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Why are there no longer spiritual fathers? Fr. Rafail Noica

Fr. Rafail responds to one of the questions posed by St. Silouan, ‘why are there no longer spiritual fathers?’ He also talks about the Mystery of Confession and the relationship with the spiritual father in the Orthodox spiritual life.

Fr. Rafail: “Saint Silouan answered such a question saying: ‘because there are no longer good obedients…’ The good apprentice, the good obedient, is the man whose mind leans toward God and who seeks a response from God, not from people and who may turn to man because we can’t even reach God as Cain did… But when you turn to man, you must go with your attention towards God, with Whom you must have talked before then, praying that the man – your spiritual father – would give you the word. Take care of your inner self and, as Father Sophrony says, take hold of – seize, I’d say – the first word…”

Fr Sophrony Sakharov quoting from St. John Climacus establishes the connection between spiritual fatherhood and Christ Himself in his book ‘On Prayer’, p.89

“..spiritual fatherhood is linked with the mystery of the word of God, which is begotten in the heart of man through prayer Spiritual fathers are those who, in the fear of God, remain unwavering in the pre-eternal current of the will of God, and who are vouchsafed to hear the still small voice of Christ(I Kings 19:12), and to obey it with humility and discernment, overcoming their own psychological inclination,.”. Fr. Zacharias Zacharou, ‘The Enlargement of the Heart’ p.164, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2006. 

Άγιος Γέροντας Ιάκωβος της Εύβοιας_St. elder Iakovos of Evia_Старец Иаков (Тсаликис) Эвбейский -πολυχρονιας7“A spiritual father bears in himself the blessedness flowing from the knowledge of Christ way, and he thus becomes the means of leading the life of men out of the hell they have created, by the negative effect of their passions, and into pure Christian life and spiritual freedom.He is constrained by only one thought; how the person can be healed. ( Father Sophrony used to say that when the spiritual father prays for his children, as soon as he pronounces their names, he feels in his heart their state, weather they are in a good state or in a bad state, in comfort or in despair). The father confessor offers this sacred service on behalf of the little ones, the unfortunate ones who are themselves completely indifferent. He does not plot against their freedom, but instead considers exclusively his future reward. (That is to say, he must remain selfless, only consider God’s reward, and not expect to be rewarded by anyone or anything in this world).The spiritual father is the image of the ‘Good Shepherd’ who has greater love, and lays down his life for his sheep. John 10:11″ ibid p.174-175. “He offers repentance for himself and for all the sins of those whom God has entrusted to him”. ibid p.177.

But if Christ is to send such a father, he is to be sought in fervent prayer and in a spirit of repentance. Symeon (The New Theologian) told a Christian; ‘humble yourself and say, O Lord, You do not desire the death of the sinner but that he be converted and live. You descended to earth precisely to resurrect the ones who have fallen and are dead in consequence of their sin. You enable them to see You, the true light, as far as this is possible to man. Send me a man who knows You, that by entirely submitting myself to his service as to Yours and by fulfilling Your will by doing his, I may please You, the only God, and be awarded Your kingdom, even, I a sinner’. A certain identification is made here between Christ and the spiritual father, but it is always Christ, the one true God, who remains the real father”. Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, ‘In The Light of Christ’ p. 92-93, SVS Press,1986

Bishop Kallistos Ware

The spiritual father or Elder is essentially a “charismatic” and prophetic personality, who has undertaken that ministry with the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. No human hand ordinates him, only the hand of God. It is the Church’s expression of an “event” and not the Church’s expression of an institution. Nevertheless, there exists no dividing line between the prophetic and the institutional elements in the life of the Church; each develops within the other and is entwined with it. Thus, the ministry that the Elders provide – which is charismatic per se – is linked to a clearly defined function within the institutional framework of the Church, which is that of a Priest-Confessor… Although the mystery of Confession is definitely a suitable opportunity for spiritual guidance, the function of an Elder does not relate to that of a confessor. An Elder provides guidance, not only during a person’s confession, but also in many other cases. It is a fact, that while a confessor must always be a Priest, an Elder can be an ordinary Monk…

