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].

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

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

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

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

March 11th – Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem [560-638]

Saint Sophronius [Gr. Άγιος Σωφρόνιος ]
was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 until his death,
and is venerated as a Saint in the Latin
and the Orthodox Churches.
He was born 560 in Damascus and died
on March 11th in 638 in Jerusalem.
Before rising to the primacy of the see of Jerusalem,
he was a monk and theologian
who was the chief protagonist for orthodox teaching
in the doctrinal controversy on
the essential nature of Jesus
and His volitional acts.

Sophronius was of Arab descent an a teacher of rhetoric.
Sophronius became an ascetic in Egypt about 580
and then entered the monastery of Saint Theodosius near Bethlehem.
Traveling to monastic centres in Asia Minor, Egypt, and Rome,
he accompanied the Byzantine chronicler Saint John Moschus,
who dedicated to him his celebrated tract on the religious life,
Leimõn ho Leimõnon [“The Spiritual Meadow”]
and whose feast day in the Orthodox Church,
is shared with Sophonius on March 11th .
On the death of Moschus in Rome in 619,
accompanied the body back
to Jerusalem for monastic burial.
Sophronius traveled to Alexandria, Egypt,
and to Constantinople in the year 633 to persuade
the respective patriarchs to renounce Monothelitism,
a heterodox teaching that espoused a single,
divine will in Christ to the exclusion
of a human capacity for choice.
Sophronius’ extensive writings
on this question are all lost.

Although unsuccessful in this mission,
Sophronius was elected patriarch of Jerusalem in 634.
Soon after his enthronement he forwarded
his noted synodical letter to Pope Honorius I
and to the Eastern patriarchs,
explaining the orthodox belief in the two natures,
human and divine, of Christ,
as opposed to Monothelitism,
which he viewed as a subtle form of heretical Monophysitism
[which posited a single [Divine] nature for Christ].
Moreover, he composed a Florilegium [“Anthology”] of some 600 texts
from the Greek Church Fathers in favour of the orthodox
tenet of Dyothelitism [positing both human and Divine Wills in Christ].
This document also is lost.

In his Christmas sermon of 634,
Sophronius was more concerned with keeping
his clergy in line with the Chalcedonian view of God,
giving only the most conventional of warnings
of the Muslim-Saracen advance on Palestine,
commenting that the Saracens already controlled Bethlehem.
Sophronius, who viewed the Muslim control of Palestine
as “unwitting representatives of God’s inevitable chastisement
of weak and wavering Christians
“,
died soon after the fall of Jerusalem to the caliph Umar I in 637,
but not before he had negotiated the recognition of civil and religious liberty
for Christians in exchange for tribute – an agreement known as Umari Treaty.
The caliph himself came to Jerusalem,
and met with the patriarch at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Sophronius invited Umar to pray there, but Umar declined,
fearing to endanger the Church’s status as a Christian temple.

Beside polemics, Sophronius’ writings
included an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John
in gratitude for an extraordinary cure of his failing vision.
He also wrote 23 Anacreontic [classical metre] poems on such themes
as the Saracen siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations.
His Anacreontica 19 and 20 seem to be an expression of the longing desire
he had of the Holy City, possibly when he was absent from Jerusalem
during one of his many journeys.
The order of the two poems has to be inverted
to establish a correct sequence of the diverse subjects.
Arranged in this way, the two poems describe a complete circuit
throughout the most important sanctuaries of Jerusalem at the end of 6th century,
described as the golden age of Christianity in the Holy Land.
Themes of Anacreonticon 20 include the gates of Jerusalem [or Solyma],
the Anastasis, the Rock of the Cross, the Constantinian Basilica,
Mount Sion, the Praetorium, Saint Mary at the Probatica, and Gethsemane.
The Mount of Olives, Bethany, and Bethlehem come next in Anacreonticon 19.
Sophronius also wrote down the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
which is read on the fifth Thursday Lent in Orthodox Churches.

In 637, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslim armies,
the Muslim caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab came to Jerusalem
and toured the city with Sophronius.
During the tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
the time for Muslim prayer came,
and despite Sophronius’s offer to Umar to pray inside the Church,
Umar chose to pray outside.
The caliph’s reason for declining to pray there
was because in the future Muslims might say
that Umar prayed here and use it
as an excuse to build a mosque there.
Therefore Muslims are not allowed to build a mosque there.
So appreciating the caliph’s intelligence he gave the keys of the church to him.
Unable to refuse it the caliph gave it to a family of Muslims from Medina
and asked them to open the church and close it;
the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
still remain with this Muslim family.

