Troubled by Passions

All believing Christians should be aware that Christ is in all other believers and we should have so much love for them that we’d be prepared to sacrifice our soul for their sake. We have no right to call other people bad, nor to think of them as such. Instead, we should think of them as good. If you see people troubled by the passions, don’t hate them, but hate the passions that are warring against them. If you see them suffering from wicked desires, feel even more kindly towards them, in case you yourself are tempted, since you’re vulnerable and prone to the entanglements of sin.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

Advertisements

What shall I do?

You ask, “Shouldn’t I be doing something?” Of course that is necessary. Do whatever falls to your hands, in your circle and in your situation—and believe that this is and will be your true work; nothing more from you is required. It is a great error to think that you must undertake important and great labors, whether for heaven, or, as the progressives think, in order to make one’s contribution to humanity. That is not necessary at all. It is necessary only to do everything in accordance with the Lord’s commandments. Just exactly what is to be done? Nothing in particular, just that which presents itself to each one according to the circumstances of his life, and which is demanded by the individual events with which each of us meets. That is all. God arranges the lot of each person, and the entire course of life of each one is also His all-good industry, as is each moment and each meeting.

          St. Theophan the recluse

Laziness, Grace, Humility, & Love

Disciple: Laziness has a strong grip on me; how can I be delivered from it?

Elder: If you fight against laziness indecisively, you will never overcome it. But as soon as you rise up against it with a firm resolve, with God’s help, although not without inner suffering, you can gain the victory. To resist even though you are being attacked is the sign of a faithful and good soldier. A person must watch over himself right up to the grave when it comes to this vice, lest he hear on the last day that most terrible sentence of the Knower of hearts, “Thou wicked and slothful servant” (Matt. 25:26).

Disciple: What is it that attracts the grace God more than anything else?

Elder: If you would be simple-hearted like the Apostles, would not conceal you human shortcomings, would not pretend to be especially pious, if you would walk free from hypocrisy, then that is the path. While it is easy, not everyone can find it or understand it. This path is the shortest way to salvation and attracts the grace of God. Unpretentiousness, guilelessness, frankness of soul – this is what is pleasing to the Lord, Who is lowly of heart. “Except ye become like children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 18:13).

Disciple: Can I suggest to a brother that he go in repentance to his elder about a sin he committed?

Elder: You have too much anxiety about your brother’s salvation. I think it is better to pray that the Lord Himself inspire him. What would happen if God, Who knows all things, completely fulfilled our every wish? I think, but I’m not saying for certain, that everyone in the world would perish. Even though He does not reject the prayers of His chosen ones, God still does not at times fulfill their desires. And this is only in order to arrange everything in a better way, in keeping with His divine intent.

Just because you see yourself making no progress does not mean that you are not making any progress at all. Such feelings can implant sincere humility…. When we have had no success in the virtues, there is no closer means for salvation than humbleness of mind.

Disciple: I don’t see love among the brethren…

Elder: It is impossible that there not be love among them. That is what you should think, and that is the correct conclusion at which you should arrive. If you don’t see love among them that is because you do not have any love yourself. You yourself must first manifest the characteristics of genuine love, and then you will see that love dwells among them and is abundantly preserved within you. Moreover, we have a commandment of God to love our fellow man with a pure heart, but for us to seek love from them is nowhere mentioned.

  St. Leonid of Optina

Seasons and Cycles

The new liturgical year in the Church begins with the first of September.  We all feel the cycles of this earth in the seasons, holidays, our work schedules, the school schedule, etc. These earthly cycles demand our time, attention, and energy and we thank God for each day that we are given. As the new liturgical year comes to us we are reminded that this is not all there is to this life. These seasons and cycles are a part of our life but there is something more. There is something that seems to be waiting patiently beneath the surface. There is a life that is available to us that is not so much separate from the cycles of this world but that fulfills them, sanctifies them, and transfigures them into that which is true and life-giving.

In the hymnography of this day we hear that He who inscribed the tablets on Mt. Sinai now receives the book of the prophet and reads aloud the words that we see above from Isaiah. Christ has come to “preach the Gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Christ is the fulfillment of all that is and will be. He has come to show us the way to the true reality of what we have been created for. Fr. Alexander Schmemann says in his book, For the Life of the World:

“Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence…To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that ‘something more’ is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.”

Though our life can, at times, seem utilitarian and mundane, there is “something more.” Christ enters into the routine cycle and seasons of our lives and He fills it with Himself. We don’t stop the everyday realities of our lives but we invite Christ into them and ask Him for His Grace, His mercy, and His strength to faithfully live a life in the way we have been created to live.

