Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The Secular Man has been the great threat to the Christian faith over the past two or more centuries. Disguised as the person is only only doing the “normal thing,” he lives in a godless world, where others can be tempted to live as though there were no God. Earlier I quoted Berdyaev, “If God does not exist, then man does not exist.” I would add to that that the God Who Exists must be everywhere present and filling all things, or He is no God and a false god. Let us renounce the “soft atheism” of the secular man and live always and everywhere for God.
Many Orthodox writers have spoken about the nature of the secular world, the defining form of modernity. I take here an opportunity to make a small comparison between the secular man and the Christian.
The secular man may believe that there is a God, but he also believes that the situation and outcome of the world are dependent upon the actions of human beings.
The Christian man believes that there is a God, and that all things are in His hands.
The secular man believes in Progress. Life changes, and with good human direction, it changes for the better. Every new discovery stands on the shoulders of every previous discovery. In this way, life improves and always improves for the better.
The Christian man believes that whatever man does may change his circumstances, but does not change man. A modern man is in no way superior to those who came before him. Goodness is not a result of progress.
The secular man believes in the power of human beings. Reason, applied reasonably to any situation, will yield a better outcome.
The Christian man believes in God, but he doubts the goodness of man. Human solutions are always questionable and capable of failure.
The secular man believes, ultimately, in the smooth path of progress. Even though there may be set-backs along the way, he believes that pursuing the path of progress will ultimately yield a better world – even a near perfect world.
Because the Christian man believes in God, he trusts that the outcome of history belongs to God and not to man. Thus, even the good things done by man are judged by a good God whose goal for us is always beyond anything we could ask or think.
The secular man, despite various failures, always believes that the next good is only another plan away. Compromise, negotiation, and a willingness to change will finally solve all problems.
The Christian understands the sinfulness of humanity. He knows that without God things will always fail and dissipate. Only through trust and obedience to God can the human situation improve – and such improvement always comes as a miracle from God.
The secular man does not believe in his own fallibility. He does not learn from history, but yearns repeatedly for a success where none has come before. What success he has known (in medical treatment of disease, etc.) is quickly translated into political terms. What is wrong politically can be eradicated as easily as malaria.
The Christian man knows that problems do not lie so much in the world as within himself. Unless man is changed by a good God, there will be a very limited goodness in the world. The secular man knows how to cure malaria, but he cannot manage to actually share that goodness with the world. The world (the third world) dies as it has always died. The secular man is powerless because he lacks true goodness.
The Christian man is largely marginalized in our modern world. He is considered an artifact of the past. However he is not a religious artifact – the truth he knows is eternal and is as applicable to the ills of the world as any part of the truth of God.
It is for this generation to understand what it means to be a Christian man and not to compromise with the secular man. God is good and wills good for all people. He is not a utilitarian, wishing the greatest good for the greatest number, but willing good for each and every soul.
May Christians be visible everywhere, and everywhere loyal to the Kingdom of God.
Dedicated to all the Orthodox Fellow-Citizens with the Apostles
“Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the Saints, and of the same household/family of God; having been built upon the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner-Stone; In Whom all the Building (The Church) put together grows to a Holy Temple in the Lord: In whom you also are built together for a dwelling of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 2, 19-22)
The magnitude of the Apostles is so great that the more we attempt to praise them, the more we realise how small and unworthy we really are. “Some” unknown, uneducated, humble fishermen, simple villagers, follow an unknown “Someone” who claims to be God and proves it. At His trial & torture, they hide and lose faith, but after His resurrection they become fearsome, fearless heroes and courageously, triumphantly stand before anyone. Their transformation is a miracle, their testimony lasts two thousand years. They not only cause uproar, a storm, and divide their audiences by the scandal and “foolishness” of the Cross, but also, finally, remarkably, unbelievably, split the whole History of the whole Wide-World in two: Before HIM and After HIM, Whom they loved, Whom they lived for, Whom they died for…
Every home, every building, has the most essential elements of a chief cornerstone, supporting pillars and more critical, foundations which are subject to earthquakes and are supposed to be built with standards to withstand them. Apostle Paul, in his most powerful, undefeatable defense and irrefutable apologetics for Creation, predominantly proclaims: “Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” (Hebrews 3, 4) God uses this Architecture image and Building concept for His Church to reveal and underline just how important it really is for us, to give absolute obedience to Him, the Chief Cornerstone and Head of the Church, and how imperative it is to give utmost credit and absolute trust, to His Holy Apostles, whom we joyously celebrate. Our God firmly uses the word “build”: “I will build my Church; and the gates of hell (gates of persecution = ”earthquakes” and gates of heresy = “tsunami”) will not prevail against it.” (Math. 16, 18)
God is the wisest Architect: “Lord, how great is the magnitude of your works! You have created everything in supreme wisdom; the earth is full of Your exquisite creations!” (Psalm 104, 24) God is the greatest Builder! Any trivial Builders (in French = “Masons”), any metaphysical Builder’s Unions or dark, Secretive Lodges claiming to worship the “Great Architect Of The Universe” are in fact honouring “Baphomet”, (whom they actual depict and use in statue) the “god of this world” the Devil, not the True Trinitarian God of the Bible. The nations too, their fancy assorted statues and their man-made diverse idols, are beyond doubt, demons. This is not the author’s view, nor an extremist view. It’s God’s authoritative view, God’s eternal, clear-cut statement: “The idols of all nations are DEMONS!” (Psalm 96, 5)
God built His Exclusive True Church, “on the foundation of the Apostles”, (Ephesians 2, 20) who are actually humans: “we are labourers together with God: you are God’s husbandry, you are God’s building.” (1 Corinth. 3, 9) But, very great caution must be given here: “Christ did notbuild His Church on one individual Apostle, but on all of them collectively, and in extent, in essence, on their steadfast faith that Peter expressed on behalf of all of them, that “Christ is the Son of the Living God”, Christ is True God! Christ did not say “on you Peter I will build my Church”, but “on this rock” (of Faith). Not Faith in general, but on a specific issue of Faith, on a fundamental dogma of Faith, on the gravest, heaviest declaration, on the central theme of the Gospel and thumping heart of the Orthodox Faith, on the immovable, most heavy rock that “Christ is God!” This is clearly denoted in Mathew 16, 15 where Christ asks them all, in evident plural: “ymeis” – “what do ‘you’ (plural, not singular) think about Me?” And whatever Christ gave to Peter, such as the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and “the power of binding, forgiving sins” = (the Sacrament & Authority of Confession), Christ equally gave it to all of the Apostles as He was not partial or prejudice. This is why, in a revolutional and revelational way, on the very same Chapter, two verses after, Verse 20, Scripture heavily states: “Then He strictly charged the disciples (plural again, not singular) to tell no one that he was the Christ.” (Math. 16, 20)
The Chorus of the Feast of the Apostles, the fabulous Refrain and the Central Theme is Ephesians 2, 20: “God built His Church on the foundation of the Apostles!” What a miracle! What an over-throwing reality! What a shocking truth! In Ephesians 2, 20, one of the most extraordinary explicit and historically valuable verses ever, a very extremely important distinction and declaration is made here: God did not build His Church on the Bible, (which contains the truth), but God built His Church on His Apostles, who are eye and ear witnesses of that truth. THEY are the foundations of the Bible as well as the Foundations of the Church which gave us the Bible. The Church, is “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (the Bible).” (1 Tim. 3, 15) The basis of truth is not Holy Scripture but the Church. The Apostles, the Church are the ones who produced the Bible and not the other way round.
