Saturday, August 31, 2013

World and Family ( Elder Ephraim - Arizona )

May an angel of God, my child, follow you and show you the path of God and of your salvation. Amen; so be it. I pray that God gives you health of soul, for this is a special gift of sonship which is bestowed only upon those souls that have been completely devoted to the worship and love of God.

The world attracts the youth like a magnet; worldly things have great power over the newly enlightened soul that just started to find its bearings and see its purpose in life and the duty calling him. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” [1] God has stored up pleausres for eternity, for both He and our soul are eternal. There is no comparison between the pleasures of the world and the pure pleasures of God.

The pleasures of the world are obtained with toil and expenses, and after their momentary enjoyment, they are followed by various consequences, so that they are incorrectly called pleasures. The pleasures of God, however, do not have such consequences, because spiritual pleasures down here on earth are the firstfruits of an eternal series of pleasures and delights in the kingdom of God. Whereas on the contrary, one who has been corrupted by the pleasures of the world is compelled to undergo eternal damnation along with the first instigator of corruption, the devil.

The time of our life, my child, has been given to us as a sum of money so that each of us may trade for his salvation, and depending on the trade we deal in, we shall become either rich or poor. If we take advantage of the “money” of time by trading to increase our spiritual wealth, then we shall truly be skilled traders, and we shall hear the blessed voice: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” [2]

At the end of our life, an exact account will be demanded of each one of us: how and where we spent the money of time, and woe to us if we have squandered it in movie theaters, in entertainments, in debauchery, in futile dreams, in carnal pleasures. Then what defense will our tied tongue be able to utter, and how will we be able to lift up our eyes and see our Christ, when He enumerates the countless benefactions which His boundless love profusely poured upon us?

Now that we have time, now that the money of time has not yet been spent completely and we still have it at our disposal, let us reflect sensibly on the vagrant world which seeks to rob us. Let us push it away like a putrid dead dog, and with that money let us run to buy precious works which, when tried by fire, will become very brightgifts worthy of our Holy God, fit to be used as a decoration in the holy Jerusalem of Heaven. We should not purchase chaff, that is, punishable works of darkness, for we shall go down with them into the eternal fire of damnation, where the multitude of people who embezzled God’s gifts will reap whatever they sowed! Sow good works with tears, and then in a time of visitation you will reap the sheaves of enjoying eternal life!

2. It is from God that you are being tested, because He is training you for battle; He is drilling you, just like the soldiers who are trained through severe labors in their drills. There, first they learn the theory of warfare, and then at the sound of the trumpet in the real war, since they have already been trained, they rush into the battle with the inner assurance that they know how to fight, and they are ready to sacrifice themselves for their cause and ideology.

You are also in a similar situation: since you have been called to become soldiers of Christ and to fight against His enemy, He trains you in order to ascertain your love towards Him: “Who is it that loves me, but he who keeps my commandments?” [3] Take courage, my children; remain loyal and dedicated to Him Who has loved you with perfect love.

Before a battle begins, the generals boost the soldiers’ spirits by singing various battle hymns and relating various stories of heroic deeds to kindle their sense of self-sacrifice. This tactic gives them great strength and bravery in the battle about to be fought.

Likewise, we too should contemplate, as the Saints did, the struggles of the martyrs and of the holy monks: how they lived ascetically, how they renounced the world and everyone, and how nothing prevented them from following the path that leads to Jesus. This contemplation will greatly strengthen your good disposition and intention, for there have been many who were unaware of the concealed traps, with the result that their souls succumbed to temptation and thus they fell from the hope of eternal life.

Contemplate the love of our Jesus; the love of Jesus will overpower every other natural love. The more we renounce, the more love of God we shall enjoy.

Let us attend on high, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Let our eyes look on high, for the eternal and everlasting things are above, not below; for everything here is dust and ashes. Reflect on the luxuriousness of heaven: the infinite wisdom of God is there; inconceivable beauty is there; the angelic melodies are there; the riches of divine love are there; the life free from pain is there; the tears and sighs will be taken away there; only joy, love, peace, an eternal Pascha, and an unending festival are there, “Oh, the depth of the riches and knowledge of God!” [4] “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” [5]

Attend to the prayer; persevere in prayer, and it will put everything in order. Do not yield at all; remain firm in your holy goal. Remain beside Jesus to live with spiritual happiness. There is no happiness anywhere except in Christ. So-called “happiness” outside of Christ is incorrectly called happiness, since it is obtained with reprehensible means and since it ends quickly and leads man to the eternal unhappiness.

Struggle, my children; the angels are weaving crowns with flowers of paradise. Our Christ regards the struggle as a martyrdomwhat is more excellent than to be a martyr for Christ!

3. I received your letter, my child, and we all rejoiced at your firm desire and wonderful aspiration for monasticism. “I have chosen to be an outcast in the house of my God rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners.” [6] May no other love separate you from the love of Christ; consider everything rubbish so that you may gain Christ. The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which will be given to those who struggle. [7] Now is the time for struggles, afflictions, and labors for God; whereas the future is the time for crowns of eternal glory, rewards, praises, and dwelling together with the holy angels beside the supreme throne of God.

Youth passes by silently; the years roll by quietly, imperceptibly, like the water in a creek; hours disappear like smoke in the wind. This is how the present life passes and vanishes. God’s strugglers advance toward eternal prizes of glory, whereas the indolent and lovers of the world proceed towards an eternal damnation with the demons.

The allurements of the world and its pleasures will transform into eternal affliction and pain for those who delight in them, if they do not repent. While on the contrary, for the people of God a little deprivation will be recompensed by an eternal felicity and blessedness of God.

Do not let familial affection hinder you; reflect that you will be alone in the hour of death, and then you will need to have God as a helper. So if you love Him more than them, you will have Him. But if you succumb, you will reap the crops of bitter remorse all on your own. So for the love of our Christ, make the decision and begin your new life.

4. (To a spiritual daughter)

Everything depends on your will. Entreat our Panagia very fervently to warm your holy desire, so that you decide with self-denial to renounce the vain world along with that dream which is called life, and to follow Christ the Bridegroom, Who will give you Himself and His sweetest love, and will count you worthy to become an heir of His kingdom. Entreat the Panagia to help you make the holy decision, and when she does, make the sign of the cross and follow the salvific voice of Jesus, saying: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” [8]

In the dreadful hour of death, no one will help us; only the good works that we have done for God and our soul will help us. Therefore, since the monastic life in general consists of Works of God which are very conducive to our soul’s salvation, why shouldn’t we sacrifice everything to live such a life which will make us rich in the kingdom of God? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” [9]

The life of man hangs by a hair; at every step, our life hangs in the balance. How many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see the evening? How many millions of people fell asleep, never to wake up? Indeed, the life of man is a dream. In a dream, one sees things that do not exist: he might see that he is crowned a king, but when he wakes up, he sees that in reality he is just a pauper.

In this life that we live, man labors to become rich, to become educated, to have an easy life, to become great; but unfortunately, death comes and foils everything. Then what he labored for all his life is taken by others, while he leaves life with a guilty conscience and a soiled soul. Who is wise and will understand these things and will renounce them and follow Christ the Bridegroom, so that all the works he will do will be recompensed infinitely in His kingdom?

Always, my daughter, remember death and the judgment of God which we will unavoidably undergo. Bear them in mind to have more fear of God, and weep for your sins, because tears console the soul of him who weeps.

5. My spiritual daughter, I pray that peace and divine joy may accompany your life. Amen.

I received your letter and saw your joy. I pray that this joy will be the firstfruits of a continual spiritual harvest, of a new life totally dedicated to the unrivaled love of God. Now you have experienced the fruits of the Spirit. If you were so invigorated by experiencing a little, how much more will you be invigorated when you find yourself in a completely spiritual environment!

Everywhere and until the end of our life we shall undergo temptations: even in a monastery, even in the wilderness, if we happen to be there. However, if we are far from the world we shall have the freedom to fight the battle in an open place, where we shall be able to gather spiritual reinforcements to help us, with high hopes of eternally winning the prize for which we have been called heavenward. [10] Here we have no continuing city, but we seek a future, eternal, glorious one! [11] The form of this world is passing away, [12] whereas he who does good works abides unto the ages.

Struggle, my child, with all your strength. Do not give joy to Satan by neglecting your duties, but give him bitterness by performing them with precision and eagerness. Satan will not stop shooting poisoned arrows at you with various thoughts, and especially with filthy thoughts. But prepare yourself to battle valiantly to obtain the unfading crown. As soon as a bad thought appears, immediately destroy the fantasy and say the prayer at once, and behold, your deliverance will come!

Do not be afraid when you see the battle, lest you lose your morale; but invoke the Almighty God and humble yourself very much. Rebuke yourself with the worst names and convince yourself that this is how you really are. And then from this point begin the battle with the prayer. Be careful, for the battle we conduct is not slight; we have to fight with principalities and powers, and it takes prudence and caution to fight well, for something good is not good if it is not done properly.

I pray that you have a good fight, and be careful with the people you keep company with….

With many prayers and blessings,

Your lowly Elder Ephraim Arizona

What is an Orthodox Woman?

a woman has never been an easy task, ever since God said to Eve, “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). But up until this century, it was at least a fairly straightforward one. Every little girl grew up knowing exactly what was required of her in life, and learned, if not to like it, at least to accept it.

 the twentieth century, all this has changed.
Not that being a woman has gotten any easier, in spite of multitudes of “labor-saving” household devices and the rather dubious advantages of
“having it all.” (What nobody told my generation, the later baby-boomers, when we were embarking on our careers and families was that “having it all” really only meant having twice as much work!) But while hard work is still with us, modern women have lost their clear direction for life.
We are confronted with a cacophony of voices and choices, each beckoning us onto a different path that promises “fulfillment’.

world gives us many options, ranging from the ultra-conservative image of the cowering, mouselike wife living in total subjection to her overbearing husband, to the upwardly mobile business or professional woman who can’t be bothered with annoying distractions such as children.
On the farthest fringe, we hear the radical feminists calling every woman to become a (preferably Lesbian) manifestation of the earth-goddess.

the world offers these and countless other choices, it fails to provide any satisfactory means of determining which of these paths (if any) is really the  right one. Even the various churches have not been able to present a united front or to give  women any clear, reliable direction as to how we ought to order our lives or what sort of model we ought to follow.

most churches seem to be just as confused as individual women are as to how to respond to rapidly changing social conditions and the demands of feminism.

where does all this leave us? Must we choose between equally unacceptable extremes, or is there another way? Is there a way that offers peace amidst chaos; that speaks of balance and right
proportion; that offers eternal rather than temporal regards; that promises true fulfillment, not of passing earthly desires and ambitions, but of the deepest longings of our souls?

is indeed such a way, and it is to be found within the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox model of womanhood is based upon the wisdom of the ages rather than the shifting sands of philosophical fads.
The Orthodox way sees woman as God sees her – as a creature of honor and dignity, with gifts and responsibilities uniquely her own, with her own
essential role to play in the salvation of mankind.

flesh out that vision and see it more clearly, we must look first at the historical development of the place of women within the community of faith.


understand the history of women in the Church, we have to go back to the very beginning: to Eve. Church Fathers and scholars have expressed a variety of opinions about Eve, about the nature of her relationship with Adam before the Fall, and about the true significance of the “curse” laid on her after the Fall. But beyond all the controversy, several things are clear:

Eve was created in the image of God, just as was Adam. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). In their essence as created beings, men and women stand with equal worth and honor before God.

Eve was created to be Adam’s “helper” (Genesis 2:18). This does not mean she was to be his servant, still less his slave. The Hebrew word used here (ezer) is often used of God Himself as the Helper of His people. Clearly, the rela­tionship intended is one of mutual coop­eration, not of domination. Adam, on the other hand, was given the task of naming the animals before Eve was made from his rib: so the work of “subduing the earth” was primarily his.

