... Lord Jesus Christ,Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner-Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ,Υιέ Θεού, ελέησόν με τον αμαρτωλό...

Δευτέρα, 6 Φεβρουαρίου 2017

St. Nikolai Velimirovic - How God can be inside man


To a soldier of a student's brigade who asks how God can be inside man
You asked somebody, "where is God?" And you got an answer that God is inside you. And you marvel at this answer. How can that be?

Kind of like light in a room, or like fire in a; stove. When you are able to feel God within you, you will feel and know that He is inside you, but you will not be able to explain it to someone else. But you will look for images in nature and then you will speak to the other person as I speak to you: God is within me like light in a room, or a like fire in a stove, or like air in the lungs, or like life in every creature, or like force and love and thought inside of man. Of course, these are just images and likenesses, and they cannot express what a man feels when God dwells within him in His fullness. God's apostle, our spiritual father Paul, wishes for the faithful to be filled with all fullness in God (Eph. 3, 19). God works from within a man in two ways -- by helping and by governing.

When helping, God works within a man of medium or weak faith, who only occasionally remembers God and only keeps His Commandments partially. God does not abandon him because he also does not completely abandon God. However, God acts through governing in a man of great faith, who has opened wide the doors of his soul to his Creator. And it is written, "He who opens the door I will enter to him" (Rev. 3, 20). Such a man does not rely on himself at all but only on the Almighty. He feels the presence and the working of the Spirit of God within himself and has great love toward his Lord. And Christ has promised to the one who loves God that God will come and dwell within him. "He who loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him. And we will come to him and will make our abode within him." You will not be able to understand this. If you forget that God is a Spirit, who can enter everything and be everywhere, according to his power, and will. He is high above all matter, like the Sun is high above the earth but its light can enter every open thing. As the apostle says: "One God and the Father of all who is above all and through all, and in us all" (Eph. 4, 6). He writes this about the holy and the faithful.

But when someone rejects God, starts thinking ugly thoughts and speaking against God, God also leads him. It is the same as if somebody would close off the windows of a room and prevent the light from coming in and illuminating everything. For God's prophet Samuel said to the self-willed King Saul, "You have rejected the word of the Lord and for this the Lord has rejected you... and the spirit of the Lord abandoned Saul." But even one God abandons a soul of a stubborn man, He does not stop working on him from without, the way he works on water and stone and wood. But if a man remains stubborn and resists God until the end and refuses to repent, then God allows an evil spirit to enter in. Like it is written about Saul when the Spirit of the Lord abandoned him, "and an evil spirit disturbed him from the Lord". Or as it is written, even worse, about Judas the betrayer, "Satan entered into him".

Such people, who rise against God, of course, can never feel God within themselves or say, "God is inside of us." And those who love God, and desire Him, and see Him, and entreat Him to come they feel God within themselves and they can say, "God is within us by His Holy Spirit." Blessed are such bright souls, for they will always reign in the kingdom of Christ. As the Lord has promised to those who love Him saying, "I will take you to myself so that you may be where I am."

My great adventure in search of the Truth.

November 2008  
From Sister Matthaia  Osswald  
This story tells how a Roman Catholic nun discovered the fullness of the Truth in the Orthodox Church...  




Childhood and adolescence.        

I was born in 1961 from Protestant parents, in a town in South Germany. We lived in a suburb which had earlier been a separate village and later was integrated into a municipality. There was only one Roman Catholic family, the rest of the inhabitants being Protestants. The daughter of this family, whom I used to like very much, was in my class at the elementary school. I still remember very well that I was strictly forbidden to visit her, because they told me that it would be embarrassing for our family if anybody learned about such a thing. During the following years there was a growing tolerance on this topic. Even though the majority of the inhabitants were Protestants, with the passage of time the "Catholic" population increased and more Roman Catholic communities were created in the town.
 
My parents did believe in God but they would not practice their faith, for example they would never go  to church on Sundays, we would not pray, at least not together or before the meals and the topic of "God" was not discussed in our home.
However, in my grand parents' house lived an elderly Evangelical deaconess, who earlier had been a kindergarten teacher. She was like a light for me. Every time I would visit my grand parents I would use the occasion to "disappear" and visit this nun. She would always talk about Jesus; about His miracles; how repeatedly and in different ways He had helped her; about paradise, heaven and the angels. And she would pray with me. Time with her seemed to flow very fast! I was always sad, every time I would hear a voice telling me: "Where are you again? Come quick"! My grand parents did not take kindly to the fact that I would be so long with the "pious aunt".
One evening when I was four or five years old, I was lying in my bed thinking how terribly tiring it must be for Father God that He cannot take time off to relax. He must always stay up worrying about the people and be careful that nothing bad happens to them. I made all kinds of suggestions to Him such as for example, if He could alternate with His Son, or with the angels. Finally, I told Him, that I wished so much to help Him and that it would not bother me at all, if every now and then I stayed up all night, but neither would this help the people. On one hand these were very childish, all these thoughts of mine, but on the other hand I meant them and me never forgot, even though in the following years they faded entirely into the background. Afterward my schooling started. I became busy with other things.  
Of course I never doubted the existence of God, but His existence had no importance for me and my life. It was as if they were two separate things that had no relationship with each other. All my adolescence was influenced by the fact that I always wished to be like the others (Something that I never succeeded in as I was always marginalized, which possibly was due to my exterior unpleasant appearance.) I tried everything the others did, smoke, go in the evenings to the bars, smoke marijuana, listen to rock music etc. I was then part of a group but it goes without saying, that most of the time I would be sitting alone in a corner and I never fit in even though I tried so much.                                                   

Enraptured by divine love


When I was seventeen a significant change happened in my life. I always had a great love for music. I played certain musical instruments and later I wished to study music.
Someone gave my mother two concert tickets. They were for the "St. Matthew Passion" of Johann  Seb. Bach, which is about the Passion of Christ according to the gospel of St. Matthew in the Bible. The concert was scheduled for Holy Friday.
 
The Protestants do not have any particular divine liturgy for the Holy Week, that is why the so called "religious concerts" take place, so somebody could visit them for contemplation and interior peace. The concert lasted three and a half hours. Basically I cannot explain what happened inside me. The Holy Gospel in combination with the gripping music touched me deeply and moved my heart. (I read about something similar, incidentally, in the biography of Father Seraphim Rose). I was touched, impressed and overwhelmed by the love of Jesus Christ who died sacrificing himself on the Cross for us and for our sins. This love became at that moment a reality for me and filled me totally. I do not know how long I stayed at the church crying. I knew one thing however; I wanted to become an answer to this love. It was very clear in my heart. Later I would ask myself why I said "I want to become an answer to this love" and not "I want to give an answer to this love". I did not understand it but it appeared to have some significance. From that day on my life changed. The following day I bought a Bible. I hung a cross in my room and instead of going in the evenings to the pubs I would read the Holy Bible and pray. Later I decided to study ecclesiastical music. I was thinking that since God touched me in such a way and granted me a talent, then I want to help other people to be able to acquire a similar experience. I became a member of the church choir of our city and began following a course of ecclesiastical music and taking lessons on the church organ. This way my friends changed also. The following three years I dedicated myself totally to church music, to new acquaintances, to the Holy Bible and besides these, also to school.

 
Protestantism or the Roman Catholic "Church"

A girlfriend of mine temporarily played the church organ at a "Catholic" church community in our city. One Saturday evening, we agreed that I should wait for her outside the church so that we might go out together. By mistake I arrived an hour early, so I decided to go with her on the balcony and follow the Liturgy "from on high" instead of waiting outside the church. Somehow it was different from the Liturgy I knew at the Evangelical Church. It was somehow more transcendent and it impressed me. Since then I could not rest and wished to discover what the different thing that moved me was. For a long period I visited the Holy Mass of the Catholics at the Roman Catholic Church on Saturday evenings and on Sunday mornings, the Liturgy of the Evangelical "Church". The former began to attract me even more. At the Evangelical "Church" I missed the transcendence; it appeared to me to be a matter of a human format that brings together people with a common interest, namely God. At the Roman Catholic "Church" I felt something like transcendence. Something higher seemed to unite the people, different than what happens in a club or in a community of merely common human interests. I particularly enjoyed the Holy Eucharist as opposed to the holy communion of the Evangelical Church which never had any particular significance for me. I would often speak with the priest of the community who held contemporary views. As a Protestant I naturally had serious concerns with Papist! But for the priest this seemed to be no problem. Or better said, it was a problem, but he had resolved it in his way, namely in the way he had learned from the lectures of a university professor (in later years this professor's teaching license in Rome was revoked). The priest would say: "The Pope is in Rome and we are here. What does he know about us? Let him concern himself with the Church of Rome and us here with ours". (This view was naturally everything but Roman Catholic and it began to spread ever more during the 80's decade). The thing that finally pushed me to become Roman Catholic was the experience of this transcendence and above all the Eucharist, namely, the belief that during the Divine Liturgy the bread and wine truly transformed into the body and blood of Christ; that is; that all this was a reality and not  only symbolic. Another reason was the liturgy itself, because in the Evangelical "Church" there was no liturgy with this meaning. The Liturgy consisted only in the reading of the Holy Bible, a long preaching and lots of songs and about once a month the so-called "divine communion" right after the liturgy. In October 1982 I became a Roman Catholic.
 
