Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Παναγια - Panagia

Spiritual Warfare II - Preparation

    Once we are well aware of our sinfulness (the sign of a mature seeker of God) we can then seek to anticipate the battles we will encounter during the coming day. Our sinfulness is often triggered by our interactions encountered in the activites of our daily life. When we know we will be facing situations where we often find ourselves falling into a sinful activity we need to protect ourselves and prepare for these battles.

Saint Theophan recommends,

"At the beginning of each day, sit and go over all possible meetings and occurrences and all the possible feelings and movements that they could cause." This can be a routine activity at the end of your morning prayers. Mentally go through the day and the situations you are likely to encounter. Think about how you can deal with those situations where you know it will be difficult for you––especially situations where you may be tempted with lust or anger.

Predetermine the best approach if temptations do arise. Think about how you will fight it off, or will it be better for you to avoid the encounter. When we have a weakness it is often best to predetermine a way to walk away physically from the situation.

As you enter into the trials of the day, remember you have some important weapons. Both of these give me great aid. One is the Jesus Prayer which you can say at any time (if you make it part of your regular prayer rule), and even more powerful is the sign of the Cross. As you enter into a situation where you know you are facing temptation, make the sign of the Cross and say quietly to yourself, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

By being vigilant, and aware of the potential battles you will face, you can begin to change the way you live your life transforming it into an Orthodox Way of LIfe.

Become a proactive spiritual warrior.

The healing mission of the Church ( Metropolitan of Limassol, Athanasios )

The main mission of the Church is to heal a person. In other words, when a person becomes part of the Church is healed if he follows the therapeutic regime which aims to assist him to return to the natural state which God gave him when He had created him.

After the fall of our forefathers, our nature was corrupted. When man severed his relationship with the Lord after disobeying His command, all his mental and physical capacities were immediately corrupted and perverted; his mind turned away from its unbreakable communication with the Lord, which was his natural state, towards the creation and matter, passions and sin. From that moment sickness and perversion entered man’s nature.

This is the reality of the fall, the sin of the forefathers, namely the hereditary sickness which passes on from one generation to another because we are natural descendents of our forefathers. Thus, each man has inherited this condition of spiritual sickness; the perversion of his nature.

Jesus Christ is called the ‘New Adam’, because He enters history at a certain point in time and accomplishes a mission. Christ’s mission was not so much to hand over the Gospel, namely His teachings, neither to give us a book called ‘Gospel’, but to give us Himself. In other words, just as we have inherited the sickness of our nature through the first Adam, Jesus offers us Himself, so that through the baptism we unite with Him, become one with Him, and then through the Holy Eucharist we acquire the capacity to unite with Him organically and ontologically (actually).  This means that the actual unity with the Body and Blood of Jesus flows into our being, into our soul and our body. This is the reason why we become children of God and why the Church exists. The Church would have no reason to exist if it did not administer the holy mysteries, particularly the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

The Church is not an institution aiming to increase its followers for various reasons. It is the place where man is healed spiritually and is given the opportunity to unite with Jesus Christ. However, man needs to follow a certain therapeutic treatment called ‘askesis’. It entails obeying all of the Lord’s commands handed over to us by Jesus in the Gospel. Jesus’ commands are the medication which treats our sickness. In fact, the Lord shouldn’t have given us any commands since He had created us in His image; His commands are inherent in our nature and our conscience reminds us about them. Nevertheless, as the holy fathers say, the Lord did give us the appropriate medication to cancel out wickedness.

A sick man goes to the doctor and receives a certain treatment, not because the doctor impinges on his freedom or his dignity, but because his advice if heeded, may cure him. If he doesn’t follow the doctor’s instructions his illness will persist and may even cause his death. In the same way the Lord’s commandments act as a therapeutic treatment.

There are many commands and on the outset it seems difficult for someone to remember and obey all of them. Nevertheless, the most essential command is one and has to do with our entire being. It is: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength.’ And it goes on ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. This part is the result and the evidence of our genuine love towards the Lord. In other words, it is not possible for someone who does not love God, to love himself, his neighbor, nature or the rest of the creation. Therefore, all the commandments have a common mission; they converge on the love towards the Lord. This is the natural state of man; this is how the Lord created him, namely, to move towards the Lord with a loving force. This is easy to understand since as the Scriptures say ‘The Lord is love’. But we must appreciate that we are not moving towards an idea, namely ‘love’, but towards a person.

