Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ομιλία για την αγάπη - Γέροντας Εφραίμ της Αριζόνας

Take Care How You Hear!

The Lord Jesus said something once that I found odd. He said, take care HOW you hear.” I would have thought that he would have said to take care WHAT you hear. Apparently, the way in which you hear something is about as important as what you are hearing. When you think of it, the Lord warned often about ears becoming so dull that people would hear, but they would not hear.

You know I’ve never really given much thought about how I listen. Of course, my mom used to tell me that I wasn’t a good listener. Women often complain that men never really listen to them. Most of the time, we are so distracted we don’t really hear what is being said. I wonder how we listen when the Bible is read or when the sermon is preached. Do we hear, or are our ears dull.

If our ears are dull, it may be the reason why our faith is so weak. The Bible makes it very simple: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So, the way we get faith is through our ears, and if our ears are dull, it’s no wonder our faith is so small. How we hear makes all the difference.

We need to understand why our ears grow dull. St. James gives us a clue – “Be doers of the word and not hearers only. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who sees his face in a mirror, but when he turns away, he forgets what he looks like.” This happens in Orthodoxy. We get excited about the things we’ve learned or heard that convince us that Orthodoxy is truth. We say, “YES, this is the truth.” Then, we don’t do what we have heard. The next we hear the same thing we say, “Yes, this is the truth.” Again, we don’t do what we have heard. Then we hear the same thing and now we say, “Yawn! Yes, that’s the truth, I guess.”

Yet, if we act upon what we hear, then St. James says that we will be blessed in everything that we do. Imagine that – blessed in everything we do. Such is the power of being careful about HOW we hear.

Then, it’s hard to hear when you are emotional. Have you ever tried to speak to someone who is very angry, or very sad, or even very happy? They hardly hear what you say. Many of us are such a roller coaster of emotions, it’s a wonder we hear anything at all. We need emotional sobriety. We need Jesus to command us as he did the storm and the waves –“Peace, be still.”

Finally, we don’t often hear because our brains aren’t fully engaged. Women are right that often men only listen with 10% of their brain while the rest of the brain is somewhere else. Do we do the same in Church? Do we listen with divided attention? I often wonder if people hear the sermon that I preach. There’s a simple way to find out. About an hour later, just ask someone, “Well, what was the sermon about?” The answers are usually quite amusing if not somewhat sad.

We need to become active listeners with our brains fully engaged. I have some “radical” suggestions. First, read the relevant scriptures for each Sunday, and if you have time, read an orthodox commentary on the passage. Study the Saints who are to be commemorated. If you let Father know that you come to Church prepared to listen, he will knock himself out to write the best sermons possible. Second, I know that not everything that I say in a sermon is straight from God. Jeremiah, the Prophet, said that God’s Word is like chaff to wheat. Well, in the old days they would beat the wheat on the threshing floor and then it would be thrown into the air so that the chaff would blow away, and the heavier wheat will fall back to the floor. Maybe my sermons and blogs are 95% chaff and only 5% wheat. If so, the 5% of wheat is worth keeping. So, if something you hear in the reading or the sermon impresses you as the truth, then God has just spoken to you. Realize that this is being impressed upon you as the truth because it is something that you are meant not only to hear, but to do as well.

Jesus said, “Take care how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” It is a blessing to stand in the Holy Orthodox Church and hear the word of God, but it is not enough if all you do is hear, but never do. Even your Orthodoxy can be taken from you. Is this hard to believe? Well, in my short time, I have seen many come to the Faith with great enthusiasm and piety. Sadly, like the seed sown on bad ground, the word did not take root. Eventually, these people left the Church and so far they haven’t returned.

Be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Take care how you hear!

Why Jesus is both God and Man

It is not easy to be an Orthodox Christian in the modern world. Or more accurately, in what is now called by the historians and sociologists, the “postmodern” age, where the only truth is personal opinion, and where the fallen human will to will whatever it wants, no matter what the consequences may be, is the only supreme and sovereign good.

But then again, to be a follower of Christ has never been easy in any age or culture, pagan, secular, or otherwise.

