Orthodoxy and love-hate relationship

… time is fulfilled, and
the Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent you and
believe the Gospel“.
Marc.1: 15

Repent you therefore
and be converted,
that your sins
may be blotted out…

                                                                                 Acts 3: 19

The memory of the righteous is blessed;
but the name of the wicked will rot
“.
Prov.10: 7

Salvation
Orthodox Christians hold that man was originally created in communion with God,
but through acting in a manner contrary to his own nature
[which is intrinsically ordered to communion with God], man disrupted that communion.
Because of man’s refusal to fulfil the “image and likeness of God” within him,
corruption and the sickness of sin whose consequence is death
entered man’s mode of existence.
But when Jesus came into the world
He Himself was Perfect Man [τέλειος Θεός] and
Perfect God [τέλειος άνθρωπος]
united in the divine Hypostasis of the Logos,
the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Through his assumption of human nature, human existence was restored,
enabling human beings, the fulfilment of creation,
through participation in divinity by incorporation into Jesus Christ.

“The Word of God came in His own Person,
because it was He alone, the Image of the Father,
Who could recreate man made after the Image.
In order to effect this re-creation, however,
He had first to do away with death and corruption.
Therefore He assumed a human body,
in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed and
that men might be renewed according to the Image
[of God]”
Saint Athanasius – “On the Incarnation

Salvation, or “being saved“, therefore,
refers to this process of being saved
from death and corruption and the fate of hell.
The Orthodox Church believes that its teachings and practices represent the true path to participation in the Grace [gifts] of God.
Yet, it should be understood that the
Orthodox do not believe that you ought be Orthodox to participate in Salvation.
God is merciful to all.
The Orthodox believe that there is nothing
that a person (Orthodox or non-Orthodox) can do to earn Salvation.
It is rather Grace [a gift] from God.
However, this gift of relationship has to be accepted by the believer,
since God will not force Salvation on humanity.
Man is free to reject the Grace [gift] of Salvation continually offered by God.
To be saved, man must work together with God in
a synergeia whereby his entire being, including his will, effort and actions,
are perfectly conformed with, and united to the Divine.

God becomes powerless before human freedom;
He cannot violate it since it flows from His own omnipotence.
Certainly man was created by the will of God alone;
but he cannot be deified [made Holy] by it alone.
A single will for creation, but two for deification.
A single will to raise up the image, but
two to make the image into a likeness.
The love of God for man is so great that it cannot constrain;
for there is no love without respect.
Divine will always will submit itself to groupings, to detours,
even to revolts of human will to bring it to a free consent
” .
Vladimir Lossky – “Introduction to Orthodox Theology

The ultimate goal of the Orthodox Christian is to achieve Theosis, or Union with God.
This is sometimes expressed thus:
“God became Man so that Man might become god”.
Some of the greatest Saints have achieved, in this life, a measure of this process.
The individual who achieves Theosis never realizes his accomplishment,
as his perfect humility keeps him blind to pride.
Salvation therefore is not merely
an escape from the eternal bondage of death,
but an entrance to life in Christ
here and now.

It is a signs of the end-time that worldwide Christians suffer for their faith in one way or another; November the 15th is promoted as an international Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in which all Christians participate.
But man and even Church needs to realize its performance in order to preserve their perfect humility what makes them blind to their pride.
It has to be strong legs that are enabled to transfer the wealth.

We see it in history again and again,
when Church is longing for the respect of
the established power
she is always losing her credibility.
Because of that reason alone it is necessary
that there is a separation between the Church and the State.
Money and power are the downfall of her own principles and that’s why Church should be vigilant.
When a community is dependent on other people’s money
she is in great risk and is no longer independent.
We test this in today’s way of doing things in
the Greek and Russian Church
which praise the politics in several meetings with great ceremonies [and gifts].
Political leaders prove at heydays their [feigned?] adherence to the Church,
they are received with great deference to others,
surrounded by surrounded by their peers [most military bobo’s].
Of course Church needs  support to pass the time,
but the support has to come from the simple in heart;
the little money of the widow.
In this way Church keeps her objectives, to stay simple as Christ Himself was.
When a new-chosen bishop is longing for his own new-built cathedral
something is totally wrong and he needs to reflect his duty.
When an old bishop needs to keep three shelters to survive
[one in the town, one at the see-site and one in his home-land]
something is totally wrong and he needs to reflect his duty.
When a Patriarchate is longing for more and more influence in the west
by supporting his own total number of communities as a replacement for
longing for the whole Church of Christ something is totally wrong.
Christ is not waiting for great church-buildings and splendour and ostentation.
Church is kept by the will of God alone;
it can be deified [made Holy] by God alone and
we have to pray for it, not to buy or force it.
God have mercy . . . . .?

“…there is one God, and one mediator
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all,
to be testified in due time
“.
1Tim.2: 5-6

Orthodox church is holding
that man is originally created in communion with God.
Through acting in a manner contrary to
his own human nature
he disrupted that communion
and will even church not be able to
present the Body of Christ.

