Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Spiritual Counsels

—“What is humility, Father Paisius?” some of his disciples once asked him. Humility is the thought and conviction of our heart that we are more sinful than all men and unworthy of the mercy of God. Reviling ourselves doesn’t mean that we have true humility. True humility is when someone shames and abuses us publicly, and we endure it and say, “God ordered that brother to shame me for my many sins.” We should receive everything as a command of God. When someone shames you, say that God commanded him to do it. When someone takes something of yours, God commanded him to take it, in order to make you a monk. When you are removed from a higher place, God changed your place so that you would change from your passions and bad habits. This is true humility. And pride is when we trust in ourselves, in our mind, our strength, when we think we are more capable than someone else, better, more beautiful, more virtuous, more pleasing to God. Then it is certain that we are overcome by the ugly sin of pride, from which may God, who humbled Himself for our salvation, preserve us. Let us humble ourselves, brethren, because a proud man cannot be saved. Let us weep for our sins here, so we can rejoice forever in the next life, for after we leave this world everyone will forget us. Let us not hope in men, but only in God. A man changes. Today he gives to you and tomorrow he asks from you. Today he praises you and tomorrow he condemns you. Let us place our hope in the mercy of God, and we will never go astray.

—A layman asked the Elder for a profitable word, and he told him: Brother, often animals are wiser than men. Let us learn obedience and patience from the ox, humility and meekness from the lamb, cleanliness and industry from the ants and bees. We can learn a lesson for our life from all the animals.
The Elder also added: “It’s best for a man to become a clay vessel, which is useful to all people and for all kinds of daily work, for food, water, and so on. But golden vessels are put in safes and locked up in cupboards. For fear of thieves they are seldom used, maybe only once a year. A clay vessel has its daily use and service to man. So also is a humble man who does not seek honors and rank. He remains insignificant even amid men of lower rank, but he benefits, counsels, and helps everyone, and all seek him out and rejoice with him. Humility is a great gift to monks and all Christians!”

—A certain woman who did not want to have many children went to the Elder and asked his advice about what she should do. He said to her: If you avoid having children, you avoid salvation. One child is not enough, because you might lose it. Many children in a home are usually healthier than one or two, because they often become spoiled and sickly. Here is fulfilled the word of the Lord: He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (II Cor. 9:6).
A little while ago an old woman came to me for confession, and I asked her: “Sister, how many children do you have?” “Father, I’ve borne eighteen! God took eight of them when they were little, and the other ten are the first citizens in the village!” Another woman came from far away, and I asked her: “How many children do you have, my Christian?” “None, Father.” “And how many abortions have you had up to now?” “Father, I’ve had forty.” “Go and confess to the bishop, my child, and repent while you still have time, because God’s judgment is terrible!” After denial of the faith, the greatest sin in the world is the murder of babies by abortion. These two sins quickly bring God’s wrath and punishment upon men.

—What penance do you give those who have had abortions? The punishment for abortion and murder in general is life-long repentance. The penance consists of daily prostrations, fasting until evening every Wednesday and Friday, complete avoidance of this sin in the future, and the birth and baptism of other children in place of those killed. Also in such circumstances they are forbidden to receive Communion for seven years, except in the case of a pregnant woman, who can receive Communion as a special allowance.

—Certain Christians asked the Elder, ‘’What will happen to the souls of infants killed by abortion?’’ and he answered with a sigh: I believe that these infants are martyrs. They will complete the number of the martyrs in the last times, as the Apocalypse says. In dying through abortion they receive the baptism of blood, but the Church does not commemorate them in her prayers in order not to encourage abortions, which for the parents is an act of infanticide.

