Monday, January 13, 2014
At one time, I took a sick person to him who was diagnosed with AIDS. Some of my friends who knew that I was friendly with the Elder asked me to help this sick person who was extremely depressed. The AIDS victim was in really bad shape and he wanted to commit suicide. When I heard that he wanted to commit suicide, I sent him to another priest who was also a doctor. His name is Fr. Stamatis. The sick person went to this priest but the priest advised him to go and see Elder Porphyrios.
I took him to the Elder. He was a person who did not appear to look like a Christian. He had a very worldly look about him. I left him in the cell with the Elder. The Elder kept him there for a long time. When he finished, he came out of the cell crying but he was very serene with a prayer rope in his hand that the Elder had given him. He was crying but not in a way that made him appear helpless. His eyes were filled with light. The Elder called me into his cell. “Come in here so that I can speak to you. What was that soul that you brought to me? What a marvelous soul that was!”
The person from that encounter repented and he truly lives in a spirit of penance. I have seen him many times since then as a doctor. I see that he has been reborn. He visits monasteries. He goes to confession. He receives Holy Communion and he thanks Christ for AIDS because this has become for him the reason for his true salvation.
From the book: “Miraculous Occurences and Counsels of Elder Porphyrios
The Fathers’ saying ‘spill your blood and receive the spirit’ could be described as the ever-memorable Elder’s permanent motto. Intrepid and courageous as he was, he left no room for queries or doubts in his life. But his ardent faith also contributed to this excellent combination, and so the results were always positive. Resolve and daring are the chief characteristics of man’s freedom which manifest his will, and with faith in God – which is all that is asked of our rational nature – they arouse and bring down upon us the divine energy which heals what is infirm and completes what is wanting.
With God’s help and with the above preconditions, to the Elder nothing was considered impossible; but by those unable to attain to this state, he was misunderstood and regarded as deficient or extreme. To everything that seemed difficult or complex, the Elder had a ready answer: ‘Where is God?’ – which for him meant that without fail, God will solve the problem. Such an attitude was a basic principle of his, grounded not just in a very profound faith – what the Fathers call ‘faith of contemplation’ – but also in the guardianship of the spiritual law, on which he based everything throughout his life. Whatever happened in general, he always judged it on the basis of the spiritual law; and in particular he judged our own personal affairs in this way, when they preoccupied us.
At the beginning of our stay with him, we usually paid quite frequent visits to him so that he could give us advice and see how we were getting on. Naturally, whether or not we told him what was on our minds, he would explain the meaning of events in detail, beginning from the results and analysing what had led up to them, right back to the initial provocation. He would explain where these things came from, and why they came and to what extent, with such precision that we were astounded at the place the ‘law of the spirit of life’ (Rom. 8:2) held within him. Once when we made a mistake (and how many mistakes are not caused by inexperience!) he gave me as a penance the pointless labour of a long journey. Because I knew that he never did anything without a reason, I did not ask any questions, but he told me of his own accord, ‘If we do not arouse a corresponding pain through arduous asceticism along with our repentance, we do not satisfy the judgement of the spiritual law, and it is possible that we may get some trial which we do not know how it will turn out.’ I can say that across the whole range of our actions and affairs, both general and particular, the basis and criterion was the spiritual law. And Abba Mark says, ‘real knowledge is patiently to accept affliction and not to blame others for our own misfortunes’ .
The Elder was also in the habit of referring frequently to the significance of trials, both as the totality of the various ills by which mankind is tested, and as events concerning individuals. On the basis of the spiritual law as the intellect of God’s comprehensive providence, he accepted ‘educative episodes’ as appropriate instruments for our correction, and called them trials. Even though he knew in depth the importance of the benefit derived from these and repeated the patristic saying ‘take away trials, and no one would be saved’ and the statement that they were ‘sure to come’ (Lk 17:1), he would examine with minute accuracy the causes and occasions which prompt them, and taught us how to avoid them as far as possible. His experience centred on this double duty, as he called it: to deal wisely with the causes and occasions of trials so as to forestall them on the one hand, and on the other – whenever they do occur – to confront them bravely, with faith and in hope of the ensuing benefit. ‘Unexpected trials are sent by God to teach us to practise the ascetic life, and they lead us to repentance even when we are reluctant.’ And again, ‘The afflictions that come upon us are the result of our own sins.’ With these sayings the Elder reminded us of the ‘professor of the spiritual law’, as he called him, Abba Mark the Ascetic.
