it is only one. And it illuminates my soul brighter than the sun and floods my spirit covered with gloom …. And this miracle was even the more as­tonishing because it opened my eyes and helped me to see, and that which I saw is He himself. Because this light helped those who be­hold to know themselves in light and those who see in light see Him again. For they see the light of the Spirit and in as much as they see Him, they see the Son. Now he who has been made worthy to see the Son, sees the Father too.

   In opposition to St. Simeon, Koepgen shows how the turn-about of the Western Christian to the rationalist concept of God – weakening the accent  put on the Holy Trinity, thus on the personalistic-communitarian character of God – brought him to the renewal of false mysticism, the fusion of the contemplative with the impersonal divinity. “In St. Simeon,” according to Koepgen, “we have the case of a mysticism [or spirituality, we would say] explicitly Trinitarian. On the contrary, West­ern mysticism, under the influence of neo-Platonism has given Trinitarian mysticism [spirituality] a secondary place, at least in expres­sion. Simeon is a Trinitarian mystic [a spiritual person] because he stands in the tradition of the Eastern Church.”

   Western mystical theology, to its detriment, has almost entirely over­looked ked its ties with this tradition and has seen in Eckhart or in Spanish mysticism the culminating point of mystical thought in general. Here the thought of the Holy Trinity is put in the background. When Eckhart ‘ says, “If I want to know God without mediation, I must become Him, and He must become me,” the influence of Plotinus is incontestable.

Koepgen asks once again:

   What is the difference between Eckhart’s mysticism and that of Simeon’s? For Eckhart, the Trinity exists as a unity of Persons; he sees just one thing: divinity. On the contrary, Simeon sees the Per­sons in their differentiation. He sees the Father, first of all as Father, and the Son, as Son. Here is the great difference between Eastern mysticism [spiritual life] and the Western. Western mysticism is un­der the influence of Plotinus, and is monotheistic in the strict sense of the word; it sees the Trinity as a matter of fact, but only as a unity of persons in divinity. Even our modern Catholic mysticism preoc­cupied with Christ speaks, as we know, almost entirely of the ‘Divine Savior,’ which means that it sees in Christ only God in His divinity. The Church from the beginning- and Simeon with her­on the contrary, saw something much greater in Christ: They saw in Him the Son …. We have closed our minds to a fact that was deci­sive for the Church from the beginning, and by which it was distinguishable from Judaic monotheism: We have lost the feeling for the Trinitarian life of God, for the reciprocal interpenetration and for the reference of the divine persons one for the other. For the Old Testament, God was in any case at least Jehovah the Lord of Hosts, the Almighty Master. For us, on the other hand, God has become also a spiritual concept empty of content …. He who wants to enclose the divine problem in a rigid plan of a doctrine of catego­ries ends up after all in pantheism ….

    This is so because it makes God into an essence, and the essence, in submission to laws known by us, is no longer distinguishable from the general essence of a unique reality. Koepgen continues:

   The dogma of the Trinity, however, is found outside the categorical forms of thought. It is surpassed in the attitude and knowledge of faith, [which opens itself to the mystery of reality, beyond any simpli­fying logic]. Thus the Trinitarian mystic [the spiritual person who believes in the Holy Trinity and who is found in a living, personal re­lationship with It] is also beyond the danger of falling into pantheism. The dogma of the Trinity itself elevates the thinker into another spiri­tual order, which from the beginning protects him from this pantheist conception. The dogma of the Trinity raises the believer into a living relationship with the tri-personal divine community; even by this it also keeps him as a person unconfused in the divinity, but strength­ened and preserved forever, by love, by its character of person.

   But there also exists another alternative for Western mysticism, devoid of a living relationship with the persons of the Holy Trinity. It bases itself on mostly rational arguments – Koepgen says in the same’ pages – and therefore on considerations from a distance that God must be a God of love and that He must in turn be loved; so it becomes <In experience shut up in subjectivism, a sentimentalism unanchored in the’ direct experience of God. This leads to the absence, in Western theology, of the doctrine of uncreated energies which come into us, an absence which is connected to the concept of God more as essence than as a loving communion of Persons.

   Georg Koepgen doesn’t shrink from finding the fully systematized beginning of this philosophical, unbiblical, essentialist and impersonal or non-Trinitarian understanding of God even at the door of Thomas Aquinas, who according to the affirmations of the author:

   … suffered a severe breakdown at the end of his life, due to the fact that everything he had written previously now seemed unsatisfac­tory, Maybe the day will come – and we would like to see it as soon as possible – when theology will take this event in the life of Aqui­nas  just as seriously as anything else in it. In any case this would contribute in an essential way to bringing this frightful thing into the scientific-theological realm, which is connected with the very best tradition of a Paul, Augustine, Pascal or Newman.

   For this change, Koepgen considers necessary the return to a knowledge of God based not on the laws of deductive reason, but on a real experience of Him, or of His power working in us. This is Christian “gnosis” distinct from pagan “gnosticism,” which in fact is pantheism and doesn’t know God the transcendent One, who comes to us by the grace of His love, by experience. Koepgen says:

   Our thought today is so used to identifying ‘logic’ with ‘reason,’ that it judges the correctness of any thought by the measure in which it corresponds to the laws of ‘logic.’ In reality, however, logic presupposes  Plato’s doctrine of ideas, or Aristotle’s unity of concept. However, there is no place for this doctrine of ideas in the Bible, because here every thought is preoccupied not with idea but with person: It is existential.

   But the person is infinitely more than ideas; his character is indefinable, alive, passionate, always new and thirsting for a living and loving  relationship with other persons. Only a person truly warms me. Ideas are but some partial products of the person, incomplete means of communication between persons. And the thirst of the person for unending relationships with other persons implicates both the eternity of persons, and the source of this eternity of theirs in a supreme community of per­sons.

a church of the Holy Trinity

   We can systematize, complete and deepen what Koepgen has said as follows:

   1.  Only a perfect community of supreme persons can nourish, with its unending and perfect love, our thirst for love in relation to it and betweeen ourselves. This nourishing can’t only be theory, but it must be lived too. This is so because love isn’t satisfied with only being theory, but wants to give itself, to welcome and be welcomed. A monotheistic god in a strict sense must be considered as enclosed and self-satisfied, a fact which would correspond with a perfection, which we, however, can’t understand, once it is lacking in love. A pantheist essence is poured out, or evolves into more and more forms, in an in­voluntary way; more precisely, it isn’t poured out and it doesn’t evolve; strictly speaking, because it can’t go out of itself, or from the essential, monotone and involuntary forms which belong to it. In the pantheist conception, persons, if they too appear, don’t have a supreme and per­manent value, thus neither love between them

   [Pantheist] essence in itself lacks love, while love means conscious and voluntary self-sacrifice among persons, or the sacrifice of one per­son for another; [so pantheist] essence couldn’t somehow produce love later, thus neither persons. Love, without beginning, eternal, presup­poses that God is a perfect unity of the Divine Being, but at the same time it is a Trinity of Persons, from the same eternity. And as perfect love, the Divine Trinity can also give itself to other persons; however, only if they want it. It isn’t forced to change itself into fleeting and pass­ing alterations, which would have no purpose, lacking in real and permanent value. But for its free overflowing it creates other persons, not infinite in essence, because this would mean its infinite overflow in the form of these persons; but in another way, it can gradually share with them from the infinity of its life and love, deifying them. Now the only way it can do this is by really uniting them with itself by love, ena­bling them to experience in a real way its love. Only so are freedom and love manifested in existence, without which everything would seem without any purpose whatsoever. Love from the supreme community thus produces a new form of its manifestation. So, on the one hand, it isn’t totally one in existence, but neither are [the persons] unsurpassably separated in it.

   Created and thus finite persons can enjoy the infinity of divine love and life, or the one and supreme source of life and love- in other words the infnity of this source- in their infinite progress in deification; with­out it their unending existence and longing would have no purpose. They become partakers of that infinite life and love, gradually, because the infinity of divine love and life is communicated to them. At the same time the freedom of both sides is respected. This means that the finite beings can make their contribution too, to a personal effort for their growth, that this growth might be real.

     2.    So the Trinity, radiated by the love which is proper to it, can’t be lived and conceived without its uncreated energies in ever increasing levels. Love is characterized by this paradox: On the one hand it unites subjects who love each other, on the other, it doesn’t confuse their identity.

   Love brings one subject to another, without merging their identities, because in this case love would cease. It would kill the persons who love each other; it wouldn’t assure them of a permanent existence. This para­dox can be explained by the radiation of love, as energy which is communicated from one person to another without them being de­pleted in this communication. Uncreated and unending love of the uncreated source of love, can’t be communicated except as uncreated energy. But in the eternal and perfect community of love, subjects communicate their own being to each other, without they themselves blending together. This proves that the subjects are, on the highest level, just is valuable and as indestructible as their natures. Only in this way is love truly perfect. An eternal nature, which would give birth later to other persons, would reduce the value of the persons and would give them a passing existence, and this would make of love itself something secondary, something obedient to certain laws of evolution to which it would be superior. On the other hand some persons existing eternally, with a unity of nature, would again be subject to an evolutionary love, so, it would be second rate, which would leave these persons without a supreme purpose.

