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

  

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

  “Weak Faith”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

More about Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi at:

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

 

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

 

 

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

(taken from “Spiritual Awakening”)

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Bless and do not curse” with Geronda Paisios  

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

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

   – Geronda, when will a curse stick?

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

  – And how is one released from a curse?

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

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

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

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

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

 

The so – called “Polite” Curse

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

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

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

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

 

A Blessing from the Heart is Divine

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(Mt. 9:4-6).

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Roscoe, NY)

 

 

 

by St. John Chrysoston

(The following selected passages are from St John Chrysostom’s final homily on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 16:24)

  See how we should begin and end everything? For with this St Paul laid the foundation of his Epistle, and with this he puts on the roof, at once praying for the mother of all good things for the Romans, and calling the whole of his loving-kindness to their mind. For this is the best proof of a generous teacher, to benefit his learners not by word only, but likewise by prayer, which is why it has been said,

“Let us give ourselves continually to prayers, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

  Who is there then to pray over us, since Paul has departed?

 Those who are the imitators of Paul. Only let us show ourselves worthy of such intercession, that it may not be that we hear Paul’s voice here only, but that hereafter, when we are departed, we may be counted worthy to see that great wrestler of Christ. Or rather, if we hear him here, we shall certainly see him hereafter, if not as standing near him, yet see him we certainly shall, glistening near the Throne of the King.

  Where the Cherubim sing the glory, where the Seraphim are flying, there shall we see Paul, with Peter, and as a chief and leader of the choir of the Saints, and shall enjoy his generous love. For if when here he loved men so, that when he had the choice of departing and being with Christ, he chose to be here, much more will he there display a warmer affection.

  I love Rome for this, although indeed one has other reasons for praising it, both for its greatness, and its antiquity, and its beauty, and its populousness, and for its power, and its wealth, and for its successes in war. But I let all this pass, and esteem it blessed on this account, that both in his lifetime Paul wrote to the Romans, and loved them so, and talked with them while he was with us, and brought his life to a close there. Wherefore the city is more notable for this reason, than for all other reasons combined. And as a body great and strong, it has as two glistening eyes the bodies of these Saints.

  Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the city of Rome, sending out these two lights into all parts of the world. From there will Paul be caught up to the heavens, and from there will Peter. Just imagine, and shudder at the thought of what a sight Rome will see, when Paul arises suddenly from the ground, together with Peter, and is lifted up to meet the Lord (1 Thess 4:17). What a rose will Rome send up to Christ! (Isaiah 35:1) What two crowns will the city have about it! What golden chains will she be girded with! What fountains possess!

Therefore I admire the city, not for the much gold, not for the columns, not for the other display there, but for these pillars of the Church (1 Cor 15:38).

  Would that it were now given me to throw myself round the body of Paul, and be riveted to the tomb, and to see the dust of that body that filled up that which was lacking after Christ (Col 1:24), that bore the marks of Christ (Gal 6:17), that sowed the Gospel everywhere – yes, the dust of that body in which he ran to and fro everywhere! The dust of that body through which Christ spoke, and the Light shone forth more brilliant than any lightning, and the voice spoke out, more awful than any thunder to the devils! Through which he uttered that blessed voice, saying,

“I could wish that myself were accursed, for my brethren” (Rom 9:3),

through which he spoke before kings, and was not ashamed! (Ps 119:46), through which we come to know not only Paul but also Paul’s Master! Not so awful to us is the thunder, as was that voice to the demons! For if they shuddered at his clothes (Acts 19:12), much more did they at his voice.

  This led them away captive, this cleansed out the world, this put a stop to diseases, cast out vice, lifted the truth on high, had Christ riding upon it, and everywhere went about with Him; and what the Cherubim were, this was Paul’s voice, for as He was seated upon those Powers, so was He upon Paul’s tongue. For it had become worthy of receiving Christ, by speaking those things only which were acceptable to Christ, and flying as the Seraphim to height unspeakable! For what is more lofty than that voice which says,

“For I am persuaded that neither Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus”? (Rom 8:38-39)

…This is the mouth, the dust of which I so desire to see, through which Christ spoke the great and secret things, and greater than in His own person, …through which the Spirit gave those wondrous sayings to the world! For what good thing did not that mouth effect? It drove out devils, it loosed sins it, it muzzled tyrants, stopped philosophers’ mouths, brought the world over to God, persuaded savages to learn wisdom, altered the whole order of the earth.