We invite Christ into our life by following His commandments in any given situation. If someone offends us we forgive, if we stumble and sin we get back up, confess, and repent of our sins, when we see someone else sin we show mercy and do not judge, if someone is in need we help, when we eat we give thanks to God, if it is time to pray we pray, if it is time to rest we rest, if it is time to work we work, in all things and at all times giving thanks to God. We strive to live out the life that He has offered to us through His words and in His example. By living in this way we take the cycles and seasons of this world and allow them to be sanctified by God. Life for us then becomes True Life.

 

0 Fashioner of all creation, Who in Thine authority hast appointed the times and seasons: bless Thou the crown of the year with Thy goodness, 0 Lord, preserving in peace Orthodox Christians and Thy city, and save us through the prayers of the Theotokos.             

Troparion of the Indiction Tone 2

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” Isaiah 61:1-2

The Shield of Faith

A true Christian is made so by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the words of the Savior Himself. He deigned to say: ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to salvation’ (cf. Luke 5:32); ‘There is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety righteous ones’ (cf. Luke 15:7). Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched his feet, He deigned to say to Simon the Pharisee: ‘To one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be required’ (cf. Luke 7:47). From these considerations a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and pay not the least attention to despair that is inflicted on one. Here one needs the shield of faith.                                                     

— St. Herman of Alaska

Transfiguration’s First Fruits

Orthodox theology sees in the Transfiguration a prefigurement of our Lord’s Resurrection and His Second Coming, and more than this—since every event of the Church calendar has an application to the individual spiritual life—of the transformed state in which Christians shall appear at the end of the world, and in some measure even before then. In the foreshadowing of future glory which is celebrated in this Feast, the Holy Church comforts her children by showing them that after the temporary sorrows and deprivations with which this earthly life is filled, the glory of eternal blessedness will shine forth; and in it even the body of the righteous will participate.

fruit

It is a pious Orthodox custom to offer fruits to be blessed at this feast and this offering of thanksgiving to God contains a spiritual sign, too. Just as fruits ripen and are transformed under the action of the summer sun, so is man called to a spiritual transfiguration  through the light of God’s word by means of the Sacraments.

Some saints, (for example – Saint Seraphim of Sarov), under the action of this life-giving grace, have shone bodily before men even in life with this same uncreated Light of God’s glory; and that is another sign to us of the heights to which we, as Christians, are called and the state that awaits us – to be transformed in the image of Him Who was transfigured on Mount Tabor.      

— Hieromonk Seraphim Rose

When I Fast…

With fasting I gladden my hope in You, my Lord, Who are to come again.

Fasting hastens my preparation for Your coming, the sole expectation of my days and nights.

Fasting makes my body thinner, so that what remains can more easily shine with the spirit. While waiting for You, I wish neither to nourish myself with blood nor to take life–so that the animals may sense the joy of my expectation.

But truly, abstaining from food will not save me. Even if I were to eat only the sand from the lake, You would not come to me, unless the fasting penetrated deeper into my soul.

I have come to know through my prayer, that bodily fasting is more a symbol of true fasting, very beneficial for someone who has only just begun to hope in You, and nevertheless very difficult for someone who merely practices it.

Therefore I have brought fasting into my soul to purge her of many impudent fiancé’s and to prepare her for You like a virgin.

And I have brought fasting into my mind, to expel from it all daydreams about worldly matters and to demolish all the air castles, fabricated from those daydreams. I have brought fasting into my mind, so that it might jettison the world and prepare to receive Your Wisdom.

And I have brought fasting into my heart, so that by means of it my heart might quell all passions and worldly selfishness. I have brought fasting into my heart, so that heavenly peace might ineffably reign over my heart, when Your stormy Spirit encounters it.

I prescribe fasting for my tongue, to break itself of the habit of idle chatter and to speak reservedly only those words that clear the way for You to come.

And I have imposed fasting on my worries so that it may blow them all away before itself like the wind that blows away the mist, lest they stand like dense fog between me and You, and lest they turn my gaze back to the world.

And fasting has brought into my soul tranquility in the face of uncreated and created realms, and humility towards men and creatures. And it has instilled in me courage, the likes of which I never knew when I was armed with every sort of worldly weapon.

What was my hope before I began to fast except merely another story told by others, which passed from mouth to mouth?

The story told by others about salvation through prayer and fasting became my own. False fasting accompanies false hope, just as no fasting accompanies hopelessness.

But just as a wheel follows behind a wheel, so true fasting follows true hope.

Help me to fast joyfully and to hope joyously, for You, my Most Joyful Feast, are drawing near to me with Your radiant smile.

— St. Nikolai of Velimirovich Prayers by the Lake 41

Dormition of the Theotokos

A sermon  by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom on the Dormition of the Mother of God.   

