Saturday, October 20, 2012

Before you start to pray…( St. Theophan the Recluse )


So morning or evening, immediately before you begin to repeat your prayers, stand awhile, sit for a while, or walk a little and try to steady your mind and turn it away from all worldly activities and objects. After this, think who He is to whom you turn in prayer, then recollect who you are; who it is who is about to start this invocation to Him in prayer. Do this in such a way as to waken in your heart a feeling of humility and reverent awe that you are standing in the presence of God.

When the mind does in fact wander during prayer, recall it —and do so over and over again. Whenever you have said a prayer while your mind was wandering— and so have said it without feeling or comprehension—never forget to recite again all that you said in this way.

- St. Theophan the Recluse

Elder Paisios: Ease of Life and Christianity Do Not Go Together


Despite appearances and the unworthiness of the monks and clergy, the Church is an endless source of miracles. It takes water and makes it Holy Water; it takes bread and wine and makes the Holy Eucharist; it takes man made of dirt and makes him a god! But many people do not see the miracles. Because if they saw them they would not despise or hate the Church of Christ, but they would love and honor Her and would not be talking about Her with contempt as they do.

Christians are destined to bear a heavy cross in their life. It's a difficult thing to say you believe in the Lord and also that you have ease of life in this life. Because, when you are having ease of life on earth, there is something wrong with yourself; you care about the gold of the land and not for the treasures of heaven. But when you think like this, you are far away from the will of God. Christian life and having ease in life do not go together; they are different things.

Once there came here a well-known doctor to talk. His wife was a doctor also, both religious people. He complained that his children were living worldly lives and not only did not follow the family traditions of the Church, but also saw them as ironic.

They characterized Christians as mentally deficient, close-minded, dishonest, hypocritical and rascals, because their life, they would say, was not consistent with their words and their deeds were not Christian.

Even at Holy Unction, which the parents would have done once a year in their home with their children, when they were young they participated, but now were reacting and not to be found.

The doctor seemed very tired and desperate for the spiritual regeneration of his children. And he thought that all efforts, his own and that of his wife, were wasted; they were not captured nor were the children touched.

At some point the doctor, putting his head within his two hands, as if to cover his face with shame, told me: "I am afraid that the big money has done us harm."

I asked him to tell me what he meant, and he very frankly admitted that they had strayed from their path and had acquired assets that were completely unnecessary. "We have three large houses," he said, "one for us and one for each child. Also, two cottages, four expensive cars, a boat, deposits, and many material things."

He continued: "The children became spoiled and now we are accused by them of causing this. Also, they tell us that we have married beautifully wealth with Christianity." He then asked me to tell him what to do to get back peace and unity in the family.

I told him to give all to the poor and keep only one house, a cottage and their salaries. Frightened, he changed color, got scared, and was disappointed by the reply I gave.

He left and never returned. He was tied to the here, not to the Above. That is why the children looked for other ways of life different from that which their parents had suggested.

When I hear that there is great poverty and misery, I hurt a lot and I can not pray.

I'm not saying when you have two tunics to give one. This is unusual and difficult for most. But if you want to be called Christian and have the good things of God, why sweat and fight for the above mentioned and not do charity and good works? They are building their foundation on sand, whoever has a lot of money and manages it selfishly, oblivious to the poverty and misery of his fellows. Did you ever see grave clothes with pockets? All stays here. Only good works go to heaven. You know why there are wars? For the money. Because the rich can not put a bridle on greed and the poor do not wish to acquire the necessary, but envy the riches and glory of the rich.

Your pockets should always be open to allow the money to leave towards philanthropies. It is scandalous that there are pockets full of money and for them to be stitched.