   On the highest, divine level, the difference between nature and en­ergy is surpassed in a way incomprehensible to us. The divine nature itself is energy, without ceasing to be an undepletable nature; the nature itself is communicating energy. But it is so because it is of the Supreme persons. The Persons communicate their nature as an energy. Everything is an energy which is communicated from one person to another. Their love is perfect; they radiate their whole nature from one to the other. We can’t live the whole divine nature in the energy given to us from God. It is undepletable, from an infinite source, and from a plane transcendent to us. We are beings brought into existence in time, and therefore finite, by a creative act of God.

   3    But the Trinitarian community of Divine Persons, a dynamic structure of unending love, isn’t a uniform love of the three Persons between themselves, but a love of Father, of Son and of a hypostasized communication between them, in the person of the Holy Spirit. The love isn’t uniform. If I didn’t have somebody else than me, if I weren’t pen a love other than mine, it wouldn’t interest me very much. With­out these distinct qualities, divine love, and thus infinite, would have something monotonous in it. The affection of a perfect Father for a perfect Son is something other than an affection, pure and simple, be­tween just any two persons. Monotone and uniform affection doesn’t exist, because people themselves aren’t uniform. The Father loves the Son with an infinite parental sense/feeling (simtire), comforting Him with the unending sensitivity (sensibilitatea) of a perfect Father, and the Son re­sponds to this parental love with the filial sense/feeling (simtire) of one who feels (simte) comforted by a perfect Father. We don’t know if two uni­form loves would still be love. However, the sensitivity (sensibilitatea) of the Father for the Son assumes the hypostatical and comforting image of the Holy Spirit. The Father rejoices together with the Spirit for the Son. But this hypostatic comforting of the Father, directed toward the Son also makes the Son respond with an intensified sense (simtire) of the Father’s love for Him, without the comforting sensitivity (sensibili­tatea) of the Father for the Son becoming proper to the Son, because in this case He too would be conscious of (simti) a paternal love for the Father, becoming fused with Him. He responds with His filial sensitivity (sensibilitatea), stimulated also by the Holy Spirit, but without His filial sensitiveness (sensibilitatea) being confused with the paternal sensitivity (sensibilitatea), or of taking the form of a fourth hypostasis, since this would open up a series of infinite multiplications of the divine hyposta­sis.

   4.   God wants to gradually extend the gift of His infinite love to another order of conscious subjects and namely to created ones. He wants to extend this love in its paternal form, as toward other sons, united with His Son. So after the creation of man, He wanted His Son to become man so that His love for His Son, made man, would be a love which is directed toward any human face, like that of His Son. In the Son made flesh we are all adopted by the Father. Strictly speaking, even by creation God made man as an image of His Son or so that His Son could become man too. The Father loves all of us in His Son, be­cause the Son was made our brother. God the Son, too, thus shows us His love as a supreme brother. It is a new form of the love of God for us. But the Son’s love for us isn’t separated from the Father’s love for us, but in His love as a brother He makes the Father’s love, and also His love for the Father, engulf us. In us the Father welcomes other loving and loved sons because His Son was made our beloved brother.

   However, along with the love of the Father for us and with our love for the Father in Christ the paternal love is poured out on us in the form of the Holy Spirit flooding His Son. We respond to this love of the Fa­ther, stimulated by the same comforting sensitivity of the Spirit, along with the Son.

   If the Son would not have become man, the Father’s love would not have been poured out on us; in Christ as man it reaches us too. By the incarnate Son the Holy Spirit radiates within humanity and the world, as the love of God for us and of ours for God.

   The Spirit brings into creation inter -Trinitarian life and love. He raises creation to the level of inter -Trinitarian love and deification. The epiclesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist, says Koepgen, hasn’t only the purpose of changing exteriorly the bread and the wine to the Body and Blood of Christ, but of bringing divine life into creation:

   The Eastern Church doesn’t see the concept, but the process itself, the religious reality. What is the Eucharist for her? The change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ? Certainly it is that too, but on the level right there, for her, not the change but the deif1cat1on of the creature is present. In the depths of the Spirit the union between God and man is carried out. The sacrament is the point where the other world penetrates ours. And this is the work of the Holy Spirit (p. 241).

   This is why the Church, in all her sanctifying services, invokes the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit we are raised up to the divine world, or the divine world penetrates us. This changes us, with this our deification starts. This is what Orthodox spirituality, or our spiritual life, consists of.

 

The Presence of the Holy Spirit in History

By St. Seraphim of Sarov

(From: “The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit” in The Little Russian Philokalia)

 

 “FATHER,” said I, “you speak all the time of the acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit as the aim of the Christian life, but how and where can I see It? Good deeds are visible, but can the Holy Spirit be seen? How am I to know whether He is with me or not?”

  “At the present time,” the Elder replied, “owing to our almost universal coldness to of our holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to our inattention to the working of His Divine Providence in us, and the communion of man with God, we have gone so far that, one may say, we have almost abandoned the true Christian life. The testimonies of Holy Scripture now seem strange to us when, for instance, by the lips of Moses the Holy Spirit says: ‘And Adam saw the Lord walking in paradise’ (cf. Gen. 3:10), or when we read the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘We went to Achaia, and the Spirit of God went not with us; we returned to Macedonia, and the Spirit of God came with us.’* More than once in other passages of Holy Scripture the appearance of God to men is mentioned.

  “That is why some people say: ‘These passages are incomprehensible. Is really possible for people to see God so openly?’ But there is nothing incomprehensible here. This failure to understand has come about because we have departed from the simplicity of the original Christian knowledge.

_________________________________________________________________________

(* In the Acts of the Apostles (16:6-7) this text reads: When they had gone throughout Phrygia. and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not).

 

 

Under the pretext of education, we have reached such a darkness of ignorance that what the ancients understood’ so clearly seems to us almost inconceivable. Even in ordinary conversation, the idea of God’s appearance among men did not seem strange to them. Thus, when his friends rebuked him for blaspheming God, Job answered them: ‘How can that be when I feel the Spirit of God in my nostrils?’ (cf. Job 27:3). That is, how can I blaspheme God when the Holy Spirit abides with me? If I had blasphemed God, the Holy Spirit would have withdrawn from me; but lo, I feel His breath in my nostrils.

  “In exactly the same way it is said of Abraham and Jacob that they saw the Lord and conversed with Him and that Jacob even wrestled with Him. Moses and all the people with him saw God when he was granted to receive from God the tables of the law on Mount Sinai. A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, or in other words, the evident grace of the Holy Spirit, served as guides to the people of God in the desert. People saw God and the grace of His Holy Spirit not in sleep or in dreams, or in the excitement of a disordered imagina­tion, but truly and openly.

  “We have become so inattentive to the work of salvation that we misin­terpret many other words in Holy Scripture as well, all because we do not seek the grace of God and in the pride of our minds do not allow It to dwell m our souls. That is why we are without true enlightenment from the Lord, which He sends into the hearts of men who hunger and thirst wholeheartedly for God’s righteousness.

  “Many explain that when it says in the Bible: ‘God breathed the breath of life into the face of Adam the first-created, who was created by Him from the dust of the ground’ (cf. Gen. 2:7), it must mean that until then there was neither human soul nor spirit in Adam, but only the flesh created from the dust of the ground. This interpretation is wrong, for the Lord created .Adam from the dust of the ground with the constitution which the holy Batiushka Apostle Paul describes: May your spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thess. 5:23). And all these three parts of our nature were created from the dust of the ground; Adam was not cre­ated dead, but an active living being like all the other animate creatures of God living on earth. The point is that if the Lord God had not then breathed into his face this breath of life (that is, the grace of our Lord God the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son and it sent into the world for the Son’s sake), Adam, however perfect he had been created and superior to all the other creatures of God as the crown of creation on earth, nev­ertheless would have been without the Holy Spirit within himself, like unto the other creatures, although he possessed flesh, soul and spirit. But when the Lord God breathed into Adam’s face the breath of life, then, according to Moses’ expression, Adam became a living soul (Gen. 2:7), that is, completely and in every way like God, and, like Him, forever immortal. Adam was im­mune to the action of the elements to such a degree that water could not drown him, fire could not burn him, the earth could not swallow him in its abysses, and the air could not harm him by any kind of action whatever. Ev­erything was subject to him as the beloved of God, as the king and lord of cre­ation; and everything looked up to him, as the perfect crown of God’s creatures. Adam was made so wise by this breath of life which was breathed into his face from the creative lips of God, the Creator and Ruler of all, that there never has been a man on earth wiser or more intelligent than he, and it is hardly likely that there ever will be. When the Lord commanded him to give names to all the creatures, he gave every creature a name which com­pletely expressed all the qualities, powers and properties given it by God at its creation.