The practical aspect of the life in Christ conceals the most complex mystery in human life. Two titanic forces linked together by man create an immense and unbreakable tug-of-war with man in the middle, each frantically pulling him towards itself in order to win him over. Two loves, standing in opposition and turned towards opposite poles, form the motive power of these two forces: love towards God and love of this world. The victim, man, is not always in a position consciously to discern his own preferences, and this gives rise to retrospective changes. The occasions and causes which serve to awaken human beings who are entangled in these forces are known as trials. Are we to describe them? ‘If I would count them,’ as the Psalmist says, ‘they are more than the sand’ (Ps. 139:18). But we should relate just a very little from the experiences of the Elder, who had the capacity to analyse trials with exceptionally subtle discernment.
In general he considered every trial benefial (cf. Jas 1:2), but he ascribed greater seriousness to them when explaining the particular temptations of negligence and self-conceit, which he described as devastating. Assuredly, God wills and calls all to follow Him, but not everyone accepts His call. Yet those who have accepted this calling are tested sorely, to the degree that He ordains and in proportion to the knowledge which He has given them. The negative side, which conspires against those called by God, is the love of this world which ‘is in the power of the evil one’ (1 Jn 5:19), which in its crafty and hypocritical way manages to deceive some; as for the others who are not convinced by its deceit, it attempts to stifle their will with open and unconcealed force. The merciless pressure of the ‘changes’ brought about by this evil neighbour of ours does not leave our good intention and good start intact.
There are many causes, known in detail to our Fathers, which give rise to changes: they may be natural, stemming from needs of ours which are not reprehensible, or they may be acquired, stemming from passions and demons. But whether they come from the one cause or the other, the reality is that they conspire against our will.
In this uninterrupted tug-of-war trials are constantly present. None of those who sail this stormy sea of life remains untouched by the struggle with them. Inexperience, ignorance, weakness, the weight of our flesh of clay, our evil past, the passions, our habits and in addition the devil – all these evils change and check our right intention and vitiate our good purpose. ‘The law of sin which dwells in our members’ (Rom. 7:23), which is ‘the imagination of our heart which is evil from our youth’ (Gen. 8:21) slackens our progress along the good course marked out by our calling from God and the nobility of our intention. There is now no other way of waking us up and pushing us forward except for ‘contractual afflictions’, which are properly called trials.
Elder Joseph the Hesychast
- Γέροντα, κάθε μέρα λέω: «Από αύριο θα προσέχω, θα διορθωθώ», αλλά και πάλι πέφτω στα ίδια.
- Να βάζης τον Θεό μπροστά∙ να λες: «με την δύναμη του Θεού , θα προσπαθήσω να διορθωθώ», ώστε να βοηθήση ο Θεός. Το ότι θέλεις να διορθωθής, αυτό σημαίνει ότι δέχεσαι βοήθεια. Ζητάς και από τον Θεό να σε βοηθήση και ρίχνει ο Θεός το βλέμμα Του επάνω σου. Κάνεις και την μικρή σου προσπάθεια και προχωρείς. Ποιός, όταν δη ένα μικρό παιδάκι να προσπαθή με τα χεράκια του να κυλήση μια κοτρώνα ,δεν θα τρέξη να το βοηθήση, για να μην παιδεύεται; Έτσι και ο Θεός, όταν δη την μικρή σου προσπάθεια, θα σε βοηθήση να νικήσης.
Μερικοί, ενώ δεν καταβάλλουν καμμιά προσπάθεια να διορθωθούν ,λένε: «Χριστέ μου, έχω αυτά τα πάθη. Εσύ μπορείς να με απαλλάξης∙ απάλλαξέ με». Ε, πώς να βοηθήση τότε ο Θεός; Για να βοηθήση ο Θεός ,πρέπει να καταβάλλη ο άνθρωπος την προσπάθεια που μπορεί. Δηλαδή είναι μερικά πράγματα που πρέπει να κάνη ο ίδιος ο άνθρωπος, για να βοηθήση μετά ο Θεός. Σε καμμιά περίπτωση δεν βοηθιέται, αν δεν θέλη να βοηθήση ο ίδιος τον εαυτό του.