But, if an Elder is not ordained, nor instated by an act of the official hierarchy, how does he reach the stage of undertaking such a ministry?… Within the continuing life of the Christian community, it becomes apparent to the faithful people of God – the true guardians of Sacred Tradition – that this or that person has the gift of spiritual paternity or maternity. Then, with a free and unofficial manner, people begin to approach those persons for counsel or guidance.» (“The Kingdom Within”, Akritas publications, Athens 1004, p.117-119)

According to Bishop Kallistos Ware: «In reality, the relationship is not bilateral, but triangular, because beyond the Elder and his spiritual child there is a third party: God. Our Lord tells us that we should not call anyone “father”, because we have only one father – the one in heaven (Matth.23:9). The Elder is not some kind of infallible judge or appellate, but a co-servant of the living God; he is not a dictator, but a guide and companion on the journey. The only true “spiritual guide” – in every sense of the word – is the Holy Spirit» (The Kingdom Within, p. 139).

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St. James, Brother of the Lord prayed with tears and sighs for the whole world.

St. Iakovos (James) Adelphotheos (the Brother of God), and First Bishop of Jerusalem (62 AD)

Commemorated October 23

God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. . (James,4: 6)
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. . (James,4:10)
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job. (James,5:11)
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James,1:12)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. . (James,1:17)

The Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord
by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič

Ιάκωβος Αδελφόθεος_St James_Adelphotheos-Brother_of the Lord_Св. Ап.Иа́ков брат Господень_ 0_139c96_27James is called the Lord’s brother because he was the son of the righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the Most-holy Theotokos. When the righteous Joseph was near death, he divided his estate among his sons, and wanted to leave a portion to the Lord Jesus, the son of the Most-holy Virgin, but all the other brothers opposed this, not regarding Jesus as their brother. James greatly loved Jesus and declared that he would include Jesus in his share. That is why he is called the Lord’s brother. From the beginning, James was devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he traveled to Egypt with the Most-holy Virgin and Joseph, when Herod sought to slay the newborn King. Later, as soon as he heard Christ’s teaching, James lived by it. It is said of him that he never ate fat or oil, but lived on just bread and water, and was a virgin to the end of his life on earth. He often kept vigil at night and prayed to God. The Lord numbered him among His Seventy Apostles. Following His glorious Resurrection, the Lord appeared to him especially, as the Apostle Paul testifies (I Corinthians 15:7). He was Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty years and zealously governed the Church of God. At the instruction of the Lord, James compiled the first Liturgy, which seemed very long for later Christians, and St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom shortened it. He converted many Jews and Greeks to the Christian Faith, and even the unbelieving Jews were amazed at his righteousness, referring to him as “James the Just.” When Ananias became High Priest, he and other Jewish elders determined to kill James for being a preacher of Christ. Once, during the feast of Passover, when many people had gathered in Jerusalem, the elders forced James to climb onto the roof of the Temple, and tried to make him speak against Christ. He climbed up and spoke to the people of Christ as the Son of God and the true Messiah, of His Resurrection and His eternal glory in the heavens. The infuriated priests and elders pushed him off the roof; he fell and was severely injured, but was still alive. Then, one man ran up and struck him on the head with a fuller’s club with such force that his brains spilled out. Thus, this most glorious apostle of Christ died a martyr’s death, and went to live eternally in the Kingdom of his Lord. James was sixty-six years old when he suffered for Christ.

***

St. James fed only on bread and that not to satisfaction. He slept very little, and spent his nights in prayer. He knelt so much in prayer that the skin on his knees became as hard as the skin on the knees of a camel. This brother of the Lord prayed with tears and sighs not only for the Church, which he governed, but also for the whole world. Even when he was pushed from the temple roof by the malicious Jews, and thus was completely broken, the holy apostle never forgot his debt to God and to men. Gathering his last strength, he raised himself to his knees, stretched forth his hands toward heaven and fervently prayed to God saying: “Lord, forgive them this sin, for they know not what they are doing.” While he was praying thus, wicked men struck him with stones from all sides. Seeing this, one of the sons of Rechab cried out: “Stop! What are you doing? The righteous one is praying to God for you, and you are killing him!” However, that shout of a compassionate soul could not deter the murderers, accustomed to evildoing, from killing the saint of God. So it was that the apostles did not rely on grace alone, but also put forth nearly superhuman effort to show themselves worthy of God’s grace.

