The Doors of Repentance

The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is beginning. Every year Great Lent is repeated, and each time it brings us great benefit if we spend it as we should. It is a preparation for the life to come and, more immediately, a preparation for the Bright Resurrection.

Just as a stairway is built into a tall building in order to enable one, by climbing the steps, to easily reach the top, so too, the various days in the year serve as steps for our spiritual ascent.

This is especially true of the days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha.              

 – St. John of San Francisco –

Forgive Men Their Trespasses

The words of today’s Gospel also resound: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive everyone everything, and you will be forgiven. Forgive, and you will be saved, and you will inherit paradise.

Following immediately after these words of the Lord about forgiveness are these other words: Judge not, and ye shall not be judged (Mk. 7:1).

In these words the Lord shows a very short and most sure path to salvation, which opens to us the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord shows us that virtue, without which all our ascetic labors and efforts in life in general, and during the Great fast in particular, will be in vain. Furthermore this is the only path—the path of love for people, beginning with non-judgment.             – Archimandrite John Krestiankin –

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:

Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

      — Beginning of Psalm 102 (Sung as 1st antiphon at Divine Liturgy) —

A Spiritual Psalter

Like the apple of Thine eye preserve me, O Lord God; defend me and beneath Thy wings shelter me from temptations.  Be the guardian of the eye, that it might not look about in the manner of a thief; be the guardian of the ear, that it might not perceive falsehood.  Be the guardian of the lips, that slander, judgement, criticism and idle words might not come forth from them.  Be the guardian of the heart, that it might not be inclined to evil and might not work iniquity.

Grant us, O Lord, knowledge, both of what we should do and of how to set about it.

Grant us, O our Lord, that we may be sweeter to Thee than fragrances and perfumes.

Grant us, O our Lord, that we may love Thee and hate the world.

Grant us, O Lord, to acquire Only Thee rather than all transient possessions.

Grant us, O our Lord, to bring Thee three choice gifts.

Grant us, O our Lord, to burn three aromatic censers before Thee.

Grant us, O our Lord, to light for Thee three brightly burning lamps: the spirit, the soul and the body, these three gifts for the One Trinity.

Let us dedicate the spirit to the Father, the soul to the Son and the body to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which will raise it again from dust.  O Father, consecrate our spirit to Thyself! O Son, consecrate our soul to thyself! O Holy Spirit, consecrate to Thyself our body which is afflicted by sores.

Grant us, O our Lord, to rejoice in Thee, and mayest Thou rejoice in us in the last day. To Thee is praise, from the spirit, soul and body. And unto us be Thy mercies.         

— St. Ephraim the Syrian (A Spiritual Psalter, #5)

Psalms of Praise

When we are weighed down by deep despondency, we should for a while sing psalms out loud, raising our voice with joyful expectation until the thick mist is dissolved by the warmth of song.

      — St. Diadochos of Photiki (Philokalia, Vol. I p. 278) —

Image result for orthodox standing in churchWith fear and reverence you should stand in church, for our Christ is invisibly present  with the holy angels.

      — Elder Ephraim (Counsels p. 410)

A Religious Hymn

A religious hymn is a great blessing for everyone. It constitutes praise to the Most High, honor for His holy people, worldwide harmony, an eloquent proof of the Church’s unity. It expresses the voice of the Church, its confession. It brings about a complete spiritual uplifting and absolute peace and joy in redeemed hearts, with the triumphal hymn and song of happiness. It drives away hardness of heart. It chases away disturbance. It dissolves and dissipates despondency… The voice sings the soul’s joy, while the spirit delves into the mysteries of the faith.

      — St. Ambrose of Milan (Enarr. In Psalmum 1,9. P.L. 14,968)

Diary in the Russian Revolution

I have reached the point now, where I hate to go out and see those suffering eyes, full of anguish, hopelessness and utter despair.  …Only the churches seem to be unchanged and as I enter our hospital church or the great Alexander Neysky Cathedral where I go more and more often these days, my troubles seem to leave me at the threshold and I find inside all the peace and beauty that is so utterly lost everywhere else.

Evidently many people feel the way I do, for the churches are always crowded to overflowing and the congregations stand patiently through the very long services, apparently loath to go home when finally they are over. In fact the longer the services the better they seem to like it, even though the all-night services sometimes last twelve hours, beginning early in the evening and ending at dawn with general confession followed by Communion, reminding one again of the first days of Christianity. The Metropolitan seems to think that we should all be prepared for the unexpected death that can overtake us at any moment and therefore conducts these night services personally once a week.

…There is no electric glare, only the candles and lampadas burn softly in front of the holy icons, the air is warm arid fragrant with incense, the sermons are truly inspired, and above all a wonderful feeling of peace pervades the whole church. The spirit of old Russia, though dead everywhere else, is still alive in the churches, where it seems to have taken refuge as in a last stronghold. I cannot explain how soothing it is to hear the familiar words of the prayers and hymns that we have known since our childhood, to see the solemn eves of the same old saints looking down on us from beneath the silver and gold of their jeweled crowns…We stand all night long, hardly ever sitting down, and yet when we go home we are not tired, not in the least—on the contrary, we seem fitter than ever for the day’s work.                

Irina Skariatina, diary during the beginning of the Russian Revolution

The Lord’s Sweetness

“I tell you, laborers in Christ’s vineyard who are working out your salvation in the Lord, do not think that you will ever exhaust all the Lord’s sweetness. No! He is an inexhaustible abyss of sweetness. If the entire heavenly and earthly worlds were to strive persistently to know Him, even then He would only reveal to them, more and more, His Wisdom and Love, which would ascend from strength to strength, from perfection to perfection; and out of rapture and reverence, people would cry out eternally like the angels: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord; heaven and earth are full of His glory. Alleluia!…” …A heart that is broken and humbled takes place of all rules for him and, walking in the light of God, he directly draws closer to God, to His embrace, which reaches out to men. Let us soften our hearts and humble them – and they will teach us everything. Amen”       — St. Gabriel of the Seven Lakes Monastery

My God, My God

“My God, my God, great and wondrous areThy works.  Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest Light inaccessible.  My fathers trusted in Thee, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered. But I am a worm, and no man;   A reproach of men, and despised of the people. But Thou art He that took me out of the womb;                   Thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me and I will declare Thy name unto my brethren.”    — St. Sophrony of Essex —