…Nor is it that mouth only, but the heart’s dust I also long to see, which a man would not do wrong to call the heart of the world, and a fountain of countless blessings… For the spirit of life was furnished out of it all, and was distributed through the members of Christ, not as being sent forth by arteries, but by a free choice of good deeds. This heart was so large, as to take in entire cities, and peoples, and nations.

“For my heart,” he says, “is enlarged” (2 Cor 6:11).

  Yet the love for others that enlarged his heart was at times a source of pain and anguish for it!

 For he says,

“I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart” (2 Cor 2:4).

 I long to see, even after its dissolution, that heart which burned for each person lost, …which saw God,

(for “the pure in heart,” says the Lord himself, “shall see God”) (Mt 5:8);

which became a Sacrifice,

(for “a contrite heart is a sacrifice to God”) (Ps 51:17);

which was loftier than the heavens, which was wider than the world, which was brighter than the sun’s beam, which was warmer than fire, which was stronger than adamant, which sent forth rivers,

(for Scripture says that “rivers of living water shall flow out of the believer’s belly”) (John 7:38);

in which a fountain sprang up, watering not the face of the earth but the souls of men; from which fountains of tears poured forth day and night. His heart lived the new life, not this life which we now live, for he says,

“I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me” Gal 2:20);

so Paul’s heart was Christ’s heart, and a tablet of the Holy Spirit, and a book of grace.

…I long to see the dust of those hands that were in chains: those hand through which the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon others; through which the divine writings were written.

…I long to see the dust of those eyes which were blinded by glory, which recovered their sight again for the salvation of the world; which even in the body were counted worthy to see Christ, … which saw the things which are not seen, which saw not sleep, which were watchful at midnight.

  I long to see as well the dust of those feet, which ran through the world and were not weary; which were bound in the stocks when the prison shook, which went through parts habitable or uninhabited, which walked on so many journeys.

  But why speak of individual parts? I long to see the tomb where the armor of righteousness is laid up, the armor of light, the limbs which… were crucified to the world, which were Christ’s members, which were clothed in Christ, a temple of the Spirit, a holy building, bound in the Spirit, riveted to the fear of God, which had the marks of Christ. This body is a wall to that City [of Rome] which is safer than all its towers, and than thousands of battlements.

  And with his body is Peter’s own. For he honored Peter while alive, and went up [to Jerusalem] to see him, (Gal 1:18) and therefore even when departed this life, grace deigned to give them both the resting place.

  Let us then, taking all this to heart, stand nobly; for Paul was a man, partaking of the same nature with us, and having everything else in common with us. But because he showed such great love toward Christ, he went up above the Heavens, and stood with the Angels. And so if we too would rouse ourselves up a little, and kindle in ourselves that fire, we shall be able to emulate that holy man. For were this impossible, he himself would never have said,

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

  Let us then not only admire him, or be struck with him, but imitate him, that we too, when we depart from here, may be counted worthy to see him, and to share the unutterable glory unutterable, which God grant that we may all attain to by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom, and with Whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, now and evermore. Amen.

Taken from: The Preachers Institute – The Orthodox Christian Homiletics Resource.

And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Mt: 8:29)

  Taken from “To serve Christ means suffering”

  Because the demon is a fallen angel, it is very difficult to be overcome by means of our intelligence and even by our (weak) faith and repentance. A demon possesses “intelligence” over us and greater power (to deceive) as it understands and sees things more clearly than us.

  Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have received from our Savior Jesus Christ, a weapon which the devil flees from. The prayer of St Basil (the Great) was so powerful that when the saint began to pray, all demons fled. God granted St. Basil this extraordinary power which, He can also entrust to us – ordinary believers. Strive towards a deeper prayer, perhaps not one that would move “mountains”, but at least one that will clean us from sins and keep demons away. The way of fasting is also the way of purifying the flesh making it more transparent, for a gluttonous body is impenetrable to the (Holy) Spirit. The Spirit of God does not abide in a satisfied (fatty) flesh. For the fast that thins the flesh will make it hungry for the Word of God and, we’ll better understand His commandments and receive power to overcome the devil. However, the devil is not (always) defeated by everyone.

