God, Die Zijn Heilige Geest in ons gegeven heeft

God wil uw heiliging,
dat gij u onthoudt van ontucht,
dat ieder van u in heiliging en eerbaarheid
zijn noodzakelijke behoeften zal weten te verwerven,
niet in hartstochtelijke begeerlijkheid, zoals
ook de heidenen, die van God niet weten en dat men zijn broeder niet slecht zal behandelen of in deze of gene zaak zal bedriegen,
want de Heer is wraakzuchtig in dit alles,
zoals wij u ook vroeger gezegd en nadrukkelijk betuigd hebben.
Want God heeft ons niet geroepen tot onreinheid, maar in heiliging.
Daarom, wie dit verwerpt, verwerpt niet een mens, maar God,
die u immers ook zijn Heilige Geest geeft“.
1Thess.4: 3-8

De menselijk ziel die trouw is aan de beoefening van de Liefde
en aanhankelijkheid toont aan God zoals eerder is beschreven,
is verbaasd te ervaren dat God geleidelijk aan bezit neemt van z’n gehele wezen:
het wordt een voortdurend gevoel van Gods aanwezigheid gewaar,
die als het ware een tweede natuur is geworden; en dit is,
evenals gebed het resultaat van gewoonte [geplogenheid].
De ziel voelt geleidelijk aan een ongewone rust welke in al haar onderdelen wordt verspreid
en deze stilte wordt nu de gesteldheid van geheel haar gebed;
terwijl God communiceert  via een intuïtieve Liefde,
welke het begin is van ‘onuitsprekelijke gelukzaligheid’.

We dienen er wel bij stil te staan dat
dit een hoge graad van gebed is
welke een Genade inhoud Die
de Geest van God ons verleent.
Het is als een zaak van het hoogste gegeven,
welk ontstaat bij het loslaten van ‘eigen’ inzet en inspanning,
op een dusdanige wijze
dat God Zich geheel alleen kan manifesteren,
kan handelen waarbij zoals door de mond van Zijn Profeet David wordt aangegeven
Hij zal de boog breken, de wapens verbrijzelen,
en de schilden [je verdediging] verbranden in vuur.
Wees Stil en Weet dat Ik God ben“.
Psalm 45: 9,10
Maar het schepsel is zo gespinsd op die Liefde en
is zo gehecht aan z’n eigen inbreng,
omdat het zich voorstelt
dat er van de overzijde helemaal niets wordt ondernomen,
wanneer het niet waargenomen kan worden en
al haar werkingen ook zichtbaar zijn geworden.
Het is onwetend van zijn onvermogen
van minutieus te observeren
de wijze van Gods beweging
welke wordt veroorzaakt
door de snelheid van de vooruitgang;
dat God handelt,
in de uitbreiding van en de verspreiding van Zijn invloed,
welke die van het schepsel absorbeert.
Sterren kunnen duidelijk gezien worden vóór zon opkomt;
echter zij bewegen met een zeer kleine beweging licht voort,
hun stralen worden geleidelijk geabsorbeerd en ze worden onzichtbaar,
niet uit de wil van dat sterrenlicht, uit zichzelf,
maar door de superieure uitstraling van de Schepper,
want zonder Hem was er totaal geen licht.

Bovenstaande is hiermee vergelijkbaar;
want er is een Sterk en universele Licht dat alle [kleine] lichtjes absorbeert,
welke onze ziel verlicht;
ze zwelt zwak aan en verdwijnt weer even snel
onder de Krachtige invloed, werkzaamheid en
is vervolgens niet meer te onderscheiden.
Veel mensen vergissen zich sterk, die
beschuldigen het gebed maar als een traag gedrag,
een lading die alleen kan ontstaan ​​uit onervarenheid.
Als we ons alleen maar een aantal inspanningen
voor de verwezenlijking van dit gebed zouden getroosten,
zouden ze al snel het tegendeel ervaren van wat verondersteld werd en
de beschuldiging ongegrond verklaren.

De uiterlijk verschijning van nietsdoen is inderdaad,
niet het gevolg is van de steriliteit of van willen,
maar van vruchtbaarheid en overvloed
die waargenomen zal kunnen worden door een ervaren ziel,
die bekend is met de ervaring dat stilte vol en zalvend kan zijn en
juist het omgekeerde bereikt wordt van apathie en onvruchtbaarheid.
Er zijn twee soorten mensen die van stilte houden;
de één omdat ze niets hebben om te berde te brengen,
de andere omdat ze veel te veel hebben te zeggen:
zo is het ook met de ziel in deze staat;
de stilte wordt veroorzaakt door de overvloed van materie,
te groot om er een uitspraak over te doen.

Nog een voorbeeld:
De verdrinkingsdood verschilt in grote mate
van het sterven van de dorst;
water kan, in zekere zin, beiden veroorzaken;
overvloed vernietigt in de ene situatie en
de behoefte eraan de andere.
Zo is in deze staat het gebrek en het overweldigd worden door Genade
nog steeds de activiteit van het zelf; en daarom
is het van het allergrootste belang om zo stil mogelijk te zijn en te blijven;
geen overvloed van woorden,
gewoon afwachten;
Uw Wil geschiedde“.

Het kind welke aan de borst van de moeder ligt
is een levendige illustratie van ons onderwerp:
het begint de melk op te wekken
door het bewegen van de kleine lipjes;
maar wanneer de Melk rijkelijk vloeit,
behoeft het kind slechts de inhoud
door te slikken en
zich te voeden.
Op dezelfde wijze dienen we om te gaan
met het begin van gebed,
door de gemoedsbeweging
van het oefenen met de lippen; maar zodra de melk van de Goddelijke Genade vrijerlijk stroomt,
behoeven we niets meer te doen,
dan in rust en  stilte te nuttigen;
en wanneer het ophoudt te stromen,
dienen we het weer te wakkeren
zoals een kind zijn lippen beweegt.
Wie anders handelt zal bij het bidden niet van deze Genade
gebruik kunnen maken, welke aan deze grondhouding verbonden is en
de ziel tot Zich trekt in de rust van de Liefde en
niet in de veelheid van het Zelf.

Denk dan gewoon eens aan een baby, die zachtjes en zonder beweging borstvoeding drinkt
Wie zou ooit geloven dat zo onze Goddelijke voeding dient te worden ontvangen?
Hoe rustiger het kind wordt gevoed, hoe beter het gedijt.
Wat gebeurd er uiteindelijk,
gevoed en voldaan valt het kind
zachtjes in slaap in de schoot van de Moeder, de Kerk.
De ziel, die is rustig en vredig in het gebed verzinkt in een mystieke sluimer,
waarin alle haar bevoegdheden zich in rust bevinden.
In dit proces wordt de ziel heel natuurlijk, zonder inspanning,
kunstgrepen, of studie op haar weg geleid.
Het Christelijk innerlijk is niet een bolwerk
welke door de storm en geweld wordt bewerkstelligd,
maar is een Koninkrijk van vrede, de Tempel Gods,
welke door Liefde alleen wordt bereikt.
Het is de Geest Gods, Die vuur en Liefde opwekt.

Wanneer deze smalle weg wordt nagestreefd
zal dit tot het intuïtief innerlijk gebed leiden.
God verwacht echt niets bijzonders, niets moeilijk;
integendeel, Hij is tevreden met
gewoon alledaags kinderlijk gedrag.
Kinderen Gods te zijn is het meest verheven doel en
dit doel wordt noodzakelijkerwijs heel eenvoudig bereikt.
Welke risico’s loop je,
je stelt enkel afhankelijk van God [Onze Vader] en
je draag jezelf volledig over aan Hem?
Hij zal je niet bedriegen, je niet teleur stellen,
tenzij je je verwachtingen te hoog stelt:
maar degenen die van alles verwachten
zullen onvermijdelijk worden misleid.

Heer, Die zegent wie U zegenen en
heiligt wie op U vertrouwen;
red Uw Volk en zegen Uw Erfdeel.
Behoed de volheid van Uw Kerk.
Heilige hen die de luister van Uw Huis liefhebben en
verheerlijk hen door Uw Goddelijke Kracht.
Verlaat ons niet die op U hopen.
Schenk vrede aan de wereld en geheel Uw Volk.
Want elke goede gave en
ieder volmaakte Gift komt van boven en
daalt tot ons neer van U, Vader van het Licht.
daarom zenden wij eer,
dankzegging en aanbidding op tot U:
Vader, Zoon en Heilige Geest;
nu en altijd en in de eeuwen der eeuwen,
Amen
“.
Gebed achter het ambon

De Naam des Heren zij geloofd in de eeuwen der eeuwen [3x]”.
Goddelijke Liturgie van Johannes Chrysostomos

 

Orthodoxy, Pascha, Passover & the physical Resurrection from death

Yes, our bodies will be raised not spiritually or ethereally,
but physically and materially.
Our souls will be reunited with our transformed physical bodies,
brought back to life from the dead.
Scripture teaches this in many ways:

1.]. simply to speak of a “Resurrection”
of the dead is to imply physicality [bodily]:
At the Resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage;
they will be like the angels in Heaven.
But about the Resurrection of the dead
– have you not read what God said to you
“.
Matth.22: 30-31;
You will be blessed; although they cannot repay you,
you will be repaid at the Resurrection of the righteous
“.
Luc.14: 14;
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable
and we will be changed
“.
1Cor.15: 52;
For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout,
with the Voice of the archangel, and with the Trump of God:
and the dead in Christ shall rise first
“.
1Thess.4: 16
That is what a Resurrection is.
The Bible has no categories for the concept of a Resurrected Body
that remains dead and physically lying in a grave.

2.]. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the Body of His Glory“.
Phil.3: 20-21,
this teaches us that Christ’s Resurrected Body is the pattern of our resurrection body.
We know that Christ was raised in a physical body
because the disciples ate with Him after the Resurrection;
Not to all the people, but unto witnesses
chosen before of God, even to us,
who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.
Acts 10: 41
and touched Him:
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Peace be to all.
And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him
“.
Matthew 28: 9;
also when He told Thomas,
Put your finger here, and look at My hands.
Take your hand, and put it into My side.
Stop doubting, but believe
“.
John 20: 27
Also, Jesus outright declared that His resurrection body was physical and touchable:
See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself;
touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh
and bones as you see that I have

Luc.24: 39;
also “that God has fulfilled this Promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus,
as it is also written in the 2nd Psalm
, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You’.
As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead,
no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way
:
‘I will give You the Holy and Sure blessings of David’.
Therefore He also says in another Psalm,
‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay’.
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation,
fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;
but He whom God raised did not undergo decay

Acts 13:33-37
Since Christ’s Resurrection is the pattern of our resurrection,
we will therefore be raised in a physical body as well.

3.]. Romans 8:21-23 speaks in vers 23 of waiting for “the Redemption [recovery] of our bodies“.
Our bodies are not going to be thrown away.
They are going to be renewed, restored, revitalized.

4.]. Jesus speaks of the Resurrection
as involving the coming forth of individuals out of their tombs,
which clearly indicates a physical concept of the resurrection:
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming,
in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,
and will come forth;
those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life,
those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment
“.
John 5: 28-29

5.]. the Old Testament speaks of the Resurrection as being physical:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake,
these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt
“.
Daniel 12: 2
Likewise, we read in Job:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
and whom my eyes shall see and not another.
My heart faints within Me
“.
Job 19: 25-27

How long do we have to wait for this?
We haven’t to wait a long time, because with God there isn’t time,
so after our death we also have no watch to follow,
time is there and it is now.
The Resurrection of the body will occur
at the end of the age when Christ returns.
There are two main ways the Scriptures indicate this:

1.]. Many verses teach that our resurrected bodies
will be the same bodies that we have now,
except transformed into an immortal state.
Since God does not create new bodies for us from scratch,
but rather He Resurrects the body that dies,
it is clear that we do not receive our resurrection bodies immediately at death.
For our bodies very clearly and evidently remain here on earth and are laid to rest;
that’s the reason we have ‘a burial’, after death.

2.]. Many explicit verses declare that the Resurrection will not occur
until the end of the age when Christ returns.

But as for you, go your way to the end;
then you will enter into rest and rise again
for your allotted portion at the end of the age
“.
Daniel 12: 13;
here an angel looks ahead to the Resurrection
as occurring at the end of the age.

For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him,
may have eternal life;
and I Myself will raise him up on the last day
“.
John 6: 40, where Christ declares
that the resurrection will happen on the last day.
also:
And this is the Father’s Will Who has sent Me,
that of all that He has given Me I should lose nothing,
but should raise it up again at the last day
“.
John 6: 39
And: “No man can come to Me,
except the Father Who has sent Me draw him:
and I will raise him up at the last day
“.
John 6: 44
And: “Whosoever eats My flesh, and drinks My blood,
has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day
“.
John 6: 54
Martha said unto Him,
I know that Lazaros shall rise again
in the Resurrection at the last day
“.
cf. John 11:24

Paul specifies this meaning even further, stating in 1 Corinthians 15:23
that we will be raised at the return of Christ:
Each [will be raised] in his own order:
Christ the first fruits,
after that those who are Christ’s at His coming
“.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 he also looks ahead to the resurrection as something that will occur not until Christ comes back: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

All Christians will be glorified together
The fact that the resurrection will happen at the return of Christ has important implications:
It means that glorification will be a corporate reality
and not an individual experience
that happens to each believer separately at death.
All Christians will be raised into glory together.
While we all lived at different periods of time,
we all came to faith at different times,
and we all will have died at different times
[except for those who lived until Christ returns],
it is an amazing thing that God has planned things such
that our glorification will occur at the same time.
What a great encouragement it is to know
that the believers of the past are waiting for us
to finish the race ourselves so that we can all experience
the great joy of glorification together.

Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
while we look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen;
for the things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down,
we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven;
inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.
For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened,
because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed,
in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God,
who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
Therefore, being always of good courage,
and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord
– for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage,
I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
What will happen when you die?
By “you” I mean believers in Jesus Christ.
If you are not a believer, the aim of these messages is
to wake you up from the slumber of indifference
to the question of death and eternity and to motivate you to consider Jesus Christ
as the only way to eternal life and the only escape from hell and eternal death.
I am the way the Truth and the Life,
no one comes to the Father but by Me
John 14: 6
There is no other way to God.

I will try to answer from Scripture the question,
“What happens immediately at the moment of death?” In the following four weeks the questions will be:

What happens to you at the coming of Christ?

What happens to believers at the Judgment?
What is our final place: a distant Heaven,
or the New Earth where lions and lambs lie down in Peace?
What is the most essential bridge that links this life and the next?
Why This Theme Is Crucial to Consider
There is a long list of reasons why this theme seems crucial to me for our consideration.
Let me mention a few of them:

1.]. The Possibilities of Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery
The possibilities for joy and misery after you die are trillions of times greater than in the few years on this earth before you die. The Bible compares this life to a vapor that appears as you breathe on a cold winter morning and then vanishes (James 4:14). The Bible describes the time after death as “ages of ages.” Not just one or two ages of thousands of years, but ages of ages; thousands and thousands of ages (Revelation 14:11). It matters infinitely what happens to you after you die.

2.]. The Question of Authentic Faith
This theme forces the question as to whether our faith is real, substantial, biblical faith in objective, external reality outside ourselves. Namely, is our faith in God or is it a mere subjective experience of feelings and thoughts inside ourselves that function as an emotional cushion to soften the bumps of life and give us a network of friends. Facing eternity has an amazing effect of sobering us out of religious delusions.

3.]. The Centrality of God
Thinking about death and eternity helps keep God as the center of our lives by testing whether we are more in love with this world than we are in love with God himself. Does the thought of dying give us more pain at losing what we love on earth than it gives us joy at gaining Christ?

4.]. The Call to Christian Courage
When the biblical truth of this theme grips you, it frees you from fear and gives courage to live the most radical, self-sacrificing life of love. The person who can truly say, “To die is gain,” will be able to say like no one else, “To live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). But if you can’t say, “To die is gain,” then you will you will probably say, in one degree or another, “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Being sure of what happens when you die is indispensable as a believer in Christ for your daily courage and for not losing heart through the pain and the diminishing health of this life.

