The Saints remind us “that Orthodox Christianity is a community held together by the Holy Spirit. It is not just a set of notions to be understood or learned about God. What matters for the Christian life is the fullness of the Church life, lived as a community of love. The Christian life cannot be fully contained in propositions and ideas, but only in a living community of persons, in relationship to Christ and to each other.”

”O Lord, I love the beauty of Thy house and the place where Thy glory dwells.” (Psalm 26)

Hold Fast

“Hold that fast which thou hast.”(Rev. 3:11)

These words, taken from the sacred Book of Revelation, have a particularly important significance in our time. They remind us of that priceless spiritual treasure which we, the children of the Orthodox Church, possess. Yes, we are rich! And this Spiritual wealth is that which the Holy Church has, and which belongs to all her faithful children: the teaching of the Faith, our wonderful saving Orthodox Faith; the countless living examples of the lives of people who have lived according to the Faith, according to those lofty principles which the Church sets before us, and who have attained that spiritual state which is called sanctity; the beauty and magnificence of our Orthodox Divine Services, and a living participation in them through faith and prayer; the fullness of the spiritual life of grace which is accessible to each and every one, and, what is the crown of all, the unity of the children of the Church in that love of which the Savior said: “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.”(John 13:35)

Found in Metropolitan Philaret’s typewriter, typed within a few days of the hierarch’s peaceful repose.

What’s Your Focus?

There is a widely-accepted misconception that when one becomes involved in work at home or in business, immediately one steps out of the godly realm and away from God-pleasing activities. The opposite of this idea is that once the desire to strive toward God germinates and turns toward the spiritual life, one must run from society, from the home, to the desert or monastery. Both premises are false!

Homes and communities depend on concerns of daily life and society. These concerns are God-appointed obligations; fulfilling them is not a step toward the ungodly, but is a walking in the way of the Lord. Everything you do in and outside your home, concerning social life, as a daughter, son, sister, brother, husband or wife, as a person living and working in the world, is godly and God-pleasing. There is an appointed commandment for everything in our lives. The fulfillment of commandments is not displeasing to God. Such misconceptions truly make them ungodly, because you fulfill your daily tasks with an attitude contrary to the one God intended. You complete godly deeds in an ungodly manner. They needlessly tear your mind from God. Correct this and approach daily matters with the knowledge that to fulfill them is a commandment. Administer them as administering God’s will.

Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.

Once you adjust yourself to this outlook, worldly duties will not distract you from God, but instead bring you close to Him. We are all servants of our God. God has assigned to each his place and responsibilities, and He watches to see how each approaches his assignment. He is everywhere. And He watches over you. Keep this in mind and do each deed as if it were assigned to you directly by God, no matter what it is. Do your housework in this manner. When someone comes to visit, keep in mind that God has sent you this visitor. When you have to leave your house, keep in mind that God has sent you out on an errand, and is watching.

By orienting yourself to God at all times, your chores at home and responsibilities outside the house will not distract your attention from God, but on the contrary, will keep you intent on completing all tasks in a God-pleasing manner. All will be performed with love of God, and this will keep your attention on God. Saint Theophan the Recluse

The Beauty Of The Lord

There is a charming story of a big city bishop who becomes stranded in the country side while on a driving trip. He is taken in by a country priest and given dinner and hospitality. In the course of the visit, the bishop quotes one of the famous saints, one everyone knows. And he refers to a beautiful passage wherein the saint describes something about the spiritual life. The country priest, also aware of the saint, and familiar with the quotation that the bishop expressed, said, yes Your Eminence, what the saint says is very beautiful indeed, but I have never understood exactly what  he meant by it. The bishop responded in a lovely moment of candor, and said, “I must admit that the actual meaning has always escaped my own understanding as well. But surely the beauty itself is enough.”

