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!
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