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(An excerpt for the book “The Agony of the Church” written while been a profesor at  ST SAVVA’S COLLEGE, BELGRADE, 1917)

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If the official churches have had no other merit but that they have preserved Christ as the treasury of the world, yet they are justified thereby. Even if they have solely repeated through all the past centuries “Lord! Lord!” still they stand above the secular world. For they know at least who the Lord is, whereas the world does not know. Churches may disappear, but The Church never will. For not churches are the work of Christ, but the Church. Moreover, if the Church disappears, as an institution, the essence of the Church cannot disappear. It is like rivers, sea and water: when rivers disappear into the sea, the sea remains, and if the sea disappears into steam, water still remains. If Christ ever meant to form the Church as an institution He meant to form it not as the end but as the means, like a boat to bring its inmates safely over the stormy ocean of life into the quiet harbour of His Kingdom. Like the body in a bath, so the soul disrobes in the Church to wash. But as soon as we get out, we clothe our soul in order to conceal it from the curious eye. Is it not illogical that we dare to show our imperfections to the Most Perfect, while we are ashamed to show them to those who are just as imperfect, ugly and unclean as ourselves? The Church, like a bath, reveals most uncleanness. 

The initial and most obvious idea of the Church is collectiveness of sin and salvation. To pray alone and for one’s self is like eating alone without regard to other people’s hunger.

When the sun sees a man of science, wealth or politics, kneeling at prayer with the poor and humble, it goes smiling to its rest. Full of beauty and wonders are all the Christian churches, but not because of their pretended perfections: they are beautiful and wonderful because of Him whose shadow they are. You are a Christian? Then do not be afraid to enter any Christian church with prayerful respect. All the Churches have sworn allegiance to the same Sovereign. How can you respect a cottage, in which once abided His Majesty King Alfred, or Charles, while you would not go into a building dedicated to His Majesty the Invisible King of kings?

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The real value of any Christian community is not to be found in its own prosperity but in its care for the prosperity of other Christian communities. So, for example, the value of the Protestants is to be found in their loving care for the Roman Catholics, and vice versa.

Taking the above standard, we find that all the Christian communities are almost quite valueless as to the spirit, i.e. as to their unusual loving care. Their actual value is more physical than spiritual, being as they are limited to the care for themselves. Exceptions are as refreshing as an oasis in the desert. Church and State are like fire and water. How to connect them? For if connected, fire always dies down under water.

There are three ages in the history of the Church: the Golden Age, when the Church was opposed to political governments; the Iron Age, when she was politically directing Europe’s kingdoms; and the Stone Age, when she has been subdued to the service of political governments. What a humiliation for the present generation to live in the Stone Age of Christianity!

Trying to unite Church and State we are trying to unite what God separated from the beginning of our era. To separate the Church from the State does not mean, as many think, to separate soul from body; it means to separate two quite opposed spirits unakin and hostile to each other, like Cross and Capitol. The worm of comfort and human inertia has reconciled Christianity with secular, pagan governments, and so paralysed the most divine movement in human history. Go to the bottom of all those clever advocacies for unity of Church and State, and you will meet, as their primus motor, the worm of comfort and human inertia.

All Churches and Christian institutions of the present time, however wonderful they may be, are only a dim prophecy of the coming Christian worship in truth and spirit. Through them we look now to the future as through a glass. Christianity is neither monarchical nor republican. It does not care about institutions but about the spirit living in them. That institution is the best which is fullest of the Christian spirit. From this point of view, an autocracy may be better than a republic, and vice versa.

The true Christianity has been hidden from us as iron and coal were hidden from the men of the Stone Age. They walked over iron and coal but they used stone and wood only. So we are walking over and around Christ, still using in our daily life the pagan gods of old.

If there is to be a new geological epoch, with a new type of man, it will be the Christian epoch. All the existing types have been made by revolutions and influences of earth and water, or of air and fire. Now only the Christian revolution–I mean literally and not allegorically–can produce a higher type of the human animal. My friend, you are dissatisfied with the existing Churches, and you are anxious to form a new church, or sect, or some kind of religious organisation! How childish of you! The existing Churches are the most wonderful vessels–some in gold, others in silver or pottery–made by thousands of years and generations. I know your dissatisfaction comes because of the emptiness of those vessels and not because of their ugliness. Well then, pour the divine wine into them and they will please you just as the vessels in Cana of Galilee pleased the thirsty people around the table. No one of those people, being thirsty, ever thought of making new vessels for the wine, but to get wine as soon as possible into the vessels. To pour wine into existing vessels, that is really the needed miracle, my dear grumbler!

People say: Read the Bible! Almost would I say: Do not touch it for five years–read other literature during this period–and then read it again, and you will see its real greatness, power and sweetness.

The Christ’s wounds have wrought more blessings in the world than the health of all the Roman Caears.

 The Eucharist does not mean a memory only but also a prophecy. The prophecy of it is, that the whole earth will become Christ’s body, Christ’s flesh and blood, so that whatever we eat or drink we eat and drink Him.

He ought to be our daily food. Regarding all our food through Christ it will not seem to be a prey from nature but rather nature’s sacrifice for us, reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice, and through it of our own calling to sacrifice.

You have to choose either to be proud or poor in spirit. The first will mean a noisy destruction, the second a quiet construction.

There exists no sublime and no mean thing in the whole world of which I could not find a representation in myself, and none in which I were wholly unrepresented.

The beauty, glory and greatness of a field of golden wheat consists of an association of innumerable blades of wheat, with their insignificant beauty, glory and greatness. If you have seen that, then do not repeat to me the old story of the beauty, glory and greatness of the human blade called Pythagoras, Caear or Napoleon.  

The wealthiest and most powerful people, that we are wont to admire and imitate, were most pitied by Christ. To-day, as always, the most difficult Christian mission is that among the rich.

Our real value we never reveal through the using of our rights but through our capacity for service and sacrifice.

Easier is it for a man to get his own rights than to lose his pride.

Sacrifice without murmuring makes of our stormy life a calm holy day. We fill all our days with the talk of the people who are loth to sacrifice and of those who dare to sacrifice. Disgust and admiration are two baths in which our hearts bathe from sunrise to sunset. By nothing is the disgust towards a man more excited than by hearing: “He is incapable of sacrifice.”

When this sentence is directed to ourselves, we feel as if we had lost the whole battle of life.

The value of metaphysical systems is more for the scientific than for the moral progress of mankind. Upon Hegel you could build a new science, but upon St Paul only could you build a new social life and a new world politics. Did you ever think that St Paul is the greatest prophet of a new and desirable statesmanship?

All the Empires founded upon rights have perished and must perish. The future belongs to the Empire of St Paul, an Empire founded upon loving service.

It is better in humbleness to belong to the worst of the Churches than proudly to separate one’s self from the best of the Churches.

Aristocratic origin is as inscrutable as the darkness of the past night.

A mighty aristocrat of to-day may be of the meanest soul-stuff, and the beggar at his door of the noblest. But respect both of them equally, knowing that both of them are of the same royal origin. The Most High names both of them His children. For the same reason respect asses and sheep and trees and stones.

The real crucifiers of Christ in our time are those who think Christ’s Gospel could not be taken as a base for world politics. Were not His last words to the disciples: go to all nations? The last and supreme expression of Christianity will be in the relations of nation to nation, as its starting expression has been the relations of man to man.

Inter-individualism has been the elementary school of Christianity.

Inter-nationalism ought to be its university. Christian ethics, i.e. cheerful service and sacrifice, is the noblest consequence of real belief in God. Never a shorter line can bind our planet with the centre of the Universe than the line going through Christ. It is the shortest way, as a straight line is the shortest distance between two geometrical points.

Slavery means obligatory service; freedom ought to mean willing service.

Only a man or a nation educated for willing service to their neighbours is a really free man or free nation. All other theories of freedom are illusions. Freedom asking for rights and not for willing service means an endless quarrel crowning with unhappiness all its champions. Neither Pericles’ republic nor Octavian’s monarchy were the States of happiness, but St Paul‘s pan-human state, with a single Magna Charta of willing service, will be a State of Universal Happiness.

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Every man is a battlefield of many unclean spirits, very bold in the absence of Christ and very shy in His Presence. O how many of these spirits that find an easy habitation in us would make even the swine to rage and run down the steep place–into the sea!

The conception that the mentality of Machiavelli and Metternich, Bismarck and Beaconsfield could be taken as a basis of politics, whereas Christ’s mentality could not, is the conception even of many theologians. Yet Christ survives all these politicians as an undying power, just because He is the fittest of all of them.

What an obscure philosophy it is which teaches that Moses and Mohamed had some thing to do with politics and Christ has not!

Carlyle and Emerson were over-anxious to recommend every great man as a leader of mankind more than Christ. It is the same as to say: men! Take candles and lamps to light your way in darkness, but be aware of the sun. How quite different are Dostoievsky and Tolstoi!

I looked at men in prayer and I thought: Behold, the fallen angels! I looked again at them in hateful quarrel and I thought: Behold, the risen demons!

Animals are cruel but not vulgar. Yet both in cruelty and vulgarity man is on record. If forced to chose one of two evils, we should prefer to look at cruelty rather than vulgarity.

All our to-days are spoiled by reminiscences about yesterday and sorrows about tomorrow. Thus we are disindividualising and emptying all our “to-days” and degrading them to a misty meeting-place of yesterday and tomorrow.

 From the physical point of view the greatest thing in this life is its mystery. From the moral point of view the greatest thing in man is the optimistic interpretation of that mystery. There is no reasonable optimism outside of Christianity.

 No man could be a tyrant unless he were a slave of some moral defects.

No nation could tyrannise over another nation unless it were tyrannised over itself by some illusions.

Nobody in the world is free but he who feels himself to be a prisoner of Christ. The greatest champion of freedom in human history called himself: “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”

(Taken from a Russian translation of the original Greek)

 Editor’s note: On a remote, narrow peninsula in the Aegean Sea lies the monastic republic of Mt. Athos, spiritual heart of the Orthodox Christian world. For centuries monks have lived and prayed here for the salvation of their souls and the world, and every devout Orthodox Christian male strives to make the pilgrimage to Mt. Athos at least once in his life. Elder Paissios (1924-1994) is considered by many to have been one of the Holy Mount’s greatest ascetics of the 20th Century. Over the course of his life the words of this humble Greek monk, who came to be honored by believers as an “holy elder” (geronta in Greek, starets in Russian), were recorded by the thousands who journeyed to seek his advice and prophecies. In the following quotes Paissios warns of the great cataclysms which await us in our Apocalyptic times. His counsel of spiritual preparedness and how to achieve it will be of use to all those who strive to do good while maintaining spiritual equilibrium in a world growing increasingly hostile to our salvation. Paissios seems to have foreseen everything: the ever more frequent and senseless wars and the growing totalitarianism of “Schengen Europe”, “Homeland Securitized” America and “Putinized” Russia, the downward slide of our modern, globalized world into licentiousness and madness, the approaching Last Judgement.