How tragically sad it is today to observe so many denominations, sects and heresies who all “twist to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3, 16) the Apostolic Faith and devise their “own – personal faith” with God…
They reject the actual authoritative authors, the Apostles, who are the unshakable foundations of the Bible, and only accept the Bible itself and interpret it themselves trusting foolishly in the own erroneous assumptions and heretical conclusions.
They consider the Book of God, but demean the Church of God that produced it.
They give credit to the written form of tradition but not the verbal form which was validated in writing, thus failing to acknowledge the Apostolic command: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions (both) which you were taught by us, either by 1) word of mouth and 2) by letter.” (2 Thess. 2, 15)
They accept a book of a Church that they have no relationship or communion with, but they do not accept the Faith of that Church which gave them that Book.
They hold a selection of letters which were written, formulated and are historically / legally owned by the Greek Orthodox Church but they illegitimately claim false ownership of this Book. For this reason precisely, an early Ecclesiastical Writer,Tertullianus, (c. 160 – c. 220 AD), in his inspired work (De Praescriptione Haereticorum), would not accept to even discuss issues of Faith with heretics because, as he boldly declared, “Scripture belongs to the Church and its use (and misuse) by heretics is illegal since they have no right or claim or ownership over the Bible which is not their handbook”.
They utilise the Bible rendered in thousands of translations and languages of today but fail to recognise the paramount importance of the original Text written in Greek (apart from Mathew’s Gospel written in Aramaic) and that there are hundreds of distortions (deliberate or not) in these subsequent millennium translations.
They accept without any question or doubt the translation of foreign organisations and the pseudo-wisdom of “faithful servants” and “governing bodies” but refuse to acknowledge and examine (even out of courtesy) the original Manuscripts and especially their proper translation by the authors themselves, the Church Herself and immediate associates.
They take it for granted as a standard Global Religious Book but are not interested in the fact that it is a compilation of Epistles=Letters chosen by the first 2 Ecumenical Councils under the inspiration of the God the Holy Spirit, with over 600 (combined) Orthodox Representatives who were true Holy Fathers, firm believers, purified bodies and minds, deified souls, dedicated Ascetics, Sanctified Monks, Ecclesiastical Writers and Sacred Eminent Personalities in the Life and History of the Mother Church, who chose, validated, placed in a specific order, sealed & concealed with their official approval and thus passed it on to us as “the Canonical and Credible Bible.”
They accept the Daughter and reject the Mother.
They embrace a product and denounce the Supplier.
They follow am unstable branch but deny the actual, solid Tree of Life.
What illogical mentality! What logic could any reasonable researcher ever find in this appalling method of approach? What apology will they have in the fearsome Judgment Day?
How could the Apostles and all these enlightened saintly personalities of the first three centuries be all “wrong” and their whole “faith” be in error? (even though their Faith was revealed to them only a couple of hundred years earlier, at Pentecost). How could then God, the Holy Spirit, be in error? How could God allow His Body, His Church to live for 2000 whole years in falseness, darkness and deception, and then deem it necessary for these “new”, opposing gospels, these multiple sects to revolt, these independent groups to suddenly pop-up, and claim in no authority whatsoever that “they know better” and now have “special” enlightenment by God, since they have a “special” relationship and special “direct” communication with the Holy Spirit… (demonic spirit indeed!)
The Apostles are our Teachers, they are “the faithful and wise Servants!” In the fourth and last Stichiron of the Ainous, in the Matins (Orthros), just before the Doxastikon and the Doxology, the Apostles are mentioned by name and referred to as truthful “Towers, (the only official true “Watch-Towers”) and Pillars of the Church.” They are our mentors, they are our guides, they are spiritual Fathers. Do not let this surprise us. They are not called “fathers” in contradiction to Scripture where Christ says: “call no man your father on earth, since you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Math. 23, 9) In this instance, Christ refers to Paternity with a Divine, absolute, ontological meaning. But there is also a relative, spiritual paternity ascribed to the Apostles and Saints, this is why even Apostle Paul calls himself a holy father and would not contradict God so easily:
“I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children, because, though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Thus I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinth. 4, 14-16) This in itself is also a very bold, daring statement to make. He does not say “be imitators of Christ” but “be imitators of me.” Because the true way of honouring a Saint is imitating the Saint. And when we imitate Saints, we thus imitate Christ, because they are “His extension to the Ages” (Saint Augustinos of Hyppo)
There are 10 Criteria, (in the Form of Ten Commandments) that we essentially need to adhere by, in order to achieve a proper relationship with God and His Church and have a steadfast hope of salvation:
The Apostle’s written Testimony: Holy Scripture (which was in fact, initially verbal too)
The Apostle’s verbal Testimony: Sacred Tradition of the Apostolic Church along with the eternal decisions of the Nine Ecumenical Councils.
The further, extensive Sacred writings of the Great Holy Fathers of the Church along with the close, in depth, imitating study of the Lives of Saints.
Hymnology of our Church which is profoundly rich in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology along with all other Liturgical Books, Priestly Prayers & Texts
The fundamental testimony and guidance of all recent Holy Elders & Newly Canonised Saints.
The critical and discerning guidance of an experienced, canonical and wise Spiritual Father/Confessor.
A sacramental spiritual life within the Exclusive Body of Christ, His Holy Orthodox Church, under the provision of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.
A constant struggle against our sinful self and the pleasures of the world (purification) through a humble spirit & true repentance in steady aim of sanctification (theosis), ultimately seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and nothing else.
Proper worship, unadulterated true faith in agreement and harmony of the Truth: ORTHODOXIA
Proper practice and implementation of all of the above and all aspects of God’s will: ORTHOPRAXIA
3. Earthquakes and Tsunami’s
In Acts 8, 1, we observe “a great persecution arose against the Church.” Persecutions we foretold and warned by God: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you;” (John 15, 20) This persecution is not really a disaster, but a heavenly blessing in disguise, being beautifully bestowed at the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when men abuse you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you, giving false account (heresy) in My Name.” (Math. 5, 11) Therefore the Apostles were never afraid of any persecutions, any abuse, because “if God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8, 31) The love they had for Christ is PPP = Paramount, Principal, Pioneering! The love they had for the God-Man Jesus, could never be reduced, distorted or dissolved by any persecution or danger, any deception or heresy, any abuse or attack, any fear or threat. No spiritual Earthquake, no severe heresy or raging Spiritual Tsunami, no mass-divisions and scandals by believers, scandals by Priests, Bishops or Patriarchs, could ever change their love for Christ and His Church. Apostle Paul expresses this remarkably, in a perfect poetic way!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Indeed, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8, 35-39) This extreme expression of love till death, is the exquisite Formal and Final “Swan Song” of the Apostles. There are no better words that could ever describe this “different, special kind of love”, this sacred, divine, heavenly love.
