Thursday, August 8, 2013
Μια φορά πήγε ένας τύπος στο κουρείο για το καθιερωμένο κούρεμα και ξύρισμα.
Καθώς ο κουρέας άρχισε να δουλεύει, άρχισε μια καλή συζήτηση.
Μίλησαν για τόσα πολλά πράγματα και πάρα πολλά θέματα ...;
Όταν τελικά άγγιξαν το θέμα της θρησκείας και του θεού, ο κουρέας αναφώνησε:
Δεν πιστεύω ότι ο Θεός υπάρχει.
Γιατί το λες αυτό;' ρώτησε ο πελάτης. Και ο κουρέας είπε: 'Λοιπόν, απλά βγες έξω στο δρόμο για να καταλάβεις γιατί ο Θεός δεν υπάρχει. Πες μου γιατί αν ο Θεός υπάρχει, υπάρχουν τόσοι διεστραμμένοι;
Γιατί τόσα εγκαταλελειμμένα παιδιά;
Αν ο Θεός υπήρχε, δε θα υπήρχε ούτε δυστυχία ούτε πόνος.
Δε μπορώ να φανταστώ ένα Θεό που αγαπάει και συμπονεί να επιτρέπει όλα αυτά που γίνονται.'
Ο πελάτης το σκέφτηκε για μια στιγμή, αλλά δεν απάντησε γιατί δεν ήθελε να χαλάσει τη συζήτηση.
Ο κουρέας τελικά τελείωσε τη δουλειά του και ο πελάτης έφυγε.
Όμως μόλις έφυγε από το κουρείο, είδε ένα άντρα στο δρόμο με μακρυά κατσαρά βρώμικα μαλλιά και γένια. Φαινόταν πολύ βρώμικος και απεριποίητος. Εκείνη τη στιγμή ο πελάτης γύρισε πίσω και ξαναμπήκε στο κουρείο.
Τότε είπε στον κουρέα:
'Ξέρεις τι; Οι κουρείς δεν υπάρχουν!'
'Πως μπορείς να το λες αυτό;' ρώτησε ο έκπληκτος κουρέας.
'Είμαι εδώ και είμαι κουρέας! Μόλις σε κούρεψα, τι είναι αυτά που λες;'
'Όχι!' απάντησε ο πελάτης και εξήγησε: 'Οι κουρείς δεν υπάρχουν γιατί αν υπήρχαν, δε θα υπήρχαν αχτένιστοι άνθρωποι και με μακρυά βρώμικα μαλλιά, όπως ο τύπος απ' έξω.'
Μα ... οι κουρείς ΌΝΤΩΣ υπάρχουν! Αυτό συμβαίνει όταν οι άνθρωποι δεν έρχονται σε μένα.'
'Ακριβώς!' απάντησε ο πελάτης. 'Αυτό είναι το θέμα! Ο Θεός, επίσης ΥΠΑΡΧΕΙ! Και αυτό συμβαίνει όταν οι άνθρωποι δεν πηγαίνουν σε αυτόν και δεν αναζητούν σε αυτόν βοήθεια. Γι' αυτό υπάρχει τόσος πόνος και δυστυχία στον κόσμο.'
I arrived at the address and honked the horn.
After waiting a few minutes
I walked to the
Door and knocked.
. 'Just a minute', answered a
Frail, elderly voice. I could hear something
Being dragged across the floor.
A long pause, the door opened. A small woman in
Her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a
Print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned
On it, like somebody out of a 1940's
By her side was a small nylon
Suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had
Lived in it for years. All the furniture was
Covered with sheets.
There were no
Clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils
On the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
Box filled with photos and
'Would you carry my bag
Out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase
To the cab, then returned to assist the
She took my arm and we walked
Slowly toward the curb.
Thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I
Told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers
The way I would want my mother
'Oh, you're such a good
Boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave
Me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive
'It's not the
Shortest way,' I answered
'Oh, I don't mind,' she
Said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a
I looked in the rear-view
Mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have
Any family left,' she continued in a soft
Voice.. 'The doctor says I don't have very
Long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the
'What route would you like me
To take?' I asked.
For the next two
Hours, we drove through the city. She showed me
The building where she had once worked as an
We drove through the
Neighborhood where she and her husband had lived
When they were newlyweds She had me pull up in
Front of a furniture warehouse that had once
Been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow
In front of a particular building or corner and
Would sit staring into the darkness, saying
As the first hint of sun was
Creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm
Tired. Let's go now'.
