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

Orthodoxy & the Mystery of Knowledge

Man has always been fascinated by ultimate things
— life, death, the origin of the world —
and his discoveries in other fields of knowledge
have given him confidence to assume
that someday these mysteries
will also yield to the power of his intellect.
Such pride of mind, however,
can only lead away from the truth,
which, according to Orthodox teaching,
is the aim and foundation of all true knowledge.
How is such knowledge acquired?
Here we have part of a longer essay
by the renowned Serbian theologlan of blessed memory, Archimandrite Justin Popovich [†1979],
in which he distils the writings of Saint Isaac the Syrian
on the Orthodox theology of knowledge.

Briefly, he explains that because
man’s understanding became darkened through sin,
through consorting with evil,
he became incapable of True knowledge.
Man can come to this knowledge only
when his soul [the seat of understanding] is healed.
This is made possible by means of the virtues,
and the primary virtue in this remedial process is Faith.
Through faith, the mind,
which was previously dispersed among the passions,
is concentrated, freed from sensuality,
and endowed with peace and humility of thought ….
It is by the ascesis of faith that a man conquers egotism,
steps beyond the bounds of self, and enters into a new,
transcendent reality which also transcends subjectivity
“.

In separate sections, Father Justin discusses Prayer, Humility, Love and Grace, all requisite
companions of Faith,
before leading the reader into
“The Mystery of Knowledge”,
which we have reprinted below with slight abbreviations.

According to the teaching of Saint Isaac the Syrian,
there are two sorts of knowledge:
that which precedes Faith
and that which is born of faith.
The former is natural knowledge
and involves the discernment of good and evil.
The latter is spiritual knowledge and is
– “the perception of the mysteries“,
– “the perception of what is hidden“,
– “the contemplation of the invisible“.

There are also two sorts of faith:
the first comes through hearing and is confirmed
and proven by the second,
– “the faith of contemplation“,
– “the faith that is based on what has been seen“.
In order to acquire spiritual knowledge,
a man must first be freed from natural knowledge.
This is the work of Faith.
It is by the Ascesis of Faith that there comes to man
that “unknown power
that makes him capable of spiritual knowledge.
If a man allows himself to be caught in the web of natural knowledge,
it is more difficult for him to free himself from it
than to cast off iron bonds,
and his life is lived “against the edge of a sword“.

When a man begins to follow the path of Faith,
he must lay aside once and for all
his old methods of knowing,
for faith has its own methods.
Then natural knowledge ceases and spiritual knowledge takes its place.
Natural knowledge is contrary to faith,
for Faith, and all that comes from Faith, is
the destruction of the laws of knowledge
–> though not of spiritual,
but of natural knowledge.

The chief characteristic of natural knowledge
is its approach by examination and experimentation.
This is in itself “a sign of uncertainty about the truth“.
Faith, on the contrary, follows a pure and simple way of thought that is far removed
from all guile and methodical examination.
These two paths lead in opposite directions.
The house of faith is “childlike thoughts and simplicity of heart”, for it is said,
Glorify God in simplicity of heart” [cf. Col.3: 22],
and:
Except ye be converted and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven
“. Matth.18: 3
Natural knowledge stands opposed
both to simplicity of heart and simplicity of thought.
This knowledge only works within the limits of nature,
but Faith has its own path beyond nature“.

The more a man devotes himself to the ways of natural knowledge,
the more he is seized on by fear
and the less can he free himself from it.
But if he follows Faith, he is immediately freed
and “as a son of God, has the power to make free use of all things“.
The man who loves this Faith acts like God in the use of all created things“,
for to faith is given the Power
to be like God in making a new creation“.
Thus it is written:
You desires, and all things are presented before you” [cf. Job 23: 13].

Faith can often
bring forth all things out of nothing“,
while knowledge can do nothing
without the help of matter“.
Knowledge has no Power over nature,
but Faith has such Power.
Armed with Faith, men have entered into the fire and quenched the flames, being untouched by them.
Others have walked on the waters as on dry land.
All these things are “beyond nature“;
they go against the modes of natural knowledge
and reveal the vanity of such modes.
Faith “moves about above nature“.
The ways of natural knowledge ruled
the world for more than 5,000 years, and man was unable to
lift his gaze from the earth and understand the might of his Creator
until
our faith arose and delivered us from the shadows of the works of this World
and from a fragmented mind.
He who has Faith “will lack nothing
and, when he has nothing,
“he possesses all things by faith,”
as it is written: “All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive [Matth.21: 22];
and also;
The Lord is near; be anxious for nothing” [Phil.4: 6].

Natural laws do not exist for Faith.
Saint Isaac emphasizes this very strongly:
All things are possible to him that believes [Marc. 9: 23],
for with God nothing is impossible …. “.
To step beyond the limits of nature
and to enter into the realm of the supernatural
is considered to be against nature,
as something irrational and impossible ….
Nevertheless, this natural knowledge, according to Saint Isaac, is not at fault.
It is not to be rejected.
It is just that Faith is higher than it is.
This knowledge is only to be condemned in so far as,
by the different means it uses, it turns against faith.
But when this knowledge
“is joined with Faith, becoming one with her,
clothing itself in her burning thoughts”,
when it “acquires wings of passionlessness” then,
using other means than natural ones,
it rises up from the earth
“into the realm of its Creator”,
into the supernatural.
This knowledge is then fulfilled by faith
and receives the power to “rise to the heights” to perceive him
who is beyond all perception
and to “see the brightness that is incomprehensible
to the mind and knowledge of created beings
.”
Knowledge is the level from which
a man rises up to the heights of Faith.
When he reaches these heights, he has no more need of it – for it is written:
We know in part, but when that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away
” [1Cor.13: 9-10].
Faith reveals to us now the truth of perfection,
as if it were before our eyes.
It is by faith that we learn that which is beyond our grasp
– by faith and not by enquiry and the power of knowledge.
/… /

There are three spiritual modes in which knowledge rises and falls,
and by which it moves and changes.
These are the body, the soul, and the spirit ….
At its lowest level, knowledge “follows the desires of the flesh”,
concerning itself with riches, vainglory, dress, repose of body,
and the search for rational wisdom.
This knowledge invents the arts and sciences
and all that adorns the body in this visible world.
But in all this, such knowledge is contrary to Faith.
It is known as
“Mere knowledge, for it is deprived of all thought of the Divine
and, by its fleshly character, brings to the mind an irrational weakness,
because in it the mind is overcome by the body
and its entire concern is for the things of this world
“.
It is puffed up and filled with pride,
for it refers every good work to itself and not to God.
That which the Apostle said, “knowledge puffs up” [1Cor.8: 1].

Faith presents a new way of thinking,
through which is effected all the work of knowing in the believing man.
This new way of thinking is Humility ….
It is by Humility
that the intellect is healed
and made whole…
The humble man is the fount of
the Mysteries of the new stage of development.

Obviously said of this knowledge,
which is not linked with faith and hope in God,
and not of true knowledge.
True, spiritual knowledge, linked with humility,
brings to perfection the soul of those who have acquired it,
as is seen in Moses, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul,
and all those who, within the limits of human nature,
were counted worthy of this perfect knowledge.
Saint [Archimandrite] Justin Popovich

Pdf: Prayer of the Three Holy Children

Orthodoxy & in advance of inner peace

Peace is the message of Christ
Jesus said to his disciples before His Crucifixion,
Peace I leave with you,
My peace I give unto you
John 14:7

Many of us experience life
just filled with turmoil.
Our inner thoughts
rage from one issue to another.
It may seem like
there is never time to stop and reflect.
Peace is something desired but rarely experienced.
The Apostle Paul preached,
The Peace of God,
Which passes all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds
through Jesus Christ“.
Phil 4: 7
Our Christian faith is supposed to bring us this Peace,
but yet even though we believe in Christ
many seldom experience this Peace.

