Friday, 31 August 2012

On What helps a man to approach God in his heart...

By Saint Isaac the Syrian

(Excerpt from Homily8)

Blessed is the man who knows his own weakness,because this knowledge becomes to him the foundation,root,and beginning of all goodness.For whenever a man learns and truly perceives his own weakness,at that moment  he contracts his soul on every side from laxity that dims knowledge,and he treasures up watchfulness in himself.
But no one can perceive his own infirmity if he is not allowed to be tempted a little,either by things that oppress his body or his soul.For then, comparing his own weakness with God's help,he will straightway understand the greatness of the latter.And again,whenever he looks over the multitude of his divisings,and his wakefulness,his abstinence,the sheltering,
and the hedging about of his soul by which he hopes to find assurance for her,and yet sees that he has not obtained it;
or again, if his heart has no calm because of his fear and
and trembling;then at that moment let him understand,and let him know that this fear of his heart shows and reflects
that he is altogether in need of some other help.
For the heart testifies inwardly,and reflects the lack of something by the fear that strikes and wrestles within it.
And because of this,it is confounded,since it is not able to abide in a state of surety;for God's help,it is said,is the help that saves.
When a man knows that he is in need of divine help,he makes many prayers.And the more he multiplies them,his heart is humbled,for there is no man who will not be humbled when he is making supplication and entreaty.
"A heart that is broken and humbled,God will not despise'.
Therefore,as long as the heart is not humbled,it cannot cease from wandering,for humility collects the heart.
But when a man becomes humble,at once mercy encircles him,and then his heart is aware of divine help,because it finds a certain power and assurance moving in itself.
And when a man perceives the coming of divine help,and that it is this which aids him,then at once his heart is filled with faith,and he understands from this that prayer is the refuge of help,a source of salvation,a treasury of assurance,
a haven that rescues from the tempest,a light to those in darkness,a staff of the infirm,a shelter of deliverance in war,an arrow sharpened against the face of his enemies,
and ,to speak simply;the entire multitude of these good things is found to have its entrance through prayer. 

Γιατί δέν μπορῶ νά προσευχηθῶ καλά;


 Ἅγιος Μακάριος ὁ Αἰγύπτιος

Ἡ ψυχρότητα στὴν προσευχὴ ὀφείλεται εἴτε σὲ ψυχικὴ κόπωση εἴτε σὲ πνευματικὸ κορεσμὸ εἴτε σὲ σωματικὲς ἀπολαύσεις καὶ ἀναπαύσεις εἴτε σὲ πάθη, ποὺ κυριεύουν τὴν ψυχή, προπαντὸς στὴν ἔπαρση. Ὅλα αὐτὰ εἶναι ἐνάντια στὴν πνευματικὴ ζωή, μέσα στὴν ὁποία κεντρικὴ θέση κατέχει ἡ προσευχή. Ἔτσι, πρῶτα καὶ κύρια προκαλοῦν τὸ στέρεμα τῆς πηγῆς τῆς προσευχῆς μέσα μας. Αὐτό, ὅμως, μπορεῖ νὰ oφείλεται καὶ σὲ ἀπομάκρυνση τῆς χάριτος, ποὺ συμβαίνει μὲ θεία παραχώρηση. Καὶ νὰ γιατί:
Ὅταν ἡ ψυχὴ μᾶς φλέγεται ἀπὸ τὸν πόθο τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ τὴν καρδιὰ μᾶς ξεχύνεται ὁλοθερμὴ προσευχή, δὲν ἔχουμε παρὰ ἐλεητικὴ ἐπίσκεψη τῆς χάριτος. Ἐμεῖς ὅμως, ὅταν ἡ εὐλογημένη αὐτὴ κατάσταση παρατείνεται γιὰ πολύ, νομίζουμε ὅτι κατορθώσαμε κάτι σπουδαῖο μὲ τὸ δικό μας ἀγώνα καὶ κυριευόμαστε ἀπὸ τὴν κενοδοξία. Γιὰ λόγους παιδαγωγικούς, λοιπόν, ἀπομακρύνεται ἡ χάρη καὶ μένει ἡ ψυχὴ μᾶς μόνη της, γυμνὴ καὶ ἀδύναμη, ἀνίκανη νὰ ζήσει πνευματικά, ψυχρὴ καὶ ἀπρόθυμη νὰ...
Τί θὰ κάνουμε, λοιπόν, γιὰ νὰ ξεφύγουμε ἀπ’ αὐτὴ τὴν κατάσταση; Πρῶτα-πρῶτα θὰ φροντίσουμε νὰ ἐξουδετερώσουμε τὶς αἰτίες της. Καὶ ὕστερα, παρ’ ὅλη τὴν ψυχρότητα τῆς ψυχῆς μας, θὰ κάνουμε μὲ ἐπιμονὴ καὶ ὑπομονὴ τὸν καθημερινὸ προσευχητικὸ κανόνα μας, προσπαθώντας ἀφ’ ἑνὸς νὰ συγκεντρώνουμε τὸ νοῦ μας στὰ λόγια τῶν εὐχῶν καὶ ἀφετέρου νὰ ξεσηκώνουμε μέσα στὴν καρδιὰ μᾶς αἰσθήματα φιλόθεα. Μὲ τὸν καιρὸ ὁ Θεός, βλέποντας τὴν ταπείνωση καὶ τὴν καρτερία μας, θὰ μᾶς ξαναστείλει τὴ χάρη Του, ποὺ θὰ διώξει τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ψυχρότητος, ὅπως ὁ ἄνεμος διώχνει τὴν ὁμίχλη.