It’s the precise Super-natural Medicine that Holy Elder Porphyrios generally, continually prescribed:
“Just love Christ more, love Christ more!”
In the Ocean of this love, the Arch of the Covenant and especially the Ark of Noah, is the Holy Orthodox Church. The enlightened Holy Fathers described and depicted in beloved exceptional Iconography the Church as “i Nafs” = the Boat, the Divine Boat, the Divine Love-Boat. Saint John Chrysostom, the Golden Mouth of Orthodoxy, sensationally states: “The Church Boat, while being battled against, it becomes victorious, while being abused at, it shines on ever more; it receives wounds but does not give up, it is shaken by fearsome waves but does not (and will not ever) sink!”
This is where many of us fail or somehow fall astray. We think that with our panic, our struggles, our protest, our stance and resistance, “that we will ‘save’ the Church… This is blasphemy! We are not here to save the Church, the Church is here to save us! We ourselves are in need and subject to salvation.” (Saintly Elder Athanasios Mytilineos) The Church will NEVER sink, regardless of betrayals, regardless how high up the throne of the persons committing unfaithfulness, deception or heresy. They are independent exceptions which soon, as Christ foretold, may become a majority, “and even the elect be deceived by the antichrist” (Math. 24, 24)
But, the Boat of the Church, the Boat of Orthodoxy will safely deliver us to the Heavenly Harbour, if we safely remain, till death us to part, with the depths of our heart, in the blessed bosom of her Bountiful Grace, tied to the Masts of the Apostles, grounded in the foundations of the Apostolic Faith:
“OUR CAPTAIN IS THE GOD-MAN CHRIST! We can’t go wrong!” (Saintly Bishop Augoustinos Kantiotis)
The Apostles are the exceptional beautification and Golden Crown, the Illuminating Glorious Bridal adornment of the Theotokos. In the Kingdom of Heaven, she appears on a throne, “A great Sign (indication, miracle) appeared in heaven, a Woman (The Most Holy Woman of All) clothed with the Sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a Crown of Twelve Stars (the Apostles).” (Revel. 12, 1) The City of God also has an unconquerable wall: “The wall of the city had Twelve Foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” (Revel. 21, 14)
It was written by an 8-year-old named Danny Dutton, who lives in Chula Vista , CA . He wrote it for his third grade homework assignment, to ‘explain God.’ I wonder if any of us could have done as well?
EXPLANATION OF GOD:
‘One of God’s main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die, so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. He doesn’t make grownups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn’t have to take up his valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers.’
‘God’s second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times beside bedtime. God doesn’t have time to listen to the radio or TV because of this. Because he hears everything, there must be a terrible lot of noise in his ears, unless he has thought of a way to turn it off.’
‘God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn’t go wasting his time by going over your mom and dad’s head asking for something they said you couldn’t have.’
‘Atheists are people who don’t believe in God. I don’t think there are any in Chula Vista … At least there aren’t any who come to our church.’
‘Jesus is God’s Son. He used to do all the hard work, like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn’t want to learn about God.. They finally got tired of him preaching to them and they crucified him But he was good and kind, like his father, and he told his father that they didn’t know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said O.K.’
‘His dad (God) appreciated everything that he had done and all his hard work on earth so he told him he didn’t have to go out on the road anymore. He could stay in heaven. So he did. And now he helps his dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God. Like a secretary, only more important.’
‘You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time.’
‘You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God!
Don’t skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong. And besides the sun doesn’t come out at the beach until noon anyway.’
‘If you don’t believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can’t go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It is good to know He’s around you when you’re scared, in the dark or when you can’t swim and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids.’
‘But…..you shouldn’t just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and he can take me back anytime he pleases.
And…that’s why I believe in God.’
That ugly and omnipresent thorn called worry! Since it’s a chronic, recurrent condition, it’s been called the “Worry Disease.” I think worry must be Satan’s best weapon against man. Our minds are incessantly preoccupied with our daily cares. During peace-filled, “quiet time” moments of prayer and reflection we confidently profess our faith to God and feel His peace. Yet, this is so often immediately forgotten, preempted by the next worrisome preoccupation. At time, it’s maddening! Too often our “old nature” chooses to worry rather than to trust God. Worry is a sin because we aren’t taking God at his Word.
Virtually everyone is stressed out today. We fear various problems and what they may do to us. For example, I have worked in pharmaceutical marketing and medical communications for 30+ years and have witnessed incredible changes in the healthcare landscape. I laugh out loud when I remember how in the past I used to complain about various working conditions. However, they were minimal compared to today’s constant stream of pressures. Now there are insecurities about the marketplace, the unrelenting ferocity of managed care, stressed-out clients willing to change their ad agency “on a whim,” and the constant barrage of economic and socio-political uncertainties. It seems every industry, both private and government, is beleaguered by economic crises today.
I guess crying in my beard (?) is both selfish and narrow-minded. Whether we live or have lived in affluence or in abject poverty, we will always have fears and anxieties. Let’s face it; we live in a fallen world. We have to deal with it, and there’s only one way do that: constantly pause and know that God is in control.
When I’m having dark days and am beset by challenges of all sorts, I put my distress in God’s hands and really trust, really believe. He always delivers, and the more I trust, the less my discomfort, and the better the outcome.
Besides entreating the Lord, I must also thank Him. Since the human race is innately selfish, our conversation with God is often a big, one-sided “all about me.” But when we balance our requests with heartfelt thanksgiving, i.e., when it becomes an integral part of our lives, giving thanks can only diminish our despair and contribute to inner peace and real joy. It’s so easy to avow faith and to rationalize it. But faith in action, which means practicing our faith day by day, moment by moment, is the hard part.
Let’s face it. Every day is a life challenge to varying degrees. The storms we face-personal, social, work-related, spiritual, or financial-will always be there. In order to put things into the proper perspective, there are several actions we can take:
1. Start every day with a thanksgiving prayer. One of my favorites was written by Fr. Thomas Hopko:
We praise You, Lord Jesus for showing us how to live day by day without fear, serving obediently, always entrusting our lives into Your care. And we thank you Lord Jesus for showing us how to die, how to gain the victory, how to attain the crown of life by commending our souls into the Father’s hands.