The Church moves man towards a personal meeting with the specific, personal God. In other words, the Church is the place which develops man as a person and not as an individual (an ‘individual’ means someone who is engrossed in his self). That is, it smashes his individualism, develops him as a person and turns him into someone who for the most part has a personal relationship with the Lord. This is also the main difference between the Orthodox Church and eastern religions which speak about a vague and faceless deity. This is the reason why prayer differs from meditation. Prayer is a personal motion towards a personal God; meditation is an impersonal motion from one man to another through the invocation of a vague deity.

The personal motion towards the Lord presupposes that the Lord also moves towards man. Since God is love, it follows that man, who has been created in the image of God, is also love. This loving motion enables man to come out of his self and offer himself to another person, just as Jesus did when He ‘emptied Himself’.

When man empties himself he meets the Lord in a loving union which is totally personal and totally fulfilling for man as a whole. Man’s union with the Lord does not only take place on a mental, philosophical, metaphysical or psychological level. It is a perfect union at all levels. We ought to understand these things if we are to appreciate our true mission in this world. Therefore, by understanding the numerous commandments, we also understand why we ought to obey them.

In other words, the Church is not the sum of certain commandments and laws but it is the place with a specific mission. The Saints of our Church, all the children of the Church who are indeed living children of God and of the Church, prove that what the Church says and promises is true. These people have followed the treatment offered by the Church and became the temple of the Holy Spirit and the chosen vessel of the Lord. Namely the Holy Spirit is present inside them. Indeed there are several such people who are experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit inside their souls. They know what ‘grace’ means.

When dealing with the reality of our worship, along with all the preconditions and evidence presented by the lives of our saints, we are faced with the entire range of the spiritual struggle. In other words, we understand why all these things happen, why the commandments are given, why askesis and the spiritual regime are necessary and what happens with the presence of Jesus and with the existence of the Church. Thus we understand what will happen to us. The only matter which still needs to be resolved is how to practically begin the process of our relationship with God, how to find Him and how to taste all the things promised by the Church.

The Lord does not discriminate. He does not offer His mercy to one but not to the other, neither does He give gifts to one but not to the other. There are no ‘chosen ones’ for the Lord. The Lord gives to each one the same grace and the same love. It is man who regulates his relationship with the Lord. Man is free to love the Lord absolutely. One may love Him a lot, another very little and yet some may hate Him.

Nevertheless, one has to be aware of his own intentions; he ought to be able to say that he will remain steadfast in his faith even though the Lord sometimes seems to leave him alone in his struggles. In other words, one must never lose heart. He ought to recognize that this mission is not up to him but it is a task accomplished by the Lord. Jesus said to His disciples: ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’ (John 15, 16). The disciples may have offered their good intention, but unless the Lord was present with His grace to strengthen them, they could not have accomplished a single thing.

Bearing in mind the Lord’s presence we ought to wage our struggle with immense courage. One of the weapons the enemy uses is trying to prevent us from dealing with our sins and passions with courage and zeal.

The Lord offers us a medicine to help us with this process. It is the medicine of repentance in the face of the Lord. This means that one ought to repent not as someone who feels guilty, but as one who is the son of the Lord. Neither any trespass nor the devil are able to take away from us the privilege of being children of the Lord.  Thus we may stand before the Lord and say: ‘Indeed, I have sinned; I have been misled. Nevertheless, I have not denied You and I am still seeking my deliverance’.

People ought not to be miserable inside the Church, because they have been called by the Lord to become gods through grace. This means that a person who lives the life of the Church becomes lord and not a miserable man. This is how the Lord makes him. The Saints, instead of feeling depressed, placed great emphasis on repentance because it made them feel children of the Lord. Repentance was like a life-giving force which led them straight to the throne of their Father.

In the Church there is no place for disappointment neither for backtracking, no matter what happens. Nevertheless, when someone begins his spiritual life, the enemy may succeed in stealing his soul and his heart, enslaving him into worldly matters and causing him to drop his first love towards the Lord.

Therefore, let us not be enslaved by the affairs of this world despite all our responsibilities and duties. Our heart must only move towards the Lord.
The end
Excerpts from a homily by the Metropolitan of Limassol, Athanasios, published in the ‘Paraklisi’ magazine, March 2012.