What is lacking?
The main issue is
that our minds are too busy
and we lack the ability to control our thoughts.
This is a discipline we can learn
through a combination of our own effort and God’s Grace.
1.]. We should pray for inner peace.
2.]. We should examine our daily prayer rule and modify it.
Prayer combined with repentance can bring Peace
and help us develop the discipline to control our minds.
With a mind under control we make better decisions
that lead us to a more peaceful life.

From my own experience,
the practice of the Jesus Prayer
is the most important practice
for those seeking inner Peace.
For this to be effective a considerable amount of time
needs to be committed to its practice.
It requires at least one-half hour each day
in the beginning and more later.

The most difficult part of this practice
is committing the time to do it each and every day,
without exception.
It must become a habit
just like brushing your teeth.
Each day you miss
you will fall back at least three days.
It is easiest to make this time available
in the morning by deciding
to get up one-half hour earlier.
It is also the quietest time for your body
as well as your surroundings.
This of course means
you will have to go to bed one-half hour earlier as well.
That is the hard part.
Most likely you have a habit in the evening of relaxing,
escaping the issues of the day,
by relaxing and read a book, following the radio-program or
watching [non-stop??] television programs.
This you will have to give up
to make time for prayer.

Once you have made these decisions
the rest is easy, as long as you have
the inner desire for peace
that comes from your Faith in Christ.
This is a practice of love of God.
It is motivated not just for relief from anxiety,
but for a desire to walk your life in union with Christ
and to experience the Peace He had in all kinds of situations.

The prayer is simple:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”.
MP3: Jesus Prayer, 15 minutes prayer ;
Jesus Prayer, song by Coptics;
Jesus Prayer, song with guitar.
You simply repeat it over and over.
You begin your prayer time in a special quiet place
where you have your icons and a candle
which you can light before you begin.
Take a few moment to quite your body
and repeat the [opening] Trisagion prayers,
then begin the repletion of the Jesus Prayer.
Focus on the words.
Say it aloud in the beginning,
so that you also hear yourself [by heart]
Don’t try and rush.
You have committed the time
[You can set a timer
so you know when the time is up]
so there is no time pressure.
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica tells us:
“We should say the words of the prayer
knowing that the Lord sees us
and He is listening to us”.

Once you begin this discipline
you will find that your mind
is distracted by many thoughts.
You will notice that
you can observe yourself thinking.
This is called the place of the silent witness,
treasure it.
When you encounter thoughts,
you want to immediately
and gently reject them
and focus on the words of the Prayer.
[This is normal].
You may discover some repeating thoughts
related to an issue
that requires forgiveness and repentance.
If so, note it and seek forgiveness
and arrange for the sacrament of Confession
and determine actions to change this aspect of your behaviour.
But, while in your prayer time,
do not focus on any issues.
This is not a time for problem solving.
Try and focus only on the prayer with sincerity,
love for God, and a contrite heart seeking His Mercy.

You will find this is difficult.
Do not be discouraged as it is through difficulty
that we progress and learn to control this wild activity of our mind.
As they say, “No pain, no gain”.
You need to have persistence,
endurance and faith that the Lord will help you.
Remind yourself why you are engaging in this prayer life,
you are seeking inner peace that comes from God
for a life that is no longer filled with anxiety and turmoil
but is lived with Peace.

You also want to keep your focus on your heart
and not on your head or brain.
It is in the heart, the centre of our soul,
where Christ resides within us.
Archimandrite Sophrony tells us:
“Keep your mind firmly focused on God
and the moment will come
when the immortal Spirit touches the heart”.
We are not to seek any experience in this effort
other than silence and peace.
We should also not try to create any images in our mind
and should reject those that do come.
Over time,
you will begin to find silence in the space between the words
as the mind becomes more controlled.

Also this prayer will become part of you
and during the day you can seek out ways to repeat it often.
Use it when you are feeling stressed,
when you are bored or feel impatient.
Fill you mind with God
whenever you have a chance.
Eventually this prayer will be with you throughout your day
and will bring comfort and a re-centring of your life on Christ.
This will bring Peace.

There are many articles on how to pray,
but the most difficult aspect is to just do it.
Make the time!
Make the commitment!
Be consistent!
After you begin and have made some effort for several months
you will notice a change in your life.
Thank God for this blessing [Grace].
At this time you may want to seek out
some articles to give you encouragement.
These articles and more on the Jesus prayer
can be found at www.orthodoxoprayer.org
Everyone can benefit from this practice.
It’s a part of our Orthodox Tradition.
All it takes is your commitment to make time for it.
Let’s all pray that the Lord will bring us all
a quiet mind filled with Peace.
When this happens we will have Peace in the disordered world.

Jesus Prayer in other languages:
Arabic:          أيها الرب يسوع المسيح ابن الله, إرحمني أنا الخاطئ
Belarusian:   Госпадзе Ісусе Хрысьце, Сыне Божы, памілуй мяне, [грэшнага].
Bulgarian:     Господи Иисусе Христе, Сине Божий, помилвай мен [грешника].
Chinese:        主耶穌基督,上帝之子,憐憫我罪人。
Church Slavonic: Господи Ісусе Христе Сыне Божїй помилѹй мѧ [грѣшнаго].
Czech:          Pane Ježíši Kriste, Syne Boží, smiluj se nade mnou [hříšným].
Dutch:          Heer Jezus Christus, Zoon van God, ontferm u over mij [zondaar].
English:        Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [sinner].
Finnish:       Herra Jeesus Kristus, Jumalan Poika, armahda minua [syntistä].
Georgian:     უფალო იესუ ქრისტე, ძეო ღმრთისაო, შემიწყალე მე ცოდვილი.
German:      Herr Jesus Christus, Sohn Gottes, erbarme dich meiner [eines Sünders].
Greek:         Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν [ἁμαρτωλόν].
Hungarian:  Uram Jézus Krisztus, Isten Fia, könyörülj rajtam, [bűnösön]!
Japanese:    主イイスス・ハリストス、神の子よ、我、罪人を憐れみ給え。
Polish:         Panie Jezu Chryste, Synu Boga, zmiłuj się nade mną [grzesznikiem].
Portuguese: Senhor Jesus Cristo, Filho de Deus, tende piedade de mim [pecador]!
Romanian:   Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, Fiul lui Dumnezeu, miluieşte-mă pe mine [păcătosul].
Russian:      Господи, Иисусе Христе, Сыне Божий, помилуй мя [грешнаго].
Serbian:      Господе Исусе Христе, Сине Божји, помилуј ме [грешног].
Slovak:        Pane Ježišu Kriste, Synu Boží, zmiluj sa nado mnou [hriešnym].
Spanish:      Señor Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios, ten piedad de mi, que soy [un picador].
Ukrainian:  Господи Ісусе Христе, Сину Божий, помилуй мене [грішного].

Guidelines to grasp Salvation – Elder Paisios

– Seek for a lifeline near to God.
Contain your material needs,
because they create huge burdens and anxieties.

– Do not envy people that have money,
comforts, fame and power,
but rather those who live with virtue,
reason and piety.

– Do not ask God for things
that only support your body,
but especially what is good
and beneficial for your soul.

– Change your life,
discover the meaning of life,
gain the time lost in this process
so far on earth.

