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There, in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must our mind dwell. We must hunger and thirst to enter into this wondrous Kingdom. Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex

Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex

ΠΑΡΑΔΕΙΣΟΣ-28e4ce05b288c28671889I first met with the notion of tragedy, not in life but in literature. The seeds of tragedy, it seemed to me in my youth, are sown when a man finds himself wholly captivated by some ideal. To attain this ideal he is ready to risk any sacrifice, any suffering, even life itself. But if he happens to achieve the object of his striving, it proves to be an impudent chimera: the reality does not correspond to what he had in mind. This sad discovery leads to profound despair, a wounded spirit, a monstrous death.

Different people have different ideals. There is the ambition for power, as with Boris Godounov. In pursuit of his aim he did not stop at bloodshed. Successful, he found that he had not got what he expected. ‘I have reached the height of power but my soul knows no happiness.’ Though the concerns of the spirit prompt a nobler quest, the genius in the realm of science or the arts sooner or later realises his inability to consummate his initial vision. Again, the logical denouement is death.

The tragedy of our times lies in our almost complete unawareness, or unmindfulness, that there are two kingdoms, the temporal and the eternal. We would build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, rejecting all idea of resurrection or eternity….

The fate of the world troubled me profoundly. Human life at whatever stage was unavoidably interlinked with suffering. Even love was full of contradictions and bitter crises. The seal of destruction lay everywhere.

I was still a young man when the tragedy of historical events far outdid anything that I had read in books. (I refer to the outbreak of the First World War, soon to be followed by the Revolution in Russia.)

My youthful hopes and dreams collapsed. But at the same time a new vision of the world and its meaning opened before me. Side by side with devastation I contemplated rebirth. I saw that there was no tragedy in God. Tragedy is to be found solely in the fortunes of the man whose gaze has not gone beyond the confines of this earth.

Christ Himself by no means typifies tragedy. Nor are His all-cosmic sufferings of a tragic nature. And the Christian who has received the gift of the love of Christ, for all his awareness that it is not yet complete, escapes the nightmare of all-consuming death.

Christ’s love, during the whole time that He abode with us here, was acute suffering. ‘O faithless and perverse generation,’ He cried. ‘How long shall I suffer you?’ (Matt. 17.17). He wept for Lazarus and his sisters (cf. John 11.35). He grieved over the hard-heartedness of the Jews who slew the prophets (cf. Matt. 23.37). In Gethsemane his soul was ‘exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ and ‘his sweat was as it were drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (Matt. 26.38; Luke 22.44). He lived the tragedy of all mankind; but in Himself there was no tragedy. This is obvious from the words He spoke to His disciples perhaps only a short while before His redemptive prayer for all mankind in the Garden: ‘My peace I give unto you’ (John 14.27).

And a little further on: ‘I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16.32, 33). This is how it is with the Christian: for all his deep compassion, his tears and prayers for the world, there is none of the despair that destroys. Aware of the breath of the Holy Spirit, he is assured of the inevitable victory of Light. The love of Christ, even in the most acute stress of suffering (which I would call the ‘hell of loving’), because it is eternal is free of passion.

Until we achieve supreme freedom from the passions on this earth suffering and pity may wear out the body but it will only be the body that dies. ‘Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul’ (Matt. 10.28).

We may say that even today mankind as a whole has not grown up to Christianity and continues to drag out an almost brutish existence. In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Saviour- whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext- we lose the light of life eternal. ‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17.24).

There, in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must our mind dwell. We must hunger and thirst to enter into this wondrous Kingdom. Then we shall overcome in ourselves the sin of refusing the Father’s love as revealed to us through the Son (cf. John 8.24). When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’.

From the book: Archimandrite Sophrony, His Life is mine, Chapter 4: The Tragedy of Man. London 1977, p. 37-40.

Then Adam sat and wept opposite
The delight of Paradise beating his eyes with his hands
And he said:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen….