  “Owing to this very gift of the supernatural grace of God which was in­fused into him by the breath of life, Adam could see and understand the Lord walking in paradise and comprehend His words, and the conversation of the holy angels, and the language of all the beasts, birds and reptiles and all that is now hidden from us fallen and sinful creatures, but was so clear to Adam bef­ore his fall. To Eve also the Lord God gave the same wisdom, strength and unlimited power, and all the other good and holy qualities. And He created her not from the dust of the ground, but from Adam’s rib in the Eden of de­light, in the Paradise which He had planted in the midst of the earth.

  “In order that they might always easily maintain within themselves the immortal, divine* and perfect properties of this breath of life, God planted in the midst of the garden the tree of life and endowed its fruits with all the essence and fullness of His divine breath. If they had not sinned, Adam and Eve themselves, as well as all their posterity, could have always eaten of the fruit of the tree of life and so would have eternally maintained the quickening power of divine grace.

  “They also could have maintained to all eternity the full powers of their body, soul and spirit in a state of immortality and everlasting youth, and they could have continued in this immortal and blessed state of theirs forever. At the present time, however, it is difficult for us even to imagine such grace.

  “But when through the tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil-which was premature and contrary to the commandment of God-they learned the difference between good and evil and were subjected to all the afflictions which followed the transgression of the commandment of God; then they lost this priceless gift of the grace of the Spirit of God, so that until the actual coming into the world of the God-Man Jesus Christ, The Spirit of God was not yet in the world because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39).

  “However, that does not mean that the Spirit of God was not in the world at all, but His presence was not so apparent* as in Adam or in us Or­thodox Christians. It manifested only externally; yet the signs of His presence in the world were known to mankind. Thus, for instance, many mysteries in connection with the future salvation of the human race were revealed to Adam as well as to Eve after the fall. And for Cain, in spite of his impiety and his transgression, it was easy to understand the voice which held gracious and divine though convicting converse with him. Noah conversed with God. Abraham saw God and His days and was glad (cf. John 8:56). The grace of the Holy Spirit acting externally was also reflected in all the Old Testament prophets and saints of Israel. The Hebrews afterwards established special pro­phetic schools where the sons of the prophets were taught to discern the signs of the manifestation of God or angels, and to distinguish the operations of the Holy Spirit from the ordinary natural phenomena of our graceless earthly life. Symeon who held God in his arms, Christ’s grandparents, Joachim and Anna, and countless other servants of God continually had quite openly vari­ous divine apparitions, voices and revelations which were justified by evident miraculous events. Though not with the same power as in the people of God, nevertheless the presence of the Spirit of God also acted in the pagans who did not know the true God, because even among them God found for Himself chosen people. Such, for instance, were the virgin-prophetesse­s called Sibyls who vowed virginity to an unknown God, but still to God the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful ruler of the world, as He was con­ceived of by the pagans. Though the pagan philosophers also wandered in the darkness of ignorance of God, yet they sought the truth which is beloved by God; and on account of this God-pleasing seeking, they could partake of the Spirit of God, for it is said that the nations who do not know God practice by nature the demands of the law and do what is pleasing to God (cf. Rom. 2: 14). The Lord so praises truth that He says of it Himself by the Holy Spirit:

Truth is sprung up out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven (Ps. 84:11).

  “So you see, your Godliness, both in the holy Hebrew people, a people beloved by God, and in the pagans who did not know God, there was pre­served a knowledge of God-that is, my dear, a clear and rational compre­hension of how our Lord God the Holy Spirit acts in man, and by means of what inner and outer feelings one can be sure that this is really the action of our Lord God the Holy Spirit and not a delusion of the enemy. That is how it was from Adam’s fall until the coming in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world.

  “Without this perceptible realization of the actions of the Holy Spirit, your godliness, which had always been preserved in human nature, men could not have possibly known for certain whether the fruit of the seed of the woman who had been promised to Adam and Eve had come into the world to bruise the serpent’s head (c£ Gen. 3:15).

  “At last the Holy Spirit foretold to St. Symeon, who was then in his 65th year, the mystery of the virginal conception and birth of Christ from the Most Pure Ever-Virgin Mary. Afterwards, having lived by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God for three hundred years, in the 365th year of his life he said openly in the temple of the Lord that he knew for certain* through the gift of the Holy Spirit that this was that very Christ, the Savior of the world, Whose supernatural conception and birth from the Holy Spirit had been foretold to him by an angel three hundred years previously.

  “And there was also St. Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, who from her widowhood had served the Lord God in the temple of God for eighty years and who was known to be a righteous widow, a chaste servant of God, from the special gifts of grace which she had received. She too an­nounced that He was actually the Messiah Who had been promised to the world, the true Christ, God and Man, the King of Israel, Who had come to save Adam and mankind.

  “But when our Lord Jesus Christ condescended to accomplish the whole work of salvation, after His resurrection He breathed on the Apostles, restored the breath of life lost by Adam, and gave them the same grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God as Adam had enjoyed. But that was not all. He also told them that it was expedient for them that He should go to the Father, for if He did not go, the Spirit of God would not come into the world. But if He, the Christ, went to the Father, He would send Him into the world, and He, the Comforter, would guide them and all who followed their teaching into all truth and would remind them of all that He had said to them when He was still in the world. What was then promised was grace upon grace 00hn 1: 16).

  “Then on the day of Pentecost He solemnly sent down to them in a tempestuous wind the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire which alighted on each of them and entered within them and filled them with the fiery strength of divine grace which breathes bedewingly and acts gladden­ingly in souls which partake of its power and operations (cf. Acts 2: 1-4). And this same fire-infusing grace of the Holy Spirit which was given to us all, the faithful of Christ, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, is sealed by the Sacra­ment of Chrismation on the chief parts of our body as appointed by the Holy Church, the eternal keeper of this grace. It is said: ‘The seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.’ On what do we put our seal, your Godliness, if not on vessels containing some very precious treasure? But what on earth can be higher and what can be more precious than the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are sent down to us from above in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism? This baptismal grace is so great and so indispensable, so vital for man, that even a heretic is not deprived of it until his very death; that is, until the end of the period ap­pointed on high by the Providence of God as a lifelong test of man on earth, in order to see what he will be able to achieve (during this period given to him by God) by means of the power of grace granted him from on high.

  “And if we were never to sin after our baptism, we should remain for­ever saints of God-holy, blameless, and free from all impurity of body and spirit. But the trouble is that we increase in stature, but do not increase in grace and in the knowledge of God, as our Lord Jesus Christ increased; but on the contrary, we gradually become more and more depraved and lose the grace of the AlI-Holy Spirit of God and become sinful in various degrees, and most sinful people. But if a man is stirred by the wisdom of God, which seeks our salvation and embraces everything, and he is resolved for its sake to de­vote the early hours to God and to watch in order to find His eternal salva­tion,* then, in obedience to its voice, he must hasten to offer true repentance for all his sins and must practice the virtues which are opposite to the sins committed. Then through the virtues practiced for Christ’s sake, he will ac­quire the Holy Spirit, Who acts within us and establishes in us the Kingdom of God. The word of God does not say in vain: The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21), and it suffers violence, and the violent take it by force** (Matt. 11: 12). This means the people who, in spite of the bonds of sin which fetter them and hinder them (by constraint and by inciting them to new sins), come to Him, our Savior, with perfect repentance for tormenting Him, who despise all the strength of the fetters of sin and force themselves to break their bonds-such people at last actually appear before the face of God made whiter than snow by His grace. Come, says the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them whiter than snow (Is. 1: 18).

* Cf. Wisdom 7:27; 6:14-20.

** Lit. “The Kingdom of Heaven is forced, and the forceful seize it.” Cf. Luke 16: 16:

“Everyone forces himself into it.” _______________________________________________________

  “Such people were once seen by the holy seer of mysteries John the Theologian clothed in white robes (that is, in robes of justification) and palms in their hands (as a sign of victory), and they were singing to God a wonder­ful song: Alleluia. And no one could imitate the beauty of their song. Of them an angel of God said: These are they who have come out of great tribula­tion and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-14). They were washed with their sufferings and made white in the Communion of the immaculate and life-giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the most pure spotless Lamb-Christ-Who was slain before all ages by His own will for the salvation of the world, and Who is continually being slain and divided until now, but is never exhausted. Through the Holy Mysteries we are granted our eternal and unfailing salva­tion as a viaticum to eternal life, as an acceptable answer at His dread judg­ment and a precious substitute beyond our comprehension for that fruit of the tree of life, of which the enemy of mankind, Lucifer, who fell from heaven, would have liked to deprive our human race. Though the enemy and devil seduced Eve, and Adam fell with her, yet the Lord not only granted them in the fruit of the seed of a woman a Redeemer Who tram­pled down death by death; but also granted us all in the woman, the Ever-Virgin Mary Mother of God-who crushes the head of the serpent in herself and in all the human race-a constant mediatress with her Son and our God, and a blameless, invincible intercessor even for the most desperate sinners. That is why the Mother of God is called the ‘Scourge of Demons,’ for it is not possible for a devil to destroy a man so long as the man himself does not refrain from running to the help of the Mother of God.

