Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Triumph of the Church, by St. John Chrysostom

"How does one prove that Christ is God? We should not try to answer this question by using the argument of the creation of heaven and earth, because the unbeliever will not accept it. If we tell him that He raised the dead, healed the blind, expelled demons, he still will not agree. If we tell him that He promised us resurrection from the dead, the kingdom of heaven, and ineffable goods, not only he will not agree, but also he will laugh at us.
How then shall we lead him to the faith, especially when he is not spiritually developed? Surely, we shall do this by resting on truths which are acceptable both to us and to him without any dispute or shadow of doubt.

We shall start from the fact that Christ planted the Church in the world. What is the point then that we absolutely agree upon? It is the fact that Christ planted the Church. It is by this means that we shall reveal the power and prove the divinity of Christ. We shall see that it is impossible to regard the dissemination of Christianity in the whole wide world in such a short period of time as a human work. And indeed, when Christian ethics invites people who have bad habits and are slaves to sin to a higher life. And yet, the Lord managed to liberate from such things not only us, but the entire human species.
Christ’s superbly wondrous achievement is the Church. He achieved this without using arms, without spending money, without mobilizing armies, without causing wars. He achieved it by starting only with twelve disciples, who were insignificant, uneducated, poor, naked, unarmed… It was with such human resource that He succeeded in persuading the nations to think correctly, not only in the present life, but also in the life which is to come. He managed to nullify the ancestral laws, to uproot ancient customs, and to plant new ones. He managed to detach man from an easy way of life and to lead him to a difficult one. He managed all these things, although all fought against Him, and He had to endure a degrading crucifixion and an ignominious death!
This superbly wondrous achievement is not human. Surely, such things do not occur to human beings. What occurs is the exact opposite. In other words, as long as they are alive and prosper their work progresses. When, however, they die, what they created is destroyed along with them. This is endured not only by the rich or the leading ones, but also by the chief governors. This is so, because their laws are abolished, their memory is obliterated, and their names are forgotten, while their intimate associates are pushed aside. These things occur to those who originally governed the nations by a mere nod, and led to war grand armies; to those who condemned to death and recalled the exiled. To the Lord, however, it was the exact opposite that occurred.
It is superbly wondrous because it was achieved by the Crucified Christ. Before the crucifixion the state of his work looked pitiful. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The rest of the Disciples fled in order to save their lives, while many believers abandoned Him. He was left alone among enemies. And yet, after the slaughter and the death, so that you may learn that the Crucified Christ was not a mere man, all things became brighter, jollier, and glorious. Peter, the head Apostle, who before the crucifixion did not bear the threat of a maidservant, but after so many heavenly teachings and his participation in the divine mysteries said that he does not know the Lord, the same one after the crucifixion preached Him to the ends of the world. Innumerable martyrs were sacrificed, because they preferred to be put to death than to deny Christ, as the head Apostle had denied Him after being intimidated by a young maiden.
The amazing submission of the world to the Crucified Christ and His Apostles: Now, all the lands, all the cities, the deserted and the inhabited places, confess the Crucified Lord. On Him faith is placed by kings and generals, archons and consuls, slaves and freemen, unlettered and educated, the barbarians and the various nations of humanity. Even that small and insignificant tomb that received the blood stained and tortured body of the Lord is more valued than a thousand royal palaces and more venerable even to kings. What is even a greater paradox is the fact that what happened to the Lord also happened to His disciples. Because, those who were despised and imprisoned, those who were atrociously tortured and underwent innumerable martyrdoms, the very same ones, after their death, were more honored than the kings. Where do we see this? In Rome, the emperors, the consuls and the generals put aside all things and run to venerate the tombs of Peter the fisherman and Paul the tent maker. In Constantinople, those who bear diadems on their heads, wish to be buried next not close to the tombs of the Apostles but at the entrance of their temples. And so the kings become the doormen of the fishermen! Indeed, they are not ashamed for this, but boast about it, not only themselves but also their descendants.
Christ’s prophesy about the Church and its speedy fulfillment. When Christ’s disciples were only twelve and the Church was not in any one’s thought, when the Jewish synagogue was still flourishing and the impious idolatry dominated almost the entire world, the Lord had prophesied: “On this stone (i.e. on Peter’s confession of faith) I will build my Church, and the powers of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Do you realize the truth of this prophesy? Do you see its fulfillment? Think how important a fact is the spreading of the Church almost to the entire earth in a very brief span of time. Think how the life of so many nations changed and led to the faith so many peoples, how it abolished ancestral customs, how it liberated from age-long habits, how it scattered like dust the domination of pleasure and the power of sin, how it extinguished like smoke the foul smell of the sacrifices, the idolatrous ceremonies, the abominable feasts, the idols, the pagan altars and temples, how it erected sacred altars everywhere, in our land and in the lands of the Persians, the Scythians, the Africans and the Indians. What I say? Even in the British Isles, which are beyond the Mediterranean, in the ocean, the Church was spread and erected altars.
The superbly wondrous liberation and change that the Church induced in the world: The work of liberation of so many peoples from age-long shameful habits, as well as the change in the manner of life from an easier to a more difficult one, is indeed wondrous, or rather superbly wondrous. It is a proof of divine operation (energy), even if no one had opposed it, even if peace had prevailed and many had assisted. Because this spreading of the Church did not only come into collision with ancient habit, but also with pleasure, the happy manner of life. In other words, it had two powerful opponents, which tyrannized humanity: habit and pleasure. Whatsoever people had received, from centuries ago, from their fathers, their grandfathers and their ancient ancestors, even what they had received from the philosophers and the rhetoricians, all these things they agreed to despise, an attitude extremely difficult. Besides, they had to accept a new manner of life, which was indeed much more difficult; because she removed them from luxury and attached them to fasting. She removed them from avarice and led them to lack of property. She removed them from profanity and led them to chastity. She removed them from aggressiveness and led them to gentleness. She removed them from envy and led them to friendship. She removed them from an easygoing and pleasurable life and led them to a life of difficulties, hardships, and full of sorrows. Indeed she led to this life those who had been accustomed to the life of luxuries. Surely, those who became Christians were not people who lived in some other worlds and did not have sinful habits, but were those who had rotted in them and had become more flexible than clay. It was them that she called to follow the hard and ragged road. And it persuaded them to follow it!
The superbly wondrous work of the Twelve Apostles in the spreading of the Church. How many were persuaded? Not two, not ten, not twenty, not a hundred, but an innumerable crowd. And how many did she use to persuade them? She used two men, uneducated, uncultured, unknown, poor, without property, without bodily strength, without glory, without illustrious ancestry, without rhetorical eloquence. She used twelve men who were fishermen, tent makers, whose mother tongue was foreign; because, they did not speak the same tongue with the idolaters. They spoke Hebrew, which was different from all other languages. It was with them that the Church was built up and spread to the ends of the world. This is not the only wondrous fact, but there is also the fact that these few, these poor, these uneducated and despised men, who set out to change humanity, did not pursue their work without disturbance. They were confronted with innumerable wars from every side. They were opposed by every nation and in every city. But why do I speak of nations and cities? War was raised against them even on every house. Their teaching separated on many occasions the child from the father, the daughter in law from the mother in law, the brother from the brother, the servant from the master, the citizen from the ruler, the man from the woman, and the woman from the man. In every family not all believed simultaneously,, and so the Christians suffered daily harassments, ceaseless enmities, a myriad of deaths. All fought them as common opponents and enemies. They were pursued by kings, governors, citizens, freemen, slaves, crowds, cities. They did not pursue only them, but –how terrible– even the neophyte catechumens, i.e. those who just believed.
The victory of the Apostles and the Church is due to the power of the Crucified but also Risen Lord. It caused horror and wrath to the idolaters the thought of abandoning their pagan altars, of despising their bloody sacrifices, which all their fathers and ancestors practiced, and of believing in the Lord; of believing in Him who took flesh from the Virgin Mary, and stood trial before Pilate, and suffered numberless tribulations and degradations, underwent a dishonorable death, was buried and rose again. It is indeed a paradox, that, while the sufferings of the Lord were indisputable, -inasmuch as many had seen the lashings, the biting, the spitting, the slapping, the cross, the mocking, the entombment– it was not the same with the resurrection. The Lord, after his resurrection, manifested Himself only to the disciples. In spite of this fact, they spoke about the resurrection and persuaded the peoples and built up the Church. How did they do it? They did it with the power of the Lord, who sent them to preach his Gospel to the nations. It was He who opened to them the way. It was He who facilitated their difficult task. Had they not been assisted by the divine power, the spreading of Christianity would not have even begun.
The persecutions against the Church did not inhibit its expansion. The reason was that while the tyrants were forearmed against the Church, while the soldiers interposed their arms, while the mobs raged like a wild fire, while the bad habit was lined up in opposition, while orators, sophists, the rich people, ordinary citizens and leaders were aroused in enmity, the word of God, being stronger than the flame, turned the thistles into ashes, cleansed the fields and sowed the word of the preaching. Some of the believers were thrown into the prisons, others were exiled, others had their property confiscated, others were assassinated, and others were torn to pieces. In spite of the fact that Christians were treated as common criminals, suffering patiently every kind of punishment, humiliation and persecution, more and more people joined the Church. Indeed, the new believers not only were not discouraged by the tortures which they saw the older believers undergoing, but became more eager! They run by themselves, without constraint, showing gratitude to their torturers. They became more fervent in the faith, seeing the torrents of the blood of the believers.
The expansion of the Church in spite of the persecutions proves the incomparable and unconquerable power of Christ. Did you see the incomparable power of Him who achieved all these wonders? How is it possible that people who are undergoing such horrid martyrdoms feel no sorrow? And yet, they rejoiced, and were elated! This is what St. Luke the Evangelist adduces as an example, when he says about the Apostles that “they left from the council rejoicing, because they were proved worthy to be ill-treated for the shake of Christ” (Acts 5:41). While no one can build even a wall with stones and plaster when is persecuted, the Apostles built up the Church throughout the world while sufferings persecutions, imprisonments, exiles and deaths as martyrs. They did not build her up with stones, but with souls –which is much more difficult; since it is not the same to build a wall as to persuade perverted souls to change their manner of life, to abandon their demonic madness and to follow the life of virtue. They achieved this, because they had with them the unconquerable power of the Lord, who had prophesied; “I will build up my Church, and the powers of Hell will not prevail against her” (Matthew 16:18).
Consider how many tyrants fought the Church and how many persecutions they raised against it… Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and their successors right down to Constantine, were all idolaters. All of them –some more moderately, and some more harshly– fought the Church. Even if some of them did not raise persecutions, nevertheless, their attachment to idolatry motivated those who wanted to flatter them to oppose the Church. In spite of all this, the evil schemes and attacks of the idolaters were dissolved as cobwebs, scattered like dust, vanished like smoke. Besides, what were planned against the Church became the occasion of great benefits for the Christians. The reason was that such plans created choruses of martyrs, who constitute the treasure, the pillars, and towers of the Church.