2. Repeat the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”) for focus.
3. Recite short Bible verses. These can also help to assuage the anxieties of life whenever those inevitable afflictions rear their ugly heads. Meaningful verses like the following can really lift the weight of our woes:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Be still and know that I am God (Psalms 46:10).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not upon your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
There is no formula, no antibiotic, no magic elixir for eradicating worry and fear. It’s a matter of developing childlike faith, a conscious effort to trust in God. If and when He is willing, that burden will become lighter as we grow in His wisdom and grace.
Bottom line: There can be peace in our hearts only when we turn to the One, True Source of peace, Jesus Christ. As He affirmed, “[My] peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Every day requires a reaffirmation of faith. If we seek God and His values, God will provide for us in wonderful ways we can never imagine. To know the pardon, joy, peace and power that come through Christ, we must personally receive Him by faith. And if our hearts are to change, our faith must be real.
Almost all illnesses are caused by our lack of trust in the Lord. This creates stress. Stress is caused by the negation of the religious sentiment. Unless you love the Lord and preoccupy yourself with holy deeds, you will certainly have depression and nasty feelings.
There is one thing which helps someone who is depressed: work and showing an interest in living: For example having a garden, some plants, flowers, trees, or getting outside, going for a walk in the countryside, or for a simple walk. All these create an interest and stop a person’s apathy. They act like medicine.
Moreover, being interested in music or the arts is very beneficial. But I specially emphasize the need to show an interest for the Church, for the Gospel and the liturgical services. Just by studying the Lord’s word one is healed without realizing it.
We ought not to be discouraged or be in a hurry. We ought not to judge things superficially or by their external appearance. If for example you happen to see a naked woman or one who is dressed inappropriately, do not criticize her but try to enter her soul. She may have a good heart and may express her existential worries through her wild appearance. She may process an inner strength and wish to show off arousing interest. She may have a distorted view of things because of her ignorance. Imagine what will happen if she does actually come to know Christ. She will become a believer and will direct all this passion towards Christ. She will do anything to attract divine grace. She will become a saint.
Because of our anxiety and our fears we often cause harm to someone without meaning to and without realizing it, even if we love him very much, like a mother does her child. A mother may transfer to the child all her anxiety about his life, his health and progress, even though she does not express it with words. This kind of love, this natural love, may sometimes cause harm. However, this does not happen with the love of Christ which is coupled with prayer and a careful way of life. This love sanctifies and calms a person, since God is love.
Translation of excerpts from the book «ΓΕΡΟΝΤΟΣ ΠΟΡΦΥΡΙΟΥ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ Ανθολόγιο Συμβουλών»
The great teachers of the Church and of the Greek nation, Makarios Notaras, Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and Athanasios of Paros, who lived and worked in the 18th and early 19th centuries, form a new trinity of shining lights of the Church, like the three Fathers of the Church in the past, relatively speaking of course and bearing in mind the historical circumstances they lived through with their similarities and differences. To these three must be added Neophytos of Kafsokalyvia, who started the movement, although he was not as important or active as the other three would later become, thus earning their place in the Communion of Saints. They were nicknamed Kollyvades by their opponents on the Holy Mountain because they objected to the transfer of the memorial services (involving kollyva) from Saturday to Sunday in defiance of tradition, rightly judging that services for the dead are incompatible with the resurrectional and festal nature of Sunday.
This of course was a minor detail within their greater work of renewal and enlightenment. It was deliberately stressed and exaggerated in order to obscure the importance of their other work, and also to denigrate them as being people who concerned themselves with petty matters, as memorial services and kollyva supposedly were. Even today there are scholars who belittle them and their work, seeing the whole through the distorting prism of the memorial service controversy. Fortunately in recent decades, during which Greek historical and theological research has begun to free itself from Western ties, dependency and influence, their work has been reassessed as an 18th century philokalian renaissance. This renaissance had a decisive impact in strengthening and reinforcing the education of the enslaved Orthodox peoples and in preserving their awareness of who they were, not only vis-à-vis the Ottoman conquerors but also vis-à-vis the Western missionaries who spread out all over the Orthodox world, proselytising by unfair means, and especially by exploiting the ignorance, enslavement and poverty of the Orthodox faithful.
There was a great danger that the Orthodox would convert either to Islam or to a Western form of Christianity. Indeed, the second was the greater danger due to the West’s high level of civilisation, which made assimilation easier, whereas the feeling of superiority to Islam raised some barriers and reservations. There is the classic statement by the other great teacher and saint of that period, St Kosmas Aetolos, explaining why God allowed the Orthodox to be enslaved by the Turks rather than by the Franks [Westerners]: “Three hundred years after Christ’s Resurrection, God sent us Saint Constantine and established the kingdom for 1150 years. Then God took it away from the Christians, and for their own good gave it to the Turk for 320 years. And why did God bring the Turk and not some other nation? For our own good, because the other nations would have harmed our faith, but the Turk, as long as you give him money, will let you do as you like.”
However, after the dark ages of ignorance and illiteracy of the previous centuries, the roots of education were needed to raise a barrier against conversions to Islam or Western Christianity, to prevent a multitude of small streams becoming a river that would sweep away the Nation. What St Kosmas Aetolos did by travelling around the country and founding schools for the people, the Kollyvades Saints did at a higher level by publishing and interpreting texts from Scripture and the Fathers, Lives and Services of Saints, hymns, and even grammar, rhetoric and philosophy textbooks and also ancient Greek and Western classical writers. The aim was to enlighten the Nation and maintain it in its faith and in the traditions of the Fathers, to preserve Greek Orthodox culture. They wanted to ensure that in the schools, which were appearing in increasing numbers, the teachers, monks and priests would be able to understand Greek texts through school education, but also to publish these texts, since the manuscripts were few and far between, either hidden away in monastic libraries or looted by crafty foreign travellers.
One can even discern in their truly impressive educational and literary efforts a special emphasis on action to meet the danger of conversions to Islam or Western Christian denominations. It is well known that many Neo-Martyrs had as mentors, who supported them psychologically on the road to martyrdom, Kollyvades Saints such as St Makarios and St Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain. It is certain that what many Neo-Martyrs proclaimed before the Turkish judges regarding the superiority of the Christian faith to the religion of Muhammed, which they disparage and reject, echoed the teaching of the Kollyvades Saints. Many of these exchanges between these Neo-Martyrs and the Turkish judges, which recall the martyrologies of old, were preserved by St Nikodemos in his “New Martyrology”. The same interpretation must be put on the anti-Western works of St Athanasios of Paros; “The Antipope”, “The Judgement of Heaven”, “That Palamas” and other works on the aberrations and errors of the Latins.
The contribution of the Kollyvades to education and culture was not limited to raising the self-awareness of the Orthodox peoples vis-à-vis the twin dangers of assimilation by East or West, which were very great. It had another, equally broad, dimension, in which they appeared to have less success, not because their teachings were without effect, but because unfortunately, from 1821 the modern Greek state was violently cut off from the Greek Orthodox tradition. It abandoned traditional Greek Christian education and, guided by and in tutelage to the West, turned against its Byzantine heritage, against the Saints and the Church Fathers, against all that was holy for the Nation.
