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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.
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”)
Motto: “For me, the life of my brethren is more precious than my own life.”
We cannot acquire the image of Christ within us unless we are truly [united] one, as Christ asked His disciples: Love one another, so that the world may know that you belong to Christ (John 15, 12).
For me, the life of my brethren is more precious than my own. When you will understand this, there will be no more misunderstandings between you. The untying of a problem or a disagreement, does not depend on any organization, or a particular code of conduct, but on the decision to bear everything. Each one of us must have a mother’ heart for others.
We ought to be very sensitive to the needs of others. Then we’ll be one and the blessing of God will abound in us.
We must have Christ’ consciousness, Who bears in Him the whole world; therein lies the universality of the human being. The Word of Christ does not change, and it is eternal.
If we confess in the Creed that Christ is the One True God, the Savior of the world, its Creator through Whom all things were made, how can we reduce our faith to a matter of nationality, place, or time…?
(Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex, in “The Life in the Spirit”
N. Dramudianos told us a wonderful experience he lived during the war in 1940:
“Our team was ordered to conquer a height and use as a bridgehead. We built barricades over the rocks and after everything was finished, it started snowing. And it snowed continuously for two days and two nights, that in many places the snow reached up to two meters. We became isolated and each one of us had food stock in his haversack for only a day. Because of the cold and hunger, we didn’t care for “tomorrow” so we were left completely without food.
From there on, our “martyrdom” began. We quenched our thirst with snow, but the hunger started to reap us. We spent five days and five nights like this and became like some skeletons. However, we kept our morale high, but the human nature has its limits. Some of us died. The rest of us expected the same “end”, for our “Faith and our Motherland”.
Then a saving thought of our commander worked the wonder. He took a paper icon of the Theotokos, he was hiding under his vest, and placed it on a mound, called all of us to him and said:
– My brave men, in this critical situation, only a miracle can save us. Let us all kneel and beseech the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God to help us! We all fell on our knees, lifted up our hands and prayed to her fervently!
We barely stood up, when we heard some bells. We were cut by surprise so we took our guns resuming the shooting position. It’s been a matter a minutes, when suddenly we saw a giant mule approaching us. We flinched; a stray animal to pass over the mountain on a snow reaching over one meter?! This was very uncommon.
Then we realized that the Holy Mother of God had directed him to us. We thanked the mule, as we all started to sing softly but heartily: ‘Our Protector Lady” and other songs dedicated to her. The mule was caring with him a whole intendance of food: bread, cheese, canned food, brandy and much more.
Great and unbelievable pains I suffered during the war, but this certainly will remain unforgettable to me, for it had no logical explanation. So I owned it to the Mother of God.”
From the Book: “The apparitions and miracles of the Virgin”, Holy Monastery of Parakletos
Love the poor and co-suffer with them, so God may also have mercy on you.
Do not rebuke those sorrowful at heart, that you might not be paid back with the same rod, so that when you’ll seek for someone to have mercy on you, you might find him there!
Remember that you also bear a mortal body, and do good to all with no exception.
Discernment is greater than all other virtues.
Do not reproach anyone for their sins, but consider yourself responsible for everything, even for your neighbor’s sins.
It is better to be despised than to despise. It is better to be insulted than to insult another.
Do not live with a proud man, so that your soul would not lose the grace of the Holy Spirit becoming thus the habitation of evil passions.
He who flees the vain glory of this world, feels the glory of the future life in his soul.
Despise repose and a comfortable existence, so that you might preserve your thoughts in tranquility.
Avoid meeting excessively with others and take care of your own soul, so that you might preserve her peace.
Avoid small sins, so that you might not fall into greater ones.
It is more profitable to resurrect your soul from the passions, contemplating the Divine, than it is to raise the dead.
Many have done wondrous deeds, raised the dead, and labored in asceticism; they worked great miracles in order to bring the lost to the path of salvation. Many have been brought to God through their efforts. However, many who raised the dead have fallen into shameful passions and by their sinful deeds that became known, have led many into temptation. In reality they themselves were sick, but instead of caring for their own soul, they threw themselves into the open sea of this world in order to heal and save the souls of others, thereby ruining both their hope and their souls.
Whoever despises the seductions and distractions of the mind that come from worldly affairs will meet his Master and Lord in his heart.
So that the Lord might pay attention to our virtues, they must be accompanied by physical temperance and a pure conscience.
It is better to live with eagles than with the greedy and insatiable.
It is better to live with a crippled and outcast person than with a proud man.
It is better to be persecuted than to persecute; it is better to be crucified than to crucify; it is better to be insulted than to insult; it is better to be slandered than to slander others.