That brings us to our text.
Providing the Basis of Not Losing Heart

What Paul is doing in 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10 is showing the Corinthians
why he does not lose heart in spite of all the troubles and afflictions [2Cor.4: 8-12].
Especially in view of the fact that he knows he is dying; his body is wearing away.
read: “Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day
“.
2Cor. 4: 16

It is utterly crucial that we not lose heart.
Some of you have taken such a pounding physically
and financially and relationally that you have often been tempted
to “lose heart“; to give up.
To say, “It isn’t worth it“. – “Who cares?
Paul faced the same temptation [2Cor.4: 8-12]
and this text holds one of the keys
to why he did not lose heart.

To show that this really is crucial to his point here,
look at verses 6 and 8 of chapter 5 which is part of the same train of thought.
Verse 6: “Therefore, being always of good courage . . . ”
Verse 8: “We are of good courage, I say“.
We’ll come back to these verses in moment,
but the point now is simply to show you
that what Paul is doing here is giving the basis
of being of good courage
and not losing heart.
That is the effect I would like it to have on you.

The Threat: His Body Is Decaying
Now let’s go back to 4: 16
and follow his line of thought to see
what is threatening to make Paul lose heart and lose courage
and what is keeping him from losing heart.

Verse 16: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying . . . ”
Here is the threat he is dealing with:
His body—”the outer man“—is decaying; it is wearing out.
He can’t see the way he used to [and there were probably no glasses].
He can’t hear the way he used to.
He does not recover from beatings the way he used to.
His strength walking from town to town
does not hold up the way it used to.
He sees the wrinkles in his face and neck.
His memory is not as good.
His joints get stiff when he sits still.
In other words, he knows that he, like everybody else, is dying.
His outer man is decaying.
That’s the threat to his courage and joy.

Now Why Doesn’t He Lose Heart?
The first part of the answer is again in verse 16:
Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day“.
He doesn’t lose heart because day by day his heart,
his inner man, is being renewed.
If his decaying body tends to make him lose heart,
something else tends to make him gain heart.
What is it?

Fixing His Eyes on What Can’t Be Seen
His renewed heart comes from something very strange:
it comes from looking at what he can’t see.
Verse 18:
–>We look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen;
for the things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal“.
This is Paul’s way of not losing heart:
looking at what you can’t see.

Recall how Jesus criticized the religious leaders in his day:
Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear
Matth.13: 13
In other words there was something to “see” in Jesus’ life
and teaching which they didn’t see but should have seen.
That has got to be reversed if we are to get our hope
and our courage from Jesus and not lose heart.
It has to be said of us,
Not seeing, they see; and not hearing, they hear“.
That’s what Paul was doing in verse 18;
he was looking at things that are not seen.

Paul illustrates this in chapter 5, verse 7:
–>We walk by faith, not by sight“.
This doesn’t mean that we leap into the dark without evidence of what’s there.
But it does mean that the most precious and important realities in the world
are beyond our senses now, and we just  “look” at them (v. 18)
through what we know of Christ from faithful witnesses
who have seen Him and heard His Voice.
We strengthen our hearts
– we renew our courage –
by fixing the gaze of our hearts on invisible, objective Truth
that we learn about through the testimony of those
who knew Christ and were taught by Him [cf. Eph.1: 18-23].

Looking to the Unseen Weight of Glory Being Prepared
What Truth?
What do we fix our gaze on to experience day by day
the renewal of the inner man in the face of death?

To answer this we look back to verse 17 for a powerful summary statement,
and we look forward into chapter 5 for the unpacking of this summary statement.

Verse 17: We renew our inner man each day by looking at this truth:
Momentary, light affliction is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison“.

The decaying of your body is not meaningless.
The pain, pressure, frustration, and affliction are not happening in vain.
They are not vanishing into a black hole of pointless suffering.
Instead this “momentary, light affliction
[he calls it that even though it lasted for years
and was unremitting and often excruciating]
is producing for us an eternal weight of Glory
far beyond all comparison“.

In other words, the unseen things that Paul looks at
to renew his inner man is the immense weight of glory
that is being prepared for him not just after,
but through and by, the wasting away of his body.
There is a correlation between the decay of Paul’s body
and the display of Paul’s Glory.
When he is hurting, he fixes his eyes not on how heavy the hurt is,
but on how heavy the glory will be because of the hurt.

What Does This Unseen Glory Consist Of?
Now what does he see when he looks to the unseen glory? As he goes on in chapter five he fills in some of what he sees as he looks at the unseen.

Now the next two messages concern these verses: the resurrection body and the judgment of believers. But neither of these is the focus of this message. So if I pass over something too quickly, read the next sermon.

Verses 1–5 are about the hope of receiving new, glorious bodies at the resurrection.
Verses 9–10 are about the judgment and Paul’s effort to please Christ the Judge.
Our focus is on verses 6–8, the hope of being with Christ immediately when you die.

His Great, Final Hope
But let me read you the verses about the resurrection body because there is a crucial connection between this hope and the hope of being with Christ (without a new body) immediately when you die. Verses 1–5:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down [he’s talking about his body which is decaying], we have a building from God [a building as opposed to a tent for a house—that is, something more durable and lasting, namely, a new resurrection body],
a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house [this “tent-house,” our present body] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from Heaven [that is, our resurrection body; he mixes metaphors here shifting back and forth now between being clothed and being housed]; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked [in other words, he does not prefer to put off his present body like a garment and become a disembodied soul—that’s what nakedness means].
For indeed while we are in this tent [this mortal body], we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed [we don’t want to be a bodiless soul], but to be clothed [on top of our present clothes—he wants the second coming of Christ to happen so that he will not have to die and be without a body, but rather have his present body swallowed up in the glorious resurrection life of the new body], in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now
He Who prepared us for this very purpose is God,
Who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

We’ll talk more about this in the next message.
For now, here’s the crucial point:
If Paul had his preference, he would choose to receive his new resurrection body at the second coming of Christ without having to die.
And the reason he gives is that the experience of “nakedness”
– that is being stripped of his body –
is not something as good as having his body swallowed up by life
as he is changed in the twinkling of an eye at the second coming of Christ.

This means that the great final hope of the Christian is not to die and be freed from our bodies, but to be raised with new, glorious bodies, or, best of all, to be alive at the second coming so that we do not have to lose our body temporarily and be “naked” (souls without bodies, cf. Matthew 10:28; Revelation 6:9; Hebrews 12:23) until the Resurrection.

Present with the Lord Immediately After Death
But does that mean that dying and going to be with Christ does not happen,
or that it is not good?
No. Paul puts things back in perspective again in verses 6–8.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord [the full intimacy we long for is not possible here]
– for we walk by faith, not by sight –
we are of good courage,
I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body
and to be at home with the Lord.

Now get this. In verse 4 Paul says, “He does not want to be unclothed“.
His first preference is not to be “absent from the body“.
He says that in comparison to being over-clothed
with the New Resurrection Body
if he is alive at the second coming of Christ.
That would be his first preference.
But if that is not possible
– if the choice is between more life here by faith and going to be with Christ –
he prefers that God would take him;
EVEN IF it means nakedness, that is,
even if it means that he must be stripped of his body.

And the reason for this willingness to leave his body behind is not because the body is bad—O, how he wants the experience of the new resurrection body—but because being at home with the Lord is so irresistibly attractive to Paul. Verse 8:
I prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord“.

So Paul renews his inner man by looking to unseen things.
He looks at three possibilities and prefers them in descending order.
First, he prefers that Christ would come and clothe his mortal body with immortality so that he would not have to die and be an incomplete, disembodied soul.
But if God does not will that, Paul prefers to be absent from the body to living on here, because he loves Christ more than he loves anything else.
To be absent from the body will mean to be at home with the Lord;
a deeper intimacy and Greater at-homeness than anything we can know in this life.
Finally, if God wills that it is not time for the second coming or time for death,
then Paul will walk by faith and not by sight.

In that faith he will be of good courage
and even though his outer man is decaying,
his inner man will be renewed day-by-day
through this faith in the unseen weight of glory.

Examine yourself.
Do you share these biblical priorities
and values in life?
Do you long mainly for the second coming?
And secondly, do you long to be at home with Christ
even if it costs you the surrender of your body?
Third, are you committed to walk by faith
until He comes or until He calls?

 

CHRIST IS RISEN !!!
HE IS RISEN INDEED !!! 

5th Sunday of Lent – restored by the Blood of Christ

But when Christ came as High Priest of the good things
that are now already here,
He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands,
that is to say, is not a part of this Creation.
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves;  but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood,
thus obtaining Eternal Redemption.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer
sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean
sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.
How much more, then, will the Blood of Christ,
Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,
so that we may serve the living God!“.
Hebr.9: 11-14

The Blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences
from acts that lead to death,
so that we may serve the living God!
“.

Everyone has a conscience.
It affects the way we think and live.
Just listen to people talk, hear their excuses for actions
and observe the plastic looks portrayed.
The conscience has a bearing on every action, work, and relationship.
Many marriages are wrecked over guilty consciences.
Children often rebel due to guilty consciences.
It even determines how we approach God.

The very idea of a sinful person approaching a holy God unnerves a thinking person.
A conscience imprisoned by guilt
enslaves a person in his Worship,
Service, Prayer, Witness, and Affections.

What is this conscience?
The conscience is properly man’s inner knowledge of himself,
especially in the sense of his answerability for his motives
and actions in view of the fact that he,
as a creature made in the image of God,
stands before and must give an account of himself to his Creator

Inner knowledge of yourself” implies that the searchlights of the soul
peer into the caverns of the mind, discovering decaying bones and stolen treasures
hidden by a bent toward sin.
A man might live with decaying bones and hidden treasures
if he never had to give an answer for them.
But the Creator Who gave life and the conscience to those
who share in his image, also demands an accounting.

While it would appear that a guilty conscience would drive a man to God,
often the very opposite happens due to the grip of lost-ness upon the soul.
Men will try everything imaginable to relieve or avoid or stuff guilt.
Paul explains that when a man rejects the revelation God has given in the conscience
then he becomes hardened toward God and softened toward idolatrous and sinful behaviour.
[cf. Rom.1: 18-32]
In the end temporary measures to salve guilt are only that-temporary
and offer nothing of eternal value
that can give a person a right standing with God.
To pursue creative means of dealing with the conscience
is akin to grabbing after the wind.
Ultimately such pursuits are elusive and empty.
But God has made provision for sinful men
to have clean consciences before Him.

The first century audience receiving
the Epistle to the Hebrews
struggled over dealing with their guilt.
Would they find relief if they returned
to the ceremonial practices of Judaism?
To do so would be to live under the Old Covenant that was “becoming obsolete
rather than knowing the experience of the New Covenant relationship to God through Christ.
It would not be the sacrifice of bulls and goats
that would take away the guilt of sin.
Only the death of Christ delivers us from the guilt of sin
and liberates us to serve the living God.
How can we be sure of this?
Consider the “much more” of the death of Christ
in cleansing our consciences from sin.

1.]. Not to a certain extent!
The Apostle backtracks into territory familiar to his audience.
– They were brought up under the shadows of Judaism.
– They knew the intricacies practiced by the high priest
as he sought to approach God on behalf of the people.
So to help them understand the temporary nature of everything
they had lived with and now what they considered returning unto,
he paints a picture of a scene in the tabernacle
and the work of the high priest.

1a]. An untorn curtain
Rather than dealing with any symbolism found in “the earthly Sanctuary“,
the pastoral author tells them
of these things we cannot now speak in detail“.
Mystics have given detailed applications of symbolism for every thread in the tabernacle.
But not our writer since the point he wants to make is with all of the magnificence and pageantry of the Old Covenant practices,
the average Joe still had no access to God.
The veil remained untorn and the way to God inaccessible under the Old Covenant of Law.
Only in Jesus Christ was the curtain [veil] removed
and the way to God opened for all who believe.

The ancient writer believed that the Holy Spirit was the author of Scripture.
His statement in Hebr.9: 8 affirms this and demonstrates the continuity of Scripture
by the application he makes.
The Holy Spirit is signifying this,
that the way into the Holy Place has
not yet been disclosed
while the outer tabernacle is still standing,
which is a symbol for the present time
“.
Look at the tabernacle.
Within it, if one could steal a look, would be
the Lampstand and the Table and the Sacred Bread“.
Here the priests in their order would move about to daily burn incense, offer prayers, and maintain the national Worship.
Beyond this was “The second veil . . . . .
which is called the Holy of Holies,
having a golden altar of incense and
the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold,
in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded,
and the tables of the Covenant;
and above it were the Cherubim of Glory overshadowing the Mercy Seat
“.
A sense of awe fills the mind
when contemplating these consecrated symbols of worship under the Old Covenant.
But there is a major problem.
As long as the “outer tabernacle is still standing” or the focal point of worship,
then the way to God has not been known.
Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  And he could do so only once a year.
Every time he entered he did so with fear and trembling.
It was not a joyous entry but the most solemn of occasions in hope
that he would find acceptance by God
for himself and all the people.

So what is this pastor attempting to do?
He wants his congregation to wake up to
the reality that under the Old Covenant,
in spite of all the pageantry and symbolism,
there was no access to God.
The veil remained like an impenetrable wall
between the sinner and Almighty God.
The way into the Holy Place has not yet been disclosed
the Apostle tells them.
Why would anyone want to hang on
to a practice that left the veil intact?

Does some of this same spirit run through any of you?
Because of the pageantry and symbolism that pleases your senses you hang on
to a religious practice than cannot open the way to God.    As the Gospel writers tell us, upon Jesus Christ’s God-satisfying death at the Cross, the veil that barred access to God in the Holy of Holies
was torn from top to bottom!
God opened the way to him through His own Son [Matth.27: 51].

1b]. An unaffected conscience
But wait a minute, one might insist.
Were there not thousands of sacrifices offered and tons of gifts given under the old covenant?
That is correct.
But hear what our writer tells us,
Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered
which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience
“.
It is not what we offer God that cleanses our conscience from sin.
While none of us have presented blood sacrifices upon a brazen altar
I would dare say that some have offered
bloodless sacrifices and gifts‘ in hope of clearing away the guilt of sin.

The predicament faced by the high priest
and all the people was that everything they did
related to only external Satisfaction.
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats
to take away sins
“.
Hebr.10: 4

To further explain this our writer points out  that the sacrifices offered were for the priest
and “for the sins of the people committed in ignorance“.
It was the “slip-ups“, the unintentional sins that were atoned for by the high priest.
The wilful, rebellious, arrogant, cold-hearted practice of sin had no atonement.
That is why David faced a dilemma when he sinned against God by his wilful acts
toward Bathsheba and Uriah.
His appeal was not to a quick sacrifice
offered for his sin but to the Mercy of God.
You do not delight in sacrifice,
otherwise I would give it;
you are not pleased with burn offering“,
David cried [Psalm 50:16].
David had to look beyond the Sacrificial System
and the rituals of the tabernacle to have his conscience
cleansed from the guilt of sin.
He prayed,
Have Mercy, O Lord,
according to Your loving-kindness

or Mercy Covenant [Psalm 50: 1].
It was not the cut and dry statements of the Old Covenant
that satisfied David in time of guilt.
David trusted in God’s Covenant of Grace,
a Covenant that he did not fully understand,
but cast his hope upon.

1c]. An unaccomplished event
All of this boils down to an unaccomplished event.
The worship of the tabernacle and ceremonies of the high priest
were never intended to be the end-all for man in his relationship to God.
They functioned in the realm of the “not quite”
when it came to being in right relationship to God.
Our writer observes of the old covenant sacrificial system,
Since they relate only to food and drink and various washings,
regulations for the body imposed until a time of restoration
“.
All of the Patriarchs and Prophets and people lived in the realm of the great until.
Everything done under the Old Covenant served as a stop-gap measure
until a time of Renovation“,
until the fullness of time when God would send
forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
so that He might redeem those who were under the Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons
“.
Gal.4: 4-5
During the time of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, it had not happened.
But now, to the audience this writer addresses
the “time of restoration” through Christ had come.

The word “time” is not the Greek term for chronological time
but the word kairos, a term that refers to an event.
In this case it was a momentous,
even cataclysmic event that affected all of human history,
even all of eternity.
The “time of restoration ” summarizes the Incarnation, sinless life of Christ, atoning death, burial, and Resurrection.
It was a time of “restoration
or ‘restoring what was out of line
or putting in an ‘new order’ as some have termed it.
All of the practices in Judaism were fulfilled in this “time of restoration” in Christ.
There was no need to revert to shadows when the substance had come!