The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič for Old Calendar date October 23, and New Calendar date November 5.
http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.gr/2010/04/prologue-october-23-november-5.html

St. Isaac of Syria

As a grain of sand weighed against a large amount of gold, so, in God, is the demand for equitable justice weighed against his compassion. As a handful of sand in the boundless ocean, so are the sins of the flesh in comparison with God’s providence and mercy. As a copious spring could not be stopped up with a handful of dust, so the Creator’s compassion cannot be conquered by the wickedness of creatures.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Ιάκωβος Αδελφόθεος_St James_Adelphotheos-Brother_of the Lord_Св. Ап.Иа́ков брат Господень_James_the_Just_230Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty.

Every one of us is in the image of God, and every one of us is like a damaged icon. But if we were given an icon damaged by time, damaged by circumstances, or desecrated by human hatred, we would treat it with reverence, with tenderness, with broken-heartedness. We would not pay attention primarily to the fact that it is damaged, but to the tragedy of its being damaged. We would concentrate on what is left of its beauty, and not on what is lost of its beauty. And this is what we must learn to do with regard to each person as an individual, but also – and this is not always as easy – with regard to groups of people, whether it be a parish or a denomination, or a nation. We must learn to look, and look until we have seen the underlying beauty of this group of people. Only then can we even begin to do something to call out all the beauty that is there. Listen to other people, and whenever you discern something which sounds true, which is a revelation of harmony and beauty, emphasize it and help it to flower. Strengthen it and encourage it to live.

Apolytikion St. James the Just , Adelphotheos in the Fourth Tone

As the Lord’s disciple, O righteous One, you received the Gospel, as Martyr, you have unwavering courage, as the Lord’s brother, you have forthrightness, as Hierarch, intercession. Intercede with Christ our God, that our souls may be saved.

 


St. Marina of Raithu (El Tor) and the Burning pilgrims and hermits in Sinai

St. Marina of Raithu (El Tor) in Sinai

Commemorated on October 21
and The Wednesday after Pascha: feast day of All Saints of Mount Sinai

Σιναΐτες Άγιοι_All Saints of Mount Sinai_Святые отцы Синайской горы_σιναιτεσ sinaxi_sinaiton_pateron Ten years ago a certain two of the fathers of Holy Mount Sinai went up to worship on the Holy Summit. One of them is still alive. When they arrived at a distance of about two bow-shot from [the chapel of] Saint Elias they smelled a fragrance unlike any worldly fragrance. Then the disciple thought that the one who dwelt there was offering incense. The elder, his spiritual guide who is still living said, “The fragrance is not of this earth.”

Therefore, approaching the church, behold they saw within it like a fiery flaming kiln with tongues of fire coming from all the doors (and windows). Then, seeing this the disciple feared the sight. But the elder reassured him saying, “Why are you afraid, my child. It is an angelic power and our fellow servant; don’t lose courage. They venerate our nature in heaven; not we theirs.” Thus they fearlessly entered the church as if (going) into a kiln. They prayed and thus they ascended to the summit in the morning.

Beholding them, the guardian (of the peak) saw their faces glorified and shining like the face of Moses and he said to them, “Did you see anything unusual coming up?” Wanting to conceal the matter, they said, “No”. Then he said to them, Believe me, you saw some vision for behold your faces are radiant with the glory of the Holy Spirit.” They bowed to him and related the matter, asking that he tell nobody.

Another time, there being a great lack of rain in the wilderness, all the wild goats gathered together in a flock and went about all the region of Arselaou seeking water and finding none, for it was August. As all the goats were about to perish from thirst they went up to the peak of the highest of all the mountains in the desert. And all the beasts looking up to heaven, they cried out as if shouting “Hosanna” to the Creator. And as the Lord of Glory spoke, even before they moved from the place the water came down on that place and only there. This He did according to the voice of the prophet who said concerning God, “Giving to the cattle their food and to the young of the ravens who call on Him” ({bible}Psalm 147.9{/bible} [146.9 LXX]).