—A sorrowful Christian asked the Elder for a word of comfort, and he said: Listen, Brother. Without temptations and griefs we cannot be saved. But we should not be disturbed or grow weak in faith, because now the devil attacks men more cruelly than in the past, for he knows that he has only a little more time to rule over the modern world. Let us pray, endure, and remember the words of the Lord, who said that He will be with us until the end of the ages. We should not despair in the time of our trials, because God has not abandoned us. As in the time of the Prophet Elias the Tishbite, when God still had 7000 of His elect who had not bent the knee to Baal, so also today the Lord still has many elect Christians with strong faith who have not bent their souls to the service of the passions. God has His just ones, in the villages and the cities, who glorify Him day and night and live in virginity and temperance, showing mercy to the poor and widows. But God alone knows their names.

—How can we reconcile those who are quarreling? First we should pray for them. Then we should urge them to confess to their spiritual father, and we should counsel them with the words of the Gospel to make peace, according to the Lord’s saying: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matt. 5:9). As much as we can, we should strive to make peace, for we are sons of God and bear in ourselves the peace of the Holy Spirit. Those who are not at peace cannot have Communion. If one of them dies unreconciled to his enemy, then the living one must go to his grave for forty days and beg him to forgive him. Of course this is rather difficult. But we urge the living to make a prostration to the dead with whom they quarreled in life, and we hope in the mercy of God, that He will forgive them. 

Elder Paisius Olaru of Sihla Skete

Η πίστη ( Μοναχός Μωυσής Αγιορείτης )

Πιστεύω στο Θεό σημαίνει αποδέχομαι ελεύθερα και αβίαστα την ύπαρξή του. Τον δέχομαι ως δημιουργό του σύμπαντος και τον εμπιστεύομαι. Η εμπιστοσύνη αυτή δίνει ένα άλλο νόημα στη ζωή, ένα νέο τρόπο ζωής, που με ωθεί να ζω σύμφωνα με το άγιο θέλημά του.
Γράφει ο μοναχός Μωυσής, Αγιορείτης
Ορισμένοι μιλούν για μία ανώτερη δύναμη, δίχως να θέλουν να αγωνιστούν, για να τον γνωρίσουν καλύτερα, ώστε να τον αγαπήσουν και να αισθανθούν τη μεγάλη αγάπη του. Νομίζουν ότι η ενασχόλησή τους με το Θεό θα τους δυσκολέψει τη ζωή, θα περιορίσει την ελευθερία τους, θα τους γεμίσει ενοχές κι έτσι τον αφήνουν στο περιθώριο.
Η πίστη δεν είναι απλά λογική, δεν είναι παράλογη, αλλά είναι υπέρλογη. Ο Θεός είναι άπειρος, απερινόητος, πέρα από τις αισθήσεις και την ψυχρή λογική. Είναι αόρατος και όμως αισθητός. Δεν αποδεικνύεται η ύπαρξη του Θεού. Η πίστη είναι δώρο, είναι και κατόρθωμα, είναι αποτέλεσμα ταπεινής καλλιέργειας αλλά και δωρεά της θείας χάριτος στις καθαρές καρδιές. Η πίστη είναι τελικά ένα ωραίο ρίσκο.

Η ορθόδοξη πίστη δεν είναι μία θρησκεία ανάμεσα στις άλλες θρησκείες. Είναι αποκάλυψη ζώντος Θεού, δεν είναι ανθρώπινη επινόηση και κατασκευή αλλά φανέρωση του μόνου αληθινού Θεού. Από αγάπη στο πλάσμα του ο Θεός δεν εμφανίζεται. Δεν θέλει ποτέ να τρομοκρατήσει κανέναν. Δεν θέλει να τον ακολουθούμε από φόβο αλλά από αγάπη. Ο Θεός είναι αρκετά ευγενής, δεν επιβάλλεται, δεν εξαγοράζεται, αλλά δίνεται απλόχερα σε όσους πραγματικά το θέλουν και το ζητούν.

