Thursday, November 21, 2013
Η πράξη της νοεράς προσευχής είναι να βιάσεις τον εαυτόν σου να λέγεις συνεχώς την ευχή με το στόμα αδιαλείπτως.
Στην αρχή γρήγορα, να μην προφθάνει ο νους να σχηματίζει λογισμό μετεωρισμού.
Να προσέχεις μόνο στα λόγια: «Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με».
Όταν αυτό πολυχρονίσει, το συνηθίζει ο νους και το λέγει και γλυκαίνεσαι ωσάν να έχεις μέλι στο στόμα σου και θέλεις να το λέγεις.
Αν το αφήσεις στενοχωρείσαι πολύ.
Όταν το συνηθίσει ο νους και χορτάσει -το μάθει καλά- τότε το στέλνει στην καρδιά.
Επειδή ο νους είναι ο τροφοδότης της ψυχής και μεταφέρει στην καρδιά οτιδήποτε φαντασθεί.
Όταν ο ευχόμενος κρατεί τον νου του να μη φαντάζεται τίποτε, αλλά να προσέχει μόνο τα λόγια της ευχής, τότε αναπνέοντας ελαφρά με κάποια βία και θέληση δική του τον κατεβάζει στην καρδιά, και τον κρατεί μέσα και λέγει με ρυθμό την ευχή, «Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με» ...;
Αν θέλεις να βρεις τον Θεό δια της «ευχής» δεν θα σταματάς ποτέ αυτήν την εργασία. Όρθιος, καθήμενος, βαδίζοντας δεν θα μένεις χωρίς την ευχή.
Να μη βγαίνει πνοή χωρίς την ευχή για να εφαρμόζεται ο λόγος του Παύλου «αδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε, εν παντί ευχαριστείτε».
Εάν μπορέσεις να λέγεις την «ευχή» εκφώνως και συνέχεια, σε δύο-τρεις μήνες πιστεύω την συνηθίζεις και μετά πλησιάζει η Θεία Χάρις και σε ξεκουράζει.
Αρκεί να μη σταματήσεις να την λέγεις με το στόμα, χωρίς διακοπή.
Όταν την παραλάβει ο νους τότε θα ξεκουρασθείς με την γλώσσα να την λέγεις.
Όλη η βία είναι στην αρχή, έως ότου γίνει συνήθεια.
Κατόπιν θα την έχεις σ' όλα τα χρόνια της ζωής σου.
Μόνο κτύπα ευθέως την θύρα του θείου ελέους και πάντως ο Χριστός μας θα σου ανοίξει, εάν επιμένεις.
Γέροντος Ιωσήφ Ησυχαστή
Ἔγινε μόδα καί σάν τέτοια γνωρίζει διαρκῶς ἄκρατη καί ἄκριτη υἱοθέτηση. Ἄσχετα ἄν κάποτε ἀποτελοῦσε «προνόμιο» περιθωριακῶν ἀτόμων, ναυτικῶν ἤ καταδίκων στήν πλειονότητά τους.
Ἀπό τή στιγμή πού τό πρωτοϋιοθέτησαν ἀστέρες τῆς ρόκ καί πιό συγκεκριμένα τῆς πάνκ μουσικῆς καί πρόσωπα τῆς ἕβδομης τέχνης, πέρασε στίς προτιμήσεις τῶν εὐρύτερων μαζῶν καί μάλιστα τῶν νέων. Κάποιοι τό προσεγγίζουν περισσότερο σάν τέχνη, σάν κόσμημα. Μιά ἀνεξίτηλη δημιουργία πάνω στό ἴδιο τους τό σῶμα.
Ἄλλωστε αὐτό σημαίνει. Στήν πολυνησιακή διάλεκτο ἡ λέξη «Τά» σημαίνει σχέδιο, καί «ατουάζ» δηλώνει αὐτόν πού δίνει πνοή στά πλάσματα τῆς γῆς! Πιό ἁπλά τατουάζ σημαίνει «τό σχέδιο πού σοῦ δίνει τήν προστασία τῶν θεῶν». Παράλληλα ἔχει τίς ἔννοιες «ἀνεξίτηλο σημάδι», «σχέδιο στό δέρμα», «μαρκάρω κάτι», «κεντῶ πάνω στό δέρμα».
Ἡ ἁλματώδης διάδοσή του σήμερα, μάλιστα μεταξύ τῶν νέων ἀνθρώπων, μᾶς ὤθησε νά δημοσιοποιήσουμε ἕνα βαθύτερο προβληματισμό. Ἴσως κάποιοι νά τόν θεωρήσουν ἀκραῖο. Ὑπερβολικό. Γιατί ὅμως νά μήν ἰσχύει, τή στιγμή μάλιστα πού ἀρχικά καί σέ ἀρκετούς λαούς συμβολίζει τήν προστασία τῶν θεῶν;
Γι’ αὐτό ἀκριβῶς τόν λόγο δέν θά σχολιάσουμε τίς ἐπιπτώσεις τοῦ ἀνεξίτηλου. Τό γεγονός δηλαδή ὅτι, ἄν κάποιος τό μετανιώσει, πολύ δύσκολα καί σίγουρα πολυέξοδα ἐπανέρχεται στήν προηγούμενη κατάσταση, πρίν τό «χτυπήσει».
Οὔτε θά ἀναμηρυκάσουμε προβληματισμούς τοῦ στύλ: Πῶς θά φαίνεται ἀλήθεια αὐτό, ὅταν περάσουν τά χρόνια; ὅταν τό κορμί γεράσει; Τί θά λέμε στό παιδί μας μεθαύριο πού θά μᾶς ρωτάει γι’ αὐτό ἤ θά τό χρησιμοποιεῖ ὑπέρ τῶν δικῶν του διεκδικήσεων;
Δέν θά ὑπεισέλθουμε στήν ἀπορία πολλῶν γιά τό ἄν καί κατά πόσον εἶναι ἐπώδυνη ἡ διαδικασία ἀπόκτησής του ἤ ἐπικίνδυνη γιά τήν σωματική ὑγεία.
Θά ἀποφύγουμε ἐπίσης τήν αἰσθητική κριτική τῶν περισσοτέρων ἐξ αὐτῶν, μέ ἀποτρόπαιες καί ἀποκρουστικές παραστάσεις τρομακτικῶν προσώπων, δαιμόνων καί φρικιαστικῶν σκηνῶν.Πολύ περισσότερο, δέν θά προσεγγίσουμε τό θέμα θεολογικά γιά τό ἄν καί κατά πόσο εἶναι ἐπιτρεπτό νά στιγματίζουμε μέ ἀνεξίτηλο τρόπο τό σῶμα μας, πού εἶναι ναός τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος.