Please see also: On the Speaking in and Interpretation of Tongues

 

The Orthodox church marks May 21st as the feast day of the Great Saints and Equals to the Apostles: Constantine and his mother, Helen.

Troparion Tone 8

O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine, who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross,/ Accepted the call that came straight from Thee, as it happened to Paul, and not from any man./ He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care./ Preserve our country in everlasting peace, through the intercession of the Mother of God,/ for Thou art the Lover of mankind.

Kontakion Tone 3

Today Constantine and Helena his mother expose to our veneration the Cross,/ the awesome Cross of Christ,/ a sign of salvation to the Jews/ and a standard of victory:/ a great symbol of conquest and triumph.

 

   Constantine the Great was born in Naissus (Nis, Serbia) around the year 274. After his defeat against Emperors Maxentius and Liciniu,  Emperor Constantine became the sovereign of the whole Roman Empire. According to the testimonies of historians Eusebius and Lactantiu, on the eve of the battle with Maxentius, Constantine saw in the sky – at daylight –  a bright cross above the sun with the inscription: “In hoc SIGNO vinces” („By this sign you will conquer”).

   The following night, during his sleep, Constantine had a vision of Christ, asking him to put this sign of the „Holy Cross” on all the flags his soldiers will carry at battle. Been obedient to what it was revealed to him in the dream, Emperor Constantine followed the command given to him by Christ and he came out victorious in the battle with Maxentius.

   The Triumphal Arch of Constantine, now preserved in Rome, carries the inscription: “Instinctual divinitatis” = “By divine inspiration”, revealing how this victory over Maxentius was won.

   The most important achievement of Emperor Constantine was the Edict of Milan (313) by which Christianity was recognized as one of the religion of the Roman Empire (prior to this year, many Christians were persecuted and died as martyrs for their faith). Christianity will become the state religion (of the Roman Empire) during the reign of Theodosius the Great (379-395).

  After the edict of 313, the Emperor exempts the Christian churches from taxes, he grants them the right to receive donations and gives bishops the right to judge those who do not want to be judged by the state law. Constantine will also remove the criminal penalties laws that were contrary to the spirit of Christianity, such as the crucifixion, the crushing of the feet and the stigmatization (to be burn with the red iron), penalties practiced under the pagan Roman law.

   The Emperor Constantine convened the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), where, after long discussions, the heretical teachings of Arius was condemned by all the Holy Fathers present at the Council.

   St. Constantine the Great was baptized on his deathbed by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. He died shortly (337) in Nicomedia and was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, church founded by him.

His Mother: Empress Helena

   Flavia Julia Helena was born in the province of Bithynia. In the year 293, the Roman general Constantius Chlorus, encouraged by Emperor Diocletian, divorced his wife: Empress Helena. Following this event, Empress Helena does not want to re-marry and withdraws from the public attention, but remains close to her son, Constantine. Empress Helena later discovered on the hill of Golgotha, the Cross that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified on. According to the holy tradition, in the excavations performed at the site of Golgotha, were found three crosses. To identify which one of the three crosses belonged to Christ, they touched each one by the body of a dead man. The man rose up when touched by the Cross of our Lord. On September 14, 326 Bishop Macarius the 1st of Jerusalem took this Holy Cross and erected in front of the crowd of faithful and this day became the day of celebration for the „Exaltation of the Holy Cross”.

   St. Helena built many Holy Christian temples and monasteries among which the most important are: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Resurrection,  the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of Nazareth.

 

The Meaning of Names: Constantine and Helen

The name Constantine originates from Latin – from the words: Constans, Constantis (meaning “constant”, “firm”).

Helen comes from the ancient name Helene which is explained by some as „the Torch”, or “sacred fire” and by others as “the light of the burning sun”.

(Taken from the Holy Monastery of  ImPantokratoros website)

CONCLUSIONS
of the Conference of the Holy Metropolis of Piraeus
Topic: “Primacy,” Synodicality and Unity of the Church

Peace and Friendship Stadium, 28 April 2010

Papal ‘primacy’ has no theological foundation, no legitimacy from the Holy Spirit and no ecclesiological legitimacy. It is clearly based on a worldly understanding of authority.”  This, among other things, was the conclusion of the theological conference which was organized by the Holy Metropolis of Piraeus in the Peace and Friendship Stadium (Melina Mercouri Hall) on 28 April 2010, and which was a success with many clergy and laity present.

The conference was also honored by the presence of His Beatitude Hieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, who also started the conference off. Also present were: His Eminence Seraphim, Metropolitan of Kythira; Pavlos, Metropolitan of Glyfada; and Melito, Bishop of Marathon.

The topic “Primacy,” Synodicality and Unity of the Church was expounded upon in two sessions with seven speakers: His Eminence Seraphim, Metropolitan of Piraeus, Hieromonk Luke Grigoriatis, Prof. Aristidis Papadakis (University of Maryland), Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos and Prof. Dimitrios Tselengidis.

From the presentations and the discussion that followed, it was concluded that: unity belongs to the nature of the Church as it is the body of Christ and communion in Him. The true Church is one. The unity of the Church in all its interpretations – structural or charismatic (grace-bearing) – clearly has its foundation in the Holy Spirit. It is extended mystically, but is maintained, fostered and apparent chiefly through holy communion.

According to the “Confession of Faith” of the Synod of Constantinople in 1727, “Therefore no other head whatsoever is accepted in this Eastern Church, save only our Lord Jesus Christ, from the Father given to the whole Church and its foundation.” According to Orthodox ecclesiology, “primate” is not meant generally and indefinitely without the presence of the particular synod of a region.

The concept of a rank of honor (that is the term which Orthodox ecclesiastical tradition uses opposed to the subsequent term “primacy” that the papists use) expresses and ensures the unity and the synodicality of the Orthodox Catholic Church. The pentarchy of the patriarchal thrones is the form which the Church gave to the concept of a rank of honor during the first millennium.

The authority of the “primate,” which derives from the rank of honor, is a fruit of synodicality, while the authority the bishop of Rome had already started to appropriate during the first millennium is a result of the abolition of the synodical organization of the Church.

In the Church of the first millennium there was no papal primacy “by divine right” in jurisdiction or authority over the whole Church. On the contrary, the Church had the right to make decisions about its administration without the Pope, even in spite of his strong opposition, and these decisions were universally valid.

After the schism of 1054, the increasing claim of the popes for primacy of authority over the whole Church completely subverted the structure of the mystical body of the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit. It makes synodicality (as a function of this body inspired by the Holy Spirit) relative – practically abolishing it – and introduces the worldly mindset to it. It nullifies the equality of bishops, misappropriates the complete administrative authority of the whole Church, essentially setting aside the Theanthropos (the God-Man) and making a man the visible head of the Church. In this way the ancestral sin is repeated in this institution.

True unity takes place when there is unity in faith, in worship, and administration. This is the model of unity in the ancient Church, which the universal Orthodox Church continues unchanged. Unia introduces a false unity and is based on a heretical ecclesiology, since it allows different forms of the faith and worship, and makes unity contingent on the recognition of the primacy of the pope, which is an institution of human justice, and undermines the synodical structure of the administration of the Church, which is an institution of divine justice. Multiformity is only acceptable in secondary matters of local traditions and customs.

After the First Vatican Council (1870) and especially the Second Vatican Council (1962-1964) papal primacy does not comprise a simple administrative assertion, but an essential dogma of faith absolutely necessary for the salvation of the faithful. Its denial incurs the anathema of the First Vatican Council, whose validity remains still after the Second Vatican Council.

As the host of the conference Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus emphasized in his introduction, “Due to the heretical and blasphemous doctrine of the primacy of the bishop of Rome and the spiritual ramifications which come from it (such as the “infallibility” of the Pope and his autocratic-monarchic despotism over the whole body of the religious community under him), Papism has developed into an autocratic-monarchic system of mystic ideology and perversion of the meaning of the Church. It has proven to be modern Roman-Frank ethnicism (paganismus) in a spiritual disguise, has taken away the mystical freedom in Christ of each of [the Church’s] members and  has turned out to be the inevitable and fateful cause of the falling away from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church into hundreds of different heresies, and an insurmountable obstacle to their possible return.”