Troparion           Tn 5
Patriarch Sophronius, you were glorious in the splendor of sobriety,
and through the radiance of your words
you revealed ineffable enlightenment from heaven.
For by your life you attained wisdom
and now you confirm the Church
as an illustrious hierarch
and intercessor for us with the Lord
“.

Kontakion          Tn 8
You were most wise among patriarchs, Sophronius of Jerusalem.
You struggled with divine zeal,
spreading the commandments of Truth with your lips.
You set right the foundations of the Church
and firmly established the monastic order.
You brought to light wise sermons,
and instructed by them,
therefore we cry out to you:
‘Rejoice, splendid boast of the Orthodox“.

 

2nd Sunday of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas – the Son of man has Power on earth to forgive sins

And again he entered into Capernaum after some days;
and it was noised that he was in the house.
And straightway many were gathered together,
insomuch that there was no room to receive them,
no, not so much as about the door:
and he preached the word unto them.

And they come unto him,
bringing one sick of the palsy,
which was borne of four.
And when they could not come nigh
unto Him for the press,
they uncovered the roof where He was:
and when they had broken it up,
they let down the bed wherein
the sick of the palsy lay.

When Jesus saw their faith,
he said unto the sick of the palsy,
Son, your sins be forgiven to you.
But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies?
who can forgive sins but God only?
And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves,
He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy,
your sins be forgiven to you; or to say,
Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?
But that ye may know that the Son of man
has power on earth to forgive sins,
[he sad to the sick of the palsy],
I say unto you,
Arise, and take up your bed,
and go your way into your house.
And immediately he arose, took up the bed,
and went forth before them all;
insomuch that they were all amazed,
and glorified God, saying,
We never saw it on this fashion
“.
Marc.2: 1-12

The Gospel according to Saint Marc is the shortest
and the earliest of the four Gospels we have received.
The way Marc opens his Gospel is with a simple sentence,
which is, sum total of the entire Gospel;
– “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” -.
The acts of apostles and further entire history of the Church
including the contemporary Church experiences
are mere continuation of this glorious beginning
specified by Saint Marc in his opening sentence.
This ensures a direct link between all periods of ages
with the beginning of Gospel.
The word of God is Faithful and True
and is given to us not for merely reading and understanding
but to make it our life experience
and it is worthy of all acceptation
in all fields of action of our life
and the World.

We have just been reading in the Gospel reading about how they brought Jesus
one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four
and He healed him.

one sick of the palsy
It was this man’s misery
that he needed to be so carried
and shows the suffering state of human’s life.
It was kind of those who so carried him
and teaches the compassion
that should be in men
toward their fellow-creatures in distress.
True faith and strong faith
may work in various ways;
but it shall be accepted and approved by Jesus Christ.
Sin is the cause of all our pains and sicknesses.
The way to remove the effect, is to take away the cause.
Pardon of sin strikes at the root of all diseases.
Christ proved His Power to forgive sin,
by showing His Power to cure the man sick of the palsy.
And his curing diseases was a figure of his pardoning sin,
for sin is the disease of the soul;
when it is pardoned, it is healed.
When we see what Christ does in healing souls,
we must own that we never saw the like.
Most men think themselves whole;
they feel no need of a physician,
therefore despise or neglect Christ and His Gospel.
But the convinced, humbled sinner,
who despairs of all help, excepting from the Saviour,
will show his faith
by applying to him without delay.
Marc.2: 13-17

I would like to draw your attention to two ideas in this story.
The first is prayer for others, distant and close.
The second is forgiveness of sins.
These two ideas are tied closely together.
1.]. Because prayer about those close to us intercedes,
as we have seen, for the forgiveness of sin.
2.]. In the plan of our human existence,
forgiveness is also prayer.
Of course, forgiveness from God and human forgiveness are two different things.
Christ speaks and acts as God.
Seeing the Faith of those who brought the paralytic,
He says to the sick man,
Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you“. Marc.2: 5
– That is, He speaks with Divine authority.
And then, when the Scribes thought to themselves that he was committing blasphemy,
Christ saw this right away since nothing can be hidden
from God all-seeing, not even the depths of the human heart.
He exposed them, saying,
Why do you think evil in your hearts?
For which is easier, to say,
‘Your sins are forgiven you’
or to say,
‘Arise and walk’? “.
Marc 2: 9