Ἕναν ἄλλο προβληματισμό θέλουμε νά θέσουμε. Κάτι πού βαθύτερα πρέπει νά μᾶς ἀπασχολήσει καί νά μᾶς ὑποψιάσει. Τό γεγονός δηλαδή ὅτι τό tatoο παραμένει ἐφ’ ὅρου ζωῆς ἀνεξίτηλα χαραγμένο στό σῶμα μας, μήπως φανερώνει τόν ἐθισμό καί τήν ἐξοικείωσή μας μέ κάτι τό ὁποῖο μπαίνει σάν χάραγμα πάνω μας; Μήπως δηλαδή, πιό ἁπλά, μέσα ἀπό αὐτή τή σύγχρονη μόδα ἤ ἰδεολογία, οἱ πάντες, μικροί καί μεγάλοι, φέροντες ἤ μή φέροντες tatoo, ἐξοικειώνονται μέ τήν ἰδέα, τήν αἰσθητική καί τήν πραγματικότητα, ὅτι φέρουμε διαρκῶς κάτι ἀνεξίτηλο πάνω μας, πού λίγο ἕως πολύ χαρακτηρίζει τό γοῦστο μας, ἐμᾶς τούς ἴδιους τελικά;
Κι ὅπως πολύ εὔκολα σήμερα οἱ πάντες ἀποδέχονται καί καλοδέχονται τή νέα μόδα τοῦ tattoo, ἔτσι εὔκολα καί προϊδεασμένα ἀπό αὐτό δέν θά ἀποδεχθοῦν καί τό ἐπερχόμενο καί ἐπιβαλλόμενο χάραγμα τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου;.
Γιατί, ἄν κάποτε τό tattoo ἀφοροῦσε στήν αἰσθητική καί τήν προτίμηση περιθωριακῶν ἀτόμων, ὅμως τώρα, –ὅσο ἀκραία συνωμοσιολογική καί ἀπίθανη κι ἄν ἀκούγεται μιά τέτοια ἀποψη– τείνει νά γίνει μιά ἀποδεκτή πραγματικότητα ἀπό τούς περισσότερους ἀνθρώπους. Ἴσως τελικά νά μήν εἶναι τόσο ἁπλά τά πράγματα. Οὔτε μόνο θέμα μόδας ἤ μοντέρνας αἰσθητικῆς. Ἴσως νά εἶναι ὁ πρόδρομος μιᾶς νέας ἐποχῆς. Αὐτῆς τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου, τό χάραγμα τοῦ ὁποίου μᾶς προετοιμάζουν μέ πολλούς τρόπους νά τό δεχθοῦμε χωρίς ἀντίδραση. Γιατί ἀλήθεια νά μήν ἰσχύει κάτι τέτοιο;
Ιδού και το ΤΣΙΠΑΚΙ - ΤΑΤΟΥΑΖ, για όσους πουν ότι είμαστε «υπερβολικοί» και «συνωμοσιολόγοι»!!!
Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie; 1912–1998) was a well known twentieth century writer and spiritual elder of Romania. One chapter in his book, The Truth of Our Faith, is dedicated to the defense of the Orthodox teaching on Holy Scripture against criticism by Protestants. This chapter, organized as a dialogue, is a helpful aide in apologetics, and explains the significance of Tradition in the Orthodox Church.
Inquirer: What is the Holy Tradition that the Orthodox consider to be the second source of Holy Revelation and equal to Holy Scripture?
Elder Cleopa: Holy Tradition is the teaching of the Church, given by God with a living voice, a portion of which was later written down. Like Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition also contains Holy Revelation, and is therefore fundamental for our salvation. Holy Tradition is the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit; and, in concord with the enduring life of the Church, it is a wellspring of Holy Revelation, and thus it possesses the same authority as Holy Scripture.
According to the old chronologies, 3,678 years passed from the time of Adam to Abraham; if we add 430 years of the Israelites' time in Egypt, we have 4,108 years. Throughout this period of time Holy Scripture did not exist, nor was the Sabbath observed among the people. For thousands of years the faithful and chosen people were guided on the path of salvation by Holy Tradition alone—namely, from the teachings about God which they received from a living voice. Only during the 1,400 years from the time of Moses until the advent of Christ were they guided by the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament.
Just as people were guided in the knowledge of God and on the path of salvation by Holy Tradition alone (that is, by a living voice—oral tradition) during the period of time before the books of the Old Testament were written, so were the people similarly guided before books of the New Testament were written. Holy Tradition was the guide by which the first Christians were directed to the path of salvation. The first Person to bring the teachings of the New Testament with a living voice to the ears of the people was our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, Who taught the people continually for three and a half years, spreading His Gospel without writing any of it down. Inasmuch as He was fulfilling His obedience to His Father, He did not send His Apostles to write the Gospel, but rather to preach it to the whole world, saying: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Mat. 28:19-20). From its establishment in (33 AD) until the year 44 AD, when the Holy Apostle Matthew wrote the first Gospel, the Church was governed without the Scriptures of the New Testament, but by Holy Tradition, only part of which was later recorded. Although there were many other writers who were considered inspired and faithful scribes of the Apostles, it is the Church which did or did not recognize them, for She is unerring. The Church lived the truth of the Gospel even before anything was committed to writing, having lived by Holy Tradition from the outset.
Thus, Holy Tradition is this: the source and the root of the two Testaments—the Old and the New—and this is why we call it a source of Holy Revelation, for it carries the same weight as Holy Scripture.
Inq.: Yes, but it is said that because Holy Scripture is the word of God it must not be substituted by or exchanged for Tradition, which is the word of man, as is written in the Gospel: Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying: This people . . . in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. (Mat. 15:3, 6-9; Mk. 7:13). Thus, we have no need to replace or supplement the law of God, contained in Holy Scripture, with the tradition of men.
EC: What your friends have told you is not at all true, since the law of God is not contained in Holy Scripture alone. Listen to what the divine Evangelist John says: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen (Jn. 21:25). Again, the same Evangelist declares in one of his epistles: Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full (2 Jn. 1:12). So you see that when the holy Evangelist had the opportunity, he taught his disciples more by the living voice of Tradition than by his epistles to them. While your friends observe at all costs only what is written, they do not take into account that the Saviour and the majority of His Apostles did not leave any writings, but rather taught orally, with the living voice of Tradition.
Inq.: In that case, I don't know how Christians are to understand the statement that we must not be seduced by the false teachings of men, especially those who are religious and rely on Scripture. After all, the Apostle counsels us: Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col. 2:8). It is our responsibility, then, to preserve ourselves from the false traditions of men.
EC: Dearest to Christ, you do not discern the difference between the teachings of human traditions and those that proceed from the apostolic and evangelical tradition. You have brought an excerpt here from Holy Scripture that refers to the tradition of human teachings and pseudo philosophy that has no relationship whatsoever to the evangelical and Apostolic Tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ. Holy Tradition is neither a tradition of men, nor a philosophy, nor some kind of trickery; it is the word of God which He personally delivered to us. The great Apostle Paul teaches and exhorts us to fervently keep the traditions, saying; Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Thess. 2:15). Some people to the contrary advise weaker Christians to slander and abandon the Apostolic and evangelical traditions, not understanding that Holy Scripture itself is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it grew out of the roots and tree of Holy Tradition.
Inq.: Why isn't Holy Scripture sufficient for faith and salvation, with no need whatsoever of Tradition? This is apparent from the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:15-16). These words are clear. It is unnecessary to add anything to Holy Scripture.
EC: Here he is speaking only of Old Testament Scripture, for the New Testament had not yet been written. Paul wrote to Timothy that a good teacher could use the Old Testament to support his faith in Christ and his instruction in Christianity. According to the notion that you mistakenly assert, it would follow that not one book of the New Testament—those written after the epistles of the Apostle Paul to Timothy—should be accepted. It is enough instead for us to recognize the Old Testament books mentioned in the passage to which you refer.