It is known that the Kollyvades Saints, and especially St Athanasios of Paros, clashed with the European and Europeanising supporters of the Enlightenment in modern Greece, who adopted the ideas of the French Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and even the atheism of Voltaire, and who attempted to direct the course of modern Greek culture towards classical antiquity, extolling and stressing the worldly wisdom and knowledge of antiquity while underrating or ignoring divine wisdom. Rationalism, science, knowledge and freedom were the new deities in the Enlightenment creed. The Byzantine synthesis, in which the healthy elements of the ancient Greek spirit were preserved and strengthened and pressed into the service of the divine message of love, humility and reconciliation that derives from the teaching of the Gospel of the Cross, was abandoned and disparaged. It was essentially a new form of persecution of the church, similar to the attempts by the Emperor Julian the Apostate in the fourth century to revive pure Hellenism in the place of Christianity, and by Barlaam the Calabrian in the fourteenth century to introduce into Orthodox Byzantium the scholasticism and rationalism of the Western Renaissance, rejecting the tried and true method of enlightenment and perfection used by the Fathers of the Church which emphasised divine wisdom, but without rejecting worldly or human wisdom. The three Fathers of the fourth century, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, with their fine classical Greek education, like St Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth century, barred the way back to an unwholesome classicism that places the created above the uncreated, human wisdom above divine wisdom, as was said by the blessed monk Christoforos Papoulakos on observing the wrong course taken after 1821 by westernised Greek scholars and clergymen, who adopted in their entirety the ideas of the European Enlightenment.
It is worth noting that the revolutionary heroes of 1821, Kolokotronis, Makrygiannis, Papaflessas and others, who had been brought up in the spirit of tradition, felt betrayed on this point. They had struggled to free the Greeks from the Turks in body, and now they saw Greece becoming enslaved spiritually, surrendering her soul, to the Europeans.
Latinisation returned in the form of Europeanisation and Westernisation. The West, which had been unable to “enlighten” free Byzantium with Barlaam the Calabrian, that is to plunge the Greeks into darkness, because St Gregory Palamas reacted with the Hesychast movement, nor again under the Turkish occupation due to the Hesychastic movement of the Kollyvades, attempted again after 1821 by placing the modern Greek state, education and culture under its spiritual tutelage. It seems, however, that it is once again being defeated.
The Kollyvades, reviled even in the name they were given, profoundly influenced Orthodox faith and life as true successors of the patristic Hesychast tradition. Both the Holy Mountain, which bred them, and St Gregory Palamas can be proud of these great teachers of Orthodoxy and the Nation.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (A John, 4, 18)
When you love Jesus, despite your many weaknesses and your awareness of them, you rest assured that you have overcome death because you are in communion with Jesus’ love.
We ought to feel that Jesus is our friend. He is our friend. He confirms it Himself when He says: ‘You are my friends…” (John 15, 14).We ought to look up to Him and approach Him as our friend. If we fall, if we commit an offence, we ought to approach Him with love and courage and be filled with trust bestowed to us by our mutual friendship without fearing His punishment. We ought to tell Him: ‘Yes, Lord I have done this, I have fallen, forgive me”. At the same time we ought to feel that He loves us, that He receives us with tenderness and love and that He forgives us. Let our trespasses not separate us from Jesus. If we believe that He loves us and that we love Him, we will not feel strangers, neither we will feel separated from Him, not even when we commit a sin. We have secured His love and no matter what we do, we know that He loves us.
The Gospel, speaking allegorically, warns that the unjust will be taken to the place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25, 30); indeed this is how it is going to be for someone who lives away from the Lord. Several of the Niptic fathers also speak about the fear of death and of Hell. They say: ‘You must always remember death’. Such words, if examined deeply, cause the fear for Hell. Someone who is trying to avoid committing a sin nurtures such thoughts, so that his soul is overcome by the fear of death, of Hell and of the devil.
Everything has its own importance at the appropriate time and the right circumstances. The fear of death is appropriate at the early stages of spiritual struggle. It is right for the novices, for those whose old-self is still active. The novice, who has not yet had the chance to be ‘sensitized’, is kept from sinning by this fear. Fear is necessary since we have a physical nature prone to wickedness. However, this is an elementary stage, an early level of relating to the divine. At this level the relationship with the Lord becomes a transaction: to gain Paradise and to avoid Hell. If we examine this properly we will see that it reeks from some kind of selfishness and self-interest.
I do not like this route. As soon as one progresses and enters the love of the Lord, why does he need fear? Whatever he does, he does it out of love and this is more important. It is not worth that much if someone becomes good because he fears the Lord and not because he loves Him.
Whoever would like to become a Christian ought to become a poet first. Once the soul is knocked about it becomes undeserving of Jesus’ love; Jesus interrupts the relationship since He does not want ‘thick’ souls with Him.
When you are worshiping the divine make sure that no one sees you nor recognizes what you are doing. You ought to do all these in secret, like the ascetics. Remember when I mentioned the nightingale? It sings in the forest, when there is silence, so that no one hears it neither praises it. What a magnificent singing in the desert! Did you notice how its throat swells? The same thing happens to the person who loves the Lord. As soon as he experiences this love, his ‘throat and his tongue swell”. He runs in the wild, in the desert and communicates with the Lord in secret, “with inexpressible sighs”.
You ought to ignore your passions; do not preoccupy yourselves with the devil. Turn towards Jesus instead. Divine grace teaches us our duties. We must employ love and longing in order to draw divine grace. The grace of the Lord needs divine Eros.
Once we have acquired love, then we are ready to pray. The Lord comes to such a soul by Himself as soon as He finds some pleasing things: a good intention, humility and love. Without these we are not able to say: ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”.
The slightest criticism against someone else, affects our souls and we become unable to pray. The Holy Spirit does not dare approach such a soul.
We ought to let the Lord do what He wants with us; this is more beneficial and more appropriate for ourselves and for those whom we are praying for. Jesus will hand over all things in abundance. However, with the slightest selfishness, nothing can happen. The Lord has His own reasons for not giving us whatever we ask of Him. He has His own ‘secrets’.
Unless you obey your spiritual father and show humility, Jesus’ prayer (Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me) will not work and you risk being deluded as well. Do not recite this prayer as a chore. If you apply pressure you may be harmed. Several people have fallen ill because they were reciting Jesus’ prayer under pressure. It can be done, of course, but it is not a healthy way to pray.
You do not have to concentrate excessively in order to recite Jesus’ prayer. You do not need special effort when you have divine Eros. Any place is appropriate for this prayer: sitting on a low chair, on an armchair, in the car, while on the road, at school, at the office, anywhere. Just say ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’ gently, without pressure or feeling any tightness.
