Sunday, October 21, 2012

Τό πένθος τῶν μοναχῶν ἔχει σχέση μέ τή ζωή τῶν λαϊκῶν;

 








 
 
 
 
 

Πηγαίνοντας κάποτε ο αββάς Ποιμήν προς την Αίγυπτο είδε μία γυναίκα να κάθεται πάνω σ’ ένα τάφο και να κλαίει με πικρά δάκρυα. Και είπε: «Κι αν όλα τα ευχάριστα του κόσμου αυτού έλθουν αυτή τη στιγμή εδώ, δεν θα μπορέσουν να αποσπάσουν την ψυχή αυτής της γυναίκας από το πένθος. Κατά τον ίδιο τρόπο πρέπει και ο μοναχός να έχει μέσα του το πένθος σ’ όλη του τη ζωή».


Είπε πάλι ο αββάς Ποιμήν: «Το ψυχικό πένθος έχει διπλό σκοπό. Και εργασία πνευματική πραγματοποιεί μέσα στην ψυχή του ανθρώπου, αλλά και τον προφυλάσσει».
Ένας αδελφός ρώτησε τον αββά Ποιμένα: «Τι να κάνω»; Ο Γέροντας του απαντά: «Την ώρα που ο Θεός θα μας επισκεφθεί, για ποιο πράγμα θα ανησυχήσουμε;» Του λέει ο αδελφός: «Για τις αμαρτίες μας».
 
 


Λέει λοιπόν ο Γέροντας: «Ας μπούμε επομένως στο κελί μας και μένοντας εκεί ας θυμόμαστε τις αμαρτίες μας και τότε ο Κύριος θα μας βοηθάει σε όλα».


Ο μακάριος Αθανάσιος ο επίσκοπος της Αλεξάνδρειας, παρακάλεσε τον αββά Παμβώ να κατέβει από την έρημο στην Αλεξάνδρεια. Πραγματικά, κατέβηκε και βλέποντας μία θεατρίνα, γέμισαν δάκρυα τα μάτια του. Όταν τον ρώτησαν όσοι ήταν κοντά του να μάθουν γιατί έκλαψε είπε: «Δύο πράγματα μου έφεραν τα δάκρυα… το ένα η απώλεια εκείνης και το άλλο το ότι εγώ δεν έχω τόση φροντίδα να αρέσω στον Θεό, όση έχει αυτή προκειμένου να αρέσει σε ανήθικους ανθρώπους».
 


«Μέγα Γεροντικό»

A Word From Saint Nektarios to Future Priests



The following is taken from an address given by St. Nektarios when he was first assigned dean of Rizarios Ecclesiastical School.






“My children, in each of you there exists a future priest, an important element of the history and future life of our suffering country. You should be proud to wear your cassocks (anteri). Pray to the Almighty that He grants you the ability to serve His Church, for this vocation is not merely a job but is a mission which begins on earth and continues in heaven. Please heed these humble words and may your souls continuously shine with the eternal truths of our Holy Gospel…
“My children, I also want you to be proud of our Orthodox faith.
Orthodoxy is our treasure, our priceless pearl, if you will. Orthodoxy is also the light that guides us. If we were ever to lose this treasure, this light, then we would be scattered to the ends of the earth like dust, ceasing to exist as a people and as a nation. There are so many aspects of our treasure that I want to share with you, but our time today does not permit it. We will, however, have the chance to explore these aspects in future lectures.
Today, I would like to touch upon some other thoughts that I would like to share with you. My children, our lives begin like a clean piece of slate. It is up to us to determine what will be written on that slate. If on this virtues and good God-fearing acts are written, then we have lived up to our divine mission…



“So my children, I hope that from this day on we will live together as one family in Jesus Christ. We should, in essence, create a blessed brotherhood. I promise that I will stand by your side always as a spiritual father. As I close my talk to you today, may I comment on something which bothers me.
I have noticed that almost all of you are beardless. Why are you shunning this natural and beautiful tradition? Do not be swayed by the Europeans. We Greek Orthodox have our own traditions, which date back to the Apostles and early Fathers of the Church. I ask that you follow their manly examples, and hold yourselves to it. Do it for the struggles and hardships they endured for the early Church. This is, after all, the least we can do.”





Source: Saint Nektarios: The Saint of Our Century, Sotos Chrondropoulos, Holy Trinity - St. Nekatarios Convent: Aegina

Keep Silent


















You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives.




 All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it.


That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.





— St Seraphim of Sarov

The worth of our prayers ( St. John of Kronstadt )




Let us measure the worth of our prayers by human measure or by the quality of our relation to other men. How do we behave with other people?

Sometimes we express our praises and gratitude coldly, out of a sense of duty or politeness. While at other times we do so with warmth and lovingly.

We are similarly unequal with God. But this should not be, we must with our whole heart express our gratitude to Him. He must be loved and trusted with the whole heart.



St John of Kronstadt

Are You a Fly or a Bee? ( Elder Paisios )



Which of the following two categories fits you. Are you a fly or a bee? This was a question Elder Paisios asked guests who came to him accusing others of various things.


He says,

I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. the first one resembles the fly. the main characteristics of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground.


It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. if the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets, and dirt." there are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively, and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: "I don't know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil."

This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking, and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.