Inq.: Some people don't acknowledge Tradition because they say that with the passing of time it yielded to many illegitimate elements; so that, especially today, we are no longer able to discern the true Apostolic Tradition from the false.
EC: The Church of Christ determined the truths of the Faith, according to the long course of Tradition, through the teachings and canons of the holy Ecumenical Councils, decrees and the Symbol of Faith [The Creed], and by confessions [of Faith] made by holy and wonderworking hierarchs at the many local synods which have been held continuously since days of old. At these synods, the authenticity and genuineness of the holy Orthodox Faith was firmly established, primarily in those areas where it was attacked by the existing heresies of the time. The irrevocable and inalterable content of Holy Tradition emerges from the totality of those synods. This can be understood by closely examining the essence of the following precepts:
- Do not sanction concepts that contain inconsistencies or contradictions with Apostolic Tradition and Holy Scripture. (A teaching is to be considered worthy of the name ”Tradition” when it stems from the Saviour or the Holy Apostles, and is directly influenced by the Holy Spirit.)
- Tradition is that which has been protected by the Apostolic Church, and has an uninterrupted continuity up to today.
- Tradition is that which is confessed and practiced by the entire universal Orthodox Church.
- Tradition is that which is in harmony with the greater part of the [Church] fathers and ecclesiastical writers.
When a tradition does not fulfill these stipulations, it cannot be considered true and holy, and consequently cannot be considered admissible or fit to be observed.
Inq.: Notwithstanding all the efforts which you say the Orthodox Church has made and continues to make relative to the truth of Tradition, some believe only the teachings which are contained in Holy Scripture. For the first Christians—they say—accepted only such writings as were contained in Holy Scripture, as it is written: These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11). From this it follows that we should observe the teachings we find in Holy Scripture.
EC: The great Apostle Paul, however, commends the Christians of Corinth not because they kept the written teachings, but because they obeyed him and diligently observed the oral teachings that they had received from him. Listen to what he writes; Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and even as I delivered to you, ye are holding fast the traditions (1 Cor. 11:2). I wonder which is better for us to do: to observe only the written teachings, or to follow the great Apostle Paul who extols those who keep the unwritten tradition as well? Furthermore, we have established that the Holy Apostles and Evangelists believed and preached abundantly from Holy Tradition, which they inherited from of old, and which is not written anywhere in Holy Scripture.
Inq.: Where specifically does it appear that the Holy Apostles taught anything other than what was written in Holy Scripture?
EC: Here are two testimonies: The Holy Apostle Jude says in his catholic epistle, including in verse nine: But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, The Lord rebuke thee (Jude 9). Dearest to Christ, search all of Holy Scripture and see if you will find this citation. Still further down in the same epistle the Apostle refers to the prophecy of Enoch, saying: And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him (Jude 14-20). However, the Apostle Jude is not the only one to speak from Tradition. Listen to what the illustrious Paul says in his second epistle to Timothy: Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith (2 Tim. 3:8). And again the renowned Apostle Paul, guiding the priests of Ephesus, says: Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Now I ask you who insist on only putting faith in the written word: From where did the two Apostles—Jude and Paul—take these words? For you will not find them anywhere in Holy Scripture.
Inq.: Still, I question the possibility of preserving Holy Tradition to this day unadulterated and genuine in all respects, as it was in the beginning. Shouldn't we possess more assurances from the written teachings of Holy Scripture?
EC: You saw how the famed Paul commends the Christians of Corinth for carefully and mindfully keeping the unwritten traditions they had received from his very lips. Moreover, you heard that the Apostles Paul and Jude employed words in their preaching taken directly from Holy Tradition, such as those referring to the prophecy of Enoch, and others. I also pointed out to you by what means Holy Tradition was preserved throughout the ages. Furthermore, the same Apostle Paul exhorts and directs the Christians of Thessalonica to be very attentive and vigilant to keep the Holy Tradition: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Thess. 2:15). And in another place he says: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8). In other words, he is speaking of the Gospel that he handed down to them with a living voice and not only by the written word.
Inq.: How was this Canon of Holy Tradition in the Church preserved over the span of thousands of years? In our age, some allege that the clergy and ecclesiastical writers alter from day to day the truth of Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, which in the beginning was authentic and genuine? They say that if you have in your hand a book that was published 50 years ago and you put it next to one published recently, they would have nothing in common. It therefore follows that if the hierarchs and priests have done this with the sacred books, they would do the same with the Holy Tradition which the Orthodox boast they have preserved unscathed from [the time of] the Holy Apostles.
EC: What your companions have accepted is not at all correct. The teachings of the Church of Christ are guarded by the Holy Spirit and cannot err (Mat. 10:17-20, John 4: 16-26, 1 Tim. 3:15). The very founder of the Church, Jesus Christ, governs it in an unseen way, until the end of the ages (Mat. 28:20). If some ecclesiastical writers, hierarchs, priests or laity translated the Bible from another language, or amended some passage containing an expression which does not correspond to our present-day speech, this would only be an adjustment and modification of the expression, and not a serious alteration of the substance of the Biblical text. If a Romanian from the time of the Elder Mirtsea or Stephan the Great (1504) were resurrected today and you wanted to speak with him, you would only with difficulty understand him, because the language has developed into something that is not exactly what was spoken then. This is precisely what has happened with respect to the books. With the passage of time, the writers' words or expressions were amended with appropriate present-day language—without however, changing the meaning of the profound and sacred writings. I previously referred you to the foundation upon which Holy Tradition rests, and the means by which its authentic, original image is reliably preserved and conveyed throughout the ages. I am referring to the ancient Symbol of Faith (The Creed), the Apostolic Canons, and the dogmatic decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. To these can also be added the following monumental and meaningful testaments—assurances of the unimpaired preservation of Holy Tradition:
- The acts of the early Church are witnesses by the company of the Apostles, amongst whom are Saint Ignatius the God-bearer (+104 AD), a disciple of the Apostles, and Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (+106 AD). These Fathers admonished the faithful of their day to guard themselves from the teachings of heretics, and to fully maintain only the Apostolic Tradition (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, 2:36).
- Eusebius tells us that Hegessipus attempted to collect the whole of apostolic tradition, and he nearly accomplished this, gathering more than five volumes of material that Eusebius had studied. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, these books were eventually lost (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, 4:8).
- Saint Irenaeus (+202 AD) and Clement of Alexandria (+215 AD) inform us: ”Those who explain Scripture without the help of the Church's Tradition cut asunder the significance of truth” (Stromatis, p. 7).
Further behold those brilliant witnesses representing the faith of apostolic times and the period immediately following them up until the fourth century. The acts of the ancient Church are an important testimony to the value of the Holy Tradition, and to the honor shown it from those times until today.
- Origin (+250 AD) says: ”Preserve the Holy Tradition in the Church.”
- St. Epiphanios (+403 AD) writes: ”It is necessary to hold to the Tradition because it is not possible for everything to be found in Holy Scripture. The Holy Apostles handed down some things via the written word, while others via the spoken.”
- Saint John Chrysostom (+407 AD) says: ”Hence it is clear that the Holy Apostles did not deliver everything by epistle; rather many things they handed down via the spoken word which is also trustworthy. If there is Tradition, then don't ask for anything more” (4th Homily on 2 Thess. See verse 2:45)
- Saint Gregory of Nyssa (+394 AD) writes: ”We have the Tradition established for us by the Fathers as an inheritance by Apostolic succession, transmitted via the saints” (Against Eunomius, Book 40).