Contemplating today on the way all this happened, I can only shake my head for I was blind. We had decided to celebrate with a "liturgy" at the house (Hausmesse) in a family atmosphere. The celebration did not take place at the church but in the living room of the priest's house. The reading from the Gospel I could select myself and instead of a sermon we would together exchange our thoughts corresponding to the areas of the Bible we had chosen while we were sitting on the sofa. This was called liturgy of the word. For the celebration of the Eucharist we would all sit together around the dining room table which also served as a Holy Altar. Although I had to recite together with the rest the creed of faith, no one asked me to confess the following:  I believe and confess whatever the Holy, Catholic Church believes, teaches and declares". (This I realized only 24 years later, when someone told me: "You cannot abandon our Church just like that, since you made this confession").
 
This was the way I became a Roman Catholic. So now what? The Church music played a significant role in the Evangelical church, but in the Roman Catholic Church it was secondary. Moreover, the church music here did not appear very attractive to me. It was created through quick processes following the Second Vatican Council, when the liturgy was changed by allowing it to be performed from then on in the language of each country, and so it had no tradition. Apart from this I was thinking that I should somehow become involved in some community and since as a woman I could not become a priest, I decided to study theology, and become a pastoral assistant. I continued studying the Holy Bible and above everything else I was touched deeply by the spoken parables. It always touched me when Jesus would say to the rich young man: 
"Go sell your belongings and come and follow Me" (Matt 19:21). To someone else He said: "Follow Me and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matt 8:22) or "no man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). It would touch and hurt me. I wanted to make my faith a profession and the most basic thing in my life. But how? Should I leave from my house without a penny? without a second overcoat? without anything? Just simply leave, just as the Bible says? But then where?

In search of my own monastery


Before the start of my basic studies I had to first follow for one year pre-seminary studies to learn Biblical Latin and Greek. During this period a pivotal event happened to me. One day in a doctor's waiting room as I was leafing through a journal, I landed on an article about a Benedictine monastery. That interested me! Perhaps that was the answer to my doubts about my existence. I had believed that monasteries existed only during the middle ages. As I already said, I lived in an Evangelical area where there were no monasteries. The following day I phoned to enquire if it would be possible for me to visit them. Their answer was positive and for weeks I was happy in expectation of the coming holidays that I would spend there. I was deeply impressed by the silence, the services of the hours, during which the nuns would gather every three hours in the church, the manual labour, and the repeated daily rhythms during which one's soul could find rest. Despite that I liked all this, yet something was lacking even there.
 
I learned there were different orders, each with different rules and different spirit.  I came to know the Franciscan nuns, Carmelites and some others. I liked something everywhere but always something was missing for me, but what? (The answer to this question I would receive many years later). However I had finally realized that on every occasion I wished to dedicate my life to God and become a nun. In my prayer I would ask God continuously where He wanted me, in which out of all these orders and communities? During my search I also came in touch with what is called Catholic Charismatic Renewal.  
However, I never felt quite comfortable with that. Everybody would sing in "tongues", some would speak prophesies, everything was totally emotional and yet one more time I felt that I was a stranger. Of course I could not show this, for it would have meant that I was not enlightened by the Holy Spirit and that I held my heart closed.
 
During that period I also visited one of the new spiritual communities. It had been founded in the beginning of the 80's and consisted of unmarried men and women who after a long period of testing (Noviziat); would take an oath and promise destitution, virginity and obedience. Within the membership however, also belonged families with children. The couples promised destitution, obedience and spousal purity. Seeing it superficially during my first visit nothing moved me at all, it was rather the opposite. Some visitor asked during the discussion of different topics, what were the conditions for entrance into the community; whence the founder, the one responsible for the community replied thus: "Conditions? One and only one exists. Whoever wishes to enter in here, has to give away his "own" life at the entrance door ". That was it!
In the evening when I returned to my house I did not know more than before. Only that one phrase would not leave my mind!
 
That summer a good friend invited me to accompany him to a large meeting   of different new Catholic spiritual communities in France. The diversity, songs,   traditional dances of Israel, the services of the hours, the Eucharistic worship in quietness, touched me and I believed that finally I had arrived at my destination. I wished to join this community and become a nun. I returned to Germany, and during the fall I sat for my final examinations on the theological pre-seminary course which I had followed and bought a ticket for France with my last 300 marks which a friend had given me, planning never again to return. Man plans but God destines.  After two weeks I learned that all the houses of the community would stay closed to visitors. How terrible! And now what? No money, no prospects, what shall I do? Glory be to God; in the last moment there was a change. One of the houses of the community was staying open, for the period of Christmas, offering a program of spiritual exercises. My money was just enough   for this.   A week later I found myself again in the same condition. However a woman, who had also taken part in the program of spiritual exercises, invited me to go on a pilgrimage. Immediately after the pilgrimage she gave me some money and paid for my train ticket to what is called Mutterhaus (the main monastery of the community) in a different part of France. There I spent one more week always hoping finally to speak with the founder of the community and to get him to allow me to enter it. I remained there for a week, but at the end it was not that clear to him that entering this community was what God had destined for me. During one of the vespers he laid his hands on my head and having prayed for me revealed the inner word he had received: "My ways are not also yours. I shall show you another way which you cannot yet understand. But I demand from you absolute availability".
 
With these words, therefore, I was sent away one more time. And now where to? I was truly desperate. No one could explain these words to me or give me a perspective. However I only wanted one thing: To follow Jesus Christ and dedicate my life to him. It was terrible. Apart from my disappointment, it created in me an inner doubt, that perhaps God either did not want me, or else I was too stupid to find the place for which He had destined me. Again someone felt sorry for me and gave me money to return home. I had left my house with the intention never to return, yet now, a few weeks later I found myself unannounced in front of my parents' house. (Before this I had stayed for a week at a monastery in France to remain in silence and calm my soul. I had achieved the first but not the second). My parents naturally were happy I returned, but I was totally disoriented. The following two weeks I passed living almost totally secluded praying in my room. At the same time within me continuously sounded the phrase: "Whoever wishes to enter in here has to give away his "own" life at the entrance door". A battle was being waged inside me. On the one hand nothing attracted me there, the destitution, strange bearded faces with old rasa, no electricity, no running water, a primitive toilet, no private space and many other things.Yet that phrase would not leave me in peace. All this was basically what I wished for, what I searched for within me from the moment of my conversion, this total dedication to Christ without seeking anything for myself any more and abandoning everything worldly. Well, I decided to take a chance; I immediately decided to phone, it was Friday afternoon, and ask if I could spend the weekend. If the answer was negative then I would close that chapter and would never open it again (secretly inside me in some way I hoped for it). The answer was positive. All right then. The next day I went there and this time it was different. The exterior things did not repel me that much anymore and I had a long conversation with the founder that concerned my interior search over the past months. He proposed that I stay with the community for four months, until the 15th August, to enable myself with calmness and prayer to ask God for my destiny.  
After three weeks there I had the impression that I had found my place. Above everything else I loved the silence and the noetic prayer but I also learned to love more and more the simplicity and immediacy of life and did not wish to exchange it for a more comfortable life. Here also I experienced the Roman Catholic Church from a totally different side. Even though I had become a Catholic at a parish which was much oriented towards modernism, now I was in a community where the love for the Pope and obedience to him were written in capital letters.
One would follow with zeal and direct oneself according to what he said and did. I found that quite difficult and I always felt like a rebel who participated with grinding teeth or with extreme reluctance in it. Many years were necessary until my disposition in this matter would change!
A year later I began my noviciate (noviziat). One year after this, I made the first vows for three years. Afterwards followed again the so- called temporary vows (For another three years) and then the vows of dedication for my entire life. However, at that time I found that I was absolutely not in the state to give such so co-called eternal vows; yet I was in a great internal crisis and was wavering, full of uncertainty. I thought that all these were an interior assault, bad thoughts and emotions that one must not allow, thus I turned away from all the "inner chaos" and I made the vows. The wind storm lightened up a bit but I could not truly calm down. This could also be symptomatic of my journey. As I already noted, many things would attract me in the various orders and communities, yet always something was missing which at that time I could not name. In this community, everything was more refined, and though nothing was missing, I could not find even here the true inner calmness, that deep inner certainty that here I had finally arrived at my final destination. Those thoughts and the vague feeling of nostalgia that would continuously come out from deep inside me, I believed came from the evil one and that I should struggle spiritually against them and for this reason should not allow under any circumstances such thoughts and emotions. I believed that  true peace and the certainty  that someone  had arrived at his final destination, was to be found only in heaven, and that in life everyone remains "on the way" and in the earthly life remains always in an inner  restlessness and silent melancholy.
It never crossed my mind that I would ever leave this community. With the exception of a few crises, which anyone who follows this road would anyway surely experience, I was glad and happy there. I loved my spiritual father; the founder of the community, and the brothers and sisters. Also, I gladly did the various duties they placed on me. I don't wish to be misunderstood: even today I do not  have any  hostility toward them, rather I respect their good will,  zeal, and eagerness for total dedication and I learned  many things there  for which today I am grateful. Despite all this I left the community after 21 years. Why?
 
