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The Monastery of Saint Panteleimon from Mount Athos

  The Holy Mount Athos is part of a peninsula from Northern Greece and the region of Macedonia, been and autonomous monastic “state” having its capital in Carrea. The monastic community of Mt Athos includes twenty monasteries and twelve skits (hermitages) having more than 1,500 Orthodox monastics.

 Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

The Monastery of St. Panteleimon, also called the “Russikon”, is built on the south-west side of this peninsula. The newer church has been built starting with 1765, while the original buildings date back in the eleventh century .

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  The Monastery of St. Panteleimon – Russikon – was founded back in the eleventh century – under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos – by few monks arriving in the Holy Mountain from Russia. During its flourishing era, they the monastery had in average two or three thousand monks. After been almost deserted, the monastery was renewed by Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1328) and inhabited by Greek and Russian monks . 

  Starting with the XIV-th century, it takes the name of  St. Panteleimon. As previously mentioned, it has been burned and devastated several times but rebuilt with the help of the Russians and Romanian kings, among its founding benefactors were Scarlat Calimah from Moldavia and the Russian Tsar Alexander the IIIrd.

 Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon          Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

 

 Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon          Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

 

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  Staring with 1875, the monastery is led by the Russian abbots becoming the Great Lavra of Mount Athos and numbering over two thousand Russian monks.

  The monastery bell is famous for been the largest bell in Greece; having about 13,000 kg, its sound is heard in the whole Mt. Athos.

 Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon          Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  

The Russikon Monastery is dedicated to the Holy Martyr Panteleimom. Its impressive body includes two churches, and many chapels; the most important are  dedicated to the Dormition of Theotokos, to St. Mitrofan, our Lord’ Ascension, to St. Sergius, St. Demetrios, the Holy Archangels, St. Gerasimos, Saints Constantine and Helen, the Holy Kings Vladimir and Olga and to St. Alexander Nevsky.

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

 

 St. Panteleimon Monastery Mount Athos          Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

 

The monastery also bares the miracle – working icon of St. Panteleimon and priceless Holy relics: St. Panteleimon’ head as well as part of the relics of righeous Joseph, (the Holy Virgin protector), a piece of the Holy relics of the Apostle Thomas and a piece of stone from our Lord’s original Tomb.

  The Monastery also has in her care four hermitages: the hermitage of Xylourgou (or Bogoroditsa), of Chromitsa, the Skete  Thebais or Gournoskete as well as the Skete Paleomonastiro .

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  The monastery has a very rich library, including 24 Gospels on parchment dating from the XI to the XV centuries, 69 manuscripts also on parchment with chants from divine services and dating from  the XI to XIV century as well as 126 manuscripts with litugical music from the XIII century.

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  The monastery has a similar architecture of a town: buildings of different heights and many domes. Before the devastating fire in 1968, the wing of the monastery which was used as the xenodochium, had a capacity of up to 1,000 seats .

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  The large church is also dedicated to St. Panteleimon. Its construction began in 1812 and ended in 1821, and  its architecture is typically Athonite.

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  On the inside, the church is covered in frescoes belonging to the nineteenth – century Russian style.

  In terms of its hierarchy, the Monastery of St. Panteleimon ranked as 19th among the 20 Athonite monasteries with cenobic life – in common.

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

  The number of monks dwelling here varied over time from a total of 1,000 in 1895 and 1446 to only 35 in the 1990.

 Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

 

Athos monastery of St. Panteleimon

 Reading from the Synaxarion:

  On the Sunday that falls from the 13th to the 19th of the present month, we chant the Service to the Holy and God-bearing Fathers who came together in the Seven Ecumenical Councils, that is: 

the First Council, of the 318 Holy Fathers who assembled in Nicaea in 325 to condemn Arius, who denied that the Son of God is consubstantial with the Father; the Fathers of the First Council also ordained that the whole Church should celebrate Pascha according to the same reckoning;

– the Second Council, of the 150 Holy Fathers who assembled in Constantinople in 381 to condemn Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who denied the Divinity of the Holy Spirit;

the Third Council, of the 200 Holy Fathers who assembled in Ephesus in 431, to condemn Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who called Christ a mere man and not God incarnate;

– the Fourth Council, of the 630 Holy Fathers who assembled in Chalcedon in 451, to condemn Eutyches, who taught that there was only one nature, the divine, in Christ after the Incarnation, and Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who illegally received Eutyches back into communion and deposed Saint Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, who had excommunicated Eutyches;

the Fifth Council in 535, of the 165 Holy Fathers who assembled in Constantinople for the second time to condemn (which we celebrate on July 25th)

Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, the teacher of Nestorius;

the Sixth Council in 680, of the 170 Holy Fathers who assembled in Constantinople for the third time, to condemn the Monothelite heresy, which taught that there is in Christ but one will, the divine; and

– the Seventh Council in 787, of the 350 Holy Fathers who assembled in Nicaea for the second time to condemn Iconoclasm.

 

On the Importance of Holy Tradition

By Father George Calciu

  Faith has its place in a balanced Orthodox environment, and a natural relationship with the world. What I mean is that we live in the world and must do what it takes to survive in it, but not at the cost of compromises, betrayals, or renouncing Christ. Orthodoxy gives us balance.

  We (the cradle Orthodox), possess a very ancient tradition. I look at the American Orthodox. They are very passionate for Orthodoxy, but they’re locking Holy Tradition. So, in a sense, they are streams branching off the Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, or Romanian tradition, since they do not have that traditional instruction from their ancestors, as we do. We stand on a firm rock: the teachings of the Holy Fathers, the ascetic experience of the desert’ monks, the entire Orthodox Tradition handed to us in patristic books or by Oral tradition; and these, regardless of our sins, constitutes a stone foundation, that unshaken ground where our feet may walk and not sink, like a boat in which Jesus is present. We do not sink because we hold fast to tradition. Yes, we are sinners, but God preserves us when we follow Him and the teachings of the Holy Fathers, even though sometimes we fail… But is there anyone without sin? Is there anyone who has not been tempted? Who does not dirty his soul with evil thoughts, deeds or lust? But aside from all these failings, we have an unshaking ground.

  This ground is the Orthodox Church, the tradition of the Holy Fathers, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the struggle (experience) of the saints in the wilderness of Thebaida, Sinai…,in our country (Father refers here to Romania, his former country – tr.n.), and the monasteries found everywhere. Having this reaches, we do not sink.

 

“If I keep silent, I’ll be no different from unbelievers”

 

  The following beautiful story is found in the Paterikon (collection of the old sayings of the Desert Fathers – tr.n.): the devil – taking the appearance of a man – came to a very holy monk and asked him: “Are you that monk…I heard off?” “This is him.” “That monk, the liar?” . ” Yes, that’s me.” ” That wicked monk?” “Yes.” “The greedy monk?”. “Yes, indeed.” “The liar who teaches the word of God, but does not live it? ” “Yes , I am one.” “That monk, the heretic?” “No. Such, I am not!”

  So here is how far he would go! He accepted everything that demeaned him, but when he was tempted on heresy, he stood fast and said no. This is where the limit of tolerance is. When that tolerance goes beyond God and the Truth of our Christian faith, it becomes a blasphemy to our Lord and our soul.

  The Holy Fathers had settled in Councils all aspects of church dogma that nowadays are trampled on. In the decisions of the Holy Synods many things (happening today), were foreseen: from heresies, ecumenism, denying God, public fornication, accepting as virtues: vices and perversions, to the fact of being proud to declare yourself gay. There’s no passion that the Holy Councils have not anticipated or spoken on, as they declared: him who does these is a heretic and a lunatic departed from faith and the Church .

  Even (some of) our hierarchs have lost their sense of Christian dignity, which is incalculably greater than any human dignity. They place themselves under the attachment or helm of one or some another powerful elites of the day. I was greatly distressed by that. I had not yet wrote to the Patriarch (the former  patriarch of Romania, now with the Lord tr.n), but I ‘ll write him later; for in a discussion I had with His Beatitude, I said:

  “Your Holiness, God gave me a gift. He gave me “the gift” of suffering and through it I became wiser. Perhaps not wise enough considering all that I’ve been through (father is referring here to his 21 years of suffering in the communist gulag for having confessed the Christian faith – tr.n.), but the wisdom that God grant me gives me strength to speak up this word for Christ, for the Church and my nation;” and now I have to confess, for if I keep silent I’ll be like everyone else (who does not confesses Christ – tr.n). Because tolerance has a limit: that is not pushing beyond faith, or God. Beyond that, there is no tolerance.

  Many hierarchies are silent, because “the time has come” (cf. Apoc) when if you confess (the Truth), will not be accepted in Europe (in the European Union – tr.n)! Such as this Europe means the ultimate paradise!! Will we not be accepted in Europe? (transl. note: the EU). Very good. Then know, we’ll be accepted in heaven. There (is the place), where God receives us. […]

  I often wrote against ecumenism. I think I said everything I could have about this “heresy of our century ” as the Greek monks call it. I met many of the leaders of the “Ecumenist Group” and saw their compromised soul for the politics and their irrepressible desire to compromise others, even the Orthodox groups which defend the purity of faith. Whereever I go, the monks are wondering with pain and anxiety: “Where are we going with this? And to what limit shall we accept hierarchical compromise? Should we seek another  jurisdiction? Shall we run towards the mountains, the forests and desert in order to be saved and escape this satanic temptation? Will we be hunted like long ago the defenders of icons by the iconoclasts? ” …

  What I want to stress here is perhaps not the danger of ecumenism in itself – maybe things are not quite so serious as they may seem – but the distress that Satan is causing in the souls of monks through this ecumenism, and I mean not only in the hearts of monks from Romania, but throughout the orthodox world. This leads to anxieties and fear, and raises concerns for personal salvation from worldly dangers at the expense of sanctity and, the beginning of many compromises that once started, no-one knows where they will stop…

  What I wrote here, I wanted to express to the hierarchs. But I think such letter would be doomed to be forgotten due to lack of interest and may be a cause for anger. What remains for us is prayer for the guarding of monasteries,  for the inner peace of the monks and for the un-disturbance of the Orthodox life in our country and the world.