Φώναζε διαρκῶς τήν εὐχή μέ βία,μέ τό ζόρι, μέ πόνο πολύ. «Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, ἐλέησόν με». Καί πάλι καί πολλές φορές

Παιδί μου, εάν προσέχεις ό,τι σου γράφω...
- Γέροντας Ιωσήφ ο Ησυχαστής 
Λοιπόν βιάσου. Λέγε διαρκώς την ευχή. Να μη σταματά καθόλου το στόμα. Έτσι θα την συνηθίσεις μέσα σου και κατόπιν θα την παραλάβει ο νους. Μη ξεθαρρεύεις στους λογισμούς, διότι γίνεσαι μαλθακός και μολύνεσαι.
«Ευχή, βία φύσεως διηνεκής», και θα δεις πόση Χάρη θα λάβεις...
Η ζωή του ανθρώπου, παιδί μου, είναι θλίψη, διότι είναι στην εξορία. Μη ζητείς τελεία ανάπαυση. Ο Χριστός μας σήκωσε το σταυρό, και μείς θα σηκώσουμε. Όλες τις θλίψεις εάν τις απομένουμε, βρίσκομε Χάρη παρά Κυρίου. Γι’ αυτό μας αφήνει ο Κύριος να πειραζόμαστε, για να δοκιμάζει το ζήλο και την αγάπη που έχουμε προς αυτόν. Γι’ αυτό χρειάζεται υπομονή. Χωρίς υπομονή δεν γίνεται ο άνθρωπος πρακτικός, δεν μαθαίνει τα πνευματικά, δεν φθάνει σε μέτρα αρετής και τελειώσεως.
Αγάπα τον Ιησού και λέγε αδιάλειπτα την ευχή και αυτή θα σε φωτίζει στο δρόμο του.
Πρόσεχε να μην κατακρίνεις. Διότι από αυτό παραχωρεί ο Θεός και φεύγει η Χάρη και σε αφήνει ο Κύριος να πέφτεις, να ταπεινώνεσαι, να βλέπεις τα δικά σου σφάλματα. Αλλ’ όταν υποχωρεί η Χάρη για να δοκιμαστεί ο άνθρωπος, τότε γίνονται όλα σαρκικά και πέφτει η ψυχή. Συ όμως τότε μη χάνεις την προθυμία σου, άλλα φώναζε διαρκώς την ευχή με βία, με το ζόρι, με πόνο πολύ. «Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, ελέησόν με». Και πάλι και πολλές φορές, το ίδιο συνεχώς. Και σαν να ατενίζεις νοερά τον Χριστό να του λέγεις• «…Δόξα σοι, δόξα σοι, ο Θεός μου». Και υπομένοντας, πάλι θα έλθει η Χάρη, πάλι η χαρά. Όμως και πάλι ο πειρασμός και η λύπη, η ταραχή και τα νεύρα. Αλλά και πάλιν αγώνας, νίκη, ευχαριστία. Και αυτό γίνεται μέχρις ότου σιγά-σιγά καθαρίζεσαι από τα πάθη και γίνεσαι πνευματικός…
Η άσκηση, παιδί μου, θέλει στερήσεις. Θέλει αγώνα και κόπο πολύ. Θέλει να φωνάζεις μέρα και νύκτα στον Χριστό. Θέλει υπομονή σε όλους τους πειρασμούς και τις θλίψεις. Θέλει να πνίξεις θυμό και επιθυμία.
Θα κουρασθείς πολύ, μέχρι να καταλάβεις ότι προσευχή χωρίς προσοχή και νήψη είναι χάσιμο χρόνου· κόπος χωρίς πληρωμή. Πρέπει σε όλες τις αισθήσεις μέσα έξω να βάλεις άγρυπνο φύλακα την προσοχή διότι χωρίς αυτήν ο νους και οι δυνάμεις της ψυχής διαχέονται στα μάταια και συνήθη, σαν το άχρηστο νερό που τρέχει στους δρόμους. Ποτέ κανένας δεν βρήκε προσευχή χωρίς προσοχή και νήψη. Κανένας ποτέ δεν αξιώθηκε να ανεβεί προς τα άνω χωρίς πρώτα να καταφρονήσει τα κάτω.

