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

 

Orthodoxy & put your faith in the Lord

The period of Lent is a period of self-denial:
It is an effort to control
what usually controls us“.

Lent will end on Pascha-eve
– as it does for hundreds of millions
of Christians around the world.
Orthodox Christians prefer to refer
to that which for people in the West is known as “Pascha”
as “The Victory of Christ”, the Victory over death.
Thousands and thousands of followers of Christ
– join Him in this period of reflection,
– join Him in this retreat from the world, the jungle, the desert
– endow the spiritual re-birth
– to become more holy,
– preparing for a re-baptism with Pascha.

Pascha, like every Sunday
marks the spiritual
lack of confusion of the universe“,
a coming home
in the Kingdom.

For You, my Lord, are my hope;
You made the Most High your refuge.
Evils shall not come to you
and a scourge shall not draw near your dwelling;
for He shall command His Angels concerning you,
to keep you in all your ways;
in their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone
“.
Psalm 90: 9-12

And you shall be secure,
because there is hope;
yea, you shall dig about you,
and you shall take
your rest in safety
“.
Job 11: 18

And who is He
Who will harm you
if you become followers
of what is good?
“.
1Petr.3: 13

That He would show you
the secrets of Wisdom!
For they would double your prudence.
Know therefore
that God exacts from you Less
than your iniquity deserves
“.
Job 11: 6

If any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature:
old things are passed away;
and all things are become new
“.
2Cor.5: 17
A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion;
but this does not prove him to be unconverted.
Christ said to Nicodemus:
The wind blows where it listed,
and you hears the sound thereof,
but can’t tell  from where it comes

and where it goes:
so is everyone
that is born of the Spirit
“.

When we are in trouble or despair of have lost hope,
we should do what David did:
pour out our hearts to God
and tell Him of our needs and troubles,
just as they are. It is because
He can deal with us wisely that we confess to God:
He can make our troubles easy to bear.
If this is our benefit,
and can save us from dejection
which destroys and corrupts
“.
Saint Hesychius the Priest

Study, my child, to acquire in your life
dignity, simplicity, understanding,
continuous prayer, manliness,
unfeigned love, wisdom, seemliness.
Be sympathetic, love the poor.
Attain silence and patient endurance.
Do not slander, do not laugh at anyone.
Acquire angerlessness, modestly, and humility, so that the Lord will glorify you
before the Angels and the Saints
“.
Elder Athanasius,
monastery Grigoriou, Athos

We are called to take up the Cross,
to die with Christ,
to become the Church,
the one body of Christ.
Our divisions are truly scandal of our own making.
Whether they are between persons,
within an ecclesial body, or between ecclesial bodies,
each and every one of us is responsible
for our failure to make Christ present through our witness,
our martyria, to a world that is increasingly alienated from God
and increasingly thirsting for Christ.
Clinging on to that which we value,
whether our own dignity confronting that of others,
a strife-creating indignation within our ecclesial bodies,
or our pride in the distinctiveness of our own ecclesial body
and the hierarchies of a long-gone era,
we are like the seed that remains alone,
rather than dying to bear fruit.
If we are to be Christ’s one true Body,
we must follow Him by dying to everything
that separated us from Him,
all that belongs to this world rather than to the Kingdom,
and hold ourselves open to whatever He may lead us.
Dying, then,
we might begin make Christ manifest
by how we live as His one Body
“.
Father John Behr

For Your omnipotence
is not far from us
even when
we are far from You
“.
Saint Augustine

As we take this journey together during Lent,
we want to share once again
how beautiful and freeing forgiveness can be.
And that we truly make no progress with
the fasting, the praying, the attendance at prayers,
if we have rancour, hatred, anger . . . . .
any of those ugly, festering, emotions . . . . .
deep in our soul.
Lent becomes meaningless, really,
if we do not approach it with a clean heart;
a heart ready and willing
to be open to God working in our lives.

Wash yourselves and you shall be clean;
put away the wicked ways
from your souls before My eyes;
cease to do evil; learn to do well.
Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
consider the fatherless,
and plead for the widow.
Come then,
and let us reason together, said the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet,
I will make them white as snow;
and though they be red like crimson,
I will make them white as wool
“.
Isaiah 1: 16-18

 

 

Thanks be to the Lord!!!

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

Sunday of Orthodoxy – why are we concerned to be ‘Orthodox’?

By faith Moses, when he was come to years,
refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,
than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches
than the treasures in Egypt:
for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
And what shall I more say?
for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson,
and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the Prophets:
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,
turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again:
and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance;
that they might obtain a better Resurrection:
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings,
yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
They were stoned,
they were sawn asunder,
were tempted,
were slain with the sword:
they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins;
being destitute,
afflicted,
tormented;
(Of whom the world was not worthy:)
they wandered in deserts,
and in mountains,
and in dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,
received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us,
that they without us should not be made perfect“.
Hebr.11:24-26,32-40

If we are saved by Grace, and not by works,
why does the Orthodox Church
put so much stress on ”ascetic practice”?
Why should it be necessary, or even useful,
to fast as we do,
to make countless prostrations during Great Lent,
to stand for hours through long Services,
and even to give so much attention to the Church?