  I have my own experience with this. Some years ago I had encountered a young (American) man possessed by an evil spirit. He was not acting evil; meaning by throwing himself down or by other frightful acts, but he had a total distrust in people. He feared God and the church but he was in much distress. When I was reading the prayers (exorcisms) of St. Basil over him, he was seized by a great tremor (fear). Perhaps – in those moments – his thoughts were in so much distress that he was responding by such inhuman/weird sounds.  The demon (inside him) never attacked me; the man didn’t try to hit me or to escape from under the Epitrachelion. But he passed through these “states” (crises) which were from the demon that dwelt in him, and until he opened his soul to confession, he was not freed. When he falls again in temptation, he returns to me, and I pray over him these prayers (of St Basil). If the devil takes possession over his heart, he manifests in the (weird) way I’d mentioned above, but if not, then he’s only overcome by evil thoughts.

  With time, the prayers began to work, but many temptations also aroused: he fights all sorts of images, distrustful thoughts that God had no power over him and that the prayers I read have not the same power as those of St Basil, al sorts of doubts to further distance him from the influence of prayer. But if you have a powerful prayer and have also fasted, know that the devil flees.

  Our Lord Jesus Christ works in those who believe and received God’s grace through the sacrament of the priesthood, regardless of their virtues or sinfulness. Some are attracted to the intellect of the priest, others by the power of his prayers, while others by his counsel. There is always something that draws you to the priest and through this God grants him power. This is the Grace that was given to him by the “laying of hands” by which he can “bound all that can be bound on earth and absolve all that can be absolved” according to the Gospel. Amen.   

 

 Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain on “Common prayers”

 

        Today unfortunately, the European courtesy has come in and they try to show themselves as being nice. They wish to show superiority and finally they end up worshipping the two horned devil. “One religion, they tell you, should exist” and they level out everything. Some also come to me and tell me “All of us who believe in Christ should create one religion”. “Now it is as if you are telling me, I told them, about gold and copper, so many carats gold and that much copper, that was separated, to gather them and make them one again. Is it correct to mix them again? Ask a jeweler. Is it proper to mix trash with gold? So much struggle was waged to distil the dogma”. The Holy Fathers must have known something for prohibiting the relationships with the heretics. Today they say: “we should pray together not only with a heretics but also with the Buddhist and with the fire worshipper and the demon worshipper.

Indeed see:The World \”Council\” of Churches

   The Orthodox must also be present in common prayers and in their conferences. It is a presence”. What presence? They resolve everything with logic and justify the unjustifiable. The European mind believes that also the spiritual matters can also come into the Common Market. Some of the Orthodox who are shallow and wish to make a promotion, “a mission”, they arrange conferences with the heterodox to cause a sensation, believing this way that they promote Orthodoxy, by becoming so to speak “Hungarian goulash” with the false believers. Then the super-zealots take hold of the other end; they also blaspheme against the Mysteries of the New-Calendarists etc and deeply scandalize the souls who have piety and Orthodox sensitivity. On the other hand, the heterodox come to conferences, act like teachers, take whatever good spiritual thing they find from the Orthodox, they process it, they give it their own colour and mark and they present it as a prototype. And the strange contemporary world becomes touched by such strange things and is spiritually destroyed. The Lord though at the appropriate time will present the Marks, the Eugenikos and the Gregorys Palamas who will assemble all our deeply scandalized brothers, to confess the Orthodox faith and strengthen the traditions of the Church and give great joy to our Mother, the Church”.

(Elder Paisios in: “With anguish and love for the contemporary man”)

Groundless and dangerous are the theological dialogues
Letter by: Mr. Paul Savvidis, Theologian

        To the obvious and unrepentant ones, apart from the unnecessary and foolish continuous theological and ecclesiastic dialogues, a clear argument is made of the Papist and Orthodox views below and in fact manifested, the bare faced effort to impose the papist falsehoods.
       I believe that the whole process starts not from one simple false theological ecclesiastic basis but from a groundless rationale of an ecclesiastic nature. It is an undeniable truth that the papist theologians never begin the theological dealings with sincere intentions for a complete agreement of compliance on the pure, indissoluble, inseparable and non negotiable positions of the mutual faith of the first eight centuries, of the seven ecumenical Synods until the unlucky day of the 20th July 1054.
       All the subsequent convulsive actions of the papists aim at the creation or rather the duel to impress that they wish and are interested in the “union” which they themselves infringed upon and did everything towards the non-union since the omnipotence of a worldly and sole leader ensured fully the essentials for life to the obedient- ‘ferro iniqe” always to the disadvantage of the Orthodox people. The unpleasant historical reference to early and contemporary events cry aloud about the word of truth.