Self-justification has no place in the life of a Christian, for it’s not found in any of Christ’s teachings.
If you love meekness, you will find peace in your soul. And if you become worthy to acquire peace, you will rejoice in any trial.
God forebears all our infirmities, but He cannot bear one who constantly murmurs, so He punishes him in order to correct him.
The lips and the heart that give thanks to God in any trial or temptation receive His blessing and Divine grace.
God’s grace is preceded by the humble thought, but God’s punishment is preceded by high-mindedness.
When your life is according to God, do not be saddened over afflictions or your passions, for God will lift them from you one day. Fear not death, my child for God has prepared greater things in order to raise us above death.
See also: The Miracles of Elder Justin following his repose
Elder Arsenie Papacioc of Romania, blessed memory, was part of the great generation of confessors for Christ that had suffered much while imprisoned for their faith under the atheist [communist] regime of the east. His words, not academic but rather simple, down to earth, have great authority as they are spoken from an experience of suffering and with a burning love for everyone.
On Charity/ Mercy
With God there is no past evil, where there is a good present.
When God forgave you, it means He forgave you for eternity.
God keeps us not that we are worthy, but because He is very merciful.
My brothers do not ignore a begging hand, or one that offers help.
Charity is not only to give something. It means to accept the man sitting next to you, without casts him out in your mind.
In having pity on others – it shows our likeness to Christ.
The beggar stretches out his hand not to ask, but to give you the kingdom of heaven, and you do not notice!
Lets remember my brothers: beggars are biblical characters!
Do you want to get rich? Give everything you have! And you’ll receive a hundredfold!
Man doesn’t account much when he receives, yet he remembers when he gives.
Learn to live not only in you, but to live in [for] all who are with you.
The mercy of God does not abolish hell [judgment].
We need to love much! For Christ is commanding us!
Lets be attentive, love is the criteria of [the last] judgment!
When Christ asked us to love, He also gave us the strength to do it.
We should love our pain [sorrow] and those that caused it.
You are free and have the possibility to climb [grow], if you do not hate.
Our hearts must always be free for Christ.
This world is not evil; we are at fault for we do not know to love.
The hate of your neighbor is the most devilish work.
If you would try to love people as you love Christ, then you’ll no longer see the wrongs of your neighbor.
Know that the love for the enemies is a commandment. We ought to boast them in our heart.
One question is justified, let us all ask ourselves: “Do I love or I do not…?” – for it’s a commandment, my brother! Do not think that our Savior spoke only to the people of His time or to His apostles. No… He spoke for all men and for eternity.
Instructions to the Priests
Fathers, the great battle is to heal their wounds, not to apply penances. We defile His sacrifice on Golgotha when we refuse to absolve those with grievous sins when they repent.
The Canons of the Church are a great guidance. But you are to use them with elasticity [iconomia].
It is said that the deer will not run well for two reasons: when she is too fat, or when she is too weak. Too much asceticism can weaken someone, but also indifference and non-engaging could “fatten” man.
Personally, I’m not for penances that require a lot of time and physical effort.
Penance means the possibility to repent, to commit that sin no more, to struggle not to fall again.
A good penance is to look at the penitent as at someone you love!
We need a … continuous state of love.
We must have “the need” to love. There is never someone near you by coincidence [in vain]. He is there, by God’s providence.
A spiritual father accounts for his child’ weakness.
God does more for our salvation than Satan for our destruction.
Outside the Church, there is no salvation! Hell exists only outside the Church.
He who can do good but does not do it, commits sin.
Only the devil cannot be saved.
Without God’s grace, it is impossible to be saved only by your actions, no matter how great of an ascetic you may be.
It is the Cross that saved mankind! Not God’s justice or His miracles, but His Cross! When Jesus was crucified, Satan was defeated.
I do not see how fasting alone can give us hope for salvation. Humility rooted deeply in our hearts and freedom from resentments, are hopes for our salvation.
What we’re being asked first is: the will to overcome temptations. And by praying to God, His grace will not abandon us.
Heaven is full of repentant sinners.
We ought to strive for the world to be saved, with everything we’ve got!
So every day we may gain eternity. That’s our ideal.
Our Saviour was not crucified only for a “category” of sins, but for everything that means sin on earth.
And He gave everyone the strength to avoid hell, yet He descended into hell.
And those from hell, He also loves. But they are whipped by His love, by His justice. And what Christ did not do to save us from hell?
Fear of death is not caused by death but by life. If you want not to fear death, live as a Christian!
Only those who don’t live in Christ, fear death!
Man, in his foolish pride and suffering, wants all heaven in a moment!
There is no sense or purpose, if there is no God.
We too can overcome the world, not by our power but by His.