“There’s a war on today, a holy war…”

“If the Metropolitans are silent, then who will speak?”

that unsettles me is the reigning mood of tranquility. Something is in the works. We still haven’t understood properly either what’s going on, or the fact that we will die. I don’t know what will come of this. The situation is very complicated. The fate of the world depends on just a few people, but God is still putting on the brakes. We have to pray a lot, and with pain in our hearts, so that God will intervene: our times are very hard to understand. A lot of ash, rubbish, and indifference has accumulated, and a strong wind will be needed to blow it all away.

It’s frightening! The Tower of Babel is upon us! Divine intervention is needed: Great upheavals are happening. What a bedlam! The minds of whole nations are in confusion. But in spite of the ferment I feel a certain consolation inside, a certain confidence. God still dwells in a part of the Christians. God’s people, people of prayer, still remain, and God in his all-goodness still tolerates us and will put everything in order. Don’t be afraid! We’ve gone through many storms, and still haven’t perished. So should we be afraid of the storm which is now gathering? We’ll not perish this time either” 

God loves us. In Man there’s a hidden power which comes out when necessary. The difficult years will be few. Just a lot of thunder.

Don’t get upset in the least, for God is above everything. He rules everyone and will bring all to the defendant’s bench to answer for what they’ve done, according to which each will receive his just desserts from God. Those who’ve in some way helped the cause of good will be rewarded, and those who do evil will be punished. God will put everyone in their place in the end, but each of us will answer for what they did in these difficult years, both in prayer and in deeds.

Today they’re trying to destroy faith, and for the edifice of faith to fall they quietly pull out one stone, then another. But we’re all responsible for the destruction; not just those who destroy but we who see how faith is being undermined and make no effort to strengthen it. As a result the seducers are emboldened to create even greater difficulties for us, and their rage against the Church and the monastic life increases.

Today’s situation can be resisted only spiritually, not by worldly means. The storm will continue to rage a bit, will throw all the flotsam, everything unnecessary, onto the shore, and then the situation will become clearer. Some will receive their reward, while others will have to pay their debts.

Today there are many who strive to corrupt everything: the family, the youth, the Church. In our day it’s a true witness to speak up for one’s people, for the state is waging war against divine law. It’s laws are directed against the Law of God.

But we are responsible for not letting the enemies of the Church corrupt everything. Though I’ve heard even priests say: “Don’t get involved in that. It’s none of your business!” If they had reached such a non-striving condition through prayer I would kiss their feet. But no! They’re indifferent because they want to please everyone and live in comfort.

Indifference is unacceptable even for laymen, and all the more so for the clergy. An honest, spiritual man doesn’t do anything with indifference. “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully”, says the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 48:10). There’s a war on today, a holy war. I must be on the front lines. There are so many Marxists, so many Masons, so many Satanists and assorted others! So many possessed, anarchists and seduced ones! I see what awaits us, and it’s painful for me. The bitter taste of human pain is in my mouth.

* * *

The spirit of lukewarmness reigns. There’s no manliness at all! We’ve been spoiled for good! How does God still tolerate us? Today’s generation is the generation of indifference. There are no warriors The majority are fit only for parades.

Godlessness and blasphemy are allowed to appear on television. And the Church is silent and doesn’t excommunicate the blasphemers. And they need to be excommunicated. What are they waiting for? Let’s not wait for someone else to pull the snake out from its hole so that we can live in peace.

They’re silent out of indifference. What’s bad is that even people who’ve got something inside have begun to grow cool, saying: “Can I really do anything to change the situation?” We have to witness our faith with boldness, because if we continue to be silent we’ll have to answer in the end. In these difficult days each must do what’s in their power. And leave what’s out of their power to the will of God. In this way our conscience will be clear.

If we don’t resist, then our ancestors will arise from their graves. They suffered so much for the Fatherland, and we? What are we doing for it?.. If Christians don’t begin to witness their faith, to resist evil, then the destroyers will become even more insolent. But today’s Christians are no warriors. If the Church keeps silent, to avoid conflict with the government, if the metropolitans are silent, if the monks hold their peace, then who will speak up?

* * *

Give thanks to God for everything. Try to be manly. Pull yourself together a bit. Do you know what Christians are suffering in other countries? There are such difficulties in Russia! But here many exhibit indifference. There’s not enough disposition to kindness, love of devotion. 

You see, if we don’t begin to make war against evil, to expose those who tempt believers, then the evil will grow larger. If we throw aside fear then the faithful will be emboldened a bit. And those who wage war against the Church will have a harder time.

In the past our nation lived spiritually, so God blessed her, and the saints helped us in miraculous fashion. And we were victorious against our enemies, who always outnumbered us. Today we continue to call ourselves Orthodox Christians, but we don’t live Orthodox lives.

* * *

A lukewarm clergy lulls the people to sleep, leaves them in their former condition so they won’t be upset. “Look”, they say. “By all means don’t say that there’ll be a war, or the Second Coming, that one must prepare oneself for death. We must not make people alarmed!”

 And others speak with a false kindness, saying: “We mustn’t expose heretics and their delusions, so as to show our love for them.” Today’s people are water-soluble. There’s no leaven in them.

If I avoid upsetting myself to protect my fleshly comfort then I’m indifferent to holiness! Spiritual meekness is one thing, and softness and indifference are quite another. Some say: “I’m a Christian and therefore I have to be joyful and calm.” But they’re not Christian. They’re simply indifferent. And their joy is only a worldly joy.

He in whom these worldly seeds are present is no spiritual person. A spiritual person consists of nothing but pain. In other words, he’s in pain at what’s going on, he’s in pain for people’s condition. And divine comfort is bestowed upon him for his pain.

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“He Who Goes Low Goes Sure

Our goal is to live an Orthodox life, not just to speak or write Orthodox. If the preacher has no personal experience then his sermons won’t go to the heart, won’t change people. To think like an Orthodox is easy, but to live an Orthodox life requires effort.

Today God tolerates what’s going on. Tolerates, so that evil people will be unable to justify themselves. God expects patience, prayer and struggle from us. If you anger when you yourself are offended, your anger is unclean. But if someone is offended in the service of holiness, that means the zeal of God is in him. Indignation can be righteous when it’s indignation for God’s sake. That’s the only justifiable kind of indignation in a person.

It’s unseemly to become angry in one’s own defense. Resisting evildoers is another matter, however, when it’s in defense of serious spiritual matters, when our holy faith, Orthodoxy, is concerned. Then it’s your duty. To think of others, to counter the blasphemers in order to defend one’s neighbor — this is pure, because carried out in love. 

* * *

Evil lies within us. There is no love in us, so we don’t feel all people to be brothers and are tempted by [the knowledge of] their sinful ways. But it’s not right when moral failings become known to all. The injunction of the Gospels to “tell it unto the church” (Matt. 18:17) doesn’t mean that everything has to become known to everyone. By exposing the moral failings of our brother we arm the enemies of the Church, give them another pretext to escalate the war against Her. And the faith of the weak is shaken in this way too.

If you want to help the Church, then try to mend your own ways, rather than others’. In straightening yourself out you straighten out a particle of the Church. If everyone were to do that then the Church would be in perfect order. But today’s people attend to everything under the sun, only not to themselves, because it’s easy to teach others, while mending one’s own ways requires effort.

* * *

If we expose someone out of love, with pain in our hearts, then a change will occur in his heart whether he understands us or not. But to expose without love, with partiality, only enrages to object of our exposure. Our hostility strikes against his egoism, producing sparks like flint against steel.

If we tolerate our brother out of love, he will feel it. But he also feels our hostility, even if we keep it inside and don’t express it. Our hostility arouses alarm in him. We must always ask ourselves: “Why do I want to say what I’m about to say? What is motivating me? Do I really care about my neighbor or do I just want to show him how wonderful I am, to show off a bit?” If someone tries to solve ecclesiastical problems allegedly out of faith, but really thinking of his own advantage, then how can such a person win God’s blessing?

* * *

Sweet words and great truths have value when uttered by righteous lips. They take root only in people of good will and clean conscience.

Truth, when used without judgment, can commit a crime. And he who possesses sincerity without reason commits a twofold evil, first against himself, then against others. Because there’s no empathy in his sincerity. A Christian must not be a fanatic but have love in his heart for all. He who throws words around carelessly, even true words, does evil.

Veneration is a good thing, and the predisposition for good is also good, but spiritual judgment and breadth are needed to guard against fanaticism, that false companion of reverence.

* * *

Wakefulness and sobriety are needed. All that a person does he must do for the sake of God. Christ must be at the source of every movement. Much attention is required, for when we do something with the aim of pleasing others we gain no benefit.

We ascend to the heavens not through earthly striving but by humbling ourselves spiritually. He who goes low goes sure and never falls. Ours is an age of sensationalism and hullabaloo. But the spiritual life is not noisy. Divine enlightenment is required and when it’s not there the person abides in darkness. He may act out of good intentions but create many problems in his confusion, both for the Church and for society.

There was a time when the Holy Spirit enlightened us and showed us the way. A grand business! Today it finds no reason to descend to us. Difficult years are ahead. The Old Testament Tower of Babel was child’s play compared with our age.

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The Seal of the Antichrist Becomes a Reality

It’s possible that you’ll live through much which is described in the Book of Revelations. Much is coming to the surface, little by little. The situation is horrible. Madness has gone beyond all bounds. Apostasy is upon us, and now the only thing left is for the ‘son of perdition’ (2 Thess. 2:3) to come.

The world has turned into a madhouse A great confusion will reign, in which each government will begin to do whatever comes into its head. We’ll see how the most unlikely, the most insane, events will happen. The only good thing is that these events will happen in very quick succession.

Ecumenism, common markets, a one-world government, a single made-to-order religion: such is the plan of these devils. The Zionists are already preparing their messiah. For them the false-messiah will be king, will rule here, on earth.

A great discord will arise. In this discord everyone will clamor for a king to save them. At that moment they’ll offer up their man, who’ll say: “I’m the Imam, I’m the fifth Buddha, I’m the Christ whom Christians are awaiting. I’m the one whom the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been waiting for. I’m the Jewish messiah.”

* * * 

Difficult times are ahead. Great trials await us. Christians will suffer great persecutions. Meanwhile, it’s obvious that people don’t understand that we’re on the verge of the end times, that the seal of the Antichrist is becoming a reality. As if nothing’s happening. That’s why Holy Scripture says that even the chosen will be deceived.

The Zionists want to rule the earth. To achieve their ends they use black magic and satanism. They regard satan-worship as a means to gain the strength they need to carry out their plans. They want to rule the earth using satanic power. God is not something they take into account.

