Choices

Everyone of us will, at some moment, be brought to the invisible border between time and eternity. Arriving at this spiritual boundary line, we shall have to determine our future in the world that lies before us, and decide either to be with Christ, in His likeness, or to depart from Him. Once the choice to identify with Christ or to refuse Him has been made, of our own free will, for all eternity, time will no longer function.

candle-planting

Until the moment of decision, however, while we are still in this life we shall often waver in our self-determining, hesitating whether to fulfill the commandments or give way to our passions. Gradually, as we struggle, the mystery of Christ will be revealed to us if we devote ourselves to obeying His precepts.

The moment will come when our whole being will rise in love for God. In the longing for God lies the seed of holiness. Love for Christ naturally leads to experiences that liken us to Him. This is the beginning of the knowledge of Christ.

~ Blessed Father Sophrony

The Little Things

Our personal covenant with God is sealed in Baptism. The basic intention behind every covenant made by the Christian with God is to live unto God, and no longer unto himself, to be ‘dead unto sin but alive unto God,’ to be foolish in terms of the Wisdom of this world so as to become wise in God through repentance, as Saint Paul teaches. (I Cor. 1:20-21)

God visits man in a personal way and therefore each life is different. I have heard incredible stories of how people experience their first love in God very often, the smallest opening is enough for God to enter man’s heart and make Himself known. There is the account of a Russian peasant who was drinking vodka in a tavern, when a good thought occurred to him. He dwelt upon it and, along with that good thought, he received the first grace. That first grace, however, would not be confined to the tavern, for it later led him to the become a monk on the Holy Mountain Athos. God’s ways with man and the things He does to draw him to Himself never cease to amaze us. Someone who steals ten times a day might decide one day to steal only nine times and this may be enough for God to enter in and remove him for his sinful ways. God’s love is madness indeed, but the madness of God is infinitely wiser than the wisdom of men.(l Cor. 1:25)

Sometimes our heart is moved to tenderness when we consider God’s great wisdom with regard to each of us. At other times we can be softened only through suffering. We may then feel utterly destroyed to the point of despairing of life itself. But if, with help from on high, we gather the strength to turn to God at that point, He will find an opening so as to enter our heart with His grace. Nowadays, all people are familiar with acute suffering of one kind or another. Pain and suffering have become the common language of humankind. God may well be using this to break through into our hardened and loveless world with His grace and the result would be a spiritual renaissance. He has already changed the lives of so many people, and He can easily change many more, even extend it to the whole world.

~ Elder Archinandrite Zacharias

House of Prayer

It you were to ask many people why they do not go to Church to pray, they will generally answer you: I have no time, I have to work! Just look at those people who only work and do not go to Church, placing their trust only in their work, and compare them with those who divide their time between work and prayer. You will quickly be convinced that the latter are more well off and, what is more important, they are more satisfied. It is said about two neighboring tailors how unequal they were according to their work and prayer and according to their wealth and satisfaction. One of them had a large family and the other was a bachelor. The first had the habit of going to church every morning for prayer and the bachelor never went to church. Not only did the first work less but was even less a skillful master than the other. He had enough of everything and the other lacked everything. The first one asked the other how is it that he has everything although he works less? The devout one “ho prays to God responded that he attends church every day and. along the way, finds lost gold and he invited his neighbor, the bachelor, to go with him to prayer and they will share the discovered gold. Both neighbors began to attend church regularly and soon both became equal in abundance as well as in satisfaction. Naturally, they found no gold along the way but the blessing of God multiplies the abundance of true devout men. Those who: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (St. Matthew 6:31), God adds and multiplies all that is necessary for their physical life.

Where Your Treasure is…

It has never been easy to near the message of faith. In our day we are usually so engrossed in the problems of earthly existence that we simply have no time to listen to this message and to reflect on God. For some, religion has been reduced to celebrating Christmas and Pascha (Easter) and to observing a few traditions for fear of being ‘torn away from our roots’. Others do not go to church at all because they are ‘too busy’. ‘He is engrossed in his work’; ‘work is everything to her’; ‘he is a busy man’. These are some of the best compliments that one can receive from friends and colleagues. ‘Busy people’ are a breed peculiar to modern times. Nothing exists for them other than a preoccupation which swallows them up completely, leaving no place for that silence where the voice of God may be heard.

busyness

And yet, however paradoxical it may seem, in spite of today’s noise and confusion, it is still possible to hear the mysterious call of God in our hearts. This call may not always be understood as the voice of God. It may strike us as a feeling of dissatisfaction or of inner unease, or as the beginning of a search. For many, it is only after the passing of years that they realize their life was incomplete and inadequate because it was without God. ‘You have made us for Yourself’, says St Augustine, ‘and our hearts are restless until they rest in You’. Without God there can never be fullness of being. It is therefore crucially important for us to be able to hear and to respond to the voice of God at the very moment when God is speaking, and not years later. If someone identifies and responds to the call of God, this may change and transfigure his or her whole life.

~ Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

This is Life

Everything is a gift of the Incarnation of God the Word, of the deification of the humanity He has assumed, of the Resurrection of Christ, the victory over death, the co-resurrection of the entire universe through the Resurrection of Christ. How everything functions as a whole!  How nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted!  How the blessings go deeper than we hoped!  You realize you are in the midst of the mystery of life, which has been bestowed upon you. You give thanks for that mystery, you do not claim it as a right and a privilege to yourself, because in that case you lose it.

There is a personal aspect to the Cosmos, and there is a cosmic aspect to the person. Man cannot be saved by any action of his own. His demands are too great and his desire too difficult to handle. He seeks the unattainable and the unachievable. And because of the way we are created, this is legitimate for man, and that is why, in order to live, we have need of God. If I want, I can breathe from a gas canister. But I cannot survive long breathing the gas. My internal organs are made for the air of the atmosphere. I cannot change their nature. And the internal organs of the human being as a whole are formed to breath in the space, the climate of the Orthodox Church. In the spaciousness of the Church, man is able to realize himself. There he can begin to grow, to flower, to bear fruit, to attain deification.

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The Liturgical Rhythm of the Church, the ethos of the buildings, the rhythm of the singing, the distinctive quality of our worship reveal a truth that cannot be taught in an external way, because it is a participation in life. From generation to generation, this is passed on as a mystery of continuity; in the circulation of blood in the one body in which we are all one, both the living and departed alike. (1 Cor. 10:17) This framework, this order, provides the possibility for the development for each to consciously achieve personal maturity and stillness; for each to be able to find his own rhythm, to consciously say “Lord, have mercy” and to communicate with his own word with the One Word. This framework of worship, this world, this environment, is prepared by the Church, it is a structure crafted from life, which has room for each person, with his own name, at every stage of his life and journey. This framework is not a rigid mold which produces artifacts, but a living womb which creates personal beings with their own character and calling.

We have to know that the Church is not a human prison but God’s Kingdom, which is to say, an endless growth and expansion. When you begin to realize this, it is a joy for the whole world. We in the Church simply live. In the Church our stretching and expansion never ceases. Everything is tilled with life. Then, even the smallest thing receives great value exactly because it becomes a participant in a great cosmic mystery. However we need to wait patiently for all these great things and they will come by themselves. Our part is to pray and to say, ‘Glory to God!”

~ Elder Archimandrite Vasilieos