2.].  Much more New!
The Apostle was not denigrating the ceremonial practices of Judaism as if they did no good.
For indeed these practices helped to boost the confidence of the people to seek the Lord,
to find him as merciful and gracious.
But they were “imposed until a time of restoration”,
demonstrating the inadequacy of the Old Covenantal practices
in approaching God and knowing deliverance from the guilt of sin.
The Old Covenant never secured anything for the people, even the most earnest people.
Instead it pointed to the fulfilment in the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.
In contrast to an entire system that never secured anything for worshipers,
the writer now points to how much more Jesus Christ
has secured for all who trust in Him.

2a]. Secured redemption
The contrast with the work of the high priest is intentional.
He explains,
“Now when these things have been so prepared,
the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the Divine Worship,
but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed
in ignorance”.
Leviticus 16 describes the scene as the high priest
dons the white linen tunic covering linen undergarments, girded with a linen sash,
and wearing a linen turban,
he first takes a bull that he offers as a sin offering
for himself and his household.
With two handfuls of incense lofting aroma
as he places it upon the coals of his firepan,
he enters behind the veil carrying the blood of the slain bull.
Upon the Mercy seat and in front of it,
he sprinkles the blood seven times to atone for his own sins.
He slips out from behind the veil and returns with the blood of the goat of the sin offering,
bringing its blood inside the veil and sprinkling it upon the Mercy Seat to atone
for the sin of the people.
He must even make atonement for the tabernacle itself
due to the impurities of the people.
He then lays his hands upon a second goat, the scapegoat,
confessing the sins of the people over it
so that as it is led into the wilderness
it symbolically bears away the sins of the people.

What were the people to see through all of this ritual:
Properly understood, the ritual of the Day of Atonement
in its various parts was sacramental in character,
inviting the people to look beyond the sign to the reality,
yet to be fulfilled, when the perfect high priest would come,
able to represent them without hindrance of sin in the presence of God,
and would offer the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness
and the removal of their sins forever.

In contrast we find Jesus Christ!
But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things to come
[hence the Old Covenant practices were temporary
and were to be looked beyond to the Messiah],
He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,
not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;
and not through the blood of goats and calves,
but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all,
having obtained eternal redemption“.
Several questions are answered in this text.

First, who secured eternal redemption?
It was Jesus Christ, appearing as
a High Priest of the good things to come
that secured redemption.
The word, “obtained“, is in the aorist tense
and points back to one event that did the securing or obtaining of redemption.
Literally, the phrase is translated,
after He had secured eternal redemption“,
thus pointing to the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the Cross,
redemption decisively secured there.
Jesus appeared in Heaven for us
after he had secured Eternal Redemption“, not to secure it.
Some have mistakenly thought that Jesus had to carry a basin of blood
into the Heavenly tabernacle just like the priest did in the earthly one.
But the text makes clear that the death of Christ
secured our redemption not a subsequent act.

Second, how did He secure eternal redemption?
“Not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood”.
The use of “blood” in the language of Scripture always implies death
and typically a vicious death.
“‘The blood of Christ’ means Christ’s death regarded as a sacrifice for sin….
In this context blood is not death in general
but death as seen as a sacrifice“.
Again, the language is very clear
that the redemptive work that took place refers
to the death of Jesus on the cross
so that his entrance into heaven was through
[Greek, dia or ‘by means of’ used instrumentally] his bloody death.
The idea of a blood sacrifice appears primitive in our day.
However we are not talking about pleasantries or socially acceptable behaviour in this context,
but the Satisfaction that God’s Justice demands.
How can a monetary offering satisfy Him who owns all?
How can good deeds assuage the wrath of Him
who has been offended by our sins?
How can some inanimate object or non-human creature
actually satisfy the wrath of God directed toward humanity?
How can ritual or ceremony appease God who is not so silly
as to be charmed like the brute gods of heathenism?
How can God overlook the infinite stain of mankind’s collective sin,
much less the initial offense of our representative,
Adam, in the Garden of Eden?
It was not the blood of Christ in a basin or vial or container
offered in Heaven that secured eternal redemption,
but the bloody death of the Son of God at the cross as God
caused the iniquities of us all to fall on Him
Isaiah 53: 6
Is that where your hope rests?

Third, what did Jesus secure?
While the priest could do nothing to
make the worshiper perfect in conscience“,
Jesus Christ, “through His own blood . . . obtained eternal redemption“.
The word “eternal” immediately qualifies
what Jesus has done as distinct from the temporal work of priests.
His work is eternal.
The work specifically s called “redemption”.
The word literally means, “to release by the payment of a price“.
The price was “through His own blood“.
The payment made was not to man or to the devil,
as some mistakenly say, but it was a payment to God.
It was the demand of God’s own righteousness.
It is a release from the curse of the Law.
One writer expressed it like this:
Like a black thundercloud the Law hung over men’s heads,
and they looked up to it in fear that
at any minute the lightning of the divine judgment
might flame out from its heart.
What could be done?
God took the initiative.
Christ came and on the Cross bore for us the doom which sin involved . . .
Christ bore the penalty which in strict justice we ought to have borne . . .
Death was the curse of the Law,
and that curse Christ took upon Himself.

The release points to deliverance from slavery to sin,
from the penalty of sin, from the guilt associated with sin,
and ultimately, deliverance from the wrath of God.
Deliverance from slavery is at the heart of this term,
and indeed, as our Substitute, Jesus Christ bore
the price of our slavery so that we might be set free
into the liberty of sons of God.

Fourth, how can I be certain that Jesus secured eternal redemption?
This is the point of the
“more perfect tabernacle, that is to say, not of this creation”.
As Jesus “entered the holy place once for all”
He secured forever our release from sin’s guilt
and liberated us into relationship to God.
While the priests were continually offering sacrifices,
Jesus offered one sacrifice “once for all”.
This means that the sacrifice of Christ can never be repeated;
it is complete and can never be added to;
and it is final, accepted by God in
the “more perfect tabernacle”.

A cleansed conscience is not found
by improved meditation techniques or psychotherapy.
It is the result of Faith in Jesus Christ
Who has obtained eternal redemption for you
by his complete, unrepeatable death on the Cross.

Conclusion
Jesus Christ is the only one
Who can deliver you from the guilt of sin.
Have you trusted Him alone
as your Redeemer?
Look to Christ by Faith, turn from your sin,
and rest in the sufficiency of
the Crucified and Risen Lord.

April 1st – life & history of Saint Mary, Holy Mother of Egypt

From the Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete,
heard in church during the service
at Wednesdaybefore the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt.

It is good to hide the secret of a king,
but it is glorious to reveal
and preach the works of God
” [Tobit 12: 7].
So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness.
Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul.
And I  [so says Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem ►],
in writing the life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
am afraid to hide the works of God by silence.
Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth. [Matth.25: 18-25];
I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me.
And let no one think [continues Saint Sophronius]
that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel
—> may I never lie about Holy things!
If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record,
do not believe it, may the Lord have Mercy on them because,
reflecting on the weakness of human nature,
they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by Holy people.
But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story,
which has taken place in our generation.

There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the Holy life and speech,
who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs.
This elder’s name was Zosimas.
He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life
and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him
by his tutors as regard spiritual labours.
He had also added a good deal himself whilst labouring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit.
And he had not failed in his aim.
He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighbouring monasteries
and some even from afar.
While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures.
Whether resting, standing, working or eating food
[if the scraps he nibbled could be called food],
he incessantly and constantly had a single aim:
always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures.
Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother’s breast,
he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training
as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53.
After that, he began to be tormented with the thought
that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone,
saying to himself mentally,
Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me
and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished?
Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?

Thus thought the elder, when suddenly
an angel appeared to him and said:

Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course.
But there is no man who has attained perfection.
Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished.
That you may know how many other ways lead to Salvation,
leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham
and go to the monastery by the River Jordan
“.

Zosimas did as he was told. he left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood
and went to the River Jordan.
At last he reached the community to which God had sent him.
Having knocked at the door of the monastery,
he told the monk who was the porter who he was;
and the porter told the abbot.
On being admitted to the abbot’s presence,
Zosimas made the usual monastic prostration and prayer.
Seeing that he was a monk the abbot asked:

Where do you come from, my brother
and why have you come to us poor old men?

Zosimas replied:

There is no need to speak about where I have come from,
but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit,
for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God
“.

My brother“, the abbot said to him,
Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul.
May He teach you and us His Divine ways and guide us.
But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you
to visit us poor old men, then stay with us,
if that is why you have come.
May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our Salvation
fill us all with the Grace of the Holy Spirit
“.

After this, Zosimas bowed to the abbot,
asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery.
There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God,
aflame in spirit, working for the Lord.
They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night,
work was ever in their hands and Psalms on their lips.
Never an idle word was heard among them,
they know nothing about acquiring temporal goods or the cares of life.
But they had one desire —> to become in body like corpses.
Their constant food was the Word of God
and they sustained their bodies on bread and water,
as much as their love for God allowed them Seeing this,
Zosimas was greatly edified and
prepared for the struggle that lay before him.

Many days passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened
when one of the community was sent out on some errand.
It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.

There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there.
At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday]
the priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy
and all partook of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
After the Holy Liturgy they went to the refectory
and would eat a little Lenten food.

Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations,
the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness.
And each made a prostration to the abbot
and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them.
After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing,
“The Lord is my Light and my Saviour; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the Defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” [Psalm 26: 1]
and the rest of that Psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan.
Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery,
not to guard the property [for there was nothing to rob],
but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service.
Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food,
according to the needs of his body:
one would take a little bread, another some figs,
another dates or wheat soaked in water.
And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed
when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions.
And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed
—> neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted.
If they did happen to catch sight of one another,
they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God,
and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food.
In this way they spent the whole of the fast
and used to return to the monastery
a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday.
Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labour
and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert.
Such were rules of the monastery.
Every one of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself
before the Judge of the struggle — God — not seeking to please men
and fast before the eyes of all.
For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honour,
is not only useless to the one who does it
but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

Zosimas did the same as all.
And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding
some father who might be living there and who might be able
to satisfy his thirst and longing.
And he wandered on tireless, as if hurrying on to some definite place.
He had already walked for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped
and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour
and recite the customary prayers.
He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little,
to chant Psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.

And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the Heavens,
he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock
on which he stood the semblance of a human body.
At first he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil,
and even started with fear.
But, having guarded himself with the sign of the Cross and banished all fear,
he turned his gaze in that direction and in Truth saw some form gliding southwards.
It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun;
the hair on its head was white as a fleece,
and not long, falling just below its neck.
Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form
that he ran after it in pursuit, but reform fled from him. He followed.
At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted:

Why do you run from an old man and a sinner?
Slave of the True God, wait for me, whoever you are,

in God’s name I tell you, for the love of God
for Whose sake you are living in the desert
“.

Forgive me for God’s sake,
but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba Zosimas.
For I am a woman and naked as you see
with the uncovered shame of my body.
But if you would like to fulfil one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing
“.

Here terror seized Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name.
But he realized that she could not have done so
without knowing anything of him
if she had not had the power of spiritual insight.

He at once did as he was asked.
He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her,
turning away as he did so.
She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body.
The she turned to Zosimas and said:

Why did you wish, Abba Zosimas, to see a sinful woman?
What do you wish to hear or learn from me,
you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?

Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing.
She likewise bowed down before him.
And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing.
And one word alone could be heard from both:
Bless me!“.
After a long while the woman said to Zosimas:

Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessing and pray.
You are dignified by the order of priesthood
and for many years you have been standing
before the Holy altar and offering the Sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries
“.

This flung Zosimas into even greater terror. At length with tears he said to her:

O mother, filled with the spirit, by your mode of life
it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world.
The Grace granted to you is apparent
—> for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest,
though you have never seen me before.
Grace is recognized not by one’s orders, but by Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
so give me your blessing for God’s sake, for I need your prayers
“.

Then giving way before the wish of the elder the woman said:

Blessed is God Who cares for the Salvation of men and their souls“.

Zosimas answered:

Amen“.

And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder:

Why have you come, man of God, to me who am so sinful?
Why do you wish to see a woman naked an devoid of every virtue?
Though I know one thing —> the Grace of the Holy Spirit
has brought you to render me a service in time.
Tell me, father, how are the Christian peoples living?
And the kings? How is the Church guided?”.

Zosimas said:

By your prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all.
But fulfil the unworthy petition of an old man
and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner,
so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless
“.

She answered:

You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas,
it is you who must pray for me and for all —> for this is your calling.
But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask
“.

And with these words she turned to the East,
and raising her eyes to Heaven and stretching out her hands,
she began to pray in a whisper.
One could not hear separate words, so that Zosimas could not understand
anything that she said in her prayers.
Meanwhile he stood, according to his own word, all in a flutter,
looking at the ground without saying a word.
And he swore, calling God to witness,
that when at length he thought that her prayer was very long,
he took his eyes off the ground and saw
that she was raised about a forearm’s distance from the ground
and stood praying in the air.
When he saw this, even greater terror seized him
and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating may times,
Lord have mercy“.

And whilst lying prostrate on the ground he was tempted by a thought:
Is it not a spirit, and perhaps her prayer is hypocrisy.

But at the very same moment the woman turned round,
raised the elder from the ground and said:
Why do thought confuse you, Abba, and tempt you about me,
as if I were a spirit and a dissembler in prayer?
Know, Holy father, that I am only a sinful woman,
though I am guarded by Holy baptism.
And I am no spirit but earth and ashes, and flesh alone“.

And with these words she guarded herself with the sign of the Cross
on her forehead, eyes, mouth and breast, saying:
May God defend us from the evil one and from his designs,
for fierce is his struggle against us“.

Hearing and seeing this, the elder fell to the ground
and embracing her feet, he said with tears:
I beg you, by the Name of Christ our God,
Who was born of a Virgin,
for Whose sake you have stripped yourself,
for Whose sake you have exhausted your flesh,
do not hide from your slave,
who you are and whence and how you came
into this desert.
Tell me everything so that
the marvellous works of God may become known.
A hidden wisdom and a secret treasure
—> what profit is there in them?
Tell me all, I implore you.
For not out of vanity or for self-display will you speak
but to reveal the truth to me, an unworthy sinner.
I believe in God, for whom you live and whom you serve.
I believe that He led me into this desert so as to show me His ways in regard to you.
It is not in our power to resist the plans of God.
If it were not the will of God that you and your life would be known,
He would not have allowed be to see you
and would not have strengthened me to undertake this journey,
one like me who never before dared to leave his cell“.

Much more said Abba Zosimas. But the woman raised him and said:
I am ashamed, Abba, to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God’s sake!
But as you have already seen my naked body I shall likewise lay bare before you my work, so that you may know with what shame and obscenity my soul is filled.
I was not running away out of vanity, as you thought,
for what have I to be proud of —> I who was the chosen vessel of the devil?
But when I start my story you will run from me,
as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions.
But I shall tell you all without hiding anything,
only imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me,
so that I may find Mercy on the day of Judgment“.

The elder wept and the woman began her Story:
My native land, holy father, was Egypt.
Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old,
I renounced their love and went to Alexandria.
I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood
and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality.
It is more becoming to speak of this briefly,
so that you may just know my passion and my lechery.
For about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that.
I was like a fire of public debauch.
And it was not for the sake of gain —> here I speak the pure truth.
Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money.
I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me,
doing free of charge what gave me pleasure.
Do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money.
I lived by begging, often by spinning flax,
but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth.
This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.
That is how I lived.
Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Libyans and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, ‘Where are these men hurrying to?’
He replied, ‘They are all going to Jerusalem
for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross,
which takes place in a few days’.
I said to him, ‘Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’
‘No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food’.
And I said to him, ‘To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food.
But I shall go with them and shall go aboard.
And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not.
I have a body —> they shall take it instead of pay for the journey’.
I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba,
to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion.
I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace.
God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words“.
Zosimas, weeping, replied to her:
Speak on for God’s sake, mother,
speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale“.

And, resuming her story, she went on:
That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off.
While I, throwing away my spinning wheel,
ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking.
and seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them,
full of vigour and alert in their movements,
I decided that they would do for my purpose
[it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers
whilst others had gone ashore].
Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying,
‘Take me with you to the place you are going to;
you will not find me superfluous’.
I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter.
Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat.
Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.

How shall I relate to you what happened after this?
Whose tongue can tell,
whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage!
And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will.
There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher.
I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness,
how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive,
when I had entangled in my net so many souls.
But I think God was seeking my repentance.
For He does not desire the death of a sinner
but magnanimously awaits his return to Him.
At last we arrived in Jerusalem.
I spent the days before the festival in the town,
living the save kind of life, perhaps even worse.
I was not content with the youths I had seduced at sea
and who had helped be to get to Jerusalem;
many others — citizens of the town and foreigners — I also seduced.

