Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Beginning Of The End Of The End Of The Age

The following are a few excerpts from prophecies of Righteous Dimitry Tarabicz recorded around the 1850's. He was illiterate Serbian clairvoyant villager who lived in pious eremitic manner in mid 19 century, many of his prophecies were recorded by his Godfather, the priest Father Zacharias. Here are excerpts from part that deals with a GREAT War ahead of us .

"You see my god-father, when the world starts to live in peace and abundance after the Second Big War, all of that will be just a bitter illusion, because many will forget God, and they will worship only their own human intelligence... And do you know my god-father, what is human intelligence compared to God's will and knowledge? Not even a single drop in the ocean.

Men will build a box and within will be some kind of gadget with images, but they will not be able to communicate with me already dead, even though this image gadget will be as close to this other world as hairs on the human scalp are close to each other."

"With the help of this image-gadget man will be able to see everything that is happening all over the world.

People will drill wells deep in the ground and dig out gold [another name for crude oil is "black gold"], which will give them light, speed and power, and the earth will shed tears of sorrow, because there will be much more gold and light on its surface than in its interior. The earth will suffer because of these open wounds. Instead of working in the fields, people will dig everywhere, in right and wrong places, but the real power will be all around them, not being able to tell them: "Come on, take me, don't you see that I am here, all around you." Only after many years, people will remember this real power, and then they will realize how stupid it was to dig all those holes. This power will also be present in people but it will take a long time before they discover it and use it. Thus man will live for a long, long time, not being able to know himself. There will be many learned men who will think through their books that they know and can do everything. They will be the great obstacle for this realization , but once men get this knowledge, then people will see what kind of delusion it was when they listened to their learned men. When that happens, people will be so sorry that they didn't discover it before, because this knowledge is so simple. 

They will believe that their illusion is the real truth, although there will be no truth in their heads. Here at home it will be the same as all over the world. People will start to hate clean air and this divine freshness and all divine beauty and will hide in rankness. Nobody will force them to do that, but they will do it of their own free will. Here in Kremna many a field will become a meadow, and many a home will be abandoned, but then those who have left will come back to heal themselves by breathing fresh air. In Serbia it will not be possible to distinguish a man from a woman. Everybody will dress the same. This calamity will come to us from abroad but it will stay with us the longest. A groom will take a bride, but nobody will know who is who. People will be lost and more and more senseless day by day. Men will be born not knowing who was their grand-father and great grand-father. People will think that they know everything, but not a thing they will know.

The Serbs will separate from each other, and they will say: "I am not a Serb, I am not a Serb." The unholy one will infiltrate this nation and bed with Serbian sisters, mothers and wives. He will sire such children that among the Serbs, since the beginning of the world, these will be the worst of offspring. Only weaklings will be born, and nobody will be strong enough to give a birth to a real hero."

"At one time we shall disappear from this land of ours. We shall go to the north, and then realizing our stupid deed we shall return. When we come back, we shall wise up and chase away the unholy one, not to see him, in God's name, ever again.

The whole world will be plagued by a strange disease and nobody will be able to find a cure; everybody will say I know, I know, because I am learned and smart, but nobody will know anything. People will think and think, but they will not be able to find the right cure, which will be with God's help, all around them and in themselves.

Man will travel to other worlds to find lifeless deserts there, and still, God forgive him, he will think that he knows better than God himself. There, except the eternal peace of God, he will see nothing, but he will sense with his heart and soul all of God's beauty and power. People will drive in rigs upon the moon and stars. They will look for life, but life similar to ours they will not find. It will be there, but they will not be able to understand it and see that it is life.

One who goes there, God forgive him, not believing in God as it is proper for an honorable and decent person, when he comes back he will say: "Oh, you people, who mention God's name with doubt, go there where I was, than you will see what is God's mind and power."

The more people will know, the less they will love and care for each other. Hatred will be so great between them that they will care more for their different gadgets than for their relatives. Man will trust his gadget more than his first neighbor...

Among people of a nation far in the north a little man will appear who will teach men about love and compassion, but there will be many Judas and hypocrites around him so that he will have many ups and downs. Not one of these hypocrites will want to know what is real human grace, but his wise books will remain, and all the words he will say , and then then people will see how self-deceived they were.

Those who will read and write different books with numbers will think that they know the most. These learned men will let their lives be led by their calculations, and they will do and live exactly how these numbers tell them. Among these learned men there will be good and evil men. The evil ones will do evil deeds. They will poison air and water and spread pestilence over the seas, rivers and earth, and people will start to die suddenly of various ailments. Those good and wise will see that all this effort and hard work is not worth a penny and that it leads to the destruction of the world, and instead of looking for wisdom in numbers, they will start to seek it in prayer.


