Tuesday, September 3, 2013
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentile unto all men . . .” (II Timothy 2:24)
OUR PIOUS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, the laity in Christ, must also take care not to be led astray by the spirit of the world and to confuse imprudent zeal with the true spirit of evangelical love.
St. Nectarios of Aegina offers us, in just a few lines, an image of the true zealot of Christ:
“The zealot according to knowledge, motivated by the love of God and his neighbor, does all things with charity and self-effacement; he does nothing that might bring sorrow to his neighbor; such a zealot is enlightened by knowledge and nothing prompts him to deviate from what is morally right” (see Self-Knowledge, pp. 135-136).
The zealot blessed by Christ is a model for the true Christian, the principle characteristics of whom are fervent love for God and neighbor, gentleness, religious tolerance, forgiveness, graciousness of manner, and, in general, all of those fruits of one dwelling in the Holy Spirit.
By contrast, that unfortunate Christian who is inspired by zeal not according to knowledge is a “ruinous man” who literally turns the Gospel of Grace and love upside down.
Let us see how the saints of the Orthodox Church view the zealot whose zeal is not according to wisdom:
his zeal is a “seductive fire, a consuming fire”
“destruction comes forth from him and desolation follows in his wake”
“he beseeches God to send down fire from Heaven and to devour all of those who do not embrace his principles and convictions”
he is “characterized by hatred for those of other religions and confessions, envy and persistent anger, violent resistance to the true spirit of Divine law, an unreasonable obstinacy in defending his own views, a passionate zeal for prevailing in all things, the love of glory, quarrels, contention, and a love of turmoil” (St. Nectarios, ibid.).
Orthodox spirituality has always considered it essential that zeal go hand-in-hand with love, so as not to become deviant:
“Zeal for piety [or preserving the Church and Holy TraditionBMB] is a good thing, but when combined with love” (St. John Damascene, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. SCIV, col. 1436).
The magnificent epistle of St. Dionysios the Areopagite to the Monk Demophilos, in which he expounds in a God-inspired way on the subject of the extremes of importune zeal, shows that this “temptation” among the pious is ancient.
But now let us juxtapose with the demon of imprudent zeal the zealots of Patristic deity, calling to mind their Patristic precepts:
“We will not approve of your fits of rage, which are alien to genuine zeal (‘unenviable impulses’), even if you should invoke Phineas and Elias a thousand times” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. III, col. 1096C, “Epistle to Demophilos the Monk [or Therapeutes, a term used by St. Dionysios for a monastic],” 5).
Likewise, our Savior, through the Apostle Paul, “teaches us that we should educate with gentleness those who reject the teaching of God”; “for the ignorant need to be instructed, not punished, just as we do not chastise the blind, but lead them by the hand” (ibid.).
Let the pious Faithful never forget that the criterion of the genuineness of our love is not imprudent zeal, but withdrawal from all of our passions:
“Strive to love every man equally, and in short you will drive out all of your passions” (St. Thalassios, Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 213, and Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XCI, col. 1441B).
Our zeal for piety, like every other spiritual endeavor, is of doubtful purity and genuineness if it does not incline the heart towards love and humility:
“For every pursuit and every endeavor involving great toil that does not end up in love and a contrite spirit is futile, and yields no profitable result” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, Catechesis I, Sources Chretiennes, Vol. 96, pp. 143-145).
Hence: “Zeal for piety is a good thing, but when combined with love!”
Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili
Just as we are referring to the wonders performed by Saint John, The Baptist, in the present times, we are not departing from our purpose if we also refer to some miracles performed in the past, which have so far been unknown to most of our brothers, through which it is brilliantly manifested how he protects and helps the monastery and its monks…
We will omit the totally unexpected and paradoxical appearance of this protection by the Saint, because its detailed description is read during the joint feast on the day of its commemoration, the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Let’s talk about some events which took place in the island of Poros, and refer to the dangers which those who were at sea have avoided from the day of their departure. In order to avoid talking about these things ourselves, let’s us present the account given by the Abbot Stephanos, who refers to the reasons for this sea voyage and to some historical facts. (These accounts are found in Code 627 of the monastery, 1733-1833).