The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned
while I was still flying about — hunting for youths.
At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church,
so I ran with the rest.
When the hour for the Holy Elevation approached,
I was trying to make my way in with the crowd
which was struggling to get through the church doors.
I ad at last squeezed through with great difficulty
almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the life-giving Tree of the Cross
was being shown to the people.
But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented by entering.
Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd
and found myself standing alone in the porch.
Thinking that this had happened because of my woman’s weakness,
I again began to work my way into the crowd,
trying to elbow myself forward.
But in vain I struggled.
Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle.
I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church.
It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance.
Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch.

Having repeated my attempt three or four times,
at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be puched,
so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch.
And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me,
and I began to understand the reason
why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross.
The word of Salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that
it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me.
I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart.
And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the most holy Mother of God.
And turning to Her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:

‘O Lady, Mother of God, Who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word,
I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to You
when one so impure and depraved as I look up to Your icon, O ever-virgin,
Who didst keep Your body and soul in purity.
rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before Your virginal purity.
But I have heard that God Who was born of You became man
on purpose to call sinners to repentance.
Then help me, for I have no other help.
Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me.
Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of You
suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood
for the redemption of sinners an for me, unworthy as I am.
Be my faithful witness before Your Son
that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication,
but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross
I will renounce the world and its temptations
and will go wherever You wilt lead me’.

Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith
and feeling some confidence in the Mercy of the Mother of God,
I left the place where I stood praying.
And I went again and mingled with the crowd
that was pushing its way into the temple.
And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church.
I was possessed with trembling, and was almost in delirium.
Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before
— as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me —
I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place.
And so it was I saw the life-giving Cross.
I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance.
Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling.
The I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security,
to the place where I had sealed my vow.
And bending my knees before the Virgin Mother of God,
I addressed to her such words as these:

‘O loving Lady, You have shown me Your great love for all men.
Glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through You.
What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful?
It is time for me, O Lady to fulfil my vow, according to Your witness.
Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!’
And at these words I heard a voice from on high:

‘If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest’. Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God:
‘O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!’
With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey.|As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying:
‘Sister, take these’.
And, taking the money,
I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift.
I asked the person who sold the bread: ‘Which is the way to the Jordan?’
I was directed to the city gate which led that way.
Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey.
Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day
[I think it was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross]
I at length reached at sunset the Church of Saint John the Baptist
which stood on the banks of the Jordan.
After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters.
I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves.
Then, after drinking some water from Jordan, I lay down and passed the night on the ground.          In the morning I found a small boat and crossed to the opposite bank.
I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me whither she wished.
Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day
I am estranged from all, keeping away from people
and running away from everyone.
And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all|
who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms“.

Zosimas asked her:
How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?“.

She replied:
Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city“.

Zosimas asked:
But what food do you find?“.

The woman said:
I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan.
Soon they dried up and became hard as rock.
Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years“.

Zosimas asked.
Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus,
without suffering in any way from such a complete change?“.

The woman answered:
You remind me, Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of.
For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame
and all the violent thoughts which confused me,
I am again afraid that they will take possession of me“.

Zosimas said:
Do not hide from me anything;speak to me without concealing anything“.

And she said to him:
Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts
—> mad desires and passions.
When I was about to partake of food,
I used to begin to regret the meat and fish which of which I had so much in Egypt.
I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much.
for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water.
I used to burn and succumb with thirst.
The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly,
edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once.
But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast
and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert.
In my thoughts I returned to the icon of the Mother of God which had received me
and to her I cried in prayer.
I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing.
And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last
which seemed to shine on me from everywhere.
And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication,
how can I express them to you, Abba?
A fire was kindled in my miserable heart
which seemed to burn me up completely
and to awake in me a thirst for embraces.
As soon as this craving came to me,
I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears,
as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience
and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime.
And I did not rise from the ground
[sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night]
until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me
and chased away the thoughts that possessed me.
But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress,
asking Her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert.
And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance.
And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers.
And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything
and leads me as it were by the hand
“.

Zosimas asked:
Can it be that you did not need food and clothing?“.

She answered:
|”After finishing the loaves I had, of which I spoke, for seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert.
The clothes I had when I crossed the Jordan became torn and worn out.
I suffered greatly from the cold and greatly from the extreme heat.
At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion.
I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations.
But from that time till now the Power of God in numerous ways
had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body.
When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me
I have imperishable food for hope of Salvation.
I am fed and clothed by the all-Powerful Word of God, the Lord of all.
For it is not by bread alone that man lives.
And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge,
hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks [Job 24; Hebr.11: 38]”.

Hearing that she cited words Scripture, from Moses and Job,
Zosimas asked her:
And so you have read the Psalms and other books?“.
She smiled at this and said to the elder:
Believe me,
I have not seen a human face
ever since I crossed the Jordan,
except yours today.
I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert.
I never learned from books.
I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them.
But the word of God which is alive and active,
by itself teaches a man knowledge.
And so this is the end of my tale.
But, as I asked you in the beginning,
so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate word of God,
to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner“.

Thus concluding here tale she bowed down before him.
And with tears the elder exclaimed:
Blessed is God Who creates the Great and Wondrous, the Glorious and Marvellous without end.
Blessed is God Who has shown me
how He rewards those who fear Him.
Truly, O Lord, You did not forsake
those who seek You!”.

And the woman,
not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said:
I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Saviour,
tell no one what you have heard, until God delivers me of this earth.
And how depart in peace and again next year you shall see me, and I you,
if God will preserve us in His great Mercy.
But for God’s sake, do as I ask you.
Next year during Lent do not cross the Jordan,
as is your custom in the monastery“.

Zosimas was amazed to hear
that she know the rules of the monastery
and could only say:
Glory to God Who bestows great Gifts on those who love Him“.

She continued:
Remain, Abba, in the monastery.
And even if you wish to depart, you will not be to do so.
And at sunset of the Holy day of the Last super,
put some of the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel
worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it.
And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan
adjoining the inhabited parts of the land,
so that I can come and partake of the life-giving Gifts.
For, since the time I communicated in the temple of the Forerunner
before crossing the Jordan even to this day
I have not approached the Holy Mysteries.
And I thirst for them with irrepressible love and longing.
And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish,
bring me the life-giving Mysteries at the very hour
when Our Lord made His disciples partake of His Divine Supper.
Tell John the Abbot of the monastery where you live.
Look to yourself and to your brothers,
for there is much that needs correction.
Only do not say this now,
but when God guides you.
Pray for me!”.

With these words she vanished in the depths of the desert.
And Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground
on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God.
And, after wandering through the desert,
he returned to the monastery on the day all the brothers returned.

For the whole year he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen.
But in his should he pray to God to give him another chance of seeing the ascetic’s dear face.
And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came,
all went out into the desert with the customary prayers
and the singing of Psalms.
Only Zosimas was held back by illness — he lay in a fever.
And then he remembered what the saint had said to him:
And even if you wish to depart,
you will not be able to do so
“.

Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery.
And when attain the monks returned and the day of the Last Supper dawned,
he did as he had been ordered. and placing some of the most pure Body and Blood
into a small chalice and putting
some gifts and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket,
he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the Jordan
and sat down to wait for the Saint.
He waited for a long while and then began to doubt.
Then raising his eyes to heaven, he began to pray:

Grant me O Lord, to behold that which You has allowed be to behold once.
Do not let me depart in vain, being the burden of my sins
“.

And then another thought struck him:
And what is she does come?
There is no boat; how will she cross the Jordan
to come to me who am so unworthy?”.

And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear
and stand on the other side of the river.
Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God.
And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan.
Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over
the waters of the Jordan
[and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards]
and then she at once stepped on to the waters
and began walking across the surface towards him.
And when he wanted to prostrate himself,
she cried to him while still walking on the water:
What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest
and carrying the Divine Gifts!
“.
He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to the elder:
Bless, father, bless me!“.
He answered her trembling,
for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle:
Truly God did not lie when He promised that
when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him.
Glory to You, Christ our God,
Who has shown me through this Your slave
how far away I stand from perfection“.

Here the woman asked him to say the Creed and our Father.
He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time
gave him the kiss of Peace on the lips.
Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries,
she raised her hands to Heaven
and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:
Now let You Your servant depart in Peace, O Lord,
according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your Salvation“.

Then she said to the elder:
Forgive me, Abba, for asking you, but fulfil another wish of mine.
Go now to the monastery and let God’s Grace guard you. And next year come again to the same place where I first met you. Come for God’s sake, for you shall again see me, for such is the will of God“.

He said to her:
From this day on I would like to follow you
and always see your holy face.
But now fulfil the one and only wish of an old man
and take a little of the food I have brought for you“.

And he showed her the basket,
while she just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers
and taking three grains said that the Holy spirit guards
the substance of the soul unpolluted.
Then she said:

Pray, for God’s sake pray for me
and remember a miserable wretch
“.

Touching the Saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church,
the kingdom and himself, he let her depart with tears,
while he went off sighing and sorrowful,
for he could not hope to vanquish the invincible.
Meanwhile she again made the sign of the Cross over the Jordan
and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before.
And the elder returned filled with joy and terror,
accusing himself of not having asked the saint her name.
But he decided to do so next year.

And when another year had passed, he again went into the desert.
He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone.
So raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed:
Show me, O Lord, Your pure treasure,
which You have concealed in the desert.
Show me, I pray You, the angel in the flesh,
of which the world is not worthy“.

Then on the opposite bank of the river,
her face turned towards the rising sun,
he saw the saint lying dead.
Her hands were crossed according to custom
and her face was turned to the East.
Running up he shed tears over the saint’s feet
and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.

For a long time he wept.
Then reciting the appointed Psalms,
he said the burial prayers and thought to himself:
“Must I bury the body of a Saint?
Or will this be contrary to her wishes?”
And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:
Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary.
Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me,
who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt,
called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord’s Passion,
after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries“.
[Saint Mary died in 522 A. D.]

Reading this the elder was glad to know the Saint’s name.
He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries
on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died.
The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover,
Mary had evidently traversed in an hour
and had at once surrendered her soul to God.
Then Zosimas thought:
It is time to do as she wished.
But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?“.

And then he saw nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveller in the desert.
Picking it up he began to dig the ground.
But the earth was hard and dry and did not yield to the efforts of the elder.
He grew tired and covered with sweat.
He sighed from the depths of his soul
and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion
standing close to the saint’s body and licking her feet.
At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear,
especially when he called to mind Mary’s words
that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert.
But guarding himself with the sign of the Cross,
the thought came to him that the Power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed.
Meanwhile the lion drew nearer to him, expressing affection by every movement.

Zosimas said to the lion:
The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried.
But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave
[for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one],
so can you carry out the work with your claws?
Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the Saint“.
While he was still speaking
the lion with his front paws began to dig
a hole deep enough to bury the body.

Again the elder washed the feet of the saint with his tears and calling on her to pray for all, covered the body with earth in
the presence of the lion.
It was as it had been, naked and uncovered by anything but the tattered cloak which had been given to her by Zosimas
and with which Mary, turning away, had managed to cover part of her body.
Then both departed.
The lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb,
while Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord.
And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything
and all marvelled on hearing of God’s Miracles.
And with fear and love they kept the memory of the Saint.

Abbot John, as Saint Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas,
found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God’s help.
And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery,
almost attaining the age of a hundred and passed to eternal life.
The monks kept this story without writing it down
and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.

But I [adds Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem] as soon as I heard it, wrote it down.
Perhaps someone else, better informed, has already written the life of the Saint,
but as far as I could, I have recorded everything, putting truth above all else.
May God Who works amazing Miracles and generously bestows Gifts
on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those
who seek Light for themselves in this story,
who hear, read and are zealous to write it,
and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary
together with all who at different times have pleased God
by their pious thoughts and labours.

And let us also give Glory to God, the eternal King,
that He may grant us too His mercy in the day of Judgment
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs
all Glory, Honour, Dominion and Adoration
with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit,
now and always, and thought all ages.
Amen.

Apolytikion       Tn 8
“In you the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother;
for taking up your cross, you did follow Christ,
and by your deeds you did teach us to overlook the flesh,
for it passes away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal.
Wherefore, O righteous Mary,
your spirit rejoices with the Angels”.
Mp3 » Apolyticion Saint Mary of Egypt

Kontakion          Tn 4
Having escaped the gloom of sin, O blest Mary,
and shining brightly with the light of repentance,
You did present your heart to Christ, O glorious one,
bringing Him His Holy and all-immaculate Mother
as a greatly merciful and most bold intercessor.
Hence, You have found the pardon of your sins
and with the Angles rejoice for evermore
“.

The End and Glory Be to God!
Mp3 [english] »
Doxastikon – 5th Sunday of Lent; Mary of Egypt

Cf. The Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete
,
Internet Medieval Source Book,
a collection of public domain,
copy-permitted and electronically
available texts related
to Medieval and Byzantine History

Psalms created on Truth – Orthodoxy & her Psalterion

Introduction
The Psalms are among the most hauntingly beautiful songs and prayers that this world possesses; they are poems whose appeal is permanent and universal.
As an anthology of 150 gems the Psalter is
a work of consummate art,
a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever;
its loveliness increases.
The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God
which made David dance“,
said the late C. S. Lewis.

The Bible is a presentation of the Divine Drama in which we are all taking part.
The theme of the Drama is
the great acts and interventions of God,
past, present and future.
The Psalms are a distillation of the Old Testament and especially of the teaching
of the Hebrew Prophets.
They sum up
the whole Theology of the Old Testament.
They are the quintessence of the faith and devotion of Israel.
Yet they express the feelings and reactions
not only of one nation but of all mankind.
They reflect timelessly the universal hopes and fears, love and hate, joys and sorrows
of the human heart.
Individually they are the outcome of someone’s personal experience, though not perhaps all of them.
They reveal the varying moods of the human spirit from awestruck wonder at God’s mighty acts and the marvels of creation to groping perplexity at the apparent prosperity
of selfish scoundrels, from calm trust and deep certainty to cries of frustration
and desperation bordering on despair.
In these ancient poems we see the fundamental unity of mankind
and of the Old and New Testaments.
The unity is that of Promise and Fulfilment.

If the relic of a Saint or loved one is dear to us,
how much more precious is everything
connected with Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.
The Psalter was both His Prayer Book and Song Book.
While dying on the Cross,
the only portion of Holy Scripture
that Christ quoted was the Psalter.
Of His seven last words, four of them are echoes from the Book of Psalms:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
[Psalm 21: 2; Matth.27:46; Marc.15: 34];
I thirst” [John.19: 28; Psalm 41: 2; 62: 2; 142: 6];
It is done, accomplished, finished” [Psalm 21: 32; John.19: 30];
“Into Your hands I entrust My spirit” [Psalm 30: 6; Luc.23: 46].

Fullness and Fulfilment
We only realize the full significance of the Psalms
as we read them in Christ, the Truth,
through His eyes, and in His Spirit.
Faith is vision. Unbelief is blindness.
If the Good News is veiled,
it is veiled only to those
who have lost their way.
When the Old Testament is read,
a veil lies over their minds.
Only in Christ is the veil removed.
The minds of unbelievers are so blinded by the god of this world
that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ
cannot dawn upon them.
God Who told light to shine out of darkness
has shone in our hearts with the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2Cor.4-6].
So let all Israel know for certain
that God has made Jesus Whom you crucified
both Lord and Messiah [Acts 2: 36].