Ο Θεός δεν αποδεικνύεται λογικά, αλλά βιώνεται εγκάρδια. Δεν θα πίστευα σε έναν Θεό που θα αποδεικνυόταν. Δεν μπορεί να είναι τυχαία όλη αυτή η καταπληκτική αρμονία του σύμπαντος. Θα λέγαμε πως η ανάγκη της πίστης αποτελεί φυσική αναζήτηση του κάθε ανθρώπου. Δεν είναι ματαιοπονία η πίστη. Όσοι πιστεύουν πιστεύουν άδολα. Έχουν ασφάλεια, ενίσχυση, ευλογία, παρηγοριά, κουράγιο και ελπίδα. Ένας άπιστος νοσεί. Έχει άχαρη ζωή. Σήμερα η απιστία είναι μόδα. Οι άπιστοι όμως δεν είναι αληθινά χαρούμενοι και ελεύθεροι και αυτό πρέπει να τους προβληματίσει ισχυρά
Ο σοφός και χαριτωμένος, μακαριστός Γέροντας Παΐσιος ο Αγιορείτης έλεγε πως «όλα τα θέματα τα συζητώ εκτός της υπάρξεως του Θεού. Είναι σαν να μου λες ότι δεν γεννήθηκες από μητέρα ή ότι το ράσο μου δεν είναι μαύρο. Τι συζήτηση να κάνουμε;». Την ύπαρξη του Θεού τη θεωρούσε δεδομένη, αυταπόδεικτη. Δίχως ταπείνωση όμως ο άνθρωπος αδυνατεί να πιστεύσει και μάλιστα κάποτε ειρωνεύεται και βλασφημεί.
Είναι δικαίωμα του καθενός να πιστεύει ή να μην πιστεύει. Ένας που πιστεύει να χαίρεται, να μην αισθάνεται μειονεκτικά και απομονωμένα. Ένας που δεν πιστεύει είναι ελεύθερη επιλογή του, ας μην ενοχλεί όμως όσους θέλουν να πιστεύουν. Η απιστία θωρείται πρόοδος. Η πίστη χαρακτηρίζεται οπισθοδρόμηση, ασθένεια, φανατισμός. Δεν είναι έτσι. Αν υπάρχουν λαθεμένες και νοσηρές καταστάσεις της πίστεως, δεν επιτρέπεται να γενικεύονται και μεγεθύνονται. Η πίστη είναι η ανάγκη της ψυχής. Ωραιοποιεί, νοηματίζει και φρονηματίζει τη ζωή. Είναι τυχεροί όσοι αληθινά πιστεύουν.

Advice on Dealing with Stray Thoughts in Church ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )

One of the problems we all face is the tendency for our minds to take over while we are in church where we are supposed to be in prayer. This happens to all of us as it i the nature of our mind to be always active unless we command through our soul to stop. This part of our mind is part of the body and needs to be controlled by the higher part of our being.

Here is some advice from Saint Theophan the Recluse:
First we are to pray as follows:

Pray with sincere warmth, with an outpouring before God, with feelings of contrition, humility and reverential fear and with diligent petitions for your spiritual needs. When we even approach prayer in church with this attitude we will still be faced with stray thoughts. Here is how how recommends to deal with them
As soon as you notice your thoughts have left church, turn them back and do not ever allow yourself consciously to daydream or to stray in thought... When the thoughts stray unbeknownst to you, this is also a small sin; but when you begin wandering off in thought purposely while you are in church , this is as sin...It is like a man who has gone to the king in order to ask him for something who then begins to make faces and fidget in the king's presence, without paying any attention to him... With respect to thoughts there are these two rules: 1) As soon as you notice this straying, turn the thoughts back, and 2) do not consciously allow the thoughts to wander.
A remedy against straying thoughts is mental attention, attention to the fact that the Lord is before us and we are before Him.... The attention is attached to the Lord by fear of God and by the desire to please God. From these come warmth of the heart, which draws the attention to the One Lord... Without labor and mental effort you will not attain anything spiritual... Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp 151-152
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