When they start to pray more, they will be closer to God's wisdom, but it will be too late, because the evil ones will already ravage the whole earth and men will start to die in great numbers. Then people will run away from cities to the country and look for the mountains with three crosses, and there, inside, they will be able to breathe and drink water. Those who will escape will save themselves and their families, but not for long, because a great famine will appear. There will be plenty of food in towns and villages, but it will be poisoned. Many will eat because of hunger and die immediately. Those who will fast to the end will survive, because the Holy Ghost will save them and they will be close to God.

"The greatest and the angriest will strike against the mightiest and the most furious! When this horrible war starts, woe to those armies that fly over skies; better off will be those who fight on ground and water.
"People waging this war will have their scientists who will invent different and strange cannonballs. "We will not fight in this war, but others will do battle over our heads. Burning people will fall from the sky over Pozega [a town in Serbia]. Only one country at the end of the world, surrounded by great seas, as big as our Europe , will live in peace, without any troubles... Upon it or over it, not a single cannonball will explode! Those who will run and hide in the mountains with three crosses will find shelter and will be saved, But not for long times since great famine will appear ,Food will be all over the cities and villages ,but all will be poisoned....Many in order to feed themselves will eat everything and will immediately die. Those who will fast and endured fasting, those will survive ,because Holy Spirit will preserve them and those will be closer to God in the time of great famine and perdition.
In that time far away in Russian mountains, young man named Mihail will appear. He will have bright face and his entire appearance will radiate with mercy . .....he will come to nearest Monastery and ring on all monastery bells ,and to people who will gather there around him he will say; You forgot about me(who I am),that I didn't die but am alive ......Mihail will go everywhere but mostly he will dwell in Constantinople.... who have ears let him hear

Sent to me from Father Gregory of the "Holy Myrrhbearing Women" Orthodox Church in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho

Friday, October 26, 2007

'What fear, what trembling, what uneasiness

will there for us when our soul is separated from the body. Then indeed the force and strength of the adverse powers come against us, the rulers of darkness, those who command the world of evil, the principalities, the powers, the spirits of evil. They accuse our souls as in a lawsuit, bringing before it all the sins it has committed, whether deliberately or through ignorance, from its youth until the time when it has been taken away. So they stand accusing it of all it has done. Furthermore, what anxiety do you suppose the soul will have at that hour, until sentence is pronounced and it gains liberty. That is its hour of affliction, until it sees what will happen to it. On the other hand, the divine powers stand on the opposite side, and present the good deeds of the soul. Consider the fear and trembling of the soul standing between them until in judgment it receives the sentence of the righteous judge. If it is judged worthy, the demons will receive their punishment, and it will be carried away by the angels. Then thereafter you will be without disquiet, or rather you will live according to that which is written: "Even the habitation of those who rejoice is in you" Ps.87:7. Then will the scripture be fulfilled: "Sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Is35:10 Then your liberated soul will go on to that joy and ineffable glory in which it will be established. But if it is found to have lived carelessly, it will hear that terrible voice: "Take away the ungodly, that he may not see the glory of the Lord."Is26:10. Then the day of anger, the day of affliction, the day of darkness and shadow seizes upon it. Abandoned to outer darkness and condemned to everlasting fire it will be punished through the ages without end. Where is then the vanity of the world? Where is the vain-glory? Where is the carnal life? Where is enjoyment? Where is imagination? Where is ease? Where is boasting? Riches? Nobility? Father, mother, brother? Who could take the soul out of its pains when it is burning in the fire, and remove it from bitter torments?
'Since it is so, in what manner ought we not to give ourselves to holy and devout works? What love ought we to acquire? What manner of life? What virtues? What speed? What diligence? What prayer? What prudence? Scripture says: "In this waiting, let us make every effort to be found blameless and without reproach in peace."1Cor1:7-8. In this way, we shall be worthy to hear it said: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matt.24:34 Amen. Written by Abba Theophilus "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers"

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Second Ecumenical Council - 381 AD

In the whole history of the Church there is no council which bristles with such astonishing facts as the First Council of Constantinople. It is one of the “undisputed General Councils,” one of the four which St. Gregory said he revered as he did the four holy Gospels, and he would be rash indeed who denied its right to the position it has so long occupied; and yet

1. It was not intended to be an Ecumenical Synod at all.

2. It was a local gathering of only one hundred and fifty bishops.

3. It was not summoned by the Pope, nor was he invited to it.

4. No diocese of the West was present either by representation or in the person of its bishop; neither the see of Rome, nor any other see.

5. It was a council of Saints...

Accomplishments of this Council:

1. Established the Unity of the Holy Trinity
2. Confirmed the Complete Manhood in Christ
3. Supplemented the Nicene Creed

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Synod of Loadicea 363-364 AD

Sixty Canons Were Decreed At This Synod Of Which Four Are Published Below 

Canon XXIX.

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

In short: A Christian shall not stop work on the Sabbath, but on the Lord’s Day.