Eve, as we all know, made a dread­ful mistake. She listened to the seductive words of the serpent and, without consult­ing her husband, ate the forbidden fruit, thus condemning herself and all her prog­eny to a life outside Paradise. Some have speculated that Satan chose to tempt Eve rather than Adam, not because she was weaker, but because he knew that Adam would follow her in her sin (making him equally guilty). The righteousness of the world was
entrusted to Eve’s keeping, but she did not keep the trust.

As a result of her sin, Eve was condemned to sorrow and pain in child­bearing, and to a life of subordination to her husband (Genesis 3: 16). The wording of this curse (“you shall have sorrow… he shall rule”) suggests that God was sim­ply predicting what would happen to women living in a fallen world, rather than deliberately laying a punishment upon them. Certainly the curse is an accurate description of what happens to women when they are left at the mercy of fallen men.

we have a picture of God’s intention for men and women—a relationship of loving cooperation between two people equal in value and honor, but differing in roles. And we have a picture of that rela­tionship perverted by sin: women bound by their own desire and their need for children to men who wrongfully domi­nate and belittle them. But in that very hour when God pronounced the fate of fallen woman, he also pronounced her hope: the Seed that would bruise Satan’s head.


next great epoch in the history of women is embodied by the one who has been called the second Eve, as Christ is the second Adam: Mary, the Mother of God. As it was given to a woman to exercise her free will to banish all humanity from
Paradise, so it was given to a woman to provide, by her own will, the means of man’s restoration to his blessed state. Without Mary’s willing and complete
surrender to the will of God, there could have been no Incarnation, and thus no crucifixion and no Resurrection—in other words, no Savior and no salvation for mankind.

Eve was the mother of all man­kind, so it was through motherhood that Mary gave this most precious gift to all humanity. Thus Mary became the Mother of all those who would become the children of God. In Mary we see the epitome of all that redeemed woman can become— a state even more glorious than that Eve held before her Fall. Consider some of the qualities that make Mary, the Mother of God, the ultimate model around which our lives, even in this modern, frenetic day and age. can and must be molded:

Mary willingly submitted to the will of God. Although she was chosen, she was not forced: her obedience was voluntary and wholehearted. Later,
as Joseph’s wife, she also submitted willingly to her husband—she who had known God more intimately than any other hu­man being as she carried Him within her womb.

2) Mary responded to God in faith. What was asked of her must have been frightening and was certainly dangerous; but Mary trusted the love of God for her

3) Mary risked everything for motherhood. In her society, for a young woman to become pregnant outside of marriage was the ultimate degradation.
Had Joseph been a hardhearted man, Mary could have become a complete pariah, ostracized by her neighbors, unable to marry, with no means of supporting her­self and her child. How many women in our society have chosen abortion rather than
face circumstances less difficult than these? But Mary chose rather to risk her own life to give life to another.

Mary took on the role of interced­ing for men and of leading them to Christ.
At the wedding at Cana, she first made known the people’s need to her Son, knowing in spite of His protests that He would fill that need; then she said to the people, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). She thereby exhorts us all, her spiritual children, to respond to Christ with the same loving,
trusting obedience she herself showed.

Evdokimov, in his book Woman and the Salvation of the World (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. 1994), sums up the spiritual role (or “charism”)
of women, as exemplified by Mary, thus: to give birth to Christ in other people.
We may be called to physical motherhood, to pass on our faith to our children: or we may be called to spiritual motherhood, to show forth the image of Christ to all men and call them to Him.


showed, through His own behavior to women and through His teach­ing to His disciples, that while the place for proper headship and divinely established
authority remained a constant both in the home and in the Church, a significant shift had occurred in the old order of male/female relationships which had
prevailed since the Fall. Christ treated women with dignity, respect, and compassion.
In His teaching on marriage (Matthew 19:3-9), He restored their marital rights to what they had been “in the beginning,” before allowances had to be made for the hardness of men’s hearts. Through the redemption accomplished by His death and Resurrection, Christ made it possible for men and women once again to strive for the ideal established in Paradise: a loving cooperation between equals with different, complementary roles.

ideal was largely upheld in the first few centuries of the Church. Women swelled the ranks of the saints and martyrs, giving their lives to God in a variety of
roles, including those of prophetess, teacher, and deaconess as well as the more traditional ones of wife, mother, and performer of charitable works. When men began to seek the desert as a place to live out a more radical commitment to God, women—beginning with Saint Mary of Egypt, to whose holiness even Saint Anthony the Great deferred — were not far behind.

the family, the position of women was better among Christians than it had ever been before. While Saint Paul exhorted wives to submit to their husbands—which was nothing new—he also, even more strongly, exhorted men to love their wives “as Christ also loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25)—in other words, to the point of giving their lives for them. This was something new. The ancient curse was beginning to crumble.

the same time, however, there were teachers in the Church who held to a view of women more in keeping with the views of their Jewish forebears (succinctly expressed in the traditional male prayer, “Thank You, Lord, that You did not make me a
woman”). Some blamed women entirely for the Fall and claimed that they were inherently evil, to be avoided by any man who would seek righteousness. Some insisted that marriage and sexuality came into being only after the Fall and
were nothing but a necessary evil for the propagation of the species. One cannot but sus­pect that these men—mostly celibates— were misplacing the blame for their troublesome bodily passions, assigning that blame not to their own fallen nature and the temptation of the devil, but to the unfortunate and inadvertent object of those passions. woman.

the centuries went by, this dis­torted view began to exert a greater influence over the Church’s attitude toward and treatment of women. Women gradually came to be excluded from the diaconate and from other ministries in which they had previously taken an equal part with men. Women who achieved sanctity were praised as having “overcome” their weak and evil feminine nature and become as righteous as men.

never completely lost their champions, however. In the nineteenth century in Russia, feminine spirituality began to come into its own again. Several notable elders, including Saint Seraphim of Sarov and Saint Theophan the Recluse, made it their business to encourage women, both in the world and in the mo­nastic life. Both of these men founded and directed women’s monasteries, and offered spiritual direction to countless lay­women, in person or through correspondence.
These godly men had the prophetic insight that it would be primarily through women that the Faith would be preserved in Russia during the seventy years of communist persecution, and they wanted women to be prepared.


surprisingly, the position of women in the Orthodox Church today reflects both sides of this history—that which would abase them along with that which affirms their dignity.

the one hand, it cannot be denied that there are parishes in which women are permitted to do only those tasks which the men consider “women’s work” and therefore “beneath” them—cleaning the church, taking care of the children, baking the prosphora. In fact, of course, these traditionally female tasks are just as honorable and just as essential to the life of the Church as any of the more public or glamorous tasks which these men reserve to themselves; nevertheless, they do not exhaust the spectrum of women’s gifts and therefore should not circumscribe their contribution.

the other hand, there are many parishes in which women serve in every capacity except those of the ordained clergy—as chanters, readers, choir directors; as teachers, administrators, parish council members; as helpers to the clergy in all sorts of works of mercy.

Orthodox practice in some places reflects the overmasculinization of our culture as a whole, the solution to this problem is not to be found in feminism, even of the so-called “Christian” variety. The fundamental error of feminism is the same as that of the male-dominated culture that feminism is reacting against: the error of believing that masculine qualities, such as leadership, physical
strength, analytical thinking, and strict justice, are inherently superior to feminine qualities, such as nurturing, gentleness, intuition, and mercy. Instead
of striving to win men’s respect for feminine qualities, feminists tried to empower women by transforming them into imitation men.

feminism, while less vehement in some respects than the secular variety, still attempts to raise the position of women in the Church by placing them in roles traditionally reserved for men, such as the priesthood, instead of by exhorting the Church to accept and honor women in the ministries for which they are naturally and/or spiritually gifted. The masculinization of women which inevitably results from this mistaken approach is one of many reasons that the Orthodox Church has steadfastly maintained its traditional stance against the female priesthood and the “feminization” of God.

spite of those weaknesses which characterize every human institution, the Orthodox Church still provides, in her Tradition and very often in practice, the strongest witness to be found in the mod­ern world to the godly model of woman­hood
that we have been trying to define. We as Orthodox women have the responsibility to help restore our society to balance by living out those godly feminine qualities which have often gotten short shrift, both in the world and in the Church.


then, are some of these godly feminine qualities we need to cultivate? It is impossible to give an exhaustive list, but here are several that seem especially important.

The greatest of these is love. Of course, all Christians are called to love; but women have a special gift for loving. We should love, first of all,
those closest to us—our families or those who are like a family to us. But we should not stop there; our love should reach out to our neighborhood, our
parish, our commu­nity, our world. The love demanded of us is not just a sentimental good feeling toward other people. We’re talking about sacrificial love—love in action—love that puts our own interests second to those of the beloved. It’s not an easy task.

We should give ourselves in joyful service. Again, all Christians are called to serve; but it seems to come more naturally to women. Our service should follow our love, starting at home and spreading outward, always guided by God’s will for our individual lives.

service should also follow our individual gifts. If you can’t bake a fluffy pastry to save your life, go ahead and say no when the festival committee asks
you to make baklava. But if, on the other hand, you have artistic talent, perhaps you should study iconography or illustrate lives of saints for children.
Don’t let your gifts go to waste. If you don’t know what your gifts are, or can’t think of a way to use them for God, talk to your husband or priest or to
an older, wiser woman you know. They may know you better than you know yourself.

The essence of womanhood is motherhood. Not all women are called to be physical mothers, but all are called to be spiritual mothers, guiding and nurturing and teaching others to follow Christ. Those who work in the world should seek
vocations that allow these qualities their full expression, rather than trying to com­pete in the dog-eat-dog business world of men.

of us who are mothers in the physical sense must take this responsibility very seriously. The world would have us believe that mothering is just one aspect of life, that it can be done quite adequately in the few hours a day we have left over from our careers or other activi­ties we have chosen to “fulfill
ourselves.” But we mothers really, in our heart of hearts, know better. We know that children are a sacred trust; they need and deserve the very best we
have to give. If we cannot pass on our faith to them through our example of devoted love and service, how can the Church survive? And how can we stand before God and claim to have accomplished anything of any value in this world?

Women have a unique capacity to respond to God with all our hearts and souls. This is the essence of spirituality, and it comes more easily to women
than to men, because responsiveness characterizes our human relationships as well as our relationship to God. Men, being called to leadership in the human realm, often find it more difficult to surrender that role and to meet their Creator in humility. We women can set an example in simple, faithful piety that is ultimately more influential in the life of the Church than the most inspired
teaching or the most glori­ous martyrdom.

Our proper response to God is to strive for holiness. Only by pursuing holiness will we become capable of all that is required of us. Only by deepening
our relationship with God can we come to understand, accept, and live the life He has designed for us. Only through loving, trusting obedience to God can we find our true calling, as women and as human beings. Only so can we begin to fulfill the vocation bequeathed to us by Mary of giving birth to Christ in other people. This is our proper contribution to the salvation of the world.

Cherubic Hymn - Χερουβικού - Херувимской- Херувимска песма- Heruvicul

One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ ( Saint Gregory Palamas )

One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ (Ex. 20:8): that which is called the Lord’s day, because it is consecrated to the Lord, who on that day arose from the dead, disclosing and giving prior assurance of the general resurrection, when every earthly activity will come to an end. And you must not engage in any worldly activity that is not essential; and you must allow those who are under your authority and those who live with you to rest, so that together you may all glorify Him who redeemed us through His death and who arose from the dead and resurrected our human nature with Himself…

On this day you should go to the temple of God and attend the services held there and with sincere faith and a clean conscience you should receive the holy body and blood of Christ.