 A few years ago one of the fathers took his disciple at the holy fast and said to him, “Son, in these holy days let us take hold of our citizenship. Let us go into the desert. Certainly God will make us worthy to see one of his servants among the anchorites and we will receive his blessing.” When they came to the area of Siddi they saw, down deep in a ravine, a cell and trees with all kinds of fruit, although it was the wrong season. When they descended and were near it they called out, “Your blessings, fathers.” They answered them, “Welcome, fathers.” And with the word everything disappeared, the cell and the trees. When they returned to the summit of the mountain, the cell was seen again, and they descended as before. And when they were near and said the word and heard the reply, again everything disappeared. Then the old man said to the brother, “Let us go from this place, son. I believe in Christ, and since the servants of God said to us, ‘Welcome’, Christ will make us worthy to approach them in the future age through their prayers and intercessions, their sweat and toil.”

At the gorge of Siddi dwelt a holy man having with him in the house a disciple. Once he sent him to Raithou. After being three days in the desert near the crossroads the elder, gazing in divine contemplation, saw the disciple coming from a distance. Thinking that it was a Saracen and desiring to elude him, he transformed himself into a palm tree. Coming to the place the disciple struck him with the flat of his hand wonderingly and said, “Since when did this palm tree grow here?”
Transformed again by the hand of God, the elder reached the cave before his disciple. Receiving him the elder said to him jokingly the next day, “What did I do to you the you gave me a blow yesterday?” Not understanding the matter, the disciple struck himself in denial. Then the elder told him the source of the palm tree, that it had been he himself, and that not desiring human distraction he had changed his appearance to that of a palm tree.

There are often Armenians, as everybody knows, who come to Mount Sinai. Twenty years ago a big group of Armenians visited, about 800 souls. They ascended the Holy Peak and arrived at the sacred stone where Moses received the Law. There a vision of God and an awesome wonder occurred at the Holy Place and among the people as happened before at the giving of the Law, for the people appeared to be in flames. The paradox was that nobody saw himself on fire but only those around him were fiery. The people remained astounded and sang the Kyrie Eleison for about an hour. The fire withdrew and not a hair or a garment was harmed but only the staff with which each ascended continued to burn like candles as a witness to the vision and then they too went out. The tips of the staffs remained scorched as if by fire as a sign of the burning, witnessing in this way in their own land.

Anastasius of Sinai, ‘the New Moses’, concerning the holy fathers in Sinai. Written by Anastasius of Sinai.

Troparion St. Marina of Raithu (El Tor) , In Tone VIII:

   In thee, O mother, was the image of God revealed; * for having taken up thy Cross, and following Christ, * thou didst teach by thine own example * that the flesh is to be spurned as something fleeting, * but particular care should be bestowed upon the immortal soul, * wherefore together with the Angels thy soul rejoiceth, O Mother Marina.

In Tone I:Spec. Mel.: Of the heavenly orders.

Desiring the fair beauty of the Bridegroom Christ, * and striving to betroth thyself to Him, * thou didst adorn thyself with the labors of asceticism, * and with a multitude of good deeds O Marina, * wherefore thou dost now reign with Him in paradise.

Glory …, In Tone VI:
Thy sacred celebration hath today shone forth * more brightly than the sun, * illumining those in darkness, * and vanquishing the mist of demons, * O wonder-worthy one.

ODE IX, Irmos: All are awestruck at hearing 

In thy soul didst thou harbor true humility and understanding, divine compassion, undoubting faith, hope, and love for God, drawing close to Him in vigil, thou wast illumined and enlightened by the grace of God, O blessed Marina.


Repent,… Great evil is coming, comes from a lot of sin. St. Sophia of Kleisoura, the “Ascetic of the Panagia”

Joel, the Prophet of Pentecost

Commemorated on October 19

ιησους ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ“Yet even now return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil (Joel 2: 12-13).”

What would result from heartfelt repentance? Ultimately the world would experience an outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the earth.

St. Peter, in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost, said:

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2: 36-39).

Joel’s prophesy, repeated in St. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost that God would, ” … will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters … ” (Joel 2:28-32, Act 2:14-21).

The Prophet said, «And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered» ( Joel 2: 32).

We must have the Spirit of God implanted in our hearts so the fruit of the spirit may emerge from us. St. Paul wrote that the fruit of the Spirit » … is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.» When the fruit of the spirit is present, we have the Spirit in us and so is the prophesy of Joel fulfilled.

St. Paisios the Athonite

When someone gives his heart to God, then the mind of this man is also seized by the love of God. He is indifferent towards worldly things and continually thinks about the Heavenly Father, and being divinely in love, he glorifies his Creator day and night like an angel.”