At the assessment of the participants of the current theological dialogue between Orthodox and Roman-Catholics, its attempt at the restoration of ecclesiastical communion must somehow – beyond the elimination of the heretical teachings of Rome (Filioque, created grace, infallibility, purgatory, etc.) – aim also at the definite elimination of papal primacy and not at some commonly acceptable interpretation of it.

Finally, the syncretistic framework of “unity in diversity” is considered unacceptable and cannot become acceptable as “a model for the restoration of full communion.”

Please also see: The talk of Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron

Why I abandoned Papism by a former franciscan monk Hierodeacon Paul Ballester-Convolier

 PAPAL PRIMACY – A Hideous Ecclesiological Heresy

p. Ayg. ist

 

Archbishop Augustine (Augoustinos Kantiotis) of Florina’

Sermon on the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (John 17, 1-13)

“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one”.

(John 17, 11)

   My beloved, the earth is not our permanent residence, but it was ordained by God as our temporary home. The eternal homeland and our permanent home is heaven. For this land, which keeps us bound so much by its pleasures and entertainment, with its treasures and pleasures, it will come a day to be destroyed. For it consists of matter, and the matter is perishable. It has existed for some „time” and everything that has been made „to have a time” has an end. Therefore, there will be a last hour for the earth as it is for everything. This is also confirmed by science. But more than science, it’s been confirmed by the word of God, and the Holy Scripture that calls the end of the world, the “end of time” (cf. Matthew 13:39, 24:3, 28:20, Hebrew 9:26). On the end the world  spoke even the prophets Daniel and Isaiah, and speak clearly the Lord, the Apostles, and the „Apocalipse” (the book of Revelation).

   It is a fact that the earth will be destroyed. But before the end of the world, the “signs of the times” [the “Zeitgeist”] will occur first (Matthew 16:3). And what are these signs? The Lord has explained them: there will be “famine” (hunger), “plagues” (diseases of which people will die like flies), „local earthquakes”, “a great tribulation, such it has never happened since the beginning of the world” and finally, the sun and the moon will darken, the stars will fall and “the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Matthew 24, 7, 21, 29, Luke 21:11). Who will believe them if they were not spoken by the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ?

   These „signs of the time” will disrupt or alarm the natural world. And nowadays such phenomena of turbulence is encountered by the physical world. In South America, on the coast of Chile, while people were lying naked on the beautiful sandy shores having fun – as it occurs on our beaches – suddenly the earth shook, the volcanoes opened-up, spilling their lava; many islands got lost entirely and other new ones had emerged, the sea became wild and great waves rose up fifty feet and swept the whole area. Thousands were dead and homeless . Something like this has never happened!

* * *

   But if you ask me, my beloved, what is the worst sign of the time, I will say to you that it is not this phenomena. It is not the typhoon (hurricane), neither the earthquake, nor the fire or the  waves of the sea. The worst sign of the time is the division, which exists nowadays between people. Never before was the world so divided. Where shall we turn our sight, to not see division?

   Division among nations. A well-known international body is called „United Nations”, but only euphemistically. We must take down the sign “United Nations” and write “Divided Nations”. Beneath the smiles and politeness of diplomacy lies a great rivalry. Not so much among small nations – they are the victims – but among those big, who like the beasts of „Revelation” are ready to fall on each other. But each nation is divided internally, there is the germ of division into parties, camps, factions, leaders, interests, companies and beyond. But above all (it is) among us Greeks. Open the history. Three thousand years of life and during this, how often has our nation been united? And when it was united, it was glorious and invincible, raising the peaks of Pindus up to the stars of heaven. As someone said: „if the Greeks were united, they would have ruled the world”. But division remains the greatest tragedy of our nation. But this discord reigned often and then many evil things happened, such as, the destruction of Asia Minor.

   Division everywhere: in villages and towns. The smallest kingdom is even divided. And, which is the smallest kingdom, with an emperor, an empress and people? It is the family: the father is the king, the queen is the mother, and people: the children. Division reigns in the home. Anarchy of thoughts and of man. The woman is not subject to her husband, the man does not respect his wife, children count on no-one.  Division between spouses, between children and parents. The house, which once was a little haven, a church, a convent, no longer “attracts” as a magnet.

   Once upon a time, the small „huts” of the villages were palaces of heaven and angels dwelled there; now in the large apartment complexes live winged demons. Blessed be the time when people were not intellectually developed, but were educated at heart. Now, the house became a hotel for sleeping and eating. Rare are those cases where spouses love one another, and children have respect. Show me a home where harmony and unity exist in the love of Christ!

  „You are exaggerating on this!” –  you may say to me. But, if you think so, then go to the Archdiocese and ask, and if you’re Christian, you’ll weep for the state we have drawn into. Not long ago, although having illiterate priests, there was not even one divorce in a thousand families. Now, with all the priests and bishops graduates, one in three marriage crumbles! We, clergy, have a great responsibility. Our vocation becomes a stumbling block if we do not follow it. Every day a great multitude of divorces are being issued. Our „Hellas” (term for the country/nation of Greece) has become Hollywood.

   Man seeks the unity among peoples, nations, families and cannot find it. He finally enters the Church, with the hope that here he will find unity; since the Church prays for “the unity of all” (cf. Divine Liturgy) and our Christ in the Gospel today raises His hands and pray that Christians remain united (cf. John 17: 11). And what does He see? Here are the Orthodox, there – the francs (Catholics), and down further the Protestants split in 300 fractions or more…

   Christian disunity hinders the spread of Christianity – and two-thirds of the world remain pagan. Missionaries go there to preach the Gospel and weep. And one would expect them to get baptized and become Christians. However, they do not (want to) get baptized. They sayYour words are beautiful, your vestments, your songs. But you are divided, there is no love among you. The English are chasing the Americans, Americans the British and so on. And us, non-Christians, have a greater unity then yours. You are not together, and  hate one another. So, go first and make peace, then  come and preach us  the Gospel”.  

   Today is the celebration of the 318 holy Fathers who gathered in the first Ecumenical Council and have formed the Creed. They are the stars of our Church. However, I will not refer to any of them.  My thoughts go to another father who is not among those who composed the Creed, but he composed the Divine Liturgy which is celebrated and heard continuously.  It is the great teacher of our Church: St. John Chrysostom-the Golden mouth, and we keep him always in our memory. So, they asked him, when it would be the end of time, and St. John Chrysostom  responded from the pulpit:

  „My brothers, the end will come when you’ll see that people will be divided: women not submitting their husbands, men not loving their wives, children raising their hands to strike their parents, laymen not obeying, civil wars. But before all, the end will come when the division will enter the church, and get as far as the altar. When you’ll see that monks brawl with their fellow monks, deacons with other deacons, priests and bishops with their fellow priests and bishops”.

   And what do we see, my beloved? We live in such days and only God can save us. If He will save us, salvation is not owned to us. If He will save us, He will do it for the sake of the innocent little children who are still left in the cribs.

   Let us repent. If we continue the tactic of hatred, we will be punished. We will be shaken by an earthquake and no stone upon stone will remain. Let us all big or small repent, let us kneel, and pray, laymen and clergy, priests and bishops, rulers and people, so God may be merciful to us. To send us (His) love, understanding and justice, so that with one mouth we may praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

(By † Bishop Augustine of Florina; the Church of St. Konstantinou Cologne – Athens 05/29/1960)

 (Translated by E.C.)

Source for the Greek text: http://www.augoustinos-kantiotis.gr/?p=12159

Motto:

We refuse to take on the idea that any of the Church’ canons are obsolete or subject to review …

To think otherwise, it means to place yourself above the Church and to oppose with your own limited experience, the eternal and infallible experience of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit.  Never had any Holy Ecumenical Council claimed that the previous canons of the Church were obsolete! 

Some are seeking to substitute the tradition of the Church to their personal experience, instead of submitting their experience to the Church’ teachings, thus placing themselves outside it, they ceased to participate in the life of the Church.”

by Blessed Titus Smedrea

 

 

The First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325)

On the divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
Against Aryan heresy!

  (The First Ecumenical Council was held in 325 A. D. in the city of Nicaea. This Council condemned the heresy of Arius, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and was teaching that our Lord was a God’s creature. This heresy provoked much unrest in the Church. Besides proclaiming true teaching concerning God Father and God Son, Jesus Christ, as it is presented in the first seven articles of the Creed, the Council made some canons, regulating the life of the Church).