Israel failed to respond to the Divine call
and commission to give God’s light and love to the world.
The vine lifted out of Egypt (Psalm.79: 9; Matth.2: 15) is Jesus; the True Vine [John.15].
As the true Israel He fulfils Israel’s mission,
so that from the Cross and Resurrection
the New and True Israel is the community of those
whose hearts receive by faith the Divine Word spoken in Him [Hebr.1: 2].
His life is offered that it may flow in our veins as the Blood of the New Covenant,
the fruit of the vine [Marc.14: 24],
the love that conquers death [1 Cor.15: 54-57].
When the risen Lord walked and talked
with Lucas and Cleophas:
He began with Moses and all the Prophets
and explained to them the passages
which referred to Himself in every part of the Scriptures
“.
And at Emmaus He added,
This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses
and in the Prophets and Psalms was bound to be fulfilled

Luc.24: 27, 44

The songs of Israel find their full meaning only in the New Adam.
The Psalmist’s voice is his Master’s voice.
It was the Spirit of Christ in the Prophets foretelling the sufferings in store for Christ and the Glories that would follow.
And it was revealed to them
that it was not for themselves
but for you that they were administering those very Mysteries,
Which have now been announced to you through those who preached the Gospel
to you in the Power of the Holy Spirit [1Petr.1: 11].
Christ’s Birth, Sufferings and Death,
His triumphant Resurrection and Ascension, and His coming in Judgment,
are all clearly portrayed in the Psalms,
not merely as historical events but as perpetual and saving realities.
The eternal Spirit transforms history into Theology.
Saint Athanasius the Great says that the line of the Psalmist,
Open your mouth wide
and I will fill it
[80: 11] refers
to receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit
“.
The outpouring of the Spirit is the fulfilment of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms.

Correspondence and Recapitulation
The Christian Church accepted the
Old Testament as sacred Scriptures.
The Apostles and Christian preachers and teachers cited passages of the Old Testament
as Prophecies of the events of the Gospel.
They also saw correspondences between things and events under the Old and New Covenants.
The Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law and the Covenant have their counterpart in the redemption of mankind through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the giving of the New Covenant in His blood [1Cor.11: 25]
and the new commandment which fulfils the Law [John.13: 34; Gal.5: 14; Rom.13: 10].
The temple at Jerusalem has its counterpart in the temple of the Church
composed of living stones [Eph.2: 20-22; 1Petr.2: 5].
The Heavenly Manna has its counterpart in
Jesus as the heavenly bread of life [John.6: 32-58].
The Creation of the earthly man has its counterpart
in the New Creation born in the death and Resurrection
of the Heavenly Man Who is the Lord from Heaven
[John.12: 24; 1Cor.15: 47-49; 2Cor.5: 17].
Adam, the head of a sinful race of mortals,
has his counterpart in Christ, the second Adam, the New Man,
the head of a race of immortals [1Cor.15: 45-49].
In all these ways the New Covenant recapitulates the Old Covenant.

Similarly Christ was seen to be both [High-]Priest and Victim [Hebr. 8: 1 – 9: 15].
He is the Sacrificial Lamb and also the Victorious King [John.1: 36; 18: 37].
He is the Good Shepherd and also the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Psalm. 22; John.10: 11; Rev.5: 5].
He is the Son of Man foreseen by the Prophet Daniel [7: 13,14] destined to receive an eternal Kingdom
and also the Son of God foreseen by the Prophet David [Psalm 2] destined to reign over all Creation.
Jesus fulfils the role of Israel by attaining
the Triumph of His kingdom and Exaltation through Humiliation and Obedience to the point of death [Marc.14: 21; Hebr.2: 5-9; Isaiah 53].

The Church also understood that Jesus was the Word
(John.1: 14; 1John.1: 1; Rev.19: 13].
He was Himself the utterance of God’s Love and Grace,
Light and Truth in the world.
The utterances of the Old Testament had been
partial, incomplete, fragmentary, preparatory, Prophetic.
In Jesus we have the fullness and finality of the Divine utterance.
Jesus embodies the Divine utterance both in His teaching and in Himself.
The Word and the Person are completely identical.
The Word Who became flesh [John.1: 14] was in origin and originally God [John.1: 1),
ever at work with the Father and the Spirit in the creation of the world [John.5: 17],
ever giving life and light to men and angels [John.1: 9].
And so we see that the Word is a Person.
Life is not something but Someone [Gal.2: 20; Phil.1: 21].
The whole pageant of the past is recapitulated
in the Gracious Personality of Jesus the Messiah.
He recapitulates in His Person the whole destiny of mankind [Eph.1: 10].
God has predestined men to become
conformed to the image of His Son [Rom.8: 29].

The Church and the Bible
Under both Old and New Covenants the Church preceded the Bible.
The essential role of the Church, as of the individual Christian,
is to bear witness to experience, to what has been seen and heard
[Acts 1: 8; 4: 20; 22: 15].
Man’s vocation and destiny are supernatural
[Hebr.3: 1; Rom.8: 29; 2Tim.1: 9; 1Cor.1: 2].
Scripture is a communication of Divine Light
to guide us in the way of perfection [Matth.5: 48].
To know Christ (Truth) is to love Him and be free [1John.4].
So a supernatural Revelation of God’s Nature, Will and Purpose is essential.
Such is the Word of God contained in the Bible.
It is a love-letter written by our Heavenly Father
and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race
on our pilgrimage towards our Heavenly country [Saint John Chrysostomos].
Readers of the Bible have the Church to guide them.
No Prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private interpretation,
nor can it be understood by one’s own powers.
For no Prophecy ever originated in the human will,
but Holy men of God spoke as they were prompted by the Holy Spirit [2Petr.1: 20].
It is the Church’s mission to interpret the Bible.
People who live humbly and honestly in the fellowship of the Church
have their minds conditioned
and attuned to understand the Scriptures
as the Revelation of the mind of God
[1Cor.2: 16; Phil.2: 5; 2Petr.3: 1]

The Nature of the Psalms
It would be a mistake to think that the Psalms
are a beautiful expression of nature Mysticism,
inspired by the natural beauty of the countryside
and the soothing sounds of softly murmuring streams.
They are rather the war-songs of the Prince of Peace,
the vigorous shouts and cries of the whole man,
responding or reacting with his whole being to the One Who comes to him in all the circumstances of life.
Jesus Himself tells us that we shall never see Him
until we say in every situation:
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord” [Luc.13: 35].
In this matter of the Sanctification of the total man
made to love God with His whole nature
” [Luc.10: 27],
Israel was unlike the religions of the world.
The New Israel, the Church of Christ, inherits and continues this Tradition and
should develop it in an even more thoroughgoing manner.

The Jews prayed and worshipped with spirit, soul and body.
They beat their breasts, clapped their hands, stretched out their arms,
fell prostrate on the ground; they sang, they shouted, they danced;
they used drums, tambourines, cymbals, castanets, bells, horns, trumpets, pipes,
and various stringed instruments.
We find these features in the Psalms.
Saint Isaac the Syrian says:
Every prayer in which the body does not participate
and by which the heart is not affected
should be reckoned as an abortion without a soul
“.

Varieties of prayer are found in the Psalms:
Worship and Bowing Down, Love and Adoration, Meditation and Contemplation,
Stillness and Watching, Waiting and Listening, Hope and Desire,
Acts of Faith and Trust, Praise and Blessing,
Exaltation and Magnification, Repentance and Confession,
Weeping and Groaning, Exultation and Thanksgiving, Joy and Gladness,
Vows and Affirmations, Exorcism and Adjuration, Surrender and Submission,
Petition and Intercession.
We need to learn afresh the Christian use of the Psalter.
One reason for the neglect of the Psalms
in our devotional life is the disproportionate attention given
to critical and historical research in modern biblical study,
to the almost total exclusion of the Vital meaning
and Purpose of the Word of God.
To be ignorant of Scripture is not to know Christ“, says St. Jerome.

Practical Use of the Psalter
The Church never merely studied the Psalms.
They were her chief book of devotion.
Her divine Founder had quoted them,
had used them in prayer,
had explained them to His disciples,
and had died with them on His lips.
The Apostles ordered the faithful to use the Psalms both in their personal lives
and in community worship [Jac.5: 13; Col.3: 16; Eph.5: 19].
Saint Jerome tells us that at Saint Paula’s funeral in 404,
the Psalms were sung now in Greek, now in Latin, now in Syriac;
and this not only during the three days that elapsed before she was buried,
but throughout the rest of the week.
He also says that the Psalms sung in churches were also sung in the fields:
The toiling reaper sings Psalms as he works,
and the vine-grower, as he prunes his vines,
sings one of David’s songs. [so what are we doing during our daily work???]

At first the Psalter was the only hymnbook available.
Many both of the clergy and laity knew it by heart.
Saint Germanus in Constantinople and Saint Gregory in Rome
refused to consecrate as bishops men
who were unable to recite the Psalter.
A disused canon so ruled.
Even when the Church Services began to be compiled,
the Psalter was the Church’s first Service Book,
and it retains that position to this day.
All the services draw heavily upon the Psalms.
The Psalter is a quarry and treasury of Christian prayer and devotion.

Poetic Characteristics
The Psalms are poetry and this version retains the original poetic form
by printing the lines as in the Septuagint.
Much is lost when the Psalms are printed as prose.
Hebrew verse does not rhyme except occasionally and accidentally.
It is based on what is called parallelism, and is mostly in the form of couplets.
The second line of the couplet may be a repetition of the theme in different words,
or a contrast, or a heightened emphasis.
There is rhythm, but little metre.
Often there is a play on words, or assonance, or alliteration, or some figure of speech.
These are not reproducible in translation.
But the parallelism is clearly retained.
If the line endings occasionally rhyme,
that is quite incidental as in the original Hebrew.

It must not be thought that the parallelism of Hebrew poetry
merely means that the second line of every couplet
simply repeats the thought of the first line in different words.
Far from it. It may enrich or amplify the thought of the first line,
or it may modify it in other ways.
For example, the Prophet Isaiah writes [55: 7]:
Let the wicked forsake his ways and the sinful man his thoughts.
Or take the opening words of that wonderful outburst of praise
which the Holy Spirit put on Mary’s lips [Luc.1: 46]:
My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
“.
This does not mean that soul and spirit are therefore identical [cp. 1Thess.5: 23].
Rather it indicates that the second half of the couplet is a result of the first.
With my soul I magnify the Lord
[soul including understanding, intellect, memory, imagination, desire, will].
As a result of my growing consciousness and realization of the greatness
and goodness and glory of God,
my spirit is filled with joy and I exult in God my Saviour.
So the inspired lines are found to contain a simple technique
for the praise of God.

Divergences
Every new translation of the Psalter
has been made primarily for use in the Services
of the Orthodox Church.
It will be found to follow closely and often word for word previous versions made from the Hebrew.
It will also be found to differ widely in many places.
This is because the Orthodox Church
is committed to the Septuagint version of the Bible,
which was the Bible of the whole Christian Church
during the first thousand years of its existence.
It is also the version of the Bible that was used
and quoted by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles, though they also occasionally referred to the Hebrew.
That is why it will be found that this version of the Psalms tallies in almost every instance
with the Psalms quoted in the New Testament whereas the Hebrew Psalms are often widely divergent.
For example, Psalm 4:5,
Be angry, yet do not sin, is quoted word for word by the Apostle Paul [Eph.4: 26].
The Hebrew gives quite a different reading.

If it is asked why the Septuagint often differs
so totally from the Massoretic text,
the answer probably is that Hebrew was a kind of shorthand,
entirely without vowels when the Psalms were written.
It is easy to see that a word like brd could be rendered
bread, bird, bard, brayed, broad, beard, bored, breed,
broody braid, bride, bred, buried.
It is not surprising that there are variant readings.
What is surprising is that the Septuagint
reproduces a vast amount of the Hebrew text almost verbatim,
so that we can often check the Massoretic.
Another reason for differences in the Septuagint
may be that the Seventy translators used a Hebrew version
that differed in many respects from the Massoretic text.

We cannot give footnotes to explain
how we arrive at every puzzling rendering of the Greek,
as it is not within our scope.
If we take a single instance, it will be seen
how lengthy and complicated such explanations could be.
In Psalm 101: 27, change them like clothing could be rendered,
roll them like clothing.
Actually there is a variant reading at this point,
some texts reading roll, others change.
As the thought suggested is
that of a person rolling or stripping off a worn-out garment,
we believe that the word change
faithfully conveys the sense of either Greek word
and also the meaning of the Hebrew original.
In fact, the idea of change and renewal and the rebirth of the soul
as a New Creation is a basic concept throughout Holy Scripture
[cp. John.3: 3-5; 2Cor.5: 17; Gal.6: 15; Eph.2: 10; 4: 24].

Songs with a Difference
The Psalms provide food for the fed up
and Heavenly bread in the wilderness.
But what about the stone-age ethics?
How does King Og aid
our Sanctification or help our prayer?
In some of the Psalms we seem to be thirsting not for God
but for our enemies’ blood.
Sometimes we seem to be howling war-cries with a tribe of savages.
How can we speak the Truth in love with Hebrew tribal’s
who even sink to sacrificing their sons and daughters to demons? [Psalm 105: 37]

 

The purpose of God’s written word of which the Psalms are a part is
to make known to men the saving Truths
that God has revealed to us about Himself in His eternal Being
and about His action in time and place and His plan for the new world order.
Christian Theology is essentially the knowledge of God
and His will revealed to man through God’s action in history, which is truly His story.
Orthodox Theology as a unity of knowledge
is a means to an end that transcends all knowledge.
This end is Union with God.
The Psalms sum up the whole Salvation history and theology of the Old Covenant.
The Lights and shadows of the total panorama are all here.

So the Psalms are unlike the sacred books of the world religions.
The Bible is the record of the life of a community
offered by the Church as divine revelation.
We see the living God in the movement of events.
It is not merely the history of a progressive revelation,
but history as Revelation.
The meaning of the events lies in man’s meeting with God.
The Prophet, like the Priest, is a public person.
His encounter with God is not merely private experience,
like that of the mystics and sages of the world religions.
The pressure of public events
is the normal occasion of the Prophet’s meeting with God.
The Truth which the encounter reveals to his mind is public property.
God’s Choice of the Prophet is not an act of favouritism,
but an invitation or call to special responsibility [cp. Amos 3: 2].
The word of God which gives the vital meaning to history always has a twofold action:
– it is the word of crisis and judgment,
– and it is the creative word of renewal and regeneration.
If anyone is in the Truth, there is a New Creation [cp. 2Cor.5: 17].
Judgment is followed by the New Heavens and New Earth [2Petr.3: 13]
and the Universal Restoration of all things  {Acts 3:21].
The Light that judges us, Transfigures and Saves us” [John.12: 47].
In Your Light we see light” [Psalm 35: 10].
The supreme message of the Psalter is that the Vision of God,
to know and love Him, to trust and obey Him;
and to offer Him the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
is eternal life and happiness [John 6: 40; 17: 3; Luc.10: 25- 28; 1Petr.1: 8f].

The Divine Initiative
The Psalms are the Bible in miniature.
By a kind of Divine tom-tom
they drum into our consciousness the Truth
that we meet God in the world of persons, things and events.
Here and now we are to pass through the visible
and transient to the Invisible and True.
Yet the initiative always rests with God.
The word of God comes out of the everywhere into the here
and breaks into our life from beyond us.
The Bible is a record of God’s search for man.
The people of God are not those
who have a special bent or natural genius for religion.
Far from it.
All the saints would agree
that they had a natural bent for unbelief and waywardness,
but for the Grace of God. “We love because He first loved us” [1John 4: 19].
When we were still sinners Christ died for us [Rom.5: 8].
It was when we were sick and powerless to help ourselves . . . . . when we were enemies
that we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son
” [Rom.5: 6, 10].
His was the first Birth out of death [Col.1: 18].
Last but not least, the Psalms remind us of our response
to God’s love which means life from the dead.
It is the response of obedient love and loving obedience.
“I love You, O Lord, my Strength [Psalm 17: 1].

In the Psalms David speaks as if he were not going to die,
as if God would not leave him in hell or allow him to see corruption [15: 10].
Yet David died and his Kingdom vanished.
Now hear the Apostle Peter at Pentecost:
Men and brethren, I can speak freely to you about the Patriarch David:
he died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
But being a Prophet, he foresaw and spoke of the Resurrection of Christ,
when he said that his soul would not be left in hell,
nor would his flesh see corruption.
This Jesus God raised to life
and we are all His witnesses
” [Acts 2: 29f].

The Psalms were the utterances of both David and Christ.
God Who spoke in David and Who became incarnate as the Son of David
was speaking of His own coming into visibility
as the Divine Messiah and of His plan of Salvation.
This plan is only fully revealed in its fulfilment,
when men are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
The incarnation of the Word
as the visible image of the invisible God [Col.1: 15]
is the supreme demonstration of the Divine Initiative and Intervention.
It is the Climax of God’s search for man
and the discovery and redemption of the lost image
and likeness in the Saviour’s death and Resurrection.