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





Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp 43-44

Όπου υπάρχει Αγάπη, θα υπάρχει επίσης Πλούτος κι Ευτυχία!



Μια γυναίκα φρόντιζε τον κήπο του σπιτιού της
Όταν ξαφνικά βλέπει τρεις γέροντες
Φορτωμένους με τις εμπειρίες της ζωής
Να την πλησιάζουν στην είσοδο του σπιτιού .
Παρ' όλο που δεν τους γνώριζε, τους είπε:
Δεν σας γνωρίζω, όμως πρέπει να πεινάτε.
Περάστε, αν θέλετε, να φάτε κάτι.
Αυτοί την ρωτάνε:
Ο άντρας σου είναι στο σπίτι;
Όχι, δεν είναι εδώ, απάντησε εκείνη.
Τότε δεν μπορούμε να έρθουμε, της λένε οι γέροντες.
Όταν επιστρέφει ο σύζυγος, η γυναίκα του περιγράφει το περιστατικό.
Ας έρθουν τώρα που επέστρεψα!...
Η γυναίκα βγαίνει έξω να προσκαλέσει ξανά τους γέροντες στο τραπέζι
Μιας και ήταν ακόμη εκεί.
Δεν μπορούμε να έρθουμε όλοι μαζί, της λένε οι τρεις γέροντες.
Η γυναίκα, έκπληκτη, τους ρωτά γιατί!
Ο πρώτος, λοιπόν, από τους τρεις της εξηγεί ξεκινώντας να της συστήνεται:
Είμαι ο Πλούτος, της λέει.
Της συστήνει, μετά, τον δεύτερο που είναι η Ευτυχία.
Και, τέλος, τον τρίτο που είναι η Αγάπη.
Τώρα, της λένε, πήγαινε στον άντρα σου και διαλέξτε
Ποιος από τους τρεις μας θα έρθει να φάει μαζί σας.
Η γυναίκα επιστρέφει στο σπίτι και διηγείται στον άντρα της αυτά που της είπαν οι γέροντες.
Ο άντρας ενθουσιάζεται και λέει:
Τι τυχεροί που είμαστε!
Να έρθει ο Πλούτος!
Έτσι θα έχουμε όλα όσα επιθυμούμε!
Η σύζυγός του όμως δε συμφωνούσε:
Και γιατί να μην έχουμε τη χαρά της Ευτυχίας;
Η κόρη τους που άκουγε από μια γωνιά, τότε, τους λέει:
Δε θα'ταν καλύτερα να καλούσαμε την Αγάπη;
Το σπίτι μας θα είναι πάντα γεμάτο αγάπη!
Ας ακούσουμε αυτό που λέει η κόρη μας, λέει ο σύζυγος στη γυναίκα του.
Πήγαινε έξω και πες στην Αγάπη να περάσει στο σπιτικό μας.
Η γυναίκα βγαίνει έξω και ρωτά:
Ποιος από εσάς είναι η Αγάπη;
Ας έρθει να δειπνήσει μαζί μας.
Η Αγάπη τότε ξεκινά να προχωρά προς το σπίτι...
Και οι δύο άλλοι να την ακολουθούν!
Έκπληκτη η γυναίκα, ρωτά τον Πλούτο και την Ευτυχία:
Εγώ κάλεσα μόνο την Αγάπη.
Γιατί έρχεστε κι εσείς;!
Και απαντούν κι οι τρεις γέροντες μαζί:
Αν είχες καλέσει τον Πλούτο ή την Ευτυχία, οι άλλοι δύο θα έμεναν απ' έξω.
Τώρα όμως που κάλεσες την Αγάπη...
Όπου πάει η Αγάπη, πάμε κι εμείς μαζί της!
Δεν έχει σημασία πού!
Όπου υπάρχει Αγάπη, θα υπάρχει επίσης Πλούτος κι Ευτυχία!

Πότε κάνουμε το σταυρό μας κατά τις ακολουθίες






Κάνουμε τον σταυρό μας:

1. Μόλις ανάψουμε το κερί μας.

2. Όταν μπαίνουμε στους Ιερούς Ναούς και όταν βγαίνουμε από αυτούς.

3. Στην αρχή κάθε ακολουθίας.

4. Σε κάθε Τριαδική εκφώνηση.

Δηλαδή κάθε φορά που θα λέγεται ή θα ψάλλεται το: «Δόξα Πατρί και Υιώ και Αγίω Πνεύματι», η όταν ακούγεται το «… του Πατρός και του Υιού και του Αγίου Πνεύματος…».

5. Σε κάθε εκφώνηση της Παναγίας:
«Της Παναγίας, αχράντου, υπερευλογημένης, ενδόξου, Δεσποίνης ημών Θεοτόκου και αειπαρθένου Μαρίας…» που υπάρχει στα Ειρηνικά, Πληρωτικά και Μικρές Συναπτές.

6. Στα Απολυτίκια ή Τροπάρια όταν και όπου ακούγεται το όνομα του Αγίου ή της Αγίας της ημέρας, του Ναού κλπ.