– Do not trust the mind-sets of secular people.

– Be healed of the illnesses
that dominate the lives of people
that did not learn to fast,
to be chaste,
to pray,
to hope.

– Do not despair.
God is omnipresent
and loves humanity.

– Cut off every relationship with evil,
live freely,
according to the will of the Lord.

– Prove your faith with works of love
toward your neighbour.

– Decide what you want most:
the sympathy of the world
or a return near to God?

– Almost all problems start from the mouth [what you say]
and, likewise, by the amount
you depend on your passions.

– Love your wife more than yourself.
With works, not with words.
And do not ever talk to her badly,
because sometimes the tongue kills
and destroys love.
Also, be careful,
because some parents spoil their children very much
and always do them favours.
And when a child is too spoiled,
they will become selfish
and take a crooked path.
Many parents care more about
providing material things for their children.
This is wrong.
The body has many material desires,
but a short life.
The soul continues
along another course.
The soul does not end up in the dirt,
but with God.
Today everyone deals with their body,
not with the needs of their soul.

– The needs of the soul are different.
The joys of the soul are different
from the joys of the body.
The body is easily managed,
not the soul.
If you have money and enter a big store,
the body is all set.
But what can you find in a,
what do you call those big stores,
yes, a supermarket,
for your soul?
The soul needs other things.
The soul has need of peace,
quiet, communion with God.
To sustain the body,
you need silver and daily bread.
To sustain the soul,
divine talents
and heavenly Bread
are needed.

Father Paisios – cf. ‘Four Hours with Father Paisios,
[Τέσσερις ώρες με τον π. Παίσιο]

2nd Sunday of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas – who shall be heir of Salvation?

And, You, Lord, in the beginning
has laid the foundation of the earth;
and the Heavens are the works of Your hands:
They shall perish; but You remain;
and they all shall wax old as does a garment;
And as a vesture shall You fold them up,
and they shall be changed: but You are the same,
and Your years shall not fail.
But to which of the angels
said He at any time,
Sit on My right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool?
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them
who shall be heirs of Salvation?
Therefore we ought to give
the more earnest heed
to the things which we have heard,
lest at any time we should let them slip.
For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast
and every transgression and disobedience
received a just recompense of reward;
How shall we escape,
if we neglect so great Salvation;
which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord
and was confirmed unto us
by them that heard Him“.
Hebr.1: 10-2: 3

It would be foolish indeed
to prefer reading a cookbook
to eating a good meal
when one is hungry for God.
Not that there is anything wrong
with reading a cookbook during Lent
– it can be very enlightening –
special when you aren’t an expired cooker,
but it is not very nourishing!
Yet like some of the original readers of Hebrews
we’re doing something very much like that.
We are preferred
to content ourselves with the externals of Faith
– such as the law, the [Aaronic] priesthood and [animal] offerings, [working hard to have a lot of money]
and to ignore the fulfilment of these things
in the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.
We want the cookbook rather than the meal!

As we have seen, the Tabernacle in the desert, with its regulations and sacrifices,
was an accurate and Divinely drawn picture
of the Sacrifice of Jesus
and the new arrangement for living
which would be available
to believers in Christ.
But it could only describe these realities up to a point.
It was both a comparison and a contrast.

I carry a picture of my wife in my wallet and,
when I am away from home,
I find it comforting to look at it.
But it is quite inadequate,
for it is not my wife,
only a picture of her.
I can look at it,
but I cannot have a conversation with it.
I cannot laugh together with it,
and I cannot persuade it to cook any meals!
It is an accurate representation of the real thing,
but also a far cry from it.
So the law and the tabernacle
could never do for believers of any age
what the living Christ can do.

“And it had been revealed to him [Simeon]
by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death
before he had seen the Lord’s Christ …
He took Christ up in his arms and blessed God and said:
Lord, [Gr. Despota] now You are letting
Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your Salvation”.
Luc.2: 26-30

The fact the Simeon would not have seen death
before he saw Christ was a revelation of
the Holy Spirit“.
Therefore the Holy Spirit is “God” and “Master” [Despotis] whom Simeon glorified
because his Prophetic words
were realised.

The Holy Spirit speaks as Giahve (Γιάχβε)
Giahve is the name of the true God in the Old Testament in Hebrew.
I will cite two versus from the Old Testament,
in which the Holy Spirit speaks as Giahve,
as the true God:
Today, if you will hear His voice:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
as in the day of trial in the wilderness,
when your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
and said,
‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
and they do not know My ways.
So I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest“.
Psalm 94 [95]: 8-11

This verse is strange and astonishing.
One divine person speaks in the beginning about another Divine person,
and further on speaks about Himself.
On the one hand, the other divine person,
speaks about a third person and uses pronoun “His”,
and on the other hand for Himself
He speaks to the first Person of the Trinity and says
tested Me“, “tried Me“, “My work“, “was grieved“,
said“, “My ways“, “My wrath“, “My rest“.
But Which Person speaks in these versus?
According to the word of the Apostle in Hebrews 3:7,
it is the Holy Spirit speaking.
It is clear from these words that the Holy Spirit is Giahve, that is True God.
With the pronoun “His“, in the beginning of the verse
the Holy Spirit distinguishes Himself from God the Father.
Briefly, the meaning of the verse is:
Today, during the Messianic times,
when you hear His voice, of God the Father,
speaking through the Son, do not do all the bad things that your fore-fathers did to Me,
the Holy Spirit, and as a result I became wrathful and I punished them.

It is worthy to note
that according to this verse
the Hebrews “tested” the Holy Spirit,
according to “They tempted Christ” [1Cor.10: 9]
and according to other versus,
such as Psalm 77 [78]: 41, 56 “Tempted God“.
The Hebrews tempted all Three,
because the Three are one in essence or Divinity.

Then the Spirit entered into me,
and set me upon my feet
and spoke with me
and said unto me,
Go shut yourself within your house.
But you, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon you with them,
and you shall not go out among them:
And I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth,
that you shall be dumb, and shall not be to them a criticizer:
for they are a rebellious house.
But I will speak with you,
I will open your mouth,
and you shall say unto them,
Thus said the Lord …
“.
Ezekiel 3: 24-27

The Holy Spirit speaks by His Prophets
saying that they [the people] will bind him,
that He will make them [the prophets] dumb
and that He will speak to them again
and then open their mouth to preach saying:
Thus said the Lord …“.
The Spirit will speak
and the Prophet communicating the words of the Spirit
will preach:
Thus said the Lord …“.
Therefore the Spirit is the Lord,
the True God.

Christ our God will reveal Himself in the Incarnation for our Salvation and establish His Vineyard, the Church.
This vineyard would consist of those
who are changed through conversion to Him and who are saved from the Assyrian,
who is a wild swine and a solitary beast.
That is the devil.
O God of hosts, convert us now;
look down from Heaven and behold,
and visit Your Vineyard
Which Your right hand planted
and perfect it
“.                                                                                                                                      cf. Psalm 79 [80]: 10-16

 

2nd Sunday Of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas

On the Second Sunday of Lent
the Orthodox Church commemorates
our Holy Father Gregory Palamas,
Archbishop of Thessalonica, the Wonderworker.
The feast day of Saint Gregory Palamas
is November 14th,
however, he is commemorated on this Sunday
as the condemnation of his enemies
and the vindication of his teachings by the Church [14th cnt] was acclaimed
as a second triumph of Orthodoxy.