(Taken from Fr George’ Living Words, translated by EC, to be continued)

 

“Walking on the Sea” with Father George Calciu

  Why (get into) the boat? For it represents the Church. The church is built so much like a boat or shaped like (the sign of) the cross. The boat keeps you away from the waves of the see, but the Church from the waves of this life. And the Cross saves you from all hardships for Jesus Christ was crucified on it; and in that mystical sense, it is through the cross and our Savior’s blood shed there, that the church was founded. As for those who abandon the church, they are neither in her (the church) and nor can they be in Christ.

  Peter wanted to leave the boat (the Church) so he can be somewhat greater than the other disciples, on the waves next to the Saviour. It was a temptation that he urged Jesus to grant him the power to walk on see. So Jesus bid him to walk and he did, so long as he hasn’t doubted and his faith was strong.

  The Church is the only salvation of our souls. He, who places himself outside it, is a lost man. We are been saved only in her. It is inside this ship that we are washed off from our sins, and never outside it. Him who ventures to leave it, as did Peter, wanting to wonder further above the seas, after the heights of God must hold a great faith that the waves do not bend or disturb him no matter the winds, as long as his heart and mind are directed towards Jesus. But how many of us can really be saved outside this ship, such as to speak directly with God?

  The Protestants say: “I have my own relationship with God and have no need of a priest or the Church, I need no sacraments, and I speak directly with God Himself!”

  I do not know how much they’re speaking directly with God…, but from what I have seen, they are conversing more with their earthly interests then with God.

  Our Saviour will save you from certain trials (if you cry out to Him). He will reach out His hand and caught you, and say: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (cf. Matthew 14, 31).

  We often travel the waters of this life and the temptations are many. In this world so troubled by snares, by wars and horrors, and by all means that will lead to its End, who can really come to Christ by walking alone on the sea? Who can venture so hard to cry out at his last minute, for Jesus to stretch out His hand and save him? For our own good and our salvation, it is best to remain in the Church. Amen!

(Taken from Fr. George’ Living Words: To serve Christ means suffering, translation by EC).

 

More on Elder biography and some of his writtings at:  Elder Paisios

“It is good to have the intellectual powers that take man to the moon costing billions of dollars in fuel expenses and so on, but it is better to have the spiritual powers that raise man to God, his ultimate destination, with only a bit of fuel, a mere dried piece of bread” — Elder Paisios

elder_greeting

 

”Spiritual Counsels” of Elder Paisios, A Spiritual Father for Our Times

 

  The humble are like nightingales that hide in ravines and spread joy to the souls of men with their sweet songs.

    We mustn’t despair when we struggle and continuously see nothing but the slightest progress. We all do nearly nothing, some a little more, some a little less. When Christ sees our little effort He gives us an analogous token and so our nearly nothing becomes valuable and we can see a little progress. For this reason we mustn’t despair, but hope in God.

    Unfortunately, in our days, there are many people who upset the mother Church. Of these, those that are educated have understood dogma with their minds and not with the spirit of the Holy Fathers. At the same time, those who are unlettered have grabbed hold of dogma with their teeth, which is why they grind their teeth when they speak about ecclesiastical topics. In this way, greater harm is caused by those in the Church than by those who battle it from without.

    That which is asked of every Orthodox person is to instill a “good uneasiness” into the heterodox,’ that they might understand that they are in delusion. This is so they will not falsely calm their conscience and thus be deprived in this life of the rich blessings of Orthodoxy and in the life to come of the even greater and eternal blessings of God.

    The person who is possessed by material things is always subjugated to unhappiness and anxiety, for on the one hand he trembles for fear that they take his things away from him, while on the other he trembles for fear that his soul be taken from him. Now, the miser whose hand is sore from his tight hold on things, also squeezed his own heart, and turned it into stone. In order for him to be healed, he must visit unhappy people, to suffer, so he will be forced to open his hand slowly, slowly, and his heart of stone will also start to soften. It will become a human heart and in this way the gates of Paradise will also open.

    When a monk doesn’t find spiritual work, he cannot be helped even by his elder, and spends his time with external things. He becomes spiritually wild and, even if he was to be tied down in his cell, he could not sit still. He will always enjoy contact with people, to give tours, to speak about the domes and archeology [of the monastery], to show them the pots with various flowers, to treat them to rich, worldly meals, and to give rest only to worldly people.

    The monk flees far from the world, not because he detests the world, but because he loves the world and in this way he is better able to help the world through his prayer, in things that don’t happen humanly but only through divine intervention. In this way God saves the world.

    The monk is helped greatly when the monastery is far from the world, far from archeological areas and worldly noises. Even monasteries that are great sites of pilgrimage lose sight of their true goal, for many times from being a monastery they end up as a business. For this reason some bishops, very rightly, would like to have these sites, for monastics must love poverty, which they were ordered by God to preserve. Unfortunately, however, they do not limit themselves to the necessary, the simple, as much for themselves as, more generally, for the monastery. Nor do they refuse things from the faithful, or encourage them to help, on their own, our poor, suffering brethren. But what do they do instead? They gather the sweat even of the poor and fill the monastery with a huge amount of oil lamps and bells, thinking that God is glorified in this way. This type of piety, however, is like the piety which many Russian clerics had who became the cause, though they didn’t intend it, of the oil lamps, chandeliers and bells being made into cannons so as to hit the very Church of Christ.

    When an elder doesn’t have much experience, but has a great deal of love and much humility, he is able to help his spiritual children by means of the guidance of more experienced elders, as well as by the grace of God, which he continually receives due to his great humility. However, the young cleric who gathers young people as his disciples reveals his great pride, which he has down to the marrow of his bones. He is like a baby born with a beard-a monster-and those that follow him reveal that they have an ailment of the brain or heart. Also, those clerics who study psychology so as to help souls using human contrivances are not spiritually well. The strange thing is that their teachers of psychology don’t believe in God or in the existence of the soul. If they accept the soul’s existence, they do so in their own unique way. In this way these clerics show that they are spiritually sick and that they need to be examined by the Holy Fathers. Having been healed, they would be able to discern, on their own, the sick spirit and would experience divine grace at the same time. Thus from that time forth they would use the divine energy for those suffering souls and not human contrivances.

Those who rush to be made spiritual fathers, though they still have many spiritual toxins, are like unripe, sour quince, which, as much sugar as we may pour on, never becomes a nice sweet; but, even if it does, it quickly gets sour.’ Sweet words and great truths have value when they come from genuine mouths, and are received only by those souls that are well-disposed and by those great people who have a pure mind.

    One word of a humble and [spiritually] experienced man that is painfully born from the depths of his heart has greater worth than a bunch of clever sayings of an external mans that come out quickly from his educated mouth. His words don’t speak truth to the souls of men, for they are fleshly words and not the flames of the fire of Pentecost.

    If a passionate man tries to correct an egotist, steel hits flint and fires are ignited! If he tries to correct a sensitive person, he hurts him greatly. It would be like a wild man taking a thick wire brush to clean out a little mucus from a baby’s eye.

    What a wonderful thing it will be when we know ourselves! Then humility will be for us a state of being, and God will position us well with His divine gifts. Then the spiritual laws will cease working, and the one who rises the highest will humble himself, for we will all walk low, we won’t fall and we will continually receive the grace of God which is given to the humble.

    Holy asceticism, together with its great self-denial, which is born from great faith in a burst of love for God, brings man to true joy. He is happy to live, for his heart flutters, glorifying his God of benefactions. He is also happy to die, for he thus goes close to God again, and will continue there his doxology.

    Virtue has the habit of betraying man, wherever he may hide. Though he may act as a fool-for-Christ,’ still he will be betrayed, though it may bee later on, and he will help many souls.

    The goal of reading is the application, in our lives, of what we read. Not to learn it by heart, but to take it to heart. Not to practice using our tongues, but to be able to receive the tongues of fire and to live the mysteries of God. If one studies a great deal in order to acquire knowledge and to teach others, without living the things he teaches, he does no more than fill his head with hot air. At most he will manage to ascend to the moon using machines. The goal of the Christian is to rise to God without machines.

    Let us not expect the spiritual spring if we don’t first pass through the spiritual winter during which the spiritual vermin die. We mustn’t expect the divine to blossom within us if the human hasn’t first died.

    Costly (fervent) love, which sacrifices itself and does not partake of the world, is itself consumed by the love of God from within. The life of man is then a continuous Lent and all of his days are a continuous joy of light. Costly love for God, with its sacrifices sweetens the heart to boiling, and divine love, which cannot be held in, like steam, soars and so unites to God. This state of spiritual madness not only takes man out of himself, but even the heart is taken from the flesh, that is, from the fleshly desires, and is clothed completely in, and refined in God.

    Those who constantly partake of the love of God are often indifferent to material nourishment. Or, if they eat, they don’t taste the food, for even then they continue to feel God intensely and to partake of the sweet blessing of His love. When the heart becomes a furnace through the love of God, it is then able to burn up all vanity that approaches, and this brings internal peace when man passes through the fiery trials of his life.

    There are no people more blessed than those who have made contact with the “heavenly television station” and who are piously connected to God. In the same way, no people are more wretched than those who have cut contact with God and wander, dizzy, around the world, flipping through the world’s many television stations so as to forget, if only for a short time, the anguish of the derailment of their lives.