Nothing is lost, as long as our faith is alive!
Life it is too precious to be spent in vanity.
On Marriage and Family
When we say during the Holy Sacrament of Marriage’ prayers, that the woman shall be subject to her husband, the husband must also take heed when he is told in the same prayer, that he must love her. If he does not love her, she will not obey him. Man, by not listening to this word, becomes responsible for the woman’s stubbornness. The woman must also not forget that this obedience is her way to salvation. And if the man is the head [of the family] then the woman is the heart, and this heart is made by God that He may find rest in it!
Nothing is better than a good [hearted] woman and nothing is worse than a fallen woman. So husbands, you must labor with all your power to transfigure her.
Love joins everything in the two. This is the symbol of the wedding ring.
A marriage done just for pleasure has no meaning. Marriage means reaching together into eternity.
It is the married woman that gives birth, raises and educates the child.
We cannot accept by any means that the woman will have an abortion… It’s a great matter for she will murder an unbaptized man. We must always ask ourselves: what Christ would’ve done in this case?
Family remains the best instructor.
On the Holy Eucharist
The Eucharist will perfect you; it won’t forgive your sins.
The man that prepares can commune often, but he must be given a time for repentance first. For indeed who is that prepared for such wonder?
Some neglect the mystery of confession and use it just as a pretext to commune.
On Christian Suffering
My dear, suffering is a gift from God!
The mission of Christ on earth was to save the world through suffering, so suffering brings much humility.
It is a mistake to run from your own suffering. You are truly free only when you are struggling, when you are present on the cross.
Suffering brings deep wisdom and make you reflect more seriously on your salvation.
A question arises: how is our heart responding to the suffering around us? The greatest thing we’ll be asked at the last judgment is: “Why have we not paid more attention to our neighbor?”
On the sin of homosexuality
God had punished it by fire! (Genesis 19: 24-25). It is the most grievous sin! It is said that this sin urges The End!
I mean those sins will bring judgment sooner over the world. Save yourself my brother, for many are falling… It’s the word of the Holy Fathers that this very serious sin, of sodomy (homosexuality) brings swiftly Judgment … We are now in an advanced stage, as the West already officiates sodomy (same sex marriages)! …
I’m not sad that I’m an old man! I do nothing for myself. Everything that I do, I do it for God and for His children.
I’m not all for a great asceticism. I lean more for a great vigilance! For it is not asceticism [in itself] what God wants from us but our broken and humble hearts, His continuous presence in our lives.
I’ve experienced many things in life and have seen God’s wonders; “I saw the invisible God, I experienced Him!” Our world today strives to see only His contour; she wants to touch Him in a carnal form.
The Mother of God represents the human race.
Lets get accustomed to the authority of the words of the Holy Scripture.
Peace is greater than justice.
There is no one thing from what Christ spoke that it cannot be fulfilled.
Our life is our witness! And we ought to confess the Truth, wherever we are.
No matter where [who] we are, we’re all are unprepared, and it’s only by God’s grace that we do the things that we do.
If you’re vengeful, you’ll be indebted to God. But if you ‘resist not evil’, then God “owns” you.
We must refute immediately all [evil] thoughts that come to mind, and they will come until our last breath.
God’s will not delay His help if we’ve purified our heart.
Often, you compare yourself with the man you call evil! Why don’t you see comparing yourself to St. Peter and Paul, or with Saint Siouan the Athonite [of Mt Athos]?
If you went to ask the advice of a bishop or of a man [abbot] of God, know that the answer will come from God not from that bishop or abbot. If you complained about it, know that is God that you slandered.
Elder Cleopas was great father! A great chancellor with much knowledge and also of detail! He created a spiritual era. He leaned more towards an ascetic work with strict fasting, prayers and tears of repentance; I’m more for watchfulness [awakening].
Believe in God, love the church and follow the [spiritual] fathers of the church. Walk your life on the road of humility. Acquire a good name near Christ. Insist more in prayer. You’ll be free only when you walk with love towards those who hate you! Stay still in Christ for eternity…
(Translations by EC)
Words of Wisdom (I) with Elder Arsenie Papacioc;
Blessed memory, 2 years from his reposal in the Lord.
The humble man never acknowledge himself as such… for he would not be humble!
Humility is the only power that can free the human soul and the nations.
There is only one way to follow: humility!
Christ was humble, then who are we not to be…?
Do you wish to overcome evil: humble yourself and do not judge. Then, you will be free.
Humility leads you to God, but love tastes God!
Humble yourself, for the Grace to abound in you.
Humility is the blood of life. One cannot be saved without it.
Man can never say: “I am humble!”
Humility is the art to descend into yourself and to remain there, in the humble you.