(«Έκφρασις Μοναχικής εμπειρίας», εκδ, Ι.Μ.Φιλοθέου, Άγ. Όρος-αποσπάσματα σε νεοελληνική απόδοση)

Ὁ Τίμιος Πρόδρομος βοηθᾶ τόν νεωκόρο


Κάποτε, ζούσε ένας νεωκόρος, ο οποίος είχε πολύ σεβασμό, πολλή ευλάβεια, πολύ φόβο Θεού. Ήταν από εκείνους τους νεωκόρους, πού τους ζητάμε και τους θέλουμε ως υπηρέτες και βοηθούς στον Ναό. Ο Ναός ήταν κτισμένος προς τιμήν του Τιμίου Προδρόμου. Χτυπούσε λοιπόν ο νεωκόρος τις καμπάνες του Ναού - ήταν τρεις, τέσσερις οι καμπάνες - Και τις χτυπούσε με τα δυο του χέρια, Έπεσε όμως και τραυματίστηκε στο αριστερό του χέρι και δεν μπορούσε να χτυπήσει τις καμπάνες με το ένα χέρι μονάχα. Και ήταν γι' αυτό πολύ στενοχωρημένος. Ερχόταν μεγάλη γιορτή και δεν θα χτυπούσε γλυκά, ρυθμικά, όπως συνήθως, πότε τη μία, πότε την άλλη, πότε δυο-δυο, πότε τρεις και μία, όπως κάνουν στο Άγιον Όρος. Λοιπόν, τί να κάνη, πηγαίνει στον Τίμιο Πρόδρομο και του λέει:
- Άκουσέ με, Άγιε! Ο Ναός σου είναι αυτός, το χέρι μου το είδες, δεν μπορώ με το ένα χέρι. Για έλα 'δω. (Τον παίρνει λοιπόν από το χέρι - κατέβηκε ο Τίμιος Πρόδρομος από την εικόνα του! - και τον πηγαίνει έξω στο καμπαναριό,) - Για δείξε μουτώρα πώς θα χτυπάω τις καμπάνες! Παίρνει ο Τίμιος Πρόδρομος, κάνει θηλιές τα σχοινιά, βάζει τη μια θηλιά στο ένα πόδι, την άλλη θηλιά στο άλλο πόδι και τις άλλες δυο, τη μια στο χέρι και την άλλη στον αγκώνα, και του έδειξε με ποιόν θερμό τρόπο θα χτυπάει τις καμπάνες.
- Ευχαριστώ πολύ, είπε ο νεωκόρος στον Άγιο! Και χτυπούσε τις καμπάνες όπως του έδειξε ο Τίμιος Πρόδρομος!

Ο Θεός σου δίνει πάντα ό,τι σου χρειάζεται

Μια φορά κάποιος ζήτησε απ' το Θεό ενα λουλούδι και μια πεταλούδα.
Ο Θεός όμως αντί γι' αυτά Του έδωσε ένα κάκτο και μια κάμπια.
Αυτό στεναχώρησε τον άνθρωπο. Δεν μπόρεσε να καταλάβει, γιατί δεν πήρε
αυτό που ζήτησε.
Είπε μέσα του, λοιπόν: -Ο Θεός έχει να νοιαστεί για τόσους ανθρώπους...

Και αποφάσισε να μην ζητήσει εξηγήσεις.

Μετά από λίγο καιρό πήγε να κοιτάξει αυτά που του είχαν δοθεί και τα
'χε ξεχάσει.

Προς έκπληξή του, απ' τον αγκαθωτό και άσχημο κάκτο.Είχε φυτρώσει ένα
όμορφο λουλούδι.

Και η άσχημη κάμπια είχε μεταμορφωθεί σε μια υπέροχη πεταλούδα.

Ο ΘΕΟΣ τα κάνει πάντα όλα σωστά!

Ο τρόπος που ενεργεί είναι ΠΑΝΤΑ ο καλύτερος, ακόμα κι αν σε μας
φαίνεται λανθασμένος.

Αν ζήτησες από το Θεό κάτι και πήρες κάτι διαφορετικό, δείξε Του ΕΜΠΙΣΤΟΣΥΝΗ.

Μπορείς να είσαι σίγουρος πως Αυτός θα σου δίνει,πάντα αυτό που
χρειάζεσαι τη κατάλληλη στιγμή.

Αυτό που θέλεις... δεν είναι πάντα κι αυτό που χρειάζεσαι!

Το ΑΓΚΑΘΙ του σήμερα... Είναι το ΛΟΥΛΟΥΔΙ του αύριο!
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