I breathe the fragrance of your beauty and I melt as I recall
How I delighted there from the sweet scent
Of the flowers:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

Now I have learnt what I suffered, now I have understood what God
Said to me in Paradise, ‘In taking Eve
You steal away from me’:
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

Paradise, all virtue, all holiness, all happiness,
Planted because of Adam, shut because of Eve,
How shall I lament for you?
O Merciful, have mercy on the one who has fallen.

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We must learn to acquire the Divine peace and joy of the angels and saints, for the Kingdom of Heaven is acquired while we are still in this life. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

ΕΙΡΗΝΗ Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς_Jesus-Christ_Иисус-Христос-Byzantine Orthodox Icon-Ιησούς Χριστός Άρχων Ειρήνης - CopyHave we prepared for the Heavenly Kingdom, for our true homeland? Only the meek and those with pure hearts will enter it. Have we taken care to cleanse our heart while in this life, the heart that gives us such a hard time in this life? Have we said to ourselves, “Heart, you have caused me enough pain; humble yourself and be a patient, long suffering heart!

The Lord has said that we save our souls by patient long-suffering. We know that many misfortunes and sorrows come upon both the pious and the impious, both the righteous and the sinful. We all receive our share of misfortunes––this is a means of learning to accept everything in peace. On our own we have no strength, but God has strength. It is to Him that we must turn, deep down in our heart, and He will give us the strength to overcome all difficulties, for it is very important to rise above all those little things that take away our inner peace. We rarely pay any attention to this but allow the injustice that we come across everywhere in our lives to shatter our inner peace. Often we are the ones who do injustice to others. It may seem to us at the time that we are doing the right thing, but later it turns out that we were very wrong. We must learn to overcome all these little things with peace, united with the Lord, so that disquiet will not enter us from the outside, and so that we will always have our inner peace.

God is at the center of every persons life. He is in our heart whether we accept Him or not. He never separates Himself from us because He is the Giver of life Who gives life to every created being. We have buried Him with our worries and worldly cares, which destroy the peace within us, and that is why we have no peace or rest. No one on earth can give us unshakable inner peace. Money cannot give us peace, neither can fame, honor, a high-ranking position, nor even our closest friends and family. The only Giver of peace and life is the Lord. He gives peace, stillness, and joy to the angels and the saints, to us and to every created thing. Therefore we must repent and turn to the Lord.

We must live through many misfortunes and sorrows in order to learn how to rise above all these problems that disturb our inner peace. We must learn to acquire the Divine peace and joy of the angels and saints, for the Kingdom of Heaven is acquired while we are still in this life.

Reference: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, pp163 – 170


The Cracked Pot. He will not break a bruised reed (Matthew 12: 20, Isaiah 42:3)

Ιησούς Χριστός_Jesus-Christ_Господне Иисус-Христос-Byzantine Orthodox Icon_xristoss3The Cracked Pot

He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; ( Matthew 12: 20, Isaiah 42:3 )

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her shoulders behind her neck. She carried them daily to a small stream about 2 miles from her home. One of the pots was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water, but the other pot had a crack in it. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

Daily for two years this went on, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the cracked pot ashamed of its own imperfection was miserable that it could only do half the job the perfect pot did.

After two years of what it perceived as bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I’m ashamed of myself, because of this crack in my side, water leaks out all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path? There aren’t any growing on the other side of the path. Do you know why?” She continued, ”I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be the beauty of these flowers to grace the home everyday.” (an old Chinese proverb, author unknown–with edits by Streim)άνθη_spring-flowers-wallpaper-7Each of us has our own unique flaw.  But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. We just have to take each person for who they are and look for the good in them.

In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord was speaking to Samuel about David’s youth and small stature.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We would all do well to listen with “ears that hear” to our Almighty God’s words.
Show the world your love for the Lord Jesus Christ by never judging, but always accepting the imperfections of others, for there is none among us who is perfect!
Romans 3: 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;”

Abba Ammonas says: Love never hates anyone, never reproves anyone, never condemns anyone, never grieves anyone, never abhors anyone, neither faithful nor infidel nor stranger nor sinner nor fornicator, nor anyone impure, but instead it is precisely sinners, and weak and negligent souls that it loves more, and feels pain for them and grieves and laments, and it feels sympathy for the wicked and sinners, more than for the good, imitating Christ Who called sinners, and ate and drank with them. For this reason, showing what real love is, He taught saying, `Become good and merciful like your Father in Heaven,’ and as He rains on bad and good and makes the sun to rise on just and unjust alike, so also is the one who has real love, and has compassion, and prays for all.