Balsamon comments:

Here the Fathers order that no one of the faithful shall stop work on the Sabbath as do Jews, but that they should honour the Lord’s Day, on account of the Lord’s resurrection, and that on that day they should abstain from manual labour and go to church. But thus abstaining from work on Sunday they do not lay down as a necessity, but they add, “if they can.” For if through need or any other necessity any one worked on the Lord’s day this was not reckoned against him.


They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ.

In Short: Those illuminated should after their baptism be anointed.

Van Espen comments:

That this canon refers to the anointing with chrism on the forehead of the baptized, that is to say of the sacrament of confirmation, is the unanimous opinion of the Greek commentators, and Balsamon notes that this anointing is not simply styled “chrism” but “the heavenly chrism,” viz.: “that which is sanctified by holy prayers and through the invocation of the Holy Spirit; and those who are anointed therewith, it sanctifies and makes partakers of the kingdom of heaven.”

Canon LIII.

Christians, when they attend weddings, must not join in wanton dances, but modestly dine or breakfast, as is becoming to Christians.

In Short: It is unsuitable to dance or leap at weddings.

Van Espen comments:

This canon does not call for explanation but for reflexion, and greatly it is to be desired that it should be observed by Christians, and that through like improprieties, wedding-days, which should be days of holy joy and blessing, be not turned, even to the bride and groom themselves, into days of cursing. Moreover the Synod of Trent admonishes bishops to take care that at weddings there be only that which is modest and proper.

Canon LIV.

Members of the priesthood and of the clergy must not witness the plays at weddings or banquets; but, before the players enter, they must rise and depart.

In Short: Priests and clerics should leave before the play.

Aristenus comments:

Christians are admonished to feast modestly when they go to weddings and not to dance nor βαλλίζειν , that is to clap their hands and make a noise with them. For this is unworthy of the Christian standing. But consecrated persons must not see the play at weddings, but before the thymelici begin, they must go out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Answers to Questions Commonly asked by Protestant Christians about the Orthodox Faith

Why do you pray to saints?

To be accurate, we pray with the saints, not to them. Much the same as you would ask your friends, family or other Christians to pray for you, we ask the saints to intercede on our behalf. It's important to remember that the saints who are in paradise are alive! And as they are alive, they are able to pray for us!

What's with all the icons?

Icons are our family album. In the same way that many people keep photo albums to help them remember people and events, we keep the icons to remind us of people and events. They adorn the walls of our worship spaces so that we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" as the author of Hebrews reminds us. Most Orthodox Christians have an icon corner in their home where they display icons of Christ, the Theotokos and the saints.

Icons are not just items made of wood and paint. Human beings are icons of God (that is, we are made in the image and likeness of God). Jesus Christ is called "the exact image (icon)" of God. In the end, icons point only back to God. Reverence which is made through these "windows into heaven" is directed at the image of God found in each of the saints depicted.

Why do you mention Mary so much?

It boils down to this: She's Jesus' mom! The issue really isn't that we show her so much respect, but why other Christians don't!

Why is she so important? 

Mary is the guarantor that Jesus Christ is fully man! The early Christians made a point of inserting into the Creed the statement that Christ was "Born of the Virgin Mary" to ensure there was no confusion on this matter!

Why do you pray to Mary?

As for prayers, we pray with Mary, and ask her to intercede on our behalf. It's no different than asking your mom to pray for you. And in this case, we're asking Jesus' mom to pray for us! The question really is why anyone would pass up that opportunity?

Why do you cross yourselves?

Jesus calls us to "take up our cross" and this is a visible identification with that command of our Lord. We make the sign of the cross to remind us that we were bought and paid for by our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the cross, we are freed from bondage to sin and to Satan!

This isn't a new phenomenon — Protestants, including Martin Luther used the sign of the cross, and some continue to do so still today.

Don't you get tired of singing the same hymns every week?

Our hymns change every day. Yes, there are some hymns which we sing regularly, but each day different hymns are sung to celebrate a feast, or the life of a saint or some other event in the life of the Church. If an Orthodox Christian participates in Vespers (evening prayer), Matins (morning prayer) and the Liturgy, at least 15 different hymns will be heard! And even with the ones that are repeated at every service, very often verses appropriate to the day are inserted between the "standard" verses that we sing.

Like most churches, we have a large and varied hymnbook, and some of the hymns are used more than others. Keep track in your church over the course of a year and see!

Why do you repeat the same prayers all the time?

Because they are good ones! Seriously, why is it necessary to rewrite the prayers every week? There is no such call in Scripture. There we are told to refrain from "vain repetition" but that does not mean that all repetition is bad!

That said, listen carefully to the prayers used in your church. Week in and week out, the prayer will be nearly the same in content, if not in words! Try it sometime!

Why do you use incense?

Our worship is not merely mental — we use all our senses, sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Isaiah and the Revelation of Jesus Christ tell us that incense is used in heavenly worship. Incense wafting upwards symbolizes our prayer rising to God in heaven.