Even in the so-called “golden era” of the patristic age, from the 4th through the 8th centuries ad, troubles and tribulations abounded. St. Athanasius the Great, ardent defender of the Nicene Creed, took to the desert in order to be hid from death by the Egyptian monastics no less than 5 times. St. Basil the Great, author of the Church’s most beautiful Liturgy, died with only a few bishops at his side who had not “bowed their knees to the Baal” of the Arian heresy. At that time, towards the end of the 4th century, the entire Byzantine Church had succumbed to the Arian creed, as decreed by the Emperor! St. John Chrysostom was exiled from his throne at the Great Church of St. Sophia’s in Constantinople not once, but twice, dying from the hardships he encountered during his second exile. A century later, St. Maximus the Confessor was tortured, once again by the Byzantine authorities, on account of his refusal to give in to the heresy of “monotheletism,” the false teaching that Christ only had one divine will. While imprisoned, his tongue and right hand were cut off in order to prevent him from confessing the truth of the faith – no longer could he speak, no longer could he write. These are just a few examples showing that things were not so “golden” during these earlier centuries of Church history.

Today there is no doubt in my mind that the greatest error of this age is the denial of something more elemental than let’s say, the Church’s doctrine of the two natures of Christ, or that the Virgin Mary is indeed, the “Theotokos,” the Mother of the Son of God – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The problem we currently face is, instead, more fundamental in that it deals not with the “Who and What” of the Divine Reality, but with the “who and what” of human reality. For at the heart of the secular view of the world, is the assumption that we human beings are at the very best, “tool-making” mammals, naked apes. Any talk of the beauty of the soul, of eternity and the love of God, or the transcendent calling of life has been proscribed from our vocabulary, simply because such dangerous ideas belong not to world rational thought, but to the realm of superstition and myth. So they say.

The difficulty of living in this era as an Orthodox Christian is thus realizing that we have been seated in the corner of the world’s classroom and that a cone with the label “dunce” has been placed on our heads for all to see. Even worse, at least in my mind, is the fact that there are many Christians content to sit there with their faces to the wall and pretend that things are not so bad as they would seem. But deny it or not, the reality is that we Christians have been expelled from the public forum, and the so-called “secular elite” has made sure that the power of law, politics, and academia, remains squarely in their hands. One is no longer allowed to speak with any seriousness of thought to the possibility that human existence contains within itself anything higher and nobler than the physical brain, which thereby regulates all emotions, thoughts, decisions, and actual behaviors through the firing of electrical impulses through its billions and billions of neurons. All of human life is here seen as being an electrical-chemical phenomenon, and nothing more.

Yet to preach Christ in this “day and age” simply means to remind everyone we possibly can, and in whatever way we possibly can, that we cannot be truly human unless we move beyond that which is merely physical in order to see the eternal mystery of Christ within the human soul. We human beings are made from the dust of the earth, no doubt. And yes, we do share vital a solidarity with all living things – flora and fauna. But it is wrong to think that this is all there is to the phenomenon of a living, human person.

Which brings us to the final point. For if the holy fathers of the Church suffered and died for their belief in the full divinity of the Virgin’s Son, (“light from light, true God of true God”) we today must not be afraid to defend the next logical supposition of this teaching, which is that the Son of God became the Son of the Virgin precisely in order to show us the way towards our truest goal, to achieve deification, to become by grace all that God is Himself by nature. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7).

The breath of life by which we live is the eternal life of Christ given to us as gift through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Apart from this divine breath, we remain at a “sub-human” level of existence, not really living the way we are meant to live “in the beginning.” So here is the message we whisper into the ears of those who would rather not hear what we have to say: “Are you ready to become something more than you presently are? Are you ready to become an authentic human person with all its wondrous and infinite spiritual potentialities?” “If so, then come, and let us to show you a higher and far more joyful way. “

Ένα θαύμα ζωής.

Πολλές φορές οι άνθρωποι φοβούνται να παραδεχθούν την παρουσία του Θεού, το θαύμα, και προσπαθούν μέσα από διάφορες επιστημονικές εξηγήσεις να διώξουν το «φόβο», την «άγνοια» ή όπως αλλιώς θα μπορούσαν να το ερμηνεύσουν. Η διαδικασία της πίστης στο θαύμα είναι λίγο ακατάληπτη για τους περισσότερους, όχι όμως και γι αυτούς που το έχουν νιώσει, βιώσει, αισθανθεί, πιστέψει. Αυτό είναι μία ευλογία.