Εμείς μερικές φορές πάμε να αποκτήσουμε την Χάρη και τα χαρίσματα του Θεού με έναν μαγικό τρόπο. Νομίζουμε πως χωρίς αγώνα θα αποκτήσουμε μια αρετή ή ακόμη και θα αγιάσουμε. Για να δώση όμως ο Θεός ,πρέπει να σπείρουμε. Πώς θα δώση ο Θεός χωρίς να εργασθούμε; Τι λέει το τροπάριο; «Της ερήμου το άγονον εγεώργησας». Ο Θεός ρίχνει- ρίχνει βροχή ,μαλακώνει το χώμα, αλλά και εμείς πρέπει να «γεωργήσουμε» το χωράφι μας. Το χώμα είναι έτοιμο, αλλά πρέπει να βάλουμε το υνί στο χωράφι και να το σπείρουμε∙ και ό,τι σπείρουμε, θα θερίσουμε. Αν όμως δεν οργώσουμε, πώς θα σπείρουμε; Κι αν δεν σπείρουμε, τι θα θερίσουμε;
Γι’ αυτό να μη ρωτάτε μόνον τί μπορεί να κάνη ο Θεός ,αλλά να ρωτάτε και τον εαυτό σας τί μπορείτε να κάνετε κι εσείς. Η τράπεζα του Χριστού δίνει πολύ μεγάλο τόκο. Αλλά, αν δεν κάναμε κατάθεση στην τράπεζα, πώς θα κάνουμε ανάληψη;
1. Ο πατέρας μου συνήθιζε να παίζει με τον αδελφό μου και μένα στον κήπο. Η μάνα μας έβγαινε έξω και φώναζε: "θα χαλάσετε το γκαζόν!". Κι εκείνος της απαντούσε: "Δεν μεγαλώνουμε γκαζόν, αγόρια μεγαλώνουμε!" - Harmon Killebrew
2. Υπάρχουν τρία στάδια στη ζωή ενός άνδρα: Πρώτο στάδιο: να πιστεύει στον Αη-Βασίλη. Δεύτερο στάδιο: να μην πιστεύει στον Αη-Βασίλη. Τρίτο στάδιο: να είναι ο ίδιος Αη-Βασίλης. - Ανώνυμος
3. Το πιο σημαντικό έργο που ένας πατέρας μπορεί να κάνει για τα παιδιά του είναι ν΄ αγαπάει τη μάνα τους -Theodore M. Hesburgh
4. Oταν έλθει η εποχή που ένας άντρας αντιλαμβάνεται πως μάλλον ο πατέρας του είχε δίκιο για χιλιάδες πράγματα, συνήθως έχει ο ίδιος ένα γιο που τον θεωρεί λάθος! - Charles Wadsworth
5. Υποτίθεται πως κάθε άντρας μπορεί να γίνει πατέρας. Χρειάζεται όμως κάτι παραπάνω για να γίνει "μπαμπάς" - Ανώνυμος
6. Οταν ήμουν έφηβος 14 ετών, ο πατέρας μου ήταν τόσο αλαζόνας που δεν τον άντεχα λεπτό. Περιέργως, όταν έφτασα τα 21 ένιωσα μεγάλη έκπληξη από το πόσο πολλά κατάφερε να μάθει μέσα σε επτά μόλις χρόνια! - Μαρκ Τουαίν
7. Πραγματικά πλούσιος είναι ο άντρας που έχει παιδιά που τρέχουν να χωθούν στην αγκαλιά του, ακόμα κι όταν τα χέρια του είναι άδεια- Ανώνυμος
8. Δεν έχει τόση σημασία ποιος ήταν αληθινά ο πατέρας μου, αλλά ποιος θυμάμαι εγώ πώς ήταν - Anne Sexton
9. Eίναι όντως αξιέπαινο να πάει ένας πατέρας τον γιο του για ψάρεμα. Υπάρχει όμως ένα ιδιαίτερο μέρος στον παράδεισο για τον πατέρα που θα πάει την κόρη του για ψώνια - John Sinor
10. Οι καλοί μπαμπάδες δίνουν στα παιδιά τους ρίζες και φτερά. Ρίζες για να νιώθουν πού είναι το σπίτι τους και φτερά για να πετάξουν μακριά ελεύθερα - Jonas Salk
11. Mπαμπάδες, αγαπήστε κι αποδεχτείτε τα μέλη της οικογένειάς σας γι΄ αυτό που πραγματικά είναι, ακόμα κι αν η προσωπικότητά τους είναι πολύ διαφορετική από τη δική σας. Τα κουνέλια δεν πετούν, οι αετοί δεν κολυμπούν, οι γάτες δεν έχουν φτερά. Σταματήστε τώρα τις συγκρίσεις. Υπάρχει άφθονος χώρος για όλους στο δάσος! - Chuck Swindoll
12. Τα στάδια στη ζωή ενός ανθρώπου:
4 ετών: Ο μπαμπάς μου μπορεί να κάνει τα πάντα!
