Wounded by Love

Within us there is a part of the soul called the moralist. This moralist, when it sees someone going astray, is roused to indignation, even though very often the person who judges has strayed in the same way. He does not, however, take this as an occasion to condemn himself, but the other person. This is not what God wants. Christ says in the Gospel: You, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? It may be that we do not steal, but we commit murder; we reproach the other person and not ourselves. We say, for example: You should have done that and you didn’t do it. So see now what’s happened to you! When we think of evil, then it can actually happen. In a mysterious and hidden manner we diminish the power of the other person to move towards what is good, and we do him harm. We can become the occasion for him to fall ill, to lose his job or his property. In this way we do harm, not only to our neighbour, but also to ourselves, because we distance ourselves from the grace of God. And then we pray and our prayers are not heard. We ask and do not receive. Why? Have we ever thought of this? Because we ask wrongly. We need to find a way to heal the tendency within us to feel and think evil about others.             

St. Porphyrios, Wounded by love

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The Struggle for Prayer

The struggle for prayer is not an easy one. The spirit fluctuates—sometimes prayer flows in us like a mighty river, sometimes the heart dries up. But every reduction in our prayer-strength must be as brief as possible. Not infrequently, to pray means telling God of our disastrous state: of our weakness and despondency, our doubts and fears, the melancholy, the despair—in brief, everything connected with our condition. To pour it all out, not seeking to express it elegantly or even in logical sequence. Often this method of approach to God turns out to be the beginning of prayer as communion.                     

St. Sophrony, On Prayer  

The Essence of the Kingdom

First of all seek the Kingdom of God and its truth. If you work for the body, you must work for the soul too. Your heart needs to be cultivated more than a garden does. It is necessary to pray and to listen to oneself, to cope with your thoughts, not to quarrel over trifles, yield to each other, even if the business has suffered (then you will win many times more). Rather make peace, open your mind, communicate more often. It’s better to ruin the job, but keep peace with your neighbor. Remember that!

In my opinion, we should relate to people as a doctor to the sick. We are all sick with every illness—it’s just that one is more obvious in one man, and another in another. There, that is in a hospital, they don’t berate someone who is sick in his lungs, heart, or stomach. They don’t say: “Oh, you blind scoundrel, sick in your eyes!” And similarly we must not abuse one another for spiritual illnesses, but endure and pity one another: Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ—says the apostle.

People are in essence, in their depths better than the manifestations we see in their lives.

If we want someone to overcome himself and change his attitude towards us, then we ourselves must completely expel our inner hostility towards their hearts.

Do not judge other people. Mind your own business, as you are instructed. Do not interfere with other people’s lives. When possible, be silent; like a stone in the sea, let all words drown into you, whatever you hear; be compassionate, forgive all in soul and in fact. Close your eyes to the sins of others, and if you cannot help but see them, then pray for those who sin, as for yourself, so that the Lord forgives them, then you will receive mercy from the Lord.

Close your eyes to others’ sins, but if it’s impossible not to see, then pray for these sinners, as for yourself, that the Lord would forgive them, and you will receive grace from the Lord.                     

Try to live so that people leave comforted because of you and they thank God because of you.                                

  • Sayings from Igumen Nikon(Vorobiev)

Personal, Heartfelt Faith

You brethren have witnessed and seen for yourselves the growth and strengthening of Orthodoxy here. Just a mere twelve to fifteen years ago, we, aside from faraway Alaska, barely had any churches here. There were no priests, and the Orthodox people numbered only in a few dozens and maybe a few hundreds. And even they lived dispersed, far from one another.

And now?

“The Orthodox are seen this day in this country.”

Our temples appear not only in big cities but in obscure places as well. We have a multitude of clergy, and tens of thousands of faithful – and not only those who have been Orthodox for a while, but those who have converted from among the Uniates. Schools are opened, the brotherhoods are established. Even strangers acknowledge the success of Orthodoxy here. So how can we ourselves not celebrate “The Triumph of Orthodoxy,” and not thank the Lord who helps His Church!

But it is not enough, brethren, only to celebrate “The Triumph of Orthodoxy.” It is necessary for us personally to promote and contribute to this triumph. And for this we must reverently preserve the Orthodox Faith, standing firm in it in spite of the fact that we live in a non-Orthodox country, and not pleading as an excuse for our apostasy that “it is not the old land here but America, a free country, and therefore it is impossible to follow everything that the Church requires.” As if the word of Christ is only suitable for the old land and not for the entire world! As if the Church of Christ is not “catholic”!  As if the Orthodox Faith did not “establish the universe”!

Furthermore, while faithfully preserving the Orthodox Faith, everyone must also take care to spread it among the non-Orthodox. Christ the Savior said that having lit the candle, men do not put it under a bushel but on a candlestick so that it gives light to all (Matt. 5.15). The light of the Orthodox Faith has not been lit to shine only for a small circle of people. No, the Orthodox Church is catholic; she remembers the commandment of her Founder,

“Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature and teach all nations”

(Mark 16.15; Matt. 28.19).

We must share our spiritual richness, truth, light, and joy with others who do not have these blessings. And this duty does not only lay upon the pastors and the missionaries but on the lay persons as well, since the Church of Christ, according to the wise comparison of the Holy Apostle Paul, is the body, and every member takes part in the life of the body. By means of all sorts of mutually binding bonds which are formed and strengthened through the action of every member according to his capacity, the great Church body receives an increase unto the edifying of itself (cf. Eph. 4.16).