Do you have to be Orthodox to be saved?

In a word, no. We believe that Orthodoxy represents the fullness of the faith — that is, the most complete and accurate expression possible by man. God honors truthful belief and proper faith anywhere it is found.

Then why become Orthodox? 

Simply put, the fullness of the faith is found here, the fullness of the truth is found here, and the fullness of worship is found here. Why would anyone want only partial measures?

Why do you fast so much?

Fasting is one of many tools that we use to "buffet our bodies" as St. Paul said, so that we might be pure and holy. Jesus said that when He had gone, his followers would fast. Like the early Christians, we fast so that we may learn to control our appetite for all things that are not good and holy. It is not about earning salvation, it is a tool to help us work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

Specifically, we fast each Wednesday to commemorate the day when Jesus was betrayed and each Friday to commemorate His death on the cross. In addition, we fast during the entire Lenten period and the entire Advent period, as well as during other times during the year.

Orthodox fasting practice, when followed strictly, means that the believer does not partake of any animal products from vertebrates (i.e. no meat, dairy, eggs, etc), nor of olive oil, nor wine. These choices reflect the desire to do no harm on these days, as well as giving up certain staples of life.

Do you believe the Eucharist is REALLY the body and blood of Christ?

What do you mean by "REALLY"? There are several ways to approach this. Although Orthodox Christains certainly recoil at the sacrilige of testing it using the scientific method, there is little doubt that you will find only wine, water and bread with such tests. And to most westerners, this settles the question. But does it really?

We don't think it settles the question at all. In fact, it's not even the right question! The Eucharist is very much really, truly the body and blood of our Lord. But this can be appraised only by our spiritual sight, what the early Christians called the "nous" — the eyes of the soul. Without this spiritual insight, we could not understand the mystery of the Eucharist.

To address a question that often arises, we do not view the Eucharist as a "re-sacrifice" or a "re-presentation" of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Rather, in the Eucharist, the Church is brought up to heaven to participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb — the future communion of all believers with Christ when He comes again.

What do the Orthodox think about the Bible? Do you agree with Sola Scriptura?

Much of the content of Orthodox worship services consists of readings from the Scriptures, especially the Psalms. Readings from the Gospel occur at most services, along with regular readings from the Epistles.

There are not now, nor have there ever been, any restrictions on the laity with regard to reading the Scriptures — they are, and always have been, encouraged to read them.

As for Sola Scriptura we believe that the Scriptures are the "canon" — the measuring stick — which must be applied to all doctrine, but it is not the only source doctrine. In other words, not all doctrine is found in the Scriptures, but no Orthodox doctrine contradicts the Scriptures.

Does tradition override the Scriptures?

Some place Scripture and Tradition in opposition to each other, but this is not the Orthodox position. Others place Scripture and Tradition on the same level and set them up as co-equal, but neither is this the Orthodox position. For Orthodoxy, there is but one deposit of faith that contains everything that God has given to the Church via the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are part of this deposit of faith, and thus are part of Holy Tradition.

The Scriptures are not "overridden" or "trumped" by tradition, but are the cornerstone of tradition. They are the "canon" - the measuring stick - by which all doctrine must be judged. No Orthodox teaching is in contradiction to the Scriptures, nor can it be, for if it is, it most certainly could not be part of the deposit of faith. The Holy Scriptures, as interpreted by the Church, have the final say over any and all matters of faith and practice. They do not have the only say. (see 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 3:6-7; 1 Corinthians 11:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:14-15).

The Scriptures are themselves a product of the oral tradition of the early Church. The gospels were preached orally, later being written down by the leading of the Holy Spirit. One can also see in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew usage of the Gospel of Mark - the use of prior tradition. The use of oral tradition in the Scriptures has precedents in both the Old and the New Testaments - the authors were simply following accepted practices. Similarly, both Luke and Matthew had access to some collection of sayings that they used in common which do not appear in Mark. This collection could have been oral, written or a combination of both.

Taken from the Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Church website, Warrenville IL
Idealized image of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (Ancient Constantinople) 
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Mt. Athos Is Home To Twenty Monasteries And Is The Oldest Surviving Monastic Community In The World

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sayings Of The Church Fathers

"O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were
not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again,
but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in
reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and
truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us,
that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain
salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ
received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured
anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship
of His pain He vouchsafed salvation."

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Christian Sacraments.

"Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following
things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most
despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one,
and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they
are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to
yourself: how do I know what or how many other people's sins are,
or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our
ignorance you and I , my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust
and ashes under their feet. How can I not regard myself as more
despicable than all other creatures, for they act in accordance
with the nature they have been given, while I, owing to my
innumerable sins, am in a state contrary to nature."

St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, Vol. IV.