Ask for repentance in your prayer and nothing else, neither for divine lights, nor miracles, nor prophecies, nor spiritual gifts—nothing but repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the Grace of God, and God will have in His Grace everything you need for your salvation, or anything you might need to help another soul.”

Things are very simple, and there is no reason why we should complicate them. If we regard matters in this way, we will feel the Jesus Prayer as a necessity and will not grow weary. We will be able to repeat it many times and our heart will feel a sweet pain, and then Christ Himself will shed His sweet consolation inside our heart.”

“Thus prayer does not tire but invigorates. It is tiresome only when we do not enter into its meaning and do not understand the sense given it by our Holy Fathers. Once we comprehend the need of God’s mercy, the desire of this hunger will compel us, without pressuring ourselves in prayer, to open our mouth like a nursing infant, and we will feel, simultaneously, all the security and joy of a baby in its mother’s embrace.”

Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

God rebukes, and God makes glad. Just one repentant thought eases the wrath of God; for God is not angry at men as an enemy is angry, but His anger toward men is as that of a father toward his children. His anger is momentary, and His mercy is infinite. If He rebukes you in the evening, He causes you to rejoice in the morning; men know Him best in His rebuking and in His mercy. O my brethren, if men constantly knew and recognized God as the Doer of good, they would never know Him as Rebuker and Judge. Behold, God rejoices more when we recognize Him by His mercy than by His anger.

O Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Teacher, rebuke us, but forgive us; chastise us, but save us.

St. Sophia the Righteous, the “Ascetic of the Panagia”

Σοφία η εν Κλεισούρα_St. Sophia the Ascetic of Kleisoura_Св. Софии (Хотокуриди)_osia_sofiaRepent, because the clouds of wrath of God have approaching the earth. Great evil is coming, comes from a lot of sin.

The angels speak every day. God sends the angels to see if people are repenting.

The Mother of God weeps, she weeps every day. She says to her Son: “My Son and my God, grant the world wisdom, forgive the world.”

The fear of God makes a person wise. What is the fear of God? Not that one should be afraid of God, but to be afraid to sadden someone, to harm someone, to do them no wrong, and to not make accusations. This is wisdom. After all this, God will illumine you as to what to do in your life.

Repent, my children…May you have prayer…day and night…wherever you walk, wherever you are found, wherever you are standing, always you should say: “My Christ, have mercy on me!”

Panagia told me where, in the Holy Books of the chosen of my Son, it says everything that will occur in time. A third war will occur…Three-quarters of mankind will be destroyed…Only one-quarter will be saved…

Greece, if she keeps the faith, will be saved from the evil which is about to come. If, however, she does not keep the faith, she will be destroyed…All the demons will fall upon her…The evil will come and the wheat will be separated from the chaff, the sheep from the goats…

If the world repents, we will take back the City [Constantinople] with Love… If we do not repent, we will take it back with blood…
Have fear of God…Have Love…Have compassion.

Starets Lavrenty (Laurence) of the Chernigov (+1950) said: There will be a war, and where it passes, there will be none left alive! But, prior to that time, the Lord will send minor ailments to the weak and they will die, for during antichrist’s time there will no longer be any death. The Third World War will not be for repentance, but for annihilation; but the Lord will leave the strongest alive, that they might confront him [antichrist].

Apolytikion of Prophet Joel
Second Tone

As we celebrate the memory of Thy Prophet Joel, O Lord, through him we beseech Thee to save our souls.

Epistle Reading: Acts of the Apostles 2:14-21

IN THOSE DAYS, standing with the eleven, Peter lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maid servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”


Paphnutius, because you have not judged, but have humbled yourself before God, saying that you have sinned, your name is written in the book of the living!

Πανορμίτης Μιχαήλ_ Archangel Michael_Архангел Михаил_-ΣύμηA brother asked Abba Tithoes, ‘How should I guard my heart?’ The old man said to him, ‘How can we guard our hearts when our mouths and our stomachs are open?’

Abba Hyperechius said, ‘It is better to eat meat and drink wine and not  to eat the flesh of one’s brethren through slander.’