The wondrous fulfillment of what Christ prophesied about the Church reveals most clearly his true Godhead. Do you see the wondrous fulfillment of this prophesy? Indeed, “the powers of Hell cannot prevail against her.” Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come. No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church. If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices. How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles? Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church. No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think."

(Translated and edited by Protopresbyter George Dion. Dragas, PhD, DD, DTh; This article represents selections from St. John Chrysostom’s treatise To Jews and Greeks, a demonstration, that Christ is God… (PG 48, 813-838); 


Friday, 27 February 2015

Οκνηρία στα πνευματικά έργα(Αγίου Δημητρίου του Ροστώφ)


ΦΥΛΑΞΕ την ψυχή σου από τη φοβερή παραλυσία, πού οι Πατέρες ονομάζουν ακηδία. την οκνηρία δηλαδή στα πνευματικά έργα. Να θυμάσαι πάντοτε τα λόγια του απόστολου πού μας συμβουλεύει να είμαστε "τη σπουδή μη οκνηροί, τω πνεύματι ζέοντες, τω Κυρίω δουλεύοντες" (Ρωμ. 12. 11). Μην είσαι ράθυμος και χλιαρός, για να μην ακούσης κάποτε τα λόγια: "Ούτως ότι χλιαρός ει, και ούτε ζεστός ούτε ψυχρός, μέλλω σε εμέσαι εκ του στόματος μου" (Άποκ. 3. 16). Αγωνίζου, άγρυπνα, νήφε, μη χάνης μάταια τον χρόνο της ζωής σου, τον χρόνο πού σου δόθηκε για την καλλιέργεια της ψυχής και την άποκτησι των αιωνίων αγαθών. Φρόντιζε να μην πέραση ούτε μια μέρα σου αργή από πνευματικά έργα.     Ο χρόνος πού περνά δεν γυρίζει πίσω.
Η ζωή μας είναι σαν ένας πόλεμος, σαν μια αγορά, σαν ένα σχολείο, σαν ένα μακρύ θαλασσινό ταξίδι. Στις μάχες δεν συγχωρείται ανάπαυσις, στο εμπόριο δεν χωρεί αδράνεια, στο σχολείο δεν επιτρέπεται αμέλεια, στο θαλασσινό ταξίδι δεν έχει θέσι η αμεριμνία. Γι' αυτό μην τεμπελιάζης, μην αμελής στα έργα του Θεού, αλλά ασκήσου και κοπίαζε, ιδού για σένα το πεδίο της μάχης, ιδού η αγορά, ιδού το σχολείο. Το τάλαντο πού κατέχεις μην το κρύψης, αλλά πολλαπλασίασε το, για να μην ακούσης κάποτε: "Πονηρέ δούλε και οκνηρέ! ηδείς Ότι θερίζω όπου ουκ έσπειρα και συνάγω όθεν ου διασκόρπισα! έδει ουν σε βαλείν το αργύριον μου τοις τραπεζίταις, και ελθών εγώ έκομισάμην αν το εμόν συν τόκω" (Ματθ. 25. 26-27). Τι θ' απάντησης τότε, τη φοβερή μέρα της Κρίσεως, πού όχι μόνο δεν πολλαπλασίασες το τάλαντο σου. αλλά ούτε τον τόκο του δεν διαθέτεις;
Η πνευματική επαγρύπνησις και ο αγώνας σου κατά του δαιμονικού κακού θα διαρκέση μέχρι το τέλος της ζωής σου: "Γίνου πιστός άχρι θανάτου, και δώσω σοι τον στέφανον της ζωής" (Άποκ. 2. 10). Κι αυτό. γιατί ο σατανάς συνεχώς επαγρυπνεί και ποτέ δεν ησυχάζει, αλλά σαν άγριο λιοντάρι περιφέρεται παντού ζητώντας να καταπιή όποιον του έχει ξεφύγει. 'Αλλοίμονο σ' εκείνον πού θα τον βρη κοιμισμένο!
Πρόσεξε ιδιαίτερα όσα σε συμβουλεύει ο σοφός Σολομών: "Ίθι προς τον μύρμηκα, ω οκνηρέ, και ζήλωσον ιδών τάς οδούς αυτού και γενού εκείνου σοφώτερος· έκείνω γαρ γεωργίου μη υπάρχοντος, μηδέ τον άναγκάζοντα έχων, μηδέ υπό δεσπότην ων, ετοιμάζεται θέρους την τροφήν πολλήν τε εν τω άμητω ποιείται την παράθεσιν. Ή πορεύθητι προς την μέλισσαν και μάθε ως εργάτις εστί την τε εργασίαν ως σεμνήν ποιείται ης τους πόνους βασιλείς και ιδιώται προς υγίειαν προσφέρονται· ποθεινή δε έστι πάσι και επίδοξος· και περ ούσα τη ρώμη ασθενής, την σοφίαν τιμήσασα προήχθη. Έως τίνος, οκνηρέ, κατάκεισαι; πότε δε εξ ύπνου έγερθήση; ολίγον μεν υπνοίς, ολίγον δε κάθησαι, μικρόν δέ νυστάζεις, ολίγον δε εναγκαλίζη χερσί στήθη· εϊτ' εμπαραγίνεταί σοι ώσπερ κακός οδοιπόρος η πενία και η ένδεια ώσπερ αγαθός δρομεύς.
Εάν δε άοκνος ης, ήξει ώσπερ πηγή ο άμητος σου, η δε ένδεια ώσπερ κακός δρομεύς απαυτόμολήσει" (Παροιμ. 6. 6-12).