Στη ζωή μου είχα αυτή την ευλογία αρκετές φορές, κάτι που με έκανε να αισθάνομαι αυτή την υπέροχη ευωδία της παρουσίας ενός Αγίου που άλλοι θα προσπαθούσαν να ερμηνεύσουν με χίλιους, άσχετους, κατ’ εμένα τρόπους.

Είχα μία πρόσκληση στο χωριό Γούρι πρόσφατα. Προχωρώντας λίγο έξω από την Κλήρου, ένιωσα ένα μεγάλο και οξύ πόνο στο στήθος, εφίδρωση, και διάχυση του πόνου αριστερά. Με δεδομένο ένα σοβαρό πρόβλημα στην καρδιά, τα συμπτώματά μου δεν ήταν και τα καλύτερα. Σε κάποια στιγμή νόμιζα ότι είχα πάθει έμφραγμα. Θέλησα να επιστρέψω και να πάω στο νοσοκομείο, ή και να καλέσω βοήθεια. Όταν ετοιμάστηκα να επιστρέψω, κάτι μέσα μου με έσπρωχνε προς το Γούρι. Ο πόνος ήταν αφόρητος και με μικρές στάσεις και παρακλήσεις προς την Παναγία κατάφερα να φτάσω. Ο πόνος συνέχισε για αρκετή ώρα. Όταν συνάντησα κάποιο γνωστό μου στην κοινότητα, μου είπε πως η Εικόνα της Παντάνασσας, το ακριβές αντίγραφο της εικόνας που βρίσκεται στο Άγιο Όρος, βρίσκεται στην εκκλησία και πως την επομένη θα γίνει παράκληση.

Αμέσως κάτι μέσα μου, μου είπε πως ίσως γι’ αυτό έπρεπε να είμαι στην Κοινότητα.

Όταν την επομένη το πρωί, προσκύνησα το εικόνισμα, μετά από λίγες ώρες κατευθύνθηκα για τη Λευκωσία. Κοιτάζοντας τον καθρέφτη με έκπληξη συνειδητοποίησα πως το πρήξιμο στη φλέβα είχε εξαφανιστεί και πως η βραχνή φωνή μου είχε αλλάξει και επανήλθε κανονικά. Το πρόβλημα με τη φωνή μου άρχισε πολύ έντονα να με βασανίζει από τον Φεβρουάριο του 2013, σύμπτωμα όπως μου είχαν πει οι γιατροί της πάθησης μου (και για τη φωνή και για τη φλέβα).

Ίσως, αυτά για κάποιους να ακούγονται απλά, άσχετα, χαζά, εκπληκτικά όμως και εντυπωσιακά για κάποιους άλλους.

Προσωπικά , λέω πως ήταν μία σειρά από θαύματα, τα οποία η Παναγία φρόντισε να κάνει για κάποιον που την κάλεσε σε βοήθεια.

Καθημερινά συμβαίνουν θαύματα. Εμείς όμως ίσως δεν είμαστε σε θέση να τα αποδεχθούμε και να τα αγκαλιάσουμε.

Γέροντας Ιάκωβος Τσαλίκης: Ο κανόνας του πνευματικού δεν λύνεται από κανέναν!

Ο γέροντας ‘Ιάκωβος Τσαλίκης (1991) εξομολόγησε κάποτε μία γερόντισσα και της έβαλε κανόνα νά μην κοινωνήσει για τρία χρόνια.

Γιατί δεν κοινωνάς; τη ρώτησε μία μέρα ο ιερέας της ενορίας της. Μου έβαλε κανόνα ο π. ‘Ιάκωβος, απάντησε

Εκείνη, και του είπε την αιτία. Όχι γιαγιά, μη στενοχωριέσαι. Αυτός είναι αγράμματος καλόγερος.

Εγώ είμαι μορφωμένος και σόι λύνω τον κανόνα. Νά έρθεις την Κυριακή νά σε κοινωνήσω.