Something No Orthodox Christian Kitchen Should Be Without

It is said that there are two things most Greek cooks do not go anywhere without: a knife and an icon of St. Euphrosynos. For Orthodox Christians, St. Euphrosynos the Cook is the patron saint of cooks and chefs. This being the case, it is traditional for Orthodox Christians to have in their kitchens an icon of St. Euphrosynos. Those unaware of St. Euphrosynos typically follow the western practice of hanging a Leonardo DaVinci inspired "Last Supper" icon. For Orthodox, however, the depiction of the "Last Supper" is more appropriately called the "Mystical Supper", since it was primarily a liturgical event which is often reserved for depiction in the Holy Altar area of a church.

The life of St. Euphrosynos, who is commemorated every year on September 11th, can be read here, and at the bottom of this link is a prayer to St. Euphrosynos traditionally said before cooking.
Chef's Hats and Orthodox Monastics

It is worth noting, since St. Euphrosynos was an Orthodox monastic on Mount Athos, that tall white chef hats (toque blanche), according to many, have their origins in the black tall hats (kalimavkion) of Greek Orthodox monastics. It is said that in the middle ages, Greek monks who prepared food in the monasteries wore tall white hats so that they could be distinguished from the normal monks who wore tall black hats.

Elder Philotheos Zervakos: "It Is Not With Ease That the Saints Went to Paradise"

It is not with ease that the saints went to Paradise, but they worked and struggled against the three enemies - the flesh, the world, and the devil. To be willing and great, however, they overcame the devil and the desires of the world and the flesh. We need prayer and vigilance.

All the saints were sanctified by humility, because humility generates love and all the virtues. The humble person is the dwelling place of God and the bearer of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If all the virtues are present and humility is absent, then they are empty, unprofitable, and harmful.

Divine Chrysostom when asked, "when will the end be?", responded, "when shame will be absent from women". And an unspoken prophecy says that the end will come when men will become women and women men. In our days we see these fulfilled.

Be careful, my beloved children, to not have in your mind the earthly, the perishable, and the vain of this world, but raise it to the country above, to heaven. May you remember always the Kingdom of God and quickly you will gain it.

By Elder Philotheos Zervakos

Γέροντας Παΐσιος: "Σήμερα βλέπεις ἕναν νερόβραστο κόσμο"

Ἀπόσπασμα ἀπὸ τὸ βιβλίο "Λόγοι Γέροντος Παϊσίου, Τόμος Β, Πνευματικὴ Ἀφύπνιση", σελ. 45-46
Ρώτησα ἕναν Πνευματικὸ μὲ κοινωνικὴ δράση, μὲ ἕνα σωρὸ πνευματικοπαίδια κλπ: "Τί ξέρεις γιὰ μία βλάσφημη ταινία;". "Δὲν ξέρω τίποτε", μοῦ εἶπε. Δὲν ἤξερε τίποτε καὶ εἶναι σὲ μεγάλη πόλη.Κοιμίζουν τὸν κόσμο. Τὸν ἀφήνουν ἔτσι, γιὰ νὰ μὴ στανοχωριέται καὶ νὰ διασκεδάζει. Μὴν τυχὸν πεῖς ὅτι θὰ γίνει πόλεμος ἢ ὅτι θὰ γίνει ἡ Δευτέρα Παρουσία καὶ γι' αὐτὸ πρέπει νὰ ἐτοιμασθοῦμε, μὴν τυχὸν στενοχωρηθοῦν οἱ ἄνθρωποι.
Σὰν μερικὲς γριὲς ποὺ λένε "μὴ μιλᾶς γιὰ θάνατο, μόνο γιὰ χαρὲς καὶ γιὰ βαφτίσια νὰ μιλᾶς", σὰν νὰ μὴν τὶς περιμένει ὁ θάνατος.
 Ἔτσι νιώθουν μία ψεύτικη χαρά. Ἐνῶ, ἂν σκέφτονταν ὅτι τὸ τάδε γεροντάκι ποὺ ἔμενε λίγο πιὸ κάτω πέθανε χθές, ὁ ἄλλος εἶναι στὰ τελευταῖα του καὶ θὰ πεθάνει, μεθαύριο θὰ γίνει τοῦ τάδε τὸ μνημόσυνο ποὺ ἦταν καὶ πολὺ νεότερο ἀπὸ αὐτές, θὰ σκέφτονταν τὸν θάνατο καὶ θὰ ἔλεγαν: "Πρέπει νὰ ἐξομολογηθῶ καὶ νὰ ἑτοιμασθῶ πνευματικά,γιατί μπορεῖ κι ἐμένα σὲ λίγο νὰ μὲ καλέσει ὁ Χριστὸς στὴν ἄλλη ζωή".
Διαφορετικά, ἔρχεται ὕστερα ὁ θάνατος καὶ τὶς παίρνει ἀνέτοιμες. Ἄλλοι πάλι ἀπὸ"καλωσύνη" λένε:" Στοὺς αἱρετικοὺς μὴ λένε ὅτι εἶναι στὴν πλάνη,γιὰ νὰ δείξουμε ἀγάπη". Καὶ ἔτσι τὰ ἰσοπεδώνουν ὅλα. Ἂν ζοῦσαν αὐτοὶ στὰ....

