Elder Arsenie Papacioc liked to repeat the following story of a leaf:

A leaf is asked, “Are you a rose?”

“No, not at all. I’m a leaf!”

“No, you’re a rose!”

“No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are: you smell like a rose!”

“No, I’m a leaf, but I once lay beside a rose.”

When we endeavor to do everything from the heart, then we have sincere warm prayer, a love for our parents and neighbors, and the Lord is with us… Prayer from the heart is sincere prayer. Always pray to the Lord from your heart. The Lord does not require philosophy from us. We should pray from the heart as to our Father: “O Lord, help every soul, and do not forget me, either. Help everyone to find peace and to love Thee, as the angels love Thee. Give us to, too, the strength to love Thee as Thy Most Holy Mother loves Thee and Thy holy angels. Give me, too, the strength to love Thee boundlessly!”

— Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

To die, to be buried, to depart. Not to trouble anyone, not to interrupt anyone when they are speaking, not to usurp their position no matter what that might be. And yet to have lived and died in such a way that your presence, discretely and from a distance, as if a fragrance from someone absent, can give others the possibility of living, of being invigorated, of having the nausea dispelled; to give another the ability to love life, to acquire self-confidence and stand on his own two feet, so that from within him there arises spontaneously a “Glory to Thee, O God!”

— Elder Vaileios, Beauty and Hesychia in Athonite Life

Father Vasileios tells of a death of a fellow monk, Father Hesychios. “I saw him as he was dying, wasting away from cancer and becoming bare bones, yet having no complaint about it, nor about anything else in life…I saw him thanking everyone for the care they had given him…His face shone. He spoke in silence…We wanted him to say something to us and he spoke in his own way: “Now leave me be. I thank you for what you have done for me; I don’t need anything any more. I am still with you but in another way. The Master of the house has arrived, life has begun…” What the departure of Father Hesychios says to us is the same message the Holy Mountain has given perpetually with all its existence: “A beauty exists which abolishes death; a Stillness exists which abounds with eternal blessedness and splendour for all of us.”

— Elder Vaileios, Beauty and Hesychia in Athonite Life

The sun was setting, the sea was still. The mountain of Athos seemed like a crimson-tinged emerald, entirely heavenly lit. The Athonite peninsula itself sparkled in the same dazzling way with a slightly purplish hue. The monasteries were shining white along the seashore. This was no mere external visual spectacle nor the type of beauty, which is perceived only by the physical senses. It wasn’t just a peaceful moment.

— Elder Vasileios, commenting on his return to Mt. Athos

“Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.” — St. Gregory of Nyssa

Rite of Forgiveness

…One may ask, however: Why should I perform this rite (rite of Forgiveness) when I have no “enemies”? Why should I ask forgiveness from people who have done nothing to me, and whom I hardly know? To ask these questions, is to misunderstand the Orthodox teaching concerning forgiveness. It is true, that open enmity, personal hatred, real animosity may be absent from our life, though if we experience them, it may be easier for us to repent, for these feelings openly contradict Divine commandments. But, the Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them — in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being “polite” and “friendly” we fulfill God’s commandments. The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for one minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual “recognition” which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.

On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood. As l advance towards the other, as the other comes to me – we begin to realize that it is Christ Who brings us together by His love for both of us.

And because we make this discovery – and because this discovery is that of the Kingdom of God itself: the Kingdom of Peace and Love, of reconciliation with God and, in Him, with all that exists – we hear the hymns of that Feast, which once a year, “opens to us the doors of Paradise.” We know why we shall fast and pray, what we shall seek during the long Lenten pilgrimage. Forgiveness Sunday: the day on which we acquire the power to make our fasting – true fasting; our effort – true effort; our reconciliation with God – true reconciliation.                 – Archpriest Alexander Schmemann –

“The essence of sin consists not in the infringement of ethical standards but in a falling away from the eternal Divine life for which man was created and to which, by his very nature, he is called.  …Every sin, manifest or secret, committed by each one of us affects the rest of the universe.”                         – St. Sophrony of Essex –

Harshness & Condemnation

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…

Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace.

Keep silent, refrain from judgment. 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 –