- Saint Basil the Great (+379 AD) in his writings provides similar testimony. Here is how he expresses it: ”Among the dogmas and kerygma (evangelical truths) that are safeguarded in the Church, some we have from the written teachings, while others we have received orally from the Tradition of the Apostles through hidden succession. The latter hold the same legitimacy and force as the written texts” (On the Holy Spirit).
We must uphold Holy Tradition with great reverence and godliness, for not all that is needful to effect our salvation is found within Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture instructs us to do many things; however, it does not manifest the light to us. For example, it instructs us to be baptized, but it doesn't explain to us the method. Likewise, it guides us to confess our sins, to receive Communion, to be sacramentally wed; but nowhere does it specify the rite enabling us to fulfill these mysterion (sacraments). Furthermore, it instructs us to pray, but doesn't tell us how, where, and when. It tells us to make the sign of the Holy Cross in front of our chest according to the psalmist: Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us; but it doesn't show us how. Who teaches us in writing to worship facing east? Where in Scripture are we told the words of the epiclesis (invocation) of the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of the all-holy Mysteries? Which teaching from Holy Scripture instructs us to bless the water of Baptism and the oil of Holy Chrismation? Which passage in Scripture teaches us about the threefold denunciation and the renunciations of Satan before Holy Baptism? The prayer of glorification toward the Holy Trinity—”Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”—from which passage did it come to us?
Posing these questions to the slanderer of Tradition, Saint Basil the Great says: ”If we consent to abandon the unwritten traditions on the pretext that they don't have great worth, we err in great and elevated matters, rejecting the Gospel.”
Therefore, the order by which the Church upholds the unwritten is as follows: Whatever is of Apostolic origin and is practiced by the Fathers becomes valid as tradition, and has the power of law in the Church of Christ (The Rudder, Neamts Monastery, 1844, Canons 87, 91). It must be preserved accordingly, because its importance and benefit springs from the relationship that exists between it and Holy Scripture. It is true that both have remained within a reciprocal unity and intimate relationship—a relationship based upon the fact that both comprise the holy Revelation of God, and are the fount and source of Revelation for us. Hence, it is not possible for an inner contradiction to exist between the two, or for us to exclude one from the other. Holy Scripture possesses its unique witness of scriptural canon, as well as its dogmatic character (its divine inspiration), only in and with Holy Tradition; while Holy Tradition is able to prove the authenticity of its truth only together with Holy Scripture.
From The Truth of Our Faith: A Discourse from Holy Scripture on the
Teachings of True Christianity, By Elder Cleopa of Romania
Elder Cleopas (Ilie)
What is repentance and confession?
Confession is a God-given commandment, and it is one of the Sacraments of our Church. Confession is not a formal, habitual (”to be on the safe side”, or, ”in view of upcoming feast-days”), forced and unprepared act, springing from an isolated duty or obligation and for psychological relief only. Confession should always be combined with repentance. A Holy Mountain Elder used to say: ”Many confess, but few repent!” (Elder Aemilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Mt. Athos)
Repentance is a freely-willed, internally cultivated process of contrition and sorrow for having distanced ourselves from God through sin. True repentance has nothing to do with intolerable pain, excessive sorrow and relentless guilty feelings. That would not be sincere repentance, but a secret egotism, a feeling of our ”ego” being trampled on; an anger that is directed at our self, which then wreaks revenge because it is exposing itself and is put to shame—a thing that it cannot tolerate.
Repentance means a change in our thoughts, our mentality; it is an about-face; it is a grafting of morality and an abhorrence of sin.
Repentance also means a love of virtue, benevolence, and a desire, a willingness and a strong disposition to be re-joined to Christ through the Grace of the almighty Holy Spirit.
Repentance begins in the depths of the heart, but it culminates necessarily in the sacrament of divine and sacred Confession.
During confession, one confesses sincerely and humbly before the confessor, as though in the presence of Christ. No scientist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, sociologist, philosopher or theologian can replace the confessor.
No icon—not even the most miracle-working one—can provide what the confessor's stole can: the absolution of sins. The confessor takes the person under his care; he adopts him and ensures he is reborn spiritually, which is why he is called a ”spiritual father”.
Normally, spiritual paternity is lifelong, sacred and powerful—even more powerful than a family bond. Spiritual birth is a painful process. The confessor must keep track of the confessing soul, with a fear of God (as one who is ”accountable to God”), with understanding, humility and love, and guide him with discretion in the ever-upward course of his life in Christ.
The confessor-priest has been given a special blessing by his bishop for the undertaking of his confessional work. However, the gift of ”binding and un-binding” sins is initially acquired through his ordination as presbyter, when he is rendered a successor to the Apostles. Thus, validity and canonicity in Apostolic succession, through bishops, is of central and great importance. Like all the other holy sacraments of our Church, the sacrament of Confession is performed (and it bestows Grace on the faithful), not in conjunction with the skill, the science, the literacy, the eloquence, the energy and the artfulness of the priest—not even with his virtue and holiness—but through the canonicity (validity) of his priesthood and through the ”Master of Ceremonies”—the Holy Spirit.
The possible sins of the priest do not obstruct divine Grace during the Sacraments. Woe betide, if we were to doubt (on account of the unworthiness of the priest) that the bread and the wine actually become the Body and the Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy! This of course does not mean that the priest should not have to constantly concern himself with his own ”cleanliness”.
Thus, there is no such thing as ”good” or ”bad” confessors. Each and every confessor provides the exact same absolution. However, we do have the right to choose our confessor; and of course we have the right to turn to the one who truly makes us feel at ease with him spiritually. To constantly change our confessor however, is not a very sober decision; this kind of tendency does not reveal spiritual maturity. But confessors should, respectively, not fret excessively—or even create problems—when a spiritual child of theirs happens to depart from them.
This may mean that they were morbidly attached to each other (sentimentally, to the person, and not to Christ, nor to the Church). They may also regard that departure as an insult; one that is demeaning to them and makes them think there is no-one better than them, or, it may give them a feeling that the other ”belongs” to them exclusively and they can therefore dominate them and in fact even behave forcibly towards them, as if they were repressed and confined subordinates.
We did mention that the confessor is a spiritual father, and that spiritual fatherhood and spiritual childbirth entails labor.
Thus, it is only natural for the confessor to feel sorrow upon the departure of his spiritual child. However, it is preferable for him to pray for his child's spiritual progress and his union to the Church, even despite his disengagement from him. He must wish for, and not against that child.
The confessor's work is not just the superficial hearing of a person's sins and the reciting of the prayer of absolution afterwards. Nor is it restricted to the hour of confession. Like a good father, the confessor continuously cares for his child; he listens to him and observes him carefully, he counsels him appropriately, he guides him along the lines of the Gospel, he highlights his talents, he does not place unnecessary burdens on him, he imposes canons (penances) with leniency and only when he must, he consoles him when he is disheartened, weighed down, resentful, exhausted, and he heals him accordingly, without ever discouraging him, but constantly pursuing the struggle for the eradication of his passions and the harvesting of virtues; constantly shaping his eternal soul to be Christ-like.