Abba Paphnutius said, ‘When I was walking along the road, I happened to lose my way and found myself near a village and I saw some people who were talking about evil things. So I stood still, praying for my sins. Then behold an angel came, holding a sword and he said to me, “Paphnutius, all those who judge their brothers perish by his sword, but because you have not judged, but have humbled yourself before God, saying that you have sinned, your name is written in the book of the living!’“

***

A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication and he arose and went to Abba Antony. The brothers also came from the monastery to correct him and bring him back. They set about proving that he had done this thing, but he defended himself and denied that he had done anything of the kind.
Now Abba Paphnutius, who is called Cephalus, happened to be there, and he told them this parable: “I have seen a man on the bank of the river buried up to his knees in mud and some men came to give him a hand to help him out, but they pushed him further in up to his neck.”

Then Abba Antony said this about Abba Paphnutius, “Here is a real man, who can care for souls and save them.”

All those present were pierced to the heart by the words of the old man and they asked forgiveness of the brother. So, admonished by the fathers, they took the brother back to the monastery.

One day, Abba Isaac the Theban went to a monastic community and he saw a brother doing wrong, and he condemned him. As he returned to the desert, an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell and said: “I will not let you in.” He asked: “What’s the matter?” And the angel replied: “God has sent me to ask you where he should cast the sinner on whom you passed judgment.” Immediately he repented and said: “I was wrong. Forgive me.” And the angel said: “Get up, God has forgiven you. In the future be sure not to judge someone before God passes judgment.”

‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged’ (Luke 6:37).There is a story from The Prologue of Ohrid for March 30th that illustrates the beauty and ease with which someone may enter paradise. The monk’s name is not even remembered on earth, but he is known in heaven for this one virtue which he practiced his whole life. St. Nikolai writes:
This monk was lazy, careless, and lacking in his prayer life, but throughout all of his life he did not judge anyone. When dying, he was happy. When the brethren asked him how it was that with so many sins he could die joyfully, he replied, “I now see angels who are showing me a page containing my numerous sins. I said to them, ‘Our Lord said: Judge not, and ye shall not be judged (Luke 6:37).’ I have never judged anyone, and I hope in the mercy of God that He will not judge me.” And the angels tore up the paper. Upon hearing this, the monks were astonished and learned from it.

When we judge others, it is impossible to acquire humility and the grace of God.

Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

In Tone VIII: Spec. Mel.: The Martyrs of the Lord.

In thy body likened unto a buoyant boat * thou wast carried freely across the sea of life * by the gentle breezes of thy peaceful spirit. * Thou, O wise one, having found the pearl of great price, * went and sold all that thou didst have, and bought it. * Fervently protecting it, thou didst find blessedness in its divine virtues.


We ought to be joyful all the time. Our life should always be a daily surprise. Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex

ΠΕΤΡΟΣ ΦΥΛΑΚΗ_Peter Apostle_апостолы Петр_Πέτρος 1700

Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex

The trials that the saints underwent are greater than our own trials, because their hearts were sensitive and everything in their lives took on larger proportions. Christ’s Cross transcends any human martyrdom because Christ was sinless. We inherit death and we strengthen the power of death throughout our lives with our sins.

God abandoned the Apostle Peter during the time of trial in order to prepare him for greater grace. He received so much grace from God that even his shadow cured people.

Christians will always be misunderstood by those around them.

When someone begins to live according to Christ, the community rejects him. Then he acquires another community, because we Christians also have our own community. We lose nothing, even in this world.

When someone receives a spiritual gift, he usually attracts other people’s envy. Then he feels the need to hide it. So, without realising it, he becomes a fool for Christ’s sake.
The subject of foolishness for Christ’s sake is a very subtle one. Some have undertaken this task to conceal the riches of their spiritual gifts, and so as not to provoke people’s envy.

The grace of God that comes to the saints is so great that the soul is unable to keep it. For that reason they leave the world and the monastery. This happened to St Seraphim of Sarov.

I teach the monks not to speak about the wrongs they suffer, but to keep silent. We ought to live as those who are crucified. This is Orthodox spirituality.

Afflictions crush the heart, and this crushing produces prayer.

The battle against us is fierce. Everyone is against us, as are science and politics. I am not a pessimist, but I think we are living in the last times. Our own attitude should be that of the martyrs: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before his shearers, so He opens not His mouth” (Is. 53:7). When we respond to force with force, we achieve nothing. The (silent) attitude of the martyrs will ensure a longer-lasting victory. If we too exercise force on other people, we shall oblige them to prepare for a second, greater attack.