 Να γιατί δεν πρέπει να οκνής, αλλά με προθυμία να εργάζεσαι στο αγαθό. Γιατί τώρα είναι καιρός εργασίας, μετά καιρός ανταποδόσεως. Στη γη πόλεμος, στον ουρανό ανάπαυσις. Και αναγκαστικά ένα από τα δύο θα κάνης, έπε θα νικήσης είτε θα νικηθής· είτε θα μείνης κοντά στον Θεό είτε θα χωρισθής άπ' Αυτόν.     Τρίτος δρόμος δεν υπάρχει.
Μη λυπάσαι να δουλαγωγής τη σάρκα σου για χάρι του Χριστού, γιατί Εκείνος την έπλασε. Μην τρομάζης μπροστά στους πόνους, γιατί Εκείνος έχει τη δύναμι κάθε πληγή να θεραπεύση. Μη λυπάσαι να Του προσφέρης ολόκληρη την ύπαρξι σου, γιατί Εκείνος θα την ανακαινίση, θα την δοξάση και θα σου την προσφέρη πάλι "εν κροσσωτοίς χρυσοίς περιβεβλημένην πεποικιλμένην" (Ψαλμ. 44. 14) στη βασιλεία των ουρανών. Όπως ο Χριστός υπέφερε για χάρι σου, υπόφερε κι εσύ για χάρι τού Χριστού. Ρίξε ένα βλέμμα γύρω σου και δες πόσος πόνος, πόση δυστυχία, πόσες θλίψεις υπάρχουν στους ανθρώπους. Όσο κι αν πονάς, υπάρχουν άλλοι πού πονούν περισσότερο. Όσο κι αν δυστυχής, υπάρχουν άλλοι πού δυστυχούν περισσότερο. Δόξασε κι ευχαρίστησε τον Θεό πού δεν σου στέλνει πιο μεγάλες συμφορές. Πάρε θάρρος, βάλε αρχή και ευαρέστησε Τον με τον πνευματικό αγώνα σου. Με λίγο προσωρινό κόπο θ' απόλαυσης αιώνια και ατελεύτητα αγαθά, "α οφθαλμός ουκ είδε και ους ουκ ήκουσε και επί καρδίαν ανθρώπου ουκ άνέβη" (Α' Κορ. 2. 9).
Ξέρεις γιατί κυριεύεσαι από πνευματική ραθυμία και ακηδία; Επειδή δεν αγαπάς μ' όλη σου την καρδιά τον Κύριο. Και όποιος δεν αγαπά τον Κύριο μ' όλη τη δύναμι της ψυχής του. Βλέπει την οδό πού οδηγεί στη ζωή πολύ στενή και τεθλιμμένη, αισθάνεται τον ζυγό του Κυρίου ασήκωτο και τον νόμο Του ακατόρθωτο. Αγάπησε τον Κύριο "εξ όλης της καρδίας σου και εξ όλης της ψυχής σου και εξ όλης της δυνάμεως σου" (Δευτερ. 6. 5), και τότε θα βαδίζης στον δρόμο Του με χαρά και προθυμία, "ηγούμενος πάντα σκύβαλα είναι ίνα Χριστόν κερδήσης" (πρβλ. Φιλιππ. 3. 8). Οι άγιοι της Εκκλησίας μας, πού Βαθιά αγάπησαν τον Θεό, κάθε κόπο για χάρι Του τον θεωρούσαν άκοπο, κάθε πόνο άπονο, κάθε θλίψι ευεργεσία. Μερικοί μάλιστα, φλεγόμενοι από θείο ερωτά, δεν άντεχαν ούτε για λίγο ν' αναχαιτίζουν τον χειμαρρώδη εκείνο πόθο πού τους ωθούσε στην ένωσι με τον Θεό. Περιφρονούσαν ακόμη και τις πιο βασικές ανθρώπινες ανάγκες, την τροφή και τον ύπνο, για να μη στερηθούν την απόλυτη και απρόσκοπτη επικοινωνία τους με τον εκλεκτό Νυμφίο της ψυχής τους. Τόσο φλογισμένες και συνεπαρμένες ήταν οι ψυχές των αγίων από τη θεία αγάπη. Με χαρά, σαν ασώματοι άγγελοι, παραδίδονταν σε υπεράνθρωπες νηστείες, ατελεύτητες αγρυπνίες, αδιάλειπτες προσευχές και δοξολογίες προς τον αγαπώμενο Κύριο, κι έφθαναν για χάρι Του μέχρι τον θάνατο, αντιμετωπίζοντας τον όχι σαν κακό μα σαν λύτρωσι και δυνατότητα απόλυτης και αιωνίας ενώσεως μαζί Του. Όλα αυτά βέβαια πού κατώρθωσαν θα ήταν απραγματοποίητα, αν στην αγάπη τους προς τον Θεό δεν προσετίθετο και η θεία χάρις, "η πάντοτε τα ασθενή θεραπεύουσα και τα ελλείποντα αναπληρούσα", πού ενδυναμώνει όσους δείχνουν έμπρακτη αγάπη στον Κύριο. Έτσι, "τοις αγαπώσι τον Θεόν πάντα συνεργεί εις αγαθόν" (Ρωμ. 8. 28), ώστε να επαληθεύεται πάντοτε η αψευδής ρήσις Εκείνου: "Ο ζυγός μου χρηστός και το φορτίον μου ελαφρόν εστίν" (Ματθ. 11. 30).
 Ετοιμάσου λοιπόν, αδελφέ μου, ετοιμάσου για την υποδοχή του ουρανίου Νυμφίου, του υπερένδοξου Κυρίου Ιησού Χριστού. Ιδού, "έρχεται εν τω μέσω της νυκτός, και μακάριος ο δούλος ον ευρήσει γρηγορούντα, ανάξιος δε πάλιν ον ευρήσει ραθυμούντα". Ξύπνα, ετοίμασε τη λαμπάδα της καρδιάς σου. "Ανάστα, τι καθεύδεις; το τέλος εγγίζει και μέλλεις θορυβείσθε". Έρχεται Εκείνος πού μαζί Του θα ζης και θα συνευφραίνεσαι αιωνίως. Πρόσεξε να μη σβήση η λαμπάδα σου. Πρόσεξε να μη νυστάξη η ψυχή σου από τη ραθυμία και την ακηδία. Ετοιμάσου να δεχθής μέσα σου τον Κύριο της δόξης. Ήρθε και χτυπά κιόλας τη θύρα της καρδίας σου. Άκουσε Τον: "Ιδού έστηκα επί την θύραν και κρούω· εάν τις ακούση της φωνής μου και άνοιξη την θύραν, και εισελεύσομαι προς αυτόν και δειπνήσω μετ' αυτού και αυτός μετ' εμού. Ο νικών, δώσω αυτώ καθίσαι μετ' εμού εν τω θρόνω μου... Ο έχων ους ακουσάτω..." (Άποκ. 3. 20-22).