       We now come to the essence of our topic. Our holy bishops, the presbyters, theologians and all those who take part- to whom were sent reasonable questions on past roaring improprieties- they know very well, or even faintly, that the Church comes together and is present during the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. And in return, the Divine Eucharist accordingly unites her members to her Lifegiving Head, Lord Jesus Christ in such a way that to each of us the mystery of the Church is realized, that which Saint Chrysostom so characteristically notes, “We and Christ are one”. Heading this Eucharistic Congregation “of the immortals”, of the people of God, the head of the local Church, is the Bishop (where there is a Bishop, there is the Church) according to the Godbearing and apostolic Father Ignatios, but in his place also the Presbyter, namely the Priest.
       The question that is directed to all those involved in the theological dialogue, who willingly or unwillingly missed the mark but who also co-traded with improper papist positions (Balamand agreement, Ravenna etc) can they assure us in an Orthodox and patristic way that the same Mystery of the Divine Eucharist exists and is officiated in Papism and is wholly valid? Even if we accept with impunity the answer YES, then naively and a lot more fruitlessly we “run and fail” to convince the Orthodox and the heterodox to unite since we are exactly of the same Holy Chalice which is also the sign of Union. To what purpose all this continuous theological and ecclesiastic upheaval of so many centuries? It is finally time to hasten with “jubilant feet and burning heart” to exchange the most desired embrace of love! Proper their priesthood, therefore proper also their mysteries…..
       Here however we arrived at the Lydian rock of the problem and of our intense Orthodox puzzlement. We the Orthodox, clerics and lay people, believe, confess and declare in all directions “Urbi et Orbi” the  ageless words of Saint Cyprianos “outside the Church, there is no salvation”! For in the Church belong the mysteries, the action of the divine Grace, the asceticism and theosis.
       But oh nave papists since you do not have a church; you do not have priesthood or valid mysteries (since for you the divine Eucharist is a carrier ……. of germs and you do not offer it to your faithful!) towards what purpose all your eagerness for conferences, dialogues and sensational battles? Is it not enough that you have the visible representative (Vicar) of Christ, in the monstrosity – the Nation of the Vatican?!

       Is it not a least indication of lack of fear of God and impudence to maintain that you are a “Church” and at the same time refer to us, the Orthodox, as “deceived brothers” when you cannot show us one saint, martyr or miracle worker, after your unilateral and deliberate departure from the fold of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? You who did not hesitate to downgrade to the point of degrading our magnificent and mutual saints such as Saint George, Saint Barbara and so many other just because they were easterners? I do not wish to be swept away to your slippery slope….
      Do you have any blessed Elders with foresight and clear sighted you could point to us, such as the Paisioses, Jameses, Porphyrioses or other speculative souls hidden in the mountains and caves and “cavities of the earth” who have become poles of attraction and admired by so many deteriorated, aching and wounded souls?
       Oh papists and all you Orthodox who take part in the conferences, you all well know that we have an amazing inter communion of only Orthodox holy churches in many same faith lands? Thus, Saint Nektarios of Egina travels to Russia and performs the mysteries (!), while Saint Seraphim of Sarov brings together thousands of faithful in Attica, Saint Luke the Physician, Archbishop of Crimea, performs moving miracles in our Country! Truly does the proud Rome, the nation of the Vatican, have to day something corresponding to offer us? Where and who are your saints “corrupted” or not who are miracle workers that the Orthodox may venerate them? Or perhaps is it without reason the three full bodied saints of the Ionion and the Lady Faneromeni are present there, as guarding sentries and protectors from the “western crest” and from the papist absolutism? Could you call your “priest” to make the holy water without salt- and remain unaffected from the corruption of time, or to cite exorcisms on a demoniac and him asking for an Orthodox priest because only he has the Grace of the mystery of Priesthood? The questions must seem to you overly na¨ve but they nevertheless remain unanswered? And about the Holy Light what is your position? And why does it only happens with the Orthodox?