How much greater is the gladness in God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises
the divine eminence of race is announced!
Saint Cyprianos

32nd Sunday after Pentecost – there raised another Priest after the similitude of Melchisedec

And without all contradiction
the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes;
but there he received them, of
Whom it is witnessed that He lived.
And as I may so say, Levi also,
who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and
not be called after the order of Aaron?

For the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For He of whom these things are spoken pertained to another tribe, of which
no man gave attendance at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe
Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec
there arose another Priest,
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment,
but after the power of an endless Life.
For He testified,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec
“.
Hebr. 7: 7-17

The feast today, the feast of the Meeting ,
surprisingly brings us back to the time of Christmas , the birth of the Lord.
We have the Baptism of the Lord fresh in our memory and it is important to realize that this festival goes back to Christmas,
this is the 40th day after the birth of Christ.
It is the day on which He is charged.
To the Temple as a new-born child , John the Baptist is only a half years old,
Christ Himself is a small baby being brought to the Temple.
Wherein lies the meeting
where this festival is dedicated to?

If we look closely, we see a lot of meetings .
We see the meeting – of course –
between the Old and New Testaments.
But that is an encounter that lasts the whole Gospel,
from the time of Christ’s birth to the moment when
He says, “It is finished” [John.19: 30]
We also see the meeting between
the legislature and the Law.
We see that Christ , the Lawgiver of both
the Old and New Covenant,
obediently adjusts to the Law of the Old Testament.

We see encounters with the Temple .
– the Temple within Himself so that
He would later say,
I will destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuilt it“.
John.2: 19, Marc.13: 1, Luc.21: 6, Marc. 14: 58
the Temple of His Body [John. 2:20]
the Temple in relation to the Holy Trinity
Although the Glory of the Father eternally in the Temple and before. . .,
has been in the Tabernacle  [Ex.40: 34, 2Cron.(O.S.B.)5: 13-14, Ez.9: 3],
although the Spirit of God has always been present
meets the Temple now the incarnate Son of God [John.1: 14].
And as the Trinity in Baptism has become public to all [Apolyticion Theophany],
it is now revealed to the Temple .

The priests of the temple are meeting the new Priesthood,
the Priesthood spoken of in the reading of
the Letter of the Apostle Paulus [Hebr.7: 11-12, 2Petr.2: 9] today.
The people of Israël, represented by Symeon and Anna,
are meeting Him Who is the Bridegroom of the Church of
the New Covenant [Matth.9: 15].

Still not quite explain all these encounters
why we have called today’s festivities “feast of the Meeting“.
After Christ was in the Temple and the sacrifice was made,
bringing him back to his parents Nazareth.
We then read that
He Grows up in Wisdom and
the Grace of God was upon Him
” [Luc.2: 40].
A time of preparation breaks, a time of preparation for several meetings.
Which encounters? With us, you and me.
And if you want a meeting is a meeting,
it must come from both sides .
Not the one who comes to the other more and more [from above] ,
but from two people who are coming together.

And therefore it is important that we are prepared for the meeting with Him .
About that meeting He spoke when He talked about
the foolish and the wise virgins.
Then He said,
What do we do as it sounds in
the middle of the night,
the Bridegroom comes,
Come meet Him . . . . . . ?
“[Matth.25: 1-13].
The biblical word for “meeting” in
Greek is the word “συνάντηση”.
What is our answer
when we are asked the question:
What do you do as the Bridegroom comes!
Is your lamp then ready?

The man-made lights – the candles – are blessed today.
But what about those inner lamp , ‘our eye [Matth.6: 22],
‘our soul, our heart must burn [Luc.24: 32]!!!
Let us, then , now that Lent arrives,
look after the inner lamps and
light the sources of our works,
so we Christians can go with a lighted lamp,
so that we can unite our light with His Light to meet
“.
Sophronios of Jerusalem
and then , as Saint Theophanos the Hermit says:
He will take his residence in us,
just as he took place in the arms of Saint Symeon
“.
homilies at the Meeting of the Lord

God is glorious in His Saints

Yes, truly
“Glorious is God in His Saints”
Psalm 67: 35

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation;
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 26:1

The strength of the Lord in us
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.
2Cor. 10:3,4,5

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight
“.
Hebr. 11:33,34

And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God,
and the power of His Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night
“.
Rev 12: 10

Let us call to mind the Martyrs’ superhuman struggles,
how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength,
disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword,
all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut,
their joints dislocated and their bones crushed,
and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity,
complete, unharmed and unshaken.
As a result there were bestowed on them
the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit
and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women,
how they willingly endured long periods of fasting,
vigil and various other physical hardships
as though they were not in the body,
battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin,
in the invincible inner warfare against principalities,
powers and spiritual wickedness.
Eph. 6: 12

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless,
but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him
from whom they
also received gifts of healing and mighty works.
When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such Grace and Power.
For even if their intentions were good and noble,
without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature
and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.
That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared,
God is glorious in His Saints”, he went on to say,
He gives strength and power unto His people”.
Ps. 67: 35

Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words.
Whereas God, according to the psalmist,
gives all his people strength and power
– for He shows no partiality [cf. Acts 10: 34]
– He is glorified only in His saints.
The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes.
Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun,
not those whose vision is dimmed because illness,
mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes.
In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all,
for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and
saving fount of mercy and goodness.
But not everyone takes advantage of His Grace and Power
to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles,
only those with a good intent,
who demonstrate their love and faith towards God
by good works (cf. Jas. 2: 20– 26),
who turn away completely from everything base,
hold fast to God’s commandments and
lift up the eyes of their understanding to
Christ the Sun of righteousness [Mal. 4: 2].
He not only invisibly holds out a helping hand from above
to those who struggle, but we also hear Him speaking to us
and urging us on in His Gospel.
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men”,
He says, “him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 32

Notice that we cannot boldly
proclaim our faith in Christ
and confess Him without
His strength and assistance.
Nor will our Lord Jesus Christ speak out on our behalf in the age to come,
recommend us to the heavenly Father and make us His kin,
unless we give Him reason to do so.
To make this clear, He does not say,
Whosoever shall confess Me before men”,
but

Whosoever shall make His confession in Me”, Matth.10: 32
that is to say, whoever is able, in Christ and with His help,
to declare his faith with boldness.
Likewise, again, He does not say,
I will confess Him”, but “I will acknowledge what is in Him”,
meaning that His confession will be in respect of the good fight
and patient endurance which such a person has shown
in the cause of godliness.
Take note, however, of what He goes on to say
about those who are cowardly and betray the faith:
But whosoever shall deny me before men,
him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 33

Here He does not say, “Whosoever shall deny in Me”,
since the person who denies God does so because
he is bereft of God’s help.
Why has he been abandoned and forsaken by God?
Because he first abandoned God by loving what is transitory and worldly
more than the Heavenly and everlasting good things promised by Him.
In His turn, Christ will not just disown what is in Him, but deny him Himself,
finding in him nothing at all that could be used in his defence.
Whoever loves according to God,
dwelleth in God, and God in him”,
as Christ’s beloved theologian tells us [1John 4: 16].
So he who truly loves God has God dwelling in him,
and naturally confesses his faith in God.
On the other hand, as he dwells in God,
God too will acknowledge him.

The words, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me, him will I confess also” [cf. Matth. 10: 32],demonstrate the unbroken union between God and
those who acknowledge Him,
from which he who denies Him has distanced himself.
These mutual exchanges between God and man are divinely just,
and fairly reward like with like.
Although the prizes God gives us resemble our offerings to Him,
consider the overwhelming superiority of God’s recompense to those
who, in Him, confessed Him.
Each Saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him
in this fleeting life before mortal men,
though actually just for a brief period of this present age
and in front of only a few.
By contrast, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who is God and Lord of heaven and earth,
will speak openly on their behalf in that eternal,
never-ending world before God the Father,
surrounded by angels, archangels and all the heavenly host,
and in the presence of all mankind from Adam onwards.
For all will rise and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Then, before everyone and in the sight of all, He will proclaim,
glorify and crown those who demonstrated their faith in Him to the end.
How can we attempt to tell of those extraordinary crowns and
the excellence of those future rewards,
which eyes like ours cannot see, nor ears hear,
nor hearts understand?
cf. 1 Cor. 2: 9, Isa. 64: 4

Orthodoxy & to be aware of God

From Old times man has found different ways of recognising God.
Human beings of various intellectual levels have found their own ways to God.
Common people have found simple ways; whereas thinkers and philosophers reached the same conclusion on a higher plane of thought.

God has created man as His Image.
He has created His light,
the inner light in each and every human being.
He If we go deep within ourselves and touch our souls,
we recognise the original icon and hear the message of God.
History and anthropology has shown
that if man is left alone and
is not indoctrinated by any school of thought
– then, sooner or later, his inner voice will lead him
to believe in a power as the Creator
and Maintainer of this world.

However, at times this natural feeling has become insensitive by external resources.
But it re-emerges when that person finds himself in difficulties
– he naturally prays to a Power whom he believes to be above all powers.
In the book of Jonah the sailors all prayed
to their own gods and recognized
the Power of the One above all powers for
to Whom Jonah was on the flight.

Even an atheist you are
knowledgeable to ask:
Have you ever been caught in a fierce storm in the middle of nowhere,
your rudder gone, your sails torn away,
trying desperately to keep your boat afloat?
And sometimes perhaps even that leaking boat went down
leaving you exhausted and helpless at the mercy of the raging waves?
Was not there, in all that despair, a glimmer of hope in your heart
that some unnamed and unknown power could still save you?”.

Then the atheist will agree with you:
That’s the Power of God”.

Even a great King recognized Him
when he sung:
In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and I cried out to my God:
He heard my voice from His holy temple.
And my cry shall come before Him,
into His ears
“.
Psalm 17: 7
This “inner way”, in spite of being the natural and closest way of knowing God,
is also a very personal way.
It is only sufficient for the person
who has recognized the light within himself.