Why do you submit to regulations,
‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’

[referring to things that all perish as they are used],
according to human precepts and doctrines?
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom
in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement
and severity to the body,
but they are of no value
in checking the indulgences of the flesh
“.
Col.2: 20-23

Why, then, do the Orthodox submit to such regulations:
Don’t eat [this or that]’, or ‘Do this, that, and the other thing’,
in order to be a ‘Good Christian?’.
Isn’t it enough to ‘Love God and my neighbour as myself?’.

It’s a good question.
While there’s a perfectly reasonable
and satisfactory answer to his objection,
it seems worthwhile for all of us to think about these things,
in an effort to understand just
why “ascetic Practice and spiritual Discipline” in general
are so important in Christian life.

Our rebellion against God and His Will touches every aspect of our existence.
Sin” or “sinfulness” is not just an accumulation of specific acts of disobedience
or wilfulness that in some way violate
the commandments.
It is more than the sum total
of our individual sins.
Those sins are symptomatic of something broader and deeper that virtually defines us,
that characterizes our every act and attitude.
Sin is a state of being that permeates all aspects of our life,
conscious and unconscious, physical as well as spiritual.
In fact, the distinction we usually make between
what is physical and what is spiritual is artificial and misleading.
The human person can only be understood holistically.
Our bodily gestures affect our psycho-spiritual disposition,
just as our spiritual state can affect our body.
Nothing attests to this fact more eloquently
than the Orthodox Service of Holy Unction,
with its emphasis on the forgiveness of sins
as integral to the quest for healing.

This point brings us back to the question of “ascetic Discipline
and the place of “works” in our Salvation.
First of all, it is important to recognize
that the apostle Paul is speaking to the Colossians
about performing religious rituals prescribed either by the Torah, Hebrew Law,
or by pagan forms of worship.
The admonition, “Don’t handle, taste or touch”,
has to do with various religious practices
that were considered by many as necessary
to enter into the Sacred realm of Divinity.
Repeatedly [especially in his letters to the Romans and Galatians],
Paul insists that our Salvation is accomplished wholly and uniquely by Christ:
– by His voluntary Death on the Cross,
– by which he descended into the realm of death [Sheol],
– in order to defeat the powers of death and corruption.
This is a Work of pure Grace that only God can accomplish.
And this is why it is
so essential to recognize and accept the fact
that Jesus of Nazareth is Truly the Incarnate, eternal Son of God.
Our Salvation is made possible precisely by the “work” of the Holy Trinity,
a work no created being can accomplish.

So we, as Orthodox Christians,
affirm as clearly and unambiguously
as any Lutheran, for example,
that “Salvation is by Grace
and not by our works.
Unlike medieval Catholicism, Orthodoxy does not hold that a person can build up a “treasury of merits” [redemption payments]
that will count in our favour at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
What will matter then is our having surrendered our sin
to God through confession, and our gestures of Love [Matth. 25],
together with the unshakable conviction that “Jesus Christ is the Lord
and the unique Way to eternal life.

Orthodoxy does recognize, however,
the importance of our “cooperation” with God,
what we term “Synergy”.
“Salvation”, as we usually understand the word,
is only the beginning of a pilgrimage that leads us through this life,
through our physical death, and into life beyond.
Salvation, accomplished by the death and Resurrection of Christ,
means freedom from the consequences of our sinfulness:
separation from the Holiness and Love of the God
Who desires only that we be saved
and enter into Eternal and Joyful Communion with Himself.
If we were not continually tempted to fall back into sin,
there would be no need for such a “Synergy”.
Then we could declare, with absolute confidence,
once saved, always saved!”.
Temptation and spiritual struggle, however,
mark every day of our life.
And the way we face and, by the Grace of God,
overcome those forces [demonic powers],
is precisely through the “Spiritual Warfare”,
the ascetic struggle that enables us to confront
those forces day by day
and overcome their destructive influence.

This is why, in the same letter to the Colossians, the apostle can declare:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions
for the sake of his body, the Church” [Col.1: 24].
We may not suffer as Paul did, risking our very life for the Gospel,
enduring torture, hardship, hunger and rejection by one’s own people.
Nevertheless, our small efforts, of fasting, prostrations,
intense participation in long Liturgical Services
– like almsgiving and other acts of Love offered to those in need –
enable us also to share in Christ’s own sufferings,
which he will endure in us and for us
until He comes again in Glory.
That Participation is essential;
yet it is not the means by which we are saved.

The final word, as so often, comes from our Lord himself.
Condemning the Pharisees for their hypocritical observance of empty ritual,
He accuses them of performing small religious acts
while “neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith”.
And he concludes,
These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” [Matth.23: 23].
Those “others” include precisely the sorts of ascetic practices Orthodox Tradition
calls us and invites us to assume — not to achieve Salvation,
but to bring heart, soul, mind and body into harmony
with the ineffable Gift [Grace] of Salvation
that Christ has already offered to us.
Cf. father John Breck – ‘Life in Christ lectures

Sunday of Orthodoxy – Recognizing Jesus

Jesus already knows us,
even if we have no calling to mind
of many of our prior encounters with him,
even if we do not Name or recognize
His presence and efforts at the depths of our lives.