      Is the truth not crystal clear that you use an ambiguous language at the theological dialogues that reminds more of tough negotiations for the achievement of more diplomatic objectives and positions? How could you convince us of your sincere and untainted love when on the occasion of the illumined Elder Paisios was asked about the visit of the blessed Patriarch Demetrios to the Vatican with the familiar compliments and common prayers, replied “He was deceived”! How many more testimonies do we need? This is how you acted and will always continue to act.
      One other question is directed to those responsible for the selection of the persons for the Orthodox representation. We believe that many occasions not only they do not uphold the word of truth but also sign articles which cry aloud that they contravene pure Orthodox patristic positions. They are neither better nor more qualified. A manifested ecumenical intention, an unprocurable Christianity, an unstable tendency at balancing of the truth and one similar division of the truth in all its twists and turns and selected parts. And at the end of all the deliberations naturally the “god pouring grace did not breathe” but they agreed “to an agreement badly agreed upon”!
       On the lips of the pious people of God, the defender of the Orthodox dogma that under no occasion they can be – according to the ever memorable and champion struggler of Orthodoxy professor Mouratodis- “one irresolute, pathetic and externally propelled mass” exists the bitter and often the most bitter complaint, why at those conferences that are called, no matter how they are called, there do not take part people of theological, patristic and of fighting stature from the venerable Hierarchy of Greece? The mention of certain names will clash with their mediocrity. In the garden of our Most Holy Mary could it be possible that there do not exist holy and illumined personalities whose account and testimony of the theological truth is a fruit of purely painful and intense prayers and repentance? Could it be possible that our schools are lacking personalities of Teachers in action and worth who teach and transfuse the pure patristic spirit and the deposition of the greatly honourable Truth, which is the guarantee of the unchanging orthodox teaching? And finally the Orthodox Hierapostolic Brotherhoods do they not have eminent theological personalities whose both oral and especially written word is the guarantee of Orthodoxy and together the heavy artillery of our Church against all sorts of heretical teachings?

      Unfortunately most of those who participate are called “Legionaires” namely those who are resident abroad, who are deeply indoctrinated or better grafted by the intense worldly spirit of the West and that is why their theological armor is nowhere to be found, with no backbone and mostly “graceless” and not seldom with negotiated heretical solutions- positions. The testimony and the submission of their written articles, cry for the word of truth! Not few times in their worldly circles what counts for them is not the ascetic spirituality of Orthodoxy, but the “appearance” or rather their civil image, the exterior picture which is backed by titles and civil and philanthropic works!
       They are masters of dialogue, inexcusable luxury and much more wasted time for us to try through this type of meetings to convince the inconvincible papists about the treasures of our Church and the correctness of our dogmas. The Union, may I immediately correct, namely the return of the heretics to the Orthodox Church, can happen through contrition, with sincere tears of repentance and confession and above all by the traditional, pure and as such valid Baptism. Everything else is from the evil one…..
      The last and most compassionate word is directed with great respect as much to the venerable head as to the Hierarchy of our Most Holy and Martyric Cyprus. Why, honourable fathers so much preparation, so much zeal for one more ecumenical conference- dialogue on your sanctified island? Could it be that the present Attila did not have as ancestor the other “civilized” Frankish Attila that not only did he oppress your island but unblushingly devasted and “sacrificed” with his inhuman bestialities – ferociously and with unabated appetite?  Perhaps you should be reminded of the truth when the thirteen holy martyrs of Kantara of Nicosia (Lefkosia) rise from their tombs?
      Truly you know of the many steps of the papists towards all of the international organizations with intense protests and balloting resolutions for the invasion of Attila, and what about their results? When did the “Christian” west exert influence on the old and sinful Albion to avert the hangings of the fighters of EOKA? I fear that perhaps like the pope who had sent a disgusting congratulatory telegraph to Kemal Ataturk on the slaughter of the Orthodox population of Smyrna, perhaps again their guilty silence secretly or openly, God knows, contributes to the freeze of the presently existing situation?
     And the final word. The Dialogues are rather cosmetic and social meetings- according to the lay expression in other words “to love each other” with the corresponding excessive compliments, the competing bids for the most expensive gifts and the luxurious dinners, the hotel comforts. Truly, perhaps the hospitality of an austere Monastery at least for the Orthodox representatives with some “frugal abundance” would have been the prudent place? And in the present economic crisis how many open wounds could have been patched up if this fruitless and provocative extravagance was invested on families that live at the limits of morbid starvation?
      To be sincere and honest with ourselves, the great losers will be the Orthodox who in knowledge or ignorance bargain or compromise positions-eternal truths and imperishable. Having won,the papists who with their known time wasting evasions and tricks, try to convince and pass their obvious anti-ecclesiasticism for “ecclesiology”.
       In this chaotic impasse and religious syncretism which is the consequence but also the continuation of an immoral morality which completely nibbles all the spiritual vitality of the land and creates an atrocious hell, sometime sooner or later, like charmingly Elder Paisios used to repeat “The Spiritual Laws shall also work”. Namely, all the entangled parts and the interlaced self interests “will pay the price” painfully on a personal or even social level for all those mostly provocative, ecumenistic fiestas.
       Nothing has been lost yet. Glory be to God, there is still adequate time to reverse things through repentance. The Orthodox Church always lived and lives the miracle of the return of the “deceived” and their re-gathering into her Fold.
      But all our own who participate in the theological conferences let them know “full well” that the “last word” of all the decisions of a theological mixing of Orthodox and papist “belongs to the people of God” which is again ready but also mature to respond with the timeless word of Joseph Bryenios, “we shall not deny you our friend Orthodoxy”.

