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.   

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        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.

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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

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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.                            

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All good is in Me [Christ]

Do you desire good for yourself?  All good is in Me.

Do you desire blessings?All blessings are in Me.

Do you desire beauty? What is lovelier that I?

Do you desire noble birth? What birth is nobler than that of the Son of God
and of the Virgin?

Do you desire rank? Who is of higher rank than the King of heaven?

Do you desire glory? Who is more glorious than I?

Riches? All riches are in Me.

Wisdom? I am the Wisdom of God.

Friendship? Who is a greater friend than I—I who laid down my life for all?

Help? Who can help but I?

Happiness? Who can be happy without Me?

Do you seek consolation in distress? Who will console you but I?

Do you seek peace? I am the peace of the soul.

Do you seek life? In Me is the fountain of life.

Do you seek light? I am the light of the world.

— St. Tikhon of Zadonsk