While in the beginning I was orientated very much towards modernism,   developments in the Roman Catholic Church of all probable sorts of theories; new theological currents, which were justified by the theory that the Holy Spirit guides us continuously deeper into the truth; the many departures from the Church; the lack of priests and the lack of new monastics, put me, with the passing of time, to progressively deeper thought.  Because the youth would not go to church anymore, they would try with different ways of liturgical experimenting to win them back; for example rock music during liturgy, disco, use of SMS for intercessions, liturgies which the youth attended by going to the church on skateboards and skates and other similar things. I had the impression that everything sacred was being sold and adapted only so as to present it to the people in the most attractive way. I fell into an ever growing dilemma. On one side I would become progressively more conservative, because I was convinced that whatever is sacred must be kept sacred. On the other hand our community was ecumenical. Inspired by Pope John Paul 2nd, who started to pray together with the representatives of different religions, dialogue with other religions was also written in our community with capital letters. We were open to other denominations, other religions and spiritual currents - naturally with the hope to   win them over to the Roman Catholic Church. One manner of expressing this was music. As an example, we were singing certain songs that resembled Hindu mantras (Hindu prayers) except we would sing the name "Jeschuah" for example to come to an internal concentration and peace. During our prayers we embodied also Orthodox elements; for example we would sing on Saturday evenings sections of the Orthodox Vespers in the German language with Russian melodies and other Orthodox psalms. One of my main responsibilities in the community was liturgy.

The meeting with Orthodoxy
-   my way home.


In 2005 the community celebrated 25 years of existence. Taking advantage of this occasion it was allowed to all the members of the community, who had never yet visited Jerusalem, to go there on a pilgrimage tour. We arrived in Jerusalem three weeks before the Orthodox Pascha (Easter). Since dialogue was a significant element in our community, we took part in the liturgies of the different denominations. We went to the Armenian Church, the Copts, Franciscans, to the Russian Orthodox nuns at the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene, to the Mount of Olives and to the Greek Orthodox liturgy at the Church of the Resurrection. The variety of denominations in Jerusalem was impressive and one could discover something everywhere. The first Greek Orthodox liturgy I experienced was on Pascha at the Church of the Resurrection. This was the decisive experience. It is difficult for me to describe what I experienced there. I felt I was in heaven or that heaven had descended to earth. At that time I did not know what the Cherubic Hymn was, however, when I heard it for the first time, I felt such a deep self-concentration   and I thought that at that moment the angels were chanting with the people. (Later I learned that two emissaries of the Russian Tsar had felt the same when they experienced the liturgy in Constantinople for the first time). My deepest experience was the certainty of an inner knowledge; NOW I HAVE ARRIVED HOME!  This was as if an answer to my interior uneasiness. This was what I had lacked, as I said earlier, it was this interior experience. Then I did not know much of the history of the Church, about the Filioque, the schism etc.  
At that time I could not, nor did I want to, discuss it with the founder of our community. First I wanted to get to know the Orthodox Church more deeply. This   could happen at the beginning only during liturgy. However, how could I follow this up? After the celebration of Pentecost we had to return. And then what?   
Glory be to God, for divine providence guided my path.
 
As I said earlier, my responsibility was the liturgy. Thus on the feast of the Holy Spirit, I received from the founder of our community the order to remain with another sister, for one year in Jerusalem and to study the various liturgies. I had to move like the bees to gather the honey, namely, every Sunday I had to visit a different liturgy, learn psalms, take notes and see what from these we could embody in our liturgy. It was a duty toward the union of the Churches. This way I would visit sometimes the Armenians, at others the Russian Orthodox nuns on the Mount of Olives or the Greek Orthodox liturgy at the Church of the Resurrection. Apart from all this, we had to celebrate once every week the Divine Liturgy according to the Orthodox Typicon with a Catholic priest, with the intention to pray for the union.
 
During this period of the cycle of liturgies I would always wait for the next Greek liturgy. Glory be to God; at that time there was a young Orthodox deacon, a guardian of Golgotha, who could speak English very well and was very open. I could ask him about the liturgy, learn some psalms and exchange views on the differences between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. I truly owe him a lot! He would answer all my questions with infinite patience and above all, he never tried to influence me, something that was very significant for me. For later, in comparison with "my" community, they would say that I was influenced by the Orthodox. However,   I experienced exactly the opposite; I was pressured by the Roman Catholics. They would always try to convince me that here was the fullness of the truth, and that no one could dispute the superiority of the Pope etc. From the Orthodox side I would only receive answers to my questions and information. Naturally everyone would confess that they were certain that the Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ, but no one ever pushed me to become Orthodox!
Three months passed in this way, with the liturgies, the study and the exchange of views. It was a beautiful, intensive but also a very difficult period for me, because I could not show that inside me the attraction for Orthodoxy was growing all the more,  otherwise, it was certain that they would demand that I return immediately to Germany! After these three months another problem appeared. Our visas had expired and we had   either to try to renew them or return to Germany and then come back. I was afraid of the latter because I was sure, that my spiritual father would have realized that something was not going well with me. An Orthodox priest I knew, advised me to turn to an Orthodox bishop. Probably he could help me on the matter of the visa. I went and met with him, and explained everything. I also explained about my experience during that liturgy at the Church of the Resurrection during Pascha and that I was questioning myself more and more   whether I should become Orthodox. If however I had to return to Germany, it would spell the "end" for me.
 
The bishop gave me the wise advice to confess the truth to the spiritual father of my community and ask to be released for a year from the community with the purpose of reading, studying and continuing to visit the liturgy, so as to come to know the beauty and the depth of Orthodoxy but also the human weaknesses and errors, so that after this one year I would be able to make a wise decision. I liked this advice; so I wrote a letter to my spiritual father to request this release. I clearly wrote to him that I did not wish to make a decision from a first impression of love and enthusiasm but that I needed the time for study and investigation. This request was decisively declined as may be seen from this excerpt from his letter to me:"...... 
 
To set the matter of one's conversion after a four month residence shows more the lack of one's conviction in Catholic beliefs than to the guidance of God. From the Catholic point of view the proof that the Orthodox Church represents more the truth of God than the Catholic Church cannot be accepted." Apart from this they emphasized that since I was sent with a mission to Jerusalem and for this reason only; I could not be released so as to research my own case.
 
Below is an excerpt from my letter of response.

