Friday, November 14, 2014

"It is very bad to judge quickly and especially the things we only see.

The priest had just finished a board meeting with the church committee. Night had fallen and it was very dark.. The rain made the streets shine in the moonlight. The priest got into his car and headed home.. He was very tired, physically and spiritually. All day he had heard the problems of the world, trying to guide, trying not to be weary himself with what he heard while offerring forgiveness and hope.

 As he had almost reached home, he suddenly braked in front of a store that sells sandwiches. He descended from his car and with two to three quick steps he walked into the store. The rain was falling harder . His glasses were wet and he then took them off and wiped them down.. 

The store was empty of clients .There were two girls standing behind the cash and one other man preparing the deilveries for the homes. "I would please like two gyro sandwiches and two souvlaki sandwiches ..." said the priest. The two girls looked at each other in the eyes, in the mood to make a joke. 

The priest went to the fridge to get two soft drinks and he then placed them next to the cash register. What the priest requested was ready. "What do I owe please ..." he asked the girl who was punching in the items at the cash. Instead of hearing price of the order ,the priest was asked a question ... "Father, do you know what day it is today? Did you forget? " The priest was surprised ... "What day is it ..."? "It's Friday father, is it not a fasting day ? You supposedly have to lead by example and not to eat meat such a day .... " The priest lowered his head. He pulled from his wallet the amount that was indicated on the cash register. "Keep the change , he said ..... I would like for you to pray for me,I am a wretched man and full of passions ..." he said and went out of the shop. She noticed that the priest, leaving from the shop did not head towards his car, not fully satisfied for what the priest had said, she exited the store... 

"Where is he going ..."? she said looking at the other girl who was baffled with the whole scene.. The priest went to the passenger side of the car, facing the path to his house. With quick footseps the priest found himself within in a few seconds where he be, in front of a rubbish bin. The rain began to fall harder. "Brother, can I trouble you a bit ..." were the words of the priest to the tan man who was looking in the trash. The man left the bags that he had in his hands and headed towards the priest. He stood exactly in front of the priest . Their eyes communed the same rain, the same air, the same cold ... The priest did not say anything else, he spread out his hands with the bags of sandwiches and refreshments. The swarthy man did not spread out his hands , probably not believing what is happening. A small child, probably his son, who was standing beside him, spread out his small and weak hands and took the bags and began to pry them open.. The priest turned around and left.. 

Reaching his car, which he had left in front of the sandwich store, a surprise awaited him. The girl that had made the remark had come out to see where the priest had gone ... she had seen everything that had happened. "Father .... sorry ...". she didn't have time to finish, the priest grabbed her hands and interrupting told her: "Do not worry ... pray for me, and wished her a good night." 

The girl's eyes became watery ... two or three tears were rolling down her cheeks as she saw the priest's car disappearing into the rainy night. Across the street passed the swarthy man and the small child, laughing and eating what the priest had offerred to them. The girl walked into the shop. "Are you okay?" her colleague asked. "It is very bad to judge quickly and especially the things we only see..." she said with a trembling voice.

Archimandrite Pavos Papadopoulos

Translation of original in Greek

Theology is the content of our prayers ( Elder Sophrony )

The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο]… Revelation reveals that “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). If He says, “I am” it means that He is a person. The word “I” has great significance. For it expresses the person. God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this. And we need to base ourselves on revelation, which the Lord never refuted…Theology is the content of our prayers. And an example of this theology is the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. The whole anaphora is theology and is expressed through prayer. But then theology comes as a state of being. John the Theologian, from an academic point of view, was not a theologian, he says things simply. His theology, however, is a state of being. Whatever he says becomes dogma for everyone. But the only study that enables us to sense what God is like, is the ascetic life according to the commandments of the Gospel. When our life is lived according to the will of God, then we understand that there cannot be a difference between the commandments and the mind of God Himself. When we think according to the commandments, then our mind gets used to thinking as God Himself thinks. And regarding theosis, they say: but what is theosis? With obedience to the abbot from the beginning, one’s will is cut off, then in obedience to the Gospel commandments one reaches this state. We do small things but the results must become great. Through obedience we enter into the life of divine Being. We have good descriptions of this in the writings of St. Nicodemus the Athonite. I have told others, as well, that when they learn things from the world, they are living in sin. They need to free themselves through asceticism. This is how I tried to make them understand the need for patience. [Just as the Incarnation was a great kenotic act, where Christ God became man as one person and bore our sins patiently with humility and love. In following Him, we become true persons in Him and realize our life and fully live our freedom. It is here where personhood finds its greatest achievement: in putting on Christ and His indwelling in us by the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father. The very essence of our life must become constant personal encounter with Christ, and in this we become truly persons, truly free, truly loving. This is how personhood is understood in theosis. We fulfill our personhood in living in Christ and His dwelling within us, and inasmuch as He has perfected humanity, He raises us in freedom, in love, to the fulfillment of our humanity, as true persons in Him.]