7. Στον Όρθρο, όταν ψάλλεται, επαναλαμβανόμενο, το Μεγαλυνάριο της Παναγίας: «Την τιμιωτέραν των Χερουβείμ και ενδοξοτέραν ασυγκρίτως των Σεραφείμ…». Το σταυρό μας είναι προτιμότερο να τον κάνουμε , όταν φθάνει η ψαλμωδία στο: «…την όντως Θεοτόκον …», για να τονίζεται η πίστη ότι εγέννησε Θεόν.

8. Στη Μικρή και Μεγάλη Είσοδο, όταν περνούν από μπροστά μας το Ευαγγέλιο και τα Τίμια Δώρα.

9. Στον Τρισάγιο Ύμνο: «Άγιος ο Θεός, Άγιος Ισχυρός, Άγιος Αθάνατος, ελέησον ημάς».

10. Στο «Δεύτε προσκυνήσωμεν και προσπέσωμεν…» το οποίο επαναλαμβάνεται τρις. Μαζί με το σταυρό μας σ’ αυτήν την περίπτωση κάνουμε κάθε φορά και μία μικρή μετάνοια.

11. Πριν από το τέλος του Εσπερινού, όταν ο Ιερέας λέγει το «Νυν απολύεις τον δούλον σου, Δέσποτα, κατά το ρήμα σου εν ειρήνη ότι είδον οι οφθαλμοί μου το σωτήριόν σου…».

12. Στις απολύσεις των ακολουθιών (Εσπερινού, Όρθρου και λοιπών ακολουθιών), καθώς και στην απόλυση της Θείας Λειτουργίας.

13. Κάθε άλλη φορά, κατά τις διάφορες αιτήσεις του Ιερέα , εφ’ όσον αυτό αναπαύει ή ευχαριστεί τον πιστό.

14. Όταν προσκυνούμε τις άγιες Εικόνες ή άγια Λείψανα.

15. Πριν κοινωνήσουμε και μετά τη Θεία Κοινωνία.

ΔΕΝ κάνουμε τον σταυρό μας:

1. Όταν μας θυμιάζει ο Ιερέας. Στις περιπτώσεις αυτές αντί σταυρού, κάνουμε μια υπόκλιση της κεφαλής ευχαριστούντες τον Ιερέα για την τιμή που μας κάνει: Μετά τις άγιες Εικόνες να θυμιάζει και εμάς, ως εικόνες του Θεού! Εάν καθόμαστε, πρέπει να σηκωνόμαστε.

2. Όταν στην αρχή του Όρθρου αναγινώσκεται ο Εξάψαλμος.

Το σταυρό μας μπορούμε να κάνουμε στην αρχή και στο τέλος του Εξάψαλμου. Σ’ όλη όμως τη διάρκεια αυτού, ακόμη και στο μέσον του, όταν λέγουμε τα «Δόξα… Και νυν… Αλληλούια…» ΔΕΝ κάνουμε το σταυρό μας, αλλά παρακολουθούμε «εν πάση σιωπή και κατανύξει» τον Αναγνώστη, ο οποίος «μετ’ ευλαβείας και φόβου Θεού», διαβάζει τον Εξάψαλμο. Διότι ο χρόνος αυτός της αναγνώσεως προεικονίζει το χρόνο της Δευτέρας Παρουσίας του Κυρίου, κατά τη διάρκεια του οποίου με φόβο και τρόμο θα αναμένουμε την τελική κρίση Του για εμάς. Και, όπως τότε, έτσι και τώρα θα πρέπει σιωπώντες, όρθιοι, ακίνητοι, χωρίς μετακινήσεις η, προπαντός, χωρίς και τους παραμικρούς θορύβους, να παρακολουθούμε την ανάγνωση αυτή. (Ιδιαίτερη προσοχή χρειάζεται στις εσπερινές ακολουθίες της Μεγάλης Εβδομάδας, οι οποίες είναι ο Όρθρος της επομένης. Διότι τότε, αφηρημένοι, μπαίνουμε στους Ναούς χωρίς να προσέχουμε, εάν εκείνη την ώρα διαβάζεται ο Εξάψαλμος. Σ’ αυτές τις περιπτώσεις θα πρέπει να παραμένουμε ακίνητοι στην είσοδο του Κυρίως Ναού και μετά το πέρας της αναγνώσεως να μετακινούμαστε για να καταλάβουμε τη θέση μας).



3. Όταν φιλάμε το χέρι Ιερωμένου.


Η συνήθεια ορισμένων να κάνουν το σταυρό τους πριν φιλήσουν το χέρι του Επισκόπου ή Ιερέα ή οποιουδήποτε ρασοφόρου είναι λανθασμένη. Το σταυρό μας τον κάνουμε, όταν ασπαζόμαστε τις άγιες Εικόνες και όχι όταν ασπαζόμαστε το χέρι του Ιερωμένου. Όταν λοιπόν πρόκειται να
επικοινωνήσουμε ή να συναντηθούμε με Ιερωμένο, μπορούμε να πούμε «Ευλόγησον, Δέσποτα ή Πάτερ» ή «Την ευχή σας, Σεβασμιώτατε ή Άγιε Καθηγούμενε ή Πάτερ και κάνοντας μία μικρή υπόκλιση της κεφαλής να ασπαστούμε το δεξί του χέρι, οπότε συνεχίζουμε το διάλογο μαζί του, όπως επιθυμεί ο καθένας.