"I can no longer return! It is about a matter of conscience which I must and wish to place in front of everyone. These past days I read your letter truly many times and I studied it with prayers and what became most clear was "I am already on the other side". At this time there is no longer a possibility of return. However, this does not mean that I already decided to change my faith.
.... I wish to ask you to release me from the community so that I will be able to study the case of my eventual conversion as a lay person. Concerning Orthodoxy, you had written to me that "one should be able to experience a love without seizing it". I don't want to seize her; I want to surrender to her completely. Orthodoxy for me is a whole world, in which I would like to enter fully, if this is true. In the mean time it is not fit for me to break off single small pebbles and transplant them to the Catholic spirit and Catholic liturgy.
In another letter of reply to me I was ordered to return immediately to Germany to clear the situation in situ. I basically did not want this, as I was afraid of my weakness, that perhaps they could influence me again and make me retreat. Unfortunately there was no possibility to renew my visa and at the same time I learned that my spiritual guide had already booked a flight to Jerusalem in order to speak to me, in case I refused to return to Germany. In this way I returned to Germany to "my" community and had many discussions with my spiritual guide. During one of these discussions he showed me that I had, as a Catholic, to study my doubt of whether the Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ and that "it could not be that I was already on the other side, namely that I am already Orthodox" and investigate from that side if the Catholic Church is the true one. That would be dishonest. As a Catholic I should investigate from the Catholic side. That had convinced me somehow and since my spiritual guide assured me that at the end of the year when I would complete my mission, I could investigate the case about Orthodoxy, I returned to obedience and his spiritual guidance. Even so I confess no more than one hour later I was standing, crying and I would continuously repeat the following: "Now I have lost everything!" My spiritual guide would assure me continuously that I had not lost anything, that I could involve myself with the matter that continuously occupied me but, not now. Since I had returned to obedience and spiritual guidance, three weeks later they sent me back to Jerusalem to continue my mission until Pentecost. The first three weeks went well; I was determined to deliver on my mission and above all to investigate the matter of the Orthodox Church as a Catholic later. However, my heart would not go back! Metaphorically, I felt as if pregnant, with the child ready to be born- and I had to set it completely aside. This for me, from the religious point of view, seemed like an abortion. If only I had at least permission to be able to read or to exchange views; however, all this was denied to me and the only thing they allowed to me was to visit the liturgy once a month. Within a few weeks,   I had become a total wreck internally. I would sit crying at Golgotha and I didn't know   what to do any more. An Orthodox monk had once told me: "Just follow the voice of your heart." Basically, my heart was already Orthodox.
During Christmas I had again to return to Germany due to the expiration of my visa. I found myself confronting the same problem. My heart was already "on the other side", but this time I did not want to show my feelings, for otherwise there would be no return to Jerusalem. Even so, in a conversation I had with my spiritual guide I told him that I was impatient to finally investigate the matter of my conversion. He became surprised and he confessed that he basically did not believe that this matter could still be current with me and that with time it would become superfluous. Then he announced to the whole community that I was still aiming to investigate the matter.
I therefore returned to Jerusalem. It was a terrible period for me! Inside me I felt like a wreck and I had a dilemma. On the one side my heart and conscience would tell me that the fullness of the truth exists in the Orthodox Church and that she is the true Church. It was not only that first experience: Here whatever was holy was still kept holy, the liturgy was directed to God and was not sold to the people nor was she presented to them in an alternative way in order to make it more palatable to them; she was always the same just as she was taught by our fathers. The faith was maintained, just as she was delivered by the fathers and defined by the first seven ecumenical synods; not the continuously new theological theories and liturgical experiments. Here was the fullness of the truth and the one and authentic Church of Christ. This assurance would continuously grow ever more inside me, after many discussions with the deacon and with some other monks and with my visits to the Divine Liturgy. On the other side I felt tied by my obedience not to investigate this question at present (which was no longer Within a few weeks a question to me) or to exchange views with any members of the Orthodox Church. So, where should I turn for this internal need?
God again sent me a helper. He was a friend, a Roman Catholic theologian and deacon, of whose love for Orthodoxy I was well aware. When I revealed my internal struggle between my conscience and my spiritual obedience, he replied, "It is a Roman Catholic dogma that personal conscience is placed above obedience on matters of faith and of the Church".
This was like liberation for me! My decision was made. The next day I went and met the Patriarch, I told him of my history and I revealed my wish to become Orthodox. He took my intention seriously and sent me to a monk to catechize me. This happened one week ahead of the fasting period, namely about one year after my arrival in Jerusalem.
In a subsequent letter of mine, I announced my decision to my spiritual guide and community. Naturally they did not accept it. My spiritual guide demanded my immediate return to total obedience, since it was not a matter of conscience; nor to attempt any further steps; and from this moment to sever immediately every contact and catechism that was initiated by the Orthodox side, until he himself arrived in Jerusalem. Even so, this time my decision was final and I did not want to recheck it. I wrote a final letter to my spiritual guide and I abandoned my community a few days later, before his arrival. At that time I had no intention of coming to one more duel with my spiritual guide, neither did I  see any prospect in this; the community wanted to serve the Oecumene; nor could I foresee any possibility for the union of the so- called "sister churches". OR PERHAPS BETTER TO SAY THAT IT IS MY CONVICTION THAT FOR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY FOR THE UNION, THE WAY OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. Everything else constitutes an artificial, human scheme. How liberating it is for someone to take part in an Orthodox liturgy and to know that she is unchanging and not like with the Catholic liturgy, to have to be afraid of what to expect next. A few times I have thought that even many Orthodox people do not know how much spiritual wealth and what treasure has been given to them, how grateful to God we should be for this  and how responsible we should be in guarding it!
I therefore abandoned the community. And now what? Neither money nor home. Where could I go? It was amazing how much help I received, both spiritually and financially. As my visa expired once more, they suggested that I go to a large monastery in Greece for three weeks, to get to know more intimately the monastic life and then I could return. When I returned a week after Pascha, unfortunately no house was found for me in Jerusalem, although I was given an opportunity to stay at the monastery of St. Gerasimos in the Jordanian desert. However, I did not want to go there under any circumstances! I wished to stay in Jerusalem, now that at last I was free and I could exchange views with anyone I wished to! Luckily, I finally agreed - but only for one week until they could find a house in Jerusalem. After a week I liked it there in the desert so much that I asked if I could stay for one more week. They approved. After my departure from the community, I had suffered every night with horrible nightmares. In my dreams I would always find myself confronting the community. They foretold to me what would happen to me if I abandoned the community and "changed faith". Those words followed me like dark prophesies, usually at night, so that I would wake up drenched in sweat and crying. After this spiritual battle, the monastery of St. Gerasimos was the first place where my soul found calmness and peace. After one more week, my heart became heavy while thinking that I would have to leave, so I asked to remain another week. At this the Elder Chrysostomos, the abbot, told me that I could stay as long as I wished. It was my heart's wish and prayer to be baptized and Elder Chrysostomos agreed with this gladly. On the eve of the feast of the Holy Apostle Judas /Thaddeus, he baptized me and gave me the name Matthea, after the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. (He had wanted to baptize me with the name Mariam, but just before the baptism, he heard within himself clearly a voice telling him: "not Mariam, Matthea"). After the baptism the elder asked me if Saint Matthew had somehow a special significance for me and I explained to him my experience on that Great Friday when I had heard the Gospel According to Saint Matthew and I had said that I wanted to become an answer to the love of Christ.
I passed the night praying in the Church and the following day during Divine Liturgy I received the monastic tonsure from the elder. Those two days were the happiest days of my life. "Finally I had arrived home".
This monastery has become my home and so now not only do I serve at the Patriarchate, but I return here every weekend.
In the mean time, three years have passed and like then so also now, I thank God every day that He guided me to His Church and granted me the blessing of Baptism.

Website Note

This astonishing article with its liveliness that characterizes the personal testimony touches on matters of vital importance to ecclesiastical life. At this point we thought best not to intervene but to just stress the much discussed topic of the inter-Christian dialogues which indeed receives an answer here. We ought to underline the purely traditional Orthodox position of the fathers to whom a thirsty soul turned to Christ. They responded to all her questions without struggling to convince her or to pressure her into anything. At the same time they confessed with conviction their faith that Orthodoxy is the One, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. This became obvious to the heterodox (woman) and played a decisive role in her spiritual journey. The dialogues should not be characterized by love but by The Love and this Love- which is Christ- is at the same time truth and freedom. The Ecumenists have dethroned love and have substituted for her empty expressions of love, politeness, public relations tricks etc. everything from the opposite shore. However what is the consequence? ZERO.... And below zero.... Let us not believe that those who are outside the Church are idiots. They are also children of God and perhaps they long for Him even more sincerely than us, so let us not send them empty away.

Δευτέρα, 1 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

About sin(ST JOHN CLIMACUS)

To sin means to turn away from One who loves us unto life and unto death; and it means by implication that His life and death are too little for us, too little for us to respond by love, to respond by faithfulness and loyalty. Indeed, this attitude results in our breaking in a multitude of ways those laws of life which are conducive to life eternal; those laws of life that would make us truly, perfectly human in the way in which Christ was perfectly human, in the total harmony between God and us.

Metropolitan Anthony Sourozh





Source: Metropolitan Anthony Sourozh

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

St John Climacus, whose memory we keep today, says in one of his writings: “We shall not be judged, brothers, we shall not be condemned for not having worked miracles or spoken words of prophecy; but we shall be condemned for not having bewailed our sins throughout our life.”

What is there in sin which should cause us such broken-heartedness that all our life should be – not darkened but inspired by this pain in our hearts? We tend to define sin as breaking of the moral law, or acting in a way which is contrary to our duty or to what is right, but there is something more fundamental in sin, which should indeed cause us sadness and more than sadness: a deep pain.

Sin is disloyalty, sin is unfaithfulness; it is unfaithfulness and disloyalty towards God because it means that whatever He says matters little to us, although when He spoke to us, He spoke with all His human love and all His love divine; and indeed, to show us how much we matter to Him, how deeply He values us, He gave all of His life and all of His death to save us, and for us to believe in love divine!

To sin means to turn away from One who loves us unto life and unto death; and it means by implication that His life and death are too little for us, too little for us to respond by love, to respond by faithfulness and loyalty. Indeed, this attitude results in our breaking in a multitude of ways those laws of life which are conducive to life eternal; those laws of life that would make us truly, perfectly human in the way in which Christ was perfectly human, in the total harmony between God and us.

But these concrete sins which we commit all the time, this coldness to one another, this indifference, the ease with which we judge and condemn, the way in which we turn away from the need of others, the way in which we care nothing for the love which is offered us: all that results from the coldness of our hearts.

It is not in vain that Christ says today in the Gospel, “This demon, this spirit is cast out only by prayer and by fasting”: fasting, in the sense of turning away from all those things which are beguilement, which take us away from love, from loyalty, from faithfulness, from integrity, that destroy our wholeness; and prayer, as communion with the Living God, who is love, and in whom alone we can find the strength and power to love.

So it is not surprising that when the man who had brought his child, sick with epilepsy, to the disciples, turned to Christ saying “They were unable to heal him,” He said, ‘Bring him to Me!” Unless we are brought to Him, all other things are in vain.

We may ask ourselves, “Are we so separated from God that we should bewail this separation all our life?” Indeed, who of us would dare say that at every moment his heart is warm, his heart is deeply moved by the sense of being with God, of God being close, of being in communion with Him?

We should be with regard to God in the condition of one who is in love, who at every moment, day and night, waking or sleeping, is aware that his heart is exulting and tremulous with a love that fills him to the brim, that is joy, that is exultation, that is peace and serenity, and strength, and courage, and a love that allows us to look around and see everyone in a new light, that allows us to see the image of God shining in each person whom we meet, rejoicing in it.

If we ask ourselves how far we are from God, and cannot measure the distance between us because our experience if being close to Him is so small, let us ask ourselves, “How far am I from the people who surround me? How little love, how little loyalty, how little gift of self, how little rejoicing in my neighbour there is in me. How much there is of judgement, of indifference, of coldness, of forgetfulness”. And then we will be able to say, if I am like that it means that I am not God-centred, that God is not the King reigning supreme in my heart and mind and my whole being and life. And when we think of ourselves and see ourselves divided between the call of God, the desires of our fallen humanity and the beguilement of evil, then we can again say, “How far I am.” And until we have found harmony with God, we will be divided and broken within ourselves, until we have found harmony with God, we will be divided one from another.

This is why St John Climacus calls us to give absolute centrality to the way in which we relate to God, because everything else will depend upon it. God is like the key of harmony that allows a tune to be read and sung. He is, as another writer says, the thin string that keeps together flowers which otherwise would fall apart - even flowers, even virtue, even beauty, even truth fall apart if there is not that wonderful love, exultation and joy which is given only by our communion with God, because He is love, He is life, He is truth, He is joy and light and exultation.