    It is very helpful to read a bit of the Gerontikon before beginning to pray. Then your heart will warm up, the lid will come down on your many worldly cares, and you will be able to pray without distraction.

    In the hour of prayer, when our mind wanders to thoughts of bad things, or if these thoughts come without our wanting them, we shouldn’t wage an offensive war against the enemy, because, even if all the lawyers in the world joined together, they wouldn’t make any headway with a little demon. Only through ignoring them can one chase these thoughts away. The same is true for blasphemous thoughts.

    If you want to grab God’s attention so He’ll hear you during prayer, turn the dial to humility, for God always works in this frequency; then humbly ask for His mercy.

    My brother, don’t ask for anything in prayer except for repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the grace of God, and God will uphold you in His grace and will give you whatever you need for your own salvation as well as whatever is needed, should the case arise, for you to help another soul in need.

    When man is spiritually healthy and distances himself from other people, so as to better help them through his prayers, then he regards all people as holy and only himself does he regard as a sinner.

    If we haven’t got control of our mind during the hour of spiritual study we are not benefited at all. We simply yawn and tire ourselves without a goal, for we cannot remember anything. In the same way, when the printer doesn’t have his mind on his work and forgets to put ink in, the printing presses work without printing anything.

    All evil begins in the mind, when it is interested only in science. Scientists don’t find their inner peace and their balance then. However, when their minds are attached to God, scientists use their science to cultivate their inner world and to help the world, for their minds are sanctified.

    The mind, when it begins to spend time near God, oftentimes forgets, not only its dwelling, but even this dwelling of the soul, this earthen flesh.

    In all things we must put forth good thoughts and refuse to accept evil telegrams” if we want to purify our heart and change the evil machines of the heart into good machines; then gold will be turned into holy chalices and broken bells into chandeliers.’ Even discarded paper will be turned into fresh napkins. When, however, the heart is evil and it views good gold as bronze, it will make it into bullets and cannonballs.

    Oh, blessed desert by which created man is so greatly helped to be reconciled with his Creator, and is transformed into an earthly Paradise – as you gather once again the wild animals around the person you tamed!

    As much as is possible, love the desert and the immaterial life, and fly from your material possessions to the fold of the poor. Simplify your life so as to be freed from worldly anxiety, so that your life might have meaning.

    Conscience is the first law of God, which He carved deeply into the hearts of the first-created. In turn we each make a photocopy from our parents when we’re born. Those who manage to heighten their sense of conscience through daily study of themselves feel themselves to be foreigners in this world, and worldly people are baffled by their gracious behavior. Those who haven’t studied their conscience benefit neither from their spiritual studies nor from counsels from their elders. They won’t even be able to keep God’s commandments, for they have lost their senses altogether.

    The soft life makes people useless. Without toil and struggle sanctification doesn’t come.

    When one realizes one’s sinfulness and the great mercy of God, the heart cracks, as hard as it may be, and real tears fall of themselves and then man prays and weeps without effort. This is because humility works continuously together with philotimo and drills on the heart so that the springs increase, and the hand of God continually strokes the hard-working and philotimo child.

    Let us struggle with all our powers to gain Paradise. The gate is very narrow, and don’t listen to those who say that everyone will be saved. This is a trap of satan so that we won’t struggle.

    Christ is wholly love, goodness and consolation, and never suffocates. He has an abundance of spiritual oxygen.

    [God allows temptations] so as to dust off our soul, for it to be purified through sorrows and weeping, so that we are forced to take refuge in God for our salvation.

    Theology is the word of God that is comprehended by pure, humble and spiritually reborn souls. It is not the beautiful words of the mind which are formed with philological artistry and which are expressed with the juridical or worldly spirit. Created words can’t speak to man’s soul, just as a beautiful statue is not able to speak, unless the audience is very worldly and is satisfied simply by beautiful words. Theology that is taught as a [worldly] science usually examines things historically and consequently understands things externally. Because patristic asceticism and inner experience are absent, this theology is full of doubts and questions. With his mind man is not able to comprehend the divine energies unless he first struggles ascetically to live these energies, so that the grace of God might work within him.

    Children contract their first spiritual colds from the open windows of their parents’ senses. The mother passes on her cold especially when she is not modestly dressed and scandalizes her children with her behavior.

    The holy life of parents instructs the souls of their children and so they naturally obey them and grow up with piety and without psychological problems, and the children are pleased with their parents. The parents are gladdened by their children in this life and in life eternal, where they will once again glory in them.

    Whoever is at peace in the material world and is not concerned about the salvation of his soul is like the senseless birds who don’t make a noise from within the egg, so as to break the shell and come out to enjoy the sun-the heavenly flight in the life of Paradise-but instead remain unmoving and die inside the egg shell.

    The pretense of worldly politeness is very harmful, for it fools one and opens one’s heart to the worldly person, and in the final analysis it wastes one’s piety, for the worldly person doesn’t know what piety is. It’s like giving golden pounds to people that only know bronze pennies.

    Blows are necessary for the salvation of our souls, for they cleanse the soul. The more one hits and rubs clothing, the better it is cleaned. Similarly, the more one hits octopus and cuttlefish, the more they are softened and washed from ink.

    Live in constant glorification of and thanksgiving towards God, for the greatest sin is ingratitude and the worst sinner is the ungrateful person.

    At the beginning of the spiritual life, out of love, God doesn’t allow anyone to realize either his sinfulness or the many benefactions that He bestows on him, so as to keep him from despair, especially if he is sensitive.

    Those who are in the world must not despair when they are overcome by many passions, and when their nature is unruly and races passionately downwards. Rather, they must trust in the almighty power of God and turn the steering wheel of their powerful engine back onto the road toward God, upwards. Soon after they will pass other, slow-moving cars, which for years have been driving the road toward God.

 

 

On Spiritual Study

 (An Excerpt from  ”Spiritual Awakening”) 

— Geronda (elder in Greek), what books should be read by those who are beginning their spiritual search?

— First, they should read the New Testament to learn the meaning of Christ, to be shaken up a little; later they can read the Old Testament. Do you know how hard it is when they have read nothing and yet they come to ask for help? It is like an elementary school child going to a university professor and saying, “Help me.” What can the professor tell him? “One plus one equals two”? Others, again, are not spiritually restless; they come and say, “Father, I have no problems and I am just fine; I only dropped by to see you.” Man can never say that he has no problems, no concerns; he will have something. The struggle for the spiritual life never ends. Or some people come and tell me, “Tell us spiritual things.” It is as if they went to the grocery store and said, “Give us some groceries.” The grocer is at a loss and needs to know what they need. They need to say, “I want so much sugar, so much rice, and so on, but they only say, ‘Give us groceries.’ “It is like going to the pharmacy and saying, “Give us medicines,” without first saying what their illness is, or whether or not they went to the doctor, and what he advised them to do. Go figure! You see, whoever is seriously concerned over his spiritual condition knows, more or less, what he is lacking, and once he seeks it, he benefits.

As a novice, when I read something I liked, I wrote it down so as not to forget it, and I would try to apply it to my life. I didn’t readjust to pass my time pleasantly. I had a spiritual restlessness and, when I could not understand something, I would ask for an explanation. I read relatively little, but I checked myself a great deal on what I read. “What point am I at? What must I do?” I would sit myself down and go through such a self-examination. I did not allow what I read to pass me by untaxed.

Today with so much reading people end up like tape recorders, filling up their cassettes with superfluous matters. According to Abba Isaac, however, Wisdom not based on righteous activity is a deposit of disgrace. [6] You see, many who are interested in sports read sports magazines and newspapers while they are sitting. They may be like the fatted calf, but they still marvel at the athletes. “Oh he is marvellous! He is great! Bravo!” But they don’t work up any sweat, and they don’t lose any pounds. They read and read about athletic events, and then they go and lie down; they gain nothing. They are satisfied with the pleasure of reading. Some worldly people read newspapers, others romantic literature or an adventure novel, still others watch a football game at the stadium and pass their time. The same thing is done by some people who read spiritual books. They may spend the whole night reading spiritual books with great intensity and be content. They take a spiritual book, sit comfortably, and begin reading. “Oh, I profited from that,” they say. It would be better to say, “I enjoyed myself, I spent my time pleasantly.” But this is not profit.

We profit when we understand what we read, when we censure ourselves and discipline ourselves by applying it: “What does this mean? Where do I stand in relation to this spiritual truth? What must I do now?” After all, the more we learn, the more responsibility we have to live up to what we have learned. I am not saying that we should not read so that we can plead ignorance and therefore be free of responsibility, for this is a cunning deception; I am saying that we should not read merely to pass our time pleasantly. The bad thing is that if someone reads a lot and has a strong memory, he may remember many things and may even talk a lot about what he has read, and thus deceive himself into thinking that he also personally observes the many things he reads. So he has created an illusion toward himself and others. So don’t be comforted by the thought that you read a lot. Instead, turn your attention to applying what you have read. Much reading alone will only educate you encyclopaedically. Isn’t that what they call it?

— Yes, Geronda.

— The goal, however, is to be transformed in a God-centred manner. I am not aiming to be a university professor where I would need to know many things. But if I ever need something from this worldly knowledge, I can easily learn it once I have acquired the God-centred knowledge. Do you see what I mean?

— When one has a distraction, is it beneficial to concentrate through study?

— Yes, one should read a little, something very demanding, in order to warm the soul. This keeps distractions and concerns under the lid, and the mind is transposed into a divine realm. Otherwise, the mind is diverted by whatever task is preoccupying it.