7 ετών: Ο μπαμπάς ξέρει τόοοσα πολλά!
8 ετών: Ο μπαμπάς μου δεν ξέρει τελικά και τόσα πολλά.
12 ετών: Ο μπαμπάς μου δεν ξέρει τι του γίνεται.
14 ετών: Ο πατέρας μου? Ασε καλύτερα!
21 ετών: Ωχ πάλι αυτός μπροστά μου!
25 ετών: Κάτι ξέρει για το θέμα ο πατέρας μου αλλά όχι και πολλά πράγματα.
30 ετών: Θα πρέπει να μάθω τι ξέρει ο πατέρας μου για το θέμα.
35 ετών: Πριν αποφασίσουμε ας ζητήσουμε και τη γνώμη του μπαμπά.
50 ετών: Τι άραγε να πίστευε ο πατέρας γι΄ αυτό?
60 ετών: Τελικά ο πατέρας μου είχε τεράστια εμπειρία!
65+ετών: Α, ρε πατέρα! Μακάρι να ζούσες και να μιλούσαμε σήμερα οι δυο μας! -
But if we are sons, we are heirs also: heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided, however, we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him. (Rom. 8:17)
Our Saviour and the God-bearing Fathers teach that our only concern in this life should be the salvation of our souls. Bishop Ignatius says: "Earthly life — this brief period — is given to man by the mercy of the Creator in order that man may use it for his salvation, that is, for the restoration of himself from death to life" (The Arena). Therefore, we must "look upon everything in this world as upon a fleeting shadow and cling with our heart to nothing of it...for we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (St. John of Kronstadt, Spiritual Counsels). For Orthodox Christians, the center of our life is not here, but there, in the eternal world.
How long we live, what disease or illness accompanies our death — such things are not the proper concern of Orthodox Christians. Although we sing "many years" for one another at Namesdays and other celebrations, this is only because the Church in her wisdom knows that we indeed need "many years" to repent of our sins and be converted, not because a long life has any value in itself. God is not interested in how old we are when we come before His Judgment, but whether we have repented; He is not concerned about whether we died of a heart attack or cancer, but whether our soul is in a state of health.
Therefore, "we should not dread any human ill, save sin alone; neither poverty, nor disease, nor insult, nor malicious treatment, nor humiliation, nor death" (St. John Chrysostom, On the Statues), for these "ills" are only words; they have no reality for those who are living for the Kingdom of Heaven. The only real "calamity" in this life is offending God. If we have this basic understanding of the purpose of life, then the spiritual meaning of bodily infirmity can be opened for us.
In the preceding chapter we learned how the all-wise God allowed suffering to enter the world in order to show us that we are but creatures. It is a lesson still not learned by the race of Adam which, in its pride, ever seeks to be like "gods": for every sin is a renewal of the sin of the first-created ones, a willful turning away from God towards self. In this way we set ourselves in the place of God, actually worshipping self instead of the Creator. In this way the suffering of illness serves the same purpose today as it did in the beginning: for this reason it is a sign of God's mercy and love. As the Holy Fathers say to those who are ill: "God has not forgotten you; He cares for you" (Sts. Barsanuphius and John, Philokal' ia).
Yet, it is difficult to see how sickness can be a sign of God's care for us — unless, that is, we understand the relationship that exists between body and soul. Elder Ambrose of Optina Monastery spoke of this in a letter to the mother of a very sick child:
"We should not forget that in our age of 'sophistication' even little children are spiritually harmed by what they see and hear. As a result, purification is required, and this is only accomplished through bodily suffering....You must understand that Paradisal bliss is granted to no one without suffering."
St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain explained that since man is dual, made up of body and soul, "there is an interaction between the soul and the body" (Counsels), each one acting on the other and actually communicating with the other. "When the soul is diseased we usually feel no pain," St. John Chrysostom says. "But if the body suffers only a little, we make every effort to be free of the illness and its pain. Therefore, God corrects the body for the sins of the soul, so that by chastising the body, the soul might also receive some healing....Christ did this with the Paralytic when He said: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto tbee. What do we learn from this? That the Paralytic's disease had been produced by his sins" (Homily 38, On the Qospel of St. John).