Saint Gregory Palamas

To have wisdom, one must have fear of God. ( St Nicholas Velimirovic )

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7).

If someone were to know the number of stars in the heavens and the names of the fish in the sea and the amount of the grass in the field and the habits of the beasts in the forest and would not have the fear of God, his knowledge is as water in a sieve. And before death, his knowledge makes him a greater coward than the completely ignorant.

If someone were able to conjecture all the thoughts of mankind and to foretell the fate of mankind and to manifest every mystery that the earth conceals in its depths and not have the fear of God, his knowledge is as milk poured into an unclean container from which all the milk is spoiled.

And in his hour of death, his wisdom will not shine even as much as a piece of charcoal without a flame, but his night of death will make his death even darker.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

How can he who has not begun correctly, finish correctly? Whoever started out on a wrong path from the beginning must turn back and must take-up the correct beginning, i.e., he must tread with his feet on the correct path. He who does not have the fear of God cannot have the love for God.

What are we talking about? He who has no fear of God has no faith in God. The greatest ascetics, those who mortified themselves and who for a period of forty or fifty years daily and nightly lived a life of mortification until death, were filled with the fear of God and these, the most sinless among mortals, cried out in their hour of death: “O God, have mercy on me a sinner!”

The fear of God is the salt of total piety. If there is not that salt then all of our piety is inspid and lax. The fear of God girds the loins, girdles the stomach and makes the heart sober, restrains the mind and flogs self-will.

Where is repentance without the fear of God? Where is humility? Where is restraint? Where is total chastity? Where is patience? Where is service and obedience?

O my brethren, let us embrace this word as the holy truth: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” O Lord Almighty, implant Thy fear in our hearts.

To Thee be glory and thanks always. Amen.

St Nicholas Velimirovic

Elder Macarius on how to deal with a tragedy

When we or our friends are faced with tragedy it is common to ask, "Where is God? Why does He allow this to happen?" The Fathers always tell us something that is hard to accept––"Accept the will of God, Give Him thanks."

Here are the words of Elder Macarius,

Believe firmly: this tragedy is not the outcome of chance concatenation of events. God Himself––God, whose ways are inscrutable––has confirmed them with the seal of His divine purpose. Why? Either as a punishment––but not necessarily for any sins of yours––or to try the power of your faith, and steel it. But whatever the reason, the whole occurrence is one more proof of His love of you, for "Whom the Lord loveth He Chasteneth, and scourageth every son whom He receiveth... But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons (Heb 12:6,8)... Strive hard for patient endurance! Do not weaken. Hourly thank God for all. And He will see to it that good comes of your right attitude.

We are asked to accept all that comes our way with humility. When someone hurts us we forgiven him. When we lose a loved one we grieve for the loss, but we should also thank God for what we have been given and affirm our belief in His kingdom and the reality of eternal life. So often we are called to endure very painful situations. When we do, remember the Passion of our Lord, the pain of the Cross, and how this led to the Resurrection. Pain and suffering are part of this fallen world and through it, with faith, we are brought closer to God to become joined with Him to enjoy eternal life in His kingdom.

Pray for strength to endure with love and stand firm in your faith no matter what. At some point in our life we will face pain and suffering. This is our crucifixion and our opportunity to be joined with Christ.

Reference: Russian Letters of Spiritual Direction, p33 - 34

Τι σημαίνει η φράση: «τας θύρας τας θύρας εν σοφία πρόσχωμεν»;

Mέχρι τον 10ο περίπου αιώνα όταν ο Ιερέας έλεγε «τας θύρας τας θύρας εν σοφία πρόσχωμεν» έμεναν μέσα στον Ναό μόνον οι μυημένοι, οι πιστοί χριστιανοί και ετελείτο το μυστήριο της Θ. Ευχαριστίας. Όσοι έμεναν, στο τέλος της Θ. Λειτουργίας, κοινωνούσαν όλοι.

Αυτή η προτροπή (τας Θύρας τας Θύρας…) είναι η ανδιαφισβήτητη απόδειξη ότι δεν ήταν πάντα ετσι τα πράγματα όπως σήμερα, ότι δεν ήταν όλοι οι ανθρωποι αυτονόητα μέλη της Εκκλησίας, ότι υπήρχε σαφής διάκριση ανάμεσα στους χριστιανούς και τους μή χριστιανούς και ότι για να γίνει κάποιος δεκτός ως χριστιανός και πλήρες μέλος της Εκκλησίας επρεπε να πληροί συγκεκριμμένες προϋποθέσεις.Αυτό το δεύτερο μέρος της θείας Λειτουργίας, στη Λειτουργία του Σώματος και του Αίματος του Χριστού, συμμετέχουν μόνο οι βαπτισμένοι πιστοί. Οι κατηχούμενοι που δεν βαπτίστηκαν, οι εχθροί και οι αμύητοι στα δεδομένα της Εκκλησίας αποκλείονται. «Οι κατηχούμενοιι προέλθετε» «τάς θύρας, τάς θύρας εν σοφία. Πρόσχωμεν»! Γιατί;

Διότι οι αβάπτιστοι, οι εχθροί και γενικά οι αμύητοι δεν έχουν τις προϋποθέσεις για να κατανοήσουν και να συμμετάσχουν στα υπό της Εκκλησίας τελούμενα και ιδίως στο Μυστήριο της Θ. Ευχαριστίας. Η Θ. Λειτουργία, ιδίως το Β΄ μέρος είναι μόνο για τους πιστούς. Οι εχθροί και οι αμύητοι χρειάζονται κατήχηση, βάπτισμα και μεγάλη προετοιμασία προκειμένου να κατανοήσουν τα Μυστήρια της Εκκλησίας. Αυτή τη σημασία έχουν οι λόγοι του Χριστού: «Μή δώτε το άγιον τοίς κυσί (σκυλιά) μηδέ βάλητε τοίς μαργαρίτες υμών (ό,τι πολύτιμο έχετε) έμπροσθεν των χοίρων» (Μάτθ. ζ΄ 6).

Όμως αυτή η φράση, πέρα από την κυριολεκτική και πρακτική της προσταγή, κρύβει (για τους πιστούς) και έναν βαθύτατο συμβολισμό. Ο ιερός Καβάσιλας ερμηνεύοντας την Θ. Λειτουργά αναφέρει:
«Τας θύρας, τας θύρας’ εν σοφία πρόσχωμεν», συμπληρώνει ο λειτουργός. Μ’ αυτό θέλει να πει: «Ανοίξτε διάπλατα όλες τις πόρτες, δηλαδή τα στόματα και τα αυτιά σας, στην αληθινή σοφία, δηλαδή σε όσα υψηλά μάθατε και πιστεύετε για το Θεό. Αυτά συνεχώς να λέτε και να ακούτε, και μάλιστα με ζήλο και προσοχή».Τότε οι πιστοί απαγγέλλουν δυνατά το Σύμβολο της Πίστεως («Πιστεύω εις έναν Θεόν…»).


33 intercessions to pray using a prayer rope

1) Be mindful, O Lord, for the peace of the world!

2) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our Church and our Orthodoxy.

3) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our Bishop and his clergy.

4) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on all Orthodox clergy and laity in every land.

5) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our spiritual father and his community.

6) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our country and on our armed forces.

7) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the civil authorities.

8) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who hate us, on those who love us, and those who pray for us.

9) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our parents, our sponsors, and our teachers.

10) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our brethren and relatives, according to the flesh and spiritual.

11) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the elderly and the monastics.

12) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on infants, the defenseless, and the powerless.

13) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the youth in schools.

14) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the adolescent and our youth.

15) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the drug-addicted, alcoholics, and smokers.

16) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the marriages of Orthodox families.

17) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our sisters who are pregnant.

18) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the widows and orphans.

19) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our brothers and sisters who are martially separated and tempted.

20) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the weak in soul and body.

21) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who do works of mercy and labor in the holy monasteries and parishes.

22) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the pious pilgrims of monasteries and churches.

23) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who journey by sea, by land, or by air, those who are imprisoned and the despairing.

24) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on the poor and our brethren who are afflicted.

25) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on our judges and elected representatives.

26) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on those who are deceived and blaspheme our Orthodoxy.

27) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and grant peaceful seasons.

28) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from sickness, wrath, and danger, and enlighten our physicians and nurses.

29) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from poverty, danger, and misfortune.

30) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from heat, fire, and earthquake.

31) O Lord Jesus Christ, guard us from flood, drowning, and frost.

32) O Lord Jesus Christ, grant rest also to the souls of our fathers, mothers, brethren, relatives, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

33) O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Παρακαλάμε για τη Βασιλεία των ουρανών και συνάμα χασμουριόμαστε

Η ανταπόκριση του Κυρίου στην προσευχή δεν εξαρτάται από το πλήθος των λόγων, αλλ’ από τη νήψη του νου και της καρδιάς. Και αυτό μπορεί να το διαπιστώσει κανείς απ’ όσα λέει η Γραφή για τη στείρα Άννα, τη μητέρα του προφήτη Σαμουήλ. «Κύριε», έταξε η Άννα, «αν σκύψεις πάνω από τη θλίψη της δούλης σου και με θυμηθείς και μου δώσεις παιδί, τότε εγώ θα το αφιερώσω σ’ εσένα για όλη του τη ζωή» (Α’ Βασ. 1:11).

Είναι πολλά τα λόγια αυτά; Όχι. Και όμως, επειδή με νήψη και προσοχή έκανε αυτή τη μικρή προσευχή, κατόρθωσε όσα ηθέλησε: Και την ανάπηρη φύση της διόρθωσε και την κλεισμένη μήτρα της άνοιξε και από την περιφρόνηση των ομοεθνών της λυτρώθηκε και από την άγονη γη θέρισε σιτάρι πλούσιο. Όποιος προσεύχεται, λοιπόν, ας μη λέει περίσσια λόγια.

Και ο Χριστός και ο Παύλος, άλλωστε, μας σύστησαν να προσευχόμαστε συχνά, αλλά με συντομία και μικρά διαλείμματα. Γιατί, μακραίνοντας την προσευχή, είναι δυνατό να χάσεις την προσοχή. Κι έτσι δίνεις την ευκαιρία στο διάβολο να σε πλησιάσει και να σου υποβάλει τους δικούς του λογισμούς. Αν, όμως, οι προσευχές σου είναι σύντομες και συχνές, τότε θα μπορείς εύκολα να τις κάνεις με προσοχή και νήψη, καλύπτοντας μ’ αυτές όλο τον διαθέσιμο χρόνο σου. Θέλεις κι εσύ να μάθεις άγρυπνη προσευχή και προσοχή του νου και διαρκή παραμονή κοντά στο Θεό; Πήγαινε στην Άννα και μάθε τι έκανε εκείνη.

Σηκώθηκαν, λέει, όλοι από το τραπέζι (Α’ Βασ. 1:9). Ωστόσο, η Άννα δεν πήγε ούτε να κοιμηθεί ούτε ν’ αναπαυθεί. Έτρεξε στη Σκηνή του Μαρτυρίου για να προσευχηθεί. Απ’ αυτό συμπεραίνω πως, ακόμα κι όταν έτρωγε, δεν παραφόρτωνε το στομάχι της. Διαφορετικά, δεν θα μπορούσε να προσευχηθεί, και μάλιστα με τόσα δάκρυα.