"I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to
gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I
shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received
from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule
for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because
not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of
body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal:
to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear
rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop
eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are

St. John Cassian

Boomerangs and Imprecatory Prayers

Exerpt from a homily of St. Chrysosotom: 

"...but to-day I have found also another damage attaching itself to their prayers more destructive than that one. For many, throwing themselves prostrate, and striking the ground with their forehead, and pouring forth hot tears, and groaning bitterly from the heart and stretching out their hands, and displaying much earnestness, employ this warmth and forwardness against their own salvation. 

For it is not on behalf of their own sins that they beseech God; nor are they asking forgiveness of the offences committed by them; but they are exerting this earnestness against their enemies entirely, doing just the same thing as if one, after whetting his sword, were not to use the weapon against his enemies, but to thrust it through his own throat. 

So these also use their prayers not for the remission of their own sins, but about revenge on their enemies; which is to thrust the sword against themselves. This too the wicked one has devised, in order that on all sides we may destroy ourselves, both through slackness and through earnestness. 

For the one class by their carelessness in their prayers exasperate God, by displaying contempt through their slackness; and the others, when they display earnestness, display the earnestness on the other hand against their own salvation. “A certain person,” he (the devil) says, “is slack: that is sufficient for me with a view to his obtaining nothing; this man is earnest and thoroughly aroused; what then must be done to accomplish the same result? 

I cannot slacken his earnestness, nor throw him into carelessness; I will contrive his destruction in the other way. How so? I will manage that he use his earnestness for transgressing the law:” (for the praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law). 

“He shall depart therefore not only having gained nothing by his earnestness, but also having endured the hurt which is greater than that caused through slackness.” Such as these are the injuries of the devil: the one sort he destroys through their remissness; and the other through their earnestness itself, when it is shown not according to God’s laws.

11. But it is also worth hearing the very words of their prayer, and how the words are of a puerile mind; of how infantile a soul. I am ashamed in truth when about to repeat them; but it is absolutely necessary to repeat them, and to imitate that coarse tongue. 

What then are the words? 

“Avenge me of my enemies, show them that I too have God (on my side).” They do not then learn, man, that we have God, when we are indignant and angry and impatient; but when we are gentle and meek and subdued, and practise all love of wisdom. 

So also God said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens. Matt. v. 16. 

Perceivest thou not that it is an insult to God, the making a request to God against thine enemies? And how is it an insult? one will say. Because He Himself said, “pray for your enemies;” and brought in this divine law. When therefore thou claimest that the legislator should relax his own laws; and callest upon him to legislate in opposition to himself; and supplicatest him who had forbidden thee to pray against thine enemies to hear thee praying against thine enemies; thou art not praying in doing this, nor calling upon him; but thou art insulting the lawgiver, and acting with drunken violence towards him, who is sure to give to thee the good things which result from prayer. 

And how is it possible to be heard when praying, tell me, when thou exasperatest him who is sure to hear? For by doing these things thou art pushing thine own salvation into a pit, and art rushing down a precipice, by striking thine enemy before the king’s eyes. 

To strike any one within “the precincts of the court” even has been made a capital offence. For even if thou doest not this with the hands, with thy words thou strikest him, the thing which thou darest not do even in the case of thy fellow-slaves. At least dare to do this in a ruler’s presence, and though thou hast done countless public services, thou wilt straightway surely be led away to execution. 

Then (I ask) in the presence of a ruler dost thou not dare to insult thine equal, but when doing this in God’s presence, tell me, dost thou not shudder, nor fear when in the time of entreaty and prayer being so savage and turning thyself into a wild beast; and displaying greater want of feeling than he who demanded payment of the hundred pence? 

Matt. xviii. 28. For that thou art more insolent than he, listen to the story itself. A certain man owed ten thousand talents to his master; then, not having (wherewith) to pay, he entreated him to be long-suffering, in order that, his wife having been sold and his house and his children, he might settle his master’s claim. And the master seeing him lamenting had compassion on him, and remitted the ten thousand talents. He having gone out and found another servant owing him a hundred pence, seizing his throat demanded them with great cruelty and inhumanity. The Master having heard this threw him into the prison, and laid on him again the debt of the ten thousand talents which he had before remitted; and he paid the penalty of the cruelty shown towards his fellow-servant.

12. Now do thou consider in how much more unfeeling and insensible in a way thou hast acted even than he, praying against thine enemies. He did not beg his master to demand, but he himself demanded, the hundred pence; whereas thou even callest on the Master for this shameless and forbidden demand. And he seized his fellow-servant’s throat not before his lord’s eyes, but outside; while thou in the very moment of prayer, standing in the King’s presence, doest this. 

And if he, for doing this without either having urged his master to the demand, and after going forth, met with no forgiveness; thou, both stirring up the Master to (exacting) this forbidden payment, and doing this before his eyes, what sort of penalty will thou have to pay? tell me. 