   „We believe in one God, the Father Almighty (all powerful), Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten begotten from the Father, that is from the substance [Gr. ousias, Lat. substantia] of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten [Gr. gennethenta, Lat. natum] not made [Gr. poethenta, Lat. factum], CONSUBSTANTIAL [Gr. homoousion, Lat. unius substantiae (quod Graeci dicunt homousion)] with the Father, through Whom all things came to be, both those in heaven and those in earth; for us humans and for our salvation he came down and became incarnate, became man, suffered and rose up on the third day, went up (ascended) into the heavens, is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit.

   And those who say that: “there once was (a time) when He was not”, and “before He was begotten He was not”, and that:  He came to be from things that were not, or from another hypostasis [Gr. hypostaseos] or substance [Gr. ousias, Lat. substantia], affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration; these the Catholic and Apostolic church anathematises”.

*

For a more in-depth description of this Holy Council, please also see: Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

For all the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the One Catholic (Universal and Unchanged in Dogma!) and Apostolic Church, please see:

The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Orthodox Church

Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325)

   During the time of the Ecumenical Councils many pious Bishops were recognized as great teachers and defenders of the faith and were glorified by the Church as saints.

   St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Licea, was known for his zeal, wisdom, humbleness and charity. He assisted the poor, quickly protected unjustly condemned or any one suffering from abuses of the rulers of those days. His noblest act, the conviction of Arius at the first Ecumenical Council, brought him an eternal glory and was marked by special acknowl­edgement of the fathers of the Council. He died December 6, 343 A. D. When the Saratzins were threatening the city of Myra, his relics were removed to Italy, where they repose to the present time in the city of Bahr.

   St. Athanasius the Great, of Alexandria, belongs to the school of the Apologets of the Church. When a deacon on the First Ecumenical Council, St. Athanasius was superior in his defence of the true faith against Arius’ heresy and as Archbishop of Alexandria during 46 years, proved to be steadfast pillar of the Church. He was accused by the heretics then in all kinds of crimes, including a treason, was exiled five times from Alexandria and only the last six years of his life he spent in the Cathedral city, arduously working for the peace and glory of the Church. He wrote many apologetics on behalf of the Church and died peacefully in 373 A. D., being 75 years old, and was given by the Church the title of “The Great.”

   In the fourth century a most trying time for the Church, lived and worked the other three Ecumenical hierarchs and teachers – Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom.

   St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cesaria of Capadocia (330-­379 A. D.) was a native of that city. He was brought up in a very pious Christian family, his mother, grandmother; sisters and brother are among the saints of the Church. His father was a very prominent attorney and teacher of rhetoric. He received the best education of his time, finishing it in Athens. He was high in theology, philosophy and history, but highest in the faith and charity. As Church orator he gave to the Church the glorious “homilies on six days” of the creation where he appears to be a great scientist also. St. Basil is almost glorified for his defence of the Church against Arians. Heavy labor and religious disturbances of the time, many deprivations and ascetic life broke his health and he died in the fiftieth year of his life. He wrote Divine Liturgy that bears his name.

   St. Gregory the Theologian, (326-389 A. D.) is known by this name in the Church as the greatest interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, especially on the personality of God, and his five sermons on God the Word, brought him this glorious title. He received his instructions from his mother, St. Nonna, and considered her instructions as the most valuable he had for his future.

   St. Gregory was a friend of St. Basil; was in schools together with him, after in the monastery, and was consecrated as Bishop by his friend. He was elected archbishop of Constantinople when practically all Churches were taken there by the Arians, but he accepted the call and started the services in a little room and suc­ceeded so much that the Arians were expelled from all the churches and the Orthodox Christians were admitted to the use of them. He took very prominent part at the Second Ecumenical Council against the heresy of Macedonius. After accomplishing this work St. Gregory retired to his native city of Nazians, where he spent his last years in ascetic life.

   St. John Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth) is the most eloquent teacher of the Christian Church and at the same time most ardent defender of the rights and privileges of the Church. He lost his father when a child and was brought up by his pious mother Anfusa. He was a brilliant student and when his teacher, philosopher Licineus, was asked as to whom he would like to succeed him, he answered “of course John, if the Christians will not steal him from us.” About Anfusa, St. John’s mother, Licineus said: “What dignified women there are among the Christians.” After his mother’s death, St. John spent six years in seclusion and then came to the city of Antioch where he served for twelve years as a priest. Against his wish and under some pretense he was taken from Antioch and was consecrated as the Archbishop of Constantinople. First year of the service there was of much success and benefit to the Church. Nevertheless, his zeal and endeavors to correct the evils of the life among high officials and in the palace brought upon St. John dis­pleasure and wrath of the Empress Evdoksia, and his enemies from the clergy succeeded in depriving him of his See and he was exiled.

   When he left the capital city, the earthquake of that night made the Empress to repent and to ask St. John to return, but her repentance were not sincere; in about two months St. John was exiled again for preaching to correct morals.

   “The Church of Christ did not begin with me and will not end without me,” said the great teacher before going to his exile, which was a very severe one. On his way from Armenian city of Kukuza to Abkhazian city of Pitziunt on the north-eastern shores of the Black Sea, St. John stopped in a little village of Komani, being very weak and sick. Here in a dream appeared to him St. Vasilisk, whose relics were in this place reposing, and told him “Do not be discouraged, Brother John, tomorrow we will be together.” St. John in the morning took Holy Communion and peacefully died with the words as his last: “Glory be to God for everything.” St. John wrote Divine Liturgy that retains his name, and was anxious to bring to Christianity the people who lived then in Skiphia or present Southern Russia. He lived from 347 to 407 A.D. and is always looked upon as one of the famous fathers of our Orthodox Church_ His writings have even now a high value to the Church and serve to prove its dogmatical and historical truth.

   We should be mindful of many equally saintly fathers, who rendered most useful service to the defence and expansion of the Church like Irineus of Lyon, Cyprian of Carthage, Blessed Augustin, Ambrose of Mediolan, Heronimus, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nissa, Gregory of Neocesaria and others, whose names even if we wished only to list would take many chap­ters of this brief historical account. But their lives, their work, their writings are most helpful for Christians to form their conceptions on different subjects related to the faith and teaching of the Church and we wish we could present them to our readers more fully but as it is, we desire very much that they study “the Fathers of the Church” with every possible opportunity.

Source: http://www.sthermansoca.org/page/christian-persecution

 

Ascension Troparion-Romanian

 

“Through Your Glorious Ascension”


(Written by the Very Rev. John Breck)

   Psalm 67/68 is considered by most biblical scholars to be the most difficult of all psalms to interpret. The current consensus holds that the psalm was an ancient cultic hymn, originally recited in an autumn festival by the covenant-community of Israel. Its theme celebrates the coming of God to His people, from Sinai to Zion, in order to actualize in their midst His past mighty works of salvation. This actualization then leads the people toward the eschatological future, the age to come, when God’s glory and majesty will be recognized and acknowledged by all the nations of the earth.

   As difficult to interpret as many may find it to be, this psalm, with its opening cry, “Let God arise!” is nevertheless one of the most familiar biblical pronouncements of the Orthodox paschal season. It begins with what the Church recognizes as a prophetic announcement of our Lord’s resurrection. This is complemented by what biblical and patristic tradition sees as allusions to Christ’s ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. St Paul offers this interpretation in his letter to the Ephesians, where he modifies, in a minor yet significant way, the Septuagint version of Ps. 67: “When He ascended on high, He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men” (Eph 4:8). Those gifts, as the apostle declares, include the charismata, the “spiritual gifts” or gift of the Spirit Himself, bestowed upon the Church for the preaching of the gospel and the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. 

   Another theme emerges throughout this letter, also derived from Ps. 67/68. By his descent into the “depths of the earth,” into the heart of the fallen creation, Christ destroys the power of sin and death. And by His ascension in glory, He “fills all things with Himself” (Eph 4:9-10). This is the same message proclaimed by the Gospel of John: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man,” and this, to work out salvation and eternal life for all those who believe (John 3:13-15).

   The entire Christian mystery is expressed by this double movement of descent and ascension, the incarnation and glorification of the eternal Son of God. As Orthodox spiritual and liturgical tradition affirms, this movement was undertaken not for Christ’s own sake, but for ours. Through His incarnation, the Son of God took upon Himself our very life and being, the specific conditions of our human nature, in order to restore that nature to its original perfection, and to open the way for us to ascend with Him to the heights of heaven, there to share with Him His own glory and majesty.

   Elaborating on this theme, St Irenaeus of Lyon declares in his treatise Against Heresies (III.19.3), “The Lord himself gave us a sign… A virgin conceived and bore a son, ‘God with us’ (Isa 7:14). He descended into the depths of the earth to seek the lost sheep, His own handiwork, which He Himself had made. Then He ascended into the heights above, to offer and submit to His Father this humanity (hominem) which had been found, becoming Himself the first-fruits of man’s resurrection.”