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee,
and found Philip, and said to him,
‘Follow me‘.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael, and said unto him,
‘We have found him, of whom Moses in the law,
and the Prophets, did write,
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph
‘.
And Nathanael said unto him,
‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?‘.
Philip said to him,
‘Come and see‘.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him,
‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!‘.
Nathanael said to Him,
‘Whence knows You me?‘.
Jesus answered and said unto him,
‘Before that Philip called you,
when you was under the fig tree, I saw you
‘.
Nathanael answered and said to him,
R
‘abbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel‘.
Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree,
beliefs you?
‘.
you shall see greater things than these.
And he said to him,
‘Verily, verily,
I say to you, Hereafter you shall see Heaven open,
and the angels of God ascending
and descending upon the Son of man
“.
John.1: 43-51

What is wrong with me
that I sometimes don’t recognize people
I’ve met before?
Am I arrogant? I hope not. Am I losing my short and long term memory?
Have I a kind of Alzheimer? I didn’t think so.
Sometimes I have the sinking feeling
that maybe I’m just not aware enough
of my surroundings in general.
And it’s probably not because
I’m walking around lost in profound thoughts
deaf and blind for everything.
For most ‘human failings’,
there is a biblical Character
to provide company for our misery.

In my case, it’s Nathanael. Jesus already knows him.
As Nathanael walks toward Jesus, Jesus describes him:
Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!“.
It doesn’t appear to be tongue in cheek.
It seems like a straightforward description
based on his knowledge of Nathanael.

Nathanael says, in effect, “I don’t believe we’ve met“.
Where did you get to know me?
He is so moved by Jesus’ prior knowledge of him
that he makes a confession of Faith.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God.
You are the King of Israel
“.
To which Jesus responds, in effect,
You aren’t seen nothing yet!
Do you believe because I told you
that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than these. . . .
You will see Heaven opened
and the angels of God
ascending and descending
upon the Son of Man
“.

In our lives, every time we approach Jesus,
it is in the context of his prior approaches to us.
Every time we recognize his presence in ourselves and others,
in events and moments,
it is because He continually recognizes God in us.
Jesus already knows us,
even if we have no recollection of many of our prior encounters with him,
even if we do not Name or recognize His presence
and efforts at the depths of our lives.

John’s Good Message affirms that The Good Shepherd
knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice [psalm 22].
I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
The sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice
“.
(John.10: 14-16).
The Prologue tells us that Jesus
came to what was His own,
and His own people
did not accept Him
“.
John.1: 11
The Gospel of John has recognition
and failure of recognition as a key theme.
In a number of encounters with Jesus,
people focus on their problems at a literal level
while He stands, unrecognized, before them.
For example, Nicodemus [chapter 3],
the woman at the well [chapter 4]
and the man by the pool of Bethzatha [chapter 5].
Others do recognize Him.
Jesus was killed precisely because His enemies did recognize Him.
As His Healings escalated in drama and power,
so did His threat factor to those who opposed Him.
They recognized Him as the bringer of sight to the blind
[healing of the man blind from birth in chapter 10]
and the raiser of the dead [Lazaros in chapter 11].

In the Good Message of John, Jesus always recognizes us,
but we do not always recognize Him.
The Good Shepherd knows his sheep
– He recognizes who we were meant to be,
namely Children of God [John.1: 12],
in the tangle of our current lives.
The goal of the Gospel is to equip us
to recognize His life within ourselves and the world.
These things are written
so that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and that through believing
you may have life in His Name
” [John.20: 31].
[‘Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, sinner . . . . .]
Our task is clear
—with God’s help, we are to enhance our facial recognition skills.
Knowing Jesus is present in every moment, every person, every situation,
we are to be on the lookout for Him,
recognizing His presence and influence
throughout each day.

On my toilet there is a booklet with sayings from Mother Theresa:
She answered when someone asked her,
What do you do all day walking the streets of Calcutta?“.
She said, “I behold Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God, in every face I see“.

It’s well-known that the monks on the Holy Mountain [Athos]
serve the pilgrims, who are visiting the Holy Monasteries,
with only one object in mind:
the coming visitor is Jesus Christ Himself in Person,
what I do as a servant,
I do for Christ Himself“.
That’s life ► meeting everybody as an Icon,
as an Image of God.
In that moment
– you will not quarrel,
– you will not be agitated, touched or heated,
– you will accept everything,
– because He is your Creator.
Indeed, in that moment you pray:
Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, sinner . . . . .

After Jesus’ Resurrection, Mary of Magdala didn’t recognize Him in the garden,
mistaking Him for the gardener,
until He calls her by name [John.20: 16].
He already knows her. They have met
each other many times before.
So an appropriate response from Mary would not be to put out her hand
to shake His and to say,
Good morning. My name is Mary.
I don’t believe we’ve met you before“.
An appropriate response for her and for us is,
I recognize You.
I believe we have met each other many times before“,
because we are God’s Children, His children.

Grace and truth have shone forth.
The predictions of old have been clearly fulfilled.
Behold, the Church adorns herself with the form of Christ incarnate!
The icons of the new creation transcend the adornments of the old.
As the Ark of the Covenant held the presence of God,
so now the icons reveal the presence of the One we adore.
By honouring them we will never go astray.