Thursday, 30 August 2012


Γνωρίζουμε τήν ἁμαρτία;
Εἶναι πολύ φοβερό πράγμα ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἀλλά καί
βαριά ἀρρώστια τῆς ψυχῆς ἡ παρανομία, γιατί
ἐξασθενεῖ τή δύναμή της καί γίνεται αἰτία νά
κολασθεῖ στήν αἰώνια φωτιά.
Πολύ φοβερό κακό λοιπόν ἡ ἁμαρτία, ὅπως εἴπαμε,
ἀλλά ὄχι ἀθεράπευτο· φοβερό γιά ἐκεῖνον πού τό
κατέχει, ἀλλά εὐκολοθεράπευτο γιά ἐκεῖνον, πού τό
ἀποβάλλει μέ τή μετάνοια.
Ὑπόθεσε ὅτι κάποιος κρατάει στό χέρι του φωτιά.
Ὅσο κρατάει τό πύρινο κάρβουνο ὁπωσδήποτε καίεται.
Μόλις ὅμως πετάξει τό κάρβουνο, ἀπομακρύνει
συγχρόνως κι αὐτό πού τόν καίει.
Ἄν κάποιος νομίζει, ὅτι δέν καίεται ἁμαρτάνοντας,
σ’ αὐτόν ἡ Γραφή λέει· μπορεῖ νά βάλει κανείς
ἀναμμένα κάρβουνα στόν κόρφο του καί νά μήν κάψει
τά ροῦχα του;
Γιατί ἡ ἁμαρτία καίει φοβερά· ἀποδυναμώνει τά
νεῦρα τῆς ψυχῆς· συντρίβει τά νοητά ὀστᾶ τῆς
διάνοιας· συσκοτίζει τή φωτεινότητα τῆς καρδιᾶς. 

St. Gregory of Sinai: Two Forms and Three Sources of Delusion..


 Here something must be said about delusion, so far as this is possible; for, because of its deviousness and the number of ways in which it can ensnare us, few recognize it clearly and for most it is almost inscrutable. Delusion manifests itself or, rather, attacks and invades us in two ways - in the form of mental images and fantasies or in the form of diabolic influence - though its sole cause and origin is always arrogance. The first form is the origin of the second and the second is the origin of a third form - mental derangement. The first form, illusory visions, is caused by self-conceit; for this leads us to invest the divine with some illusory shape, thus deceiving us through mental images and fantasies. This deception in its turn produces blasphemy as well as the fear induced by monstrous apparitions, occurring both when awake and when asleep - a state described as the terror and perturbation of the soul. Thus arrogance is followed by delusion, delusion by blasphemy, blasphemy by fear, fear by terror, and terror by a derangement of the natural state of the mind. This is the first form of delusion, that induced by mental images and fantasies. The second form, induced by diabolic influence, is as follows. It has its origin in self-indulgence, which in its turn results from so-called natural desire. Self-indulgence begets licentiousness in all its forms of indescribable impurity. By inflaming man's whole nature and clouding his intelligence as a result of its intercourse with spurious images, licentiousness deranges the intellect, searing it into a state of delirium and impelling its victim to utter false prophecies, interpreting the visions and discourses of certain supposed saints, which he claims arc revealed to him when he is intoxicated and befuddled with passion, his whole character perverted and corrupted by demons. Those ignorant of spiritual matters, beguiled by delusion, call such men 'little souls'. These 'little souls' are to be found sitting near the shrines of saints, by whose spirit they claim to be inspired and tested, and whose purported message they proclaim to others. But in truth they should be called possessed by the demons, deceived and enslaved by delusion, and not prophets foretelling what is to happen now and in the future. For the demon of licentiousness himself darkens and deranges their minds, inflaming them with the fire of spiritual lust, conjuring up before them the illusory appearance of saints, and making them hear conversations and see visions. Sometimes the demons themselves appear to them and convulse them with fear. For having harnessed them to the yoke of Belial, the demon of licentiousness drives them on to practice their deceits, so that he may keep them captive and enslaved until death, when he will consign them to hell.