He writes: “Kassandra has fallen, everyone have been taken captives by the agarinous(Turks) who have even been threatening to capture Ayio Oros. When the monks saw the Turks advancing, they picked up their holy relics and left towards romeiko. I also left among them, with my holy relics. Taking those of the monks who wanted to leave, we deserted the monastery on the 23 of February 1821. That night, there was a storm and high seas, but nevertheless, were embarked and let the waves take us whenever they wanted. During the night we arrived at Amouliani and moored. All the ships belonging to the kleftes also anchored there, but God did not give them permission to touch us.
We got up in the morning, the weather was better. We sailed towards the monastery again, so that we could take some of the things which we had left behind together with the other seven monks. However, a boat from Psara hunted us down; they fired four shots with their guns but we managed to escape towards the port of Sikia and they couldn’t reach us.
While at sea, we met with a lot of dangerous people, who had the same faith as us, but the Lord freed us from all evil. Finally we reached the island of Poros. There, our Christian brothers helped us, despite the presence of some evil people who wanted at first to harm us. Saint John, however, protected us. One such person, a marauder, who wanted us to hand over some silver to decorate his guns, threatened to visit us during the night and do us a lot of harm. Therefore, seeing that I had no choice, I gave him a silver lantern, weighing 80 ounces, and left it to Saint John to judge.
A few days later, the poor guy who got the silver died from dysentery. Then I related everything to his brother, who was a very good man. He was saddened and said to me: “St John certainly killed him”. Then, he run to his brother’s house; he was looking to verify the matter and when he found all the silver he brought it straight back to us, crying bitterly all the way…
Another one, who was the first captain in Poros, took the oars from our boat, bowing to his own wishes and while he was on his boat on the way towards Piada, he had a fight with others. When they shot at each other, one bullet went through one of our oars and hit him on the thigh. Afterwards, he returned to Poros and gave the oars back to us. He even carried out twice, a blessing of water in front of St John’s holy relic but he was not cured. He later died even though his wound was not fatal.
All these have been made known to everyone and the whole world. What happened next? Those villains, who intended to come during the night and steal all our belongings later, became our protectors. Even the Greek parliament sent a boat and a letter to the provosts of the island to send us on our way to Korinthos, which was free from the Turks at the time, but the people of Poros would in no way let us go. This was a miracle performed by Saint John because had we gone, we would have surely lost the treasures of the monastery, since Korinthos’ castle fell once again to the Turks after a little while. The people of Poros did this good deed to us and Saint John benefited them a lot in return. From these I will tell you one:
For seven years they had been suffering from the presence of locusts and they have been losing all they had. Not only the locusts would not leave even a single green leaf but they would eat away even the peels from the lemon trees. As soon as a procession was launched with the relic of the holy, right hand of Saint John leading the way, all the locusts disappeared and the people were consoled because they had started reaping the fruits of their efforts. Indicatively, those days we never needed a doctor, because of the presence of Saint John. They had so benefited from all the miracles that were happening that they wanted us to live at the monastery of Zoodohou Pigis. We did, and we no longer had any material needs. Until the Turks torched Psara from one end to the other and we got scared and left for Eptanisa, the island of Zakinthos. There, the Christians welcomed us and we lived peacefully for four years, truly contended.
When the governor, John Kapodistrias, arrived in Greece, we left Zakinthos and returned to Greece, to the island of Skopelos, at our metohi of Faneromeni, where we stayed for one and a half years. Then, we eventually returned to our own holy monastery with our entire collection of holy relics. Glory be to the Lord, to His Holy Mother, our benefactor, and to our protector, Saint John, for everything. We returned to our monastery on the 5th June 1830. I beg the readers to pray for me, the humble abbot Stephanos, so that my soul finds mercy in the Lord, because of your holy prayers. Amen.