The Messiah
A striking and mysterious figure looms larger and larger
and gradually takes shape, as we read and re-read the Psalms.
He is the Son of God, appointed King on Zion to rule the nations [Psalm 2].
He is addressed as God, His kingdom is to last for ever,
His Reign is gentle and just, yet strong as iron.
He is lovely with a Beauty beyond the sons of men
and because of His love of justice and goodness
He has a joy surpassing His fellow men [Psalm 44].
He is a King and Judge Who shares the Throne of God.
He is a Priest, not in the Levitical line,
but an Eternal Priest-King like Melchizedek [Psalm 109].
His reign will bring lasting Peace and Justice,
all kings and nations will worship Him,
He will take special care of the poor and destitute
and in Him all the families of the earth will be blessed [Psalm 71].
Yet this Sovereign Ruler of nations
Whom all mankind will worship will undergo terrible sufferings,
will be treated as an outcast, a worm
and not a man, will endure outrageous handling by men
who have become more like wild beasts: bulls, lions and dogs.
And they will strip Him and pierce His hands and feet
and will then stand and gloat over Him [Psalm 21].
Yet when He comes in Judgment to claim His Kingdom,
it will be a world-wide assembly, including rich and poor alike,
who will all worship Him and partake of
a sacrificial meal in His honour [Psalm 21, 93, 95].
Such is the King Messiah, portrayed especially in
5 Messianic Psalms: 2, 21, 44, 71 and 109.
They foretell the advent, Kingdom, Priesthood, sufferings, death,
Resurrection and Ascension of the coming Redeemer.
But different facets of the same Face and Person
are sprinkled throughout the Psalter
and we need them all to get the full Portrait.

Figures and Symbols
The Psalms foreshadow in figure and symbol,
the way of life and freedom
• fully revealed only in the New Adam
[Rom.5: 12f., 1Cor.15: 21f.],
the New Noah, father of the new race
• who rise from the baptismal waters [1Petr.3: 20f; 2Petr.2: 5],
• the Prophet like Moses [Deut.18: 15, 18; John 1: 21, 46; 6: 14, 32; Acts 3: 22].
• So He explains the miracle of the bronze serpent
which Moses fixed to a sign-post or standard
and which brought a change of heart [Num.21: 9]:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life [John 3: 14].

But the crucial and decisive event of
the old Covenant history was the Exodus from Egypt,
which the Psalms mention so frequently.
Just as the Christian remembers and relives the Sacrifice of Christ
by the celebration of the Liturgy, so the Jew recalls and re-enacts the Exodus
by the celebration of the Passover.
This act of Worship is not just an escape from the present into the past,
but a means of actual experience.
The Passover ritual says:
In every generation it is a man’s duty to imagine
that he himself has escaped from Egypt” [cp. Ex.13: 8].

As Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage
through the Red Sea towards the Promised Land
and celebrated their escape or deliverance by the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb,
so Christ the True Lamb of God by His Sacrifice on the Cross
leads men through the red sea of His life-giving blood
out of the real slavery of sin
into the Glorious freedom of the Children of God,
Which is Heaven on earth or the Promised Land.
The Great theme of history is the conflict between belief and unbelief.
Human societies like human beings live by Faith
and die when Faith dies [Rom.1: 17; Jac.2: 20].
Faith is the light in which we see God.
As we grow in faith and love,
the Mystery and Unity of the Exodus
and Christ’s Passover becomes more and more
a matter of personal experience.
Yet the experience is not the essential reality,
but only an effect of the reality
which is infinitely beyond experience, namely God in us:
Christ in you [Col.1].

By faith in Christ [John 5: 24]
and by the New Birth [John 3: 3-5]
we enter a new dimension of life and become amphibians, living at once in time and eternity.
We are at the same time in the wilderness and in the Promised Land.
Our life is in Heaven [Phil.3: 20].
God has enthroned us with Christ in Heaven [Eph.2: 6].
The Songs of Zion will tell us again and again that by faith
we are Christ’s Body in this world [1Cor.12: 27]
and that He lives in us [Col.1: 27; 2: 6; Gal.2: 20].
– Be what you are! they keep saying.
– Be forgiven, be reconciled, be friends with God,
– be clean, be free, be filled with the Spirit,
– be whole, be Holy, be Children of God,
– be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven! [Phil.3: 20].

Some Difficulties
Some people object to parts of the Psalms
because they seem to contradict
the Divine Law of Love taught by Christ.
But the Mystery of the Divine wrath and vengeance
reveals the total incompatibility of evil with the Divine Nature.
You who love the Lord, hate evil” [Psalm 96: 10; Rom.12: 9].
Judgment and vengeance belong to God and must be left to Him [Deut.32: 35].
God’s Judgment is His Appearance, Manifestation, Epiphany [Psalms 49: 1-4; 79: 2; 93: 1].
In its Fullness this appearing or manifestation refers to the Incarnation,
when Christ becomes the visible criterion in Whose Light we see light [Psalm 35: 10].
All the evil and malice of the world culminates in the Crucifixion of Christ.
When vengeance is left to God,
it takes the form of the agony and death of the God-man.
God takes His own medicine.
With Christ we are to hate the reign of evil, the vile spirits and passions
that prevent the reign of Christ in our hearts and in the world.
As we hate and forsake sin, we become free
to love and pray and labour for God’s Reign and Rule on earth.

Spiritual things must be spiritually understood.
People contrast spirit and letter.
But what letter is there in the Word of God
Who says Himself, My words are spirit and life? [John 6: 63].
Truly the letter kills [2Cor.3: 6].
To a literalist the message and meaning of the Bible
is bound to elude his most meticulous search.
The resident aliens whom God’s people are to drive out of Canaan
are the enemies of the human soul.
The harsh Psalms are the strong weapons used by the Church to exorcize
and drive out evil spirits from the souls and bodies of men.
The weapons of our warfare are not material,
but are powerful with God for the overthrow of the enemy’s strongholds [2Cor.10: 4].
The Word of God which is the Sword of the Spirit [Eph.6: 17]
is given us to expel evil and idle thoughts and replace them
by the Divine Light of the Beauty of Holiness and Truth.
Let the word of God dwell in you richly [Col.3: 16].

Other people object that they cannot sincerely say with some of the Psalms
that they are blameless, innocent, faithful, holy; it seems hypocritical.
Still others say that they do not share the agony and suffering of the Psalmist,
that their knees are not weak from fasting,
and how can they give thanks for joys and victories
they have never experienced?
The trouble with all these people is
that they have lost the sense of solidarity and unity with all mankind in Christ,
still less do they have a sense of the unity of all being in God.

After Pentecost when the Spirit restored men to unity, we read,
The whole Body of believers had one heart and soul, and none of them called any of his possessions his own, but everything was shared as common property“. Acts 4: 32
We cannot repeat too often that the Psalms refer to Christ and can be applied fully only to Him.
“But it is Christ in you Who is the hope of Glory for you”. Col.1: 27
He ever lives to make intercession in you,
with you, for you“. Hebr.7: 25
The Psalms teach us to enlarge our hearts or consciousness to embrace all mankind.
Remember those who suffer as if you shared their pain“.
Hebr.13: 3

Today we hear much of the priesthood of the laity.
The Psalms, if used aright, compel us to exercise our priesthood
and act as the voice of all mankind in Christ,
the one Mediator Priest and Intercessor.
We even act as the mouth of all dumb creation
to thank and glorify God for His Goodness.
The Angels in Heaven and all God’s creatures are invited to join the Divine praises.
To Him Who loves us and has washed us from our sins in His own blood
and made us a Kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father,
to Him be Glory and Triumph throughout endless ages [Rev.1: 5].
As we pray with and for all mankind,
we get a vision of hidden realities visible only to the eyes of faith
and we actually begin to see God’s New Creation taking shape.
When He appears, we shall be like Him,
for we shall see Him as He is [1John 3: 2].
If we are faithful, God will keep us till the end.
So Saint Athanasius explains Psalm 93:14 thus:
The Lord will guard His people in their troubles and afflictions
and He will direct and guide them until His Justice returns in judgment,
that is, until Christ judges the world;
for God has made Him our wisdom, our righteousness
,
our holiness and our redemption [1Cor.1: 30].
But disobedience always incurs God’s Judgment” [Jer.44].

The Cross is the Key
Og, Sehon, Pharaoh are so many troubles and trials.
“There is plenty of suffering and misery on earth”. 2Tim.3: 12
We make use of it aright when we offer it in union with the sufferings of Christ.
In union with Christ our sufferings assume infinite redemptive value,
just as a drop of water thrown into a great river does all that the river does“.
cf. Col.1: 24
In this way our sufferings are transformed into Light and Power and Joy.
We find true happiness by dying
because we can only enter Heaven
by dying to earthly things

cf. Acts 14: 22
That is why the Cross is the key to the Psalms, as it is the key to the Kingdom.
“Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,
it remains alone, merely a grain of wheat”.
John 12: 24
It is when Christ is lifted up that He draws all to Himself into the Unity of the Spirit.
It is by dying that Jesus has drawn all into the triumph of His Resurrection.
So Caiaphas prophesied “that Jesus would die for the nation
and not for the nation only, but to re-unite into one family
the scattered children of God
“.
John 11: 51, 52

Importance of the Psalterion
All the Psalms have as their aim the Glorification of God.
They were sung in the Temple, in the Synagogues, and in Jewish homes.
Today they are used by both Jews and Christians, uniting us in praise.
The Psalter is the hymnbook of the universal Church.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Book of Psalms.
The Hebrew poets took these timeless religious experiences
and made them the theme of their songs.
The Psalms are poems intended to be sung.
The Hebrew title means Songs of Praise.
But they can be read with a song in the heart,
they can be prayed in Spirit and Truth.
The inspired poets of Israel reflect the spiritual experience of the human soul.
So the Psalms belong to all mankind.
As there is no book in the New Testament corresponding to the Book of Psalms,
the Psalter belongs to both the New and Old Covenants
and forms a bridge linking the Old and New Testaments.
It is eloquent proof of the Unity of the Bible.
The Psalms constitute one of the most vital forms of prayer for men of all time.
Their Inspiration is expressly stated [2Sam.23: 1-5].

At the time when the Psalms were written they were not of such use
to those among whom they were written as they are to us,
for they were written to foretell the New Covenant among those
who lived under the Old Covenant [Saint Augustine].
The one great theme is Christ in regard to His inner life as the God-man
and in His past, present and future relations with the Church and the world.
The Psalter is the expression of the heart of the True man.
It is the Prophetic portrait [Icon] of the mind and heart of the coming Saviour.
God speaks to men in human words.
What wonderful Beauty there is in the words,
Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening Sacrifice [Psalm 140],
when applied to the one great Sacrifice of our Redemption
which was offered in the evening of the world
and on the eve of the Passover by the stretching out of the Saviour’s hands
to embrace all mankind on the Cross!
This we sing daily at Vespers.
What profound significance we can see in the words,
I will not die but live and proclaim the works of the Lord” [Psalm 117: 17],
when we refer them to the morning of the Resurrection and that first Easter Day
and the commission to the Apostles to make disciples of all nations!
This we sing daily at Matins. On Easter Day itself we sing.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it!
” [Psalm 117: 24].
And every day is the New day fresh from the and
in addition of the living God, so let us keep festival [1Cor.5: 8].

Inspiration
The inspiration of the Psalms as an integral part of inspired Scripture
is vouched for and guaranteed by Christ the Truth, Who asked the Pharisees:
How is it that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Christ Lord, saying Psalm 109: 1:
The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I put Thy enemies under Thy feet’“.
If David calls Him Lord, how can He be his son? [Matth.22: 43-45].
Christ classes the Psalms,
the chief book of the Chetubim or Hagiographa,
with the Law and the Prophets [Luc.24: 44].
Inspiration is explicitly defined in 2Tim.3: 16 and 2Petr.1: 20, 21.

Date and Authorship
The title of Psalm 89 attributes it to Moses.
The psalm itself recalls how the first generation of Israelites
were doomed to die in the wilderness
for their infidelity and disobedience.
So about 1280 B.C. some of the Psalms were probably being sung.
The titles ascribe 84 of the 150 to David, who lived about 1000 B.C.
So the earliest of the Psalms are well over 3000 years old
and the compilation covered perhaps 1000 years.
There are indications of editing at different dates.
For instance, after Psalm 71 an editor has added:
The songs of David the son of Jesse are ended.
But later we meet more Psalms attributed to David,
evidently inserted by other editors [90, 92, 93 etc.].
The Book of Psalms was perhaps completed
for the Jewish canon by about 300 B.C.
The Greek translation was made in Egypt
about 250 B.C. by Jews of the dispersion.

We cannot summarize the matter of authorship
better than by quoting the words of Saint Gregory the Dialogist:
Who was the author?
A very useless question as soon as we believe
that the book was the work of the Holy Spirit
Who dictated what was to be written.
If we received a letter from a Great Personage,
would we be curious to know what pen he used to write it?
“.

Historical Coverage
Besides studying the past, we can sing songs about it.
That is what the Psalmists did.
The whole History of the world as recorded in the Old Testament,
from the Creation of the universe till after the Babylonian Exile,
is put into poetry by the Psalmists.
Psalm 136 looks back to the Babylonian Exile
as a thing of the past [cp. also Psalm 125].

Unity and Divisions
The Psalms form a single book.
So our Lord refers to them [Luc.20: 42]
and so do His Apostles [Acts 1: 20].
The Orthodox Church has divided the Psalter
into 20 kathismas or sessions
[perhaps because it is customary to sit during the reading of a kathisma].
Each kathisma is further divided into 3 sections, marked by a Glory.
At each Glory it is customary to stand and sing as follows:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and
to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages.                                                                                            Amen
“.
Mp3:  Romanian Orthodox Chant – Psalm 1,2,3 at Putna Monastery

Effect of the Psalms
People talk of haunted houses.
The Psalter is a house of prayer haunted by the Spirit of Christ
Who inspired the Psalms.
Used aright, they cannot fail to lift us above and beyond ourselves.
They confront us with God and we find ourselves haunted
by His presence and gradually brought face to face with Him.
They bring our hearts and minds into the presence of the living God.
They fill our minds with His Truth in order to unite us with His Love.
The Saints and Holy Fathers of the Church,
like the Patriarchs and Prophets of Israel,
were haunted by the living reality of the Redeemer
revealed to the world in the Psalter.
He is the Word of God hidden in these words of God.
As you persevere in praying the Psalms,
you will be drenched with the Holy Spirit
as the trees are drenched with the rain [Psalm 103: 16],
you will be rapt in God and penetrated from time to time
with vivid intuitions of His action,
your mind and heart will be purified.
The pure in heart know God as the Father of mercies
Who has so loved the world as to give His only Son for their redemption [John 3: 16]
and they see Him making all things New [Rev.21: 5].
They see and know Him not merely by faith, still less by speculation,
but by Interior and incommunicable Experience.
As we sing His Glories, we are led by Faith to see His vast activity in every aspect of life.
By beholding the Glory of the Lord, we are transformed into His likeness
from Glory to glory by the Spirit of God [2Cor.3: 18].
But this will only happen if we see Christ
as the way, the truth and the life of the Psalms [John 14: 6],
the Great God in Whom we live and move and have our being [Acts 17: 28].
As we persevere in seeking His Face, we find that the Psalms stir and arouse in us
the will to Believe and the will to Love.
By Faith and Love we pass into the realm of Eternal Reality
and new vistas of experience open before us [John 5: 24].

The Voice and The Voices
The Church functions as a voice.
Its ministers are servants of the word [Luc.1: 2].
The Word of life was made visible. Life is a Person.
The eternal life that was with the Father was made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard we declare to you,
that you may share our fellowship,
the life we share with the Father and His Son in the unity of the Spirit,
that our joy may be complete [1John 1: 1-4].
In one who is obedient to His word,
the Divine love has indeed reached perfection [1John 2: 5].
In the Psalms many voices are audible:
• sometimes it is the Psalmist Who speaks,
• sometimes a fool, sometimes Israel,
• sometimes the soul, sometimes evil spirits,
• sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Spirit;
• sometimes the Messiah seems to be identified with Israel,
as in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
With these swift transitions,
it is often difficult at first sight to tell who is the speaker.
As in the Psalms, so it is in our lives:
• “Be still and know I am” [Psalm 45: 11].
• “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening” [1Sam.3: 9].
The good Shepherd says,
• “My sheep hear My voice” [John 10: 27].
• The voice of the Psalmist is the Voice of Christ.
• The Voice of the bride is the Voice of the Bridegroom.
“He who hears you, hears Me” [Luc.10: 16].