The second way of knowing God is
by studying the signs of His presence and power in the world within us and around us.
This method of knowing God is based on the principle of “cause” and “effect”.
The signs of nature are the effects of which the ultimate cause is God.

King David recognized Him when he sung:
O Lord my God,
You are magnified exceedingly;
You clothe Yourself with thanksgiving and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain;
You are He who covers His upper chamebers with waters,
Who makes the clouds His means of approach,
Who walkes on the wings of the winds,
Who makes His Angels spirits
and His ministers a flame of fire.
He established the earth on its stable foundation;
it shall not be moved unto ages of ages
“.
you can read on the whole Psalm 103 and recognise the Power of God.
David ends this song with:
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I exist:
May my words be pleasing to Him,
and I shall be glad in the Lörd.
May sinners cease from the earth,
and the lawless, so as to be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul
“.
Psalm 103 [104]

And when you and your children return to the Lord your God and
obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul
according to everything I command you today,
then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and
have compassion on you and
gather you again from all the nations
where he scattered you.
Even if you have been banished to
the most distant land under the heavens,
from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.
He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and
you will take possession of it.
He will make you more prosperous and
numerous than your fathers.
The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and
the hearts of your descendants,
so that you may love Him with all your heart and
with all your soul, and live
“.
Deut.30: 2-6

Believer, here’s your never failing help.
Leave it in your Christian life are known:
This includes a precious truth!
There is no place nor time, nor conditions,
when faith in God the eye can’t rise up,
the ear cannot open and
no change can be brought about,
than that it is realized by
the ever present Lord and Savior.
Friends can always be different,
death can the tightest ties.
But God, Who lives forever, lives always at our side.
The solitary is not so lonely or he is visited by him.
In the morning and evening hours
– the busy day – the silent night –
He will be there.

But you, brothers must continue in the things which you have learned and
be assured of knowing from whom you have learned them, and
that from childhood you have known
the Holy Scriptures, which
are able to make you
wise for Salvation through Faith
Which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness,
that man of God may be complete,
thoroughly equipped for every good work
“.
2Tim.3: 14-17

Orthodoxy and living the Christian life

For a perfect Bridegroom, He takes
the soul as a perfect bride
into the holy and mystical and immaculate communion of marriage“.
Saint Macarios of Egypt – Homily 47

By living with the Saints Who have gone before and enjoying their support,
you learn how to struggle.
You see how they wrestled;
how they confronted the enemy;
how they dealt with human weaknesses.
How hard they were on themselves:
they shadowed life and qualified success
not to their own labours,
but to the grace of God.

If you follow the life and counsels of the Saints . . . . .
If you are granted inner peace . . . . .
Bear with the others:
Be victimised and do not wrong others“.
Hand-no one-down, but forgive everyone,
find somehow a place for them in your heart.
Pray for them with all what is in your capacity,
unrelatedly of whether they upset you.
Be unable to lay on hurt,
not sufficiently expert of
any such thing.
Follow the Lord of Golgotha
– “A Man wounded, knowing how to bear weakness
Isaiah 53: 3
Be wounded and know how to bear the pain.
The Cross must be familiar and acceptable to you
as a place to be and a mode of existence.

Then the Lord will come
at some time, without fail,
as He knows best.
He will come and find you,
He will touch your head.
He touched the leper . . . . .”[Matth. 8: 3].
He will speak to you.
He will enter into you like Light, Repose, Paradise.
You will be aware of Him, you will feel Him,
you will actually live His Passion and Ressurection.
You will find yourself inside the Icon of Ressurection,
of the Descent into Hell.
This Icon will be an expression of your life.
Christ will constantly leading you by the hand,
bringing you to Light, to freedom,
to an unending journey which is Himself.

Then You will understand the words of the Lord:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things
and to enter into His Glory?

Luc. 24: 26
Christ had to suffer and to come forth as Bridegroom from the tomb.
A great Mystery!
You feel that you had to suffer, to endure pain,
to die in the earth like a seed,
so that there might shoot up from within you
something that does not pass away.

I am created for some specific purpose, a certain Christian used to say
– for something intangible, invisible to the naked eye, and yet incarnate.
I know it, I believe it, I experience it.
◙ When I move away from it, everything goes twisted, in my soul and my body.
◘ When I an within it,
I am firmly grounded and recover everything,
the health of my soul and body.
◘ When I am alone, I am in communion with the Saints.
◘ When I am in a crowd, I am nourished by the pure spring
welling up in the desert within.
Reverence for this least and greatest thing
takes the form of constantly going outdoors without protection;
of asking at every moment only that His will should be done.
Asking not with my mouth and my voice,
but with my whole manner of living all the time.

When you ask that His Will should be done,
when your whole Christian being is one bleeding petition, it happens.
But this “happening” is not something you can determine in advance.
It may happen by happening or by not happening.
It may be that before your petition is finished, the answer comes.
Or you may wait years and wear yourself out,
and be disappointed, and reach utter exhaustion and be destroyed.
And then, when you are no longer expecting anything
– neither you nor anyone else –
He Himself will come to raise you up,
to take you with Him on a new journey,
to the unknown.