Καθώς όμως πλησίασε ή γιαγιά νά μεταλάβει, ένιωσε στο στόμα της την άγία λαβίδα άδεια και κρύα, δεν κατάλαβε τη γεύση της-θείας Κοινωνίας.

Το θαυμαστό γεγονός επαναλήφθηκε άλλες δύο Κυριακές, όπότε ή γυναίκα ανησύχησε και ξαναπήγε στο γέροντα ‘Ιάκωβο.

Παιδί μου, της είπε εκείνος, ο κανόνας δεν λύνεται. Πρέπει νά κάνεις τον κανόνα πού σου έβαλα.

Το 1987, ο π. Ιάκωβος εξομολόγησε μία κοπέλα, αλλά της απαγόρευσε νά κοινωνήσει.

Εκείνη τότε επισκέφθηκε κάποιον επίσκοπο, πού της επέτρεψε τη θεία μετάληψη.

Όταν όμως πλησίασε νά κοινωνήσει, ή άγία λαβίδα μπήκε άδεια στο στόμα της.

Αυτό ο παράδοξο και θαυμαστό επαναλήφθηκε κι άλλη φορά, όπότε ή κοπέλα τρόμαξε, μετανόησε και πήγαινα εξομολογηθεί πάλι στον π. ‘Ιάκωβο.

Όταν κοινωνώ τούς ανθρώπους, διηγιόταν χαρακτηριστικά άλλοτε ο μακαριστός γέροντας Ιάκωβος, ποτέ δεν κοιτάζω τα πρόσωπά τους.

Μερικές φορές όμως μου λέει ο λογισμός νά τα κοιτάξω.

Τότε βλέπω μερικά πρόσωπα νά έχουν μορφή σκύλου, πιθήκου ή άλλων ζώων.

Είναι φοβερή ή μορφή τους. Βλέπω όμως και μερικά ήρεμα και ιλαρά πού μετά τη θεία μετάληψη λάμπουν σαν τον ήλιο.

Μία φορά του είπε κάποιος συλλειτουργός του:Μ’ έκαψε ή θεία Κοινωνία!…

Εγώ, απάντησε ο γέροντας, δεν αισθάνθηκα νά με καίει.

Αντίθετα, ζούσε τόσο έντονα τη μέθεξη του δεσποτικού Σώματος, ώστε ανακαινιζόταν ψυχικά και σωματικά.

Σήμερα πού κοινώνησες, είπε σ’ ένα πνευματικό του παιδί, βλέπεις πώς αισθάνεσαι; Εγώ αισθάνομαι έτσι πάντοτε. Ό Χριστός βρίσκεται μέσα μου πάντα.


Έκδοση Ιεράς Μονής Παρακλήτου Αττικής

Γέροντας Ιάκωβος Τσαλίκης

Νέο θαυμαστό γεγονός στον Αγ. Ιωάννη τον Ρώσο

Του Γιώργου Θεοχάρη
Πριν δυο εβδομάδες στο Ιερό προσκύνημα του Αγίου Ιωάννη του Ρώσου στο Προκόπι Ευβοίας συνέβη ένα συγκλονιστικό γεγονός αφήνοντας άφωνους πιστούς και κληρικούς.
Κατά το προσκύνημα της μία γυναίκα θέλησε εν κρυπτώ να πάρει μαζί της τη ζώνη του Αγίου, που μόλις είχε φορέσει στη μέση της, ώστε να θεραπευτεί συγγενικό της πρόσωπο, όπως υποστήριξε εκ των υστέρων.

Χωρίς να γίνει αντιληπτή, εξήλθε από τον Ιερό Ναό με τη ζώνη στη τσάντα της και κατευθύνθηκε στο λεωφορείο του ΚΤΕΛ για Αθήνα. Το λεωφορείο δεν ξεκινούσε, κατέβηκε ο οδηγός έλεγξε τα πάντα και διαπίστωσε ότι δεν υπήρχε ένδειξη για τεχνικό πρόβλημα .
Ξαφνικά άρχισαν να χτυπάνε οι καμπάνες οι οποίες λειτουργούν μόνο χειροκίνητα, όπως υποστήριξαν στο΄΄Αγιορείτικο Βήμα΄΄ άνθρωποι από οργανισμό της Ιεράς Μητρόπολης.