Sometimes the grace abandons you, so you may humble yourself before God!
God is very rich! And He’s awaiting us! … He waits for us to ask!
Wherever you are, and whenever you’re tempted, pray and do not be discouraged!
Anyone who wants to acquire the gift of prayer, must keep silent and pray.
We speak so much about prayer. That’s one thing that it cannot be discussed but practiced.
A deep silence is a deep prayer. And a deep prayer is like a deep silence.
Every moment is a time [in eternity] and every sigh can become a prayer.
We must not cease to pray, even with the mind.
If you pray, you are always present in you.
On the Worldly Wisdom
It’s hard for the intellectual to live a life of prayer.
God is not revealed to the sharp mind, but to the humble pure heart that is constantly shown towards Him.
The philosophers have only created some notions, but they did not solve any problem.
Intelligence and education have no value, if they are not in the service of love.
On the Church
Salvation exists only in Christ and His Orthodox Church.
If you are Orthodox, you ought to hold tight to its teachings, if not you’ll fall into heresy.
We cannot renounce even an iota from the Orthodox truth. This is a great matter that concerns God. Such it was with the fall of Catholicism! Personally, I no longer consider it a church, but a government body with a clerical name.
Such it followed the rest…
To the devil, we don’t need to give explanations!
We cannot talk about the devil without speaking about God. In God’ creation, the devil is a tolerated.
Do you believe that the devil is free? No! He’s the most bounded for he is not in Christ … So do not be afraid of him. He is a tolerated, not a power.
If you wound know how much zeal Satan puts to interrupt our prayer!
It is a great mistake to enter into conversation with the devil. We ought to converse only with God.
If you want to drive him away, say: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”, and speak to God. The power of His Name will rid him. It suits the devil to enter into a dialogue for it means that you acknowledge him. Thus through prayer, we ignore him.
If we first address the issue of hell, then we ignore heaven!
Walking on a wrong path, sinning means hell.
Pride is a devilish state, an absolutely diabolical one.
No other passion brings man closer to devil’ resemblance, as does pride.
If you do not listen to those whom God had appointed for you, it is easily understood that you rather obey Satan.
Lucifer fell hopelessly. The greatest fall and only two words: “I am” …
Indirectly, the devil confesses God through temptations.
There is no relationship between good and evil. Our Savior says, “Give Me your whole heart!” But the devil says, “I only need one of your finger.” But through it, soon he’ll take over your whole being. The whole you.
Sin brings humility. So it is understood that the devil plays an indirect “role” in our salvation for he reveals our infirmities, and by this helps us to grow. If he would realize how much help is to our salvation, he would trouble us less…
Whatever may be the reason for your sorrow, it’s only from demons. The grace of God doesn’t come where is grief, or sadness because you would not know what to do with it and waste it.
The monastic life cannot be defined by any quote.
No philosophical word can explain monasticism.
The monastic life is… an entry into paradise.
Ii’s no small thing to serve Christ and His Pure Mother your whole life!
If we gave ourselves up to God, He will not abandon us!
The monks are not perfect, but they are in the making.
The Cross of the monk is cutting his own will. To give up what he likes. To carry what is not convenient.
The cenobitical [communal] life with renouncing your will is a great work in God’s creation.
Cutting off his will, should be the main focus of the monk, and not the solitude, where he can do what he wants, and not receive reward. If you evaded from obedience, you’re strayed and cannot grow.
If you do not obey your spiritual elder, you’ll be enslaved!
The state of disobedience is diabolic.
Wherever you are, keep vigilant then you’ll live like in the desert… You need to know to live as a hermit, while [physically] been in the midst of the world!
We cannot talk about Hesychasm having cakes on the table.
There is no hermitage if you do not carry the [whole] world’ pain in your heart!
Renouncing the world can also take place in the soul of the layman. The Holy Scripture applies to everyone. The entire world received the Commandments.
On the Monastery
The entrance into the monastery is an entrance into heaven and leaving the monastery is leaving paradise.
No school can compare to the monastic training!
In the monastery one is disbanded from his human personality to enter into the angelic reign. It means that by losing yourself, you are awakened.
If one wishes to embrace the monastic life, cannot do it for the sake of the monastery; but you ought to become “the monastery”!
There is no grace without the abbot’ blessing… if I have a joy at my age , is because I did not do one thing without the blessing.
Satan hates monasteries the most. He is able to engage the whole world against you, not to enter the monastery. When you decided to go, do not look back!
One cannot enter the monastery for any another reason, then the spiritual… Only after you have died to yourself, then come to the monastery.
It is no small or insignificant thing to live in the monastery confident in your purpose and without murmuring.
(translations by EC, to be continued)