One sign that the fulfillment of prophecy is near will be the destruction of the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem. They’ll destroy it in order to restore the Temple of Solomon which used to be on the same place. In the end the Jews will pronounce the Antichrist messiah in this rebuilt temple.

The rabbis know that the true Messiah has already come and that they crucified Him. They know this, and yet they are blinded by egoism and fanaticism.

* * *

Two thousand years ago it was written in the Book of Revelations that people will be marked with the number ‘666’. As Holy Scripture says, the ancient Hebrews laid a tax on the peoples they conquered in various wars. The yearly tax was equal to 666 talents of gold. (3 Kings 10:14, 2 Chronicles 9:13.) Today, in order to subjugate the whole world they’ll once again introduce the old tax number linked to their glorious past. That is, ‘666’ is the number of mammon.

Everything is going as planned. They put the number a long time ago on credit cards. As a result, he who is not marked with the number ‘666’ will be unable to buy, sell, get a loan, or find work.

* * *

Providence tells me that the Antichrist wants to subjugate the world using this system. It will be foisted upon people with the help of the mechanisms which control the world economy, for only those who receive the mark, an image with the number ‘666’, will be able to take part in economic life.

The mark will be an image which will first be placed on all products, and then people will be compelled to wear it on their hand or forehead. Little by little, after the introduction of ID cards with the three sixes, after the creation of a personal dossier, they’ll use cunning to introduce the mark.

In Brussels a whole palace with three sixes has been built to house a central computer. This computer can keep track of billions of people. And we Orthodox are resisting this because we don’t want the Antichrist and we don’t want dictatorship either.

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“The most we can suffer is martyrdom.”

There will be three and a half hard years. Those who don’t agree with the system will have a rough time. They’ll constantly be trying to imprison them, using any pretext they can find. They won’t torture anyone, but without the mark it will simply be impossible for a person to live. “You’re suffering without the mark”, they’ll say. “And if you had just accepted it you would have had no difficulties.”

For this reason, by learning to life a simple, moderate life here and now you’ll be able to get through those years. By getting a little bit of land, raising a little wheat and some potatoes, planting some olive trees, and keeping animals of some sort, a goat or chickens, the Christian will be able to feed his family. Stockpiling is of little use: Food doesn’t keep for long before spoiling.

But these oppressions will not last for long: three, three and a half years. For the sake of the chosen the days will be hastened. God won’t leave a person without help. Tomorrow thunder will strike, and the brief dictatorship of the Antichrist-satan will come. Then Christ will intervene, will give the whole anti-Christian system a good shaking up. He’ll trample upon evil and turn everything to good use in the end.

– And if someone receives the mark unknowingly?

It’d be better to say “uncaringly”. How can one be unknowing, when everything is crystal clear? And if a person doesn’t know, then he should become interested and find out. By accepting the mark, even unknowingly, a person loses Divine Grace and gives himself up to demonic influence. When a priest immerses the infant in the baptismal font, the infant receives the Holy Spirit without knowing it, and Divine Grace begins to abide in him.

Some people say: “What’s destined by God to be will be. What business is it of ours?”

They can say whatever they want, but in reality it’s not like that! Unfortunately, some modern priests diaper their flock like infants, to keep them from getting upset. “What’s going on today isn’t important”, they say. “Don’t be alarmed. All you need is to have faith in your hearts.” Or they scold: “Don’t speak on that topic, about ID cards or the mark of the beast. It will just upset people.” If they were to say instead: “Let’s try to live more spiritually, to be nearer to Christ and not to be afraid of anything. You see, the most we can suffer is martyrdom,” then they’d at least be preparing their flock for the coming tribulations.

Knowing the truth, a person will begin to mull things over and shake himself out of his sleep. What’s going on will begin to cause him pain. He’ll begin to pray and to be on his guard, so as to not fall into that trap.

* * *

What do we see now? It’s bad enough that cunning ‘interpreters of Scripture’ are commenting prophecy after their own fashion. They’re representatives of the clergy, but they’re more cowardly than lay people. And it would behoove them to exhibit a healthy spiritual unease and help Christians by sowing beneficial concern so they’ll be strengthened in their faith and receive divine consolation. 

I’m amazed: Doesn’t what’s happening give them any cause for concern? And why don’t they at least add a question mark to the interpretations they come up with? And if they help the Antichrist and the mark, lead other souls to perdition?

No, behind the “perfected credit card system”, behind “computerized security” lurks worldwide dictatorship and the yoke of the Antichrist.

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads.

“And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

(Rev. 13:16-18)

“You must be ready for death.”

The world has lost control of itself. Honor and self-sacrifice have abandoned people. The taste of sacrificial joy is unknown to today’s people, and that’s why they’re so tortured. For only when you co-participate in the pain of another do miracles happen.

If a person doesn’t cultivate in himself the spirit of self-sacrifice then he thinks only of himself and doesn’t receive Divine Grace. The more a person forgets himself, the more God remembers him Those who die heroically don’t really die. And where there’s no heroism nothing worthwhile can be expected.

Our time is like a bubbling and steaming cauldron. One needs temperament, audacity, courage. Take care not to be caught unprepared, if something is to happen. Start getting ready now so that you’ll be able to resist difficulties. Christ Himself tells us: “Therefore be ye also ready” (Matt. 24:44), doesn’t He? Today, living in such complicated times, we have to be not merely ready, but triply ready, at the minimum!

Possibly we may meet not only with sudden death, but with other dangers. So let’s drive away the desire to arrange our lives comfortably! May love of honor and the spirit of self-sacrifice live in us.

* * *

I see that something is in the works, that something lies just around the corner, but it’s constantly being put off. Little delays all the time. Who’s creating the delays? God? Another month passes, then another couple of months! That’s how it all goes. But since we know what awaits us, let’s develop love in ourselves, to the degree that we can. That’s the main thing: for true brotherly love to exist between us. Kindness, love — that’s strength! Guard the secret as well as you can and don’t indulge in excessive frankness. If “he and I and the bell-ringer” are all in on the secret, then what will come of that?

Death in battle adds greatly to God’s mercy, for a person who dies the death of the brave sacrifices himself to defend others. Those who give up their lives out of pure love in order to defend their neighbor are imitating Christ. These people are supreme heroes. They arouse fear in our enemies. Death herself trembles before them, because they scorn her due to their great love, and attain immortality in this fashion, finding the key to eternity under the gravestone. They enter into eternal blessedness without difficulty.

That’s why I say to you: Cultivate self-sacrifice, brotherly love. May each of you attain a spiritual condition which will allow you to get out of difficult situations. Without a spiritual condition a person loses courage, because he loves himself. He can renounce Christ, betray Him.

You must be ready for death. We believe that nothing is in vain, that our sacrifice has meaning.

* * *

Remove your “I” from everything you do. The person who leaves his “I” rises above the earth, moves in another atmosphere. As long as he remains inside himself he cannot become a heavenly being.

There is no spiritual life without sacrifice. Try to remember, at least a little bit, that death exists. And since we’ll die in any case, let’s not take care of ourselves too much. Look after your health, but not to the degree where you begin to bow down before your peace and well-being. I’m not asking anyone to throw themselves headlong into dangerous adventures, but you have to have at least a bit of heroism, my brother!..

Feats are committed not by the tall in size but by the audacious, the heartfelt, and the self-sacrificing. There’s no barbarity in spiritual audacity. Such people don’t fire at the enemy, but over his head, forcing him to surrender. A kind man prefers being killed to killing. The harmonious person is prepared for accepting divine powers.

The mean, the cowardly, and the small of spirit, on the other hand, use impudence to hide their fear. They’re afraid of themselves as well as others and shoot without stopping. Courage and audacity are one thing; criminality and malice quite another. In order to succeed at anything one needs a wild streak, in the positive sense. He who lacks this wild streak can become neither a hero nor a saint. The heart must become uncalculating.

* * *

In our age audacity has become a rarity. Water, not blood, flows in people’s veins. So if a war were to break out, God forbid, many would simply die of fright while others would lose heart, because they’re used to an easy life. Fear is necessary when it helps a person turn to God. Fear from lack of faith, from lack of trust in God, on the other hand, is ruinous.

Such fear is driven out by audacity. We must remember: The more a person fears, the more he is tempted by the enemy. If a person refuses to strive to become courageous, and doesn’t strive for real love, then when a difficult situation arises he’ll become a laughingstock.

The warrior takes joy in the fact that he’s dying so that others won’t have to. If you dispose yourself this way then nothing will be frightening. Courage is born from much love, kindness and self-sacrifice. Today people don’t even want to hear about death. However, he doesn’t remember about death is living outside of reality. Those who fear death and love life’s vanities are in a state of spiritual stagnation. Bold people, who always keep death before them and think about it constantly, on the other hand, conquer vanity and begin to live in eternity and heavenly joy while still here on earth. 

May he who fights in the war for Faith and Fatherland cross himself and not fear, for God is his helper! God Himself will decide whether he is to die or to live. One needs to trust God, not oneself.

The Russians will take Turkey. The Chinese will cross the Euphrates.

Providence tells me that many events will happen: The Russians will take Turkey and Turkey will disappear from the world map because a third of the Turks will become Christians, another third will die in the war and another third will leave for Mesopotamia.

The Mid-East will become a theater of a war in which the Russians will take place. Much blood will be spilled. The Chinese, with an army of 200 million, will cross the Euphrates and go all the way to Jerusalem. The sign that this event is approaching will be the destruction of the Mosque of Omar, for its destruction will mark the beginning of work by the Jews to rebuild the Temple of Solomon, which was built on the same spot.

There will be a great war between Russians and Europeans, and much blood will be spilled. Greece won’t play a leading role in that war, but they’ll give her Constantinople. Not because the Russians adore the Greeks, but because no better solution will be found. The city will be handed over to the Greek Army even before it has a chance to get there.

The Jews, inasmuch as they’ll have great power and the help of the European leadership, will become proud and insolent beyond measure and conduct themselves shamelessly. They’ll try to rule Europe.

They’ll play all sorts of tricks, but the resulting persecutions will lead Christians to unite completely. However, they won’t unite in the way desired by those who are now engaging in various machinations to create a single church united under a single religious leadership. Christians will unite because the unfolding situation will naturally separate the sheep from the goats. Then the prophecy: “one flock and one shepherd” will actually come to pass.

* * *

Don’t give in to panic. Cowards are of use to no one. God looks at a person’s situation and helps him. We have to remain cold-blooded and use our brains. No matter what happens, we must continue to pray, think and act. It’s best to always stand up to a difficult situation using spiritual means. However that spiritual boldness which is born of holiness and striving towards God is missing today, as is the natural boldness needed in order not to turn coward in the face of danger.