Το καθήκον του Χριστιανού

Άγιος Ιωάννης Χρυσόστομος:Γι’ αυτό απ’ όλες σου τις αμαρτίες, αυτή η αμαρτία θα σου είναι ασυγχώρητη


Αν σου πω, νήστεψε πολλές φορές μου προβάλλεις ως δικαιολογία την ασθένεια του σώματος.
Αν σου πω, δώσε στους φτωχούς μου λες ότι είσαι φτωχός και έχεις να αναθρέψεις παιδιά.

Αν σου πω να έρχεσαι τακτικά στις Συνάξεις της Εκκλησίας, μου λες, έχω διάφορες μέριμνες.

Αν σου πω, πρόσεχε αυτά που λέγονται στην Εκκλησία και κατανόησε το βάθος των λόγων του Θεού, μου προβάλλεις ως δικαιολογία την έλλειψη μορφώσεως.

Αν σου πω, φρόντισε να βοηθήσεις ψυχικά τον αδελφό σου, μου λες ότι δεν υπακούει όταν τον συμβουλεύω, αφού πολλές φορές του μίλησα και περιφρόνησε τα λόγια μου…

Βέβαια, δεν ευσταθούν οι προφάσεις αυτές και όλα αυτά είναι χλιαρά λόγια, αλλά, παρά ταύτα, μπορείς να προφασίζεσαι.

Αν όμως σου πω, άφησε την οργή και συγχώρεσε τον αδελφό σου, ποια από τις προφάσεις αυτές μπορείς να χρησιμοποιήσεις;

Διότι νομίζω, δεν μπορείς να φέρεις ως πρόφαση ούτε ασθένεια σώματος, ούτε φτώχεια, ούτε αμάθεια, ούτε απασχόληση και μέριμνα, ούτε τίποτε άλλο.

Γι’ αυτό απ’ όλες σου τις αμαρτίες, αυτή η αμαρτία θα σου είναι ασυγχώρητη. Αλήθεια, πως θα μπορέσεις να υψώσεις τα χέρια σου στον Ουρανό; Πως θα κινήσεις τη γλώσσα σου να προσευχηθείς;

Πως θα ζητήσεις συγνώμη;

Ακόμη κι’ αν θέλει ο Θεός να σου συγχωρήσει τις αμαρτίες, δεν Του το επιτρέπεις εσύ, επειδή δεν συγχωρείς τις αμαρτίες του αδελφού σου.

Διότι, αν εσύ ο ίδιος εκδικηθείς και επιτεθείς εναντίον του, είτε με λόγια, είτε με ανάλογες συμπεριφορές, είτε με κατάρες, ο Θεός δεν θα επέμβει πλέον, αφού εσύ ανέλαβες την τιμωρία Του.

Και όχι μόνο δεν θα επέμβει, αλλά και από σένα θα ζητήσει λόγο, διότι φέρθηκες υβριστικά προς Αυτόν.

Άγιος Ιωάννης Χρυσόστομος

Saint Gregory Palamas

St Gregory Palamas was one of the greatest patristic figures of the Church. In his teaching on the divination of man and his real participation in the uncreated energies of God, he expressed the essence of Orthodox spirituality, in contrast with the secularised theology of his age (14th century), which had taken shape under the influence of the Scholasticism of the Roman Catholic Church.

Saint Gregory Palamas, fresco from Vatopedi Monastery, 1371

St Gregory Palamas was born in 1296 in Constantinople of devout parents. His father, Constantine, was a senator and was held in such high esteem by the Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus that the latter entrusted to him the education of his grandson, the future Emperor Andronicus II.

When his father died relatively young, Gregory was seven years old and the Emperor Andronicus II undertook his guardianship, seeing to it that the boy had a brilliant training in philosophy and theology under the famous philosopher and theologian Theodorus Metochites. At the age of about 17, Gregory abandoned his study of philosophy and devoted himself with great zeal to the study of the literature of asceticism. His spiritual guide was the renowned teacher of mental prayer Theoleptus of Philadelphia, who had a profound influence on his thinking.