πρώτα χρόνια του Χριστιανισμοῦ, δὲν θὰ εἴχαμε οὔτε ἕναν ἅγιο. Ἔλεγαν τότε στοὺς Χριστιανούς: "Ρίξε μόνο λιβάνι στὴν φωτιὰ καὶ μὴν ἀρνῆσαι τὸν Χριστό". Δὲν τὸ δέχονταν. "Κᾶνε μόνον πὼς ρίχνεις". Δὲν τὸ δέχονταν. 'Μὴ μιλᾶς γιὰ τὸν Χριστὸ καὶ πήγαινε ἐλεύθερος σὲ ἄλλο μέρος",καὶ δὲν τὸ δέχονταν. Σήμερα βλέπεις ἕναν νερόβραστο κόσμο.

Ρῶσος ὀρθόδοξος ἱερέας σώζει 2000 βρέφη ἀπὸ ἄμβλωση

Ἕνας ὀρθόδοξος ἱερέας ἀπὸ τὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ Βόλγκογκραντ(πρώην Στάλινγκραντ) τῆς Ρωσίας ἐπαινέθηκε ἀπὸ τὸ ρωσικὸ Ὑπουργεῖο Ὑγείας, γιὰ τὸ ἔργο του στὴ μείωση τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τῶν ἀμβλώσεων στὴν περιοχή του. Μὲ τὶς προσωπικές του προσπάθειες μὲ παροχὴ συμβουλῶν καὶ βοηθώντας τὶς γυναῖκες νὰ κρατήσουν τὰ μωρά τους, τὰ ποσοστὰ ἀμβλώσεων ἔχουν μειωθεῖ στὴν περιοχὴVolgograd κατὰ 25 τοῖς ἑκατὸ κατὰ τὰ τελευταία πέντε χρόνια.
 Ὁ πατέρας Alexis Tarasov ἄρχισε τὸ ἔργο διάσωσης ἀνθρωπίνων ζωῶν στὴ δική του ἐνορία στὴν πόλη Voljsk, ὅπου εἶπε ὅτι πέρασε ὧρες μιλώντας μὲ γυναῖκες ποὺ σκέφτονταν νὰ κάνουν ἄμβλωση. Μετὰ ἀπὸ μία περίοδο μὲ ἐπισκέψεις στὸ τοπικὸ νοσοκομεῖο, ἀποφάσισε μαζὶ μὲ ἄλλους ὁμοϊδεάτες τοῦ ἱερεῖς, νὰ δημιουργήσει ἕνα κέντρο κρίσης ἐγκυμοσύνης. Μὲ τὴν ὑποστήριξη τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς του, πλησίασε τὶς τοπικὲς ἀρχὲς γιὰ νὰ.... συμβάλουν στὴ διεύρυνση τοῦ ἔργου.