Delusion arises in us from
three principal sources: arrogance, the envy of demons, and the divine will that allows us to be tried and corrected. Arrogance arises from superficiality, demonic envy is provoked by our spiritual progress, and the need for correction is the consequence of our sinful way of life. The delusion arising solely from envy and self-conceit is swiftly healed, especially when we humble ourselves. On the other hand, the delusion allowed by God for our correction, when we are handed over to Satan because of our sinfulness, God often permits to continue until our death, if this is needed to efface our sins. Sometimes God hands over even the guiltless to the torment of demons for the sake of their salvation. One should also know that the demon of self-conceit himself prophesies in those who are not scrupulously attentive to their hearts.

What should we do when the devil transforms himself into an angel of light (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14) and tries to seduce us?

You need great discrimination in order to distinguish between good and evil. So do not readily or lightly put your trust in appearances, but weigh things well, and after testing everything carefully cleave to what is good and reject what is evil (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21-2). You must test and discriminate before you give credence to anything.

You must also be aware that the effects of grace are self-evident, and that even if the devil does transform himself he cannot produce these effects: he cannot induce you to be gentle, or forbearing, or humble, or joyful, or serene, or stable in your thoughts; he cannot make you hate what is worldly, or cut off sensual indulgence and the working of the passions, as grace does. He produces vanity, haughtiness, cowardice and every kind of evil. Thus you can tell from its effects whether the light shining in your soul is from God or from Satan. The lettuce is similar in appearance to the endive, and vinegar, to wine; but when you taste them the palate discerns and recognizes the differences between each. In the same way the soul, if it possesses the power of discrimination, can distinguish with its noetic sense between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the illusions of Satan.

Source: "One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Texts", Philokalia, vol. 4.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Οι πειρασμοί είναι «φύλακες» των χαρισμάτων του Θεού..


Τα φυσικά ελαττώματα, όπως η αδυναμία, η μικροψυχία, η αφυΐα, η αμορφία, σε κείνους που φυλάγουν τον εαυτό τους από τους πειρασμούς, γίνονται φύλακες της αρετής. Αν δεχθείς ένα χάρισμα χωρίς πειρασμό, θα σε οδηγήσει στην απώλεια. Αν εργάζεσαι το καλό ενώπιον του Θεού και σου δώσει ένα χάρισμα, παρακάλεσέ τον με την καρδιά σου, να σου δώσει φωτισμό τι να κάνεις για να ταπεινωθείς, ή να σου δώσει φύλακα να σε προστατεύει από την έπαρση, ή να σου το πάρει, για να μη γίνει πρόξενος απωλείας σου. Γιατί όλοι δεν μπορούν να φυλάξουν τον πλούτο του Θεού χωρίς να βλαφτούν οι ίδιοι.

Άγιος Ισαάκ ο Σύρος.

Objections to Confession...


So frequently we here all the excuses about why people do not participate in Confession when this is one of the most loving and powerful sacraments of the Church. Archimandrite Seraphim Alekslev examines some of these excuses in his beautiful book The Forgotten Medicine.

"HOW GREAT must be our wickedness! We do not turn to Confession not only because we forget about it, but we do not practice it even when we know about it. What can be more imprudent than this?

Confession is so important to us sinners that we must boldly say: there is no salvation for us without Confession. Abba Isaiah expresses the same thought: "If there were no repentance, nobody would be saved. just as Baptism cleanses us from original sin and from all sins committed prior to Baptism, so repentance, involving a confession of our sins, cleanses us from all lawlessness committed after Baptism."

We do not confess because we have objections to Confession. What are our objections usually?

Here are the main ones:

1) One says: "I am so sinful! Can God forgive my sins?

I do not believe this! That is why there is no use for me to go to Confession."
But if a man repents sincerely, any sin can be forgiven him. "The power of repentance is based on the power of God. The Doctor is all-powerful, and the Medicine given by Him is all-powerful" (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov).

St. John Chrysostom, pondering on the miraculous results of sincere repentance, says: "Repentance is a medicine which destroys sin. It is a heavenly gift, a marvelous force which through the grace of God conquers the might and strictness of the laws. It accepts all and transforms all…

Do not tell me: "I have sinned much, how can I save myself?" You cannot, but your God can, and He can do it so that all your sins will be destroyed….

Sin is to God's love for man what the spark is to the sea, not even that, but something much smaller! The sea, however big it may be, has an end, but God's love for man is limitless.

2) Another says: "Why should I go to Confession? I have no special sins.

Let those who have murdered, stolen, raped, or committed some other sin go to Confession."
This objection to Confession is the complete opposite of the first one... Here, there is a lack of any realization of wickedness….

Let those who say, "I have no special sins," answer whether they have Christ in their hearts. He likes to inhabit pure hearts. But are their hearts pure? Hardly! They imagine that they are pure, but imagination is not reality. lf we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). And where there is a lie, there Christ is not.

The Holy Fathers teach us that It Is very hard for a man to see his sins….

It turns out that those who think that they do not have any great sins are actually blind. They must pray to God to enable them to perceive their sins and to save themselves from the extremely fatal spiritual delusion that they do not have any particular sins. Even if their sins are as small as specks of dust, if they are not cleaned with constant Confession, they pile up and dirty the room of the heart so that the high heavenly Guest cannot enter there.