The Life of this Saint
Our holy Father Gregory was born in Constantinople in 1296 of aristocratic parents who had emigrated from Asia Minor in the face of the Turkish invasion, and were attached to the court of the pious Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus [1282-1328].
Despite his official duties, Gregory’s father led a life of fervent prayer.
Sometimes as he sat in the Senate, he would be so deep in prayer as
to be unaware of the Emperor addressing him.
While Gregory was still young, his father died after
being clothed in the monastic habit; and his mother for her part
wanted to take the veil, but delayed doing so in order to
take care of the education of her seven children.

Gregory, the eldest, was instructed by
the most highly reputed masters of secular learning and
after some years, was so proficient in philosophical reasoning that
on listening to him, his master could believe he was hearing Aristotle himself.
Notwithstanding these intellectual successes,
the young man’s real interest lay only with the things of God.
He associated with monks of renown in the city and
found a spiritual father in Theoleptus of Philadelphia, who
instructed him in the way of holy sobriety and of prayer of the heart.

About the year 1316, Gregory decided to abandon the vanities of the world.
His mother, two sisters, two brothers and a great many of his servants
entered upon the monastic life with him.
He and his two brothers went on foot to the holy Mountain of Athos,
where they settled near the Monastery of Vatopedi under the direction of the Elder Nicodemus,
who came from Mount Auxentius.
Gregory made rapid progress in the holy activity of prayer,
for he had put into practice since childhood the fundamental virtues of
obedience, humility, meekness, fasting, vigil and the different kinds of renunciation
that make the body subject to the spirit.
Night and day he besought God ceaselessly with tears saying,
Lighten my darkness!
After some time, the Mother of God, in Whom he had put his trust since his youth,
sent Saint John the Theologian to him with the promise of her protection
in this life and in the next.

After only three years, the early death of his brother Theodosius, followed by that of the Elder Nicodemus,
led Gregory and his second brother, Macarius,
to attach themselves to the Monastery of the Great Lavra [Athos].
Gregory was appointed chanter.
His conduct in the cenobitic life was beyond reproach,
and the brethren admired his zeal for putting into practice all the Holy Evangelic virtues.
He lived with such abstinence as to appear unburdened
by the flesh to the extent of being able
to go three months without sleep.
At the end of three years of common life,
his soul thirsting for the sweet waters of the wilderness,
he retired to the hermitage of Glossia, under the direction
of an eminent monk called Gregory of Byzantium.
With the passions purified, he was now able to rise up in prayer
to the contemplation of the mysteries of the Creation.
Solitude and inner stillness enabled him to keep his intellect
fixed at all times in the depths of his heart,
where he called on the Lord Jesus with compunction,
so that he became all prayer,
and sweet tears flowed continually from his eyes as from two fountains.

The incessant raids of Turkish pirates soon obliged
Gregory and his companions to leave their hermitage.
Together with twelve monks, he wanted to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Places
and to seek refuge at Mount Sinai; but this did not prove feasible.
Instead, he spent some time in Thessalonica,
where he joined the group around the future Patriarch Isidore,
who was endeavoring to spread the practice of the Jesus prayer among the faithful
so that they might profit from the experience of the monks.
In 1326, Gregory was ordained a priest,
having understood in a vision that this was indeed the will of God.
He then departed to found a hermitage in the area of Beroea,
where he practiced an even stricter Ascesis than before.
For five days of the week he remained alone,
fasting, keeping vigil and praying with abundant tears.
He only appeared on Saturdays and Sundays
to serve the Divine Liturgy, share a fraternal meal and converse on some spiritual subject with his companions in the ascetic life.
He continued thus to rise up in contemplation
and to enter into closer union
with God in his heart.

When his mother died,
he went to Constantinople to fetch his sisters,
whom he settled in a hermitage near his own.
But as Serbian raids in the region became more and more frequent, he decided to go back to Mount Athos.
He settled a little above the Lavra in the hermitage of Saint Savas,
where he lived in greater seclusion than before, and could converse alone with God.
He went to the monastery only infrequently and
would receive his rare visitors on Sundays and feast days.
Going on from that contemplation which is still outward,
Gregory then attained to the vision of God in the Light of the Holy Spirit
and to the Deification promised by Christ to His perfect disciples.

One day in a dream, he saw that he was full of a milk from heaven which, as it overflowed,
changed into wine and filled the surrounding air with a wonderful scent.
This was a sign to him that the moment had come to teach
his brethren the mysteries that God revealed to him.
He wrote several ascetic treatises at this time, and,
in 1335, was appointed Abbot of the Monastery of Esphigmenou.
But the two hundred monks who lived there understood
neither his zeal nor his spiritual expectations
so, after a year, he returned to his hermitage.

At that time, Barlaam, a monk from Calabria, won a great name for himself
as a speculative thinker in Constantinople.
He was particularly fond of expounding the mystical writings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite,
which he interpreted in an entirely philosophical way,
making knowledge of God the object of cold reason and not of experience.
When this refined humanist learned of the methods of prayer of some simple monks of his acquaintance, who allowed a place to the sensory element in spiritual life,
he was scandalized.
He took occasion to calumniate then and to accuse them of heresy.
The hesychast monks appealed to Gregory
who then wrote several polemical treatises in which
he answered the accusations of Barlaam
by locating monastic Spirituality in a dogmatic synthesis.

He showed that Ascesis and prayer are the outcome of the whole mystery of Redemption,
and are the way for each person to make the Grace given at Baptism blossom within himself.
He also defended the authenticity of the methods which the Hesychasts used
to fix the intellect in the heart;
for since the Incarnation we have to seek the Grace of the Holy Spirit in our bodies,
which are sanctified by the Sacraments and grafted by the Eucharist into the Body of Christ.
This uncreated Grace is the very Glory of God which,
as it sprang forth from the body of Christ on the day of the Transfiguration,
overwhelmed the disciples [Matth.17].
Shining now in the heart purified from the passions, it truly unites us to God,
illumines us, deifies us and gives us a pledge of that same Glory
which will shine on the bodies of the Saints after the general Resurrection.
In thus affirming the full reality of deification,
Gregory was far from denying the absolute transcendence and
un-know-able-ness of God in His essence.
Following the ancient Fathers, but in a more precise manner,
he made a distinction between God’s imparticipable essence and
the eternal, creative and providential energies
by which the Lord enables created beings to participate in
His being, His life and His light without, however,
introducing any division into the unity of the Divine Nature.
God is not a philosophical concept for Saint Gregory:
He is Love, He is Living Person and consuming fire,
as Scripture teaches [Deut.4: 24],
Who does everything to make us godlike.

Saint Gregory’s brilliant answer to Barlaam was first accepted
by the authorities of Mount Athos in the Hagiorite Tome and
then adopted by the Church, which condemned Barlaam
[and with him the philosophical humanism
that would soon inspire the European Renaissance
],
during the course of two Councils at the Church of Saint Sophia in 1341.

Barlaam’s condemnation and his departure for Italy
did not bring the controversy to an end.
No sooner had Gregory returned to his Athonite hermitage from Thessalonica
where he had been writing his treatises in seclusion than Akindynos,
an old friend of his, restated the substance of Barlaam’s arguments
and condemned Gregory’s distinction between essence and energies as an innovation.
Akindynos, who at first aspired to be an umpire between Barlaam and Gregory,
was the kind of rigid conservative who does no more than repeat set phrases
without seeking to enter into the spirit of the Tradition.
At the same time, a dreadful civil war broke out
as a result of the rivalry between the Duke Alexis Apokaukos and
Saint Gregory’s friend, John Cantacuzenus (1341-47).
The Patriarch, John Calecas, sided with Apokaukos and
encouraged Akindynos to bring a charge of heresy against Gregory,
which led to the excommunication and imprisonment of the Saint.