It is our glory to fall down and worship Christ in the flesh.
Come, O faithful, venerate His image and cry out:
‘O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance!
Verses on Lord I call for the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy & Lent the period of return

This is what the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel, says:
Reform your ways and your actions,
and I will let you live in this place.
Do not trust in deceptive words and say,
‘that you are the temple of the Lord!‘”
cf. Jer.7: 3,4

You should also not say that Faith
alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you,
for this is impossible unless you
also acquire Love for Him through your works.
As for Faith by itself,
“the devils also believe, and tremble”.
Jac.2: 19

1.]. Change Your Purpose in Life
Before people are willing to act, they must be motivated.
A sound sleeper is more likely to get up in the middle of the night
if the house is on fire than if he remembers he did not brush his teeth!
Christians have some of the strongest possible motives for changing.
Consider some:
1a. Love and Dedication to God
Christians are transformed by renewing their minds.
To live differently, we have to think differently.
We must not seek to be like the world
but to use our bodies in God’s service.

Unceasing prayer is born of love,
but fault-finding, idle talk
and self-indulgence
are the death of prayer
“.
Saint Silouan the Athonite

I beseech you, brethren,
by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world:
but you be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is good, acceptable
and perfect to the will of God
“.
Rom.12: 1,2

The Macedonians practiced generous giving
because they first gave themselves to the Lord [2Cor.8: 5].
Changing our conduct becomes much easier
when we are totally dedicated to God’s service.
What motivates us to obey God? Our love for Him.
What motivates us to love Him?
The fact that He loved us.
How do we know He loved us?
Because He gave His Son to die to save us.
Love is one of the strongest forces in existence.
It can move a woman to rescue her children from a burning building
or a man to lift an automobile that has crushed a loved one. If you are having difficulty changing yourself, you need to learn to appreciate God’s blessings and mercy.

Imitation of Christ
The desire to be like someone we admire
is another powerful motivation.
Sports heroes inspire young people
in athletics.
So godly people like Abraham, Noah, Ruth
and the Theotokos motivate us to serve God.
But the greatest example of all
is that of Jesus, our Lord.

A disciple seeks to be like His Master [Matth.10: 24,25].
Christians are disciples of Jesus [Acts 11: 26].
We should follow His steps
because He left us a sinless example [1Petr.2: 21,22].

As we face each decision in life,
we should ask,
What would Jesus, our Lord do?
This will give us strong motivation to change our lives.

Desire for Eternal Life [escape Eternal Punishment]
And every man that strives for the mastery
is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown;
but we an incorruptible.
We should set our minds
on our eternal reward,
not on earthly things [2Thess.1: 8,9].

Lack of motivation is a major reason people do not change to please God.
They do not have sufficient desire to change.
Instead they want to please themselves or their friends and family.
Often they are too concerned with the things of this life.
Until our motives are right, little else in this study will help us.
But when we are determined
that serving God is our
most important purpose in life,
then we will find the means
to make the necessary changes.
When we lack the motivation to change,
let us think about why we should love God,
think about the importance of being like Christ
and think about our eternal destiny.

2.]. Believe You Can Change with God’s Help
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it
are the issues of life.
Prov.4: 23
The way you act is determined
by your attitudes and intentions.
People and circumstances may influence you,
but you do not have to give in.
You do what you decide to do.
God will not allow temptations
that are beyond your ability to bear.
He will always make a way of escape.
“God is faithful”.
He will always keep this promise.
It follows that you can break any bad habit
and develop any good habit
according to God’s will.
The Apostle said:
I can do all things through Christ
which strengtheneth me.
Phil.4: 13
We also can do this.
This includes changing to please Him.
If we trust our own strength, we will fail.
Lucifer can defeat us.
If we use Christ’s strength we will succeed,
because satan can never defeat Him.
Perhaps we have failed in the past
because we have trusted our own power
instead of using Christ’s.
People sometimes convince themselves,
I just can’t change.
It’s too late.
Besides, I’m only human“.
They are not just belittling themselves;
they are denying God’s word.
They will fail simply
because they will give up
instead of persisting to use
God’s Power.
Commit your way unto the Lord;
trust also in Him;
and He shall bring it
to pass“.
Psalm 36: 5
No matter how strong a temptation you face,
no matter how long you have practiced a sin,
if God says to change,
you are able to change.

3.]. Study the Bible about Your Habit.
The Book of the Law
shall not depart out of your mouth;
but you shall meditate therein day and night,
that you may observe to do according
to all that is written therein:
for then you shall make your way prosperous
and then you shall have good success“.
Joshua 1: 8

To succeed in God’s work, meditate on God’s word.
List the pertinent Bible passages
about each habit you need to change.
List reasons why you should change.
Meditate on these verses daily,
filling your mind with them.
But his delight is in the Law of the Lord;
and in His Law does he meditate day and night
“.
Psalm 1: 2
Your word have I hid in my heart,
that I might not sin against You“.
Psalm 118: 11
And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
And you shall teach them diligently unto your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lies down,
and when you rises up.
And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
And thou shall write them
upon the posts of your house
and on your gates“.
Deuteronomy 6: 6-9
Frequently remind yourself of these verses.
Write them and place them
where they will remind you:
on your bathroom mirror,
on the refrigerator door,
on your table at mealtime,
on the Television-knob.
Jesus, our Lord, overcame temptation by quoting Scripture.
But this worked only because He knew the Scripture, by heart.
Memorize verses about your habit so that,
when you are tempted,
they will come to mind and strengthen you.
Quote them to yourself and
to those who tempt you.