The small sins are often more dangerous than the greatest crimes, because the latter weigh heavily on the conscience and insist on being atoned for, confessed, settled, erased, while the small sins do not weigh too much on the soul, but they have that perilous property of making it insensitive to the grace of God and indifferent to salvation. ….

In order for man to restore his spiritual life, he needs to confess even the smallest of his sins.

3) A third man says: "All this is true. But why should I confess when I know that tomorrow I will sin again? Is there any point In such confession? I see that one should confess only if one would sin no more after that!"

This objection to Confession contains both something which is very true and something which is not. The right thing here is the desire not to sin any more after Confession. But we are feeble humans, and we cannot attain right away such a firmness which makes falling into voluntary sins impossible. If we cannot reach such steadfastness in virtue right away, should we surrender to vice? Or should we stop confessing? Which is better––to roll in the mud of the spiritual swamp, or to pick yourself up after each fall and go on with the hope that someday you may reach the solid and beautiful shore of virtue? If you do not confess, you remain in the mud. If you confess, you pick yourself up from the mud and clean yourself. "But why should I get up if tomorrow I will fall again?" you say. When you fall again, then get up again! Every day begin all over again! This is undoubtedly better than falling out of the habit of getting up….

Leave your house unswept, uncleaned, and unventilated for one year! Will it not turn into a pigsty? Now think about what the soul of a man is like when he has not cleaned it through Confession, not only for a year, but for twenty, forty, sixty, or seventy years!...

4) A fourth man says: "I am confessing before God. What need is there for me to go to the priest?"

... God has ordained the priest to administer the Holy Sacraments so that we can receive through them heavenly all-saving grace. Confession is a sacrament, too. If you confess before God, you are doing well, because you are moving your conscience, remembering your sins, and maybe even shedding tears for them. Yet you do not receive God's grace of forgiveness through all that. ...until you go to the priest to whom Jesus Christ Himself has given the power to bind and loose, no matter how much you confess before God, you do not receive forgiveness for your sins, because God Himself has condescended to say to the priest: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them (John 20:23).

Besides, Confession before a priest has an enormous instructive meaning. It humbles us. It cures our pride; it makes us blush savingly; It instills in us shame and fear and thus protects us from future sins.

"But how can the priest absolve sins?" you ask. He can, since God has ordered it so. "But is the priest himself not a sinful man?" If lie is sinful, what do you lose from that? He is sinful for himself and will answer before God for his sins. The Holy Sacraments administered by him do not cease to be active for you because of his sinfulness if you accept them with faith and humility. Does the sunray get dirty when it falls on mud? In the same way, God's grace does not lessen by being transmitted by a priest muddled with sins. He himself may be denied grace on Judgment Day because of his sinfulness, but you, accepting through him God's grace, will not deprive yourself of it if you show yourself to be worthy.

"But will the priest not give away the secret of my confessed sins?" No! No priest has the right to tell of that which he has heard during Confession. He has to take the secret of the Confession to his grave. So do not worry that the shame of your sinfulness may be announced to society.

But remember that if you avoid Confession because of zeal for your honor, you will shame yourself If you are ashamed to admit your weaknesses before one man, everyone will begin talking about them! Such is the spiritual law. People sense our weaknesses, no matter how diligently we hide them. If you confess them before one man, God, because of your humility before this single witness, will cover you with His grace before the many.

...Your confession will teach you to struggle with your passions; and if you are really fighting against them, the multitude of people will not find out about them. You, with God's help, will be healed before you have shamed yourself. But if you do not want to be healed through Confession, then you will both expose your name to abuse here and then be disgraced before the whole universe at the Last Judgment!"

From: The Forgotten Medicine, pp 29-39 

Elder Paisios on the Death of Children

Elder Paisios on the death of children (amateur translation)
God arranges things correspondingly. When I hear of the death of some youth, I mourn, but I mourn as a man. Because, if we examine things more deeply, we see that, the older someone gets, the greater struggle he has, and the more sins he adds. Especially when he is wordly, as the years pass by, instead of his spiritual state improving, it gets worse with cares of life, with injustices, etc. Because of this, it is more triumphant when God takes a youth.

-Elder, why does God allow so many young people to die?
No one has a say with God when he will die. God takes each person in the best instant of his life, in a special way, for him to give up his soul. If He sees that someone will become better, He allows him to live. If, however, He sees that he will become worse, He takes him, in order to save him. There are some further who have a sinful life, but have the attitude to do good, and He takes them near Him, before they are allowed to do it, because He knows that they would do good, if only He would give them the chance. It is as if He tells them: “Don't tire yourself; your good intentions suffice.” With others, because they are very good, He decides to take them near Him, because Paradise requires flower buds.
Naturally, it is difficult for parents and relatives to understand this. They see that a small child dies, that Christ took a little angel, and the parents cry and wail, while they should be joyful, because, do they know what would happen if he grew older? Would he have been able to have been saved? When we left Asia Minor by boat in 1924 to come to Greece, I was a baby. The boat was full of refugees, and, as my mother had me in swaddling clothes, a sailor trampled on top of me. My mother thought that I had died and began to cry. A fellow villager of ours opened the swaddling clothes, and confirmed that I had not been hurt at all. If I had died then, I surely would have gone to Paradise. Now that I am so old, and [though] I have done so much asceticism, I am not sure that I will go to Paradise.