2. A miracle performed by the holy right hand of Saint John.
On Monday, the 16th of May 1961, during the Holy liturgy in honor of the Holy Spirit, ieromonahos Paul, described to me the miracle performed by the right hand of Saint John:
“Did you realize what has happened to me during the liturgy, father Lazaros?”
“What? Please explain to me better”.
“Of course you must have heard me how difficult it was for me to chant because my throat was closed up as a result of the long standing laryngitis”.
“Yes, I did realize this. I was even asking myself how you were going to offer the prayers during the liturgy, especially today when there is a sillitourgo”.
“Listen then. When the priests gathered in the church to take “kero” seeing that I was in such a state, I asked the abbot to bless me with the Saint’s holy hand and to cross me with it. The abbot agreed and crossed me on the head with the hand and offered the specific prayer. I also worshipped the hand, praying with fervor and adoration to the saint to cure me from this illness so that I could offer glory to the Lord, chant the proper hymns and read the Gospel clearly and loudly as I should on such a holy day. This is what I more or less said to the saint. And lo! and behold! The great Saint rushed to give me a fast and wonderful response! I immediately felt the presence of Grace, my throat softened up, my voice could now be heard, and in complete comfort, I gave the responses and I read the Gospel. I then offered sincere and heartfelt thanks from the bottom of my heart to our glorious protector, our Lord’s Baptist, with whose intervention we hope to have a blessed end to our lives, and be received in the k. Let it be done, father! Let it be done!”
Η εικόνα αυτή βρισκόταν από πολύ παλιά στο Καθολικό της Ιεράς Μονής Βατοπεδίου στον κίονα του αριστερού χορού.
Το 1730 όμως εξαφανίστηκε ξαφνικά από τη θέση της, ενώ οι πύλες του ναού ήταν κλειδωμένες, και έτσι η εικόνα μεταφέρθηκε πίσω στη θέση της, ενώ οι Βατοπεδινοί πατέρες έλαβαν αυστηρότατα μέτρα ασφάλειας και σφράγισαν το ναό.
Σε λίγη ώρα, όταν ανοίχτηκε η εκκλησία, για την ακολουθία, η εικόνα έλειπε και πάλι από τη θέση της και πολύ σύντομα έφρανε είδηση από τη Μονή του Ξενοφώντος ότι βρέθηκε και πάλι στην αντίστοιχή θέση του εκεί Καθολικού.
Οι Βατοπεδινοί πείσθηκαν για το θαύμα και αποφάσισαν να μην αντισταθούν άλλο στη θέληση της Θεομήτορος.
Έτρεξαν στη Μονή Ξενοφώντος για να προσκυνήσουν την ";Οδηγήτρια"; και για πολύ καιρό της έστελναν λάδι και κερί στη νέα της κατοικία.
1. Τη συμπεριφορά μας να τη στολίζη το μέτρο. Χωρίς το μέτρο, ακόμη κι αυτά, πού θεωρούνται ως καλά, καταντούν βαρετά και βλαβερά.
2. Δεν μπορείς να νικήσης την αμαρτία, αν δεν φύγης από τα αίτια, πού τη γεννούν. Και τα κυριώτερά της αίτια είναι: Η πολλή ανάπαυση, η καλοπέραση, τα χρήματα, η συναναστροφή με το άλλο φύλο, το ποτό κ.λ.π. Όχι πώς αυτά καθεαυτά είναι αμαρτία, αλλά η κακή χρήση αυτών των πραγμάτων εύκολα μας παρασύρει προς την αμαρτία. Για τούτο ο άνθρωπος πρέπει να προσέχη από όλ’ αυτά. Είπε κάποιος: «Μή χορτάσης ψωμί, και δεν θα επιθυμήσης κρασί». Αυτό θέλει να ‘πή ότι η πτώση σ’ ένα πάθος οδηγεί σε πτώση και σ’ άλλο πάθος.