   A familiar prayer, attributed to St Symeon Metaphrastes (a mid-tenth century Byzantine hagiographer) and included in the Orthodox prayers before communion, recounts the significance of events in Christ’s life, death and glorification, together with their spiritual and moral significance for believers:

“Through Your life-giving resurrection You raised up the first father who had fallen. Raise me up, for I am sunk in sin, and give me the image of repentance.  Through Your glorious ascension You made the flesh that You assumed to be divine and placed it on the throne at the Father’s right hand. Grant me to receive a place at the right hand with the saved through communion of Your Holy Mysteries.”

 

   By His incarnation, Christ deified the flesh, the body with its human nature, and thus He restored it to the perfection and glory for which God originally intended it. As the First Adam, the archetype of all human existence, and as the Last Adam, the Author of Life who gives life to those who dwell in Him, Christ ascends in his “divine flesh,” exalting newly perfected human nature with Himself. The throne is the image that symbolizes that exaltation. By placing His deified flesh on the throne at the “right hand” of the Father, God the Son makes the ultimate sacramental gesture, offering our own fallen yet restored nature to Him who is the Source of all life, both human and divine. Because of our incorporation into the life of the Son, we can hope to join with the saints, the host of the saved. Yet this hope is already partially realized, insofar as we partake of that divine life here and now by participating in the Holy Eucharist.

   A further refinement of this theme is offered to us by the great Byzantine mystic, St Gregory of Sinai (+ 1346). In the chapter from the Philokalia known as “Further Texts” (Alia Capita, PG 150.1300), St Gregory describes in eloquent terms the correspondence between the descending, ascending movement of Christ and spiritual growth in our own life. The passage is worth quoting in full:

   “Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ’s own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression. To Christ’s conception corresponds the foretaste of the gift of the Holy Spirit, to His nativity the actual experience of joyousness, to His baptism the cleansing force of the fire of the Spirit, to His transfiguration the contemplation of divine light, to His crucifixion the dying to all things, to His burial the indwelling of divine love in the heart, to His resurrection the soul’s life-quickening resurrection, and to His ascension divine ecstasy and the transport of the intellect into God.”

   To most of our contemporaries, this kind of interpretation of the events in Christ’s life seems odd if not scandalous. It strikes them as pure allegorizing: taking the historical events of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, and reading them as metaphors to describe our inner spiritual state, the condition of the human soul.

   To those of us who, in these past days, have sung out, “Let God arise!” and have tasted the heavenly gifts of his glorified Body and Blood, who have embraced others and been embraced with reconciling love “even by those who hate us,” this correspondence between the events of Christ’s life and our own is self-evident. Yesterday we were crucified with Him; today we rise with Him in glory. Yesterday He descended into the lower parts of the earth, into the darkness of our own life; today we ascend with Him in newness of life, in a potentially deified flesh, in order to take our place with Him at the right hand of the Father and in the midst of the communion of saints.

   By His glorious ascension, Christ has already spoken to our deepest longing and fulfilled our most fervent hope. He has taken us as He took the hand of Adam, as in the paschal icon of the descent into hades. He has raised us up with Himself, out of the grave of our own making, and ascended with us into the awesome and blessed presence of His Father. He has transported into the very presence of God our “intellect,” our spiritual perception of transcendent life and being. And in so doing, He has led us – even in the mundane affairs of our daily existence – into the joyful and healing state of “divine ecstasy.”

Source: http://www.oca.org

ELDER PHILOTHEOS ZERVAKOS (1884-1980)

PATERNAL COUNSELS (an excerpt)

(The Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos will soon be glorified a saint by the Church of Greece. A book on this great confessor is now in print as part of the Modern Lives of Saints series by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos).

 

BE CAREFUL THAT YOU NOT BE DECEIVED

   …Heaven and earth shall pass but the words of the Lord shall not pass. When the Son of God comes in glory upon the earth shall He find faith? And because the wickedness shall increase the love of the many shall grow cold. Then nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom …and there shall be plagues and famines and earthquakes in places, and many false Christs and false prophets shall appear and shall deceive many, even from among the elect. And there shall be great affliction among the people, such as never occurred from the creation of the world and shall never be.

   Of all the prophecies of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Prophets, Apostles and holy Fathers and Teachers, of both old and new, till the Missionary and Hieromartyr Kosmas Aitolos, some have been fulfilled, while others shall be fulfilled in their proper times. All the prophecies of the false Christs, false prophet millenarians and other heretics have been shown to be false and shall be proven so. Be careful that you not be deceived from the false prophets… When his disciples asked Him concerning the day of the end of the age, the Lord said:    “Concerning that day no one knows not even the angels in heaven…”, and he added the following unwritten prophecy which is not written in the book of the Evangelists, that the end of the ages shall occur when men become women and women men. The divine Chrysostom when asked, when the end shall be, responded: When modesty is missing from women. Both prophecies we see in this day being fulfilled. So the end is close, but let us not cower or fear, but let us arm ourselves with the weapons of faith, of light, and lifting up hands and eyes, mind and heart, towards our Father in the heavens, let us beseech Him with contrition and humility of heart, with tears and sighs to cover us, guard us and save us from the coming sufferings and afflictions, and that He take us as a loving-caring Father, into eternal rest, joy, rejoicing, gladness, blessedness, and happiness, into His heavenly Kingdom, so that we may hymn bless, and glorify Him, with the Angels and Saints, unto the infinite ages of ages. Amen.

AS MANY AS ARE OUR PASSIONS, SO MANY ARE OUR LANGUAGES

   …Just as God became angry and appointed the confusion of languages among those who were building the Tower of Babel out of pride, so something similar is happening to our unfortunate nation and to our Church. As many as we are each one has a different language. The one will not listen to the other. Furthermore as many as are our passions, so many are our languages. The one says one thing the other says the opposite. Everyone is speaking for their own interest, no one for the common benefit. For this reason, only sound, disturbance and confusion is occurring, and nothing good. An evil sign. A sign and most triumphant proof, that faith has vanished. There is no faith. There is no faith implemented with love. The true faith and Church have union and agreement. The name of the Church is not separation, but union and agreement, says divine Chrysostom.

   And wherever there is perfect faith there is one heart and one soul, “While the multitude of believers…their heart and soul were one”. So what is our Church at this time? Tower building. What is our faith? Confusion of tongues…

LET US STAND WELL, LET US NOT BE SHAKEN

   …Her Ruler and founder, our Lord Jesus Christ fights and defends and helps those who struggle for the Church.

   Today more than at any other time the Church and the Orthodox faith are in danger from the impious and unbelievers, the masons and communists, from the false prophets and false Christs, the millenarians, the spiritualists, from wolf shepherds and devious workers of darkness and of delusion, of falsehood and of deception. Today what Saint Gregory the Theologian said is appropriate because in his days also the bride of Christ, the Church, was storm tossed and battled against. “The things of friends are unbelievable, the things of the Church unshepherded, he speaks of the good, while the evil is evident, the ship is in the night and a light tower nowhere”. Today the things which the Prophets, Apostles and Saints prophesied are being fulfilled. But again the Ruler and founder of our faith, the victor over death and over Hades, He who is strong and mighty in battles, the King of glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords will be victorious and trample upon the enemies, just like the vessels of the potters. He will crush them and annihilate them. While we should stand well, stand piously in the fear of God and not be shaken but as grateful and faithful servants let us struggle, that we may be granted crowns of glory and co-reign with Christ unto the ages of ages. Amen.

A CHRISTIAN IS INA CONSTANT BATTLE

   The Christian, finding Himself in this temporal life, is in a constant battle with the invisible enemy, who is in every day crafts and waits by us to wound and deaden us. For this reason we must be careful, wise, diligent, vigilant, so that the enemy does not would, imprison and deaden us. And precisely for this reason our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the traps of the enemy said to Hid disciples “be vigilant and pray so that you do not fall into temptation.” The chief of the Apostles Peter, who was wounded by the enemy, and from all that he suffered, he learned, and he says, “Be vigilant, be wakeful, for our enemy devil walks about like a roaring lion searching for whom to swallow”. While the Apostle Paul says: “Walk as children of the light not as foolish people, but as wise people, redeeming the time for the days are wicked… and do not become foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. ”

   So, my beloved, because you were not careful, the enemy waited and watched, he found you sleeping the sleep of negligence, despondency and carelessness and he wounded you. In battle many who are wounded tie their wounds and continue the battle. All these people are worthy of more rewards than those who were not wounded. Get up, shake off the sleep of negligence and tie up your wounds with prayer and repentance, and continue the spiritual battle against the invisible enemy, seeking the alliance of God also and you will win. And be careful, henceforth. The precious time which God gave us to work for the salvation of our soul let us not spend in losing it. The movies, the dances, all night long parties, smoking, lies, jokes, lewd words and the rest of such squanderings are a loss of the precious time and of the soul.