But thy mind is inflamed by the memory of the enmity, and swells, and thy heart rises and when recurring in memory to him who has caused pain, thou art unable to reduce the swelling of thy thought. But set against this inflammation the memory resulting from thine own sins committed the fear resulting from the punishment to come. 

Recall to memory for how many things thou art accountable to thy master, and that for all those things thou owest Him satisfaction; and this fear will surely overcome that anger; since indeed this is far more powerful than that passion. 

Recall the memory of hell and punishment and vengeance during the time of thy prayer; and thou wilt not be able even to receive thine enemy into thy mind. Because it is filled with better thoughts. No room for him. Make thy mind contrite, humble thy soul by the memory of the offences committed by thee, and wrath will not be able even to trouble thee. 

But the cause of all these evils is this, that we scrutinise the sins of all others with great exactitude; while we let our own pass with great remissness. Whereas we ought to do the contrary—to keep our own faults unforgotten; but never even to admit a thought of those of others. 

If we do this we shall both have God propitious, and shall cease cherishing immortal anger against our neighbors, and we shall never have any one as an enemy; and even if we should have at any time we shall both quickly put an end to his enmity, and should obtain speedy pardon for our own sins. 

For just as he who treasures up the memory of wrong against his neighbor does not permit the punishment upon his own sins to be done away; so he who is clear of anger will speedily be clear of sins also. 

For if we, wicked as we are and enslaved to passion, on account of the commandment of God overlook all the faults committed against us, much more will He who is a lover of mankind, and good, and free from any passion, overlook our delinquencies, rendering to us the recompense of our kindly spirit towards our neighbour in the forgiveness of our own sins: which God grant that we may attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the dominion, to the ages of the ages. Amen."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Holy Fathers On Illness

Written by Bishop Alexander (see link)

Everyone, whether or not he is a Christian, must expect a certain amount of sickness and discomfort to enter his life. Physical pain is universal; no one escapes it. Therefore, how much we suffer from illness, or how intensely, does not matter so much as how we understand these infirmities. The understanding is all.

If a man supposes that life should be one long, luxurious "vacation," then any amount of suffering that comes to him is unbearable. But if a man views life as a time of sorrows, correction, and purification, then suffering and pain become not only bearable, but even useful.

Saint Ambrose of Milan says of the Christian attitude toward sickness: "If the occasion demands it, a wise man will readily accept bodily infirmity and even offer his whole body up to death for the sake of Christ....This same man is not affected in spirit or broken with bodily pain if his health fails him. He is consoled by his struggle for perfection in the virtues" (Exegetical Works). Hearing this, the man of the world is quite likely to exclaim: "What an idea! How can a man 'readily accept' illness and disease?"

To an unbeliever this is indeed an incomprehensible thing. He cannot reconcile the fact of human suffering with his own idea of God. To him, the very thought that God would allow pain is repugnant; usually he sees every kind of suffering as evil in an absolute sense.

Without the aid of Divine Revelation man cannot understand the origin and cause of pain, nor its purpose. Many people, not having help in understanding, are haunted by fear of pain, terrified at the thought of a lingering illness, and quick to seek medical relief because they believe illness is only the result of "chance."

If it is true that infirmity comes through mere "bad luck" (which even common sense tells us is not so, since much disease is the result of immoderate living), then indeed it is permissible and even desirable to use all means to avoid the pain of illness and even the illness itself. Furthermore, when a disease becomes irreversible and terminal, worldly wisdom teaches that it is acceptable to end the life of the patient — what is called euthanasia, or "mercy killing" — since, according to this view deathbed suffering is useless and cruel, and therefore "evil."

But even in everyday life we know that suffering really isn't "absolutely evil." For example, we submit to the surgeon's knife in order to have a diseased part of the body cut away; the pain of the operation is great, but we know that it is necessary in order to preserve health or even life. Thus, even on a strictly materialistic level, pain can serve a higher good.

Another reason why human suffering is a mystery to an unbeliever is because his very "idea" of God is false. He is shocked when the Holy Fathers speak of God in the following way: "Whether God brings upon us a famine, or a war, or any calamity whatsoever, He does so out of His exceeding great care and kindness" (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7, On the Statues).

The God-bearing Elder Macarius of Optina, in 19th-century Russia, wrote thusly to a friend: "Being weak in health as you yourself are, I cannot fail to feel much sympathy for your plight. But kind Providence is not only more wise than we are; It is also wise in a different way. It is this thought which must sustain us in all our trials, for it is consoling, as no other thought is."

Wise in a different way... Here we can begin to see that the Patristic understanding of God's ways is contrary to the world's view. In fact, it is unique: it is not speculative, scholarly, or "academic." As Bishop Theophan the Recluse has written: "Christian faith is not a doctrinal system but a way of restoration for fallen man." Therefore, the criterion of faith — true knowledge of God — is not intellectual. The measure of truth, as Professor Andreyev wrote, "is life itself ...Christ spoke of this clearly, plainly, and definitely: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). That is, I am the Way of perceiving the Truth; I am Myself the incarnate Truth (everything I say is true)...and I am Life (without Me there cannot be life)" (Orthodox Christian Apologetics). This is very far from the wisdom of this world.