Αν εμείς, όταν είμαστε νηστικοί, με δυσκολία κατορθώνουμε να προσευχηθούμε, ενώ ύστερ’ από τα συμπόσια ποτέ δεν προσευχόμαστε, πολύ περισσότερο εκείνη, μια γυναίκα, δεν θα προσευχόταν μ’ αυτόν τον τρόπο μετά το συμπόσιο, αν είχε καλοφάει. Ας ντραπούμε εμείς, οι άνδρες, που παρακαλάμε για τη βασιλεία των ουρανών και συνάμα χασμουριόμαστε, ας ντραπούμε, λέω, εκείνη τη γυναίκα, που παρακαλούσε κι έκλαιγε. Δες την ευλάβειά της κι από τούτο: «Μιλούσε από την καρδιά της· τα χείλη της μόλις που κινιόνταν και η φωνή της δεν ακουγόταν καθόλου» (Α’ Βασ. 1:13).

Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος

Spiritual Struggle

You are not alone, God is always with you .

The Christian weapon against evil ( Jesus Prayer )

The monks of the Holy Mountain teach us that through ascetic practices we are able to perfect quietude of body and mind and to arrive at a vision of the Uncreated Light of the Godhead. The use of our prayer rope together with the Jesus prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” is a means to achieve peace and sorrowful joy within the Christian Life.

We should use our sword or prayer rope at every opportunity because as Christian soldiers we fight on three fronts against the world, the flesh and the devil. When we mention the name of Jesus, (the name which is above all names), in faith we draw upon the Divine energy of God to calm our fears and to heal our troubled minds.

It may be that we are waiting at a bus stop and rather than wait with idle frustration we can use the time positively by employing our prayer rope in prayer – not in an ostentatious way but in order to quell our impatience, to bless God and to remember others who have asked us to pray for them. When we go to bed at night, before we lay ourselves down to sleep, then we can use our prayer rope again; offering all the unresolved conflicts, our missed opportunities, our failures … but also our thanks to God so that we may take our rest in peace. It is particularly beneficial for the soul to combine our prayer with fasting as it is so much more availing of the quiet we seek in our pressured and busy lives. We become more aware of God’s time (chairos) which is infinite and are not so worried about man’s time (chronos) which is created.

We say in the Holy Liturgy before the Great Entrance: “Let us now lay aside all the cares of this world.” So much of our anxiety is caused through the fact that we want to put ourselves first and at the centre of God’s universe. We want to follow our own desires, we want for ourselves power, status, money and those things which the evil one convinces us are necessary but as Christ said to Martha when she was anxious and fretful: “one thing is needful and Mary has chosen that greater part which shall not be taken away from her.”

Even those who affirm Christ find it difficult to be his forgiven creatures-others find excuses for their sins, wanting to justify their selfish actions. We must recognise two things:

1. God is Infinitely more powerful than we can imagine

2. The evil one wants to take us away from God.

The satan will use any means to do this, even, as the desert fathers teach us by appearing as an angel of light. We must allow God to be God, not to make the Almighty Creator in our image but to realise that we are made in His, with all the privileges and responsibilities that brings. Until we recognise these fundamental truths our strivings for hesychia will be in vain.

The Fathers teach us that the true theologian is the one who prays. Sometimes we find it difficult to pray but try … God listens to the broken hearted. If we find it impossible, ask someone to pray for you, go to the Icon of your patron saint or to the Panagia – the power of prayer and intercession is real and the response is quite disproportionate to our meagre offering or request. Prayer is that vital link with God our Creator, that intimate relationship which brings us life and which bears much fruit. Remember how our Lord Jesus says: ” I am the Vine, you are the branches.” The closer we are brought to Christ the greater our strength for we draw upon the Source of all Life … “Holy God, Holy and Strong , Holy and Immortal have mercy upon us.” Then we will have strength to withstand the world the flesh and the devil.

So stay close to God through attending the Holy Liturgy, through prayer and fasting and by making use of your prayer rope and God will give you the peace which passes all understanding and the strength to face the problems of life.

One last thing … we cannot achieve holiness and quietude overnight. The desert fathers said that “if you see a young man ascending to heaven catch him by the heels and bring him down to earth. Remember, you were nine months in the womb of your mother before you saw the light of day, and even then you depended upon her to feed you, to care for you and to protect you: her nurturing and love is constant up until the present day. How much more does Our Heavenly Father feed us and keep us until we grow into the likeness of Christ His Son who is the Light of the World.”

The struggle between good and bad- Angels and Demons

God sent us angels to be our traveling companions and our guides in this life, to guard us and protect us from all evil. They are also our most faithful allies in our struggle against the forces of evil.God is absolute Love, and this love impelled Him to create intelligent beings who would be able to comprehend love, to love God and participate in His bliss. The first such beings to be created were the angels. God endowed them with great abilities and settled them in His heavenly abode. However, though the angels possessed a great deal of perfection, they were not absolutely perfect, and so were open to the influence of passions.

Thus it came about that some of the angels, seduced by the thought of their limited perfections, entered a state of pride, which became the cause of their fall. Lucifer was the first to rebel in pride against his Creator, and he was followed by many other angels who left God. But to leave God means to leave life and embrace death. The rebellious spirits left God of their own accord, and the just Lord also left them, leaving them to their own will. And what consequently happened? The faithful angels separated themselves from the rebels and rejected them with horror, while the rebellious ones turned from bright angels into angels of darkness. Those who had just recently shone with divine glory, now became an object of revulsion and horror throughout the entire heaven and even to themselves. Those who had just recently sung the glory of God, now began to curse and blaspheme. Driven out from heaven by the bright angels and tormented by their own rage, they fell with the speed of lightning into the abyss of hell.

The angels who had remained faithful to God now became absolutely perfect. The Lord rules the universe together with them and uses them as His faithful messengers. The angels are like a model of the perfection and the majesty of God. Their minds and knowledge have no other limits except those imposed by God upon His own creation. The angels are also endowed with superior strength and might, by means of which they are able, in accordance with God’s will, to act upon bodies and the physical world.

But as much as the bright angels are perfect and blissful, so the fallen angels, together with their leader Satan, are horrible and evil. They are eternally tormented by an intense hatred of God, a desire for revenge and utter despair. This is what the struggle of good and evil is all about: it is the struggle of Satan against God and all His creation.

The action of evil forces in the world is quite evident, especially in our times. But from whence springs this great rage with which they are trying to destroy us? Being unable to attack God Himself, they attack Him through His creation, especially through man, who has been created in His likeness and image. What hellish pleasure they find in defiling this image and taking away from the Creator His favorite creation! Being unable to do good, the evil spirits feel a great satisfaction in making man participate in their crimes and share their punishment. And can Satan remain indifferent to us, knowing that we live in the hope of attaining the eternal bliss which he himself has lost? He becomes greatly enraged at the thought that the faithful followers of Jesus Christ, together with the bright angels, will judge him at the end of time. This envy burns him more powerfully than the flames of hell. For this he tries to move heaven and earth, just to lure us into his net. He turns all his anger against us and becomes most dangerous when he attacks not openly, but with the various enticements and wiles of his devious mind.

But it is at this point that the angels come to help us! In order to encourage and support His creation, His faithful sons, in their fierce and unequal battle with the forces of evil, the Lord sends us His angels, His heavenly troops. To each of us He assigns one of them, who becomes our guardian angel, our protector. And it is not only each Christian who has his own guardian angel, but each family, each pious society, each nation. The angels are the friends and brothers of the people on earth. They are so imbued with the love of God, that they immensely love us, too, because in us they see the same gifts of God’s grace which they themselves possess. Truly, in the words of King David, man is a being who is only slightly lower than the angels.

The angels love us and participate wholeheartedly in our salvation, which is just as precious to them as their own holiness. They feel great joy at our salvation and do their utmost to keep us on the right path.

Guardian angel

Let us love and value these wonderful friends and helpers of ours, especially our guardian angel; let us constantly turn to them in prayer, as to our nearest and dearest, so that together with them we would be able to enjoy eternal life in heavenly bliss!!

The pain some people have to bear…( Elder Porphyrios )

You should see the pain that some people have to bear!

They are good people, but both their children, Costas and Maria, have become fanatical followers of Sai Baba of India. Costas was a medical student. He left home along with his sister just before Easter. As they were leaving the house, the father said to his daughter: ‘Joyous Resurrection, Maria!’

‘The Resurrection has come, father, but people haven’t recognized it,’ she replied.

In the meantime their parents continually gave them money, Now they have stopped this because they (their children) were using it for their ‘god’. Costas went to Thessalonica to spread his propaganda. Indeed, he was beaten up there. He tried to proselytize some young people up there and their parents got a hold of him and beat him up.

These good people brought me a periodical. On the cover there is a photograph of Sai Baba. He has created a new religion in which they believe that he is the new Christ who came into the world to save it and to lead it to truth. They say he is the ‘new God’. Sai Baba is alive now. He is married and has his wife and two children next to him. At the bottom of the photograph we see lots of young people who are his followers; may of them, indeed, are educated people. How did these educated young people end up there? On another page they are kissing his feet. ‘The days of that Christ’ – the true Christ, that is – ‘are over now,’ he tells them, ‘This is another age,’ he tells you. Everything now is changing. Its like a fairy tale. Perhaps Sai Baba is mad. They say he has collected a lot of money.

I’ll tell you about another related incident.

One day an officer in the Greek Navy took me down tot he waterfront at Oropos. We walked along the breakwater where a man was fishing. I said to the officer:

‘Go and get me one of the fish that man is catching.’

The fisherman, however, replied:

‘The basket is empty. I’ve been here since the morning and I’ve caught nothing. Go and leave me in peace…’

I said to him:

‘Throw your hook into the sea.’

‘Go away,’ he said to us in an aggravated tone of voice.

We turned to go, but at that moment, just as the fisherman threw his line into the sea he felt a bite on it. He drew in the line and a large fish was struggling on the hook. He shouted to us:

‘Don’t go! Come here! Don’t go away, I’ve caught a fish!’

The officer said:

‘I know why that happened Father. It happened so that I would believe in you, that you are of God, and so that the fisherman would believe. Up till now I believed in the new Christ, the Sai Baba of India. Now I believe in the true Christ.’

Christ in our midst!

Wounded by Love by Elder Porphyrios

Ο δρόμος της ευτυχίας ( Αγιος Νεκταριος )

Τίποτα δὲν εἶναι μεγαλύτερο ἀπὸ τὴν καθαρὴ καρδιά, γιατί μία τέτοια καρδιὰ γίνεται θρόνος τοῦ Θεοῦ. Καὶ τί εἶναι ἐνδοξότερο ἀπὸ τὸ θρόνο τοῦ Θεοῦ; Ἀσφαλῶς τίποτα. Λέει ὁ Θεὸς γι’ αὐτοὺς ποὺ ἔχουν καθαρὴ καρδιά: «Θὰ κατοικήσω ἀνάμεσά τους καὶ θὰ πορεύομαι μαζί τους. Θὰ εἶμαι Θεός τους, κι αὐτοὶ θὰ εἶναι λαός μου».

Ποιοὶ λοιπὸν εἶναι εὐτυχέστεροι ἀπ’ αὐτοὺς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους; Καὶ ἀπὸ ποιὸ ἀγαθὸ μπορεῖ νὰ μείνουν στερημένοι; Δὲν βρίσκονται ὅλα τ’ ἀγαθὰ καὶ τὰ χαρίσματα τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος στὶς μακάριες ψυχές τους; Τί περισσότερο χρειάζονται; Τίποτα, στ’ ἀλήθεια, τίποτα! Γιατί ἔχουν στὴν καρδιά τους τὸ μεγαλύτερο ἀγαθό: τὸν ἴδιο τὸ Θεό!