During the four years of Gregory’s confinement, there was no slackening of his activity.
He carried on a huge correspondence, and
wrote an important work against Akindynos.
When John Cantacuzenus gained the upper hand in 1346,
the Regent, Ann of Savoy, came to the defense of the Saint
and deposed the Patriarch on the eve of Cantacuzenus’ triumphal entry into the City.
He nominated Isidore as Patriarch (1347-50), and
summoned a new Council to vindicate the Hesychasts.
The controversy was not finally resolved until 1351,
at a third Council which condemned the humanist Nicephorus Gregoras.
In the Synodal Tome the doctrine of Saint Gregory on the uncreated energies
and on the nature of Grace
was recognized as the rule of faith of the Orthodox Church.

Among Isidore’s new episcopal appointments,
Gregory was named Archbishop of Thessalonica in 1347; but
he was unable to take possession of his see as the city was in the hands of the Zealots,
the party opposed to Cantacuzenus.
After finding shelter for a while in Lemnos, where
he showed heroic devotion during an epidemic,
Gregory was eventually able to enter the city acclaimed
as if Christ Himself were coming in triumph,
with the chanting of Paschal hymns.

During a voyage to Constantinople, he fell into the hands of some Turks,
who held him for a year in Asia Minor (1354-55), but allowed him a measure of freedom.
This, and his openness of spirit, enabled him to engage in amicable theological discussions
with the Muslim doctors of religion and with the son of the Emir Orkhan.
When he was set free, thanks to a ransom from Serbia,
he returned to Thessalonica to take up his activity again
as pastor and wonderworker.
He suffered a long illness and some time before his death,
Saint John Chrysostom appeared to him with the invitation
to join the choir of Holy Hierarchs immediately after his own feast.
And, indeed, on November 14, 1359 the Saint gave up his soul to God.
When he died, his countenance was radiant with a light like
to that which shone on Saint Stephanos [Acts 6: 15].
In this way God showed, through the person of His Servant,
the Truth of his doctrine on the reality of deification
by the uncreated Light of the Holy Spirit.
The veneration of Saint Gregory was approved by the Church in 1368.
The Saint works many miracles even to the present day and,
after Saint Demitrios, he is regarded as the Protector of Thessalonica.

Orthodox Commemoration – on The Sunday Of Saint Gregory Palamas
The feast day of Saint Gregory Palamas is November 14, the day of his repose,
however the Orthodox Church commemorates the Saint on the Second Sunday of Lent.
As a Sunday of Great Lent, the commemoration is celebrated
with the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great,
which is preceded by a Matins [Orthros] Service.
A Great Vespers is conducted on Saturday evening.

Hymns Of The Feast:
MP3:  Απολυτίκιο Β΄ Κυριακής Νηστειών – Γρηγορίου του Παλαμά
Apolytikion       plagal 4th Tn
Gregory the Miracle Worker,
light of Orthodoxy,
support and teacher of the Church,
comeliness of Monastics,
invincible defender of theologians,
the pride of Thessalonica,
and preacher of Grace,
intercede forever
that our souls may be saved
“.

Kontakion          plagal 4rth Tn
With one accord, we praise you
as the sacred and divine vessel of wisdom
and clear trumpet of theology,
our righteous Father Gregory of Divine speech.
As a mind that stands now before the Primal Mind,
do you ever guide aright and lead our mind to Him,
that we all may cry:
Hail, herald of Grace Divine
“.

Psalms created on Truth – sitting at the rivers of Babylon [Psalm 136]

And the Lord humbled you
and suffered you to hunger
and fed you with manna,
which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know;
that the Lord might make you know
that man doth not live by bread alone,
but by every Word that proceeds
out of the mouth of the Lord
man does live“.
Deut.8: 3

The Lord tests His children
in the wilderness for forty days [years]
– Eating manna taught them
that man lives by the Word of God.
– Their clothing did not wear out.
– The Lord humiliated them.
– If they serve other gods,
they will perish.

Other nations are driven out of the promised Land
because of their wickedness.
– Moses evaluate the rebellions of Israel
and tells how he mediated
between the people and the Lord.
On two occasions Moses went
without food and water for forty days.

The tables of stone
containing the Ten Commandments
are placed in the altar [ark].
All that God requires is
that we Love and serve Him
– How great and mighty is the Lord!

You shall Love and obey the Lord your God
– If the children of Israel obey,
they will be blessed with rain and harvests
and will drive out mighty nations
– We have to learn God’s laws and teach them
– Blessings flow from obedience;
offensive terms are present in dis-obedience.

We have to destroy the worldly gods and places of worship
– The Lord will elect where His people will worship.
– The frustrating of blood is forbidden.
– Church’s worship have to be conform
to the Divine standard.

I told you before “How soon we forget!
That is more than just a clever saying, it is the truth.
Sports fans forget that their team won last year,
when they begin to lose this year.
Children forget the sacrifices their parents make for them.
Students forget what teachers taught them.
We forget faces, dates, places,
and even the names of old friends.
But fortunately, most of what we forget
is not all that serious.
For many of us forgetfulness
is just one of many signs of aging.

Remember Your God
Problems of memory though come not only through advancing age,
but are endemic in us all.
Scripture calls us to remember for an important reason.
The world does not need so much
to be informed as to be reminded
” [Thomas More]
The Bible says again and again
Forget not!” and “Remember!“;
and so we do during these days of Lent.
We are sitting at the rivers of Babylon
and we remember how we have to be:
– an Image of our Creator;
– rooted in the character of God.
And God does save us through
the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
It is Christ Who knows and experiences
the laments for and with us,
and it is Christ Who we find our confidence in
to praise Him in the storms of our life.

Moses at the Burning Bush
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘I AM has sent me to you’
“.
God, furthermore, said to Moses,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you’
“.
This is My name forever
and this is My memorial-Name to all generations
Go and gather your elders together and say to them,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
‘,
has appeared to me, saying,
“I am indeed concerned about you
and what has been done to you in Egypt . . . . .

[in the desert/the wilderness].
cf. Ex.3: 14-16

The call to remember is a command to meditate on who God is.
To remember is not so much a warning to master a wealth of facts about God
as it is a reminder of the awful possibility
that we can forget our dependence upon Him.
The command to remember here is given
as Church is poised to possess their inheritance,
the promised land.
There existed the very real possibility
that we would cease to remember all God did for us
as we found we no longer had to depend on Him for everything we have.
When we enjoy the wealth of the land He provides for us,
we will forget it came from Him.
It is ironic that we may find ourselves forgetting Him
because of the many blessings that He has given us.
When our hands are full
we forget the lessons we learned
when our hands were empty.

Time of Investigation
Your Investment in family-live
during these days of Lent, pays benefits later!
Meekness has always been a characteristic of
the Godly [Ps.37: 11]. It’s the only quality
that Jesus ever ascribed to Himself:
– “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and you shall find rest
unto your souls

Matth.11: 29

Meekness
So what is meekness?
The Greeks used the word ”πραότητα” to refer to ‘the taming of a wild horse.
The animal hadn’t lost its strength,
but all of the power of that animal
had been brought under control.
To be meek is to be under
the controlling Power of the Holy Spirit.
It involves our submission to God’s authority
and it involves the yielding of our rights.
It is linked with what the Bible refers to
as by Grace being filled with the Holy Spirit [Pentecost].
If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour
then you have all of the Holy Spirit that you’re ever going to get.
The Holy Spirit is one of the manifestations of God. You can’t just have a bit of Him.
Either you have the Spirit of God or you don’t.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of His
”.
Romans 8: 9
The filling of the Holy Spirit
has nothing to do with getting more
of the Holy Spirit
but it has everything to do with
the Holy Spirit getting more of you.
The Holy Spirit wants to fill and control every area in our lives; but He does not force Himself upon us.
He wants us to yield to Him
the right to every single area of our lives
until they are under His control and Lordship.
This is the way of blessing and success.
The meeker we become
the less upset and angry we will be
when we don’t get our own way.
Meekness is the antidote to anger.