Intensity and not duration is more important in prayer. Pray even for five minutes, but your prayer ought to be offered to the Lord lovingly and with longing. This five-minute prayer may be more valuable than prayer which lasts all night. This is, certainly a mystery, but it happens.
“Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear…” (Matt. 13:13)
This is Jesus’ description of those who encountered Him but did not understand. Just because we see something doesn’t mean we see it. Just because we hear something doesn’t mean we’ve heard it. This is particularly true of Holy Scripture. Just because we read it doesn’t mean we’ve read it.
Why do we read the Scriptures?
I assume that anyone who is “reading the Scriptures” is, in fact, a believing Christian, otherwise they would just be reading a collection of ancient writings held in esteem by Christians. For the books of the Bible to be “Scripture” is to say that they are considered somehow inspired and somehow authoritative. But to read them as Scripture also asks the question: “Whose Scripture?” The answer is, “The Christian Community’s – the Church’s.”
Some point famously to Paul’s admonition to Timothy:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
However, this is the admonition of an Apostle to a Bishop. “Doctrine” (“teaching”) is not the task of every Christian. Instead we are told that not many of us should be teachers (James 3:1). St. Paul urges believers at various times to give heed to the “doctrine” that they have received (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:6; etc.).
In our modern culture, many Christians act as though they have a major task in life to learn doctrine, meaning to once again study the Scriptures and come to their own conclusions about everything under the sun. It is as though Martin Luther was reincarnated multiple times in every generation.
Doctrine, sound teaching, is the “pattern” of teaching which has been delivered (traditioned) to us. We find witnesses to this teaching in the Fathers from the first century forward. The reading of Scripture is not the means whereby we arrive at sound doctrine – sound doctrine is the means whereby we rightly read the Scriptures. The Christian reading of Holy Scripture is a “doctrinally-ruled” reading. We do not come to the Scriptures to decide whether the Nicene Council “got it right.” Without a knowledge of doctrine, much of Scripture will remain closed to the reader.
But there are ways of reading Scripture that are appropriate and generally essential to the Christian life. “Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of me,” Christ says (John 5:39).
The most appropriate and life-giving manner of reading the Scriptures is to read them as a means of communion (koinonia) with God. Communion with God, sharing in His Life even as He shares in ours, is the means and the goal of salvation. Everything in the Christian life – indeed, the whole purpose of human life – is communion with God. Sin is the breaking of this communion, while salvation is its restoration. All of the sacraments have the one purpose of communion with God, whether manifest as Eucharist, Healing, Ordination, Baptism, etc. The only purpose of prayer is communion with God, for we do not speak to God to inform Him of what He already knows nor to convince of what He is already going to do. We are taught to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), because communion “without ceasing” is the very definition of the Christian life.
So how do we read for the purpose of communion? St. Isaac of Syria says this:
The course of your reading should be parallel to the aim of your way of life…. Most books that contain instructions in doctrine are not useful for purification. The reading of many diverse books brings distraction of mind down on you. Know, then, that not every book that teaches about religion is useful for the purification of the consciousness and the concentration of the thoughts.
In our democratic culture, we find it offensive that anyone should be forbidden to read anything. I would only point to the spiritual abuse found on any number of “Orthodox” websites in which serious matters, originally written for monastics or for the guidance of clergy are tossed about for even the non-Orthodox to read. As if the canons of the Church were meant for mass consumption!
Parents who care about the health of their children usually follow some regimen in the course of their young lives when it comes to feeding them. “Milk and not stong meat” is the Scriptural admonition for those who are young in the faith. St. James offers this warning:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness(3:1).
And St. Peter’s Second Epistle offers this:
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures (3:15-16).
It’s not that Scripture or Canons or books of doctrine are to be avoided or forbidden – rather, that we should learn to read with wisdom in an effort to grow spiritually and not in an effort simply to gain knowledge of a questionable sort.
St. Isaac’s observation is that we give attention first to “purification of the consciousness and concentration of thoughts.” By such phrases he refers primarily to the daily regimen of what we read and how we pray (as well as fasting and repentance) towards the goal of overcoming the passions. Only someone who is not himself ruled by the passions is ready to safely guide someone else beyond those same rocks. Anger and condemnation, pride and superiority are marks of the passions. The passions cannot read the Scriptures and the Traditions rightly, nor offer them to others without doing harm. The same can be said about most argumentation. Reading for the sake of feeding our opinions is actuallyspiritually harmful.
So, to follow St. Isaac’s guidance, we are reading rightly when our reading is an integral part of a life whose single goal is communion with God. Obviously, “single goal” is the end of the game. On a daily basis we build towards that goal.
Reading with communion as a goal does not mean we avoid information (when we read), but that gathering information is not our primary purpose. Before the Divine Liturgy, as I enter the altar, I recite the portion of Psalm 5 appointed for priests:
I will enter Thy house, I will worship toward Thy holy temple in the fear of Thee. Lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness because of my enemies; make my way straight before Thee. For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulcher, they flatter with their tongue. Judge them, O God, let them fall by their own counsels; because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against Thee. But let all who take refuge in Thee rejoice, let them always sing for joy; and do Thou dwell in them, that those who love Thy name my exult in Thee. For Thou blessest the righteous, O Lord, Thou coverest us with good will as with a shield.
How can I read this as communion? About whom am I speaking? This is roughly how I read this in my heart:
I will enter my heart [that place where God dwells], I will acknowledge that it is You who dwell in me. Lead me rightly, O Lord, because of the wicked thoughts within me [my enemies]….My thoughts [logismoi] have no truth in them – they think only of destruction. They are like an open grave….Let me sing with joy in my heart – where You dwell. Let me exult in Your name. For those who rejoice in the Name of Jesus will exult and be blessed. You protect them with Your good will.
And I follow these thoughts into my heart. There I find communion with God – distractions flee away. There have been other times in my priesthood when I recited this Psalm as though it were a meditation of God protecting me from other people – particularly those about whom I felt anxious, or whom, in my neurosis, I imagined to be enemies. Such a reading (close to a literal reading) was not only useless, but left me deeper in darkness than I had been before I began my day.
Devotional reading tends to be slow, and often of short duration. For many books that I read – I can only take in a few pages a day.
Contrary to our popular self-conception, we are not a culture that values learning. We are a culture that values opinion, and opinion as entertainment (God save us from the pundits!). Dilettantism plagues us. If we want to be Christians, we must start with the small things and the practices that make for proper discipleship and “let not many of us become teachers.” Let many of us become those who pray, who fast, who repent, who forgive even their enemies and through the grace of God come to know the stillness within which God may be known.
