The Very Life of Christ

The most essential aspect of Orthodox Christianity consists in the fact that Christianity is not a theory but the very life in Christ, according to the Gospel commandments and the God established continuity and life of the Church.

The first principle of thiLife of Christs faith consists in the ardent, profound, and living faith in the Living, Hypo-static, Three: God The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the creator of heaven and earth, omnipresent, All-seeing, All-merciful God, Who is always ready to correct us through our conscience and come to our aid through our prayer, and send d0wn blessings of love and forgiveness through the Sacraments.

The second principle of our Orthodoxy is faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. Faith that He together with the Holy Spirit, and not without participation of the Heavenly Father, calls us, sanctifies us, and enlightens us, and gives us wisdom unto salvation, united with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

The third principle of our Orthodox faith is faith in the future life beyond the grave, in the oneness of the earthly and heavenly Church, and in the intercessions for us by the Mother of God and all the Saints.

The fourth principle is our Christian love, brotherhood, and mercy for each other as members of one family, one body – the Church of Christ.

The fifth principle is Christ’s Church itself, its Holy Tradition, its rubrics and divine services; the sacraments, rites, writings of the holy fathers, decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and all the many centuries of grace-filled experience of life in Christ and its guidance to salvation of its faithful children.

The establishing power of the Church is the Holy Spirit, Who lives in it from the day of Pentecost.

Look at how the Orthodox Church helps us in our salvation. It sanctif1es our coming into the world through the Sacrament of Baptism, accompanies our life through the grace-filled gifts of the other Sacraments and prayers. It sees us off into the other world through its sacrament of burial, the prayers of absolution, and blessings. Our whole life-from cradle to grave-passes under the holy guidance and blessing of the Church.

Who creates and will create for us this unbroken blessedness, this heavenly joy? It is all wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ in His Holy Church, the bearer and guardian of Orthodoxy.

Let us be sure to preserve our part in Orthodoxy; let us live and be saved by it, and honorably bear the name of Orthodox Christian.

~ Elder John Krestiankin

Opening the Doors of Our Heart

When someone interrupts our routine, it seems a terrible intrusion, and we get very ruffled by it. Isn’t it odd? We desperately long for someone else to approach us, to speak to us, to love us, to fill our solitude, to unite with us, but as soon as someone does, we can’t wait to get rid of them. We reject them immediately, pass judgment on them, speak to them with anger and contempt, presume to tell them what to do, say “no” to them, and in general do whatever we can to let them know that their presence bothers us. And we find hundreds of ways of telling them: “Go away. Leave me alone. Don’t intrude on my solitude.”

And everything bothers you; everything annoys you. The way people look, the sound of their voice, the way they walk, or because they’re too short or too tall, or because their nose is like this or that, or because their eyebrows are too high or too low. Any little thing its enough to ruin your day, and, after all that, all you want to do is run away. And what is all this, if not hell?

Church DoorsBut whenever we want, our heart can open and at once the great transformation will take place. And this is an opening to the spiritual fire, to the Holy Spirit, to Christ, to God. Do we want this? Will we unlock our heart? It all depends on whether we want to love God, or continue loving our selves. And if we do decide to stop living on our own. and throw open up the doors for the light to enter, then we’ll discover that, while we were looking for God, we also found our fellow man, for now we realize that there are people all around us.

Another problem we have is that we tire easily. When it comes to worldly pursuits, our energy knows no bounds, but we grow weary very quickly where God is concerned. Those who chase after wealth or glory never tire of doing so. Others pursue sensual pleasure, tirelessly chasing after sin. But even the thought of running after God leaves us feeling fatigued. We get tired, and then we forget, and then we’re led astray by the world. But then something happens to make us think of God, and so we make promises and resolutions, but, after a little while, forget all about them, and so it goes round and round. But think about the material things you’re chasing after, they’re all fleeting.

If you are able to see this, then sink the eyes of your soul deep into your heart-”even if it is ever so twisted or perverted—and ask God to take over. Hovering over the chaos of your life, God will shine His light (Genesis 1:3), and the abyss of hell that was in you will be transformed into heaven. God is humble, and will not shrink from entering into your sinful heart in order to rescue you from sin. That’s God! And only God can do this. No one and nothing else in this world can raise you from your state of death. There is no other cure for your wound, no other remedy for what ails you.

In whatever you do, choose the path of humility, and God will glorify you.

–  Elder Aimilianos

Why Does the Bird Sing…

“Why does the bird sing and glorify its maker? I wanted to do the same. I observed the grasses, the trees, the water, the rocks… I saw everything with the grace of God.