 Το ίδιο κάνουμε και φεύγοντας από κοντά του. Λέμε, «Την ευχή σας ή Ευλογείτε, Πάτερ», κάνουμε μικρή υπόκλιση, προτείνοντας τις παλάμες μας σταυροειδώς, ασπαζόμαστε τη δεξιά του και φεύγουμε.


4. Όταν λαμβάνουμε το αντίδωρο από το χέρι του Ιερέα, το οποίο (χέρι) στη συνέχεια το ασπαζόμαστε.

Great Schema Tribute


Prayer is the Test of Everything....



"Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the driving force of everything; prayer is also the director of everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong." — St. Theophan the Recluse

Perhaps the most popular and basic definition of prayer is that it is a conversation with God. While this is essentially true, Orthodox Christianity looks upon prayer as something deeper than "conversation".

Prayer is understood as an intimate encounter with God. When we pray, we meet with God in our hearts, in the sanctuary of all our thoughts, motivations, dreams, emotions and concerns. This is a place where we can share our inner selves with no other human person as completely as we can share ourselves with the Lord.

To enter into this very personal and intimate place with God, full of faith and love, is to feel His presence in our lives in the most profound and life-giving of ways. In this place in our hearts, we no longer perceive God as being "out there", looking down on us. Rather, we sense His presence inside us, stirring our hearts, guiding our actions, enlightening our minds.

Our Orthodox Christian Faith teaches us that prayer is the most natural thing a person can do, it is what we are created for. In Paradise Adam and God converse frequently. It is only after the Fall that we hide from God and choose not to speak openly with Him.

Human beings were made for prayer, not because God needs us to pray to Him, but because we need to connect with Him who made us, saved us from sin and death, and showers His sanctifying grace upon us. Without prayer there is no life, not in its fullest sense. As human persons we are created for prayer just as we are created to breath or to think. Prayer is part of our unique nature; of all God's creatures, only human beings are able to perceive and interact with both the visible (physical) and invisible (spiritual) realities.

Prayer is so important in our lives that St. Gregory of Nazianzus instructs us to, "remember God more often that you breath". At first, this task might seem daunting, perhaps impossible. In truth, we find that often the greatest obstacle to our developing prayer life is our own lack of trust in ourselves, and in what God can do for and with us.

Often we "psych" ourselves out when it comes to prayer. We think that it is only for the spiritual "specialists" to engage in prayer -- clergy, monks, nuns. We feel that if we need to struggle with our prayer life we must not be "doing it right". In truth, it is only when we struggle with prayer that we are approaching it in a healthy way.

But even though prayer is -- or at least should be -- a natural part in our human make-up, prayer is a discipline, it is a spiritual exercise. An analogy commonly used by the Saints is that prayer is like a fire. Initially, it starts out only as a small spark in our soul; eventually though, if we fan the flames with a constant effort to pray, this spark grows into a spiritual flames — these flames are the burning bush in our souls, where we, like Moses, speak with God.

To feed the fire of prayer in our soul, we must work ourselves into a regular pattern — or "rule" — of prayer. Like a fire, if our prayer life is left untended, it will die away and turn cold. The more we pray, the more meaningful and nourishing our prayer life becomes, and the more of a desire we have to enter into prayer.

The ways that we pray
In Orthodox spirituality, we recognize two basic types of prayer: liturgical (that is, worship); and personal prayer. In our Church both of these types of prayer are understood as corporate acts -- they are carried out by believers as a single body, the body of Christ.

Liturgical prayer is obviously corporate. A group of brothers and sisters in the faith gather together in one place to offer hymns and prayers to God. However, even when we pray in private, we do not pray alone. Rather, we join our voices to the countless other Orthodox Christians throughout the world who are also lifting their hearts to God in prayer at that time. Christianity is always lived out as a group, never as an isolated individual.

Liturgy and private prayer are interdependent. It is not enough for us only to pray by ourselves, because every human being has an innate need for community, a need to belong. Our liturgical worship also gives us the order and structure that we need to have stability in our spiritual lives.

At the same time, our liturgical prayer is truly vibrant and life-giving only when those present are "people of prayer" outside the services as well. Our faith is not "Sunday-only" and our prayer life shouldn't be Sunday-only either. Each type of prayer, liturgical and personal, compliments and supplements the other.

In both worship and personal prayer, structure is important. Worship services have a set structure of fixed and variable parts. Although our private prayer can be much more simple and "customized" than worship services, we still structure it as part of our daily lives. In our personal prayer life, we need to develop a habit of praying regularly at certain times during the day. This habit of regular prayer is called a "rule of prayer."

Ancient Christian sources instruct Christians to pray three times a day: in the morning, at mid-day and in the evening. In this way we keep God on our minds and hearts throughout the day -- upon waking up, in the midst of our daily tasks and upon retiring for the night. This regularity is very important because, at its core, a life or prayer is a life lived in the constant remembrance of God.

The Saints teach us that our prayers should include the following four elements, in this order:
1 & 2) glorification and thanksgiving: the primary work of prayer is to glorify God and thank Him for His great blessings, both know and unknown;
3) confession of sins: we ask God for His forgiveness for when we fall short of the life that He calls us to;
4) supplication: we ask God to be merciful and grant our petitions for others and for ourselves
This structure helps us remember that God’s blessing are giving to us not because owe have earned them, but in spite of our imperfections and faults. It also helps us avoid looking upon God as a spiritual "bell boy" who is there merely to answer our requests -- the last thing we do is ask for things, not the first.

