20170827_083626“‘But I say to you,’ the Lord says, ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.’ Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one you loves all equally in imitation of God.”

~ Maximus Confessor.

Love as Politeness

It was said of Abba Moses the Ethiopian, “that he had so much love, that going about in the night by the dwellings of all those around him, he secretly filled each one’s water pot with water.  And this was very tiresome.”
One of the fathers of our time tells us, “If we cannot be saints, let us at least learn to be gracious.”(Elder Aimilianos)
Can simple graciousness, what might be called politeness, somehow help people get closer to Christ?  It can be a step toward seeing the image of God in those around us.  Graciousness, politeness, tactfulness, go a long way toward bridging earth and heaven.  Perhaps there is not so much distance, as first appears, between being polite and loving one another.
It used to be called good manners, certain rules of social life that help us live together and get along with each other.  It is not age related, it can be expressed by anyone old or young.  Saint Paul describes the original Christian underpinnings of graciousness, saying:  “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom.12,10).  But what exactly is graciousness?  What might be the characteristics of a gracious person?
A gracious person learns to control his behaviour, first inside himself, and then also inside his own home.  True graciousness begins from within the space of our heart; it is expressed inside our home, to our family members, then to our fellow-man, and it is addressed to everyone, without discrimination.
Graciousness does not demand, but gives.  A gracious person becomes “weightless”, that is, he does not become burdensome, but tries to apply the words of the Apostle Paul:  “In everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you.”(2 Cor.11:9).  A gracious person avoids harshness, because he is aware that it is a weakness, not a strength.  Graciousness is not abusive, does not speak unbecomingly, does not familiarize itself with being disrespectful, but behaves with prudence.
A gracious person respects and honours the elderly, is not hypocritical, is patient, willing, careful, pleasant, grateful, and tries never to become a tyrant or a nuisance.  A gracious person is meek and tolerant and does not give himself willingly over to the passion of anger.  He is careful with words, thinks before speaking, and tries to say what is appropriate.
Saint Gregory the Theologian advises that a gracious person is careful even about his gaze, how and how long he looks at others, which can sometimes offend his fellow-man, as well as his own heart.  He says if we observe, “observe decently”.
Graciousness can stop aggression or at least, considerably reduce it.  If we learn to smile, hold the door for someone, give way to someone, the world around us would start changing for the better.  Uphold these simple basic values, graciousness, tactfulness, politeness.  If people get used to being kind, a lot more time and effort would be needed to make them aggressive.  Such small expressions of love that shine in the routine of daily life connect us to God Who is Himself Consummate Love, and Who communicates and transmits a part of His Consummate Goodness to His creatures.
Ultimately graciousness is the overflowing of one’s soul towards our fellow man.  It is the fragrance of many virtues, it is a life lived in Christ.  “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”(2 Cor. 2:15)  It originates from the excess of the heart.  “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” “My heart is inditing a good matter.” (Psalms 119 & 45)
So let us love each other.  Let us aspire to graciousness, become polite, and where ever we go try to leave a little trace of goodness.  This is not only a sign of being civilized, but also the sign of love, expressions of the Infinite in a routine gesture.

Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.

~ St. John of Kronstadt

How Great is God’s Love!