We must respect other people’s freedom. Nothing done by force endures in time and eternity.

At the Second Coming of Christ the just will be amazed, but the sinners will also be amazed; the former because they did not expect to be saved, the latter because they did not expect to be condemned.

We have such a rich God, Who has such great grace, but all the same we live in such poverty. We are upset by the slightest thing; this is a wretched state. We ought to be joyful all the time. Our life should always be a daily surprise. Not a day passes without God giving us a new sense of eternal life.

I Know A Man In Christ: Elder Sophrony The Hesychast and Theologian by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (Excerpt Everyday Life — Pastoral Ministry)

“O Holy and God-bearing Father Sophrony, pray to Christ our God that we too may receive the Heavenly Light of Christ’s Eternal Kingdom!”

ΠΗΓΑς ΥΔΑΤΩΝ_6th century Byzantine Roman mosaics of deer from the peristyle of the Great Palace from the reign of Emperor Justinian I. Istanbul, Turkey.


Eternal life has its beginning here in this life; and it is here that we sow the seeds of eternal torment. Saint Silouan

Fourth Sunday of Luke: The Parable of the Sower

Ιησούς Χριστός ΣΠΟΡΕΑΣ_Jesus-Christ_Господне Иисус-Христос-Byzantine Orthodox Icond64e7ecd92ec2d2ebe869f2e8b8216c9An old man and a brother led their life together. Now the old man was charitable. It happened that there was a famine and the people came to his door seeking alms, and in charity the old man gave to all who came. Seeing what was happening, the brother said to the old man, “Give me my share of the loaves, and do what you like with yours.” The old man divided the loaves and gave alms from his share.

Now many people hastened to the old man, learning that he supplied everyone, and God — seeing that he supplied everyone — blessed these loaves. But when the brother had consumed his own food he said to the old man, “Since I have only a little food left, Abba, take me back into the common life again.” The old man said, “I will do as you wish.” So they began to again to live in common.

When scarcity came again, the needy came back seeking alms. Now one day the brother came in and saw they were short of loaves. A poor man came, and the old man told the brother to give him alms. He said, “It is no longer possible, father.” The old man said to him, “Go in and look.” The brother went inside and found the bin full of loaves. When he saw that, he was filled with fear, and taking some he gave to the poor. In this way he learned the faith and virtue of the old man, and he gave glory to God. 

from “The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers,” by Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1985), p. 42

St Seraphim of Sarov said to one monk, “Sow, Father Simon, sow! Sow everywhere the wheat that has been given to you. Somewhere or other it will sprout and grow and bear fruit.” By this he meant that the monk should tell everyone about Jesus Christ and His Heavenly Kingdom.

“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.” St Seraphim of Sarov

Conquer evil men by your gentle kindness, and make zealous men wonder at your goodness. Put the lover of legality to shame by your compassion. With the afflicted be afflicted in mind. Love all men, but keep distant from all men. St. Isaac of Syria

Dostoevsky, writing in The Brothers Karamazov, ”If you had shone, your light would have lighted the way for others, and the one who did wickedness would perhaps not have done so in your light. And even if you do shine, but see that people are not saved even with your light, remain steadfast, and do not doubt the power of the heavenly light; believe that if they are not saved now, they will be saved later. And if they are not saved, their sons will be saved, for your light will not die, even when you are dead. The righteous man departs, but his light remains.”

***

Γέννηση του Ιησού Χριστού_ Рождество Христово_ Nativity of Christ-icon112252_8660134380229257224_nI have prayed for you, that you too may be granted that great Spirit of fire, Whom I have received. If you wish to receive Him, so that He dwells in you, first offer physical labours and humility of heart and, lifting your thoughts to heaven day and night, seek this Spirit of fire with a righteous heart – and He will be given unto you. In this way Elijah the Tishbite, Elisha and other prophets received Him. He who tills himself thus (as I have described) is granted this Spirit for ever and for ages of ages. Remain in prayer, seeking most arduously with your whole heart – and you will be given. For this Spirit resides in righteous hearts. And when He is received, He will reveal to you the highest mysteries, will banish from you the fear of man or beast, and heavenly joy will be yours day and night, so that you will be, in this body, like those who are already in the kingdom.