One morning I was walking alone. Everything, freshened by the morning dew, was shining in the sunlight. I found myself in a gorge. I walked through it and sat on a rock. Cold water was running peacefully beside me and I was saying the prayer. Complete peace. Nothing could be heard. After a while the silence was broken by a sweet, intoxicating voice singing and praising the Creator. I looked. I couldn’t discern anything. Eventually, on a branch opposite me I saw a tiny bird. It was a nightingale. I listened as the nightingale trilled unstintingly, its throat puffed out to bursting in sustained song. The microscopic little bird was stretching back its wings in order to find power to emit those sweetest of tones, and puffing out its throat to produce that exquisite voice.

Tears came to my eyes. I cannot convey to you the things I felt, the things I experienced. I thought, ‘Why does this tiny nightingale produce these songs? Why does it trill like that? Why is it singing that exquisite thought? Why is it bursting its throat? Why, for what reason? Is it waiting for someone to praise it? Certainly not.’ So I philosophized to myself. ‘Little nightingale, who told you that I would pass by here? How marvelously you unceasingly carry on your prayer to God! How much you tell me, and how much you teach me, little nightingale! My God, how I am moved. With your warbling, dear nightingale you, show me how to hymn God, you teach me a thousand things beyond number.’

I loved that nightingale very much. I loved it and it inspired me. I thought, ‘Why it and not me?  Did it know I was there and could hear it? Who heard it as it was bursting its throat in song? What about of all these little nightingales in the middle of the thick forest, in the ravines, night and day, at sunset and sunrise? Who heard their throat-bursting song? Why did they puff out their throats to bursting?’ The purpose was worship, to sing to their Creator, to worship God.

I regarded all of them as angels of God, little birds that glorified God the Creator of all and no one heard them. They longed to be heard by the Maker of everything, the Creator of all, by Him who gave them life and breath and voice.

– Saint Porphirios

Relationship

It is important to realize that everybody is struggling: “Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” That s the reality. No matter how hard it is to deal with a person or situation, if I can say in my heart a small prayer: “Lord help us both, because we’re all struggling,” in that moment everything qualitatively changes. Christ came as a servant. This teaches us that in order to help anyone we must put ourselves below them. Christ comes not to be served but to serve. He takes the bowl, He takes the towel, and He starts washing feet-God, washing feet, in service, in humility. If I come in the name of the Lord and I put myself beneath you, and assume the best of you, there’s a chance that God is able to work through me.Relationships

Whatever we sow we’re going to reap. The principle behind this is: things may be difficult, and you may be suffering, but thank God anyway. People may be rude, unkind, un-Christian, but be kind anyway. You might not always get along with everyone in the family and the people at work might not love you, but love them anyway. And we do this all in the name of the Lord. We say, “Lord, help me to do this. Lord, bless them”. If you always come with the shield of blessing, blessing everybody and everything at all times, God will be with you. In all places, at all times, in all things, carry this shield of blessing because all of this stuff is coming at us like arrows-harsh words, judgments, criticism, relationship problems-but the shield of blessing is our hope and salvation, and in this process we protect ourselves and become more like our Lord by the very act of participating in blessing.

Be present with yourself and to God. Learn how to stand in the presence of God, and how to live and be with God. The Church is the first and foremost place where that happens. It is the most important time that we can give to ourselves because it establishes the foundation for everything else we do.

The easiest way to become a spiritual person and to walk in God’s presence is to be thankful. Saint Paul tells us “In everything and at all times we should give thanks to God, because this is the will of God concerning you in Christ Jesus.” This Eucharistic perception and movement towards God works to restore our world, first the part you live in, and ultimately the world around you as well. It gives us perspective and an opportunity to see the sacramental nature and the gift of this world. This world is a gift from God to us. What do we do when we receive a gift except say, “Thank you.” The more thankful we are the more it’s going to help us to see reality as it is: it is God’s gift to us. The more thankful we become the more prayerful we’ll become as well and the more we will realize that God is in everything.

To pray for others is one of the most important things that we can do for them. We don’t have to be saints to see some amazing miracles with this. The power of prayer is real and it’s extremely trans formative. So be more open not only to pray for others but to ask for prayers as well. Prayer is the most important thing. Conversation with God is actually union with God, which saves us. And it will enable us to deal with the realities we need to face because prayer attracts the grace that we need in order to live.

(From a talk presented by Abbot Sergius of Saint lehon’s Monastery, edited)