We can either believe or disbelieve Christ's words about Himself. If we believe, and act upon our belief, then we can begin to ascend the ladder of living knowledge, such as no textbook or philosopher can ever give: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (I Cor. 1:20)

One of the difficulties in compiling a handbook of Patristic teaching on illness is that sickness cannot be strictly separated from the general question of pain (e.g., psychological pain and the suffering which results from war, famine, etc.). Some of what the Holy Fathers have to say here about illness also establishes a foundation for their teaching about adversity, which will be the subject of the fourth book in this series.

Another difficulty is that the Orthodox Fathers sometimes use such words as "sin," "punishment," and "reward" without limiting themselves to the meanings our modern society gives them. For instance, "sin" is a transgression of the Divine Law. But in Patristic thought it is also more than this: it is an act of "treachery," a faithlessness to God's love for man and an "arbitrary violation of [man's] sacred union with God" (Andreyev, Ibid.). Sin is not something we should see within a strict legal framework of "crime and punishment"; man's faithlessness is a universal condition, not limited to just this or that transgression. It is always with us, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

God's dealings with man are not limited to our legalistic ideas about reward and punishment. Salvation, which is the ultimate goal of Christian life, is not a "reward," but a gift freely given by God. We cannot "earn" or "merit" it by anything we do, no matter how pious or self-effacing we think ourselves.

In everyday life we naturally think that good deeds should be rewarded and crimes punished. But our God does not "punish" on the basis of human standards. He corrects and chastises us, just as a loving father corrects his erring children in order to show them the way. But this is not the same thing as being "sentenced" to a "term" of pain and suffering for some misdeed. Our God is not vindictive; He is at all times perfectly loving, and His justice has nothing to do with human legal standards.

He knows that we cannot come to Him without purity of heart, and He also knows that we cannot acquire this purity unless we are free from all things: free of attachments to money and property, free of passion and sin, and even detached from bodily health if that stands between us and true freedom before God. He instructs us, through both Revelation and correction, showing us how we may acquire this freedom, for Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). As St. John Cassian teaches:

God "leads you on by a still higher step to that love which is free of fear. Through this you begin effortlessly and naturally to observe all those things you originally observed out of fear of God and punishment, but now you do them no longer from fear of punishment, but from love of Goodness itself, and delight in virtue" (Institutes).

Keeping in mind this deeper spiritual meaning of such words as "sin," "reward," and "punishment," we can proceed to study the divinely-wise discourses of the Holy Fathers on the subject of illness, thanking God that "our Faith has been made secure y wise and learned Saints" (St. Cosmas Aitolas), for "truly, to know oneself is the hardest thing of all," as t. Basil the Great writes. The Holy Fathers point the way. Their lives and writings act, as it were, like a mirr in which we may take the measure of ourselves, weighed down as we are by passions and infirmities. Illss is one of the ways by which we can learn what we really are. (cont. see link)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Nous - The Eye Of The Soul

"When the nous is darkened , deadened, the whole world is a horrible prison and therefore, tormenting. When the nous is illumined and free, the entire world is a gift of God to us."

Man became ill when the eye of his soul, what the Holy Fathers call the 'nous,' became darkened by sin; it was overcome by reason and became subject to the passions. The result was the disruption of the whole inner functioning of the soul. "Man's basic problem," writes Metropolitan Hierotheos, "is how to learn to see his internal malady, which is specifically the captivity and darkness of the nous. ... If we ignore our inner sickness, our spiritual life ends up in an empty moralism, in a superficiality," which is where we find Western theology. When we understand Orthodoxy as a therapeutic method, it becomes clear that the "Mysteries and all the ascetic tradition of the Church are meant to lead us where Adam was before the Fall, that is, to the illumination of the nous, and from there to divinization, which is man's original destination." Perhaps most helpful to the reader will be the explanations of how to become aware of one's illness - by studying Scripture and the works of the Holy Fathers of the Church, by reading the lives of saints, by the coming of God's grace, by failures in our life (worldly despair), and by the Jesus Prayer, for "prayer breaks the wall of illusions about our self and reveals all of its wretchedness." The author also discusses the importance of a "therapist," a spiritual father who, if he is himself not illumined so as "to distinguish without error the energies of the devil from the energies of God," will follow the teachings of the Fathers, who could. There are likewise instructive discussions on the subject of the passions and their transformation, on fantasy and its danger for spirtual life, on watchfulness and prayer, and on obedience to the will of God. The final factor instrumental in the cure of the nous is the right therapeutic method or ascesis. This begins with the purification of the heart through repentance and inner stillness. The second stage is illumination of the nous and the attainment of unceasing memory of God. The final stage is divinization or theosis, when a man attains ...unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

Exerpts from: "The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition". 
Author: Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Help For The Modern Man

The elders of the Optina Hermitage gave grace-filled advice to people of all stations in life, including great Russian writers and statesmen. In the 19th – early 20th century the monastery renewed the ancient ladder of eldership, which allowed entire generations of people to ascend into the Heavenly Kingdom. The Optina elders were healers, clairvoyants, comforters, accusers.