Then you understand why
He was slow in coming for you:
He was with you “In another form
even when He had not come and you were waiting for Him.
                                                                                 Marc.16: 12

How everything functions as a whole!
Now nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted!
How blessings go deeper than hoped!
How the afflictions, the pains and perplexities till the field of our souls
like a deep-cutting ploughshare!
How totally and utterly the strange and heaven-sent rest
differs in nature from the rest and satisfaction
afforded by any earthly and temporary success!
How it teaches us humility, how it schools us in Love, How it reconciles us with others!
It strengthens us, it invigorates us,
and in the same time it makes us weaker, without any prickles or sharp corners
which could wound others.

The lives of the Saints have been sanctified,
their minds have been enlightened, the work of their hands and their minds bears the seal of Grace, the beauty of Heaven.
This Beauty is a gift from the Lord Himself,
the Glory of Whose Godhead became the glory of the body,
but remains obscured from those
who cannot see these things
only visible to the Angels
“.
Saint Gregory Palamas – Agioreitikos Tomos

Through sin man loses the comeliness which is from above and begs the Lord:
Make my humble soul bright with the beauty of repentance
Oktoïch tn2 Canon, Monday morning, 4th ode
When the Christian matures in repentance and attains purification and illumination,
he/she receives the most pure embrace of the Lord,
Which fills his whole being with Beauty, Glory and uncreated Light.

Embracing me totally, He caresses me in my entirety,
He gives Himself entirely to me in my unworthiness,
and I take my fill of His Love and His Beauty,
and am filled with Divine pleasure and sweetness.
I partake in the Light, participate in the Glory,
and my face shines like the of the One I long for
and all my members are luminous.
Then am I fairest of the fair
“.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian

When the intellect has been perfected,
it unites wholly with God and
is illumined by Divine Light,
and the most hidden Mysteries
are revealed to it.
Then it truly learns
where wisdom and power lie…
While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things…
But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts,
then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by Grace
and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities.
A person in whom this happens is not attached
to the things of this world but has passed from death to Life
“.
Philokalia

Orthodoxy & Big-heartedly life

the hopeful Tradition of the Church
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and shield.
Yea our hearts are glad in Him,
because we trust in His holy Name.
Let Your steadfast Love,
O Lord be upon us,
even as we hope in You
“.
Psalm 32: 20-22

For in this hope we are saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with Patience
“.
                                                                 Rom.8: 24-25

Hope is the assurance of the good outcome
of our lives lived by faith in God.
Hope is the power of certain conviction
that the life built on faith
will produce its fruits.
Hope is the confidence,
that despite all darkness and sin,
the light of the loving forgiveness of God
is upon us to do with us and for us,
what we ourselves cannot do.

The virtue of hope goes together
with the power of faith.
Patriarch Abraham,
In hope believed against hope
that he should be the father of many nations
”.
Rom. 4: 18
And hope, like faith, is in that which is not seen.

The opposite of hope is
despondency and despair.
According to the spiritual tradition of the Church,
the state of despondency and despair
is the most grievous and horrible condition
that a person can be in.
It is the worst and most harmful of the sinful states possible for the soul.

The loss of hope is the worst possible state because without hope,
nothing else is possible; certainly not faith.
If a person is faithless, he can be chastised and convinced.
If a person is proud, he can be humbled;
impure, he can be cleansed; weak, he can be strengthened;
wicked, he can be made righteous.
But if a person is despondent and despairing,
the very condition of his sickness is such
that his heart and soul are dead and unresponsive to the grace of God
and the support of family [his brothers].

…the force of despondence…
overwhelms him and oppresses his soul;
and this is a taste of hell because it produces a thousand temptations:
con- fusion, irritation, protesting and bewailing one’s lot, wrong thoughts,
wandering from place to place, and so on.
Saint Isaäc of Syriä, 6th cnt. in “Directions on Spiritual Training

The demon of despondency,
which is called the noon-day demon” [Psalm 90: 6]
is more grievous than all others. […]
It arouses in him vexation against the place
and mode of life itself and his work,
adding that there is no more love among his family [his brethren],
and no one to comfort him. (…)
Then it provokes in him a longing for other places…
Evagrius of Pontus, 4th cnt. in To Anatolius: “On Eight Thoughts

The only remedy for despair is humility and patience,
the steadfast holding to the life of faith,
even without conviction or feeling.
It is the simplification of life by going through each day,
one day at a time, with the continual observances,
however external, of scriptural reading, liturgical worship,
fasting, prayer, and work.
In the advice of Saint Benedict [6th cnt.],
it is to remain stable in one’s place,
and to “to what you are doing” as well as you can,
with all possible attention.