In order to hold back a great evil, great holiness is needed. A spiritual person can hold back evil and help others. In the spiritual life the biggest coward can attain great courage by entrusting himself to Christ and His divine help. He can go to the front lines, do battle with the enemy, and win! So therefore we will fear God alone, not people, no matter how evil they may be. The fear of God makes any coward into a hero! A person becomes fearless to the extent he unites with God.

Parintele Paisie Aghioritul

On Raising Children

(Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain)

Many parents bring their children spiritual harm by demonstrating their love for them in an innapropriate manner. For example, out of an excessive human lovefor her child, a mother may hug and kiss him, and say to him, “ O what a wonderful child you are,” or “You are the best little boy in the world, ”etc. As a result, from a very early age(while he is still unable to comprehend or object to the meaning of those words), the little one aquires a high opinion of himself, thinking of himself as the best of brightest. Naturally, for the same reason, he will not sense a need for God’s grace, and will not know to ask God for help. Thus from early childhood, the chld will have a high opinion of himslef that is rock-solid, one that he will never be able to overcome and will take with him to the grave. Moreover, the frs to suffer from this haughtiness are the parents themselves. Really, will children quietly sit and lisen to parental instructions when they are certan that they are the best, that they kbow everything? For this reason, parents should be very attentive to their children’s spiritual development; they bear responsibility not only for themselves, but for their children as well.

Two Categories of People

I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories.

A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other.

The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground.  If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt.” There are some people who resemble the fly.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: It only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil. This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.  

When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.

Parintele Paisie Aghioritul

The letter of the Law can be deadly

I had asked someone once: « What do you believe you are? Christ’s warrior or temptation’s warrior? Did you know that temptation also has its warriors? »

A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for all people.

Those who inconsiderately toss comments, even if they are true, can cause harm. I met an author who was extremely pious, but was in the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a blunt manner, which however penetrated so deep that it shook them very severely. He told me at one time: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads – not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a…. Christian manner. The person who – in the presence of others – checks someone for having sinned, or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person, is not moved by the Spirit of God: he is moved by another spirit. The way of the Church is LOVE; it differs from the way of the legalists.

The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be. I have observed a peculiar kind of logic in certain pious people. Their piety is a good thing, and their predisposition for good is also a good thing; however, a certain spiritual discernment and amplitude is required so that their piety is not accompanied by narrow-mindedness or strong-headedness (strong, as in “unturning”). The whole basis is for someone to be in a spiritual state, so that he may have that spiritual discernment, because otherwise he will forever remain attached to the “letter of the Law”, and the letter of the Law can be “deadly”.

The one who possesses humility will never act like a teacher; he will listen, and whenever his opinion is requested, he will respond humbly. In other words, he will reply like a student. Whoever believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.

– Geronda (elder in Greek), when someone begins to do something with a good intention and eventually reaches an extreme point, does this mean that he lacks discernment?

– It is a latent egotism that is hidden beneath this action and he is unaware of it, because he does not know himself that well, which is why he goes to extremes. Quite often, people begin with good intentions, but look where they may find themselves! This was the case with the “icon-worshippers” and the “iconcombatters” in the past: both cases were extremes! The former had reached the point of scraping icons of Christ and placing the scrapings into the Holy Chalice in order to “improve” Holy Communion; the latter, on the other hand, burnt and totally discarded all icons….. That is why the Church was obliged to place the icons in higher places, out of reach, and, when the dispute was over, lowered them so that we can venerate them and thus confer the appropriate honor to the persons portrayed therein….

On Divine eros

– Geronda, is “divine eros” the love we feel for God?

– Divine eros is something far superior to one’s love for God. It is a kind of madness. “Love – eros – madness” – is along the same lines as “envy – hatred –murder”. A precise love of God – complete with sacrifices – simmers slowly inside the heart; then, just like steam, divine eros (which cannot be held back) bursts forth and unites with God. Divine eros can soften even the toughest bones so much, that a person can no longer stand upright; he actually falls down! He then

resembles a wax candle in a warm environment, which cannot stand firmly upright. It falls to one side, then it falls to the other side… you straighten it, but again it bends, again it falls, because of the heat of its environment, which is too hot for it to bear.. When a person finds himself in such a state and he needs to go somewhere or do something, he cannot… He struggles; he has to actually struggle to get out of that state….

– Geronda, when someone is in a state of divine eros, and if he is in pain, can he feel that pain?

– If the pain is very intense, it is subdued and becomes tolerable. If the pain is minimal, it disappears altogether… Haven’t you seen how people who are in love with each other are entirely oblivious? They can hardly sleep… A monk once told me: “Geron, a brother of mine has fallen in love with a gypsy girl and has lost his sleep over her. He keeps repeating her name, over and over again… Is he perhaps bewitched? I have been a monk for so many years, and even I don’t feel that much

love for the Holy Mother as he feels for that gypsy! I don’t feel my heart leaping like that!”

Unfortunately, there are spiritual people who are scandalized by the term “divine eros”. They haven’t perceived what “divine eros” means, and they are attempting to remove this term from the Menaia and the Paracletic texts, because they claim that it scandalizes. Where have things come to! On the contrary, if you speak to secular people (who have experienced “secular eros”) about divine eros, they immediately say: “That must be something a far superior thing.” There have been so many youngsters who have experienced “secular eros”, whom I immediately “aligned” when I mentioned divine eros to them! I ask them: “Have you ever lost your footing on account of the love that you felt for someone? Have you ever felt that you cannot move and you cannot do absolutely anything?” They then immediately comprehend how this must be a really superior state, and we understand each other perfectly thereafter. They usually respond with: “If we feel that way with something secular, imagine what that celestial feeling must be like!” 

– How can one become dotty, Geron, by their love for God?

– Well, by keeping company with …other dotty ones, who will infect you with their spiritual dottiness! I will pray to one day see you… a complete madman! Amen…

I too have a small experience of spiritual madness, which comes from divine eros. In that state, a person reaches the stage of divine absentmindedness and wants to think of nothing else except God, the divine, the spiritual, the celestial… While divinely in love, he is deliciously ablaze internally, and he explodes externally in a mad manner – within the divine confines of modesty – and glorifies his God and Maker like an angel, day and night….

– Is that what we call “ecstasy”, Geron?

– Yes. That is when a person “takes leave of himself” – in the good sense, of course. That is also what we mean by ….”stand aside and shudder, o heavens” (έκστηθι φρίττων ουρανέ) [from the Eirmos of the 8th Ode of the Canon of Easter Saturday].

Divine madness takes a person beyond the earth’s pull; it lifts him up to the Throne of God, and makes him feel like a puppy at his master’s feet; a puppy licking His Feet joyfully and with reverence…

(Source: “Spiritual Counsels” – Elder (Geronda) Paisios of the Holy Mountain)

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Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience.

– St. John Climacus –

 

The Memory of this Saint is celebrated on March 30, where his biography may be found. He is celebrated today because his book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, is a sure guide to the ascetic life, written by a great man of prayer experienced in all forms of the monastic polity: it teaches the seeker after salvation how to lay a sound foundation for his struggles, how to detect and war against each of the passions, how to avoid the snares laid by the demons, and how to rise from the snares laid by the demons, and how to rise from the rudimental virtues to the heights of God’s love and humility. It is held in such high esteem that it is universally read in its entirety in monasteries during the Great Fast.

On holy and blessed prayer, the mother of virtues,  and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer

Step 28

1. Prayer, by reason of its nature, is the converse and union of man with God, and by reason of its action upholds the world and brings about reconciliation with God; it is the mother and also the daughter of tears, the propitiation for sins, a bridge over temptations, a wall against afflictions, a crushing of conflicts, a work of angels, the food of all the bodiless spirits, future gladness, unending activity, a source of virtues, a means of obtaining graces, invisible progress, food of the soul, enlightenment of the mind, an axe against despair, a demonstration of hope, a cure for sorrow, the wealth of monks, the treasure of hesychasts, the reduction of anger, the mirror of progress, the disclosure of stature, an indication of oneʹs condition, a revelation of future things, and a sign of glory. For him who truly prays, prayer is the court, the judgment hall and the tribunal of the Lord before the judgment to come.1

2. Let us rise and listen to what that holy queen of the virtues cries with a loud voice and says to us: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest for your souls and healing for your wounds. For my yoke is easy 2 and is a sovereign remedy for great sins.

  1. When you are going to stand before the Lord, let the garment of your soul be woven throughout with the thread of obliviousness to wrongs. Otherwise, prayer will bring you no benefit.
  2. Let your prayer be completely simple. For both the publican and the prodigal son were reconciled to God by a single phrase.

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(1 Please see The Ladder Step 19:5. It is possible for all to pray with a congregation; for many it is more suitable to pray with a single kindred spirit; solitary prayer is for the very few).

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7. Before all else, let us list sincere thanksgiving first on the scroll of our prayer. On the second line, we should put confession and heartfelt contrition of soul. Then let us present our petition to the King of all. This is the best way of prayer, as it was shown to one of the brethren by an angel of the Lord.

8. If you have ever been under trial before an earthly judge, you will not need any other pattern for your attitude in prayer. But if you have never stood before a judge yourself and have not seen others being cross‐questioned, then learn at least from the way the sick implore the surgeons when they are about to be operated on or cauterized.

11. If you feel sweetness or compunction at some word of your prayer, dwell on it; for then our guardian angel is praying with us.

12. Do not be bold, even though you may have attained purity; but rather approach with great humility, and you will receive still more boldness.

13. Though you may have climbed the whole ladder of the virtues, pray for forgiveness of sins. Listen to the cry of Paul regarding sinners: Of whom I am chief.3

14. Oil and salt are seasonings for food; and tears and chastity give wings to prayer.

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19. The beginning of prayer consists in banishing by a single thought4 the thoughts that assault us at the very moment that they appear; the middle stage consists in confining our minds to what is being said and thought; and its perfection is rapture in the Lord.

24. For everyone, and especially for those who have come to the King in order to receive remission of their debt, unutterable contrition is necessary. As long as we are still in prison, let us listen to Him who speaks to Peter:5 Put on the garment of obedience, cast off your own wishes and, stripped of them, approach the Lord in your prayer, invoking His will alone. Then you will receive God, Who guides the helm of your soul and pilots you safely.

25. Rise from love of the world and love of pleasure, lay aside cares, strip your mind, renounce your body; because prayer is nothing other than estrangement from the world, visible and invisible. For what have I in heaven? Nothing. And what have I desired on earth beside Thee? Nothing, but to cling continually to Thee in prayer without distraction. To some, wealth is pleasant; to others, glory; to others, possessions; but my wish is to cling to God, and to put the hope 6 of my dispassion in Him.