4.]. Repent of Sin
Repent therefore of this your wickedness,
and pray God, if perhaps the thought of your heart
may be forgiven you.
Acts 8: 22
Repentance is a change of mind
– a determined commitment
to cease sin and obey God.
Before one can change his conduct,
man has to change his mind.
Do not cover up your sin,
deny it, excuse it, or blame someone else.
Admit the error and be truly sorry [2Cor.7: 10].
But sorrow is not enough.
We have truly repented only
when we are so sorry
that we determine to change our conduct.
Most other achievements in life require about 10% ability
and just 90% determination and hard work.
In spiritual matters, every accountable person
has the ability to please God;
so changing to please God is
100% determined by our choice.
God has provided everything we need.
The decision is ours.
We will never change
until we make up our minds
to pursue the means God provides
until we succeed.
The decision to do this is repentance
and no one will change to please God without it.

5.]. Develop a Plan of Action
Do they not err that devise evil?
but mercy and truth
shall be to them
that devise good“.
Proverbs 14: 22
God’s example demonstrates the importance of planning.
He purposed man’s redemption [Rom.8: 28],
the Church [Eph.3: 10,11],
the Temple [Hebr.8: 5].
See how He did it from the beginning:

Now the Lord had said to Abram,
Get out of your country,
and from your associated,
and from your father’s house,
to a land that I will show you:
And I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you,
and make your name great;
and you shall be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless you,
and curse him that curses you:
and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him;
and Lot went with him:
and Abram was seventy and five years old
when he departed out of Haran.
And Abram took Sarah his wife, and Lot his brother’s son,
and all their substance that they had gathered,
and the souls that they had gotten in Haran;
and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan;
and into the land of Canaan they came.
And Abram passed through the land
unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.
And the Canaanite was then in the land.
And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said,
Unto you seed will I give this land:
and there he built an altar to the Lord,
Who appeared to him
“.
Gen.12: 1-7
As Saint Silouan did we likewise have to do,
as God’s servants we need to have a plan
to succeed in His Service.

In what other important actions will we succeed without a plan?
Consider the forethought needed to build a house,
run a business or a household, program a computer, etc.
Worthwhile activities, to be successful, need planning.

Likewise, to change your life, you need
a specific, practical checklist of steps
you will take to change.
Analyse [with the help of your confessor]
the circumstances or causes that lead you
to fail to do right,
then plan how to avoid
those causes.
It may help to write your plan down
and modify it as needed.
This plan will include some specific points
you and your confessor are studying plus other points
that fit your specific problem.

Many people fail to change
to please God because they never planned to succeed.
They did not plan to fail, but they failed to plan!

6.]. Pray Regularly

Prayer is essential in two ways.
A child of God should pray for forgiveness.
If you are not yet a child of God, you need to believe in Jesus,
repent of sins, confess Christ, and be baptized to be forgiven of sins.
When you have done those things, you become a child of God.
If you sin afterwards,
you need to pray for forgiveness and confess.
He that covers his sins shall not prosper:
but who confesses and forsakes them
shall have mercy

Prov. 28: 13
If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned,
we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us
“.
1 John 1:8-10
Then pray for God’s help.
Ask God to “deliver us from evil”.
Tell God exactly what’s your problem.
Pray often and regularly.
Pray especially at the moment
when you face temptation.
God has promised that,
if you ask His help,
He will hear
and answer.

7.]. Seek Help from the Church [your confessor]
Christians should confess their faults to one another
so they can pray for one another.
We should bear one another’s burdens [Gal.6: 2].
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar
and there remember that your brother
has something against you;
Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way;
first be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and offer your gift“.
Matth.5: 23,24
When we are troubling and fighting each other
an especially difficult habit,
it may help to choose one or two
special [priest-] counsellors to talk with [regularly].
They can give us good advice about how to change.
They can encourage us.
It may motivate us
just to know that others
are aware of our problem.
And they can surely pray for us.
Public church meetings [coffee-drinking, weekends]
are especially designed to give encouragement.
We need to attend regularly for many reasons,
but especially we need encouragement
as we try to become what God wants us to be.

8.]. Diligently Practice What is Right

Therefore, my beloved brethren,
be steadfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as you know
that your labour is not in vain in the Lord
“.
1Cor.15: 58

We have discussed here several steps to prepare us to change,
but none of them can substitute for hard work and dedicated effort.
All the good attitudes in the world will not get the job done
until we follow through with action.
God does not promise change will be easy,
but He promises it is possible
if we work diligently according to His word.