Come you also
– And the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’.
– And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come’.
– And let everyone who is thirsty come,
– and let everyone who has the will to do so take the water of life as a free gift [Rev.22: 17].
– Here the Spirit of God and the Church with one voice
invite every living soul to come to the only fountain of life and happiness.
– Then every listening soul is told to cry out of the depths of his hunger and need, Come!
Finally the thirsty and needy and willing are told to come
and receive the Water of Life freely.

Here we have two comings:
– the final coming of Christ to the world and
– the coming of each soul to Christ.
In fact, Christ comes to us continually in all the changes and chances of our lives,
supremely in the Mystery of Communion [1Cor.11: 23-30; John.6: 31-58],
and in many special Manifestations of His real Presence [John.14: 19-23].
The Psalms tell us that we cannot find
satisfaction in sin or work or riches or culture or honour and glory.
But in Jesus we find here and now Satisfaction and Happiness, Pardon, Purity and Peace:
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness [Christ],
for they will be satisfied [Matth.5: 6).
Pardon: In Him we have the forgiveness of our sins [Eph.1: 7].
Purity: He has washed us from our sins in His own blood [Rev.1: 5].
Peace: My peace I give you (Jn. 14:27). He is our Peace [Eph.2: 14].

And so we watch in eager expectation
for the coming of the Son of God in power and glory,
praying and working for that golden age foreseen and foretold
by the holy Prophets where God’s Will of perfect Love is done on earth
as it is in Heaven.
Let us take as our motto the words of the Psalmist:
I will live to please the Lord in the land of the living [Psalm 114: 9],
the Promised Land, the honeycomb of the earth [Ez.20: 6 LXX],
peace beyond all understanding [Phil.4: 7],
the joy of the Lord [Matth.25: 23],
Heaven within you [Luc.17: 21],
Divine life in the soul of man [2Cor.5: 15],
sharing the Divine Nature [2Petr.1: 4].
He who has the Son has the Life [1John 5: 12].
Come, Lord Jesus, come [Rev.22: 20].

Panegyric on the Psalms [from Saint John Chrysostom – Extract]
If we keep vigil in Church, David comes first, last and central.
If early in the morning we want songs and hymns, first, last and central is David again.
If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of those who have fallen asleep,
or if virgins sit at home and spin,
David is first, last and central.
O amazing wonder!

Many who have made little progress in literature know the Psalter by heart.
Nor is it only in cities and churches that David is famous;
in the village market, in the desert, and in uninhabitable land,
he excites the praise of God.
In monasteries, among those holy choirs of angelic armies,
David is first, last and central.
In the convents of virgins, where are the communities of those who imitate Mary;
in the deserts where there are men crucified to the world,
who live their life in Heaven with God,
David is first, last and central.
All other men at night are overcome by sleep.
David alone is active, and gathering the servants of God into Seraphic bands,
he turns earth into Heaven, and converts men into Angels”.
cf. Father Lazaros Moore – 1st printed 1966

Orthodoxy & the departed Saints pray for us

This done, in like manner
there appeared a man with gray hairs
and exceeding glorious,
who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty.
Then Onias answered, saying,
‘This is a lover of  the brethren, who prays much for the people
and for the holy city, 
to wit, Jeremiah, the Prophet of God’“.
2Mac.15: 13-14

This was the vision which was seen by the courageous Judas Maccabee.
The first to appear to him from the other world was Onias the high priest and after that the holy Prophet Jeremiah.
Just as Moses and Elijah were seen in Glory by the apostles on Mount Tabor,
thus, at one time Judas Maccabee saw the Prophet Jeremiah in Glory.
Not even before the Resurrected Christ did God the Merciful
leave men without proof of life after death.
In Christian times, however, those proofs are without number and without end.
Whoever, even after all of this, doubts in life after death,
that one stands under the curse of his sin as under his grave stone.
As inanimate things cannot see the light of day,
so neither can he see who doubts life which is and to which there is no end.

But, behold with what kind of Glory is
the Prophet Jeremiah wedded in the other life! “Gray hairs and exceeding glorious“;
– around him a certain indescribable dignity,
– a certain bright aureole,
– a certain inexpressible pleasure
– and beauty.
He who was dragged and beaten by men
to whom he communicated and imparted
the will of God
– and who was a captive in prison
– and a martyr in a fetid hole
– and who was ridiculed as folly
– and was tried as a traitor
– and finally, as a transgressor,
was stoned to death.
However, one is the judgment of sinners,
another is the judgment of God.
The most humiliated among men became wedded with angelic Glory before God.

And yet behold how Heaven calls one,
whom the earth called false,
a traitor and a transgressor!
– “Lover of the brethren“;
this is how Heaven called him.
– “Lover of the brethren“;
who prays much for the people.
Finally, see how the Saints in Heaven pray to God for us!
Not sleeping, they are praying for us
– while we are asleep;
not eating, they are praying for us
– while we are eating and have over-eaten;
not sinning, they are praying for us
– while we are sinning.
O brethren, let us be ashamed before so many of our sincere friends.
Let us be ashamed,
let us be ashamed of so many prayers for us
by the Saints and let us join with their prayers.
O Lord All-wonderful,
forgive us our sinful slothfulness and dullness.
To You be glory and thanks always.
Amen“.
Saint Nicholai Velimirovich

When particularly dedicated Christians
consistently demonstrate throughout their lives
a great love for Christ and their fellow-man
and when they live and die in unusually vibrant Hope and Joy in Him,
they are remembered with special fervour
by their fellow Christians left behind on earth.
Accounts of their good deeds, their wise words, and very often,
miraculous events associated with their lives, are spread by word of mouth.
Miracles often occur at the graves of such individuals.
An excellent biblical account of such an occurrence
can be found in 2 Kings 13:20, 21.
Here, a man was raised to life merely
by coming into contact with the bones of Elisha.
In addition, miracles often occur in respect
to the earthly possessions of the Saints.
We are told in the New Testament that even Saint Paul’s handkerchiefs became instruments of God’s healing [Acts 19:11,12].
An example of such an event in recent times occurred at the death of Saint Nectarios.
Just after bishop Nectarios died, the nurses changing his clothing
threw his woolen undershirt onto the bed of a paralyzed man in the same room;
the invalid was healed, immediately standing up
and walking for the first time in many years [Chondropoulos, p. 265].
Knowledge of such events is further spread
when accounts of them are recorded and circulated.
This encourages more people
to ask the person for his or her Heavenly intercessions

[even though it’s not tolerated by a local archpriest,
who is behaving to be a staretz himself].

Thus the devotion to the person spreads in a very organic, spontaneous way.
Such developments usually lead the Church
to formally honour such particularly holy persons
through the process of canonization

[often called “Glorification” by the Orthodox]
.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church,
which has a very detailed, step-by-step procedure for canonization, the Orthodox Church simply recognizes officially the popular devotion which has spontaneously surrounded the memory of the holy man, woman, or child.

[It is good to remember
that the canonized saints
are of all ages and from all walks of life,
from soldier to monk/nun,
from bishop to family father/housewife
]
.
Usually this is done at a regional or national level, where awareness of the saint’s life tends to be greatest, but the other Orthodox Churches may announce their recognition of the canonization as well.
All this is done so that the popular piety
surrounding the saint is channelled and safeguarded
under the protective mantle of the Church
and so that those living beyond the local area
where the saint lived can become aware of him or her.

We can say is that it is clear that the Jews of the diaspora;
1.]. believed the Saints were alive,
2.]. believed the Saints were able to hear their prayers, and
3.]. believed the Saints were able to respond.
Therefore, it is not much of a stretch to understand how the early Christian church, being comprised mainly of Jews,
did not have any problem with intercessory prayer to the Saints.

Historical Witness
A belief in prayer to the Theotokos appears to be a quite early development.
The John Rylands Papyrus 470 is a fragment dated to around 250 A.D.
and containing the following prayer to the Theotokos:
Under your Mercy we take refuge, Mother of God!
Our prayers, do not despise in necessities,
but from the danger deliver us, only pure, only blessed‘.
Tribe and Villiers 2011

Notice, if you will, the dating of this fragment
– well before the time of the edict of Milan in 313 A.D.;
this papyrus dates to the time of Emperor Decius,
under whose reign there was a persecution of Christian laity across the empire.
This prayer, dating from a time of great persecution,
is still contained in the Greek Orthodox “Book of Hours”,
where it is one of the concluding prayers of the evening services;
also, the Orthodox sing this Hymn as the last dismissal Hymn
of daily Vespers during Great Lent. [Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia 2011]
The prayer is also used in the Roman Catholic Church,
where it is known as the ‘Sub tuum praesidium‘.
Mathewes-Green 2007, 85-86

Shawn Tribe and Henri de Villiers provide us
with the following theological analysis of this prayer.
Three fundamental Theological Truths are admirably synthesized:
– The special election of the Theotokos by God [“only blessed”].
– The perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos [“only pure”].
– The Divine Motherhood [“Theotokos”; “Mother
may be considered as a poor translation of Genitrix.
Tribe and Villiers 2011

We should also add the idea that the Theotokos hears our prayers
and, in some sense, answers them.
Thus prayer to the Theotokos,
along with a belief in her remaining ‘ever-virgin’,
is an expression of ante-Nicene Christianity,
rather than [as some suggest] a syncretic grafting of paganism
onto Christianity by a post-Constantine, apostate church.

Witness of the fathers [& others]
Saint John of Kronstadt waxes lyrical on this topic.
Pray, my brethren, to the Mother of God
when the storm of enmity and malice bursts forth in your house.
She, Who is all-merciful and all-powerful,
can easily pacify the hearts of men.
Peace and love proceed from the one God, as from their Source, and Our Lady
– in God, as the Mother of Christ the Peace, is ardent,
and prays for the peace of the whole world,
and above all of all Christians.
She has the all-merciful power of driving away from us
at Her sign the sub-celestial spirits of evil
–  those ever-vigilant and ardent sowers of enmity and malice amongst men,
whilst to all who have recourse with faith
and love to Her powerful protection,
She soon speedily gives both peace and love.
Be zealous yourselves also in preserving faith and love in your hearts;
for if you do not care for this,
then you will be unworthy of the intercession for you
– of the Mother of God;
be also most fervent and most reverent worshippers
[excerpt from the diary of Saint John of Kronstadt].
of the Mother of the Almighty Lord;
for it is truly meet to bless Her–the ever-blessed;
the entirely spotless Mother of our God,
the highest of all creatures,
the Mediatrix for the whole race of mankind.
Strive to train yourself in the spirit of humility,
for She Herself was more humble than any mortal,
and only looks lovingly upon the humble”.
He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden” [said She to Elisabeth],
of “God, Her Saviour.”
Saint John of Kronstadt 2010, Kindle Locations 3050-3059

The Sub tuum praesidium [written between 250 and 280]
precedes by several centuries
the Ave Mariain Christian prayer.

On the papyrus, we can read:
.ΠΟ
ΕΥCΠΑ
ΚΑΤΑΦΕ
ΘΕΟΤΟΚΕΤ
ΙΚΕCΙΑCΜΗΠΑ
ΕΙΔΗCΕΜΠΕΡΙCTAC
AΛΛΕΚΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ
…ΡΥCΑΙΗΜΑC
MONH
…HEΥΛΟΓ
That is this greek text:
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν
εὐσπλαγχνίαν
καταφεύγομεν
Θεοτὸκε· τὰς ἡμῶν
ἱκεσίας μὴ παρ-
ίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνου
λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς
μόνη ἁγνὴ
μόνη εὐλογημένη.
A literal Latin version might be:
Sub tuam
misericordiam
confugimus,
Dei Genitrix ! nostras
deprecationes ne des-
picias in necessitatibus
sed a perditione
salva nos
sola pura,
sola benedicta.
And an English translation could be: 
Under your
mercy
we take refuge,
Mother of God! Our
prayers, do not despise
in necessities,
but from the danger
deliver us,
only pure,
only blessed.

the hymn is chanted in the context of a Vespers Service for Great Lent:
MP3: Χορός Ψαλτών Οι Κρήτες Μαΐστορες κατανυκτικός

The Saints are living,
– are aware of us
[as seen in the conversations between
Moses, Elijah, and the Transfigured Christ],
– fellowship with us,
– worship with us at the heavenly altar
[of which the earthly altar is but a shadow]
– and are able to speak with Jesus.
The author of Hebrews charges us
to keep in mind the Saints in Heaven,
the ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses’ [Hebr.12: 1]
– of whom constant mindfulness in some way helps us
avoid sin and keep us on the path towards Salvation.

For what purpose are you coming to Church?

To whom will I have respect,
but (save?) to the humble and meek
and the man that trembles at my words.
For all those things My hand has made
and all those things have been’,
said the Lord:
‘but to this man will I look,
even to him that is poor,
of a contrite spirit,
and trembles at My Word’“.
Isaiah 66: 2

“Awake, O sleeper
and Christ shall shine upon You”.
Eph.5: 14

We know from the life of Saint Arsenius the Great
that after entering upon a life of solitude and prayer
he constantly asked himself,
Arsenios, to what purpose have You gone out?

We as Orthodox Christians, similarly
must ask ourselves each and every time
we approach our Parish church,
for what purpose am I coming to church?

Surely, we attend church for our own spiritual profit.
One might say, yes.       But what is our goal?
We know from many sources
– one of which is the Conversation of Saint Seraphim of Sarov with Moltivilov –
that the reason that we labour at any of the virtues and the ultimate purpose of Christian life is for us to become partakers of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
But as we know from this same discourse,
one can labour at the virtues to no purpose as the foolish virgins did,
receiving no oil for their lamps, that is,
receiving no Grace for their labours.
It follows that,
yes, we can labour to attend church
and gain nothing.

As Saint Seraphim explains in the same Conversation
and the Lord says:
Not every one that said unto Me: Lord, Lord shall be saved,
but he that does the will of My Father
“.
Matth.7: 21
– that is,
he who does the work of God
and, moreover,
does it with reverence,
‘for cursed be he that does the work of God negligently’
Jer.31: 10, LXX

For this reason the Saints sought to cultivate a reverent fear of God.
Saint David of Thessalonica prayed and fasted for three years while enduring the ascetical feat of dwelling in an almond tree,
in his wisdom he all the while entreated God for this Gift of reverent fear.
As it is recorded in the Life of the Saint,
“When the three years had passed,
a holy angel appeared unto him saying,
‘David,
the Lord has heard your supplication
and grants unto you this favour for which you have asked many times,
that is, that you be humble-minded and modest,
and that you fear Him and worship Him with proper reverence’.
We know from his life that this “Mother Virtue”

[to borrow a term from Saint John Climacus]
gave birth to many spiritual “daughter virtues”
and Saint David was manifested
to all as a clairvoyant wonderworker
“.
from Orthodox Word 1970 May/June, vol. 6 No. 3, pg.123

If one reads the church Service books, one can see
that this reverence and fear of God
is an intrinsic part of the Church’s understanding.
As it is proclaimed in the Great Ektenia:
For this Holy House, and for them that with faith,
reverence, and fear of God enter herein,
let us pray to the Lord
“.

After the Our Father when the deacon commands,
bow your heads unto the Lord“!

[why nobody in Church is bowing?
– indeed, when you only come to Church to hear nice old Greek or Russian words on a nice sound,
you will never understand the background; you even don’t know
you have to bow!!!
]

the priests secret prayer reads as follows:
We give thanks unto You, O invisible King,
Who by Your measureless power hast created all things,
and in the multitude of Your Mercy has out of nothing
brought all things into being.
Do You Yourself, O Master,
look from Heaven upon them
that have bowed down their heads to You:
for they have bowed them not to flesh and blood,
but to You, the dread God . . . . .

In the holy Liturgy we encounter our awesome and terrible God,
Who created all things by His measureless Power
and Who came in Meekness and Humility
in order to gather us
as a hen does her chicks.
A strange and unheard of paradox
which is beyond the mind of man.
[so next Sunday you bow all your heads ???]