3. Το ουσιαστικά μοναδικό κακό στον άνθρωπο είναι μόνον η αμαρτία. Να φοβάστε την αμαρτία. Αυτόν, πού φοβάται τις αμαρτίες, τον φυλάττει ο Θεός στον δρόμο της ζωής του. Κι αν συμβή και σκοντάψη σε κάποιο σφάλμα, τον προφθάνει όμως ο Κύριος και τον βοηθεί σύμφωνα με το μεγάλο Του έλεος!
4. Αυτά, πού λέγεις, κι αυτά, πού στοχάζεσαι στη διάρκεια της ημέρας, γεννούν ανάλογα όνειρα στη διάρκεια της νύκτας. Αν όλη την ημέρα προσεύχεσαι και κάνης καλούς λογισμούς, θα ‘χης ύπνο ήρεμο και όνειρα καλά. Αν όλη την ήμερα αργολογής και συγκατατίθεσαι στους αμαρτωλούς λογισμούς, θα ‘χης και ύπνο άσχημο, μαζί και πειρασμούς.
5. Τέλεια αμαρτία είναι, όταν τη διαπράττη κανείς και με τον λογισμό και με το σώμα. Κατά το ήμισυ αμαρτία είναι, όταν αφίνης τον λογισμό μόνο να σκέφτεται την αμαρτία. Αλλ’ όμως δεν μένει ατιμώρητος ούτε κι αυτός, πού, έστω και κατά διάνοιαν μόνο, αμαρτάνει.
6. Αυτό είναι ο αόρατος πόλεμος: Το να πολεμά ο άνθρωπος να νικά την αμαρτία από το στάδιο των λογισμών, οπότε ασφαλώς θα αποφεύγη και τις αμαρτωλές πράξεις.
7. Η αγάπη μαζί με την ταπείνωση είναι οι δύο φτερούγες, τις οποίες, αν αποκτήσουμε, γινόμαστε «ως αετοί υπόπτεροι», και μπορούμε να φθάσουμε μέχρι τους επτά ουρανούς! Για τούτο να μή αμελούμε τον αγώνα γι’ αυτές τις δύο κορυφαίες αρετές.
8. Πρέπει πάντοτε να έχωμε μνήμη Θεού. Και ο,τι πρόκειται να κάνουμε, η να ειπούμε, η να σκεφτούμε πρέπει να ερωτούμε τον εαυτό μας: «Αρέσει αυτό στον Θεό; Είναι καλό;» Και η φωνή του Θεού, η συνείδηση, θα μας απαντήση μέσα μας αν είναι καλό η όχι. Γι’ αυτό και τώρα, πού αρχίζετε τον πνευματικό αγώνα, να βάλετε καλή αρχή, για να είναι και το τέλος καλό
Pride, of course, is the head of the family of the seven capital sins in Christian tradition, the granddaddy of evil. It might seem like it only appears in the ownership of mansions, sportscars, and the ability to command untold numbers of other people to fan you with banana leaves. But pride is a problem of anyone who can somehow look in the mirror and pronounce the word invincible.
You may remember the story in the Bible of the Pharisee and the tax collector who visit the Temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14 ). The tax collector who earns his bread by extorting from his own people the large taxes and tolls the occupying Roman forces require knows he is a terrible sinner and makes no bones about it. He buries his face in his hands and begs God for mercy.
The Pharisee, a ¨religiοus man¨, feels no such guilt or need for divine help. He smugly thanks God he is not like that sinner, the tax collector, and then goes on to bend the Almighty’s ear with his ¨ hefty spiritual accomplishments¨. He somehow forgets to mention any possible failures. This is a man who knows his strengths but is unfamiliar with his weaknesses!!
Such is the sound of spiritual pride or arrogance.