► ►► The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο] …
Revelation reveals that “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
If He says, “I AM” it means that He is a person.
The word “I” has great significance.
For it expresses the person. God says:
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”.
Gen.1: 26
Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this.
And we need to base ourselves on revelation,
which the Lord never refuted …

Theology is the content of our prayers.
And an example of this theology is the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great
[every Sunday served during Lent].
The whole anaphora is Theology and is expressed through prayer.
But then Theology comes as a state of being.
John the Theologian, from an academic point of view,
was not a theologian, but he says things simply.
His theology, however, is a state of being.
Whatever he says becomes dogma for everyone.
But the only study that enables us
to sense what God is like,
is the ascetic life according to
the commandments of the Gospel.
When our life is lived according to the will of God,
then we understand that there cannot be a difference
between the commandments and the mind of God Himself.
When we think according to the commandments,
then our mind gets used to thinking as God Himself thinks.
And regarding Theosis, they say: but what is theosis?
With obedience to the abbot from the beginning,
one’s will is cut off,
then in obedience to the Gospel commandments
one reaches this state.
We do small things but the results must become Great.
Through obedience we enter into the life of divine Being.
We have good descriptions of this in
the writings of Saint Nicodemus, the Athonite.
I have told others, as well, that
when they learn things from the world,
they are living in sin.
They need to free themselves through Asceticism.
This is how I tried to make them understand the need for patience.
[Just as the Incarnation was a great kenotic act,
where Christ God became man as one person
and bore our sins patiently with humility and love.
In following Him, we become true persons in Him
and realize our life and fully live our freedom.
It is here where personhood finds its greatest achievement:
in putting on Christ and His indwelling in us
by the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father.
The very essence of our life must become
constant personal encounter with Christ,
and in this we become truly persons, truly free, truly loving.
This is how personhood is understood in Theosis.
We fulfil our personhood in living in Christ
and His dwelling within us,
and inasmuch as He has perfected humanity,
He raises us in freedom, in love,
to the fulfilment of our humanity,
as true persons in Him].
father Sophrony [Sakharov 1896-1993]

Psalm 136 chanted during the Sunday liturgies
during Great Lent instead of the regular Communion hymn,
just before Holy Communion:
1.] Mp3  by George Papanikolaos from Samos, Greece.
Ἐπι των ποταμών Βαβυλωνος -By The Waters of Babylon [Psalm 136] – 3rd Tn
2.] Mp3 by Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble, Russia.
Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble – ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ [Psalm 136}

Tekst Psalm 136:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down”, they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”.
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us“.

Wherever you go,
have God ever before your eyes“.
Saint Antony the Great

1st Sunday of Lent – Sunday Triumph of Orthodoxy

Lent was in origin the time of final preparation
for candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil
and this is reflected in the readings at the Liturgy
today and on all the Sundays of Lent.
But that basic theme came to be subordinated
to later themes which dominated the hymnography
of each Sunday.

The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the Victory of the Icons.
In that year the iconoclastic controversy,
which had raged on and off since 726,
was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent.
Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated
as the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”.

Orthodox teaching about Icons was defined at
the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787,
which brought to an end the first phase
of the attempt to suppress Icons.
That teaching was finally re-established in 843
and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

From Vespers:
►”Inspired by your Spirit, Lord,
the Prophets foretold your Birth as a child incarnate of the Virgin.
Nothing can contain or hold you;
before the morning star you shone forth eternally
from the spiritual womb of the Father.
Yet you were to become like us and
be seen by those on earth.
At the prayers of those your Prophets in
your mercy reckon us fit to see your light,
for we praise your Resurrection,
Holy and beyond speech.
Infinite, Lord, as Divine,
in the last times you willed to become incarnate
and so finite;
for when you took on flesh
you made all its properties your own.
So we depict the form of your outward appearance
and pay it relative respect,
and so are moved to love you;
and through it we receive the Grace of healing,
following the Divine traditions of the apostles
“.

►”The Grace of Truth has shone out, the things once foreshadowed now are revealed in perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with Beauty not of this world, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding fast the Orthodox faith.
For if we cling to the Icon of Him Whom we worship, we shall not go astray.
May those who do not so believe be covered with shame.
For the image of Him who became human is our Glory:
we venerate it, but do not worship it as God.
Kissing it, we who believe cry out:
O God, save your people, and bless your heritage
“.

►”We have moved forward from unbelief to True Faith,
and have been enlightened by the Light of knowledge.
Let us then clap our hands like the Psalmist,
and offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
And let us honour and venerate the holy Icons of Christ,
of His most pure Mother, and of all the Saints,
depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels,
setting aside the unbelievers’ ungodly teaching.
For the veneration given to the Icon passes over, as Basil says, to its prototype.
At the intercession of Your spotless Mother, O Christ, and of all the Saints,
we pray you to grant us Your great Mercy.
We venerate your Icon, good Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God.
For You freely willed in the flesh to ascend the Cross,
to rescue from slavery to the enemy those whom you had formed.
So we cry to you with thanksgiving:
You have filled all things with joy, our Saviour,
by coming to save the world
“.

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which Icons possess for the Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox faith and devotion.
They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus Christ.
They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.
So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with Icons painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an Icon screen, or Iconostasis, separating the Sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of Icons. No Orthodox home is complete without an Icon corner, where the family prays.

Icons are venerated by burning lamps and candles in front of them,
by the use of incense and by kissing.
But there is a clear doctrinal distinction between
the veneration paid to icons and the worship due to God.
The former is not only relative,
it is in fact paid to the person represented by the Icon.
This distinction safeguards the veneration of Icons from any charge of idolatry.

Although the theme of the Victory of the Icons is a secondary one on this Sunday,
by its emphasis on the Incarnation it points us to the basic Christian Truth
that the one whose Death and Resurrection we celebrate at Easter
was none other than the Word of God
Who became human in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

At the centre of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ
and His Resurrection from the dead.
As such, the Icon of the Resurrection is the most celebrated,
the most common, the most cherished, the most instructive.
It is all of these things because the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection
is not content with simply showing us the Risen Christ, or the empty tomb;
the Victory shown in the Icon of the Resurrection is complete.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
“.
                                                       Paschal [Easter] Hymn

Jesus Christ was not content with laying in the tomb
for three days after His Crucifixion.
Instead, while His body was entombed,
Christ’s soul descended into Hades, or Hell.
Christ descended there not to suffer,
but to fight, and free the souls trapped there.
Just as bringing a light into darkness
causes the darkness to disappear,
the Source of all Life descending into the abode of the dead
resulted in Jesus’ victory over death,
and not death’s victory over Jesus.
This is the full reality of what Christ’s death
and Resurrection accomplished.

Psalms created on Truth – PSALM 22

Psalm 22 which begins with the words,
The Lord is my Shepherd“,
is probably one of the best known, most often quoted
and memorized of all David’s beautiful hymns.
It has always occupied an important place in the spiritual life of the Orthodox Christian,
and is one of the Psalms included in the order of
preparation for the reception of Holy Communion.