This ever-developing paternal and filial relationship between confessor and spiritual child eventually culminates in a feeling of comfort, trust, respect, sanctity and elation. When confessing, one opens his heart to the confessor and discloses the innermost, basest, and most unclean—in fact, all—of his secrets, his most intimate actions and detrimental desires, even those that he would not want to confess to himself, nor tell his next-of-kin or his closest friend. For this reason, the confessor must have an absolute respect for the unlimited trust that is being shown to him by the person confessing.
This trust most assuredly builds up with time, but also by the fact that the confessor is strictly bound (in fact to the death) by the divine and Sacred Canons of the Church, to the confidentiality that confession entails.
In Orthodox confession there are of course no general instructions, because the spiritual guidance that each unique soul requires is entirely personalized. Each person is unprecedented, with a particular psychosynthesis, a different character, differing potentials and abilities, limitations, tendencies, tolerances, knowledge, needs and dispositions. With the Grace of God and with divine enlightenment, the confessor must discern all these characteristics, in order to decide what he can utilize best, so that the person confessing will be helped in the best possible manner. At times, leniency will be required, while at other times, austerity.
The same thing does not apply to each and every person. Nor should the confessor ALWAYS be strict, just for the sake of being called strict and respected as such; and he should likewise not ALWAYS be excessively lenient, in order to become the preferred choice and be regarded as a ”spiritual father of many”. What is required of him is a fear of God, discernment, honesty, humility, deliberation, understanding and prayer.
”Economy” (Oekonomia: to make allowances for something, exceptionally) is not demanded of the person confessing, nor is it proper for the confessor to make it a rule. ”Economy” must remain an exception.
”Economy” must also be a temporary measure (Archmandrite George Gregoriates). When the reasons for implementing it no longer exist, it must naturally be retracted. The same sin can be confronted in numerous ways.
A canon (penance) is not always necessary. A canon is not intended as a form of punishment. It is educative by nature. A canon is not imposed for the sake of appeasing an offended God and an atonement of the sinner in the face of Divine Justice; that is an entirely heretic teaching. A canon is usually implemented during an immature confession, with the intent to arouse awareness and a consciousness of the magnitude of one's sin. According to Orthodox teaching, ”sin” is not so much the transgression of a law, as it is a lack of love towards God. ”Love, and do whatever you want”, the blessed Augustine used to say…
A canon is implemented for the purpose of completing one's repentance in view of confession, which is why Fr. Athanasios of Meteora rightly says:
”Just as the confessor is not permitted to make public the sins being confessed to him, so must the person confessing not make public the particular canon that the confessor has imposed in his specific case, as it is the resultant of many parameters.”
A confessor acts as the provider of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. During the hour of the Sacrament of Confession, he does not function as a psychologist and scientist. He functions as a priest, as an experienced doctor, as a caring father. When listening to the sins of the person confessing, he prays to God to give him enlightenment, to advise him what the best ”medication” for cure will be, and to gauge the degree and the quality of that confession.
The confessor does not place himself opposite a confessing person with curiosity, suspicion, envy, excessive austerity, power and arrogance; but equally not with indifference, thoughtlessly, carelessly and wearily. The humility, love and attention of the confessor will greatly help the person confessing.
The confessor should not ask too many, unnecessary and indiscreet questions.
He must especially interrupt any detailed descriptions of various sins (especially the carnal ones) and even the disclosure of names, to safeguard himself even more. But the person confessing should also not feel afraid, or hesitate and feel embarrassed; he should feel respect, trust, honor and show reverence to the confessor. This clime of sanctity, mutual respect and trust must be mainly nurtured, inspired and developed by the confessor.
The benefit of confession.
Our holy mother the Orthodox Church is the Body of the Resurrected Christ; She is a vast infirmary for the healing of frail, sinning faithful from the traumas, the wounds and the illnesses of sin; from pathogenic demons, and from the venomous demonic traps, and influences of demonically-driven passions.
Our Church is not a branch office of the Ministry of Social Services, nor does She compete with various social welfare organizations. This does no mean that She does not acknowledge their significant and well-meaning work, or that She Herself does not offer such services bounteously, admirably and wondrously. But the Church is mainly a provider of meaning in life, of redemption and salvation of the faithful, ”for the sake of whom Christ died,” through their participation in the sacraments of the Church.
”The priest's stole is a planing instrument,” as Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain used to say, ”that planes and straightens out a person. It is a therapeutic scalpel that excises passions, and not a trowel for workaholics, or a symbol of power. It is a servant's apron intended for ministering to people, for providing therapy and salvation.”
God uses the priest for the forgiveness of His creature. It is plainly stated in the absolution blessing: ”May God forgive you—through me the sinner—everything, in both the present and future age, and may He render you blameless before His awesome Seat of Judgment. Having no longer any worry for the crimes that have been confessed, may you go forth in peace.” Sins that have not been confessed will continue to burden a person, even in the life to come.
How to confess.
Confessed sins should not be re-confessed; it would be as though one doesn't believe in the grace of the Sacrament. God is of course aware of them, but it is for the sake of absolution, humbling, and therapy that they need to be outwardly confessed. As for the occasional penance imposed for sins, one must realize that it does not negate the Church's love for the person, but that it is simply an educative imposition, for a better awareness of one's offenses.
According to Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, ”confession is a willed, verbal revealing of one's evil deeds and words and thoughts; solemn, accusatory, direct, without shame, decisive, to be executed before a legitimate spiritual father.” This God-bearing saint has succinctly, fully and meaningfully clarified that confession must be willed, free, effortless, without the confessor straining to extract the person's confession. It should be solemn; in other words, with an awareness of the sorrow that the sinner caused God with his sin, and not with sentimental, hypocritical, fainthearted tears.
Genuine ”solemnity” implies an inner compunction, remorse, hatred of sin, love of virtue, and a feeling of gratitude to the Gift-Giving God. ”Accusatory” implies a responsible confession, without attempts of justification, subterfuge, artiface, irresponsibility and seeking of scapegoats; with sincere self-reproach and genuine self-humiliation that bears the so-called ”joy producing sorrow” and the ”joyous grief” defined by the Church. ”Direct” implies a confession with all sincerity, directness and precision, valour and courage, severity and bravery.
It often happens that during the hour of confession, one avoids admitting his defeat, fall and weakness, and by means of eloquent and long-winded descriptions attempts to deflect his share of responsibility, with twists and turns and half-truths—or even by accusing others—all for the sake of preserving (even at that hour) a prim and proper ego. A confession ”without shame” implies a portrayal of our true, deplorable self.
Shame is a good thing to have prior to sin and not afterwards, and in the presence of the confessor. It is said that the shame felt during confession will free us from the sin at the Last Judgment, because whatever the confessor absolves will not be judged again. A ”direct” confession implies that it should be clean, specific, sincere, and accompanied by the decision that the faithful will never repeat the sins he has confessed.
Furthermore, confession should be continuous, so that the ”willfully recurring” passions (according to Saint John of the Ladder) are not strengthened, but rather are more speedily cured. Thus, old sins will not be entirely blotted out from the memory—there will be a regular self-monitoring, self-observation, self-awareness and self-reproach. Divine Grace will not abandon the penitent; demonic entrapment will be averted much more easily, and remembrance of Death will not seem so horrid and terrible. <…>
Modern problems that hinder pure confession.