(Saint Parisios of the Holy Mountain describes God’s Inexhaustible Love answering this question once asked him.  Do we disappoint God by constantly falling into the same sins?)
“We are God’s children and He loves us all the same.  One of the children of a father I once saw was mentally handicapped.  And although he kept wiping his runny nose on the father’s sleeve, his father hugged him, kissed him and caressed him, just as much as his other children.  God does the same thing.  Being the Good Father He is, God not only loves His accomplished children, but He also loves those who are spiritually weak, for whom He is all the more pained and concerned.”
~Saint Paisios
Divine life on earth begins to celebrate its victory with Pentecost, but that victory is a hidden one, a victory to be revealed beyond the bounds of history. And to participate in that victory, one must create courageous warriors within the confines of history. Christianity is a battle, all the more terrifying in the fact that, according to the Apostle, it “is not against flesh and blood,” i.e. not against people and governments, but against invisible, dark, mystical forces. While still here on earth, specifically here on earth, the Christian must enter the invisible world of Divine life; otherwise he is impotent before the world of invisible evil. He must recognize not only the full breadth, but also the full depth of Christianity, for only that will give him “the full armor of light” against the full armor of darkness.
It is the Liturgy, Holy Communion, that best leads us into the Mystery of Christianity, into its Mystical Supper. St. Cyprian of Carthage, a 3rd Century bishop and martyr, wrote that it is impossible to leave undefended and without weapons those who we send into battle; they must be surrounded by the protection of the Body and Blood of Christ… they must be armed by being frankly filled to satiation with Divinity.” (St. Cyprian of Carthage. To Cornelius. Works. Book 1).
We are not directed to seek after wonders. To the contrary: “This evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs.”We are not to seek after signs and wonders. We are directed to seek not after wonders, but the Miracle, the greatest Miracle in human experience: partaking of life by partaking of the Divine Body. That Miracle takes place in the Divine Liturgy.”
~ Sergei Fudel

To Live is to Love

It is only when we become increasingly aware, through the small loves in our life, of the Love that is altogether different and greater,  and through connection with this unique Love, however small a connection at first, that we begin to see.
The Holy Scripture speaks of developing the “mind of Christ” (Colossians 3).  This is not so much a form of intelligence, but a way to see the world.  It is a “way of looking” which leads to wholeness because through it we begin to see the world from the perspective of eternity.  When we take the long view, so to speak, many of the concerns that plague us and throw us off balance begin to recede into the background of our lives.  Paradoxically, the perspective of eternity helps us to become able to pay attention and enter into the present moment in a whole and holy way.
Mother Maria describes something of this way of looking and seeing.  “A soul, centered upon God is a power of peace.  Deeply sensitive to every form of discord and disunion in the world, it seizes upon it, to work it into peace by binding together within itself whatever is striving apart.  There are stores of comfort in such a soul, for its secret power of union lies in its vision of the world, seen as in the actual presence of Christ, and this is an entirely different world from that which is contemplated without Him.  Faithfully, it will ever refuse to take any other viewpoint.
The soul who lives in the presence of Christ sees in Him, as in mirror, every lapse of love on its own part.  But, of others, it sees, in the same mirror, not their sins but the perfection for which they were created and to which they are called.  Their failures, though visible, have no full reality in face of that vision seen in Christ.
This is one of the great mysteries of the Communion of Saints, that each perceives not his own glory, but the glory of the other.  Here surely, is the explanation of the unsearchable mystery of repentance that the Fathers saw growing greater and greater, the further the Christian advances on the way of perfection.
This vision of the glory of others is to the soul a source of great joy, a joy independent of any darkness and suffering which surrounds it.  It makes life singularly simple, because the care of the sins of others is taken away.  The one task, which it can perceive in the world, is to heal every breach in the presence of Love.  Forgiving will, therefore, come easily and naturally to such a soul.  The soul becomes entrusted with a life in heavenly measures, to be lived on earth.  In the strength of infinite compassion, it will turn human suffering and darkness within itself into glory and light.  This will remain its task, and its joy and delight, for it means to live heaven, while still on earth, and to know, whether in earth, heaven, or hell, no other reality than Love.”

Bloom Where You’re Planted

“We have to learn how to live with others, and with ourself, where ever God puts us, because no one can choose his own road.    Moreover, we have to learn how live in unfavorable conditions, amidst difficulties, as if they did not exist.  Because if you are forever reacting to, or simply unable to live in, the place where you happen to be, you won’t be able to live at all, because you’ll be revolting against what God has placed, or allowed to be placed, in your path.”

-Elder Aeimilianos