In the advice of
Saint Seraphim of Sarov [19th cnt.]:
It is to visit with spiritual friends,
with those who are hopeful, merciful, joyful and strong.
It is to stand fast to the end
while passing through aridity and darkness,
until the light of blessed hope and comfort are found.
There is no other way,
and “those who find it are few”.
Matth.7: 14

But when one “fights and conquers against despondency and despair,
this struggle is followed by a peaceful state and
the soul becomes filled with ineffable joy“.
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: On Eight Thoughts

When we are attacked by the demon of despondency
– the most grievous of all, but who more than all makes the soul experienced –
let us divide our soul in two, and making one part the comforter
and the other part the comforted,
let us sow seeds of good hope in ourselves,
singing with David the psalmist:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I will again praise Him,
my help and my God”.
Psalm 41: 5 &
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: “Texts on Active Life

Sometimes people think that a certain “lack of hope” is a Christian virtue.
They think that by proclaiming that “all is lost
they please God by their humility and sorrow over sins,
their own and those of the world.

They think that the more they concentrate on the evils of men,
the more they exalt the strength of the wicked, the more they sigh and say,
There is no help for US In God!”,
the more righteous and pious they become.
But this is all wrong.
It has nothing to do with the patient suffering at the hands of the wicked,
and the patient struggle against the powers of evil that the righteous must endure,
being absolutely certain of their ultimate and total victory in God,
the source of their strength and their hope.

It is no virtue to feel weak and
helpless in the presence of the wicked.
It is no virtue to consider oneself totally
at the mercy of evil and sin.
It is a virtue rather to be always
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation
knowing and believing
that the final Victory is God’s.
Rom.12: 12

 

Orthodoxy & the inner interchanges

Heavenly King,
the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere and fills all things;
Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life
– come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity,
and save our souls, O Good One“.
Prayer to Holy Spirit

Prayer
“… prayer … actualizes our ascent to and
union with the Deity…
when our prayer, through its fervent compunction, transcends the passions and conceptual thoughts; for the intellect,
while still passion-dominated, cannot be united to God.
Thus so long as the intellect when praying remains in a passion-charged state,
it will not obtain mercy; but to the extent that it can dispel distractive thoughts it will experience inward grief, and in so far as it experiences such grief
it will partake of God’s mercy.
And if with humility it continues to savour this mercy
it will transform entirely the aspect of the soul that it accessible to passion

Saint Gregory Palamas – On Prayer and Purity of Heart

Keep your heart with all vigilance;
for from it flow the spring of life
“[Prov. 4: 23].

For from within, out of the heart of man,
come evil thoughts
“[Marc.7: 21].

So shun youthful passions and aim at
righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along
with those who call upon the Lord
from a pure heart
“[2Tim. 2:22].

In its biblical concept, the heart is the source of all the potentiality of the spiritual and physical life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the spring of life“. Prov. 4: 23
This applies not only to good potentialities but to evil ones as well: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander“. Matth.15: 19
So the heart has become the expression of the final condition of man, whether he be good or evil: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil“[Luc.6:45].
This means that the inclinations of the inmost heart set the tone of the whole man – they colour his thoughts, his words, and his deeds.
Man’s speech thus inevitably betrays the nature of his heart: “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks“[Luc.6: 45].
So man’s words usually testify to the state
of his heart.
They can justify him or condemn him:
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned“. [Matth.12: 37]
The relationship between one’s heart
and one’s lips is defined by the Apostle Paul as follows: “For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved“[Rom.10: 10]. So when the heart believes, the lips must confess what kind of faith is in the heart.

However, the Bible tells us that it is possible for
two kinds of hearts to exist side by side in man,
one expressing his true nature and another falsifying his thoughts, words and deeds.
In the latter case, a person talks of good deeds and actually does them to give people the false impression that he is virtuous, while in fact he is wicked:
You brood of vipers! How can you speak of good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“.
Matth.12: 34
From the words of the Lord, we learn that it is impossible for man to speak good words out of himself while being wicked. Good words coming from an evil source could only occur with the help of an auxiliary power – or of another heart implanted by the devil to mimic good deeds. We can infer this from the way our Lord describes those who counterfeit good deeds as a “brood of vipers“.
The viper is a symbolical expression of the devil. Here the intention behind showing off virtue is to safeguard evil and guarantee its lasting effect – which is the very work of the devil. The devil’s work, with regard of the heart, is not merely confined to contaminating it with evil desires. It is not just that he makes the devil treasured up in the heart produce evil. He even adds to this the possibility of giving man another heart from which he can speak gilded words. This he does to keep the evil intent and make sure that it is carried out.
As for God’s work concerning the heart, it is the complete removal of the evil heart and the creation of a new one that he implants into man. Thus, when man’s heart is transformed into a new heart, man of necessity is turned into another man:
Then the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and be turned into another man . . .  When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart“.
1Sam.10: 6,9
In the Bible, the good News, the reality of creating a new heart for man goes hand in hand with three basic actions:
1.] contrition of the sinner’s heart;
2.] man’s complete cleansing or purging from within; and
3.] the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
These three actions we find most clearly expressed in Psalm 50 of the Prophet David:

Have mercy upon me, o God, according to Your steadfast Love;
According to Your abundance Mercy blot out my transgressions.
wash me thoroughly from my iniquity . . .

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,
and I shall be whiter than snow . . .
Create in me a clean heart. O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, and
take not Your Holy Spirit from me . . .
A broken and contrite heart, o God, You will not despise”.