We drove in
Silence to the address she had given me. It was
A low building, like a small convalescent home,
With a driveway that passed under a
Two orderlies came out to
The cab as soon as we pulled up. They were
Solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.
Opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to
The door. The woman was already seated in a
'How much do I owe you?'
She asked, reaching into her
'You have to make a living,' she
'There are other
Passengers,' I responded.
Without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She
Held onto me tightly.
'You gave an
Old woman a little moment of joy,' she
I squeezed her
Hand, and then walked into the dim morning
Light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound
Of the closing of a life..
Pick up any more passengers that shift.
Aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that
Day, I could hardly talk.
What if that woman had
Gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient
To end his shift?
If I had refused to take the run, or had honked
Once, then driven away?
On a quick
Review, I don't think that I have done anything
More important in my life.
Conditioned to think that our lives revolve
Around great moments.
Moments often catch us unaware-beautifully
Wrapped in what others may consider a small
PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY
WHAT YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID ~BUT~THEY WILL
ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM
"You must know that only passions and sins are ours. Whatever good we do is from God, whatever foolish things we do come from us. When God's Grace abandons us for just a little while, we become unable to do anything. As in natural life, when God removes oxygen from us we die immediately. The same is true for spiritual life: If God removes His Grace, we are lost."
"Nowhere does the Gospel tell you to believe in yourself, but to believe in God --- that God can help, that God can heal. Some people, however, take this the wrong way, and say, 'Man has powers, and must believe in himself.' To believe in one's self contains either egoism or demonism."
Να πονάς, αλλά να μην καταβάλλεσαι.
Να πονάς, αλλά να μην παραφέρεσαι.
Να πονάς, αλλά να μην μεμψιμοιρείς.
Να πονάς, αλλά να μην γκρινιάζεις.
Να πονάς, αλλά να μην γίνεσαι αντικοινωνικός.
Να πονάς, αλλά να μην γίνεσαι πρόβλημα στο
Να πονάς, αλλά να μένεις ολοθρος.
Να πονάς, αλλά να χαμογελάς.
Να πονάς, αλλά να δοξολογείς.
Να πονάς, αλλά να προσφέρεις.
Να πονάς, αλλά να προσεύχεσαι.
A little boy asked his mother, “Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m a woman,” she told him.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
His Mom just hugged him and said, “And you never will.”
Later the little boy asked his father, “Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?”
“All women cry for no reason,” was all his dad could say.
The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.
Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone, he asked, “God, why do women cry so easily?”
“When I made the woman she had to be special.
I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world, yet gentle enough to give comfort.
I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children.
I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up, and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining.
I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly.
I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.
I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.
And finally, I gave her a tear to shed. This is hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed.”
“You see my son,” said God, “the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart – the place where love resides.”
In the following talk, Fr. Seraphim speaks to us from almost twenty years ago, and yet his words are quite relevant to our times as we approach the end of the second millennium. Although some of the individual examples he gives are now dated, there are now even more extreme examples of the same phenomena of which he speaks. As always, he humbles his understanding before the holy Scriptures and their interpretation by the Orthodox Holy Fathers, and thus his teaching about the times remains timeless, free of the intellectual fashions and prejudices of this world. As time goes on, the Orthodox world-view from which he received his wisdom will become ever more necessary for the spiritual survival of true Christians.
THE SUBJECT of this talk is watching for the signs of the times. First of all, we have to know what it is meant by the phrase “signs of the times.” This expression comes straight from the Gospel, from the words of our Saviour in Matthew 16:3. Christ tells the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Him, “Ye can discern the face of the sky,” that is, tell what the weather will be; “but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” In other words, He’s telling them that this has nothing to do with science, or with knowing our place in the world, or anything of the sort. It’s a religious question. We study the signs of the times in order to be able to recognize Christ.
During the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees did not study the signs of the times in order to see that Christ had come, that the Son of God was already on earth. There were already signs that they should have recognized. For example, in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, there is a prophecy concerning the seventy weeks of years, which means that the Messiah was to come about 490 years from the time of Daniel. Those Jews who read their books very carefully knew exactly what this was all about, and at about the time that Christ came they knew that it was time for the messiah.
But this is an outward sign. More importantly, the Pharisees and Sadducees should have been watching for the inward signs. If their hearts had been right with God, and if they had not been merely trying to fulfill the outward commandment of the law, their hearts would have responded and recognized God in the flesh when He came. And many of the Jews did—the apostles, the disciples, and many others.
This same passage in the 16th chapter of St. Matthew speaks further about signs. Our Lord told the Jews, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The events of the Old Testament contain prefigurations of events in the New Testament. When Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale, this was a prefiguation of our Lord’s being three days in the tomb. And this sign—the sign of Jonah-was given to the people of Christ’s time.