But parents can also be helped by the death of children. They should know that, from that instant, they have an intercessor in Paradise. When they die, their children will come with the six-winged angels to the gate of Paradise to greet their soul. This is not a small matter! To small children who were further burdened here by sicknesses or by some disability, Christ will say: “Come to Paradise, and receive the greatest portion.”And then they will tell Him: “It is beautiful here, our Christ, but we want our mommy to be near us.” And Christ will hear them and save the mother also in some manner.

Of course, mothers should not reach the other extreme. Some mothers believe that their children who died became Saints, and they fall into error. One mother wanted me to give me something from her child who died as a blessing, because she believed that he became a Saint. “Is it blessed,” she asked me, “for me to give away his things?” “No,” I told her, “it is better to not give them away.” One other had attached a photograph of her child who had been killed by the Germans to the Crucified One on the evening of Holy Friday, and said: “And my child suffered like Christ.” The women who were sitting around passing the night by the Crucified One let her go, so that she would not be wounded. What could they say? She was [already] wounded.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Unknown tales of the Desert

      "The Ascetic and the Robber"...


Our God is not a Prosecutor of His creatures; on the contrary, He seeks opportunities for their salvation. He is a God of love; a God Who deserves to be loved, even though Hi
s love is rarely reciprocated. God is NOT "fair". He is not fair, at least in the human sense of justice. He "shortchanges" His creatures - and as a matter of fact in a scandalous manner - when He seeks to save them. THAT is our God! A God Who vindicates a robber out of the excess of His love and Who looks for opportunities in the unlikeliest of places, in order to display a love that annuls our own kind of "justice".

There used to be an elderly recluse and anchorite, who lived an ascetic life in a desert for seventy long years, with fasting and celibacy and vigil. However, during all those years that he served God, he was not favoured with any vision or revelation by God.

This gave rise to concern, and the following thought entered his mind:
"Could it be that there is a reason I am not aware of, which makes my ascesis unfavourable to God, and my labours unacceptable? That must be the reason I am not able to have any revelation and see any mystery..."
With these thoughts in mind, the elder began to beseech and ask the Lord even more fervently, by praying and saying:
"Lord, if my ascesis is favourable to You, and you have accepted my labours, this sinner and unworthy one beseeches You to favour me also, with just a droplet of one of Your gifts, so that I might be informed with the revelation of a mystery that You have heard my prayer, and thus spend my ascetic life informed and with confidence...."
Having thus prayed, a voice sent by God came to the saintly elder, saying:
"If you indeed desire to see My glory, then go into the innermost depths of the desert, and mysteries shall be revealed to you.."
As soon as the elder heard this voice, he immediately left his cell; but no sooner had he walked for some distance, he was approached by a robber, who, upon spotting the elderly Abba, rushed towards him, with the intent to murder him. As soon as he had grabbed hold of him, he said:
"It is a fortunate moment that I encountered you, old man; now I can complete my business and be saved. Because we robbers have this custom and this particular law and belief - that whoever is able to commit one hundred murders, will definitely go to heaven. Well, after having strived so hard until this day, I have so far accomplished only ninety-nine murders, and, lacking only one more, I have taken a lot of trouble and care to complete the hundred, in order to be saved. Therefore, I am greatly indebted to you and I thank you, as on this day, because of you, I shall savour Paradise."
On hearing what the robber told him, the elder was taken aback and alarmed at this sudden and unexpected incident. So, he turned his mind's eye upwards towards God, and on thinking over what happened, said the following to Him:
"Was this the glory, my Lord and Master, that You promised to show me, Your servant? Was this the will that You inspired to this sinner - to leave his cell and to inform him with such a terrible mystery? Are You rewarding with such a reward the labours of my ascesis that I have borne for Your sake? Now I have truly realized, Lord, that all my labours were in vain; and that every one of my prayers has been regarded as a detestable abomination. However, I thank You for Your philanthropy, Lord, because you educate my unworthiness the way that You know - as befits me for my innumerable sins -and that must be why you delivered me into the hands of a robber and murderer."
Having said this, and feeling deeply troubled, the old man became thirsty, so he said to the robber:
"My child, because of my sinfulness, God has delivered me into your hands to be murdered, and thus your desire will be fulfilled in the manner that you desire, and I shall be deprived of my life - being the evil man that I am. For this, I beg you to do me one favour and a small errand and bring me a drink of water, then you may cut off my head."