26. Faith 7 gives wings to prayer, and without it we cannot fly up to Heaven.

28. Though the judge did not fear God, yet because a soul, widowed from Him through sin and a fall, troubles Him, He will avenge her of her adversary, the body, and of the spirits who make war upon her.8 Our good Redeemer attracts to His love those who are grateful by the quick satisfaction of their petitions. But He makes ungrateful souls remain in prayer before Him for a long time, in hunger and thirst for their petition; for an ill‐conditioned cur, when once it gets its bread, makes off with it and leaves the giver.

29. Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer, that nothing has been gained; for you have already gained something. And what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and persevere in unceasing union with Him?

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30. A convict does not fear his sentence of punishment so much as a fervent man of prayer fears this duty of prayer. So if he is wise and shrewd, by remembering this he can avoid every reproach, anger, worry, and interruption, affliction, satiety, temptation, and distracting thought.

35. He who is busy with something, and continues it when the hour of prayer comes, is deceived by the demons. Those thieves aim at stealing from us one hour after another.

36. Do not decline when asked to pray for the soul of another, even though you have not obtained the gift of prayer; because through contrition the faith of the suppliant also frequently saves the one who prays for him.

37. Do not be puffed up if you have prayed for another and been heard, for it is his faith that has been strong and effective.

39. We should always perform every virtue, especially prayer, with great feeling. A soul prays with feeling when it gets the better of bad temper and anger.

40. What is obtained by frequent and prolonged prayer is lasting.

41. He who possesses the Lord will no longer express his object in prayer, for then, within him, the Spirit maketh intercession for him with groanings that cannot be uttered.

42. Do not admit any sensory phantasies during prayer, lest you become subject to derangement.

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2Cf. St. Matthew xi, 38‐30.

3 I Timothy 1, 15.

4 μονολογίστως. This may mean by single words of prayer.

5 Vid. Acts xii, 8.   

6 Cf. Psalm lxxii, 26‐28 LXX

7 The Choir of the Holy Fathers cries aloud: Faith is “the faith once delivered to the Saints” for which we “should earnestly contend” (Jude3). St. Paul, in writing to the Ephesians insists on one faith: “There is…one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). To the church in Galatia, he says, there “is not another…gospel.” Continuing, he warns, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema” Gal.1:6‐8. The Lord Himself asks, “when the Son of man cometh, shall He find the faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8). This faith is the faith of the Orthodox Church. Let us make no mistake; there “is not another… gospel.” So let us, according to our strength, “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the Saints.” May the prayer of our holy Fathers be with us in this saving struggle. [Ed.]

8 Vid. St. Luke xviii, 1‐7.  

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43. The assurance of every petition becomes evident during prayer. Assurance is loss of doubt. Assurance is sure proof of the unprovable.

46. Some say that prayer is better than the remembrance of death, but I praise two natures in one person.9

49. Do not abandon prayer until you see that, by Divine providence, the fire and water10 have diminished. For perhaps you will not have such a moment for the remission of your sins again in all your life.

51. It is one thing frequently to keep watch over the heart, and another to supervise the heart by means of the mind, that ruler and high‐priest that offers spiritual sacrifices to Christ. When the holy and super‐celestial fire comes to dwell in the souls of the former, as says one of those who have received the title of Theologian, 11 it burns them because they still lack purification, whereas it enlightens the latter according to the degree of their perfection. For one and the same fire is called both the fire which consumes and the light which illuminates. 12 That is why some people come from prayer as if they were marching out of a fiery furnace, and feel relief as from some defilement and from all that is material, while others are as if illuminated with light and clothed in a garment of joy and humility. But those that come from prayer without having experienced either of these two effects have prayed bodily (not to say after the Jewish fashion), and not spiritually.

52. If a body is changed in its activity from contact with another body, then how can he remain unchanged who touches the body of God with innocent hands?13

53. We see that our all‐good King, like an earthly king, sometimes distributes His gifts to His warriors Himself, sometimes through a friend, sometimes through a slave, and sometimes in an unknown way; and it will be according to the garment of humility that each of us wears.

54. Just as an earthly king is disgusted by a man who turns his face away and talks to his master’s enemies while in his presence, so will the Lord be disgusted by a man who admits unclean thoughts during his set time of prayer.

55. With this stick [Ed. the Jesus Prayer] drive away the dog that approaches, and however often he behaves impudently, never give in to him.

56. Ask with tears, seek with obedience, knock with patience. For thus he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 14

59. Do not let the time of prayer be an hour for considering necessary things or even spiritual tasks, otherwise you will loose the good part. 15

60. He who keeps constant hold of the staff of prayer will not stumble. And even if he does, his fall will not be fatal. For prayer is a devout coercion of God. 16

63. If you constantly converse with the King concerning your enemies, take courage when they attack you. You will not labour long, for they will soon retire of their own accord. These unholy spirits do not want to see you receive a crown for your struggle against them through prayer. And moreover, they will flee as from fire when scourged by prayer.17

64. Have all courage, and you will have God as your teacher in prayer. Just as it is impossible to learn to see by word of mouth, because seeing depends on one’s own natural sight, so it is impossible to learn the beauty of prayer from the teaching of others. Prayer has a Teacher all its own—God—that teacheth man knowledge,18 and grants the prayer of him who prays, and blesses the years of the just.19

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9 A loving nature (prayer) and a fearful nature (remembrance of death), just as Christ has His Divine and human natures united in one Person.

10 I.e. fervour and tears.

11 St. Gregory the Theologian, Or. 40.

12 Hebrews xii, 29; St. John 1, 9.

13 This refers to the power of the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.

14 St. Matthew vii, 8.

15 Vid. St. Luke x, 42.  

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Step 28 does indeed contain the heart of St. John’s teaching on prayer. The Ladder, however, is interwoven with words about prayer and examples of the Fathers at St. Catherine’s Monastery who prayed and whose prayer was blessed.

Sept 28 is offered as an introduction to the feast of spiritual riches in The Ladder for the person who is not a monastic. Most folks do not live in a Monastery. Were a layman to pick up The Ladder and try to start at the first step and go all the way through, it would not be surprising if he soon laid the book down after reading about all the many renunciations and “hateless hatreds” he encounters in the first few pages. There well may be those for whom Step 28 could serve as a portal to St. John’s charming, and arresting, way with words which flavors this time-honored text of Christian wisdom.

St. John’s spiritual direction about prayer is just the thing for most of us. An unspoken need for many people is to have some direction in prayer. It is most helpful to know that prayer is “the mother of virtues.” Prayer is where we begin, so that when we speak or act, the Lord gives us guidance because He knows that we are listening to Him. We can build a virtuous life when we build it upon prayer. There is no other way.

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16 St. Luke xviii, 5.

17 Cf. The Ladder Step 21:7 Flog your enemies with the name of Jesus, for there is no stronger weapon in heaven or earth. [There is no prayer more powerful that the Jesus prayer. Ed.]

18 Psalm xciii, 10 (LXX).

19 I Kings ii, 9 (LXX) “granting his petition to him that prays; and He blesses the years of the righteous, for by strength man cannot prevail.”  

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Text: The Great Horologion © 1997 The Holy Transfiguration Monastery Brookline, Massachusetts 02445 

The Ladder of Divine Ascent © 1959 Archimandrite Lazarus MooreSaint John Climacus Holy Transfiguration Monastery Brookline 02445

Motto: “Sleepwalking Christians are the heart of the crisis of Western civilization in our day. They are unwilling or unable to offer explicitly Biblical alternatives to the collapsing humanist order. Until about 1980, they fervently believed that the humanists possessed some legitimate title to the seats of power in this world, and they still believe that common natural law moral and legal principles are sufficient to hold the world system together until Jesus comes back in glory. So they sit on the sidelines of life, waiting for Jesus to bail them out, or “up”, literally. Just as He bailed out Israel when the Assyrians arrived? Just as He bailed out Judah when the Babylonians arrived? Just as He bailed out Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania when the Soviet troops arrived? But we’re different, of course. We’re Americans. No need to worry. And if 1.5 million babies are aborted here each year, it isn’t the Christians’ fault. Jesus is coming soon. Sit tight. Pray. And don’t miss the Superbowl next Sunday…”

(Gary North in the “Healer of the Nations” )

All of them were soldiers in the Roman army and steadfastly believed in the Lord Jesus. When the persecution of Christians began during the reign of Licinius, they were brought to trial before the commander. When he threatened to strip them of their honor as soldiers, one of them, St. Candidus, responded, “Not only the honor of being a soldier, but take away our bodies, for nothing is more dear or honorable, to us than Christ our God.” After that, the commander ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs. While the servants were hurling stones at the Christians, the stones turned and fell back on the servants, severely striking them. One of the stones struck the commander’s face and knocked out his teeth. The torturers, angry as wild beasts, bound all of the holy martyrs and tossed them into the lake and stationed a guard around it so as to prevent any of them from escaping. There was a terrible frost and the lake froze around the bodies of the martyrs. So that their pain and suffering would be worsened, and in order to persuade one of them to deny Christ and acknowledge the idols of Rome, the torturers heated a bath by the side of the lake in sight of the frozen martyrs. Indeed, one of them was persuaded. He came out of the water and entered the bath. And behold, an extraordinary light appeared from heaven which warmed the water in the lake and the bodies of the martyrs. With that light, thirty-nine wreaths descended from heaven over their heads. Upon seeing this, a guard on the shore removed all his clothes, confessed the Name of the Lord Jesus and entered the lake so that he could become worthy of the fortieth wreath in place of the betrayer. Indeed, the last wreath descended upon him. The next day the entire town was astonished when they saw that the martyrs were still alive.

Then, the wicked judges ordered that the lower part of their legs be broken and their bodies thrown into the water so Christians could not recover them. On the third day the martyrs appeared to Peter, the local bishop, and summoned him to gather their relics and remove them from the water The bishop with his clergy went out into the dark of night and beheld the relics of the martyrs shining brightly in the water. Every bone which was separated from their bodies floated to the top and glowed like a candle.

Bishop Peter gathered and honorably buried them. The souls of these martyrs, who suffered for all of us, went to the Lord Jesus, resurrected with glory. They suffered honorably and were crowned with unfading glory in the year 320 A.D.

(Written by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich in “The PROLOG FROM OHRID”)

The 40 Holy Martyrs from Lake Sebaste, celebrated on March 9, formed a community of witnesses who confessed Christ, being thrown into a frozen lake, where they were warmed by the love they manifested for each other.

These Holy Martyrs remind us much more than an event that took place 1700 years ago; they show us “the way of the Christian”, the way that contemporary martyrs and confessors for Christ had followed, while suffering in communist concentration camps or earlier persecution under the pagan Roman law.