— Geronda, when someone is tired or upset, he usually wants to read something light and easy, a short story or a novel, perhaps, or something like that.

— Is there no spiritual book that is appropriate for such times? The purpose is not to forget one’s worry, but to be redeemed. Such light reading does not redeem. Novels, newspapers and television have no value in developing a spiritual life. Quite often even some religious periodicals are damaging to Christians, because they stir a foolish zealousness that leads to confusion. Take care. Do not read unnecessary things during your free time. Some reading matter is completely hollow, like a water-pumpkin; it is like looking in a haystack to find a kernel of wheat. Some people say, “Yes, but they relax me.” But how can they be relaxing, my good man, if they make you dizzy and cause your eyes to ache? It is better to rest by sleeping. You can learn much about a person’s spiritual state from what he reads. One who is very worldly will probably be reading indecent magazines. One who is less worldly will read less indecent magazines and newspapers. One who is religious will read religious periodicals, or contemporary religious books or patristic texts, and so on.

— Geronda, which spiritual books are the most helpful?

 

 

— The various patristic texts, which thank God are available by the thousands today, are very helpful. One can find whatever one needs and desires in these books. They are authentic spiritual nourishment and a sure guide on the spiritual path. However, in order to be of benefit to us, they have to be read with humility and prayer. Patristic texts reveal the inner spiritual condition of the soul, much as axial tomography reveals the inner structures of the body. Each sentence of the patristic texts contains a multitude of meanings, and each person can interpret them according to their own spiritual state of being. It is better to read the ancient text rather than a translation, because the translator interprets the original verse according to his own spirituality. In any case, in order to understand the writings of the Fathers one must constrain oneself, focus and live spiritually, for the spirit of the Fathers is perceived through and by the spirit only. Especially helpful are the Ascetical Homilies by Saint Isaac the Syrian, but they must be studied slowly so that they can be assimilated little by little as spiritual food. The Evergetinos is truly of great benefit, because it gives us insight into the Whole spirit of the Holy Fathers, it is helpful because it describes the struggles of the Fathers against each and every one of the passions, and, by learning how they worked on the spiritual life, the soul is greatly assisted. Also, the Synaxaria, the Lives of the Saints, are sacred history and very helpful, especially for young people, but they should not be read as stories.

We do not need great knowledge to be devout. If we concentrate and meditate on the few things we know, our heart will be spiritually embroidered. One may be profoundly affected by a single hymn, while another may feel nothing, even though he may know all the hymns by heart, as he has not entered into the spiritual reality. So, read the Fathers, even one or two lines a day. They are very strengthening vitamins for the soul.

Endnotes

6. See Saint Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 1, p. 8.

7. A familiar anthology of ascetic and patristic sayings and incidents, which were compiled by the Monk Paul the Evergetinos, the founder of the famous Holy Monastery of the Theotokos Evergetithos (Benefactress) in Constantinople.

paise

  A private letter  Concerning Ecumenism

 

The Holy Mountain, January 23, 1969

Reverend Father Haralambos,

In as much as I see the great uproar which is happening in our Church because of the various movements of groups in favor of unification [of churches], as well as the interaction of the Oecumenical Patriarch with the Pope, I was pained as Her child, and considered it good, besides my prayers, to send a small thread (which I have as a poor monk), that it too may be used as a means of stitching together the multipart garment of our Mother. I know you will show love and share it only with your religious friends. Thank you.

First of all, I would like to ask forgiveness from everyone for being bold to write something when I am neither holy nor a theologian. I trust everyone will understand me, that my writing is nothing more than an expression of my deep pain for the unfortunate stance and worldly love of our father Patriarch Athenagoras.

It appears he loved another modern womanwhich is called the Papist Churchbecause our Orthodox Mother has not made an impression on him at all, for She is so modest. This love, which was heard from Constantinople, caused a sensational impression of sorts among many Orthodox, who nowadays live in an environment of such meaningless love, in cities across the entire world. Moreover, this love is of the spirit of our age: the family will lose its divine meaning from just such kinds of love, which have as their aim breakup and not union.

With just such a worldly love the Patriarch takes us to Rome. While he should have shown love first to us his children and to our Mother Church, he unfortunately sent his love very far away. The result, it’s true, delighted the secular children who love the worldwho have this worldly love, but completely scandalized us, the children of Orthodoxy, young and old, who have fear of God…

With sadness I must write that among all the “unionists” I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.

I would like tenderly to beseech all our unionist brothers: Since the issue of the union of the Churches is something spiritual, and we have need of spiritual love, let’s leave it to those who greatly love God and are [genuine] theologians, like the Fathers of the Churchnot the legalistswho have offered up and continue to give themselves in service to the Church (instead of just buying big candles), and who were and are lit by the fire of love for God rather than by the lighter of the church sacristan

We should recognize that there exist not only natural but also spiritual laws. Therefore, the future wrath of God is not averted by a convocation of sinners (for then we shall receive double the wrath), but by repentance and adherence to the commandments of the Lord.

Also, we should know well that our Orthodox Church does not have even one shortcoming. The only apparent insufficiency is the shortage of sober Hierarchs and Shepherds with a Patristic foundation. “Few are chosen.” This should not, however be upsetting. The Church is Christ’s Church, and He governs Her. It is not a Temple built by the pious from rocks, sand and mortar, which is then destroyed by the fire of barbarians; the Church is Christ Himself. “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44-45)

When He must needs, the Lord will bring forth the Mark of Ephesuses and Gregory Palamases, so as to bring together all our scandalized brethren, to confess the Orthodox Faith, to strengthen the Tradition, and to give great joy to our Mother, the Church.

In times past we see that many faithful children of our Church, monastics and laymen, have unfortunately broken away from Her on account of the unionists. In my opinion, separation from the Church each time the Patriarch makes a mistake is not good at all. From within, close to the Mother Church, it is the duty and obligation of each member to struggle in their own way. To cease commemoration of the Patriarch; to break away and create their own Church; and to continue to speak insultingly to the Patriarch: this I think, is senseless.

If, for this or that occasional deviation of the Patriarchs, we separate ourselves and make our own Churchesmay God protect us!we’ll pass up even the Protestants. It is easy for one to separate but difficult to return. Unfortunately we have many “churches” in our times, created either by big groups or even just one person. Because there happened to be a church in their kalyve (I am speaking about things happening on the Holy Mountain), they figured they could create their own independent Church.

If the unionists gave the Church the first wound, the aforementioned give the second.

Let’s pray that God will illumine all of us, including our Patriarch Athenagoras, that union of these “churches” will come about first; that tranquility would be realized within the scandalized Orthodox fold; so that peace and love would exist among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Then let’s think about union with other “Confessions”and only if they sincerely desire to embrace Orthodox Dogma.

I would further like to say that there does exist another, third group, within our Church. They are the brethren who remain as Her faithful children, but who don’t have spiritual concord between themselves. They spend their time criticizing one another, and not for the general good of the struggle. The one monitors the other (more than himself) to see what he will say or write so as to ruthlessly nail him. However, if this person had said or written the same thing, he’d certainly have supported it with numerous passages from the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers.

Great harm comes of this; for while the one injures his neighbor, the other strikes him back before the eyes of all the faithful. Often times, disbelief is sown in the souls of the weak, because they are scandalized by such people. Unfortunately, some from among us make senseless claims against the others. We want them to conform to our own spiritual character. In other words, when someone else doesn’t harmonize with our own character, or is only mildly tolerantor even a little sharpwith us, immediately we jump to the conclusion that he is not a spiritual person.

We’re all needed within the Church. All the Fathers, both the mild and the austere, offered their services to Her. Just as the sweet, sour, bitter and even pungent herbs are necessary for a man’s body (each has its own flavor and vitamins), the same is true of the Body of the Church. All are necessary. The one fills up the spiritual character of the other, and all of us are duty bound to endure not only the particular spiritual character, but even the human weaknesses we each have.

Again, I come sincerely asking pardon from all for being so bold to write. I am only a simple monk, and my work is to strive, as much as I am able, to divest myself of the old man, and to help others and the Church, through God, by prayer. But because heartbreaking news regarding our Holy Orthodoxy has reached even my hermitage, I was greatly pained, and thus considered it good to write that which I felt. Let’s all pray that God grants His Grace, and may each of us help in his own way for the glory of our Church.

With much respect to all,

Monk Paisios

Athos

 

Elder Paisios explains Philotimo

(from the book “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain” by monk Christodoulos of Mt Athos

Father Paisios told me an incident from his childhood years:

“When I was a child and my soul was still pure, I loved Christ very much. I used to walk in the woods carrying a cross in my hands, chanting and praying and wishing to become a monk. My parents told me that I should first grow up and then leave to go to the monastery. One day, as I was taking my usual walk in the woods, I met a fellow villager. When he saw me carrying the cross, he asked me; “what is this?” “The Cross of our Christ,” I replied. Since he did not have any positive thoughts in his mind, he said to me, “Arsenios, you are silly. You don’t mean to say that you believe in God. He does not exist. These religious stories are made up by some priests. We have evolved from the monkey. Christ was simply a man like all of us.

When he finished, he got up and left. His twisted thoughts filled my innocent soul with black heavy clouds. Being alone in the woods, I began to think that maybe God does not exist. As I was feeling confused, desperate and extremely asked, I asked Christ to give me an indication of His existence, so I could believe in Him. But He did not respond. Feeling exhausted, I lay on the ground to rest. Suddenly, a positive thought, full of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), entered my innocent soul; “Hold on for a second! Wasn’t Christ the kindest man ever on earth? No one has ever found anything evil in Him. So, whether He is God or not, I don’t care. Based on the fact that He is the kindest man on earth and I haven’t known anyone better, I will try to become like Him and absolutely obey everything the Gospel says. I will even give my life for Him, if needed, since He is so kind.