On hearing these words by the elder, and in the desire to fulfil his business, the robber sheathed his dagger - which he had bared - then took out of his bosom a flask, which he took to a stream that was nearby and stooped down to fill it and bring it back to the elder to quench his thirst. And just as he was filling the flask, he drew his last breath and died on the spot.

Well, seeing that quite some time had passed and the robber did not reappear, the elder wondered to himself:
"Perhaps he was tired and lay down and fell asleep, and that is why he is delayed; so I am now permitted to leave and return to my cell. However, because I am also old, I am afraid, as I do not have enough strength to run, and because of my frailty, I shall tire quickly and he will overtake me. Then, having angered him in this way, he will want to torture me mercilessly, cutting me up into many pieces while I am still alive. Therefore I should not leave, but instead, I should go to the stream, and see what he is doing."
So the elder went forth, after making all these thoughts, and he discovered the robber laying dead; upon seeing him, he stood in wonder and surprise. Then lifting his arms up towards heaven he said:
"My merciful Lord, unless You reveal this mystery to me, I shall not lower my arms. Please therefore have pity on my troubles and reveal what this occurrence was about."
And with this prayer of the elder, an Angel of the Lord came to him and explained:
"Do you see this person, Abba, who lays dead before you? It was for your sake that he was gripped by sudden death, so that you would escape from being murdered. Now proceed to bury him as one who was saved. Because the obedience that he showed you - by sheathing his murder weapon in order to bring you a drink of water to quench the fire of your thirst - was the act that appeased God's wrath and rendered him accepted as a worker of obedience. Furthermore, his admission of the ninety-nine murders was taken into account as Confession. Therefore bury him, and count him among the saved. And know by this the ocean of God's philanthropy and compassion. Now return joyfully to your cell, and henceforth be more willing in your prayers and do not sorrow and say that you are a sinner and devoid of revelations. Behold, the Lord revealed a mystery to you. And know this also: that all of the labours of your ascesis are welcome before God, for there is no labour performed for the Lord's sake that does not appear before Him."
On hearing this, the elder buried the dead man as instructed.

From a handwritten Gerontikon (Book of Elders) of the Sacred Monastery Filotheou of the Holy Mountain.

Source: "Hagiorite Witness" - Quarterly publication of the Sacred Monastery Xiropotamou of the Holy Mountain - Issue No.4, June-August 1989.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Elder Joseph the Hesychast 'on patience and endurance'


Γέροντας Εφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης-Περί θλίψεων, πόνων και κόπων..

Η θλίψις είναι όργανον, εργαλείον, το οποίον κρατεί ο Θεός εις το χέρι Του, και Αυτός μόνος το εργάζεται, καθώς Του υπαγορεύει η άπειρος σοφία Του. Εις τον κάθε άνθρωπον διαφοροτρόπως
το εργάζεται, αναλόγως της ανάγκης που έχει έκαστος.
Η θλίψις με την ποικιλομορφία της εξαγνίζει και αγιάζει τον άνθρωπον εκείνον, που με σοφίαν και γνώσιν την δέχεται. Δηλαδή κάθε θλίψις του χριστιανού είναι θεία επίσκεψις έχουσαν σκοπόν την σωτηρίαν αυτού και την αποστέλλει η γλυκυτάτη δεξιά του ουρανίου μας Πατρός, αν και απαρέσκεται η φύσις μας εις την τοιαύτην, καθώς και τα πικρά φάρμακα απαρέσκουν εις τον ασθενούντα...

Εάν η θλίψις δεν έχει καμμίαν σχέσιν με ημάς, πάντως θα είχαμε την μοίραν του εωσφόρου, διότι και εκείνος ευρισκόμενος εις το ύψος της δόξης και της αναπαύσεως, ελησμόνησε την μεγαλειότητα του Θεού και την εαυτού σμικρότητα και αδυναμίαν, « στήσω τον θρόνον μου επί των νεφελών και έσομαι όμοιος τω Υψίστω».

Και ταύτα διανοηθέντα, κάτω τον έρρψεν ο Θεός, και ο πρώτος ανατέλλων φωτεινότατος άγγελος, γέγονε δαίμων, Σατανάς, διάβολος, το βρωμερώτερον εκ των δημιουργημάτων του Θεού, ουχί τη φύσει, διότι ο Θεός όλα λιαν καλά τα εποίησεν, αλλά τη προαιρέσει πονηρός και αντάρτης!