Our Lord was telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that an evil and adulterous generation seeks for spectacular events, that is, fire coming down from heaven, or the Romans being chased away, angels manifesting themselves and banishing the foreign government of the Romans, and things of that sort. Christ told them this kind of sign would not be given. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after this, but those who are pure of heart seek rather something more spiritual. And the one sign that is given to them is the sign of Jonah. Of course, it is a great thing that a man should be three days in the grave and the rise up, being God.
Thus, from our Savior’s words, we know that we are not to watch for spectacular signs, but we are rather to look inwardly for spiritual signs. Also, we are to watch for those things which according to Scripture must come to pass.
Fr. Seraphim Rose
True joy comes from seeing God in all things, knowing God in all things. To know of God in the wisdom of the mind, this brings shimmers of peace and a foretaste of joy. Yet such joy is bounded, able to be swayed; for he who knows God’s presence but in part, still is able to imagine His absence. One, who sees God only in this place or in that, sees Him missing from those places in between. His joy is fleeting, for as in a moment it arises in the perception of God’s presence, so it retreats in the illusion of His absence. The one whose joy is stable, solid and penetrating, is he who knows of God’s presence among all things, with all things, and in all things. Even as in the temple, so, too, in the school. Even as in the Church, so, too, in the field. From the brightest star to the smallest blade of grass, he sees the beautiful mystery of Christ present as all in all. He beholds the leaf with reverence, as the vessel of his direct encounter with the grace of God. He beholds his sister with love, seeing in her the energies of the blessed Divinity. He begins to see God present in more and more, and absent from less and less; until he comes to the divine realization that there is no place that God is not, that the whole of creation around him shimmers in radiance with the presence of the Most Holy. He understands that perceptions of God’s absence are but an illusion in which there is no truth.
Then is joy most full, most pure. Then it is unfailing, for in all things is God encountered; and where God is, there true joy also abides. Even in sorrow, joy is known; for the earth itself cries out in witness of Christ’s presence in the sorrow — of the divine love that pervades even the deepest human grief. In loneliness, one too finds joy: for all creation sings of the Creator’s grace, and through it the Creator Himself is present, reaching out to His children.
Behold God the all-present, all-loving, all-merciful Father, everywhere existing and ever the same. Behold the source and giver of joy, abounding in this world of life. Behold God indeed, who has the power to save and the compassion to redeem.
The first thing we must have if we are going to have the true interpretation of the signs of the times is something we can call basic Orthodox knowledge. That is, knowledge of the Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments (and not just according to the way it seems, but according to the way the Church has interpreted it); knowledge of the writings of Holy Fathers; knowledge of Church history; and awareness of the different kind of heresies and errors which have attacked the Church’s true understanding of dogma and especially of the last times. If we do not have a grounding in sources such as these, we will find ourselves confused and unprepared. That is precisely what our Lord tells us: to be ready, to be prepared. Unless we have this basic knowledge, we will not be prepared and we will misinterpret the signs of the times.
A few years ago a book was printed in English which has become a fantastic bestseller for a religious book. It has sold over ten million copies in America. It’s called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, a Protestant Evangelical in Texas. In a rather superficial style he gives his interpretation of the signs of the times. He believes it’s the last times we are living in now. He believes that everywhere around us there are being fulfilled these signs which our Lord talked about. If you read this book, you find that sometimes he gets something more or less correct according to our Orthodox understanding, sometimes he is totally off, and sometimes he is partly wrong, partly right. It’s as though he’s just guessing, because he reads the Scripture according to his own understanding. He has no basic Orthodox Christian knowledge, no background in the true knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. Therefore, if you read this book seriously, you will find that you become very confused. You don’t know what to believe any more. He talks, for example, about a millennium which is supposed to come before the end of the world. He talks about the rapture, when Christians are supposedly gathered up into the heavens before the end of the world, and then watch how the people suffer down below. He talks about the building of the Temple in Jerusalem as though this is a good thing, as thought this is preparing for Christ’s coming.
If you read such books as this (there are many other books like it; this one happens to be a bestseller because the author caught the imagination of people just at one particular time), and if you take them all as truth, you will find that instead of recognizing Christ—which is the whole reason for our understanding about the signs of the times—you will be accepting Antichrist.