However, the creation of a new heart for a person in the Old Commitment [O.T.] was an exceptional and individual case. In the New Commitment [N.T.], the act became universal, not merely to create a new heart, but for creating a whole new man.
We find these three actions implied in the Mystery of Baptism. We find within it the image of cleansing and inward purging: “[He] cleaned their hearts by Faith“[Acts 15: 9]. This takes place during the burial in water in the Name of Christ. However, cleansing and purging cannot happen except through contrition of heart. It calls for genuine repentance a complete ˂-turn from sin. It is on account of this that forgiveness is granted; “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“[Acts 2: 38]. That is, by thorough cleansing and purging through Faith and Repentance, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. It has thus become possible for every man to obtain the new creation and the new heart – by water and the Spirit, through Faith and Repentance.

However, purification of the heart through faith and repentance is one thing, but the acceptance of a heart newly created and purified by the Holy Spirit is another.
There is a crucial distinction between the two.
Purification of the heart is a necessary and vital activity in which we should be intimately involved.
But the creation of a new and a pure heart is an action that transcends our nature and belongs to God alone. God’s work should be adjoined to our own.
To the extent that we purify our own hearts from evil by faith and repentance, we become able to embrace the new heart created within us in God’s image.
In other words, insofar as we hate wickedness, are distressed by evil passions and thoughts, and abhor acts of sin, we become able to embrace the power of holiness.
This power dwells in us as a new nature, with the activity of divine love and the promptings, or intimations, of righteousness. Not only that, but as we strive to purify our hearts from the darkness of sin, which blinds our spiritual sight, we become able to face the truth, letting it live within us and penetrate to the very roots of our being. In other words, the more we can emerge in the power of the new, divine man: “Seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after te image of the creator“[Col.3: 9,10].
We thus enter the sphere of ascetical theology.
Ascetical theology makes out man’s labor and struggle, which are sustained by Grace, an essential basis for the gifts of God.
Such gifts, however, transcend human action and nature.
The ascetic fathers in general set purification of the heart as a vital basis for Salvation.
It qualifies us for the revealing of the new man, that we may live in the newness of live as spiritual men in Christ.

In its patristic concept, the heart, [η χαρδια], is identical with its biblical concept.
The fathers of the Church consider the “heart” in its spiritual and patristic sense corresponds to what medical jargon calls the brain.
This is true both of its characteristics
and its activity.
It may even be more than that.
It is the centre of faculties, talents, intelligence, insight, volition, wisdom, vision – all of which emanate from it and pour into it:
In the same way the heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which tests the thoughts that accuse and defend
Saint Macarios, the Great [In the fifty Homilies; 43-7] – Intoxicated with God.
In the same homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as a “workshop of justice, righteousness, unrighteousness“. He also says that though the heart may be the meeting place of all evils,
it may be a meeting place for God and His Angels:
And when Grace gives pasture to the heart, it rules over all the members and the thoughts“.
For there in the heart, the mind abides as well all the thoughts of the soul and all its hopes.
This is how Grace penetrates throughout
all parts of the body [Spiritual Homily 15-20].

From this, we infer that the Fathers of the Church
see Grace pervading all our faculties: the mind, the will, the conscience, and the physical members of the body.
But all this depends on Grace
reigning first and foremost over the heart.
In other words, if Grace reigns over a person’s heart,
it changes its very nature
the result is a new spiritual nature.
This is where the value of the purification of the heart [received by Baptism]
is clearly shown; it is a preparation
for the indwelling of Grace.
Saint Macarios the Great insists that the evil heart contaminates the will.
It corrupts the natural inclinations and instincts of a man. Without his knowing of, everything that such a person sees and touches becomes impure for him:
So, on the contray, as many as a sons of darkness, sin has control over their heart and infiltrates into all his members.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts“[Matth.15: 19].
And thus diffused throughout sin covers man with darkness . . . Just as water runs through a pipe, so also sin runs through the heart and the thoughts.
All those who deny these statements are refuted end ridiculed by sin itself, which is always intent on victory.
For evil tries to hide itself end remain undetected in man’s mind [Macarios the great Homily 15-21].

Hence, first among man’s struggles and concerns is to purify his heart.
His endeavour is to overcome the deviations of the will and to correct the inclinations and instincs that have been subjected to the rule of evil.
This means that he has to confront the tendency of his heart toward evil activity.
He has to bridle it, curb it and finally destroy this tendency.
In his fifteenth homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as “The place of Christ in which He retires” . He also describes it as “the Captain [who] rules and directs all the sailors“. Also, “it is like a chariot.
The reins, horses, and the whole apparatus are under one driver. When he wishes, he drives the chariot at high speed. When he wants, he stops it. Wherever he wishes to steer the chariot, there it goed. For the whole chariot is under the power of the driver. So also the heart
“.
Saint Macarios thus expresses the crucial rule of the heart as a captain of the ship of our life. It is the driver of the chariot that our bodies pull. If the captain is ignorant or foolish, what will become of the ship?  Or, if the driver is careless or crazy, what will the end of the chariot and its horses be?
If the house is impure how can the King dwell or rest in it?