Πόσο πλανιοῦνται οἱ ἄνθρωποι ποὺ ἀναζητοῦν τὴν εὐτυχία μακριὰ ἀπὸ τὸν ἑαυτό τους, στὶς ξένες χῶρες καὶ στὰ ταξίδια, στὸν πλοῦτο καὶ στὴ δόξα, στὶς μεγάλες περιουσίες καὶ στὶς ἀπολαύσεις, στὶς ἡδονὲς καὶ σ’ ὅλες τὶς χλιδὲς καὶ ματαιότητες, ποὺ κατάληξή τους ἔχουν τὴν πίκρα! Ἡ ἀνέγερση τοῦ πύργου τῆς εὐτυχίας ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν καρδιά μας, μοιάζει μὲ οἰκοδόμηση κτιρίου σὲ ἔδαφος ποὺ σαλεύεται ἀπὸ συνεχεῖς σεισμούς. Σύντομα ἕνα τέτοιο οἰκοδόμημα θὰ σωριαστεῖ στὴ γῆ...

Ἀδελφοί μου! Ἡ εὐτυχία βρίσκεται μέσα στὸν ἴδιο σας τὸν ἑαυτό, καὶ μακάριος εἶναι ὁ ἄνθρωπος ποὺ τὸ κατάλαβε αὐτό. Ἐξετᾶστε τὴν καρδιά σας καὶ δεῖτε τὴν πνευματική της κατάσταση. Μήπως ἔχασε τὴν παρρησία της πρὸς τὸ Θεό; Μήπως ἡ συνείδηση διαμαρτύρεται γιὰ παράβαση τῶν ἐντολῶν Του; Μήπως σᾶς κατηγορεῖ γιὰ ἀδικίες, γιὰ ψέματα, γιὰ παραμέληση τῶν καθηκόντων πρὸς τὸ Θεὸ καὶ τὸν πλησίον; Ἐρευνῆστε μήπως κακίες καὶ πάθη γέμισαν τὴν καρδιά σας, μήπως γλίστρησε αὐτὴ σὲ δρόμους στραβοὺς καὶ δύσβατους...

Δυστυχῶς, ἐκεῖνος ποὺ παραμέλησε τὴν καρδιά του, στερήθηκε ὅλα τ’ ἀγαθὰ κι ἔπεσε σὲ πλῆθος κακῶν. Ἔδιωξε τὴ χαρὰ καὶ γέμισε μὲ πίκρα, θλίψη καὶ στενοχώρια. Ἔδιωξε τὴν εἰρήνη καὶ ἀπόκτησε ἄγχος, ταραχὴ καὶ τρόμο. Ἔδιωξε τὴν ἀγάπη καὶ δέχτηκε τὸ μίσος. Ἔδιωξε, τέλος, ὅλα τὰ χαρίσματα καὶ τοὺς καρποὺς τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, ποὺ δέχτηκε μὲ τὸ βάπτισμα, καὶ οἰκειώθηκε ὅλες τὶς κακίες ἐκεῖνες, ποὺ κάνουν τὸν ἄνθρωπο ἐλεεινὸ καὶ τρισάθλιο.

Ἀδελφοί μου! Ὁ Πολυέλεος Θεὸς θέλει τὴν εὐτυχία ὅλων μας καὶ σ’ αὐτὴ καὶ στὴν ἄλλη ζωή. Γί’ αὐτὸ ἵδρυσε τὴν ἁγία Του Ἐκκλησία. Γιὰ νὰ μᾶς καθαρίζει αὐτὴ ἀπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτία, νὰ μᾶς ἁγιάζει, νὰ μᾶς συμφιλιώνει μαζί Του, νὰ μᾶς χαρίζει τὶς εὐλογίες τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.

Ἡ Ἐκκλησία ἔχει ἀνοιχτὴ τὴν ἀγκαλιά της, γιὰ νὰ μᾶς ὑποδεχθεῖ. Ἂς τρέξουμε γρήγορα ὅσοι ἔχουμε βαριά τη συνείδηση. Ἂς τρέξουμε καὶ ἡ Ἐκκλησία εἶναι ἕτοιμη νὰ σηκώσει τὸ βαρὺ φορτίο μας, νὰ μᾶς χαρίσει τὴν παρρησία πρὸς τὸ Θεό, νὰ γεμίσει τὴν καρδιά μας μὲ εὐτυχία καὶ μακαριότητα...

Ἀπὸ τὴ σειρὰ τῶν φυλλαδίων «Η ΦΩΝΗ ΤΩΝ ΠΑΤΕΡΩΝ» τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Παρακλήτου Ὠρωποῦ Ἀττικῆς.

Η Ορθοδοξια εἶναι ἡ θρησκεία τῶν θρησκειῶν...( Γεροντας Πορφύριος )

Ἡ θρησκεία μας εἶναι ἡ θρησκεία τῶν θρησκειῶν, ἡ ἐξ ἀποκαλύψεως, ἡ πραγματική, ἡ ἀληθινή θρησκεία. Οἱ ἄλλες θρησκεῖες εἶναι ἀνθρώπινες, κούφιες. Δέν γνωρίζουν τό μεγαλεῖο τοῦ Τριαδικοῦ Θεοῦ. Δέν γνωρίζουν ὅτι ὁ σκοπός μας, ὁ προορισμός μας, εἶναι νά γίνομε θεοί κατά χάριν, νά ὁμοιωθοῦμε μέ τόν Θεό τόν Τριαδικό, νά γίνομε ἕνα μέ Ἐκεῖνον καί μεταξύ μας. Αὐτά οἱ ἄλλες θρησκεῖες δέν τά γνωρίζουν. Ὁ ἀπώτερος σκοπός τῆς θρησκείας μας εἶναι τό «ἵνα ὦσιν ἕν». Ἐκεῖ ὁλοκληρώνεται τό ἔργο τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ἡ θρησκεία μας εἶναι ἀγάπη, εἶναι ἔρωτας, εἶναι ἐνθουσιασμός, εἶναι τρέλα, εἶναι λαχτάρα τοῦ θείου. Εἶναι μέσα μας ὅλ' αὐτά. Εἶναι ἀπαίτηση τῆς ψυχῆς μας ἡ ἀπόκτησή τους.

Γιά πολλούς, ὅμως, ἡ θρησκεία εἶναι ἕνας ἀγώνας, μία ἀγωνία κι ἕνα ἄγχος. Γι' αὐτό πολλούς ἀπ' τούς «θρήσκους» τούς θεωροῦνε δυστυχισμένους, γιατί βλέπουν σέ τί χάλια βρίσκονται. Κι ἔτσι εἶναι πράγματι. Γιατί, ἄν δέν καταλάβει κανείς τό βάθος τῆς θρησκείας καί δέν τή ζήσει, ἡ θρησκεία καταντάει ἀρρώστια καί μάλιστα φοβερή. Τόσο φοβερή, πού ὁ ἄνθρωπος χάνει τόν ἔλεγχο τῶν πράξεών του, γίνεται ἄβουλος κι ἀνίσχυρος, ἔχει ἀγωνία κι ἄγχος καί φέρεται ὑπό τοῦ κακοῦ πνεύματος. Κάνει μετάνοιες, κλαίει, φωνάζει, ταπεινώνεται τάχα, κι ὅλη αὐτή ἡ ταπείνωση εἶναι μία σατανική ἐνέργεια. Ὁρισμένοι τέτοιοι ἄνθρωποι ζοῦνε τή θρησκεία σάν ἕνα εἶδος κολάσεως. Μέσα στήν ἐκκλησία κάνουν μετάνοιες, σταυρούς, λένε, «εἴμαστε ἁμαρτωλοί, ἀνάξιοι», καί μόλις βγοῦνε ἔξω, ἀρχίζουν νά βλασφημᾶνε τά θεία, ὅταν κάποιος λίγο τους ἐνοχλήσει. Φαίνεται καθαρά ὅτι ὑπάρχει στό μέσον δαιμόνιο.

Στήν πραγματικότητα, ἡ χριστιανική θρησκεία μεταβάλλει τόν ἄνθρωπο καί τόν θεραπεύει. Ἡ κυριότερη, ὅμως, προϋπόθεση, γιά νά ἀντιληφθεῖ καί νά διακρίνει ὁ ἄνθρωπος τήν ἀλήθεια, εἶναι ἡ ταπείνωση. Ὁ ἐγωισμός σκοτίζει τό νοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τόν μπερδεύει, τόν ὁδηγεῖ στήν πλάνη, στήν αἵρεση. Εἶναι σπουδαῖο νά κατανοήσει ὁ ἄνθρωπος τήν ἀλήθεια.

Παλαιά οἱ ἄνθρωποι, πού ἦταν σέ μία κατάσταση πρωτόγονη, δέν εἶχαν οὔτε σπίτια οὔτε τίποτα. Μπαίνανε μές στίς σπηλιές χωρίς παράθυρα, κλείνανε καί τήν εἴσοδο μπροστά μέ πέτρες καί μέ κλαδιά, ὥστε νά μήν μπαίνει ὁ ἀέρας. Δέν καταλάβαιναν ὅτι ἔξω ὑπάρχει ἡ ζωή, τό ὀξυγόνο. Μές στή σπηλιά ὁ ἄνθρωπος φθείρεται, ἀρρωσταίνει, καταστρέφεται, ἐνῶ ἔξω ζωογονεῖται. Μπορεῖς νά καταλάβεις τήν ἀλήθεια; Τότε εἶσαι στόν ἥλιο, στό φῶς, βλέπεις ὅλα τά μεγαλεῖα- ἀλλιῶς εἶσαι σέ μιά σπηλιά σκοτεινή. Φῶς καί σκότος. Ποιό εἶναι τό πιό καλό; Νά εἶσαι πράος, ταπεινός, ἥσυχος, νά ἔχεις μέσα σου ἀγάπη ἤ νά εἶσαι νευρικός, στενόχωρος, νά διαπληκτίζεσαι μέ τούς πάντες; Ἀσφαλῶς τό ἀνώτερο εἶναι ἡ ἀγάπη. Ἡ θρησκεία μας ἔχει ὅλ' αὐτά τά καλά καί εἶναι ἡ ἀλήθεια. Ὅμως πολλοί πᾶνε σέ κάτι ἄλλο.

Ὅσοι ἀρνοῦνται αὐτή τήν ἀλήθεια, εἶναι ἄρρωστοι ψυχικά. Εἶναι σάν τά ἄρρωστα παιδιά, πού, ἐπειδή τούς ἔλειψαν οἱ γονεῖς ἤ χώρισαν ἤ μάλωσαν, ἔγιναν ἀπροσάρμοστα. Καί στίς αἱρέσεις πᾶνε ὅλοι οἱ μπερδεμένοι. Μπερδεμένα παιδιά μπερδεμένων γονέων. Ὅμως ὅλοι αὐτοί οἱ μπερδεμένοι καί ἀπροσάρμοστοι ἔχουν ἕνα σθένος καί μιά ἐπιμονή καί κατορθώνουν πολλά πράγματα. Ὑποτάσσουν τούς νορμάλ καί τούς ἥσυχους ἀνθρώπους, διότι ἐπηρεάζουν κι ἄλλους ὁμοίους τους καί ὑπερτεροῦν καί στόν κόσμο, γιατί αὐτοί εἶναι πιό πολλοί καί βρίσκουν ὀπαδούς. Ὑπάρχουν κι ἄλλοι, πού, ἐνῶ δέν ἀρνοῦνται τήν ἀλήθεια, ἐν τούτοις εἶναι μπερδεμένοι κι ἄρρωστοι ψυχικά.