Πες με το νου σου «Ελέησέ με, Θεέ μου», και ολοκληρώθηκε η προσευχή σου!…( Αγίου Ιωάννη του Χρυσοστόμου )
«Και πώς είναι δυνατό, λέγει, άνθρωπος κοσμικός, που είναι προσηλωμένος στο δικαστήριο, κάθε τρεις ώρες της ημέρας να προσεύχεται και να τρέχει στην Εκκλησία; Είναι δυνατό και πολύ εύκολο. Γιατί, κι αν δεν είναι εύκολο να πας στην Εκκλησία, καθώς στέκεσαι εκεί μπροστά στις πόρτες κι είσαι προσηλωμένος στο δικαστήριο, είναι δυνατό να προσευχηθείς. Γιατί δε χρειάζεται τόσο φωνή, όσο σκέψη, ούτε έκταση των χεριών, όσο τεντωμένη ψυχή, ούτε κάποια στάση, αλλά πίστη.
Γιατί κι αυτή η Άννα δεν εισακούστηκε επειδή έβγαλε δυνατή και μεγάλη φωνή, αλλ’ επειδή φώναξε δυνατά μέσα στην καρδιά της. Γιατί «η φωνή της δεν ακουόταν» (Α’ Βασιλειών, 1, 13), λέγει, αλλά την άκουγε ο Θεός. ["Ν": Πρόκειται για ένα βιβλίο της Παλαιάς Διαθήκης, που μπορείτε να το διαβάσετε εδώ (όπως κι όλα τα άλλα βιβλία της Π.Δ. που θα δείτε πιο κάτω). Η αγία Άννα, που αναφέρει εδώ, είναι η μητέρα του αγίου προφήτη Σαμουήλ, όχι η μητέρα της Παναγίας που έχει το ίδιο όνομα, γι' αυτό και τις γιορτάζουμε την ίδια μέρα (9 Δεκ.)].
Το ίδιο έκαναν πολλές φορές και πολλοί άλλοι και, ενώ ο άρχοντας μέσα φώναζε, απειλούσε, έκανε χειρονομίες, μαινόταν, αυτοί, στεκόμενοι μπροστά στις κλειστές πόρτες και λέγοντας λίγα λόγια προσευχής με το νου τους, όταν μπήκαν μέσα τον μετέβαλαν και τον καταπράυναν και τον έκαναν ήμερο, από άγριος που ήταν. Και δεν εμποδίστηκαν καθόλου, ούτε από τον τόπο, ούτε από την ώρα, ούτε από τη σιωπή για την προσευχή αυτή.
Αυτό λοιπόν κάνε κι εσύ! Στέναξε βαθειά, φέρε στη μνήμη σου τις αμαρτίες σου, στρέψε το βλέμμα σου στον ουρανό, πες με το νου σου «’Ελέησέ με, Θεέ μου», και ολοκληρώθηκε η προσευχή σου.
Γιατί αυτός που είπε «ελέησέ με», έδειξε εξομολόγηση και μετάνιωσε για τα αμαρτήματά του.
Γιατί το να ζητούν έλεος ταιριάζει σ’ αυτούς που αμάρτησαν. Αυτός που είπε «ελέησέ με», πήρε συγχώρηση των σφαλμάτων του.
Γιατί αυτός που ελεήθηκε δεν κολάζεται. Αυτός που είπε «ελέησέ με», κέρδισε τη Βασιλεία των Ουρανών.
Γιατί αυτόν που θα ελεήσει ο Θεός, δεν απαλλάσσεται μόνο απ’ τη κόλαση, αλλά γίνεται άξιος και των μελλοντικών αγαθών.
Ας μην προφασιζόμαστε λοιπόν λέγοντας, ότι δεν υπάρχει κοντά μας οίκος προσευχής. Γιατί εμάς τους ίδιους έκανε ναούς η χάρη του Πνεύματος του Θεού, εάν βέβαια είμαστε άγρυπνοι, ώστε να έχουμε από παντού μεγάλη ευκολία.
Η λατρεία μας δεν είναι τέτοια, όπως ήταν παλαιότερα των Ιουδαίων, που είχε πολύ το υλικό στοιχείο και απαιτούσε πολλή απασχόληση. Εκεί ο προσευχόμενος έπρεπε να ανεβεί στο ιερό, να αγοράσει τρυγόνια, να χρησιμοποιήσει ξύλα και φωτιά, να πάρει μαζί του μαχαίρι και το θύμα, γιατί εσύ ο ίδιος είσαι και ιερέας και θυσιαστήριο και θύμα.
Όπου λοιπόν κι αν βρίσκεσαι, μπορείς να στήσεις το βωμό, δείχνοντας μόνο νηφάλια πρόθεση, και σε τίποτα δεν σε εμποδίζει ο τόπος, ούτε σε εμποδίζει η ώρα, αλλά και χωρίς να γονατίσεις, χωρίς να χτυπήσεις το στήθος σου και χωρίς να υψώσεις τα χέρια σου στον ουρανό, μόνο εάν δείξεις θερμή διάνοια, ολοκλήρωσες το άπαν της προσευχής.
Είναι δυνατό ακόμα και γυναίκα, που κρατάει ρόκα και υφαίνει, να στρέψει το βλέμμα νοερά στον ουρανό και να επικαλεσθεί με θερμότητα το Θεό.
Μπορεί και άνθρωπος που πηγαίνει στην αγορά και βαδίζει μόνος του να κάνει μακρές προσευχές.
Κι άλλος, που κάθεται στο εργαστήριο και ράβει δέρματα, μπορεί να αφιερώσει τη ψυχή του στο Δεσπότη.
Είναι δυνατό και ο δούλος και αυτός που ψωνίζει και αυτός που ανεβαίνει και αυτός που κατεβαίνει και αυτός που εργάζεται στο μαγειρείο, όταν δεν μπορούν να έρθουν στην εκκλησία, να κάνουν προσευχή μακρά και ζωηρή.
Ο Θεός δεν ντρέπεται τον τόπο. Ένα πράγμα μόνο ζητά, θερμή διάνοια και ψυχή γεμάτη σωφροσύνη.
Και για να δεις ότι δεν χρειάζονται σχήματα και τόποι και ώρες γενικά, αλλά γενναίο και διεγερμένο φρόνημα, ο Παύλος, ενώ ήταν ξαπλωμένος ανάσκελα στη φυλακή και δεν στεκόταν όρθιος (γιατί δεν τον άφηνε το ξύλο στο οποίο ήταν δεμένα τα πόδια του), επειδή, όντας ξαπλωμένος, προσευχήθηκε με προθυμία, ταρακούνησε τη φυλακή και τράνταξε τα θεμέλιά της και έδεσε τον αρχιφύλακα και τον οδήγησε ύστερα από αυτά στην ιερή μυσταγωγία (Πράξεις των αποστόλων, 17, 25-34).