«Τὸ πρόγραμμα ἐγκρίθηκε τὸ 2002 ἀπὸ τὴ διοίκηση τοῦ Voljsk»,δήλωσε ὁ πατέρας Ἀλέξης. "Στὴ συνέχεια, ἀναπτύχθηκε ἡ ἰδέα γιὰ τὴ δημιουργία ἑνὸς περιφερειακοῦ κέντρου, μὲ τὴν ὑποστήριξη τῆς διοίκησης τοῦVolgograd."
Τὸ ἀποτέλεσμα ἦταν ἡ δημιουργία τοῦ Κέντρου γιὰ τὴν Προστασία τῆς Μητρότητας καὶ τῆς Παιδικῆς Ἡλικίας, ὑπὸ τὴν ἐποπτεία τῆς Ὀρθόδοξης Ἰατρικῆς Ἑταιρείας ‘Ἀρχάγγελος Ραφαήλ’. Σύμφωνα μὲ τὸ Ὑπουργεῖο Ὑγείας, πάνω ἀπὸ 2.000 γυναῖκες τοῦVolgograd ἔχουν ἐπιλέξει νὰ ἐγκαταλείψουν τὴν ἀρχική τους πρόθεση νὰ προβοῦν σὲ ἄμβλωση ἀπὸ τὴν ἐποχὴ ἐκείνη.
Ὁ πατέρας Alexis ἐξήγησε ὅτι τὸ ἐπίκεντρό του ἔργου τοῦ εἶναι ἁπλό: νὰ παρέχει στὶς γυναῖκες ἐκπαιδευμένους ἀνθρώπους ποὺ μὲ συμπάθεια θὰ ἀκούσουν τὶς ἀνησυχίες τους καὶ θὰ δώσουν πλήρεις πληροφορίες σχετικὰ μὲ τὴ διαδικασία τῆς ἄμβλωσης καὶ τὶς πιθανὲς ἐπιπτώσεις στὴν ὑγεία καὶ τὴν εὐημερία τους, καὶ θὰ τοὺς προσφέρουν τὸ ὑλικὸ ποὺ χρειάζονται γιὰ νὰ βοηθηθοῦν.
«Ἀρκετὰ συχνά, τὸ μόνο πράγμα ποὺ ἀπαιτεῖται γιὰ νὰ ἀποτρέψουμε μία μητέρα ἀπὸ αὐτὴ τὴν τρομερὴ ἀπόφαση εἶναι ἁπλὰ νὰ μιλήσει σὲ κάποιον μὲ ἀνοιχτὴ καρδιά», εἶπε ὁ πατέρας Ἀλέξης. Ἡ Ναταλία Ermishkina, 31 ἐτῶν, εἶναι μία ἀπὸ τὶς γυναῖκες ποὺ ὁ πατέρας Ἀλέξης ἀπέτρεψε ἀπὸ τὴν ἄμβλωση. Ἡ νεαρὴ μητέρα εἶπε ὅτι εἶχε χάσει τὸ δωμάτιό της στὶς ἐργατικὲς κατοικίες, ἀφοῦ ἐγκαταλείφθηκε ἀπὸ τὸν ἄνθρωπο ποὺ ὑποσχέθηκε νὰ τὴν παντρευτεῖ καὶ νὰ μεγαλώσει τὸ παιδί τους. Ἀπὸ ἀπόγνωση, ἡ Ναταλία ἀποφάσισε νὰ ξεφορτωθεῖ τὸ παιδί.