Prayers do not have to be long or complicated to be effective. Some of the most powerful prayers in history have been sentences of only a few words. The Thief on the Cross merely had to say, "Remember me, Lord, in Your Kingdom", to hear Jesus' promise, "today you shall be with me in Paradise."

When trying to develop a habit of daily prayer in your life remember this: it is far better to spend five minutes each day in private devotions, than to "bank" the time and take in 35 minutes of personal prayer once per week.

Should we pray from books, or use our own words?
Many believers have developed a great love for the prayers found in our prayer books. In our prayer books we find collections of prayers, written at different times in history for different situations, times of day and needs.

In the Orthodox Church, one of the most beloved prayer books is the Old testament Book of Psalms. The Psalms offer us a way of framing life's varying experiences -- good and bad -- in prayer using very poetic and profound language. So important is the Book of Psalms that you will find the Psalms used in every worship service and rule of prayer.

Written prayers can be a font of wisdom and comfort. There are those, however, that do not feel that written prayers completely fit their personal "voice". For these people, spontaneous prayer is an important part of their personal devotions. There is nothing wrong with spontaneous prayer. The only caution with spontaneous prayer is that the content of such prayers must not contradict the beliefs and practices of the Orthodox Faith. For example, we would not pray that, after we die, God would reincarnate us as a better person, since we do not believe in reincarnation.

The Orthodox Christian approach to written and spontaneous prayers is one of balance. Our written prayers are truly a treasury of Christian spiritual insight, nurture and guidance. But at the same time even our prayer books instruct us to "take time to pray to God in your own words..." There is a place for both types of prayer, written and spontaneous, and each complements the other.

In the Gospels, Jesus gives the following warning about prayer: "when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)" Based on this verse, some Christian groups teach that God is not pleased by written prayers; instead, they say, all prayer should be spontaneous. This teaching, however, does not make sense when we see that two verses later, Jesus gives His disciples a specific prayer to use: "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father Who art in heaven... (Matthew 6:9-113)."

The issue that Jesus addresses is not written prayer versus spontaneous prayer, but rather the how we approach prayer. In Matthew 6, Jesus also teaches us, "when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you open." The Saints teach us that there is a double meaning to the words, "go into your room."

First, "go into your room" means keep a low profile when you pray. Do not use prayer to show off to others: "Look at me, everyone! I'm praying! I am *SO* holy!"

Second, "go into your room" means shut out distractions when you pray. We have to pay attention when we pray. We cannot simply rattle off the words of our prayers with our minds wandering to other things -- our schedules, a song on the radio, a conversation happening beside us, the big play of last night's game. We must focus on what we are saying.

Whether we are praying using words from a prayer book or in our own words, the key is that we put in the effort to do it right. No one likes the feeling of being in a conversation, knowing that the other person is not paying attention. If we would try not to act like this with another human being, then we should also put the effort in with God. Quite simply, He deserves nothing less.

The Jesus Prayer
One of the most important prayers in the Orthodox Tradition is the "Jesus Prayer." It is not long or complicated, simply, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Some make it even shorter: "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy one me."

The Jesus Prayer became famous in monasteries through the movement known as "hesychasm", or the way of "stillness." The idea of hesychasm is that it is only when we have stilled our hearts and bodies that we can be fully open to the life-giving presence of God. The body must be stilled from its obsessions, compulsions and addictions and the heart must be stilled of it's wandering here and there looking for something to keep it occupied, entertained and satisfied.

The Jesus Prayer is used as the refrain of a prayerful meditation. Through continued use, practitioners find themselves saying it automatically, much in the same way that we sometimes find a tune running through our minds without our conscious effort. At its highest level, practice of the Jesus Prayer leads to an intimate encounter with God through a vision of what is know as the "Uncreated Light."

The Gospels tell us that, shortly before His Crucifixion, Jesus took the apostles Peter, James and John to the top of Mount Tabor. There, they saw Jesus garments go pure white, and He began to shine with a resplendent light that was almost too much for the to bear. (See Mttw. 17:1-9; Mk.9:2-13; Lk. 9:28-36) This light was a manifestation of Jesus' Divinity. This is the light that vary advanced practitioners of the Jesus Prayer will encounter when saying the prayer.

This sounds very impressive and perhaps even desirable. However, it is not what we experience -- or what we do not experience -- that matters when say the Jesus Prayer or any other prayer. What really matters is that we pray with an awareness of what our words really mean, and that we try to stay as attentive as possible to the words we are saying while we pray.

The most important part in the Jesus Prayer is the name of our Savior. The Saints teach that the very mention of name of Jesus sends the demons running. Jesus Christ is God speaking for Himself. God is not far off and remote from us. God loves us so much that He came to be one of us, through His only-begotten Son, and He allows us to relate to His Son on a first-name basis, calling Him "Jesus".

Repetition of the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a very powerful tool in our spiritual life. It allows us to approach God in a very direct manner. We do not simply say, "Somebody, who ever is out there, hear my prayer." We specifically say, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God", hear my prayer. By the way, the name "Jesus" means, "the Lord is salvation."