A basic prerequisite for partaking in the holy Sacraments and for an upward spiritual course is a purity of heart; a purity that is devoid of various sins and the spirit of avarice and blissfulness inspired by today's hyper-consumerist society, the spirit of God-despised pride in a world of narcissism, individualism, lack of humility, misanthropy, and arrogance, the demonic spirit of mischievous thoughts, fantasies, imaginations, and unclean suspicions and envy.
Purity of heart has become a rare ornament—in brotherly and conjugal relations, in obligations towards colleagues, in friendships, in conversations, in thoughts, in desires, in pastoral callings. The so-called Mass Media have lapsed and become mere sources of contamination.
Forgotten are neptic awareness, ascetic sobriety, traditional frugality, simplicity and gallantry. This has led to a polluting of the soul's rationalizing ability, an arousal of its desirous aspect towards avarice, while its willpower has become severely blunted, thus drawing a weakened person towards evil, without any impediments or limitations.
Nowadays prevailant are self-justification, excuses for our passions, beautification of sin, and its reinforcement through modern psychological supports. The admission of mistakes is regarded as belittlement, weakness and generally improper. The constant justification of our self, and the meticulous transferal of responsibilities elsewhere have created a human being that is confused, divided, disturbed, worn-out, miserable and self-absorbed, taunted by the devil, and captured in his dark nets.
There is a prevalence of foolish rationalism nowadays, which observes evangelical virtues and Conciliar canons according to its liking, preference and convenience, on important issues such as fasting, abstinence, childbearing, morality, modesty, honesty and precision.
In view of all the above—none of which I believe has been exaggerated—it is our belief that the job of a confessor is not an easy one. Ordinary coercion to repent and the cultivating of humility are nowadays inadequate; the fold requires catechesis, re-evangelizing, spiritual training, as well as a spiritual about-face, in order to acquire powerful antibodies. Resistance, reaction and the confronting of the powerful current of de-sanctification, of secularization, of denegrating heroism, of eudaemonism (a theory that the highest ethical goal is happiness and personal well-being) and of amassing wealth are imperative. The young generation is in need of special attention, instruction, and love, because their upbringing has not proven to be of any help to make them aware of the meaning and the purpose of life, or of the emptiness, indecency, lawlessness, and the darkness of sin.
Another serious problem—even for our Christians—is the often over-zealous quest for a labor-free, toil-free and grief-free life. We are in search of Cyreneans to carry our crosses. We refuse to lift up our own personal cross. We have no idea of the depth and breadth of our own cross. We bow in reverence before the Cross in church, we cross ourselves, but we do not embrace our personal cross. In the long run, we would like a non-crucified Christianity. But there cannot be an Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.
We honor martyrs and saints, but we ourselves do not want to suffer any hardships or difficulties. Fasting is too difficult a task to accomplish, we feel resentful during an illness. We cannot tolerate any harsh words, not even when we are to blame; therefore how could we possibly tolerate injustice, slander, persecution and exile, the way our saints did? It is an indisputable fact that the contemporary, secular spirit of convenience, leisure and excessive consumerism has greatly affected the measure of spiritual living. Generally speaking, we demand a non-ascetic Christianity… Orthodoxy however has the ascetic Gospel as its basis.
One other serious problem of our time is man's morbid and undue reliance upon logic, intellect, knowledge, and personal judgment—we are referring to over-fed and ultimately tiring rationalization. Neptic Orthodox theology teaches us to consider our Nous a tool, and to lower it, into the Heart. Our Church does not cultivate and produce intellectuals. To us, rationalization is not a philosophical mentality, but a clearly sin-oriented life view—a form of atheism—since it goes contrary to the commandment of placing our faith, hope, love, and trust in God. A rationalist judges everything using the filter of his own, finite mind, with himself and his sovereign ego as the epicentre, and does not place any trust in divine Providence, divine Grace and divine Assistance in his life.
By often regarding himself as infallible, a rationalist does not allow God to intervene in his life and therefore judge him. Thus, he is convinced that he is not in need of confession. Saint Simeon the New Theologian says, however, that for one to believe he has not fallen into any sins is the greatest of falls and fallacies, and the greatest sin of all. Certain modern-day theologians speak of ”missing the target” instead of ”sinning” in their desire to blunt the natural protest of one's conscience. The self-sufficiency displayed by certain churchgoers and fasting Christians can sometimes be hiding a latent pharisaic stance, i.e., that ”they are not like the others” and therefore are not in need of confession.
According to the holy fathers of our Church, the greatest evil is pride; it is the mother of all passions, according to Saint John of the Ladder. It is the mother of many offspring, the first ones being vainglory and self-justification. Pride is a form of denial of God; it is an invention of wicked demons, the result of too much flattery and praise, which in turn results in a person's debilitation and exhaustion, God-despised censure, anger, rage, hypocrisy, a lack of compassion, misanthropy, and blasphemy. Pride is a passion that is formidable, difficult, powerful and hard to cure.
Pride is also strong in many ways, and has many faces. It manifests itself as vainglory, boastfulness, conceit, arrogance, presumptuousness, pompousness, insolence, self-importance, megalomania, ambition, self-love, vanity, avarice, pampering of the flesh, desire for first place, accusations and arguments. It also manifests itself as smugness, favouritism, insolence, disrespect, outspokenness, insensitivity, contradiction, obstinacy, disobedience, sarcasm, stubbornness, disregard, indignity, perfectionism and hypersensitivity. Finally, pride can lead to impenitence.
The tongue often becomes the instrument of pride through unchecked, long-winded, useless talking; gossiping, and silliness; through vain, insincere, indiscreet, two-faced, beguiling, affected, and mocking conversations.
Out of the seven deadly sins many other passions spring forth. Having mentioned the offspring of Pride, we then have Avarice, which gives birth to the love of money, greed, stinginess, lack of charity, hardheartedness, fraud, usury, injustice, deceitfulness, simony, bribery, gambling. Fornication manifests itself in myriads of ways; for example, envy, with its underhanded and evil spite, insatiable gluttony, anger, as well negligence and lack of care.
Elements of family life.
Special attention should also be paid to many un-Orthodox elements in family life, which we believe should be examined carefully by confessors and the persons involved. The avoidance of childbearing, the idolizing of one's children (when parents regard them as an extension of their ego); overprotecting them, or constantly watching their moves and savagely oppressing them.
Marriage is an arena for exercising humility, mutual yielding and mutual respect, and not the parallel journey of two sefish egos, no matter how long they have been together. The devil dances for joy whenever there is no forgiveness for human weaknesses and in everyday mistakes.
Parents will help their children significantly not by excessive courtesy outside the home, but by their peaceful, sober and loving example in the home, on a daily basis. The participation of the children together with the parents in the sacrament of confession will fortify them with divine Grace in an experiential life in Christ.
When parents ask for forgiveness with sincerity, they simultaneously teach their children humility, which destroys all demonic plots. In a household where love, harmony, understanding, humility and peace bloom, there the blessings of God will be bounteous and the home becomes a castle that is impervious to the malice of the world around it. The upbringing of children with the element of forgiveness creates a healthy family hearth, which will inspire them and strengthen them for their own futures.
One other huge matter that constitutes an obstacle for repentance and confession is self-justification, which also plagues many people of the Church. Its basis is, as we mentioned earlier, demonic Pride. A classic example is the Pharisee of the Gospel parable.