 

 

All my thoughts of disbelief disappeared and my soul was filled with immense joy. The power of my grateful thought (philotimo) dissolved all the ambiguous ones. When I started believing in Christ and decided to love Him as much as I could, solely out of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), I experienced a miracle that firmly sealed my grateful thought. Then, I thought, “I do not care any more if someone tells me that God does not exist!”

As the story of the Elder regarding his grateful thought did not completely satisfy me, I asked him with a certain curiosity to tell me about the miracle he experienced I the woods. Father Paisios was found in a difficult position and replied that he could not tell me about it. This way, he indicated that I, too, should not look for miracles, but rather trust my feeling of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), as it is the key which opens the door to every good.

Later on, Father Paisios told me that he had seen the Lord.

He had this to say about Philotimo:

“The righteous Christian does not practice good acts for his own benefit, i.e. in order to be rewarded or to avoid hell and gain paradise, but rather because he prefers good to evil. Everything else is a natural consequence of the good that fills our soul without having asked for it. This way, good has dignity; otherwise, it originates from the cheap attitude of “give and take.”

From the Miracles of Elder Paisios

 

A live shot of the Elder (taken from the movie dedicated to the athonite fathers of the Holy Mountain)

 

Please see other posts on my blog with Elder Paisios at:

–   On The End Times

–   Bless and do not curse

–   On Common prayers (A Word on Ecumenism)

–   On the True Theology

–   Seek First the Kingdom of God

–   Simplify your Lives

–   On Raising Children

–   On The worries of Life

 

 

 

“Last Days of Elder Paisios”

Eventually, Elder Paisios got cancer and was taken to the hospital in Thessaloniki. At the hospital, they looked after him as best they could. Nevertheless, his cancer spread so much that the end was very near. His departure for Heaven was a matter of time. He had been preparing himself for this journey all his life. Thus, for whatever time was left, he wished to stay at the monastery of St John the Apostle in Souroti. Mr. Christofer Oikonomou, now deceased, was near him and he describes in a letter Geronda’s departure from the hospital:

 

 

“Today, Fr Paisios left the hospital. There were many people there. We were told that he would give his blessing in the reception. Lots of people, women, doctors, nurses, even the ailing, were swarming besides him. He lifted up his hand and said goodbye to those sick in the other rooms. There was this man, who had the drip on his hand, who bowed to kiss Fr Paisios’s hand, but Fr. Paisios kissed his instead. While standing in front of the elevator, he blessed us all. He went into the elevator to go down to the street. We all ran down the stairs to see him for the last time. People surrounded the car while snowflakes danced on the street. The nurse was admonishing us so that people would let him get in the car, because he was sick and very weak.

“He finally got in the car after crossing himself. Everyone was trying to touch him, some were holding his hand, and some were touching the glass of the window. The car began leaving very slowly because there was a lot of traffic. Even then, doctors, nurses, all came down to say goodbye and were touching the car’s windows, since the car was moving very slowly. His car passed in front of my house.”

Mr Christopher continues:

“What was that all about? People were following him as if he was the Messiah. It was like something out of Palm Sunday, except that we had a car instead of the donkey! Everyone was moved, some women were crying. He himself was also touched because of the abundant love that people were showering him with. It was as if he was saying that he would pay everyone back with a lot of praying.”

And Mr Christopher went on to reflect:

“Does our generation owe little to the prayers of this man? He is a saint amongst us. He is the embodiment of the fulfillment of the Gospel.”

Source: Vatopaidi Monastery

“Holy Father Paisios pray to our Lord Jesus for us sinners!”

 

See also: Sunday of the Blindman and Those who assert that they can see!

  

St. Nikodimus  the Hagiorite – of the Holy Mountain on:

  “Weak Faith”

(taken from: “What God has done for our Salvation”)

 

  Faith is a power that dwells in the mind and the will of a man. The mind is enlightened by heavenly light and contains that which the Lord reveals to it. The will is like­wise moved by God to the fulfillment of every good thing that the mind commands it to do. When faith is weak, the mind cannot understand the mysteries of God, and even before the mind understands them the will has no desire to love them. Blessed Augustine said that man can love what is invisible to him, but not what is unknown. This we see in those Christians who consider themselves believers, not because they live according to the teachings of Christ, but only because they were born of Christian parents and were baptized. In actuality they feel the greatness of the Mysteries very little, and know still less of the essence of our faith and how it differs from other religions. In this condi­tion they differ very little from unbelievers.

  I now ask every Christian: who are you, that you stand here in the church? Only by your name can I tell that you are a Christian, this being indicated by nothing else. If someone asks you who Christ was, in Whom you believe, it becomes apparent that you are unable to say anything intelligible. Thus, it is correct to say that in our days the faith of Christians has diminished, as the prophet David also said: Truths have diminished from the sons of men (Ps. 11:1); for even if they believe in the Mysteries of the Church, their faith is so confused, so cold and weak, that we can confidently say that they know them like the blind man who saw people like trees: I see men as trees, walking (Mark 8:24).

  God was born in a cave and laid in a manger of dumb beasts in order to teach us not to be enamored of transitory good things. God lived for thirty years in a carpenter’s workshop, plying this trade Himself, that we might learn humility. God walked the streets of Jerusalem that He might show us the road leading to Heaven. God suffered on the Cross in order to destroy sin. Yet all of this does not touch the conscience of Christians and does not cause their hearts to tremble. And so I again repeat what I have just said: truths have diminished from the sons of men. Like truth, faith has also diminished among contemporary Christians, for their faith ought not to be simply rules for “what to believe,” but also rules for “what to do.” It should not merely consist of our believing correctly, but of our liv­ing according to our faith: Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26). Those who confess Christ to be the Teacher of the faith, the Mysteries, and the dogmas that He has revealed to us, nevertheless do not apply His law to their own lives. And though they hear from His lips that blessed are those who suffer for others, who refrain from pleasures, and who forgive the disgraces and offenses inflicted on them, in spite of this they transgress every commandment of God and the divine teaching of Christ, saying in their hearts: “All of this is true in relation to God, but not to the world.” Thus these unhappy ones believe that by this they will indeed be justi­fied at the Judgment of the incarnate Wisdom of God. The faith of such people is like an amalgam of gold, which in its outward appearance is very similar to real gold, until it is thrown into a fire: then the real gold (if there was any) remains, while the mercury evaporates. So also with these people: they follow after the Divine Teacher only until they have to struggle with the passions. When the time for this arrives they leave Him to Himself. When Jesus Christ commands them to wage war with their passions and overcome them, they immediately renounce His teaching and “turn back.”

All evil comes from weak faith. Feebleness and dwin­dling of faith lead to the destitution of virtue and the enrich­ing of evil. How deprived contemporary Christians are of the great wealth of the virtues that were so abundant in the first centuries of Christianity! Love for God was then so fer­vent that many Christians of their own free will gave them­selves over to the persecutors of the faith for torture; indeed, at times there were not enough executioners to put them all to death. Love for one’s neighbor was likewise so ardent in these blessed ones that Clement of Alexandria wrote that he knew Christians who not only sold their property in order to give alms, but even sold themselves into slavery, only that they might be able to help their brothers.

  Can the faith of ancient and contemporary Christians be compared? Truly, all contemporary evil comes from weak­ness of faith. If one cuts the branches from a tree, they may grow back; but if the root is cut the tree quickly dies. What the root is to the tree, faith is to the soul. It nourishes the soul and enables it to grow and bear fruit, and for this rea­son is called the root of immortality. If a Christian lives, he lives by faith, as says the Apostle Paul: The just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:17). Though such a man should come under attack from all the powers of hell, he will easily be able to put them to flight. With the help of faith man achieves per­fection in the virtues. If, however, the root of faith is cut, not only do the fruits, that is, the virtues, quickly die, but also the leaves – that by which a Christian is outwardly distin­guishable from other people.

  When the Apostle Peter was walking upon the water and began to sink, he considered the strong wind the cause of this: When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid (Matt. 14:30). The Lord, however, told him that the cause was his lack of faith: 0 thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? So also Christians consider temptations, the cause of all their evil deeds and of their evil lives. The true cause of their unseemly deeds is that their faith is poor and weak, for if it were not the devil could not have so terribly enslaved them to sin.

  The falcon who is born free, who is accustomed to fly in the pure and open air, and who has tremendous power in his beak and talons – how can he endure being controlled, prodded with a stick, and held in captivity? Will he not defend himself with beak and talon? So also the Christian who knows that sin is repugnant to God and worse than any calamity, and who confesses that the God – man Jesus was crucified in order to destroy sin – how can such a Christian sin? Many Christians think that sin is a childishly innocent evil, and not especially great. They not only consider it a lesser evil, but even make fun of it, some even boasting of the shameful sins they have committed. They are not afraid to sin, and constantly add sin to sin. We, however, just as we would fear to fall asleep at night if there were a snake in our bed, so let us also fear sin, and let us pray to Jesus Christ that He make strong our infirm faith.  