Apostle Paul writes, “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings” (I Thessalonians 5: 19-20). Know that nothing quenches the Spirit more than idle talk.

Every man whose effort is to become truly spiritual must try to hold himself aloof from noisy crowds and not go near them, so as to be outside the vortex and turmoil of men in body, heart and mind; for where there are men, there is turmoil. Our Lord showed us an example of withdrawal from people and solitude when He used to go alone up into a mountain to pray. In the wilderness too he conquered the devil, who dared to wrestle with Him. Naturally He was not powerless to conquer him even among the multitude; but He acted thus to teach us that we can more easily overcome the enemy and reach perfection in silence and solitude. Neither did the Lord show His glory to the disciples in the midst of people, but led them up into a mountain and there showed them His glory. John the Forerunner also dwelt in the wilderness until he appeared to Israel. In the world it is easier for the enemy to press upon us with his weapons, both inner and outer; attracting some men as helpers and assistants obedient to him, he there wages war against the faithful. Some shameless woman may serve as a very strong weapon to him, spreading wide her ensnaring nets. When Ezekiel saw four living creatures, each with four faces, all showing the glory of the Lord, he was not in a city or a village but outside in a plain; for God said to him, “Arise, and go forth into the plain, and there shalt thou be spoken to” (Ezekiel 3:22). In general such visions and revelations were given to the saints only in mountains and wilderness. Prophet Jeremiah, knowing how much solitude pleases God, also said, “It is good for a man when he bears a yoke in his youth. He will sit alone, and be silent” (Lamentations 3:27-28). Again, knowing well how much harm human talk brings to those who want to please God, he could not refrain from saying, “Who would give me a most distant lodge in the wilderness, that I might leave my people, and depart from them?” (Jeremiah 9:2). Also Prophet Elijah received food from the angels, and this not among a crowd of people, nor in a city or a village, but in the wilderness. All these and similar things, which occurred to the saints, were written to persuade us to imitate those who loved retirement, for it can lead us too to the Lord. So try to be well grounded in it, that you may be led to the vision of God, which is the most spiritual contemplation….

And when the Spirit of God comes to dwell in them, He brings them rest, or lets them enjoy rest in all their activities, and makes the yoke of the Lord sweet for them, as it is written in the Gospels “and ye shall find rest unto your soul” (Matthew 9:29), although they have taken His yoke upon themselves and are bearing it. Then they become indefatigable, both in the practice of virtue and in carrying out obediences and night vigils. They feel no anger at human calumny and have no fear, whether of man, beast or spirit; for the joy of the Lord stays with them day and night, gives life to their reason and is their food. Through this joy the soul grows and becomes apt for all things or perfect; and through this joy it ascends to heaven. (from “Early Fathers From the Philokalia,” by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), pp. 46-51. )

Orthodoxy is nothing but a thirsting for the Kingdom of Heaven, a search for the Kingdom of God and communion with the Persons of the Holy Trinity. But, “the Kingdom of God”, said the Lord, “is within you” (Lk.ll:21). The Kingdom of God is within us because we can meet God and come into communion with Him only inside of us, in our hearts.

I beseech you, put this to the test. When a man affronts you or brings dishonor on your head, or takes what is yours, or persecutes the Church, pray to the Lord, saying: “O Lord, we are all Thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants and turn their hearts to repentance,” and you will be aware of grace in your soul… Understand me. It is so simple. People who do not know God, or who go against Him, are to be pitied; the heart sorrows for them and the eye weeps. Both paradise and torment are clearly visible to us: We know this through the Holy Spirit. And did not the Lord Himself say, “The kingdom of God is within you”? Thus eternal life has its beginning here in this life; and it is here that we sow the seeds of eternal torment… O Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself, and for the whole universe, that the nations may know Thee and live eternally with Thee, O Lord, vouchsafe us the gift of Thy humble Holy Spirit, that we may apprehend Thy glory. – Saint Silouan

Seasonal Kontakion in the Second Tone

O Protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, mediation unto the creator most constant: O despise not the voices of those who have sinned; but be quick, O good one, to come unto our aid, who in faith cry unto thee: Hasten to intercession and speed thou to make supplication, O thou who dost ever protect, O Theotokos, them that honor thee.