«Ὁ ψυχολόγος στὴν προγεννητικὴ μὲ ἄκουσε καὶ μὲ συμβούλεψε νὰ μιλήσω στὸν πατέρα Ἀλέξη», δήλωσε ἡ Ναταλία. «Πῆγα σ 'αὐτὸν καὶ δὲν τὸ μετανιώνω. Γέννησα τὴν Ἀλεξάνδρα, καὶ τὸ Κέντρο μὲ βοήθησε ὅσον ἀφορᾶ τὴ στέγαση καὶ τὰ ροῦχα γιὰ τὸ παιδί. Ἔχω μία κόρη, καὶ τώρα ἀρχίζω νὰ πιστεύω καὶ νὰ προσβλέπω σὲ μία καλύτερη ζωή».
"Σήμερα, ὅλες οἱ γυναῖκες ποὺ ἐπιζητοῦν τὴν ἔκτρωση ἀποστέλλονται ἀπὸ τοὺς γυναικολόγους γιὰ διαβουλεύσεις μὲ ψυχολόγους ποὺ ἐργάζονται σὲ κάθε προγεννητικὸ νοσοκομεῖο", δήλωσε ὁ Νικολάι Zarkin, ἐπικεφαλῆς ἰατρὸς τοῦ Κεντρικοῦ Μαιευτηρίου Νὸ 2 στὸ Volgograd.
Ο Zarkin δήλωσε ὅτι μετὰ τὶς διαβουλεύσεις αὐτές, τὸ 20 τοῖς ἑκατὸ ἀπὸ τὶς γυναῖκες ἀρνοῦνται τὴν ἄμβλωση καὶ θέλουν νὰ γεννήσουν τὰ παιδιά τους.
Ὁ πατέρας Ἀλέξης παρέχει βοήθεια γιὰ τὶς μητέρες, ἀφοῦ γεννήσουν τὰ παιδιά τους, μὲ τὴν παροχὴ νομικῆς βοήθειας, καθὼς καὶ μὲ ροῦχα στὸ Κέντρο γιὰ τὴν Προστασία τῆς Μητρότητας καὶ τῆς Παιδικῆς Ἡλικίας, καὶ προσβλέπει στὴν παροχὴ περισσότερων κατοικιῶν.
"Ὅπου εἶναι δυνατό, προσπαθοῦμε νὰ βοηθήσουμε τὶς γυναῖκες ποὺ ἔχουν ἀνάγκη. Ὑπάρχει τώρα μία ὀξεία ἀνάγκη γιὰ τὴ δημιουργία περισσότερων σπιτιῶν γιὰ μητέρες ποὺ χρειάζονται στέγαση. Εἶναι σημαντικὸ νὰ χτίσουμε σπίτια καὶ νὰ τὰ ἐξοπλίσουμε, ἔτσι ὥστε οἱ γυναῖκες νὰ μποροῦν νὰ ζοῦν μὲ τὰ παιδιὰ τοὺς μέχρι τὸ στεγαστικό τους πρόβλημα νὰ ἐπιλυθεῖ", δήλωσε ὁ πατέρας Ἀλέξης. "Ἀλλὰ εἶναι δύσκολο χωρὶς τὴ βοήθεια ἀπὸ τὶς ἀρχὲς καί, χωρὶς εὐεργέτες, νὰ μπορέσουμε νὰ τὸ κάνουμε."
Η Pravoslavie News ἀναφέρει ὅτι στὸν πατέρα Ἀλέξη ἔχει δοθεῖ ἕνα βραβεῖο ἀπὸ τὸ Παγκόσμιο Συνέδριο τῶν Οἰκογενειῶν γιὰ τὸν πολυετῆ ἀγώνα τοῦ ὑπὲρ τῆς ζωῆς.

