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During 1950s to 1953 having been a spiritual father at Neamt Seminary, at the time the only monastic seminary in the country. I had 35 deacon students under my instruction. One day I served the Divine Liturgy with a deacon, the oldest among them.
While I was preaching – by rule we had to say a 10 minutes sermon, to talk about the Holy Mysteries, which can appear just as bread and wine, or in the form of flesh or as a babe – the deacon was consuming the Holy Mysteries and thought to himself: “Is it really just as the father says?” and suddenly his mouth was filled with blood and flesh instead of bread and wine. He dropped the chalice over the proscomidiar and felt to the ground. I thought that he was ill. I was standing half a meter away from the altar’s door. He doubted! You see my dear, he wasn’t living the faith! “Can it really be just as father said…?!” So then, why are you preparing yourself for the priesthood?
This had happened twice in my lifetime. Once at Sihastria Monastery and now at Neamt. My dear, know that God created two most wondrous things! He created a distinguished woman who gave birth to Christ, and He created the priesthood, which brings God from heaven to be born on the Holy Table!
Do you realize what priesthood mean?! Make no distinction between one priest or another. Any confessor is able to forgive sins. Is not his worthiness that absolve you, but the grace of God working through him. God gave this gift to the priest to absolve us from sins, from our awful and great falls, to unbound us forever.
Do you realize what possibilities does man have in order to be saved?! Regardless of sins, a confessor should know and be happy when heavy sins are been told to him, because he is saving a man from deep waters. He no longer scolds him of why he is wet. But rejoices that he drew him out of the water.
(From “The words of Elder Arsenie (Papacioc), 2nd edition by Sihastria Monastery Press”, translated form the Romanian)
More about Anghel Papacioc – the Archimandrite Arsenie
Anghel Papacioc, Macedonian in origin, had chosen since his youth, the path of serving God and his nation. For this “guilt” he will be imprisoned under three regimes – Carol the II, Antonescu’s and the communist regimes. Thus, in 1938 he is taken for few months in the concentration camp at Miercurea Ciuc. in 1941 he was arrested again and imprisoned at Aiud, then released in 1946. After been freed from the prison, he entered the monastic life, having as his godfather of monasticism, Father Petroniu Tanase (later the Abbot of Prodromu skit in Mount Athos). Father Arsenie will become a skilled spiritual confessor at Slatina Monastery, where he struggled together with Elder Cleopas and other blessed elders. From Slatina Monastery, he was arrested again in 1958 and sent to Aiud, receiving a sentence of 40 years (!). He is freed again, following the general amnesty decree from 1964. Since then, he served God incessantly before His Holy altars, praying for the world in the Monastery of Techirghiol. Elder Arsenie was a father full of joy and inner light, a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit.
I’m ready to die!
During the re-education process at Aiud, I was called one day into the colonel’ office. I was “well known” in the prison since I was a priest, and a monk. As I was walking in my pinstripe prison uniform, humbled so to speak, or at least humble in form, the Colonel asked me to explain to him if God exists.
I said, “Yes, sir, He does! our existence, our breath, our intelligence and reason, prove it … They are made by a big Master. They are not the result of chaos. Or who else could had made them!?”… And I went on with my explanation: “There are so many signs, Christ was incarnate and He was risen. Why don’t you believe?” …
It was a great deal of me daring to ask him this question. But I had to defend the Truth!
He said: “The war that burst in Russia in the name of the Cross, convinced me that there is no God.”
I replied: “What erupted in the name of the Cross, sir ?! That madman Hitler who wanted to conquer Russia believing that the Russians will give in?! How about before this war, why didn’t you believe?”.
Then he asked me: “What is your last argument?”
I said: “I am ready to die, for Him, sir! When he saw that he wasn’t prevailing over me, he started yelling, “Take him away!”
(from an Interview with Elder Arsenie Papacioc)
More from the words of Elder Arsenie
“An institution, as well as a nation, lives by those who gush forth, who carry the cross without failure. A great love for God requires constant sacrifice. This world is not fallen, we are guilty as we do not know how to love, we do not know to cherish it! What have we done for this world, if we’re speaking in terms of salvation? What have we done for this world in order to change it?!
This is what it will be required of us at the judgment seat of Christ!”
“He, who flees from persecution, flees from God!…”
A sermon almost providential given 2 weeks ago
Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country
No, the sky is not falling — not yet, anyway — but with the Supreme Court ruling constitutionalizing same-sex marriage, the ground under our feet has shifted tectonically.
It is hard to overstate the significance of the Obergefell decision — and the seriousness of the challenges it presents to orthodox Christians and other social conservatives. Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now.
Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of conservatives a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.
Reading from the Synaxarion:
Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the Irish, was seized from his native Britain by Irish marauders when he was sixteen years old. Though the son of a deacon and a grandson of a priest, it was not until his captivity that he sought out the Lord with his whole heart. In his Confession, the testament he wrote towards the end of his life, he says, “After I came to Ireland – every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed – the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was so moved that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many at night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountain; and I would rise for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm.” After six years of slavery in Ireland, he was guided by God to make his escape, and afterwards struggled in the monastic life at Auxerre in Gaul, under the guidance of the holy
Bishop Germanus. Many years later he was ordained bishop and sent to Ireland once again, about the year 432, to convert the Irish to Christ. His arduous labours bore so much fruit that within seven years, three bishops were sent from Gaul to help him shepherd his flock, “my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord – so many thousands of people,” he says in his Confession. His apostolic work was not accomplished without much “weariness and painfulness,” long journeys through difficult country, and many perils; he says his very life was in danger twelve times. When he came to Ireland as its enlightener, it was a pagan country; when he ended his earthly life some thirty years later, about 461, the Faith of Christ was established in every corner.