Let us therefore turn to repentance in the sense in which St John Climacus sees it: not an empty bewailing of our past, not a useless, barren regret at our not being what we wish we were, but a cry to God, “Come, Lord, and come soon!” And if we cry wish all our heart, all our mind, all our need , then God will come, then we will find ourselves in communion with the Living God and all things will become beauty; we will have entered into the Kingdom of God. Amen

Δευτέρα, 24 Αυγούστου 2015

Selected Passages From The Teachings of Saint Cosmas




GOD

It is proper to begin our teaching with God, and when we finish it to thank God - not that I am worthy to mention and utter the name of God, but I am sure that God suffers me to do so through His great and infinite compassion.
God, the all-good and most merciful, my brethren, is one, and whoever says that there are many Gods is a devil. He is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; yet one nature, one glory, one kingdom, one God. He is all light, all joy, all compassion, all love.
This All-holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship. He is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is not we along that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-holy Trinity. Again, out of their love for the Holy Trinity men and women as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as many lived in the world with temperance and virginity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving and other practices; and all went to Paradise and rejoice forever.
LOVE
If we want to fare well in this life and to go to Paradise, and to call our God love and father, we must have two loves: the love for God and the love for our neighbor. It is natural for us to have these two loves, and contrary to nature not have them. Just as a swallow needs two wings in order to fly in the air, so we need these two loves, because without them we cannot be saved.
Let us have love for God and for our fellow men. Then God comes and brings us joy and implants the eternal life in our hearts, and we fare well in this life and also go to Paradise, there to rejoice forever.
Fortunate is the man who has these two loves in his heart, that for God and that for his brethren. He surely has God; and whoever has God has every blessing and does not bear to commit sin. Again, wretched is the man who does not have these two loves. Surely he has the devil and evil, and always sins. God, my brethren, asks us to have these two loves. As He Himself says in His Holy Gospel: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets."  Through these two loves all the Saints of our Church, men and women, attained sainthood and won Paradise. Whoever has blessed love, firstly for God and secondly for his fellow Christian, becomes worthy of receiving the Holy Trinity in his heart.
If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.
Know my brethren that love has two characteristics, two gifts. One of them is to strengthen man in what is good and the other is to weaken him in what is evil. I have a loaf of bread to eat; you do not have. Love tells me: Do not eat it alone, give some to your brethren and you eat the rest. I have clothes; love tells me: Give one garment to your brother and you wear the other one. I open my mouth to accuse you, to tell you lies, to decieve you; but at once I remember love and it deadens my mouth, and does not allow me to tell you lies. I stretch out my hands to take what belongs to you, your money, all your possessions. Love does not allow me to take them. Do you see, my brethren, what gifts love has?
Those of you who earn your bread by means of your toil and sweat should rejoice, because that bread is blessed; and if you give a little of it as alms it is reckoned as much. But those who live by means of injustice and grasping should mourn, for what you thus acquire is cursed; and if you give alms out of these they do not benefit you at all, being fire that consumes you.
The Martyrs won Paradise through their blood; the Ascetics, through their ascetic life. Now you, my brethren, who have children, how will you win Paradise? By means of hospitality, by giving to your brothers who are poor, blind, or lame
HUMILITY
The Christian needs two wings in order to soar upward and attain Paradise: humility and love. When the first order of angels fell from angelic glory and became demons, the other nine orders humbled themselves and worshipped the All-Holy Trinity, and remained in their place and rejoice forever. We, too, my brethren, must reflect what an evil thing pride is - that it cast down the dcvil from angelic glory and he will always burn in Hades - and that humility kept the angels in Heaven, and they rejoice perpetually in the glory of the Holy Trinity. Let us then, my brethren, aviod pride, because it is the first daughter of the devil, is a path that leads to Hades; and let us have humility, because it is angelic, is a path that leads to Paradise.
CONFESSION
If you want cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us.
FASTING
We who are pious Christians must fast always, but easpecially on Wednesday, because the Lord was sold on that day, and on Friday, because He was crucified on that day. Similarly, it is our duty to fast during the Lent seasons, as the Holy Spirit illumined the holy Fathers of the Church to decree, in order to mortify the passions and humble the body. Moreover, if we limt the food we eat, life becomes easier for us. Fast according to your ability, pray according to your ability, give alms according to your ability, and always hold death before the eyes of your mind.
VIRGINITY
Just as we humans prefer gold to sliver, so the Lord indeed likes marriage, but likes virginity more, in order to show you that if you can preserve your viginity and become a monk, or if you are a woman a nun, you are fortunate and thrice blessed, you are free from worldly things, you are like an angel. However, if you want to preserve your virginity, you must put as the first foundation the non possesion-of-property (Aktemonsyne) and must discipline your body with fasts, prayers, vigils, and hardships in order to humble the flesh. Also, you must flee from the world... There is no other way for the monk to be saved except by withdrawing far from the world.
WOMAN
God created woman equal with man, not inferior.
My Christian, you must love your wife as your companion, not consider her as your slave, for she is a creature of God, just as you are. God was crucified for her as much as for you. You call God Father, she calls Him Father, too. Both of you have the same Faith, the same Baptism, the same Book of the Gospels, the same Holy Communion, the same Paradise to enjoy. God does not regard her as inferior to you.
KEEPING SUNDAY
Do not separate yourselves from Christ and from the Church. Do you hear the priest ringing the bells? Rise at once, wash yourselves, and go to church. Attend the Orthros (Matins) attentively and likewise the Divine Liturgy. We should not work or do business on Sunday. The profit that you gain on Sunday is curse... Keep Sunday as a day dedicated to God.
THE JESUS PRAYER -ALSO KNOWN AS "THE PRAYER OF THE HEART"
This prayer should never be absent from you: Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the living God, through the Theotokos and all the Saints, have mercy upon me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant." (This is the actual Jesus Prayer: "O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME, A SINNER.") Always say this prayer both with your mouth and with your mind, day and night, wherever you may be, whether eating, walking, working, or sitting. Always meditate on it, as it benefits you a great deal., frees you here from every evil, delivers you there from eternal Hell, and renders you worthy of going to Paradise, our heavenly country.
MEDITATION ON DEATH
There is no better teacher than death.
Have death before your minds: the time when you will leave this unreal world and will go to the other one, which is eternal.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
We who are pious Christians must henceforth not weep for the dead like the impious and the unbelievers, who do not hope in the resurrection. This world, my brethren, is like a prison. When must man rejoice? When he enters the prison or when he is being liberated from the prison? It seems to me, when enters the prison he must weep and be sad, and when he comes out of the prison he must rejoice. Therefore, my brethren, do not grieve for the dead, but if you love them do what you can for their souls; offer liturgies, memorial services, fasts, prayers, alms.

(Editors notes: CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!)
TEACHING OF THE SCRIPTURES
Heed all the thoughts of the Holy Gospels, because they are all diamonds, treasures, joy, delight, eternal life. The existence of many churches neither preserves nor strengthens our faith to the proper extent and in the proper manner, if those who believe in God are not enlightened by the Old and the New Testament.
I have found the words and the commandments of Christ pure, holy, true, splendid, brighter than the sun; and whoever believes in Christ and calls Him God and lives in accordance with His teaching, contained in the Holy Gospels, is fortunate and thrice-blessed.
The Holy Spirit illumined firstly the holy Prophets, and they wrote the Divine Scripture; seondly, He illumined the holy Apostles; and thirdly, He has illumined the holy Fathers, and they have explained the books of our Church, in order that we may know how to conduct ourselves.
Our Faith has been made secure by wise and learned Saints, who both explained the Holy Scriptures precisely and have enlightened us through their divinely inspired discourses.


Holy St. Cosmas,
Pray Unto God,
For Us!


(Source: Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos)., by (Dr.) Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94.)

Πέμπτη, 6 Αυγούστου 2015

The Holy Transfiguration of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ -August 6