Let the papists also hear these.

The present article is also part of the signing of the

A Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism

Paul Savvidis
Teacher of Theology, 5th Gymnasium of Veria

 

 

THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIZER OF THE LORD

  st_john 

 

  Six months before his appearance in Nazareth to the All-holy Virgin Mary, the great archangel of God, Gabriel appeared to Zacharias the high priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. Before he announced the miraculous conception to the unwed virgin [Mary], the archangel announced the miraculous conception to the childless old woman [Elizabeth]. Zacharias did not immediately believe the words of the herald of God and this is why his tongue was tied with dumbness and remained as such until eight days after the birth of John. On that day, the relatives of Zacharias and Elizabeth gathered for the young child’s circumcision and for the sake of giving him a name. When they asked the father what name he wishes to give to his son and being dumb, he wrote on a tablet: “John.” At that moment his tongue became loosed and he began to speak. The home of Zacharias was on the heights between Bethlehem and Hebron. The news of the appearance of the angel of God to Zacharias was spread throughout all of Israel, as well as of his dumbness and the loosening of his tongue at thee moment when he wrote the name “John.” The news concerning this even reached Herod. Therefore, when Herod sent soldiers to slay the children throughout Bethlehem, he directed men to the hilly dwelling place of the family of Zacharias to kill John also. However, Elizabeth promptly hid the child. Enraged, at this King Herod sent his executioners to Zacharias in the Temple to slay him (for it happened that it was Zacharias’ turn again to serve in the Temple of Jerusalem). Zacharias was slain between the court and the temple and his blood coagulated and petrified on the stone pavers and remained a perpetual witness against Herod. Elizabeth hid with the child in a cave where she died soon after. The young child John remained in the wilderness alone under the care of God and God’s angels.

 

HYMN OF PRAISE to SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

 

By God’s miracle, John entered the world,

As once did Sarah’s and Abraham’s Isaac,

By God’s miracle, remained alive

From Herod’s bloody knife.

The knife, the young child John missed,

But John’s father, it did not miss;

By God’s miracle, John in the desert

For thirty years, he sustained himself,

To the servant of God angels are shepherds

To the poor angels are guardians!

John grew loveable lamb,

The Lamb of God to serve,

To proclaim the bright day, before the sun,

The Unknown, recognized and glorified.

Of the great prophets, the last

And of God’s apostles, the beginning.

As Elijah, with God he speaks

And as an apostle, loves and rebukes,

Of the high priest, wondrous son,

Of the martyr of God, the first-born brother.

 

(written by St Nikolaj Velimirovic in “Proolog from Ohrid”)

 

 

See Also: The Church of the Nativity of St. John

 

 

  Theology is the word of God, which is apprehend­ed by pure, humble and spiritually regenerated souls, and not the beautiful words of the mind, which are craft­ed with literary art and expressed by the legal or world­ly spirit.

  Just as a beautiful statue cannot talk, manufactured words are unable to speak to the soul of a man, except if the listeners are very worldly, and pleased simply by charming conversation.

  Theology that is taught like a science usually ex­amines things historically and, consequently, things are understood externally. Since patristic ascesis and inner experience are absent, this kind of theology is full of un­certainty and questions. For, with the mind one cannot grasp the Divine Energies if he does not first practice ascesis and live the Divine Energies, that the Grace of God might be energized within him.

  Whoever thinks that he can come to know the mys­teries of God through external scientific theory, resem­bles the fool who wants to see Paradise with a telescope.