The old men used to say, “there is nothing worse than passing judgement.”

Only God knows what is in the heart of the other. As Jesus told the Pharisees: “God knows your hearts.” (Lk 16: 15).

St. Paisios the New of Mount Athos says: Inasmuch as the Good God treats us with love and kindness and invites us to Paradise, so must we not treat our fellow men barbarously, setting our conscience at rest with the thought that we send souls to Paradise with our cruel ways.
Whoever behaves in a barbaric way, ostensibly to benefit souls spiritually, is worse than Diocletian, for Diocletian was an idolater and not a Christian.
Those who have much discernment, have noble love and humility as well.They even sweeten bitter truth with their kindness and express it with much simplicity. They help more positively than do sweet words, just as bitter medicine is more beneficial than sweet syrups.

fr. Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh says: In his Epistle to the Romans (15:1-7) St. Paul calls all Christians to be the strength and the support of those who are weak… we must remember another saying of St. Paul; he too felt that he was weak, that he did not possess all the strength he needed to fulfil his apostolate, and he prayed the Lord to give him strength. The Lord answered him and said: My strength makes itself manifest in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). And St. Paul, having understood what that meant, exclaims: So I shall glory in nothing but my weakness, because then all will be an act of God. Make people around us see how great they are, how important they are to God. Each of us means so much to God that He gave His Only-begotten Son for our salvation: all His Life, His Passion and His Death. This is what so few realise ” that they are infinitely precious, with the infinity of God. 

There is no way of discovering who and what God is unless we discover holiness and beauty in us. A Russian preacher said once “When God looks at us He does not see the virtues or the achievements which are not there; He sees the eternal beauty which He has implanted in each of us.” … all things are possible in the Spirit of God that upholds us. How much we need one another, how difficult we are to live with, how essential it is for us to be one another’s support. 

Let us be as merciful as we can to one another, as humbly, as reverently as we can. Many of us are even too weak to move, many of us are like the lost sheep who can only expend all his strength, all his energy, and hope that the great Good Master will come and find him and carry him in His arms. Let us be careful, let us be attentive to those who are weak and cannot move. Let us be merciful and learn to be humble, and then we will be Christ’s Church; not if we imagine that we are great, that we are the elect, that we are God’s people, the chosen ones. Yes, chosen as everyone else, elected for a mission and for a function, not for an honour. Let us learn to love one another humbly, to serve one another faithfully, and then we may arrow into that measure of glory indeed which is the Church.Κελλι αγιου Γεωργιου Καρτσωναιων_142620.b178-600x383


Whoever gives to his brothers whatever they need, truly places it in the hands of Christ. Saint Niphon Bishop of Constantiane

On almsgiving
Saint Niphon Bishop of Constantiane

”One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD” (Proverbs 19:17)

Ο ζητιάνος-The Beggar Нищий уйгур-Исаак_Аскназий_Нищий_в_церквиOnce when I was travelling with the saint through the town square, I saw before me a man who was mumbling something. Many poor people were following him asking him for help. And pretending to chase them away, he would put his alms in their hand. Thus he hid his virtue from the people. As soon as I noticed this, I nudged the saint and told him about this man’s virtue. And he said to me: “He is great in the eyes of God I know him, because we have been together several times.”

After a few days, I asked him about this virtue, and he related a strange wonder. “I was then,” he told me, “a young child about 12 years old, and I had gone to the church of the Apostle Thomas to pray. There I found an elder teaching the people. Among other things, he talked also about almsgiving. He said that when one gives something to the poor, it is like placing it in the hands of the Lord. When I heard this, I was surprised, and I criticized the man of God as a liar. Because I said to myself: Since the Lord is in heaven on the right of the Father, how can He be on earth to take what we give to the poor?”

