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)