Πνευματικό Αλφάβητο
Αγίου Δημητρίου του Ροστώφ

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Why Don't You Fast?

The Prophets Fasted
Moses: When I went up into the mountain to receive the tables of stone...I was in the mountain forty days and forty nights, I ate no bread and drank no water. Deuteronomy 9:9 (LXX)
Prophet Jonah:  It was by fasting among other things that the people of Nineveh were saved from his prediction of peril.  Jonah 3:7  (LXX)
Prophet Joel: Fasting associated with repentance:
“Now, says the Lord your God, turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting and with wailing, and with mourning. Joel 2:12 (LXX)
Prophet Daniel: Fasting with repentance and prayer are an aid in seeking God and the spiritual life:
And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek him diligently by prayer and supplication, with fastings and sackcloth.  And I Prayed to the Lord my God, and confessed...  Daniel 9:3-4 (LXX)
Jesus Fasted:
Immediately after His Baptism, what did He do?
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights,
he was afterward hungry. 
What was His instruction for Apostles in the case of the epileptic boy whose demon the Apostles could not cast out?
This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
When challenged by Pharisees about His disciples what did He say? 
Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. 
The Lord Himself gave instructions for fasting:
But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; That you appear not unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret. Matthew. 6:17-18
Why did he say this?
Apostles fasted:
In the Acts of the Apostles we read:
As they ministered (liturgical rite) to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
They coupled fasting with liturgical acts
Paul: Apostle Paul describes his own spiritual life as one of sacrifice, vigils, thirst, and fasting lived “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
He also refers to fasting in the context of marriage saying that by mutual consent husband and wife abstain from marital relations periodically while fasting and prayer.
The first century - Didache
“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” 
Your fasts must not be identical with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Mondays and Thursdays; but you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. 
The fasting referred to here was a complete abstention from both food and drink until sundown. 
Church Fathers fasted.
Ecclesiastical writer Tertullian (220 d.) notes that spiritual growth requires confession and prayer fed by “fasting, ...not for the stomach’s sake, ...but for the soul’s.
Saint Gregory (391) - practice of receiving the Eucharist after fasting.
Saint Basil (379) wrote much on fasting.
John Cassian (435): Therefore, fastings, vigils, meditation on the Scriptures, self-denial, and the abnegation of all possessions are not perfection, but aids to perfection: because the end of that science does not lie in these, but
by means of these we arrive at the end. 
Saint Athanasius (373) - Fasting more than just food.
...let us vie with each other in observing the purity of the fast by watchfulness in prayers, by study of the Scriptures, by distributing to the poor, and let us be at peace with our enemies. Let us bind up those who are scattered abroad, banish pride, and return to lowliness of mind, being at peace with all men, and urging the brethren unto love. Letter XIV.
Saint Athanasius describes the benefits of fasting.
It “...cures ills and dries up bodily humors, casts out demons and turns away evil thoughts; it makes the mind brighter, the heart clean, and the body holy; and it presents man before the Throne of God.”
Modern Saints Fasted
Saint Nectarios of Aegina (1920)
Fasting is an ordinance of the church, obliging the Christian to observe it on specific days.  ...He who fasts for the uplifting of his mind and heart towards God shall be rewarded by God, Who is a most liberal bestower of divine gifts, for his devotion.  
...unless one lifts his mind and heart towards God through Christian--not Pharisaic--fasting and through prayer, he cannot attain a consciousness of his sinful state and earnestly seek the forgiveness of sins.. Prayer and fasting--Christian fasting-- serve as means of self-study, of discernment of our true moral state, of an accurate estimation of our sins and of a knowledge of their true character.