Ἡ ἁμαρτία κάνει τόν ἄνθρωπο πολύ μπερδεμένο ψυχικά. Τό μπέρδεμα δέν φεύγει μέ τίποτα. Μόνο μέ τό φῶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ γίνεται τό ξεμπέρδεμα. Τήν πρώτη κίνηση τήν κάνει ὁ Χριστός. «Δεῦτε πρός μέ πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες...» . Μετά ἐμεῖς οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀποδεχόμαστε αὐτό τό φῶς μέ τήν ἀγαθή μας προαίρεση, πού τήν ἐκφράζουμε μέ τήν ἀγάπη μας ἀπέναντί Του, μέ τήν προσευχή, μέ τή συμμετοχή στή ζωή τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, μέ τά Μυστήρια.

Πολλές φορές οὔτε ὁ κόπος, οὔτε οἱ μετάνοιες, οὔτε οἱ σταυροί προσελκύουν τήν χάρι. Ὑπάρχουν μυστικά. Τό οὐσιαστικότερο εἶναι νά φεύγεις ἀπ' τόν τύπο καί νά πηγαίνεις στήν οὐσία. Ὅ,τι γίνεται, νά γίνεται ἀπό ἀγάπη.

Ἡ ἀγάπη ἐννοεῖ πάντα νά κάνει θυσίες. Σ' ὅ,τι κάνεις ἀγγάρια, κλωτσάει ἡ ψυχή, ἀντιδρᾶ. Ἡ ἀγάπη ἑλκύει τήν χάρι τοῦ Θεοῦ. Ὅταν ἔλθει ἡ χάρις, ἔρχονται τά χαρίσματα τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος. «Ὁ δέ καρπός τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐστιν ἀγάπη, χαρά, εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία, χρηστότης, ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις, πραότης, ἐγκράτεια» . Αὐτά εἶναι πού πρέπει νά ἔχει μία ὑγιής ψυχή ἐν Χριστῷ.

Ὁ ἄνθρωπος μέ τόν Χριστό γίνεται χαριτωμένος καί ζεῖ ἔτσι πάνω ἀπ' τό κακό. Τό κακό γι' αὐτόν δέν ὑπάρχει. Ὑπάρχει μόνο τό ἀγαθό, ὁ Θεός. Δέν μπορεῖ νά ὑπάρχει κακό. Δηλαδή, ἐφόσον ἔχει τό φῶς, δέν μπορεῖ νά ἔχει σκοτάδι. Οὔτε μπορεῖ νά τόν καταλάβει τό σκοτάδι, διότι ἔχει τό φῶς.

(Γέροντος Πορφυρίου, Βίος καί Λόγοι σελ. 210 213)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Silence for the monks is a rule of life. ( Elder Joseph of Vatopedi )

Silence for the monks is a rule of life. It protects them from uncontrollable and unrestrained talk as well as from impugnation and slander, which result in the death of the soul. It delivers them from wrangle and strife and preserves in them internal peace which is necessary for inwardness. Silence is the fruit of quietude, an internal state which gives birth to spiritual discourse.

-When does the monk ought to keep quiet and when does he ought to talk?

Abbot Pimen offers a solution to the issue with great discernment: “A brother asked Abbot Pimen saying: ‘which is best: to talk or to keep quiet?’And the Elder tells him: ‘Whoever talks for the sake of God, does well. Whoever keeps quiet for the sake of God, does equally well’”.

Silence is not the goal but the means. One uses it either to approach God or to talk about Him.

The Elders, those old warriors and much experienced strugglers in the spiritual arena, are forced to become spiritual teachers and coaches for those Christians who approach them either out of curiosity, or interest, or because of a deeper spiritual need. They fire at them demanding questions on serious and basic spiritual issues. “Father, tell me something. How can I be saved? Give me a word! What shall I do about my passions? Give me a command and I will obey! To what shall I adhere in order to please God?”

Often the Elders give a brief, general reply like an apothegm. Their words are not philosophical- i.e. the result of an intellectual process. They are ripe and full of pain, direct, forceful and without frills, which pierce the internal depths of the soul of the inquirer.

They use simple words, without adorned intellectual rhetoric; they reveal the hidden treasure of spiritual life and hand out messages which are always contemporary. Thus, they become beacons to those who are wrangling in the dark seas of confusion and delusion.

The Elders- humble, unknown and undetected ascetics- penetrate the souls of their interlocutors with discernment and their replies are in accordance to their real needs. The purpose of their talk is “such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4, 29).

They avoid replying to inquiries if those who ask are able to see their deeds and their example. Once, when a brother asked Abbot Sisoeh: “Tell me something”, he replied: “Why do you force me to engage in idle talk? Do as you see.”

The words which come out of the Elders’ mouths are practical and have practical aims- to assist in the attainment of perfection and sanctification “in Christ”. They are words filled with love. As one may discern from the tradition of the Church, the Elders confess that “this give and take is a matter of love to me”. The practical implementation of the most crucial virtue, that of love, has created the term “act lovingly” («ποιείν αγάπην») for monasticism.

When Abbot Theodore of Thermis approached Abbot Pamvo to ask for counsel, he replied: “Go and show mercy to everyone, since mercy has found favor in the face of the Lord”.

In the first part of this book, our most holy Elder Joseph, moved by sheer love, has written the replies to the queries and worries posed by our cherished visitors. In the second part, which is titled “Philokaliko Apanthisma” we have translated into Modern Greek short excerpts from passages from the book of Philokalia and the Fathers of the Church, which are relevant to the questions posed.

We wish that this book assists those devout brothers, who are engaged in the spiritual struggle while still in the outside world, to accomplish sanctification without which “no one will see God”.

The Abbot of the Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopedi,

Archimandrite Efrem

Sunday of the Myrrh bearing women, 2003

*** Excerpts from the book ‘Discourse on Mount Athos’ by Elder Joseph of Vatopedi.

Hermit of Mount Athos

It is incredibly daring for one to believe that one may describe the life of someone who is a friend of the Lord, who is a spiritual person and who according to the Scriptures “he judges everything but no one can dare judge him” [1 Cor. 2:15]. Therefore we will not describe his life, but we will simply give a minimal account of the way he lived, since as it happens, he had been our acquaintance.

This ‘most holy’ man, as I, without hesitation, describe brother George, was known as ‘Branko’ the Serb. He approached our blessed elder Joseph the Hesychast, when we used to live at New Skete in order to receive some spiritual advice. It was on this ground that we came to meet with him and have known him until the end of his life, when this ended prematurely so that, as the Scriptures say, “vice will not change his prudence nor evil intention deceives his soul”. His brothers in the Holy Monastery of Hilandar know better the reasons behind his return to devoutness. Therefore, we will leave these for them to describe, while we will only refer to what he himself has relayed to us.

We must say that even though he did not speak good Greek initially he also avoided talking about anything which he did not intend to be of any spiritual benefit. Nevertheless, he seemed inflamed with godly zeal, and zealously followed even the most insignificant details of our monastic order. We had a lot to learn from his perfect attitude, especially his introversion, one of his special charisms. One of the initial questions he was asking our Elder was: Why did divine Grace, which visited him initially in order to attract him to goodness, lessened now that he had especially come to its source, the Holy Mountain Athos, to continue his life as a monk? Then our Elder, very patiently and speaking very slowly so that he could make himself understood because George did not speak Greek very well, explained that this is how things are and how grace habitually behaves towards those it beckons to the spiritual stage. Later, blessed George was wondering whether it was necessary to return to France - the place where he used to study when divine Grace visited him and revealed its mysteries - because holy Grace had weakened when he came here once he had acquired more comprehension of it.

“It did not get weaker, my child”, the Elder was explaining, “and it never will, since the holy charisms are fixed. It is the sense of the presence of grace which has been hidden, not its actual presence. Divine Grace usually appears in two ways. One is and is described as the ‘energy’ - theoria - of Grace and the other the ‘sense’ - aisthesis - of Grace, because it is comprehensible to us.

Divine Grace is always present in the faithful because without it no one would remain faithful. However, it appears, or rather it becomes obvious when it decides to console and enlighten the person who is worn-out, or ignorant, or in danger in his bitter trials. Divine Grace presented itself in a more obvious way, ‘as a sense’, in order to help you deny your former ways and attitudes and practice repentance which you had already started. Initially, you had been ignorant and had been questioning the mysteries of Faith and the practical ways of spiritual life. The first degree is 'renouncing the world' and 'parting from the world'. Holy grace has now receded; its obvious presence has been hidden, so that you can begin faithfully and in full obedience to God’s will to work for it by yourself as a result of your own struggle. This is the reason why Grace does not show itself so explicitly now as it did in the beginning when it beckoned you."

It is with these words that the Elder convinced devout George. Since then, not only did he never think about returning to France again, but he never ever parted with the Elder again and regarded him as a spiritual father. He used to stay with us for as long as he wanted and then he would return to the Russian Monastery of Saint Panteleimon - not actually inside the monastery, because he wanted to avoid the commotion - but on the “Palaiomonastero”, high on the mountains, as a designated guard. Blessed George not only kept silence, but also austere fasting. He would only eat dried bread, “paximadi” with water, unless he had to join other brothers or go to monasteries, where he would sit at the common table and eat in temperance. He also kept severe poverty and had almost nothing except the rags he wore. Even those clothes were very modest and humble. Once he stayed at the Monastery of Saint Paul, but he always preferred silence and went to places where he would live without care and quietly so that he would be able to continuously practice the Jesus Prayer.

He had apathetically endured two wounds on his body, which had always been pestering him, but he never bothered to seek any cure. When he was studying and was working at the same time in Europe, he wounded his knees in a car accident. He had taken care of the wounds at the time, but ever since his knees had remained sensitive. They had been bothering him and were open wounds when as a monk he had been standing for hours and did not seek any therapy. He would bind his legs with any rags he could find, but he was saying that they had been hurting him a lot. His predicament was also very obvious to the others.

The second wound was his tonsils. They had been so sensitive that his throat was swollen and it was difficult for him to speak. He had endured this problem without complaint and without medical care; he would only bind his neck with any rags he could find.

When he was staying at the Palaiomonastero, where the winters were bitterly cold and the temperatures several degrees below zero, he didn’t use any heating nor did he burn any wood fires even though they had been abundant. Neither did he cover himself with proper blankets, even though he could if he had wanted to. Living in such a harsh way was his rule of law and he never let go of this relentless habit till the day he died.

Once he left the Russian monastery and stayed with us in New Skete. I gave him my tiny cell for almost six months. It was situated towards the sea and above the caves. The monks at the Palaiomonastero had been looking for him since he was the guard. They probably needed him because they had also been few in numbers and had so many duties.

Once when I visited him, he told me that the monks had been insisting that he returned to the Russian monastery. Because he refused, they had been calling him “crazy”. Then I told him: "Never mind, brother Georgio, let them call you what they like, don’t be sad. Be obedient to them and you will gain merit from God”. He hugged me and his eyes filled with tears. Afterwards, he did return to the monastery and went on relentlessly in his harsh ways, eating only paximadi and tea, without any other consolation. On top of everything else, he also had his inflamed tonsils and his swollen throat to contend with. He only slept for three hours on his side, while the rest of the time he was standing up. He was steadfast in this. This is the reason why his legs were always swollen and fluid was gushing from his wounds.

This blessed man had another austere habit. He would never take Holy Communion unless he had prepared himself very well and examined his conscious exhaustively. As I have mentioned earlier, we passed by the tomb of our Elder Joseph before he left his tiny cell in New Skete to return to the Palaiomonastero. He kissed the tomb with devotion. “Had our Elder lived”, he said, “I would have always stayed with him”.