Mattá al-Miskīn – Orthodox Prayer Life: “The Inner Way“.

 

Pride & humbleness

Humility is in the Middle of the Heavenly Kingdom;
the Glory of God is lost by the one who missed the gain of humility.
You lose the Glory of God by the traps of the Devil, money, reputation etc.
The power and beauty of the people are vain things destroyed because of clothing [dark or shiny uniforms].
Wisdom without God is also vain.
With wisdom the devil even tried to trap Jesus Christ, but caught himself.
And the Jews have suffered the same.
The real pride of man is to know the greatness of God.
Everything is a gift of God.

The main reason underlying a person’s arrogance is unrealistic sense of superiority
or is his erroneous assumption that he has an existence
apart from and independent of God, and that he has acquired his qualities of his own doing.

When you are arrogant you feel superior to everyone else. You are right and everybody else is wrong
–at all times.
You are beyond reproach. Whatever anyone else says, if it disagrees with what you say and believe, then everything you say is gold, and everything they say is garbage.
You tend to think: “I am this powerful; you are less powerful.
I am beautiful; you are less beautiful
”, and so on.
You are amazingly boastful and strongly tend to belittle the efforts of others unless they completely agree with you.
People who lack self-esteem are arrogant because they are not comfortable with themselves.
People who have a healthy self-esteem are humble and comfortable with themselves; therefore, they take pleasure in quietly being who they are.
They don’t need to tell the world about it, and they encourage others to be able to feel the same way about themselves as they do.
Arrogance also comes from you values and beliefs.
[morals that were taught to us as a child on how to act and interact with others and in life]
Some people when growing up are tough that they are better than others and everyone else is below them; while other people are tough that everyone is equal no matter of how they look, color, race etc. and that [amongst other things] humble them.
Humble will be very strong, like grass will not fall at the time of windstorm.
You can see the strength by bending and giving way to others.
At the same time stand on own feet firmly.
Whereas pride attitudes, are like tree look very strong in the time trials and misery
that is to say storm, it will fall within no time.
Understanding the many benefits that Humility brings
should move us to cultivate and maintain this precious quality.

How can we go about gaining
this fine quality of humility?
It does not come automatically.
As with all other fine qualities,
we must work at it.
It will take time, so we must not become discouraged and think, What’s the use?
There is use, even if it does take time and effort and we keep making mistakes.
– First of all, we must have an earnest desire to be humble.
We must keep reminding ourselves that only by being humble can we please our Lord.
This is clearly shown where we read: “Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you
”.
1Petr.5: 7

And do we not need God’s undeserved kindness?
Can we afford to have Christ oppose us?
By regularly reading God’s Word
we will gain his mind on Humility.

For Humility to be able to help us in time of adversity, we must exercise it in our everyday lives,
in all we think, say and do.
Humility means lowliness of mind, not having big ideas or ambitions, and not tending to look down on others.
It means thinking like the apostle Paul, who spoke of himself as “a man less than the least of all holy ones”, and as “the least of the apostles”.
Humility should mark our conversation.
Do we always want to talk about ourselves, how we feel about things,
what we have accomplished or plan to do?
Do we often speak critically of others?

Do we often find ourselves monopolizing
the conversation?
Humility moves one to give others
the opportunity to speak.
If others are slow to express themselves, humbly, tactfully and lovingly draw them out, to their own happiness and to your own up-building.
There is more happiness in giving others
the opportunity to talk than in doing all the talking yourself.
Does humility characterize our actions?
Humility keeps one from shoving others
or always wanting to be first if one happens to be standing in line.
Truly, humility has ever so much to recommend it.
It makes for peaceful relations with Christ our Maker.
It makes for peace of mind. It makes for friendly relations with our fellows.
And it is of great help when we most need help – in times of harsh conditions.

Of all that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man, can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to depart this world in the same manner?
Everything that we have, did we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard?
The wise apostle says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it”
[ITim.6: 7].
And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread and wine, we say,
“Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee”
[Holy Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom].
For nothing that we have in this world is ours:
not even a crumb of bread nor a drop of wine; nothing that is not of God.
In truth, pride is the daughter of stupidity,
the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties with the demons.

Pride is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works evaporate.
Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy before God as does pride.
When the Lord is not proud, why should we be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created the world and Who sustains it by His power?
And behold, He humbles himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even to the death, to the death on the Cross!”

Saint Nicholai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid

God’s realm is totally different
from the world around us.
In fact, Kingdom wisdom seems foolish to the world.
In God’s Heavenly Kingdom
the first shall be the last,
little children are the model citizens,
and people are not regarded according to their ability, income, gender, or race.
We are to put the King and His Kingdom business before the care of our own livelihood.
This Kingdom is truly upside down.

Kingdom laws are summed up in one word: love.
The air we breathe is Grace, and the national characteristic is Holiness.
One of God’s highest goals for His people is freedom
– freedom to love Him and freedom to love each other.