Let’s pause here for a moment and think about what The Lord is saying.
“For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’
or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? ” [Marc.2: 9].
What is this about?
He seems to be saying,
You think I am an ordinary person
and accuse me of blasphemy for speaking words of forgiveness,
but can it really be that hard to forgive sins?“.
Isn’t it much harder to heal a paralytic,
telling him to ‘arise and walk?
After all, forgiveness is available to all
but healing is available to God alone.
Just as ‘the Son of Man has Power on earth to forgive sins’ [Marc.2: 10],
you also have the same power, being likewise sons of men.
When the God-man Jesus Christ speaks of Himself
as The Son of Man, He is speaking of our human nature
which He took upon Himself.
And when He is called the Son of God,
this is witness to his Divine nature:
two natures united in Him without confusion and indivisible.
Therefore, we all have this power to forgive the sins of those close to us.
This is not the same forgiveness
as that offered by God since He forgives and heals,
but it is forgiveness. Speaking as the Son of God,
Christ says to the paralytic,
’Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’
And he arose and departed to his house
” [Marc.2: 11].
The people who were there marveled at the miracle
that took place right in front of their eyes
and glorified God.

What is the use of our human forgiveness
if it does not have the power to heal?
Why then should we forgive?

The root of any disease, be it of the soul or
of the body, is sin.
Before there can be healing,
there needs to be deliverance from sin,
that is, before healing can be complete,
there must be forgiveness.
This way,
when we forgive someone close to us,
who sinned against us, we are petitioning God to heal him from sin.
Forgiveness of one close to us becomes our prayer to God for him.
God, seeing in this our faith and love, heals.
Examples of this are plenteous and everyone who has ever forgiven knows about it.
Whoever does not know needs to begin forgiving and find out
– find out how miraculously strife is resolved through forgiveness,
as the soul is healed from offenses, envy and anger,
and most importantly, the soul of the one doing the forgiving is healed.
And then,
the one being forgiven is healed by God Almighty
through the intercession of our forgiveness for him.

Truly, having seen this,
seeing it together with the people
in the Gospel, we Glorify God
Who had given such power to men“.
Marc.2: 12

We see a miniaturized Church in
these five people.
One among them is a needy man.
The other able four put their Trust in God
and co-operate together to give a helping hand to the needy among them
and bringing him to the proximity of Jesus.
They promptly responded to the needy man among them.
They understood that the Grace of God is not restricted to them alone,
but it should be extended to all in Church.
In modern Society [even in Church] we see people are alienated from the society
and live their life aloof [approachable] and not ready to respond to the needs of the co-beings.
In a coöperated society everybody should have – the initiative to educate the uneducated,
– give [medical] help for the needy,
– give shelter for those who do not have a good housing,
– give food for the hungry.
These all are responses needed for the Church in Parish-level,
diocese-level and eventually Church-level.
In this situation only our life and Church can become the Gospel of Christ.

Scripture gives us many examples
for this Transfiguration of the World in history.
When Israel went to the bondage of Egypt,
God has sent Moses. Moses knew his responsibility
to uplift his people as a Mission of God.
To strengthen the helpless in a society is
a commissioned mission of the Church.
Church should be able to hear the cry of people [who are visiting the parish] and stretch the hand of care.
Jesus was not at reach of the man with palsy.
Of his own there was no means for him to approach.
So it was possible for him to come to Jesus only with the help of his friends.
Jesus is Immanuel, which means ‘God with us‘,
not ‘God with me‘.
Jesus was not always in the Temple or Synagogue.
He was always with the mass of the people
who were needy and marginalized.
The mission of the Church is to make the God in the Altar reachable to the mass.
Parish or congregation should not be dearer than Jesus.
The roof should be broken, walls should be demolished
or any hindrance [even foreign languages] should be removed
to make God available to the people.
This type of a Church and society only can Glorify God by heart.
We may need to conquer sometimes the objections of reason,
sometimes those of sense.

When Lord comes down to our midst, He absolves our sin,
He heals our sickness, He gives Wisdom to our mind
and He strengthens our weakness.
Lord opens enormous possibilities and makes our World and Church
a part in the history as a continuation of the Gospel.

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.