Apolytikion of Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland in the Third Tone
O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Kontakion of Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland in the Fourth Tone
The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory.
Knowing the will of God is one of the most delicate and complicated matter of our lives, especially for those who are trying to find it through prayer. For although His will is revealed according to Thy words: “Ask, seek, knock, and it shall be given you”, yet it requires patience, trials, temptations and [ascetic] experience, to extinguish man’ own will and passions that cannot withstand the inexpressible tenderness and sensitivity of divine grace.
(Elder Joseph the Hesychast)
A monk needed to go for a day-trip to a big city, accompanied by one of his acquaintance. In the midst of urban’ uproar the monk claimed to have heard a cricket, though his companion did not believe him. Crossing the road and looking carefully under a tree the monk found the cricket, to the astonishment of his relative.
– You must have a superhuman hearing!
– No. My ears aren’t different from yours, said the monk. But everything depends on what you’re used to listen with them
– No! I would not be able to hear a cricket in this noise!
– It all depends on what is important to you, reiterated the monk. Let’s make a demonstration. So the monk took out few coins from his packet and dropped them quietly on asphalt. And despite of the loud noise of the city, all the people around them turned their heads thinking that the scattered coins could’ve fallen from their packets.
– Do you understand now? It all depends on what is important to people … If we watch or listen to the contentions daily news on television, our ears become accustomed only to what is ugly and evil. We become fearful and helpless! Then we’ll say: “Life is hard, people are evil, we live in an insecure and ugly world, you cannot trust anyone or anything …”
And meanwhile the crickets sing, the leaves rustle, the waters flow… and we do not hear them.
Taken from the Friends of Mt Athos blog
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who “untied the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3: 8) by His humility, had shown us the most powerful weapon against the spirits of wickedness under the heaven. The whole earthly life of our Savior is a powerful and unprecedented example of humility. His descent from His heavenly throne on this corrupted earth, His birth in a manger, His upbringing that remained unnoticed in the mysterious city of Nazareth, His obedience without murmuring against others, His complete service to others to the ultimate self-sacrifice on the Cross, the washing of His disciples’ feet, His Passion and death on the cross; all bear witness to His perfect humility. But our Savior humility indebted us to follow in His deeds “I gave you an example, that as I have done to you, ye should do to others” (Jn. 13:15) He told his disciples after He washed their feet.
He who humbles himself lays down the very foundation of a moral, righteous life. If a man engages in various spiritual labors without humility, but overcome by pride, then sooner or later, he will fall. Only the struggles and works erected on the foundation of deep humility will not be shaken. The higher the building that we want to raise, the more we ought to deepen its foundations. So it happens in the spiritual life. The more we desire to be raised closer to God, the more we ought to humble ourselves.
The power of the devil resides in pride, so his undoing. He is strong by his pride, but only before the proud, as only over those he has power.
Before the deeply humbled man, his pride proves a weak weapon. The ice can be very hard, but only during frosty weather. When the sun warms it up, then the hard ice begins to melt. Likewise the devil pride proves helpless before the humility of those truly pleasing to God. By their humility, they evince to be the bravest warriors.
Isn’t this the true bravery? to be reviled, and not to not avenge, to forgive and to overcome evil with good? (Rom. 12:21)
(Archimandrite Seraphim Alexiev, “The spiritual life of the Orthodox Christian”)
I believe that there is no better call than “to think beautifully!”. What is a “beautiful thought”? It means to think of something good not only at a particular moment, but to think beautifully at any moment of your life, to be mindful of your thoughts, to select the thoughts that go through your mind, to keep the good thoughts and possibly to extent them, to put them into action. The foundation of spiritual life is the thought, so the essence of the religious life is inner discipline, the discipline of the mind. (Archimandrite Theophil Paraian, “Words to Youth”)
If time would be the only form of existence, surrounded from all sides by death, then truly one wound have no hope in anything. For hope in the brief future pleasures which pass away, is not worthy of this title. So “Do not you hope and do not fear” would be the wisest advice one could give man in this case. Anticipate death, be apathetic towards all, if all we expect is nothing after all! Immerse your thoughts in the noise of the “late night’ party or in the forgetfulness brought by alcoholic pleasure and the paroxysm of the unleashed peripheral senses!
But time is not the ultimate reality! Time is only one aspect of life. It is its outer face, the face of the spiritual fallen world. A man capable of spiritual life senses time much less. Everyone knows from experience that happy moments pass almost unobserved. On the contrary, strong sufferings are experienced as lasting longer than the mathematical time. So time can be measured by: one’ internal experience and its mathematics unit, and the connection between these two forms of time is very lax. An hour of time can be experienced sometimes as hours, or as a short moment, or simply not observed. This means that eternity pervades time, invades it and cause it to flow.
(Excerpt from: Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae, on New Year, “Romanian Telegraph”, January 1. 1935)