St. Nikodemos the Righteous of the Holy Mountain – is Commemorated on July 14
 
  “Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain was born on the Greek island of Naxos in the year 1748, and was named Nicholas at Baptism. At the age of twenty-six, he arrived on Mount Athos and received the monastic tonsure in the Dionysiou monastery with the name Nicodemus…”
More about the life of St. Nikodemos at: St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

The brotherhood of Elder Joseph at New Skete shortly before his repose: (from left to right) Fr Athanasios, Fr Ephrem (former abbot of Philotheou), Fr Arsenios, Fr Joseph (the author and later Joseph of Vatopaidi), Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Fr Theophylactos, Fr Charalambos (former abbot of Dionysiou)

 

The following Counsels are compiled by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi from the teachings of his spiritual father: Elder Joseph the Hesychast

 

  We have already mentioned how difficult it is to de­scribe spiritual figures. We repeat this once again, adding that it is a very bold undertaking to try to enter into the depths and breadth of illumined minds and spirit-bear­ing beings. But this effort becomes even more difficult when the person undertaking it is ignorant and inadequate to the task. We have therefore ‘cast our anxiety upon the Lord’ (1 Peter 5:7) in order that ‘in the riches of His kindness’ (Rom. 2:4) He may make known to the hearts of our readers ‘what is the breadth and depth and height’ (Eph. 3: 18) of the spiritual realm into which ‘all who are led by the Spirit of God’ (Rom. 8: 14) enter and in which they move, becoming and remaining sons of God. ‘For to all who received Him … He gave power to become children of God’ (Jn. 1:12).

  In the spiritual sphere, the human rules of ordinary logic do not apply. This is why St Paul frees spiritual peo­ple from obligations, saying, ‘the law is not laid down for the just’ (l Tim. 1 :9). But during the course of the strug­gle, which is the realm of becoming, there are deficiencies which are evident. Called from ignorance to knowledge – and therefore to faith and repentance – we human beings enter upon a cycle of learning and progress in which the further we advance, the further we reduce the void of our previous deficiency. We see in part, we make progress in part, we are perfected in part: and this by the grace and mer­cy of God. In this partial progress according to nature, it is to be expected that deficiencies should appear, which are not due, however, to our correct intention bending or giving way, nor to a deviation ‘to the left’. Rather, it is analogous to something that happens with the sun. When the sun has not yet reached its height, its rays do not light up the back of a body so as to bathe the whole body in light. In other words, the spiritual warrior has not yet arrived directly under the fullness of grace, and for that reason he still has some points which are unillumined and, consequently, some deficiencies: but even so, fullness and perfection are his life-long aim.

  An almost total lack of practical experience in the spiritual life leads modern man to ask many questions, which we hear constantly in our daily encounters and conversations. Sanctification – in other words, perfection in God – and its real meaning are almost always wrongly interpreted by those who are far from true experience. In fear and modesty, let me mention some of the things the Fathers have said on the subject, so as to interpret the meaning and significance of sanctification according to the patristic spirit. In presenting and commenting on some of the sayings of the pre-eminent Fathers we shall speak about what is meant by ‘sanctification’ – where it begins, where it leads and how it is achieved – in order to help provide some sort of orientation.

  It is possible for anyone to taste some form of sanctification, because the struggle and journey towards complete sanctification passes progressively through sev­eral stages. Each person, some less and some more, can and should attain to one or another of these stages. The road that leads to sanctification and perfection in Christ is repentance, since we ‘all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23). As one ascends the lad­der of repentance, so one encounters the gradations of sanctification. This is the definition of true repentance: that a man regains the divine grace that was lost through sin, or which he was deprived of by living far from faith and knowledge of God. The regaining of grace is not something partial but the totality of adoption, which Christ grants to the faithful through His Church. If they desire, the faithful are able to attain to perfection, in so far as this is possible, which the Fathers divide into three states: purification, illumination and perfection. The third state is called perfection, or dispassion, or divine know­ledge, or love for God. It is also called keeping the Sab­bath and rest, when man rests from the works of repen­tance, just as God rested from His works on the seventh day.

  The great Maximus the Confessor refers to three more general states commonly found in monks, which characterize those who are approaching sanctification. 1 (Second Century on love, 87; Philokalia, ii.80).

  The first consists in ‘not sinning at all in action’: this is the stage of purification and the spiritual warrior, after ‘lawful striving’ (2 Tim. 2:5), passes beyond the state that is contrary to nature. The second is when ‘the soul does not dally with impassioned thoughts’: this is the state of illumination, characterized chiefly by the capac­ity to receive divine illumination, so that the intellect controls impassioned thoughts. The third state, that of perfection, is when we can ‘contemplate dispassionately in the mind the forms of women and those who have given us offence’: in this state the soul. succeeds in com­ing near to freedom, because even if impassioned con­ceptual images are still present they cannot stir the soul to be ravished by them, and this more or less is the prin­cipal aim of spiritual life. The right use of conceptual images follows the right use of things and thus evil in general is done away with, because if one does not first sin in the mind one will never sin in action, as the Fathers say.

  Faith, divine fear, the fervour that results from these things and strict obedience to the commandments mortify the passionate part of the soul, which is thus turned in its entirety towards God because, in the words of the Apostle, ‘what is mortal is swallowed up by life’ (2 Cor. 5:4). The senses then function according to the law of need alone; they are obedient to self-control, and thus produce mourning and awareness of our sinfulness.

  Even though perfection extends to the levels we have spoken of, it is nevertheless possible to participate partially in dispassion. In these three states, even though man is not yet totally perfected, he has nevertheless come to know the law of freedom albeit partially, and acquired experience of sanctification. The same person is in a po­sition to describe both positions exactly: those of grace and of error, of virtue and of vice, of struggle and of de­feat and, generally, the mysteries of the unseen war.

  At another point St. Maximus distinguishes four gradations of dispassion:2  (Third Century on Various Texts, Philokalia, ii, 22 ) the first type is abstention from the body’s impulse towards the commission of sin. The second is complete expulsion from the soul of impas­sioned thoughts. The third is the complete quiescence of passionate desire. The fourth is the complete exclusion from the mind of all sensible images. And St Paul, too, recognizes two kinds of perfection, considering himself both perfect and not perfect. He says, ‘Not that I have al­ready obtained this or am already perfect’ and immediately afterwards, ‘Let those of us who are perfect be thus minded’ (Phil. 3:12, 15).

  But we consider that the following patristic pas­sages from the Philokalia will help us to a fuller under­standing of the terms sanctification and dispassion. According to Maximus the Great, ‘Sanctification is the total complete cessation and mortification of desire in the senses’, (On the Lord’s Prayer, Philokalia ii, 291) and ‘dispassion is a peaceful condition of the soul in which the soul is not easily moved towards evil.‘ (First Century on Love, 36, Philokalia ii, 56 ).  According to Abba Thalassius, ‘The person who is not affected either by material things or by his memories of them has attained perfect dispassion.5 (Third Century, 32, Philokalia ii, 321).

  Diadochus, Bishop of Photike, says that ‘dispassion is not freedom from attack by demons … but it is to remain undefeated when they do attack” (On Spiritual Knowledge, 98, Philokalia i, 294); and elsewhere he gives the definition, ‘it is not only to cease from evil that brings purity, but actively to destroy evil by pursuing what is good’. And Abba Isaac the Syrian says, ‘Dispassion is not that we do not experience the passions, but that we do not accept them. For through the many and various virtues that we have acquired, both hidden and manifest, the passions have grown weak within us and cannot easily rebel against the soul, and the mind does not always need to pay attention to them.’ And again Mark the Ascetic says, ‘A mind which by God’s grace accomplishes acts of virtue and has come near to knowledge feels little from the evil and inane part of the soul. For its spiritual knowledge snatches it up on high and makes it a stranger to everything that is in the world.’ St Ephrem the Syrian also says that ‘those who are dispassionate, stretching insatiably towards the ultimate attainable, make perfection endless, because there is no end to the eternal good things’.

  These definitions, which are not the only ones, describe as far as is possible for human beings the perfection which in fact remains without end because – as the Apostle says – ‘here we see in part and we know in part’; and only when in the future the final perfection comes, ‘then the partial will pass away’ (l Cor. 13: 10).

  This much is the duty of all humans as rational beings, in which nature requires them to stand firm. Infringing these terms reduces rationality to the position of the irrational and unnatural. For man not to sin and to act righteously is a law of nature, and in consequence a duty. The laws of grace begin from here on: they are on the one hand a continuation of what has gone before but are not prescribed for all people, being difficult to achieve and rare, especially under the conditions of life in society. When our Lord was asked what one must do to be saved, He initially cited the keeping of the command­ments, as did the great Forerunner as the preacher of repentance. Only to those seeking the highest perfection did He command renunciation, and to follow Him with exactitude (Mt. 19:21).

  Standing firm at the first position, the keeping of the commandments, the righteous from all ages were called pure and blameless. Paul often calls them ‘saints’. In the second letter to the Corinthians he refers to all the saints who were in Achaea, while in the letter to the Ro­mans there are several passages where he refers to minister­ing to the saints who were in Jerusalem, and so forth. Luke mentions that the parents of John the Baptist were ‘both righteous before God, walking in all the command­ments and ordinances of the Lord blameless’ (Lk. 1:6).

  But the coming of God the Word and the as­sumption by His Godlike majesty of our own nature rais­ed man to the fullness of his perfection, to his original destiny. To be ‘in the image and likeness’, as the basis of personhood, was now given to man as his inheritance. From that time on noble beings, Godlike intentions, purposes divine in form – with our Lord Jesus as the pro­totype – have surpassed the law of duty, the ‘law of com­mandments’ (Eph. 2: 15), and entered into the dogma of love, having received from the Prototype the grace and power to ‘do greater works than these’ (Jn 14:12), ruled and guided by Him. The noble rivalry to enter within the innermost veil where Jesus, the focus of their love, has entered, has become and remained their chief concern. Detached from the causes and occasions by means of which our fallen nature is led astray, they continue this incomparable struggle and – according to Abba Isaac – ­’wander about in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground, being ordered in the midst of un­ruliness’. On the basis of a comprehensive self-denial, these lovers of God bound for heaven not only denied the world and everything to do with it, but even their own souls. And thus, naked of anything of their own, ‘whether within, or without, or around them’, they are given over totally to the grace of the Lord and to ‘lawful striving’, under the guardianship of their teachers in God. During this life-long contest of their sojourn here, they keep ‘their loins girded and their lamps burning’ (Lk. 12:35), according to the Lord’s command, and await ‘power from on high’ and the promise of the Father (Lk. 24:49). ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth’ (Jn 17:17). ‘I in them and Thou in me … that the love with which Thou hast loved me may be in them. and I in them’ (Jn 17:23,26).