In the early Church

the Catechumens, especially as the time
for their Baptism drew near, were made familiar with its contents and were even obliged to learn it by heart.
It seems, however, that its meaning was not fully explained to them until after they had received the Grace of the All-holy Spirit
in the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and the Holy Eucharist.

We gave you the Psalm,
beloved children who hurriedly approach the Baptism of Christ,
so that you might learn it by heart.
But, it is necessary, because of its mystical, hidden meaning,
that we explain it to you, with the Light of Divine Grace

Saint Augustine – sermon

The Fathers of the Church saw in Psalm 22
both a Prophecy and a summary of the Mysteries
[Lat. Sacraments] of Christian initiation:
By this Psalm, Christ teaches the Church that,
first of all, you must become
a sheep of the Good Shepherd:
the Catechetical Instruction guides you to the pastures and fountains of doctrine.
Then you must be buried with Him into death by Baptism.
But this is not death, but a shadow and image of death.
Then He prepares the Mystical table.
Then He anoints you with the oil of the Spirit.
And finally He presents the Holy Wine
that gladdens the heart of man
and produces that sober inebriation characteristic of the true Christian
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa – catechesis

It is to be noted that then, as now,
our Orthodox Church used the Greek Old Testament
[the Septuagint – it is Psalm 22 in Greek language],
and the understanding of its Mystical meaning was based on this version.
The traditional meaning given the Psalm in our Church
is obscured in a few phrases of the most widely known English translations, since they follow the Hebrew rather than the Greek.
In the following selection of commentaries on the six verses, we give first the King James translation and in the parentheses a more or less literal translation of the Septuagint.

The Lord is my Shepherd [The Lord shepherds me];
I shall not want [I shall lack nothing].
Psalm 22: 1
David invites you to be one of the sheep
whose Shepherd is Christ and who lack no good thing.
The Good Shepherd makes Himself everything for you:
pasture, water of rest, food, dwelling place, and the way of Righteousness,
and He gives you the Comforter, distributing His Grace according to your needs
”.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Those who belong to Christ
“have as their guide not a simple holy man, as Israel had Moses,
but the Prince of Shepherds and the Teacher of doctrine,
in Whom are found all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge”.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd:
He shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are young . . . . .
they shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun smite them . . . . .
Isaiah 40: 11; 49: 10

• “He makes me to lie down in green pastures
[He has made me to dwell in a place of verdure]:
He leads me beside the still waters
[He has nourished me beside the waters of rest]”.
Psalm 22: 2
“The place of verdure [green pastures]
means the ever-fresh words of Holy Scripture,
which nourishes the hearts of believers
and gives them spiritual strength”.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
“The waters of rest means, no doubt,
Holy Baptism, by which the weight of sin is removed”.
After having fed the person who comes to Him in faith with His word,
the Lord leads him to the waters of Baptism,
making him a sheep of His Holy Flock [Church],
Whose destiny is only to enter into God’s rest.
There remains therefore a rest to the people of God . . . . .
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest .
. . . .”
Hebrews 4: 9,11
[“Rest” in both Hebrews 4 and in Psalm 22 is ἀνάπαυσις (Gr. Anapausis)
means cessation from labour, refreshment].

• “He restores my soul [He has converted my soul]:
He leads me in the paths of Righteousness for His Name’s sake.
[He has led me . . . . .]
Psalm 22: 3
David speaks of his own experience:
after having learned of God’s ways
he strayed from the paths of righteousness
and fell into deadly sin.
His experience in this Psalm becomes a Prophecy:
anyone, no matter how far he may have strayed from God,
in Christ may be converted
and return to the way of righteousness
and learn to do God’s will.

• Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
[. . . . . though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death . . . . .]:
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff
they comfort me
[. . . . . they have comforted me]
Psalm 22: 4
It is necessary for you to be buried in death with Him by Baptism.
But it is not really death, but a shadow and image of death
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
For we are Baptized into the death of Christ,
Baptism is called the shadow and image of death,
in face of which there is no longer anything to fear
“.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
The last part of this verse refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“He comforts the believer, or guides him,
with the rod and staff [the Shepherd’s crook] of the Spirit,
for the One who guides or comforts is the Spirit
[the Paraclete – the Greek verb here is παρεκάλεσαν “parekalesan”]
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
And I will pray the Father,
and He shall give you another Comforter,
that He may abide with you for ever . . . . .
when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come,
He will guide you into all Truth . . . . .

John 14: 16; 16: 13
– the verb translated “He has led. . . . . ” in vs. 3 of the Psalm,
and “will guide” in John is “hodigise” and “hodigisei” in Greek).

• “You prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
[. . . . . in the presence of those that afflict me . . . . .]:
You anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over
[. . . . . Your cup which inebriates me, how excellent it is].
Psalm 22: 5

What does David mean by this [“You has prepared a table . . . . .”]
if not the mystical and spiritual table which God has prepared for us? . . . . .
He anointed your head on the forehead with the seal of God,
which you did receive so that you might bear the seal impressed as
the sign of consecration to God.
And you see that David is speaking of the Holy Chalice, over
Which Christ said after giving thanks,
‘This is the Chalice of My Blood‘”.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Having abandoned the remains of the former error
and renewed his youth like that of an eagle,
the newly baptized hurriedly approaches the Celestial Banquet.
He arrives, and seeing the altar prepared, he exclaims,
‘You has prepared a table before me…’
“.
Saint Ambrose
In these lines the Word clearly designates
the Mystical [lat. Sacramental] unction
[Chrism]
and the Holy Sacrifice of Christ’s Table“.
Eusebius of Caesarea
The Holy Spirit expresses in the Psalms the same figure of the Eucharist
when the Lord’s Chalice is mentioned;
‘Your Cup which inebriates me, how excellent it is!’
But the inebriation which the Lord’s Chalice gives is not similar to that of profane wine.
It intoxicates in such a way that it does not make one lose his reason;
it leads souls to Spiritual Wisdom…
“.
Saint Cyprian of Carthage
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter…said unto them…these are not drunken, as you suppose . . . . .
but this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joël:
and it shall come to pass in the last day, said God,
I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh:
and your sons and daughters shall Prophesy,
and your young men shall see Visions,
and your old men shall dream Dreams
“.
Acts 2: 13-17

• Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
[. . . . . Mercy shall pursue me . . . . .];
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 22: 6
Christ, providing the soul with the wine
‘that makes glad
[Joy] the heart of men’,
provokes in it that sober intoxication
which elevates the dispositions of the heart
from transitory to eternal things . . . . .
He who has tasted, in fact, this inebriation trades
the ephemeral for that which has no end
and remains in the house of the Lord
all the days of his life
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Orthodox discours on Divine Eros and on Creation

Christ is our love, our Grace”

Christ is the joy, the true Light,
our happiness; Christ is our hope.
The relationship with Christ is Love,
is Love, is excitement, longing sulphur.
Christ is everything.
This is our love and our Love is.
In-alienable Love is from Christ,
from Him comes the Joy of Life.

This Joy is Christ Himself. It is joy that makes us another man.
It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ.
It intoxicates like wine fair, this wine is the spiritual. Says David:
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows“.
Psalm 22: 5
And you shall take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him“.
Ex.29: 21
The spiritual wine is rampant, unadulterated, very strong and when I drink, get drunk on.
This divine drunkenness is a Grace, a gift of God,
given to “pure in heart“.