Orthodoxy & make a clean breast for our Lord

We celebrate the Holy Liturgy together.
But we must pay what this costs:
each one must be concerned
for the Salvation of all.
Our life is an endless Martyrdom“.
Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov [1896 – 1993]

Divine Liturgy is the official action of the Church
formally gathered together as the chosen People of God.
The word church, means a gathering or assembly of people
specifically chosen and called apart to perform a particular task.
It is the action of the Church assembled by God
– in order to be together in One Community
– to worship, to pray, to sing, to hear God’s Word,
– to be instructed in God’s Commandments,
– to offer itself with thanksgiving in Christ to God the Father.
Divine Liturgy has the living experience of God’s Eternal Kingdom
through communion with the same Christ
Who is present in His people by the Holy Spirit.
[Although it is generally the practice in the Orthodox Church today
to allow non-Orthodox Christians, and even non-Christians,
to witness the Liturgy of the Faithful, it is still the practice
to reserve actual participation in the Mystery of Holy Communion
only to members of the Orthodox Church
who are fully committed to the life and teachings of the Orthodox Faith
as preserved, proclaimed and practiced by the Church throughout its history].

Because the Divine Liturgy exists for no other reason than to be the official all-inclusive act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the entire Church in Heaven and on earth,
it may not be considered merely as one devotion among many, not even the highest or the greatest.
The Divine Liturgy is not an act of personal piety.
– It is not a prayer service.
– It’s not merely one of the Mysteries [lat. Sacraments]. The Divine Liturgy is the one common Mystery
of the very being of the Church Itself.
– It is the one Mysterial manifestation of the essence of the Church
as the Community of God in Heaven and on earth.
– It is the one unique Mysterial revelation of the Church
as the mystical Body and Bride of Christ.
As the central mystical action of the whole church,
the Divine Liturgy is always Resurrectional in spirit.
– It is always the manifestation to His people of the Risen Christ.
– It is always an outpouring of the life-creating Spirit.
– It is always Communion with God the Father.
The Divine Liturgy, therefore, is never mournful or penitential.
– It is never the expression of the darkness and death of this world.
– It is always the expression and the experience of
the Eternal life of the Kingdom of the Holy Trinity.

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],
he 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 and Perfect God 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 Gifts [Grace] of God.
Yet, it should be understood that the Orthodox do not believe
that you must 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 a Gift {Grace] 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 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 groping’s, to detours,
even to revolts of human will to bring it to a free consent

Vladimir Lossky‘Orthodox Theology, an Introduction

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.

Out of Love for us and in obedience to His Father,
our Lord, Jesus, His Son joyfully took insult and suffering upon Himself,
as the Gospel says:
Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith;
Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross,
despising the shame and is set down
at the right hand of the Throne of God
“.
Hebr. 12: 2
For this same reason our Lord said
on the night when He was betrayed:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread
and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples,
and said,
‘Take, eat; this is my body‘,
and He took the Cup gave thanks
and gave it to them, saying,
‘Drink ye all of it;
for this is My Blood of the New Covenant,
Which is shed for many for the remission of sins’
“.
Matth.26: 26-28
Or in other words:
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself,
that they also might be sanctified
through the Truth
“.
John 17: 19
It is the same with all the Saints:
when they become perfected, they attain this accomplishment by imitating God
in outpouring of their Love and Compassion
upon all Humanity.
The real Saints in the past
and here and now seek for themselves
this Sign of Likeness to God
– to be perfected in the Love of their Neighbour.

In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He shall direct your paths
“.
Proverbs 36: 6

Orthodoxy & 40 days of Lent

After the Sunday of Last Judgement [meat-fare] we meet the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise
[cheese-fare, forgiveness Sunday].
After todays Vespers we ask each other forgiveness and the 40 days of Lent start.
During the 40 days of Lent we have:
– Sunday of Orthodoxy
– Sunday of Gregory Palamas
– Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross
– Sunday of John Climacos [of Sinaï, author of the Ladder]
– Sunday of Mary of Egypt
– Lazaros Saturday and
– the Sunday of the entry of our Lord into Jerusalem [Palm Sunday]
The “Lent”, as just said, is the 40-days-during period
from the First Sunday of Lent until the Sunday of Palms.
This period is very strict fasting and spiritual struggle.

Strict fasting and spiritual struggle
doesn’t mean we only look after our consume of food;
we prepare ourselves by more reading and praying and
retire from public life to return to silence in a monastic way.
We can’t do this in our own way, we ask God
that we receive an awareness of His Power
in fasting, praying and reading.