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Whatever we think we can accomplish by our mind, we can be sure that God is far beyond it. Even the ‘footprints’ of God, the signs and tokens and traces of Him left in the day, or the heart, or the mind, are not objects of knowledge that can be organized and controlled. We are not able to understand how God works, nor how He is active among us and in our lives. But we know that He is present and that He lives and moves about with us. Indeed as the Scripture assures us, “In Him, we live and move and have our being.” The invisible God is seen in a manner beyond vision. God is present, but this is not something we can understand and hold with our logic. But we can grow slowly into the experience of such mysteries without trying to nail them down, as if we could actually nail them down anyway. Some things touch us with their beauty and yet escape our understanding. Like Scripture that can unfold in different ways according to season or time, every person or event can be a potential charism of the Holy Spirit. The life of every human being bears the potential of communion with God.We can be nourished, if possible through understanding, but at least by beauty. Beauty is the soft power, it does not command, it endows, and brings us to secret transfigurations.

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

Saint Paul has a very practical approach to this. He says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are beautiful, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Maybe Saint Paul is trying to form in us this specific way of seeing the world around us. Human perception lies not in reason alone with its presumptions, but in all that goodness, all that beauty. It is the ‘beauty’ of Our Lord Jesus Christ that ravishes a human soul. Beauty is a true testimony to the real presence of God in the world, a sort of His Epiphany. This is one of the reasons we are reminded in the liturgical hymns of the Nativity season that the salvation of human beings is described as the “restoring of the first beauty”, Adam’s beauty. And “that Christ has raised us, who had slipped into sin, back to the ancient beauty”. Here of course as Saint Peter reminds us what is spoken of is “not that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, or of wearing of gold, or of putting on or certain apparel, but the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”(l Peter 3)

You Are Loved

“Therefore I say unto you, do not be anxious for your life. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”(Luke 12)

God is not a stern, unappeasable Judge. He does not sit up in the sky setting impossible tasks we must perform at any cost, no matter how unsuited they may be to our nature and abilities. He doesn’t begrudge our innocent pleasures, or enjoy our failures or mistakes.

Spiritual life is not a dreary effort to appease an implacable God. Humility is not self-hatred, and self-reproach is not neurotic self-obsession. This has nothing to do with Christ, or life in Christ.

God is a loving Father. The arms of Our Lord Jesus Christ are open to every person wounded by sin, seeking salvation in a fallen world. The Theotokos is a longsuffering Mother who runs to our aid if we turn to her. The world of creation is a place of meaning and beauty. The Lord Jesus Christ is tenderhearted and really listens when you run to church on the way to work to cry, or light a candle because your child is in trouble at school, or things are not going well at home or work. The all-holy Mother of God is also “our own dear Mother”, She is quick to hear and really is on our side. Just like any good mom, she’ll always stick up for her children, no matter how badly they’ve behaved. Spiritual life is a journey into communion with a loving God through repentance and deification. It allows us to repent in a child-like way because we can touch a child’s belief that home, that is the Church, really is the place where they will always take you back “no matter what you might have done.”

Life in Christ is remembering the Lord and following His commandments. “To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself. In this is all the law, and the prophets.” Surely trials and sufferings will come upon us, if we are looking to keep this Great Commandment. But we do not need to invent them for ourselves, because we think God will finally like us if somehow we are suffering or having difficulty.

Father Sophrony gives some simple suggestions. Don’t brood over the unchangeable past. Give a simple Confession and let go of past sins; read the Gospel often; say the Jesus Prayer as much as possible; and receive Holy Communion as often as possible. The Gospel helps us to see that God really is a God of love, Who cares for us personally. This is reinforced by Prayer and nourished by Holy Communion. Don’t give in to thoughts that tell you you’re still not “really forgiven”. And don’t be discouraged if troubling thoughts return. Remember your prayers to the Mother of God. She’s very good at helping when we feel lost or downtrodden. Pray simply, and simply pray.

Don’t worry if you don’t always feel joyful. Joy is a gift like life and sunlight; air, flowers, and food. It comes and goes according to its own rhythms and seasons. Feelings are not as important as acts and habits. Build the habit of prayer and life in Christ. The more we scrutinize ourselves, the less we’re paying attention to God. After all it is not our task to judge whether we are “getting any better.” That is the Lord’s business, not ours, and certainly not the devil’s. Remember you are a beloved child of the living God, Who bowed down the heavens, heals the diseases of our soul, takes away the sin of the world, and bestows unspeakable mercies. He is quite capable of bringing you safely home to Heaven.