On one occasion a woman was brought to St. Seraphim of Sarov. She was badly crippled and could not walk because her knees were bent up to her chest. "She told the Elder that she had been born in the Orthodox Church but, after marrying a dissenter, had abandoned Orthodoxy and, for her infidelity, God had suddenly punished her....She could not move a hand or foot. St. Seraphim asked the sick woman whether she now believed in her Mother, our Holy Orthodox Church. On receiving a reply in the affirmative, he told her to make the sign of the Cross in the proper way. She said that she could not even lift a hand. But when the Saint prayed and anointed her hands and breast with oil from the icon-lamp, her malady left her instantly." Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee!
This connection between body and soul, sin and sickness, is clear: pain tells us that something has gone wrong with the soul, that not only is the body diseased, but the soul as well. And this is precisely how the soul communicates its ills to the body, awakening a man to self-knowledge and a wish to turn to God. We see this over and over in the lives of the saints, for illness also teaches that our "true self, that which is principally man, is not the visible body but the invisible soul, the 'inner man'" (St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, Christian Morality).
But does this mean that the man who enjoys continual good health is in "good shape" spiritually? Not at all, for suffering takes many forms, whether in the body or in the mind and soul. How many in excellent health lament that life is not "worth the living"? St. John Chrysostom describes this kind of suffering:
"Some think that to enjoy good health is a source of pleasure. But it is not so. For many who have good health have a thousand times wished themselves dead, not being able to bear the insults inflicted upon them....For although we were to become kings and live royally, we should find ourselves compassed about with many troubles and sadnesses....By necessity kings have as many sadnesses as there are waves on the ocean. So, if monarchy is unable to make a life free from grief, then what else could possibly achieve this? Nothing, indeed, in this life" (Homily I8, On the Statues).
Protestants often "claim" health in the "Name of Christ." They regard health as something to which the Christian is naturally entitled. From their point of view, illness betrays a lack of faith. This is the exact opposite of the Orthodox teaching as illustrated by the life of the Righteous Job in the Old Testament. St. John Chrysostom says that the saints serve God not because they expect any kind of reward, either spiritual or material, but simply because they love Him: "for the saints know that the greatest reward of all is to be able to love and serve God." Thus, "God, wishing to show that it was not for reward that His saints serve Him, stripped Job of all his wealth, gave him over to poverty, and permitted him to fall into terrible diseases." And Job, who was not living for any reward in this life, still remained faithful to God (Homily I, On the Statues).
Just as healthy people are not without sin, so too, God sometimes allows truly righteous ones to suffer, "as a model for the weak" (St. Basil the Great, The Long Rules). For, as St. John Cassian teaches, "a man is more thoroughly instructed and formed by the example of another" (Institutes).
This we see in the Scriptural case of Lazarus. "Although he suffered from painful wounds, he never once murmured against the Rich Man nor made any request of him....As a result, he found rest in the Bosom of Abraham, as one who had accepted humbly the misfortunes of life" (St. Basil the Great, The Long Rules).
The Church Fathers also teach that illness is a way by which Christians may imitate the suffering of the martyrs. Thus, in the lives of very many saints, intense bodily suffering was visited upon them at the end, so that by their righteous suffering they might attain to physical martyrdom. A good example of this may be found in the life of that great champion of Orthodoxy, St. Mark of Ephesus:
"He was sick fourteen days, and the disease itself, as he himself said, had upon him the same effect as those iron instruments of torture applied by executioners to the holy martyrs, and which as it were girdled his ribs and internal organs, pressed upon them and remained attached in such a state and caused absolutely unbearable pain; so that it happened that what men could not do with his sacred martyr's body was fulfilled by disease, according to the unutterable judgment of Providence, in order that this Confessor of Truth and Martyr and Conqueror of all possible sufferings and Victor should appear before God after going through every misery, and that even to his last breath, as gold tried in the furnace, and in order that thanks to this he might receive yet greater honor and rewards eternally from the Just Judge" (The Orthodox Word, vol. 3, no. 3).
You who believe when you are well, see to it that you do not fall away
from God in the time of misfortune.
St. John of Kronstadt.