We remember today a brilliant Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – when asked at a press conference his opinion on why the terrible events behind the Iron Curtain had occurred, why millions of Christians were carted away, tortured, starved and worked to death in Gulag slave camps, he gave this simple, yet startling, response: “Man has forgotten God”…and, we remember many more – with a pure and sincere love for Christ who had the “guts” to reject a life of compromise and wickedness.  “Now is the time for repentance!” cried out from his deathbed confessor Valeriu Gafencu martyred for Christ in the concentration camps.

The message of martyrdom is the same at all times and places and, it has the same value today, because it is the message of our crucified Savior.

Let us pray to the Holy 40 martyrs and to all the saints to enlighten and show us the way in these unstable and confusing times. Amen!

Please also see: Let us honor the Martyrs – by father George Calciu

Quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 

“Man has set for himself the goal of conquering the world but in the processes loses his soul.”

“The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all”

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, and know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.”

“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”

“For a country to have a great writer is like having a second government. That is why no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.”

“Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the 20th century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. “

“I have spent all my life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either.”

“You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.”

 

„Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and takeup  his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8.34)

Fr. Evans (audio): feasts-of-the-savior-exaltation-of-the-cross_2008-09-27

 

Other sermon on the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross: 

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/thearena/holy_cross_sept2010

The Holy Cross is recognized as one of the most important symbols of Christianity. In the past, Latins used to define the cross by the word “crux” and Greeks by the word “Stavros”, designating first the vertical pole – then the horizontal – on which those sentenced to death were crucified. This instrument of torture was consecrated by the precious blood of our Lord and  Savior Jesus Christ when He was crucified, thus becoming  for the Christian man a  holy and life-giving object. For the Orthodox Christian, the Holy Cross is both a symbol of human redemption and an object of worship. By this, we see and honor at once: the sacrifice of the Son of God and the wooden cross that our Lord was crucified on – as the Altar of His sacrifice. The sign of the cross is thus the sign of the “Son of Man” and of the Christian man. In making the sign of the cross over our body as a seal, we show our participation in Christ’s sanctifying sacrifice.

Cruce

The Cross and its ancient origin

The sign of the cross was used as a sacred symbol in one form or another by many pagan peoples, long before the emergence of Christianity. In Paganism this symbol had mythical significance. According to the researchers, the cross had originated among the ancient Babylonians of Chaldea, and was used as a symbol of the pagan god Tammuz. Since the Bronze Era, the sign of the cross was used by many tribes in Europe as a symbol of consecration for the newborns. Also, the symbol of the cross was used among Aryan civilization as a representation of mystical light of the pagan gods or sacred fire and even the sun. The ancient scientists believed that the middle of the universe was where the earth meets the sky, and the four arms of the cross indicated the four cardinal points.

The Cross in the Old and the New Testament

The Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition give us evidence about the meaning of the Holy Cross, before and after the crucifixion of our Lord, the sign of the Holy Cross becoming a bookmark for the believing Christian.

The Holy Cross is represented in the Old Testament as the “tree of life” rising from the earth, the commandment of God in the midst of earthly paradise, together with the “tree of knowledge for good and evil” (cf. Genesis 2, 9) . “The Tree of Life” is the metaphorical name of the Holy Cross, a name that appears starting even with the first pages of the Holy Scripture. The cross is also portrayed in books of divine services, as well as in paintings.

Moses passed through the Red Sea the people of Israel by the power of the divine cross, freeing them from the Egyptian slavery. He raised the rod, and stretched out his hand across the sea, than the sea split in two as the Jews passed to the dry land. When the Egyptians entered the sea, Moses, by God’s commandment, stretched his hand with the rod again, and made the sign the opposite way. The waters closed together, and the Egyptians were drowned at sea (see Exodus 14, 21-27).

Cruce Athos

Moreover, the patriarchal blessing, that Jacob gave with his hands to the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, was a blessing with his hands crossed, prefiguring the Holy Cross – 1,500 years before Christ.

The New Testament shows, more explicitly than the Old Testament, the divine teachings about the importance of the Holy Cross.

The Holy Cross is the real and historical divine altar of Christianity; the altar on which Christ was “once sacrificed to raise many sins” (Hebrew 9, 28). The Cross is “the power of God” (I Cor. 1, 18) for those who desire to be saved, that is for those who believe. In the  divine power of the Cross, the Apostle Paul rejoiced despite his human sorrows and distress (cf. Gal. 6, 14). The Cross is “the divine seal” on the forehead of the faithful, seal by which they escape visible and invisible enemies and plagues.

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In the New Testament, the Cross is also the sign of the Son of Man at His second coming. Christ himself told his disciples – wanting to know when the second coming and End of the world will be (cf. Matthew 24, 3) – that, among many signs that will appear in the sky, there will be one “sign of the Son of Man” (Matthew 23, 30),  – the Holy Cross.

Sfanta Cruce

The Cross in the Christian worship

Archaeological discoveries from Palestine have shown that the sign of the Cross has been used by the very first Christian community in Jerusalem. Among the first works – where the cross appears as a Christian symbol with mystical meanings related to human salvation brought by Christ’s crucifixion – is that of Minucius Felix: „Octavius”, written at the end of the second century.

Monogramul lui Hristos

Then the cross appears as a Christian symbol in the writings of St. Clement of Alexandria, when he speaks of the “sign of God”, which was foreshadowed by the letter number 318 from Genesis 14:14, as explained in the Epistle of Barnabas. For the number 300, the letter “T” has been used in the Hebrew alphabet, the similarity with the sign of the cross been obvious. For the letter “18” – the first two letters of the name “Jesus Christ” were used which shows the connection between Christ and the Cross.

Simbolul crucii pe monede

Starting with the IV-th century AD, the veneration of the Holy Cross was generalized, manifesting itself publicly and officially entering the divine worship of the Church. To this have contributed the apparition in the sky of the „wonder sign of the cross”, by  which Constantine the Great was encouraged in the battle with Maxentiu. After his victory, Constantin the Great had placed it as an emblem on flags and other official documents and coins; and forbidden nailing to the cross those condemned to death.

Semnul Sfintei Cruci

Another miracle was the discovery the Cross of our Savior (in the year 326) in the place of His crucifixion.

St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, built a large church on the site of our Lord’ tomb (the Holy Sepulcher church) and another church at the site of His crucifixion (Basilica of the Holy Cross) – consecrated on September 13, 335 – when the veneration of the Holy Cross entered the Christian worship.

Starting with 431 AD, the crosses have been placed in churches and plants, but the use of the crosses on domes did not appear until the year 586.
The Church’s teaching on the veneration of  Holy Cross was formulated by the VII Ecumenical council of Nicea (787) and completed by the local council of Constantinople (869), when it was proclaimed that the Holy icons, the Holy Gospel and the Holy Cross should be equally venerated.

In the Orthodox Church, the cult of the Holy Cross is manifested in celebrations dedicated to her. Of these we mention: the Elevation of the Holy Cross (the Day of the Cross or Carstov) on September 14, Sunday of the Cross (Third Sunday of the Great Lent), Procession with the Holy Cross (August 1) and the Apparition of the sign of the Holy Cross to Emperor Constantine the Great (May 7)

The Eastern tradition celebrates the Holy Cross in many prayers and hymns made in her honor and praise, being a divine sign, inexhaustible in its meaning and a source of vital power.

Please also see an older post with Metropolitan Kallistos: “Salvation in Christ, The Meaning of the Cross”

Saint Nikolai’s life at:

St Nikolai of Zica

Saint of the Day: Nikolai_Velimirovich (audio)

 

 

Prayers by the Lake (text) at:

Bishop Velimirovich Prayers by the Lake of Ochrid

REFLECTION by St Nikolai Velimirovich

 Why do some people, well educated and baptized as Christians, fall away from Christianity and give themselves over to philosophy and to learned theories, pretending these to be something more truthful than Christianity? They do so for two principal reasons: either out of a totally superficial understanding of Christianity or because of sin. A superficial understanding of Christ rejects Him and flees from Christ as does a criminal from a judge. Superficial and sinful Christians were as often enraged and infuriated with Christianity as were the pagans. To the superficial and culpable, it was more comfortable for them to bathe in the shallow swamp of human thoughts than in the perilous depth of Christ. For those who sincerely follow Christ, He constantly calls them to a greater and greater depth; as He once said to the Apostle Peter, “Put out into deep water” (St. Luke 5:4). St. Mark the Ascetic writes that the law of God is understood in accordance with the fulfillment of the commandments of God: “Ignorance compels a person to speak in opposition to that which is beneficial and insolence multiplies vice.”

 

 

CONTEMPLATION

To contemplate the Mystery of Communion as a Mystery of the Perfection of Love:

1. Because on the part of Christ, it means giving completely of Himself to His faithful;

2. Because of this, Christ is received with faith and trust on the part of the faithful;

3. Because of this, it leads to the joyful, fruitful and saving union of God with man.

 

HOMILY: Traveling with Christ into the deep

“Put out into deep water” (St. Luke 5:4).This is how our Lord commanded Peter and the rest of the apostles “after He had finished speaking” (St. Luke 5:4). This means that He first gave instructions and immediately following that, He called them to action. This is also important for us. For as soon as we learn something from the Gospels, we immediately need to go out and implement it. The works of the disciple are dear to the Lord, not only the disciple. “Put out into deep water.” Along the shore, from the shallow waters, our Lord spoke to the people who were less enlightened in the mysteries of God’s Kingdom. He invited the apostles out into the deep. There is less danger in the shallow waters, but the catch is also smaller. In the shallow waters there are snakes, frogs and other lesser repulsive water creatures. That is all the danger. In shallow waters there are only small fish; that is the entire catch. But in the greater depths, the danger is also greater. There you have large sea creatures and great storms. That is dangerous.

But there are also much larger and better fish in enormous quantity; that is the catch. O, enlightened one, come therefore into the deep! “Put out into the deep” mysterious sea of life, but do not set out without Christ in your boat. By no means. You might spend the entire night of your life not catching anything, as Peter said, “We have toiled all night and have taken nothing” (St. Luke 4:5). Not only that, but you could face far worse if Christ is not in your boat. Perhaps the winds could carry you away and cast you into an abyss. Perhaps the monstrous and enormous beasts of the sea will consume you. The winds, O enlightened one, those are your own passions which accompany you unavoidably if you set out into the deep without Christ. The enormous and monstrous beasts of the sea are demons who, with the blinking of an eye, can destroy you as with the blinking of an eye “the herd of about two thousand swine rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned” (St. Mark 5:13).

However, if you are going out with Christ into the deep, do not be afraid of anything; but go rejoice fully and courageously glued to Christ. You will lay hold of the best catch; and you will fill both boats with it, the physical and the spiritual. You will snare the best catch, O dedicated one, and, without any dangers, you will arrive to theshore, to the shore of the Kingdom of Christ. Nowhere without Christ! Neither in shallow places nor into the deep. In the shallow places you will become vexed by hunger and by many minor disgusts, but into the deep a greater evil will befall you.