Ο διάβολος διασπείρει μέσα εις τας οικογενείας την μεμψιμοιρίαν, την απαρέσκειαν, την ζήλειαν, την ισχυρογνωμοσύνην, κ.λ.π. και ούτω υπάρχει εις πολλάς οικογενείας ένα πρόσωπον, που θα διαταράσση την ειρήνην, την γαλήνην και την χαράν της οικογενείας. Αυτή η κακή σπορά δεν έλειψε και μέσα εις την του Κυρίου ιεράν οικογένειαν, όπου είχε δημιουργήσει επί της γης δια την μέλλουσαν σωτηρίαν, δηλαδή εν μέσω των ιερών μαθητών Του, ο Ιούδας ο Ισκαριώτης, σπόρος θεοκτόνος! Ο διάβολος σπείρει τον σπόρον εν μέσω του σίτου, και εις τας συνοδείας των μοναχών το τοιούτον υπάρχει, όχι ότι το πρόσωπον αυτό είναι κακόν, αλλά έχοντας τας αδυναμίας αυτάς, μεμψιμοιρίαν, ζήλειαν κ.λ.π., γίνεται ένα όργανον, δια να διαταράσση την ειρήνην και ησυχίαν των άλλων.

Όλα αυτά μαρτυρούν ότι είμεθα εξόριστοι της αληθινής πατρίδος μας, ευρισκόμενοι εις τα σωφρονιστήρια, ένθα εξασκείται η παιδεία Κυρίου, και όσοι ευρεθούν δια της παιδείας ευδόκιμοι, εισάγονται πάλιν εις την ουράνιον κληρονομίαν λαμβάνοντες και πάλιν την χαθείσαν υιοθεσίαν των, άξιοι να κληρονομήσουν τον Θεόν.

Όσοι μείνουν απαίδευτοι, ως εγώ, και δεν αναγνωρίζουν την παιδείαν, αλλά δια των έργων των αναδειχθούν νόθοι, αποδιώκονται ως ανάξιοι της υιοθεσίας, εις ην απέβλεπεν η παιδεία Κυρίου και καταδικάζονται. Ο αγαθός Θεός και Πατήρ ημών να μας αξιώση μετά των ευδοκίμων, τωνλαβόντων την υιοθεσίαν, εις αιώνας αιώνων. Αμήν.

Γέροντας Εφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης

Become and remain to the end as “a gentle breeze"...

We Too Are Anxious As The Prophet Elijah!


There is a great lesson that we are given through the commemoration of the Prophet Elijah, those of us who have the Church at heart and thirst for its purity. We receive this lesson by reading chapter 19 of book III of The Kings. What is said in this part of the Old Testament is the following:

The fiery Prophet Elijah, with a soul exhausted and almost broken-hearted as a result of his struggles against the idolatry which plagued the state of Israel, is found in a cave of the mountain Horeb. He opens his heart in prayer before God and overflows with feelings of grievance: “I have served you with zeal,” he says to his Divine Master. “See, however, the reasons which have discouraged me. The sons of Israel betrayed me. And, in spite of all that I did for them, in spite of the castigation which I addressed to them, and in spite of the punishment of the priests of Baal which your power brought about, the same situation continues to apply. Your altars are still ruined. Your Prophets are assassinated. And I have remained alone but my enemies seek to put me to death.”

Then, the Prophet Elijah heard a voice which said to him: “Tomorrow you must come out of your cave and you must stand at the peak of the mountain.” This is indeed what happened. The following day, the Prophet came out of his cave, and climbed up to the top of the Mountain. What a dreadful moment! A terrible thunderstorm had broken out. It seemed that its force would dissolve the rocky mass of Mount Horeb. At this moment he heard a voice which said to him: “The Lord is not inside this violent and destructive storm.” Then the storm passed and a terrible earthquake occurred. But again the voice informed him that the Lord was not inside this earthquake either. And then, the rocks of Horeb brought out flames. And the voice said to Elijah that the Lord was not in that fire either. After these breath-taking phenomena, a gentle Breeze began to blow. The Lord was in it. This is what the voice said to the Prophet, and he believed it and understood what God wanted to teach him. The lesson is this: that the presence of God is not expressed in any other way but as “a gentle Breeze”, as the sacred text calls it. This is an eternal lesson, which is addressed to us as well.

We, too, often become as anxious as Elijah. Our zeal makes us feel violent like the storm, and like the earthquake and vehement like the fire. Our sacred indignation pushes us to words and acts which do not have the freshness and the gentleness of the Breeze.

We believe that the Church, this new Israel, will not be cleansed from sin, unless we move vigorously, imitating the activity of Elijah, before he received this superb lesson on the mountain Horeb.

But the Lord loves His Church more than we do. He is concerned much more for her well being than we are. His grievance which he feels because of our sorry state is uncontainable not only in our heart, but also in our imagination.

And yet, He tells us that we must not be impatient and uncharitable. Rather we should be merciful and condescending as He is.

When God came down to the earth, and became a human being, He repeated this lesson to us. We may recall here the verses from Isaiah which St. Matthew the Evangelist recalls in order to show the simplicity which characterizes the Son of God in his behavior towards those who exhibit an evil behavior in the Church. “He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed, or quench a smoldering wick” (Matth. 12:19-20). It is exactly because the Lord loves his Church more than us that he is genial and caring and delicate. He does not like screaming, lengthy expostulations of wild criticism, or unbridled victimization. He knows, because he is the only one who knows our heart, and so, even in the worst guises of evil, which stigmatize the body of the Church, there is always the hope of recovery. This recovery is accomplished only under the life-giving and distinctive breeze of the Spirit. Love, forbearance, meekness, humility, affection should distinguish the workers of the Church. The workers should imitate their divine employer, the Lord of the Vineyard. There is no room in them for rage, anger, or a judging tongue. What has to be gained on behalf of Christ on the earth will not be gained by force, but with love, harmlessness and non-aggressiveness.