(Vol 7 of Modern Orthodox Saints, 2nd ed., p 178)
The purpose of fasting is chiefly spiritual: to provide an opportunity and preparation for spiritual works of prayer and meditation on the Divine through the complete abstinence from food, or the eating of uncooked food or frugal fare. 
However, fasting is no less valuable for physical health, since self-control and simplicity of life are necessary conditions of health and longevity, as dietetics tells us.
Canons of Church require fasting
If you do not honor the Wednesday and Friday fast you are to be excommunicated.
Must fast prior to taking Communion
Strict fast during entire Lenten period
Do not fast on Sunday and Saturday
If ill or weak relaxation of guidelines appropriate
Always been essential part of Orthodox Christian Life. 
Necessary discipline to combat the passions and open the door to the renewal of the Holy Spirit. 
Why don’t you fast?
Fasting foods should be simple and plain and not extravagant. 
The more effort that goes into their creativity and preparation, the more its value is reduced. 
Should not be prepared to satisfy our craving for certain tastes       
   •  Break from our automatic response to food,
   •  Give thanks to the provider, out Lord,    
•  Increase our self-control.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Φοβόμαστε να ταπεινωθούμε...

«...Ο Θεός δεν φοβήθηκε αλλά ο ίδιος ταπεινώθηκε κι ευλόγησε την ταπείνωση. Εμείς όμως, την φοβόμαστε γιατί το κοσμικό φρόνημα που κυβερνά τη ζωή μας έχει αφαιρέσει από μέσα μας κάθε σεμνότητα και κάθε πίστη.
Αλλά έρχονται κάθε τόσο ώρες δύσκολες στη ζωή του κάθε ανθρώπου, όπου χρειάζεται να ξεκαθαρίσει τη θέση του. Να δείξει με τα έργα του αν πιστεύει απόλυτα στην αλήθεια του Χριστού. Να συναισθανθεί τα σφάλματά του και ν' αφήσει το βίο του ολόκληρο να μοσκοβολήσει από την ευωδία της ταπεινοφροσύνης.
Το Ευαγγέλιο μας λέγει πως θα υψωθεί μονάχα εκείνος που έχει ταπεινώσει τον εαυτό του. Ο Κύριος του ουρανού και της γης ήρθε στον κόσμο με άκρα ταπείνωση. Κι εμείς που κομπάζουμε πως τον ακολουθούμε, περιφρονούμε τη μεγάλη αυτή αρετή και διστάζουμε να δεχτούμε την ταπείνωση ως κανόνα ζωής. Αλλά η χάρη του Θεού δεν επισκέπτεται παρά μονάχα τους ταπεινούς».
Πηγή: Κ. Τσιρόπουλος, «Διάλογος του Χριστιανισμού με την εποχή μας»

Reflections on The Service of Great Compline...

By Stylianos Gerasimos

The overnight hours have always offered the opportunity for man and God to communicate and have a relationship. This is because man at this time has a certain capacity to remove himself from the earth, in order to develop his path towards heaven. The Lord Himself often prayed at night: "Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God" (Lk. 6:12). The Church, realizing this need of man, established that besides ones personal prayers there ought to be common prayers for this time, and they came to be known as Compline [Gr: Apodeipnon]. It was named Apodeipnon because it was established to be performed "after supper" [apo deipno].

After the fourteenth century it seemed necessary to cut short the Compline, which over the years became quite lengthy due to continuous additions. Eventually the Service of Small Compline prevailed, which is read throughout most of the year. The older and more extensive Service prevailed to be read during the period of Great Lent and came to be known as the Great Compline. Since Great Lent is a solemn period, this Service "is a prayer for the forgiveness of the sins of the day and for an unscandalous passage through the night."

The Great Compline is read on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights during Great Lent. Wednesday night the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is performed, and Friday night is chanted the Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos. Saturday night the Small Compline is read. In monasteries the Small Compline is read in the narthex of the church. The entire Great Compline is read in the nave.

With the help of the Psalms and prayers of Great Compline, the believer is able to make an inventory of the events of the day that passed. This self-evaluation will help stir within him repentance for his spiritual failures. "Every night my couch is drenched with tears, my bed is soaked through" (Ps. 6:6).

During Great Compline we chant two ancient hymns of our Church. The first is "God is with us. Understand, all ye nations, and submit yourselves: For God is with us." This comes from the hymn of Isaiah in the ninth chapter of his Old Testament book. The second poem chanted begins "With never-silent hymns, the bodiless powers of the Cherubim glorify Thee." It is a hymn of doxology addressed to God the Father, which is an expression of the soul's exaltation of man to God. Man, with this doxological hymn, has the feeling of abandoning himself to the grace and mercy of God.

We thus observe, that God's ineffable love for man extends even when he sleeps. This fact is emphasized in the following prayer: "Lord, Lord, Who deliverest us from every arrow that flieth by day... Vouchsafe us also to pass without reproach the course of the night."

Only God can provide effective assistance for His creation in every course of life, especially when we are being tested. Man is tested and grieved day and night, until he cries out: "Lord of the Powers, be with us, for we have no other help in times of distress but Thee. O Lord of the Powers, have mercy upon us."


Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Τα τρία είδη νηστείας

Κυριακή της Τυρινής . Η εκκλησία την έχει αφιερώσει στην εξορία των πρωτοπλάστων από τον Παράδεισο. Είναι λοιπόν ημέρα πόνου και ημέρα αναμνήσεως κακής. Οι πρωτόπλαστοι τρώγοντας από το δέντρο της γνώσεως του καλού και του κακού, τα έχασαν όλα. Όχι μόνο Θεοί δεν έγιναν, που τους υπέδειξε ο διάβολος, αλλά άδειασαν. Έγιναν μια πληγή. Και ο Κύριος τους έβγαλε από τον Παράδεισο, και έφερε και τον θάνατο, που ήταν τώρα ευλογία, για να μη γίνει το κακό αθάνατο. Είναι λοιπόν η πρώτη μέρα του κόσμου μετά την πτώση, η Κυριακή της Τυρινής. Ενώ η προηγούμενη η Κυριακή των Απόκρεω, ήταν η τελευταία ημέρα του κόσμου. Και εδώ μας μιλάει το Ευαγγέλιο, που είναι από την «Επί του Όρους Ομιλία»  του Χριστού, μας μιλάει για τα τρία είδη νηστείας. Εμείς πιστεύουμε ότι νηστεία είναι μόνο το φαγητό. Είναι και αυτό, διότι η νηστεία είναι η πρώτη εντολή. Την έδωσε ο Θεός στους πρωτοπλάστους, για να διαλέξουν οι άνθρωποι το φαγητό ή Αυτόν; Που είναι το αθάνατο φαγητό. Και οι άνθρωποι διάλεξαν το πρόσκαιρο φαγητό κατά μια εκδοχή. Υπάρχουν και άλλες εκδοχές. Η άλλη εκδοχή, η σπουδαιότερη, είναι ότι οι άνθρωποι θέλησαν να μπουν στο χώρο της Θεότητος. Και θέλησαν –δημιουργήματα αυτοί – να καταλάβουν τον Δημιουργό. Πράγμα αδύνατον. Για αυτό ήρθε ο Δημιουργός μετά και ενσαρκώθηκε για να καταλάβουν τουλάχιστον την Αγάπη Του, τις Θείες Του ενέργειες και τη μεγάλη Του προσφορά: τη Σταύρωση και την Ανάσταση, την ίδρυση της Αγίας Εκκλησίας, και το Σώμα και Αίμα, το οποίο μας δίνει για να Θεοποιηθούμε κατά χάριν. Να δούμε τώρα ποιες είναι οι τρεις νηστείες που προτείνει ο Ευαγγελικός λόγος:

Η πρώτη νηστεία είναι η νηστεία της κακίας, και όπως μας λέει το Ευαγγέλιο προβάλει τη συγγνώμη. «Εάν συγχωρήσετε τους ανθρώπους, θα σας συγχωρήσει και εσάς ο Θεός. Και εάν δεν συγχωρήσετε τους ανθρώπους, δεν θα σας συγχωρήσει και εσάς ο Θεός». Εδώ ακριβώς νηστεύουμε την κακία, την παλιανθρωπιά, την εχθρότητα. Βέβαια το Ευαγγέλιο μας βάζει δύσκολα. Είναι γεγονός. Αλλά έλα που ο άνθρωπος είναι φτιαγμένος για τα δύσκολα και οι ευκολίες μας χαλάνε. Το βλέπουμε άλλωστε σήμερα. Άνθρωπος ο οποίος συγχωρεί είναι του Θεού. Ό,τι και αν του έχουν κάνει, όταν συγχωρήσει, είναι με τον Χριστό. Και ο Χριστός μετά τι κάνει; Του συγχωρεί τα δικά του αμαρτήματα. Να ένας εύκολος τρόπος να πάμε στον Παράδεισο. Δεν είναι καθόλου εύκολος, αλλά είναι και εύκολος, άμα θέλουμε.

Δεύτερη νηστεία είναι η ανθρωπαρέσκεια. Οι άνθρωποι θέλουμε να αρέσουμε. Φοβούμαστε το όποιο κόστος. Για αυτό θέλουμε να αρέσουμε, ακόμα και στους βλάκες και στους οποιουσδήποτε. Και αυτό είναι κακό. Η φιλοδοξία είναι καλό καταρχάς, γιατί έφτιαξε τον άνθρωπο ο Θεός για τη δόξα Του. Να πάει στον ουράνιο Παράδεισο. Να ενδυθεί τη Θεία δόξα. Αλλά χάνοντας τον επίγειο Παράδεισο και γινόμενος έκπτωτος ο άνθρωπος, πήρε στραβό δρόμο. Και ζητάει τη δόξα εκεί που δεν υπάρχει. Και για αυτό μας προτείνει ο Χριστός να νηστεύουμε τη φιλοδοξία, να νηστεύουμε την ανθρωπαρέσκεια. Γιατί πολλοί, θέλοντας να είναι αρεστοί στους ανθρώπους, παραβαίνουν και τις εντολές του Θεού και τη συνείδηση τους, και στραπατσάρουν και την ύπαρξη τους.

Τρίτη νηστεία είναι των υλικών αγαθών. Χάνοντας τον Θεό ο άνθρωπος, αγκάλιασε τα υλικά αγαθά, αγκάλιασε τα ορατά, αφού έχασε τον Αόρατο. Και προσπάθησε και προσπαθεί από κει να βγάλει ότι ωραίο και καλό και υψηλό, για το οποίο τον έφτιαξε ο Θεός, και ανήκει στον Θεό και παίρνεται από τον Θεό για αυτό και η ειδωλολατρία είναι η μέγιστη πλάνη του ανθρώπου. Η ύλη είναι Θείο δώρο. Είναι σκαλοπάτι. Να τη χρησιμοποιούμε, να τη δώσουμε και στους άλλους, και να την έχουμε ως σκαλοπάτι για να ανεβούμε να φτάσουμε στον Πλάστη. Γιατί όλοι οι επίγειοι θησαυροί μπροστά στη ψυχή  μας, και μπροστά στον Αθάνατο Πλάστη, είναι ένα μηδενικό. Για αυτό και λέει και το Ευαγγέλιο: «Όπου είναι ο θησαυρός σας, εκεί είναι και η καρδιά σας». Τώρα την Αγία Σαρακοστή, ας προσπαθήσουμε να κάνουμε αυτές τις τρεις νηστείες και να έρθουμε πιο κοντά στον θησαυρό μας, στην αγάπη μας, που είναι ο Ιησούς Χριστός. Και τότε θα είναι καλύτερα.