His attachment to our Elder was not just a simple acquaintance. It was a connection, a spiritual relationship which is recognized by all students who ever had teachers, or rather by all those obedient to their spiritual fathers. Some of the things which we have seen on this blessed man convinced us of this relationship. Whenever our Elder’s health was deteriorating, Father George would appear without us ever calling for him, or knowing where he was. During the last days of the life of our Elder, while we had been told to go to our cells, he had stayed with him and was holding a large carton and was trying to create some fresh air because our Elder had difficulties breathing. Therefore, he was the only one who bore witness to the last words and the passing away of our Elder. He also devotedly offered his help during the burial. He was also the first to appear from nowhere to help during the exhumation of the body, even though not even the closest to us had known of this event. He preserved our common spiritual relationship and we had loved him as our true spiritual brother. However, we had not been blessed to be present either at his burial or for the last rites. We had been upset to hear of our final separation. But we are pleased because his life ended after he had become a perfect example of a truly zealous, hard working Athonite monk, who had kept our patristic tradition as much as possible and had attested to the triumph of Orthodoxy. He is also the pride of Athos’ customs, which continuously offers witnesses to its tradition.

Indeed, he has become a brilliant case for the faithful people of his wounded and persecuted country, Serbia, to honor. He offers them the certain hope that their freedom is at hand by the grace of our Christ, our true God, his blessed Holy Mother, Mary, and our Great Saint Savva, who is the true protector of this country.

The Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, Elder Joseph monk, September 1988.

Οι δοκιμασίες είναι βαρύτερες στους πιστούς ( Άγιος Σιλουανός ο Αθωνίτης )

"Όλοι όσοι θέλουν να ζουν ευσεβώς, θα διωχθούν" (Β΄ Τιμ. 3/γ: 12) είπε ο απόστολος Παύλος.

Αυτό το "όλοι", δεν είναι τυχαίο. Ακόμα και ο Ίδιος ο Κύριος Ιησούς Χριστός, διώχθηκε: "Καταφρονημένος και απορριμμένος από τους ανθρώπους· άνθρωπος θλίψεων και δόκιμος ασθένειας· και σαν άνθρωπος από τον οποίο κάποιος αποστρέφει το πρόσωπο, καταφρονήθηκε, και τον θεωρήσαμε σαν ένα τίποτα" (Ησαίας 53/νγ: 3). Και το ίδιο είπε ότι θα συνέβαινε στους ακολούθους Του: "Να θυμάστε τον λόγο, που εγώ σας είπα: Δεν υπάρχει δούλος μεγαλύτερος από τον κύριό του. Αν εμένα δίωξαν, θα διώξουν και σας· αν φύλαξαν τον λόγο μου, θα φυλάξουν και τον δικό σας" (Ιωάννης 15/ιε: 20).
Και όχι μόνο από διωγμούς θα έπασχαν οι πιστοί, αλλά από κάθε είδους θλίψη: "Μέσα στον κόσμο θα έχετε θλίψη· αλλά, να έχετε θάρρος· εγώ νίκησα τον κόσμο" (Ιωάννης 16/ις: 33).

Και δήλωσε: "Αν κάποιος θέλει νάρθει πίσω μου, ας απαρνηθεί τον εαυτό του, κι ας σηκώσει τον σταυρό του, κι ας με ακολουθεί. Επειδή, όποιος θέλει να σώσει τη ζωή του, θα τη χάσει· και όποιος χάσει τη ζωή του, εξαιτίας μου, θα τη βρει" (Ματθαίος 16/ις: 23,24).
Έχοντας υπ’ όψιν αυτά τα λόγια, που πολλοί από εμάς τα έχουμε βιώσει "στο πετσί μας", παίρνουμε θάρρος μέσα από τις θλίψεις, καθώς βιώνουμε καθημερινά τα λόγια του αποστόλου Παύλου: "σε κάθε τι συνιστώντας τον εαυτό μας ως υπηρέτες τού Θεού, με πολλή υπομονή, με θλίψεις, με ανάγκες, με στενοχώριες, με ραβδισμούς, με φυλακές, με ακαταστασίες, με κόπους, με αγρυπνίες, με νηστείες· με καθαρότητα, με γνώση, με μακροθυμία, με αγαθότητα, με Πνεύμα Άγιο, με αγάπη ανυπόκριτη· με λόγο αλήθειας, με δύναμη Θεού· με τα όπλα τής δικαιοσύνης, τα δεξιά και τα αριστερά· με δόξα και ατιμία, με συκοφαντία και με εγκωμιασμό· σαν πλάνοι, όμως κάτοχοι της αλήθειας· σαν αγνοούμενοι, αλλά είμαστε καλά γνωστοί· σαν να φτάνουμε στον θάνατο, αλλά, δέστε, ζούμε· σαν να περνάμε από παιδεία, αλλά δεν θανατωνόμαστε· σαν λυπούμενοι, αλλά πάντοτε έχουμε χαρά· σαν φτωχοί, όμως πλουτίζουμε πολλούς· σαν να μη έχουμε τίποτε, όμως τα πάντα κατέχουμε" (Β΄ Κορ. 6/ς: 4-10).

Θυμάμαι σαν σήμερα, τα λόγια ενός φίλου απίστου, για τη ζωή του νονού μου, τον οποίο ο Θεός ευλόγησε με χαρίσματα του Αγίου Πνεύματος, αλλά κατά κόσμον θλιβόταν υπερβολικά ως τον θάνατό του. Μου είπε ο άπιστος εκείνος:

"Μα πώς είναι δυνατόν ο Θεός να επιτρέπει να βασανίζεται τόσο ένας δικός Του; Αν είχατε την αληθινή πίστη, δεν θα ήταν η ζωή του ένα βασανιστήριο. Να μην έχει δουλειά, να τον κοροϊδεύουν οι εργοδότες, να αρρωσταίνει, να γκρεμίζεται το σπίτι του, να θλίβεται τόσο πολύ!
Αυτό δεν είναι πίστη, είναι πλάνη!" Και πράγματι, είχα δει κι εγώ αυτόν τον ευλογημένο άνθρωπο, να προσεύχεται με δάκρυα, να ζητάει από τον Θεό να τον πάρει "ΤΩΡΑ!". (Και πράγματι, έφυγε νέος, όταν ο αγώνας του έφθασε στην τελείωση). Απάντησα στον άπιστο φίλο μου, ότι αυτή είναι η εν Χριστώ ζωή.

Όχι χαρά και διασκέδαση, αλλά θλίψη και πόνος, και δοκιμασία. Αλλά δεν μπορούν αυτό να το δεχθούν όλοι. Μάλιστα θα έλεγα, ότι αν κάποιος δεν βιώνει αυτή τη θλίψη στη Χριστιανική του ζωή, κάτι δεν πάει καλά με αυτόν. Θα πρέπει να ανησυχεί! Γιατί δεν γνωρίζω ΚΑΝΕΝΑΝ που να προοδεύει στην εν Χριστώ ζωή, χωρίς να υφίσταται δοκιμασίες και θλίψεις.

Άγιος Σιλουανός ο Αθωνίτης

Ο Γέροντας Παΐσιος ο Αγιορείτης και η ταπείνωση

“Εάν θέλεις να “πιάσεις” τον Θεό, για να σε ακούσει, όταν προσευχηθείς,

γύρισε το κουμπί στη ταπείνωση, γιατί σ’αυτήν την συχνότητα εργάζεται ο Θεός”

Γέρων Παΐσιος

Σαν σήμερα εκοιμήθη ο διδάσκαλος της νοεράς προσευχής του Αγίου Όρους γέροντας Ιωσήφ ο Ησυχαστής

Επειδή σήμερα είναι μνήμη της κοιμήσεως του Αγίου Γέροντος Ιωσήφ, δημοσιεύουμε κάποια αποσπάσματα από το βιβλίο: «Ο Γέροντάς μου Ιωσήφ ο Ησυχαστής και σπηλαιώτης» του Γέροντος Εφραίμ του Φιλοθείτου. Την ευχούλα του να έχουμε!

Το τυπικό του Γέροντος Ιωσήφ: …Εκοιμώντο περίπου 3-4 ώρες, αλλά ο Φραγκίσκος (μετέπειτα μοναχός Ιωσήφ) δεν ξάπλωνε σε κρεββάτι. Συνήθως κοιμόταν καθιστός σε μία καρέκλα, και τις περισσότερες φορές όρθιος στηριζόμενος σε ένα μπαστούνι σε σχήμα Τ ή ακουμπώντας στον τοίχο.

Με την δύσι του ηλίου εγείροντο για να αρχίσουν την αγρυπνία τους. Δεν μιλούσαν μεταξύ τους, για να μην απωλέσουν την νηφαλιότητα, που χάριζε στον νού ο ύπνος.

Έπιναν σιωπηλά έναν καφέ για βοήθημα και απεσύροντο ο καθένας στο κελλί του για ολονύκτια προσευχή αν ήταν χειμώνας, κι αν ήταν καλοκαίρι στην ύπαιθρο σε απόστασι ο ένας από τον άλλον.

Άρχιζαν με το «Τρισάγιο», το «Πιστεύω» και τον «Ν΄ ψαλμό». Κατόπιν καθόντα λίγο και αδολεσχούσαν γύρω από τον θάνατο, την κόλασι, την χαρά των Δικαίων στους ουρανούς και ψυχωφελείς θεωρίες. Καί κατέληγαν με τη σκέψι πως όλοι θα σωθούν και μόνον αυτοί θα πάνε στην κόλασι. Έτσι ήρχοντο σε κατάνυξι, σε πένθος και μετάνοια. Δεν έμεναν όμως για πολύ σ΄αυτές τις σκέψεις. Μόλις συγκεντρωνόταν ο νούς και η καρδιά συνετρίβετο, άρχιζαν την ευχή…

Συνήθως έκαναν Νοερά προσευχή όρθιοι, για να καταπολεμήσουν τον ύπνο για 7-8 ώρες, με απόλυτη συγκέντρωσι, ταπείνωσι και συντριβή βυθίζοντας το νού μέσα στην καρδιά. Κατόπιν άρχιζαν τις μετάνοιες, που ήσαν περίπου 3.500 για τον καθένα τους, και εάν έκανε κρύο και περισσότερες! Διότι σπανίως αναβαν σόμπα, για να μην τους πολεμά ο ύπνος. Μετά τις μετάνοιες ακολουθούσε ο απαραίτητος μοναχικός κανόνας με κομποσχοίνια.

Μετά την θεία Λειτουργία, είχε ήδη ξημερώσει, έπιναν ένα ζεστό με λίγο παξιμάδι. Μερικές φορές, όχι πάντα, εάν ήσαν εξαντλημένοι από τους κόπους της αγρυπνίας, ανεπαύοντο άλλη μία ώρα περίπου. Μετά εσηκώνοντο και είτε έκανα πάλι προσευχή και μελέτη είτε έψαχναν για ασκητές προς ωφέλειάν τους. Έτσι αγγελικά ζούσαν οι δύο αγωνιστές. Μία ζωή αυστηρά ασκητική, μέσα στην αφάνεια, στην υπακοή στον πάπα-Δανιήλ τον Κατουνακιώτη και στη νυκτερινή προσευχή και λατρεία του Θεού.

Η Νοερά προσευχή ήταν η κυριότερη ασχολία του Γέροντος. Όλη του την δύναμι την εστίαζε στην καλλιέργεια αυτής της προσευχής. Όλες του τις δραστηριότητες τις ρύθμιζε, ώστε να έχει άνεσι ο νούς στην προσευχή. Όπως έγγραψε ο ίδιος: «Η νοερά προσευχή εις εμένα είναι όπως η τέχνη του καθενός, καθ΄ ότι εργάζομαι αυτήν τριαντέξ και επέκεινα χρόνια, δηλαδή, σ΄όλη την διάρκεια της μοναχικής του ζωής. Καί πράγματι, εργαζόταν στην προσευχή μεθοδικά και με τάξι. Προσευχόταν με επιμονή και βία, αλλά και με συντριβή και ταπείνωσι. Όλη του η ημέρα ήταν μία προετοιμασία για την νυκτερινή του προσευχή.