Take, for example, the very question of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is true, according to Orthodox prophecies, that the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. If you look at people like Hal Lindsey, or even the Fundamentalist Carl McIntire, they are also talking about the building of the Temple, but they’re talking about it as though we are building it in order for Christ to come back and reign over the world for a thousand years. What they are talking about is the coming of Antichrist. The millennium, according to the Protestant interpretation, as being a special thousand-year reign at the end of the world, is actually the reign of Antichrist. In fact, there have already been people who have arisen and proclaimed their thousand-year kingdom which is going to last until the end of the world. The last one was Adolf Hitler. This is based upon the same kind of chiliastic idea: that is, interpreting the millennium in a worldly sense. The actual thousand years of the Apocalypse is the life in the Church which is now, that is, the life of Grace; and anyone who lives it sees that, compared to the people outside, it is indeed heaven on earth. But this is not the end. This is our preparation for the true kingdom of God which has no end.
There are many books of basic Orthodox knowledge now available. Those who are seriously concerned about studying the signs of the times should first be very well versed in some of these books, and they should be reading them, seriously studying them, and having them as daily food. The best books to read are not someone’s interpretation of Revelation (the Book of Apocalypse), because right now there’s not really any Orthodox interpretation of this in English.2
The best books are the basic spiritual textbooks. First of all there are basic texts of Orthodox dogmas, the various catechisms. One of the best is the eighth-century work of St. John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith, which goes through the whole of the catechism. An even earlier one is St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures, that is, lectures prepared for people about to be baptized, which goes through the whole Creed and tells what the Church believes. There are many similar books of catechism, both in ancient times and in more modern times. More recently we have the catechisms in Russian of Metropolitan Platon and Metropolitan Philaret, which are a little shorter and simpler.
Then there is a different kind of book: commentaries on Holy Scriptures. There are not too many of these in English,3 but we do have some of the commentaries of St. John Chrysostom. This area is a little bit weak in English, because there are many good books in Russian which are not in English yet, including more recent books of commentaries on the Scriptures, even on the Apocalypse. Archbishop Averky’s books are very good, but they’re just being put into English now. God willing, before too long, they will be out.4
Then, besides these two kinds of books—basic catechism and commentaries on Scripture—there are all the books on Orthodox spiritual life. These include the Lausiac History (which tells about how the monks lived in Egypt, and how they fought spiritually), the Dialogues of St. Gregory of Rome, the Lives of Saints, The Ladder of St. John, the Homilies of St. Macarius the Great, the books of St. John Cassian, the Philokalia, Unseen Warfare and St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ. These books deal with basic Orthodox spiritual life, spiritual struggle, how to discern the wiles of the demons, how not to fall into deception. All of them give a basic foundation by which to understand the signs of the times.
Then there are the works of more recent writers who are in the same patristic spirit as the ancient Holy Fathers. The main examples are the two great writers of 19th-century Russia, Bishop Theophan the Recluse and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov,5 whose works are now coming out gradually in English. Bishop Ignatius’ book The Arena and various articles by Bishop Theophan are in English.6 These two writers are very important because they transmit the patristic teaching down to our times. They have already explained many questions which arise concerning how to understand the Holy Fathers. For example, the new Orthodox Word has a whole text of Bishop Ignatius on the toll-houses which the soul meets after death. Sometimes, in reading the Holy Fathers, one has questions on such subjects and doesn’t quite know how to understand what the ancient Fathers say, and these more recent Father explain these texts.
There are the histories of the Church, which tell of God’s revelation to men and how God acts with regard to men. It is very instructive to read the stories of the Old Testament, because exactly the same things repeat themselves in the New Testament. Then one should read, along with he New Testament, the histories of the New Testament Church. For example, there’s a pocketbook of Eusebius’ History of the Church, which traces the history of the Church down through the first three centuries, written from an Orthodox Christian point of view.7 It’s very important to see what early Church writers saw was important in the history of the Church: the martyrs, the apostles, and so forth.
So all these different kinds of writings help to prepare us with basic Christian knowledge, that is, catechisms, commentaries on Scripture, books on spiritual life, more recent patristic books in this same spirit, and histories of the Church. Before we do too much reading about what specifically the signs of the times mean, we should have a basic background in all of these categories of books. All of them prepare one to understand something about the signs of the times. Once one has begun to prepare oneself like this, it is not merely a matter of adding knowledge up in one’s head and being able to repeat by heart certain phrases, to have exactly the right interpretation of a Bible verse, or anything of the sort.
Fr. Seraphim Rose
From here on earth,
From my small place
I ask of You God
Please tell all men
In every land
What you and I
Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That need be understood.
In every world
In Your great sky,
Both You and I.
Dedicated to all the children whose souls now rest in the arms of God