“But, as I was walking and reflecting on what I heard I saw, by coincidence, a ragged beggar, and over his head – what a miracle! – stood the figure of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“As the beggar was progressing, a charitable person met him and gave him a piece of bread Then, as soon as that charitable one stretched out his hand toward that beggar, the Lord also stretched out His hand, took the bread and thanked him. Then He gave it to the beggar. However, neither he nor his benefactor were aware of anything.”

“I marveled and I believed. From then on I knew that whoever gives to his brothers whatever they need, truly places it in the hands of Christ. I see this image of Christ standing over all the poor, and filled with awe, whenever possible, I practice the virtue of charity which pleases the Lord so much.”

 


O my brethren, we cannot whisper anything here to the earth that the heavens are not going to hear. St. Nikolai Velimirovic

HOMILY
St. Nikolai Velimirovic
About how death and life depend on the tongue

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

Ερημίτης_Hermit_отшельник- еремит__935190359834536_74913142291381533_nDid not our Lord Himself confirm this when He said that for every empty word men will give an answer before the Dread Judgment? Didn’t He explicitly say: “But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the Day of Judgment. For by your words, you shall be justified and by your words, you shall be condemned” (St. Matthew 12: 36-37). Whoever is justified will receive life. Whoever is condemned will receive death. Therefore, do you see how life and death are in the power of the tongue? The Apostle James says: “For in many things we all offend. If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridle the whole body” (St. James 3:2).

Truly, great is the unexplored mystery of the word and the influence of the word cannot be measured nor estimated. Today the word of men can be carried by artificial instruments from one end of our planet to the other. A word spoken by the tongue in America can be heard by the ear in Europe. Is not this a picture of the All-hearing God?

O my brethren, we cannot whisper anything here to the earth that the heavens are not going to hear. Our every word comes before the assembly of the angels of God. Hades receives our every evil word and retains it as a guarantee of our eternal death and Paradise receives every good word and retains it as a guarantee of our eternal life. Truly, does the Old Testament sage wisely speaks and promptly reminds us with the words that: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

O Lord our Savior, eternal Word of God, help us to bridle our tongue so that it does not speak to our destruction. Help us to speak with the tongue only that which is according to Your holy will and that which is for our eternal salvation in the life eternal.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.com/2010/04/prologue-june-16-june-29.html

 

 


Saint Mary of Egypt, Each of us should become one, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a son and a daughter of the Living God! Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh

Μαρία Αιγυπτία_Saint Mary of Egypt Icon _святая Мария Египтяныня__333Fifth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent:
Saint Mary the Egyptian

SAINT MARY OF EGYPT
Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh
16 April 1989

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

We keep today the memory of Saint Mary of Egypt in the gradual progression from glory to glory which Lent is, and which must lead us step by step to facing the supreme glory of the Divine Love crucified, the sacrificial love of the Holy Trinity.

Saint Mary of Egypt was a sinner, someone whose sin was known to everyone and not to God alone; perhaps she was the only one who was least of all aware of it because sin was her life. And yet, one day, she wanted to go and venerate an icon of the Mother of God in a church. The supreme beauty of womanhood in the Mother of God reached her heart, touched it. But when she came to the gate of this church, a power prevented her from crossing the threshold. The Publican had been able to stand there because his heart was broken; Mary of Egypt had no broken heart, and the entrance of the church was forbidden to her. And she stood there, aware that what she was, was incompatible with the holiness of the Presence, the presence of God, the presence of the Mother of God, the presence of all that is holy on earth and in heaven.

And she was so profoundly shaken by this experience that she left all that had been her life, retired into the desert, and with a life which the service books define as ‘extreme’, fought to conquer her flesh, her soul, her memories – everything that was sin, but also everything that could lead her away from God. And we know how glorious her life was, the kind of person she became.