Και ο Εζεκίας επίσης χωρίς να στέκεται όρθιος, ούτε να είναι γονατισμένος, αλλά ξαπλωμένος ανάσκελα στο κρεβάτι, εξαιτίας της αρρώστιας, γύρισε τον εαυτό του προς τον τοίχο, και με το να επικαλεστεί θερμά και με σώφρονα ψυχή το Θεό, και την απόφαση που είχε ανακοινωθεί ανακάλεσε και πολλή συμπάθεια κέρδισε και ξαναβρήκε όπως πριν την υγεία του.
Κι αυτό θα μπορούσε να το δει κανείς να συμβαίνει όχι μόνο σε άγιους και μεγάλους άνδρες, αλλά και σε κακούς.
Γιατί και ο ληστής δεν στάθηκε σε ευκτήριο οίκο, ούτε γονάτισε, αλλά τεντωμένος πάνω στο σταυρό, με λίγα λόγια πέτυχε τη Βασιλεία των Ουρανών.
Άλλος μέσα σε βούρκο και σε λάκκο (Ιερεμίας 45, 6),
άλλος μέσα σε λάκκο και ανάμεσα σε θηρία (Δανιήλ 6, 22),
άλλος μέσα στην ίδια την κοιλιά του κήτους (Ιωνάς 2, 2-Ι0),
αφού παρακάλεσαν το Θεό, όλα όσα τους απειλούσαν τα διέλυσαν και πέτυχαν την εύνοια του Θεού.
Και βέβαια λέγοντας αυτά σας προτρέπω να πηγαίνετε συνεχώς στις Εκκλησίες, και στο σπίτι να προσεύχεστε με πολλή ησυχία, κι όταν έχετε ελεύθερη ώρα να γονατίζετε και να ανυψώνετε τα χέρια, κι όταν έχετε ελεύθερη ώρα να γονατίζετε και να ανυψώνετε τα χέρια.
Εάν όμως είτε εξαιτίας της ώρας, είτε εξαιτίας του τόπου μείναμε ανάμεσα σε πολλούς άλλους, να μην παραλείπετε εξαιτίας αυτού τις συνηθισμένες προσευχές, αλλά να προσεύχεσθε μ’ αυτόν τον τρόπο, που είπα στην αγάπη σας, και να παρακαλείτε το Θεό, με τη βεβαιότητα ότι δεν θα έχετε τίποτα λιγότερο με αυτή την προσευχή.
Αυτά σας τα είπα όχι για να με θαυμάσετε και να χειροκροτήσετε, αλλά για να τα εφαρμόσετε έμπρακτα και να αφιερώνετε τις ώρες της νύχτας και της ημέρας και της εργασίας στις προσευχές και τις δεήσεις».
(Αγίου Ι. Χρυσοστόμου, Δ΄ομιλία «Περί Άννης»)
Τι αξία έχει αδελφοί μου, εάν μιλώ αιώνια για τον Θεό
Και ο Θεός αιώνια σιωπά;
Μπορώ άραγε να υπερασπιστώ το δίκαιο του Θεού
Εάν ο Θεός δεν το θέσει υπό την προστασία Του;
Μπορώ να αποδείξω τον Θεό στους άθεους εάν ο Θεός κρύβεται;
Μπορώ να αγαπώ τα παιδιά Του
Εάν Αυτός είναι αδιάφορος απέναντι στα παθήματά τους;
Τίποτα από όλα αυτά δεν μπορώ.
Οι λέξεις μου δεν έχουν φτερά για να μπορούν
Να υψώσουν στον Θεό όλους τους πεσμένους και ξεπερασμένους από τον Θεό
Ούτε έχουν φωτιά για να ζεστάνουν τις παγωμένες καρδιές των παιδιών έναντι του Πατέρα τους.
Οι λέξεις μου δεν είναι τίποτα
Αν δεν είναι απήχηση και επανάληψη αυτού που ο Θεός με τη δική του δυνατή γλώσσα λέει.
Τι είναι ο ψίθυρος στα βότσαλα της ακτής μπροστά στο φοβερό βουητό του ωκεανού;
Έτσι είναι και οι λέξεις μου απέναντι στους λόγους του Θεού.
Πώς μπορεί να ακούσει κάποιος τον ψίθυρο στα βότσαλα
Τα σκεπασμένα από τον αφρό του μανιώδους στοιχείου
Όταν είναι κουφός μπροστά στο βουητό του ωκεανού;
Πως θα δει τον Θεό στα λόγια μου εκείνος που δεν μπορεί να τον δει στη φύση και στη ζωή;
Πως οι αδύναμες ανθρώπινες λέξεις μπορούν να πείσουν εκείνον
Που ούτε οι κεραυνοί δεν είναι σε θέσει να πείσουν;
Πως θα ζεσταθεί με μία σπίθα εκείνος που άφησε τη φωτιά πίσω του;
Δεν σιωπά ο Θεός αδελφοί μου, αλλά μιλά δυνατότερα από όλες τις θύελλες και τους κεραυνούς.
Δεν εγκαταλείπει ο Θεός τον δίκαιο, αλλά τον παρακολουθεί στα παθήματά του και απαλά τον οδηγεί στον θρόνο.
Δεν εξαρτάται ο Θεός από οποιουδήποτε την καλή θέληση
Αλλά πράττει τα πάντα εξαρτώμενα από τη δική Του καλή θέληση.
Θα ήταν κακόμοιρος ο Θεός μας, εάν εξαρτιόταν από τις δικανικές υπερασπίσεις ενός θνητού ανθρώπου.
Ο Θεός είναι αυτός που είναι, είτε εμείς τον μεγαλύνουμε είτε τον υποτιμούμε.
Ο Θεός θα υπάρχει , φωτεινός και μεγάλος όπως και σήμερα
Και τότε που οι ακτίνες του ηλίου μάταια θα αναζητούν ένα ανθρώπινο πλάσμα στη γη
Και αντί ζωντανών θα ζεσταίνουν μόνον τους τάφους των νεκρών…
Το ζήτημα της υπάρξεως του Θεού και της Θείας του Οικονομίας
Θα καταστρεφόταν αν εξαρτιόταν από τους λόγους μου και από τις δικές σας συνήθειες.
Αλλά το ζήτημα του Θεού, ανεξάρτητα απ’ όλους εμάς θα πετύχει και θα νικήσει.
Εκείνος του οποίου τα χρόνια δεν έχουν αριθμό και η οντότητά του δεν έχει αρχή και τέλος
Δεν μπορεί να αφήσει το «επίγειο σπίτι» του στις διαθέσεις μας, στα αδύναμα δημιουργήματά του
Των οποίων η αρχή και το τέλος σχεδόν συναντιόνται σε ένα σημείο
Και των οποίων η οντότητα είναι μία κουκκίδα.
Δεν είναι ο άνθρωπος φερέγγυος αλλά ο Θεός και πιστός εγγυητής της Βασιλείας της αγάπης στη γη…
Από το βιβλίο:
Αργά βαδίζει ο Χριστός, Αγίου Νικολάου Βελιμίροβιτς