If you need to prepare food for the rest of the family,
you can do that and continue your fast.
It demands more willpower on your part
not to eat everything you prepare.
Meditate on the goodness of God;
you can serve others, while abstaining yourself.
In this period you will be confronted with the lies of the Satan.
Satan will try to flatten, to circumvent or in the worst case
to terminate your deployment.
The excuses he will offer:
– Feeling that you are too old or too young or too sick
or too busy may be a half-likely excuse.
Even when you are fleshly not allowed to fast
you are able to have more silent moments by reading and praying.
The devil and his servants are very clever
and have the most vague excuses imaginable
for not fasting:
• Some actually make you think
that you are going to die if you are going on fasting.
• Some make you feel to have some type of reaction,
you can’t breathe. “It’s too hard for me“, they make you think;
and when you are trapped, you discontinue fasting.
• Some make you to intend to fast – next year.
It’s a good intention, but for the future, not today.
• Some make you actually fast – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
then it overcomes you to eat like no-one-else
and fall into the bed to ‘sleep it off’.
• Some make you feel to that it is enough
to abstain food from bedtime to break-fast.
• Some make you feel you can’t function
without meat or cheese in your stomach.
• Some make you to fast on wrong motives.
If you want to serve God, serve Him
and your neighbours with a pure motive.
If you want to deny the flesh, than do it
and stop making excuses.
• Some make you to profess to fast to please others.
In reality you stop at Mc-fat on the way home and eat heartily.
They make you think you are fooling someone, but you can’t fool God.
Fasting isn’t for the pleasure of other people, it’s done unto God.
In reality you are cheating yourself. God doesn’t benefit from your fasting.
Why play games with God? If you cannot be sincere in a fast,
God won’t be able to trust you with His blessings.
• Some make you to not start fast because you will be “misunderstood
and you don’t want to be criticized.
Well, that’s just part of it.
It’s wonderful to walk in the Power and anointing of God.
Some people will be critical of you, even when you are a priest or monk.
They may say you are “anti-social“. They may say [or write] many other unkind things.
But when they have a need, they will know who to call on.
When effective prayers have to be prayed, they will remember your dedication to God.
Don’t let what other people think or say hinder you.
Put your trust in God, obey only Him.

Every time on during this period of Lent, 40 days long, day and night.
Here and now you have to face the thing that has kept you from fasting and conquer it once and for all.
If gluttony has kept you from God’s best, He is ready to deliver you from that sin.
If food is your lord, cast it down
from its throne here and now
and let Christ reign and be the Lord of your life.
So you have a medical problem that prevents you fro fasting, God will find another way to heal you.
If His Will is that you fast and you are one of His children, His Will is that you fast.
And when you are not able to fast because of a medical problem, He wants to remove that obstacle so that you can have total victory in your life.
In that way you are healed in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, here and now.
If God is leading you to this period of Lent, fast then the full 40 days.
Lay aside every excuse; conquer the flesh and just do it as a good servant befits.

Orthodoxy & the need for support

Nothing equals prayer!
It makes the impossible possible,
and the difficult easy
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

The practice of going out into the wilderness
to seek God is a tradition well established in Church
as early as religion became God-centred in Jewish times.
The Prophets and the latest Prophet Saint John the Forerunner did the same,
as Saint Andrew of Crete testifies:
The Forerunner of Grace dwelt in the desert and all Judea and Samaria ran to hear Him”.
As we know Jesus went into the wilderness before He started His Holy Mission:
Jesus Himself was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry
“.
Matth.4: 1,2

Jesus is our example.
He didn’t go into the wilderness to fulfil some Tradition of His fathers.
He went there to get the support of God, His Father in His coming life;and when He came forth from that solitary place,
no enemy could stand against Him:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the control of the devil,
because God was with Him
“.
Acts 10: 38

When Jesus returned to the synagogue in Nazareth,
He was permitted to have the appreciation of
a visitor and was given by the Jewish visitors
the privilege of reading the Scriptures in public.
The Holy Book was given to Him and He
was reading the periscope of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because the Lord anointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
The Lord has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
“.
Luc.4: 18,19
Waiting upon God , the Father in prayer and fasting
had placed a special anointing upon the Life of our Lord Jesus and that special anointing enabled Him to do the works of God.
In great majority we need the support of God in our Church today, much attention and education has to be given to seeing that sinners come to be saved

and come to the real deep knowledge of Christ;
not the superficial knowledge based on familiar Tradition and Nationalism,
but to meet God, our Father in the real original way of Love.
Once the believers are saved [baptised] in our times, however,
very little is done to ensure that they receive an anointing of the Holy Spirit,
become effective and go forth to live Victorious Godly lives.
Once they are born and clothed in Christ,
we intemperance them, in a sense and leave them as powerless infants,
helpless against the evil intents of the enemy.
This is one of the reasons we don’t see any more the original miraculous demonstration
of God’s support in our churches these days because we have religious entertainers at the podium.
The clergy who are able to organise changes are not supported to arrange things,
because surviving in economic way is more important.
It’s more important to have big church-buildings
– officiousness because of having control over more parishes,
instead of seeking God’s best for our lives.
Clergy are beached in a political way
to put a certain “spinning” on things so that they become acceptable.
Those who work in the news media have done the same; preachers are take over the same method. It’s nowadays possible to sit in their services week after week and never feel uncomfortable, never feel challenged.
They make you feel totally satisfied with your present position in God:
The days are coming’, declares the sovereign Lord,
“when I will send you a famine through the land
– not a famine of food or thirst of water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
Man will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,
searching the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.
In that day the lovely young women and strong men will faint because of thirst

Amos 8: 11-13

In this moment people are traveling long distances when they know that
the ‘True Word of the Lord‘ is being preached somewhere.
Because they are hungry for something more real, interesting and transforming;
it is not uncommon for people
to drive a hundred kilometres to church or to go halfway across the country, even to other countries for a Divine Liturgy,
or other Orthodox meetings.                                  God’s Word is being performed.
People are hungry for the supernatural because it can’t be found in
their church nearby, priests are looking for more luxury churches – self-satisfaction and personal control.
Many people looking for God are turning
to far-east religions and new-age thinking;
hungry people are susceptible to deceit.
Many devilish practices have been adopted
into corporate western countries in the guise of “productivity training“.
Eccentric practices are being taught in seminars sponsored by the largest corporations.
Many false prophets have entered [been forced] into our world
and many people are being deceived and are, in turn, deceiving others.
No amount of funding or re-education can stop this lucrative trend toward the occult.