Discourse on the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ
of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
For an explanation of the present Feast and understanding of its truth, it is necessary for us to turn to the very start of today’s reading from the Gospel: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up onto a high mountain by themselves” (Mt.17:1).
First of all we must ask, from whence does the Evangelist Matthew begin to reckon with six days? From what sort of day is it? What does the preceding turn of speech indicate, where the Savior, in teaching His disciples, said to them: “For the Son of Man shall come with his angels in the glory of His Father,” and further: “Amen I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:27-28)? That is to say, it is the Light of His own forthcoming Transfiguration which He terms the Glory of His Father and of His Kingdom.
The Evangelist Luke points this out and reveals this more clearly saying: “Now it came to pass about eight days after these words, that He took Peter and John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, His countenance was altered, and His raiment became a radiant white” (Luke 9:28-29). But how can the two be reconciled, when one of them speaks definitively about the interval of time as being eight days between the sayings and the manifestation, whereas the other (says): “after six days?”
There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. Similarly, there is no contradiction with the Evangelists when one says “after six days,” and the other says “eight days after these words.”
But these twofold sayings as it were present us a certain format set in mystery, and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another. Luke spoke of eight days without contradicting Matthew, who declared “after six days.” There is not another day added on to represent the day on which these sayings were uttered, nor is the day on which the Lord was transfigured added on (which a rational person might reasonably imagine to be added to the days of Matthew).
The Evangelist Luke does not say “after eight days” (like the Evangelist Matthew says “after six days”), but rather “it came to pass eight days after these words.” But where the Evangelists seem to contradict one another, they actually point out to us something great and mysterious. In actual fact, why did the one say “after six days,” but the other, in ignoring the seventh day, have in mind the eighth day? It is because the great vision of the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth Day, i.e., of the future age, coming to be revealed after the passing away of the world created in six days.
About the power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom the Kingdom of God is to be revealed, the Lord predicted: “There are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:28). Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of its power of the Divine Spirit. That is why it is said: “come in power.” And this power is not manifest to simply ordinary people, but to those standing with the Lord, that is to say, those who have affirmed their faith in Him like Peter, James and John, and especially those who are free of our natural abasement. Therefore, and precisely because of this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature. Certainly, such a manifest appearance by far transcends the utmost limits of the mind’s grasp, as effectualized by the power of the Divine Spirit.
Thus, the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the Mystery, (the disciples) of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses, effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.
Those not grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce to a creaturely level (i.e., as something “created”) not only this Light, the Kingdom and the Glory of God, but also the Power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom it is meet for Divine Mysteries to be revealed. In all likelihood, such persons have not heeded the words of the Apostle Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor.2:9-10).
So, with the onset of the Eighth Day, the Lord, taking Peter, James and John, went up on the Mount to pray. He always prayed alone, withdrawing from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides women and children (Mt.14:19-23). Or, taking with Him those who excelled others, as at the approach of His Saving Passion, when He said to the other disciples: “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Mt.26:36). Then He took with Him Peter, James and John. But in our instance right here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them, that is to say, before their very eyes.
“What does it mean to say: He was transfigured?” asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian (Chrysostom). He answers this by saying: “It revealed something of His Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it, and it showed the indwelling of God within Him.” The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt.17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses. Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.
That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occured and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind. To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.
Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt.13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e., the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this Hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, as “without mingling, without change, without division, without separation.”
We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?
Thus, this Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.
So also she who miraculously conceived and gave birth recognized that the One born of her is God Incarnate. So it was also for Simeon, who only received this Infant into his arms, and the aged Anna, coming out [from the Jerusalem Temple] for the Meeting, since the Divine Power illumined, as through a glass windowpane, giving light for those having pure eyes of heart.
And why did the Lord, before the beginning of the Transfiguration, choose the foremost of the Apostles and lead them up onto the Mount with Him? Certainly, it was to show them something great and mysterious. What is particularly great or mysterious in showing a sensory light, which not only the foremost, but all the other Apostles already abundantly possessed? Why would they need a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages, when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse, nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, “God will be all in all” (1 Cor.15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.
Hence it is clear that the Light of Tabor was a Divine Light. And the Evangelist John, inspired by Divine Revelation, says clearly that the future eternal and enduring city “has no need of the sun or moon to shine upon it. For the Glory of God lights it up, and the Lamb will be its lamp” (Rev 21:23). Is it not clear, that he points out here that this [Lamb] is Jesus, Who is divinely transfigured now upon Tabor, and the flesh of Whom shines, is the lamp manifesting the Glory of divinity for those ascending the mountain with Him?
John the Theologian also says about the inhabitants of this city: “they will not need light from lamps, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon them, and night shall be no more” (Rev 22:5). But how, we might ask, is there this other light, in which “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (Jas 1:17)? What light is there that is constant and unsetting, unless it be the Light of God? Moreover, could Moses and Elias (and particularly the former, who clearly was present only in spirit, and not in flesh [Elias having ascended bodily to Heaven on the fiery chariot]) be shining with any sort of sensory light, and be seen and known? Especially since it was written of them: “they appeared in glory, and spoke of his death, which he was about to fulfill at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). And how otherwise could the Apostles recognize those whom they had never seen before, unless through the mysterious power of the Divine Light, opening their mental eyes?
But let us not tire our attention with the furthermost interpretations of the words of the Gospel. We shall believe thus, as those same ones have taught us, who themselves were enlightened by the Lord Himself, insofar as they alone know this well: the Mysteries of God, in the words of a prophet, are known to God alone and His perpetual proximity. Let us, considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Savior transfigured on Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.



Source:OCA

Τρίτη, 20 Ιανουαρίου 2015

St. Isaac the Syrian - On the proper way to face sorrows










Just as the eyebrows approach each other, so are the temptations close to men. It was the economy of God to be so, with wisdom that we may receive benefit: namely, through knocking persistently, because of the sorrows, on the door of God's mercy and to enter into your mind, due to the fear of grievous events, the seed of memory of God, so that you may approach Him with supplications and your heart be sanctified through the continuous remembrance of Him. And while you ask Him, He will listen.




The person walking the road of God must thank Him for all the sorrows that he faces, and to accuse and dishonor his negligent self, and know that the Lord who loves and looks after him, would not have allowed the grievous things to happen to wake his mind up, if he had somehow not been negligent. God may have allowed some sorrow because man has become proud and consequently he should understand and let him not become disturbed but find the cause within himself, so that the affliction may not double up, namely suffer and not wish to be treated. "In God who is the source of justice there is no injustice". May we not think otherwise.




Do not avoid the sorrows, because being helped by them you learn the truth and love of God well. And do not fear the temptations (negative experiences) for through them you discover treasures. Pray that you may not enter into spiritual temptations, while for the bodily ones, prepare to face them with all your strength, for without them you cannot approach God. Through them comes the divine rest. Whoever avoids the bodily temptations avoids virtue.




Without temptations the providence of God for man does not manifest itself, and it is impossible without them to receive the boldness in God and learn the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and moreover, it will not be possible to anchor the divine love in your soul. Before the arrival of temptations, man prays to God as a stranger. From the moment however he enters into temptations for the love of God and does not change opinion, let's say, he has God duty bound towards him and God considers him a genuine friend. For he fought and conquered the enemy, to fulfill the will of God.




God does not grant any big grace without a big temptation preceding it, for according to the severity of the temptations the graces were ordained by the wisdom of God, which however men normally do not understand. By the measure of the great sorrows that the providence of God sends you, you understand the great value that His magnanimity grants you. For according to the sorrow you experience is the consolation you will receive.




If you ask me what is the reason for all these, I will answer you: your negligence, for you did not bother to find the cure. The cure of all of them is one, and with it man's soul finds immediately the consolation it longs for. But what is the cure? "It is the humility of the heart". Without it, it is impossible to destroy the fence of temptations, in the contrary in fact you will discover that the temptations become stronger and weaken you...




According to the level of humility, God gives you the strength to endure calamities. And according to the measure of your patience, the weight of your sorrows becomes light and so you are consoled. And as you are consoled so does your love for God increases. And as much as you love God that much greater joy the Holy Spirit bestows on you. Our compassionate God wishing to bring the temptation of His true children to a good end, does not take but instead gives them the strength to endure. "All these gifts (consolation, love, joy) the strugglers acquire as fruit of their patience" for their souls to arrive at perfection. I wish our Christ and God to make us worthy through His grace to endure the bitterness of temptations for His love and with gratitude of our heart. Amen.




The saints show their love to God indeed, by their suffering in His name when for example He sends them sorrows without however distancing from them, for He loves them. Through this suffering love their heart obtains Boldness, so that they may approach Him freely and with conviction that their supplications will be heard and realized. The power of prayer that has boldness is great. That is why He allows His saints to experience every sorrow and acquire experience and be assured of His help and how much He provides and cares for them. This way they acquire wisdom and good sense from temptations, that they may not become negligent, that they may not lack spiritual asceticism on both good and bad, and thus receive through their trials, the knowledge of all things they would need. For otherwise they will be swept away by ignorance and will become the mockery of demons. For if they exercised only in the good things and had no experience of struggles with the evil, they would have gone to war totally unprepared...




Man cannot taste and value the good, if previously he did not experience the bitterness of the temptations...




Men come to the true knowledge, when God deprives them of His power and makes them to co-experience the human weakness and the difficulty that temptations cause, the cunningness of the enemy, and what adversary they have to fight and how much they have advanced and progressed in virtue and that without the power of God they are weak towards any passion. God does this, that they may receive from all these negative experiences, true humility and to approach close to Him and wait for His certain help and to pray with patience. So where could they learn all these but through the experience of many sorrows which He allows for them to experience? For this way one acquires stable faith through these sorrows while he is assured of the divine help that he many times receives during his struggles.




The strugglers therefore, are tempted that they may increase their spiritual wealth, the negligent though to protect themselves from whatever hurts them, the slumberous that they may be awakened, the distant ones that they may approach God and the friends of God that they may enter His Holy Abode with boldness. A son inexperienced in life cannot manage the wealth of his father and help him. For this, in the beginning God sends difficulties and hardships to His children and then He reveals His gifts. Like little children become frightened of scary sights and run, grabbing at their dress of their parents and ask for their help, so does the soul; the more upset and saddened by the fear of temptation the more it runs and clings on God and begs Him with unceasing supplications. And as temptations fall on it, one after the other, that much more it prays. However, when they stop and it recovers its comforts, normally it loses touch with reality and distances from God.




The sorrows and dangers kill sensuality, while good times and indifference feed it. For this both God and the holy Angels are joyful in our sorrows, while the devil and his accomplices are joyful when we are lazy and have a good time.




Leave your cares to God and in all your difficulties judge yourself, for you, yourself is the cause for all...




All the sad occasions and sorrows will torment us doubly if we have no patience. For with patience man turns away the bitterness of afflictions, while pusillanimity gives birth to the despair of hell. Patience is the mother of consolation; it is spiritual power that is born of a broad heart. It is difficult for man to find this power during sorrows, if he does not have the divine grace, which he acquires through persistent prayers and with tears.