What lesson can we receive from her life? How often is it that we have knocked at the door of God in the way in which Mary tried to come into His presence? How often have we tried to pray, to be in His presence in silence? How often has our longing been to God, and how often have we felt that between our prayer and Him, between our silence and Him, between our longing and Him there was a barrier which we could not pass. We were crying, praying into an empty sky, we were turning towards icons that were silent; all we could perceive was the Divine absence, and an absence so frightening, because not only could we not reach Him, but we perceived that unless we reached Him, our soul was laid waste, there was within us nothing but emptiness, an emptiness that if it continued, if it became our definitive condition would mean more than death – ultimate separation.

Μαρία η Αιγυπτία -Παναγια Εγγυητρια-Мария ЕгиптяныняBut how often also has God knocked at the door of our heart. You remember the word of the Book of Revelation: I stand at Thy door and I knock… How often has God, in the words of the Gospel, in the events of our life, in the weak promptings of our soul, in a whispering of the Holy Spirit, in all the ways in which God tries to reach us – how often has He knocked at this door, and how often have we made sure that this door does not open. Either didn’t we simply care to open it because we were busy with things that mattered to us at that moment more than His interrupting, disturbing presence; and how often did we refuse to open the door because the coming of the Lord to us would have meant the end of things which were precious to us, which mattered to us… And the Lord stood knocking, and the door was shut in His face: exactly in the same way in which every door was shut in the face of the Mother of God and Joseph on the night of the Nativity.

We may not be aware of it with the intensity which should be ours; and yet for each of us, simply, the proof of it is that we are here, and millions of other people at some moment have suddenly perceived the presence of God, have heard His knocking, have let perhaps the door ajar, have listened to what He was saying, had a moment of elation, a moment when suddenly we came to life, and then we shut the door again. We chose our aloneness, we chose to be without Him, and what we imagined to be ‘free’ from Him: we are never free; we are never free not because He enslaves us, not because He hunts us down. We are never free because He is ultimately in the end the only supreme longing of our whole being, because He is the fullness of life, the glory of life, the exultation of life for which we long and which we try to glean right, and left in vain.

Mary of Egypt confronted with the Divine absence, with God’s refusal to allow her into His presence, confronted with a shut door within herself felt that unless the door opened, everything was vain. And she turned away from everything that stood between her and God, and life, and fullness, and exultation.

Isn’t she for us an example, a call, an image of what could be the life of each of us? But we may say, Yes, this applied to her, she was a prospective saint… Each of us is called to commune with God in such a way, that God and each of us should become one, that each of us should become partaker of the Divine nature, a living member, a brother, a sister, a limb of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a son and a daughter of the Living God! This is our vocation; but can that be achieved by our own strength? No, it cannot! But it can be achieved by God in us if we only turn to Him with all our mind, all our heart, all our longing, determinably, yes: it is determination, and it is longing, a passionate, desperate longing… And then – and then all things become possible. I have said so often that when Saint Paul asked God for strength to fulfil his mission, the Lord said to him, My grace suffitheth unto thee, My power deploys itself in weakness… And at the end of his life, having fulfilled his vocation, Paul, who knew what he was saying, said, all things are possible unto me in the power of Christ Who sustains me… All things are possible, because God does not call us to more than can be achieved by Him with us and in us.

How much hope, how much inspiration can we find in each of the Saints of God, as frail as we are, and in whom the power, the glory, the victory, the life unfolded itself, deployed itself gloriously.

Let us once more receive inspiration from what we hear, receive inspiration from what we meet face to face in the Gospel, in Holy Communion, in prayer, in the silence in the presence of God. And let us move one step more forward towards the vision of the love of God made manifest in Holy Week, in the last steps of the way of the Cross, in the final victory of crucified Love, and in the victory of the Resurrection of God. Amen.

http://www.mitras.ru/eng/eng_32.htm

Troparion St Mary of Egypt— Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother, For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away; But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.

Sunday of St Mary of Egypt
Anthony Bloom Metropolitan of Sourozh
On the way to the Day of Resurrection clean ourselves to be prepared to enter the House of God and not to be consumed by Divine Fire

 


There’s no greater sight than that of modesty and purity in the faces of young people today! Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

Αγία Σκέπη της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου -Покров Пресвятой Богородицы-ikona_pokrov_e30a78e7a5203684c977Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
Saint John the Baptist cared about this honest woman and led her to his Chapel which she never knew it existed!