In God’s eyes, spiritual arrogance is not to be taken lightly.
Eventually, Elder Paissios got cancer and was taken into hospital in Thessaloniki. At the hospital, they looked after him as best they could. Nevertheless, his cancer spread so much that the end was very near. His departure for Heaven was a matter of time. He had been preparing himself for this journey all his life. Thus, for whatever time was left, he wished to stay at the monastery of St John the Apostle in Souroti. Mr. Christofer Oikonomou, now deceased, was near him and he describes in a letter geronta’s departure from the hospital.
“Today, Fr Paisios left the hospital. There were many people there. We were told that he would give his blessing in the reception. Lots of people, women, doctors, nurses, even the ailing, were swarming besides him. He lifted up his hand and said goodbye to those sick in the other rooms. There was this man, who had the drip on his hand, bowed to kiss Fr Paisios’s hand, but Fr. Paisios kissed his instead. While standing in front of the lift, he blessed us all. He went into the lift to go down in the street. We all run down the stairs to see him for the last time. People surrounded the car while snowflakes danced on the street. The nurse was admonishing us so that people would let him get in the car, because he was sick and very weak.
He finally got in the car after crossing himself. Everyone was trying to touch him, some were holding his hand, and some were touching the glass of the window. The car began leaving very slowly because there was a lot of traffic. Even then, doctors, nurses, all came down to say goodbye and were touching the car’s windows, since the car was moving very slowly. His car passed in front of my house”.
Mr Christopher continues:
“What was that all about? People were following him as if he was the Messiah. It was like something out of Palm Sunday, except that we had a car instead of the donkey! Everyone was moved, some women were crying. He, himself was also touched because of the abundant love that people were showering him with. It was as if he was saying that he would pay everyone back with a lot of praying”.
And Mr Christopher went on to reflect:
“Does our generation owe little to the prayers of this man? He is a saint amongst us. He is the incarnation of the fulfillment of the Gospel”.
Fr Paisios died on the 12th July 1994.
The last days of gerontas Paissios eventually, gerontas Paisios got cancer and was taken into hospital in Thessaloniki. At the hospital, they looked after him as best they could. Nevertheless, his cancer spread so much that the end was very near. His departure for Heaven was a matter of time. He had been preparing himself for this journey all his life. Thus, for whatever time was left, he wished to stay at the monastery of St John the Apostle in Souroti. Mr. Christofer Oikonomou, now deceased, was near him and he describes in a letter geronta’s departure from the hospital.“Today, Fr Paisios left the hospital. There were many people there. We were told that he would give his blessing in the reception. Lots of people, women, doctors, nurses, even the ailing, were swarming besides him. He lifted up his hand and said goodbye to those sick in the other rooms. There was this man, who had the drip on his hand, bowed to kiss Fr Paisios’s hand, but Fr. Paisios kissed his instead. While standing in front of the lift, he blessed us all. He went into the lift to go down in the street. We all run down the stairs to see him for the last time. People surrounded the car while snowflakes danced on the street. The nurse was admonishing us so that people would let him get in the car, because he was sick and very weak. He finally got in the car after crossing himself. Everyone was trying to touch him, some were holding his hand, and some were touching the glass of the window. The car began leaving very slowly because there was a lot of traffic. Even then, doctors, nurses, all came down to say goodbye and were touching the car’s windows, since the car was moving very slowly. His car passed in front of my house”.Fr Christopher continues:“What was that all about? People were following him as if he was the Messiah. It was like something out of Palm Sunday, except that we had a car instead of the donkey! Everyone was moved, some women were crying. He, himself was also touched because of the abundant love that people were showering him with. It was as if he was saying that he would pay everyone back with a lot of praying”.And Fr Christopher went on to reflect:“Does our generation owe little to the prayers of this man? He is a saint amongst us. He is the incarnation of the fulfillment of the Gospel”.Fr Paisios died on the 12th July 1994.