As we call on the name of Jesus, we call upon Him as "Lord" -- "Lord, Jesus Christ..." "Lord" is a title of honor. In times past, someone who was a lord had authority over people under him. To call Jesus our Lord is to put ourselves under His authority. Jesus is the Lord of our lives... we will follow His teachings, do what He wants us to do, base our lives on the way of living that He has showed us. In short, if Jesus is the Lord, Jesus is in charge.

Also important in the Jesus Prayer is the call for God's mercy. Admitting that we are broken, sinful, we pray words found so often in the Gospels, "have mercy on me". No one is "worthy" of God's grace; there are no "necessary requirements" that makes us "entitled" to God's blessings. The blessings we receive from God are solely based on His great and abundant mercy. Divine mercy is the starting point our whole life. If God were not merciful, we wouldn't even exist.

The Jesus Prayer became so important, so loved, that it eventually made it's way into every worship service in a couple of different forms. The best know of these forms is the response, "Lord, have mercy" in our litanies. "Lord, have mercy," is a compact form of the Jesus Prayer.

Whether we are singing it in worship or saying it quietly in personal prayer, the Jesus Prayer is a jewel of our spiritual tradition. I said in an earlier posting that prayers don't necessarily have to be long to be effective. Say the words of the Jesus Prayer, with awareness, attention and a sincere heart -- say them often -- and we will find God acting in our lives like we never have before.

Prayer as Silence
God is always trying to get our attention. He wants us to turn to Him, to listen to Him, to open ourselves to a relationship with Him. God does not force Himself on us, but He is always making ovations towards us, waiting for us to respond with loving attentiveness towards Him. If we pay attention, if we listen, we will hear God speaking to us in our lives. Prayer is as much about listening to God as it is speaking to Him. In fact, the listening is even more important than the talking.

One way that we listen to God in our prayers is through the reading of the Holy Scriptures and other of our Church's spiritual writings. In our private devotions, we can select a passage, read it, and then take some time to think about what we have read. As we think about the passage, we try to be aware of specific sentences, phrases or words that grab our attention. Some people will write down their observations in a journal for future discussion with their spiritual father.

The second means of listening to God in prayer is through silence. Silence is something that many of us are not comfortable with. We fill our days with the noise of iPods, TV, radios. For some people, the time that they dread most are the moments at night before they go to sleep, when all they are left with is silence and their thoughts. And yet, God often talks to us, not in thunder claps and lightening flashes, but in the still small voice whispering in our heart. (for more on this, see 1 Kings 19:11-13)

The Saints instruct us that as we say our prayers, we should take time to stop and sit quietly, just being present with God. The monastic fathers and mothers of our Church say that prayer is like a flying bird. When a bird is in the air, it beats its wings until it has reached a certain height; at that point, it stops beating its wings and glides along. The words of our prayers are our spiritual wings. There will come a point while praying where words are no longer necessary, we can stop talking and glide in silence, allowing God's presence keep us aloft.

Prayer is a conversation. It is a two-way dynamic. As we all know, its hard to say we have had a "conversation" with someone, if one party has monopolized the time, without giving the other party the chance to offer any input. In order for prayer to be truly beneficial to us, in addition to talking to God we also need to listen to what He has to say to us.

A Call to Prayer
Sometimes we think that if our spiritual life isn't "feeling right," that our prayers are some way not working. Regardless of how we feel, any time is an appropriate time for us to pray. We start from where we are, emotionally and spiritually. We approach God as we are, trusting that He is ready, willing and able to overlook our faults, doubts and wounds and to lift us above them.

At the same time, we must take care never to assume that we are doing "good enough" in our lives, and that we may excuse ourselves from prayer. Christ did not call us to being "good enough"; He called us to be perfect. The struggle for that perfection is a life-long endeavor. Furthermore, it is an endeavor that we cannot achieve ourselves, it can be accomplished only with, and through God — the God that we encounter intimately through prayer.

In the Divine Liturgy, we hear the invitations "Let us lift up our hearts", and "Let us give thanks to the Lord". These two calls sum up the center of human existence. When we lift up our hearts to God, glorifying Hi for all that He does for us -- both known and unknown. And in doing so, the image of God -- who is the maker, savior and sanctifier of our lives -- shines within us, and through us into the world.

"Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the driving force of everything; prayer is also the director of everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong." — St. Theophan the Recluse

Living Out of the Heart ( Father Seraphim Rose )



Those who are new to Orthodoxy often spend much time reading and studying the Fathers of the Church, its traditions and practices, reconciling doctrine to Scripture, all to help develop a new Orthodox worldview. There is much to learn when we are making a change in our way of thinking about religion and salvation. For some, this effort can be very intense and demanding.


But, this effort is only the beginning. At some point it is necessary to make a transition––to shift one's effort towards more inner development. Our love for Christ must move from the head to the heart. This requires more than following the guidelines for daily prayer, following the fasting guidelines, and attending the services of the Church. This too, can be done through mental effort, and often is in the beginning. The move from the head to the heart requires a surrender to the Church, a giving up of filtering everything through the mind. What we seek is the active work of the Holy Spirit that was planted in us at Baptism and sealed with our Chrismation. The aim is a union with God, not fulfilling some external rules.