‘Theotokos and Virgin, you are the fortress for virgins and for all who run to you for refuge”

A few female students came to see me today and told me, “Geronda, pray so that we may pass our exams.” I said, “I will pray that you pass your purity exams. This is the most important thing. Everything else falls into place after that.” It was the right thing to say, wasn’t’ it? There’s no greater sight than that of modesty and purity in the faces of young people today! No greater sight!

Some traumatized young women come to see me. They live unruly lives with young men and they don’t realize that these men do not have good intentions and, of course, they end up getting hurt. “What must I do, Fa­ther?” they ask. “The tavern owner,” I replied, “may have the drunkard as a friend, but he will never accept him as his son-in-law. Stop having relations. If the man really loves you, he will appreciate it; if he leaves you, you will know that he doesn’t love you and this way you will not be wasting your time.”

The cunning devil takes advantage of young people, who, on top of everything else, have to deal with the re­bellion of their flesh, and he tries to destroy them during this difficult period of their life, when the mind is not yet mature, the experience is missing and their spiritual reserves are almost non-existent. This is why, during this critical period, young people must always seek the advice of their elders, so that they may not slip down the sweet secular slope, which will only fill their soul with anxiety and separate it eternally from God…

***

It is better for a young man or a young woman to bear this heavy cross and risk being considered a fool by the opposite sex for his or her spiritual prudence and innocence. This heavy cross hides all the power and wisdom of God, making a young man stronger than Sampson (5) and wiser than Solomon (6). Better, then, that he walk down the street praying rather than looking left and right, even if relatives may misunderstand him and think that he snubbed them by not speaking with them.
Otherwise, if he walks looking around with curiosity, he may get in trouble or get misunderstood by lay people who always harbour suspicious thoughts. It’s a thousand times better to leave Church right away, after Liturgy, like a lone animal, and keep his spiritual good sense and whatever he learned intact, rather than stay around and stare at fancy furs or ties, and become spiritually agitated as the enemy starts scratching at his heart.

It is true, unfortunately, that there is so much filth in this world that no matter what path the soul that desires purity may follow, it will get soiled. The difference is that God will not make the same demands on a Christian who wishes to remain pure today that He made in the past…

***

Christ does not require big things from us to help us in our struggle. He expects very little, a tiny bit. A young man was telling me that he went to Patmos (9) to worship and fell into temptation’s trap. A female tourist jumped on him and hugged him while he was walking. He pushed her away saying, “My Christ I have come for worship not for love” and he went away. That same night in his hotel room, during prayer, he saw Christ immersed in Uncreated Light. Do you see the reward he received for that one push? Others strive for years in the ascetic life and may never be blessed with something like that. And he saw Jesus Christ only because he resisted temp­tation.
And this experience, naturally, made him stronger spiritually. Later on, he saw Saint Marcella, Saint Rap­hael, and Saint George more than once. One day, he came and told me “Father, say a prayer for me so that I may see Saint George again and be consoled. I cannot find any consolation in this world!” And then you see where other young people end up…

In the old days, young women would sacrifice every­thing to keep their chastity! I remember, during the war against Italy, they had drafted some villagers and their animals, and they got trapped on a hill by heavy snowfall. The men gathered under the snow, covered spruce trees and made some shelters using spruce branches to protect themselves. The women were forced to seek protection from their fellow villagers, people they knew.

Two of them, one young, one elderly, from a faraway village, had to enter one of these shelters. Now, unfortunately, there are those faithless cowards for whom even a war will not make a difference. They have no feelings whatsoever for their fellow human being, who may die or get injured; if they get the chance, they will do their best to sin, because they are afraid that they may get killed and try to use all the time they have to have fun. When in danger, people should repent.

One of these men, who had sin rather than repentance in his mind, was harassing the young woman so much that she was forced to leave the group. She preferred to freeze to death from the cold rather than lose her chastity. When the elderly woman saw that her young companion had left the shelter, she followed her tracks and found her, thirty minutes away, under a small shed, in a Chap­el dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner.