As you are able to fast,  you make many prostrations,
you want to join as many vigils as possible, but
do it in happiness; keep it having in the Joy of Christ.
This is the Joy that lasts forever, which is eternal delight.
It’s the Joy of our Lord, Who gives the safe serenity,
calm and pleasantness bliss.
The Joy of the coming Pascha is beyond all Joy.
Christ wants to be thanked and scatters joy,
to enrich their believers with this Joy.
I wish, “so this Joy is filled to You“.

This is our religion. There you go.
Christ is Heaven, my children.
What is Heaven? It is Christ.
From now entering the  Paradise is exactly the same,
those who live here on earth in Christ,
live in Paradise.
So are you saying it.
It is right, true, trust me!
Our job is to try to find a way to get into the Light of Christ.
It is to do absolutely typical.
The essence is to be with Christ.
To wake the soul and to love Christ, to become Holy.
Indulged in Divine Love. Thus you will love us and Him.
It is then the inalienable Joy.
It wants more Christ, it fills us with that Joy,
because it is the Source of Joy.
This Joy is the Gift [Grace] of Christ.
Within this Joy you will know Christ.
We cannot know Him, if He does not know us.
How David says:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it in vain;
Unless the Lord guard the city,
Those who guard it stay awake in vain
“.
Psalm 126: 1

These is what our soul wants to acquire.
If you prepare accordingly, Grace will be given to us.
It is not difficult.
If abstracting Grace, everything is easy and a joyful blessing to God.
The blessing ever sounded on the door of our soul and was waiting to be opened, to come to dispose our heart and fill it.
The crew is Christ, the Holy Trinity and
our Lady, the Theotokos.
What a nice things!

When you love, you live in Heaven on earth and you are not knowing that
you are in Heaven.
Neither cars you see, neither wars you see or see the world or anything else.
You’re inside you with the Person you love.
The breathing free-standing from Eucharist, to be encouraged.
It is truly about?
Consider this the person you love to be the Christ.
Christ in mind, Christ in your heart, Christ in your whole being,
Christ everywhere, Christ is in everyone.

Christ is life, the source of life, the source of joy,
the source of Light of the Truth, of everything.
Whoever loves Christ and others, he lives His life.
Life without Christ is death, hell, misery life.
This is hell, lacking love.
Life is Christ.
Love is the life of Christ.
It’s a basic choice to be in life or in death.
Up to you to choose.

One is our goal, love to Christ, the Church, our neighbour.
Love, worship to God, the longing, the union with Christ and
Church is the earthly Paradise.
Love is in Christ and love our neighbour, to all and to love even our enemies.
Christian life hurts everyone, but through being hurt everyone will be saved,
all who taste God’s Kingdom.
That is Christianity.
Through love and being hurt by your brother to be able to love God.
While we want, while we suffer, while we are worthy,
the blessing comes through our brother.
When you love your brother even when he hurts you,
you love the Church and in this way also Christ.
Inside the Church we are.
So when we love the Church, we love ourselves.

Christ is our friend“.
Christ is how you touch Him as
your friend; it is your friend.
This confirms Himself when He says:
You be there My friends …”
As a friend to look to Him and approaching Him.
We fall? We sin? With intimacy, love and in our trust
we run to Him, not with fear but punish us with courage that gives us the touch of a friend.
Say to Him:
Sir, I did, I fell down, please forgive me“.

But at the same time feel that He loves us,
that we are accepted tenderly,
with love and He forgives us.
Sin attempts to separate us from Christ.
When we think how He loves us and we love Him,
we don’t feel foreign and want to be separated from Him,
even when we fall down and sin.
We ensure the Love and the Like and the Sound,
we know He loves us.

If we love Christ truly, there is no fear of losing our respect to Him.
Here goes one of the Apostle Paul:
Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love
– What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
“.
Rom.8: 31-39
It is a relationship of grandeur, unique even in world’s theology
the relationship of the soul with God
doesn’t cleaves anything and
doesn’t scares or shakes anything.

The Gospel, of course, says it with symbolic words that the unjust will be found
where there is:
the grinding and gnashing of teeth“;
Luc.13: 28,
because so far away is God.

And by neptic many Fathers of the Church speak for fear of death and hell.
They say:
Keep death perpetually in memory“.
These words, if you look deeply, raises fear of hell.
Man trying to escape from sin, do these thoughts to
become dominated by the soul from the fear of
death, hell and the devil.

All have their importance, time and circumstances.
The concept of fear is good for the early stages. It is for beginners.
For those who live in them by the old man.
Man novice, not yet weakened up from evil with fear.
Fear is necessary if we are physical people and vile.
But this is a stage, a low degree of relationship with God.
They grow up to the transaction in order to gain Heaven or hell to escape.
What if good looking shows some selfishness, some interest.
I don’t like this way.
When man goes and come to be in the Love of God, what he needs fear?
Whatever you do, you do it intended for love and
it has a much greater value.
To turn out to be in a great fear for God and
not love does not really value.

Moving on, and the Gospel gives us to understand that Christ is the Joy,
the Truth, that Christ is the Paradise.
How the Evangelist John says?
There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear:
because fear has torment.
He that fears is not
made perfect in love
“.
1John 4: 18
Trying for fear and
entering slowly in God’s Love.
Then drives away hell, fear and death.
We care only about the Love of God.
We do everything for that mystical Love.
Whatever the Groom desires to the bride.

If you want to follow Him,
This Life with Christ will be Joy,
even in deep difficulties.
As the Apostle Paul says:
I fill up in my flesh
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
“.
Col.1: 24
This is our religion, we have to go there.
It is not typical, as it is to live with Christ.
When this succeeds, what else do you want?
Gained everything.
You live in Christ and Christ lives in you.
After all it is very easy,
Obedience, Humility, Peace.

The Beauty of creation
is to rejoice that what surrounds us.
All teach us and lead us to God.
All around us are drips of God’s Love.
And the animate and the in-animate and
the plants and animals.
The birds, the mountains,
the sea, the sunset and the starry skies. [Ps.103]
It are small affections, from inside
which arrive in great love, Christ.
Flowers, for example, have their own sake,
teach us with their perfume with their greatness.
We talk about God’s Love.
Scorpio scent, beauty in sinners and righteous.

To become a Christian must have a poëtic soul, you must be a poet.
‘Heavy’ souls to Him is what Christ wants.
The Christian, even when only love, a poet, is Mesa poetry.
Love poëms hearts to embrace, to put in their heart,
embrace it, feel it deeply.

Do you all take advantage for the nice moments.
The beautiful moments pre-dispose the soul in prayer,
make it subtle, gentle, poëtic.
Wake up in the morning to see the sun king all-embracing comes from the sea.
When excites a beautiful landscape, a church, something nice,
do not stay there, to go beyond, to proceed in thanksgiving for all the good,
to live the only nice.
Everything is Holy the sea, the bath in it and the food next.
All can rejoice.
All our rich, all lead us to great Love,
all lead us to Christ.

Be aware of what man made, houses, buildings, large or small,
towns, villages, people, culture.
Asking to complete your knowledge of everything, do not stand unconcerned.
This helps you to deeper study of God’s Excellence.
Made all opportunities to connect with everything and everyone.
Causing thanksgiving and supplication to the Lord of all.
Do you live in it totally, in nature, in everything.
Nature is the secret Gospel,
where, however,
no one has inner Grace,
not the Benefits of nature.
nature wakes us up,
but we can’t go to Heaven.
So the Evangelist John wrote about the Eternal Word:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was Life,
and the Life was the Light of men.
And this Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it
– And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as
of the only Begotten of the Father,
full of Grace and Truth
“.
John 1: 1-5, 14
cf. Elder Porphyrios Kafsokalyvitis [1906-1991]