ΠΗΓΗ.Π. Ανανίας Κουστένης Αρχιμανδρίτης απο το βιβλίο του Το Κύρυγμα της Κυριακής. Λευκωσία 2009.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann -On Fast and Liturgy



Notes in Liturgical Theology

The liturgical rules of the Orthodox Church prescribe that the Divine Liturgy is to be celebrated after Vespers on certain fast days. These days are: Thursday and Saturday of the Holy Week, the eves of Christmas and Theophany and the Feast of the Annunciation. Likewise the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is always celebrated after Vespers. If we bear in mind that our Typikon determines the time for Vespers according to the sun and not by the clock, then the prescribed time for these evening Liturgies should be approximately from two to five in the afternoon.

It is well known that these rubrics have become dead letter today, or rather they are preserved in form, but in such a way that the Liturgy is not transferred to the evening, but on the contrary, Vespers is served in the morning. This breach of rule should not be explained as a mere condescension of the Church to the "weakness of the flesh," as a desire to curtail the period of abstinence for the communicants, for we can observe this same practice where the rubrics are scrupulously respected and where no attempt is made to defer to human weakness. In this case, we are forced to deal with the belief, deeply rooted in contemporary ecclesiastical consciousness, that the Divine Liturgy must always be celebrated in the morning. Its vesperal celebration would appear to be an unheard of innovation to the overwhelming majority of Orthodox people, something much more unnatural and irregular than the well-established practice of serving Vespers in the morning and Matins in the evening.

It is obvious however, that in uniting the Liturgy with Vespers, the authors of the Typikon intended more than a purely formal connection between the two services. They meant a deliberate transfer of the Liturgy to the evening, a conscious change in the usual order of services. Again it is obvious that in not fulfilling the rule, or in fulfilling it only as a formality (i.e., in transferring Vespers to the morning) we commit a twofold infraction of the liturgical "typos"; we serve an evening service in the morning which besides being a "nominalization" of prayer, is a contradiction to the common sense, and moreover, we completely ignore the reasons which promoted the Church to order the celebration of the Liturgy on certain days in the evening and not in the morning. But perhaps if we investigate these reasons, we will see in them something more meaningful than a mere detail of rubrics, something forgotten yet essential for the comprehension of our liturgical tradition.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Η πνευματική εργασία που κάνετε να μην γίνεται αντιληπτή

Άγιος Πορφύριος
Ό,τι κάνει ο καλός εαυτός μας, να μην το παίρνει είδηση ο κακός «Μη γνώτω η αριστερά σου τι ποιεί η δεξιά σου». «Αριστερά» είναι ο αντίθετος εαυτός μας, που όταν το πάρει είδηση, θα τα χαλάσει όλα.

Ο αντίθετος είναι ο κακός εαυτός μας. Νέος είναι ο εν Χριστώ εαυτός μας, ενώ ο άλλος είναι ο παλαιός. Χρειάζεται τέχνη για να μην παίρνει είδηση ο παλαιός. Χρειάζεται τέχνη και κυρίως η Χάρις του Θεού.
Υπάρχουν μερικά μυστικά. Το Ευαγγέλιο μας προτρέπει πως πρέπει να προλαμβάνουμε ορισμένα πράγματα που μας δυσκολεύουν στον αγώνα μας.
Λ.χ. θέλετε να γευθείτε μια χαρά από τον Θεό. Ποιο είναι το μυστικό εδώ; Έστω ότι την πιστεύετε και τη ζητάτε τη χαρά και λέτε «δεν μπορεί παρά να μου τη δώσει ο Θεός». Εκείνος δεν την δίνει. Και αιτία είστε εσείς οι ίδιοι. Όχι ότι ο Θεός δεν θέλει να τη δώσει, αλλά το μυστικό είναι η δική σας απλότης και απαλότης.
Όταν λείπει η απλότης και λέτε: θα κάνω αυτό και ο Θεός θα μου δώσει αυτό που ζητώ, δεν γίνεται.

Απλά, απαλά θα κάνετε το καθετί. Δεν θα κάνετε τίποτα με σκοπιμότητα. Να μη λέτε, θα κάνω έτσι, για να έρθει αυτό το αποτέλεσμα, αλλά θα το κάνετε έτσι απαλά, χωρίς να το ξέρετε. Δηλαδή προσεύχεσθε απλά και δεν σκέφτεστε τι θα χαρίσει ο Θεός μες στην ψυχή σας. Δεν κάνετε υπολογισμούς. Να μην το συζητάτε αυτό με τον εαυτό σας. Όταν λέτε την ευχή, να τη λέτε απαλά, απλά και να μην σκέπτεσθαι τίποτε άλλο παρά μόνο την ευχή.
Η καρδιά σας να είναι απλή, όχι διπλή και ανειλικρινής, αγαθή και όχι πονηρή και ιδιοτελής. Την απλή και αγαθή ψυχή όλοι την επιζητούν, αναπαύονται σε κείνη, την πλησιάζουν χωρίς φόβο, χωρίς υποψία. Και η ίδια ζει με εσωτερική ειρήνη, έχει αγαθή σχέση μ’ όλους τους ανθρώπους και μ’ όλη την κτίση.
Ο αγαθός άνθρωπος δεν έχει πονηρούς λογισμούς, ελκύει την Χάρη του Θεού. Κυρίως η αγαθότητα και η απλότητα ελκύουν τη Χάρη του Θεού. Είναι προϋποθέσεις για να έρθει ο Θεός και «μονήν ευρήσει»
Στην Αγία Γραφή ο λόγος του Θεού μας λέει καθαρά για την απλότητα «αγαπήσατε δικαιοσύνην οι κρίνοντες την γην, φρονίσατε περί του Κυρίου εν αγαθότητι και εν απλότητι καρδίας ζητήσατε αυτών…» (Σοφ. Σολ. 1,1).
Απλότητα και αγαθότητα.
Αυτό είναι το παν, για ν’ αποκτήσετε την Θεία Χάρη. Πόσα μυστικά υπάρχουν στην Αγία Γραφή! «κακότεχνος ψυχή» είναι η κακοφτιαγμένη ψυχή, αυτή που κατασκευάζει το κακό. Ούτε εισέρχεται, ούτε κατοικεί η Θεία Σοφία σε μια τέτοια ψυχή. Όπου υπάρχει διαφθορά και δολιότητα, δεν εισέρχεται η Χάρη του Θεού.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Elder Ephraim of Arizona-On the beautiful road of love...