(Taken from: Elder Joseph the Hesychast: Struggles, Experiences, Teachings)

 

  The late Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi have passed into eternity on July 1, 2009. Elder Joseph is an exemplary model of ascetic struggle belonging to the great generation of later hesychasts from Mt. Athos and he had been a close disciple of Geron Joseph the Hesychast. Elder Joseph left us many spiritual counsels as he also compiled the life and teachings of his spiritual elder: Joseph the Hesychast. Many theologians and spiritual fathers have rightfully considered Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi a modern day saint.

 A documentary on the life of the hesychasts in Mt. Athos (Greek)

 

 

  A year without Elder Joseph & the Synaxis of the 12 Apostles – double joy to celebrate the luminaries of our church and “a smile from eternity” gazing on the face of the later Elder Joseph Vatopaidinous. The first annual memorial service for the departed elder, took place on July 1st in the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi. More about this event, with English translation at: Funeral of Blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

 

 

More about Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi at:

Why’s the smile of elder Joseph of Vatopedi from eternity?

 

“Let love be without hypocrisy….Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse”. (Romans 12:9; 14)

 

 

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mt. Athos on “Faith and Love”

(taken from “Spiritual Awakening”)

  

  – Geronda, what is the relationship between faith and love?

  – First comes faith and then love. One must believe in order to love. One can not love something he does not believe in. So to love God we must believe in God. The greater our faith, the greater our hope and love and sacrifice for God and our neighbour. A fervent faith in God brings forth a fervent love for God and for the image of God, our fellow man. Out of the abundance of our love – that cannot be contained in the heart and overflows – the poor animals also benefit. We believe strongly and we love strongly. If our faith is lukewarm, our love will be lukewarm. If our faith is fervent, our love will be fervent.

  Our faith must have philotimo (1), and that’s where the philotimo-filled struggle begins. And the more we struggle with philotimo, the more our faith will increase, and the more our love will increase. In this philotimofilled struggle, it helps greatly to keep God’s blessings in mind. Someone who has a strong sense of philotimo does not wonder if there is Paradise, but struggles, because he believes and loves God. Whereas someone who does not have philotimo will begin to wonder, “Why should I even struggle? Does Paradise really exist? Will there be a Judgment Day?” And when someone is ungrateful, no matter what you do for him, he will still be ungrateful.  Whereas the man who has philotimo praises God even in a time of temptation and will gradually start being continuously grateful to God. That’s when the divine transformation comes to his soul, keeping him in constant joy and gladness. Another person may have no temptations or trials of any kind, and only have blessings, and yet will never be satisfied with anything.    

  After our love for God, comes sacrifice. And when there is sacrifice without any trace of selfishness, then one begins to be blessed with divine events. I must make a sacrifice for no other reason than for God Who created this universe and provides us with so many blessings. You see, even the pagans who deified aspects of nature, worshipping the sun, the great rivers, often sacrificed themselves for this faith of theirs. If they sacrificed themselves for creation, how much more should we sacrifice ourselves for the Creator!

  People don’t believe and so they don’t sacrifice themselves. All our indifference stems from this. One blasphemes and curses the holy and sacred things, while another half-believes and is tormented. For one to have true, spiritual joy, he must have faith and love.  

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(1) philotimo – according to Elder Paisios, is the reverent distillation of goodness, the love shown by humble people, from which every trace of self has been filtered out.Their hearts are full of gratitude towards God and their fellow men, and out of spiritual sensitivity and a sense of honour they try to repay the slight­ good which others do for them.

 

 

“Bless and do not curse” with Geronda Paisios  

(in “With Pain and Love for the Contemporary Man”)

  Someone asked me, “Isn’t the hymn we chant dur­ing the Great Lent, Bring more evils upon them, 0 Lord, bring more evils upon those who are glorious upon the earth (Is. 26:15) a curse? And if it is, why do we still chant it?” “When the barbarians are attacking,” I replied, “and are ready to destroy a people just like that, and the people are praying that their enemies encounter obsta­cles, that their chariots break down and their horses get harmed, is that good or bad? That’s what it means: that they may run into obstacles. It’s not a curse.”

   – Geronda, when will a curse stick?

  – The curse sticks when injustice is involved. If someone for example, deceives a grieved person or does them harm and that person curses them, then the whole family can be adversely affected. In other words, when I harm someone and that person curses me, the curse will stick. God allows the curse to take effect as He may, for example, allow a person to kill someone. But when there is no injustice involved, then the curse returns to the per­son who gave it.

  – And how is one released from a curse?

  – With repentance and confession. I know of many cases of people who suffered from curses, and when they realized that they had been cursed because they had wronged someone, they repented, went to confession and everything was fine after that. If the wrongdoer says, “My God, I have done such and such a sin, forgive me … ” and confesses with pain and honesty, God will forgive him. He is God, after all.

  – Does punishment come only to the person who has been cursed or does it also come to the one who cursed him?

  – The cursed person suffers in this life. But the one who curses suffers in this life and in the next one, for, unless he repents and goes to confession, God will treat him like a criminal. Of course someone who has hurt you has caused you pain, but to put a curse on him is like taking a gun and shooting him. Who gives you the right to do that? No matter what the other person has done to you, you don’t have the right to kill him. Those who curse have malice in their heart. And the curse sticks when it’s spoken with passion and indignation.

  Now, when a curse comes from a just person, it be­comes very powerful, especially when it comes from someone like a widow. I remember an old lady who had a small horse which she used to leave at the end of the forest to graze. Because the horse was a bit wild, she was using a strong rope to tie it. Once, three women went to the forest to cut wood. One of them was rich; the other one was a widow and the third was a very poor orphan. They saw the grazing horse tied with the rope and thought to themselves, “Why don’t we take the rope to tie our bundles of wood?” So, they cut it in three pieces and each of them got a piece to tie their bundle. The horse cut loose of course and ran away. When the old woman came back and did not find it, she became very upset. She started looking for it everywhere and went through a lot of trouble to find it. When the old woman finally found it, she said with indignation, “May the person who stole the rope be tied by it.”

  One day, the brother of the wealthy woman was fooling ­around with a gun he wrongly thought was empty (it was left behind by the Italians after the War) and the bullet hit his sister in the neck. They had to take her to the hospital and they needed a rope to tie her on a wooden ladder they used as a stretcher. They found the stolen rope but it was not long enough. The other two neighbours brought the pieces of rope that they had stolen, tied her on the ladder and carried her to the hospital. This way, the old woman’s curse came true: “Let them be tied by it.” She has since died, may God rest her soul. You see how her curse stuck to the rich woman who had no financial need. The others were very poor and for this reason their offence was less grave .

 

The so – called “Polite” Curse

  – Geronda, when someone wrongs us, is it right to think or say, “May he find his punishment from God”?

  – Whoever says this is being tricked by the devil and does not realize that this is a “polite” way of cursing the person. There are some people who like to see them­selves as sensitive, loving and refined, and tolerant of the wrongs they suffer. Yet, they still say, “May he find his punishment from God.” In this life, we are all taking the test to enter the eternal life, to enter Paradise.

  My mind tells me that this kind of “polite” curse is below the passing grade and is not right for a Christian, because Christ did not teach us this kind of love. He taught us to say, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Lk. 23: 34)  Likewise, the best blessing is to remain quiet while being cursed and accept with kindness the curses leveled against us.

  If we suffer slander and injustice in the hands of frivo­Ious or cunning people, who are full of malice and distort the truth, we should try if we can, not to defend ourselves against them, especially if the injustice is about ourselves only. Neither should we say, “May they find their punish­ment from God,” because this is a curse, too. The best is to forgive them with all our heart and to ask God to give us the strength to bear the burden of slander, while continuing our spiritual life quietly and undetected as much as we can. Let those, who have it as their habit to judge and condemn others, continue to wrong us, because in this way they are preparing golden laurels for us in the true life. Naturally, all those who are close to God never curse because there’s no malice in them. They have only goodness and gentleness, and the bad things people throw upon these holy souls are sanctified, and they feel a great, hidden joy.

 

A Blessing from the Heart is Divine

  Now let me give you a “curse” too! May God flood your heart with His kindness and His abundant love until you go out of your mind! May your mind leave this earth even while you are in this life and stay close to Him! May you go mad with the divine madness of God’s love! May God bum your hearts with His love! Don’t ask me for a second curse; this good “curse” of mine works because it comes straight from my heart.

  I had felt so sorry for you when I was at the sanatori­um (in 1966). Some of you had been waiting for eight years. “We will build a Monastery,” you were saying time and again, but no Monastery would be built. You had lost hope. Then I thought to myself, “As soon as I get out of the hospital, the Monastery will grow like a mushroom!” And that’s what happened! In a year’s time, the Monastery was ready! And it was because what I said, I said it with my heart and you also had good intention, and God did not abandon you. Nothing else can explain what happened!