Saint Tikhon (of Zdonsk) puts it this way


If someone should say that true faith is the correct holding and confession of correct dogmas, he would be telling the truth, for a believer absolutely needs the Orthodox holding and confession of dogmas. But this knowledge and confession by itself does not make a man a faithful and true Christian. ... The knowledge of correct dogmas is in the mind, and it is often fruitless, arrogant, and proud.... The true faith in Christ is in the heart, and it is fruitful, humble, patient, loving, merciful, compassionate, hungering and thirsting for righteousness..


Fr Saraphim Rose says,


Do we perhaps boast that we keep fasts and the Church calendar, have good icons and congregational singing, give to the poor and maybe even tithe to the Church? Do we delight in exalted Patristic teachings and theological discussions without having in our hearts the duplicity of Christ and true compassion for the suffering?––then ours is a spirituality of comfort, and we will not have the spiritual fruits that will be exhibited by those without all these comforts who deeply suffer and struggle for Christ.


When we are able to make this transition from the head to the heart, we discover an intense heartfelt desire, a burning from within, for the love of God and to be united with Him. We leave our earthly passions behind and have only one, to be in the loving embrace of God. We experience a sense of willingness to sacrifice all we have for Him. When we speak we no longer search our memory for the proper thing to say based on what we have learned from out readings or studies. Instead the Holy Spirit moves us to say the proper words and do the proper deeds. It comes naturally and in a loving way. We come alive with an inner fire of love. We find an inner peace no matter what difficulties we face.


  Saint Porphyrios says,


When you find Christ [in the heart], you are satisfied, you desire nothing else, you find peace. You become a different person. You live everywhere, wherever Christ is. You live in the stars, in infinity, in heaven with the angels, with the saints, on earth with people, with plants, with animals, with everyone and everything. When there is love for Christ, loneliness disappears. You are peaceable, joyous, full. Neither melancholy, not illness, nor pressure, nor anxiety, nor depression nor hell.


When Christ enters your heart, your life changes. Christ is everything. Whoever experiences Christ within himself, experiences ineffable things––holy and sacred things. He lives in exultation...


Fr Seraphim writes,


"When those who are rich in the Holy Spirit, really having the heavenly wealth and the fellowship of the Spirit in themselves, speak to any the word of truth...it is out of their own wealth and out of their own treasure, which they possess within themselves when they speak, and out of this that they gladden the souls of the hearers of the spiritual discourse...."


But one who is poor, and does not possess the wealth of Christ in his soul ... even if he wishes to speak a word of truth and to gladden others ... but after he has gone through it, each word goes back to the source from which is was taken, and he himself remains once more naked and poor....


For this reason we should seek first from God with pain of heart and in faith, that He would grant us to find this wealth, the true treasure of Christ in our hearts, in the power and effectual working of the spirit. In this way, first finding in ourselves the Lord to be our profit and salvation and eternal life, we may then profit others also, according to our strength and opportunity, drawing upon Christ, the measure within."


It is helpful to seek out a spiritual father who can guide you. He will be able to help you to make this transition. He can help you avoid becoming too intense in your effort to learn doctrine and practice guidelines for this and that. It is God's love we seek and this only comes from the heart.



Father Seraphim Rose

ΑΝ ΑΝΟΙΞΕΤΕ ΤΗΝ ΚΑΡΔΙΑ ΜΟΥ, ΘΑ ΒΡΕΙΤΕ ΜΕΣΑ ΤΟ ΧΡΙΣΤΟ....!!!


.
Κάποιο αγοράκι μπήκε επειγόντως στις Πρώτες Βοήθειες ενός νοσοκομείου.

Ύστερα από επείγουσες εξετάσεις, ο γιατρός αποφάνθηκε τα εξής: «Θα ανοίξω την καρδιά σου…»

Το αγοράκι τον διέκοψε απότομα: «Μέσα στην καρδιά μου θα βρείτε το Χριστό». Ο χειρουργός τον κοίταξε περίεργα και καθώς δεν πίστευε, σούφρωσε τα φρύδια του και του είπε: «Θα ανοίξω την καρδούλα σου για να διαπιστώσω τις βλάβες που σου προκάλεσε η αρρώστια σου… «Ναι, αλλά όταν ανοίξετε την καρδιά μου, θα βρείτε το Χριστό.»





Ο γιατρός έριξε ένα βλέμμα περίεργο προς τους γονείς του που κάθονταν ήρεμοι πλάι του και συνέχισε: «Όταν διαπιστώσω τις βλάβες, θα κλείσω την καρδιά και το στήθος σου και θα αποφασίσω τι θα κάνω.»


«Σύμφωνοι, αλλά θα βρείτε το Χριστό μέσα στην καρδιά μου. Η Αγία Γραφή λέει, πως ο Χριστός κατοικεί εκεί μέσα. Όλοι οι εκκλησιαστικοί ύμνοι λένε, πως ο Χριστός κατοικεί εκεί, μέσα στην καρδιά μας.


Εσείς θα τον βρείτε μέσα στη δική μου καρδιά.»


Ο καρδιοχειρουργός απηύδησε: «Θα σου πω τι ακριβώς θα βρω μέσα στην καρδιά σου. Θα βρω ένα φθαρμένο καρδιακό μυ, μια μειωμένη κυκλοφορία αίματος και εξασθενημένα αιμοφόρα αγγεία. Και τότε θα μπορώ, αν ξέρω, αν έχω τη δυνατότητα να σε κάνω καλά.»