Κυριακή, 23 Νοεμβρίου 2014

In the Era of Comforts There Is so Much Discomfort (1) ELDER PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS





Even Hearts Have Turned Into Steel

Because modern conveniences have exceeded all bounds, they have become inconveniences. Machines have multiplied and so have distrac­tions; man has been turned into a machine. All kinds of machines and inventions now rule over man. This is why human hearts too are turning into steel. All of these modern comforts make the cultivation of conscience in people difficult. In the old days, people used to work with animals and were more compassionate. If you overloaded an animal and the poor thing kneeled down from the weight, you felt bad for it. If it was hungry and looked at you snivelling, it broke your heart. I remember, when a cow of ours fell ill, we suffered with it, because we considered it a member of the family. Today people own lots of devices made of steel, but, unfortunately, even their own hearts have turned into steel.
Is the equipment broken? It is welded together. Is the car not running? It is taken to the repair shop. If it cannot be fixed, they throw it away; they have no feelings for it. After all, it's just a piece of iron. The heart does not take part in these decisions, and this is how selfishness and pride find fertile ground and take root.
Today, we have so little consideration for our fellow human beings. In the old days, if there was any left­over food, people would find someone that needed it and would give it away before it spoiled. A spiritually advanced person would even say, "Let the poor person eat first and I will eat later." Nowadays, people put the food in the refrigerator and don't even think of those in need. I remember, whenever we had a good yield of vegetables or fruit, we would always share it with our neighbours. What could we do with all that produce? It would spoil anyway. Now that we have refrigerators people think to themselves, "Why share it with others? We'll put it in the fridge and keep it for ourselves." And I will not even mention the tons of produce we throw away or bury in landfills, while millions of people in other parts of the world are starving to death.


We Are Mad About Technology

Modern devices are endless. They run faster than the mind of man, because the devil has a part in it too. In the old days, when we did not have telephones, faxes, and all kinds of gadgets, we lived tranquil and simple lives.

- Back then, Geronda, people would enjoy their lives!

- Yes, they did, unlike today when all these gadgets are driving them crazy! All these conveniences make people suffer and suffocate with anxiety. I remember how cheer­ful people were when I was at the Sinai Desert! I remem­ber, years ago, when I was at the Monastery of Sinai (2), what a cheerful people the Bedouin were! They lived a simple life in a tent. They could not live in Alexandria or Cairo; they found comfort in the desert, inside their tents. They drank some tea, if they had any, and praised God. But now with the advent of civilization they too have started to forget God. You see, they have caught the European spirit. First the Israelites constructed huts for them and then they sold them all the old cars of Israel (3). Ah, those enterprising Israelites! Each Bedouin now has a hut, a broken car parked outside and lots of anxiety. The car breaks down and they go through all kinds of trouble to fix it. And what do you think they gain out of all this? Nothing more than a headache!
At least in the old days, things were well-built and lasted a long time. Now you pay all this money to buy something and pretty soon it breaks down. So the facto­ries keep making new things and taking people's money. People are working so hard trying to make ends meet. Machines are the brainchild of the European scientists who spend their time with "screwdrivers". Let's say, at first, they make a lid. Then, they improve it by making it a screw-on lid, after that they may add a push-button open­ing device to the lid to improve it even more. Each time, they try to improve it more and more... In other words, they invent new and better machines. And before the poor people have paid off the last model, they try to buy the latest and best. They end up tired and in debt. Today, even a poor man will sell whatever he has, oxen, horses, in order to buy a cheap car - pretty soon, the way things are going, we will have to go to the zoo to see a donkey! And so finally he buys a car. But then the car breaks down and there are no parts for it, or so they say, and he is soon forced to buy another one. He cannot afford the most expensive, so, he buys one that is better than what he had before, putting the old one aside. We must be very careful not to fall into this channel ourselves and try to keep up with the newest fashions!


Television Has Done Great Damage
- Geronda, nowadays telecommunications are so advanced that one can see live what is happening at the other side of the earth.

- Yes, they see the entire world but they don't see them­selves. That is the only thing they do not see. Today it's the human mind not God that destroys people.

- Geronda, is television very harmful?

- Of course it is. Someone came and told me, "Televi­sion is good, Father." "Eggs are good too," I replied, "but if you mix them with chicken droppings, they become useless." The exact same thing happens with radio and television. Today if you turn on the radio to listen to the news, you must put up with listening to a song before you can hear the news. In the old days, it was different. You knew the time the news would come on, and that is when you turned the radio on. Now you are forced to listen to the song as well; otherwise, if you turn the radio off, you will miss the news.
Television has done us great damage. It's especially destructive for children. A seven-year-old child came to the Kalyvi once. I saw the demon of television speak­ing through the child's mouth, exactly as demons speak through the mouth of the possessed. It was like a baby born with teeth. It is not easy to find normal kids; they are turning into little monsters. And you see they don't get to think for themselves, they only repeat what they have heard and seen on television. That's why they have come up with television to begin with; to make people numb and dumb, so that they will take what they hear and see on television for a fact and act accordingly.

- Geronda, mothers are asking us how they can keep their children away from television.

- They must help them understand that television dulls their children's minds. They lose the ability to think on their own, to think critically - not to mention the damage it causes to their eyesight. And we are talking about man-made television. But there is another kind, a spiritual television. When people uproot their old self and the eyes of the soul are cleansed, they can see into the future without the aid of any machines. Have they told their children about this other kind of television? If they don't, these boxes will make our children dumb. Adam and Eve had the gift of foresight. But they lost it when they fell from Grace. If the Grace of the Holy Baptism is preserved, children will get with it spiritual foresight. But this requires watchfulness, vigilance and spiritual work. Today, so many mothers, having lost their spiritual bearings, preoccupy themselves with worthless and frivolous things and then they come and ask me, "What am I to do, Father? I am losing my child!"


Monks and Modern Conveniences

- Geronda, how should a monk use modern conven­iences?

- He should always have fewer and simpler things than the rest of the people. I feel much better when I use wood for heating, cooking and handiwork. But when the forests become obsolete, I will use the simplest and cheapest available resources. An oil stove, for example, or some humble type of heating, and petrol gas for handiwork.

- How can one determine whether something is re­ally essential in a Coenobitic Monastery?

- If they think in a monastic way, it will be easy to figure it out. If a monk or nun does not think in a monastic way, then everything becomes a necessity and he becomes worse than those who live in the world. Monks must live in humbler circumstances than they did when they lived in the world; never better. We should not have better things here than we did at home. In general, the Monastery must be poorer than the homes in which we were raised. This will help the monk with his interior life and will also be of help to lay people. God has provided that we do not find peace in possessions and comforts. If laymen are troubled by all these modern comforts, you can imagine how much more they trouble the monk. If I found myself in a rich house and the host asked where I would like to stay, in the living room with the fancy furniture, or in a stable with a couple of goats, I would honestly say that I prefer the stable with the goats because I would find more peace there. When I left the world to become a monk, I was not seeking a better house or a palace. My goal was to find something worse than what I had been used to. Otherwise I am not doing anything for Christ. But today's logic works like this: "How could living in a palace harm your soul? If you stay in the stable, it's going to stink while the palace will be full of sweet scents and it will be easier to make your prostrations." We must have a spiritual sensor. You see in a compass, both arrows have magnets that turn it in one direction or the other. Christ has a magnet too, but we need one ourselves in order to turn towards Him.
In the old days, life in the Coenobitic Monasteries was so hard! I remember in the kitchen they had a cauldron and used a crank to lift it. And we used wood to light the fire in order to cook. The fire was either too low or too high and the food would stick at the bottom of the cauldron. When fish would get stuck, they used a steel broom to scrape the bottom. Then we had to collect the ashes and place them in a clay jar with a hole underneath to make lye and wash the dishes. This was so rough on our hands! And we lifted the water with a windlass to the archontariki. Some of the things that I see today in Monasteries are not justified.
In one Monastery, I saw the monks cutting bread with a machine. That's not right! If someone is ill or not feeling well and cannot cut the bread with a knife, and there is a need to cut it because there is no one else to do it, then using a machine is justified. But when you see a healthy man cutting the bread with a wheel, you know there's something wrong. This fellow can work a jackhammer, but he uses a machine to cut bread, and considers it an achievement!
Make sure that you advance in spiritual matters and not in equipment and comfort. Do not delight in these things. If Monasticism abandons the ascetic life, it will not be Monasticism anymore. If you put convenience above Monasticism, above ascesis, you will not prosper. The monk avoids conveniences, because they do not help him spiritually. In secular life, excessive conveniences make life difficult for people. But comforts do not befit a monk, even if he could find peace in them. We should not seek comforts. During the time of Saint Arsenios the Great (4), they did not have electricity or gas lights; only some fancy lamps in the palace that used very fine oil. Couldn't he have brought these lamps with him in the desert? Of course he could. But he did not do it. He used a cotton fuse with whatever kind of seed oil was available at that time.
In doing our chores, we sometimes may justify the use of machines or other conveniences to do our work faster and have more time for our spiritual life. As a result our life becomes stressful and full of concerns and anx­ieties, and we come to resemble lay people rather than monks. When some young monks joined a Monastery, the first thing they did was to buy pressure cookers in order to gain time for their spiritual activities; they ended up sitting around and talking for hours. It's not that modern conveniences help us gain time and apply it to spiritual things. These devices do save us time, but we don't seem to have enough time to dedicate to prayer.

- Geronda, I heard people say that Saint Athanasios the Athonite was a progressive!