In the first centuries, it was not only the pastors who were tortured, but laypersons as well – men, women, and even children. And it was laypeople likewise who enlightened the heathen and fought heresies. And now, in the same way, the spreading of the Faith should be a matter that is personal, heartfelt, and dear to each one of us. Every member of the Church must take an active part in it – some by personal podvig spreading the Good News, some by material donations and service to “the needs of the holy persons,” and some by profuse prayer to the Lord that He,“Keep His Church firm and multiply it”

– St. Tikhon, Portion of final homily in America on Sunday of Orthodoxy 1907

Faith is a person, not a belief

“God is not the conclusion to a process of reasoning, the solution to a mathematical problem. To believe in God is not to accept the possibility of his existence because it has been ‘proved’ to us by some theoretical argument, but it is to put our trust in One whom we know and love. Faith is not the supposition that something might be true, but the assurance that someone is there.”  

  Met. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

The Silent Journey

“One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, Saint Serapion the Sindonite, traveled once on pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life–for he was himself a great wonderer–Serapion called on her and asked: ‘Why are you sitting here?’ To this she replied: ‘I am not sitting, I am on a journey.’      I am not sitting, I am on a journey. Every Christian may apply these words to himself. To be a Christian is to be a traveler. Our situation, say the Greek Holy Fathers, is like that of the Israelite people in the desert of Sinai: We live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time into eternity.”  

  – Met. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

The Mystery of Christianity

We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge, as the cause of our wonder. Quoting Psalm 8:1, ‘O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is thy name in all the earth’, St. Gregory of Nyssa states: ‘God’s name is not known; it us wondered at.’                 

Met. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

“Come and See”

To me, the most important missionary witness that we have is the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharistic worship of the Orthodox Church. This is the life-giving source from which everything else proceeds. And therefore, to those who show an interest in Orthodoxy, I say, “Come and see. Come to the liturgy.” The first thing is that they should have an experience of Orthodoxy—or for that matter, of Christianity—as a worshiping community. We start from prayer, not from an abstract ideology, not from moral rules, but from a living link with Christ expressed through prayer.“

– Met. Kallistos Ware

The Theotokos ~ Supportive Ally

How greatly pleased Our Lady is when she sees us struggling for our salvation. What satisfaction this brings her! And she herself, while on earth, how hard she struggled in her quiet way—so as to leave us with an example of perfect asceticism. After her dormition, they found in Gethsemane where she lived, slabs where she had preformed her prostrations and they were deeply indented from all the wear and tear she had subjected them to.

      Let us imitate her direct obedience, her endearing humility, her secret, internal, spiritual effort, her ardent prayer, the constant watchfulness which she showed, her divine love, and the spiritual pain she felt as a knife at the Cross of her Son.

      To those who struggle, she becomes a “supportive ally,” even if they have previously lived prodigal lives. Let’s remember that the Mother of God “stood bail” for Mary the

Egyptian after the latter’s repentance. And when Saint Mary retreated into the desert to take on her relentless struggle, Our Lady herself consoled her with her divine appearances.

      …Merely on hearing her name, a soul that loves God is moved to wonder, gratitude and thankfulness. So even the recollection of the Mother of God, that is recalling the person of Our Lady to the mind, sanctifies the person who does this.      People today have to use the mediation of the Mother of God, which is for our salvation. In every one of our sorrows and problems we mustn’t forget “the help of the saddened, the protectress, defender, comfort of the faint-hearted”, to whom we can have recourse and find consolation, immediate release and response. We pray that Our Lady the Mother of God, who has been “transported to Life”, will always give her blessing to all of us, so that we may spend the present life as safe and sound as possible from the deceits and wiles of the Evil One, and that she will make us worthy of the heavenly kingdom of her Son. Amen.    

– Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Marriage & Monasticism

In both marriage and monasticism we apply the same Christian principles. For example, Elder Sophrony said that even one evil thought against our brother ‘causes a crack in our spiritual stronghold’. Furthermore, he emphasized that each of us when we stand before God, should carry in our hearts all of our brethren. In this way, the unity of the brethren is achieved in the heart of each one of us, not simply in the heart of the Abbot.

Why is it that, as Elder Sophrony drew to our attention, one evil thought causes a crack in the wall of our spiritual fortification? It is because when we stir up negative thoughts about our brother and we remove him from our heart, then we mutilate our being. Our unity is contained in this understanding: to hold all in our heart and to avoid even the least negative thought for our fellows.

      The same occurs in marriage; each spouse must learn not to accept a negative thought for each other, but to compete as we do in the monastery in the mystery of obedience, considering the other always more important. So whatever the Abbot says, we answer, ‘Yes your blessing!’ I accept the will of the other, because the other is more important than myself. Therefore, finally I learn to accept the will of the ultimate Other, the will of the Saviour Christ.      If a couple competes as we do in a monastery, each striving to do the will of the other more perfectly, then their life will be enriched and established in the antechamber of paradise. As a spiritual fruit they will enjoy unity of heart and spirit, and not just psychological unity. In the monastery, everyone who has learned this competition, to humble oneself more before the other, is spiritually reborn. The same occurs also in a family. We don’t accept an evil thought for another member, but compete to do the will of the others and to humble ourselves more before them. As St. Silouan teaches, pride drives away love. The proud man is full of himself and does not make space in his heart for anything or anyone. If we carry, however, all our brethren or all our family in our heart before God and bring them before God in our everyday prayer, then surely there will be unity and love amongst us. All things can find room in our heart.                                   

-Archimandrite Zacharias The Engraving of Christ in Man’s Heart