«Και θα βρείτε επίσης και το Χριστό, που βρίσκεται εκεί…» Ο γιατρός βγήκε από την αίθουσα εξετάσεως ενοχλημένος. Καημένο παιδί…! Όπως είχε προβλέψει, προέβη στη χειρουργική επέμβαση…


Οι βλάβες ήταν σημαντικές, καθώς είχε προβλέψει, σύμφωνα με την εικόνα των εξετάσεων. Δεν μπορούσε να κάνει τίποτα… Όταν τελείωσε το χειρουργείο, κάθισε στο γραφείο του για να καταγράψει στο τετράδιο χειρουργείου τις σημειώσεις του σχετικά με την επέμβαση: κατεστραμμένη αορτή, κατεστραμμένη πνευμονική φλέβα, εκτεταμένη μυϊκή εκφύλιση. Καμιά ελπίδα μεταμόσχευσης. Καμιά ελπίδα ίασης. Θεραπεία: παυσίπονα και απόλυτη ανάπαυση. Πρόγνωση (σταμάτησε): ο θάνατος θα επέλθει μέσα στο χρόνο…


Άφησε τον Η/Υ και σηκώθηκε…Απευθύνθηκε στο Χριστό του μικρού: ¨Γιατί, αναφώνησε, γιατί το έκανες αυτό; Το έστειλες εδώ. Το έστειλες μ΄αυτό το κακό. Το καταδίκασες να πεθάνει μικρό απ’ αυτό το κακό. Γιατί; Γιατί;» Τότε στο βάθος του είναι του, άκουσε μια φωνή να του απαντά: «Αυτό το παιδί δεν είναι προορισμένο να ζήσει μακροπρόθεσμα στο δικό σας ποίμνιο. Αυτό το παιδί ανήκει στο δικό μου ποίμνιο και έτσι θα είναι για πάντα.


Εδώ, στο δικό μου ποίμνιο, δεν υπάρχει κανένας πόνος. Θα ανακουφιστεί τόσο, όσο δε φαντάζεσαι. Κάποια μέρα, οι γονείς του θα το συναντήσουν εδώ και θα γνωρίσουν την ειρήνη.


Το ποίμνιό μου θα συνεχίσει να αυξάνεται.» Δάκρυα έτρεχαν στα μάτια του καρδιοχειρουργού. Όμως τα αισθήματά του ενάντια στο Θεό, γεμάτα εγωισμό, αντιδρούσαν μέσα του: «Έπλασες αυτό το πλάσμα, έπλασες αυτή την καρδιά. Είναι καταδικασμένο να πεθάνει μέσα σε λίγους μήνες…γιατί;»


Η φωνή μέσα του απάντησε: «Το παιδί πρέπει να επιστρέψει στο δικό μου ποίμνιο γιατί έχει εκτελέσει το καθήκον του. Δεν έπλασα το παιδί μου στη γη για να το χάσω, αλλά για να ξαναβρεθεί ένα άλλο χαμένο πρόβατο.»


Ο γιατρός κατάλαβε πως αυτό το παιδί δεν ήρθε εκεί τυχαία…ήρθε γι’ αυτόν…Ο ίδιος είχε λάβει μια χριστιανική μόρφωση…Οι αναμνήσεις χόρευαν μέσα στο νου του. Εξ αιτίας των πολλών επαγγελματικών του επιτυχιών, η ψυχή του είχε γίνει η τελευταία του φροντίδα.


Μπήκε στο θάλαμο του παιδιού, κάθισε πάνω στο κρεβάτι του, έχοντας απέναντί του τους γονείς του. Το αγοράκι ξύπνησε και ψέλλισε: «Ανοίξατε την καρδιά μου;» «Ναι!»,απάντησε συγκινημένος ο γιατρός.


«Και τι βρήκατε;», ρώτησε ο μικρός. « Βρήκα το Χριστό», απάντησε ο χειρουργός, κλαίγοντας σαν το μικρό παιδί που ήταν ο ίδιος, πριν από πενήντα χρόνια…Το παιδί και ο γιατρός έγιναν οι καλύτεροι φίλοι…






The Miracles of Childlike Faith ( Elder Paisios )



"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." - Luke 18:17

The blessed Elder Paisios (+ 1994) talked about a simple monk with a heart of a small child. This monk, believing that the "Holy Ascension" (Αγία Ανάληψη) was a holy woman, such as Saint Paraskevi (literally translated as Saint Friday), said the following in prayer: "Saint Ascension, if only we had fish today!" His prayer was answered by "Saint Ascension" and a fish was brought to him.

One illiterate nun from a village in Corinth would say: "Holy God, Holy Weather, Holy Death, have mercy upon us" (Άγιος ο Θεός, άγιος ο καιρός, άγιος ο θάνατος, ιλέησον ημάς), confusing the words of the prayer. Yet when she would pray this, her face sparkled!

A simple mother said to the priest of a village: "My Father, I brought my child for you to read a prayer, because it has no appetite!" And he recited the prayer for the "opening of a well"! And the child's appetite was "opened"!

True simple faith!






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