You see how Saint John the Baptist cared about this honest woman and led her to his Chapel which she never knew it existed! And guess what else the Saint did! He appeared to a soldier (10) in his sleep and told him to go to his Chapel as soon as possible.

So the soldier got up in the middle of the snow-lit night and headed to the Chapel; he had a rough idea where it was. When he got there, he saw the two women stuck in the snow up to their knees, blue in the face and frozen from the cold. He immediately opened the Chapel and they all entered and felt better. The soldier had noth­ing else to offer them, besides a scarf for the old lady and a pair of gloves which he told them to share, so that they could warm first one hand and then the other.

 They then told him about the temptation they had confronted. “Why,” the soldier asked the young woman, “did you decide to leave in the middle of the night, with all this snow and head to an unknown place?” And she replied, “I did all that I could do for my part, and I was convinced that Christ would take care of the rest.” Feeling their pain and trying to console them, the soldier said spon­taneously, “Your troubles are over, tomorrow you will be home.” These words made them happy and they felt even warmer. Sure enough, the Battalion of Mountain Transports opened the road and, in the morning, military trucks came, and the poor women were taken home.

It is Greek women like them, vested in divine Grace – rather than stripped of clothes and divine Grace alike – who de­serve our praise and admiration. Later, that beast – may God forgive me for this word – told the Commander that a certain soldier had broken the Chapel’s door and put mules inside! The Commander replied, “I don’t believe the man you accuse would do such a thing.” In the end, he was sent to prison.

(5) Cf.Jdg l5:14 mf.
(6) Cf. I Kg 3: 9-12 (LXX: III Kg 3: 9-12).
(9) Patmos is a Greek island in the Aegean, in the NW Dodecanese. Saint John the Theologian wrote the Apocalypse there, during his exile (95 A.D.).
(10) This soldier was in fact Elder Paisios himself. The incident took place during the Guerilla War when the Elder was doing his military service.
(Saint Paisios of Mount Athos : Spiritual Counsels With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man”, Part 3, Chapter 3, p. 258-283, Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian”, Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece 2006)Γεώργιος ο Τροπαιοφόρος _Saint George the Trophy-bearer_ Святой Георгий Победоносец_წმინდა გიორგი გმირავს_Παναγια535400You are a fortress protecting all virgins, O Theotokos and Virgin; for the Master of heaven and earth prepared you, O Immaculate One, and dwelt in your womb, and taught all to cry out to you:
Rejoice, Pillar of virginity. Rejoice, Gate of salvation.
Rejoice, Leader of spiritual restoration. Rejoice, Bestower of divine goodness.
Rejoice, for you regenerated those conceived in shame. Rejoice, for you gave guidance to the thoughtless.
Rejoice, you who abolished the corrupter of hearts. Rejoice, you who gave birth to the Sower of chastity.
Rejoice, bridal Chamber of a seedless marriage. Rejoice, you who joined the faithful to the Lord.
Rejoice, fair Nursing-mother of virgins. Rejoice, bridal Escort of holy souls.
Rejoice, O Bride Ever-Virgin.

As a brilliant beacon-light shining to those in darkness do we behold the holy Virgin; for she kindles the celestial Light and leads all to divine knowledge; she illuminates our minds with radiance and is honoured by these our cries:
Rejoice, Ray of the spiritual Sun. Rejoice, Beam of the innermost Splendour.
Rejoice, Lightning, enlightening our souls. Rejoice, Thunder, striking down the enemy.
Rejoice, for you caused the many-starred Light to dawn. Rejoice, for you caused the ever-flowing River to gush forth.
Rejoice, you who depicts the image of the Font of Siloam. Rejoice, you who washes away the stain of sin.
Rejoice, Laver purifying conscience. Rejoice, Wine-bowl over-filled with joy.
Rejoice, sweet-scented Fragrance of Christ. Rejoice, Life of mystic festival.
Rejoice, O Bride Ever-Virgin