0815-dormition-theotokos

        How can we celebrate the Dormition? As a day of death? Only if we remember two things: First, that for us who remain on earth, death is the bitter, painful separation from our loved ones. But for the one who dies, death, dormition (falling asleep) is a triumphant, magnificent meeting of a living soul with the living God. Throughout the course of our lives we are hastening towards the fullness of life that the Lord promised us. Whether we know it or not, we can only find this fullness in God. Those who know this—the saints, those who truly believe, and those who waver—as well as those who do not know this, and even those who denied this all their lives, will on the day that their soul departs from the body appear before the living God, Who is life, joy and beauty. And as Fr. Alexander Elchaninov wrote, there is no soul that, having seen divine beauty enwrapped in divine love and the light of eternal life, will not bow down to His feet and say, “Lord! I have sought Thee alone throughout my life…”

On all paths of both righteousness and unrighteousness, man seeks for this fullness, this unspeakable beauty, this meaning, and this all-conquering, all-purifying, all transforming love. Therefore, when we ourselves are faced with the death of a loved one, no matter how deep our grief may be, no matter how torn apart our soul may be, we must learn to cross ourselves, place ourselves under and before the Cross of the Lord, and say: Yeah, Lord! I am afflicted with perhaps the greatest grief that could happen to me, but I rejoice that the living soul of a person I love has been made worthy today to stand before Thy glory and partake of the fullness of life in transfigured glory…

We are not speaking in vain about how dormition, as the apostle Paul reminds us so many times, is the temporary sleep of our flesh until the day of its resurrection. And so, celebrating the Dormition of the Mother of God, we not only believe that she will be resurrected on the last day, as will we all, but we also know for sure from apostolic tradition, from the experience of the Church—not only of saints but also of sinners, whom the Mother of God has sought with her love, mercy, and compassion—that she has already been resurrected in the flesh as well, and entered into the life that will be revealed to us at the end of time. Therefore we can celebrate today with full joy the Dormition of the Mother of God, when the chains of the body fell from her, when she was freed from the bounds of created existence, when she departed from the narrow confines of this fallen world, and in full glory, in her full unspeakable beauty, in her full purity stood before the face of Her Son and God, before the face of God the Father.

Our joy can be made perfect without tears, without grief, for this is the triumph of life. But it is also a testimony that the resurrection is not an empty word, not an allegory, but that we all, as God promised, will be resurrected and enter into the fullness of our humanity—both in soul and in spirit, in flesh and in eternity, into the eternal joy of our Lord.

Therefore let us rejoice and be glad on this day!

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

The following is a portion of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk’s will, which was read at his funeral. These words are very weighty considering the internal and external trials and conflicts that he endured throughout his life.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Glory to God, for He has created me in His image and likeness! Glory to God,
who redeemed me, the fallen one; Glory to God, for He was the providence of
my unworthy self. Glory, for He called me, a sinner, to repentance! Glory, for
He has handed to me his holy Word as a lamp shining in a dark place, and by it
he taught me the true way. Glory to God, for He has illumined the eyes of my
heart! He has granted me to know His holy name! Glory to God, for He has
washed away my sins in the waters of baptism! Glory, for He has shown me the
way to eternal bliss. And this way is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who says of
Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Glory to Him, for He did not
ruin me in sin but in His mercy was patient to my transgressions! Glory to
God, for he has shown to me the vain enticements and vanity of this world.
Glory to God, for He has helped me in the multitude of temptations, griefs,
and tribulations! Glory, for He has preserved me in accidents and mortal
dangers. Glory to God, for He has defended me from the enemy Satan. Glory,
for He raised me when I fell. Glory to God, for He has comforted me in my

affliction. Glory to God, for when I erred He converted me. Glory to God, for,
like a father, He punished me. Glory to God, for He showed me His dreadful
judgment that I might be afraid and repent of my sins! Glory to God, for He
revealed to me eternal pain and eternal bliss that I might flee the one and seek
the other! Glory to Him, for to me, the unworthy, he gave food to strengthen
the weakness of the body. He gave me clothes to cover the nakedness of my
body; gave me a house in which to rest! Glory to God, for all the other benefits
which He gave to me for my sustenance and comfort. As many breaths I have
taken, so many graces have I received of Him. Glory to God for everything.

In the morning you see the sun, which comes up brightly and amazes everyone.
Think, then, what great gladness will be experienced by souls resplendent in the
eternal sun of righteousness, Christ, the Son of God. Pray that in your heart
too may shine the beneficent light of His grace!

— St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We are pilgrims, our homeland is not on earth; the earth, as a journey, we pass through, and all things earthly we abandon on earth, and with oneness of soul we depart from here. For this sake and about this we dream and take care that our soul is healthy, and with it we permanently depart, and into our homeland enter.                            

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++