   Spend this precious time in prayers, in studying the divine Scriptures, in glorifications, in hymns and spiritual odes, and in other God-pleasing works.

   Be strengthened with the grace of God, be brave and be victorious over your enemies through the weapons of faith and wholehearted love for God and for your neighbor, which casts fear away and never falls….

BE CAREFUL TO HAVE TRUE FAITH

   …If fleshly fathers have the obligation to care for the physical progress and happiness of their fleshly children, we spiritual fathers have even more obligation. Because, just as the soul is higher than the body, thus the spiritual relationship and love is incomparably higher and exceeds the physical relationship. As your spiritual father I advise you to attempt, with every sacrifice and strength, to always be near the Lord.

   The good-hating enemy and exceedingly crafty devil works day and night to pull man far from God through negligence, carelessness, pride, man pleasing, envy, accusations, jealousy, criticism, slanders, falsehood, improper foul and blasphemous thoughts, gluttony, passions of the flesh and pleasures, impiety, disbelief, greed, attachment to earthly things, and many other and innumerable wickedness and evil, from which whoever believes in God, loves Him and does His commandments, is delivered. Because the sacred psalmist says. “Those who trust in the Lord resemble the holy mountain and are not at all shaken by the attacks of Belial”.

   Whoever prays ceaselessly, and has humility the enemy does not approach, and whoever has pure, clean, fervent love in abundance is together with God and God is together with him. Be careful to have true and firm faith, inner and real humility, ceaseless prayer and wholehearted love, so that you may always be with God and God may be with you, Whose grace and mercy be with all. Amen.

NOT THE PLACE, BUT THE MANNER SAVES MAN

   You write, my child, that you are distressed in the world and by its vanity, delusion and impiety, sin and noise. So that I can lighten your affliction a bit I advise you to do the following: First, think that God is everywhere present, and since He is everywhere, he also is in the wilderness and in the world, in the sea and on land, He is everywhere. And He is not far from each one of us, as the Apostle Paul told the Athenians. So since my child, God is near you, leave the old world, let it do whatever it wants, you will not give account for the world. At the 2nd Coming each one will give account concerning his own self.

   Second, say about those who make noise and disturb you from morning till night: They do their job and I let me do my job. They shout, sing, dance and bless Satan, with lewd songs, dances and foul words. I must hymn, bless and glorify

God, pray and ask Him to save me, to take me with Him into paradise, as He took the thief, the prodigal, the adulteress, the publican. Is it not, my child, a great shame to us, for them to have greater eagerness than us in working for Satan day and night, for him to damn them, and us to be negligent and cold and working for God with indolence?

   So I advise you, have patience and don’t abandon ceaseless noetic prayer, don’t allow God to depart from near you. Joseph was in Egypt, in the place of sin, and he did not sin because he recalled God, he had Him near him. Adam was in paradise, where sin did not exist, but because he forgot God, he disobeyed Him and listened to the devil, and he lost paradise. So it is not the place, but the manner which saves man, the divine Chrysostom used to say.

 

THE CAUSE IS PRIDE AND WEAK FAITH

   To your question: What cause does the demon find that he has rights over your soul, since you sincerely repented? The cause is pride and weak faith. The holiest and most righteous man in his time Job, when God deprived him of his children, his belongings, his health, did not murmur, but glorified God. and you the sinner complain that, since you repented and sincerely confessed, the demon has rights upon your soul? And you won’t be convinced by the counsels of the prudent and wise who tell you that God allows you to be bothered, to suffer, for reasons of chastisement and benefit of soul, but you categorically deny their counsels and don’t accept them, for this reason you see a great obstacle in your spiritual journey.

   The Apostle Paul did not boast that he healed the sick, raised the paralytics, resurrected the dead, chased out demons from people, but he boasted in his many illnesses. All the saints in this temporal life had afflictions, distresses, illnesses, persecutions, troubles, but they did not complain, because they hoped and believed that with these temporal afflictions they would gain eternal life, the kingdom of the heavens.

CONCERNING PRIDE AND HUMILITY

   The sins into which you fall have pride as a root, source and cause. Ask God fervently, with faith, piety and contrition of heart to give you humility. Just as all the sins are born of pride, thus from humility are born all the virtues. To the humble God gives grace, while to the prideful He is opposed. In the humble God makes His dwelling place, He dwells in their hearts and their souls and directs and guides them in virtues, in the prideful Satan dwells and guides them towards every evil.

   Guard yourselves, my beloved children, from the devil and his wicked crafts. Hate him in all sin, love God in every virtue, so that you may live worthy of the calling in which you were called to live, because whoever becomes prideful like the Pharisee, God humbles. Whereas those who confess and feel themselves to be sinners, God elevates like the publican. So we let us humble ourselves like the Publican, and say with our heart and with signs, if possible with tears also, God have pity on us sinners, And God shall elevate us, He will lift us up to the heavens, He will make us His children and inheritors of His heavenly Kingdom, which may be all be granted. Amen.

THE JUDGEMENTS OF GOD ARE AN ABYSS

   …Concerning the miracles which occur at the Virgin Mary at Lourdes and Francis of Assisi, know that miracles follow faith. The heretics whether Westerners, Protestants, or Ottomans, when they ask with faith for physical healings, receive indiscriminately, for He who receives their request said: “Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find…” The all Good God, who wants all to be saved and to come to the realization, grants their request, so that through this He might draw them to the correct and true faith. If however they do not approach and die in heresy, in delusion, during the 2nd Coming He shall separate them from His kingdom. And then they shall tell Him: Lord did we not prophesy in your name, do powers, miracles! He shall tell them: Depart from me ye workers of iniquity. With these things do not occupy yourself because they are mysteries and judgments of God which are an abyss and incomprehensible. You should be occupied with learning in a practical manner humility and love, and when you obtain them, and do not have a spirit of laziness, authority loving and vain talking you will be saved, you will go to Paradise, to the kingdom of the heavens, which may we all achieve. Amen.

ASK THAT THE LORD GRANT YOU HUMILITY AND PATIENCE

   Do not fear, child, the battle of the enemy, which is dreadful, because the Cross and the Passion of the Lord humbled him and abolished his power. Christ gave us authority to step upon snakes and scorpions and upon all the power of the enemy. Always seek the aid of the Lord and His alliance because He said, “Without Me you can do nothing”.

   Ask that He give you humility and patience, because while humility loosens the traps of the enemy, patience, together with bravery, causes man to attain the incorruptible crown and unending life. He who humbles himself shall be elevated, and he who forbears shall be saved….

   My child, do not desire anything in this world as much as the love of God. All the other things both wealth and glory and positions and pleasures and a good and happy life, and everything else is ephemeral, a shadow and dreams. None of these things follow after death. The love however of God follows even after death, while the all Good God, for those who love Him, has prepared those goods, “which eye has not seen and of which ear has not heard and has not ascended upon the heart of man”, which may we all achieve.

CONCERNING THE CALENDAR

   …Now if you don’t feel comfortable with the calendar, follow the old…However don’t let the enemy deceive you that you will be saved since now you are an old calendarist. Christ, when He sent His disciples into the world told them: Preach the gospel to all the world, and he who believes and is baptized will be saved. He did not say preach the old calendar and he who believes and is baptized will be saved in it.

   The Lord commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for those who trouble, hate and treat us unjustly. The old calendarists are divided and one portion hates, criticizes and curses the other as heretical. They scorn the words of the Lord, who says that we should have love for one another, that we should love our enemies. And after so much hate, criticisms, anathemas, they self-title themselves as genuine Orthodox! But since the one portion considers the other as heretical, which portion is the genuine Orthodox one? Since they don’t have love, none of them is Orthodox, and since they do not keep the commandment of love nor shall they be saved, because whoever does not have love no matter how many virtues he has, even if he has prophetical gifts, apostolic gifts, and even martyrdom, without love does not save us.

   One cause which the paternal calendar does not return is the divisions and the lack of love in the old calendarists. If they repent, make up, and become peaceful with one another, and pray in humility and contrition of heart both for themselves and for the new calendarists, God shall hear their prayer and the old calendar shall return. …May the most merciful God who does not want the death of sinners grant repentance and return and not allow us to be lost but save us according to His great and rich mercy.

   Completely improper and against the Apostolic and Patristic traditions is the immodest dress of women. Most women have completely lost their minds. They cast away modesty and became naked to attract men. They enter fearlessly even into the sacred Churches not in order to pray, but in order to defile and scandalize those who are going to church.

(Taken from: ELDER PHILOTHEOS ZERVAKOS’ PATERNAL COUNSELS Vol II, published by “Orthodox Kypseli” Publications, Thessalonika 2005, available at: http://www.pigizois.net/index.htm)

Archives

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 397,016 hits
May 2010
S M T W T F S
« Apr   Jun »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Pages