  Those who struggle patristically become empirical theologians through the visitation of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. All those who have an external education, in addition to the internal enlightenment of the soul, may describe the divine mysteries and interpret them cor­rectly, as did many Holy Fathers.

  If, however, one does not become spiritually related to the Holy Fathers and wants to take up translating or writing, he will wrong both the Holy Fathers and him­self, as well as the people, with his spiritual cloudiness.

 Neither is it right for someone to theologize using someone else’s theology, because he will resemble an impotent man who adopts others’ children, presents them as his own and pretends to be the father of a large fam­ily. The Holy Fathers took the divine word or personal experiences from their hearts; they were the result of spiritual battles against evil and the fire of temptations, which they confessed humbly or, out of love, wrote down in order to help us. They never kept this love for them­selves, acknowledging, likewise, that humility and all the divine gifts are of God.

  Those who present the gifts of God as their own are the most insolent and most unjust of the world, for they wrong God and, even more, their own selves. In this way they cause themselves to be deprived of Divine Grace so that they won’t be judged as being more un­grateful and so they won’t be destroyed due to their great vainglory.

  Those who are grateful towards God for everything and constantly attend to themselves humbly and look after God’s creatures and creation with kindness, the­ologize and thus become the most faithful theologians, even if illiterate. They are like the illiterate shepherds who observe the weather in the countryside, day and night, and become good meteorologists.

   Those who live simply, with kindness and good thoughts, and have acquired inner simplicity and pu­rity, regard the supernatural very simply, as natural, for everything is simple to God. He does not use greater power for the supernatural and less for the natural, but the same power for everything. He Himself is very simple and His Son revealed it to us on earth with His holy simplicity.

  When purity comes to man and simplicity with its fervent faith and devotion arrives as well, then the Holy Trinity takes up His abode within us. With this divine enlightenment one easily finds the keys to divine mean­ings, so as to interpret the Spirit of God in a very sim­ple and natural way, without causing an intellectual headache.

  Depending on the purity or guile that one possess­es, analogous interpretations are made, and one is ben­efited or harmed accordingly. Oftentimes, one may cause harm due to his inexperience, even if acting with good intentions. For example, a person does not know that white wine also exists apart from red, and pours red paint into it to seemingly make it better, and, in this way, poi­sons people. But even if he is not inexperienced or de­ceitful, but works only from human justice and logic, he will once again wrong the Spirit of God, and, as a re­sult, harm himself and others.

  With human logic and justice we also hear the com­plaints of the labourers of the first and third hour in the Gospel60, who believed that they were unjustly treated. God, however, the beholder of the hearts of men, with the subtlety of His divine justice, also rewarded the labourers of the eleventh hour for the anguish they suf­fered before finding work. God would have even giv­en to the labourers of the eleventh hour a greater re­ward, out of His divine righteousness, full of mercy and love, because the poor ones suffered greatly in soul and were more fatigued than those, who, for more hours, were exhausted physically. But we, wretched people that we are, cannot fit God’s divine justice into our lim­ited mind, just as His infinite kindness cannot fit inside our limited love. Therefore, God’s love was limited to giving everyone the same agreed reward, so as not to scandalize more those who loved their self more than their fellowmen. If He told them: “I am not doing you wrong; we agreed on this amount…”. He meant that: “I am a boss with noble love and divine justice which you cannot understand” and not: “I am boss and 1 take no one into consideration”. For God is our Father and we are His children, and all people know of His fatherly love; He was crucified in order to redeem and restore us to Paradise.

  If we could go out of our self (the love for our self), we would also escape from the gravity of the earth and see everything in reality, with a divine eye, clearly and profoundly. That is why it is necessary for one to leave the world for the desert, struggle with humility, repen­tance and prayer, be deserted by his passions, remove his spiritual “rusts” and turn into a good conductor in order to receive the Divine Grace and become a true theologian.

  If we don’t remove the rust from our spiritual ca­bles, we will constantly be short circuited, full of world­ly theories, doubts and questions. Then we cease the­ologize, being found in a condition of worldliness, but will speak historically, or examine things legally and mathematically. Namely, we will examine how many nails were used to crucify Christ and how many sol­diers were present when He was crucified without pro­ceeding to the essence of things: that Christ was cruci­fied for our own sins, in order to redeem us, and suf­fered more than all of the Holy Martyrs put together. Although He helped the Martyrs with His divine power, He did not employ His divine power for Himself at all and suffered terrible pains out of love, having both of His two hands and His two legs pierced with nails. Whether they crucified His two legs with one or two nails has no importance, inasmuch as both were nailed and He suffered the pain and drank the vinegar, that He might sweeten us again in Paradise, eternally close to Him, as our Loving Father.