The self-justifying person has seemingly positive traits, which he himself will praise excessively, and which he would like others to honor and praise. He is happy to be flattered and to demean and humiliate others. He has excessive self-esteem, he excessively justifies himself, and believes that God is obligated to reward him. In the final analysis he is a poor wretch, who in his miserable state makes others miserable. He is overcome by nervousness and agitation and is overly demanding, thus imprisons himself, for these are tendencies that will not allow him to open the door to divine mercy through repentance.
An offspring of Pride is censure (fault-finding), which is unfortunately also a habit of many Christians, who tend to concern themselves more with others than themselves. This is a phenomenon of our time and of a society that pushes people into a continuous observation of others, and not of ourselves.
Modern man's myriad activities never allow him to remain alone to study, contemplate, pray; to attain self-awareness, self-critique, self-control, and remembrance of death.
The mass media are incessantly preoccupied with scandal-seeking, with human passions, sins, and peoples' crimes.
Such things provoke and leave impressions, and even if they do not tempt, they nevertheless burden the soul and the mind with filth and ugliness. They actually reassure us by making us believe that ”we are better” than those described. Thus, a person becomes accustomed to the mediocrity, lukewarmness, and transience of superficial day-to-day life, never comparing himself to saints and heroes. This is how censure prevails in our time—by giving others the impression that he is justly imposing a kind of cleansing by slinging mud at others. Meanwhile he is contaminating himself by generating malice, hatred, hostility, resentment, envy and coldness.
Saint Maximus the Confessor says that the one who constantly scrutinizes others' sins, or condemns his brother based on no more than suspicion, has not even begun to repent, nor has he begun any attempt to discover his own sins.
Many and various things can be said; but in the end, only one thing is significant and important: our salvation, to which we are not attending. Salvation is only attained through sincere repentance and pure confession.
Repentance not only opens the heavenly Paradise, but also the earthly one, with the foretaste—albeit incomplete—of the ineffable joy of the endless heavenly reign, and the reign of wonderful peace in the present time. Those who continually practice confession are potentially truly and genuinely happy people; peace-loving and peace-bearing; heralds of repentance, of resurrection, transformation, freedom, grace, with the blessing of God in their souls and lives. ”God's bounteous Grace turns the wolf into a lamb,” says Saint John the Chrysostom.
No sin can surpass God's love.
There is not a single sinner who cannot become a saint, if he so desires. This has been proven by innumerable names recorded in the Lives of the Saints.
The confessor listens to confessions and absolves those confessing, under his blessed stole. He cannot, however, confess himself and place the stole over his own head to obtain forgiveness in the same manner. He must necessarily kneel underneath another stole to confess and be absolved.
That is the way the spiritual law functions; this is what God's Wisdom and Mercy have ordained. We cannot confess others while never submitting ourselves to confession; we must practice what we preach. We cannot talk about repentance, but never repent; or talk about confession, but not go to confession ourselves regularly. No one can cast himself down, and no one can absolve himself. The unadvised, the disobedient, and the unconfessed are a serious problem for the Church.
Dear brothers and sisters! The confessor's stole can be a miraculous scalpel for the removal of malignant tumors; it can raise the dead, renew and transform the indecent world, and bring joy to earth and heaven. Our Church has entrusted this grand ministry, this sacred service, to our priests and not to the angels, so that we might be able to approach our confessor easily and fearlessly, as fellow-sufferers and corporeal counterparts.
All the above has been delivered sincerely and not at all pretentiously by a co-sinner who does not aspire to play the teacher, but who is a co-struggling, co-student with you. It was his sole desire to remind you in simple and artless words of the Tradition of our holy mother, the Church, on the ever-relevant matter of divinely-conceived and divinely-blessed Repentance, and the God-given, God-pleasing, blessed Sacrament of Confession.
From the book Repentance and Confession,
Posted on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in America
Excerpt edited by OrthoChristian.com
Monk Moses of the Holy Mountain
I wish to remind you, O brethren, about lying, for I see that you do not strive very hard to restrain your tongues and from this we are easily drawn into much evil. Make note my brethren that in every matter, as I constantly tell you, one may acquire a habit either for the good or for the evil; and so one needs great heedfulness so that we will not be robbed by lying, for one who lies has no union with God. Lying is foreign to God. In the scripture it is said that Lying is from the evil one, and for he is a liar, and the father of it (Jn. 8:44). See how the devil is called the father of lies, while truth is God, for He Himself said, I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). Therefore you see from whom we separate ourselves, and with whom we join ourselves by lying: evidently with the evil one. And so if in truth we wish to be saved, we must with our whole soul and all our striving love the truth and keep ourselves from every lie, lest it separate us from truth and from life.
There are three forms of lies: one lies in thought, another lies by word, and another lies by his very life. He lies by thought who takes for truth his own suppositions, that is, vain suspicions against his neighbor; when he sees someone conversing with a brother, he makes his own conjectures and says, "He is speaking about me." If they stop talking he again supposes that it is for his sake that they have stopped. If someone says a word, he suspects that it was said in order to insult him. All the time and in every matter he takes note of his neighbor, saying, "He did this for my sake, he said this because of me, he did this for such and such a reason. A man like this lies in thought, for he says nothing true, but everything out of suspicion alone, and from this proceed: curiosity, evil speaking, eavesdropping, enmity, condemnation. It might happen that one supposes something and this by chance turns out to be true; after this he claims the desire to correct himself, and then begins to constantly take note of everything, thinking, "If someone is speaking about me, I should know what transgression he condemns me for, so that I can correct myself." In the first place, the very beginning of this is already from the evil one, for he began with lie: not actually knowing what was said, he thought up what he did not know; and how can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit (Matt. 7:18)? But if he really desires to be corrected, then when his brother tells him, “Do not do this,” or, “Why did you do that?” he should not be disturbed but should bow down and thank him, and then he will correct himself. For if God sees that such is his good will, he will never let him to go astray, but will send him someone who can correct him. But to say: "I believe my guesses in order to correct myself, and with this aim I eavesdrop and am curious.” This is self-justification inspired by the devil, who desires to make snares for us.
Once when I was living in the coenobium, a diabolical temptation came upon me. I began to draw conclusions concerning a person's state of soul from his movements and the way he walked. And then the following thing happened to me. Once when I was standing, a woman passed by me carrying a pitcher of water. I myself do not know how I was drawn away and looked her in the eyes, but immediately the thought was suggested to me that she was a harlot. However, no sooner had this thought come to me than I began to grieve heavily, and so I told the elder Abba John about it. "Master, what should I do when I involuntarily notice someone's movements and walk and the thought speaks to me concerning the state of this person’s soul?" And the Elder replied to me thus: "What is this? Doesn't it sometimes happen that a person has a natural inadequacy, but just the same corrects himself through great effort and labors? Therefore you must not draw any conclusions from this about his state of soul. So never believe your conjectures, for a crooked rule makes crooked even that which is straight. Human opinions are false and harm the one who surrenders himself to them." And thus from that time on, whenever a thought tells me of the sun that it is the sun, or of darkness that it is darkness, I have not believed it, for there is nothing more onerous than believing one's own opinions. If this becomes rooted in us, it can lead us into such a deleterious state that we think to see things which do not and cannot exist. And I will tell you in this regard about a remarkable incident which occurred in my presence when I was still in the coenobium.