Raising Christian Children

What are the demands on a Christian parent? How are we to bring up our children as Christians? The main thing is to act like Christians ourselves.

Here is some wisdom from Elder Paisios.
Parents must live like true Christians and be careful of their behavior. Children are like computers; since a very early age, they register in their minds everything they see, or hear happening in their homes. If they see their father and mother quarreling, cursing and using bad language, they record everything in their mind's tape.

So, when they grow older, they start cursing and quarreling using their parents language. They behave this way, without really wanting to, but because they have inherited the pathetic behavior of their parents. Later on, when they realize their mistakes, they find it difficult to correct them.

As a parent every action you take is important when you raise children. It is not necessarily what you say but how you act that teaches them the Orthodox way of life. It's essential to show them the virtues as well as the way to practice their faith Parents should pray with their children, attend Church regularly, participate with them in the sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion. A parent's habit becomes the child's habit. This is the way to raise Christian children.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 124

Trust in God for All Things

Often we feel a conflict from the instruction we receive that tells us to just trust in God and not in our own efforts to take care of ourselves. 
It seems thought, that if we do not take care of ourselves we become dependent on the handouts and generosity of others and we lose our independence and our self-dignity. So what does it mean to trust in God for all things? This instruction seems a bit counter intuitive.

Elder Paisios says the following,
When we believe in God and have trust in His fatherly providence and concern, then we do not think of ourselves; instead we know that God is aware of our needs and looks after our problems, from the simplest to the most serious one.

The only things we must want is to allow God’s love and providence to function for us. When we have this kind of faith and inner disposition, we are able to see God’s miracles––God himself––who is always close to us under all circumstances.

I order to experience this we must reject any form of worldly assistance or human hope, and with a pure heart, unhesitatingly and trustfully devote our mind to God. Then the grace of Christ will fill our souls at once.

But, what about our well intended efforts to amass material wealth to protect us in the future, our children’s education, our retirement and so forth?

He continues,
Some people have the wrong impression, however; they think they can be involved in worldly matters and be attached to material possessions, and at the same time, expect the help of God’s providence.

God’s help to people who think this way can be destructive, for it prolongs their attachment to worldly things. God helps them by letting them be exposed to temptations and difficulties; this will eventually make them loath worldly matters and totally devote their hearts to God.

I have observed this at work at a local monastery. Three nuns came from Greece without any money and only a small suitcase with a few belongings. This was five years ago. Now they live on a 100 acres plot with a beautiful chapel, a guesthouse, and a residence for four or five nuns.

 They have no debts. In addition there are fully equipped workshops, a large garden and a mini farm with animals. 

 They pray and work diligently giving priority to hospitality. They earn enough for basic needs by making icons and selling religious items to those who visit. But untold times, when cash was needed it showed up at the right time. 

 There was no campaign to raise money. They do not worry about money and trust totally in the God to provide whatever they need knowing that He provides for their needs. And He does.

I cant say this is how I live my life as I rely on a retirement fund to protect me in my older years. I have numerous insurance policies for health, auto and home. Although, I have experienced as I let go of accumulated wealth, God does provide in new ways.

A final thought from the Elder,
We must totally rely on God’s providence as this is the only way to be relieved of our anxiety and worries... To trust divine providence one must free himself from all worldly concerns and wait for God to look after him.... He must overcome his love for money and trust in it and then rest all his hopes on God and he cannot do both at the same time.

With this I struggle


Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp71-73

Why We Have Difficulties

Why are we so often called on to endure difficulty? It seems like life is filled with obstacles. We have desires for this or that and often find that what we want is not possible.
  Also, even when we don’t seem to have any desire, something we take for granted, like our good health or a close friend, is taken away from us. Why is this the nature of our worldly life?

Elder Paisios says,
Sometimes God allows for a relative or a fellow worker to cause us problems in order to exercise our patience and humbleness; however, instead of being grateful for the chance God gives us, we react and refuse to be cured. It is like refusing to pay the doctor who is giving us a shot when we are ill.

Apparently, God is always working to help us to grow in the virtues. He wants us to be humble and to have great patience. When we object to the roadblocks that are put in our path in life we are rejecting the medicine God is providing for our growth.

The Elder says,
God does not want us, His children, to be pestered. He gives us temptations and hardships, in order to become perfect.

Temptations will cease to exist in our life, when we reach the level of perfection.

Christians ought to love afflictions and not try to get rid of them; afflictions are necessary means leading to our perfection.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 85
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