O, my Almighty Savior, You are our Helmsman, our Defense, our Harbor.

(Taken from the “Prolog from Ochrid”, Lenten Meditations by St Nikolai Velimirovich)

 

(In light of St Gregory Palamas teachings on the Eastern Tradition, an  excerpt from the amazing  work of  V. Lossy)

“The theology of the Eastern Church distinguishes in God the three hypostases, the nature or essence, and the energies. The Son and the Holy Spirit are, so to say, personal processions, the energies natural processions. The energies are inseparable from the nature, and the nature is inseparable from the three Persons. These distinctions are of great importance for the Eastern Church’s conception of mystical life:

1. The doctrine of the energies, ineffably distinct from the essence, is the dogmatic basis of the real character of all mystical experience. God, who is inaccessible in His essence, is present in His energies ‘as in a mirror,’ remaining invisible in that which He is; ‘in the same way we are able to see our faces, themselves invisible to us in a glass,’ according to a saying of St. Gregory Palamas. (Sermon on the Presentation of the Holy Virgin in the Temple). Wholly unknowable in His essence, God wholly reveals Himself in His energies, which yet in no way divide His nature into two parts–knowable and unknowable–but signify two different modes of the divine existence, in the essence and outside of the essence.

2. This doctrine makes it possible to understand how the Trinity can remain incommunicable in essence and at the same time come and dwell within us, according to the promise of Christ (John xiv, 23). The presence is not a causal one, such as the divine omnipresence in creation; no more is it a presence according to the very essence–which is by definition incommunicable; it is a mode according to which the Trinity dwells in us by means of that in itself which is communicable–that is to say, by the energies which are common to the three hypostases, or, in other words, by grace–for it is by this name that we know the deifying energies which the Holy Spirit communicates to us. He who has the Spirit, who confers the gift, has at the same time the Son, through whom every gift is transmitted to us; he also has the Father, from whom comes every perfect gift. In receiving the gift–the deifying energies–one receives at the same time the indwelling of the Holy Trinity–inseparable from its natural energies and present in them in a different manner but none the less truly from that in which it is present in its nature.

3. The distinction between the essences and the energies, which is fundamental for the Orthodox doctrine of grace, makes it possible to preserve the real meaning of St. Peter’s words ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ The union to which we are called is neither hypostatic–as in the case of the human nature of Christ–nor substantial, as in that of the three divine Persons: it is union with God in His energies, or union by grace making us participate in the divine nature, without our essence becoming thereby the essence of God. In deification we are by grace (that is to say, in the divine energies) all that God is by nature, save only identity of nature . . ., according to the teaching of St. Maximus (De ambiguis). We remain creatures while becoming God by grace, as Christ remained God in becoming man by the Incarnation.

These distinctions in God which are made by the theology of the Eastern Church do not in any way contradict its apophatic attitude in regard to revealed truth. On the contrary, these antinomical distinctions are dictated by a concern for safeguarding the mystery, while yet expressing the data of revelation in dogma. Thus, as we have seen in the doctrine of the Trinity, the distinction between the persons and the nature revealed a tendency to represent God as a ‘monad and triad in one’, with the consequence that the domination of the unity of the nature over the trinity of the hypostases was avoided, as was the elimination or minimizing of the primordial mystery of the identity-diversity. In the same way, the distinction between the essence and the energies is due to the antinomy between the unknowable and the knowable, the incommunicable and the communicable, with which both religious thought and the experience of divine things are ultimately faced. These real distinctions introduce no ‘composition’ into the divine being; they signify the mystery of God, who is absolutely one according to His nature, absolutely three according to His persons, sovereign and inaccessible Trinity, dwelling in the profusion of glory which is His uncreated light, His eternal Kingdom which all must enter who inherit the deified state of the age to come.”

Taken from The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (pdf), SVS Press, pgs. 85-87

 

 

Motto: “The line of demarcation separating good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart”

(Alexander Solzenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago)

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

A link with:

The life of St. Gregory (video) of the Monastery of Pantokrator website

This divine Father, who was from Asia Minor, was from childhood reared in the royal court of Constantinople, where he was instructed in both religious and secular wisdom. Later, while still a youth, he left the imperial court and struggled in asceticism on Mount Athos, and in the Skete at Beroea. He spent some time in Thessalonica being treated for an illness that came from his harsh manner of life. He was present in Constantinople at the Council that was con¬vened in 1341 against Barlaam of Calabria, and at the Council of 1347 against Acindynus, who was of like mind with Barlaam; Barlaam and Acindynus claimed that the grace of God is created. At both these Councils, the Saint contended courageously for the true dogmas of the Church of Christ, teaching in particular that divine grace is not created, but is the uncreated energies of God which are poured forth throughout creation: otherwise it would be impossi¬ble, if grace were created, for man to have genuine communion with the uncreated God. In 1347 he was appointed Metropolitan of Thessalonica. He tended his flock in an apostolic man¬ner for some twelve years, and wrote many books and treatises on the most exalted doctrines of our Faith; and having lived for a total of sixty-three years, he reposed in the Lord in 1359. His holy relics are kept in the Cathedral of Thessalonica. A full service was composed for his feast day by the Patriarch Philotheus in 1368, when it was, established that his feast be cele¬brated on this day. Since works without right faith avail nothing, we set Orthodoxy of faith as the foundation of all that we accomplish during the Fast, by celebrating the Triumph of Ortho¬doxy the Sunday before, and the great defender of the teachings of the holy Fathers today.  His Feast day is celebrated November 27 / 14 and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent.

Excerpt from the book:  “Lives of the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy: Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica; Saint Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople and Saint Mark Eugenicus, Metropolitan of Ephesus”

Pillars of Orthodoxy Church

Troparia for Saint Gregory Palamas:

O light of Orthodoxy, pillar and teacher of the Church,
ideal of monastics and invincible champion theologian,
O wonder-working Gregory, boast of Thessalonica and herald of grace,
Forever pray to the Lord that our souls be saved.

Please also see: A Sermon on the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas By Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna

Fr. Bassam A. Nassif: St. Gregory – a Light to the World

On the second Sunday of Great Lent, there is a great feast in the blessed city of Thessalonika, Greece. It is the feast of St. Gregory Palamas. On this day, the holy relics of the saint are taken from the Church of St. Gregory in a procession throughout the city, escorted by bishops, priests, sailors, policemen, and thousands of faithful. One wonders why his earthly remains are still held in such great veneration. How could his bones remain incorruptible more than six hundred years after his death? Indeed, St. Gregory’s life clearly explains these wondrous facts. It illustrates the inspired words of the apostles that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19) and that we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

A Childhood Passion for the Eternal

St. Gregory Palamas was born in the year 1296. He grew up in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in a critical time of political and religious unrest. Constantinople was slowly recovering from the devastating invasion of the Crusades. It was a city under attack from all sides. From the west, it was infiltrated by Western philosophies of rationalism and scholasticism and by many attempts at Latinization. From the east, it was threatened by Muslim Turkish military invaders. The peace and faith of its citizens were at stake.

Gregory’s family was wealthy. His father was a member of the senate. Upon his father’s sudden death, Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Paleologos (1282–1328), who was a close friend of the family, gave it his full financial support. He especially admired Gregory for his fine abilities and talents, hoping that the brilliant young man would one day become a fine assistant. However, instead of accepting a high office in the secular world, Gregory sought “that good part, which will not be taken away” from him (Luke 10:42).

Upon finishing his studies in Greek philosophy, rhetoric, poetry, and grammar, Gregory, at only twenty or twenty-two years of age, followed a burning passion in his heart. Like a lover who strives to stay alone forever with his loved one, Gregory was thirsty for this living water (see Revelation 22:17). Therefore, no created thing could separate him from the love of God (see Romans 8:39). He simply withdrew to Mount Athos, an already established community of monasticism. He first stayed at the Vatopedi Monastery, and then moved to the Great Lavra.

Gregory’s departure was not a surprise to the rest of his family. Many priests and monks, friends of the family, frequently visited the family home. The parents were careful to pass on to their children the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46). Great wealth and high education were not a hindrance, but an excellent tool in their pursuit of salvation. As a result of their way of life and belief, Gregory’s mother, two brothers, and two sisters soon distributed all their earthly possessions to the poor and entered different monasteries.

On St Gregory Palamas and the Divine Energies

 

Living the Spiritual Experience of the Church

In Athos, the novice Gregory took as his spiritual guide St. Nicodemos of Vatopedi Monastery. This holy man of prayer guided Gregory on the path of ascetic labor: prayers, vigils, fasting, continuous repentance, and monastic obedience. The young novice Gregory was especially attached to the prayer of the heart, also known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (see Luke 18:38).

The experienced practice of the Jesus Prayer, requiring solitude and silence combined with physical exercises and breathing methods, is called “hesychasm” (from the Greek hesychos, meaning inner stillness, peace, or silence). Those practicing it are called “hesychasts.” Inner silence of this kind makes us capable of listening to the whispers of the divine within us. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Therefore, the Jesus Prayer is the prayer of the whole person, involving the human body, mind, soul, and heart.

The hesychasts spoke and wrote about their unique experience. They taught people to pray without ceasing, as the Apostle Paul commands all Christians to do (1 Thessalonians 5:17). They explained that in prayer, man is filled from within with the eternal glory, with the divine light beheld at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. The hesychast Gregory explains:

For, on the day of the Transfiguration, that Body, source of the light of grace, was not yet united with our bodies; it illuminated from outside those who worthily approached it, and sent the illumination into the soul by the intermediary of the physical eyes; but now, since it is mingled with us and exists in us, it illuminates the soul from within. (Triads I. 3.38)

The Jesus Prayer is not a mantra, as in Eastern religions, and it cannot be taken as such. The prayer’s call for “mercy” involves inner repentance and change. It is also a prayer practiced within the sacramental life of the Church, a prayer combined with Holy Communion, confession, reading the Word of God, fasting, loving one’s neighbor, and so forth. Finally, it is not a prayer using “vain repetitions” or babble, but a prayer recited again and again, in persistence (Luke 18:1), from the inner heart of man reaching the divine heights of glory, confessing Christ as the Lord and Savior, in sincerity, humility, and faith.