There was a certain brother there who was very troubled by this passion, and he so heeded his own conjectures that he was convinced of the veracity of every one of his suppositions. It seemed to him things were happening precisely as his mind imagined, and that it could not be otherwise. The evil increased with time and the devils led him into such a state of delusion that once, when he entered the garden and looked around (he was always looking around and eavesdropping), it seemed to him that he saw one of the brethren stealing and eating figs, and it was Friday, and not even the second hour yet. And so, convinced that he really saw this, he hid himself and went away in silence. Later during the Liturgy, he again began to watch what this brother who had just stolen and eaten the figs would do during the time of Communion. When he saw that he was washing his hands so as to go and receive Communion, he ran and told the Abbot, "Look, that brother is going to receive Communion of the Divine Mysteries together with the brethren, but do not allow them to give him the Holy Gifts, for I saw this morning how he stole figs from the garden and ate them." Meanwhile that brother was already approaching Holy Communion with great reverence and contrition, for he was very devout. But when the Abbot saw him, he called him over to himself before he could go up to the priest who was distributing the Holy Gifts, and leading him away to the side asked, "Tell me brother, what did you do today?" The brother was astonished and told him, "Where O Master?" The Abbot continued, "When you went in the morning into the garden, what did you do there?" The brother, astonished, again replied to him; "Master, I did not even look at the garden today, and I was not even here this morning in the coenobium, but I have just now returned from a journey, for immediately after the All-Night Vigil the steward sent me on such and such an obedience." Now the place to which this obedience he described took him was very far away, and the brother managed only with difficulty to arrive in time for the Liturgy. The Abbot called the steward and asked him, "Where did you send this brother?" The steward repeated the same thing that the brother had said, that is, that he had sent him to such and such a village. The Abbot asked, "Why did you not call me to receive a blessing from me?" The steward, bowing down replied: "Forgive me Master, you were resting after the Vigil and therefore I did not make him go and receive a blessing from you." When the Abbot was thus satisfied he allowed this brother to receive Holy Communion, and calling the other one, who had trusted his own suspicions, he placed a penance on him and forbade him to receive Holy Communion. Moreover he also called all the brothers at the end of the Liturgy and with tears related to them what had happened, accusing the brother before all, desiring to thus achieve a three-fold purpose: firstly to shame the devil and rebuke the sower of such suspicion; and secondly, so that by putting the sin of that brother to shame, he might thereby be forgiven and receive help from God in the future; and thirdly, in order to convince the brethren never to trust their own opinions. Having instructed both us and the brother concerning this he said that there is nothing more harmful than suspicion, using this incident as an illustration. And the Holy Fathers have spoken much in the same vein, warning us against the harm of believing our suspicions. Therefore let us strive, O brethren, never to trust our own selves. For in truth nothing so removes a man from God and from heedfulness to his own sins, and so arouses constant curiosity over what is not expedient for him than this passion. Nothing good can come from it, only a multitude of disturbances; it never allows a man the opportunity to acquire the fear of God. If by reason of our infirmity evil thoughts are sown in us, we should immediately turn them into good thoughts and they will not harm us; for if we believe our conjectures, there will be no end to them and they will never allow the soul to be peaceful. This is lying by thought.
One lies in word who, for example, from slothfulness is too lazy to get up for the Vigil, but does not say, "Forgive me but I was too lazy to get up." He says instead, "I had a fever, I was completely exhausted from work, I had no strength to get up, I was unwell"; and he utters ten lying words to as not to make a single prostration and be humbled. And if he does not reproach himself in other like circumstances, he will ceaselessly change his words and argue, so as not to undergo reproach. Or if he happens to have an argument with his brother, he will not cease to justify himself and repeat, "But you said… but you did… but I did not say… but so and so said…" and this and that, so as not to be humbled. Again, if he wants something but does not wish to say, "I want this," and instead constantly deviates in his words saying, "I have such and such a disease and I need this; this has been prescribed for me," lying until he satisfies his desire. Just as every sin proceeds either from love of pleasure, love of money, or love of glory, so are lies generated from these three reasons. A man lies either so as not to reproach himself and be humbled, or so as to fulfill his desire, or for the sake of gain, and he does not cease to twist and sophisticate his words until his desire is fulfilled. Such a man will never be believed, and even should he speak the truth no one can give him credence, and his very truth will prove unbelievable.
Sometimes it happens that there is a need under extreme circumstances to conceal something small, and if this small thing were not hidden, the matter would produce great disturbance and grief. When one encounters such extraordinary circumstances and sees himself in need, he may therefore obfuscate his words so that, as I have said, a great disturbance and grief or offence might not ensue. But when such great need arises to depart from words of truth, even then a man should not continue without being saddened over this, but should repent and weep before God and consider the incident a time of temptation. He should not frequently decide upon such deviation—only once out of many occasions. If one takes snake-poison antidote or laxatives often they will harm him; but if he takes them once in a year out of great need, they bring him benefit. So also you should act in this manner: One who wants to modify his word out of great need should not do it frequently but only under exceptional circumstances, once over the course of many years, when he perceives, as I have said, a great necessity; and let that which is allowed infrequently be perpetrated with fear and trembling, showing to God one's good will and the necessity, and then he will be forgiven; but he will receive an injury from it nonetheless. And so we have said what it means to lie by thought, and what it means to lie by word. Now we would like to say what it means to lie by one's very life.
One lies by his life if, being given to fleshly passion, he pretends to be continent; or, being covetous, he speaks of almsgiving and praises mercy; or being arrogant he marvels at the humility of wisdom. And he is amazed at virtue not because he desires to praise it, for if he had spoken with this intention he would have first of all acknowledged his own infirmity with humility, saying: "Woe to me the wretched one, I have become a stranger to every good". Then after acknowledging his infirmity, he would begin to praise virtue and be amazed at it. And again, he does not praise virtue with the aim of guarding others from temptation, for if that were his intention he should have reasoned thus: "In truth I am wretched and passionate, but why should I tempt others? Why should I cause harm to someone else's soul and lay another heavy burden on myself?" Then even though he has sinned by this, he has also touched on some good; for to condemn oneself is a deed of humility, and to spare one's neighbor is a deed of mercy.
But as I have said, a liar is amazed at virtue not for any of the above-mentioned reasons, but either so as to steal the name of virtue in order to hide his own shame, and speak of it as if he himself perfectly possessed it, or often in order to harm someone and deceive him. For not a single ill will, not a single heresy, nor the devil himself can deceive anyone under any other pretext than that of virtue. The apostle says that the devil himself transforms himself into an angel of light, and therefore it is never surprising that his servants should be transformed into the servants of righteousness (cf. II Cor. 11:14-15). So also a lying man, either because he fears shame and does not want to be humbled, or, as we have said, because he desires to deceive someone and harm him, speaks about virtues and praises them, and marvels at them as if he himself behaves accordingly and knows them by experience. Such a man lies by his very life. He is not a simple man but a double-minded one, for he is one way within and another way without, and his life is duplicitous and malevolent.
And so we have spoken about lying, that it is from the evil one; and we have spoken about truth, that truth is God. And so brethren, let us flee lying so as to be delivered from the lot of the evil one, and let us strive to make truth our own, so as to have union with God, Who said, I am the truth (Jn. 14:6). May the Lord God enable us to have His truth; for to Him belongs glory, dominion, honor, and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.