  When you feel pain in your heart for a person, who is humble and asks you from his heart to pray for example, for some passion that torments him, and you tell him “Don’t be afraid, you’ll get better,” the blessing you give is divine. It’s full of love and pain, and that’s why it works. It pleases God and He makes the blessing come true. You see, even the pain we feel for someone is a kind of blessing.

  Once, when I was in the army, the Commander sent me to deliver an offering to a small Chapel of Saint John ­the Prodromos (Forerunner) because the Saint had helped us during the war. I was to buy two candelabra for the Chapel and, at the same time, to escort someone who was going to be tried in the military court in Naupaktos. The others told the Commander, “You found the right per­son to deliver him!” The poor soul was from Epeirus, a musician of sorts, an impoverished man, married with children, who had been accused of wounding himself to avoid going to war. I suppose he thought to himself, ‘‘I’d rather be with one leg than get killed.” We went together down to Agrinio where he knew some people. “Let’s go and see them,” he told me and I replied, “Let’s go.” “Let’s go here, let’s go there,” he would say, and I followed. What could I do? It was quite tiresome. And he did not want me to turn him in. I really felt pity for him and at some point I said, “Don’t worry, you’ll see, you’ll do bet­ter than all the others. The Commander will write a letter and they will probably put you in some office, and you’ll take care of your family and save your life too.” Well. when we finally reached Naupaktos we found out that indeed, the Commander had sent a letter and the man had been exonerated. Otherwise, he would have been brought before the firing squad. Things are very strict during war time. The Commander took pity on him and he was hired as a cook in the Transit Centre. He even brought his fam­ily to be with him, and they lived better than all the others. There was plenty of left over food, because the soldiers did not always go to eat there. So he got to feed his chil­dren. Everybody later would tell him, “You’ve had it bet­ter than anyone else.” You see the rest of us were up in the mountains, in the snow. The blessing I gave him found favour with God because I said it feeling the man’s pain in my heart, and that’s why God acted on it.

  I remember another case in Konitsa, when I was at the Holy Stomion Monastery dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos.11 After the Feast of the Panaghia on Sep­tember 8, the pilgrims had left the place very untidy. As I was fixing something, I see that my sister and another girl had stayed behind, cleaning up. The poor girl had two sis­ters – she was the youngest – who had married, while she remained single. She had so much philotimo. They stayed and leaned up everything and at the end she said to me, “Father, if you need us for anything else, we’ll stay.” “So much philotimo,” I thought to myself. Therefore, I go to little Chapel and I say with all my heart, “My sweet Panaghia, take care of her. I don’t have anything to give her” – and even if I did, she would not accept it. Well, as soon as she went back home, a young man was wait­ing her, a fellow I knew because we were together in army, a really nice person, a piece of gold and from a good family. They got married and everything turned out so well! See how the Panaghia rewarded her!

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(11) The word Theotokos (or Panaghia) is an important theological term referring to the Virgin Mary. It is a Greek word meaning the Birth-giver of God.

 

“But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said: “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”-then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

(Mt. 9:4-6).

 

 “Concerning the Forgiveness of Sins” with St. Nektarios of Pentapolis

 

  The person who has sinned against God is in need of reconciliation. The appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ and the authority He gave to His Apostles to forgive sins bear witness to this. If the forgiveness of sins was not necessary for the cure of the soul, then neither was the forgiveness of the world’s sins necessary nor was it nec­essary for the Apostles to be empowered with such authority while being sent to preach the Gospel. Faith in Christ and baptism alone would suffice, and God could have kept this authority to forgive sins for Himself£ However, He gave the Apostles the authority not only to forgive sins but also to bind them: he gave them the power to bind and loose. “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (Jh. 20:23). This authority given to them so definitively confirms it to be a necessary com­ponent and offspring of the apostolic mission. If then the established Church received this apostolic mission in order that She may continue it, it follows that She also received the right to bind and loose.

  The authority to bind and loose was given to the Church and was exercised, as we mentioned, from the apostolic age. This is witnessed by the Apostle Paul him­self when he commands the Corinthians to sever from the Church the person who fornicated with his father’s wife and to hand him “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor.5:5).

  As was shown from the manner with which it was used, the power to bind and loose was given to pre­serve the holiness of the Church, so that She may remain holy and immaculate. Because, as the Apostle Paul says, our Lord Jesus “loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27). This authority enables the Church to maintain Herself holy and immaculate, and to become true yeast, so that She may ferment the entire dough: “For if the first fruit be holy, the whole lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Rom. 11:16).

  If the Church lacked this power, She would be inca­pable of fulfilling Her mission. Otherwise, how would She be able to preserve Herself holy and immaculate? How would She keep out the defiled from the assembly, or how would She receive them who have repented? What type of awareness would She have of the moral state of Her members? How would She know that She is giving the holy things to the holy people (21) or that She is not depriving these holy things from them who have already appeased God through repentance?

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21 – Here, Saint Nektarios is referring to the Canons of the Orthodox Church, which were compiled by Saint Nicodemos into one book known as The Rudder. Almost all the Canons clearly impede them who have fallen into deadly sins from receiving Holy Communion for a certain period of time, and this is how the Church differentiates between pure and impure, and how She avoids placing the pearls before swine. From Saint Nektarios’ words, it is evident that these Canons are valid and that the necessary pen­ance should be administered to the repentant. This is also apparent from the letter given by the Bishop to priests, which grants them the ability to hear confessions. Among other things, it also advises the following to the spiritual father: “Hence, you will bind what must be bound, while you will loose things worthy of being loosened.”

  The authority to bind and loose is and will be the power that maintains the Church holy and immaculate. This is why the Church has not ceased exercising this great authority since the apostolic years. They who are concerned about the salvation of their souls are obliged to run towards the Church as to the only clinic, because otherwise there is no salvation. The Lord called all the heavy laden and burdened in order to give them rest. The Church, continuing Christ’s work, calls those burdened by sins in order to give them rest. How would they who fall into sins be given rest if the Church did not have the authority to bind and loose? How would the nations be given rest unless the Apostles had the authority to for­give sins? How would the apostolic mission be continued if the Church had not inherited this apostolic gift? Only the Church is capable of alleviating them who are bur­dened by the weight of sin.

  Cyril of Alexandria, interpreting verse twenty-three in the twentieth chapter of St. John (Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained), says: “The spirit-bearing men either remit or retain sins in two ways. Namely, they call to baptism the people who have been tested in the faith and pious way of life, or they prohibit and expel the divine grace from some people who have not yet become worthy. Or in another manner, they punish the children of the Church who sin while forgiving them that repent, just as Paul handed over the fornicator in Corinth unto destruc­tion of the flesh (so that the soul may be saved) while admitting him back later, lest he should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:6-7).

  Both the lofty mission of the Church as well as Her divine nature oblige Her members to maintain Her holy and immaculate, without stain, wrinkle, or any such thing; so that, as a beloved bride of Christ, cleansed through the blood of Christ, She may be holy and immaculate; so that, having as Her mission to ferment the entire dough, She may fulfill Her great purpose. They who are burdened by sins and who delight in them and yet are in commun­ion with the Church defile the Church’s sanctity and impede the role of Her great mission. It is necessary that the members of the Church be holy and immaculate. As Saint Paul attests: “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and with­out blame before Him in love, having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, acc­ording to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4-6).

  Unrepentant Christians who ignorantly sin in this manner are obliged to realize that they store up for themselves great condemnation and that the condemna­tion’s recompense will be threefold, because: (I) they have transgressed the commandments and trampled God’s Law, having become slaves of sin, (II) they have added stains, wrinkles, and blemishes to the Church, and (III) they have disrupted the Church’s work by staining the Church and by personally resisting the Church’s mission. This is why the divine Chrysostom would say: “If we were truly Christians, the idolaters would have come to Christ.” We, therefore, disrupt the work of the Church when we do not walk according to Christ, and when we wage war against Her. Therefore, beloved, let us persist in iniquity no longer, but let us change our thoughts and sanctify ourselves through the forgiveness of our sins, so that we are not condemned for this triple offense. Let us give the necessary satisfaction, so that we may satisfy the Divine Righteousness and propitiate God.22

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(22) They who reject the idea of the necessity of satisfying/compensating Divine Righteousness as a denial of the satisfaction made by our Savior Christ to God the Father, these people neglect that this is in reference to sinful Christians and not to unbelievers. Yes, reconciliation has already been made through Jesus Christ. St. Nicodemos says that “the satisfaction and payment made by our Lord on behalf of our sins was so bountiful and rich that this satisfaction resembles a boundless ocean, while all the sins of humanity-past, present, and future-represent a drop of water” (Unseen “Warfare, p. 207). However, having sinned after baptism, we have “saddened” the Savior Himself, and it is Him Who we are seeking to please through repentance, confession and good works. This is what St. Nektarios is calling “satisfaction of Divine Righteousness.” This is what all the Saints have spo­ken about in their own manner. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “A sinner cannot escape retribution except through repentance appropriate to his offense” (Philokalia, Vol. I, p. 130). St. Maximos the Confessor says: “No sinner can escape future judgment without experiencing in this life either voluntary hardships or afflictions he has not chosen” (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 76). St. Thalassios says: “All sin is due to sensual pleasure, all forgiveness to hardship and distress. If you are not willing to repent through freely choosing to suf­fer, unsought sufferings will providentially be imposed on you” (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 317). And St. Gregory of Sinai says: “Requitals correspond to our deserts, even if many people think they do not. To some, Divine Justice gives eternal life; to others, eternal chastisement. Each will be requited according to his actions according to whether he passed through this pres­ent life in a virtuous or in a sinful manner” (Philokalia, Vol. 4, p. 219).

 

(taken from: “Repentance and Confession” @ St. Nektarios Monastery,

Roscoe, NY)

 

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