 

For that prayer (the Jesus Prayer) is true and perfect. It fills the soul with Divine grace and spiritual gifts. As chrism perfumes the jar the more strongly the tighter it is closed, so prayer, the more fast it is imprisoned in the heart, abounds the more in Divine grace. . . . By this prayer the dew of the Holy Spirit is brought down upon the heart, as Elijah brought down rain on Mount Carmel. This mental prayer reaches to the very throne of God and is preserved in golden vials. . . . This mental prayer is the light which illumines man’s soul and inflames his heart with the fire of love of God. It is the chain linking God with man and man with God. (Palamas, “Homily on how all Christians in general must pray without ceasing,” in E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, Early Fathers of the Philokalia, London: Faber and Faber, 1981, pp. 412–415)

 

See also: Knowledge of God according to St. Gregory Palamas

 

Such prayer was practiced from the early Christian period. The hesychasts were drawn by God’s unconditional graceful love (Romans 5:15) to fill a certain human need around them. Many hesychasts abandoned their solitude to serve their brothers, “since he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Some cared for the sick in hospitals, like St. Basil the Great in Caesarea; others helped the poor, like St. John the Almsgiver in Alexandria; and yet others welcomed the faithful for confession. Nevertheless, they did not abandon the Jesus Prayer and their inner silence. In this sense, all Christians are called to follow this hesychast way leading to salvation.

Let no one think, my brother Christians, that it is the duty only of priests and monks to pray without ceasing, and not of laymen. No, no; it is the duty of all of us Christians to remain always in prayer . . . every Christian in general should strive to pray always, and to pray without ceasing . . . this very name of our Lord Jesus Christ, constantly invoked by you, will help you to overcome all difficulties, and in the course of time you will become used to this practice and will taste how sweet is the name of the Lord. . . . For when we sit down to work with our hands, when we walk, when we eat, when we drink we can always pray mentally and practice this mental prayer—the true prayer pleasing to God. (“Homily on how all Christians in general must pray without ceasing”)

In addition to his spiritual practice and daily scriptural readings, St. Gregory studied the works of the great Fathers, theologians, and ascetics of the Church. Just as a scientist builds on the evidence and data provided to him by his predecessors, Gregory made a fascinating synthesis of the scriptural and patristic teaching on the prayer of the heart, combined with his personal experience.

Although the monk Gregory in his youth had diligently studied Greek philosophy, he was not influenced by its views on matter. Ancient Greek philosophy believes that the body imprisons the soul, and thus it detests matter. Christians respect the body, since Christ made the flesh a source of sanctification, and matter (water, oil, etc.) a channel of divine grace. In his writings, St. Gregory affirmed that man, united in body and soul, is sanctified by Jesus Christ, who took a human body at the Incarnation. “When God is said to have made man according to His image,” wrote St. Gregory, “the word man means neither the soul by itself nor the body by itself, but the two together.” In another place, he added:

 

Also see: Two brilliant and lengthy articles on the “Palamite Controversy” and the big differences between the Orthodox and Latin understanding of the spiritual life

 

Thus the Word of God took up His dwelling in the Theotokos in an inexpressible manner and proceeded from her, bearing flesh. He appeared upon the earth and lived among men, deifying our nature and granting us, after the words of the divine Apostle, “things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12). (A Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary)

Father Gregory, Teacher

His unquenched thirst for God’s sweetness experienced in prayer moved the righteous Gregory to live as a hermit in a cell outside the monastery. In the year 1326, the threat of Turkish invasions forced him, along with his Athonite brothers, to retreat to Thessalonika. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood.

As a priest, Gregory did not abandon his spiritual labor and hesychasm. He spent most of the week alone in prayer. On the weekends, he celebrated divine services and preached sermons. He cared for the youth, calling them to discuss religious issues with him. Father Gregory was not concerned about abstract problems of philosophy, but about Christian faith experienced in prayer. He wanted to preach solely about problems of Christian existence, which are more attractive and meaningful to the young.

Soon, many of his spiritual sons expressed their desire to live in a monastic setting. So in the serene area of Vereia, near Thessalonika, he established a small community of monks, which he guided for five years. In 1331 the saint withdrew to Mt. Athos and lived in solitude at the Skete of St. Sabbas. In 1333 he was appointed abbot of the Esphigmenou Monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 he returned to the Skete of St. Sabbas, where he devoted himself to theological writing, continuing with this work until the end of his life.

But amidst all this, in the 1330s events took place in the life of the Eastern Church that placed St. Gregory among the most prominent teachers of Orthodox spirituality.

The Challenge of Rationalism

Around the year 1330, a certain monk Barlaam arrived in Constantinople from Calabria, Italy. He was a famous scholar, a skilled orator, and an acclaimed Christian teacher. Barlaam visited Mt. Athos and became acquainted with hesychasm.

Barlaam valued education and learning much more than contemplative prayer. Therefore, he believed the monks on Mount Athos were wasting their time in contemplative prayer when they should be studying. He ridiculed the ascetic labor and life of the monks, their methods of prayer, and their teachings about the uncreated light experienced by the hesychasts. Countering the traditional stance of the Church that “the theologian is the one who prays,” Barlaam asked: “How can an intimate communion of man with the Divine be achievable through prayer, since the Divine is transcendent and ‘dwelling in unapproachable light’ (1 Timothy 5:16)? No one can apprehend the essential being of God!” Barlaam was convinced that God can be reached only through philosophical, mental knowledge—in other words, through rationalism.

The words of Barlaam were not merely a challenge to a few monks. They defied the experience of the Church as a whole. The West, with its rationalistic tendencies, has associated the image of God with man’s intellect. Barlaam’s mind was full of rational arguments, but his heart was cold. Certainly, life with God is not just information, but also experience. Our living God cannot be conceived and described only by study, but must be spoken about from experience. “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

Journeying from Mt. Athos to Thessalonika and Constantinople, Barlaam clashed with the monks, refusing to test their way of vigils, prayer, and fasting, or to accept their spiritual experience. Unfortunately, many monks were swayed by his arguments and stood by his side. Deceived by considering the living faith as mere rational knowledge, Barlaam waged a war against the ascetics.

At the request of the Athonite monks, St. Gregory countered at first with verbal admonitions. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put his theological arguments in writing. Thus appeared the Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts in the year 1338.

St Gregory Palamas spoke strongly against the Pope of Rome and the heresy of the Filioque. In his work \’Triads\’, St. Gregory presents the Orthodox Dogmatic basis for ascetical life and Hesychasm – a concept foreign to the latin doctrins and scholasticsm

The Presence of God in Prayer

In his Triads, Palamas interpreted the experience of the Church by presenting logical arguments, based on the Scripture and the writings of the Fathers. Addressing the question of how it is possible for humans to have knowledge of a transcendent and unknowable God, he drew a distinction between knowing God in His essence, or nature, and knowing God in His energies, actions, or the means by which He acts.

To elaborate more, he made a comparison between God and the sun. The sun has its rays, God has His energies (among them, grace and light). By His energies, God creates, sustains, and governs the universe. By His energies, He transforms creation and deifies it, that is, He fills the new creation with His energies as water fills a sponge. These actions or energies of God are the true revelation of God Himself to humanity. So God is incomprehensible and unknowable in His nature or essence, but knowable in His energies. It is through His actions out of His love to the whole creation that God enters into a direct and immediate relationship with mankind, a personal confrontation between creature and Creator.

Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics, with St. Gregory’s assistance, compiled a general reply to the attacks of Barlaam, the so-called Hagiorite Tome. Since the heated arguments flared everywhere in the churches, a general council was held at Constantinople in the year 1341. In front of hundreds of bishops and monastics, St. Gregory Palamas held an open debate with Barlaam in the halls of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia. On May 27, 1341, the council accepted the position of St. Gregory Palamas that God, unapproachable in His essence, reveals Himself through His energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Barlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself was anathematized and returned to Calabria.

Second Triumph of Orthodoxy

But the dispute between the Palamites and the Barlaamites was far from finished. Politics came into play, and the politicians used the disputed religious issue as a threatening tool against those who supported Palamas. The great turmoil led to five consecutive church councils. One of the many scholars who advocated Barlaam’s position was the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, who wrote a series of tracts against St. Gregory. Emperor Andronikos III Paleologos (1328–1341) was Akyndinos’s friend. Fearing the emperor, Patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341–1347) backed Akyndinos, calling St. Gregory the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church (1344). He had St. Gregory locked up in prison for four years. In 1347, John XIV was replaced on the patriarchal throne by Isidore (1347–1349), a friend of St. Gregory. He set St. Gregory free and ordained him archbishop of Thessalonika.

In 1351, a sixth and final council was held to settle the heated controversial issues in the church. The Council of Blachernae solemnly upheld the orthodoxy of Palamas’ teachings and anathematized and excommunicated those who refused them. The anathemas of the council of 1351 were included in the rite for the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Triodion. This council was considered the second triumph of Orthodoxy (the first being the restoration of icons). Later on, the memory of St. Gregory Palamas came to be celebrated in the Church on the second Sunday of Great Lent.

Imprisoned by Muslims

Gregory’s suffering for Christ did not end here. Again, because of the political influence of the West in Thessalonika, its citizens were divided upon the issue proclaimed by the councils. They did not immediately accept St. Gregory as archbishop, so that he was compelled to live in various places. On one of his travels to Constantinople, the Byzantine ship on which he was sailing fell into the hands of the Turkish Muslims. They took Archbishop Gregory as a prisoner, but displayed tolerance toward him. Even in captivity, St. Gregory preached to Christian prisoners and even held many debates with his Moslem captors. His love and respect for all men made his captors admire him and treat him with reverence. A year later, St. Gregory was ransomed and returned to Thessalonika.

The Proclamation of His Sainthood

St. Gregory was a living Gospel. God gave him the gift of healing, especially in the last three years before his death. On the eve of his repose, St. John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. St. Gregory Palamas fell asleep in the Lord on November 14, 1359. The Virgin Mary, the Apostle John, St. Dimitrios, St. Antony the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and angels of God all appeared to him at different times. Nine years after his repose, a council in Constantinople headed by Patriarch Philotheos (1354–1355, 1362–1376) proclaimed the sainthood of Gregory Palamas. Patriarch Philotheos himself compiled the life and services for the saint.

When we hear in the Lenten Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, “The Light of Christ illumines all,” may we remember the call of the illumined Gregory for unceasing prayer and ascetic labor, that we be truly illumined by the light of the Resurrection.

This article originally appeared in AGAIN Vol. 27 No. 1.

Bishop Kallistos Ware speaks about St Gregory to a non-orthodox audience

 

A beautiful piece to watch (re-watch) this Great Lent

Somewhere in Northern Russia in a small Russian Orthodox monastery lives an unusual man whose bizarre conduct confuses his fellow monks, while others who visit the island believe that the man has the power to heal, exorcise demons and foretell the future.

Awards:
2006 — best film at the Moscow Premiere festival.
2007 — Six awards at the fifth national Golden Eagle Awards – “Best film”, “Best male support role” (Viktor Suhorukov), “Best male role” (Petr Mamonov), “Best director” (Pavel Lungin), “Best scenario” (Dmitry Sobolev), “Best operator work” (Andrei Zhegalov).
2007 – Nika Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, etc.

(© Pavel Lungin Studio, 2006).

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

 

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