At the age of 20, having persuded his mother and his two sisters to enter the monastic life, he departed with his two brothers for the Holy Mountain. On the way, they stopped for a while at Mt Papikion, between Macedonia and Thrace, where they met monks from Marseilles, whom Gregory converted, together with their leader, to Orthodoxy. On his arrival on Mount Athos, Gregory chose, instead of the coenobitic life, to live as a hermit near the Vatopaidi Monastery, which at that time was an important centre for Hesychasm, and subjected himself to the famed ascetic Nicodemus, who, as we have seen, lived in a kelli near the Monastery. After the death of Nicodemus, Gregory went to live at the Megiste Lavra, but very soon moved to the Skete of Glossia for greater tranquillity. The Turkish raids of 1325 forced him together with others to leave the Holy Mountain for Thessaloniki, where he was ordained priest. In the following year (1326), together with ten fellow-ascetics, he moved to the Skete of Beroea, where he remained, living a life of great strictness, for five years. Five days of the week he spent in complete isolation, devoted to uninterrupted mental prayer, while on Saturdays and Sundays he emerged to partake of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

When the incursions of the Serbs in 1331 forced the hermit monks to leave Beroea, Gregory took refuge once more on the Holy Mountain, settling at the Hesychasterion* of St Sabbas, until he was elected Abbot of the Esphigmenou Monastery (1335). There, however, his great strictness was resented by the monks, and he returned to his hesychasterion. It was there, at Pentecost of 1337, that he read the theological treatises of Barlaam of Calabria and subjected their erroneous views on the procession of the Holy Spirit to severe criticism.

Barlaam, a Greek monk and philosopher from Calabria in Lower Italy, had maintained in the debates in which he took part as representative of the Eastern Church on the union of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches that the teaching of the Latins on the procession of the Holy Spirit “and from the Son (Filioque)” is objectionable, since we cannot know the relationships between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, since God as He is in Himself is inconceivable. Against these views of Barlaam, Palamas wrote his Demonstrative Discources on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, maintaining the procession of the Holy Spirit as a hypostasis from the Father alone.

The theological dispute between Barlaam and Palamas took on greater dimensions because of the accusations of Barlaam against the Hesychasts, whom, because of the psychsomatic technique which they used in the practice of mental prayer, he called ‘omphalopsychoi’ – those with their souls in their navels. The defence of the Hesychasts was undertaken by Palamas in his works In Defence of those Practising Hesychasm in Sanctity, in which he put forward in a creative manner the Orthodox teaching on the divination of man and real vision of the divine light, on the basis of the traditional distinction between the essence and the energies of God. A council which met in Constantinople in June 1341 condemned the views of Barlaam, who, disillusioned, joined the Latins, though leaving behind him supporters of his views. One of these was Gregory Acindynus, who was condemned by another council in August 1341.

Two months later civil war broke out (1341-1347), in which the theological conflict between Palamas and Acindynus also became involved. This resulted in the imprisonment of Gregory Palamas (1342-1346), as being ecclesiastically and politically dangerous. When in 1346 the political scene altered with the victory of John Cantacuzenus and the Hesychast Isidorus ascended the patriarchal throne, Palamas was elected Metropolitan of Thessaloniki. He was unable, however, to go to his see immediately because of the five-year ascendancy there of the Zealots, who were opposed to the political state of affairs prevailing in the Empire. Only when Cantacuzenus took Thessaloniki was Palamas able to enter the city in triumph and to take up his pastoral duties, labouring untiringly in making peace and for the unity of the people of his diocese. These pastoral tasks were, however, interrupted by the recrudescence of the Hesychasm controversy. This time it was the man-of-letters Nicephorus Gregoras who, in the name of the Renaissance ideas of the West, presented himself as the opponent of Gregory Palamas. After the failure of the attempts of Ioannes Cantacuzenus to achieve reconciliation, two councils were convened in 1351 which condemned Gregoras and his followers. The ‘Tome’ which was compiled by the second of these councils was signed by Cantacuzenus and was finally accepted by the Church as an official expression of its teaching on the subject of Hesychasm.

On his way to Constantinople to bring about a reconciliation between Cantacuzenus and John V Palaeologus, he was arrested at Callipolis by the Turks in March of 1354. He was taken to various cities in Asia Minor, in some of which he had interesting theological discussions with the Turks and the heretical Chiones. His release was obtained in spring 1355 by the payment of heavy ransoms and he returned to Constantinople, where he conducted a public theological debate with Gregoras, which provided him with the occasion of writing his works entitled To Gregoras.

Saint Gregory Palamas, byzantine icon, 1370-1380

In summer 1355 he returned to Thessaloniki, where he continued, untroubled, his pastoral work until his death on 14 November 1359. Before ten years had passed, Patriarch Callistus in 1368, by an act of the Synod, declared Palamas a saint of the Church and laid down that his memory should be celebrated on the Second Sunday in Lent. An encomium and an order of service in his honour were written by his pupil and the successor of Callistus on the patriarchal throne, Philotheus Coccinus.
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