A letter of Elder Ephraim of Arizona

I pray that the All-good God will send down upon you the All-holy Spirit, as He did to His divinely sent holy Apostles, so that you may be enlightened to walk the arduous path of salvation. “Behold now, what is so good or joyous as for brethren to dwell together in unity with love?” (cf. Ps. 132:1 ). There is nothing more beautiful than for a synodia to be replete with godly love. Then, everything is radiant; everything is full of beauty, while God above delights, and the holy angelic spirits rejoice above where love is boundless. “Love one another, as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34,35). O love, whoever possesses you has a truly blessed heart, for within love, what could one possibly want and not find! Humility, joy, patience, goodness, compassion, forbearance, enlightenment, and so on, are all there. But in order to obtain this supremely wondrous love, we must constantly call upon the God of love to give it to us. When the name of God is remembered through the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, it contains within it eternal life, and eternal life is the God of love! Therefore, he who prays this prayer obtains true, godly love. So, onwards; behold the way and means of victoriously conquering love. Take courage and bravely proceed into the battle. Say the prayer constantly: orally and noetically. It is more beneficial to say it orally during the day, because at that time the nous is scattered by one’s work.
The beautiful road of love is effortless, and there is neither blemish nor stain in love, but rather the conscience testifies that the soul has boldness towards God. But when there is no love, the soul has no boldness in prayer, and as one defeated and cowardly, it cannot lift its head because it feels remorse for not having loved as God has loved it; it is a transgressor of the commandment of God. If we do not love our brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:20 ). He who has true love has God; whoever does not have love does not have God in himself. The Holy Fathers say, “If you have seen your brother, you have seen God; your salvation depends on your brother”. The holy monastic fathers of old walked the path of salvation effortlessly, because they sacrificed everything so that they would not fall away from love. Love was their goal in life. Our path, though, is completely strewn with thorns which sprouted because we lack love. And this is why when we walk, we constantly bleed. The foundations of the house shake when we do not lay the foundation of love well.
Compel yourself, my child, for the sake of your soul. Compel yourself to comfort the brethren, and the Lord will comfort you—He will give you His grace. Have patience, have patience. Let everyone treat you like dirt, and He will give you His grace. Great is he who has more humility. God gives grace to the person who has fear of God and obeys everyone like a small child and constantly seeks God’s holy will. Such a person never seeks that his own will be done, but the will of God and of the others. He always says, “As you wish, as you know best”. He does not give his own opinion because he considers himself lower than everyone. When they tell him to do something, he eagerly says, “May it be blessed”. So, my child, this is what you should do, too. This makes the demons tremble, flee far away, and not approach anymore. They are very afraid when they see humility, obedience, and love towards all.
My child, just do your duty. If the others do not obey, leave it to God and be at peace. It is due to the devil’s jealousy, my child. Will the devil go out perhaps to the mountains to create temptations? He goes wherever people are struggling for their salvation. And since we, too, are seeking our salvation, he jumbles us up without our realizing it. Carry the burden of the brethren. God rewards everyone justly. The time will come when you will see how much He will give you for the pains you went through to look after so many souls. Labor in this world; keep helping, and you will never be deprived of God’s help. Now you are sowing; the time will come for you to reap. Pray that God will make you strong in patience, discernment, enlightenment, etc. I am constantly praying for you, but I have no boldness before God, and thus my prayer bears no fruit. Just think what the Fathers went through to save others. It is no small matter; you are helping the others, which is why the devil will take it out on you and afflict you. So start showing patience and bravery, and say: “I am ready to die in the battle helping my brethren to be saved, but God will not let me perish, since I am doing it for the sake of His love”. Yes, do so, and you will see how much strength and joy you will receive in the struggle. For sometimes impatience, despair, and pessimism deprive a person of God’s grace, and then he wrongly attributes it to the burdens he is bearing. But courage, self-sacrifice, bravery, and faith in God bring the grace of God. I pray that God will invigorate your spiritual nerves to fight with renewed strength.
Abide in the bond of mutual love, for love is the beginning and the end—the foundation. It is on love towards God and your brothers that “all the law and the prophets hang” (cf. Mt. 22:40 ). Without love we are a clanging cymbal—a big zero. According to the Apostle Paul, even if we give our body to be burned for Christ and distribute our belongings to the poor and mortify our life with harsh ascesis for Christ, yet lack love, we have accomplished nothing (cf. 1 Cor. 13:3 ). Therefore, with all our strength we must see to it that we keep a strong hold on mutual love, so that our trivial works may be approved by Him Who examines the secret thoughts of our hearts.
You write, my child, about someone who kept grieving you, and you cursed him, etc. No, my child, do not curse anyone, no matter how much he has harmed you. Our Christ tells us to love our enemies, so how can we speak evil? Seek forgiveness from God, and henceforth love him as your brother, regardless of whether or not you agree with him. Didn’t Christ on the Cross forgive his crucifiers? Then how can we do otherwise? Yes, my child, we must love everyone, regardless of whether they love us or not—that is their business.
My child, always justify your brother and reproach yourself. Never justify your deeds. Learn to say, “Bless”—in other words, “Forgive me”—and humility will dwell within you. Have patience and overlook your brother’s faults, remembering God’s forbearance towards your own faults. Love as Jesus loves you and as you want others to love you. Hold on to silence, constant prayer, and self-reproach, and then you will see how much mourning and tears and joy you will feel. But if you fail to hold on to them, in other words, if you neglect to apply them, then coldness and dryness will replace the above graces. Love the brethren. Your love will show when, despite all your brother’s weaknesses, you count them as nothing and love him. Love will keep you from all sins. Think of nothing but your own sinfulness. Reproach yourself constantly—this is the best path.
I pray your soul is in good health, for when it is healthy, it has patience in afflictions, it has self-denial with the body and in its thoughts; and it fears neither illnesses nor selfish thoughts. When the soul is healthy, it has love within itself; it does not scandalize others; it endures a brother’s harsh words; it does not expose his faults in public; it always has something good to say about his brother; it gives way in quarrels and escapes having bitter thoughts and distress. When the soul is healthy, it does not get angry, complain, talk back, murmur, disobey; it does not follow its own whims, and it does so many other things indicative of spiritual health. This health is what I seek from you; this is what I advise; for this do I pray.

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