- Yes, he was progressive, but not in the sense that people understand the word today. Let them read the life of Saint Athanasios and see the difference. The Monastery had eight hundred to one thousand monks during his time and many people sought help there! There were numerous poor and hungry people who gathered at the Lavra Monastery to find food and shelter. The Saint had even purchased two oxen for the mill in order to cope with all these mouths. Why don't they do the same today? He had to create a modern type oven so that he would have bread to give to people. The Byzantine emperors had endowed the Monasteries with a lot of property because they served as Charitable Institutions. The Monasteries were established to help people spiritually and materially, which is why the emperors endowed them so well.
We must understand that if we carry on this way (without discrimination), the day will come when this world will end, and we will find ourselves standing be­fore God, in debt. We monks should make use not only of everything that people discard today, but also of all useless things that the rich have thrown away in the past. You must remember two things: first that we are going to die and secondly that we may not die from natural causes. Either way, you should be prepared. If you remember these two things, all will go well, spiritually or otherwise. And then everything else will fall into place.

Deprivation Is Good For Us
- Geronda, why are there so many people suffering today?

- It's simple: they refuse to strain themselves. There is too much convenience and it's making people sick and miserable. Modern comforts have stupefied people and the sloth we see in so many today has brought on many diseases. In the past, it would take so much work to just thresh the wheat! The labour was hard but then the bread was so sweet! You never saw people throw bread away. If you found a small of piece of bread somewhere, you picked it up and kissed it. Even today, those who lived through the German Occupation will see a piece of bread and put it aside, while most people will throw it in the gar­bage as worthless. They don't appreciate its value. How often do you hear "Praise be to God" for all the blessings we receive from Him? You see, everything today is done the comfortable way.
Deprivation helps a lot. When people are deprived of something, they come to appreciate it more. When we de­prive ourselves voluntarily, with discernment and humil­ity for Christ's love, we feel spiritual joy. If, for example, someone says, "I will not drink water today because so and so is sick and my God, I cannot do anything more than that," and actually does it, God will refresh him not with water but with spiritual lemonade, with divine com­fort! The worn-out person feels great gratitude for even the smallest help. But take a rich, spoiled child; he does not feel any joy even when his parents satisfy all his ca­prices. He may have everything and still feel like his life is horrible; so he breaks and destroys whatever he finds, whereas some poor child will feel great gratitude for even a tiny bit of help. If a friend pays for their transportation to the Holy Mountain, they are very grateful to him and to God. You hear rich children say, "We have everything; why should we have everything?" They gripe because they have everything they want instead of thanking God and helping some poor person. There is no greater ingrat­itude than this. They feel a void inside, because they have everything. They blame their parents, because they give them everything, and then they leave home and go hik­ing around with a backpack. And the parents give them money to call home so that they will not worry, but these young people don't even care. Eventually, the parents end up looking for them.
A young man from a good family who had every­thing, but did not find fulfilment and joy in anything, left home secretly and slept in trains so that he could expe­rience hardship. But if he had a job and lived with his sweat and toil, his life would have meaning, he would have peace and would praise God all the time.
Today most people are not deprived of anything and for this reason they do not have philotimo. If one has not worked hard, he cannot appreciate the hard work of others. What is the point of choosing a comfortable pro­fession in order to make money, and then start looking for hardship? The Swedes, who receive state allowances for almost everything and do not need to work for it, end up roaming the streets. They get tired doing nothing and feel stressed because they are spiritually derailed like a wheel which leaves its axle and then rolls aimlessly and falls over the cliff.


All These Conveniences Are Making Us Useless
Today people care for beauty more than anything else and this keeps them preoccupied. This, of course, suits the European way of life (5). With their screwdrivers hard at work, Europeans are constantly creating beautiful new things, and supposedly more practical, so that people will not have to move a finger. In the past, people worked with tools that made them stronger. Nowadays, the tools that we use at work make us need physiotherapy and massages. Doctors now have to be trained in massage therapy! Today you see carpenters with pot bellies! There was no such thing back in our days! There was no way you could keep a belly and move that plane back and forth!
When conveniences become excessive, man is ren­dered useless and lazy. Even though we can turn some­thing by hand, we think to ourselves, "No, I'll just press a button and it will turn by itself." When someone gets used to doing things the easy way, he wants to have it easy all the time. Today people want to work a little and get paid a lot. If they could get away without working at all, even better! The same spirit has entered spiritual life. We want to become saints without labouring for it.
People who live easy lives usually have bad health. They are so spoiled that, if a war breaks out, they will not be able to endure. In the old days, even children were tough and could endure a lot. Now we need vitamins B, C and D and a Mercedes in order to make it. Do you see how an atrophic child's arms strengthen the minute he starts working? Many parents come and tell me, "Pray for my child, he is a paraplegic" (6). The real question is who is paraplegic, the child or the parents? I tell them to feed the child non-fattening foods and make him walk. Once they lose weight, they start moving around with more ease, like normal children; they may even get well enough to play soccer. God will help the truly paraplegic children who cannot be helped by man. In Konitsa, there was a very difficult child, who had been burned by a bomb. His leg had shrunk and he could not stretch it out. But because he was very lively and moved his leg constantly, it even­tually stretched out. He even joined the guerrilla move­ment under Zervas.
Myself, when I had sciatica, I said the Jesus Prayer while walking and my leg got stronger. Many times move­ment helps. If I fall sick for a couple of days and cannot move, I say, "My God, help me to get up and move a lit­tle and I will take care of the rest. I will go fetch wood." Remaining in bed makes things worse, which is why as soon as I gather the courage, even if I have a bit of a cold, I force myself to get up and cut some wood. I dress warmly to sweat the cold off. Of course I know that it's more comfortable to lie in bed, but I force myself to get up and it all goes away. For example, I see that when I have company and I sit on the log for a long time I become stiff. I could get a little rug to place underneath but then I would have to find one for all the visitors (7). That is why, after my visitors are gone, I go for an hour's walk and say the Jesus Prayer while walking. And because I have some circulation problems in my lower legs, I stretch my legs a lot. If I were to let myself go, I would need to be served, while now I can serve others.

- Geronda, is comfort always harmful?

- Look, in some cases comfort is necessary. If you are in pain, for example, you must sit on something soft. But why should it be made of velvet? It can be made of a sim­pler fabric. If, of course, you are tough enough, you will not need to use anything soft.

- Geronda, people use the expression, "He is an old bone."

- Yes, over there near the Kalyvi, there was a Cypriot monk, Elder Joseph of Carpasia. He was one hundred and six years old, but he would take care of his needs by himself. Where can you find people like him today? Some pensioners cannot even walk. Their legs weaken and they put on weight, because they sit around all day and be­come useless. But if they were active, their health would be so much better. They took Elder Joseph to Vatopedi Monastery. They washed and bathed him and took care of him. He told them, "The minute I got here I became sick. You made me sick; take me back to my Kalyvi. They were forced to take him back. I went to see him one day. "What's going on?" I asked him. "I learned you went to the Monastery." "Yes, I went," he replied. "They took me down there by car, they washed and cleaned me up and took care of me, but I got sick. 'Take me back,' I told them. As soon as I got here I became well." He cannot see well now, and yet he is weaving komboschoinia.
Once I sent him some angel's hair pasta and he said, "Does Elder Paisios believe that I am some sickly person and he sent me angel's hair pasta?" He is in such good health that he can eat all kinds of beans: garbanzo, white beans, and broad beans. He is fit and brave like a young man! He walks with two canes and collects wild greens from the fields. He sows onion seed; he carries water to wash his clothes and his head. Then he reads from the Hours and the Psalter, he does his Canon and prays the Jesus Prayer. You should have seen him when he hired some workmen to fix the roof! He climbed the ladder with his two canes to watch the work in progress. "Get down," they told him. "No, I will climb up to see how you are fixing it," he said. He suffers for sure, but do you know how much joy he feels! His heart flutters. The Fathers take his clothes secretly to wash them. I asked him once, "What are you doing with your clothes?" "They take them secretly and wash them," he told me, "but I wash them too. I put some detergent and soak them in the washtub." Do you see how much trust this Elder places in God while others who have everything suffer from phobias and so forth? This man became ill when he was taken care of and got well when he was left alone.

The easy life does not help. Comfort does not fit the life of the monk; it's sheer dishonesty for those living in the desert. Perhaps you were raised spoiled, but now, if you are in good health, you must get used to hardship. Other­wise you are not a true monk.


_________________

1. In this chapter we observe the militant spirit which the Elder had as an ascetic monk, as well as his agony not to see this ascetic spirit of Monasticism changed and altered by technology and modern advances. He was not against civilization. He wanted to stress that we must rule civilization and not be ruled by it. He used to say that especially the monk must control modern conven­iences and use them with discretion in order to be able to channel his powers toward the spiritual combat.

2. 1962-1964.

3. Sinai Peninsula now belongs to Egypt, but then it belonged to Israel.

4. Saint Arsenios the Great was born in Rome about 354 A.D. He was a man of great wisdom and virtue. He was called "Father of Kings" because the Emperor Theodosios had entrusted him with the education of his children, Arcadios and Honorios. In 394, after receiving divine calling, he departed for the desert of Egypt and from there he went to Skete. Despite the fact that he had lived in palaces, he rose to prominence as a monk because of the great austerity of his asceticism. After the devastation of Skete in 434, he went to the Mountain of Troe where he died in 440.

5. Elder Paisios does not want to disparage the Europeans or the West, but he aims to strike at rationalism and atheism.


6. The Elder does not mean severe cases.


7. Out of hospitality.




(ELDER PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS SPIRITUAL COUNSELS "WITH PAIN AND LOVE for Contemporary Man", Part 2, Chapter 2, p. 152-166, Holy Monastery "Evangelist John the Theologian" SOUROTI, THESSALONIKI, GREECE)