The Church of our Lord is called back to basics,
to apply itself serious to battle.
We must return to the simple Gospel  and to the
Power of God that enables us to stand against any enemy.
The only hope is for God’s people to rise up in indignation and take control of this situation.
The only hope of reversing the gains of the enemy is through concerted prayer and fasting.

For more than sixty-five years
I have lived by the Word of God.
Nothing else was important for me.
It works. I can rely on it. It never fails.
I can write this without any reservation. I have no interest in playing the common church game in overruling people, by keeping them a-sleep.
God’s Power is greater than any other. We can use that Power by our behaviour,
by prayer and fasting; for prayer and fasting will open your spirt to the supernatural.

Many ministers are preaching more like civil-right activists today, instead of like men of deliverance.
There is no power in their message; there is no anointing in their hands; and nothing is happening under their leadership.
Many of them are really good people,
They are handsome, intelligent and caring.
But they have lost the Power of God.
They lost the formal behaviour; in formal days I have seen [Latin] priests, who were praying their official prayers [brevier – like the monks in monasteries] of the services of the day in the garden of the parish,
nowadays I don’t see any and I know they are more busy with other duties.
What do they have to offer? only social work?
Most of us are impressed by good preaching, by good communication
– we say: “He knows how to get his point across”.
But where are the miracles? Where is the Power of God?
It’s one thing to have a silver or golden tongue and another thing to see and experience the Power of God on a regular basis.
Preaching can be pleasant to the ears and be void of power.
Intellect doesn’t cast out devils. If it did we would be calling upon professors to deliver people who are tormented.
Men and woman of Power, whatever their status in life is,
are used of God to drive away evil spirits.
If your spiritual needs are not being met by your minister, your clergy,
it is time to shake the dust from your feet and go somewhere [in Orthodoxy]
where you can be fed, somewhere where God’s Power is in demonstration.
I know priests don’t like this freedom, this rebellious attitude, but I’m very selfish in regard to achieving the Kingdom of Heaven.
I don’t need a religious importance as deacon or priest to be admired, I know they are repulsed by this, but I do not let me catch in the nets of their offerings.
To go somewhere [in Orthodoxy] where you can be fed, somewhere
where God’s Power is in demonstration, is not always an easy move.
People are reluctant to move from one church to another, for many reasons.
– “My Grandmother grew up in this church“, they say.
They have a lot of friends in their old church.
And will another church be any better?
I understand these reservations, but don’t stay in ‘a dead church’ just because your parents were members there.
Find a church that means business for God.
Your own soul and the souls of your other family members are at stake!!!
Look for a community where people love Jesus enough to seek His Face and
present His word in Power and Glory.
Look for a church that has more than a few minutes of prayer at a time.

Fasting is not a heavy burden, it is a joy. How is it for you not to be able to fast
while your brothers and sisters are moving in the same way.
While others look forward for a good meal, you with your community are looking forward to the opportunity to shut themselves away with God without distraction and draw closer to our
Heavenly Father.
Any community which has not learned to pray and fast will not have an effective demonstration of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
Which are the Manifestation of God’s Power in our midst.
Look for a community
where these frank Grace and Manifestation of God’s Power are showed.
Many people, when they think of looking for a church home, always think first of “pleasantness” or of “Love“.
While it’s good to look for loving people, we have to remember that the True Love of God, ”His Kind-heartedness”, is only manifested through His Power.
Everyone has a measure of love, even the people of the world.
God’s love, His Kind-heartedness is another level of love
which the world can never hope to realize.
The ministry of Jesus,
the Son of the living God was effective
because He was moved with Compassion“.
Jesus was God incarnated, He is love; for God is Love.
Yet, in order to effectively minister, He had to be moved with Compassion.
He received this God-breathed Love by waiting in the presence of the Father
in prayer and fasting.
If our Lord needed a special touch from the Father to effectively minister,
how much more we need God to do this great Miracle for us!
Not all communities that claim to love have this unpretentious kindness.
Without prayer and fasting we are not able to see the extremity of
the Good Message, the Gospel.
– You can’t have God’s best attentiveness for your live.
– You can’t be familiar with all that He has promised.
The promises of our Lord are not for the carnal;
they are not for those who walk in the flesh.
They are reserved for those who walk in the Holy Spirit
Why should you be as a warrior
disordered as a mighty man that can’t save?
Yet, O Lord,
You are in our midst
and we are called by Your name;
Don’t leave us!
“.
Jeremiah 14: 9
And every creature which is in Heaven,
on the earth, and under the earth,
and such as are in the sea,
and all that are in them, heard I saying,
Blessing, and Honour,
Glory and power,
be unto Him that sits on the Throne
for ever and ever,
Amen.

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]