Saint Pachomius the Great explains the awesomeness of the New Covenant
and the fearful world – transcending Divine Liturgy.
As a monk describes the words of Saint Pachomius in his life,
“. . . . . He explained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies,
applying the explanation to the two peoples,
‘For the first people’, he said is the outer Tabernacle,
whose service consisted in animal sacrifices, visible loaves,
the lamp stand and the lamps, and some other things.
But the calling of the Nations is the Holy of Holies,
that is, the fulfilment of the Law.
And everything in the Holy of Holies
is more glorious than the outer Tabernacle.
For instead of animal sacrifices it has a censer of incense;
instead of a table, the Ark of the Covenant with the spiritual loaves,
the book of the Law and all that is to be found there,
and instead of the light of the lamp stand,
the Mercy Seat where God appears as a consuming fire,
that is, God the Incarnate Word
Who was made propitiation for us by appearing in the flesh
“.

In every Divine and Sacred Liturgy
fearful and awesome things are accomplished,
God appears as a consuming fire
to sanctify the gifts and overshadows all of the faithful.
Let us not draw nigh carelessly.
It is our Father’s house and
He calls us all to the banquet,
but let us with fear of God, faith,
and love draw nigh.

Treasures of Orthodoxy:
The fear of the Lord is
the beginning of Wisdom;
and there is good understanding
to all that practice it:
and piety toward God
is the beginning of discernment;
but the ungodly will set
at nought wisdom and instruction
“.
Prov.1: 7

Fear is the paternal rod which guides our way until we reach the spiritual Paradise of good things.
When we have attained there to,
it leaves us and turns back.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, ascetical Homily Forty-Six

What children should be given to read
Father Ambrose:
“It is my opinion that a young mind should first of all
be occupied with sacred history and readings of the Lives of Saints
of your choice,
which will unnoticeably sow the seeds of the fear of God
and Christian life.
You especially need to make them understand, with God’s help,
how important it is to keep God’s commandments
and what disastrous consequences follow breaking them.
All of this will lead them away from the example set by our first parents,
who ate the forbidden fruit and were therefore exiled from Paradise.
You can put Krylov’s fables away until later
[Иван Андреевич Крылов 1769 – 1844, Russian translator and imitator of existing fables],
for now teaching your child some prayers by heart,
like the Symbol of Faith and certain Psalms, for example:
He that dwells in the help of the Most High” [Psalm 90];
The Lord is my Light” [Psalm 26], and the like.
The main thing is that the child himself
be occupied according to his strength
and directed toward fear of God.
Everything good and kind comes from this.
while, to the contrary, idleness and not being instilled with the fear of God
are often the cause of all evil and misfortune.
When the fear of God is not instilled,
children will not bring forth the desired fruits of good morals
and a well-ordered life, no matter what you occupy them with.
When the fear of God is instilled,
all occupations are good and profitable”.
Elder Ambrose of Optina – Амвросий Оптинский [1812-1891]

And they put the ark of the Lord on a new wagon,
and took it out of the house of Aminadab who lived on the hill:
and Oza and his brethren the sons of Aminadab drove the wagon with the ark,
and his brethren went before the ark.
And David and the children of Israel were playing before the Lord
on well-tuned instruments mightily,
with songs, with harps, with lutes, with drums,
with cymbals, and with pipes.
And they come as far as the threshing floor of Nachor;
and Oza reached forth his hand to the ark of God to keep it steady,
and took hold of it; for the ox shook it out of its place.
And the Lord was very angry with Oza;
and God smote him there:
and he died there by the ark of the Lord
before God
“.

Certainly, the idea of conforming one’s actions,
one’s approach to living and thinking,
and even the eye of one’s noetic heart
to live chiefly to glorify God
runs completely contrary to what “the World” values today,
especially in its prevailing secular outlooks of modernism and relativism,
which challenge and question the very concept and existence of objective Truth.
This is why the True heart of the Christian Gospel appears
“as foolishness to those who live
and think and have their being in and of the world,
outside of a yearning for God”.
cf. 1Cor.1: 18-25
Indeed, Saint John the Theologian, beloved apostle of the Lord,
reminds us that our love, if truly selfless,
is something the world not only often fails to understand,
but indeed, because it is selfless, is something the world often despises:
“Wonder not, brethren,
if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life,
because we love the brethren.
He that loveth not, abideth in death”.

1John 3: 13-14

 

March 25th – Annunciation, Christ’s Birth announced to the Theotokos

Christ expounded unto the Disciples,
walking to Emmaus
in all the Historical Scriptures
the things concerning Himself“.
cf. Luc.24: 26-28

Man would never come to know the True God unless God Himself first became man,
thus the Coming of Christ has been foretold.

The promise that Christ would come can be read in:
Gen. 3: 15, 22: 18, 26: 4, 49: 10;
Num. 21: 6-9, 24: 17, Deut. 18:15;
Psalm 15: 8-10, 21: all, specifically: 21: 14-16-18, 131: 11;
Isaiah 7: 14, 9: 6-7, 40: 10-11, 50: 6, 52: 13-15, 53: all, 60: 21;
Jer 23: 5, Jer 33: 14-15, Ezek 34: 23, Ezek 37: 25;
Dan. 9: 25, Mic.5: 2 & 7: 20;
Zach.6: 12, 9: 9, 9: 10, 12: 8-10, 13: 7;
Mal.3: 1-4 & 4: 2-6.
This list is not complete by any means and if one were to take into account
the more complicated Scriptures, the compound Scriptures,
one would be able to enlarge this list geometrically, for the Old Testament
was a promise of that which was to come.
Jesus was that Promise Which did in fact come,
and the New Testament is the record of the Promise fulfilled
and the future Promises yet to come,
but they all revolve around Almighty God’s plan, purpose
and consummation of the eternal Union
between His children and Himself
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today’s Feast is indeed the Feast of
the True knowledge of God,
as foreseen by the Fore-fathers.
This is the Feast of the Formation of Christ in the flesh, announced by the Archangel Gabriel
and accepted by the Virgin,
and it occurs therefore nine months
before the Birth of Christ at Christmas.
It is, as the hymns of the Church tell us,
the Crown of our Salvation,
the beginning of everything.
This is why its Greek name is ‘Ευαγγελισμος’ [Evangelismos],
which comes from the word ‘Ευαγγελίων’ meaning ‘Good News’.
This is the feast of the Good News, the Feast of the Gospel.
Without this Feast, there would have been
no Good News, no Gospel.

Its usual English name is the Annunciation.
For it is the Feast not of an announcement,
but of the Announcement.
It is the ultimate Announcement, for it is the Announcement that God has become man,
the Announcement of the Presence of
the Wisdom of God amongst us,
not of the wisdom of man as before Christ,
but of the Wisdom of God.
It changes everything in World’s History,
overshadowing and surpassing all
that old human wisdom
of Ancient Greece, Egypt, India and China.

But however Divine this Highfeast is, it is also human.
The humanity of this Feast is not only in that today God becomes an embryo,
it is also in that today the Virgin becomes a Mother.
This is why today the Church is in blue,
the colour of the Virgin-Mother
and why this Feast is also known as ‘Lady Day’ in England.
Today, in accepting the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, in accepting the Will of God, the Virgin becomes the most high of all mankind,
‘More honourable than the Cherubim
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim’
.
Mp3: Megalynarion of Orthros [Greek & English]
She exceeds in her sacrifice all other men and women in human History,
past, present and future.
She becomes linked with all eternity
and surpasses humanity while remaining human.
In a word,
this earthly being becomes through her sacrifice the Mother of God,
which is why we, though still on earth,
commemorate her in Heavenly blue.

In accepting this cross of sacrifice,
the Mother of God also accepts
the approaching Cross of Victory of Her Son.
This is a very significant fact
and indeed this is a spiritual law.
For every sacrifice, for every cross
that we take on ourselves according to God’s Will,
we receive a spiritual reward.
It may not come at once, but it will inevitably come.
This is a spiritual law, just as, in the same way,
if we fail to make a sacrifice and take up our cross
when God calls us to do that,
there is also a price to pay,
the price of spiritual defeat.
Mp4: Anaphora – Divine Liturgy [English]

For example, at this moment,
and in more than one part of the world,
men are fighting, men are slaughtering one another.
This is because they are blind to Christ.
For when we are blind to Christ,
then we are also blind
to the meaning of Christ’s Cross.
Thus people make war, instead of making Peace.
For people cannot make Peace because
that involves a sacrifice,
the sacrifice of sharing.
If there is no Cross of Sacrifice,
then there is
– no Cross of Victory,
– no Cross of Resurrection,
just the constant cycle of wars.

The sacrifice of the Mother of God
in accepting to bear and nourish God,
giving Him her blood, bones and flesh,
and raise Him as a man is such
that she alone among all mankind
can take us outside the cycle of wars
and can lead us,
if we wish to follow her,
into Eternity,
to the Resurrection of Christ.

“Most Holy Mother of God, save us!”

And the Scripture is fulfilled which said,
Abraham [man] believed God,
and it was imputed unto him [us] for righteousness:
and he [we] is [are] called the friend[s] of God“.
cf. James 2: 23

Orthodoxy & to come to yourself

And when he came to himself, he said,
How many hired servants of my father’s
have bread enough and to spare,
and I perish with hunger!“.
Luc.15: 17

If the Orthodox Churches are able
to strengthen their unity,
to dialogue with each other
than this is obedient and beneficial to their basics;
the original Christian Church.

You are probably motivated by Orthodox churches, and perhaps noticed that they often bear titles like
“Greek Orthodox”, “Russian Orthodox”, “Serbian Orthodox” or even “Ukrainian Orthodox”.
Are they simply different denominations that cater to particular ethnicities?
You could be excused for thinking so,
though this is – less and less – true today,
there is indeed a great deal of overlap
between the ethnic composition of many parishes
and these ‘titles‘.
Some nominations have even the impression
that one possesses a greater degree of importance than the others,
even this is heresy, because it encourages
a further breakdown of the original Christian Church.
In Truth, the Orthodox Church is one unified Church [of 300 million people],
and belongs to no nation at all.
Instead, it is the ancient church, and is unique in that it traces its roots
— in unbroken succession! — all the way back to the 1stcentury
founding by Christ and His Apostles.
It zealously holds to and preserves all the Teachings and Traditions
– including Holy Scripture – that were held by all Christians for the first ten centuries.
The word orthodox
– “right Belief and right Glory” –
has traditionally been used to designate communities [or individuals]
which preserved the True Faith.
The Orthodox Church still
— after thousands of years —
believes and adheres
to these ancient Teachings and Traditions,
and it will continue to do so for thousands more, or in other words until our Lord’s return.

The Masters voice
By the time of Jesus,
Aramaic was the most common language in Judea, though Hebrew may have been dominant in certain areas, such as Jerusalem or the Qumran community by the Dead Sea.
It’s most likely that in Galilee,
where Jesus was raised and where He began His ministry, Aramaic was the most common language of the people, though many would have been able to understand Hebrew
and to get along in Greek as well.
Also Christ spoke the language of the people He met, ‘the language of the region‘.
The languages in which the disciples were speaking were known foreign languages
and dialects of the region they visited.
It was given by the Holy Spirit that they visited a lot of countries and regions
and preached the message of God,
the Gospel of Love.

Just because you call yourself Orthodox Christian it doesn’t mean that you are real Orthodox Christian.
It seems that the infection that has affected other streams of Christianity has also hit the Orthodox community,
that plague is what I call misuse of memberships.
Orthodoxy is much more about image than
anything else and if you want to roll in our performance you have to abide by certain rules.
If you break ‘original‘ norms and customs
which are visible within authentic Christianity
you may call yourself Orthodox all you want,
but within Orthodoxy
you will not be considered as such.

And all the publicans and sinners drew near unto Him to hear Him.
And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured saying,
This man receives sinners and eats with them
“[Luc.15: 1,2].
And this is what it make painfully to a lot of Young growing up people,
who took the decision that their child
wouldn’t be baptized and educated in those communities, because
– the children don’t understand the services;
they hear another language than in their schools
– it gives such squabbles in those Orthodox communities
– we are “Russian”, so we only use Slavonic in our services,
– we are “Greek” and so we only us Greek in our services
– and so on.
It’s indeed that the Lord eats with sinners,
but when he is eating with them He is eating out of Love and
not because they are Pharisees and Scribes.

As therefore the Pharisees and Scribes made this outcry at His gentleness
and Love to man,
and wickedly and impiously blamed Him for receiving and teaching men
whose lives were impure,
Christ very necessarily set before them
the parables,
to show them clearly this very thing,
– that the God of all requires even him
– who is thoroughly steadfast, and firm,
– and who knows how to live Holily,
– and has attained to the highest praise for sobriety of conduct,
– to be earnest in following His will,
so that when any are called unto repentance,
even if they be men highly blameable,
he must rejoice rather,
and not give way
to an unloving vexation on their account.

For we also sometimes experience something of this sort.
For some there are who live a perfectly honourable and consistent life, practising every kind of virtuous action,
and abstaining from everything disapproved by the Law of God, and crowning themselves with perfect praises in the sight of God and of men:
while another is perhaps weak and trodden down,
and humbled unto every kind of wickedness,
guilty of base deeds, loving impurity,
given to covetousness and stained with all evil.

And yet such a one often in old age turns unto God,
and asks the forgiveness of his former offences:
he prays for Mercy, and putting away from him his readiness to fall into sin,
sets his affection on virtuous deeds.
Or even perhaps when about to close his mortal life,
he is admitted to Original Divine Baptism,
and puts away his offences, God being merciful unto him.

And perhaps sometimes persons are indignant at this,
and even say,
“This man, who has been guilty of such and such actions,
and has spoken such and such words,
has not paid unto the Judge the retribution of his conduct, but has been counted worthy of a Grace thus noble and admirable:
he has been inscribed among the sons of God,
and honoured with the Glory of the Saints
“.

Such complaints men sometimes give utterance too
from an empty narrowness of mind, not conforming
to the purpose of the universal Father.
For He greatly rejoices when He sees those
who were lost obtaining Salvation, and raises them up again
to that which they were in the beginning,
giving them the dress of freedom,
and adorning them with the chief robe,
and putting a ring upon their hand,
even the orderly behaviour which is pleasing to God
and suitable to the free.

It is our duty, therefore, to conform ourselves to that which God wills: for
– He heals those who are sick;
– He raises those who are fallen;
– He gives a helping hand to those who have stumbled;
– He brings back him who has wandered;
– He forms anew unto a praiseworthy and blameless life
those who were wallowing in the mire of sin;
– He seeks those who were lost;
– He raises as from the dead those
who had suffered the spiritual death.

Let us therefore rejoice:
let us therefore in company with the Holy Angels by heart,
praise Him as being good, and loving unto men;
as gentle, and not remembering evil.
For if such is our state of mind,
Christ will receive us
“.
Cf . Cyril of Alexandria [ca.376-444] – sermon 107 on Saint Lucas’ Gospel.

If the devil has got that ability to knock you down
from your exalted virtue to such great limits of evil;
so how much more would be God’s ability to restore
you to your previous confidence?
He would not only get you back to what you used to be,
but to a far better status
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

Wishful to be a saint, by Saint Silouan, the Athonite

Saints were just people like all of us.
Many of them started with grievous sins
but through repentance they attained to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And everyone who reaches the Kingdom of Heaven does so through repentance,
which the Merciful Lord granted us by His sufferings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven where dwell the Lord
and His most pure Mother, abide all the Saints.
There live our Forefathers and Patriarchs
who valiantly carried their faith before them.
There dwell the Prophets who received the Holy Spirit,
and by their exhortations called the people to God.
There dwell the Apostles who died
that the Gospel might be preached.
There dwell the Martyrs
who gladly gave their lives for love of Christ.
There dwell the holy Prelates
who followed the Lord’s example
and took upon themselves the burden of their spiritual flock.
There dwell the holy Fathers
who lived lives of prayer and fasting,
and those who assumed folly for Christ’s sake,
all of whom fought the good fight
and thereby overcame the world.
There dwell all the Righteous
who kept God’s commandments
and vanquished their passions.

That place aspires my soul
– to that wondrous holy assembly
which the Holy Spirit has gathered together.
But woe is me!
Inasmuch as I lack humility,
the Lord does not grant me the strength to fight,
and my feeble spirit flickers out like a tiny candle,
whereas the spirit of the Saints burned with a bright flame,
which the wind of temptation not only failed to extinguish
but set burning more fiercely than ever.
They trod the earth and worked with their hands
but their spirits continued with God,
of Whom they were ever mindful.
For the love of Christ they endured
every affliction on earth and feared no suffering,
and thus glorified the Lord.
Wherefore the Lord loved them and glorified them,
and granted them the eternal Kingdom with Him.
Saint Silouan, the Athonite‘,
published by Archimandrite Sofronios