(Taken from the Epistles of Elder Paisios) 

(By Father George Calciu)

 The Christian faith is not a conditioned, intrigued attitude. The centurion had submitted his servants’ relationship to God: Lord if I’ll say to one of them “Go!” and he goes, if I say (to another) “Do this!” then, he does it. (cf. Mt. 8: 5-13) So even more he entrusted that, when the Lord commended the (evil) spirit to: “Free” (the man)! the spirit will free him, or if Christ will say: “Do not enter this man again!” the spirit will no longer enter.

  The centurion had great faith before any miracle was been fulfilled.

  Quite often we are guided by facts. We hear, (for instance), that an image of the Mother of God had appeared somewhere in the sky. We go there to see it, and may be we’ll believe. And we do not know what our faith is about….

  I was in Chicago (some years ago) to see a weeping icon of the Holy Mother of God. It was in 1987. We were three (Romanian) priests and served the Divine Liturgy for the Romanian nation. During the Liturgy, the Holy Mother of God shed three times tears from her icon. Her garment was soaked in tears. I saw people who came there to see that. And we also saw. Then we forgot. For the faith that rests only on miracles, is weak.

  If God strikes you now, for certain you’ll cry out, “Lord!”

  If some earthquake or a war will occur now, you’ll cry: “God, save me!” But after the earthquake passes, you’ll forget (God) again.

  Apart from this is the faith based on a close spiritual relationship with Christ when you know that you’re nothing without Him and that everything lays in His hands; that He can lay you down or lift you up; He can heal you or else let you perish, He can free you from tragedy or let you be pounded by it.

  The teaching is this: do not establish or base your faith on wonders (miracles)! Many times, our Savior appealed to His word, and the sick was healed. The centurion did not need our Lord to first commit a miracle in order that he may believe. Indeed, he only needed Christ to confirm that his servant will be healed. He came to Christ as to One Who he knew will cure his servant, to someone Whom he truly believed in, although he was not a Jew, but a novel Samaritan, a roman.

  When you’re longing for a miracle to happen, you might be saying: “Lord, if You exist, perform this miracle!” And God does not hear you. Or perhaps He will, if your soul really needs it. More so, believe in God before any miracle is to occur! Do not expect miracles, the deepest relationship with Christ is spiritual. Pray to the Lord and be in His presence, have Him abide in you! And God will answer you with His unseen wonders, through the strength of your spirit, rousing your greater understanding of His judgments. Not as we (tend to) understand historically and rationally, but in a deeper spiritual sense, when you see the hand of God in every thing. 

  There are many Great Fathers who have lived a highly elevated spiritual life and God rewarded them with great gifts. They were performing many wonders, but when someone would come to thank them for the miracle, they answered: “It is not me, but Christ Who made it happened. Give thanks to the Lord.”

  And Christ was elevating them in His light: either by a halo around their heads, (as Father Benedict Ghius from Cernica had) (a great elder from Cernica Monastery now with the Lord – translator note) or that they would (be able) fly, or move with great speed from one place to another: they were in one place, and within minutes they were many kilometers away. All these were miracles that Christ performed through them and for them, because they had with Christ a (personal) relationship of deep spirituality.

  It is that filial relationship when you offer your soul to Christ and He sends you the Holy Spirit, Which works within you. This is beyond any earthly reward. What does it mean when your car brakes down and God sends someone to help you? There are small things … and so your spiritual relationship with Christ, Who deeply dwells in the Christian soul, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Thy makes you gentle, forgiving, to neither bring anger against your neighbor, but nor to hold it within you; to be a beacon of light for all, even if you’re small, all these are true miracles which Christ calls us to.

  Preserve your relationship with Christ as did the centurion and you’ll receive Godly rewards. Think rightness, and do not allow the evil spirit to win over you. Do not tempt God, neither you say, “Oh Lord, come and abide in my heart”, while you converse with the devil, even you may feel you’re fighting against it. But as the centurion cry out:”Lord, say only with Your word and my heart will be healed.” Amen!

(taken from “To serve Christ means suffering” , translation by EC)

 

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