Indeed, the Son of God himself teaches this most clearly in the Parable of the Weeds Among Wheat. We see the weeds among the wheat and this sight is unbearable to us. Our zeal pushes us to cut out the weeds. Nevertheless, this impulse is not the finger of God, but the finger of Lucifer. God does not want us to cut them out. Listen to what he says to us, when we take it to ourselves to strike persons and situations in His Church: “It is not I who inspires you to do so. This behavior is thoughtless and prejudicial. Because where you direct your beating, there are souls around which will be scandalized by your action, and you may damage them and even uproot them together with the evil which purportedly you tried to uproot.”

Do not misappropriate what is not your own task. I will purge my Church from all weeds on the Day of Judgment. Your judgment, your holy indignation, your anger will not bring only good, but also evil. You may uproot from the Church myriads of pharisees, vicious culprits and bribe-takers, but if with them you cast out even one soul which is scandalized by your behavior, for whom I shed my Blood, the damage to you will be infinitely greater than the benefit.

Do you want to bring glory to my Church, or to work for its progress and her purity? Imitate me. Do not run to cut out the weeds. Do not take recourse to violence. Become and remain to the end as “a gentle breeze,” because I am not present either in the storm, or in the earthquake, or in the fire. I am only present in the refreshing breeze.

Taken from the «Κιβωτός» - απάνθισμα, vol. 2. Translated from the Greek original by Fr. George Dion. Dragas. 

My heart is hard like a stone…

Elder Paisios The Athonite

- Elder, when I feel my heart become hard like a stone, what should I do?

- Your problem is not a hard heart but a mind-driven heart. Your entire heart has been taken over by your mind and is now at its service. But there is still a chance for your heart to go back. Each day you must read prayers to the Theotokos. If you want your heart to get back in shape, that’s the best medicine. You do have a heart, but it has been clouded by “logic”…. Things are different in the spiritual life. What is needed is simplicity. Act with simplicity and trust in God.

- How can I become simple, Elder? – I shall have to open your head and put an old-fashioned mind in it!

You need to enter the simple world of the Saints, and get to know the spiritual science which lifts and refreshes the soul, and gets rid of headaches. “Logic” will make us suffer. For example, I say to myself, ‘This must be done in this specific manner,’ and so I go ahead and do it because it has to be done. I don’t do it with my heart but because the mind dictates it. Logic and courtesy may tell me that ‘I must surrender my seat,’ but my heart will not. Think of the difference when my heart is moved and I surrender my seat out of love. I feel such joy!
- Elder, I don’t have a heart.

- You do have a heart, but as soon as it tries to act, your mind puts a muzzle on it. You must try to acquire the logic of the heart, faith and love.

- How can I achieve this? – The first step: go down town in the city Thessaloniki and March barefoot in protest, so that people will say that you went mad; this way you will get rid of your mind!!! Blessed soul! You approach everything with mathematical exactness. What are you, an astronomer? If you stop thinking “logically”, you will be able to start working spiritually on yourself. 

“The Holy Fathers saw everything with the spiritual, the divine eye. Patristic tests were written in the spirit of God and it was in the spirit of God that the Holy Fathers gave their interpretations. Today this spirit is lacking and Patristic texts are hard to understand. People see everything with secular eyes and cannot see beyond that; they do not have the breadth of spirit that results form faith and love.”

Christ the good Portrait Painter..

By "Saint Makarios of Egypt".
(Excerpt from Homily 30)
Just as the portrait painter is attentive to the face of the King as
he paints,and,when the face of the king is directly opposite,face to

en he paints the portrait easily and well.But when he turns his
face away,then the painter cannot paint because the face of the subject is
not looking at the painter.
In a similar way the good portrait painter,Christ,for those who believe in Him
and gaze continually toward Him,at once paints according to his own image
a heavenly man.
Out of his Spirit, out of the substance of the light itself,ineffable light,he paints
a heavenly image and presents to it its noble and good Spouse.
If anyone,therefore,does not continually gaze at Him,overlooking all else,
the Lord will not paint His image with his own light.
It is necessary that we gaze on Him,believing and loving Him,casting aside all
else and attending to Him so that He may paint his own heavenly image and
send it to our souls.
And thus carrying Christ,we may receive eternal life and even here,filled with confidence,
we may be at rest.Amen. 

Γέροντας Εφραίμ - Ομιλία Περι Μετανοίας

Γέροντας Εφραίμ της Iεράς Σκήτεως Aποστόλου Aνδρέου και Μεγάλου Αντωνίου, Ομιλία Περι Μετανοίας
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