“The widespread stabs of the young generation at great activity for the benefit of mankind are similar to a person’s not graduating from high school and yet dreaming of becoming a professor in a university… One must first avoid evil himself, and only then concern himself with the benefit of others,” – wrote elder Ambrose at the end of the 19th century. There words, as well as everything that has been said and written by him and other Optina elders, sound extraordinarily applicable to our own times.

The elders taught people to live not according to their passions, but according to the commandments. “The zeal which wishes to destroy great evil without appropriate preparation is a great evil in itself,” – said the elder Joseph, a disciple of Saint Ambrose.

The Optina elders were the defenders and invariable champions of the Orthodox faith. “Apostle Paul writes: ‘I have stayed the course and kept the faith.’ This means that it is a very difficult task… Children, guard the holy faith, which is a priceless treasure, for with it you will enter the Kingdom,” – instructed the elder Barsonuphius.

From Optina proud mankind was called to embrace humility. “People are truly losing their minds if they rely on their minds and expect everything from them. Our teacher is humility. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble,” – declared the elder Anatoly on the eve of the revolution.

The rules of life that were offered to people could be followed in any rank or profession on earth. “Holiness is simplicity, presented to people in a reasonable manner. Good sense is higher than all virtues,” – such was the spiritual testament left us by the last elder, Saint Nectarius, on the eve of his repose in 1928.

Exhortations Of The Optina Elders From My Pastor

Dear Brethren,

Christ is in our midst!

Below are some helpful thoughts on prayer from many of the Optina elders. May God grant that we may give glory to Him in our prayers!

"Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!"

Love in our Lord Jesus,
+Fr. Basil

Pray fervently to the Lord God and warm your cold heart with His sweetest name, for God is our fire. Calling on His name destroys impure dreams and warms the heart to fulfill all of His commandments.
St. Anthony of Optina

God does not demand undistracted prayer from beginners. It is acquired with much time and labor, as the writings of the holy fathers say: "God grants prayer to those who prayer...".
St. Hilarion of Optina

In the struggle of prayer, it is absolutely necessary to force oneself, and compel oneself to pray.
St. Barsanuphius of Optina

We must not attribute miracle-working power to our prayer; we must not think that what we ask of the Lord is always fulfilled. This thought comes from pride and leads to deception.
St. Hilarion of Optina

After prayer, whether in church or at home, silence is necessary in order to preserve the prayerful, compunctionate mood of the soul. Sometimes a seemingly simple, even insignificant word can destroy and scare off, like a little bird, the compunction from our soul.
St. Nikon of Optina

It is necessary to preserve the fruit of prayer. It is spoiled and lost very often due to idle talking, right after prayer and from dreaming, which is also idle talking, only with yourself. Silence after prayer is very beneficial: it keeps the prayer in the mind, heart, and even in the mouth, audible to you.
St. Nikon of Optina

You must pray for those who hate and offend you thus: "Save, O Lord, and have mercy on Thy servant, my beloved sister/brother (name), and for the sake of her/his holy prayers have mercy on me, the wretched sinner."
St. Ambrose of Optina

When you do not have much time for prayer, be satisfied with the time that you do have, and God will accept your good desire. Remember that the feeling of the Publican in prayer is pleasing to God, and beware of evaluating your prayer: that is the work of God, not us.
St. Macarius of Optina

Prayer in church is important. The best thoughts and feelings come in church, yes, and the enemy attacks more violently in church, but with the sign of the Cross and the Jesus Prayer, you drive him away. It is good to stand in some dark corner in church and to pray to God. "Let us lift up our hearts!" the priest exclaims, but our mind often creeps along the ground, thinking about indecent things. Fight against this.
St. Barsanuphius of Optina

The Jesus Prayer is the most essential weapon in the work of our salvation. But he who takes hold of it must expect temptations and be prepared for an inner battle, a battle with thoughts. The demons do not like the Jesus Prayer and in every way they take vengeance on the person who strikes them with this sword.
St. Barsanuphius of Optina

On should not pay attention to tempting thoughts, but should rive them far away from himself, and not being disturbed, continue the mental work. Though the fruit of this labor be imperceptible, though a person may not experience spiritual delights, tenderness, etc. -- still prayer cannot remain inactive. It quietly completes its work.
St. Barsanuphius of Optina