Κάναμε πολλές ώρες προσευχή τότε που ήμασταν κοντά στον Γέροντα Ιωσήφ, αλλά και στα πρώτα χρόνια μετά την κοίμησί του. Καί ήταν πλημμύρα η Χάρις που μου έδινε ο Κύριος, δι΄ευχών του Γέροντός μου, διότι έκαμε Νοερά προσευχή μέχρι δέκα ώρες όρθριος! Όταν με πολεμούσε ο διάβολος με πολλή κούρασι και αμέλεια, αισθανόμουν άσχημα και έλεγα στον εαυτό μου: «άρρωστος δεν είσαι! Έφαγες, ήπιες, λοιπόν εδώ θα αγωνισθής, θα πεθάνης εδώ προσευχόμενος!» Δεν υποχωρούσα. Καί μετά λίγην ώρα ήρχετο τόση παράκλησις, τέτοια ειρήνη και μακαριότης, που επί τέσσερις ώρες, νόμιζα ότι δεν πατούσα στην γη και ότι οι τέσσερις αυτές ώρες ήσαν 10 λεπτά. Την εποχή εκείνη είχα πολλές καταστάσεις. Ο Θεός μου είχε δώσει πολλή Χάρι»….

Θάνατος όντως οσιακός. Σε μας σκόρπισε αναστάσιμον αίσθησι. Μπροστά μας είχαμε νεκρόν και ήρμοζε πένθος, όμως μέσα μας ζούσαμε ανάστασι. Καί τούτο το αίσθημα δεν μας έλλειψε πλέον, αλλά με αυτό συνοδεύεται έκτοτε η ενθύμησις του αειμνήστου αγίου Γέροντός μας.

Ο τάφος του Γέροντος Ιωσήφ του Ησυχαστή

Άποψη του τάφου του γέροντος Ιωσήφ από έξω

Τα σπήλαια των δύο γερόντων Ιωσήφ και Αρσενίου στην Νέα Σκήτη, Άγιον Όρος

Η θέα από το εσωτερικό της σπηλιάς

Ψηλά στον βράχο της σπηλιάς, διακρίνουμε κρίκους όπου κρεμόταν με σκοινί για τις πολύωρες αγρυπνίες

Το στασίδι στην σπηλιά

Η Νέα Σκήτη

Γιατί κάνουμε το σταυρό μας;

Ένα από τα βασικότερα χαρακτηριστικά των ορθόδοξων χριστιανών (και όχι μόνο) είναι ότι σχηματίζουμε στο σώμα μας, με το δεξί μας χέρι, το σημείο του σταυρού. Γιατί όμως το κάνουμε αυτό, τι συμβολίζει και πόσο παλιά συνήθεια είναι;

Γιατί γίνεται;

Κάνουμε το σταυρό μας για τρεις λόγους:
α. Έτσι αναγνωρίζουμε φανερά ότι είμαστε μαθητές του Χριστού, ο οποίος σταυρώθηκε για τη σωτηρία των ανθρώπων.
β. Υπενθυμίζουμε στον εαυτό μας ότι, όπως ο Κύριος θυσιάστηκε στο σταυρό, έτσι κι εμείς πρέπει να θυσιάζουμε το συμφέρον μας, το χρόνο μας ή κομμάτια από τη ζωή μας (μέχρι και την ίδια τη ζωή μας) για τους συνανθρώπους μας.
γ. Η πείρα των αιώνων έχει αποδείξει ότι το σημείο του σταυρού λειτουργεί ως ισχυρό φυλαχτό, που προστατεύει τους ανθρώπους από τις επιρροές των πνευματικών τους εχθρών (δαιμόνων), καθώς και από άλλους κινδύνους που πιθανόν να τους απειλούν. Αυτό συμβαίνει, γιατί, κάνοντας το σταυρό μας, επικαλούμαστε το σταυρωμένο Θεό μας (το Θεάνθρωπο Ιησού) και ζητάμε τη βοήθεια και την προστασία Του.
δ. Το σημείο του σταυρού είναι μέρος της συμμετοχής του σώματός μας στην επικοινωνία μας με το Θεό, μια επικοινωνία που δεν αφορά μόνο στο πνεύμα μας και δεν αγιάζει μόνο την ψυχή μας, αλλά κάνει την ίδια ύψιστη τιμή και στο σώμα μας.
Το να διακηρύξουμε δημόσια ότι πιστεύουμε στο Χριστό (όπως γίνεται όταν κάνουμε το σταυρό μας) δεν είναι σωστό να γίνεται εγωιστικά ή υποκριτικά, αλλά ταπεινά, σεμνά και με αγάπη προς τους συνανθρώπους μας και συγχώρεση προς τους εχθρούς μας. Σύμφωνα με τα λόγια του ίδιου του Ιησού, καλό είναι να μην επιδεικνύουμε, αλλά και να μην κρύβουμε την πίστη μας. Είπε: «Όποιος με ομολογήσει μπροστά στους ανθρώπους, θα τον ομολογήσω κι εγώ μπροστά στον ουράνιο Πατέρα μου. Όποιος όμως με αρνηθεί μπροστά στους ανθρώπους, θα τον αρνηθώ κι εγώ μπροστά στον ουράνιο Πατέρα μου» (Ματθ. 10, 32-33).
Τα λόγια αυτά του Ιησού φαίνονται «σκληρά», αλλά ο Κύριος δεν είναι σκληρός. Αντίθετα, είναι ταπεινός και ειρηνικός. Τα λέει όμως για να μας παρακινήσει να Του ανοίξουμε την καρδιά μας και να ενωθούμε μ᾽ Αυτόν – σ᾽ αυτό θα μας βοηθήσει το να παραδεχτούμε δημόσια την πίστη μας.

Πώς κάνουμε το σταυρό μας;

Φωτο από το άρθρο "Πότε κάνουμε το σταυρό μας μέσα στην εκκλησία"
Αυτό φυσικά το ξέρουν και τα παιδιά. Ενώνουμε τα τρία πρώτα δάχτυλα του δεξιού μας χεριού και τα αγγίζουμε στο μέτωπό μας, μετά στην κοιλιά μας και στη συνέχεια στο δεξιό και τον αριστερό ώμο μας. Με αυτό τον τρόπο σχηματίζουμε το σχήμα του σταυρού, πάνω στον οποίο σταυρώθηκε ο Κύριος. Γι᾽ αυτό, δεν είναι σωστό να κάνουμε απλά μια αόριστη κίνηση (να «παίζουμε μαντολίνο», όπως λέει ο λαός). Αν «βαριόμαστε» ή ντρεπόμαστε να κάνουμε το σταυρό μας σωστά, κάνουμε ένα βήμα πίσω στη σχέση μας με το Θεό – και τα βήματα αυτά είναι τόσο πολύτιμα!...
Το σημαντικότερο βέβαια από τα βήματα αυτά μπορούμε να πούμε πως είναι το να αγαπάμε και να συγχωρούμε τους εχθρούς μας. Αρχίζουμε λοιπόν από τα απλά (όπως το σημείο του σταυρού) και μ᾽ αυτά ζητάμε βοήθεια από το Θεό, για να προχωρήσουμε στα δύσκολα.

Τι συμβολιζει το σημείο του σταυρού;

Κατά το μεγάλο δάσκαλο της χριστιανικής ζωής άγιο Κοσμά τον Αιτωλό (18ος-19ος αιώνας), ο σταυρός περιέχει τους εξής συμβολισμούς:
• Αγγίζουμε στο μέτωπο: ο Χριστός, ως Θεός, βρισκόταν στον ουρανό.
• Κατεβαίνουμε στην κοιλιά μας: από τον ουρανό, ο Κύριος έγινε άνθρωπος και μπήκε στη μήτρα της Θεοτόκου (της Παναγίας).
• Υψωνόμαστε στους ώμους μας: παρακαλούμε το Θεό να μας τοποθετήσει «στα δεξιά Του» (στον παράδεισο) κι όχι «στ᾽ αριστερά» (στην κόλαση), σύμφωνα με την περιγραφή της Δευτέρας Παρουσίας, που κάνει ο ίδιος ο Χριστός στο κατά Ματθαίον ευαγγέλιο, κεφάλαιο 25, στίχοι 31-46.
Τα τρία ενωμένα δάχτυλά μας συμβολίζουν την Αγία Τριάδα, ενώ τα άλλα δύο συμβολίζουν ότι ο Χριστός είναι και Θεός και άνθρωπος.

Και λίγα ιστορικά στοιχεία...

Από την ίδρυση του χριστιανισμού οι χριστιανοί σέβονται το σταυρό. Ο απόστολος Παύλος γράφει ότι «ο σταυρός του Χριστού» είναι το μόνο θέμα, για το οποίο θα μπορούσε να είναι περήφανος, και ότι «ο λόγος του σταυρού» φαίνεται ανοησία σ᾽ εκείνους που ζουν μακριά από το Θεό, για τους χριστιανούς όμως είναι «δύναμις Θεού» (Πρός Γαλάτας, 6, 14, Α´ προς Κορινθίους, 1, 18). Ο απόστολος Πέτρος ζήτησε να σταυρωθεί με το κεφάλι προς τα κάτω, θεωρώντας ότι δεν είναι άξιος να θανατωθεί ακριβώς όπως ο αγαπημένος του δάσκαλος. Το ίδιο και ο απόστολος Ανδρέας, στην Πάτρα, ο οποίος μάλιστα χαιρέτισε το σταυρό, πριν καρφωθεί σ᾽ αυτόν, και τον ονόμασε «αγιασμένο από το σώμα του Χριστού» και «γεμάτο χαρά».

Ο άγ. Ανδρέας, έχοντας αγκαλιάσει το σταυρό (σχήματος Χ) στον οποίο σταυρώθηκε (από ένα ωραίο post για τη ζωή του αγίου και την ιστορία των λειψάνων του).

Στις Πράξεις του αποστόλου Ανδρέα (ένα βιβλίο που γράφτηκε γύρω στο 150-180 μ.Χ.) αναφέρεται ήδη η συνήθεια των χριστιανών να σχηματίζουν το σημείο του σταυρού κουνώντας τα δάχτυλά τους. Το ίδιο αναφέρουν κι άλλοι χριστιανοί συγγραφείς των πρώτων αιώνων, όπως ο Τερτυλλιανός, ο Κλήμης ο Αλεξανδρέας, ο Ωριγένης, ο Λακτάντιος κ.ά. Φαίνεται ότι οι πρώτοι χριστιανοί έκαναν το σταυρό τους πάνω στο μέτωπό τους, με το ένα δάχτυλο.
Οι χριστιανοί κάνουμε το σταυρό μας όταν φεύγουμε για κάπου και όταν φτάσουμε, πριν κοιμηθούμε και αφού ξυπνήσουμε, όταν αρχίζουμε κι όταν τελειώνουμε μια δουλειά ή το φαγητό μας, όταν βάζουμε το φρεσκοζυμωμένο ψωμί στο φούρνο ή το τσουκάλι στη φωτιά, όταν ευλογούμε τα παιδιά μας ή άλλα αγαπημένα μας πρόσωπα (σχηματίζουμε σταυρό προς το μέρος τους)... Γενικά, ζούμε και πεθαίνουμε κάτω απ᾽ το σημείο του σταυρού – ώστε να κάνουμε μόνο πράγματα που αρέσουν στο Θεό και να είμαστε πάντοτε μαζί Του.

"Με απλά λόγια", έκδοση της μητρόπολης Ρεθύμνης και Αυλοποτάμου
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