Μετά από αυτά τα σημάδια, η γυναίκα που είχε τη ζώνη του Αγίου στη τσάντα της έτρεξε στον οδηγό και του είπε ΄΄ πρέπει να γυρίσω στο Ναό να αφήσω κάτι που πήρα για να θεραπευτεί ένας δικός μου άνθρωπος΄΄.

Πήγε στο Ναό, άφησε διακριτικά τη ζώνη του Αγίου πάνω στο Ιερό Λείψανο του και επέστρεψε στο λεωφορείο. Αμέσως το λεωφορείο ξεκίνησε προκαλώντας έκπληξη στους επιβάτες.

Το θαυμαστό γεγονός σκόρπισε δέος στην ευρύτερη περιοχή του Νομού Ευβοίας και έκανε ακόμα περισσότερους πιστούς να προσέρχονται στη χάρη του θαυματουργού Αγίου για να του ζητήσουν να τους ελεεί .


The awful stench of impure spirits

Among other mysterious perceptions from the world of spirits, the saints also had perceptions of sweet fragrances from good spirits and foul stenches from impure spirits.

During every appearance of luminous, pure spirits, a life-giving and sweet fragrance wafted about; and during every appearance of dark and impure spirits, a suffocating, unbearable stench filled the air.

The saints were able to discern which passion possessed a man by the kind of stench he emanated. Thus it was that St. Euthymius the Great recognized the stench of the passion of adultery in the monk Emilian of the Lavra of St. Theoctistus. Going to Matins one morning, Euthymius passed by Emilian's cell and smelled the stench of the demon of adultery. Emilian had not committed any physical sin, but had adulterous thoughts that were being forced into his heart by the demon, and the saint already sensed it by its smell.

The power of this perception once revealed itself even more wondrously in St. Hilarion the Great. A certain avaricious miser had sent some of his vegetables to Hilarion. When they were brought to Hilarion for a meal, the saint said: "Take these away from here. I cannot stand the stench that comes from these vegetables! Do you not smell how they reek of avarice?" When the brethren were amazed by these words, Hilarion told them to take the vegetables to the oxen, and they would see that not even the oxen would eat them. Indeed, the oxen merely sniffed at them, and turned their heads away in disgust.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich

How does sin arise? ( St. Nikolai Velimorivich )

"My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness" (Psalm 38:5).

The prophet speaks of the wounds of sin that he himself committed, and from which he sensed in himself the stench of sin. As much as this acknowledgment reveals the impurity of previous sins, so is the subsequent purity of the repentant one also shown. For as long as man follows the corrupt path of sin, he does not sense its suffocating stench; but when he withdraws from this path and sets off on the pure path of righteousness, he senses the inexpressible difference between purity and impurity, between the path of virtue and the path of vice.

Imagine a man who has spent the night in a stinking tavern and finds himself in a garden of roses the next morning. In the former there was stench, poison, debasement of soul and body, anger, discord, and the tormenting of himself and others. In the latter is God's great sun overhead, beautiful flowers everywhere, fresh air, wondrous fragrance, serenity and health. Imagine this, and understand that there is an even greater difference between the path of sin and the path of God.

My wounds are foul and festering. Thus the great king describes the fruits of his sinful past. Nothing is as foul as sin, nothing festers as much and nothing spreads as much as sin. The stench of bodily wounds suggests, in only a small way, the unbearable stench of a sinful soul. That is why every holy thing distances itself from such a soul. The pure heavenly spirits hide from such a one, and the impure spirits of hades seek its company. Every new sin is a fresh wound on the soul; every sin is corruption and stench.

How does sin arise? From my foolishness explains the prophet. A mind derailed from its divine track leads man to sin. Until the mind is cleansed, man cannot be cleansed. "But we have the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:16), says the Apostle. In other words, we have a mind put back on track, as was Adam's mind before the sinful stench.

Hence brethren, all Orthodox teaching on asceticism concentrates on one main point: on the mind of man; on the cleansing and correcting of the mind.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Purity and eternal Source of purity, help us to reject our foolishness; help us to reason according to Thy mind. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

St. Nikolai Velimorivich
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